Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Bulletboys - "Hang On St. Christopher"

I first heard "Hang On St. Christopher" on Z-Rock back in '91. A great groove, neat riff, cool background singing ... it was a funky break from the other (often-righteously awesome) metal being played on that AM syndicated station. I went out and bought the album and got burned as there was only one other decent song on it. Oh well. The Bulletboys were quickly forgotten, though I did dig out the CD every once in a while over the years to play this one song.

Then about ten years ago I was driving in my car and listening to Radio K, another AM station I have great memories with. "Hang On St. Christopher" came on, but it didn't sound like the Bulletboys at all. Though it was still a great song. I found out that Tom Waits was singing it. I'm smart enough to know that obviously it was originally a Waits song that the Bulletboys covered.

See, one of my many music blindspots (deafspots?) is Songwriters. And "Songwriters" is probably a dumb term to use as every song I love was written by a songwriter or songwriters (even the public domain ones), so maybe I should amend it to Highly Revered Songwriters. For every Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen I dig; there are a bunch of John Hiatts, Elvis Costellos, John Prines, Ryan Adams, and Conor Obersts that I either don't dig, merely tolerate, or have never bothered to listen to. I'm not sure why this is, I just know saying "He writes great lyrics" is not a way to convince me to listen to somebody. Tom Waits is another Highly Revered Songwriter in my deafspot. I got nothing against the guy, but outside of hearing him on various alternative radio stations, all I pretty much know about him is that he wrote "Jersey Girl" which Springsteen covered live and I first heard as the B-side to "Cover Me" back in '84. Oh, and his voice bugs me. Some of his vocals sound like those black metal Cookie Monster singers.

So yes, I didn't know that this tune was a Waits composition. I just checked the CD case and no songwriter credits are listed. (Not that printed credits would have helped me: I owned the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Smash Hits LP for a couple of months before I saw that Dylan wrote "All Along The Watchtower", and vinyl credits are a lot easier to see and read.) But now I go forward with the knowledge that if I ever do grow up and acquire an appreciation of Highly Revered Songwriters, there's a Tom Waits album with "Hang On St. Christopher" on it waiting for me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Get Bloviated

Twin Cities media has been bombarded in recent weeks by ads promoting the Get Motivated! Business Seminar happening next week at the Target Center. I've received two mailers recently promoting it and they were addressed to me personally, not "occupant." There's been lots of ads in the Strib, and Rudy Giuliani has been in frequently-airing ads on KFAN plugging for it. Giuliani is appearing at Target Center, along with other famous folks such as Brett Favre, Sarah Palin, Ron Gardenhire, and Colin Powell.

The seminar is only $4.95 to attend or you can send your entire office for only $19. Which begs the question: Who is stupid enough to even shell out five bucks for this nonsense? You know who: Lazy bosses and managers who see the $19 price tag and figure it will help shape up their department; thereby forcing their workers to miss a day of work and falling further behind in their paperwork, and worse - subjecting their workers to this motivational drivel.

The lineup speaking at this seminar cracks me up, especially when matched with the wordage on the latest mailer I received:

Sarah Palin on "achievement" - What could the Paris Hilton of politics possibly have to share? How to quit your job halfway through your contract?

Colin Powell on "leadership" - Yeah, lie for your boss to the United Nations and help lead your country into an unneccessary war. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Ron Gardenhire on "competitiveness" - As long as the New York Yankees don't show up at Target Center, Gardy might have some insights.

Rudy Giuliani on "perseverance" - This joker wouldn't even leave Florida to go campaign in Iowa. It must be tough to persevere in the Sunshine State during those winter months!

Brett Favre "on teamwork"- What's Favre have to teach you on teamwork except how to show up at the last possible moment for your job while your other team members have been working in the sun for weeks? But I guess Favre is better than other Purple prospects. Adrian Peterson? "How to recover at work after repeatedly dropping the ball." Brad Childress? "How to face your peers after inviting an extra, unneeded person to a meeting."

And to nobody's surprise, it turns out that the Get Motivated! seminar is ultimately trying to lure its attendees into buying questionable products. While moonlighting from his day job as Twins third baseman/fans punching bag, Nick Pinto writes about the Get Motivated! scam factor in City Pages this week. $4.95 is about five bucks too much for this motivational nonsense. My condolences to anybody whose boss makes them attend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Kingdom Come - "Get It On"

Of all the Led Zeppelin borrowings/homages/ripoffs to come down the pipe since Zep hung up their Valhalla helmets after the death of John Bonham, this tune by Kingdom Come stands above the rest. Above Coverdale and Page, PJ Harvey, The Cult, various Robert Plant solo offerings, Plant reuniting with Page, Jason Bonham, and even better than Zebra! (It took a recount, a Swiss Time check, and instant replay, but KC won.)

