Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Scatterbrain - "Down With The Ship (Slight Return)"

Scatterbrain were goofball metalheads who somehow existed in the the thrash scene a quarter century ago. Their most famous song was "Don't Call Me Dude", which jumped pop music genres fearlessly as it told a tragic and witty tale. They also covered Cheech & Chong's "Earache My Eye" (music part only) and needless to say were big on the late great Z-Rock.

"Down With The Ship (Slight Return)" is an excuse for the band to chant, the singer to spout nonsense, all the while inserting classic rock riffs into the mix. Strangely, it works, like one of those seventies funk tunes by the likes of Kool & The Gang where you don't have to give a damn about lyrics and can just enjoy the groove and the fun. As for Scatterbrain's appropriation of those guitar licks: When you're a hip-hop artist doing something similar to this with sampling, it is dismissed as stealing. When you're Jimmy Page, you actually do steal, but most folks tend to pooh-pooh it. When you're Brian Wilson, you steal, get hailed as a genius (though what kind of genius is smart enough to hire every great Los Angeles studio musician available to play on your records but still have crappy singers like your cousin and yourself sing lead vocals?), and then get successfully sued by Chuck Berry. When you're a metal band, you're just being silly, and there's plenty of room for mischief. All I know is at some point Scatterbrain played the 7th Street Entry with Ugly Kid Joe and I'm kicking myself to this day for not showing up for that one. How often is there a twin bill of metal/comedy pranksters on such hallowed ground?

UPDATE: Just realized I had written about this song back in '11. But I felt it I should touch on this tune again, as 1) That earlier one was just a blurb, 2) Scatterbrain deserves more attention, not to mention "twin bill with Ugly Kid Joe", and 3) Who the hell am I fooling here ... when you've done damn near two hundred of these Tuesday Tuneages, you forget and repeat yourself (topic-wise, I mean, the writing I'm sure does come off as the same old thing over and over maybe) after not checking the Complete List Of Every Tuesday Tuneage Ever Spreadsheet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Marah - "Christmas With The Snow"

Marah's A Christmas Kind Of Town is a gem: A grade-A bar band throwing itself into Christmas songs with glee and nary an ironic note to be found. That it opens with "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas is an obvious sign that it isn't going to just be a collection of holiday songs. Instead, it's a concept album complete with skits, tales, standards, Marah originals, copious boozing (the album back cover is a photo of multiple Santas at a bar), and a hidden-track appearance by Santa himself. This is the type of album where you pour your favorite winter beer (Summit Winter Ale? Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale?), dim the lights, and sit in the dark with a Yule log on TV and slowly get crocked while you make - and slowly forget - your upcoming New Year's resolutions. I put this one up there with the aforementioned Chuck Brown LP, Bob Dylan's Christmas In The Heart, and A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector in my top five (fifth yet to be determined) favorite Christmas albums. Get this album before the 25th and don't forget that Fireplace For Your Home (including the classic "Crackling Yule Log Fireplace" episode) is streaming on Netflix.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
O.C. Smith - "Little Green Apples"

A tune that was a country/soul/pop triple threat - in 1968 Roger Miller took it to #39 on the pop charts and #6 on the C&W charts, while O.C. Smith took it to #2 on both the pop and R&B charts that same year. Smith's version is smoooooth, and while the background vocals take it to the very edge of parody, his short laugh after singing "it don't snow in Minneapolis when the winter comes" absolutely saves the song.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Pearl Jam - "Even Flow"

I have noticed a strange thing when "Even Flow" comes on the radio these days. It's not the version from Ten and is instead the version from the video. How long has this been going on? Am I just now catching up on this? Googling indicates this was also the original UK single version, but that is neither here nor there, as who cares about the UK version of a song by a very American band? Playing this alternate version would be fine if it were better than the original, but it's inferior to the original album version I heard back in 1991-92 on KJ104 (and more importantly) (sigh) Z-Rock.

The genius of the Ten version vs. the alternate version is the guitar break before the final chorus. On the original, Mike McCready absolutely slays you with all the drama and arrogance of a Beck or Hendrix, drops you on the floor, and then Stone Gossard steps in, picks it all up, and puts it back together. This guitar interplay is a large reason I bought the Ten album and got into Pearl Jam in the first place. And now radio is trying to play tricks with my memory by supplanting a grade-A rocker with its shadow. This would be a bitter, bitter way to find out I'm a replicant.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Cheech & Chong Featuring Alice Bowie - "Earache My Eye" (b/w) "Turn That Thing Down"

My buds and I used to recite the skit part of this tune constantly on walks to school in third grade, when as a single it went to number nine of the charts. Recently my mind was blown when I found out that the B-SIDE OF THE SINGLE CONTINUES THE SONG AND THE STORY! The riffage gets even better, more relentless, Then the tune turns into a mashup between guitarist/co-writer Gay Delorme's incredible, heady Hendrix/Funkadelic noise attack and samples of the father from the A-side harassing the kid to turn the song down and get ready for school.

Like I wrote last year, I have "Rock Box" as my Number One Metal Song Of All Time, and now I wondering if Run-DMC's hip-hop metal would even be possible if it weren't for these two sides of genius. Not to mention that the song lyrics and skit include cross-dressing, the coming apocalypse, capitalist excess, corporal punishment - they all get jammed into a comedy song that crosses metal and good yuks years before Spinal Tap. The next time The Golf Channel is going to show Tin Cup (in standard def on their HD channel), they should instead just fire up the "Earache My Eye" opus on a loop for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Steely Dan - “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

I doubt I will ever be one of those huge fans of Steely Dan. I may sometimes call them the familiar “The Dan”, because that is what some of us men my age do. But after all these decades of hearing them on the radio and having others rave about them and wanting to enact some sort of you’re either for-the-Dan vs. against-the-Dan barricade, I’ve only bought one album by them and it feels like the right amount of Dan to own. I still think - even after classic rock radio has tried and tried and tried to kill them with overplay - their seventies first run of hits are absolutely brilliant. “Do It Again”? “Reeling In The Years”? Wondrous stuff.

That one album I have by Steely Dan is Pretzel Logic and I scored it for a buck off of eBay years ago. I bought it mostly because: 1) I wanted to check out a Dan album without copping out with an anthology, 2) My research indicated that on the Not Jazzbo Fusion and Still Accessible calculations it might be my best bet, and 3) “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” is on it. I still remember where I was when I first heard this tune, in my Mom’s car in 1974, she was driving me home on a Saturday morning after a sleepover and had the Top 40 AM radio station on. And yes after all these years I still find it haunting, catchy, a mystery never solved.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Billy Squier - "Lonely Is The Night"

Not many charting rockers had a weirder, yet at-times brilliant, run of genre-hopping songs than Billy Squier did in the first half of the eighties. He started off his chart success with a novelty song embraced by hard rockers, "The Stroke" (which is pretty much a remake of his embraced-by-hip-hoppers "The Big Beat" from his debut album.) Then he cleaned up this same song, inserted lyrics that actually made sense, and presto: "My Kinda Lover." (We shouldn't overlook that middle word. Is the lover his type of lover or is she "sorta, kinda" his lover? Maybe an on-the-sly romance?)

"Everybody Wants You" had the #2 revving-motorcycle sound of 1982 (after Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue") plus A-plus finger snapping - almost always an indicator of pop greatness. And the song never ever quits, three minutes and forty-seven seconds of riffing exuberance. "Emotions in Motion" was slinky suburban funk, topping Queen at their own suburban-funk game at the time, and it opened with whistling - almost always an indicator of pop greatness. "She's A Runner" was uniquely a non-ballady power ballad.

