The Village Voice

The Village Voice  is a free weekly 17” by 11” format newspaper and news and features website in New York City that features investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts and music coverage, and events listings for New York City.  It is also distributed throughout the United States on a pay basis.  It was the first of the urban tabloid-format newspapers that came to be known as alternative weeklies, and as such is the oldest and largest newspaper of its kind in the United States.  (More from Wikipedia)
I found the first Pink Fairies’ album, Never Never Land while I was living in New York in the 1990’s; the pricetag was among the highest I have ever paid for any album ($50).  A few weeks later, I read in Village Voice where one of their writers found a pristine copy of a Pink Fairies album for sale for a quarter at a homeless person’s table.  There was no question in my mind that this was the very same album that I had paid 200 times as much to get; I trust that this writer gave the homeless man more than the coin he was asking if he was just going to dump it for a profit at a local record store. 
(March 2010)
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Bandleader, rhythm guitarist and sometime drummer Bob Waxman and bass player Paddy Lorenzo first began putzing around New York as part of a cover band in 1972 until they started writing songs together.  They ran an ad in the Village Voice and found lead guitarist Arthur Alexander that way; once they brought in Donny Jackrel, who had been the drummer in their earlier cover band, the Poppees were born. 
(December 2010)
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Mick Farren is still recording albums regularly and has become a respected rock critic, journalist, and science fiction novelist.  I used to read an occasional piece that he wrote for the Village Voice both before and after I lived there; one mused on why the English had such bad dental hygiene and featured a photo quiz asking the reader to match photos of rotten teeth with celebrities’ names (including one member of the royal family).  The acclaimed retrospective of the world of Greg Shaw called Bomp! / Saving the World One Record at a Time lists him as the co-author with Suzy Shaw, Greg’s business partner and ex-wife. 
(August 2011)
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A 1998 article called “Flying Saucer Rock & Roll” by RJ Smith in the Village Voice said of him:  “Thomas Anderson is clearly the greatest unknown songwriter on the planet.”  At that point, Anderson had released three albums and a then-recent EP; more albums have followed in the years since that time.  Anderson’s unusual approach to his craft reminds me of another UARA from a while back, Jim Sullivan; and it seems like flying saucers came up in the discussion about him also.  
One of the best songs on Moon Going Down – it was selected as a “Choice Cut” by Village Voice rock scribe Robert Christgau – is “Jerry’s Kids”.  
Another song mentioned in the Village Voice article, “Song for Up with People” (just being able to put three prepositions together was probably an attraction for Thomas Anderson) refers to the troupe of earnest clean-cut musicians called Up with People who were (as RJ Smith put it) “folk minstrels of the ’60s who caravanned their vanilla-wafer optimism to the parts of the country terrified by loud guitars”.  
(November 2012)
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Mick Farren writes a lot of stuff; he has several science fiction novels to his credit, including a trilogy called The DNA Cowboys.  Along with Greg Shaw’s ex-wife and business partner Suzy ShawMick Farren co-wrote the 2007 book that cements Shaw’s legacy in the rock and roll universe, Bomp! / Saving the World One Record at a Time.  I have seen numerous articles by Farren in the Village Voice and elsewhere.  But I can only recall one other time when Mick Farren wrote liner notes; that was for the comeback album for his old band the Pink Fairies, specifically their 1987 release Kill ’Em and Eat ’Em
(January 2013)
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As best I can recall, the above albums were the first two that I acquired in the Pebbles series that has filled my life with great, unknown 1960’s garage rock and psychedelic rock for more than 30 years.  These LP’s, Pebbles, Volume 9 and Pebbles, Volume 10 were the last two albums in the first group of 10 that was released in 1979-1980, purportedly by BFD Records of Kookaburra, Australia.  Actually, the series was masterminded by Greg Shaw, founder of Bomp! Records in North Hollywood


Why he came up with the Australian connection is unknown to me, but I remember reading a review decades ago in the Village Voice of an album by the Lime Spiders, an Australian rock band that started out at least as a psychedelic-revival band.  The article mentioned that interest in 1960’s American garage rock started in Australia; and looking back, I wonder whether that was for real, or whether the writer was just fooled by the supposed origin of the first Pebbles albums. 


(July 2013)


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I wrote the above tribute to Dr. Crow on July 30, 2013, not learning until later that morning that Deviants frontman Mick Farren had passed away three days earlier.  Besides his amazing music that is not like anyone else’s – that goes double for his singing voice – Mick Farren regularly wrote articles that I would see in the Village Voice and other places, published numerous science fiction novels, and was a respected rock critic and music historian. 

When Suzy Shaw of Bomp! Records determined to write an appreciation of the ground-breaking career and life of her former husband and long-time business partner Greg Shaw (shortly after his untimely death in 2004), Mick Farren was brought in as the co-author of the resulting hardbound book Bomp! / Saving the World One Record at a Time


(August 2013)


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By the end of the 1970’sMick Farren had moved to New York and began writing for the Village Voice.  I was taking a mailorder subscription to the iconoclastic weekly in the early 1980’s and saw several of his articles.  The first one that I remember mused on why the British had such bad dental hygiene and featured a “quiz” showing photos of rotten teeth that could be matched to a list of the English celebrities that had them.  He later moved to Los Angeles and began writing for the LA Weekly


(March 2014/1)


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There was a noticeable dip in the ratings given by rock critics of Bob Dylan’s Christian recordings.  That was not true so much for Slow Train Coming – Robert Christgau of the Village Voice gave the album a B+ and wrote:  “The lyrics are indifferently crafted.  Nevertheless, this is his best album since Blood on the Tracks.  The singing is passionate and detailed.”  


