Friday, August 19, 2016


Hide The Beer, THE FLESHTONES Are Here:

An exclusive Q&A 
Peter Zaremba

In 1976, a group of friends came together somewhere in New York to play primitive Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired by the sweaty, edgy underground Garage Rock scene of the ‘60s. They called themselves The Fleshtones and by 1980, they were signed to IRS Records. Their debut EP, UP-FRONT, introduced their musical mayhem to a young audience eager to feel the flames of true Rock ‘n’ Roll burning in their soul. The Fleshtones were instantly embraced by music fans and critics as the ultimate Garage Rock outfit – unpretentious, fun-loving and party-pleasing. Led by guitarist Keith Streng and vocalist Peter Zaremba, the band’s subsequent albums for IRS were the audio equivalent of the best frat parties you ever attended – sometimes unhinged but always memorable and entertaining. With their popularity rising and a few albums in their back pocket, frontman Zaremba was chosen in ‘84 to host THE CUTTING EDGE, an influential alternative music show that aired once a month on MTV until 1987. 

By the latter part of the ‘80s, The Fleshtones had left IRS but were still a popular live band. Releasing a series of indie albums over the years and constant touring kept the band busy and their fanbase happy. With a line-up that has been stable for the last twenty six years – Streng, Zaremba, drummer Bill Hilhizer (since 1980) and bassist Ken Fox (since 1990) – The Fleshtones have released a series of albums that are still rooted in Garage Rock madness. However, the quartet are not merely one-trick ponies – they’ve expanded upon their sweaty Rock ‘n’ Roll foundation and dabbled in Soul, Pop, Psyche and whatever else floats their boat. This is most evident on their 2016 platter, THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE. Normally, a band that is celebrating their 40th Anniversary would already be on automatic pilot and putting out the same album over and over. The Fleshtones, on the other hand, are actually better songwriters now than ever – the hooks may not always snag you on first listen but by the third spin, you’ll be singing along…probably with a beer in one hand and fist pumping the air with the other. With ten originals (written by Zaremba, Streng and Fox) and two cover versions, The Fleshtones have created a hook-filled fiesta for the senses. They may not possess the drug-fueled youthful energy of yore, but that doesn’t mean that they no longer have the passion – THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is proof that getting older doesn’t mean your albums have to start sucking. Let the party continue on…

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to toss a few questions over to Peter Zaremba, who graciously took time out to respond.

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is being released and you are celebrating your 40th Anniversary as a band. How are you feeling about the reaction to this new album?
PETER ZAREMBA: The reaction is just starting to trickle in, and it's really positive. Good— we can use a break!

SPAZ: The album features a dozen killer tracks, two of which are covers. Do you usually have an abundance of material to choose from or do you prefer to write specifically for each album project? I have to say that the originals on the album – written by you, Keith or Ken – are actually better songs than those two covers!
PETER: This time around it seemed we had too much material – what a difference from the days when we recorded ROMAN GODS or HEXBREAKER and had to torture the songs out of ourselves. It really felt like the songs were finally just flowing out, so that we actually had too many tracks. So, we didn't include any of the songs from our recent 45s like 'I Surrender' or 'End Of My Neighborhood' as we had originally planned. A great feeling, and glad you like the originals. Personally I think 'Love Like A Man' is a masterpiece. Wait until you hear our Spanish version!

SPAZ: The Fleshtones may not have achieved the massive commercial success that you deserved, but you still make better records than most of your contemporaries over the years. Do you approach each album project the same as you did all those years ago?
PETER: No, we don't use all the drugs and stuff we used to. A good thing too – we're still alive and more focused than in those days. Maybe a bit of the success thing will come our way. We’re so cavalier about that sort of thing – especially in the ‘80s when success was a very real possibility. But we'll keep on no matter what. Being in the Fleshtones is more fun than being in most bands, and we get to be proud of what we've done. But approach? I think we go into recording much better prepared now. I mean we're not trying to write songs after we record the basics anymore. And we usually don't go someplace and try to record a whole album at once anymore either. We build our albums now. 

SPAZ: The great thing about Fleshtones albums is that they’ve always felt like they were created by a ‘band’ and you always seem to work well as a unit. Does everyone in the band have an input in the arrangements? And are you all open to suggestions from the other members?
PETER: We better sound like a band after 40 years! And we do work together very well. Strange, although it sounds like someone imposes an overall vision on the songs (and I'm always dying to do it!), we tend to bring our songs in knowing what we want the finished product to sound like, but we've gotten to the point where we more or less share what we think a 'Fleshtones Song' should sound like – and so it does!

SPAZ: THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE is filled with great melodic hooks throughout the album. Does the songwriting process get easier over the years? The raw and loose Rock ‘n’ Roll energy is still there but the songwriting on your albums seems to be getting better as the years roll on…
PETER: Wow, thanks for that. Now to get a few thousand more people to realize it! Like I said, the songwriting process has gotten easier, stuff just pops into my head, like when I'm mowing the lawn. I've even dreamt up whole songs and wake up remembering them like 'Rick Wakeman's Cape'.

