Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Ray Conniff and The Ray Conniff Singers - "Ring Christmas Bells"

Mom used to play Ray Conniff and The Ray Conniff Singers' We Wish You A Merry Christmas around the house during December. As a little kid, I was a big fan of it. Then I got older and thought it cornball. I dug it out of my stash of inherited parents' vinyl (my folks are still with us, but gave me their LPs years ago) one recent Saturday evening fully prepared to make fun of it as preparation for listening/scribing to Marah's excellent A Christmas Kind Of Town album.

I knew my plan was in trouble as I glanced at the album cover. I had forgotten that the gal on it always gave me a certain glad/uneasy feeling throughout my youth. She sports a miniskirted Santa outfit with strategically-placed belt, Santa hat, black boots, plus no ring! (After sorting through my Mom's LPs, I see that Conniff regularly put yeah-baby gals on his album covers. A sly one, that Mr. Conniff. Sell the albums to America's housewives and once the husbands spot that eye candy they won't complain or insist Johnny Cash be played instead.)

Then all my snideness was blown away a few seconds into side one. Turns out this Conniff album is pretty good. I quickly reached a decision to add this one to my Christmas music rotation, it'll be a mandatory listen along with Bob Dylan's Christmas In The Heart, A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, Marah's aforementioned album (which I will tell you about, someday), and Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You. The Conniff album holds up because: 1) It's traditional songs which they do quite well, and 2) I'm a sucker for this type of Christmas music.

Also We Wish You A Merry Christmas brings up memories of winter and Christmas in West Fargo, North Dakota, where my family lived until 1972. Santa at the Nodak store, lots of snow, huge holiday dinners with my Mom's sister and her family, my brother and I being on a toboggan tied to a snowmobile as our neighbor Punchy pulled us, his looking back at us, grinning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Refreshments - “Banditos”

To be clear: This music-listening phase I’m now going through is not “nineties nostalgia.” As Michael Ventura wrote: Nostalgia cheapens, corrupts, and, finally, destroys memory, leaving in its place a bright plastic artifact that pretends to be one’s past.

See, lately my mind has been running through a lot of nineties memories. And with me, memories heavily go hand-in-hand with music. But I’m not being nostlagic for the nineties. I mean, why would I be?  For the first half of the nineties I worked for a cheapo outfit of a corporation, where I got to hear nonsense about “team” and “teamwork” on a daily basis, got lied to and stabbed in the back, and (among other cultural insults) had a coworker ask if The Black Crowes were “a new wave band.” It was horrible, kept getting worse, yet somehow I got it through my thick skull that it didn’t have to be permanent. The last half of the nineties were some of the best times of my life as I worked on being a writer (instead of merely thinking I could be one someday) and started a zine. But still, I was doing temp jobs for low wages. The days weren’t all that great, reading the newspaper with my brown-bag lunch was easily the highlight. If it wasn’t for MPR/KFAN/Radio K on that little radio I kept in my cubicle, I would have been one miserable little accountant.

But that mid-point of the nineties, when REV-105 was going strong and breaking ground and The Edge was trying to play catch-up here in Minneapolis was some joyous fun while spinning around the FM dial. I keep meaning to assemble a playlist of faves from those few short years. Most of them would be one-hits, and that's fine with me, I hear that era as single-servings, not Bold Statements By Major Artists. (Not that bold statements weren't being made, just my radio-listening experience was typical one of hearing a bunch of fun songs by various artists.) I should assemble this playlist soon, before I totally forget all the songs I loved. Case in point, a few weeks ago I heard The Refreshments' "Banditos" on SiriusXM Lithium and realized I had completely forgotten it. It's a beauty of a one-hit wonder, hooky garage rock with a certain contagious exuberance over its slacker tale. In the Jukebox of My Mind, this tune is the much-heralded B-side to Beck’s “Mexico.”

This is the only song I know by The Refreshments. Maybe they recorded other such gems, but this one is the only one I care to hear. Because I have a very specific memory of hearing this in on my car radio on Emerson Avenue South in 1996. I was in a very good mood that day, I don’t remember why. Maybe it was just hearing this song. Some days, something like that is enough.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Lorence Hud - “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”

A Tuesday Tuneage sorta sequel to last week’s April Wine piece. It turns out that the Wine’s “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” is a cover, orginally done by a Canadian rocker named Lorence Hud. If someone said the name “Lorence Hud” wouldn’t you immediately think “must be a Canadian rocker” without knowing his occupation?

Hud’s lumberjack looks remind me of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Not a good thing, as I’ve never seen any of the X-Men movies, and have only liked Jackman in one thing: The Prestige. I don’t have a Dr. Cox-like disdain for Jackman, I just don’t have much use for the guy. Same goes for Liam Neeson (notable only Christopher Nolan has done anything good with these guys lately.)

And now when I hear “Hud” I’m going to think of a pretty good Canadian rock song and Hugh Jackman and not necessarily Paul Newman and Patricia Neal. Not sure that was fair to my mind, but I brought it upon myself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
April Wine - "Caught In The Crossfire"

I decided to take a trip down memory lane last weekend and dug some LPs from thirty years ago or so out of the archives. First up - and I never got further - was April Wine's The Nature Of The Beast, one of the first ten albums I ever bought and one I haven't listened to since high school.

