Tuesday, July 02, 2019
Black Sabbath - “Never Say Die”
I’m not going to let the heat and humidity beat me this year, I got two AC units in my apartment, summer beer like Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, a go-to cocktail in the paloma (hell yeah Hornitos plus Fresca on the rocks with a slice of lime) and I’ve found my summer rally song.
I need a song of triumph — I’m putting Motörhead’s “Live to Win” on the b-side —
because my psycho downstairs neighbor has moved out, she of “you’re walking too loud” infamy, she of yelling and cursing at me from below. It started with me putting on my pajamas and her yelling “f**k you!” some nights, escalated to me making breakfast and my hand holding the milk carton shaking because she was right below me yelling f-bombs and screaming “bleephole!” I debated getting into a Volume War with her every time she started yelling or starting blasting crappy folk music from what sounded like a chintzy boombox. I could have retaliated with the Stooges, AC/DC, Funkadelic, Blue Cheer, Run-DMC out of my living room JBL speakers ... “yeah TAKE THAT Kingston Trio!!” But I didn’t use volume, I simply took my concerns to the landlord like a good citizen (ending each email with a variation on “I don’t think I should be yelled at for living my life”) and I think they told her they wouldn’t renew her lease if she continued to be a menace. (A menace, seriously. I saw her in her car blow through a neighborhood stop sign that is both across the street from a playground and is located at an intersection where kids catch the school bus in the morning. South Minneapolis boomer self-entitlement or what? Stop signs are optional for these people?)
So the psycho is gone. And I’m thinking with coffee and a new Mead five-star notebook and my iPad and a new writing app and listening to this tune — I have never heard Black Sabbath this glorious or be so Dare To Be Great in sound and lyrics, sounding like part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal even — I might even embrace my newfound peace of mind and get something written by Labor Day.
(Artwork on the Sabbath album cover by the masters at Hipgnosis.)
Tuesday, June 04, 2019
Lynyrd Skynyrd - “Workin’ for MCA”
I. PLAY IT PRETTY FOR ATLANTA
I scored a used copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s double album Gold & Platinum back in my early eighties high school days in the bins at Mother’s Records in Grand Forks. This was my Skynyrd album to rally around (one of my many faults is that I tend to rely on anthologies and not albums of artists’ masterworks) and it did yeoman’s work as I played its live version of “Free Bird” over and over and over while watching in glee as the Minnesota Vikings choked away the 1998 NFC Championship to the Atlanta Falcons. (Ronnie Van Zant: “Play it pretty for Atlanta.”) I remember resetting the needle over and over again to listen to that song, volume muted on the TV. I was temping then, living in a shoebox apartment and making jack. I did a shot of whiskey after the game, had some beers, and splurged by ordering a Domino’s, chuckling over all the fans with their Purple flags on their cars, that morning they had been convinced that their team would wipe out the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. The memory of this day still brings joy.
For some reason Gold & Platinum only had ONE song from Second Helping, their best album. “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Workin’ for MCA”, “Don’t Ask Me No Questions”, “The Needle and the Spoon”, “Call Me The Breeze” ... hell. “Workin’ for MCA” being the track that blows the most doors down. The hardest and best hard rock of the seventies, here Skynyrd’s guitar attack lives up to all the hype, as the sound shreds and leads are traded back and forth furiously. On the rear sleeve of the album, it lists what type of guitar each of the three six-stringers and bass player uses, while Ronnie Van Zant is noted as being a J&B man.
II. TOP FIVE PEOPLE OR THINGS DISSED BY RONNIE VAN ZANT ON SECOND HELPING:
5. Fools who didn’t appreciate Curtis Loew
3. People who ask question rather than talk fishing
2. Pencil pushers
1. Neil Young
III. ANOTHER LIST! BEST ANTI-RECORD LABEL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SONGS
4. The Sex Pistols, “EMI” — Damn were the Pistols fun. I still like John Lydon’s claim that fired bassist Steve Alford was brought back to play bass on Pistols recordings, meaning these punk nasties used a studio musician rather than Sid Vicious.
3. Graham Parker, “Mercury Poisoning” — “He’s got Mercury Poisoning” the background singers declare, like in a long-lost sixties blue-eyed soul gem. Graham Parker is at his best when he’s pissed off.
2. The Clash, “Complete Control” — Depending on what day it is, this might be number one, imagine my surprise well into adulthood finding out that dub master Lee Perry was the producer of this hard rock masterpiece. But I wanted to write about Lynyrd Skynyrd, so this week it’s number two. Maybe Joe Strummer decries pencil pushers in this one, but I can’t understand much of the lyrics.
1. Workin’ for MCA — A rare song about a record company executive who doesn’t smoke a big cigar (see AC/DC “Show Business”, The Animals “The Story of Bo Diddley”, Boston “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”, and Pink Floyd “Have a Cigar”), here the exec is a Yankee slicker. Ronnie decries pencil pushers in the same line as honky tonk queens. A few years later on “Gimme Back My Bullets” he would rail against pencil pushers again. Makes me feel guilty for all my time spent working in offices, especially in my twenties where my and a bud changed the lyrics of this one to “Workin’ for HGA.”
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Bachman-Turner Overdrive - “Takin’ Care of Business”
Look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day.
In the past twenty years or so: 1) I’ve complained about my long-ago time in Corporate America and, 2) gloated about working from home as my own boss. As my twentieth anniversary of being self-employed approaches, I decided to gather up my instinctive making-it-up-as-I-go moves as Real Knowledge, available only as a correspondence course. So here you go, excerpts from Accounting 666: How To Run Your Own Bookkeeping Business.
First off, recent study shows that if you’re over forty, you shouldn’t work five-day weeks. I read this in Martha Stewart Living magazine when looking for recipes for my mini crockpot. Actually an algorithm in my Pocket app sent it to me, but cooking dinner in your mini crockpot makes the end of your day rather easy — no dinner to prep as you did that in the morning —though you have to smell the deliciousness brewing in it as the afternoon goes on. Load up on almonds when the hunger pangs hit.
Do not set your alarm in the morning. Being woken up when you’re not ready to be awake causes crankiness. Scientists say that you should sleep until you wake on your own, this is best for your sleep habits. Lord, I love science. Then again, maybe I read this one in Martha Stewart Living as well.
And if you’re not knocking off by three p.m. (no matter how late you sleep), you’re doing it wrong. The elliptical machines at the gym will be widely available or you can take your (non- business related) reading material to the coffee shop or you can get a head start on happy hour.
WORDS TO LIVE YOUR BUSINESS BY:
“Get the money up front.” This one has stuck with me since I was a kid and had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. Maybe I dreamt of being a scientist who would convince people not to use an alarm clock. The quote is from a commercial that constantly ran for a kids version of The Joker’s Wild game show. It was some smartass kid who cracked the host up.
“TCB: Taking Care of Business.” Cosmo Kramer said this on Seinfeld when he inadvertently stumbled into a corporate office gig and Jerry asked him what he did. Say it with the utmost confidence.
“That’s a Quickbooks bug, given Intuit’s knack for making an upgrade a downgrade.” This is one of my own quotes. It’s true, and never hesitate to blame any sort of glitch in reports on Quickbooks. It’s reputation precedes it.
“100 dollars a day, plus expenses.” Said by Jim Rockford, who should be your patron saint. Sure, he got beat up every episode and never seemed to get paid, but he lived in a trailer by the Pacific Ocean*, had an answering machine (BIG in the mid-seventies, and the messages were always noteworthy), didn’t have to wear a tie, drove a cool car, and was always taking attractive women out for tacos.
I’ve extolled the virtues of being self-employed before: No dress code, no jerk boss, scheduling paying job around writing schedule, no nosy coworkers, charging bags of coffee beans to my business’s expenses, etc. But have I mentioned: I hardly have to sit in a meeting ever? I telecommute most days and do almost all my communication via email. The last meeting I was asked to be a part of I attended from home, it was a teleconference. The last in-person business meeting I was at? I couldn’t tell you for sure. Meetings are more often than not useless. They take you away from what you’re supposed to be doing — working — and usually exist to advance somebody else’s agenda, this agenda is usually advanced by somebody above you and involves giving you and others more work.
Hence, working at home with no boss: Just gimme a stack of papers (via email or cloud, please, don’t ask me to stop by your office for them) and I’ll get ‘em into the software and then head out to the coffee shop, blissfully blasting music on headphones and continuing to enjoy my meeting-free life. Lord, it’s awesome not being in an office that has meetings. Don’t have to sweat it out hoping that the coffee is good. Don’t have to sit around listening to other people talk. Don’t have to hear awkward attempts at humor. Don’t have to kill time by hoping I have a pal across the conference table to play nickel hockey or paper triangle football with if the meeting starts late because some big shot is on a phone call. Don’t have to hear others use big words to show their insecurity over looking dumb. Don’t have to play mental run-out-the-clock, hoping I’m not called on … where I use small words and look smart.
The downside (I guess) to all this working at home/not leaving the apartment except to hit the coffee shop or get some exercise is that whatever limited social skills I had have diminished. Socializing is something I never learned to handle quite well and as I’ve gotten older I’ve shrugged and stopped worrying about whether I can carry on a conversation. I’ll save find the right word, dammit for writing. At least then I can edit away in glee. So now I pick and choose when I socialize. More often than not, I choose not to. Why leave this apartment when Narcos: Mexico is on Netflix, there’s books on my phone, and my turntable beckons?
If a client doesn’t pay up, threaten them with the ELCA (Enlightened Lutheran Collection Agency.)
Also, music will help you as you study the assignments in this class. My self-employed accountant acoustic blues album will be out soon on the Elektra label. First single will be "Your Love (Is Like A Bad Debt Expense)" b/w "I Got The Schedule C Blues Again". Ask for it at your favorite record store.
*Adjust for inflation.
**Better location and view than my likely retirement destination of a trailer in Richfield. This is my plan to retire in the south.
Tuesday, March 05, 2019
Wilson Pickett - "Sugar, Sugar"
I was at my Mom’s place having my morning coffee in the TV room, playing the Solid Gold Oldies channel on Comcast when they played “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett, “The Jolly Green Giant” by The Kingsmen, and then BOOM more Wilson Pickett with “Land of 1,000 Dances”. Soul, punk, and then a dose of more soul. I damn near spit out my Folger’s. The blatant power move by whoever programs Music Choice channel 430 to go Pickett two out of three and then the blunt realization that I have failed myself for decades in yet another area ... why the hell haven’t I spent more time listening to Wilson Pickett? Why spend time trying/failing to get into oh-so-English sixties Kinks (gimme seventies arena-rock Kinks) or digging out my vinyl copy of Disraeli Gears (and forgetting to take the needle off before the horrible side-ending tracks, geez BOTH SIDES) or forcing myself through another listen to Television’s Marquee Moon (“See No Evil” is the only song that grabs me though it is great) when I could be listening to a soul hero who recorded at Stax and Muscle Shoals and had the audacity to cover both The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (using Duane Allman on guitar) and The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar”? I’ve got catching up to do, some fun homework to tackle.
And I realized that this newfound Pickett interest can help me big-time. Like how having a bad back allows me to beg out of helping people move, the music of Wilson Pickett has made me see that I have better ways to spend my hours. And hell, this isn’t going to apply to just whatever overrated whiteboy music act that friends and acquaintances want me to dig. You want me to watch your latest favorite movie, latest favorite TV show, or listen to your latest favorite (of course it’s plural) podcasts? No way world: I’M GOING TO GO LISTEN TO THE WICKED PICKETT.
(Artwork from the incredible Rock Dreams by Guy Peellaert and Nik Cohn.)
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
The Donnas - "What Do I Have To Do"
A great thing about getting old is nobody asks me what’s new in music. All for the best, because I can’t stop spinning Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s “A Taste Of Honey” on the turntable and my favorite station these days is WDGY.* My latest (but not new) obsession is The Donnas. Not sure what happened to these gals, I daydream about them barnstorming across the country and playing the 7th Street Entry someday and me actually going out on a Friday night like back in the old days. (Does the Entry still sell Colt .45?) I hadn’t gone through a Donnas phase in years, was pleasantly surprised to find out that their latest album was titled Bitchin’, and was chagrined to see that it came out back in ‘07. Then I shrugged my shoulders. Many say I peaked back in ‘97 and I haven’t put out a zine since ‘09, so who am I to cause a fuss over recent output? Good news, it’s another great listen from the gals.