(August 2014)


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Unfortunately I cannot find anything by this particular Thomas Anderson on YouTube.  I guess it is true what Village Voice has said of him:  “Thomas Anderson is clearly the greatest unknown songwriter on the planet.”  


(November 2014)


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Kim Fowley’s own albums are an uneven lot to say the least, though this appears to be intentional to a considerable extent.  His third album, Outrageous (1968) is the only one of his albums to (barely) crack the Billboard Top 200 Albums charts.  Village Voice rockcrit Robert Christgau gave Outrageous his second-lowest rating (E) and said:  “I don’t understand how he continues to earn a living, but he does.” 


(January 2015/1)


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When thinking about Black Russian, I am reminded of a review of one of Sade’s albums in the Village Voice (maybe Promise) that I have been unable to find online.  The reviewer noted that the album sounds like music that you have heard before, but you actually haven’t.  I can imagine that one or two casual listens to Black Russian could lead to the opinions given above – particularly if one is predisposed to dissing anything that even hints of disco – but to these ears, this music represents brilliant songmaking that combines an appreciation of older R&B music with what was happening in the modern scene.  It might be my imagination, but sonically, Black Russian seems louder than most of the other albums that I have been playing recently. 


(April 2015/1)


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ZZ Top also had a lot of fun with videos in the 1980’s. Their name was created so that they would be the last band name in an alphabetical list. Bandleader Billy Gibbons (guitar, vocals) and Dusty Hill (bass, vocals) grew very long, more or less matching beards; their drummer’s name is Frank Beard, leading longtime Village Voice rockcrit Robert Christgau to describe ZZ Top once as “two beards and a Beard”.
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The Deee-Lite song Groove is in the Heart was a truly mountainous hit; as Wikipedia tells it: “Slant magazine ranked the song second in its 100 Greatest Dance Songs list, adding: ‘No song delivered the group’s world-conscious Word as colorfully and open-heartedly as Groove is in the Heart, which flew up the Billboard charts while goosing stuffed shirts.’ NME and The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop annual critics’ poll named ‘Groove is in the Heart’ the best single released in the year 1990.” 
(March 2016)
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Iggy Pop’s solo career is uneven by all accounts (even his own).  I remember the Village Voice review of my personal favorite among his solo albums, Brick by Brick (1990) stating that this was “Iggy Pop’s best album since . . . well, since the last time you cared”.  The album features a stellar duet with Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, “Candy” – as Iggy Pop’s only song to hit the Top 40Candy remained on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks charts for 17 weeks, reaching the Top 5.  Both singers have spoken parts during the song, and Pierson’s Georgia twang is a true delight. 
(March 2017)
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I was a subscriber to The Village Voice long before I moved to the city in 1990, and that was one way that I stayed in touch with the musical scene. Lead rock critic Robert Christgau spearheaded an annual poll of hundreds of music critics, with the results published as Pazz & Jop (a rather corny takeoff on “jazz & pop”, though they never really talked much about jazz). I looked forward to it each year, but in 1993, so many of the albums on the list were completely unknown to me, starting with the #1 pick, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Next year, that will be 25 years ago – a long time of not being “with it”. 
(June 2017)
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Still, Kill City – and the other albums in The Iguana Chronicles for that matter – has comparatively low marks from some critics.  While the previous two albums by the StoogesFun House and Raw Power, as well as the first two solo albums by Iggy PopThe Idiot and Lust for Life all have 5-star ratings by AllmusicKill City is at 3½ stars.  Robert Christgau of Village Voice gave the album a B. 
(December 2017)

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Speaking of “one of the best”, I managed to stumble upon a 12” single by the Lime Spiders I think in Fairhope, AL, called “Jessica”. I absolutely love that song and regularly pull the disk out of my stacks to replay it. Despite pretty active shopping on my part, that is the only record by this Australian band that I have ever found, after reading about them in the Village Voice more than 30 years ago. Finally found out why; as noted in Allmusic: “The bottom line is this: The Lime Spiders’ catalog is unavailable in the United States.” I checked the 12” single that I had, and sure enough, it was made in Australia. About as soon as I found that out, I ordered their retrospective collection on, Nine Miles High 1983-1990. Hoo boy, is that a great record.
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But the best find of all, without question, is locating a copy of past UARA Thomas Anderson’s second album, Blues for the Flying Dutchman (1992). I had previously noted that the Village Voice said of him: “Thomas Anderson is clearly the greatest unknown songwriter on the planet.” This album knocks it out of the park and shows that their writer wasn’t just whistling “Dixie” with that remark. That, er, memorable time that I was drunk Facebooking for most of a night and woke up on the floor under my desk at 3:30 a.m. that I have written about previously? Early in my latest round of neurological problems that I still have no answers for? I had been playing Blues for the Flying Dutchman nonstop and full blast for most of that time (poor Peggy!).
(Year 10 Review)

Last edited: April 3, 2021