I could be patronizingly smug and say that this album is "competent hard rock", but I see it as more of a grab bag, as heard all over Side One. At times it's Grade-A meat rock, like the so-cool-at-age-fifteen "Sign Of The Gypsy Queen." At times it's unintentionally hilarious, like the vocorder use in "Now It's All Over." At times it hints at a unique hard rock/new wave meld like in "Wanna Rock", which is not to be confused with their "I Like To Rock" from the prior LP. (Where they also covered King Crimson!) (And just to be a show-off, I gotta point out that "Wanna Rock" also shouldn't be confused with "Can't Stop Rockin'", a song recently recorded by members of Styx and REO Journeywagon.) The album's biggest hit was a glossy power ballad, "Just Between You And Me", that featured a line sung in French, which on Saturday made me want to find a place in town that serves poutine.

"Caught In The Crossfire" ends the first side, it's a sci-fi tale complete with bad laser sound effects in the chorus. How bad? My Excel program makes a deadlier-sounding effect when I delete the contents of a cell. The tune deals with some poor guys who are, yes, caught in the crossfire. But not just any crossfire, this was taking place during a "new age war." New agers are bad enough, but BATTLING ones? Astrologers vs. Past Lifers? Who wants to be stuck in the middle of that? But then we hear: "My buddy said he had a space van." Sounds like he just dropped it in real casually too: "I got a sixer of Molson, a bootleg copy of Strange Brew, and uh, a space van." But what a van it turned out to be, it could outrun warships!

This song also mentions "The Empire", which is very Star Wars; but also mentions a "neutral zone" which is very Star Trek. Fortunately, April Wine never had to face up to Jack Donaghy:

For four years I've had to make do with what passes for men around here, with their untucked shirts, boneless faces, their Stars, both Wars and Trek.

Side Two? It features "Big City Girls" AND "Bad Boys", and also a pun worthy of Paul Westerberg in "Future Tense": "I feel a little unbalanced between the pros and con men."

The lyrics sheet on the inner sleeve breaks down 1) exactly when choruses are to be sung, and 2) who does each guitar solo (The Wine had three guitarists.) That's detail! Try and find that in the iTunes Store.

Then there's the album art. The cover photo indicates that one of the three guitarists morphs into a half-man, half-tiger during their live shows, which must have made Ted Nugent's loincloth shtick look tame. On the back cover, frontman/songwriter Myles Goodwyn wears a scarf with his Canadiens jersey, which he tucks into his jeans.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Halos - "No Tomorrow Girls"

As I've written before, I have an iTunes jukebox playlist that I like to fire up, hit "shuffle", and blast on headphones late at night with a nightcap or two. This tune is a fave when it shows up. Catchy, fast, features yeah-yeahs, and is over before you know it. Plus, half the time I think it's Faster Pussycat anyway. It also mentions rye whiskey:

You see them dancing in a club
They're drinking rye, you're drunk on love
But you know you ain't got a chance

Wow those lines hit home hard, no wonder I downloaded this one back in my days of actually going to clubs. And right when you (not me, I'm not the biggest lyrics guy) are ready to swoon in your rock-lyrics-as-poetry boots, it's soon followed by this gem:

The future's shining brightly in their thighs

Damn! That shows that there needs to be a punk rock version of This Is Spinal Tap. Want further proof? A quick perusal of their Wikipedia page shows this:

They broke up in 2008 after having their equipment stolen while on tour.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Special Halloween Excerpt From "The Overly Friendly Neighbor", An Unfinished (Or Was It Ever Really Started) Essay

Then there was the Halloween party plan. He told me about it as we walked down the stairs, having accosted me while I was heading down to my car. The Halloween plan was for people in the building to dress up as a superhero AND to also decorate their apartment as the superhero's lair. Sounds like a lot of work, I said. It'd be a lot of fun, he assured me. (Parties with themes outside of: keg with Old Dutch Rip-l chips and French onion dip are rarely that much fun, I have found out over the years.) You guys have fun, I said, and by the look on his face I knew I had let him down and likely killed the party planning committee's momentum. The party never went down.

(A dissertation: How many superhero lairs are doable? How do you make your apartment look like the Batcave? Do you have to hire an Albert? Assemble a Batmobile in your living room? What is Superman's lair? A phone booth? As to Marvel, how do you recreate the upper floors of the Baxter Building? Is Spider-Man's lair his bedroom in Aunt May's house? Iron Man's lair would be Tony Stark's office, right? How do you recreate that? You you try to make S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters if you dress as Nick Fury? What do you do if you dress as Thor or the Silver Surfer. Stupidest Halloween party idea ever, further proof that this "holiday" should be left to the kids, they can do so much just using their imaginations …

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Seaweed - "Go Your Own Way"

I hear that voice on my answering machine still, fifteen years later. The voice of a man trying to maintain a steady confidence, the voice of a man wanting to make a sale, but suddenly not sure what goods he had to offer or at what price he could sell them.

“Bill? Hi, it’s Mitch. I heard that you had been offered to come back and do the payables job, but turned it down. Just want you to know that we think you should come back. It’s a team, here. Gotta think of the team.”

The phone call was an odd one to be placed. Mitch worked at a company where I had just finished up a temporary accounting gig. I had been let go during a staff shuffle, and a short time later my temp agency called and said the company would like me to come back and handle the payables job as that person had left. I turned it down flat as I didn't want to handle payables, which is one of the least enjoyable of accounting duties. You field phone calls from people looking for payment, and generally people who feel they are owed money aren't very pleasant.

