Popdose Single Premiere: Peter Noone with the Weeklings, “Friday on My Mind”

Popdose is very pleased to share this great new single from New Jersey’s own Jem Records – this time legendary Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone teams up with The Weeklings (a Popdose favorite) for a dynamic version of The Easybeats’ classic, “Friday On My Mind”.

Uptempo and energetic, Mr. Noone’s voice is in fine shape and fits the melody perfectly while the on-the-one backing of The Weeklings is flawless, as are their vocal harmonies.

I’ve heard other artists cover this track and by far, this is the best rendition yet.  See what you think – it’s hard not to dig it.

“Friday” On My Mind is currently available

https://www.weeklings.com/

http://www.jemrecordings.com/

Soul Serenade: Teddy Pendergrass, “Love T.K.O.”

Have you seen the new Showtime documentary Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me? I recommend it with a bit of reservation related to some rather dubious accusations that are thrown around by people who may, or may not, be reliable. The documentary tells the tragic story of a star who rose from humble beginnings to the verge of superstardom only to be disabled in a terrible automobile accident. But the film’s most important message and the one that makes it worthwhile viewing is that Pendergrass, in a wheelchair, his career seemingly over and intent on suicide, chose life.

Pendergrass grew up on the mean streets of North Philadelphia. He and his mother had moved there from South Carolina when Pendergrass was an infant. His father Jesse left the family early on and was later stabbed to death. The young Pendergrass began singing in church and had dreams of becoming a pastor, a dream he realized when he became an ordained minister at the age of ten. Around the same time, Pendergrass began to play the drums.

Pendergrass attended high school in North Philadelphia but dropped out in his junior year to pursue a career in music. He released one single, “Angel With Muddy Feet,” but it didn’t gain any traction. Pendergrass played drums for a number of local bands eventually landing in one called the Cadillacs (not the same group as the popular Cadillacs of New York City). At that time, Harold Melvin had founded a group called the Blue Notes and in 1970, when he heard Pendergrass play, Melvin asked him to become the group’s drummer. The Blue Notes hadn’t been able to find much success at that point. Then, one night Pendergrass sang along with the group from his drum chair. Melvin knew a good voice when he heard it and he moved Pendergrass from the drum set behind the group to the lead singer position center stage.

Things changed quickly for the Blue Notes after that and in 1971 they signed with Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. The first Blue Notes single for P.I.R. was a ballad called “I Miss You.” The song had been intended for the Dells but when they rejected it, Kenny Gamble, with the similarity of Pendergrass’ voice with that of Dells lead Marvin Junior in mind, chose Pendergrass to sing lead on the track with fellow Blue Note Lloyd Parks handling the falsetto parts and Harold Melvin himself handling an early rap part at the end of the song. “I Miss You” was a major hit on the R&B chart, reaching #4 while almost making it into the Top 50 on the pop chart. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes were on their way but much bigger things were still ahead.

The second Blue Notes single was once again a song originally intended for another artist, in this case, Labelle. A scheduling conflict prevented the Philadelphia trio from recording the song and it fell into the lap of the Blue Notes. It was a huge break for the group because “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was one of Gamble and Huff’s most magnificent creations. The resulting single rose to the top of the R&B chart hit the Top 10 on the pop chart and made Teddy Pendergrass a star. There was just one problem — most people thought that the guy out front with the big voice was Harold Melvin.

Pendergrass kept leading the way on subsequent Blue Notes hits like “The Love I Lost,” “Bad Luck,” “Wake Up Everybody,” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” At some point, Pendergrass became unhappy with the way Melvin was handling the group’s finances, i.e. paying himself much more than the other group members, including Pendergrass. At the same time, Pendergrass was upset that he wasn’t getting the recognition that he had earned as the lead voice on all of those hits. He asked that the group be renamed Teddy Pendergrass & the Blue Notes but Melvin wasn’t having it and in 1975, Pendergrass left the group to pursue a solo career.

Teddy Pendergrass on his own was an immediate star. Continuing to work with Gamble and Huff, the self-titled Teddy Pendergrass debut album, which included the hit singles “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” and “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me,” went platinum in 1977. The following year the album Life is a Song Worth Singing, did even better with the singles “Only You” and especially the smash hit “Close the Door” spurring sales. The latter song was the one that turned Pendergrass into an undeniable sex symbol.