SPAZ: You released the title track as a single, yet it didn’t make the album. Do you enjoy that old-school approach to releasing singles that don’t make the albums? I must say that bands don’t often release a single from an album of the same name yet leave that song off the final track list.
PETER: Hahaha! Yeah that's crazy old-school, but like I said we had enough songs for the LP so 'The Band Drinks For Free' got cut along with a bunch of other tracks. Actually, I didn't think I brought that song in as prepared as my other songs, so it wound up not sitting right in the sequence, so it will remain an 'invitation' to listen to the album that’s named for it. Yes, that is unusual these days!

SPAZ: Are there any high points on the album that you’d choose as singles or radio tracks? Or do you leave that to the label folks? “Rick Wakeman’s Cape” and “Living Today” are classic Fleshtones nuggets. “Stupid Ol’ Sun” is ace. “Too Many Memories” and “How To Make A
Day” are great as well.
PETER: We've made our suggestions and Yep Roc are very open to our suggestions. I really think our version of 'Love Like A Man' is wonderful – it came out perfect, just what we wanted. Keith's idea to ask Lisa Kekaula of The Bel Rays to sing the last verses of the song instead of him was brilliant – she kicks the track into outer space! 'Love My Lover', which wound up as the b-side of the 45 'The Band Drinks For Free' is a natural radio single too – especially if it's ever 1969 again. 

SPAZ: Do you still love the make-a-record/do-a-tour routine after all of these years? And do you ever have to deal with audiences that only want to hear something you released thirty years ago and nothing off the new records?
PETER: Every audience wants to hear their favorite old songs – and we've got heaps of those to play to them. But most people come to see us play, and do something new and unexpected every time, and we like to do that. It keeps playing fun for us as well as the audience. And yes, I love making records even more now, especially since it isn't an exercise in frustration the way it used to be. Records come out sounding pretty much the way we want them to now!

SPAZ: For a veteran band like The Fleshtones, has social media helped you keep in contact with your fanbase and connect you to new fans? Are you happy with technology today (streaming, especially) or would you rather just sit in a bar and plop quarters in a jukebox all night in order to hear the latest sounds?
PETER: Social media has been a huge help to us. We've reached out across the world and keep in touch with people in places like New Caledonia, and they want us to come there and play! We're going to play in China next month for the first time, and played Mexico for the first time in twenty years last June. The technology is mind-blowing. I used to spend months as a kid trying to track down some rare Yardbirds 45, just to discover it actually sucked. And being able to hear so much is great. It also makes up for the fact I had to sell off most of my prized record collection a few years ago. Now I can still hear that music!

SPAZ: You hosted MTV’s THE CUTTING EDGE many decades ago…and people STILL talk about that show all of these years later. Do you look back fondly at that gig and do you think it has helped The Fleshtones in the long run?
PETER: I'm very proud of THE CUTTING EDGE – we gave countless bands and artists their first time on national TV. Even then I used to pinch myself while we were shooting and say, 'This is really happening, remember this moment!' I was amazingly lucky to have been chosen to host the show – remember, I had no television experience and it showed. It's funny, but MTV acts as if the show never existed…just like they did then when we were on MTV!

SPAZ: What’s next for The Fleshtones?
PETER: On to China! And then back to Scandinavia, Western Europe and the USA and Canada to spread the word about THE BAND DRINKS FOR FREE (which, in reality, it does). Then Spain in early 2017. I can't wait to get back in the studio even though our latest album isn't even out yet – so many ideas and so little time!

SPAZ: What have you been spinning lately on your CD/record players?
PETER: All sorts of stuff but especially MONEY MAKER, a re-release of old Studio One instrumental versions from Jamaica – it's in the groove!

Thanks to Peter Zaremba
Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Dave Rayburn and Nick Kominitsky



LINDSEY STIRLING/Brave Enough: Available TODAY, August 19, 2016!


Available NOW

This highly anticipated release features a number of high profile collaborations including Christina Perri, Dan + Shay, ZZ Ward, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Rivers Cuomo, Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist Lecray, and critically acclaimed electronic musicians/producers Zedd and Robert DeLong.

Blending electronic music with a diverse number of musical genres that include pop, country, rap, alternative and rock, BRAVE ENOUGH displays Stirling's impressive ability to push her own musical boundaries while continuing to embrace her own unique signature sound.

Lindsey Stirling is an American violinist, dancer, performance artist, singer and composer. She presents choreographed violin performances, both live and in music videos found on her eponymous YouTube channel, which she created in 2007.

Stirling performs a variety of music styles, from classical to pop and rock to electronic dance music. Aside from original work, her discography contains covers of songs by other musicians and various soundtracks. Her music video, "Crystallize" finished as the eighth-most watched video of 2012, and her cover version of "Radioactive" with Pentatonix won Response of the Year in the first YouTube Music Awards in 2013. Stirling achieved one million singles sold worldwide by August 2014. As of July 2016, her Lindseystomp YouTube channel exceeded 8 million subscribers and over a billion total views.

Stirling has been named in Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 In Music: The Class Of 2015. Forbes notes her quarter-finalist position on America's Got Talent season five in 2010, a No. 2 position on the Billboard 200 for her second album Shatter Me in 2014, and her 8 million subscribers on YouTube.

Stirling's debut album was nominated for the 2014 Billboard Music Awards for Top Dance/Electronic Albums. Stirling's second album Shatter Me won the 2015 Billboard Music Awards for Top Dance/Electronic Album. Both albums are now certified GOLD.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016



This is a photo of THE LEGAL MATTERS. 

