One thing that never gets old in pop music is funny, mainly because there’s so little of it, Ween, Tenacious D, and Flight of the Conchords notwithstanding. Of course the comedy doesn’t work if you don’t have appealing hooks or great chops. When the latter includes pumping rhythms, popping syncopation, voices that can step out or blend, and enough smarts to put it all in a blender and still be identifiable as you and only you___ or them, as was the case of the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (NRBQ), then you deserve the (nearly) forty year run you had.
Keyboardist Terry Adams’ loony hats and karate chops to the clavinet, the nightly draws from the Magic Box, exploding Cabbage Patch Dolls, otherworldly appearances by faux manager/wrestling goon Captain Lou Albano, all the while playing an everything-but-the- kitchen-sink brand of post-modern American music comprise some of the goo that made NRBQ stick so hard.
At the end of my brief stint as a college radio DJ, I nicked two records from the vaults. I’m not proud of that, but I’m happy that I have them, both imports from Britain with the shiny, laminated covers and track lists different from their American counterparts, if indeed they had American counterparts. I’ve outgrown Music in a Doll’s House by Family, but I still dig the eponymously named The Move. I already had their second record, Shazam and loved it, but the first one, with “(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree,” “Fire Brigade” and “Night of Fear” was all mod pop at its cheeky best.
Music in the movies got more interesting when I was a approaching my teens. Of course I didn’t realize that until I saw Jeff Beck smash his guitar to bits in Blow-Up, which I wouldn’t have seen at all but Mrs. Silverman wanted her son Robert and me out of her house. So Mr. Silverman, the projectionist, brought us to work with him and sat us down in the darkened movie house where we watched in amazement a double feature of Blow-Up and Tom Jones. I have never been the same.
The music thing became what I liked most about seeing movies as a snotty adolescent. Blow-Up, was quickly followed by Simon and Garfunkel’s more rock than folk sounds in The Graduate, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s electric jugband music meets Tin Pan Alley in You’re A Big Boy Now, the diverse banquet of Easy Rider, Apple band Badfinger in The Magic Christian, and before my passion for rock documentaries took over completely, the ultimate expression of movie music as soundtrack for my teenage ennui, the nine Cat Stevens songs that permanently lift Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude into greatness.Why these songs have only been released together on vinyl and why that didn’t happen until 2007 are riddles buried under impenetrable layers of showbiz archaeology. Actually, there could be a very simple explanation; I just don’t have a clue.