Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Guns n' Roses - “Live and Let Die”
Loft writing class summer of 2001, one evening a week, six sessions of learning a new form. After the last class I was pumped about what I’d learned and where I could take it. Feeling I deserved a reward, I headed a block over to Grumpy’s for what I thought would be a couple of beers and watching the Twins. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a beer. The bartender poured a cold one and I sipped on it, daydreaming about my literary takeover. Then the perils of being around people slapped me down. As it did, as it does.
A tall overly-tan blonde gal in jeans and a gold top sat down next to me.
“I’m Sheila from KQ, how are you?”
“Fine.” (I don’t want to talk to anybody except the bartender.)
“What’s your name?”
“Bill.” (I should have lied, guess it wouldn’t do any good.)
“I’m doing a promotion tonight, going to be asking some trivia questions and doing giveaways.”
“Cool.” (It doesn’t sound cool. I just want to watch the game and have a couple of beers and be alone with my thoughts.)
She tapped me on the knee. “You’re going to help me.”
“So, where’s the ladies room?”
“Over there to the right.”
She left for the ladies room. Suddenly the bar seemed too loud, the air conditioning too chilly, and the evening sunlight a little strange. Wanting anonymity and believing that this minor celebration of mine deserved it, I pounded my beer, grabbed my bookbag, and fast-walked to the front door. Out on the sidewalk, I pulled my hat low and made for my car, muttering about promises to myself broken. There was beer at home. Goddamn you, KQRS.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
The Beaches - “Let Me Touch”
A. Rock Is Dead (Long Live Rock)
The new band, the new love. The chance to revise your outlook, reinvent yourself, recoup all the losses from these past years where you would turn on the radio or click an icon on your phone and be bored bored bored.
Late Show by The Beaches. You haven’t been this excited about an album since you started with Apple Music and found out it had Mitch Hedberg’s Strategic Grill Locations. To wit:
- There’s interjections: “Yeah!” “woo-hoo!” “hey!”
- There’s handclaps.
- Flawless production.
- Zero guitar solos.
- The whole go for broke-ness of it is breathtaking: 12 songs in 39 minutes means 3 minutes, 15 seconds per song. Not a wasted note and there’s no time to think before the next beauty hits.
- Even the slow song works.
- A throwaway line is better than your favorite lyric: “I want to go to the late show (and play tic-tac-toe”).
- And the lyrics are the best kind — not Deep Songwriter Thoughts, but lines that jab at you at stick:
“Play with the Queen of Ice you get cold”
“I’m just a girl I’m not a thing”
“Need to make money”
“You’re just an insult to my eyes and ears and mouth”
“I want a milk shake filled with pills”
These are anthems, these are goddamned anthems. The riffs slice perfectly, the hooks grab and don’t let go. How many times have you had a Beaches song going through your head as you wake up to shower, shave, coffee?
B. The Sign on the Door Says: “$2.00 per Person, $5.00 for Couples”
Dance party in the living room. Longnecks of Premium and cans of Bud Light Lime-A-Rita in the massive Schmidt seventies-style cooler on the kitchen floor and you have The Beaches blasting and you don’t worry about catering this because it’s like when you were young, get the big box of Old Dutch Rip-L chips and some French onion dip, those are the snacks fuck appetizers who the hell cares about food this is a party and we’re listening to The Beaches if you get hungry later pizzas are in the freezer. Now just want the music and to move around and feel it and smile and dance and Monday is a long ways away. Continue this past midnight until it’s pizza time with some wind-down music from 88.5 on the radio and then there is tomorrow to play The Beaches again and you can clean the apartment later, time to put hockey on the tube on mute and Late Show on the stereo, have a slow whiskey, and don’t plan anything, not for a while now. No worries, just enjoy the songs.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Joe Simon - “The Chokin’ Kind”
They said I was a smart kid because I got good grades. But when I was eleven, I proved to be wise beyond my years. The Vikings lost their fourth Super Bowl and I said: “I will never cheer for this team again.” Not only did I hold myself to my word, I have been actively cheering against them these past 41 years. They’ve been 0-6 in NFC Championship Games since and have continued their fifty-plus years pace of being a nationwide punchline. Lord, it’s been glorious.