The next album, Teddy, topped the R&B chart for eight weeks helped by the songs “Come Go With Me,” “Turn Off the Lights,” and “Do Me.” After the Live Coast to Coast album, Pendergrass released the perhaps his greatest album, TP. The album included massively popular tracks like “Feel the Fire,” a duet with Stephanie Mills, the Ashford and Simpson song “Is It Still Good To Ya,” and the classic “Love T.K.O,” a song written by Cecil Womack and Gip Noble, Jr. and first recorded by David Oliver. The Pendergrass cover reached #2 on the Billboard R&B chart and skirted the Top 40 on the pop chart. By 1982, Pendergrass, with his four consecutive platinum albums, was perhaps the biggest star in R&B rivaling even giants like Marvin Gaye. In light of his crossover success, some in the media were even referring to him as the “black Elvis.”

Teddy Pendergrass

With Pendergrass at the peak of his success, on the verge of becoming an international superstar, fate intervened. On the night of March 18, 1982, Pendergrass was driving his Rolls Royce in Philadelphia. In the passenger seat was a performer named Tenika Watson who Pendergrass met earlier that evening. Pendergrass lost control of the car and hit a tree. He and his passenger were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. Watson, who was later revealed to be transgender, walked away with scratches. Pendergrass had been struck in the chest by a dome in the center of the steering wheel, a decorative feature. The blow severed his spinal cord and he was left a quadriplegic.

Unsurprisingly, Pendergrass became depressed in the wake of the accident. He spoke about committing suicide. Desperately looking for a way to prevent Pendergrass from taking his own life his psychiatrist, a quadriplegic himself, hit on the idea of holding a mock funeral so that Pendergrass could see how much he meant to his family and friends. The radical approach worked and Pendergrass emerged from the ceremony determined to live.

Still, it wasn’t going to be easy. Pendergrass was determined to continue his career and with the help of his doctor, an apparatus was created that when worn would help Pendergrass find enough air to sing. But his contract with P.I.R. had expired and other record labels had no interest in signing him given his physical condition. In 1984, Pendergrass finally got a new record deal and released the album Love Language. The album got as far as #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified as a Gold album.

One of the most emotional moments in popular music history came on July 13, 1985, at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia. Pendergrass had chosen a daunting venue for his return to live performance and he was so nervous that he almost didn’t go through with it. But when he rolled out on stage in his wheelchair during Ashford and Simpson’s set the ovation from his hometown crowd that greeted him seemed to go on forever. Together with his old friends he performed a tearful version of “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” a song that had been a huge hit for Diana Ross and couldn’t have been more appropriate for the moment.

By 1988, Pendergrass was back on top of the charts with the single “Joy” and in 1994 he had another hit, albeit one of his last, with “Believe in Love.” Four years later, Pendergrass published his autobiography Truly Blessed. In 2002, he turned his Power of Love concert which had taken place at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles into the live album From Teddy, With Love. In 2006, Pendergrass announced that he would retire from the music business although he did return to perform at the Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities concert the following year. The concert marked the 25th anniversary of the accident while also raising money for the charity that Pendergrass had established.

Pendergrass faced colon cancer surgery in 2009. The surgery was successful but several weeks later he was back in the hospital with respiratory problems. On January 13, 2010, Teddy Pendergrass died at a hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, not far from where he had grown up. On that day we lost one of the greatest voices of our time. Pendergrass was only 59 years old at the time of his death but by choosing life all of those years earlier he was able to enjoy the love of his family, friends, and fans for many years after his accident.

 

Popdose Video Premiere: Jonny Polonsky, “The Same Song”

Popdose is pleased to share with you the brand new video from Chicago pop-meister Jonny Polonsky, from his most recent album, Unreleashed:  Demos & Rarities, 1996 – 2018.  The track, “The Same Song” has a quirky little background, but we’ll leave it to the source himself:

“It’s basically about the sad-eyed joy of hooking up. Kind of a sexed-up Carson McCullers story. 

 
I was recently listening to the album Night and Day by Joe Jackson, which I had loved as a boy. The last song on the record, “A Slow Song,” is basically where I got the chorus for my song. Totally different feel, vibe and message, and it was 100% unintentional. One of those cute little moments where you can connect the dots that your subconscious puts together when you make stuff. That was a cool surprise, to realize where the germ of my song had come from.
 
So remember kids, it’s okay to steal; just recontextualize and you’ll be golden.”
 
