11 great records paid for with your soul

The No. 1-selling song of 1999 was Cher's "Believe." On her heels was TLC's summer smash "No Scrubs," and Monica's snoozer "Angel of Mine." Following those are Whitney Houston's "Heartbreak Hotel" and Britney Spears' ". . . Baby One More Time." Sixpence None the Richer, Christina Aguilera, Sugar Ray, Deborah Cox and Ricky Martin also made the year-end Top 10.

So you might understand a need to plunder the past in search of reissues.

Hence, after spending months burning bank on rare CD reissues via e-commerce, I can honestly report that online music buying is mostly an overrated bore. On the up, records can be located that otherwise couldn't without endless hours of car travel and bin scouring.

But the Internet is little more than a consumerist/entertainmentist/pornist-driven beast well-maneuvered by those who see nothing wrong in furthering the loss of personal human interaction and connection to an outside community and a drop in standards by which cultural literacy is measured. And it ain't that I suddenly transmogrified into a spiritual son of Barry Goldwater. I just don't see any point in becoming a self-involved erotophobe living in drab, beige-toned gated communities/minimum security prisons whose lives are personalized with a site for preferences.

And every time I use the Net, I can't help but feel myself becoming some shortsighted yuk yuk whose concentration stopwatch dings in less time than it takes to download Pamela Anderson Lee's silly cones. Next, I'll get caught with my pants down, the mighty mouse in one hand, a sticky credit card in the other, while getting handily duped out of a writer's wage by some scentless, tasteless illusory image that has no ties to nature.

Anyway, here are this year's best reasons for rock 'n' roll and punk dorks to use the Internet. But I suggest ordering stuff first from your local record shop.

Sixteen and Savaged

Yes, it's true; Pamela's Michael Des Barres was once not a wog. At 17, Des Barres had already dollied dozens of London theater stages, even snagged a cherry role in To Sir With Love. Five years later, the Brit blue blood was fronting Silverhead, a clattery, polysexual posturing band whose debut was championed by UK press as necessary links between The Faces, The Stones and glitter rock.

The 1973 follow-up, Sixteen and Savaged, was rife with boogiefied swagger, stomp and sex. Its cover featured a girl in smeared makeup and a torn blouse that revealed enough flesh to ensure the record was unavailable in key retail outlets.

The band's loose saunter, lazy horns and smudged guitars uphold a disciplined attention to songwriting that ensured the group's glittery persona was not some cheap front for chicks. The Marriott/Stewart-sounding Des Barres was labeled a "decadent Marquis," and critics ever so correctly pegged Silverhead to be world conquerors. Major U.S. tours and positive stateside reviews followed, but the American kids weren't about to ante up allowance stipends for a batch of rotted-tooth limeys wearing scarves, eyeliner and lager-made grins. Besides, their big sisters all had Rod Stewart records.

Before another summer passed, Silverhead was done, underscored by naive expectation of easy roads to rock stardom and an accumulation of fiscal and sales figure sucker-punches. Bassist Nigel Harrison later found greener groves in Blondie. Des Barres resurfaced in the '80s bearing an uncanny resemblance to Red Skelton as the jester in The Clown. Sadly, he's best remembered for pouty TV cameos and sellout solo records that didn't sell, and a few months' work as a surrogate shouter in Power Station. The capper, though, was when Animotion hit Top 10 pay dirt with "Obsession," a Des Barres chirpy of such absolute wretchedness that anything worse has yet to burp from a woofer.

Had Des Barres not chipped away at Silverhead's cred, Richie Unterberger's downer tome Unknown Legends of Rock would have benefited greatly with the band's inclusion.

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Johnny Moped
Basically Johnny Moped (Best of)
(Chiswick) UK 1995 reissue

When guitarist Captain Sensible left Johnny Moped for the Damned, a pre-leather Chrissie Hynde stepped in. Soon she got the boot. Hynde's replacement, Slimey Toad, had convinced the group that punk rock meant no chicks. Currently, Toad is driving trucks for a living.

Johnny Moped's career peaked during a UK tour supporting Motörhead at London's Hammersmith Odeon at which 2,000 working-class yobs oiled on stout spit "shit, shit, shit" in fist-pumping glory. Beside its fuck-all humor, Johnny Moped is best known for a pair of primordial, pogo-friendly gems that appeared alongside Buzzcocks and Wire on a gloriously ignoble '77 album called Live at the Roxy. In 1978, after three great singles and one album, Moped sputtered to closure.

In its aspiration to be nothing more than a beer-foamy muckety-muck of pip-squeak pub twang and punky riffs, Johnny Moped succeeded. They were nothing less. And as much as songs like the hilarious cautionary STD tale "VD Boiler" or sarcastic bruiser "Darling Let's Have Another Baby" are pure English pisstakes, they encourage replay and volume boosting.

Basically Johnny Moped is a collection of the band's work. It includes 1977's Cycledelic, a 1978 live show from The Roundhouse and assorted singles including the brilliant mothball "Incendiary Device."

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