Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Electric Light Orchestra - “Livin’ Thing”
In late 1997 I had a stretch between temporary accounting jobs. My days involved sleeping in, listening to music, reading, heading to the coffee shop to write, and waiting for the temp agency to call with possible job assignments. One day I received a call from someone at the temp agency saying that they had lost the results of the Excel test I had taken when I first signed on. I would have to come in and re-take the test if I wanted to be assigned any jobs that required Excel. Are you sure, I said. I was pretty good at Excel and had used it on prior assignments. (Samuel L. Jackson voice: “Don’t be telling me about Excel, I’m the Excelfuckin’ master!”) Yes, he said, it was strongly advised that I come in and take the test. I had no recourse — no way of avoiding going to the agency’s office and re-taking the test, and I couldn’t think of anybody who would vouch for my Excel skills. The staffing manager who had taken a liking to my work ethic and smarts and would guide me to better assignments had left to start his own company. I hadn’t yet been adopted by another staffing manager who made sure to look out for me. I made an appointment to take the test the next day. I got up, slapped on some nice shoes, slacks, buttons-down shirt, and a tie (ugh) and took the bus downtown to the agency’s office. I dealt with two guys I was unfamiliar with who guided me to a cubicle to take my test. They were smarmy youths (okay, they were about my age, but I was used to dealing with people older than me) that seemed to have the attitude that I was trying to get away with something, like maybe I had been taking jobs where I used Excel under false pretenses. They gave me thirty minutes to complete the test, I finished it in about ten, and my score was 98%. The boys were visibly stunned, I tried not to smirk. They thanked me for coming in. As I gathered my coat and headed for the door, one guy came up to me and handed me a card. He said it contained a $25 gift certificate to a local movie chain. For accommodating us and taking the time, he said.
It was a nice gesture, though I was still a little miffed that I had to take time away from my down time, put on a monkey suit, and go do something I had already done the prior year. I knew this absurd situation called for just one flick to be comped. I called up a good friend: “My temp agency gave me $25 in free movie money ... wanna go to Boogie Nights? Tickets, snacks, and drinks on them?”
The movie was a blast. An incredible ensemble of talent — Cheadle, Hoffman, Reilly, etc. — and a stylistic presentation from director Paul Thomas Anderson. When Thomas Jane as Todd Parker said: "Start down low with a 350 cube, three and a quarter horsepower, 4-speed, 4:10 gears, ten coats of competition orange, hand-rubbed lacquer with a dual plane manifold, full fuckin' race cams...", my friend and nodded over this later — we had heard plenty of that talk in the Midwestern towns where we had grown up. Throw in a smoking hot Nina Hartley (yessir ... older woman in my first viewing, younger woman when I watch it now) and Philip Baker Hall’s (known only to me at the time as the library detective from Seinfeld!) entrance on New Year’s Eve 1979 to Sniff ‘n’ the Tears’ “Driver’s Seat”, and I was floored. Also I was still in the midst of feeling the effects of the post-Pulp Fiction revolution where there were so many movies in the last half of the nineties that were just a joy to watch because of the bravado that burst from them. Swingers, Out of Sight, Face/Off, Fight Club ... going to the movies was fun in that last decade before my bad back prevented me from sitting in theaters and I gave in to Netflix and a pause button and closed captioning and not having anybody seated near me talking loudly.
Postscript: I wrote the rough draft of this Labor Day weekend. Later that week, shortly after I made plans to watch Boogie Nights in case I needed further notes, I saw the news that Burt Reynolds had died. His understated performance as the steady patriarch in Boogie Nights was a revelation. I was too young to see The Longest Yard when it was released back in 1974, but over time heard some of its legendary bits and scenes through the grapevine . Years later I still eagerly awaited that night when I was finally able to see the unedited version on HBO. A friend gave me a The Longest Yard poster about fifteen years ago, it continues to hang proudly in my apartment. RIP, Burt Reynolds.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Thin Lizzy - “Rosalie”
Reading Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs books in the eighties made me aware that Bob Seger had released numerous albums before he hit the bigs, and apparently few people outside of Detroit bought them. Their raves about Seger’s local legend years made me want to go seek out that music. “Heavy Music”, “East Side Story”, “2 + 2 = ?” ... brilliant songs like these added to the legend that his one early national hit “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” had hinted at*.
“Rosalie” from the Back in ‘72 album (released in ‘73, get it?) is a nifty tune about a gal who loves music (sigh). Seger and Thin Lizzy toured together in early 1975, where Lynott must have learned the song. Lynott and his band went on to turn it into a grade-A rocker. So we have Irish rockers on the brink of stardom with their next release of Jailbreak (released March 1976) and they’re covering an American rocker who would soon be hitting stardom with his Night Moves (released October 1976). A tremendous song, a friendly nod across the Atlantic from one great songwriter to another.
