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At Long Lost Live?

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The Longest Set Ever by an Opening Act:
REO Speedwagon
You Get What You Play For (1977)

This record proves that even the most pedestrian double live album can distinguish itself. Today's music biz bean counters would be on REO's ass faster than stench on a shit factory, but these Midwestern clods were allowed to record seven studio albums without scoring a single Top 40 hit.

After watching Peter Frampton (who released four hitless studio efforts of his own) strike gold with a double live album and also noticing how guitarist Gary Richrath would sometimes be mistaken for Frampton in airports, an REO Speedwagon double live set full of no hits was commissioned by Epic. Of course, there's not enough coke in the record industry to allow that to happen now.

REO were, if nothing else, the kings of parenthetical thinking. Just get a load of these titles: "Being Kind (Can Hurt Someone Sometimes)," "(Only A) Summer Love" and "(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come" are but a few. Naming songs was not the band's strong suit--even Venezuelan bootleggers can come up with better titles than "Gary's Guitar Solo."

Double Live Album With the Most Gripes:
Lou Reed
Take No Prisoners (1979)

Lou Reed's got his beefs. On side one, he disses Barbra Streisand, short people, little people, people from Wyoming, Patti Smith and Henny Youngman. "It's not that I don't wanna play your favorites," he says three minutes into a 16-minute version of "Walk on the Wild Side." After one chorus, he gangs up on music critics like the Village Voice's Robert Christgau, who he calls "an anal retentive toefucker."

After chorus two, he even starts ranking on his own song's characters like Candy ("She got leukemia from a silicone tit and I'm supposed to feel sorry?"), little Joe ("He's the only guy who went to Italy to be a movie star and it's not happening") and Sugar Plum Fairy ("She makes a living writing things for the Encyclopedia Brittanica, five cents a word"). Thanks to old filibuster Lou, the colored girls don't get to "dood doo doo doo doo doo do" more than once.

Most Mystifying Double Live Album:
Bob Dylan
Live (1979)

Apparently when William Shatner covered "Mr. Tambourine Man," the transformed Zimmerman was taking notes. "If someone's gonna suck doing Dylan covers, it's gonna be me."

First Double Live Album to Use Tapes:
Live Killers (1979)

How's this for artistic integrity? The self-important liner notes tell us Queen is "fiercely opposed to playing with any kind of backing tapes." So when they get to the impossible-to-replicate operatic section of "Bohemian Rhapsody," they solve the problem in a "typically uncompromising Queen manner. They leave the stage and play the record." Oh, that's very different.

First Live Album to Denounce Satan:
Caught in the Act (1984)

"Can rock 'n' roll stay alive? CAUGHT IN THE ACT brings you closer to the answer than you've ever seen or heard before," the hype on the merchandising insert warns us. But what hope is there for rock when Tommy Shaw chastises the California state legislature for saying records like Styx's "Snowblind" have "backward satanic messages" on them and the audience boos? No regato, Mr. Roboto!

First Three-Sided Double Live Album:
Joe Jackson
Big World (1986)

Joe Jackson proves he's the ultimate control freak by recording a live album as if it were a studio album and instructing the audience not to clap. And just so no one misses the point, side four is the sound of no hands clapping, just one long run-off groove.

First Live Album to Call Itself
"Greatest Hits Live":
Greatest Hits Live (1998)

This set raises more questions than you'd think. Somewhere between 1996's Greatest Hits album, a three-CD boxed set in 1997 and this Greatest Hits Live, Journey went from 77 "na-na's" at the end of the studio version of "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" (or 154 individual na's) to 66 "na-na's" on the live version, which is five minutes longer. Where are the 11 missing na-na's? If the hits on Greatest Hits Live aren't on the studio version, does it mean the studio versions suck and vice versa? If there's a hell, can we send Steve Perry there for his annoying pronunciation of "sit-ay" and his habit of injecting the "sit-ay" of "Houston" in as many of these mushy love songs as possible?

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic