Maxwell’s, R.I.P.

I have been critical of nostalgia, but there is a difference between being stuck in the past and honoring it.

I just learned that legendary rock club Maxwell’s closed last week.  It was once home to the “Hoboken Sound.”

The Feelies pioneered the sound with their quickly strummed guitar sound that owed a whole lot to the Velvet Underground’s third album:

The dB’s grew out of the Winston-Salem group The Sneakers, but they found a home in the Hoboken scene that revolved around Maxwell’s, and the long gone affiliated record store, Pier Platters.  What the VU was to the Feelies, the Beatles and, especially, early Big Star were to the dB’s (group co-founder Chris Stamey even played with Alex Chilton shortly after he left Big Star):

The Bongos added muted T-Rex glam hooks (even covering “Mambo Sun”) to their strumming guitar:

And The Individuals followed Jonathan Richman’s model of personal stories set to post-VU rock:

The reformed Bongos and Individuals played the last shows at Maxwell’s.

Yo La Tengo carry on the Hoboken tradition:.

Many local rockers joined Yo La Tengo for their annual series of Hanukkah shows at Maxwell’s.

I saw all of these bands, but when they played DC.  I did, however, take one road trip to Maxwell’s (I also visited Pier Platters a number of times).  Bert Queiroz (photographer and onetime member of numerous harDCore punk bands) and I drove up to see Brit band Gallon Drunk on their first US tour.  Bert now lives just across the river from Hoboken (or maybe it’s two rivers, since he lives in Brooklyn).

While putting together this post, I learned that a 1985 TV news documentary of The Hoboken Sound has been dug up.  I’m looking forward to watching it:

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This Song Reminds Me of . . . Uh, What Was That Old Song?

Ever hear a new song that really reminds you of an old song?  I’m not talking about a song that blatantly copies another, though heaven knows there are enough of those, but one where there’s something, sometimes just a small bit, that triggers a memory of some other song you have not thought about in a long, long time.  And now you really want to hear that older song to compare . . . but you just can’t remember what that old song is.

My friend Vicky turned me on to Parquet Courts; she bought their CD for her husband, John (and she is damn proud of herself, because the recommendations usually flow in the other direction, from one of us to her).

The album is great retro postpunk, but one song in particular, “Stoned and Starving,” really hooked me:

There is something about the way the background vocalists drop in with the deadpan refrain just before the lead vocalist talks/sings the same title words that really reminds me of some old song I can’t quite recall.

So I played “Stoned and Starving” over and over.  Sounded better and better, but I still could not place the source of the bit that was nagging at me.  The guitar is straight out of the Velvet Underground school, so I mentally flipped through bands influenced by the VU, no small list.  And I soon came up with some candidates.  Now I am not implying Parquet Courts ripped anyone off (even if they do wear their influences on their sleeves).  I’d be surprised if they have ever heard some of these songs (a few of which are pretty obscure).  This is more about my own memories of music and connections I make as a fan.

First up is “Walk By Your House” by Hoboken band the Individuals, which DJ Weasel used to play a lot on WHFS-FM, so much so their album was once very collectible in the DC area, but nowhere else (I found several extremely cheap copies in other cities and made some very nice trades when I returned home; same with the Tuff Darts’ album):

There’s a certain similarity in the overall sound, but it does not have that vocal overlap that launched the search.  I then pulled out Human Switchboard and their song “Refrigerator Door”:

It has overlapping vocals, but they sound not at all like those in the Parquet Courts song.  (By the way, both of those bands have been reissued by Bar/None Records.)

Anything on The Days of Wine and Roses by the Dream Syndicate or Wedding Present’s Bizarro?  Nope.

“Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17” by Pavement was a bit closer (does the bridge between the verses and refrain remind anyone else of Jim Croce’s “Operator”?) . . .

. . . and the refrain of the Modern Lovers’ “The Modern World” was the closest yet . . .

. . .  but it wasn’t quite it.  So I went right back to the source, the Velvet Underground, with “Foggy Notion”:

Another great song, but the case remains open.

Crime writer Raymond Chandler once wrote, “The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing.”  I may not have found the song I am looking for, but the quest did lead me to pull out some great old songs I have not listened to in far too long.  Next on the playlist are Swell Maps, the Fall and the Clean.