Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage

After reading Esquire's "How Donald Trump Destroyed a Football League" and again watching ESPN's 30 for 30 Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?, I've been going through nostalgia for something I never experienced. In hindsight, the United States Football League seemed like it'd be cool: Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Mouse Davis* in spring games on ESPN. I don't remember actually watching much (any?) USFL when it was active. I had likely kept football in my mind as a fall sport and perhaps I was actually busy studying in college when the games were on (or watching baseball.) Maybe I thought I'd watch USFL games after I graduated from college, maybe I figured it would merge with the NFL at some point.

But the story of what happened to the USFL is instructive. Donald Trump had bought the New Jersey Generals after their initial season and started spending money to try to make them the best team. While they already had Herschel Walker, they splurged on Brian Sipe and other players. Soon, Trump yearned to be accepted as equal of NFL owners. He pushed for the USFL to drop its spring schedule and schedule games for the fall. There is a thread running through the Esquire article and in the 30 for 30 that Trump would never have been accepted by the NFL owners, with Trump being a made-it nouveau riche dude like Al Czervik in Caddyshack but without Al's joyful glee or gauche sense of humor. But the USFL never played fall games. Instead, they - led by Trump - banked on being able to sue the NFL under antitrust law, hoping for a large settlement to keep their league going (they had made the mistake of expanding too soon, counting on expansion fees from new owners) or a merger that would save some of the franchises.

I remember being in the student union as school started at UND in 1986 and somebody asked if the USFL would be playing that fall as they had announced that they would. This person was told by another that no, they would not be competing head-to-head with the NFL, but they had sued the NFL and had won. How much were they awarded? A dollar, somebody else said. No, I said, it was more than that. They looked at me. I had been reading the stories in the paper about the lawsuit, certainly more intrigued with the legal action than I ever had been with any USFL game. I mean, Al Davis finally got a chance for a true heel turn and to stick the knife into Pete Rozelle's back! Antitrust violation is triple damages, I said, they were awarded three dollars. One guy said: "Only you would notice something like that."

New Jersey Generals play-by-play man Charlie Steiner in the Esquire article: "He was the Pied Piper and these other desperate owners went along for the ride. It all happened in a flash. Then the USFL was dead and gone and he moved on to the next thing, which was Atlantic City. Which didn't work out too well, either."**

Earlier this summer, I bought a USFL shirt because I dug the color and was still slapping myself over that "they will get three dollars" antitrust comment thirty years ago. (Hey I only got a C in business law sophomore year, gotta celebrate someway somehow.) I now realize that wearing my USFL shirt is a protest of sorts. Because what does the long-gone USFL tell us? That Trump will push some fantasy about how he can make things quickly better and eventually some kind of ruin - three dollars plus minimal interest, multiple bankruptcies, turning a major political party into a punchline and refuge for white nationalists - inevitably follows. Trump? He could give a single. He told the 30 for 30 director after an interview that the USFL was "small potatoes". In the Esquire article, the director says that Trump sent him a note after receiving a copy of the documentary that said: "You are a loser."

*Mouse Davis was head coach at Division I-AA powerhouse Portland State in the late seventies. They were nationally ranked and came to Grand Forks to play UND. My Dad and I were in the stands as then-Division II UND beat Neil Lomax and his Vikings. Time to time when the Cardinals are playing in the NFL, I go onto Twitter and make a Neil Lomax reference.

** In the 30 for 30, after being told of Steiner's criticisms, Trump - twenty-plus years after the Generals folded - makes a cryptic remark about how Steiner should still be "loyal." 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Clash - "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad"

After reading That Was Then, This Is Now recently and finding it even better than I remember from all those decades ago, I unfortunately started thinking about the 1985 movie adaptation. Recalling the movie brought back some bad feelings of being cheated. Of being quite upset over what the filmmakers had done to a great novel. The full movie is on YouTube, but I wasn't going to sit through the whole ninety minutes again and relive the uncomfortable squirming I went through thirty years ago*.

See, my senior year at UND one of my roommates put a hard press on me to watch an HBO airing of That Was Then, This Is Now. He said it was great. I was reluctant, having heard the movie wasn't even close to Francis Ford Coppola's take on The Outsiders and it had gotten some bad reviews. But he talked me into it. This same roommate also once convinced me to skip class to watch Red Dawn. (Come to think of it, I don't think that roomie ever graduated. Maybe he should have majored in film study?)

