Tuesday, April 29, 2014
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
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
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
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.