The More Things Change, The More Someone Still Wants To Wear A @#$%&! Tiara And Have You Call Them Princess

February 27, 2010

It’s not surprising to see the name John Hughes pop up over at Stuck In The ’80s. The filmmaker behind movies like Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and National Lampoon’s Vacation is certainly a patron saint of the ’80s.

His sudden death last autumn truly reminded me how much his films meant to my generation.

(Paloma actually gave me a copy of his Weird Science for Valentine’s Day)

But I was given to momentarily pause when I logged on to Stuck In The ’80s and was reminded that Hughes’ seminal The Breakfast Club was released twenty-five years ago this month.

My friends and I were juniors in high school at the time. I don’t remember if I saw The Breakfast Club with friends or with my girlfriend, but I do know I saw it at the theater in my hometown, one of those cool, old cinemas that had been around since the ’30s.

Even if I didn’t see it with my friends initially, we all did see it and, during that summer and our senior year, we saw the movie repeatedly, watching the video rental or on cable. Like a lot of kids our age, much of the dialogue from The Breakfast Club was known to us verbatim and popped up often in our conversations.

(I started to list some quotes and it proved futile whittling it down)

At sixteen-, seventeen-years old, we were able to identify with the characters and the film rang true for us. We all knew who, among the peers, were the brains, the athletes, the basketcases, the princesses, and the criminals.

(and, as the movie taught us, most of us were a make-up of several of those elements)

Amazingly, twenty-five years later, life still often resembles high school with less of the more light-hearted fare and an office replacing a hallway of lockers.

I have a co-worker who actually keeps a tiara at her desk. And she means it.

(and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of them have a flare gun)

It’s like I’ve gone through a wormhole.

For as much good music as John Hughes put into his movies, The Breakfast Club‘s soundtrack – aside from Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me) – is uneventful and unmemorable. So, instead, here are songs that I could imagine four of the five characters in the movie – had they actually existed – listening to in early 1985…

Bender

The hoodlum of the group, Bender was brought to life in stunning fashion with a flurry of quotable lines by Judd Nelson.

Bender does hum the guitar riff from Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love, so he probably liked some older rock. But, when it came to a radio station, I see him tuning in to 96Rock, an album rock station from Cincinnati.

It wasn’t a bad station – a mix of ’70s classics like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd mixed with then-current acts like Def Leppard and ZZ Top – but my friend Bosco would use its moniker pejoratively – “Some 96Rocker hassled me at The Kinks show.”

I think 96Rock was defunct by ’85, but, a year earlier, it was the first station that I ever heard play Mötley Crüe. I think Bender would have approved.

Mötley Crüe – Shout At The Devil
from Shout At The Devil

Claire

I thought I’ve read that Molly Ringwald was a fan of a lot of the bands used in John Hughes’ movies. I don’t know if I’d picture her character Claire listening to Psychedelic Furs or Echo & The Bunnymen, though I could believe her being a Duran Duran fan.

She likely also owned a copy of The Cars’ Heartbeat City from 1984. The album was still having hits a year later with a pretty understated ballad.

(though, as she was rather self-absorbed, she probably imagined the song as a lament from numerous suitors pining for her)

The Cars – Why Can’t I Have You
from Heartbeat City

Brian

For the brains of the outfit, Hughes cast Michael Anthony Hall. I think of brains and high school and I think of my buddy Streuss. Like Brian, I don’t think he could have made a lamp in shop class, but he and I did once disarm an alarm in a dorm using scissors, a plastic bag, and Scotch tape.

In almost every other way, Streuss, though brilliant, was Brian’s opposite. Streuss had charm and possessed a wicked, often surreal sense of humor. He had an entertaining, gangly, off-kilter vibe.

He was part Norwegian (as he once declared to one of our teachers in the middle of class).

In 1985, Talking Heads were coming off the success of 1983’s Speaking In Tongues and the live album/film Stop Making Sense. Streuss was a big fan of The Heads and had been for years before their mainstream success.

I suspect that Brian, like Streuss, was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Little Creatures that summer.

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures

Allison

Ally Sheedy’s Allison was the “basket case” with a creative bent she expressed through drawing, telling fantastically untrue tales, and sandwich-making. She was truly a renaissance woman and she had no friends, choosing to spend her day in detention because she had nothing to do.

She likely went on to great things, perhaps writing children’s books, hosting a cooking show on television, or playing bass in a band.

As for her music, I think the quirky nature of 97X would have been her tonic. So, hitting shuffle on my 97X playlist resulted in a modern classic by the late poet Jim Carroll.