Mitch's boss had called my agency with the offer. The agency called me, and then the agency called Mitch's boss back with my decline. That was the chain - company management talked with temp agency management and vice versa. So when Mitch, a staff accountant, called me at home about my work situation, I was chagrined. And it wasn't just the invasion of my privacy and going outside the normal chain of the temporary staffing game that stuck with me; I think it was invoking "team", which by that time in my mind had become a foul word.

I've been self-employed for thirteen years now, so I need to reach back to that mid-nineties era to cough up the proper bile I had for the "team" concept:

This is that “whole is greater than its parts” or “team” crapola that fronts phony community in the workplace in an attempt to suck the individuality out of you. The word “team” was appropriated from the sporting world, where greed and winning at all costs drive things. (They drive things in Corporate America, too, but management will lie and tell you otherwise.) If you are on a sporting team, then by all means synergize. That way you can win your league championship and get tons of bonus money and endorsements and fame. If you’re just a regular ol’ working stiff, this team stuff at work is bogus. Unless you think work is fun, and you enjoy that wacky workplace humor and can’t wait until the next office potluck. Then the team thing is okay, because your much brighter team members will end up doing your work and covering for you. If you’re bright (and I know you folks out there are) you’ll think of yourself. Thinking of yourself is what capitalism was built on. Your boss and coworkers will disdainfully say you’re “not a team player”, but you’re too good for the junior varsity, aren’t you?

Yeah, that's how much I hated the word "team" being applied to the workplace. Things are so much better these days of self-employment. The hours are better, the coffee is better, the people are damn swell. Teams are something I see on TV in brightly-colored uniforms.

(Note: Tip of the pen to my pal Turk for coming up with the "junior varsity" line back in '91.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Crowded House - "Weather With You"

You know you're old when you're in the frozen foods section of Rainbow Foods, hear a song on the PA, and say to yourself: "Hey! That's a catchy song! When I get home I gotta download that one!"

But then you don't actually know what the song is are what artist did it, so you end up googling "wherever you go take the weather" and find out it's Crowded House, and that brings back memories of their first album and a failed romance in which that album didn't really play a part but for some reason is associated with it (don't let girls check out your album collection, dude) and you know what? You took a lot of crap from your hard rock buddies for having a Crowded House album and it was actually solid pop music and you liked tracks off their second album when you heard them on Cities 97 during that time when some thought - including you at times - you were on your way to adult- and career-hood …

Anyway, this song isn't from either of these albums but you absolutely adore it anyway. You should use it to taunt the weather addicts in your life someday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Kingsmen - "The Jolly Green Giant"

Kingsmen fans of the "their earlier stuff was sooo much better" ilk probably don't favor this one as it was recorded after original vocalist Jack Ely - the same dude who tried to start singing a verse too early in their classic "Louie Louie" - was forced out of the band by the drummer's mom (I'm not making this up) in a contentious power move.

Kingsmen purists also probably say: "This song is sooo commercial." Well yeah duh, it's dang close to being a commericial for Green Giant products, with one of the band members shouting "artichoke hearts!" and "brussel sprouts!" during the song. "Eat your vegetables from a company based in a valley in southwestern Minnesota" may be a weird subtext coming from a Portland band, but the commercialization was just a cover for the real purpose of this tune: A sly comment on race relations in America, 1964. Some gal wouldn't date the Green Giant. Because he was too tall? No, the gal was an Amazon. She thought he was disgusting because he was the wrong color. Booooo.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Yardbirds - "You're A Better Man Than I"

Whoah whoah whoah. You mean to tell me that "You're A Better Man Than I" was the B-side of "Shapes of Things"?? This puts that 45 on the short list of greatest two sides-in-one of protest music ever unleashed. (What'd the Beatles put on the back of "Revolution"? "Hey Jude".) Certaintly its kick out the jams high energy puts it near the top for its sheer audacity factor. The doom/gloom backdrop plus the power/glory of the noise on "You're A Better Man Than I" set a template for heavy metal, not to mention it features the Greatest Rock Guitar Solo Ever.

Lester Bangs: (Jeff Beck's solo) was THE original primal prototype heavy metal guitar move. Ten million fretbusters since have heard and tried to replicate the chilling fire-and-ice power of it and all failed.

My question is: Which rock 'n' roll band is going to be men enough to step up to the mics, cover this one, and dedicate it to that Richie Rich putz Mitt Romney? Because if no one else will do it, I will be forced to reform my garage band, The Recount Five (active November 2000 - January 2001 in Florida; November 2008 - June 2009 in Minnesota) and we'll do it. Which shouldn't be a problem, my band is fictional. Hell, that means we could even have Sam Phillips record it. Just like The Yardbirds did with this tune. Yep. THAT Sam Phillips.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Black Flag - “TV Party”

Stooges-like throb with kinda-inspired lead guitar. I’d love it to death as satire except I actually lived this my senior year at college when I rented a house with five other guys. One roommate, after the rest of us went to sleep, would stay up late with more beer and bottom shelf vodka, then pass out on a coach with CNN Headline News playing so loud we could hear it upstairs when we woke up in the morning. The guy I shared a room with and I would joke that we already knew the news of the day because we had heard it over and over for an hour or so before we actually woke up for real. Needless to say, we had been too lazy/hazy to go downstairs and shut the TV off overnight in the first place.