That is CHRIS RICHARDS on the left, KEITH KLINGENSMITH in the middle and ANDY REED on the right.

They like to drink beer and play music. Not necessarily in that order.  

The music they play is quite tasty. A delicious blend of pop smarts, heavenly harmonies and melodic hooks.

Some people call them Power Pop. Others call them Pure Pop.  However, generalizing their music and placing it in a box is not fair.  They are whatever you want them to be. And they are f***ing great at whatever it is that they do.

Their self-titled debut album was one of the finest albums released in the last decade.

And guess what?

They have a new album coming in October on Omnivore.  I've heard it.  It made me cry because it was so good.

The album is called Conrad.  I don't know why. They didn't tell me... but, to be fair, I didn't ask them either.

And now, you can click on the link below and download four LEGAL MATTERS songs for free.  "Anything" is from their forthcoming album - you know, the one they call Conrad. "We Were Enemies" and "The Legend Of Walter Wright" are from their self-titled debut album. "Don't Look Back" is a cover of a song by Teenage Fanclub.  You can only get "Don't Look Back" here. For free.  The other songs are free, too.  That is why it is called a free download.

I highly recommend you download these songs now because the world might end soon and you'll totally miss the opportunity to get these great tunes for free.  Seriously.

Your friend,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

THE TURTLES - Spaz reviews the fab new reissues on Manifesto Records!

The Turtles scored a handful of hits in the ‘60s – songs that are still played on oldies stations nearly fifty years later – yet they seldom receive the credit they deserve. As I prepared to write this review, I just could not figure out why they aren’t held in higher esteem by the public at large. Sure, us music guys love them to death but why do they get overlooked when people talk about the great bands from the ‘60s? I mean, come on, folks! “Happy Together” is an absolute classic and now that you’ve read that two word song title, that song’s chorus is bouncing around inside your head, isn’t it? If not, you need to stop what you’re doing and allow that song to careen down your cranial caverns and make you feel good all over before you continue reading…

No, really.  Go ahead and listen to it.  I'll wait....

OK, now back to our regularly scheduled program:

To be fair, The Turtles do get a fair share of recognition but just not as much as they deserve. There seems to be two different tiers when people think about the most influential ‘60s Rock bands – the first is the Beatles/Beach Boys/Rolling Stones/Kinks/Who tier while the second tier consists of ‘everybody else’. And as you know, that second tier is definitely crowded: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and many others are up on top of that level, enjoying constant reappraisal and critical attention. However, buried amongst those fighting for a chance to breathe are The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, The Four Seasons and especially The Turtles.
Looking back at The Turtles’ career, perhaps their oversight is down to a few different reasons:

  • Their lack of a cohesive image – they were Carnaby Street and a carnival at the same time.
  • Their need to constantly challenge themselves and try new musical avenues - The Turtles borrowed so liberally from many genres over the course of their career meant that they just confused the public, who just wanted to hear endless variations on “Happy Together” rather than original, thought-provoking music.
  • Their inability to take themselves too seriously -  they pretty much pushed the envelope so often that people didn’t know whether to accept them as Pop/Rock saviors like The Byrds or dismiss them as disposable Pop playthings like Freddie & The Dreamers.
  • The Turtles had a tendency to be too weird for Top 40 radio on occasion. But I mean that in a groovy, far-out weird kind of way.  

Lastly, it certainly didn't help that their back catalog had been in and (mostly) out of print over the years with only hits compilations available at any given point. But guess what? Thanks to Manifesto Records, that has all changed. This great label that gave us – among many other cool releases – the Lee Michaels box set (which is still on my list of things to buy) has resurrected The Turtles in style with two sets that will more than satisfy longtime fans and introduce a new generation to their gloriously irreverent hit-making ways!  

ALL THE SINGLES is a two CD set that features all of the band’s A-sides and B-sides along with some other gems, such as tracks prepared for single release but abandoned at the time. For the most part, this set features the crunchy, direct mono mixes that we all loved to hear blasting out of AM radios all those years ago. I myself have never preferred mono mixes over stereo versions but I’ll have to admit that lately, I’m understanding just why there are many folks that do – these songs come out swinging in mono and they seriously rattle your cage for three minutes (approximately) .  Just listen to “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “Your Maw Said You Cried,” “You Baby,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “The Story Of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “You Showed Me,” “You Don’t Have To Walk In The Rain,” “Elenore” and “Happy Together” in mono and you’ll know what I mean. In stereo they are fantastic, but in mono, they have more attitude and hit harder. Those wanting to sample The Turtles before diving head first into their deliciousness should start here: forty-eight tracks that will tickle your fancy! Thankfully, the other set – see below - doesn’t necessarily make this collection redundant, so you can snuggle with both at night if you’d like. I know I do!

THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL ALBUM COLLECTION is really the one you need to fork over your hard-earned dollars for if you are trying to choose between the two (although I still say go for both!). This box features six CDs, all jam packed with Turtle-y goodness. The discs for the first three Turtles albums – It Ain’t Me Babe, You Baby and Happy Together – feature the stereo and mono versions of each album, which is great for guys like me who prefer stereo mixes for headphone listening but love to blast the mono versions out of the speakers and shake up some cojones in the process! The next three discs – The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands (their finest full length, by the way), Turtle Soup and the odds ‘n’ ends compilation Wooden Head – feature the stereo versions of the albums plus a plethora of rarities. These discs are jam-packed with goodness, man. If you love the singles, then you really need to dig deeper and enjoy the heart of what made The Turtles an amazing band – their diversity. The first three albums are filled with gooey greatness. However, 1968’s Battle Of The Bands, which finds The Turtles portraying a different ‘band’ on each track, is a stunning tour-de-force. It is almost equaled by the follow-up, Turtle Soup, which is the only album Kinks leader Ray Davies produced for another band. Pretty impressive, indeed. And let’s face it, folks: in Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (later known as Flo & Eddie), The Turtles had two great front men in one band. With exquisite vocals, stunning arrangements and top tunes (some written by the band, some written by others), The Turtles created a body of work that deserves critical reappraisal. Like, right now, man.

P.S. And if all the above isn’t cool enough, Kaylan and Volman went on to work on loads of other people’s records including a stint with Frank Zappa and brilliant backing vocal work on a few classic T. Rex albums (including Electric Warrior). And there’s tons of info and thoughts about The Turtles that I haven’t even mentioned here! Knowing all of this, you really need to get yourself caught up on all things Turtles. You won’t regret it!

Peace, love and all that whatnot,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Wednesday, July 27, 2016



John Watts

    John Watts is one of those rare gems in the music business – a singer/songwriter who continues to reinvent himself with each release and yet manages to retain his unique musical vision. Like any good art, his past releases still ‘feel’ contemporary even though they were created at another moment in time. Best of all, his musical output has continued to reach new heights with each album – he’s never released a bad full-length in a nearly forty year career. Whether he is operating under his own name or the Fischer-Z moniker, John Watts is undeniably the most under-rated artist to emerge from the Post-Punk/New Wave era of the late ‘70s.

    Watts first came to the attention of the music-buying public when his band Fischer-Z released their debut album, Word Salad, in 1979. While distinctly British, Fischer-Z were unlike any of their contemporaries –intelligent, witty, well-written songs played by a band fueled by the energy of the Punk movement. However, their arty quirkiness was more in line with U.S. bands like Talking Heads. When they released their second album, Going Deaf For A Living, the following year, the band scored a hit with “So Long,” which even earned them plenty of airplay in the U.S. By the time they released their beloved third album, Red Skies Over Paradise, in ’81, they’d lost their keyboardist, Steve Skolnick, and the support of their U.S. label, who decided not to release the album in the States. Though the album did extremely well in Europe – the single “Marliese” remains one of their most popular tracks – the band split up and John Watts pursued a solo career.

    Here is where things get a little confusing, so please follow along: after two brilliant solo albums – One More Twist (1982) and The Iceberg Model (1983) – Watts formed The Cry with former FZ bassist David Graham. After one album, Quick Quick Slow (1984), The Cry split. John resurfaced three years later with a new FZ line-up and a slickly-produced hit album, Reveal (1987). From this point on, FZ became a vehicle for John Watts and a talented cast of supporting characters. Fish’s Head was released in ’89 and marked the end of the brief but wonderful ‘modern’ FZ sound. Beginning with 1992’s Destination Paradise – their best album yet – Watts stripped the songs down to their basics and didn’t focus on production or technology to carry the songs. While he has continued to dabble in the latest production techniques since then, the focus of every release has been the ‘feel’ and message of his incredibly emotional songwriting. Kamikaze Shirt (1993) and Stream (1995) were his final two releases as Fischer-Z…for the time being.  

    Thirteen Stories High was released in 1997 under the name J.M. Watts. Bigbeatpoetry (1999) and Spiritual Headcase (2000) were released under the name Watts. Briefly returning to the FZ moniker, Ether hit the shelves in 2002. Confusingly, more solo releases followed: Real Life Is Good Enough (2005), It Has To Be (2006) and Morethanmusic (2009). In 2011, he released the album Fischer-Z 2011, which found him re-inventing some of the band’s most beloved songs. And during all of this time, John has toured Europe and elsewhere numerous times, playing to diehard fans and touching a new generation of fans.

    Five years on, Watts has resurrected the Fischer-Z name and released one of the best albums of his career – This Is My Universe. To say that he remains a brilliant, thoughtful songwriter nearly forty years after he formed FZ is an understatement. Remarkably fresh and contemporary, John Watts has served up an album that features the same mixture of emotion and melody that he has never deviated from. While many artists have come and gone since he first formed FZ in 1977, Watts is at his best on This Is My Universe. He doesn’t create throw-away Pop that is forgotten once you listen to it – it stays with you long after the final notes have faded into the ether. And you say you’ve never heard of John Watts and Fischer Z? Time to catch up on four decades of excellence! Start with This Is My Universe and work your way backwards…

    Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to send off a few questions to John Watts as he tours for the album and prepares to celebrate the band’s 40th Anniversary in 2017…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: This Is My Universe has just been released. How are you feeling about the journey to get this album made and the reaction to it so far?
JOHN WATTS: It took a long time administratively to put it out, but the reactions to it have been extremely favorable.

SPAZ: This Is My Universe seems to be a rebirth of sorts for Fischer-Z. Do you feel that all the paths that you’ve taken over the years have led to this new album?
JOHN: Yes, but that’s true of all new work.

