Some say he’s the man who invented the power chord. Today is the birthday of Link Wray (full name Frederick Lincoln Wray), one of the early rock ‘n’ roll guitar innovators. The distorted instrumental classic “Rumble”, a 1958 hit, was his calling card, and his career had its ups and downs, but found him collaborating with ‘70s rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, singing back up on an NRBQ record, playing live on stage with Jason & The Scorchers and many other things. Pete Townshend once said that if it wasn’t for Link Wray he would never have picked up a guitar, and many other great players (and not-so-great ones) would say the same thing. Let’s pay tribute to Link by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Pop Will Eat Itself – There Is No Love Between Us Anymore (Now For a Feast): This is a song from the transitional period for PWEI from their grebo beginnings to the rock tinged with funk and rap elements that gave them a higher profile in the late ‘80s. The basic song is a simple haunting psychedelic hook, but with chunky guitars, scratching and samples.
Pere Ubu – Musicians Are Scum (Lady from Shanghai): The latest Pere Ubu album gets back to deconstructing rock forms. On this album, they allegedly made some changes in the recording process, with David Thomas having the individual musicians playing parts he directed without any player knowing the whole. That seems plausible on this track, with Thomas kind of speak-singing over a song with spare percussion, spy movie guitar and spooky keyboard noises.
The Troggs – When Will the Rain Come (Archaeology (1966-1976)): A decent vaguely psychedelic pop number. Solid song, but any Troggs song where Reg Presley doesn’t sing lead is a little less exciting.
Robyn Hitchcock – Mexican God (Jewels For Sophia): A superbly catchy folk ditty from Robyn from his underrated period on Warner Brothers Records. Such a simple melody and rhythm, but sometimes simple is best.
They Might Be Giants – The Day (They Might Be Giants): One of those early TMBG songs that really showed how weird they were with John Flansburgh singing over John Linell’s accordion nonsense lyrics about Marvin Gaye and Phil Ochs getting married and other stuff.
Liquor Giants – All of the Assholes (Up With People): With a twangy guitar and a melodic strum, this is a nice ‘60s inspired pop tune with cynical lyrics. Ward Dotson has one of those whiny voices that somehow works (kind of like Joe Walsh) and his songs are full of fine melodies and hooks. Check your local used cheapie bin to find their stuff.
The Velvet Underground – I’m Set Free (Closet Mix) (Peel Slowly and See): As the parenthetical implies, this is a different mix of this pretty Lou Reed tune from the Velvets first album. Lou really sings on this one. Allegedly, some pressings of the third Velvet Underground album had this version on it, but I don’t find that plausible.
Barry St. John – Hey Boy (The Girls’ Scene): Barry St. John sounds like a Dusty Springfield copy cat. This isn’t a bad thing to wannabe. Nice song, but not up there with the best of Dusty.
Sweet – It Makes Me Wonder (Identity Crisis): Sweet’s final album (and third as a trio) was originally only released in Germany. By this point, they had no real market and this thing mixes some blues rock with some hard rock and eccentric pop. This track definitely fits into the final category, sounding like it’s parts of three or four different songs stitched together. Sadly, the final Sweet album is plagued with a true ‘80s drum sound.
Buck Owens – Johnny B. Goode (The Buck Owens Collection): This is a live rendition of Buck’s great version of the Chuck Berry classic. Buck took his version of the song to the top of the country charts in 1969, a trick he also did with Berry’s “Memphis”.