As for the video ... Seeing it after seeing Henry Rollins on Sons of Anarchy: Could it be in these near-thirty years that his acting "chops" have actually diminished??

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Gary Stewart - “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)”

Another downside to such a dry summer is that there were too few rainy afternoons to say: Fuck it, I’m gonna sit here all afternoon, drink beer, and listen to country music. Then  you dig out your Waylon, Willie, Jerry Lee, Merle, etc.; crack a few cold ones, and sit in dimness of your living room and mind and take it all in. I know others use rainy afternoons to organize scrapbooks, go through family photos, or catch up on correspondence; but some us take such weather as opportunities to Think Big/Think Stupid and go for broke.

Always on the playlist these afternoons is “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)”. Perpetual contender always for Greatest Song Title Ever and perhaps the finest in Stewart’s pantheon of drinking/cheating/honky-tonking classics from the mid-seventies. That list?

“Drinking Thing”
“Out Of Hand”
“Single Again”
“Whiskey Trip”’
“Your Place Or Mine”

Okay, you’re thinking, what a bummer. Day drinking and a song cycle of divorce/alcoholism/adultery/bars. Here’s the bright spot: Stewart had a road band called “The Honky Tonk Liberation Army.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Troggs - "Summertime"

Why reinvent yourself when you can keep doing the same great thing over and over? I'm thinking AC/DC, you may be thinking of the Ramones.

I used to hear "Summertime" on Q-98 out of Fargo. It's acoustic guitar, drums, BASS BASS BASS on lead, and typical Troggsian leer. I assumed it was from their glory days of the mid-sixties, but it's from '75 - meaning these orginal metallic murkers unleashed this morsel of sheer brilliant punk shortly before "punk" appeared.

I like the summertime
When the girls wear their dresses so low
You can see the sun on their t-t-t-t-t-t-tan skin

Clever? Not very, but then look at the titles of Troggs' tracks four through eight on The Best of The Troggs (Fontana/Chronicles release, 1994): "I Want You", "I Can't Control Myself", "Gonna Make You", "Anyway That You Want Me", "Give It To Me." These guys weren't exactly the most playful of wordsmiths to start with.

You know when the Stones sang "I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes / I have to turn my head until my darkness goes"? This is the flipside of that sentiment. Makes me think of June, when I was walking the four blocks home from the bus stop on a Friday afternoon. First block I spot a hot strawberry blonde walking up to her duplex. Sun dress plus wedge heels. She was carrying a bottle of Jim Beam so big that it needed a handle. Such sights get a confirmed warm-weather downer like me to start softly singing:

I like the summertime, when the girls wear their dresses so ...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Litter - "Action Woman"

Minneapolis band The Litter's debut album, Distortions, is mostly covers that you could have expected to hear from any number of bands in Anytown, USA circa 1966-67 at dances in clubs as the teen action switched from dancing to digging the band.

Cub Koda: "But you could really judge a band, and how their lead guitar player truly was, by whether or not they played any tunes by The Yardbirds - and if they did so, how well they played 'em."

"I'm A Man", their take of the Yardbirds' cover of the Bo Diddley tune, is decidely more punkish; the rhythm section simply doesn't compare to that of the Yardbirds, yet they try the song at the same fast rate. The lead guitarist doesn't come close to replicating Jeff Beck's use of his guitar as a percussion instrument. But he does try to coax weird noises out of his axe and that's how they end the tune.

Lester Bangs: "There was this one song called 'Hey Joe' that literally everbody and his fuckin' brother not only recorded but claimed to have written even though it was obviously the psychedelic mutation of some hoary old folk song which was about murderin' somebody for love just like nine-tenths of the rest of them hoary folk ballads."

Their "Hey Joe" isn't as good as those by The Leaves or The Standells, it's more along the line of passive attempts like the Byrds' version. Maybe about as good as Patti Smith's take, they all kinda sound the same once you've heard The Jimi Hendrix Experience's reimagining anyway.

The Litter's one original on Distortions - written by producer Warren Kendrick, who was hoping for a hit - is the sonic blast "Action Woman." It has all the requisites of a Yardbirds wannabe from the mid-sixties: the distortion, the aggresiveness, the insolent lead singer, the Beck-influenced solo, the misogyny aimed against a girl who won't put out. According to the album's liner notes (1999 reissue on the ARF! ARF! label), the tune got a little airplay on KDWB courtesy of deejay Tac Hammer, but didn't even become a local hit and the band quickly dropped it from its shows' playlists.

In a classic understatement, Kendrick later confessed: "In retrospect, it was a little too strong for my target market of 13-year-old girls." True, but he and The Litter gave a gift for the ages to garage rock aficionados.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Suburbs - "Cows"

Late 1984 in Grand Forks, I was at a party across the hall when the dorm's resident punk rockers - all three of them ... and "punk" is a relative term, but they were the punkiest guys in the dorm by far - showed up. My only memory of this conversation was that one of them, in his gelled hair and eyeliner, insisting that The Suburbs were the greatest band ever. Better than The Who! I scoffed, we debated, I laughed at him, he laughed at me. They moved on to another party.

