Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Alan Parsons Project - "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" 
1976

I didn't realize how soul-draining an accounting day job could be until the accounting mentality started to take over more and more aspects of my life. I need order to get my accounting tasks done: assemble the paperwork in a certain way, reply and/or print off emails, check websites and Google Drive for needed information, etc. This Order Of Things unfortunately tends to take over the rest of my life ... you must clean the apartment on this day, you read the newspaper at this time of day, you do not take the bus to the art museum on this day because it is a Tuesday and you write and read on Tuesdays, etc. My bookkeeping business pays the bills and buys the whiskey and I certainly would not give it up or diss my beloved clients, but still. Doing tasks over and over that need and crave order while the other half of my mind is daydreaming and scheming and thinking about that book or movie or TV show or gal at the coffee shop is gonna result in a breakdown or at least an anxiety attack and no matter how much I walk (ankle injury keeping me off the elliptical) or do breathing exercises or dose up on hydroxyzine, I still have phases where I'm short of breath and pacing around and wonder if I should go see the doctor or just walk to a bar and numb out.

But, but. There's always music. I can got lost in it and there's no better feeling when it's playing beautifully in my living room or on headphones especially when the walls are closing in. And to further take the edge off of the hassles of accounting/debits/credits/Quickbooks' refusal to handle customer credit memos responsibly? Make a mix tape to yourself, dummy. Apple Music works beautifully for this: I create a playlist and it carries over to all my devices. I choose the songs, then assign a title to the playlist. Many times the title is an inside joke only I understand. My recent steady rotation of playlists is:

High School Hits - this one's name is as bland as the playlist (Top 40 in 1980-83 was horribly bland, you know this when the highlight of the playlist is After The Fire.) (Forgetting to put Def Leppard, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Van Halen on this list was kinda stupid, dude.)

Q98, Y'know - AOR smashes from the late seventies and early eighties.

Q98 Again - Ditto.

2014 We're Comin' We're Comin'!! - grab bag of solid songs.

Summer 2014 Bound For Rebound - funk, soul, hip-hop, hard rock all apparently intent on helping me find a dare-to-be-great situation.

My most recent playlist was quickly assembled as I was digging Type O Negative so much recently that a doomy, gloomy mix seemed to be the one thing that might make my mind feel right. (And this was before the election, go figure.) It's a mix of Type O Negative, Black Sabbath, UFO, Funkadelic, Deep Purple, Fear Factory, and others who dabble in the artsy darks. (Today's track is courtesy of the The Alan Parsons Project, whose debut album was an homage to the great Edgar Allan Poe.) The title is "The Doom That Came To", as H.P. Lovecraft had a short story titled "The Doom That Came To Sarnath", that I read in seventh grade after being fired up to read his work and finding an anthology of his in the school library. The story scared me bad, I put the book aside immediately, and returned it the next day. So I was trying to come up with my playlist title, but couldn't find the final words. These were considered:

"The Doom That Came To Harriet Avenue" YAWN
"The Doom That Came To South Minneapolis" BIGGER YAWN
"The Doom That Came To Tuomala" might have worked, but sheesh it seemed a little too ominous, like when there was that Twitter meme #AddAWordRuinAMovie and I tweeted "Kill Bill Tuomala". Yikes.

One last thing. My playlists tend to have thirteen songs and I assemble them in mostly-random order. There are thirteen cards in a suit of cards, thirteen songs in my playlists. Over time, the songs have always come to be numbered at thirteen so I don't have to omit any cards in a suit. What I do is shuffle the cards and then pick them one by one, the card number decides a song's place on the playlist. This act of randomness - a fitting act of rebellion against my Accounting Mind - is almost as much fun as picking out the songs themselves. The cards dictate the order of the songs, though sometimes the leadoff track is inserted as mandatory. Various tweaks - switches or re-jumbling of a few tracks - are usually made. (Can't have two slower songs in a row, can't have too much awesomeness clumped at the beginning or end, etc.) The cards are generally shuffled again and used to determine the tweaks. Or maybe a coin flip or two. Then the playlist is hammered out, finalized, and I crank it on my iPhone. I head out the door for a walk, daydream, write a little in my head, and maybe even relax.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Type O Negative - "Cinnamon Girl"
1996

