Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Van Halen - "Little Guitars"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Turns out the UND bookstore did.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Ike & Tina Turner - "Black Coffee"

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Coffee Mug Power Rankings

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Flag - "Rise Above"

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

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

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

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

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