I actually ended up getting along with these guys. Maybe they sensed that I may have been a little more tolerant than others. Me, I was starting to explore music outside of classic rock. I'd ask them questions and their enthusiasm was undeniable. Some credit to my listening to Black Flag and then quickly moving on to Husker Du from there has to lie with them.

The next year, the first night the dorm's cafeteria was open, I was sitting by myself at one of the tables during dinner. One of the punkers took the seat opposite me, reintroduced himself, shook his head, and said: "Man, those freshmen over there think my bowling shirt is funny." We chuckled over that and moaned about the new kids on campus. He confessed he had sat with me because I had a Who shirt on. This started a beautiful conversation about music, new and old. It was a great way to start the new school year.

All this came back to me last week when I purchased the anthology Ladies And Gentleman, The Suburbs Have Left The Building. It's not The Who, but who cares? It's solid Minneapolis rock combined with bold dance beats. Thirty years late for me is better than never.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Grandpboy - "Knock It Right Out"

A song for the spring and summer. Terrific Stones/Faces riff that I believe Paul Westerberg (Grandpaboy is his alter ego) described as "like candy" in the Come Feel Me Tremble documentary.

Lyrics like: "Got an idea / Gotta make a lotta money" may not be up there with those in "Unsatisfied", "Here Comes A Regular", and "Nobody"; but which song will you sing to yourself when the rent is due soon and you've only worked three hours this week?

Considering the stink-ola status of the Minnesota Twins, it's nice to listen to Twins fan Westerberg sing with confidence about knocking the ball out of the park. The Twins? 17 home runs in 29 games, and that's just the tip of that rather lame iceberg. (Twins are the iceberg, fans' hopes are the Titanic.) Our hope now is that Westerberg emerges from his basement with a whole album of baseball-centric songs to cheer us up during another beatdown. We need a soundtrack to surfing Twitter for the best Twins cheap shot to yell at our TVs.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Brownsville Station - "Smokin' In The Boys Room"

Brownsville Station seemed like a bunch of harmless goofballs, but now looking back their "I got bored" slacker rebellion seems like the perfect antidote to a couple of bizarre only-in-the-seventies school memories that continue to stick with me:

1) At the start of third grade, our teacher said she would like to meet with us, two at a time, after school for thirty minutes to talk and get to know us better. I was only eight years old, but I knew darn sure that I didn't want to do this. So I did what I have always done - as child and adult - when faced with a situation where I didn't want to do something: I avoided it. I simply didn't sign up for the chat time with the teacher, hoping that a no-sign meant no obligation.

No such luck. Sure enough, a few weeks into the school year, Teach called me and a fellow student out on not signing up to talk with her. (Some annoying little teacher's pet wannabe raised his hand and said *he'd* gladly meet with her for a second time. Dork.) Trapped in a corner and no way out, I signed up to meet with the teacher along with the other holdout.

The meeting wasn't that bad, just strange. I don't remember much, just that: A) How weird it was was to have a teacher wanting me to talk to her as a person and not a student, B) By staying after school (and on a Friday!), I had been deprived of a walk home with my neighborhood buddies and football in the back yard. So the teacher might have been glad that she got to know me a little better, all I got was my first taste of unpaid overtime.

2) One year, apparently the administration at my junior high felt that we all needed to relate to each other better. So instead of going to a class and learning something, once a week for an hour we broke up into classroom-size groups and would go to a classroom and have a discussion led by the teacher. Our school nickname was the Raiders, so these discussions were called "Raider Rap Sessions." We got a handbook and this title was on the cover and DAMMIT I wish now I had kept a copy. I don't remember much about these rap sessions, they involved talks about ethics (is cheating on a test ever okay, etc.) and one of them actually turned into a discussion on the code of defending your goalie. (Grand Forks is a hockey town.) I can't complain, I was never required to actively participate in these rap sessions, never opened my mouth once. If they would have had the sessions replace something as useless as gym class, I probably would have considered them a noble idea. And I'm halfways convinced that someday somebody will say I imagined the Raider Rap Sessions, that I stole the idea from an episode of Freaks and Geeks.

Mr. Rosso: Let’s just rap. As people, okay? No pressure. From now I’m not "Mr. Rosso, guidance counselor."
Lindsey: You’re not?
Mr. Rosso: I’m just Jeff. Your friend who cares.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Hey Whitey, I Thought You Were A Lefty?"

One day last week, I dropped my cell phone and it exploded into three parts on the floor at a client's studio. Said client asked if the phone would work again, and after I pieced it back together and fired up the power and saw that it worked, I said: "Bounces back wash after wash."

This resulted in a short conversation about old commercials ... "Ancient Chinese secret" ... "You call it corn, we called it maize." Soon I was on YouTube, looking up some of my favorite commercials from the old days. I was delighted to find Right Guard's "Hi Guy" and Schmidt's "Big Jim's coming!"

At this point, I was going to go into rant mode on the state of modern TV commercials. Only Allstate's "Mayhem" campaign and Sonic's "Two Guys" goofballs at the drive-in are must-see TV for this guy. Too often I instead see the ever-present Flo for Progressive and Mike Rowe for almost everything else. Oh, and whatever idiotic "idea" Bud Light is running with these days. (And as you are probably aware, there is a new annoying pitchman on the scene: "Scott" the Scotsman who is saturating the airwaves trying to convince you that you need more for lawn care than a Lawn-Boy and a sprinkler. I'm so glad I don't own a house.) But hey ... I'm sure there was a lot of crappy commercials back in the old days, I've just forgotten them.

