I’m Waiting For The Rain Man

October 24, 2009

rain manSome bloggers whose writing I regularly enjoy incorporate recurring segments into their mix.

JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ has One Day In Your Life, Whiteray has the weekly Saturday Single at Echoes In The Wind, and the Major Dude of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart has several regular features.

(I keep waiting for another installment of Major Dude’s Great Moustaches In Rock)

Alas, though I might have recurring subject matter, I haven’t had the imagination or commitment to post such an ongoing series.

(psychobabble apparently being a train that runs on no fixed timetable)

I have posted several times of my discovery of alternative rock when I first tuned into 97X. The station, a pioneer in alternative rock radio, is also secure in pop culture lore for its reference in the movie Rain Main as Dustin Hoffman incessantly repeated the station’s tagline “97X, Bam! The future of rock and roll.”

So, when I happened upon the movie the other night, inspiration struck. I thought, why not post a handful of random tracks from the 97X playlist I’ve created. And, why not do so each time I do come across Rain Man while channel-surfing (or, at other arbitrary times).

However, I think I might hold off on giving a name to this random ongoing series until I decide to keep it…

Here are four random tracks that I would have heard on 97X back in the day as well as Freur’s Doot Doot, the song which led me to rediscover the station twenty years after I last listened to it…

INXS – Don’t Change
from Shabooh Shabah

Coincidentally, I mentioned Don’t Change this past week in a post and it shuffles up on the iPod first. I declared it to be brilliant then and nothing has changed my thoughts on the matter in the past seventy-two hours or so (or, really, twenty-five years or so).

Don’t Change is simply a transcendent four minutes and change.

10, 000 Maniacs – What’s The Matter Here
from In My Tribe

By 1987, the only time that I got to listen to 97X was on the rare treks home from college. I was already hearing 10,000 Maniacs a lot at school as Natalie Merchant and the band were college rock darlings at the time.

Years later, with mainstream success for the band and Merchant’s solo career, people seemed to either adore the singer or think she was insufferably precious. She was granola. I once saw her open for R.E.M. and she stopped her set for five minutes tending to an errant moth that had landed on stage.

I dug some of the Maniacs’ stuff and Merchant’s as well, and What’s The Matter Here is some melodic folk-tinged pop gem despite the grim subject matter.

Devo – Through Being Cool
from New Traditionalists

This song immediately makes me think of the movie Heavy Metal. Though Devo’s Working In The Coal Mine is probably their better known song from that flick, Through Being Cool was in it, too.

Devo is a bit like Sparks to me. Both were quirky and underappreciated for their twisted pop. I had a high school friend who was wildly into both bands, so I got to hear a lot of their music. I thought much of it was wonderful stuff and I’ve always meant to go back and delve into their catalogs.

Concrete Blonde – Joey
from Bloodletting

I absolutely loved Concrete Blonde in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Their music was so gritty, usually (bitter)sweet and responsible for how I’ve always imagined Hollywood to be.

Their records could be erratic, but all had scattered treasures. I think I’d go with Mexican Moon as their most consistently strong and rewarding album, but Bloodletting wouldn’t be a bad choice.

The album is burned into my memory as one of the soundtracks to my last winter living in the Midwest. It suited the short hours of daylight, the shadows, and the chill autumn air. And I still can vividly recall being stretched out on the couch with notes, not studying, and seeing the video for Joey in the wee hours.

It captivated me then and it still does.

Freur – Doot Doot
from Freur


“It’s Me And Fee, Drinking Buddies”

October 21, 2009

tubesI’ve known plenty of fans with an unshakable, enthusiastic devotion to certain acts. I’ve known Dead Heads.

But, no matter how passionate these folks might be, in twenty-five years plus, no one has struck me as having more unerring passion for a band than a friend from high school.

Bosco loved The Tubes.

(something I’ve noted before)

He had more than a bit of Spicoli in him, though Bosco attained his carefree demeanor (mostly) without additives and preservatives. There was also some Ferris Bueller in there, too.

He wasn’t a jock, the most quick-witted, or the most dashing lad in town, but there might not have been a more genuinely liked popular kid in our school as Bosco.

Bosco and some of his friends intersected with a group of mine and during our last two years of high school, I got to know him quite well and we had more than our share of misadventures.

I was with him once when he informed the cop that had pulled him over that he couldn’t give Bosco a ticket because “I have no job, no money and no future.”

(somehow, like a Jedi Mind Trick, it worked)

It’s still easy to picture him – checkerboard Vans, lank blonde hair flopping about, and the perpetually surprised yet drowsy expression he seemed to always have.

Music was the usual chatter. For the isolation of our remote hometown, Bosco had spectacular impressive taste in music. He seemed to have a bent toward literate songwriters – Dylan, Davies, and Knopfler – during a period when these artists were not at their commercial or artists heights in the early ‘80s.

But The Tubes were all his.

He’d make collect calls to the president of their fan club – someone named Marilyn in California (I think) – from the high school lounge during lunch.

He had pictures of him and the band, backstage, after concerts.

“It’s me and Fee,” – he and lead singer Fee Waybill had their arms around each other’s shoulders – “drinking buddies.”

He’d use Spooner – in tribute to the band’s guitarist Bill “Sputnik” Spooner – as a greeting.

“Hey, Spooner…”

He was a fan of the band long before it became an MTV darling with She’s A Beauty. Bosco knew all of their albums years ahead of that time.

It must have been his older brother that turned him on to The Tubes because, aside from reading about them, stuff like Mondo Bondage and White Punks On Dope was not going to be heard on the radio stations in our orbit.

I haven’t spoken to Bosco in twenty-years. The last time I saw him, we were both home from college, and things had changed. It was him, but there was no whimsy. He was focused on his fraternity and business school.

