Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Marvin Gaye - "Purple Snowflakes"

Before Prince did "Purple Rain" and Jimi Hendrix came up with "Purple Haze," Marvin Gaye was singing "Purple Snowflakes." Absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Drifters - "White Christmas"

The animation on this link is cute, but pay attention to the tune: A Christmas standard done in stunning R&B fashion by The Drifters. Merry Christmas everybody!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta - "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You"

I have a playlist set up in my iTunes that is simply titled "Jukebox," and in it are a bunch of random songs I've downloaded over the years. Most of the songs are typically not part of any album I have in iTunes. A favorite thing to do is to pour a drink or grab a beer, fire up the Jukebox on random, and kick back and enjoy the tuneage. This playlist is where I have gotten many a song for this Tuesday Tuneage series and one of my fave songs to hear is "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You."

It hit #9 on the US singles charts in 1975, though you can't call it a one-hit wonder, as Sugarloaf previously hit #3 with "Green-Eyed Lady" in 1970. But "Don't Call Us" is not a Sugarloaf song proper, as my my pal Chuck pointed out that Sugarloaf and their lead singer Jerry Corbetta were co-credited on "Don't Call Us" and a quick look at Internet photos of both the actual disc and the album on which is was placed all have "Sugarloaf" and "Jerry Corbetta" on them. (Gotta love it how the album cover uses separate-but-bad fonts for each entity!)

The tune features an awesome keyboard-driven riff, post-Dylan hipster vocalizing, glorious backing vocals, and samples of both the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. I love the turn-the-tables ending:

"We got percentage points and lousy joints and all the glitter we can use, mama, so huh don't call us now we'll call you."

Allmusic.com calls this tune "bubblegum sarcasm," which is by far one of the greatest turn-a-phrase I've read in my music reading lately.

Oh, and the phone number? It's CBS Records phone number, they had previously turned down Sugarloaf for a record deal. Which ranks "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" up there with great anti-label songs such as Graham Parker's "Mercury Poisoning," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Workin' For MCA," and the Sex Pistols' "EMI."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Jim Ellis - "WKRP In Cincinatti End Credits"

The greatest hard rock song ever? Maybe. That it contains the best nonsense lyrics - I can identify "bartender" twice and not much else - since The Kingsmen stumbled through "Louie Louie" is certain.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Killing Joke - "Requiem"

The graffiti in a stall of one of my high school's bathrooms said: "Killing Joke. LA punk/metal." Turns out Killing Joke were not from Los Angeles, nor were they punk (metal, sure you could make the argument.) I thought about them off and on during the ensuing years, but never ventured out and bought their music ... even though Alan Moore and Batman (and Metallica too, covering Killing Joke's "The Wait") suggested that I should. A friend took me to a Killing Joke show at First Avenue in the mid-nineties, it was a solid show from what I recall. But what I seem to equally remember about that night is that Stabbing Westward opened, and I swear in my early zine days I wrote that some radio hit they had "sounded exactly like Def Leppard," but I can't find proof of it now. (Meaning there is the possiblity that I am thinking of *a second* industrial band that sounded like Def Lep!)

So anyway, for some reason a couple of weeks ago I bought Killing Joke's debut album - with the riveting "Requiem" as the leadoff track - thereby proving that factually-inaccurate high school bathroom graffiti can get to you thirty years later. Who knew?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rolling Stones - "Please Go Home"

When I was twenty-one and living with my parents post-college, I came across a copy of The Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons at some chain - Musicland, maybe - on Wayzata Boulevard near Ridgedale. It was a German pressing, and with it being a Stones album from the sixties, I snapped it up. I gave it a spin or two, but with no blues-rock raveup like "Street Fighting Man," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," or "Brown Sugar" on it, I quickly filed it away, both in my vinyl crates and in my mind: This album was no Beggars Banquet or Let It Bleed, it was more akin to the crappy Their Satanic Majesties Request - just another Stones sixties experiment gone wrong. Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks ago while flipping through my vinyl, I pulled Their Satanic Majesties Request and decided to give it a spin. While I was at it, I pulled Between The Buttons also. But while Majesties still largely stinks, Between The Buttons was a revelation. Sure, it didn't have the blues-raunch associated with classic Stones, but this wasn't the flimsy attempt at folk rock I had thought it was. This was a first-class collection of great songs, one after the other ... "Yesterday's Papers," "Cool, Calm, And Collected," and (especially) "All Sold Out." And I've been playing this LP over and over since. (The AllMusic review sums the album up best.)

My German pressing is the UK version of Between The Buttons. The USA version includes the hits "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together" and kicks "Back Street Girl" and "Please Go Home" off its edition. Good thing I got the UK version, as if I had the USA edition I would have been thinking: "Oh, that's that mediocre album except for the two hits" all these years. But now that I get this album, I'm loving its collection of non-hits. And "Please Go Home" is a must-listen for anybody who loves those old Rolling Stones songs you never hear on oldies or classic rock radio. It's a psychedelic take on their fantastic Bo Diddley stance, better than any of the acid experiments of Their Satanic Majesties Request, and over in three minutes, fourteen seconds. So while the twenty-one-year old me was pretty clueless (and not just in regards to old Stones albums), I'd like to thank him all these years later for grabbing the gem that is Between The Buttons at that almost-forgotten chain store. Rock on, Minnetonka.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rivingtons - "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow"

The hardest of rock, all without guitar histrionics, and one of the most purely fun songs you are going to hear. And one of these days I gotta find a way to poke Songwriter fetishists by sneaking a "The Rivingtons? Oh man ... awesome lyrics!" into a conversation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Joe Walsh - "Rocky Mountain Way"

Last summer while drinking more than one Surly Furious with my college buddy Bob, we started playing a parlor game. It was a "where would you live?" game. I believe (it's a little fuzzy - have you ever had several Surlys?) the questions included:

1) If you had to leave the Twin Cities and Minnesota, which city would you move to?

2) Would you rather live on the East Coast or West Coast?

3) Would you rather live in New York or Los Angeles?

My answers were:

1) Denver. You can see the Rocky Mountains, and they're breathtaking. There's no mosquitos and no humidity in the summer. I could bring beer and chips over to my brother's place on Saturdays and watch college football on his much-larger TV. They have a great college hockey program at Denver University, who is a big rival of my UND team, and living in Denver would mean getting to watch WCHA games. Plus it's the home of Modern Drunkard. And let's not forget the incredible Denver Sandwich, which you can get in any city but surely must be at its best here.

2) West Coast. While it's unlikely I will ever leave Minneapolis, I recently thought that it would be somewhat worthwhile to keep my streak of having never lived east of the Mississipi River. When I look at my place in America, I consider myself a Westerner. I also don't refer to the East as "back East", as I've never been there. I refer to it as "out East." (Furthest East for me? A day-long business trip to Cincinnati in the early nineties.) I've been to Oregon - to visit the aformentioned Bob twenty years ago or so - and it's beautiful. Any locale in northern California, Oregon, or Washington would be preferred to the East Coast. I'll take the threat of an earthquake and falling into the Pacific over the possibility of falling into the East Coast Bias.