In the movie, the kids were older than they are in the book (or at least looked a lot older). It took place in the then-present-day eighties, not circa 1970. The setting was the Twin Cities, not Tulsa. Emilio Estevez, who had been so good in The Outsiders, had one of the leading roles and also wrote the screenplay. Telling, this was the only adaptation of an S.E. Hinton book in which Hinton wasn't involved and didn't feature Matt Dillon. I mostly remember being bored through the movie, while my roommate kept identifying Twin Cities landmarks.

That Was Then, This Is Now is a story of two best friends, Bryon and Mark, who are growing apart. Darkness abounds in the novel. Two kids are beat up severely enough to need medical treatment, a third we learn has been hospitalized after a racial conflict. A girl's hair is entirely cut off while she is passed out - revenge maybe, but likely just for kicks. Early in the book there is the shooting death of a friend of the two protagonists. Not to mention the third act features a teenage commune of acid eaters straight out of Joan Didion's shattering "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" essay.

Near the conclusion, Bryon finds out that Mark has been selling drugs. Conflicted and angry as his girlfriend's younger brother has just been hospitalized after a horrible acid trip, Bryon calls the police and informs them of Mark's activities. In the book, Bryon later visits Mark in jail. Mark tells Bryon that he hates him. This hits the reader in the gut, hard. Hinton writes in notes of a later edition that she hoped the ending of the book would result in some readers wanting to toss it against the wall.

In the movie, during the jail visit Mark tells Bryon: "Lighten up, dude. Everything will be okay." Wha? (Thirty years ago during his viewing, Tuomala is now telling his roommate: THEY RUINED THE ENDING, his roommate is saying: But this NEXT scene is so great…) Bryon leaves the jail and just misses his bus. Then in a nod to a move that Mark had pulled early in the movie, he takes a running car for a short joyride. He returns it to its owner, telling him to "lighten up, dude" and walks away to poppy eighties soundtrack music. Roll credits.

According to IMDb.com, Paramount forced this optimistic ending onto Estevez. Damn Hollywood. All I know is that someone needs to be blamed. And hated.

*I'm saving my Brat Pack hate-watching for St. Elmo's Fire, which I hope to catch on TV some night so I can drink Premium and do a solo Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Eddy Grant - "Electric Avenue"

I owe an apology to anybody who professed their love of "Electric Avenue" to me back in the early eighties. I probably said "that's a dumb song" and then went and listened to whatever aged white artist that I had queued up in my then-meager album collection. All these years later, I now realize that this is one monster of a great song. I should have gotten wise to this in the mid-eighties when I got into rap: "Electric Avenue" has spoken/near-shouted lyrics like Run-DMC and the beat absolutely kills. Not only is it protest music (said by boomers - then in their heady ascent to be the sanctimonious scolds who would sniff "back in the sixties..." - to be a forgotten art form in the age of Reagan/Thatcher) it also features the #1 revving-motorcycle sound of 1982. Goddamn it - where is that Eddy Grant/Billy Squier split single?

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
John Mellencamp - "I Need a Lover"

On this one, John Mellencamp easily surpasses anything he would do up to Uh-Huh and while the song is classic heartland rock, it yet stands out in odd and endearing ways:

- The intro remains special no matter how many times you hear it - rhythm section plus guitar pyrotechnics plus piano plus organ. Any time a whiff of pretension sneaks in, the killer riffs come back and take over.

- Call and response vocals, always in season.

- "This hole I call home."

- The bitch about repeated phone calls. I know, right? (Like me, I bet the narrator of this song loves the iPhone do not disturb feature which makes me soooo glad to live in this future.)

- Drums outro, a percussive reminder for you to cue this track from the beginning all over again.

Pet Benatar, on the same album where she did a passable working of the Rascals' "You Better Run" (and sent young William aflutter with that song's video), did a rather rote take on "I Need a Lover". Disappointing … leather pants, though. As for the last words uttered by Mellencamp on this one, they are "you betcha!"* which is greater Midwestern than "The Great Midwest" on the same LP.