(The) Fall is here, meaning rain and gray skies and leaves falling and that murder of crows that flies around my block at dusk, visible outside my living room windows in their full glory, cawing and communicating and being beautifully dark and ominous. For me, being alone-and-digging-it in the fall of 2016 means sitting at home on Friday nights embracing DOOM METAL, not listening to the sunshine pop or cutesy songs or whatever the gotta-be-happy folks delve into. (What was the name of that show with Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser? Gotta Be Happy? Happy Together? Better Than You? Thirtysomething?? I just remember gals in my office back in the early nineties, when I asked whether they saw The Simpsons the previous night always said: "I had to watch Happy Together. I want to be in that couple." I never wanted to be in THAT couple. Lord, why? Go through life not being funny maybe? The only character on TV I ever wanted to be was Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Street. Heck, even though I have had (actual, while sleeping) dreams about being part of The White Shadow team, those guys lived in poverty and tough circumstances.) (Of course a genius moment in Seinfeld was when George Costanza tricked himself into getting engaged and by the end of the episode was missing the Yankees game because his fiancé had to watch Happy Together*)

So anyway ... DOOM METAL. I don't know how I came to be so late to Type O Negative, I should have been digging these guys for at least twenty years now. Heard them a while back on the Sirius XM classic hard rock/heavy metal station doing Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and immediately thought: Next time I go for a walk in prototypical fall weather, I'm going to listen to nothing but these guys for the whole hour. Then later that same day I did, and halfway through my walk I was sitting on a bench in Martin Luther King Jr. park trying to suppress a grin. Many times in the summer, I listened to comedy albums while on my walk; on this day I was cracking up at the audacious darkness of Type O Negative. Classic crunching metal riffs, haunting background vocals, and the lead vocalist has a subtle touch that works wonders in the mayhem. Some of the tracks have garage rock keyboards - meaning something is up aside from the gloom - plus they can be damn funny. "Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" is about some goth girl, references Lily Munster, then throws in hells-yeah catchy finger snapping and a riff from The Addams Family theme song to make sure you're paying attention. And check out some of their track titles: "Love You to Death", "I Don't Wanna Be Me", "Life Is Killing Me", "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend". And this was just an anthology I've been tracking, just think how many more tunes I can score for my annual Valentine's Day alone-again-naturally blowout soundtrack!

While the cover of Deep Purple's magnificent "Highway Star" does not improve on the original, the band is smart enough to cop the middle guitar and keyboard solos note-for-note, sound-for-sound. But that cover of "Cinnamon Girl" is brilliant and devastating. I have yet to find out whether my embrace of doom metal results in behavior like painting my fingernails black and becoming dour. But if it results in shutting off the lights, drinking sludgy stout beer, and listening to some music that makes some fucking sense on paper as well as in my brain, well COOL.

*After forcing myself to go to imdb.com, I recalled that this tortured show was titled Mad About You.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Van Halen - "Little Guitars"
1982

Osco Drug store, Moorhead, Minnesota, early 1982. My Dad was working across the river in Fargo and staying in a motel here in Moorhead. My Mom and I were in town to visit. My parents were elsewhere in the adjoining grocery and liquor stores shopping, I was in the Osco standing alone in front of an expansive magazine stand. We didn't have a stand like this in my town of Grand Forks, not that I knew of*. If I wanted to read a rock mag, generally I grabbed the latest Rolling Stone off the rack in my high school's library to read on a free period or asked for back issues from the librarian. This Osco stand had a beauty of a magazine that I had never seen: Creem Special Issue: Guitar Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll. There at the top it proclaimed: "America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine". Photos on the cover: Jimi Hendrix! Keith Richards! Jimmy Page! And a host of other guitar slingers promised to be featured inside. I flipped around trying to absorb highlights of all the content. It was stacked page-to-page with features and a lengthy list of paragraph-each blurbs on all the other guitarists to make the cut. This is awesome, I thought. Then I didn't buy it. I'm guessing the cover price scared me away - $2.95. ($7.42 in today's dollars.) If memory serves, regular issues of magazines were about a dollar or so cheaper, so would I be getting burned by buying this three-dollar-plus (including sales tax) mag? Plus, I was on the clock. Mom and Dad would soon return from their shopping run and it was time to head out into the night. Whether I was hesitant, cheap, hurried, or was saving my cash for future gas money, I don't recall. All I know is that I have thought about that magazine ever since.

