The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Walking That Thin Line

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: A wise man once remarked that there's a thin line between clever and stupid. There's a thicker line between being influenced by the past and slavishly imitating it, and the Sprague Brothers don't exactly straddle that line. It's more like they're driving down a two-lane country road, way past midnight with the lights off, veering crazily between lanes, criss-crossing that line again and again. Their most recent album, Forever and a Day, has moments where you almost think you're listening to an Everly Brothers outtake. There are chords, vocal bits and guitar solos borrowed from the Beatles, the Everlys, Chuck Berry — even the Beach Boys copping Chuck Berry. The cover art — also a stylistic cop from some '50s or '60s album — doesn't help. All of which would make it easy to dismiss the duo — until you hit, say, track nine, "I Hope She Cries," and you fall hard. This early-Beatles-meet-Everly Brothers ballad, featuring acoustic guitar and booming timpani, finds the brothers cursing (in pre-'60s fashion) a girlfriend who walked away: "I hope she cries when she realizes what she's done," they sing angelically. "I hope the tears will fall from her eyes and run." The brothers claim to be distantly (very distantly) related to Buddy Holly in their bio, but that could just be one of those tall tales. Their manager is that connoisseur of all things old and hip, Art Fein, who I'm sure loves this album, but may also be playing some kind of conceptual joke on us. Never mind. Don't be surprised to find yourself grinning, perhaps even getting out of your easy chair and bopping around the room to stand-outs such as "There's Always Some Price to Pay" and "Waiting for You." Its 18 songs range from good to out-of-this-world. My copy of the album was a bargain — I picked up a promo at Amoeba Records in San Francisco the other day for $5.95 and tax, about $.33 a song. Pre-'60s prices. After thinking about this old-vs.-new thing for a while, I located an interview with the duo on the Hightone Records Web site. Maybe they didn't completely settle things for me, but I liked what they had to say. "It's honest rock 'n' roll," Frank Sprague said. "The first rock and roll was so original and so ahead of its time that even today people haven't caught up to it." Added brother Chris: "We're bringing it back to the future, where it belongs."

Datastream: Bruce Springsteen debuted a new song, "My City of Ruins," during a benefit concert held Sunday (December 17, 2000) at Asbury Park, New Jersey's Convention Hall, reports. Springsteen began "My City of Ruins" on piano, according to the online fanzine; the song features the refrain, "Come on, rise up." ... Flosso-Hornmann Magic, which billed itself the "Oldest Magic Supply House in America," shut its doors this past September, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The shop, located on 34th Street in Manhattan, was once owned by the great escape artist Harry Houdini, and was certainly the model for Louis Tannen's Magic Shop in Michael Chabon's excellent novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." Apparently, the store will be transformed into a Web site, but somehow I don't think that will be the same. There are no longer many magic shops in America. Like comic book stores and musical instrument stores with the front window crowded with futuristic-looking electric guitars, magic shops were once awe-inspiring places where a kid could spend hours gazing at the merchandise, where you could buy everything from trick decks of cards, magic wands and collapsible top hats to myriad exotic contraptions of deception. Now one of the great ones is gone. C'est la vie....

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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