*The awesome “Get Out of Denver” was an FM hit in Denver — I heard it on the radio when I lived there 1972-76 — but that was mainly because of the title.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
AC/DC - “Who Made Who”
For my money, one of the more enjoyable sounds of the eighties was when the Young brothers of AC/DC spent a few songs trying to get their guitars to replicate the sounds Pete Townshend of The Who made with a synthesizer on the Who’s Next album. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, “Sink the Pink”, “Who Made Who”, “Thunderstruck” ... these bring a smile to my face. “For Those About to Rock” was their first attempt at this —and had a very Spinal Tap-ish move of using actual cannons on the recording — but “Who Made Who” might be my favorite, it’s also their best attempt to meet the eighties halfway.* It’s a slow burn with a chanted chorus and Brian Johnson’s voice moves slightly more towards soul and less from his usual razors. The first line is: “The video game says ‘play me.’”** and the rest of the lyrics are all about data, satellites, and whether we made the machines or whether they now make us. (I think, maybe they were just taking a stab at a Cliffs Notes version of Townshend’s Lifehouse project.)
The Who Made Who album was the soundtrack the band put out for Maximum Overdrive, a movie that was supposed to be remarkable for being Stephen King’s directorial debut, but is most memorable to my friends and I for King doing a TV ad where he takes a minute and twenty seconds to declare “I’M GONNA SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU”, while pointing at the camera. My buds and I never saw the movie, it ended up being a big flop, and yet King was smart enough to hire AC/DC for the soundtrack so let’s call it a wash***. Not to mention that after the Flick of the Switch and Fly on the Wall albums, AC/DC seemed to be slipping off the map with the dreaded “where are they now” tag looming. Instead, they unleashed this tune and it set the stage for "Heatseeker" and their being Pillars of Hard Rock into the nineties and beyond. Every subsequent release of theirs was worth it because the singles were always great.
*One could argue that since it was AC/DC, they didn’t meet the eighties halfway as much as they won.
**I always thought the lyric was: “The video games they play me”, probably because Maximum Overdrive star Emilio Estevez played a character who got trapped in a video game in the Nightmares movie a few years earlier.
*** Think King would take a 2018 contract to take out a fictional hit on Lucinda Williams for her butchering of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)"?
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Kool & the Gang - “Fresh”
Note: This an excerpt from my upcoming memoir Waiting for the Frost, which will be sent to the publisher once I finish the Joe Walsh Think Piece™.
It wasn’t even that I liked Kool & the Gang all that much. But I didn’t dislike them. I remember badmouthing them in high school to a math class buddy — “Celebration” had been played to death on the radio in the early eighties — while we were doing algebra in the library during a free period and he challenged me to name one specific reason why I didn’t like them. I was stumped. Rather than fight it, I decided to give them a shot.
I’m not sure where I got the poster, all I remember was that is was free. It probably came with a music magazine I had purchased. I slapped it up on the outside of my dorm room’s door, and anytime anybody would ask if I liked Kool & the Gang, I said “Hell yeah.” The dorm was filled with almost all white guys who liked AOR and usually didn’t like what they referred to as “black music.” My music collection at the time lacked diversity and I wasn’t well-schooled in old soul and rhythm and blues. But it just seemed like the right thing to do to embrace Kool & the Gang, their gleeful R&B was certainly just as worthy of a listen as whatever was on the radio or MTV. To this day I’ll gladly take something like “Fresh” or “Misled” over anything by popular mid-eighties whiteboy mediocrities like The Outfield or Mike + The Mechanics.
The poster ended up getting ripped in half in the midst of a prank war and was repaired with Scotch tape and continued to stay on the door. I proceeded to buy the “Fresh” 12-inch single.
By the end of the decade any time I came across a bar that had a ladies night of drink specials I would annoy friends by singing the chorus of “Ladies’ Night”. In the nineties I finally put my money where my mouth was (and dorm room door had been) and bought The Very Best of Kool & the Gang — “As seen on TV!” the sticker on the jewel box proclaimed — and added the Gang to living room dance party playlists for those times that there was no “job” in “day job”. My math buddy would have been proud.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Black Oak Arkansas - “Jim Dandy”
My day job lacks excitement. Enter numbers and dates and accounts, reconcile, email some reports. I avoid phone calls and meetings like the plagues they are, a good day is getting up early and getting things done shortly after lunch so I can head to the coffee shop and read or write. (Last year work was driving me nuts and I scurried off to the coffee shop to read the paper and avoid a cash flow projection, the barista asked how I was doing and I said: “Good, now that I’m in the satellite office.” That got a chuckle.)