And then around the time that he was outed (falsely, as we learned) with his appearance in the "Rock Me Tonite" video, he turned in one of the finest singles of the summer of 1984: "All Night Long". Which is a remarkable feat, as THE SUMMER OF 1984 WAS THE GREATEST SUMMER OF SONGS IN MY LIFETIME.

"Lonely Is The Night" wasn't a single and hence didn't chart like the above songs, but it was an AOR smash in '81. More importantly, it stands as one of the best fake Zeps of the early eighties. It handles the heavy, crashing, thunderous side (complete with the well-timed pauses that Zeppelin mastered) of Led Zepdom as well as Zebra would handle the lighter, folksy side. (Next week's tune? Perhaps…) Like I said, "Lonely Is The Night" wasn't a single, but that's no excuse why it was left off of the first-half awesome Squier anthology 16 Strokes. It's almost like the recording industry wanted to go out of business.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Firm - "Satisfaction Guaranteed"

When Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers teamed up to form The Firm in the mid-eighties, hard rock fans were giddy. Nothing like a SUPERGROUP!! to get fans of aging rockers abuzz. And one involving Jimmy Page that actually released music, unlike next buzz thing XYZ band from a few years earlier. (I mean, XYZ was actually a subject of pencilled scribblings on my sophomore year English class desk. Me and some other guy/gal had a correspondence about XYZ for a week or so there. Alas, I never did find out who this supergroup superfan was though and the correspondence dried up - I'm guessing I was too much of a goody two-shoes to write on the desk much anyway. Things were truly rough before Twitter, kiddies.) Then we actually heard The Firm's first single, "Radioactive." Decidedly non-bluesy, without Page crunchy chords or flash, and Rodgers voice going through some sort of sound effect while singing "I'm radioactive", it was a weird letdown. "Satisfaction Guaranteed" was more in line with what was expected: atmospheric, a superb Rodgers vocal, and Page heroics. I never bought the album and all else I remember is that they had an iffy version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." And like fellow class of '85 supergroupers Phantom, Rocker & Slick, they faded after putting out that elusive/rumored second album.

So for whatever reason, the last couple of weeks at random times I would suddenly start singing parts of "Radioactive" to myself while walking around my apartment. This led me to YouTube, figuring: Mid-eighties? Superstar rockers cashing in? They must have made videos! And yes, The Firm made videos. And they're glorious. "Radioactive" has Page and Rodgers wearing baggy pants and shirts, likely anticipating the "Pirate Look" of the early nineties. (Take that, Jerry Seinfeld!) In "Satisfaction Guaranteed", they're dressed like CIA agents posing as south Florida tourists, playing an Oly-serving dive bar. And they drive the ladies nuts! They bring the rain! Page's guitar work brings the sun! Speaking of Page, he's the guy to watch in these videos. He's letting us in on the joke, breaking down the fourth wall. He bows to the camera at the start of "Radioactive", then proceeds to mug his way through various shots. In "Satisfaction Guaranteed", he gives a oh-yeah-big-deal-maybe? nod at the end of a kinda-dramatic beat. That video also features him with his trademark Zep violin bow, but then joker that he is, he trades it in for a beer bottle to play slide with. Didn't catch the brand of said beer, but it damn sure wasn't Olympia.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Paul Revere & The Raiders - "The Great Airplane Strike"

I read Time because I secretly aspire to be part of The Establishment. But perusing its pages means taking them with a grain of salt. They've been on a hagiography kick lately, more so than usual. In the same issue that Walter Isaacson gushed over how Apple's technology was going to turn our society into a man-machine Utopia, they also used Big Walt to gush over Henry Kissinger with a piece hilariously titled "The Lion in Winter." Here we found out that Kissinger was for the invasion of Iraq but now thinks it was a bad idea, and has a similar flip-flop on Afghanistan. Hindsight's always twenty-twenty, right? The funny thing is that Isaacson with a straight face writes that Kissinger has always been correct on foreign policy. Apparently, an alternate meaning of realpolitik is that changing your mind years later equals foresight.

Another knee-slapper was in the next issue, when we got another Time reminder that U2 are the saviors of rock 'n' roll. (Time's been on this kick with U2 for damn near thirty years.) U2 teams with Apple, so the collective Time brain trust's, uh, brains might just yet explode! Sure, the new U2 album is nice, and the price is right, but it's like every other U2 album since Achtung Baby: It sounds earnest, even great. Then you listen to it a second time and realize no song sticks because they are so precisely crafted that there is no grit, no friction, nothing to grab on to.

I wanted to love this new U2 album, mostly because of the backlash to their TV ad where they play "The Miracle Of (Joey Ramone)" and interpose photos of Ramone, Patti Smith, and whatever other Class of CBGB Nineteen Seventy-Something icons we're supposed to idolize. Admittedly, the ad was dumb, but it's funny when humorless punkers get worked up about their precious Punk Mythology. Clods like these is why Rob Reiner had to make This Is Spinal Tap about a metal band: if it'd poked fun at a punk band, the punkers would have gotten as upset as folks around here do about the accents in Fargo.

And we heard nary a peep from the punkers when Paul Revere died earlier this month. As I wrote back in 2006 about "The Great Airplane Strike": Fuzz-drenched Dylan imitation complete with Bob-like vocals. Great fun and the opening riff was ripped off by the Dead Kennedys, who weren't nearly as funny or as cool or as punk as the Raiders. Similar sentiments could be made about a bunch of other singles The Raiders released 1963-68, songs that sealed them as one of the greatest punk bands ever. I'd rather track them than The Ramones or Patti Smith or Television. Learn a lesson, punkers. And U2 fans, listen to some music that isn't so safe. And dammit Time magazine, if you need some truly bitching hagiographies, hire me!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Fear Factory - "Cars"

The heavy metal/new wave crossover was first deemed possible on Def Leppard's 1983 Pyromania album, when Thomas Dolby of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame played synths under the pseudonym Booker T. Boffin. A clever one, producer Mutt Lange. (Two years prior, Lange had also used Dolby on Foreigner's 4 album, when he was assigned to slick them up into even more of a hits machine. Weirdly, Foreigner's previous album, Head Games - a non-Lange, non-Dolby affair - had a song called "Blinded By Science" on it.) Dolby's role on Pyromania was largely unknown at the time, probably for the best as if it had been known to dumbo hard rock fans (like teenaged me), they probably would have freaked out about NEW WAVE KEYBOARDS AHHHHH!

A few years earlier, I was secretly intrigued by Gary Numan's "Cars", professed to be put off by his robotic vocals, and felt no vindication whatsoever when he turned out to be a one-hit wonder. In 1999 one night while driving aimlessly around the freeways in a funk, the hard rock station played Fear Factory's cover of "Cars" and I rallied around it. Drove home pumping my fist and while I didn't take the time to call or email any music buddies and rave about this metal/new wave crossover, I was able to maintain enough energy to make it to the bus stop and my temp job cubicle the next morning. It's been time for a rally here lately, so I downloaded Fear Factory's "Cars" and play it loud through my earbuds. Sounds great on the bus!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
A Tribe Called Quest - "I Left My Wallet In El Segundo"

I lost my wallet last month. I didn't realize it was gone until I was getting ready to transfer busses, reached into my bookbag to grab my wallet and the bus pass it contained, and saw that the wallet was gone. Needless to say, losing the wallet set off some panic. At first, I figured it had been stolen. But I retraced my steps since I last had it and realized that was impossible. I must have dropped it on the bus when trying to put it in my bookbag. (Why did I carry my wallet in my bookbag rather than my back pocket, like real men do? Well, I have chronic back problems and sitting on a wallet does not help this.) I hailed a cab and on the ride home made a list of the banks and credit card companies I needed to call. Canceling credit and debit cards is remarkably easy, this is one area where you can get a customer service rep pronto. No doubt banks view fraudulent spending on lost/stolen cards as much as a hassle as consumers do. And I'm fortunate to have been banking at the same local bank (First National Bank of the Lakes, 31st and Hennepin) for so many years as I was able to bike into the drive-up and cash a check for spending money without having to show my (now-lost) ID.

