Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
True Believers - “Ring The Bell”
1986

Bored Top Ten: (When You’re Distressingly Bored, Insomnia Lurks, And The Writing Won’t Come ... Make A List)

1. Wild Turkey rye - Tasty, and because I drink my rye neat: No ice cube hassles.

2. Deadball: Baseball With Dice - A game I got into this year, thanks to the inventive W.M. Akers. The game involves RPG dice (think Dungeons & Dragons) (in fact, a friend calls this game “Dungeons & Dugouts”) and my erratic bullpen decisions. I’ve been playing random World Series from the sixties, seventies, and eighties solitaire. This is the game I wish I had when I was twelve. Endearingly addictive.

3. Jack’s Canadian Style Bacon Pizza - I’m a confirmed Heggies fan, but every once in a while get a hankering for Canadian bacon (no pineapple, please) pizza. Since Heggies doesn’t deal in back-bacon-only pies and my grocery delivery service doesn’t sell the Tombstone version, I go for Jack’s. Flat, spare on cheese and sauce, and easy to overindulge in as it goes down so fast. Which means not enough leftovers for a second meal. But still a treat. Bleep you, foodies.

4. Stone IPA - Six-point-nine percent ABV (nice) and crisp, perfect for when the time of the evening comes to move on from rye and writing to beer and hockey on TV.

5. Paul Reiser - With his turns as jerk country clubber in Red Oaks and maybe-jerk doctor in Stranger Things, he’s finally showing the potential he flashed in 1982’s Diner. “You gonna finish that?”

6. My Eighties Roots Rock playlist (to the left) - Back when I deejayed, why did I never spin “Looking for Lewis and Clark”? Idiot.

7. The Best of Uriah Heep LP - Strident lead vocals, oohs and ahhs in the background, organ, backdoor dramatics. These guys obviously gave zero f*cks and I mean that as a compliment. For those fall nights when Deep Purple won’t get you there and you find Type O Negative too funny.

8. Vicinity Coffee (Lyndale) - I told the barista that I was reporting to the “satellite office” for a few hours. He genuinely laughed in agreement.

9. Reformation 500 - Those Lutherans are sneaky. Instead of browbeating you with promises of salvation, they give history lessons and you began to re-embrace your Lutheran roots. Plus, they employed NPR in this sneak attack, having that solemn totem air a piece about how Martin Luther changed beer tastes forever. Bravo, ELCA, bravo.

10. Logitech Harmony 650 universal remote - My Dad once called me “Gadget Guy” for my propensity to buy newfangled gizmos and fawn over them. This new universal remote is my latest infatuation and will guarantee me even more time in the recliner enjoying TV and music and trying to fight off crippling boredom.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Pink Floyd - “One of These Days”
1971

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: A BRIEF HISTORY OF AXES IN PINK FLOYD SONGS

“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” (1968) - This B-side’s Wikipedia entry leads you through a detailed history of the song. Need to know on which version Roger Waters screams the loudest? Or which movie an alternate version was recorded for? Wiki’s got you covered. A live version - where Waters’ screaming was great for kicks in high school - appears on Ummagumma, a Floyd album with one of the best Hipgnosis album covers. It has one of those pictures where the picture appears within itself ... you know, like the Land O’Lakes logo. Deep, man.

“One of These Days” (1971) - Meddle is a gem that Floyd recorded before superstardom, hence no songs with classic radio airplay. It had a song that appeared in absurdist fave film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, another song that features “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (rare good use of a show tune), and the second side is one long song. But starting off an album with this song - that is mostly instrumental, where the only vocals are distorted and declaring an intent to commit an axe murder? Almost as audacious as Mott the Hoople kicking off their debut album with an instrumental cover of “You Really Got Me.” Bravo.

“One of My Turns” (1979) - Despite a sly reference to early Floyd experiments (the line: In the suitcase on the left you’ll find my favorite axe), The Wall has not aged well in my mind. Maybe because after all these years I realized all the filler that surrounded the killer songs. Maybe because for a spell in the eighties, there were a few late nights where some guy would say: “Hey we should watch The Wall” and man did those parties end up depressing, the giddiness of a Saturday night crashing into a bad beer buzz and Bob Geldof shaving off his eyebrows. Maybe Floyd is just more interesting to me when they’re not trying to tell a story over four sides. Their masterpiece, The Dark Side of the Moon, was brilliant, weird, funky, and didn’t try to make sense at all. And regarding The Wall: Can you truly trust any Floyd album where the cover wasn’t designed by Hipgnosis?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Elton John - “The Bitch Is Back”
1974

In the mid-seventies Elton John was huge and my older brother had the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album spinning in the living room a lot. By osmosis I adopted Elton as a fave and in taking my fandom to the schoolyard things got weird. One kid I palled around with frequently turned on me: “You like Elton John? He’s a freak!” Then a few of the other boys in our third-grade circle picked up on this as well. I lashed back, focusing in on their affinity for John Denver and then whoo boy was it on.