3) Los Angeles. Maybe it's that I've been watching a lot of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns on WGN. Maybe it's the Charles Bukowski thing. Maybe it's Steve Erickson's Amnesiascope. Maybe it's that I recently finished yet another reading of Joan Didion's The White Album. Maybe I'm intrigued by the idea of sports games starting two hours behind when I'm used to them starting. (With all the UND home hockey games now on Fox College Sports, what better way to start a weekend then a Sioux hockey game dropping the puck at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday?) Ah hell - who am I kidding? It's mostly because Midwestern people seem more fascinated with New York than Los Angeles and I'm not fascinated with New York City, never have been. Los Angeles doesn't excite me that much either, but going east seems to be going against some age-old instinct I have as a Westerner. Heeding Horace Greeley's timeless advice, I would head west.

As for "Rocky Mountain Way," its riffing and production evoke for me the wide spaces of the West. Plus I first heard it while living in the Denver suburbs in the shadow of those Rocky Mountains. I never tire of it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Flamingos - "I Only Have Eyes For You"

In The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh calls this tune "one of rock's continuing marvels." All I would add is that it's haunting and eerie and makes me so glad I looked into the iTunes Store and found their iTunes Essentials: Doo Wop.

(Local footnote: The Flamingos are the same group that forced Minneapolis heroes Flamingo to change their name to The Flamin' Oh's!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Mott the Hoople - “Ballad of Mott the Hoople (March 26, 1972 – Zurich)”

I'm on staycation this week, sitting at home with a book, Netflix, music, sitcom reruns, and booze. On Saturday, I got motivated to go to the coffee shop and write, but now that I'm solidly in the slackerdom of midweek my only motivation is to get to the CC Club sometime soon for a burger basket. So this week's song is kind of a repeat: A much-beloved Mott the Hoople song I wrote about years ago.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Loverboy - "Turn Me Loose"

So thirty years later, it dawns on me that this tune is about a male prostitute wanting freedom from his pimp. You know: punk rock. Apparently the band name and that photo on the cover of the album weren't enough of clues for me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Freddie and the Dreamers - "Do The Freddie"

Heard this catchy ditty Friday on satellite radio, then checked out the band doing the song on YouTube. Oh. My. Lord...

1) An attempt at an early-sixties dance craze?

2) At least two guys in the band appears to be in their forties, which must have been a rare occurence for pop bands of the sixties.

3) Check out The Temptations and think about how white Freddie and the Dreamers were.

4) Then again, Lester Bangs in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll: "Freddie and the Dreamers represented a triumph of rock as cretinous swill, and such should be not only respected, but given their place in history."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Baseball Project - "Don't Call Them Twinkies"

It's a weird Tuesday night here in Minneapolis. The Vikings had a bye last weekend so talk about them has dropped amid the Twins opening their American League Divisional Series against the big bad Yankees tomorrow night. But a few hours earlier tonight, everything went haywire. Rumors hit the Internet that the Vikings are talking with the Patriots about trading for Randy Moss.

Despite the lovefest over Target Field and the Twins having actually scored the feat of having won world championships, this is a Vikings town. So I wouldn't be surprised to wake up Wednesday to hear that the Vikings have made their acquistion of a malcontent and that these twin towns are abuzz over a 1-2 team that is early in its season with a long way to go for any Super Bowl appearance that would inevitably result in getting utterly destroyed by a vastly superior AFC team.

But hey, I stay at home to write on Wednesdays, so I can drink my coffee and hopefully find something to read about the Twins somewhere. Maybe the New York papers?

As for this week's song, you can listen to it and read its backstory here. The Hold Steady's Craig Finn wrote the lyrics and sings it. It has a reference to Mudcat Grant, states that "we don't buy our titles", (in your face wherever you are George Steinbrenner!) and contains an oh-so-Midwestern "please" in the chorus.

Nobody has written such a song about the Vikings yet. Then again, "thirty-four total points in four Super Bowl appearances" isn't much of a hook.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Mummies - "(You Must Fight To Live) On The Planet Of The Apes"

One reason why the Children of Nuggets box, while fine, didn't live up to my mind's hype was that it largely lacked the swaggering/stumbling we-wanna-be-Stones/Yardbirds menace of so many of the bands on the original Nuggets box set. Children of Nuggets substituted "psychedelic and pop sixties" for "garage" and while these sounds are pretty, there wasn't enough of basement brewings like "Pabst Blue Ribbon" by Untamed Youth.

Another true garage band to show up on Children of Nuggets were the self-proclaimed "Kings of Budget Rock," the Mummies. They dressed in mummy costumes made of Ace bandages, refused to release their music on compact disc, played through the crappiest used lo-fi equipment they could find, and proudly bashed out garage rock that on recorded tracks sounded like it had been dubbed from tape to tape to tape, the kind of trashy great stuff that was called "punk rock" back in the sixties. As Mark Deming says at Allmusic.com:

Four guys in mummy outfits bash out crude '60s-style rock about beer, babes, and open hostility on battered gear which was doubtless discarded by tone-deaf teenagers who got over their 15-minute delusion of possible future rock stardom in 1966 ... At a time when a lot of garage rock bands sounded like they were drowning in a sea of paisley and nehru affectation, the Mummies flipped the whole scene the bird.

If these jokers had come up in the last ten years I would have scoffed, but they thrashed around in the eighties-into-nineties years making them likely my age, so of course I dig 'em. Then again, I only got into them ten days ago.

Oh ... the song? Gloriously loud and dumb and the first few times I heard it on Little Steven's Sirius station I hated it, but then suddenly I loved it big-time. Things like that happen sometimes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Sniff 'n' the Tears - "Driver's Seat"

It hit number 15 on the US charts but I don't remember hearing it on Top 40 radio. This song will always be:

1) An eerie song I heard on Q-98 on rainy afternoons in Ottertail County thirty years ago or so. Kinda new wave, kinda hard rock.

2) The song playing in Boogie Nights on the New Year's Eve where the seventies turned into the eighties and Floyd Gondolli (Philip Baker Hall) entered the room.

As for the Sniff 'n' the Tears video, well I truly couldn't ask for much more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Focus - "Hocus Pocus"

You think I'm going to try describing this tune with words??

But how great is this song? Its title rhymes, meaning it goes up there with standards like "Tutti Frutti," "Wooly Bully," "True Blue," "Double Trouble" "Bang-Shang-A-Lang," "Wango Tango," "A.C.D.C.," "Someday, Someway," "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," etc. etc.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Steel Wool - "No Sugar Tonight"

I told the story of this song (or my theory on it) last year on an Exiled Radio podcast. Since I haven't done a podcast in over a year - got sick of hearing myself talk - and I think only four people listened to those podcasts anyway, I feel safe writing the same old thing about the song here.