The opening title track starts off with a siren like It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back which leads into Sabbath riffs, swirling background vocals, Beck-era Yardbirds guitar, and speeds up into proper Donnas madness with a Kiss reference (lick it up), a Judas Priest reference (heads are gonna roll), and a chanted promise that they are going to kick your ass all over this album and you’re gonna love it. Then they proceed to kick our asses all over the album and we love it. Great riffs, awesome beat, hooks, gorgeous harmonies and background ooohs and ahhhs, and production so sparkling and flawless you’d think it was Chris Thomas manning the board (it’s not.) This is rock ‘n’ roll at its best, proof is that one of the songs starts out with the same cowbell lead-in as “We’re An American Band.”
I’m 99 to 100 percent sure The Donnas didn’t get the recognition they deserved because of the usual Smart People bias against hard rock. I remember a reviewer in some local alternative paper bitchin’ (ha) about how The Donnas weren’t a punk band after all (he had fallen for the head fake of them having Ramones-like names) and were more like a hard rock or (gasp) metal band. The joke was on him, The Donnas can play, their drummer rules, and their metal riffs kick more ass any play-fast-don’t-worry-about-the-production outfit could come up with. The Donnas sang about the guys they wanted, were clear-cut on how they were going to win said guys over, and left the woe-is-me lyrics to overhyped songwriters on the usual sad sack trip. (And people wonder why some of us don’t listen to Doofus ... I mean Rufus Wainright.)
Not only is this a fun album, it has some fun coincidences. The cover reminds me of that Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle poster, which was itself a throwback to Loverboy’s second album cover. (And Drew Barrymore sang along with a Loverboy song in that movie, but mostly I remember Demi Moore handling a gun in a certain way ...) AND: Importantly on Bitchin’, there’s a song called “Wasted”, which is also the name of a Def Leppard tune on High ‘n’ Dry. This Def Lep nod freaked me out last fall as I was walking around south Minneapolis with this album blasting on headphones, also dually freaking out as I was approaching that duplex due south and east where the two blondes suntan in bikini tops on a blanket with beers ... because The Donnas also have a tune called “What Do I Have To Do” — as did Stabbing Westward, who I’m pretty sure in my zine twenty-some years ago wrote that they sounded like Def Leppard. Ripley’s man, I’m tellin’ ya.
*Weegee! A weird but powerful mix of almost-forgotten sixties/seventies oldies and seventies deep cuts. Available in HD on the FM dial in my office and via TuneIn/Chromecast on the living room hi-fi.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Scorpions - “Loving You Sunday Morning”
Scorpions are like that Tombstone pepperoni pizza I cook up Friday night after a couple, three, four Premiums and few knockbacks of Finlandia: there’s something vaguely off but still ON about it ... I shouldn’t love it so much — not with Heggies and other top-shelf frozen ‘zas now available — but the sodium, cured meat, amped-up punching-above-its-weight sauce, and gooey mozzarella cheese just tastes right and makes me feel like there’s nothing else I’d rather be sampling.
Similar sentiments lurk with the Scorpions. Sure, I could listen to Zep, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, or even UFO but at times the Scorps are the ones that just hit the spot. I remember years ago specifically driving to Cheapo on a Friday afternoon because I HAD to have the Blackout LP on vinyl. And last year when I was on a walk around the neighborhood, “Loving You Sunday Morning” came on Ozzy’s Boneyard on SiriusXM and once it was over, I flipped over to Apple Music on my phone just to play that gem a couple of more times.
