Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Van Halen - “Dirty Movies”
1981

“You’ll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle”
 - Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous


Van Halen’s fourth album, Fair Warning, was where they took the dark directions suggested by Van Halen II’s “D.O.A.” and Women and Children First’s “And The Cradle Will Rock…” - two songs where youth are tossed from their homes by parents - and stretched them out over an entire album. As somebody once wrote in a parallel universe story embraced by Matt Groening: The lyrics were about Relationships On The Rocks or America In Decline. In a country where the haves were rapidly separating themselves from the have-nots, Van Halen looked at it all from the street. The opening track, “Mean Streets” riffs on Martin Scorsese and urban decay. It’s dense, dark hard rock played off brilliantly vs. those trademark Van Halen harmonies.

But the next track, “Dirty Movies”, takes a big step in solidifying Fair Warning as arguably Van Halen’s best album. Its dry funk beat and Edward Van Halen’s cat-calling guitar lead up into another riffing monster track. With vocals and lyrics from David Lee Roth - always underrated as a wordsmith - “who’s that babe with the fabulous shadow?” and “her movies get down like you don’t see in my hometown” (the narrator, like Roth, isn’t originally from Los Angeles) - the song tells of a good girl who turns to a porn career and the hammer drops with a spoken Roth-as-tale-teller aside: “You remember when that girl was prom queen? Oh wow…”* So the girl in the dirty movie is FROM THE NARRATOR’S HOMETOWN**. He later tells us: “Now they believe it, now that they’ve seen it”, which explains why there was cheering and yells of “Take it off! Take it all off!”: The narrator had his hometown buddies over to see the prom queen get naked. And since this was 1981, we are left to wonder … was the flick on film or on videotape?

The rest of Fair Warning rarely gets brighter, but damn is it incredible. Twenty-five years later, Edward scored a soundtrack for a porn movie.

*The Roth asides were always a favorite in those Van Halen records. Couldn’t sing or play guitar worth a damn? You could always recreate parts of VH songs by walking around saying “I lost a lot of friends there baby, I got no time to mess around” or “I’ve always liked those kind of high heels” or “Hey man that suit is you!”.

** Which makes “Dirty Movies” an early entry in the eighties rock ‘n’ roll subject of Hometown Girl Gone Bad, followed shortly by the J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and later in the decade with Poison’s “Fallen Angel.” Um yeah … welcome to the jungle.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
The London Quireboys - “7 O’Clock”
1990

Intersection of Wooddale and Highway 7, headed to Bloomington for a breakfast seminar about construction law and yeah I gave up drinking for Lent but it IS seven o’clock and rainy and this song is playing on Z-Rock and suddenly I’m craving a Leiny tap, followed by another Leiny tap. No eggs, no hash browns, no toast, just the Leinys. Hell, maybe order a little bag of Lay’s from behind the bar later… I’ll take this tune over the British dance-but-not-fun crap over on KJ104. New Order, Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, blah blah blah. Remember when that station used to be fun? If I gotta hear British stuff just gimme a Faces knockoff that makes me want to sing along, Leiny raised in the air in that booth as we creep towards noon, pitcher half-full in front of me, surrounded by a couple of friends or not it’s gotta beat sitting in a conference room at a Holiday Inn, learning the latest nuances of AIA contract modifications, subcontractor insurance, and what to do if your company might happen to burn something down or blow something up. Godammit the light just turned green.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Shining Star"
1975

It was my singular
athletic achievement
one moment
decades ago
nine years old

Brett's front yard. Jeans, tee shirts, improvised game. That's what we did those Saturdays. Only one down as the lawn was so small. Advance across the yard on your down to get from the driveway to the neighbor's lawn. Razzle-Dazzle Football: You could forward pass, then the player with the ball could run, pitch back, lateral to a teammate, or throw another forward pass to a receiver. Stay behind the line of scrimmage for a forward pass? Forget that. Razzle-Dazzle, man. We were using one of those plastic mini-footballs like six inches long, it was hot pink. The game was two-on-three, me and Denny - he was in ninth grade - vs. three guys in elementary school like me. They stuck Denny with me as I was the smallest and slowest. I had the ball, two guys swarmed me, we were playing tackle of course. I got away from the two, and then the other ran up and blindsided me. If he would have just grabbed me, I would have fallen immediately. But he shoved me instead.
                                 
I was off my feet
sailing on my back
suspended it seemed

Everybody stopped

Then it was slow motion. The play wasn't dead, I hadn't hit the ground yet. I side-armed the pink ball right to Denny, his eyes big in surprise.

A defender in disbelief
offered commentary
on what I did:
“mid-air!!!”

