Archives Alives: MC5, R.E.M., Stax, New West, Nick Lowe, Led Zep & New Fave: the Beths

Where you were 50 years ago today? Well, if you were alive that is. If you were at the Gladsaxe Teen Club (yes, in Gladsaxe, Denmark) then you saw the first show that John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant played together. They were known at the New Yardbirds then, but later became slightly better known at Led Zeppelin. Nicely timed with this historic anniversary, Atlantic/Swan Song has compiled a Zeppelin-sized boxset of classic concert film The Song Remains The Same. The shows were recorded in July of 1973 and the film came out in 1976. I believe in my hometown is played at the then-still single-screened Colony Theater. (Dan, can you remember? It was long ago and far away).



The super deluxe version includes remastered audio on two CDs and four 180-gram vinyl LPs; Two DVD set of the The Song Remains The Same featuring the full theatrical version of the film plus bonus content including four performance outtakes in the original film (“Celebration Day,” “Over The Hills And Far Away,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “The Ocean”); a 28-page book; A replica of the Japanese program from 1977 and a DVD of the entire album in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and PCM Stereo, plus photo gallery. The CD and LP versions also are available separately.


Later this month, the Warner Bros. family is celebrating another 50th anniversary – the recording of the landmark MC5 debut, Kick Out The Jams (okay, it was recorded in Oct. 1968, so the Sept. 21 release date will be a few weeks early. MC5 Total Assault: 50th Anniversary Collection will be a limited-edition boxed set that features all three of the band’s albums: Kick Out The Jams, Back In The USA, and High Time. The records will all be pressed on colored vinyl: Kick Out The Jams (red vinyl), Back In The USA (white vinyl) and High Time (blue vinyl). MC5 co-founder and guitarist Wayne Kramer, who just released his memoir The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, is going out on tour leading MC50, an all-star band that includes Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, and Zen Guerrilla frontman Marcus Durant (Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron on drums and producer/bassist Don Was on bass at select dates).
Craft Recording is honoring the important year of 1968 by delivering Stax ’68: A Memphis Story, a 5-CD boxset filled with every single that was released that year by the fabled Stax Records company. The 120+ track collection contains every A- and B-sides, and featuring work by such soul greats as Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and Otis Redding.  The boxset, due on Sept. 21, also has a 56-page book, complete with in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg.


On Oct. 19 Craft Recordings is turning the spotlight on R.E.M., specifically the band’s performances on the BBC. R.E.M. at the BBC is a massive, rarities-packed 8-CD/1-DVD box set covering over 20 years of R.E.M. on the Beeb. The recordings scan from a 1984 live broadcast from Nottingham’s Rock City to a 2004 invitation-only 2004 performance at London’s St James’s Church. The DVD couples the first US commercial release of the BBC R.E.M. documentary Accelerating Backwards along with UK TV appearance including the complete 1998 Later….With Jools Holland episode devoted to the group. There will also be more compact versions (a 2-CD and a 2-LP version) entitled The Best of R.E.M. too.


New West Records is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an extremely cool retrospective featuring 60 songs evenly divided over 3 CDs. One disc holds songs selected by owner of New West Records, George Fontaine, Sr. One disc contains tunes voted on by fans, and the third disc is stocked with songs chosen by past and present New West artist. Kris Kristofferson to John Hiatt, Rickie Lee Jones to Nikki Lane; Rodney Crowell to Vic Chesnutt; Old 97’s to Drive-By Truckers; Ben Lee to Ben Folds; Jerry Lee Lewis to Jason Isbell, Steve Earle to Justin Townes Earle; Buddy Miller to Buddy & Julie Miller. The list is an all-star lineup of Americana music. I have a soft spot for the act opening up the collection (and a George Fontaine, Sr. selection) Todd Thibaud since he was one of the first (if not the first) musician I interviewed. The collection, which is due on Oct. 12, also will be available on 6 red vinyl albums.


Another artist I have a soft spot is Mr. Nick Lowe. When his solo debut came out in 1978, it was called the Jesus of Cool in the UK but Columbia Records re-titled it Pure Pop For Now People in the states. I had a button that proclaimed: “It’s Okay to Like Nick Lowe.” Guys I went to school with didn’t know if Nick Lowe was a politician or a punk rocker. They were wrong on both counts, I guess. Anyway, I bring up this great, great album not to remind myself that it came out 40 years ago, but to share that on Oct. 13 the fine folks at Yep Roc will be releasing Jesus Of Cool on cassette for Cassette Store Day. This limited addition will include the 11 tracks from the UK release plus the 3 songs that were just on the Pure Pop version (“They Call It Rock,” “Roller Show,” and a studio version of “Heart of the City.”


Ska fans should circle Sept 21 on their calendars because that is the date Studio One is reissuing the important 1964 compilation Ska Authentic. This will be the CD debut of the album that features music from The Maytals, Lee Perry, and Tommy McCook’s “Freedom Sounds.”  Bluegrass fans, meanwhile, need to remember Sept. 28 because that’s when Modern Harmonic will be releasing a treasury of Louvin Brothers material entitled Love And Wealth: The Lost Recordings. The 29 songs (and one warm, spoken audio letter) songwriting demos from the late 1950’s that have never been released before.


And it is not that I don’t like new music. Not by a long shot. There are many new and current bands that I can lavish praise on but I will just lavish praise on one right now. If you haven’t heard the New Zealand band The Beths, then you use yourself to check them out. I loved them from the first song I heard of them “Whatever,” and have loved every songs since. They just have a charming synthesis of 60s-ish power pop and late 80s college rock bolstered by crunchy guitars, some bashing drums, and the wonderful way front-woman Elizabeth Stokes balances an off-beat, slightly gawky sense of humor and honest emotions. Their debut album Future Me Hates Me is out now on Carpark, and they commence a big US tour at the end of September. Here is a link to “You Wouldn’t Like Me”

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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