Sometime back in the eighties in whatever magazine I was reading, a writer declared Dieter Dierks the greatest hard rock producer on the planet. Tough to argue when you hear how masterfully those classic Scorpions songs were assembled: crystal-clear and crisp, major riffage abounds, and hell even Klaus Meine is made to sound palatable. No pedestrian riffs and forced crap vocals here (cough, Dio). No, not in Dieter’s shop — it was tight! Plus, I just like saying “Dieter Dierks”. Hey Dieter: if you’re ever in Minneapolis ... a Tombstone pizza and a couple, three, four Premiums on me at the pull-tabs-featuring bar of your choice, my man.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Electric Light Orchestra - “Livin’ Thing”
In late 1997 I had a stretch between temporary accounting jobs. My days involved sleeping in, listening to music, reading, heading to the coffee shop to write, and waiting for the temp agency to call with possible job assignments. One day I received a call from someone at the temp agency saying that they had lost the results of the Excel test I had taken when I first signed on. I would have to come in and re-take the test if I wanted to be assigned any jobs that required Excel. Are you sure, I said. I was pretty good at Excel and had used it on prior assignments. (Samuel L. Jackson voice: “Don’t be telling me about Excel, I’m the Excelfuckin’ master!”) Yes, he said, it was strongly advised that I come in and take the test. I had no recourse — no way of avoiding going to the agency’s office and re-taking the test, and I couldn’t think of anybody who would vouch for my Excel skills. The staffing manager who had taken a liking to my work ethic and smarts and would guide me to better assignments had left to start his own company. I hadn’t yet been adopted by another staffing manager who made sure to look out for me. I made an appointment to take the test the next day. I got up, slapped on some nice shoes, slacks, buttons-down shirt, and a tie (ugh) and took the bus downtown to the agency’s office. I dealt with two guys I was unfamiliar with who guided me to a cubicle to take my test. They were smarmy youths (okay, they were about my age, but I was used to dealing with people older than me) that seemed to have the attitude that I was trying to get away with something, like maybe I had been taking jobs where I used Excel under false pretenses. They gave me thirty minutes to complete the test, I finished it in about ten, and my score was 98%. The boys were visibly stunned, I tried not to smirk. They thanked me for coming in. As I gathered my coat and headed for the door, one guy came up to me and handed me a card. He said it contained a $25 gift certificate to a local movie chain. For accommodating us and taking the time, he said.
It was a nice gesture, though I was still a little miffed that I had to take time away from my down time, put on a monkey suit, and go do something I had already done the prior year. I knew this absurd situation called for just one flick to be comped. I called up a good friend: “My temp agency gave me $25 in free movie money ... wanna go to Boogie Nights? Tickets, snacks, and drinks on them?”
The movie was a blast. An incredible ensemble of talent — Cheadle, Hoffman, Reilly, etc. — and a stylistic presentation from director Paul Thomas Anderson. When Thomas Jane as Todd Parker said: "Start down low with a 350 cube, three and a quarter horsepower, 4-speed, 4:10 gears, ten coats of competition orange, hand-rubbed lacquer with a dual plane manifold, full fuckin' race cams...", my friend and nodded over this later — we had heard plenty of that talk in the Midwestern towns where we had grown up. Throw in a smoking hot Nina Hartley (yessir ... older woman in my first viewing, younger woman when I watch it now) and Philip Baker Hall’s (known only to me at the time as the library detective from Seinfeld!) entrance on New Year’s Eve 1979 to Sniff ‘n’ the Tears’ “Driver’s Seat”, and I was floored. Also I was still in the midst of feeling the effects of the post-Pulp Fiction revolution where there were so many movies in the last half of the nineties that were just a joy to watch because of the bravado that burst from them. Swingers, Out of Sight, Face/Off, Fight Club ... going to the movies was fun in that last decade before my bad back prevented me from sitting in theaters and I gave in to Netflix and a pause button and closed captioning and not having anybody seated near me talking loudly.