But hey: We have the Internet now, everything is possible. Because of course I found Guitar Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll on eBay, bought it NOW (no auction on this one, no more losing out) and had it shipped to my mailbox. For the price of $11.99 - including shipping - meaning I waited almost thirty-five years to pay $4.57 more for a decades-old magazine. But I can take that financial hit now, you can't get a beer plus tip for $4.57 these days in a bar unless you hit a lucky happy hour with bottles of Premium on special. And now that I had my grubby little paws on it, I'm so glad I finally stepped up and made this purchase. This magazine is a gem.

It has long-form features on Hendrix, Page, and Jeff Beck. It has shorter features on other notable guitarists, and those aforementioned paragraph blurbs. While there are oddly no mentions of Joni Mitchell or Michael Schenker, this is still the only source I have consulted that explains the whole Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe/Rockpile jumble. I treasured every minute of reading this mag this fall. With a heady mix of reverence, wit, and insults, this shows that Creem was still running on all cylinders in the early eighties. Check these out:

On Russ Ballard: "...loss leader solo LPs for CBS..."

On Marc Bolan: "If T. Rex began as Donovan for the pre-pubescent set and wound up as Chuck Berry for the prenatals, well, that's show biz."

On Peter Frampton: "Since his screen debut in Sgt. Pepper's, Pete's had flop after flop. Nyah Nyah."

On Steve Hillage: "Would really excite you if had a beard, smoked a pipe, and read science fiction."

On Tom Scholz: "Light beer of rock 'n' roll guitarists: 'Everything you always wanted in a lead guitarist. And less.'"

On George Thorogood: "The more you drink, the better he sounds."

While I loved the issue's slipped-in asides, cheap shots, and pokes at readers, the Osco Drug 1982 Memory is always devoted to the two pages of the Edward Van Halen feature - a half page of writing, one-point-five pages of two glorious photos. In the early eighties, Van Halen was known by hard rock fans as perhaps the best rock guitarist since Hendrix. But he played metal, so recognition outside of the hard rock arena was difficult to come by, no matter how pop the metal was or how exuberant and smile-causing his playing was. He came up with hooky power chords a la Pete Townshend and his band's songs generally were as long as early Who singles, i.e. not long at all ... but his band WASN'T BRITISH AND DIDN'T ENGAGE IN BLUESY JAMS NOR WERE THEY PUNK OR QUIRKY NEW WAVE. Did Creem assign a hagiographic piece like they did with Hendrix or Page? Hell no, they did us a favor by having J. Kordosh write a hilarious FAQ that stabbed The Yardbirds, rock critics, and Valerie Bertinelli. (Plus duct tape. And it included a goddamn vinyl joke too, ha!) This is why I bought this magazine off of eBay, this is the prose I remember from 1982 in that Osco store on Highway 75 in Moorhead on a cold winter night. It is why I returned to this magazine all these years later. And I'm pretty sure buying it retroactively gives me my biggest win from 1982 since my PSAT results scored me an honorable mention.

*Turns out the UND bookstore did.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Ike & Tina Turner - "Black Coffee"
1972

There is no writing without coffee. There is no coffee with a coffee mug to drink it from. There is no morning ritual like selecting the specific mug out of the kitchen cupboard that might match my mood and flows for the day. So, My Top Ten Coffee Mugs:

Places

Vergas, Minnesota - The town of Vergas certainly deserves a separate, longer essay from me at some point. It is a small town in northern Minnesota, near where my parents had a lake cabin for decades until 2013. No matter what that Stroh's commercial told you back in the nineties, Vergas is home to the world's largest loon.

North Dakota - We used to see these types of windmills all over the countryside. That too, deserves a longer essay at some point. 