I hit the ground on my back, rolled over. Denny laughing, standing in the end zone with the ball. Razzle-Dazzle, man. The rest of the game? I don't remember.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Slaughter - “Up All Night”
1990

1. METALLIC K.O.

Slaughter - guided by Mark Slaughter’s high-pitched vocals and hooks a-plenty - had two ridiculously entertaining singles off of their debut album: “Up All Night” and “Fly To The Angels”. “Up All Night” is particularly a blast. The intro has Mutt-Lange-piloting-Hysteria sampling, uses the chorus before a verse is uttered (yeah!), then launches into the beat and a curiously restrained Mr. Slaughter on the opening verse. The rest of the song pulls out tricks from catchy metal greats of the eighties: Def Leppard open chords from Pyromania, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts chants, Slaughter tries for the vocal sound of Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose on the choruses. After the guitar solos, it’s all those chants and choruses again but anybody who is having fun (and who isn’t? Morrissey fans maybe?) isn’t complaining. It all ends with some gleeful folks singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”* because: 1) amber waves of grain and all that, 2) the band was drinking Red White & Blue beer during the recording (maybe), and 3) why not?

I hear this tune these days and say to myself: “Self, they need to bring back that goddamn great Z-Rock.”

2. YEP: AUGHTS NOSTALGIA

For a time in the mid-aughts, I had one Monday a month off from my day job. Sunday nights would find me at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, scribbling in my notebook with a pint or two. One night I worked myself up over whatever surrealistic nonsense project I had going at the time, wrote a bunch of pages, then headed to The Country Bar to unwind. The place was quiet, the service was quick. I set my bookbag on the stool next to mine, plopped my elbows on the bar, ordered a Premium and a shot of Jag. The bartender served the drinks, flashed me a smile and big brown eyes and said: “Up all night, sleep all day?” Needless to say, I grew quite fond of her.

*An urban legend said “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was sung by The Langlely Schools Music Project kids all grown up. Not true. Actually I just made it up. (The public hadn’t heard of Langlely when Slaughter released this album, Tuomala. Idiot.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rascals - "Come On Up"
1966

The Rascals' "A Ray of Hope" is the song that plays at wake-up on my iPod-hosting clock radio.  I set if for that tune thinking it would be nice to wake to some optimism by blue-eyed soul wonders, because I’m not a morning person and waking up is almost always ugh. But I may have to change the waking tune to their "Come On Up": The opening fuzz guitar would send a warning shot that coffee needs to be made, while the rest of the tune would remind me that the tasks in my day ahead will rarely be as urgent as the sound of The Rascals here. Why these guys aren't on everyone’s A-list as one of the finest bands of the sixties baffles me, this one is as good as anything The Kinks ever did and The Rascals didn't need to hush-hush Jimmy Page into the studio to riff away for that all-important hard rock cred.

On this Independence Day, gotta say it: Sold, American.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Joe Walsh - "Turn To Stone"
1972

Is this a some sort of Black Sabbath Vol. 4 outtake? Hmmm, both LPs were released the same year, it’s bottom-heavy (that bass that bass that bass...) in the best Sabbath manner, though the guitars are surely Walsh as are the harmonies. Alternate theory: The Sabbath crew visited Joe to check out The Rocky Mountain Way, and a late-Saturday-night chemicals-fueled collaboration (after the good Catholic boys from Birmingham had gone to Saturday mass) left fragments in minds and on tape. From this sprawling mess, Joe pieced together “Turn To Stone”. Result? Walsh's best metal move since "The Bomber". Later, he cleaned up this same song up for another try in '75, a if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it exercise to clear the path for Life's Been Good in the Fast Lane City which ended in pulling a proto-Dukakis on an album cover. Say it ain't so Joe!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Pearl Jam - "Rearviewmirror"
1993


CITY CENTER FOOD COURT

There was Taco Bell, which I avoided because coworkers would always want to place orders for me to take back. Same with Subway. Same with McDonald's, which was always crowded and I usually chose the wrong line and thought they should have a guided-rope line like a bank so you didn't get screwed by choosing the wrong line. There was an Orange Julius. I think they served hot dogs or something else sketchy. I never liked an Orange Julius, just wished it was orange juice. There was a place that just served baked potatoes. One gal I worked with loved it. (Who eats a baked potato for lunch?) There were a bunch of other shops, including a Chinese place that a coworker always ordered from because our company had been sued by them and he thought it was funny to be their paying customer. He claimed he had a list of such places that he tried to frequent.

The secret attraction of the food court was the stairs. Stairs that took you to a smaller, upper level. You could go up there, sit next to the railing, avoid the hustle-bustle noise below, people watch. One stretch at the office they had increasingly frequent Friday lunch potlucks. I would bring cookies from Byerly's, but was stymied when someone else started bringing homemade desserts. So I would sneak out the back door, hit the food court, spend lunch reading the paper on the upper level. Upon returning to the office, skip the potluck cleanup and the accompanying chatter.

Return to my desk, turn the radio on. Four more hours, then the weekend.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Flag - "Wasted"
1979


OTHER KIDS' BULLIES

1981

He was on the bus sometimes. Always seemed to be wearing the same shirt. One of those guys who went from bully to burnout sophomore to junior years. Heard he got picked up on Cherry Street at one a.m., jogging down the middle of the road with an open container. I smiled, then heard he skated. Of course, this guy. I could only shake my head.

