Whatever became of Steve Simels

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by nelamvr6, Jun 3, 2007.

  1. nelamvr6

    nelamvr6 High End Headphoniac Thread Starter

    New London, CT USA
    I can remember growing up in the 70's, reading Stereo Review religiously. I can also remember every month looking forward to reviews by Steve Simmels. He was the one record reviewer that I could always trust.

    I can't begin to number all the things I learned reading his reviews. For example, it was in an article he wrote where I first learned that Ronnie Wood was now a member of the Rolling Stones (Mr. Simmels, if I remember correctly, had fantasies of replacing Mick Taylor himself. :) ). I knew that if Steve liked a rekkid that chances were excellent that I would too. It was he who first turned me on to Mott the Hoople, Little Feat... well the list would go on for a very long time.

    So now, I'm wondering what became of him? Does anyone have a clue?
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  2. Electric Bozo

    Electric Bozo Holy Synthesist

    Chesapeake, VA
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  3. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Steve is a nice guy and a good editor. I worked with him when he was at Video Review magazine for a couple of years in the 1980s, and I kidded him that my friends and I in the 1970s would have huge arguments about his old Stereo Review rock reviews. His stuff was really controversial back then. I'm glad to hear he's still around and doing well.

    Incredible to reflect on how Stereo Review (now known as Sound & Vision) used to be 100% classical, then gradually started covering rock in the late 1960s, and became 100% rock by the 1990s. Sad, in a way -- though I'm far from a big classical fan. Still, I think it's unfortunate that most average people (not the fans here) limit themselves to only listening to one kind of music -- and that S&V doesn't cover it much, nor would they ever hire a critic today as vociferous or passionate as Simels.
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  4. nelamvr6

    nelamvr6 High End Headphoniac Thread Starter

    New London, CT USA

    Excellent! I'll check it out, thanks for the link!
  5. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    I seem to remember Simels had some off-beat/controversial viewpoints when I used to read him in the late Seventies/early Eighties. For some reason, I have it in my mind that he would often slam the Beatles, but I may be way wrong about that. Anyone?
  6. Raf

    Raf Forum Resident

    Toronto, Ontario
    I don't remember him slamming the Beatles, but I do remember that the Rolling Stones could do no wrong in his book.
  7. nelamvr6

    nelamvr6 High End Headphoniac Thread Starter

    New London, CT USA

    Oh yeah, that much is for sure!
  8. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    The first I ever read of him was a column in Stereo Review, where he was gushing over this one rock dude I never heard of before, some supposed "next-big-thing"...what was his name...somebody Springsteen...?

    I currently enjoy his frequent snarky contributions to the Atrios Eschaton blog.

  9. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    Hmm... I just remember I used to get really aggravated when I'd read his reviews. There was SOMEBODY I loved who he hated, and since that was a main Beatle period for me, I keep thinking he was rough on them - or maybe just McCartney... :confused:
  10. Todd E

    Todd E Forum Resident

    He was visiting L.A. many years ago, and I showed him some hot spots -- the Hollywood Ranch Market (his choice; he knew it from The Steve Allen Show), and the restaurant on top of the Holiday Inn, where Stan Worth was playing. Among other things, the guy who (co-)wrote "George of the Jungle." Simels went ape.

    He seems to like keeping a very low profile, and has for decades.
  11. levi

    levi Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

    North Carolina
    I remember a review for one of McCartney's late '70s albums that he wrote as a letter. It was a full-length review, but this line (or at least a rough paraphrase) still sticks in my memory:

    Dear Paul, why do you keep making these awful records?

    And I'm pretty sure it was Simmels who wrote one of my favorite one-line reviews of all time:

    Doobies should be smoked, not heard.

    Whatever you thought of his opinions, the guy had a great game!

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  12. nelamvr6

    nelamvr6 High End Headphoniac Thread Starter

    New London, CT USA
    Yeah there were quite a few bands I disagreed with him about (I Love the Doobies) but he was always a great read!
  13. levi

    levi Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

    North Carolina
    I've always felt that if a reviewer entertains or enlightens me, he's done his job ... regardless of whether I agree with him. Simmels usually did it in spades.