Here is all you need to know about this song: It sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin. Sure, a tad more glossy, but back in '88 on FM radio it sounded much more like Zep than it does on headphones as I type this and actually contemplate the tune. Here's all you need to know about Kingdom Come: This is their only song to hit the US Hot 100 and all they will be remembered for is that they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin. If you want to go rock history footnote: They were an opening act (i.e. crappy sound from the board, not that the headliners sounded great at Metrodome anyway) for the likes of Scorpions, Van Hagar, and Metallica.

But I will always be fond of this song, it provided an early Lester Bangs moment for me. I had gotten his Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung book for Christmas in 1987, absorbed it, and realized he was a kindred spirit in rock 'n' roll appreciation. And like Lester Bangs at first hating The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" in part because the freak-out riff break was a complete rip-off of The Yardbirds' one in "I'm a Man"; but then coming to love the song ("One day I was driving down the road stoned and it came on and I clapped my noggin: 'What the fuck am I thinking of? That's a great song!'"), I was driving to my first real job one day in early 1988, "Get It On" comes on KJ104 and getting ready to flip the dial I for some reason kept listening. Then I also thought: "What the fuck am I thinking of? That's a great song!" Except I wasn't stoned like Bangs, though it would turn out that you would have to be high beyond belief to want to work at the company I worked for at the time.

Sensing that they were to be a one-hit wonder as their second tune had come out, sucked, and didn't sound like Zep so much; a few months later in the summer, I asked a buddy who was really into Scorpions, Van Hagar, AC/DC and the more commercially-successful hard rock/metal acts of the time what he thought of Kingdom Come. My friend, twenty years of age, shrugged his shoulders and said: "I'm sure they're big with the high schoolers."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Three Record Stores, Two Towns, One Perennial Washington Avenue

Last week's post on spending some time in record stores on Saturday afternoon got me to thinking of some of my favorite record store memories. Three (for now):

- An afternoon in a summer of the mid-eighties when I was living at my parents' cabin near Detroit Lakes and working in DL at a Hardee's, I stopped by a record store that was for a short time located on Washington Avenue. I came across a used LP of Pete Townshend's All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes for a dollar. It looked to be in great shape, so I marched to the counter to snatch it up. There was some snafu with the clerk though. I think I only had a twenty on me and he didn't have correct change and wouldn't sell it to me. I asked him if he could hold it for me if I ran across the street to the M&H station and made some change. He agreed, and I ran across the street in the rain to make change. This was a lucky break as there was a rather cute girl from UND that I knew working at the M&H who gladly broke my twenty and chatted me up a little bit. Running back to the record store in the rain and not minding if my next college semester started again soon, I approached the counter. The clerk said: "I feel bad for making you go out in the rain to get the change I didn't have. I'll sell you this album for fifty cents."

- One afternoon after school my junior year in high school, I was at Mother's Records on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks. There was a clerk who worked there who was a classic seventies leftover. He had long blonde hair and glasses and seemed like he'd be a record store employee lifer. I was in a far corner of the store from the cash register surfing through the used vinyl and suddenly Lifer starts yelling: "Whatya wanna hear?" Even though I was pretty sure there was hardly anybody else in the store (my back was to the rest of the store), I pretended he wasn't yelling at me. Then again a yell: "Whatya wanna hear?" I kept my head down and kept flipping through the records. Finally, louder: "HEY MAN, WHATYA WANNA HEAR?" I worked up some nerve, turned around to see Lifer staring at me and yelled back (though not as loud): "Whatya got??"
Lifer: "You can choose between the latest from Van Halen or Rainbow."
I chose Rainbow (Gimme a break, "Stone Cold" was burning up the charts!), and that's what we heard.

- One summer evening in the late seventies, my older brother let me tag along with him on a trip to Budget Records & Tapes in Grand Forks. This was the original Budget Records in GF, it was up on North Washington on the east side of street in a dingy little storefront. It would later move to a cleaner space in a little strip mall on South Washington. My brother was buying the latest release by some band or artist, who it was I don't remember. Let's say it was Jackson Browne for story's sake. My brother brings his J. Browne LP up to the cash register and hands the cashier some cash. He is owed sixty or seventy cents or so in change, but the cashier hands him back a dollar bill. My brother is quick to point out the cashier's error, that he had given him too much back, but the cashier says something like: "Keep it, man. I can't handle that change stuff." I was young and naive, maybe this place was also a head shop??