* I paused in the dark from a walk home from a convenience store with a Heggies in my bag to type this observation on my phone. Writing is a 24/7 gig no matter where the days and nights may lead you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Hellacopters - "Born Broke"


Perfect tune for that time between the last half of April and the first couple weeks of July when items in your mismanaged self-employed life manage to team up to put a strain on finances (estimated taxes due April 15th then June 15th, major allergy clinic bill, bookkeeping work slows down to a few measly billable hours) and you invariably end up draining your savings account to cover things, cut your already bone-dry spending further, mutter “please don’t let me end up putting groceries on the MasterCard”, and try to run out the clock until the property tax refund comes through in early July. If only you were as good as networking as doing the actual accounting, but that ain’t the case. So settle for the hope to make rent, having no money to travel or take in a ballgame or buy a bottle of decent Scotch, BUT: time to write. Things could be worse, you could have a real job.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Jesse Johnson - "Black in America"


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Dave Alvin - "Fourth of July"

Best big days to spend home alone:

1. 4th of July - For decades, my parents had a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota. It brought years of great memories, many friends, and was a wonderful place to get away to. But that annual American celebration, the Fourth of July? The absolute worst summer day to be on a lake in Minnesota. The lake is too crowded to waterski on or simply enjoy a boat ride. Everybody has company, so the beaches are loud, little kids are constantly screaming. And those rugrats? They're the same ones who start begging for the fireworks early in the evening. So while it doesn't get truly dark until close to ten o'clock, you're watching fireworks in barely-dusk while the mosquitoes are at their worst. The place to be on the Fourth is in the city, where things are beautifully quiet during the day. A couple of years ago was a classic night: I had a couple of neighbors on my block - one due west, one due south - firing off some pretty cool fireworks, so I opened up all the windows and shades, turned off the lights, and listened to Dave Alvin's "Fourth of July" with a cold one while I watched the show.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Electric Angels - "Cars Crash"

Wikipedia lies! Electric Angels are described as "a cross between The Replacements and Hanoi Rocks"*, but they lack the crunch of looks-good/sounds-okay Hanoi Rocks and never make it to the garage glory of the 'Mats. The guitars are solid and there are nice background harmonies but something is missing here. Maybe a top-notch hard rock producer like Ted Templeman or Tom Werman would have fared better than Tony Visconti, the sound on this album is like a flatter Bon Jovi.** Dunno how that trickster Chuck Eddy had this album rated as high as 32*** in his Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe, he obviously heard things I did not.

And the lyrics. Oh Lord, THE LYRICS. I normally give lyrics secondary attention, but these ones are so bad that they scream for attention.

'Til death do us part
That's why I'm wearing black

GROAN (PT. 2):
You must be an actress
'Cause you sure know how to fake it

My life is in the pawnshop
My soul is with you girl
'Cause a heart of gold is worth more
Than all the money in the world

We were going to change the world
But the world changed us!

She used to walk on water
Now she's walking like a whore

I wish I could burn her like firewood

As for "Cars Crash", it could be a Spinal Tap song. Except where the Tap would have been funny, Electric Angels play it straight.

Cars crash
Hearts get crushed


And you get crushed, I won't be your crush
Can't say I wish you were dead
Some things are better left unsaid

You know one big reason that cars crash? Drunk driving. And in "The Drinking Song", these guys shrug off drinking and driving, something The Replacements would have never done. (They didn't drive.) I don't encourage quitting, but it might have been best if Electric Angels had entered a twelve-step program and addressed the drinking which undoubtably fueled their misogyny.

*Citation needed!

**And at least Bon Jovi could approximate garage/chant/seventies glam in stuff like "Bad Medicine".

*** O.J. Simpson's number, ominously.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Doobie Brothers - "Black Water"

Harpers Bizarre's cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" is one of those sixties songs like The 5th Dimension's "Up, Up And Away" and The Association's "Windy" that sounds to me like a children's song and hence I didn't like as a child.* These days such songs as these have a cute little subgenre name to match their cute little sounds: Sunshine Pop. Ugh. (File under "p" for "Precious".)

While I am unaware of a nonfunny video of Harpers Bizarre's hit that features Chevy Chase, the band is notable for one reason here we just recently became aware of here at Tuesday Tuneage: TED TEMPLEMAN WAS IN THE BAND. And it gets better…

Templeman would go on to produce The Doobie Brothers, turning their biker-friendly hard rock into solid-and-sometimes-great radio hits. Most noticeably on "Black Water", a gem that goes from pretty-tasty-to-genius with the a cappella stylings at the end. Templeman confesses to nicking this from Harpers Bizarre producer Lenny Waronker on their Groovy hit. Fine with me, I never get tired of this song and have fond memories of hearing in the back of a station wagon as a kid. And it gets EVEN better…

Ted Templeman used this same vocal trick on Van Halen's debut album. Just when "I'm The One" is racing along at 110 mph, it hits the brakes and stops for an a cappella break** that had to have blown the minds of every teenager in a Camaro or Nova in late-seventies mid-America the first time they heard it. Such a smooth move on Templeman's part: Even Michael McDonald approved.