A couple of years ago, I read the book Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth by Kim Cooper and David Smay. There was a short chapter on White Whale Records, a Los Angeles label in the sixties that was most famous for having The Turtles on its roster. The book mentioned that one of the singles released by White Whale was a song titled "No Sugar Tonight" by the band Steel Wool and that the song was written by one Randy Bachman. There was no mention of Bachman's Guess Who pedigree or that his band actually recorded this song also. So I downloaded the song - a terrific, fast-paced, garage-y take on a song you've heard a million times on classic rock radio and are likely sick of.

But Steel Wool's take lacks the "New Mother Nature" second half that the Guess Who had. A look at Wikipedia's entry on the song shows that Bachman wrote "No Sugar" while in Los Angeles and that while the Guess Who recorded it in 1969, they didn't release it until 1970 so there is a solid chance that Steel Wool released it first. My theory on this is further backed up by Wikipedia's claim that Bachman played "No Sugar Tonight" for his band and the record label, they said it was too short, and Burton Cummings then wrote "New Mother Nature" to fill out a longer piece. (Which makes "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" Canada's "A Day In The Life.") See, I think Randy Bachman wrote "No Sugar Tonight" in Los Angeles and shopped it around in order to get some songwriter money. But the best he could do was pawn it off on Steel Wool - which in order further the mystery was maybe fronted by Bobby Randell, who used to be a key member of The Knickerbockers of the garage-rock Beatles-sounding "Lies" fame.

A song that's two minutes and five seconds long and yes, it stuck with me so that I thought through all of the above. Damn that was a fun few days.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Alice Cooper - "Generation Landslide"

A brief rock 'n' roll history lesson, because few I have talked to over the years seem to know this: The name "Alice Cooper" originally applied to the whole band - Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce on guitars, Neil Smith on drums, Dennis Dunaway on bass, and Vincent Furnier on lead vocals. After seven albums -five on Warner Bros. and four of those produced by the masterful Bob Ezrin - the band split up (likely due to artistic differences, right?) and Furnier went on to a solo career as "Alice Cooper." It is important to understand this, it's why the original band's (best captured on 1974's Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits) music is better than Alice's later solo stuff. Plus it makes the "she asked me why the singer's name was Alice" line in "Be My Lover" all the better in the By The Way Which One's Pink Sweepstakes.

I first heard "Generation Landslide" in the movie Dogtown and Z-Boys (the movie so nice Stacy Peralta wrote it twice) and not owning any Alice Cooper aside from Greatest Hits was intrigued. I acquired the song and it's brilliant. Acoustic guitar opening, hooks galore, Dylan-like lyrics, a damn fine harmonica solo, and a hard rock ending that's worthy of The Who. The song is about the generation gap - I think, though the first time I heard "landslide" used colloquially was after the 1972 presidential election - but nobody has anaylzed these lyrics like those of "American Pie" though the song is just as good and over and done with much quicker.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thinking Too Much About The Ghost Writer

I watched The Ghost Writer the other night. It looked great - it was always cloudy and/or rainy, adding to the foreboding - and the actors were all in fine form, plus you got your blonde or brunette mature hottie choice between Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams (much younger than her character in real life, somehow they made her look older and hotter.) It deals with a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) assigned to help former British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) with his memoirs. The previous ghost writer died under mysterious circumstances, and this new ghost writer begins to find out things are not what they seem with Lang and his past. I ended up giving it three stars (out of five) on my Netflix, but there were certain elements of the plot I couldn't get my head around in any type of logical way.

**NOTE**: Plot spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen The Ghost Writer and don't want it ruined, please stop reading.

1) Lang makes a speech on the road outside of his compound and security seemed pretty lax. I was waiting for somebody to pelt him with an egg or two. Geez, with security like this he could end up getting shot ...

2) Towards the end of the movie, at a book publication party a note is passed from person to person to person to person (etc.) to Lang's wife. These are a bunch of hoity-toity folks drinking champagne, not a seventh-grade study hall. No way the note gets passed like this.

3) One of the mysteries that unfolds is the assertion that Lang has been a CIA operative since the mid-seventies and in his ten years as prime minister, did the USA's bidding. Since when has the United States government ever needed the CIA to get the UK to do what it wants? No malfeasance needed: All the Americans gotta do is ask.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
D.A.D - "Sleeping My Day Away"

This one was a staple on Z-Rock back when I was enthralled with that blissfully awesome station. It opens with a Folsom Prison guitar, throws in a hook-tastic riff, melody, and chorus and containst this immortal line:

"'Cause I hit the sack when the sun's coming back!"

Which lyrically resembles Merle Haggard's "Honky Tonk Night Time Man." Combined with the Johnny Cash reference above, I'd love to argue that this makes D.A.D. some hidden gem of an alt-country band but I haven't had enough coffee yet today to pull that off.

(Option #2 after more coffee: Anti-corporate down-with-The-Man rant on how D.A.D. used to stand for "Disneyland After Dark" but the band dropped that name under legal pressure from Disney, the same corporation that owned ABC Radio Networks ... who pulled the plug on Z-Rock!)

All these years later I still love this tune, and it describes one of my great achievements as a younger man. Because during this era, I once came home from work on a Friday, fell asleep around 6:30 pm and woke up Saturday afternoon about 4:30 pm. Twenty-two hours straight!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Paul Westerberg - "Man Without Ties"
1993 (I think

I'm not here to convince you of the greatness of Paul Westerberg's songwriting. Those of you who are familiar with the 'Mats and Westerberg's solo work know this already. If you've stumbled upon this and are not familiar with Westerberg's work, well you'll just have to trust me: The man has a golden pen.

Years ago I turned my good friend onto Turk onto the Replacements. It was part of a musical reciprocity agreement - I loaned him some of my new music LPs from the likes of the 'Mats and Husker Du, he loaned me classics from the likes of Black Sabbath and Van Morrison. After listening to a few Replacements albums, Turk declared that Westerberg a modern-day Woody Guthrie who "could write a song about anything, including that hot girl who works at the convenience store in Midwest Plaza." It was my duty to inform him that Westerberg had already done that, "Customer" from the Replacements' first album.

So last week I stumbled upon a Westerberg tune titled "Man Without Ties." I thought it might be about guys like me, as I don't have to wear a tie to work. Before buying it from iTunes, I scanned the lyrics. I instead found out that it's about an unattached man who eats frozen pizza every Friday night. Holy crap, the song isn't just about a guy like me, Westerberg has nailed my life to a "T"! The feeling I got was eerie, but it subsided as I sang along with the song six or seven times in a row. The tune is a fun one, it starts out almost as a whisper and is a full-blown singalong by the end.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rituals For Agnostics

After thirty years, I recently switched from using an electric razor to shaving with a manual razor and shaving cream. What happened was that one morning I put my bifocals on after shaving and with my readers part of the lenses saw I wasn't getting the clean, close shave I thought I had been getting. I hated shaving anyway - a few years back I moved to shaving only every other day as appearances aren't important with my employment situation. To see that I wasn't getting the job done properly drove me nuts. I've never had the desire to grow a beard (though a Nick Blackburn/Matt Guerrier-like moustache is under consideration), so shaving suddently became a major concern.