    Remurmur likes this.
  14. Casino

    Casino New Member

    Steve was my all-time favorite reviewer. Clued me in "early-on" with the Blasters, Marshall Crenshaw, The Skeletons, and countless others. Also agreed with him 100% on Springsteen and with his bit about Paul. He just had a good ear for tuneful, well-made popular music that had roots and substance - and if it was bubblegum or (at the other end of the spectrum) tuneless crap, he'd let you know.
  15. doubleknotspy

    doubleknotspy Forum Resident

    Whg, WV, USA
    His reviews of the lps "Dreamtime" by Tom Verlaine and "Shoot Out the Lights" by Richard and Linda Thompson introduced me to great music that I never knew existed, because it was never played on radio. I haven't looked back since.
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  16. longjohn

    longjohn New Member

    Ontario, Canada
    One of my favourite rock 'n' roll books is Mr. Simels' "Gender Chameleons: Androgyny in Rock 'n' Roll". It's a hilarious read and the photos are priceless.
  17. Victor/Victrola

    Victor/Victrola Makng shure its write

    He wrote that "Life In The Foodchain" by Tonio K. was the greatest album ever recorded. I may or may not agree with that assessment.
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  18. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    SF Bay Area, USA
    I liked his reviews, though like most critics, you had to pick and choose based on your own likes. I remember we kind of parted company on Talking Heads, he felt that Brian Eno was their downfall, whereas I thought they really started to get good when Eno came on board. But there were some great finds along the way, still owe him a bunch. And that Tonio K debut was a fun record, that part's for sure.


    Steve Simels -- Stereo Review, April 1979

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN..I give you ... the greatest album ever recorded!

    I can hear you already -- nitpickers. musicologists, the small-minded, owners of Book of Lists toilet paper. What, you cry, of Dennis Brain playing Mozart horn concertos? What of Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain," B. B. King's "Live at the Regal," Bruno Walter's Mahler Fourth," "Sgt. Pepper." and John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"? Not to mention Nervous Norvus' Transfusion, John Wayne's "America: Why I Love Her," and the Singing Dogs' Jingle Bells.

    Oh, all right. So I lied. But, honesty. it's the kind of lie that "Life in the Foodchain" inspires even in as responsible a critic as me. Its creator, Tonio K., is easily twice as angry as Elvis Costello and about six times funnier, and though he spent this decade's middle years in a Southern California booby hatch, rest assured that his songs sound nothing like James Taylor's. What they sound like, actually, is Loudon Wainwright if he'd O.D.'d on the absurdity of American life and then been drafted as the lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Beyond that, it's hard to describe the songs because to do so, or to quote the lyrics (tempting. tempting!), would be like giving away the one-liners in a Woody Allen film.

    Let me simply say, then, that Tonio K. thinks that humor is a serious business and that the next big dance craze will be The Funky Western Civilization. Let me also say that he is the only rocker in memory whose album contains a cameo vocal appearance by Joan of Arc, that his music is bone-crushing rock-and-roll as manic as any punk band's but infinitely more sophisticated, that his lyrics are so absurdly literate and
    corrosively cynical that they have reduced me to rolling on the ftoor from the mere reading of them. To hear them declaimed by Tonio in his marvelously twisted voice while the band conducts an aural demolition derby behind him is the most exciting experience I expect to have in my living room for the remainder of this year.

    The bottom line? Tonio K., if not the future, is certainly at least the George Metesky of rock-and-roll. As a matter of fact, I think I'll have to take back my earlier disclaimer: this is the greatest album ever recorded.

    Stereo Review - Letters
    July 1979

    I believe there's a touch of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest in the political and relgious overtones of the "serious" humor of Tonio K.'s lyrics in "Life in the Foodchain" (reviewed by Steve Simels in the April issue) The musicianship is definitely heads-up,straight-on rock-and-roll. At first I thought Tonio K. was just a clone of the early Frank Zappa, but after listening to the whole album I went back for seconds to see what I had missed on the first go. As a part-time DJ, I considered violating our format and giving Tonio K. a little airplay (one night I snuck my copy of Nervous Norvus' Transfusion as a filler), but I don't think our program director is progressive enough for The Ballad of the Night the Clocks All Quit (and the Government Failed). "Life in the Foodchain" is my pick as the best thing to come out of the trash pile in a long time.