So here's one man's list of three vintage commercials he wished would hit YouTube:

1) Bob Uecker "Front Row" commercial for Miller Lite, circa 1984. How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy in the summer of '84 memorized it and repeated it over and over again. I can still recite most of it from memory:

Uecker (finding his seat at a baseball game): Hey sports fans, I love ya! The great thing about an ex-big-leaguer? Freebies to the game! Just call up the front office and BINGO. Another great thing? Lite beer from Miller. It has a third less calories than their regular beer, plus it tastes great.

Heckler: Down in front!

Uecker: Ha! I love 'em!

Usher: C'mon buddy, you're in the wrong seat.

Uecker: Must be in the front rowwwww!

(Cut to Uecker in noseblood seats in the outfield upper deck.)

Uecker: He missed the tag! He missed the tag!

How great was this commercial? Not only is "Uecker seats" now a euphemism for crappy seats at a game, the ad convinced me to drink Miller Lite for a few months before I moved onto Schmidt.

2) Jeff Altman for Valvoline, circa 1988. Altman is a hyperactive standup comedian. I knew him from his frequent appearances on David Letterman's show. One of his bits at the time was to describe his father, and in the crotchety manner he treated Altman as a child. This commercial featured Altman in both the role of father and child shopping for motor oil. The child speaking to Valvoline's quality and the father saying: "Quality, schmality. I just want whatever's cheapest." The ending is the child saying something like "there's a rebate", and the father responds with: "Would you just get the Valvoline like I told you? Or I'll sink you like a three-foot putt."

How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy (same guy from summer of '84!), briefly left our table at a bar to get closer to a TV when the commercial aired during the Saturday afternoon MLB game of the week.

3) Amoco "The Road Worrier" commercial, circa 1984. This was a takeoff on The Road Warrior movie. It features The Road Worrier, a grizzly Mel Gibson-like tough guy with a few day's growth who drives an Amoco tanker truck. He pulls up to a house, walks to the front door. A man answers the door, announces to his daughter that her date is here. Dad engages the driver in conversation:

Dad: "How's it going Road?"

(Editor's note: I love that the Dad feels he has a great vibe with his potential son-in-law and calls him "Road"!)

Road Worrier: "I'm worried."

Then Road expands on his anxiety, something about how subpar gasolines clog fuel lines, damage carburetors, etc. and that Amoco has the highest-quality gasoline. He and the girl prepare to drive away.

Dad: "So where you headed?"

Road: "North Dakota. There's an Amoco station there."

I first saw this while in school at the University of North Dakota. Imagine my great delight when while visiting my parents, who at the time lived in Illinois, and I saw this commercial and it still mentioned North Dakota. I had been worried that Amoco changed the name of the state for whatever market they were airing the commercial in. It wasn't Road Worrier-like worry, but I was concerned nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Bachman-Turner Overdrive - "Hey You"

This week I was going to write about Pavement's "Summer Babe (Winter Version)" ... riffing guitars, lazy vocalist singing nonsense, yet it's all catchy and irresistible somehow. But I had that song on the radio as a child and it was "Hey You" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Plus it's catchier than the Pavement tune, has a better rhythm section, and while Stephen Malkmus is intentionally a lazy singer, Randy Bachman as a singer is just lazy. I'll take that over an unforced error.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Def Leppard - "Hello America"

From Def Leppard's debut album, when I'm guessing they were still categorized as a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band. I bring that up so that I can say that the abbreviation for that metal subgenre is "NWOBHM," and trust me: It's a lot more fun to type that than it is to say it. Supposedly there is a way to pronounce the abbreviation, but I've never heard it used. Than again, I've probably only ever discussed NWOBHM with like three other people.

I say I'm guessing that Lep was still being called a NWOBHM band in 1980, but I'm sure this song - it hit #45 on the UK charts - resulted in cries of "sell out" from all the denim clad NWOBHM-loving longhairs. What with its AOR-ready riffs, hooks, and chorus ("AOR", look that one up kiddies, speaking of abbreviations. Just don't be a little wisenheimer and call my tastes "MOR"), this is the type of tune from their first album that set the stage for the mainstream glories of High 'n' Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria. Hello America ... Hello Mutt Lange.

And Mercury's advance must not have come in yet, because Joe Elliot sings about taking a Greyhound when he's in California.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Contours - "First I Look At The Purse"

Is this one sexist? Or feminist? Is the narrator a hustler or just lazy? Decades ahead of its time - it celebrates women who have money insted of looks, curves, and sex appeal - it's another brilliant Motown (okay, Gordy Records) production by Smokey Robinson. He wrote the song with fellow Miracle Bobby Rogers. Robinson is who Bob Dylan called "America's greatest living poet." With couplets like this, I can't argue:

Why waste time looking at the waistline
First I look at the purse

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Faster Pussycat - "You're So Vain"

Carly Simon's biggest hit covered by a group of LA hair metallers. Forgotten by everybody except fans of the group (count me in, "Babylon" off their debut album is one of the earliest Beastie Boys imitations of out the gate along with Antrax's "I'm The Man"), I remember hearing it a lot on Z-Rock back in the day. God bless that station. Again. This song was orginally released on a compilation album put out to honor Elektra Records on its fortieth anniversary. Lenny Kaye put the double album together, this tune is quite the nugget.