Postscript: I wrote the rough draft of this Labor Day weekend. Later that week, shortly after I made plans to watch Boogie Nights in case I needed further notes, I saw the news that Burt Reynolds had died. His understated performance as the steady patriarch in Boogie Nights was a revelation. I was too young to see The Longest Yard when it was released back in 1974, but over time heard some of its legendary bits and scenes through the grapevine . Years later I still eagerly awaited that night when I was finally able to see the unedited version on HBO. A friend gave me a The Longest Yard poster about fifteen years ago, it continues to hang proudly in my apartment. RIP, Burt Reynolds.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Thin Lizzy - “Rosalie”
Reading Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs books in the eighties made me aware that Bob Seger had released numerous albums before he hit the bigs, and apparently few people outside of Detroit bought them. Their raves about Seger’s local legend years made me want to go seek out that music. “Heavy Music”, “East Side Story”, “2 + 2 = ?” ... brilliant songs like these added to the legend that his one early national hit “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” had hinted at*.
“Rosalie” from the Back in ‘72 album (released in ‘73, get it?) is a nifty tune about a gal who loves music (sigh). Seger and Thin Lizzy toured together in early 1975, where Lynott must have learned the song. Lynott and his band went on to turn it into a grade-A rocker. So we have Irish rockers on the brink of stardom with their next release of Jailbreak (released March 1976) and they’re covering an American rocker who would soon be hitting stardom with his Night Moves (released October 1976). A tremendous song, a friendly nod across the Atlantic from one great songwriter to another.
*The awesome “Get Out of Denver” was an FM hit in Denver — I heard it on the radio when I lived there 1972-76 — but that was mainly because of the title.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
AC/DC - “Who Made Who”
For my money, one of the more enjoyable sounds of the eighties was when the Young brothers of AC/DC spent a few songs trying to get their guitars to replicate the sounds Pete Townshend of The Who made with a synthesizer on the Who’s Next album. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, “Sink the Pink”, “Who Made Who”, “Thunderstruck” ... these bring a smile to my face. “For Those About to Rock” was their first attempt at this —and had a very Spinal Tap-ish move of using actual cannons on the recording — but “Who Made Who” might be my favorite, it’s also their best attempt to meet the eighties halfway.* It’s a slow burn with a chanted chorus and Brian Johnson’s voice moves slightly more towards soul and less from his usual razors. The first line is: “The video game says ‘play me.’”** and the rest of the lyrics are all about data, satellites, and whether we made the machines or whether they now make us. (I think, maybe they were just taking a stab at a Cliffs Notes version of Townshend’s Lifehouse project.)
The Who Made Who album was the soundtrack the band put out for Maximum Overdrive, a movie that was supposed to be remarkable for being Stephen King’s directorial debut, but is most memorable to my friends and I for King doing a TV ad where he takes a minute and twenty seconds to declare “I’M GONNA SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU”, while pointing at the camera. My buds and I never saw the movie, it ended up being a big flop, and yet King was smart enough to hire AC/DC for the soundtrack so let’s call it a wash***. Not to mention that after the Flick of the Switch and Fly on the Wall albums, AC/DC seemed to be slipping off the map with the dreaded “where are they now” tag looming. Instead, they unleashed this tune and it set the stage for "Heatseeker" and their being Pillars of Hard Rock into the nineties and beyond. Every subsequent release of theirs was worth it because the singles were always great.
*One could argue that since it was AC/DC, they didn’t meet the eighties halfway as much as they won.
**I always thought the lyric was: “The video games they play me”, probably because Maximum Overdrive star Emilio Estevez played a character who got trapped in a video game in the Nightmares movie a few years earlier.
*** Think King would take a 2018 contract to take out a fictional hit on Lucinda Williams for her butchering of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)"?
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Kool & the Gang - “Fresh”
Note: This an excerpt from my upcoming memoir Waiting for the Frost, which will be sent to the publisher once I finish the Joe Walsh Think Piece™.
It wasn’t even that I liked Kool & the Gang all that much. But I didn’t dislike them. I remember badmouthing them in high school to a math class buddy — “Celebration” had been played to death on the radio in the early eighties — while we were doing algebra in the library during a free period and he challenged me to name one specific reason why I didn’t like them. I was stumped. Rather than fight it, I decided to give them a shot.