*Because none of those annoying ditties could touch the original cast of Sesame Street and their smash hit "Rubber Duckie".

** Okay there is a little bit of percussion in it, but close enough.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Faster Pussycat - "Babylon"

It's easy to forget just how deeply the rap-metal of Run-DMC and The Beastie Boys of the mid-eighties held sway over other metal acts. Suddenly, thrashers Anthrax were wearing track outfits and goofy hats and were sampling Big Country, Metallica, Sam Kinison, and Iron Maiden in "I'm The Man". Faster Pussycat stepped away from their Aerosmith fixation for a moment and did their hip-hop homage "Babylon." (Or is it a spoof? Either way, it's kinda funny. Just kinda.) Desperate in trying to play catch-up with The Beasties' Licensed To Ill, it features the least-possible-sounding hip-hop drums, but does have noises that resemble scratching (in the rap deejay sense, not the pussycat sense) and Run-DMC-nicked "shut up!"s. And while pretty much every LA hair metal band in the last half of the eighties wanted to be Aerosmith but invariably claimed to be influenced by The New York Dolls, at least on this one Faster Pussycat used the same song title as a Dolls tune. So while the metal bands' hip-hop efforts weren't as good as rap-metal pioneers/greatest hip-hop-group-ever Run-DMC, you sure can't fault 'em for trying. Hell, thirty years hence the twisted experiment seems commendable.

(Crap. The latest issue of Writer's Digest had an article on "Essential Elements of Personal Essays" by Peter Bricklebank and I wanted to incorporate the article's advice here, specifically this part: The essay can also simultaneously spin several narrative threads in parallel, or embody a list…" Here's part of the list I wanted to use had I gone that way instead:)

- I want to force this tune on all the dopey white people who would always say: "You can't spell 'crap' without 'rap'", but it dawned on me that they're all listening to country radio now anyway.

- The metal bands delving into hip-hop didn't come off like complete dopes like REM did when they tried hip-hop with "Radio Song" in '91.

- Something about how rap-metal is the music of the white and black underclasses merged. (THINK PIECE?)

- Something about the Judgement Night soundtrack. (Movie not available to stream on Amazon: Too threatening to The Man?)

- Thoughts on Faith No More, Kid Rock, and 24-7 Spyz. (Future essays??)

- Faster Pussycat would go on to brilliantly cover Carly Simon, but hey we needed grunge to save us from hair metal. There was a time there when I thought Z-Rock taught us we could have it all, but when you start getting pie-eyed over a syndicated AM metal radio station, maybe it is time to drop the pen, close the laptop, and SHUT UP.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Nick Lowe - "Heart of the City"

I don't aspire to much. I'm too lazy to explore this great city I live in and I don't like to travel. Go see a monument or a momentous place or read an article about said place? Magazine, or better yet: a short book (with illustrations!) Learn to skydive or Rollerblade? No thanks, I'll go for my 3.2 mile walk though, it takes almost exactly an hour, and burns over 300 calories. Take up a new craft, skill, or hobby? Nope, hockey is on TV tonight. (Though I recently got my over-ten-years-since-last-touched guitar a setup and new strings. Am I going to learn songs and maybe think about trying an open mike down the road? No, I just want something relaxing to do while watching hockey, and strumming some chords - I can't remember any complete songs any more - just seems to hit the spot.) So as I reside in my fifties, the idea of coming up with a Bucket List is something that drew a complete blank in my brain. (Not having much disposable income doesn't aid in attempting any gotta-do-this-befores anyway.) And hence, the more I thought about a Bucket List, the more I hated the idea. Then, a brainstorm struck. It was the best idea I had come up with since I decided to get rid of my car five years ago. I would come up with a Bucket List, but it would instead be things I never want to do. This would take no effort on my part and if I don't screw up by getting ambitious, I already have my Bucket List done.