Jim Carroll Band – People Who Died
from Catholic Boy

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Miracle On Ice

February 22, 2010

I woke the morning of February 13, 1980, climbed from the warmth of my bed and shuffled to the bathroom down the hall that I shared with my brother. I probably yawned as I turned on the light.

Taped to the bathroom mirror was a scrap of paper on which the old man had written “2-2.”

It was the final score of the hockey game from the night before. The US had tied a favored Swedish team in their opening game of the ’80 Winter Olympics.

Interest in hockey, both personal and in our area, barely registered. The nearest cities to us with professional hockey were Indianapolis and Cincinnati, both of which had franchises in the old World Hockey Association, and that league had folded the previous spring.

We were living in the heart of basketball country.

I don’t even recall watching any of that opening game. It might not have even been televised. Maybe my dad had seen that the US had pulled off the draw with a goal in the final thirty seconds on the late news.

Not much was expected from the team going into the games, even by those who had a passion for the sport.

I’m not sure why my dad felt that my brother and I needed this information at our earliest waking moment.

Maybe he was prescient.

(maybe he should have called a bookie)

Two days later, the US throttled an even more highly-touted Czech team. Now, my friends and I were definitely taking an interest and hockey was suddenly a topic of conversation the next day at school.

That weekend, we were watching as the pucked dropped for a Saturday afternoon match-up with Norway. By the time the US had blistered the Norwegian team 5-1, we were all in.

The next day, caught up in the unexpected run that was gathering momentum and followers, a bunch of us kids from the neighborhood did our best approximation of our new heroes. Half a dozen or so of us played “hockey” for the first time.

We had no rink or even pond. Instead, we had a small patch of ice in a cow pasture where a drainage ditch widened. Wiffle ball bats made for sticks and a frisbee served as a puck. It was good-natured mayhem in the frosty air as we pretended to be Mark Johnson, Mark Pavelich or Rob McClanahan.

(amazingly, thirty years later, I realized that, glancing over the roster of that team, I remember each and every name)

There’s no mentioning those Olympic Games and the US hockey team without trying to view it through the prism of the state of the country and the world at the time.

Iran had seized the US Embassy and Americans were being held hostage in Tehran. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. The Cold War was an entrenched way of life from which there was seemingly no resolution that didn’t end with both sides charbroiled.

Things weren’t good.

And though things weren’t good, I was twelve and fortunate enough, like most of my friends, to still have lives uncluttered by most of the flotsam and jetsam.

That doesn’t mean that a bleak vibe in the adults wasn’t palpable to us. But as the second week of the Olympics began in ’80, the hockey team was making its way to the medal round and there was something just as palpable as dread beginning to build.

People who had never cared about hockey (or even sports) had fallen in love with this team. People were giddy.

It was as though the entire country had done a bong hit. People were smiling and not even necessarily realizing it. You had a feeling that a lot of folks might start giggling at any moment.

The team was a topic of conversation everywhere. Adults in stores were talking about the team. We kids at school were stoked.

There’ve been a lot of major events that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime and there have been a number of times that this country seemed to pull together, but at no time have I ever experienced anything – including 9/11 – galvanize people to the degree that a bunch of kids playing hockey did for those two weeks.

The difference between that period and other moments that touched a lot of lives is that the ’80 US hockey team’s run wasn’t rooted in fear, grief or sadness. Rather, it was two weeks during which strangers were bound together in hope and excitement, in a belief that something improbable was possible.

It transcended the often petty things that serve to divide.

Everyone held their breath, anticipating what might happen next.

It reached critical mass thirty years ago today, Friday, February 22, when, having reached the medal round of the tournament, the team of college kids faced an overpowering team from the Soviet Union.

The game was played that afternoon and had already been decided by the time most of the country tuned in to watch it that evening on tape delay. With ESPN and cable news now, I suppose that it would be difficult if not impossible to have kept the result a secret.

The Soviets took an early lead. The US rallied. US coach Herb Brooks watched stoically.

The Soviets went back ahead. The US rallied to tie and the Soviets benched goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, regarded as the best goalie in the world.

Meanwhile, US goaltender Jim Craig was under constant siege but continued to turn back Soviet shots, keeping the team in the game.

Finally, captain Mike Eruzione scored, putting the US ahead 4-3 with ten minutes remaining and, I imagine, most of the country again held a collective breath as Craig held off the Soviet onslaught, and, I imagine, most everyone watching counted down those final seconds with commentator Al Michaels.

Less than forty-eight hours later, the US beat Finland to capture the gold medal.

