A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 27, 2007
In my ongoing quest to inform you, the music-loving, working families, about cheap and innovative ways to enjoy music in that fabulous system called the Internet, I’ve discovered a few audio blogs that I’ve been enjoying lately.
For the uninitiated, audio blogs are where you can find free music samples — sometimes just clips or streams, though the ones I like are those where you can download MP3s of entire songs and/or podcast “radio” shows, sometimes with commentary from the hosts and other fun stuff.
Above all, I like to find MP3s that you aren’t going to find anywhere else, songs that aren’t even for sale. Here’s a few such sites:
This site, run by Jeff Kopp — a longtime music promoter, fanzine publisher, DJ, and fanatic from St. Louis — is dedicated to podcasts of “traditional garage rock to trashy punk, surf/instro to rockabilly, ’60s garage to swamp rock, broken blues to greasy R & B, soul to funk, frat rock to psych, freakbeat to power pop, proto punk to new wave, noise to lounge/exotica, and anything in between.” The shows, produced by several individual podcasters, have names like The Vagabond Garage Rocker, Savage Kick, Get Drunk & Play Records and Killed by Porn.
The fi is far from hi. As the site explains, “It’s important to keep in mind that these are very low bit-rate MP3s. The shows range from 64-80 kbps mono, which is a very low quality MP3, much lower audio quality than even a ‘good’ sounding MP3, and way, way lower than CD quality.” The sound quality reminds me of the AM radio in my long-gone ’63 Ford Falcon.
One recent night I listened to an hour-long podcast called Flying Saucer Rock ’n’ Roll #26, hosted by Canadian Dan Electreau, which features good old-school garage/psychedelic/trashabilly rock — and one crazy soul tune, “Alley Rat” by a guy named King Coleman — interspersed with cheesy dialogue from ’50s sci-fi and horror flicks. Unfortunately I can’t find play lists for the show. Among the performers are Alabama space surfers Man or Astro-Man? and rockabilly wunderkind Ronnie Dee (who grew up to be Ronnie Dawson). But mostly they were cool hopped-up bands I basically know nothing about, such as The Giant Robots, The Stingrays, and The Happy Happy Jihads, who wrote an instrumental called “Red Baron vs. Mars,” inspired by the comic-book style logo of the Flying Saucer Rock ’n’ Roll podcast.
* Funky 16 Corners
If there’s a better place to find rare soul, funk, and old R & B MP3s on the Web, I haven’t found it. This blog, produced by music writer Larry Grogan, features funky stuff from his vinyl collection.
Grogan includes music from some famous folks. Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett were featured in recent posts. But Funky 16 Corners is a great spot for lesser-knowns as well. Ever hear of soulsters like Diamond Joe or Curly Moore or Stacy Lane, who did the Pickett-esque shoulda-been hit “African Twist”? I hadn’t either until I started frequenting this blog.
There are several themed podcasts. One recent one focused on Philly soul, another featured music from New Orleans. (I downloaded this one. I’d heard of most the artists, like Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, and Eddie Bo. But it included some rarities, such as a Neville song called “Ape Man.”) Grogan also recently posted a podcast collection of proto-funk 45s by New Orleans soul man Lee Dorsey.
* Edward Chewtoy
Chewtoy has an audio site that is pretty small and which hasn’t been very active lately. The latest music post was made in May 2006, featuring a collection of Asian folk-music downloads.
But Chewtoy’s major contribution to American culture is a post featuring 26 MP3s from a criminally overlooked rock ’n’ roll subgenre — strip club rock. “This was what R & R was supposed to sound like some 50 years ago,” Chewtoy explains. “The stuff hot-blooded gals used to shake their moneymakers to in strip clubs.” It’s basically Twist-era R & B, some of which is colored by jungle-themed exotica.
Most of the selections are from a long out-of-print CD series called Las Vegas Grind. I’d only heard of one of the artists here — soul man Andre Williams, who does a suggestive little R & B workout called “Sweet Little Pussycat,” complete with yackety sax and fake meows. But I suppose in the strip-club rock pantheon, names like Space Man & The Rockets, Jack Hammer, and The Hully Gully Boys are golden gods. The latter group does a song called “Yabby,” complete with wild bongos, pseudo-cannibal chants, and a roller-rink organ solo.
“Little Girl” by John and Jackie would be a generic early ’60s rocker except that Jackie responds with a sexy “Little boy!” every time John sings “Little girl.” She makes undisguised orgasmic noises during much of the rest of the song. “Topless” by Rolls Royce & The Wheels is a novelty dialogue between a man and a woman discussing a beach bunny in a topless bathing suit over a bluesy musical backdrop. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in one,” the woman says. “I don’t want you dead in one, I want you live in it, baby,” the man replies.
* The 365 Project
This is a wellspring of obscure music, novelty tunes, strange children’s songs, and just plain weird audio. You can find programs including the Rev. Mike Mills’ 1980s explanations of Satanic “backward masking” in rock records; alternative versions of all the songs on Jesus Christ Superstar; George Wallace and Bobby Kennedy campaign songs; and The Odd Couple Sings — duets by Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. What else do ya’ need?
My favorite recent download is “Palolo Valley Girls” by Da Mokettes & The Incredible Q Band. It’s a Hawaiian rewrite of the Frank and Moon Unit Zappa hit, complete with local slang and island references. “She’s a Valley Girl in a Goodwill store.” Makes you wonder why nobody ever did an Española “Valley Girls” takeoff.