But when a new project comes along that involves research, a spreadsheet, and extra coffee? Well that puts the day’s excitement up to a six on a ten scale! An accounting client recently asked if I could complete a project with calculations that were assured to be complex. I fired up an Excel spreadsheet and applied my best data sorting, subtotaling, (and for good measure) Silver Surfer/Google search techniques. Voila … this file did everything they had asked and they didn’t have to sub the job out to somebody else. I left no money on the table.
After getting a high praise email on my work? I glided from my office to the living room, all the while singing the chorus of this song.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Morphine - “Cure for Pain”
When another pain hits and you imagine a future of using a cane or being in a wheelchair or wearing a back brace or learning to write left handed and on the worse days waking by going for an ice pack before coffee and hey forget those pills, maybe amputation is the best route ... you just know calling the 24/7 nurse or going to the clinic will result in “Naproxen, stretch, RICE” so you save time by researching physical therapy exercises on YouTube, making sure your ice packs are in the freezer, and embracing RICE:
Rest: No problem at all with this one, dude.
Ice: Ice, baby. You need more numbness in your life.
Compression: Strangle the f**k out of the pain, like you never can with your anxieties.
Elevation: Think of the Chance card, Mr. Monopoly with feet kicked up on desk.
And more often than not, after days or weeks the pain goes away and you take the time to hand-wash your compression bandages in Woolite. You sleep through entire nights and some mornings and while you enjoy a coffee or beer on these pain-free days, you vow to not take walking, standing, or writing by hand for granted ever again.
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Billy Thorpe - “Children of the Sun”
An Aussie updates Billy Lee Riley’s “Flyin’ Saucers Rock and Roll” from 1957 with synths and power riffs. It’s the title track of what is allegedly (sez Wikipedia) a space opera, which takes up side two of the album. (Side one? Don’t ask. Let’s just say it was also futuristic as it presaged the worst stuff you’d hear on hits radio in the eighties.) And no, Roman, I don’t know if its hard sci-fi or not. I scored this on vinyl ten years ago (and the sticker on it indicated it had sat in the Roadrunner Records used LP racks for four years) and have only listened to it in its entirety twice, afraid that if listen more I may actually understand the opera’s plot and start blabbering about it to my two friends who remember this song. Then that’ll be two guys who would “forget” to invite me to bull sessions at the CC Club. I can’t get over the photo of Thorpe on the back cover and MOST IMPORTANTLY: this song was used in Fargo season two, when Rye Gerhardt was driving down the highway — undoubtably blasting Q-98 on the radio.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Guns n' Roses - “Live and Let Die”
Loft writing class summer of 2001, one evening a week, six sessions of learning a new form. After the last class I was pumped about what I’d learned and where I could take it. Feeling I deserved a reward, I headed a block over to Grumpy’s for what I thought would be a couple of beers and watching the Twins. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a beer. The bartender poured a cold one and I sipped on it, daydreaming about my literary takeover. Then the perils of being around people slapped me down. As it did, as it does.
A tall overly-tan blonde gal in jeans and a gold top sat down next to me.
“I’m Sheila from KQ, how are you?”
“Fine.” (I don’t want to talk to anybody except the bartender.)
“What’s your name?”
“Bill.” (I should have lied, guess it wouldn’t do any good.)
“I’m doing a promotion tonight, going to be asking some trivia questions and doing giveaways.”
“Cool.” (It doesn’t sound cool. I just want to watch the game and have a couple of beers and be alone with my thoughts.)
She tapped me on the knee. “You’re going to help me.”
“So, where’s the ladies room?”
“Over there to the right.”
She left for the ladies room. Suddenly the bar seemed too loud, the air conditioning too chilly, and the evening sunlight a little strange. Wanting anonymity and believing that this minor celebration of mine deserved it, I pounded my beer, grabbed my bookbag, and fast-walked to the front door. Out on the sidewalk, I pulled my hat low and made for my car, muttering about promises to myself broken. There was beer at home. Goddamn you, KQRS.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
The Beaches - “Let Me Touch”
A. Rock Is Dead (Long Live Rock)
The new band, the new love. The chance to revise your outlook, reinvent yourself, recoup all the losses from these past years where you would turn on the radio or click an icon on your phone and be bored bored bored.
Late Show by The Beaches. You haven’t been this excited about an album since you started with Apple Music and found out it had Mitch Hedberg’s Strategic Grill Locations. To wit:
- There’s interjections: “Yeah!” “woo-hoo!” “hey!”
- There’s handclaps.
- Flawless production.
- Zero guitar solos.