Unreleashed:  Demos & Rarities, 1996 – 2018 is currently available
 
www.jonnypolonsky.com

Dizzy Heights #52: Someday We’ll Be Happy Again – Breakup Songs Part 2 (The Ballads)

I’m bringing the mope this week, love birds. If I know anything about love, it’s that it dies a slow, painful death when the month of February rolls around. Seriously, for two Februarys in a row in college, all of my friends and I saw our relationships come to an end. The following year, we threw a party to celebrate it, and that annual party tradition carried on for another ten years. The breakups, thankfully, didn’t.

 

Bands making their DH debuts this week include Alison Moyet, The Bangles, Deon Estus, David Gray, Elliott Smith (what), Kate Bush (WHAT), Simply Red, Vitamin Z, and World Party. Wait, really? Sorry, Mr. Wallinger. I just assumed I had played you by now.

 

The March show is still being built, but I’ll give you a hint as to its theme: the giant crab in “Moana” would approve.

 

Thank you, as always, for listening.

 

Popdose Exclusive Single Premiere: Zach Vinson, “Better Man”

“Better Man” from Zach Vinson’s forthcoming album And Yet (available on April 26th, 2019) arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day. The album explores less-charted relationship ground: what does it look like to stay in love; to stick it out when it would be easier to throw in the towel? These aren’t easy questions, but the lyrical content looks for meaningful solutions.

On “Better Man”, Zach takes a hard, honest look at himself as he sings: “…I don’t know what you envisioned / Please tell me what you dreamed / I never learned to pretend I’ll be a better man than I’ll be.” 

It says a great deal – which makes it all the more worthwhile to give it a listen.

“Better Man” is released as a single on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

http://www.zachvinson.com/

Holden Laurence Flies Solo (Again) With “Shadows of Old Love”

Holden Laurence, guitarist for cinematic pop darlings, The Modern Electric, will soon release his second solo album, Rewire. It promises to be essential listening for fans of The Smiths, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Killers, and The Wild Swans who are looking for something fresh, new, and exciting to get into. Whether you’re falling in or out of love, or staring dreamily at the stars knowing he, she, ze or they are out there looking for you too, the songs on Rewire (along with his debut Wild Empty Promises) will fill your mixtapes and playlists with plenty of edgy, melodic, romantic, and darkly epic earworms.

At the stroke of Midnight last night, Laurence released the album’s first single, ‘Shadows of Old Love’:

Naturally, we here at Popdose were over the moon about it and wanted to learn more…

POPDOSE: This is your second solo album — both of which have been released in the gap since the last The Modern Electric album. Are the lines blurring between which project is a day job versus a side hustle? 

HOLDEN LAURENCE: The frequency of releases has more to do with the pace of each project’s creative process than some kind of hierarchy of importance. I write, arrange, demo, and record my solo material pretty much all on my own. I bounce ideas off of my drummer, Michael O’Brien, and he lets me know when I’m closing in on something special. Otherwise, the writing and editing process is streamlined and self-contained. The Modern Electric operates in a more democratic fashion where Garrett (Komyati, lead vocals, piano, guitar) brings us the skeleton of a song and we work together to flesh out parts and push the arrangement in different directions. Over time our individual visions organically coalesce to form a unified work, which is greater than the sum of its parts.

As of right now, the success of one project hasn’t limited my ability to be fully invested in the other, but that’s a complication that I’d welcome.

Based on the influences within this album, we grew up a generation apart while loving the same bands — the Smiths, Dire Straits, Echo, the Church, etc. … how did you first discover all of these bands (and let me know about others) — as opposed to the acts topping Billboard during your childhood? I assume by the time you were discovering music, MTV was no longer playing any… 

HL: It actually took me awhile to stumble upon the early alternative influences you hear in my solo work. My musical tastes growing up were largely influenced by my mom and my uncle. My uncle had a killer classic rock record collection; The Beatles, Frank Zappa, and everything in between. I started playing guitar when I was pretty young and I gravitated toward bands like Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac… bands with guitarists that had great ears for melody. When I got a little older and started writing songs, I fell in love with Folk and Americana; John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, etc.