SPAZ: The album is yet another amazing release in a catalog filled with amazing releases. What keeps you inspired and passionate nearly forty years into an outstanding career?
JOHN: Thank you. Most artists are driven to express their view of the world via their art form. My main one is writing songs and putting out recordings. I still have as great a desire as ever to write about all the things in the world that move me.

SPAZ: For This Is My Universe, did you have a preconceived idea on how you wanted the album to sound or did it evolve organically?
JOHN: It evolved as the way that Nick Brine and I work together, but as always I had certain references to measure up to.

SPAZ: As a songwriter, your words and music always seem to work so well together. Do you think of lyrical ideas first and work the melodies and chord changes around those? Or are the lyrics inspired by the music? Has your method of songwriting changed over the years? Or do you stick with a tried and true formula?
JOHN: I’m inspired to write words, sometimes about an event or feeling or something that evolve from words themselves.

SPAZ: You’ve managed to change and grow with the times while also maintaining your own distinct style and sound. Do you stay on top of what is happening in the charts or do you tend to avoid those kinds of influences when creating your own music?
JOHN: I have always listened to as much new music as possible. All things historic are stored away in my brain. Overall I probably listen to less music than most people!

SPAZ: Are you more concerned now with moving and inspiring the listener than having hit singles? There are very few songwriters out there who have been recording for 36+ years and still sound as relevant and vital as John Watts…In fact, there are very few NEW songwriters out there with your passion.
JOHN: Thank you. My biggest interest is in having as many people as possible listen to my work. I think all artists hope for a degree of universality.

SPAZ: You’ve been an internet presence for many years. You’ve embraced many different types of media to enhance your art (music, film, etc). However, streaming music has become a hot topic as of late. How do you feel about the state of music and technology today?
JOHN: I embrace all new technologies. All artists have great difficulty in getting their heads above the internet parapet – There’s so much ‘stuff’ out there!

SPAZ: You’ve released albums under a variety of names including Fischer-Z, John Watts, The Cry, JM Watts, and Watts. Do you think that this may have been a bit confusing to the average record buyer who tried to follow your career in the days before social media made it easier to keep up?
JOHN: Yes! But especially with the pulling together of all things FZ next year for the 40th anniversary will hopefully demonstrate the clear line of evolution.

SPAZ: The new album is obviously very near and dear to your heart, but do you have any personal favorite albums/songs over the years that you feel may have been underappreciated?
JOHN: Yes. Thirteen Stories High!

SPAZ: What’s next for John Watts and Fischer-Z?
JOHN: A big 40th anniversary year including another new FZ album and a number of other releases.

SPAZ: What do you currently have spinning on your CD/record/DVD/Blu-Ray players?
JOHN: The new Iggy record, The Last Shadow Puppets, Pretty Vicious, Kendrick Lamarr, The Tall Ships and Tame Impala.

Thanks to John Watts
Special thanks to Eric Watts and Nick Kominitsky


Available NOW!

(PLEASE NOTE: This Spotify playlist is provided in order for you to sample some of JOHN WATTS' music.  We encourage you to purchase all of this artist's music. Thank you.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Gather ‘round, my friends and let me introduce you to the absolute best cure for your blues: sugar. Well, “Sugar Sugar” to be more precise.

Yes, one spin of The Archies’ mega-hit “Sugar Sugar” can wipe away any negative vibe that is inhabiting your universe. Even if you aren’t a fan of ‘60s Bubblegum, you’ve probably heard this gloriously happy tune many times since it was released in 1969. Figuratively (and perhaps literally) the missing link between The Monkees and The Partridge Family, this slice of Pop love has been played millions of times all around the world, used in advertising and has been both praised and ridiculed by music fans everywhere. The fact that you still remember it today – regardless of your personal feelings – is testament to the power that “Sugar Sugar” has had on the listener.

The Archies’ animated TV show was based on the popular comic book series that originated in the 1940s. Their clean-cut image may have come from a different era, but in the late ‘60s, that was precisely what the children needed to see. The Vietnam War, drug culture and racial inequality were just some of the subjects that were dealt with on a daily basis on the news, and the world was becoming a scary place for kids. The Archies offered wholesome entertainment that made them laugh and sing along. Under the eyes of music supervisor Don Kirschner, The Archies was destined to be a hit across the board. From toddlers to teens, The Archies’ music had a built-in audience when the cartoon debuted in ’68. For the show’s producers and Kirschner, there were no kooky counter-culture shenanigans like they experienced with The Monkees just a year or two before. In fact, Kirschner had been booted from his position as music supervisor for The Monkees, and was more than happy to take the same position when The Archies’ TV show was conceived – no meddling kids to interfere with his Pop plans. With “Sugar Sugar,” The Archies became the most successful non-existent garage rock band in Pop history that had their own animated series on Saturday mornings. Maybe. I might have to do some fact-checking to back up that claim, but I’m fairly certain it is true.

But what about their OTHER songs? You know, the ones not called “Sugar Sugar”? While they may not have seen the same amount of chart success as “Sugar Sugar,” there is plenty to love about their five original studio albums. Yes, five Archies albums! And you thought they only had one song, huh?

