Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Pick On Me - Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White - The Standells

Why Pick On Me - Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White
The Standells
Tower T 5004

I discovered the Standells via my purchase of the "Nuggets" vinyl comp when I was in high school.  Their version of "Dirty Water" on that album was one of my favorite tracks.  I'm the happy owner of the three proper studio albums they cut for Tower (I don't count the one of cover songs although I have that too.)  I have to admit that all three are far from essential although each of them contains some essential music, especially if you dig garage bands.  That's my convoluted way of saying most people should just pick up a Standells comp.  Nonetheless if you are adventurous enough to seek this out, you will probably find stuff you like on it.  I consider the two title songs to be among the best tracks the band ever did.  Both songs were written by the album's producer Ed Cobb (who also wrote "Dirty Water") and were released as singles.  Neither cracked the top 40 but they are better than a lot of songs that did in 1966.  "Why Pick On Me" has a slightly Middle Eastern feel in its verses but the choruses are pure soaring garage.  "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a rollicking song with a chugging riff and a driving beat sure to get your head bopping.  The band's drummer, Dick Dodd, delivers the lyrics with a sneer as he defends his humble background against his girlfriend's parents' upper class prejudices.  It is a classic song with a powerful rebellious edge.  Nothing else on the album is as good as the two singles although there are some worthy songs.  My favorite is Larry Tamblyn's "Mr. Nobody" which attacks a guy trying to make a move on his girl friend.  With its fuzz guitar riffs and edgy vocal, garage buffs should eat it up.  Tamblyn also contributes "The Girl and The Moon" which is a romantic pop song.  It doesn't rock but I like the swelling chorus that reminds me of the Turtles.  Glenn Houle's "Black Hearted Woman" is gritty and bluesy with stinging guitar lines.  "Mainline" is slightly bubble-gummy but the band goes after it with a hard rock attack that makes it worthwhile.  The rest of the album is mostly forgettable.  The covers of "Paint It Black" and "My Little Red Book" are faithful to the versions by the Rolling Stones and Love, almost to the point of slavish imitation, they are competent but pointless.  "Have You Ever Spent The Night In Jail" proves that Ed Cobb was merely human and not some garage band god.  It is a dreary folk-style song that ends the album on a down note.  Guitarist Tony Valentino's "Mi Hai Fatto Innamorare" is the oddest song on the album, about as unlikely a track as you will ever find on a garage band album.  It is sung by Valentino in Italian and is driven by a mandolin and some cheesy organ riffs over a rock and roll beat.  I have no idea why it is on the record, perhaps as a novelty song or maybe Valentino (who was born and raised in Italy) was trying to impress his parents or something.  This is a very inconsistent album, but by the standards of 1966 six good cuts on an album is above average, especially for a garage band.  It is debatable whether the Standells were truly a garage band, but they produced enough classic garage-style tunes that I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  They are better than most of the bands that you will hear on "Pebbles" or "Nuggets" type comps largely because of the quality of the songwriting and because these guys could really play.  Recommended for people who think Paul Revere and The Raiders ought to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I think the Standells belong there too.) 

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