This season’s NFC Championship game was one of the more enjoyable Vikings choke jobs. The Purple faithful were begging them to “bring it home”*, they said this team felt different than the sad sacks of the past, they told us the Vikings would win by scoring touchdowns and holding the Eagles to field goals. They told us Philadelphia was beatable at home (even though the Eagles were 8-1 at home, only losing when they rested starters in week 17), they said no way could Nick Freakin’ Foles beat a Mike Zimmer defense. The Vikings executed a flawless opening drive and then fell on their faces for the rest of the game. My favorite part was when Troy Aikman said “Doug Pederson has been one step ahead of Mike Zimmer all night” seconds before the Eagles ran a 41-yard flea flicker for a touchdown to put them up 30-7.
Ah yes, Mike Zimmer. The alleged defensive savant. This is the guy who Vikings fans think is the next Bud Grant. Zimmer has a ways to go before he can find a way to lose four Super Bowls, but we were assured that he is The Man like his mentor Bill Parcells. Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune told us a few years back that Mike Zimmer was like a chess grandmaster**. If Zimmer was playing chess, than Doug Pederson was playing 3-D chess like Spock in Star Trek. Zimmer had no clue what Pederson and the Foles-led offense were up to: The Vikings’ defense clowned around all day like any Vikings defense in a big game over the decades: There were missed tackles, blown coverages, and a noticeable scent of wanting to just quit and not play sixty minutes.
But hey that is the Vikings, that is what they do. They have been a thoroughly unlikeable team for decades now. From the hideous purple uniforms (which many times look blue on TV), to the stupid horn on the helmets, to the choking in big games, to the quitting in big games. And vs. the Eagles they went all Vikings by choking AND quitting. Buh-bye Vikings, you’ve been my favorite comedy for decades now. Hope your seasons-long history of failure is streaming on Netflix soon. I’d love to hear that Hank Stram cackle again.
* To quote Faith No More: What is “it”?
**Around the same time, Souhan also assured us that the Twins’ Paul Molitor was like a chess grandmaster. Good thing Wes So has two playing partners to square off against in town.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Tuesday Tuneage is on hiatus while I work on my screenplay for Escape From Lake Placid. (Ha - not really, but someone who has the a/v skills that I don’t has to do the Escape From New York/Miracle Kurt Russell switcheroo on YouTube ... Herb Brooks saying Snake Plissken quotes and vice versa ... c'mon!)
I’m working on something else for a while, it won't involve me posting here. If I find something that fits Tuesday Tuneage, I will post it. Thanks as always for reading.
Tuesday, December 05, 2017
Greta Van Fleet - “Highway Tune”
The most flagrant case of Zep-ripoff since Kingdom Come’s audaciousness back in ‘88 and these guys are just as hilarious. Hence that makes these Michigan jokers the BEST Zep-ripoff in all these years. While I am confused as their latest release is a double EP (sounds like a total Spinal Tap move: “It isn’t a full long play, it’s a double extended play”), I’m comforted that their Wikipedia page shows them in action at my home soil's Red River Valley Fair. Smiles all around, hells yeah.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
True Believers - “Ring The Bell”
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?”
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
Pink Floyd - “One of These Days”
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
Elton John - “The Bitch Is Back”
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
Junkyard - “Hands Off”
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
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils - “If You Wanna Get To Heaven”
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
Van Halen - “Dirty Movies”
“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
The London Quireboys - “7 O’Clock”
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
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Shining Star"
It was my singular
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
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
on what I did:
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
Slaughter - “Up All Night”
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
The Rascals - "Come On Up"
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.