(Oh, and for the record, Ron Dante – he of The Cuff Links – sang almost all of the male lead vocals on The Archies’ recordings and Archie Andrews would lip sync them on the animated TV series. Maybe.)

Here we are, nearly fifty years since “Sugar Sugar” hit the charts and we’re finally getting something more than just a half-heartedly thrown together Archies compilation. In fact, Sugar Sugar: The Complete Albums Collection (Cleopatra) takes The Archies seriously and serves them up in style with five mini-LP reproductions of each of their albums, all housed in a clamshell box with a booklet featuring liner notes, info, pictures and all the fun things you’d want in a box set devoted to these groovy kids. For a Pop music lover like myself, it is fascinating to hear these recordings again while revisiting “Sugar Sugar” within the original context of their oeuvre. Strange to think that that hit was on their SECOND album, Everything’s Archie, but I suppose The Archies certainly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump that so many bands became a victim of over the years.

So, how is the rest of the music? Let’s put it this way: make an appointment with your dentist before giving this box set a spin because it is so sugary sweet that you’ll certainly walk away with a few extra cavities! And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing. Take the optimistic vibe of the first two Monkees albums, add in some childlike wonder, squeeze in a dash of the first two Partridge Family albums (if you’re a purist, you can substitute The Cowsills), toss in some real back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll and then turn it up loud! “Don’t Touch My Guitar,” “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O),” “Carousel Man,” “La Dee Doo Down Down,” and so many other songs are nearly as wonderful. You see, the problem people may have with this material is that it will sound dated, cheesy and super gooey sweet…but that pretty much describes “Sugar Sugar” as well! If we had heard these songs hundreds if not thousands of times over the past five decades, they too would be classic Pop nuggets. Maybe.

“Hide And Seek” is a heavy garage rocker (well, compared to “Sugar Sugar”). “Justine” is pretty close to classic Baroque Pop. “Together We Two” is a delightful mix of hippie love and Bubblegum Pop. “Comes The Sun” is a late period Archies track that still sounds as sweet as their earlier tracks but also has the same free-spirited charm as the AM Pop that occupied the charts in ’71. I was planning to namecheck at least a dozen more great songs – “Jingle Jangle” was next – but I think you get the idea.

Sugar Sugar: The Complete Albums Collection is as delicious as Bubblegum Pop gets and while The Archies may not be considered ‘hip’ and ‘cool,’ they are probably hipper and cooler than anyone you have spinning on your turntable right now! Maybe.

A must-have for those who love Pop music and have fond memories of chasing the ice cream truck down their street in order to plop their money down for a delicious treat.  This is just as fun with only half the calories!

And yes, there is quite a history behind The Archies that I have not touched on here.  You can catch up on their history in the booklet included in this box.  But I will tell you that "Sugar Sugar" was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim.  Jeff worked with The Monkees and many others before writing for The Archies.  Andy Kim is now best known for his 1974 solo it "Rock Me Gently" (you know, that song that you could have sworn was by Neil Diamond).

Peace, love and The Archies,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

PETER COYLE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with the legendary Liverpudlian music maker and Lotus Eaters frontman!


Deep In The Music - 
To The Digital Age

     Over three decades after he first entered the charts in the UK with The Lotus Eaters, Peter Coyle remains one of the most under-rated singer/songwriters in the UK. He made a splash with the truly memorable “The First Picture Of You” single in 1983 and instantly became a proper Pop star. Featured on magazine covers, pull out posters and Top Of The Pops, The Lotus Eaters – vocalist Coyle and guitarist Jem Kelly (The Wild Swans) – conquered the charts and became ‘overnight’ sensations. “The First Picture Of You” may have been a catchy first hit but it was far from your standard ‘80s assembly line Pop song. This single, like much of the 1984 album No Sense Of Sin (expanded edition via Cherry Red), was multi-layered – a glossy slice of melancholy filled with heart, soul, love, fear, hope, purity, longing and a sense of wonder. The Lotus Eaters were a very unique and gentle band that their label tried to mould into a slick, chart-friendly pop duo ala Tears For Fears and China Crisis. However, Coyle and Kelly refused to alter their musical vision to fit someone else’s idea of what The Lotus Eaters were all about. Their follow-up singles and debut album sounded like nothing else in the charts and this confused the label’s marketing team and the public alike. Unfortunately, the band split in 1985 before recording a second album. Jem went back to The Wild Swans while Peter focused on an eclectic and independent solo career. (In 1987, Coyle won the US Billboard Album of the Year for his critically acclaimed double album A Slap in the Face for Public Taste. A year later he released his groundbreaking album I’d Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacClaine Just To Be There. It was at this time that Peter Coyle formed the most successful dance club in the UK called G-Love and created the Eight Productions moniker to create dance floor classics such as 'Sly One' by Marina Van Rooy and 'Hard' by Connie Lush
     By the turn of the millennium, there had been a critical reappraisal of The Lotus Eaters’ small but beloved catalogue and the duo reunited to play some shows. In 2001, the duo released their second album, Silentspace (available via Cherry Red), proving that they were still a highly unique musical force, mixing gorgeous melodies with Coyle’s emotive voice. The album was embraced by longtime fans and critics but was released on an indie label that struggled with delivering their music to a wider audience. While Coyle and Kelly have continued to occasionally work together over the years, they have yet to release a follow-up to Silentspace. Coyle returned to a solo career, releasing a series of remarkable albums independently including Earthspace, Stay Deep In The Music, The Mood Machine, and Meltdown For The Mindless and G-Metrix’s Kiss the Vision. Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, his solo recordings are more intimate than The Lotus Eaters’ releases yet they still possess the same heartwarming charm that was first apparent on “The First Picture Of You.”
     More recently, Coyle has stopped releasing physical product and focuses on issuing digital only singles every month. This allows him to work independently. He understands that without a genuine platform his music is destined for obscurity but he is adamant that the only thing that counts is the body of work. Again, these musical moments are unlike anything else you’ll hear on any digital platform yet they are tailored to fit every mood – the same song can make you sob if you’re sad and bring joy to your heart if you are feeling particularly optimistic. The only other artist who can do that so effortlessly is The Durutti Column. Coyle’s recordings have the extra added bonus of his vocals, which come from deep within the soul. He lives and breathes this music and it can be felt as well as heard in his songs. Why a record label – major, indie or boutique – doesn’t snap up his recordings is a tragedy.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to send off some questions to Peter, who graciously took time to answer them…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: You first came to public attention in 1983 with The Lotus Eaters and the release of your single “The First Picture Of You”.  Coming out of Liverpool, a city with a rich musical history, what was it like growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s?
PETER COYLE: Life is hard for everyone… it was hard for me… as it was obvious that I was a freak… and the concept of fitting in was a complete nonstarter… but there was no language to express that energy…until music came into my life…and i am very grateful to music for that…music has been my salvation and my refuge…i am very lucky to have lived the life i have lived…a life deep in music…

