Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Elton John - “The Bitch Is Back”
1974

In the mid-seventies Elton John was huge and my older brother had the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album spinning in the living room a lot. By osmosis I adopted Elton as a fave and in taking my fandom to the schoolyard things got weird. One kid I palled around with frequently turned on me: “You like Elton John? He’s a freak!” Then a few of the other boys in our third-grade circle picked up on this as well. I lashed back, focusing in on their affinity for John Denver and then whoo boy was it on.

Outnumbered but refusing to back down, I became the outcast, the heel, in this rivalry. Did I mention that my family was living in the Denver suburbs at the time? With John Denver being a home-town hero? Soon Elton unleashed “The Bitch Is Back”, and due to the title one kid’s mom allegedly forbade him from listening to Top 40 KTLK 1280, and this was pinned on me, as it was somehow my fault that Elton had a kinda-naughty song title. (My folks? While they could be a little strict on some pop culture items - I wasn’t allowed to watch Happy Days during its first season due to alleged risqué humor - I could listen to whatever music stations I wanted to. Dad fixed up an old transistor AM radio he had for me just for this purpose and Mom usually had Top 40 on in the car.) The barbs during recess continued and suddenly we were all wannabe experts in lyrics’ double meanings. Elton’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a drug song ... but so was Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”.

I don’t remember how this feud all ended, we were kids and I’m sure other battles and alliances emerged over other issues. I just recall Elton’s last great single stand was with “Philadelphia Freedom” and knowing I had done the right thing in not caving to peer pressure. By the time Elton’s (recess?) credibility was waning with Kiki Dee, my family had moved back to North Dakota.

And all these decades later, I still don’t trust AM saps like John Denver, The Carpenters, and Barry Manilow. While I’ve bored you enough about this boyhood mini-trauma, that doesn’t mean we can’t go watch Charlie Rich burn the card announcing Denver as a winner at the 1975 Country Music Awards.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday Tuneage
Junkyard - “Hands Off”
1989

I heard a new (great) song by Junkyard on Little Steven’s Underground Garage the other day and whew … holy late eighties flashback, Batman. Back then, Axl Rose once wore a Junkyard shirt in a video or photo shoot and suddenly the stock in that band took off. I found their debut album a letdown and the follow-up even more of a drag (and if I recall correctly, the sophomore release had some sort of a Steve Earle contribution*.) But one song, that one glorious song on Junkyard’s debut is a beauty.

The opening chords of “Hands Off” let you know it might be something special and the Southern rock/LA glam mix is intriguing.  Sure, the singer sounds sub-Axl and the chorus loses its luster after the second round, but the guitar solos are Skynyrd-worthy and when you’re about to give the song three stars and a “B” for effort, it goes into a spoken soliloquy about infidelity and broken friendships and a Woody Allen (!) namecheck and a riff about “a really understanding guy (who) just listens” and a “goddamn” interjection that bumps up the effort to an “A” and leaves this tune as a brilliant five star recording that for me wrapped up rock ‘n’ roll eighties in a bow.

*I went back to my mid-nineties zine roots - before every fact was on the Internet - in this opening paragraph and did no research regarding the Earle/Junkyard or Rose/Junkyard connections. Sometimes its more fun to work off of memory than Wikipedia. I’m the guy who’s always looking up crap on my phone during bar conversations. The “well, actually” act must wear quickly, right?