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
The Paybacks - "Stranger in the House"

In which some Detroit rock 'n' rollers pick up on Paul Westerberg's appreciation of Rod Stewart and logically decide that Stewart should front the 'Mats. Glorious.

And don't fire it up on your computer and then wander to the kitchen to grab a beer as it's over in under two-and-a-half minutes.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Score! Just Realized This LP Has The "TV" Song On It!

So it's Saturday afternoon and I'm between games of the Twins day/night doubleheader plus Habs vs. Pens is a couple of hours off. So I say to myself: "I'm going to go to Cheapo in Uptown and see if they have some Dwight Twilley Band albums and buy some Discwasher fluid. Then I'm going to go to Chicago-Lake Liquors and get a case of Premium bottles for fifteen-nine-nine." Then walking out to my car I remembered how much of a hassle Uptown traffic is on Saturday afternoons, so I decide to just get the beer.

But then on my way to the liquor store, I start to feel guilty. I know I am going to track some vinyl tonight, and I damn sure better get some Discwasher fluid as I am all out. I know Trehus doesn't have any and I shouldn't go there anyway as it is kitty-corner from the CC Club and due to my (lack of) work situation, I'm limiting my bar stops and buying cheap beer and scotch. The CC is a temptation I need to avoid on a Saturday afternoon. So I call Roadrunner Records on Nicollet from the liquor store parking lot, but just get their answering machine. So then I start to worry a little: What if Roadrunner is closed? I haven't shopped there for a couple of years. More guilty feelings creep in my head. I decide to drive out to Roadrunner and see what's up.

I get there, and the place is bustling. The store is about half the size as it used to be, with the emphasis definitely on vinyl over CDs now, but business on this afternoon looks pretty good. Plus I'm probably the youngest guy in the store, so that feels good. I don't see any Discwasher fluid for sale and the owner is busy behind the counter, so I wander over to the "T" section of the vinyl to look for some Dwight Twilley Band. Bingo! I score their debut album for five bucks, it looks to be in great shape.

I head up to the counter to buy it, and the owner is drinking a beer! Yes! (The first time I went to a record store in the Twin Cities, the original Down in the Valley when it was on the east side of Winnetka with the reptile store in the basement, was on a Saturday night. I was the only one in the store and the clerk was drinking a Molson.) I ask about the Discwasher fluid, and he says the only place he has seen it is Cheapo. He rings the Twilley LP up and gives me a sincere, look-straight-in-the-eyes "thank you," and I silently vow to bike out here on Saturdays this summer.

So I get back in my car, knowing I can't play this pristine Twilley LP without some Discwasher fluid. I cruise over to Uptown, the traffic isn't bad, there's plenty of parking, and Cheapo has all kinds of Discwasher fluid for sale. But they have no Twilley, so my instincts were right all along. Oh, and Thin Lizzy's Bad Reputation LP for $7.80? I got the same one at Half Price Books in St. Paul a few years back for ninety-nine cents. There's another place I need to frequent. Ahhh, weekend plans ...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Tuneage
Radio Birdman - "Aloha Steve & Danno"

Radio Birdman's "Aloha Steve & Danno" is a fave, though it gets slightly ridiculous when I try to explain it out loud: Australian rock (which is as a friend once said, "always weird") band indebted to Detroit heroes the MC5 and the Stooges singing about "Hawaii Five-O."

That show isn't neccessarily one of my favorite shows. I've only seen a handful of episodes in my adult life and all I pretty much remember about it as a kid is the great opening credits (Hawaiin girls, yessir!) rolling out to one of the greatest TV theme songs ever. My brother, however, was a huge fan of this show and all you have to do is say "Wo Fat" and he will be off and running. (I did see one episode a few years back while staying at my brother's. Wo Fat had kidnapped McGarrett and brainwashed him! I don't remember how it ended, it was a two-parter and I'm not sure if I saw the second half.)

Not only does this Radio Birdman song feature the "Book 'em, Danno" phrase repeatedly, it also features a hard rock take on the "Five-O" theme song. Even Mr. Hand would approve. Aloha.