Teams

Denver Broncos - Given to me as a Christmas gift by a niece in Denver many years ago for Secret Santa. Still broken out fondly when I want to remember that great day last year when the Broncos saved me from the coffee klatch of old guys at the YMCA.


University of North Dakota - A go-to on game day Saturdays, both football and hockey.




Companies

Piggy Wiggly - "The Pig" was at one time ubiquitous in the upper Midwest. Along with Red Owl and Jack & Jill stores, Piggly Wigglys were uniquely-named, uniquely-logoed grocery stores that to this day are fondly recalled by those of us of a certain age. For instance, last year I had some Pizza Luce delivered and the delivery guy - a few years older than me - showed up wearing a Red Owl ball cap. I pointed, said: "Yeah! Red Owl!" He smiled, said he had just bought it at the Electric Fetus, then left with a tip of the cap. In Grand Forks, we had Hugo's Piggly Wigglys, including one on south Washington, where senior year of high school a few buds and I would sometimes drive to after completing our math homework in the school library during a free period to score bismarcks and Dr. Peppers - a much-needed sugar rush to get us through the actual math class. Research indicates that The Pig is now just a force in Wisconsin and South Carolina (I've been to a Myrtle Beach location, where this mug was secured.) The Hugo's in Grand Forks is now just named that - Hugo's - and has expanded into a mini-empire. And they have liquor marts too. Oh, Hugo, you've lost your innocence.

Accountemps - When I was temping for Accountemps 1996-99, one of my lengthy assignments was at Dayton's department stores. I worked in their financial department, up on a higher floor of the building that housed the Dayton's on Nicollet Mall. One day my staffing manager stopped by to kiss up to my manager at Dayton's. She brought a handful of Accountemps-branded gifts for that person, but since Dayton's didn't allow gratuities of that sort, she dropped them off at my cubicle for me to have. I got this a coffee mug, a huge plastic cup, and a very tall scratchpad. I was glad to get free stuff, but was kinda baffled I didn't at least get considered for a pen or something when she originally made plans for her visit. To this day when I'm making my morning coffee and not liking my day job of being a self-employed accountant, I reach for the Accountemps mug and am thankful I don't have to get up at six a.m. for a bus ride to a $12.00/hour job.

Deloitte & Touche LLP - This was given to me on another temp assignment at Norwest Banks by a consultant from this firm. I don't even think it was an extra, I think he actually thought to give it to me from the git-go. But of course I still made a dumb joke in my zine about The Big Six not having football.

Martin & Co. - Martin guitars are the dream acoustic guitar for many players. Me, I don't dream about guitars much, so I have a Mitchell. (I'm not a serious player, no callouses here.) Bought this at a Schmitt Music when my pal OC worked there, just so I could tell people: "I own a Martin! ... mug."

Other


Finnish* - I've had this mug ten years and still don't know much Finnish. It's a tough, tough language. And yes, it is pronounced "sauna."


I Heart My Attitude Problem - I bought this just over twenty years at a gift shop in order to sip from it (for what turned out to be my last days) at my sh*t job for a sh*t company. You are deceptively radical, Shoebox Greetings, (A tiny little division of Hallmark).

Coffee Mug Power Rankings


  1. Piggly Wiggly*
  2. University of North Dakota
  3. Vergas, Minnesota*
  4. North Dakota*
  5. Accountemps
  6. I Heart My Attitude Problem
  7. Finnish*
  8. Denver Broncos
  9. Martin & Co.
  10. Deloitte & Touche LLP
*These mugs were given to me by my Mom, who has been known to say at night: "I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and start drinking coffee." 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Flag - "Rise Above"
1981

While writing the last post about the USFL, I started to think about the various alternate/weirdo/legitimate threat leagues that have arisen in my lifetime to oppose/compliment/force mergers with the establishment professional sports leagues. Too many that I care to list, but certain ones have stuck in my mind over the decades. My earliest memory of an alternate sports league was the American Football League (AFL) of the sixties. I don't truly remember watching any games, but my dad and brother have suggested I was in the family room when AFL games were on TV. I do remember quite a few on our block being depressed after the Vikings suffered their (first) Super Bowl embarrassment to the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. (Me, I was too young to grasp what was going on. I doubt I even watched the big game. I just now know I miss Hank Stram.) I did absorb some major AFL knowledge in the seventies though via quite a few Scholastic books. Gotta admit I get a little giddy when the original AFL franchises wore throwback jerseys in honor of the league's fiftieth anniversary. Heck, even the original Denver Broncos' road whites were cool. Did I make reaching AFL references during the 1996 presidential campaign when former Buffalo Bill Jack Kemp was on the GOP ticket? Probably.

