This week, let’s pay tribute to a background figure in rock music, Terry Melcher. Melcher was the son of actress-singer Doris Day. He teamed up with Bruce Johnston to wax some hit records, first as Bruce & Terry, later as The Rip Chords. Bruce went on to join The Beach Boys and Terry had significant success producing a folk rock band from L.A. named The Byrds. Melcher found further success behind the boards for Paul Revere & The Raiders. He also introduced Van Dyke Parks to Brian Wilson, which led to the legendary Smile album. Then things got weird. Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson met a guy named Charles Manson and introduced him to Melcher. Melcher gave Manson an audition but did not sign him. Melcher and his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, soon moved out of their Cielo Drive home. Director Roman Polanski and wife Sharon Tate rented that house, which Manson and his “family” targeted in a grisly multiple murder. Perhaps understandably, Melcher stepped back somewhat from music, his last big success co-writing The Beach Boys’ number one hit, “Kokomo”. Let’s pay tribute to Terry, by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Cheap Trick – On The Radio (Heaven Tonight): A mid-tempo rocker celebrating the radio from a band that, at the time, was getting no airplay. The first time Cheap Trick performed the song live was at Metro, when the band performed the entire Heaven Tonight album on the final night of their series of shows playing their first four albums. Lin Brehmer did the fade out DJ spiel and did a really poor job. I could have done much better.
Tom Waits – Hang Down Your Head (Rain Dogs): A sweet ballad from the album that some think is Waits’ best. Compared to a lot of his material at the time, this is a very straightforward song with no weird instruments or vocals.
Howlin’ Wolf – Forty Four (Smokestack Lightnin’/The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960): A blues shuffle from the legendary Chester Burnett. This song could possibly be used by gun rights advocates, as the Wolf notes that wearing his 44 made his shoulders strong.
Wilco – Whole Love (The Whole Love): The sort of title cut from the most recent Wilco album is a light hearted ‘70s Laurel Canyon-esque pop tune which presents Jeff Tweedy with a chance to break out his falsetto. This should not become a trend, but it works on this song.
John Cale – Letter From Abroad (HoboSapiens): Cale juxtaposes some interesting elements to create a lovely dissonance, with an Easter guitar motif, electronic percussion that sounds like mini depth charges and bit of more jagged guitar. This is art-pop at its artiest and most challenging, and is strangely catchy.
Beach House – Lazuli (Bloom): I don’t really think of Beach House as a song band, as their albums represent such a rush of atmosphere. Nevertheless, I’m always happy when they show up on shuffle, as the layers of keyboards and soothing vocals always hit the spot.
King Khan & The Shrines – Took My Lady To Dinner (The Supreme Genious Of): This is Khan in faux James Brown mode. But I don’t know if Brown ever paid tribute to his “fat and ugly” woman. Khan manages to be funny without ever descending into novelty.
Pere Ubu – Race The Sun (Cloudland): A thrilling number from one of my all-time favorite pop albums. Yep, the self-proclaimed avant-garage band went pop on this 1988 effort and showed that instead of really quirky, dissonant songs that sometimes had hooks, they could make hooky pop songs that retained some quirks. This song, as per the title, races, with a galloping beat, as the chorus slows things down adding a wistful touch to this energetic slice of pop.
Sam Phillips – Help Yourself (Ominpop (It’s Only A Flesh Wound Lambchop)): This track is from one of Phillips’ last albums before she went into a rootsy direction. This song is kind of a funhouse mirror torch song, as the melody is pretty basic, but then all sorts of jazzy horns keep horning in to make it unsettling. Nicole Atkins could do a fine version of this.
David Kilgour – Nothing’s Going To Happen (Stroke – Songs For Chris Knox): A sweet song from this benefit album for Tall Dwarfs guy and eccentric songwriter Chris Knox. Kilgour, of The Clean, does a great job on this track, mixing twanging guitars with acoustics and keyboards, giving this almost a tinkertoy desert rock sound, with the title haunting intoned in the background.