This story ends well. My Dad - my parents and sister are listed in my wallet as emergency contacts - called me two days after I had lost the wallet, somebody had found it. It was a security guard at an apartment tower over in the Seward neighborhood. I bussed over to his building and he handed me my wallet, absolutely nothing in it was missing. I asked him if he was the one who found it; he said no, that somebody had found it and turned it into the rental office. (It is a mystery how the wallet got to this rental office. My best guess is that somebody found it on the bus and rather than giving it to the bus driver, handed it over to the security guard in the building, figuring they would know what to do with it.) I offered him twenty bucks for reaching out to my Dad and holding the wallet, he would have none of it. He, along with the mystery person who originally found it, was one of the great people I dealt with in my 48 hours of lost walletdom. Others:

Wells Fargo - Yes, the big bank came up big. They offered me a new credit card with rush service for only $16. I had placed my call to them on 6 p.m. on a Friday and via FedEx I had a new credit card on 8 a.m. Monday. As I had already cancelled all my cards, this was huge.

Metro Transit - After canceling all my cards, I called Metro Transit to see if they had found my wallet. The customer service rep I spoke with asked what route I was on when I lost the wallet, then proceeded to try to call the driver (who was still on his route) to see if a wallet had been found. After being unable to reach the driver, he contacted his boss to give him/her my phone number in case somebody turned in my wallet that night.

SuperAmerica on 35th and Nicollet - They sell Heggies pizzas (the BEST frozen pizzas around, and it's not even close), and I needed some comfort food after the panic, phone calls, and the thought of having to go to the DMV to get a new driver's license.

And finally, I learned an important lesson here. I don't need the Costanza-like wallet that contains every important card and document I have. Stupidly, I had my social security card in my wallet. Who ever actually uses that card? The Social Security Administration's website says you don't even need one if you have your number memorized. I also had two credit and two debit cards in my wallet - one each for my business and for my personal use. I think jamming all of that stuff into a wallet is behavior I started when I was in junior high and first got a wallet. Back then I would carry dollar bills in it. But as I got older and society and corporations gave me more responsibility, I acquired more cards and documents, and felt more and more grown up as I filed these in my wallet.

Now? I bought a new wallet and it contains: driver's license, one debit card, one credit card, bus pass, and library card. That's all I need when I'm out and about, and I could probably leave the credit card at home also. All the other bank cards are in my old wallet kept in a desk drawer. And the new wallet is very thin so I can keep it in my back pocket. I got a chain wallet so I don't lose it. This also helps my look as I push fifty: sneakers, Levi's, chain wallet, long-sleeve Jimi Hendrix Experience teeshirt, UND hockey hat pulled low, and transition lenses. But which of my wallets will I put my AARP card in?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Replacements - "I'll Be You"





Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes - "Who But The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)"

I was saddened to hear of the passing of writer Tom Hallett last month. I hadn't communicated with him in a number of years, but loved his writing (among other things, that his 'Round The Dial column always started with a quote - just like Duck, You Sucker! and The Wire - and ended with his affirmation to "make yer own damn news") and the conversations we had when we across each other in clubs early last decade. That City Pages article I linked to above has lots of great memories from folks who knew him better than I did. But here's a few memories of my own:

- Meeting Tom for the first time in 2001. We had exchanged a few emails and were in the process of forming a mutual fan club. I head to the Turf Club, where I had been quite a few times, but never in the daytime. It's a Sunday around 3 p.m, it's sunny and bright outside, but dark inside and not too populated (it's Grand Young Day, but things haven't really kicked in yet.) I grab a beer and ask the bartender "Is Tom Hallett here?" He glances around the bar, points to a table, and says "Yeah, that's him in the hat." I approach a table of four guys engaged in conversation. Denim, leather, smokes, beers. If it's a crime novel, these are Elmore Leonard's colorful characters. Me, I am a citizen probably wearing Chucks, Levis, and a UND hockey shirt. I walk up to Tom and ask: "Hey, are you Tom Hallett?" Table goes quiet. Guy asks me: "Who wants to know?" "Uh, I'm Bill Tuomala from Exiled on Main Street." A grin, an eager handshake. "Bill! Yeah! Great to meet you!" Then he starts riffing to the table about my writing. Laughs, much music talk, and a few beers ensued.

- Tom moved to Alaska for a time and once mailed me a mix CD. But this wasn't just some CD-R with a bunch of songs on it and a black Sharpie blurb written on the disc. He designed a cover and lovingly wrote out the track listing (click on the image on the left to see it.) He even personalized the name of it for me: Bill's Boilermakers (He also noted it was volume 17, that City Pages post did say that he loved to assemble mix tapes and discs. I'd love to see what the sixteen prior volumes were like … and all the others that followed, natch.) There is where I first heard this week's tune, track number five on this mix.

- Last time I remember talking/emailing with Tom was a few years ago. He was having a record sale at his house, he signed off with something like "C'mon out man. You don't even have to buy anything. I just wanna drink beer with you." Rest in peace, Tom. I smile every time I think of you.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Backbeat Band - "Money (That's What I Want)"

There was an article in Sunday's Star Tribune about how the state of Minnesota is sitting on $600 million in unclaimed assets. Once I saw the headline, I immediately rolled my eyes. You see, I'm on the list of those who have unclaimed assets, but I can't claim the dough. (We'll get to that later.) I first heard about the unclaimed assets in 1999, when the state revenue department had a publicity campaign to push people to step forward and secure their unclaimed money and property. The campaign used Governor Jesse Ventura to this effect, an ad said something like "Governor Ventura Wants You To Get Your Unclaimed Money." They printed a long list in the newspapers, and I saw my name. I called the state and was told that it was a $200 check related to business I had done in Florida. The rep told me I would have to fill out a claim form, have it notarized, and also provide proof of having done business in Florida. I knew immediately where this check was from. Earlier that decade, I had worked for a general contractor and was assigned a trust account in order to write checks for things such as blueprints, permits, and occasional office needs. This checking account was in my name, rather than the company's, probably because they were too paranoid to give me signing authority on their company-wide checking account.

Monthly, I would turn in a reconciliation and a detail of this account, which led to some of those great boss/subordinate conversations:

Accounting Boss: "Why did you write a $25 check for a fan?"
Me: "My old one was busted and I needed a new one, my office gets really stuffy in the summer."
Accounting Boss: "You should have gone through Purchasing."

(Later that year:)

Me: "I need a new ten-key, mine is busted. Do you know if Purchasing has any spare ones on hand?"
Accounting Boss; "Bill, we're a billion-dollar company. A ten-key runs like what, thirty bucks? Take your checkbook to the office supply store!"

At one point, the company had a project going on in Florida and I wrote a $200 check for blueprints. So while I never had been to Florida and this check wasn't technically "mine", it apparently had never been cashed and the authorities in Florida turned the money over to Minnesota. I would have taken the money and run, but I had no way of proving Florida business and didn't figure a fraud rap was worth $200.

