TER­RELL’S TUNE-UP

Pasatiempo - - Pop Cd Review - Steve Ter­rell

Lost time

The Plim­souls are one of those rock ’ n’ roll bands that never quite achieved mega-suc­cess at the com­mer­cial level. But nearly 30 years af­ter they broke up, their ad­her­ents claim that they were one of the most vi­tal groups of all time.

Those who be­lieve that— and I’m one who has slowly been drift­ing to that con­clu­sion— have some fresh new ev­i­dence for that ar­gu­ment, a newly re­leased con­cert al­bum ti­tled Live! Beg, Bor­row & Steal. Recorded Hal­loween night in 1981 at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los An­ge­les, it cap­tures the band at the height of their con­sid­er­able pow­ers. So who were th­ese guys? The Plim­souls were a quar­tet led by singer Peter Case, who had pre­vi­ously played with a punk-rock unit called The Nerves. (And be­fore that, he was a street busker in San Fran­cisco, where, Case told me sev­eral years ago, none other than Dan Hicks used to ha­rass and ha­rangue him as he tried to sing for tips on the streets of North Beach.) Case has since gone on to es­tab­lish him­self as a re­spected singer/song­writer and con­tem­po­rary folk singer.

In the fer­tile L.A. punk/New Wave scene of the late ’ 70s and early ’ 80s, The Plim­souls be­came ma­jor con­tenders. With Ed­die Muñoz on gui­tar, Dave Pa­hoa on bass, and drum­mer Louie Ramirez, the Plims cre­ated a sound with the chaotic en­ergy of punk rock but fea­tur­ing hook-heavy melodies with nods to mid-’60s folk-rock and soul (their first EP, 1980’s Zero Hour, had a cover of Otis Red­dings’ “I Can’t Turn You Loose”). Rod­ney Bin­gen­heimer cham­pi­oned their sig­na­ture tune “A Mil­lion Miles Away” on his KROQ ra­dio show (the song was later in­cluded in the cin­e­matic clas­sic Val­ley Girl). And some­how it got tagged with the la­bel “power pop”— which might put off some po­ten­tial lis­ten­ers wary of any­thing pop.

Af­ter their maiden al­bum on the in­de­pen­dent Planet Records, the Plim­souls got snatched up by Gef­fen Records. Their one-and-only ma­jor-la­bel out­ing, Ev­ery­where at Once, con­tained some of their clas­sic songs. But I found it way over­pro­duced in a glitzy, ’ 80s kind of way.

The band broke up soon af­ter the release of Ev­ery­where at Once. Case was be­com­ing more and more in­ter­ested in his folk and blues roots and less and less en­thralled at the prospect of lead­ing a rock band.

Ev­ery decade or so, The Plim­souls re­unite. They recorded an al­bum of new songs in the mid-1990s— the crim­i­nally ne­glected Kool Trash. Though I never got to see them in the ’80s, I’ve been for­tu­nate to see them in 1996 and 2006 at the South by South­west Fes­ti­val. The lat­ter show was held in per­haps the most jam-packed bar I’ve ever been in. Both shows are among the most high-charged and en­er­getic I’ve ever seen.

For my money, the best Plim­souls al­bums are the live ones— this new record, and 1988’s ex­cel­lent One Night in Amer­ica. While lis­ten­ing to their al­bums is not the same as see­ing them live, you still can hear the sweat.

If you’re a Plim­fan, chances are your fa­vorite song by the group is on Live! Beg, Bor­row & Steal. “Mil­lion Miles” is here, of course, as well as per­haps the finest ver­sion of “Zero Hour” I’ve ever heard and a not-too-shabby “Lost Time.” The set starts out with “Hush Hush” and moves straight to “Shaky City,” which sounds like some un­known old Yard birds tune mu­tated with some un­ex­pected chord changes.

One of the stand­outs is “IWant You Back.” No, it’s not the Jack­son 5 hit. It’s a Case orig­i­nal and per­haps as closes to rock­a­billy as the Plim­souls ever sounded.

In ad­di­tion to their orig­i­nal tunes, the Plim­souls honor their fore­fa­thers with sev­eral hopped-up cov­ers of early rock ’n’ roll clas­sics. Bo Did­dley’s “Who Do You Love” sneaks in on a med­ley. The group pays trib­ute to the early L.A. Chicano rock­ers Thee Mid­nighters with a fren­zied take on “Jump, Jive, and Har­mo­nize.” There’s Larry Wil­liams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” which was most fa­mously done by the Bea­tles (this one also ap­peared on One Night in Amer­ica).

And there’s a real treat. The Plim­souls are joined by The Flesh­tones, who ap­par­ently were the open­ing act that night, on spir­ited cov­ers of Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “New Orleans” and Lit­tle Richards’ “Hey Hey Hey.” There’s an un­cred­ited sax player who seems to come out of nowhere on “New Orleans.” Is it the late Gor­don Spaeth, who fre­quently played with The Flesh­tones? I hope this live al­bum will spark enough in­ter­est to bring about a new Plim­souls re­union. This mu­sic is time­less and wel­come in any decade. Check out The Plim­souls at Alive Records at alive­to­tal­en­ergy.com/x/?page_id=1178 and there are songs and videos at mys­pace.com/ plim­souls, even though no­body’s up­dated the site in two or three years.

Ter­rell on the ra­dio: Hear The Plim­souls and all that other fine rock ’ n’ roll on Ter­rell’s Sound World, freeform weirdo ra­dio at 10 p.m. Sun­day on KSFR-FM 101.1. And don’t for­get The Santa Fe Opry, the coun­try mu­sic Nashville does not want you to hear, same time, same chan­nel, on Fri­day. Both shows are stream­ing and scream­ing on the Web at ksfr.org.

Pip­ing-hot fresh Big En­chi­lada: Don’t touch that plate! There’s a brand new episode up called “Mad­ness & Glory”— about 40 min­utes of crazy garage punk and R&B, fol­lowed by a fren­zied set of gospel songs. Hear this and the 19 pre­vi­ous episodes— 20 hours of my fa­vorite mu­sic!— on your iPod or com­puter. Free and easy at bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com.

Blog in your eye: You can find my “Ter­rell’s Tune-Up” archives, my ra­dio playlists, and rants about the mu­sic in­dus­try at stevet­er­rell. blogspot.com. And for those in­ter­ested in the strange world of New Mex­ico pol­i­tics, read my po­lit­i­cal blog at round­house­roundup.com.

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