But I leave the last word to my favorite morning deejay, Johnny Fever: "Let's go look at some Carly Simon album covers."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Shazam - "Megaphone"

Shamelessy catch power pop by a band I've always meant to listen to more of. This is the #1 song in my collection to play on those mornings where I hit the bedtime tea (not a euphemism) hard the night before, am dreamed out or have hit the dreaded dream-within-a-dream scenario (Inception was fiction?), and can't quite get to one hundred percent of waking up. Five Hour Energy? Nah, 2.25 minute pop song!

And some days I change the chorus to:

I've got a telephone
but I'm ignoring the whole world

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Bob Seger - "Get Out Of Denver"

March 1990. I'm pacing my living room, listening to some grainy AM signal I miraculously picked up on my boombox. North Dakota is playing Wisconsin in hockey, and a win means UND finishes second in the WCHA. This is important as it means if they go on to advance to the WCHA Final Four, they are a home team. Also, it puts hated archrival Minnesota into third. UND coach Gino Gasparini is pulling out all the stops to get a win, his team goes into overtime but he pulls the goalie for an extra attacker because at the time it looks like two points are needed in the race for second instead of one.

... And then at some point I lose the grainy AM signal. This is pre-Internet, so while you think I would wait for the next morning's paper to find out the score, no. I either called the Grand Forks Herald sports desk or the UND student union hotline to get a score.

Ten years or so later, for some reason I can't get audio of a UND at Mankato State hockey game on the Internet. But I find out that the game is on some AM station out of Mankato. I take a beer out to my car (open container, shhhhh) parked on the street and listen to part of that game on a grainy AM signal.

... And then at some point I lost the grainy AM signal. Thankfully, I would be able to get a final score on the Net later that night.

I'm typing this on Sunday, March 11th. Tonight, Wisconsin at the University of Denver in the rubber game of the opening round of the WCHA playoffs. Why should I care? Well, the winner dictates who UND will playing on Thursday in the opening round of the WCHA Final Five, and at what time. I may have to reorganize my work schedule if UND plays Thursday afternoon. Other things: beer and pizza purchases, workout schedule, laundry, etc. will be affected by whether UND plays in the afternoon or evening.

So what have I done tonight?

1) Saw if free audio of the game was available online without any annoying registration steps.

2) Looked up what radio stations in Wisconsin and Denver carry UW and DU hockey and looked to see if these stations were on my IHeartRadio app on my iPod Touch. Couldn't find the game this way.

3) Checked for score updates on the fan forum at USCHO.com. (The score updates are there, but there's a lot of chatter.)

4) Checked score updates on the College Hockey News and USCHO apps on my iPod Touch.

5) Constantly checked Twitter for score updates.

All because I have the need to know who is getting out of Denver tonight and is headed for St. Paul later in the week. Because I have the need to know whether UND plays Wisconsin Thursday afternoon or Saint Cloud State Thursday night. The technology has changed, but I'm still the young man with a can of beer in my hand, chasing down some grainy AM signal.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Van Halen - "She's The Woman"

All I have is one lasting memory, of saying something a little too loud at last call during last weekend's imaginary bar bull session, just hours after buying and tracking A Different Kind Of Truth:

"...I don't care, as far as I'm concerned this is PRODUCED BY TED TEMPLEMAN..."

A tip of the hat to my pal Chuck Tomlinson for prompting me to buy the new Roth-reunion Van Halen album. (Chuck did this via Twitter, so take that Franzen!) I just assumed it would be a long sleepwalk through an arena slumber. Instead, it's a noble effort to bring back the Best Band In The Land of thirty-some years ago. It's all here: killer riffs, danceable beats, sweet harmony vocals, Diamond Dave. I shoulda known something was up when Kool & The Gang was booked as the opening act on the latest VH tour. Talk about signs, right?

Rob Sheffield says it best, that the album is closest sonically to Women And Children First. Any complaints on that? Didn't think so.

One more thing: For finding a fountain of youth for a generation of us, Van Halen will be Time magazine's Persons Of The Year. Book it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Albert Washington and the Kings - "Hold Me Baby"

This one never lets up; incessant horns, keyboards, rhythm section, while Cincinatti soul singer Washington lays it all on the line. Oh, and Lonnie Mack on guitar and now I can hear why so many add him to the Hendrix/Beck/Cropper axis of string-and-mind-bending guitarists who got their start in the sixties. I mean .. geez Louise, after taking in Mack's brilliance on this tune it makes me want to take a Yngwie Malmsteen cheap shot.

Speaking of shots, the B-side of "Hold Me Baby" is titled "I'm Gonna Pour Me A Drink." Yessir.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Swinging Machine - "Do You Have To Ask"

American garage band rock 'n' roll of the mid-sixties was, in the words of Dave Marsh: "Somewhat bluesy, somewhat psychedelic, always amateurish, and for the most part, utterly unself-conscious in (its) naivete." Garage rock has lived on all these decades later as an American tradition, both as music and as a social bond. Lester Bangs: "Call up a bunch of your buddies, get some six-packs or some weed, plus a guitar or two, a bass or drum kit, and you've got instant fantasies about instant stardom."