BUT: People became obsessed with this unclaimed assets list. I heard from immediate family members, non-immediate family members, friends of relatives, etc. about my unclaimed money. I patiently told the story about how the money wasn't mine. "Are you sure?" they would always ask. Then about five years later, I got an email from a friend saying his wife had found The List and saw my name. I told him the 1999 story all over again. He suggested I call the state, maybe this was other money. (I did not make the call.) So now we have another round of publicity about William P. Tuomala's unclaimed money that actually isn't William's. Thing is, back in 1999, the state maintained they would seize all the unclaimed stuff in a year for their general fund if the individuals didn't speak up for it. Goddamn gubmint: You were supposed to make this Florida nonsense of mine go away years ago!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Rod Stewart - "My Way Of Giving"

On his early albums, Rod Stewart was a unique, terrific interpreter of others' material. He delivered master versions of songs written or made known by artists such as The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bob Dylan. Perhaps the oddest cover he did was "My Way Of Giving", a song originally done by The Small Faces. Because at the time of Gasoline Alley, from which this tune is lifted, Rod was a member of The Faces - the band The Small Faces evolved into after Steve Marriott left and Stewart and Ron Wood joined. The Small Faces version of the song is two minutes long, a wonder of blue-eyed soul and superb backing vocals. Rod's version is four minutes long and his vocal is conversational and intimate where Marriott's had been restrained and cool. By the end of his version, Rod is attacking the vocal with ebullient whooping and brings the band into the whoosh, only to have it end with simple, touching keyboard notes.

Oh, and that band? Not the typical Mickey Waller, Martin Quittenton, Pete Sears band that showed up on those early Stewart albums, but members of The Faces - Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane instead. (Needless to say, Ronnie Wood was on a track no matter who the rest of the band was.) So we have Rod Stewart covering a Small Faces song and the bass, drums, and keyboards all come from the guys who played on the original. Members of the Faces would show up on other songs on Stewart albums two-through-four also, one wonders how these songs - and especially "My Way Of Giving" - ended up on Stewart solo albums rather than Faces albums. As I have found zero info on this in my research, I like to imagine that Stewart album vs. Faces album involved coin flips or card games.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Kiss - "Hard Luck Woman"

In last week's post, I theorized that Bonnie Tyler responded to music industry demand for more Rod Stewart mid-tempo hits. A year before this Kiss, ever the savvy businessmen, had pulled the exact same move. In this case Paul Stanley actually wrote the song with Rod Stewart in mind as the artist who would record it. Then he realized his own band should record and release it, because: 1) How many ballad hits could a band like Kiss come up with? "Beth" had been a monster hit earlier in the year, and wouldn't "two-point-five" be the over/under mark? I'm sure Stanley and Gene Simmons hired some market research whiz to find out how much money the band stood to make in the girls-who-like-the-slow-songs demographic; and 2) It wouldn't be very Kiss-like to hand away a song that had potential to make even more money for the band as their hit to an AM Top 40/FM AOR rival like Rod Stewart. Royalties vehicle? Forget that!

So what we have in "Hard Luck Woman" is (apologies, but I am simply going to cut-and-paste some words from last week) a raspy vocal and simple acoustic-guitar-and-rhythm-section a la early Stewart. Part of me loves to imagine that when Paul Stanley wrote this (and when I imagine classic-era Kiss doing anything away from the stage like recording tunes or writing songs … I still see them in complete makeup), he was daydreaming and thinking: "The Faces are packing it up and Ronnie Wood is joining the Stones. Maybe Rod will be looking for a new songwriting partner? Time to drop this teenybopper costumed nonsense and become a serious artist. Me and Rod … Rod and me! Why not me??"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Bonnie Tyler - "It's A Heartache"

Rod Stewart. By the time I was aware of Rod, he had hits like "Tonight's The Night" and "You're In My Heart" that I always found depressing and soon he moved on to songs that were so aggressively bad like "Hot Legs" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" that they must be considered hostile. And if anybody remembers the song "Passion" … well you know why it took me until circa 1990 to embrace any of Rod Stewart's music. Then I found out about his early greatness and landed where I still am today: I only listen to his first four albums (plus his brilliant cover of "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)" from that sam era) and can never get myself to move past 1972's Never A Dull Moment.

But apparently in the mid-seventies, when he skyrocketed to superstardom, there was a need for more Rod Stewart product, and Bonnie Tyler responded. "It's A Heartache" has a raspy vocal and simple acoustic-guitar-and-rhythm-section a la early Stewart. I was surprised when researching reading up on Wikipedia about this song that it was also a huge country hit. Because to this day I have it is permanently wired in my brain as an AM Top 40 hit like those mildly depressing Stewart songs. Also, any listen to this song reminds me of a relative who once said Bonnie Tyler's voice "is as good as John Denver's." I kept my mouth closed but thought "wha??"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Rainbow - "Since You Been Gone"

Russ Ballard is a man who has written a billion songs, of which a couple of hundred have become hits for others. While reading up on him recently, I found something a little odd. Within one year of Head East covering a Russ Ballard song, Rainbow would cover the exact same song. To wit: Head East recorded "Since You Been Gone" in 1978, Rainbow in 1979. Head East did "I Surrender" in 1980, Rainbow in 1981. Typical Brit rockers, those boys in Rainbow. Wait for Americans to do something, then rip it off. That Ballard is British and hence was in Rainbow's own back yard makes this even more egregious. But it also makes sense. Rainbow leader Ritchie Blackmore, who once declared his love for Foreigner and how Lou (Freakin) Gramm influenced him, probably also loved the merely-competent Midwestern hard rock of Head East. Maybe he tracked their ablums when he was looking for something "with an edge" and picked up on those Ballard songs.

"Since You Been Gone" is one of those songs that's been covered numerous times. Go to YouTube and you can find the Head East and Rainbow versions, plus by a band called Clout, Cherie and Marie Currie, and Russ Ballard himself. The Rainbow version is the most familiar if you grew up listening to AOR radio. I seem to remember reading where somebody from Rainbow or one of their fanboys congratulated the band on having a unique take on the song because they tacked a guitar solo on to the end. (Ritchie Blackmore looking for another solo? Shocker!) It is quite a fun tune, and Rainbow's version earned it airplay.

Then consider the video: The keyboardist dresses like the dork who sat in front of you in math class, the drummer wears a windbreaker, the bass player wears a blazer and tie. The lead singer has short hair and sports sneakers, and with this being the UK in 1978 that may have been a bid to get the band new wave/street credibility. Then there's Ritchie Blackmore, the enigmatic leader of the band, who is seen at the start of the video than not much until the end. You keep waiting for something explosive to happen, that Ritchie will of course crank up some fretboard histrionics and then his appearance in the video will be like when Orson Welles showed up in The Third Man. But Blackmore has all the charisma of a stone wall, the rest of the musicians follow his non-lead, and it leaves the singer look like he's trying too hard. But hey - to Rainbow's credit, their version of "Since You Been Gone" is a hell of a lot more energetic than Head East's. I'd still rather watch Cherie and Marie Currie though. They're like half of an ABBA with twice the fun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
REM - "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

The best way to read the "A" section of the paper these days is with a healthy dose of disconnect. It's a mess out there. A recent trip through the headlines with a red pen generated a sixteen-team apocalypse field, complete with seeds and a bracket. A larger field would of course include nuclear powers like the UK and France, but for now they will have to hope for an apocalypse NIT. Here's the seeds, and here's the bracket:

1) Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine
2) China, India, North Korea, USA
3) Hamas, Iran, Japan, Syria
4) Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic State, Taliban

That creeping feeling of dread is back with us. Last Thursday when everything seemed to be falling apart, an hour or so in a downtown bar with the British Open on the screens was a respite, but that night was a gloomy affair of Surly (appropriate) beer, leftover soggy bar nachos, and an inability to turn off the cable news. Putting things in a bracket is always fun, but problem is: Ultimately in an Apocalypse Bracket, there ain't no winners.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Nazareth - "This Flight Tonight"

Talk about two tunes that deserve a mashup - the Joni Mitchell original and Nazareth's cover of "This Flight Tonight" - mostly because both Mitchell and Nazareth's Dan McCafferty have, um, distinct singing voices. Yes, those crazy Scotsmen in Nazareth went and covered Joni Mitchell because Judy Collins was too busy that day to handle it herself. And you just know sweet Judy wouldn't have been able to throw that sly Slade/Mott the Hoople-like short chant into a chorus like Nazareth did. Next time I tune into a big game at Fenway and see chrome-domed James Taylor grinning with an acoustic guitar, I'm muting the TV and blasting this one loud 'n' proud. Because: FOLK ROCK BABY!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Poison - "Unskinny Bop"