Outnumbered but refusing to back down, I became the outcast, the heel, in this rivalry. Did I mention that my family was living in the Denver suburbs at the time? With John Denver being a home-town hero? Soon Elton unleashed “The Bitch Is Back”, and due to the title one kid’s mom allegedly forbade him from listening to Top 40 KTLK 1280, and this was pinned on me, as it was somehow my fault that Elton had a kinda-naughty song title. (My folks? While they could be a little strict on some pop culture items - I wasn’t allowed to watch Happy Days during its first season due to alleged risqué humor - I could listen to whatever music stations I wanted to. Dad fixed up an old transistor AM radio he had for me just for this purpose and Mom usually had Top 40 on in the car.) The barbs during recess continued and suddenly we were all wannabe experts in lyrics’ double meanings. Elton’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a drug song ... but so was Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”.

I don’t remember how this feud all ended, we were kids and I’m sure other battles and alliances emerged over other issues. I just recall Elton’s last great single stand was with “Philadelphia Freedom” and knowing I had done the right thing in not caving to peer pressure. By the time Elton’s (recess?) credibility was waning with Kiki Dee, my family had moved back to North Dakota.

And all these decades later, I still don’t trust AM saps like John Denver, The Carpenters, and Barry Manilow. While I’ve bored you enough about this boyhood mini-trauma, that doesn’t mean we can’t go watch Charlie Rich burn the card announcing Denver as a winner at the 1975 Country Music Awards.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Junkyard - “Hands Off”
1989

I heard a new (great) song by Junkyard on Little Steven’s Underground Garage the other day and whew … holy late eighties flashback, Batman. Back then, Axl Rose once wore a Junkyard shirt in a video or photo shoot and suddenly the stock in that band took off. I found their debut album a letdown and the follow-up even more of a drag (and if I recall correctly, the sophomore release had some sort of a Steve Earle contribution*.) But one song, that one glorious song on Junkyard’s debut is a beauty.

The opening chords of “Hands Off” let you know it might be something special and the Southern rock/LA glam mix is intriguing.  Sure, the singer sounds sub-Axl and the chorus loses its luster after the second round, but the guitar solos are Skynyrd-worthy and when you’re about to give the song three stars and a “B” for effort, it goes into a spoken soliloquy about infidelity and broken friendships and a Woody Allen (!) namecheck and a riff about “a really understanding guy (who) just listens” and a “goddamn” interjection that bumps up the effort to an “A” and leaves this tune as a brilliant five star recording that for me wrapped up rock ‘n’ roll eighties in a bow.

*I went back to my mid-nineties zine roots - before every fact was on the Internet - in this opening paragraph and did no research regarding the Earle/Junkyard or Rose/Junkyard connections. Sometimes its more fun to work off of memory than Wikipedia. I’m the guy who’s always looking up crap on my phone during bar conversations. The “well, actually” act must wear quickly, right?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils - “If You Wanna Get To Heaven”
1974

While early on into my viewing of the excellent Ozark on Netflix, a thought flashed in my mind : Jason Bateman’s quick-thinking, scheming financial planner/money launderer Marty Byrde is Jason Bateman’s quick-thinking, scheming con artist/high school student Matthew Burton from the mid-eighties sitcom It’s Your Move all grown up. Before the protagonist in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the great - albeit never recognized as such - Generation X antihero was Matthew Burton. The only precedent I can think of the sleazy Mike “Don’t forget the fourteen-point spread” Damone in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. We Gen Xers simply didn’t have guideposts back then. (Alex P. Keaton doesn’t count.) Hell, we weren’t even called “Generation X” yet. Me, I loved having a kid about my age on TV throwing wrenches into the system’s works.

Never heard of It’s Your Move? It only lasted eighteen episodes*. I remember watching it in summer reruns, which is odd as looking back I assumed it had already been cancelled by that time. Guessing the networks would just play whatever shows they had in the can to fill prime time summer nights. (Ah, those heady days long before reality television reared its ugly head.) For me during those college years, summer reruns were handy as I could catch up on those shows I missed nights at school studying.

Proof that Jason Bateman is playing the same character on two different shows decades apart? Marty Byrde and Matthew Burton have the same initials. Obviously Matthew Burton got into a scrape in California and angered the wrong people. To avoid a bunco charge or something more sinister, he changed his name to Martin Byrde and headed to the Midwest. His tale is eventually picked up in Ozark. Matthew Burton, Marty Byrde … from Van Nuys to Chicago to Ozark Lake … he has left a trail of deceit and regret. And I can’t keep my eyes off of his dark capers.

Note: It’s Your Move is available on YouTube.

*A clue to why such an offbeat, subversive show didn’t take off: I asked my Mom in the summer of ‘85 whether she watched it. She simply said: “I don’t like that kid.

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.