After doing some research online, I went with a Gillette razor. My other option was something from the Schick line. In fact, I like saying "Schick" more than I like saying "Gillette", so at times I pretend I bought the other brand. And after shaving once the old-fashioned way, I was hooked. Now instead of hating shaving, I love it. I love filling the sink up halfway with hot water, I love covering my face with shaving cream, I love rinsing the razor after a few strokes. And once I don those bifocals ... ahhhhh, sure "Schick" is fun to say - but so is "Gillette Mach 3 Turbo." So now I have a new favorite ritual.

And "ritual" is the key word here. As I get older and find ways to manage the various anxieties, worries, and day-to-day hassles that ultimately don't add up to anything major but a confused mind ... I find that it's the little rituals that calm me down, make me feel in control, and ready to face the day or long night.

Grinding whole bean coffee, pouring water into the coffee maker and hitting the "on" button. Reading the newspaper during commercial breaks during the Twins game. Mixing a martini, Rob Roy, or simple scotch and soda - my move last year to add cocktails to my liquid diet was no doubt influenced by the non-ritual of opening a beer. Cleaning the vinyl LP, cleaning the needle (all vinyl junkies know the importance of using clean needles), dropping the stylus on the outer rim of the album or single.

Rituals. The simple little things that keep me from saying "the way of the future" over and over again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Sabbath - "Snowblind"

I pretty much hate summer. I was trying to decide if I "hate" summer or if I merely "dislike" it. But words like "detest" and "loathe" kept popping up in my mental thesaurus, so "hate" it is. I hear my fellow Twin Cities residents tell us that summer is our reward for our brutal winters, but I look at it the other way: Our winters are relatively mild (spend a winter a couple of hundred miles or more further north and you'll know what I mean) and I look at our falls and winters as being a reward for days where draining heat and humidity drown out any attempt I have at enjoying a day. Plus summer features lots of sunshine, which I find boring. Nighttime? Darkness? Much more fun, much more to dream about and write about in the dark hours.

Today the heat index in Minneapolis hit over 100 degrees. I spent most of the day in my apartment with my window air conditioning unit going, along with ceiling fans and a fan blowing here in my writing office. It wasn't cool enough to chill beer, but it was comfortable. I have recently been reading some nonsense about how we need to put our home air conditioning units aside. Something about how if we don't chill ourselves at home, we'll go outside and socialize with our neighbors. Then because folks are outside a lot after work, our streets will be safer. I assume that the anti-air conditioner lobby thinks that once this "Open Windows, Use Fans" strategy eliminates crime, it will soon bring us world peace.

Which brings me to Black Sabbath's "Snowblind." As I prefer winter to summer, when the heat index is around or over 100 degrees, I love to blast this tune on headphones and pretend it's January (even though the song isn't really about snow.) I crank up the air conditioning and celebrate that via its blasting loud technology it trumps all of that hippie commune "let's live together as one" bullshit. Just like Black Sabbath did.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Point Blank - "Nicole"

My one memory of this song when it was popular (it hit #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 when I was in high school) is hearing it while driving down Washington Avenue/Highway 81 South in Grand Forks on my way home from school. In fact, that is my only Point Blank memory. Curious, I checked my Rolling Stone Record Guide (original red one) to see what they had to say about the band. John Swenson: Pointless late-Seventies formula hard rock. Nice pun, Swenson. Allmusic.com doesn't give the band any kind of overview or bio, but their always-friendly album reviews tend to back up Swenson's "formula" claim, tending to refer only diehard fans of the group or Southern rock afficiandos to certain albums.

"Nicole" is from an LP titled American Exce$$. If you're someone who admires their use of dollar signs there, well they previously had an album pointedly - pun intended, Swenson got me going - aimed at getting some attention titled Airplay. Allmusic.com describes American Exce$$ as: "more Toto than ZZ Top." That hurts. More interesting in this review is the fact that prior to this album, Point Blank fired their original lead vocalist and brought in a guy named Bubba (yes!) Keith.

Rather than calling "Nicole" something as harsh as "formula", I'll call it "competent hard rock" and a helluva lot better than most stuff playing on Grand Forks' Top 40 station back in '81. It's about a guy who returns to his hometown to find the sweet little thing he had a fling or romance with has turned into a bad girl.

She's "hanging around with strangers" and "looking like a burnout."

But in the end, he admits he kinda likes his girl gone wrong, and not just because burnout girls wear the tightest jeans:

You started looking kind of spaced-out
You drive a man stark raving wild

Of course she drives you wild, she's a hot girl and your name is Bubba. Nicole will never settle down with you but she'll let you buy a box of Miller High Life for her and her friends Friday night.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Blue Oyster Cult - "Black Blade"

The lyrics for this song were written in collaboration with science fiction writer Michael Moorcock, and it's all about his hero Elric - the protagonist of a bunch of sword and sorcery books. I admit I had the misfortune of reading some of them as a teen. Not only were they not "hard sci-fi" but they were fantasy, which is bullshit. (Tip of the pen to Roman from Party Down Catering.) (Moorcock did write Behold The Man, which as far as I can remember is some great sci-fi. To keep all of this in perspective though, none of this stuff is exactly Play It As It Lays.)

But Blue Oyster Cult's sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal/S&M/kitchen-sink shtick holds up so well over time because their tongues were always planted firmly in cheek. And BOC's music also holds up because it is up there with the very finest of seventies metal: Riffing guitars, rock-solid rhythm section, and hooks hooks hooks. At the end of this tune you get some some sort of robotic voice talking sinister-like at the end. He's the voice of the Black Blade sword and he's asserting his control over his would-be owner. It's as scary as the kids who show up on your doorstep on Halloween in monster costumes. And "Black Blade" is as much fun as handing out treats to those kids and chuckling while you sip on a beer. Help yourself to some candy.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Del Fuegos - "Don't Run Wild"

A big deal to some in the mid-eighties was the so-called "roots rock" movement. The logic, I think, went like this: Rock in the first half of the eighties got too overproduced and glossy. Roots rock was part of the counterattack, with band emphasizing "roots" such a country and old-time (think fifties) rock 'n' roll. Hence the likes of The Blasters, The True Believers, Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers, The BoDeans, The Beat Farmers, Lone Justice, The Long Ryders, and The Del Fuegos. And just like pretty much every rock 'n' roll genre ... Some of it was great while much of it forgettable. (This description sums up The Long Ryders' State Of Our Union LP: Opening song "Looking For Lewis and Clark" is a classic while the rest of the album is unbelievably mediocre.)