When I was a kid some of the mainstream New Wave artists were still getting radio play, like The Cure and New Order. So those sounds were swirling around my head at a really young age but I kind of forgot all about them for twenty years. Toward the end of college I bought The Queen is Dead by The Smiths at the suggestion of a friend and it was a revelation. So down the rabbit hole I went. Disintegration by The Cure, Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, Organisation by OMD, Dare! by The Human League, Power, Corruption, and Lies by New Order… I felt such an intense kinship with those artists and it was different than my connections to other music. The romanticism, the vulnerability, the fragile humanity… and so much of the heavy content was offset by upbeat, driving music. I just loved the complexity and contradictions.

I’ve been writing songs for over a decade and tried on multiple occasions over the years to start bands. But every time I did none of the styles or sounds I explored felt right. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started filtering my songs through those newly rediscovered early alternative influences that something clicked. I finally found my voice as an artist and it was liberating. I could write about heavier content and frame it in a way that kept it from getting overwhelmingly dark.

It seems like this record, like the last one, would go over much bigger in Europe than it would the States where commercial radio is stagnant, leaving only NPR and College Radio to introduce your music to new audiences. Will you be contacting indies for potential distribution deals? Same with the likes of Jools Holland and various BBC shows… 

HL: I’ve reached out to some labels based in Europe and I would absolutely love to get some kind of distribution deal in the works. A substantial amount of my Spotify listening base is young adult Europeans, so it would be really helpful to have a label partner overseas to get my music in front of a wider audience.

How goes the radio reception here in the states?

HL: Regional college radio stations have been really, really supportive of Wild Empty Promises. I can’t say enough good things about my friends at WJCU, WRUW, and WKSU. I’m planning a much wider push with Rewire and hopefully it yields a similarly enthusiastic response, just on a wider scale.

Like many of my beloved Sire bands back in the day, your songs are very romantic and honest — do you write from the POV of fictional characters or does this album chronicle a real-life courtship and/or breakup? Did you ever get the girl? 

HL: On Rewire, I pushed myself to be more vulnerable and honest lyrically. I always write from a foundation of truth. Sometimes it’s literal and sometimes it’s a patchwork of my own experiences combined with external observations. Songwriting is a form of therapy for me. I like to find points of discomfort—painful memories, broken relationships, insecurities and holes in my self-esteem, harmful personality traits… and lean into them. I like to sit in that discomfort for a while and try to exorcise it like a demon. It weakens its negative power in my life and if I do it in an interesting and honest way it creates something relatable for listeners. Most of Rewire was written during a tumultuous period of my life after a messy break up when I was trying to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and how to move forward in life.

How did this album come together (producers, players), and how did its creation differ from the recording of the two TME albums?

HL: Similar to Wild Empty Promises, we recorded Rewire in two parts. We recorded the basic rhythm tracks in Cleveland at Fe True Records and then finished tracking at Bobby Peru Recording Studio in Milwaukee. It was engineered, mixed, and mastered by Shane Olivo, with Dr. Michael Bell supporting as executive producer. Once again, I recruited my BFF and favorite drummer in the world, Michael O’Brien, to provide the pulse of the record. The rest was self-produced and performed by me. 

The Modern Electric has the benefit of recording the basic tracks live in the studio. We obviously do a lot of overdubs and layering, but it’s great to be able to build upon a super solid foundation. With my solo material, Mike and I track the drums and bass live but we rely on guide vocals and supplemental tracks from the demos to help get dynamic, natural performances. Once we get a great drum track, then I build everything around it piece by piece. It forces me to stay mindful of the overall feel to make sure it doesn’t sound mechanical or sterile as I’m layering in the different instruments.

What’s next — will a third solo project make it out before the next TME album?

HL: There’s new music in the works for both projects! The Modern Electric’s next full length is written and ready to record. I’m really proud of the material and I can’t wait for people to hear it! And I’m already scheduling sessions for my next solo release. After completing two full lengths, I’m going to release some singles/EPs. I love crafting complete albums with emotional arcs and cohesive themes but one of the downsides is that songs that aren’t highlighted as singles get buried to the general audience. By releasing singles each song gets a chance to be absorbed by fans and become embedded in their lives for a while. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to release music on a consistent basis and avoid any lulls between records, which is more conducive to modern listening habits.

What are your plans to tour and promote this record? Will TME keep moving forward in the meantime? 

HL: We have the ‘Shadows of Old Love’ Single Release show coming up on February 10th at the Beachland Tavern with John’s Little Sister and The Morning Bird. We’re also planning the “Rewire” Album Release Show in mid-May. We’re working on branching out regionally this year to places like Chicago, Columbus, NYC, Boston, etc. I’m trying to perform in front of as many new faces as possible.