SPAZ: People often associate Liverpool with the ‘60s British invasion but did you find the late ‘70s an exciting time with bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Yachts, etc.?
PETER: Music is part of the make-up of Liverpool… I used to just walk around the city and you could almost touch the atmosphere… it was very energizing and a beautiful thing…one of the key aspects of coming from Liverpool is that it encourages you to think in an independent way…and I will always be forever grateful for that…music for a lot of us was the only option…it gave us the chance to express ourselves and find a way out of the desperate situation we found ourselves in…

SPAZ: You hooked up with guitarist Jem Kelly, who had left The Wild Swans. When The Lotus Eaters first started, what was the musical climate like? There were still a lot of great Liverpudlian bands at the time including The Icicle Works, China Crisis, OMD, A Flock Of Seagulls
PETER: There was music everywhere…i was in the Jass Babies and we just could not get anyone interested in what we were doing…i think it was because we were very different… and no one had any money and the rehearsal spaces were full of cups drenched in mold… but it was a magical time and I am very lucky to have been in such a charged up atmosphere…everything was buzzing…everyone was hoping…everyone was trying to make something that cut through the noise…

SPAZ: The music you created was entirely unique. Production-wise, it seemed to fit in with what was happening in ’83 and ’84 yet the songs were unlike anything else going on at the time.  Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted and did NOT want to do, musically?
PETER: It sounds naive now but we wanted to be original… and we wanted to do something beautiful… we didn't just want to fit in with the crowd… we wanted to be brave and do something different and I am proud of what we achieved creatively…we wanted to put our necks on the line…looking back on it…we were extremely brave…and in many ways absolutely clueless…which is part of the charm…

SPAZ: In recent years, I’ve seen the band referred to as Goth, which I believe goes completely against the positive nature of the band’s music. How would you classify The Lotus Eaters if you really had to?
PETER: Gentle melancholy… introspective… and deep… and coming from a different space… and feminine… and brave… and out there…melody and atmosphere…

SPAZ: Looking back at No Sense Of Sin, how do you feel about the album?  And were you pleased with the expanded CD reissue?
PETER:  Yes I am glad that the b-sides like “Two Virgins Tender” were on there… typically the b-sides were very important to us… which sounds like a contradiction…which it is… but it is the truth...

SPAZ: The band split after one album and a final single, the brilliant “It Hurts.” What led to this premature breakup?
PETER: During the French tour Jem decided to team up again with The Wild Swans and signed a two album deal with a Seymour Stein's Sire Records label…

SPAZ: You continued on a solo career that was low-key but contains so many unique and wonderful moments.  Do you plan to reissue any of your early solo releases?  Some of us have only ever heard them and have not been able to find copies!
PETER: that is very kind of you to say…it wasn’t my intention to be low key…but it was my intention to not waste a single moment and make sure that i followed my heart and not the money… I have done so much stuff that I am not even aware of what I have done… I like the idea of doing a ‘best of’ album that is only released after I am dead…

SPAZ: When you create music, as a member of Lotus Eaters and as a solo artist, where does the inspiration come from? Do you start with a musical idea or the lyrics first?  Or has it changed much over the years?
PETER: It changes all the time… the most important part of the process is to start and to then step back and let the creativity flow… again, it sounds very counter intuitive but it is the way it is… music is resonance and is a one to one function with resilience…

SPAZ: Interest in The Lotus Eaters continued which lead to a 2001 reunion album, Silentspace. The album continued your trend of creating unconventional yet beautiful Pop music. “Can Your Kisses Fly?” is especially glorious.  Was creating new music with Jem an enjoyable experience?  It sure sounded like it…
PETERI was in Edinburgh at the time at the university taking a much needed break from music so, yes, it was good to tie up some loose ends with the lotus eaters…it felt good to reconnect to that energy after so many years…