Anyway, The Del Fuegos put out "Don't Run Wild" in '85. I had never seen the linked video until tonight, but now I know what Patrick Dempsey was up to before Can't Buy Me Love. I first heard the tune on Q98 out of Fargo and loved it. Still do, with its mysterious sound and catchy chorus it's a late-night-under-headphones fave. Problem is, the album they put it on is called Boston, Mass. When rock 'n' roll fans think of Boston, they think of the awesome J. Geils Band, who did their own version of roots rock (soul, R&B, Stonesy swagger) in the seventies and easily beat all the above-listed bands. "We are gonna ... blow ... your ... face ... out!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Faces - "Too Bad"

This tune is an underdog story where our boys are sent to a gig at some posh place but are deemed to scruffy to take the stage. It all has to do with the English class system, which is typically a yawner as a subject (or else confusing: You have to hit rewind on the DVD remote, and then scroll around to get the subtitles working), but this is The Faces and we trust them to tell a story in under three minutes thirty seconds and then let us go. And through the song Rod Stewart lets us know why the club wouldn't let them play, and accents and class has a lot to do with it:

"We just don't have the right accent."

"I didn't have the old school tie."

"My regional tongue gave us away again."

Oh, and they had to take the bus home. Too bad. Musically, it's one of their finest rockers with the band blazing through it and Stewart whooping along. Not only do we get to hear the legendary Glynn Johns at the beginning, the tune also contains one of the all-time great rock 'n' roll pauses in the song too. I'm guessing this is a cinch as the greatest song ever about regional accents.

And if you're wondering why I'm intrigued by regional accents ... a not-so-small part of it is being at a party in the mid-nineties and having somebody wonder aloud if I started talking like I do after seeing the movie Fargo. And then being at later parties and telling people I was an accent consultant for that movie and sometimes getting away with it. Or the most fun: Having my accented-but-less Minneapolis friends relish/laugh at how I say: "I'm goin' home."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Pat Benatar - "You Better Run"

In a lunch room scene in 1982's Fast Times At Ridgemont High, the greatest teen comedy ever made, Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) says to Linda (Phoebe Cates): "That girl looks just like Pat Benatar!" To which Linda responds that Ridgemont High in fact has three girls who have cultivated the Pat Benatar look. Eighteen years later I was in the Entry with my friend Jim, we were checking out The Phones, a Fargo-Moorhead band who had a Minneapolis scene heyday back in the eighties. The crowd was largely (all?) people our age, folks in their mid-thirties and up. You had the sense that there were a few married couples who had hired a Friday night babysitter so that they could go out and relive a slice of their twenties. Nothing wrong with that, The Phones were blasting dance-y music and the crowd was eating it up. At one point Jim pointed to a gal wearing tights and a headband dancing on the floor and said: "That girl looks just like Pat Benatar!"

So anyway ... in case you had forgotten ... Here is the classic Pat Benatar look: Short hair with bangs and ears exposed, high cheekbones, a top with horizontal stripes that shows a lot of shoulder and the upper back, a totally unneccessary belt (how did she get those pants on?), and boots. The Rascals did this tune first and best, but once again: How did she get those pants on??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Soul Asylum - "James At 16 Medley"

This is a medley of the type that Soul Asylum was known to pull off in the late eighties in their club shows. (According to the Enter The Soul Asylum website, it was recorded in June of 1988 at the Whiskey A-Go-Go. (Thanks also to this website for identifying the Bootsy Collins tune in the medley ... I had no clue on that one.) Why Soul Asylum gave such a title to this live track, I don't know. James At 16 was a TV show that my sister liked in the late seventies. I didn't like it. I don't remember why, I probably decided not to like it just to annoy my sister.

Here are the songs that Soul Aslyum triumphantly run through (if only in portions):

"The Cross" - Prince
"For What It's Worth" - Buffalo Springfield
"I'm Waiting For The Man" - The Velvet Underground
"Birth, School, Work, Death" - The Godfathers
"Damaged Goods" - Gang of Four
"Play That Funky Music" - Wild Cherry
"Free-For-All" - Ted Nugent
"I Don't Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops!)" - The Gap Band
"Body Slam" - Bootsy Collins
"Stayin' Alive" - Bee Gees
"Wishing Well" - Terence Trent D'Arby
"Get Down Tonight" - KC and the Sunshine Band
"Peaceful Easy Feeling" - Eagles

Except it's not a bunch of ironic slackers shrugging and smirking their way through these songs. This was something they would do after yet another mind-blowing show. As I've written before, Soul Asylum were the best live band of my generation. C'mon, the medley list has you intrigued. Give it a listen. If the medley isn't pitch-perfect, well ... it's four garage rockers serving up a nightcap after a solid set of brilliance.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

TV Dramas Are Becoming My New Reality

Last weekend I watched Street Fight, a documentary about the 2002 mayoral campaign in Newark, New Jersey. I loved it and gave it five stars in my Netflix rating, but found myself thinking strange thoughts during it. These thoughts were all about television series.

In recent years, I have watched The Wire and The Sopranos in their entirety on DVD. These HBO series are easily among contenders for The Greatest Television Drama of all time. I hold The Wire among my favorite TV show ever, and can't stop thinking about The Sopranos months after watching the final episode. So while watching Street Fight, early on I was thinking: "This reminds me of Season Four of The Wire", which also dealt with a mayoral race in a crime-ridden, majority-black city. Then I had to remind myself that Street Fight is real, and The Wire wasn't. (Another brilliant TV drama I have watched in recent years, Homicide: Life On The Street, came from the same real-life Baltimore source material as The Wire. Though in my mind at times I think of Homicide as fiction and The Wire as "real", even though both shows are fictional. I think it has to do with The Wire being more documentary-like.)

Later, during my viewing of Street Fight, I started to wonder what Newark-area resident Tony Soprano thought of this mayoral race. Here I was cleary in tongue-in-cheek territory, though I admit I thought it through and figured out that Tony would favor the sixteen-year incumbent - obviously if the mayor had been in power that long, Tony would have "his guys" within the administration. And when the documentary mentioned controversies that arose because of visits to a Newark strip club, I thought: Geez, they should of went to the Bada Bing! For the right price, Silvio would have made sure that things were kept hush-hush.

When I was about to scold myself for thinking about televison dramas all through the viewing of a political documentary, I remembered that The Wire and The Sopranos are great, engaging, entertaining art. And they're far superior to the crap that is shown on so-called reality TV. Of course, my great taste in television doesn't mean that I shouldn't maybe still go out there and get a reality of my own. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Heart - "Even It Up"

The killer riff and the surging horns make this sound like something off of Sticky Fingers. Except the vocals don't match up as that ain't Mick on vocals, it's Ann Wilson. And on this one she's having a hell of a lot of fun. I've never been a huge Heart fan, but Ann is a blast to listen to on this tune. Sure - it goes on too long, but you can spend that extra time gazing at the album cover. Sigh.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cool Stuff I Bought On The Internet This Week

This week would have been a bore if it weren't for the Stanley Cup finals and these two things I bought online:

1) An awesome painting of Lester Bangs by Chicago artist Alice DuBois.

Bangs OD'd on prescription drugs while listening to The Human League, and I have (tongue-in-cheek, maybe) claimed that it was the band and not the drugs that killed him.

2) Dwight Twilley Band's second LP on vinyl.