One wonders if Poison had come along in the early seventies rather than the mid-eighties they would have been solid AM hitmakers, maybe a scrappy/garage/American version of Sweet. Their eighties work had a "sounds great on the radio, won't buy the album of course WHO DO YOU THINK I AM" quality to it. Sing along to them in the car during the lunch break run to Wendy's, then head home after work and listen to Metallica albums and think serious thoughts. After recently hearing them on Jack FM (natch), I realized just how much fun Poison were, how for a few years they put out a handful of radio-friendly tunes that hold up quite well, thank you. Recorded towards the end of their run as hit-makers, "Unskinny Bop" has nonsense lyrics, seamless harmonies, a hook that won't quit … all adding up to make a nineties bubblegum/pop/metal/whatever gem. I had mostly forgotten this one, but it now stands unforgettable. It also stands (serious thought ahead … somebody get this guy some Wendy's … ) as proof of the redeeming power of commercial radio.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The J. Geils Band - "Angel In Blue"

The other night while listening to random iTunes tracks under headphones, "Main Street" came on and I tweeted: Only Bob Seger could write a great, poignant song about a stripper. Top that, Jackson Browne. Not so sure why I was being so snarky on Browne, I must have grabbed whatever iconic singer/songwriter popped into my head. Seger is as worthy as any of the highly hailed Songwriters, why not just tweet that?

The next day I slapped the J. Geils Band's Freeze-Frame LP on my turntable for a spin. What's lost with time and their mass success with Freeze-Frame is that in the seventies they were a contender for the never-crowned American Rolling Stones, as Dave Marsh once wrote: "(They) came closest to the Stones' synthesis of rhythm & blues, bravado and strong sense of outrage." Also lost is the mastery of some of their finest songwriting, like the incredible "Cry One More Time" and the stunning "Teresa." On side two of  Freeze-Frame is "Angel In Blue", a song I had loved in high school. It's great, poignant (nice writerly word Tuomala, "poignant") and is about a stripper. So in that one tweet I needlessly cheapshotted the man who wrote "Doctor My Eyes" and my initial assertion was wrong anyway. The lesson here is to not drink and tweet, kids. (Drink, then tweet the next morning with coffee.) And oh yeah - check out the J. Geils Band catalog. Better than Elvis Costello!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
AC/DC - "Problem Child"

In my ongoing quest to find The Song Of Summer 2014, which for some reason in my head is to find an old song I dig and have a hip-hop crew sample it and make something exquisite and funky for me to blast on my iPhone while I sip on a Sierra Nevada Kellerweis or a Bell's Oberon Ale or a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (finances might dictate this one) and stare out my kitchen window into the sunshine and imagine what people do outdoors when the temperature gets above eighty degrees. (Me? I end up blasting the AC at some point and watching The Wire on Amazon Prime.)

My latest candidate to be turned into a hip-hop wonder is AC/DC's "Problem Child", the song so fine that they put it on both their Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Let There Be Rock albums. (Research indicates that this is the result of international releases having different tracks than AC/DC's home Aussie releases, but that's no fun. Part of me thinks the Young brothers said: "F*ck it, we're putting 'Problem Child' on this LP also!")

Bon Scott throws rap-worthy challenges all over this one. He starts out with a "cop this" (BEGGING SOMEBODY in the future to use it!), tells us he's "cold as ice", then offers up this:

man in blue
it's up to you
the seed is sown
what I want is stash
what I don't I smash
and you're on my list
dead or alive I got a .45
and I never miss

Later, Bon assures us that "even my mother hates me"! Go Stagger Lee!

The tune has an awesome beat, a simplistic-yet-killer riff … and after the song seems to be over for some reason they tack on a low-fi recording of the beat and riff as if they are looking into the future and BEGGING SOMEBODY to sample it! Who dares offend the memory of the late Bon Scott? I demand a rap-rock "Problem Child" remake! My birthday is in August!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Jaggerz - "The Rapper"

Thrown onto a bubblegum anthology that I put together ten years ago, I always forget about this one until I listen to said DIY playlist. But how could I forget about this one? It's got everything except the kitchen sink in it! To wit:

Written by band member Donnie Iris (!), it has Creedence chords, a fuzzbox chorus that sounds like an attempt to be additional members of the Family Stone, and said chorus also has the Latin-percussion break that was so popular during the era. (See also: The Rolling Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", The James Gang's "Funk #49".) Sure it seems to always be in a hurry to get to the chorus, but it clocks in at under three minutes, so what do you expect? The lyrics are about a pick-up artist who "needs somebody to sock it to" (ugh) and yet the group applauds itself at the end. You wonder if AC/DC took note and decided to have itself booed at the end of "The Jack". (Where Bon Scott acts as if it is applause anyway.) You also wonder why there hasn't been a hip-hop adaptation of this one. C'MON: It's got heist-worthy beats, the singer throws down a what-ya-got sneering "heh" towards the end, and IT'S TITLED "THE RAPPER"! Hollywood remakes everything and most of those are horrible decisions, but we can't get one left-field attempt to stretch this tune into The Song Of Summer 2014?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My interpretation of the lyrics of the closing theme from WKRP In Cincinnati

Went to the bartender
Bartender, I said: "Yeah"
Said to the bartender:
"Microphone did uh uh"

I said: "Good bartender
I had better a head"
I said: "I would good
and good that I did ah hah"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Standells - "Try It"

(Early draft of a personal ad - do they still have these? Back section of City Pages? - written to get the attention of a certain young lady.)

To the punk rock girl dressed in black shoes, black shorts, black top, with dreds and sunglasses outside of Extreme Noise Records on Lake Street May 28th around 7:15 pm who aimed a huge smile my way as I was unlocking my bike:

Hey Killer Smile - I merely smiled back at you that evening. Here's what I should have come out and said -

I got eighteen beers - Six Summit EPAs and a twelver of Premium, all in cans - in this rear bike basket. I got some great punk rock albums ready to play on my Technics sound system: The Very Best of The Standells on the Hip-O label and Paul Revere and the Raiders' Greatest Hits on the well-respected Columbia label. (And if you plan on staying longer, I got the Nuggets and Children of Nuggets box sets.) You can simply hop on these handlebars and we'll take the six blocks home. I can wear all black also (black Nikes, black gym shorts, black Cheap Trick teeshirt.) I don't have cool sunglasses like you, but I do have transition lenses so I can block out the sun pretty quick when need be (which is almost always, right?); these kinda-shades look especially great on me in the winter when I'm also sporting my long-sleeve black-and-gray Led Zep teeshirt ("Communication Breakdown" = punk rock riff?) and UND hockey hat pulled low … and for further street cred my favorite sports team, said UND hockey squad, sometimes also dresses in all black.

As you can see from the above, my punk rock credentials are pretty darn good. I should also mention that I once shook Wayne Kramer's hand. And that when I was a toddler, I stabbed myself in the head with a blue pencil and still have a blue dot to prove it. I've even been in Extreme Noise once or twice. I "get" punk rock. So let's splurge, buy the Los Nuggetz box set, and spend the summer together with it and discounted Tecate in cans.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Len - "Steal My Sunshine"

Jack FM is now my go-to fun music station. K-Twin was my fun station but they’re classic rock now and I’ve heard all those songs a thousand times. I’ve heard many of the songs on Jack FM a thousand times also but not all of them. Some had been lost to me over the years with my evolving (ha ha) tastes in music and preferences in radio stations. So when it’s time to lock in a radio station and read the paper or shave or stare into a scotch and think about life or writing or both (at times they are one and the same) sometimes I just gotta hear The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter” or Greg Kihn Band’s “Jeopardy” or some other gem from my past.