SPAZ: An acoustic Lotus Eaters album received limited release and it has been rumoured that there has been a new Lotus Eaters album in the works for years.  Are there any updates on a reissue of the acoustic album and a possible new album?
PETER: The acoustic album difference was never officially released unfortunately… it was recorded in 2001… a full studio album mixed and produced by Stephen Power was completed in 2009... but similarly that was never released either…i am hoping that we can release all our material together in one package at some point…

SPAZ: Going back to your solo material, do you write differently for each project or do they all manifest themselves in a similar fashion?  Songs like “Reach For The Sun” and so many others are just as moving as anything The Lotus Eaters released.
PETER:  If I don't write songs I can't breathe… it is as simple as that… every single day I wake up and try to write something beautiful that will change my world… I always hold the dream that it may change someone else's world also… but that is out of my control… I do what I do… and the world does what the world does… I am very focused… my goal, pure and simple, is to not waste a single moment on this earth… and to try and make music that counts… regardless of whether or not anyone listens to it… I am here to connect to music and there is only a finite time… all that matters is that I keep my end of the bargain… the rest is none of my business...

SPAZ:  Over the last few years, you’ve been releasing songs through various digital platforms as Peter Coyle Hijacked and Peter Coyle Fractal. What is the inspiration behind the names?
PETER: There is none… it is just that I have used so many different names and guises… that even I don't know what is happening… God knows what it is like for a member of the public… so I decided to just keep on using the same name as much as possible so now everything goes under the name Peter Coyle Fractalas it is easier for me and for everyone else… I use Peter Coyle Hijacked if I work with Yorkie… I use the name Peter Coyle And The Films Of Strawberry Black when I work with Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat…on that point Thierry Bruno and I have a new album coming out called Strands of Slowness coming out in January 2017…

SPAZ: Your songs seem to come from a place filled with both beauty and pain.  Do you always write from the heart based on your own experiences or do you sometimes attempt to write from someone else’s perspective?
PETER: The best songs in my opinion are always written when it is from someone else's perspective but when you connect with it so much that people think that it comes from you… that is where things start getting interesting… most people think music is built on authorship and ownership… for me music is built on alchemy… and empathy...

SPAZ: Your music and lyrical approach remain honest and don’t conform to standard Pop formulas.  Is this intentional or do you find yourself unable to conform to any musical boundaries?
PETER: I love “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (Procol Harum)… one of the greatest Pop songs ever… I love John Martyn… I love music that has its own structure… music by numbers that is designed to make money is for everyone else… I need love - real love to quote John Lennon… some of the greatest records ever have zero structure… they are just a surge of beautiful energy that comes to the surface… like the music of Erik Satie...

SPAZ: As with The Lotus Eaters, your solo recordings seem to revolve around emotion, both good and bad.  Do you think that heart and soul is missing in a lot of today’s music?
PETER:  There are people who play music… millions of them… and there are people who can't live without making music… I am in the latter category… every day I dream that I can make music… it is that innate in me… it is that integral to my very core… regardless of whether or not I sell records… that is neither here nor there… I stare at my fate every single day… and I am very conscious of the fact that I am going to be an old man who is staring at the face of failure… there is nothing wrong with that… I have spent my whole life distracting myself from real life by making music… that was my choice… and would be my choice if I had to live another thousand lives… although I am dearly hoping this is the last one… I am just eternally grateful to feel like I am connected to music and it is something that means everything to me…

SPAZ: Who have been some of your musical collaborators on your most recent recordings?
PETER: Recently I have had the pleasure of working with Phil Wake from Wake the Dead! Studios, Stephen Power, Erika Zueneli, Mal Holmes, Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat and hopefully some new collaborations that are ongoing but I can't really divulge right now…

SPAZ: Do you have any plans to compile a physical release featuring some of your digital-only singles?
PETER: One of my heroes is Gaudi… and I love the fact that he put everything into his designs… I put everything into my music… and I would love it if a label approached me and said that they wanted to create physical releases for me… but that has not happened yet and time is short… my principal role is to make music… if I spent 95% of my time trying to get people interested I would be wasting my life… status is very nice and all that but is of no interest to me… the only thing I want on my gravestone is ‘music maker’...

SPAZ: What’s next for Peter Coyle?
PETER: I am trying to finish a song called ‘Sunset’ - I am hoping as I am always hoping that it is beautiful beyond belief but only time will tell… and I have a new single out in June July and  August called ‘The Wildflowers Of Fire, The Breakup and Homeless… and I am going to try and carry on releasing something every month even though it is extremely taxing and difficult to keep up… the only thing that matters is that I stay deep in the music…i am also hoping that i find time to just sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy the beautiful french countryside…

SPAZ: What are you currently listening to?
PETER: I am not listening to much at the moment as I have no time but in about a month's time I am going to force myself to put down tools and listen… listen and learn… and soak up… and connect with all the beautiful music out there… I love David Bowie's last album Blackstar and love him so much for making that album when he did… I like Radiohead’s new single “Burn The Witch”… I really enjoy listening to Morton Feldman and the Kronos Quartet… basically, I love all forms of music… and long may that continue…

Thanks to Peter Coyle

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