As Martin Aston writes in the June issued of Mojo: Sincerely (their debut album) and 1977's Twilley Don't Mind are of a kind with Big Star's first two or Tom Petty: divine Anglo-Dixie guitar-pop, in Twilley's case injected with post-American Graffiti teen angst.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Hotrats - "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)

Supergrass is a UK band I know little about. Why? They're British and recent, so you know ... why bother? I do know that two of the dudes from Supergrass went and formed (became?) The Hotrats and released an album of covers, one of which is this Beastie Boys tune as interpreted by The Who with Jack Bruce from Cream guesting on lead vocals, circa 1968.

Weird as hell on the first listen, then lots of fun during all the listens after. Bravo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Bulletboys - "Hang On St. Christopher"

I first heard "Hang On St. Christopher" on Z-Rock back in '91. A great groove, neat riff, cool background singing ... it was a funky break from the other (often-righteously awesome) metal being played on that AM syndicated station. I went out and bought the album and got burned as there was only one other decent song on it. Oh well. The Bulletboys were quickly forgotten, though I did dig out the CD every once in a while over the years to play this one song.

Then about ten years ago I was driving in my car and listening to Radio K, another AM station I have great memories with. "Hang On St. Christopher" came on, but it didn't sound like the Bulletboys at all. Though it was still a great song. I found out that Tom Waits was singing it. I'm smart enough to know that obviously it was originally a Waits song that the Bulletboys covered.

See, one of my many music blindspots (deafspots?) is Songwriters. And "Songwriters" is probably a dumb term to use as every song I love was written by a songwriter or songwriters (even the public domain ones), so maybe I should amend it to Highly Revered Songwriters. For every Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen I dig; there are a bunch of John Hiatts, Elvis Costellos, John Prines, Ryan Adams, and Conor Obersts that I either don't dig, merely tolerate, or have never bothered to listen to. I'm not sure why this is, I just know saying "He writes great lyrics" is not a way to convince me to listen to somebody. Tom Waits is another Highly Revered Songwriter in my deafspot. I got nothing against the guy, but outside of hearing him on various alternative radio stations, all I pretty much know about him is that he wrote "Jersey Girl" which Springsteen covered live and I first heard as the B-side to "Cover Me" back in '84. Oh, and his voice bugs me. Some of his vocals sound like those black metal Cookie Monster singers.

So yes, I didn't know that this tune was a Waits composition. I just checked the CD case and no songwriter credits are listed. (Not that printed credits would have helped me: I owned the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Smash Hits LP for a couple of months before I saw that Dylan wrote "All Along The Watchtower", and vinyl credits are a lot easier to see and read.) But now I go forward with the knowledge that if I ever do grow up and acquire an appreciation of Highly Revered Songwriters, there's a Tom Waits album with "Hang On St. Christopher" on it waiting for me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Get Bloviated

Twin Cities media has been bombarded in recent weeks by ads promoting the Get Motivated! Business Seminar happening next week at the Target Center. I've received two mailers recently promoting it and they were addressed to me personally, not "occupant." There's been lots of ads in the Strib, and Rudy Giuliani has been in frequently-airing ads on KFAN plugging for it. Giuliani is appearing at Target Center, along with other famous folks such as Brett Favre, Sarah Palin, Ron Gardenhire, and Colin Powell.

The seminar is only $4.95 to attend or you can send your entire office for only $19. Which begs the question: Who is stupid enough to even shell out five bucks for this nonsense? You know who: Lazy bosses and managers who see the $19 price tag and figure it will help shape up their department; thereby forcing their workers to miss a day of work and falling further behind in their paperwork, and worse - subjecting their workers to this motivational drivel.

The lineup speaking at this seminar cracks me up, especially when matched with the wordage on the latest mailer I received:

Sarah Palin on "achievement" - What could the Paris Hilton of politics possibly have to share? How to quit your job halfway through your contract?

Colin Powell on "leadership" - Yeah, lie for your boss to the United Nations and help lead your country into an unneccessary war. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Ron Gardenhire on "competitiveness" - As long as the New York Yankees don't show up at Target Center, Gardy might have some insights.

Rudy Giuliani on "perseverance" - This joker wouldn't even leave Florida to go campaign in Iowa. It must be tough to persevere in the Sunshine State during those winter months!

Brett Favre "on teamwork"- What's Favre have to teach you on teamwork except how to show up at the last possible moment for your job while your other team members have been working in the sun for weeks? But I guess Favre is better than other Purple prospects. Adrian Peterson? "How to recover at work after repeatedly dropping the ball." Brad Childress? "How to face your peers after inviting an extra, unneeded person to a meeting."

And to nobody's surprise, it turns out that the Get Motivated! seminar is ultimately trying to lure its attendees into buying questionable products. While moonlighting from his day job as Twins third baseman/fans punching bag, Nick Pinto writes about the Get Motivated! scam factor in City Pages this week. $4.95 is about five bucks too much for this motivational nonsense. My condolences to anybody whose boss makes them attend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Kingdom Come - "Get It On"

Of all the Led Zeppelin borrowings/homages/ripoffs to come down the pipe since Zep hung up their Valhalla helmets after the death of John Bonham, this tune by Kingdom Come stands above the rest. Above Coverdale and Page, PJ Harvey, The Cult, various Robert Plant solo offerings, Plant reuniting with Page, Jason Bonham, and even better than Zebra! (It took a recount, a Swiss Time check, and instant replay, but KC won.)

Here is all you need to know about this song: It sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin. Sure, a tad more glossy, but back in '88 on FM radio it sounded much more like Zep than it does on headphones as I type this and actually contemplate the tune. Here's all you need to know about Kingdom Come: This is their only song to hit the US Hot 100 and all they will be remembered for is that they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin. If you want to go rock history footnote: They were an opening act (i.e. crappy sound from the board, not that the headliners sounded great at Metrodome anyway) for the likes of Scorpions, Van Hagar, and Metallica.

But I will always be fond of this song, it provided an early Lester Bangs moment for me. I had gotten his Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung book for Christmas in 1987, absorbed it, and realized he was a kindred spirit in rock 'n' roll appreciation. And like Lester Bangs at first hating The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" in part because the freak-out riff break was a complete rip-off of The Yardbirds' one in "I'm a Man"; but then coming to love the song ("One day I was driving down the road stoned and it came on and I clapped my noggin: 'What the fuck am I thinking of? That's a great song!'"), I was driving to my first real job one day in early 1988, "Get It On" comes on KJ104 and getting ready to flip the dial I for some reason kept listening. Then I also thought: "What the fuck am I thinking of? That's a great song!" Except I wasn't stoned like Bangs, though it would turn out that you would have to be high beyond belief to want to work at the company I worked for at the time.