The Modern Electric just finished writing and demoing our next album. We’re hoping to hit the studio in 2019 and start pumping out new music in the not-so-distant future.

Gone are the days when most artists sign with a label, tap into a pool of artist development funds, and enjoy a large advance for record production, music videos, etc. How do you go about balancing real world concerns (bills to pay) while advancing your career in the DIY arena? 

HL: It’s not easy. The current music business model has pretty much eradicated the “middle class” of working Independent artists and bands that existed in the pre-streaming era. For production and promotion, it forces artists to be extremely judicious in their spending to maximize effectiveness and efficiency. It also encourages close-knit local creative communities, which has always been a staple of DIY. Artists, musicians, videographers, and venues work together to raise the profile of the entire scene. The biggest investment is time. Since there’s not a huge budget for a massive team to assist in production, promotion, and touring, much of that responsibility falls on the artist. You have to prioritize your life, make sacrifices, and manage your time appropriately in order to achieve your goals, creatively and professionally.

While Rewire is due out this May, you can download ‘Shadows of Old Love‘ now. Connect with Holden Laurence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Popdose Video Premiere: Bill Pritchard Doubles Down on “Forever”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of singer-songwriter Bill Pritchard’s U.S. breakthrough, Three Months, Three Weeks & Two Days, a beloved indie-rock album featuring the college-radio hits “Nineteen” and “Tommy & Co.” Pritchard hails from Lichfield, Staffordshire, in England’s West Midlands region. The city is an hour’s drive down the M6 from Manchester, home to Pritchard’s sonic kindred cousins in the ’80s, the Smiths.

Not a lot of pop stars hail from Lichfield, but plenty of authors do, including writer Samuel Johnson, who published The Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Literary history suits Pritchard’s music well; elegant wordplay, jangling rhythms, wry melodies, and stories of life in the Midlands influence his recent work, including his upcoming album, Midland Lullabies, his third for Tapete Records.

To herald the album’s release next month, Popdose proudly presents the video premiere of Pritchard’s new single, “Forever”:

It’s easy to zone out and lose yourself in the melody while watching the hypnotic, double-exposure video — but like much of Pritchard’s work, nothing is ever what it apparently seems. Was this done in one take or two? More? Pritchard’s melodies are usually quite hummable off the bat, but his stories can take you just about anywhere — through love and anger, darkness and light — revealing new meanings with each passing listen whether or not you get all of the local references. Besides being a Midlands favorite son, Pritchard has sizable followings in the U.S., Japan, and France.

Midland Lullabies is the third in a trilogy of sophisticated new albums by indie-pop elder statesmen who made big splashes in the ’80s and are releasing some of their best work at the close of the 2010s, the other two being Robert Forster’s Inferno, due March 1 from the former co-lead of the Go-Betweens, and Fool, now available, by another Staffordshire native, Joe Jackson.

Bill Pritchard’s Midland Lullabies is out March 8.

Dizzy Heights #51: If Love Is Blind, I Guess I’ll Buy Myself a Cane — Breakup Songs, Part I (Upbeat)

Love songs are great, they really are, but breakup songs are so much more interesting. And they come in many shapes and sizes, as this mix will attest. Dance tracks, indie rock tracks, Beatlesque pop, hard rock, Spector-esque bombast, jazzy pop excursions…they’re all here.

And this isn’t all: on Valentine’s Day, I am dropping a second breakup mix, this time focusing on the ballads. Two artists show up in both shows. Think you can guess who they are? I’ll give you a hint: they both worked together for years, mainly one of them producing the other. 

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debut this week include Adam Ant (solo), Airborne Toxic Event, Cause & Effect, Gotye, Guns ‘n Roses, Shakespear’s Sister, Sugar, and a brand new song by the band Unloved.

Yes, I actually say ‘wifes’ in one of the talkie bits, rather than ‘wives.’ Whoops.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Ninety-Nine

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Ninety Nine

In another one of those inspired moments, the 99th installment of Radio City… finds Rob and Jon delivering a wholly improvised show – no planned content – just a good old fashioned conversation, between two friends who know what they’re talking about.  They cover the entire spectrum, including the beloved “In Our Heads” (a really great one!), so you don’t want to miss this.

Listen in and have a good time – they certainly did!

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Ninety Nine


The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.