Or that night a couple of weeks ago where I was staring at my financial situation spreadsheet trying to figure out how to pay for said (cheap!) scotch … and groceries, health care, cat food … and had Jack FM on and some song I had never heard before came on and I kept turning up the volume until all the solutions to avoid going broke came shining through. Temporary solutions, sure, but patches are all that are needed until that property tax refund comes riding to my rescue in July. The song was “Steal My Sunshine” by Len, and honestly I hadn’t heard it before and if I had it did not stick with me. Good, because it came out in ‘99 and I have the feeling mid-thirties Tuomala would have thought it dumb and beyond redemption.

According to Wikipedia, Len's Marc Costanzo said he wanted to make a song like The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” (Len’s song is better) so he alternated vocals with his sister, Sharon. Throw in that the band is Canadian and all of this is as sweet as the song is with its Andrea True Connection bump and sunny vibe. As one-hit wonders go, this one is GRADE A. Throw in that Jack FM recently ran promos that feature clips from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Caddyshack, and The Troggs' "Summertime" and it's clear that my Jack FM phase isn't going away any time soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Bad Company - "Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy"

Go out on the main road, then down the hill, there was the resort. They had cabins for rent, and at times they actually were rented. For food there was chintzy frozen pizzas they’d heat up and crappy frozen burgers they would nuke. If you were old enough, you could order 3.2 beer or bring a bottle for set-ups. But we went there for the candy: All kinds of it on display behind the bar, also pop in the back room fridge.

Once we got old enough to see over the pool table we were also old enough to spare some candy money to play songs on the jukebox. A dime for one song, a quarter for three. Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy, Elvira, Centerfold, Rockin' Into The Night, You May Be Right, Even It Up. Play more pool, put more change in the jukebox. You come up with a quarter? Choose a song and then hand the other two to your buddies to pick. Play pool badly. Make jokes, try to be funny. Recycle a line you heard on a cop show about brawling outside with pool cues. It’s not clear whether the cues should be used like swords or clubs. The dimes and quarters keep us in own little world of songs and wisecracks. Far, far away from the day drinkers at the bar, huddled over their beers, hoping for relief from the sun outside.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Blondie - "Hanging On The Telephone"

I used to hate cell phones. As I wrote back in 1998: "The way I see it, in ten years or so, most everyone except me will have a cell phone. (Nice word: "cell"). And then I won't even have to try to avoid talking to people like I do now. Everyone will be walking or driving around with their ears and mouths pressed to their cells, and I can cruise through life uninterrupted, just hearing bits and parts of conversations that aren't mine. I can't wait."

At the time, cell phones were something of a status symbol. And that status was of someone whose every potential conversation was so imporant, it couldn't be missed. What an annoyance those folks were. I remember being at a hockey game in 2000 and some guy a section over was kicked back with sunglasses on and chatting away on his cell phone. It was a little-attended WCHA playoff game at Target Center, so a lot of people heard me and knew who my question was directed at when I loudly asked: "HEY WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?" Right around the same time, in the same building, while at a Metallica concert, my friend Jim and I were walking around a concourse and suddenly spotted a biker-looking dude, about fifty, draped in leather, talking on a cell phone. We shortly after stepped on an elevator and Jim and I looked at each other, chuckling, with the same reaction: "Did we just see that??" 

I caved and got a cell phone in 2002 for business purposes, if I was running late or if a client needed to reach me while I was out and about, I had the cell phone. Sure, it was often forgetten in my car's glove compartment or book bag; or I had the mute button on and missed any calls, but I felt it was important at this point for my business to have a cell phone. Five years later, I dropped my land line and went purely with the cell phone. It was much cheaper, and besides I rarely made or received phone calls at this point, what with almost all business communications being handled with email.

And what I hadn't foreseen back in the nineties was the potential in the cell - nay, the MOBILE phone (Orwell would be proud) in helping me with avoiding senseless interaction with people I don’t know, have no desire to meet, and don’t want to engage in pointless conversation. Look at what the mobile phone - a device chock-full of apps which also happens to have a phone function - allows me to do and NOT do:

It saves me in the bar; I can scroll through Twitter, tweet, check sports scores, text pals, look things up on Wikipedia ... as long as I'm staring at my screen I am less likely to be bothered by some barfly and have to talk about some crappy local sports team, libertarian politics, who in this joint has weed to sell, or get trapped in the “let me buy you a beer” cycle.

It saves me on the bus; I don’t have to talk about the weather or whatever else if I get stuck sitting next to somebody. If somebody else is talking loud on their phone, I just crank up the Black Sabbath on mine and stare out the window until the annoyance passes.

It saves me on the plane; I don’t have to talk to the person next to me about travel plans, where I am going to or coming from, what I do for a living, or my Minnesotan thoughts on Prince or the Maul of Amerika.

It saves me from holy rollers; as I related a year ago: "I break a commandment and lie. I tell him I have a phone call."

My mobile phone. My MOBILE phone. Even when you contain nothing to read, study, or get lost in; you do the essential job of keeping me to myself. You are my hero, my secret friend, my savior.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Eddie Money - "Two Tickets To Paradise"

Springsteen/Seger hard rock polished up a touch, guaranteeing a landing on AM radio, yet still deep enough to fit in on FM. Unfortunately these days it's been reduced to a horrible TV commercial for Geico (and I've heard a worse audio-only variation of it while streaming a station on iHeartRadio), which makes it easy to overlook as one of the gems of the late seventies. It has one of the more interesting rhythms to appear on its era mainstream radio, certainly the opening guitars tell part of the story, while the choruses drive the point home.

On the surface it appears to be about a guy taking his gal on a last-minute trip to somewhere nice. But something in the desperation in Money's voice and the way the band plays always has me suspecting that this ain't no three-day weekend, it's a getaway, like the narrator has pulled off something that requires him leaving town, pronto. One of the joys of repeated listenings over the decades is that you can have it either way. AM/FM. Holiday/Escape.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The La's - "There She Goes"


Never want to come down, I'll drink before
noon if I have to. Still crushing on
her, can't stop smiling. With
booze, smokes, this pen, I can
keep the rush going. With a bottle
of cheap Scotch, I can keep the crush
flowing. Just need an ice cube, an
Old Fashioned glass. Those jokers
just don't get it, those clowns always

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Pearl Jam - "In Hiding"

saturday night's alright for fighting anxiety

you see we're having this party   forming alibis
you really should be there           won't be there
lots of people you gotta meet      hate meeting people
it'll be quite the event                 me, in front of my TV
you won't wanna miss it             hockey hockey hockey

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Barry McGuire - "Eve Of Destruction"

In 1996, NBC debuted Dark Skies, a series about UFOs, aliens, and a wide-ranging conspiracy. It was an obvious attempt to capitalize on the success of Fox's The X-Files. But Dark Skies was a bore, because what it did was give away the mystery right away. I believe there was an early scene where President Truman met with the aliens at Roswell. Yawn. In The X-Files we had some sort of sprawling mystery/conspiracy that involved bees, oil, a Russian double agent who at one point was locked in an empty nuclear missile silo in North Dakota, The Cigarette Smoking Man, Scully's baby, Mulder's long-missing sister, a baby alien in a jar, and a bunch of other stuff that linked together so well (?) that Mulder turned down sleeping with a smoking hot blonde from the UN. (If I remember the details correctly.) There was always the underlying feeling that show head Chris Carter was making the whole thing up as he went along, but he also gave us those brilliant Monster of the Week episodes to avoid thinking about the overall series arc too much and getting headaches.