I did a bit of online sleuthing for him awhile back and the results yielded a lot of stuff involving chambers of commerce and zoning ordinances.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he still listens to The Tubes.

Nevertheless, I still listen to The Tubes. Here is a quartet of songs from Fee and friends…

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle

I’ve heard the earlier stuff from The Tubes – courtesy of Bosco – but I was more partial to their more mainstream stuff and that’s pretty much all I own (I’ve kept my eyes open for some used vinyl with which to reacquaint myself with no success thus far).

And though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it. The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Steve Lukather (of Toto) on guitar. Infectious beyond belief, its title became our standard conversation ender for years to come.

The Tubes – Sushi Girl
from The Completion Backward Principle

“Su-su-sushi! Mushi, mushi! ” – it would be another five years or more, well into college before I’d know anything about sushi and, as we were dropping the chorus into casual conversation, I knew even less about girls.

The Tubes performed both Sushi Girl and Talk To Ya Later as musical guests on SCTV in the summer of ’81. I missed it then and haven’t seen it on the rare occasions that I’ve caught a rerun.

The Tubes- She’s A Beauty
from Outside Inside

I know without doubt that She’s A Beauty was the first time I ever heard The Tubes on the radio. The next day at school, I immediately informed Bosco that 96Rock had played the band’s new single.

Outside Inside was one of the big albums for me and my friends during the summer of ’83 (along with The Police’s Synchronicity, which was the album that summer). It’s still a song that I wont skip on the iPod.

The Tubes – Piece By Piece
from Love Bomb

Love Bomb came out in the spring of ’85 and the last full year my friends and I had together before heading to college. Maybe the fact that it came and went with little fanfare might have been an omen that our group of friends was headed the way of the dinosaurs.

I don’t recall it being a bad record, just kind of uneventful. This was surprising as the great Todd Rundgren – someone else who Bosco had turned us onto – produced it. But, like She’s A Beauty and Talk To Ya Later, I can’t skip the crunchy goodness of an earworm that is Piece By Piece.


Fall Break

October 17, 2009

moody-autumn-skyI always believed that fall break was one of the most inspired things. It wasn’t as lengthy as spring break – a mere Thursday and Friday – but it’s placement in the school year was almost flawless.

It usually fell in late October, a week or so before Halloween, half the way between the start of the school year and Christmas break. It was far enough into the semester that the hopeless feeling that the school year would never end had set in, but scattered warm days of Indian summer were reminders of the summer past.

There are a couple schools I pass on the morning commute to work each day. They all have some kind of message board at the front of the school, marquee letters announcing football games and such.

I’ve started seeing dates for fall breaks.

I keep thinking of the fall break in 1984. It was the first fall break where my friends and I all had licenses. Acquiring a vehicle, though, sometimes demanded nimble gamesmanship and negotiation with parents or an older sibling.

I think it was my pyro friend who had snagged his older brother’s car. Another friend, Bosco, had joined us, but, as the pyro hadn’t actually obtained consent to have the car, there had been no time to track anyone else down.

We headed to the city – Cincinnati – and an hour later we were rifling through the racks at a record store. Bosco, an obsessive fan of The Tubes, was determined to snag the recently released solo album by the band’s front man Fee Waybill.

Bosco eventually purchased the album at a Record Bar in the mall from a clerk whom he dubbed “DLR” as the kid had adopted the look of Van Halen’s lead singer. We ended up taking the purchase to a stereo shop where Bosco peeled open the shrink-wrap and we listened to the record on a display system (at least until we were asked to leave).

I remember vividly the overcast skies – much like today – that day, but it was far warmer than it is here, now, where it feels as though we’ve skipped directly from September to November. I seem to recall the sun breaking through a bit on the drive home.

I’m less certain of what music I purchased that day, though I have no doubt that I returned home that evening with several new cassettes. Here’s a quartet of tracks from albums that I very well might have snagged on that break in the autumn of 1984…

INXS – Burn For You
from The Swing

I hadn’t been a fan of INXS’ American debut from the year before, although I thought (and still think) the song Don’t Change is brilliant. And, by the fall of ’84, their second album, The Swing, had been out since the spring.

However, during the summer, another friend had bought INXS’ entire catalog (including earlier Australian releases that were only available to us as imports) and I had become a fan thanks to his incessant playing of the band. Also, our town finally had MTV and the video for the slinky, soulful Burn For You was getting a lot of play that fall.

Roger Hodgson – Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I listened. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

The Fixx – Less Cities, More Moving People
from Phantoms

I think I always liked The Fixx in theory better than execution. Everything was in place – cool name, cool futuristic vibe – for them to be a favorite, except consistently good songs. Aside from Reach The Beach, their albums were maddeningly hit or miss to me.

Not that I gave up trying to embrace them. Although I didn’t like Are We Ourselves?, the first hit from Phantoms, I gave the album a shot nonetheless (and was disappointed). But, there were a couple of worthwhile tracks like the twitchy, shuffling Less Cities, More Moving People.

.38 Special – Teacher Teacher
from Teachers soundtrack

.38 Special was from the South and they were a rock band, but, despite being labeled at times as a Southern rock band, they never really struck me as belonging in that genre. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a big fan of Southern rock and I liked a lot of .38 Special (or, at least the hits in the early ’80s).

Of course, the band was a staple on a lot of the stations in the Midwest, so maybe it was a familiarity thing, but Teacher Teacher was catchy, straight-ahead rock with a punchy chorus and plenty of guitars. I know that we caught the movie Teachers on one of our treks to the city. As we were in high school at the time, it resonated with us, though, for some reason, I don’t think I’ve happened across it since seeing it in the theater.