Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Tuneage
Monster Magnet - "19 Witches"

So it's Friday five p.m., I'm at the bus stop at Lake and Blaisdell, catching my last transfer home and it's not just any bus, it's the Eighteen Large, the one that practically drops me off at my front door. As I sit on the stop bench, there's holy rollers to the right of me. I can't hear them, but I see them handing out little pamphlets and talking talking talking to folks. How do I know they're holy rollers and not, say, Greenpeace activists? Because I just know. Gotta give props to them though, this is the type of intersection Jesus would teach at. The bus stop is outside of a White Castle with bulletproof glass at the order counter, there's a KMart across the street the offers layaway and has taco trucks in its parking lot, and across the other street is a bar in constant trouble with the police over the drug sales/use inside.

I'm sitting on the bench, blasting Monster Magnet's Powertrip album on my phone, and Holy Roller Guy approaches me. (I thought bus stop benches were neutral zones? Might have to ask the transit police about this.) I refuse to pause the music, I can kinda hear him. I see the poorly-designed pamphlet in his hand, a large cross in the middle of it. I shake my head and say "no thanks." He asks: "Do you know the Lord?"

Do not engage a holy roller.

I want to say something smart, like: "The question I have is 'Does the Lord know me?'"

Do not engage a holy roller.

I want to tell him the truth: "Look, it's Friday five o'clock and I'm waiting for my third bus to take me home. I just want to get there, crack a couple of cold ones, I bought the Surly Overrated! brew today, got a four-pack in my book bag, and can't wait to dive into the suds. See, it's a West Coast IPA and I'm not quite sure what that means, earlier today I was talking with my pal Andy and he asked if I had ever had a Colorado IPA and I said I had had IPAs from Colorado, but he said 'no, I mean a "Colorado IPA"' and started to describe the hops and I said 'Hey we sound like a Portlandia sketch.' You can check with the Lord, but I think he just wants me to enjoy the Surly, read the sports page, and maybe order up a pizza."

Do not engage a holy roller.

Instead, I break a commandment and lie. I tell him I have a phone call. Problem solved, but out of the corner of my eye I see him checking me out, he starts to circle back after noticing I'm not talking. I act quick, start a phony conversation with an imaginary friend about the Tony Hkrac/Bob Joyce line from the 1986-87 University of North Dakota hockey team. I remind my imaginary friend that it was Brent Bobyck who played right wing on that line for the last half of the season. Everybody assumes it was Steve Johnson, who was on the line early in the season. But Gino Gasparini moved Johnson to the second line to balance out the scoring (my guess), experimented with other right wingers, then settled on the speedster Bobyck. Johnson would play on the power play with Hrkac and Joyce, making for a potent man advantage.

The Eighteen Large pulls up and I am saved. (In so many words.) The soundtrack to me running my own interference is Monster Magnet's "19 Witches". The Ennio Morricone-like guitar is magic in helping me come up with a con to deflect a bigger con. Bring on the Surly, bring on the weekend.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Tuneage
Phantom, Rocker & Slick - "Men Without Shame"

A quick history lesson: The Stray Cats were that neo-rockabilly band in the eighties that were half as good as The Blasters. They had a monster album, Built For Speed, that landed them hit singles and a big presence on MTV. Then they stuck around, causing my brother - who had dug them - to yawn and say: "They were fun for one album." They are now known as being the band Brian Setzer got his start in. He's had quite the career since, but I stick with what I wrote fifteen years when I requested that he should "please jump, jive, and wail yourself onto that late-night-eighties-music anthology infomercial that is your destiny."

Earl Slick is one of those guitarists who wasn't Stevie Ray Vaughan that sessioned on David Bowie albums. He did not appear onstage with Bowie when I saw him in St. Paul in 1987. Those guitarists were Carlos Alomar and Peter Frampton.

Phantom, Rocker & Slick appeared when the the two lesser-known Stray Cats, Earl Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom, joined forces with Earl Slick. Why? Maybe it was because the kids of America's heartland were clamoring for a Marvel Team-Up of the Stray Cats rhythm secion and a random Bowie session man. Or maybe record company execs were hoping for returns similar to the wildly successful supergroup HSAS a couple of years earlier. (Yes those last two sentences exist solely to see if you are paying attention.)

And maybe, just maybe, these three guys liked playing in a group together. That shows in "Men Without Shame", an underrated Q-98 staple from late '85 and into '86. My college buddy OC claims to have listened to the album this tune is on in the last year. That claim is probably true. Wikipedia claims the band wrote the tune in ten minutes, a claim I want to be true. Wikipedia also claims these guys stuck around for a second album, but there's only so much I can buy from friends and Wiki, you know?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Tuneage
The Jackson 5 - "Doctor My Eyes"

When they were in their hit-making glory, The Jackson 5 were my band. I've written the story before, I'm certain: Circa 1970, my Mom cut out a J5 single from the back of an Alpha-Bits cereal box. That song, "ABC" (natch), was my favorite song for all the obvious reasons: Fuzztone guitar, call-and-response vocals, catchy-beyond-belief chorus, Michael's exuberance. Certain elements of the Tuomala household derided my early seventies affection for the J5, called them "kid stuff."  I didn't care. I loved them. They were uniquely mine, nobody else in the house listened to them and none of my friends did either.

Sure they were kid stuff, but in the best way possible. Because the J5 were sloppy joes, fruit cocktail, Lay's potato chips, and a big glass of milk; they were playing wiffle ball in the back yard during that brief time after supper and before bedtime is called. Kid stuff? So what! They had their own cartoon show! That was straight-up street cred in my book.

The joy I experience when listening to the J5 has never abated after all these decades. Earlier this month, I thought "then why in the world don't I have more of their music?" So on a recently mildly depressing Saturday, I fought the mind doom and bought a thirty-six song J5 anthology. It was the correct move on my part - the songs almost all great in the ways I remembered and that one can expect from the Motown machine. But what grabbed my attention as I tracked the songs were their covers. I had been unaware of these. They did Sly and the Family Stone and the Delfonics (medley of "Sing A Simple Song" and "Can You Remember"), Funkadelic ("I'll Bet You") and oddest of all: Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes."

They absolutely kill it on this one, cutting Browne on one of his best songs (even if Jermaine does pull a Kingsmen/"Louie Louie" move and starts singing a verse too early.) Michael is simply a superior singer to Browne, while the rest of the J5 up the ante with their harmony stylizings. On the original, Browne used Graham Nash and David Crosby, no slouches with harmonies, but the J5 wipe the floor with them. Better guitar solo too. I'll take kid stuff over a Sacred Songwriter pretty much every time. Alpha-Bits taste so much better than granola, right?