The American Basketball Association (ABA) is one of those oddball things from my childhood that I have glombed onto. My family lived in Denver 1972-76 and my dad took my brother and I to two ABA games: One was the Denver Rockets, one was the Denver Nuggets. I barely remember the first game (Rockets), I was probably seven. For the Nuggets game, I was probably ten and all I pretty much remember are players David Thompson and Dan Issel, and coach Larry Brown. What especially attracted me to the ABA as a kid was that it had a three-point line, long before the NBA or NCAA had three-pointers. It also had a red-white-and-blue basketball, which seemed really cool. I've followed and cheered for Larry Brown since then. (Bandwagon fan of the Detroit Pistons in the mid-aughts?  That was me.) I proudly tell today's youth when the conversation turns to hoops: "I'm so old I attended ABA games!"

During that mid-seventies era when my family lived in Denver, there also existed the World Football League (WFL). This was a big deal only because I remember seeing Walter Conkrite give updates on it. But those were probably only in regard to its financial woes. But if Walt decided the WFL needed attention, well more power to 'em.

The World Hockey Association (WHA) moved four teams to the NHL after it folded. This was the original home of Wayne Gretzky. I guess I'm supposed to pay lip service to the Minnesota Fighting Saints, but I didn't live in the Upper Midwest during their existence and only knew of them from my rod hockey game, which while featuring all the same generic players as every other rod hockey game of the era, was uniquely a WHA Rod Hockey game because it had all the team logos on the side of the game. Sweet! (Sadly this game was lost in a family move at some point, I woulda been a hero to many roommates over the years for bringing this game into our dorm rooms or living rooms.)


I even did the books for a team in an alternate league for a couple of weeks twenty years ago. That was the Minnesota Fighting Pike, a short-lived franchise (one season, playing in the Target Center) in the still-ongoing Arena Football League (another AFL). Months afer their season was over, my temp agency sent me to the offices of the owner of the Fighting Pike high up in the IDS Center. It was simple and quiet work, entering and reconciling bank and credit card statements. The view out the office window from way up there was spectacular. Pike quarterback Rickey Foggie stopped by the front desk once, though I barely saw him from my office. In my second week I met the owner, an older gentleman named Tom. He asked me into his office, which was filled with photos and memorabilia from the Harlem Globetrotters, the Vancouver Canucks, and The Ice Capades. I found out years later that he had previously owned these franchises as well. Tom was a heck of a nice guy and while I was nervous after I handed him a financial report that showed that the team lost money, he smiled and said: "Great, this is exactly what my accountant needs. Thanks!" It dawned on me later that the loss would likely help reduce Tom's overall taxable income. We proceeded with small talk about my background. This was rare, as I found out during temp life that you didn't always meet people who were genuinely interested in you outside of someone who occupied space in a cubicle. Tom died a few years ago, I read his obituary and smiled, thinking: There was a genuninely nice rich guy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Tuesday Tuneage
2013

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"
1978

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"
1982

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"
1979

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"
1996

6/15/14

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"
1986

#BlackLivesMatter

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Dave Alvin - "Fourth of July"
1987

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"
1990

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.

GROAN:
'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

HEART OF GOLD FAILED GAMBIT (DON'T THEY ALL?)
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

THE "VOTE MCGOVERN" REALIZATION
We were going to change the world
But the world changed us!

MAKES BOB SEGER'S "HER STRUT" SOUND TENDER
She used to walk on water
Now she's walking like a whore

NOT SURE WHAT TO MAKE OF THIS ONE, BUT IT IS NOT GOOD
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)

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"
1974

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"
1987

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.