I’m not sure where I got the poster, all I remember was that is was free. It probably came with a music magazine I had purchased. I slapped it up on the outside of my dorm room’s door, and anytime anybody would ask if I liked Kool & the Gang, I said “Hell yeah.” The dorm was filled with almost all white guys who liked AOR and usually didn’t like what they referred to as “black music.” My music collection at the time lacked diversity and I wasn’t well-schooled in old soul and rhythm and blues. But it just seemed like the right thing to do to embrace Kool & the Gang, their gleeful R&B was certainly just as worthy of a listen as whatever was on the radio or MTV. To this day I’ll gladly take something like “Fresh” or “Misled” over anything by popular mid-eighties whiteboy mediocrities like The Outfield or Mike + The Mechanics.
The poster ended up getting ripped in half in the midst of a prank war and was repaired with Scotch tape and continued to stay on the door. I proceeded to buy the “Fresh” 12-inch single.
By the end of the decade any time I came across a bar that had a ladies night of drink specials I would annoy friends by singing the chorus of “Ladies’ Night”. In the nineties I finally put my money where my mouth was (and dorm room door had been) and bought The Very Best of Kool & the Gang — “As seen on TV!” the sticker on the jewel box proclaimed — and added the Gang to living room dance party playlists for those times that there was no “job” in “day job”. My math buddy would have been proud.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Black Oak Arkansas - “Jim Dandy”
My day job lacks excitement. Enter numbers and dates and accounts, reconcile, email some reports. I avoid phone calls and meetings like the plagues they are, a good day is getting up early and getting things done shortly after lunch so I can head to the coffee shop and read or write. (Last year work was driving me nuts and I scurried off to the coffee shop to read the paper and avoid a cash flow projection, the barista asked how I was doing and I said: “Good, now that I’m in the satellite office.” That got a chuckle.)
But when a new project comes along that involves research, a spreadsheet, and extra coffee? Well that puts the day’s excitement up to a six on a ten scale! An accounting client recently asked if I could complete a project with calculations that were assured to be complex. I fired up an Excel spreadsheet and applied my best data sorting, subtotaling, (and for good measure) Silver Surfer/Google search techniques. Voila … this file did everything they had asked and they didn’t have to sub the job out to somebody else. I left no money on the table.
After getting a high praise email on my work? I glided from my office to the living room, all the while singing the chorus of this song.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Morphine - “Cure for Pain”
When another pain hits and you imagine a future of using a cane or being in a wheelchair or wearing a back brace or learning to write left handed and on the worse days waking by going for an ice pack before coffee and hey forget those pills, maybe amputation is the best route ... you just know calling the 24/7 nurse or going to the clinic will result in “Naproxen, stretch, RICE” so you save time by researching physical therapy exercises on YouTube, making sure your ice packs are in the freezer, and embracing RICE:
Rest: No problem at all with this one, dude.
Ice: Ice, baby. You need more numbness in your life.
Compression: Strangle the f**k out of the pain, like you never can with your anxieties.
Elevation: Think of the Chance card, Mr. Monopoly with feet kicked up on desk.
And more often than not, after days or weeks the pain goes away and you take the time to hand-wash your compression bandages in Woolite. You sleep through entire nights and some mornings and while you enjoy a coffee or beer on these pain-free days, you vow to not take walking, standing, or writing by hand for granted ever again.
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Billy Thorpe - “Children of the Sun”
An Aussie updates Billy Lee Riley’s “Flyin’ Saucers Rock and Roll” from 1957 with synths and power riffs. It’s the title track of what is allegedly (sez Wikipedia) a space opera, which takes up side two of the album. (Side one? Don’t ask. Let’s just say it was also futuristic as it presaged the worst stuff you’d hear on hits radio in the eighties.) And no, Roman, I don’t know if its hard sci-fi or not. I scored this on vinyl ten years ago (and the sticker on it indicated it had sat in the Roadrunner Records used LP racks for four years) and have only listened to it in its entirety twice, afraid that if listen more I may actually understand the opera’s plot and start blabbering about it to my two friends who remember this song. Then that’ll be two guys who would “forget” to invite me to bull sessions at the CC Club. I can’t get over the photo of Thorpe on the back cover and MOST IMPORTANTLY: this song was used in Fargo season two, when Rye Gerhardt was driving down the highway — undoubtably blasting Q-98 on the radio.
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.