Sensing that they were to be a one-hit wonder as their second tune had come out, sucked, and didn't sound like Zep so much; a few months later in the summer, I asked a buddy who was really into Scorpions, Van Hagar, AC/DC and the more commercially-successful hard rock/metal acts of the time what he thought of Kingdom Come. My friend, twenty years of age, shrugged his shoulders and said: "I'm sure they're big with the high schoolers."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Three Record Stores, Two Towns, One Perennial Washington Avenue

Last week's post on spending some time in record stores on Saturday afternoon got me to thinking of some of my favorite record store memories. Three (for now):

- An afternoon in a summer of the mid-eighties when I was living at my parents' cabin near Detroit Lakes and working in DL at a Hardee's, I stopped by a record store that was for a short time located on Washington Avenue. I came across a used LP of Pete Townshend's All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes for a dollar. It looked to be in great shape, so I marched to the counter to snatch it up. There was some snafu with the clerk though. I think I only had a twenty on me and he didn't have correct change and wouldn't sell it to me. I asked him if he could hold it for me if I ran across the street to the M&H station and made some change. He agreed, and I ran across the street in the rain to make change. This was a lucky break as there was a rather cute girl from UND that I knew working at the M&H who gladly broke my twenty and chatted me up a little bit. Running back to the record store in the rain and not minding if my next college semester started again soon, I approached the counter. The clerk said: "I feel bad for making you go out in the rain to get the change I didn't have. I'll sell you this album for fifty cents."

- One afternoon after school my junior year in high school, I was at Mother's Records on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks. There was a clerk who worked there who was a classic seventies leftover. He had long blonde hair and glasses and seemed like he'd be a record store employee lifer. I was in a far corner of the store from the cash register surfing through the used vinyl and suddenly Lifer starts yelling: "Whatya wanna hear?" Even though I was pretty sure there was hardly anybody else in the store (my back was to the rest of the store), I pretended he wasn't yelling at me. Then again a yell: "Whatya wanna hear?" I kept my head down and kept flipping through the records. Finally, louder: "HEY MAN, WHATYA WANNA HEAR?" I worked up some nerve, turned around to see Lifer staring at me and yelled back (though not as loud): "Whatya got??"
Lifer: "You can choose between the latest from Van Halen or Rainbow."
I chose Rainbow (Gimme a break, "Stone Cold" was burning up the charts!), and that's what we heard.

- One summer evening in the late seventies, my older brother let me tag along with him on a trip to Budget Records & Tapes in Grand Forks. This was the original Budget Records in GF, it was up on North Washington on the east side of street in a dingy little storefront. It would later move to a cleaner space in a little strip mall on South Washington. My brother was buying the latest release by some band or artist, who it was I don't remember. Let's say it was Jackson Browne for story's sake. My brother brings his J. Browne LP up to the cash register and hands the cashier some cash. He is owed sixty or seventy cents or so in change, but the cashier hands him back a dollar bill. My brother is quick to point out the cashier's error, that he had given him too much back, but the cashier says something like: "Keep it, man. I can't handle that change stuff." I was young and naive, maybe this place was also a head shop??

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Paybacks - "Stranger in the House"

In which some Detroit rock 'n' rollers pick up on Paul Westerberg's appreciation of Rod Stewart and logically decide that Stewart should front the 'Mats. Glorious.

And don't fire it up on your computer and then wander to the kitchen to grab a beer as it's over in under two-and-a-half minutes.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Score! Just Realized This LP Has The "TV" Song On It!

So it's Saturday afternoon and I'm between games of the Twins day/night doubleheader plus Habs vs. Pens is a couple of hours off. So I say to myself: "I'm going to go to Cheapo in Uptown and see if they have some Dwight Twilley Band albums and buy some Discwasher fluid. Then I'm going to go to Chicago-Lake Liquors and get a case of Premium bottles for fifteen-nine-nine." Then walking out to my car I remembered how much of a hassle Uptown traffic is on Saturday afternoons, so I decide to just get the beer.

But then on my way to the liquor store, I start to feel guilty. I know I am going to track some vinyl tonight, and I damn sure better get some Discwasher fluid as I am all out. I know Trehus doesn't have any and I shouldn't go there anyway as it is kitty-corner from the CC Club and due to my (lack of) work situation, I'm limiting my bar stops and buying cheap beer and scotch. The CC is a temptation I need to avoid on a Saturday afternoon. So I call Roadrunner Records on Nicollet from the liquor store parking lot, but just get their answering machine. So then I start to worry a little: What if Roadrunner is closed? I haven't shopped there for a couple of years. More guilty feelings creep in my head. I decide to drive out to Roadrunner and see what's up.

I get there, and the place is bustling. The store is about half the size as it used to be, with the emphasis definitely on vinyl over CDs now, but business on this afternoon looks pretty good. Plus I'm probably the youngest guy in the store, so that feels good. I don't see any Discwasher fluid for sale and the owner is busy behind the counter, so I wander over to the "T" section of the vinyl to look for some Dwight Twilley Band. Bingo! I score their debut album for five bucks, it looks to be in great shape.

I head up to the counter to buy it, and the owner is drinking a beer! Yes! (The first time I went to a record store in the Twin Cities, the original Down in the Valley when it was on the east side of Winnetka with the reptile store in the basement, was on a Saturday night. I was the only one in the store and the clerk was drinking a Molson.) I ask about the Discwasher fluid, and he says the only place he has seen it is Cheapo. He rings the Twilley LP up and gives me a sincere, look-straight-in-the-eyes "thank you," and I silently vow to bike out here on Saturdays this summer.

So I get back in my car, knowing I can't play this pristine Twilley LP without some Discwasher fluid. I cruise over to Uptown, the traffic isn't bad, there's plenty of parking, and Cheapo has all kinds of Discwasher fluid for sale. But they have no Twilley, so my instincts were right all along. Oh, and Thin Lizzy's Bad Reputation LP for $7.80? I got the same one at Half Price Books in St. Paul a few years back for ninety-nine cents. There's another place I need to frequent. Ahhh, weekend plans ...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Radio Birdman - "Aloha Steve & Danno"

Radio Birdman's "Aloha Steve & Danno" is a fave, though it gets slightly ridiculous when I try to explain it out loud: Australian rock (which is as a friend once said, "always weird") band indebted to Detroit heroes the MC5 and the Stooges singing about "Hawaii Five-O."

That show isn't neccessarily one of my favorite shows. I've only seen a handful of episodes in my adult life and all I pretty much remember about it as a kid is the great opening credits (Hawaiin girls, yessir!) rolling out to one of the greatest TV theme songs ever. My brother, however, was a huge fan of this show and all you have to do is say "Wo Fat" and he will be off and running. (I did see one episode a few years back while staying at my brother's. Wo Fat had kidnapped McGarrett and brainwashed him! I don't remember how it ended, it was a two-parter and I'm not sure if I saw the second half.)

Not only does this Radio Birdman song feature the "Book 'em, Danno" phrase repeatedly, it also features a hard rock take on the "Five-O" theme song. Even Mr. Hand would approve. Aloha.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I sat down and lit a cigarette, and a tough-looking black dude about thirty years old bummed one from me. "What are you in for?"
"Being ahead of my time."
He just looked at me. For a second I thought he was going to laugh, but he didn't. "Yeah," he said. "Me too."