    Vic Woot, Centerville, Ga

    August 1979

    Steve Simels' excellent review (Apnl) of Tonio K. 's "Life in the Foodchain" has not only relieved my most complex anxieties about the future of rock in the eighties but has given my mind nourishment that should last well into the twenty-first century. But please, who is George Metesky?

    Danny C. Lail, Shelby. N.C.

    Steve Simels replies: George Metesky was, of course, the so-called "Mad Bomber" who terrorized the people of New York City for well over a decade with a series of strategically placed explosive devices. Comparing Tonio K. with Metesky was my idea of a joke, son.

    Has Simels gone mad? "Life in the Foodchain." while certainly a good. great, maybe even swell album, can't possibly be the greatest album ever recorded. "James Brown Live at the Apollo" is. This can be substantiated with actual documentation. so don't argue with me. And what about the Seeds' first album? And is the cat still in the freezer?

    Tonio K., Calabasas, Calif.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
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  19. Victor/Victrola

    Victor/Victrola Makng shure its write

    Simels was one of the few critics I could trust to tell the truth. Whether I agreed about the music or not, his assessments were always heartfelt, witty and fun to read. Plus, it was obvious he actually LISTENED to the records he reviewed.
    Remurmur likes this.
  20. bRETT

    bRETT Forum Resident

    Boston MA
    One of the critics in Stereo Review-- not sure if it was Steve S. or one of the other reviewers-- said that the Neil Young song "Stupid Girl " "said, less eloquently, what kicking the coffee table would say."

    That's the best thing ever written in that magazine,. and I wrote for it for awhile!
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  21. Adam9

    Adam9 Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    Simels' writing was formative for me. A couple of things I remember: Steve was a big Springsteen booster in the early days and was excited at the news that David Bowie was recording a couple of Bruce's songs for his next album. He said that he would butcher them (he was not world's biggest Bowie fan) but that the exposure would be great for Springsteen (Bruce had to make his own way to fame in this; the songs were only released much later in a compilation) and his page full of great musical moments (among them George Harrison's high-pitched harmonizing at the end of "Nowhere Man" and the cowbell in the intro of "Honky Tonk Women" (and all of Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita" (told you he was a big Bruce Fan)).
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  22. Musicology101

    Musicology101 New Member

    I stumbled on this page while trying to locate an old Simels article on Bowie's production of 'All the Young Dudes' and 'Transformer'. I even (sort of) remember the title: 'A Tale of a Rock Svengali and two Trilbis'. His take on Bowie ("he doesn't sing, he warbles") was hilarious, as was much of his writing in Stereo Review).

    As others have already stated, Simels was directly responsible for introducing me to music that I never would have heard due to the horrid state of the radio industry back then. Marshall Crenshaw, Tonio K, and most importantly many up-and-coming British and American punk rock bands. He was equally as good at savaging bands that did not deserve their commercial success.

    I was a teenager when I found Simels...I will never forget writing him a scathing letter after he positively destroyed Marc Bolan of my then-fave band T. Rex, calling him a "Bubbkegum Baudelaire" which offended my teenaged sensibilities. As befits the politics of the time and my young age, I somehow equated Steve with Richard Nixon (lol). To my surprise, he sent me an answer by mail, in which he sounded qute flummoxed by my comparison.

    A note on the comment above about Stereo Review's focus on Classical vs Rock Music: Simels once penned a scathing letter to his own colleagues who were dismissive of Rock and Roll, challenging them on their narrow views as to what constituted "serious" music. He then reeled off his own formidable and obviously studied take on Classical, as if to show them that a true music critic can appreciate more than one art form. It was brilliant.

    Nice to know he has a blog, I will definitely check it out!
  23. I used to read Stereo Review religiously, which included Mr. Simel's writings. Later in the 70s, when he'd write something we disagreed with, we'd say "Well, he is a Who-freak after all..." meaning it had to have a strong rock basis. I also remember him always putting the words "hippy dream date" in front of Grace Slick's name, whenever he mentioned her.
  24. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    "You're such a beautiful fish
    floppin' on the summer sand
    lookin' for the wave you missed
    when another one is close at hand"

    What's ineloquent about that???
  25. rstamberg

    rstamberg Forum Resident

    Riverside, CT
    Remember Wayne Green?
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