Get away from it all? Abandon the city for a weekend? Get off the grid?? No, no, nope. I WANT to be connected, plugged-in, near my iPhone, iMac, and MacBook. I want my Amazon Fire box streaming Amazon Prime and Netflix. I want the Fire box streaming Chromecast so I can watch sports on NBC (have great difficulty getting KARE-11 on my rabbit ears, d'oh) and on YouTube watch the complete 2016 NCAA men's ice hockey title game so I can see the University of North Dakota win its eighth title all over (and over and over) again. I want the Fire box streaming PlayStation Vue so I have ESPN, TBS, TNT, ESPN2, USA, and NBCSN. I want HD radio, I want my 10-key, I want great lighting in my living room for reading the newspaper that was delivered to my (building's) front door. I want cold beer out the fridge, I want ice in the freezer for my Evan Williams and Brandy Old Fashioneds. Keep me connected, plugged-in, and with hot water. The call of the wild or call for pizza delivery? Easy call. Oh-so-easy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Run-DMC - "King of Rock"

My Ten Nonessential Albums 

10. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Dunno why anybody who had a legit shot of being their generation's John Fogerty would instead aspire to be another Brian Wilson/Alex Chilton crackup who writes crappy cute pop tunes.

9. Talking Heads - Little Creatures. The only good thing about these jokers was their rhythm section and you can get through a fun fun fun listen of Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" in under eight minutes.

8. Any REM album that isn't an anthology. Because they were a singles band, after all.

7. The Clash - Sandinista!. Weird fact: More people have walked on the moon than have actually listened to this complete album.

6. Journey - Escape. "To say that (Steve Perry is) a whiner does not do the man justice. Perry's a whiner's whiner, squealing away furiously in the implausible air that falls between rarified and denatured. If they ever create a cartoon character based on snot, Steve will no doubt be called upon to do the voice." - Rick Johnson 

5. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours. This annoyance fortunately generated a brilliant assassination plan and a great comic about said plan. (Also: It should be spelled "Rumors", dorks.)

4. Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture. Trying to disguise show tunes as rock 'n roll still leaves them as show tunes. (Substitute Jesus Christ Superstar's soundtrack here when it has its inevitable revival.)

3. Elvis Costello - Imperial Bedroom. More like Imperial Boredom. "Metal Mike" Saunders once called Elvis Costello a "can't-rock weenie", which is why I want to buy Metal Mike a beer or two someday.

2. Radiohead - Kid A. Fifty minutes in search of a melody.

1. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds. In my world, The Beach Boys are a nasally annoyance. You know, just like any one of their rabid fans.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rugbys - "You, I"

This scrappy little regional hit that went big nationally upon re-release packs so much into three minutes. Starts out with fuzz guitar AND a smoker's cough*. (Predating Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf"!) BOOM: hard rock, scratchy guitar, sparse glorious production, blue-eyed-tinged vocals, proto-Uriah Heep "ahhhhh"s. Then it gets even more urgent, adds fast pulsating keyboards. The end approaches and before you get a chance to play it over (and over and over) again it slows down into wah-wah guitar and drum roll, like The Rugbys want to take a shot at being metal pioneers. As Wikipedia advises: Check out the 1969 Palm Beach Music Festival poster.

*Alas, not heard on any YouTube version I tracked. Trust me, it's very clear on Apple Music.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Prince - "Kiss"


SuperAmerica Prince. Joel said that there was a guy that worked at the SuperAmerica near his house who looked a lot like Prince. It was eerie, he said. One night, we were at a bar near this SA and while giving Joel a ride home, I said I needed to stop at the SA to get a snack. Joel said he didn't need anything, but had to go into the store in case SuperAmerica Prince was working. And lo and behold, he was. And he looked A LOT like Prince. Eerie. A couple of years later, Joel and I were at The Country Bar and Joel elbowed me: "Hey, that's SuperAmerica Prince!" Sure enough, a couple of stools down there was SA Prince drinking a bottle of Bud. We said hi and "hey don't you work at the SA on East Lake?" though I think we kept the Prince stuff to ourselves.


In the summer of 1992, I was working at my accounting job on the third floor of the Young-Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis. There was a video production studio on the second floor, and our office heard rumors that Prince was there at nights working on a video. I was working late one night - a usual occurrence during that stretch of that summer - and when it was finally time to head home, I was surprised when the elevator stopped on the second floor. Generally I was the only one in the building this time of the evening. Prince stepped into the elevator, followed by a rather large man. Prince was decked neck-to-boots in lavender, the large man wore a suit. Prince entered the elevator quite confidently, but when he sensed there was somebody else in the lift, he proceeded to back up against the opposite wall from me and stare at the ceiling. I could tell he was not interested in interacting, but I had to say something. THIS WAS PRINCE. In my full North Dakota accent, I said: "How's it goin'?" The large man, who had stood immediately in front of me, turned his head ever-so-slightly and politely said: "We're doing fine, thank you."