Lester Bangs died on this day in 1982, and it occurred to me that I should write something in his honor. But I did that a few years back in Exiled #37. All I can add is that anybody who loves great writing and/or great rock 'n' roll needs to read Lester Bangs. If you haven't, you're missing out big-time. Here's to you, Lester.


Bangs' "Jethro Tull in Vietnam", from Creem magazine May 1973. If you don't read all of this, at least scroll down and read the second half, subtitled "Postlude: After the Fall."

Bangs' "Astral Weeks", from Stranded in 1979.

Commentary on Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, from Creem March 1976.

Robert Christgau's Bangs obituary from The Village Voice.

The brilliant, I-can't-gush-enough Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. Hoffman is in a few more short-yet-crucial scenes in this great movie.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Wall of Voodoo - "Mexican Radio"

In high school, I was pretty much a classic rock fan. Who/Stones/Zep/Floyd/etc., meaning I graduated in 1983 about ten years behind my time. Part of this was not really getting into music until the summer I turned 15; before that I had liked it, but that summer I became obsessed. Also in Grand Forks we didn't have any station that played great rock 'n' roll. There was a classic rock station on the FM dial, but it switched to Top 40 early in my high school days. So there really wasn't any way to hear lots good music, especially anything new. During this era, there was lots of new wave-y stuff on Top 40; much of it bad, some of it odd, and some of it that I still get a kick out of hearing like this catchy ditty by Wall of Voodoo. Though I'm sure back in '83 I probably stated that I hated it, while eventually secretly digging it.

I proceeded to largely forget this song but in the early nineties it showed up on KJ104, which was the Twin Cities alternative rock station that eventually sunk into playing lots of bad British dance-y music. Shades of high school Top 40! Which meant that "Mexican Radio" once again helped brighten the day on the FM dial. I remember a coworker and I went through a short phase where whenever we would pass in the hallway, we would quote the song by saying "what did he say?" to each other. Come to think of that, that sounds like something out of high school too.

Friday, April 23, 2010


The great David Halberstam passed away in 2007, victim of a tragic car crash. He wrote numerous books on history, most notably The Best And The Brightest, about America's entry into the Vietnam War. A couple of years ago I was captivated by The Coldest Winter, his history of The Korean War. Halberstam also wrote many books on sports, using the same methods - quotes and anecdotes from first-hand sources - as his history books. In my opinion, the finest of these that I have read is October 1964, about the 1964 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals.

I am glad to report that at least two authors have stepped up and have recently written great sports books in the Halberstam tradition. A couple of years ago Mark Bowden (author of the excellent Black Hawk Down, not to mention the also-excellent Guests of the Ayatollah) came out with The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL. From the title you can guess what that one is about.

And I recently finished Perfect: Don Larsen's Miraculous World Series Game And The Men Who Made It Happen by Lew Paper. Larsen was a journeyman pitcher and Paper doesn't go into a lot of inside baseball as to how the Yankee pitched that perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. But he does tell the life stories of each man who was on the field that day in 1956. All of them had lived through the Depression, and many of them served in World War II. Not they talked much about their war experiences. Dodger great Gil Hodges served in the Pacific Theater. He earned a Bronze Star, but his wife didn't know this until after they had been married three years when a sportswriter told her.

The Dodgers, of course, were the team that integrated the major leagues with Jackie Robinson in 1947. The Yankees, as was the American League, were slow to integrate. This would lead to the Yankees' slump in the mid-sixties, with the 1964 World Series their last try for glory as they faced a younger Cardinals team that had been quicker to integrate and had such black stars as Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, and Lou Brock. Halberstam's October 1964 finely chronicles the Series and the individuals who played and managed in it. Congrats to Lew Paper for pulling off something Halberstam-like with Perfect.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Tarney-Spencer Band - "No Time To Lose"

My barber is just a few years younger than me and always has The Jack FM on in his shop, so invariably we come across some blast from the past music-wise while he's cutting my hair. A couple of years ago it was "No Time To Lose." I didn't comment on the song at the time, being blown away that I was hearing it for the first time since high school and quietly racking my brain trying to remember the artist who sang it. I rushed home after and went to The Jack's website to look up their playlist and found out: Tarney-Spencer Band. A quick download ensued and two years later I've listened to it a couple of thousand times. Or so it seems. Love the chorus, love the moodiness, love the Cosmic Slop vibe it gives me.

See, the thing is, when I look back on songs I heard on the radio back around 1979/1980, I find the majority of them depressing. Not that they are neccessarily depressing, but I think I was filled with a lot of anxiety and dread at the time because a lot of that music does not bring back good memories. But "No Time To Lose" doesn't hit me that way even though it has a slight downer vibe. Maybe a girl randomly smiled at me the day I first heard it. I don't know, and at this point I don't care. I just love that I was able to download the song and didn't have to go searching through the used LPs bins to pay four or five bucks for what is probably a crappy album overall.

(As for the video ... well the frontman has a Jackson Browne thing going looks-wise: Browne haircut, sporting a leather jacket and boots when everybody else is going for the "regular guys" look of jeans and teeshirts, for some reason roller skating at what looks to be Venice Beach is featured, the drummer is having way too good of a time for such a serious-sounding song, and it's nice that they brought in the background singers for the video. Oh, and the YouTube link from above sounds like it was recorded from that four dollar slab of vinyl I mentioned above. Weird.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This blog has moved

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Monday, January 04, 2010

My 2009 Top Ten Netflix Movies That I Had Not Seen Before

1) Inglourious Basterds - Combine The Dirty Dozen with "I hate Illinois Nazis" from The Blues Brothers and half the movie isn't even in English. An alternate ending to World War II, debate over what is a Mexican Standoff, Nazis still pissed off about Jesse Owens eight years later, Brad Pitt speaking Italian with a southern accent. And yes, lots of the good guys "killin' Natzis." Brilliant.

2) The Big Red One - Lee Marvin and company fight World War II for real. Poignant and at times darkly funny. I can see why it makes so many short lists for Greatest War Movie Ever.

3) Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 - Ivy League football game from forty years ago makes for a great documentary? Believe it. I loved this one.

4) The Friends of Eddie Coyle - Robert Mitchum plus dialogue straight from the great George V. Higgins' novel, and Higgins' dialogue is without peer.

5) The Wrestler - Worth it alone for Mickey Rooney improvising his way through that deli scene.

6) Touch of Evil - I'm not smart enough to write anything about Orson Welles (I'm so dumb I spelled his name wrong when I originally posted this earlier today,) and if I do I'm just going to go find that YouTube clip where he zings Don Rickles anyway.

7) What Doesn't Kill You - Mark Ruffalo in a tour de force.

8) Doubt - As I once infamously said: "I like movies based on plays because they talk a lot."

9) Requiem for a Dream - Spooky, creepy. Why did I watch it before going to sleep?

10) Frost/Nixon - Ron Howard's trilogy of sinister, secretive powers: Opus Dei, Freemasons, Richard M. Nixon.