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.