1998

As usual in the Entry in flannel and Chucks. That psycho from up north was there. Last time I was in the same bar with this guy, he was picking on people in the Mr. Spud Lounge. He moved from victim to victim until he could get a fight started. Now he was in flannel as well, nodding along to the music.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Sabbath - "N.I.B."
1970

+ COULDN’T GET Z-ROCK IN MY OFFICE

1. Downs

They just tell you that you're on your own
Fill your head all full of lies

     Sabbath's weirdo/cryptic Catholic song
     described your final days
     in Corporate America,
     salaried

2. Ups

Dude
They sent you to Rochester
to ask one question
           one specific question
           about rebar
tunes blasting all down/back Highway 52
window open

You expensed the mileage
 - 29 cents per mile -
made a tidy profit

Dropped off the rebar answer at District
slapped on a surfer hoodie
hit Down in the Valley Richfield/Penn Avenue
scored We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'n' Roll
the clerk was drinking a Molson

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Love - "Alone Again Or"
1967

OFFICEMAX CREDIT

true the dress code is awesome
jeans, tee shirt, sneakers
(okay the landlord keeps the heat on high)
actually: shorts, tee shirt, sneakers
and yes I'm in bliss with no coworkers
- nosy, talkative specimens
             who I never automatically
             embrace as friends
             geez give a guy
             some space
sleeping in is nice
working evenings/weekends
with no email distractions
music cranked
Premium on the coaster
can sometimes approach fun
but truly at times I'm convinced when I finger
3M Post-It Notes, Pilot pens, Bic highlighters,
Avery Glue Stics, Office Max binder clips,
Ampad graph paper, All-Matic clipboard
the main reason I stay self-employed is:

I love buying my own office supplies.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Extreme - "Hole Hearted"
1991

saying you will
stop with the cheap beer,
listening to Extreme's love songs
1992 was lost
               by late '91
               if not sooner
but you've got your new losses
                 now
so still the beer's the same
and those songs call you back
                                   back
                                   back

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
ZZ Top - "TV Dinners"
1983

Dear Netflix:

No more recommendations on kitchens, a chef, multiple chefs, cakes, or anything else involving food. I don't know who James Beard was, don't care. When the Star Tribune has their annual top ten local restaurants, I take it as the Top Ten Places I Have Never Eaten (and probably never will.) Usually I'm at home with meats on my George Foreman Grill or a Stouffer's Spaghetti With Meatballs. (Had to switch it up a while back from their also-hardy Lasagna With Meat And Sauce.) If it's a Friday, maybe a Heggie's. If I can work up the energy and hunger to place an order: pizza and wings or tacos-and-nachos or Chinese delivery. I used to get Jimmy John's but they turned from freaky-fast-to-taking-freaking-forever. If I venture out (BIG IF) it's the neighborhood counter diner or the local bar with the BLT that adds a fried egg. Oh and that place I bike to that has chicken tenders, sandwiches, gyros, fries, and is take-out only. That's it. No dining experience, no Grass Fed Beef!™, no dessert menu, nobody sitting across from me, nowhere to go afterwards. You should know by know I like crime thrillers, spy movies, maybe the occasional bawdy comedy or historical drama. Keep the foodie nonsense away from me. Unless it's Soylent Green.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Stabbing Westward - "What Do I Have To Do?"
1996

They were opening for Killing Joke
                                   First Avenue

Tom:
        "they're mad as hell and
         aren't going to take it anymore"

Later that month
in your car
heard them, thought:
hey they sound like Def Leppard

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Veruca Salt - "Volcano Girls"
1997

Pretty sure you compared this to Def Leppard
upon release, think you did that for any tune
you could
       Unless you compared a tune to Mott the Hoople
       (You compared Def Leppard to Mott the Hoople)

it was a gambit you tried with Stabbing Westward
or so you think

       memories are tricky things
       when you tend to write
                        and rewrite
       the same thing
       twenty years later
       it all becomes one long repetitive essay
   
Mott the Hoople sounded like
"Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl"
by The Barbarians
whose drummer had one arm
Def Leppard sounded like Mott the Hoople
Def Leppard's drummer had one arm

(why do bands like The Grateful Dead have two drummers - four arms -
 is such flashy indulgence welcome at the commune?)
     
Others compared Veruca Salt to The Breeders, accused them of theft,
but you stuck with your sweet gentle Def Lep comparison - actions that
encourage Pyromania on headphones are always solid

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Saga - "On the Loose"
1981

She was carrying on about her boyfriend. She cried about him
every month. Check that. She cried about him every other month,
when they broke up. Then the next month they would make up,
then the next month back to a break up. She was addicted to
drama, drew my roommate into it. Phone calls where he would use
the word maintain. He was there for her. But that one Saturday
night, I don't know what the hell happened. If I wasn't with
my usual running buddies, then I should have been
somewhere quiet reading a book. But we were together
having a nightcap, Stroh's, gathered near the window,
open in winter as the heat blasted that small room.
The radio on the desk played Saga, then Moving Pictures.
Not the Rush album, the band. She started crying, saying
the song was so specific. I wished I was listening to Aerosmith.
At that point I would have settled for The Goddamn Hooters.