Today, let’s pay tribute to an original punk rocker, who spent some time in Chicago. I’m talking about Jake Burns, the lead singer for the incendiary Northern Irish punk rock band Stiff Little Fingers. Jake got his start in a covers band, but when punk hit, his band morphed into a group call The Fast. That didn’t last long, as they learned the name had already been taken, so they named themselves after a Vibrators song. They got good really quick – their first single was the classic “Suspect Device”. By early 1979, they charted with their first album, the first of a string of intelligent, socially aware punk albums. After originally splitting in 1982, they got back together in 1987 and have been around just about ever since with Jake being the one constant over the years. Jake lived in Chicago for a while, because he married a woman who lived here. One of my cooler rock fan moments was getting an email from Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover Magazine asking if I wanted to hang out. Turned out he was in town for Jake’s wedding, and the reception was held at Jake’s Pub on Clark St. in Lincoln Park. I ended up sitting at a table for a while with Jack, Jake and John Kezdy of The Effigies. Only in Chicago! So let’s celebrate Jake’s birthday by getting your iPod, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
The Who – Bucket T (A Quick One): A silly lark from the second Who album, that had to be fun for surf music fan Keith Moon. This is a Jan & Dean cover, with falsetto backing vocals and a John Entwhistle french horn solo.
The Beach Boys – Smile Retail Promo Announcement (The Smile Sessions): Not much to say about this. It is what it says it is.
Saint Etienne – He’s on the Phone (Smash The System): This is from a singles compilation of this sublime trio. This is an elegant piece of electro pop with the wonderful vocals of the always classy Saint Etienne. This is in the vein of early Erasure, but with a more pronounced ‘60s pop influence on top.
Robyn Hitchcock – Raining Twilight Coast (Eye): This is a track off of a great Hitchcock album that I’ve neglected in the past ten years or so. This is Hitchcock in folk-pop singer mode, showing off his great acoustic guitar playing. This is certainly one of his most direct lyrics.
Tahiti 80 – Don’t Look Below (Wallpaper For The Soul): This would be a good companion to the Saint Etienne track. I really like Phoenix, but I think this French band does what Phoenix does just a bit better, especially on this album. Here, sunshiney melodies mix with an electronic R & B flavored rhythm track.
Malachai – In the Hole (Return to the Ugly Side): A brief between cuts audio snippet from this cool British group’s most recent album.
Nightlands – Nico (Oak Island): A track from one of my favorite albums of last year. This song is a bit reminiscent of Ariel Pink. It’s floaty pop song, mixing dense vocal tracks with some basic electronics. The effect is haunting yet still a bit bouncy. Really well done.
Martin Gordon – I Feel Fine (Time Gentlemen Please): The former Sparks bassist and the man behind Radio Stars and Jet (the British band, not the Aussie one), always has a creative cover or two on his albums. This is a radical rearrangement of The Beatles’ tune. The tempo is slowed down and the melody likewise stretched into a new shape. It really gets going with the middle. Interesting.
Walter Clevenger & The Dairy Kings – Hold On Tight (Full Tilt & Swing): One of those acts that could have been much bigger with the right exposure. Clevenger writes some of the best roots rock songs around, with a bit of an early Nick Lowe sensibility (think Labour Of Love) in his tunes. This song, like many of his, sounds like a classic that could have been written in the ‘60s or ‘70s.
The Kinks – Lola (Lola Versus The Powerman and the Moneygoround, Pt. 1): A catchy as hell song, but to this day, it’s pretty surprising that this was a big hit in the States for The Kinks. Certainly one of Ray Davies’ most clever lyrical constructions.