(Now over the years I have gone back and forth on this exchange. At times I've been miffed that Prince refused to talk to me. Then I have read about how shy he was, and maybe talking to some dope in a blazer and tie wasn't something he felt obliged to do. As time goes on, I just get a kick out of: "We're doing fine, thank you.")

So we got off on the first floor, and I proceeded to trail the two out of the elevator, down the hallway, and towards the front door. The Y-Q building had two sets of doors. When we got to the first doors, the large man went first, Prince followed him, and then Prince did subtly acknowledge my presence. If he had kept walking, that door would shut on me by the time I got to it. It was a big, heavy door. Prince paused and held the door just long enough so that I could catch it in stride. He never looked back, did just enough to provide me safe passage. He and his companion went through the second doors and into a waiting limousine. Me, I proceeded to tell people I ran into Prince. Some thought I was making this up as six months earlier Joel and I had run into Slash and Duff from Guns n' Roses at the Uptown Bar. (Duff shook our hands - he had leather gloves! Slash tried bargaining for Joel's flannel shirt.)


I am bad with learning and recalling lyrics. In the case of Prince's "Kiss", for years I thought the line was:

Women, not guns, rule my world

I still hear it that way most times.


Buying the Purple Rain soundtrack at age eighteen in that glorious musical summer of '84 was a gamble that went against my usual tastes, but even at that young age I could sense the restrictions of the classic hard rock I wrapped myself in. Suddenly, albums and songs by aging (many times British, sometimes dead) white guys with long hair weren't all that consumed me. Totally digging Purple Rain opened up the door for me digging new sounds by the likes of Run-DMC and oddly, metal that didn't get airplay (then, at least) like Metallica. Maybe if I had tried to convey how Prince's music did that for a stubborn white kid from North Dakota, he would have said "hi" on the elevator. Rest in peace, Prince. And thanks for the music and memories.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Kinks - "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"

Give me seventies hard rock Kinks: Cleaned up around the edges and ready for heartland FM radio stations, still quirky and witty enough to bring a smile or a smirk. "Destroyer", "Do It Again", "Low Budget" - these are grade-A songs you don’t have to be a member of some B-side-collecting cult to enjoy. I remember years ago when Mojo magazine was on a mission to declare “Waterloo Sunset” the Greatest Song Ever Recorded*, and all I could do was shrug. This was at a time that I had gotten bored with sixties Kinks and no matter how hard Jimmy Page riffed on “All Day and All of the Night”, I still couldn’t get behind their proto-metal like I could with The Yardbirds or The Who. Plus The Kinks always had that frilly thing going, so there was always going to be some stupid Totally English crap song like “Sunny Afternoon” lurking and threatening to put me in a foul mood. (All the Brit bands succumbed to this jolly old nonsense: The Stones had “Something Happened To Me Yesterday”, I couldn't make it through a listen of Cream's Disraeli Gears last year because of it, and The Beatles' “When I’m Sixty-Four” is absolutely horrible. It's like they tried so hard to be American, that the Englishness would just seep out and cause unforced errors.) One night last winter, I gave a Kinks deep cuts playlist on Apple Music a shot, and nope: Dainty ditties about (probably) tea and crumpets or maybe somebody's mum. Not being into the velvet suit Anglophile thing and fueled by a couple of Surlys, I almost went on Twitter to declare The Kinks as overrated as The Beach Boys.

But. But. I remembered that in The Sopranos, The Kinks' "Living on a Thin Line" was used effectively in an episode that showed how disposable the girls who danced at The Bada Bing! were. Instead of badmouthing The Kinks, I instead assembled a seventies Kinks playlist. It was made up of mostly hard rockers, a good chunk of which were from the Low Budget album. Apparently, going to the Arista label in '76 paid off as The Kinks in that period recorded catchy, wry and/or poignant tunes launched solidly towards the mainstream. Hell yeah.

As for “(I Wanna Fly Like) Superman”, it packs a disco beat (all the rage in this era for FM stalwarts - The Stones, Kiss, and Rod Stewart also had disco songs) and has a killer riff that hints at disco-metal. While Superman himself is a complete and utter bore (he can fly, is really really strong, doesn't sleep with Margot Kidder zzzzz)**, Ray Davies just sings that he wants to be able to fly like him, not be him. Earlier on the same album, Davies sings in the voice of Captain America. Oddly, there were no bellows from the “don’t mix DC and Marvel” crowd.

*The Greatest Song Ever Recorded (my opinion this week) is Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."

**And Superman is not from this planet. Can he be trusted? Would President Trump bar Superman from the United States? DC: I will send this story over the transom if I don’t hear from you soon.