Similarly, Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" gives away protest-era Bob Dylan in three-and-a-half short minutes. Dylan would hint at doom in "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" or take on the war pigs in "Masters of War", but those were all part of his expansive oeuvre, which happened to also include a lot of jokes. McGuire instead bludgeons us with guttural vocals, dropped Gs in his phrasing, a strummed acoustic guitar, and piping on the harmonica. It's a sprawling mass of do-goodisms and ill will.

I never heard the tune until 1980, when our ninth-grade gym teacher, while we were on the mats stretching or whatever useless activity was going on in gym class that day (and the activities were all useless), noticed there was a record player and some LPs in the corner. We watched him out of the corner of our eyes (a teacher is genuinely interested in records, this we gotta see), then one of the future burnouts yelled "play some Head East!" Mr. D's eyes lit up as he studied one album. He slapped the vinyl on the turntable and up started "Eve of Destruction." To my young ears, it sounded like some furious hard rock song and by the time I got home that afternoon I was butchering the chorus and singing to myself "there's gonna be a destruction." I was likely reading The Third World War: August 1985 and at the time living near the rumored Soviet Union's number two nuclear target and it was the Cold War, so there always was the feeling that all-consuming destruction was near, if not promised to us. You could say it was a feeling that we were on the eve of destruction. Hey, maybe Barry McGuire was onto something!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Kristin Hersh - "The Cuckoo"

I'm reading The Breaks of the Game by the late, great David Halberstam, it's about the 1979-80 Portland Trail Blazers. Halberstam had an outstanding career of writing history books and sports books. Fans of history are recommended to check out The Best and the Brightest (America's entry into the Vietnam War), The Coldest Winter: America and The Korean War, and The Powers That Be (American media in the twentieth century). Sports fans might want to check out October 1964 (World Series between a team of Yankees led by old white guys and a team of Cardinals led by young blacks) and Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. If you're a fan of both history and sports, then you are doubly blessed with Halberstam. It's obvious he spent countless hours on interviews with the subjects and characters of his books, yet the books don't read as simple oral histories. Halberstam was a brilliant writer who put his own poignant prose to work to tell stories, to bring those stories and the people involved in them to life. So an admitted casual basketball fan like me would of course read The Breaks of the Game, because it's Halberstam. And what lessons I'm learning on race, broadcast television, the Pacific Northwest, Kareem, Walton, and so much more. Because, like I said, it's Halberstam. On a recent Friday morning on the bus, I read this tale about Lloyd Neal (nicknamed "Ice", due to the ice packs he had to put on his knees after every game due to chronic injuries) in the book, then proceed to reread it over the weekend, chuckling every time:

The Cuckoo Man was Jack Nicholson, the movie star, a devoted follower of Laker basketball who had a seat right next to the Laker bench. In the championship season, when Portland had played Los Angeles, Nicholson had thus sat only about three feet away from the last man on the Portland bench who, in this case, happened to be Lloyd Neal, and everything that Nicholson said, every cry praising Kareem or belittling Walton, thundered in the ears of the Portland players. It was as if he had been chosen by the gods to bedevil them. At halftime the Portland players had filed into the dressing room and one of the other players, impressed that so famous and yet now so manic a presence was seated so close to them, asked Ice if he knew who his neighbor was. No, he said, how? "Jack Nicholson, Ice," someone had answered. "You mean the little fellow, not much hair?" Neal asked. "Yes." "Who's he?" "A movie star. Did a picture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." "Oh yeah," said Ice, "I know who he is, that guy." The others were not so sure whether Neal had seen the movie or not, they could never tell about Ice, whether he was smarter than they thought but playing dumb, or dumber than they thought but playing smart. In the second half Nicholson had kept up his cheering, loud, partisan, a noise which fell relentlessly upon the Portland bench. Then, late in the game, at a crucial moment, the game hanging in the balance, the Lakers had made a run and Kareem had gone out for a shot and as he did, Walton had gone up too and he had blocked it, and ever as Walton reached the apex of his jump, his hand outstretched, the entire Portland bench had been aware of an even more dramatic moment: Lloyd Neal rising up out of his seat, huge now, intimidating, a great dark-visaged figure pointing a massive and threatening finger in a massive threatening hand at the suddenly tiny Nicholson. The others had watched this tableau, it seemed frozen in time for them, as if to symbolize the team's new invincibility, that they would not be beaten, not by Kareen, not by Los Angeles, not even by rich and celebrated actors, for there was Ice screaming at Nicholson, "Take that, mother-fucking cuckoo!" The moment had become part of the unofficial team history, a symbol of its triumph, and Nicholson, star of Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, and other great American films, had become simply The Cuckoo Man.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Pretenders - "Middle Of The Road"

In the middle of the road
you see the darnest things
like fat cats driving around in jeeps through the city
wearing big diamond rings and silk suits
past corrugated tin shacks holed up with kids and
man I don't mean a Hampstead nursery
but when you own a big chunk of the bloody third world
the babies just come with the scenery
  - The Pretenders

The latest Time magazine had Robert D. Kaplan riffing on a variation of those lyrics:

"But strong institutions and capitalist prosperity lead to military ambitions."

Or maybe he was just ghostwriting (ha ha) for Vladimir Lenin?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Dirty Looks - "Oh Ruby"

Just as in 1988 Kingdom Come released the Led Zeppelin knockoff, "Get It On", that same year Dirty Looks came out with "Oh Ruby" which sounds like about 90% Bon Scott-era AC/DC with maybe a 10% GNR influence thrown in to boot. It prompted me to buy the Cool From The Wire album, which had no other good songs and worse, had no other early AC/DC ripoffs on it. (Fanboy Alert: Dirty Looks' Wikipedia page states that the LP "is still regarded by many as one of the best hard rock albums of all time." Doh-kay.)

In the video, the lead singer sports a sleeveless torn teeshirt and tucks his jeans into cowboy boots. The lead guitarist wears a trench coat and gets ample camera time during his competent (but not much more) guitar solo. The drummer has bars around his kit. (?) And we don't see much of the bass player, but enough to know he has hair like the rest of the band sports. Oh, and aside from the band the only other thing we see is an obligatory eighties-metal hot chick wearing pumps, nylons, bustier, and leather jacket. But hey: the word "ass" is bleeped out, because this Ruby chick is classy! (We know this because they rhymed "ass" with "class.") Not to mention she inspired this beaut of a triple rhyme:

She's good
Everybody in the neighborhood?

I'm not much of a lyrics guy, but in all seriousness I have to say that those lines are brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Brenton Wood - "Gimme Little Sign"

Bretton Woods is a resort in New Hampshire where The Bretton Woods Conference took place in 1944. At this conference, an international monetary system was set up, the IMF was established, as was the forerunner of the World Bank. The UK's representative at this conference was the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, whose best-know quote is probably "in the long run, we're all dead", came up with another gem regarding Bretton Woods. When asked if England had been sold out to become another American state, he quipped: "No such luck." The Bretton Woods system stayed in place until President Nixon took steps in 1971 that heped usher its end, among them removing the US from the gold standard.

Brenton Wood is a soul singer who hit #9 on the charts in 1967 with "Gimme Little Sign." Future New Radicals band member Danielle Brisebois covered it in 1995 and also had a hit. Brisebois is known for having portrayed Archie Bunker's step-cousin-in-law (or something) Stephanie Mills in All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place. Archie once infamously joked to his son-in-law that he wrote in Nixon on his 1976 presidential ballot (he actually wrote in Ronald Reagan.)