- The whole go for broke-ness of it is breathtaking: 12 songs in 39 minutes means 3 minutes, 15 seconds per song. Not a wasted note and there’s no time to think before the next beauty hits.
- Even the slow song works.
- A throwaway line is better than your favorite lyric: “I want to go to the late show (and play tic-tac-toe”).
- And the lyrics are the best kind — not Deep Songwriter Thoughts, but lines that jab at you at stick:
“Play with the Queen of Ice you get cold”
“I’m just a girl I’m not a thing”
“Need to make money”
“You’re just an insult to my eyes and ears and mouth”
“I want a milk shake filled with pills”
These are anthems, these are goddamned anthems. The riffs slice perfectly, the hooks grab and don’t let go. How many times have you had a Beaches song going through your head as you wake up to shower, shave, coffee?
B. The Sign on the Door Says: “$2.00 per Person, $5.00 for Couples”
Dance party in the living room. Longnecks of Premium and cans of Bud Light Lime-A-Rita in the massive Schmidt seventies-style cooler on the kitchen floor and you have The Beaches blasting and you don’t worry about catering this because it’s like when you were young, get the big box of Old Dutch Rip-L chips and some French onion dip, those are the snacks fuck appetizers who the hell cares about food this is a party and we’re listening to The Beaches if you get hungry later pizzas are in the freezer. Now just want the music and to move around and feel it and smile and dance and Monday is a long ways away. Continue this past midnight until it’s pizza time with some wind-down music from 88.5 on the radio and then there is tomorrow to play The Beaches again and you can clean the apartment later, time to put hockey on the tube on mute and Late Show on the stereo, have a slow whiskey, and don’t plan anything, not for a while now. No worries, just enjoy the songs.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Joe Simon - “The Chokin’ Kind”
They said I was a smart kid because I got good grades. But when I was eleven, I proved to be wise beyond my years. The Vikings lost their fourth Super Bowl and I said: “I will never cheer for this team again.” Not only did I hold myself to my word, I have been actively cheering against them these past 41 years. They’ve been 0-6 in NFC Championship Games since and have continued their fifty-plus years pace of being a nationwide punchline. Lord, it’s been glorious.
This season’s NFC Championship game was one of the more enjoyable Vikings choke jobs. The Purple faithful were begging them to “bring it home”*, they said this team felt different than the sad sacks of the past, they told us the Vikings would win by scoring touchdowns and holding the Eagles to field goals. They told us Philadelphia was beatable at home (even though the Eagles were 8-1 at home, only losing when they rested starters in week 17), they said no way could Nick Freakin’ Foles beat a Mike Zimmer defense. The Vikings executed a flawless opening drive and then fell on their faces for the rest of the game. My favorite part was when Troy Aikman said “Doug Pederson has been one step ahead of Mike Zimmer all night” seconds before the Eagles ran a 41-yard flea flicker for a touchdown to put them up 30-7.
Ah yes, Mike Zimmer. The alleged defensive savant. This is the guy who Vikings fans think is the next Bud Grant. Zimmer has a ways to go before he can find a way to lose four Super Bowls, but we were assured that he is The Man like his mentor Bill Parcells. Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune told us a few years back that Mike Zimmer was like a chess grandmaster**. If Zimmer was playing chess, than Doug Pederson was playing 3-D chess like Spock in Star Trek. Zimmer had no clue what Pederson and the Foles-led offense were up to: The Vikings’ defense clowned around all day like any Vikings defense in a big game over the decades: There were missed tackles, blown coverages, and a noticeable scent of wanting to just quit and not play sixty minutes.
But hey that is the Vikings, that is what they do. They have been a thoroughly unlikeable team for decades now. From the hideous purple uniforms (which many times look blue on TV), to the stupid horn on the helmets, to the choking in big games, to the quitting in big games. And vs. the Eagles they went all Vikings by choking AND quitting. Buh-bye Vikings, you’ve been my favorite comedy for decades now. Hope your seasons-long history of failure is streaming on Netflix soon. I’d love to hear that Hank Stram cackle again.
* To quote Faith No More: What is “it”?
**Around the same time, Souhan also assured us that the Twins’ Paul Molitor was like a chess grandmaster. Good thing Wes So has two playing partners to square off against in town.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Tuesday Tuneage is on hiatus while I work on my screenplay for Escape From Lake Placid. (Ha - not really, but someone who has the a/v skills that I don’t has to do the Escape From New York/Miracle Kurt Russell switcheroo on YouTube ... Herb Brooks saying Snake Plissken quotes and vice versa ... c'mon!)
I’m working on something else for a while, it won't involve me posting here. If I find something that fits Tuesday Tuneage, I will post it. Thanks as always for reading.