Then, Craig provided one of the iconic images of the tournament. Viewers had come to know how the goalie’s mother had died of cancer several years earlier and, with the bedlam of his teammates celebrating all around him, Craig, draped in an American flag skated along the boards searching for his father in the stands.

The scene had a poignancy that every sports movie since has tried to capture but can’t.

The following week, Sports Illustrated arrived in the mail with the cover capturing the moment after the win over the Soviet team and, in and unprecedented and fitting move by the magazine, no words accompanied the photo.

For those of us fortunate enough to have been a witness to those two weeks, none were needed.

Chuck Mangione – Give It All You Got
from Fun And Games

There’s simply no other song that reminds me of the ’80 Winter Olympics than Chuck Mangione’s Give It All You Got. ABC, which broadcast the games here in the States, chose to make use of the flugelhorn player’s song as the theme.

Hearing the song now, thirty years later, it immediately transports me back to those evenings that February, sprawled out on the floor of our den watching the nightly broadcast from Lake Placid.

Thirty years from now, it will undoubtedly still do the same.


Saturday Mornings With Casey

February 20, 2010

Growing up in a household with no older siblings and with parents who had merely a passing interest in music, I didn’t have familial influences when I began to listen to music.

In junior high, music was a big topic of conversation as teammates fought for control of the stereo in the locker room with Billy Squier, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin being in heavy rotation. There was music on the bus rides to games and meets with rock stations tuned in during football season and – with girls on the team – Top 40 during track season.

Slowly I began to develop my own interests and it was Casey Kasem who first provided me with information and knowledge that wasn’t so easily found before the advent of cable, the internet, and electricity.

(though I had no idea that I had met Casey years earlier on Scooby-Doo)

It was January of ’82 when I first stumbled across Casey on a cold, snowy Saturday morning with a broadcast of American Top 40 on WRIA 101.3 out of Richmond. I was familiar with the concept of musical countdowns from listening to Q102’s Top Ten at 10 most nights (though as the station was in Cincinnati and in the Eastern time zone and we were in the Central, it was actually 9 for us).

From that point on, American Top 40 was appointment listening on sleepy Saturday mornings, though, if I missed it for some reason, I soon found several other stations that broadcast the show each weekend.

The show was a chance to hear a lot of my current favorites – songs that were showing up on crude mix tapes I was recording from the radio – as well as songs with which I was not familiar. With no concept of radio playlists or the other basics of the music industry, though, I was often puzzled.

There were songs that I heard constantly on the stations to which I listened which were not in the Top 40 or that ranked far lower than it seemed they should. Conversely, there were songs which I wasn’t hearing much (or at all) which were moving toward the top of the chart.

It was an education, a chance to learn some of the history of pop music and about some of the iconic artists as well as more trivial items that Casey would offer up during each week’s show.

Maybe it’s been the snow and slush we’ve endured the past few weeks, a winter unlike most I’ve experienced over the past twenty-years, which has made me think of those early months of ’82.

Some of the songs I was hearing Casey count down this week in 1982 as, more than likely, I was sprawled out on my bed listening on a cold Saturday morning…

Rolling Stones – Waiting On A Friend
from Tattoo You

Personally, I’ve always thought that Waiting On A Friend was one of the Stones’ finest post-’70s moments. The song is so casual and the vibe so laid-back that it’s always welcome when it pops up on shuffle.

Apparently it was the first video by the Stones played on MTV (with reggae great Peter Tosh hanging out on the steps). Casey well might have told me about jazz legend Sonny Rollins providing the saxophone.

The Police – Spirits In The Material World
from Ghost In The Machine

Though I had just started diving full-on into music in late ’81/early ’82, I was well familiar with The Police. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was deservedly huge and my friend Beej was already a massive fan from their first three albums, so I heard them through him.

If I had to choose a top five from The Police, Spirits In The Material World would have a good shot at making the cut. It sounded so eerie and otherworldly, and it’s so concise, clocking in at just under three minutes.

Quarterflash – Harden My Heart
from Quarterflash

Thanks to Casey I know that Quarterflash got there name from…I think it’s an Australian saying…yeah, I had to look it up. “It came from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as ‘one quarter flash and three parts foolish.'”

The song was catchy and seems to have retained a bit of a presence.

(and lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross had a certain appeal to us at the time)

Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In Love
from Picture This

I hear the name Huey Lewis and I have a Pavlovian moment and think Marin County. It seemed like every time I heard Casey mention the band, he noted that they were based in Marin County.

(or, that’s what I remember)

I had an unusual pizza with clams as a topping in Marin County once and I didn’t see them.