"Gimme Little Sign" is a favorite of SiriusXM's Soul Town station. Having majored in economics as a youth (with an uncredited minor in Nixon studies), whenever I see "Brenton Wood" pop up on my SiriusXM iPhone's app I invariably end up at the Nixon Shock page on Wikipedia. Nixon Shock ... my new fake band name.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Boston - "Amanda"

1976: Boston releases its debut album. Side one - which leads off with the masterful "More Than A Feeling" - is AOR bliss, side two ain't so hot. A song like "Rock & Roll Band" shows that they should stick to their heavy guitars-n-harmonies formula and not try to boogie. Also, the song's narrative turns out to be hilarious as it is later revealed that the album was almost entirely recorded by Tom Scholz in his basement, with the "band" being a front to the record label to fool them into thinking that Scholz wasn't merely tinkering with demos that they had already heard.

1978: Boston releases Don't Look Back after two long years (a lengthy stretch between LPs back then). Documentation on this one is hard to find, as the backstory isn't charming as the debut album, but I'm guessing this one also was recorded by Scholz in his basement. This album also works best when they stick to their formula. The title track is brilliant, but you know a song with a title like "Party" is bound to fall flat.

So Boston was set to dominate the eighties, right? They were all over AOR radio and we all couldn't wait to get our hands on that third album. "Wait" is the key word here. Because we waited. And waited.

We were all assured that the third Boston album was just around the corner. There was always a note somebody had read in Rolling Stone or somewhere, that the new Boston album was to be released "later this year" or "early next year." Things got desperate by the mid-eighties. Somebody would invariably claim that they had heard a song off the imminent Boston album, meaning the album had to be out soon, right? This was when I was in college at the University of North Dakota, and it was always some guy who was from the Cities and spent his summer there who had heard that new Boston song last summer ("on KQ", natch). I remember a suitemate during a dorm bull session getting rather testy, insisting: "No, I heard it. I heard it!" A similar conversation occurred when I was on break hanging out in Dinkytown with my cousin Dale, who was attending the University of Minnesota at the time. His roommate flatly claimed he had heard the new Boston song ("on KQ"). Dale shot him down, explaining that he had heard a solo effort from one of the guys from Boston. He had heard a deejay on KQ make note of this.*

By this time, the seemingly-mythical Third Boston Album had become an enjoyable running joke with my brother and me. We'd hear "More Than A Feeling" or "Don't Look Back" on the radio and one of us would invariably say: "That new Boston album will be out any day now!" Not to mention that in some ways things were so much more fun before the Internet. You could just make stuff up, like you could say to a buddy: "Word is that Boston album will be out in time for Christmas." And of course it was taken as gospel. No Internet, not instant fact checking.

But all good things must end. At some point the mystery has to be resolved. I heard "Amanda" while in the shower one morning senior year of college. This is Boston's long-awaited return? I sensed immediately while riding my bike to campus that morning that the myth and the anticipation of the Third Boston Album would turn out to be a hell of a lot more fun and intriguing than its actual release. Nobody I knew bought Third Stage, and to this day it remains an afterthought, as are any Boston albums that have been since been released. Few of us middle-aged white guys have disowned the band though, a tracking of "More Than A Feeling" with a scotch on a Friday afternoon after a long week goes a long way toward tamping down the darkness.

*Research indicates that these are the likely candidates for "Boston" songs heard in the early eighties. ("On KQ."):
- "Dreams", by Barry Goudreau. Goudreau was a guitarist in Boston, and Boston singer Barry Delp handles the vocals on this one. It also has the signature "Boston" guitar sound.
- "So You Ran", by Orion The Hunter. Very mid-eighties in sound (i.e. chintzy and cheesy), but it did feature Goudreau (again), future Boston lead vocalist Fran Cosmo singing, and Delp on background vocals.
- Boston's "Amanda" was leaked to some AOR stations in 1984.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Deep Purple - "Pictures Of Home"

The south Minneapolis baby boomer. You know the type: Gray hair, getting smaller by the minute, never smiles. Why do they look daggers at me? Am I such a bother? I sit on the bus with my earbuds in, my UND hockey hat pulled so low it almost touches my glasses, and I'm merely listening to music and reading a book on my phone. When I sit at the coffee shop and write in my notebook, I'm trying to fade into the background. Why are you south Minneapolis boomers such downers with your sense of entitlement and constant frowns?

The boomer who yelled at one of my delivery guys because his van was blocking the alley and she was forced (heavy sigh) to turn her car around and use the south alley exit instead. The boomer who when asked if I truly was about to use the elliptical cross-trainer at the YMCA and I said "uh, yeah" (my right foot was just about to swing onto the machine's footpad), turned her smile upside down, glared at me, and walked away without uttering another word. The boomers at Kowalski's who dominate the narrow aisles and won't give me an inch when I try to walk by. The boomer down the alley who works on his roof in the spring well after dark and well after the city noise ordinance says he can. The boomer across the alley who is sure to rototill his garden on Saturdays at 7 a.m. (When said boomer 
meticulously cleared his garage driveway, was chatting with a neighbor proud of his work and the city plow came through the alley and pushed a bunch of snow on his driveway? Awesome, totally awesome. Watching that was the most fun I have ever had looking out the kitchen window while firing up the morning coffee. Tops observing the murder of crows that hang out in that area, even.)

Look south Minneapolis boomers, it's a long winter and like last year I have the feeling the snow will keep coming for another couple of months. You don't like me, and I'm starting to move past apathy and into active dislike for you as well. The streets are gonna be as narrow as those aisles at Kowalski's. Our glasses are gonna fog up a lot. I will continue in my belief that I don't owe you a goddamn thing. So here's my suggestion: Grab yourself a beer or three, pour a shot of whiskey or vodka, and fire up some metal on headphones, as metal is ideal coping-with-winter music. This week my suggestion is Deep Purple's Machine Head, an album the proles rallied around during your youth. Play it loud, play it proud. Because nothing is better in these times than catharsis, and it's obvious your yoga and meditation ain't working.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
The Bangles - "Hazy Shade Of Winter"

The Bangles. That stretch senior year of college where "Walk Like An Egyptian" was in MTV's top ten videos so we roommates would call attention to anyone not in the room, gather around TV when they were on, mostly to look at Susanna Hoffs' eyes at that moment toward the end of the video. The album was okay from what I remember. They released a glossy followup a few years later and for me that was it for The Bangles except to Google Susanna Hoffs photos every once in a while.

But then. But then. "Getting Out Of Hand" (recorded when they were known as The Bangs) appeared on the Children of Nuggets collection that I bought back in '08. Catchy, slightly garage, and charming as hell. Hmmm. Scoring their debut album, All Over The Place in pristine condition on vinyl for fifty cents at a Roadrunner Records sale shorty after that was another revelation. Seamless harmonies, driving beat, hooky guitars, brilliant pop songs … it added up to a gem of a debut album and while it shimmered it wasn't eighties glossy. It's always a fun listen with coffee on afternoons off work.

So, I figured, The Bangles had an outstanding debut, got more commercial and less interesting as the eighties went on. Is the "Walk Like An Egyptian" video on YouTube? Then Jack FM ("No Repeat" "Playing What We Want" "Tuomala's Go-To Fun Station Now That K-Twin Changed Formats") the other night played The Bangles' version of "Hazy Shade Of Winter", which was taken from the Less Than Zero soundtrack in 1987. Holy moly. Rick Rubin-produced flawless production. Metallic guitar. Those harmonies. Simon and Who? All for, as Chuck Eddy put it, "a soundtrack to a lousy flick about rich teens on drugs (named after a lousy novel about the same, named after an Elvis Costello ditty about the National Front.)" Well The Bangles showed up, did their job, and took no prisoners. Quite impressive.

And in the song's video, how smokeshow are The Bangles? When I watch it, I don't want to see Jami Gertz, that's how smokeshow. Not to mention VICKI PETERSON'S HEELS, STOCKINGS, SKIRT, AND HER BANGS COVER ONE EYE AND A SHOULDER STRAP HANGS FREE