An "instant stardom" gambit that was played by quite a few of the original generation of garage rockers was when they attempted to ape an artist far, far above them on the Rock Ladder. A fun parlor game to play with some mid-sixties garage rockers is to match them up with what sixties music icon they were trying to emulate. To wit:

The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction": The Yardbirds
The Knickerbockers' "Lies": The Beatles
The Chocolate Watchband's "Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In)": The Rolling Stones
Mouse's "A Public Execution": Bob Dylan

The other night on Bill Kelly's show on SiriusXM 21, I heard The Swinging Machine doing "Do You Have To Ask" and I realized that sixties garage rock had someone trying to be The Animals. Sure, the keyboard could be a little more prominent in the mix, but the singer bears an uncanny resemblance to Eric Burdon, there's that verge-of-chaos background singing going on, and like with The Animals: No matter the subject matter there is always a hint (or more) of menace. Two minutes of rock 'n' roll genius.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rolling Stones - "Paint It, Black"

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage

In a discussion with a younger friend last week, I told him how the people who are about five-to-ten years older than me didn't care for the likes of Green Day, The Offspring, or Rancid when they emerged in the mid-ninteties because they weren't "real punk." Those Generation Jonesers are pretty funny: Not only was punk around for over a decade before they discovered it (and I'll take the Standells over the Ramones, but that's another meander), they think their falling for punk in the mid-seventies was some sort of equivalent of the civil rights movement ("...I had blue spiked hair and some guys who liked Skynryd and Zeppelin made fun of me every day...") Oh, boo hoo.

The result of this conversation was that it convinced me to load up Rancid's ...And Out Come The Wolves on my iPod for a listen. One of my favorite albums from the mid-nineties, but one that I hadn't listened to in a few years. I fired it up on Saturday night while sitting down to write in my notebook. A few tracks into it, I had to turn it off. Because it was now dated? Because the forty-six-year old me doesn't dig it like the thirty-year old me? No, I had to turn it off because I wasn't getting any writing done due to constantly tampering the urge to grab a beer and dance around the living room.

Later that night I tracked the whole album and revelled in its fist-pumping, anthemic, wanna-singalong power and glory. All they need to do for its upcoming twentieth anniversary edition is instead of adding bonus tracks ... do the opposite ... shave off the last few tracks (they smell of filler), get it down to a slick thirteen tracks, and clock it in at a punchy thirty-four minutes.

Now onto the next subject: Does Green Day have a greatest hits?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Bruce Springsteen - "Atlantic City"

This one has my favorite Springsteen opening lines ever or at least this month:

Well they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night
Now they blew up his house too

The song opens like something from The Sopranos, though the narration quickly moves to the narrator, who exists on a much lower level than the forces at play with The Chicken Man, the DA, the Gambling Commission, and the oncoming rumble. He's a man in fix, he's got debts no honest man can pay, and he's going to do an unnamed favor for an unnamed associate and hopefully hit paydirt and skip town with his girl.

"Atlantic City" was the first single from Nebraska. It was released thirty years ago, but see if these words apply to present times:

Down here there's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line

Thirty years. Wonder if the narrator of "Atlantic City" is still around and wonder if he's still waiting for that money to trickle down.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Motorhead - “Bomber”

I was once told that Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister has done so much speed in his life that the doctors told him not to quit taking it, that his metabolism was so accustomed to amphetamine that his body would shut down if he quit. This may be urban legend but I don’t want to google it. Like the tale that Ozzy Osbourne once dropped acid once a day, every day, for a year ... it just seems right.

Back when my allergy drugs were still imported from a former Eastern Block country (or so I liked to believe), they had wicked side effects. The side effect until the mid-nineties was downs. Drowsy, sleepy, heavy heavy eyelids that forced me into a no-win choice: Suffer the constant congestion and burning eyes from the ragweed allergy, or take a pill, get relief and (hopefully) take a long nap. (This is what led me to start drinking coffee, to stay awake at work.) (So that’s whay I can sleep after drinking lots of coffee, my mind looks at coffee as an offset, not a 100% stimulant.)

Then Claritin-D came along about fifteen years ago or so and it was, I declared, legal speed. I could drink a few beers with it and not get that much buzzed. I didn’t get hungry when on it, and had to make myself eat. I stayed up late, later than usual. Much pacing was involved. I wasn’t yet into craft beer, which is unfortunate. These days I have found beers that could have slowed me down to normal when on Claritin-D; hoppy, boozy beers made by small brewers. These things have alcohol contents up in the plus-six-percent range. One recent fave is Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale, which I can get at my local liquor store in a 22-oz bomber. Late in December 2011, I set a goal to listen to Motorhead’s “Bomber” while drinking a bomber sometime before the year ended.

The tune seemed appropriate. As Hop Stoopid was a beer that could have slowed down my Claritin-D speed buzz, Motorhead was a band that would have went rather well with said Claritin-D-enhanced mood. As Chuck Eddy once wrote: Their music veers closer to early Black Flag or the Angry Samoans than to any heavy metal band, mainly because they play their 'Paranoid' and 'Stranglehold' riffs so goddamn fast they belie the "heavy" tag completely.

Though I am off the speed, I still have a use for Motorhead ... it's called Valentine's Day. And as it's late January, I gotta make a mental note to stock up on bombers for my Motorhead-on-headphones for that night. Bring you to your knees, it's a bomber ...