Be Ripped To Shreds By A Cheetah…

…or be stomped into a pulpy mess by an ostrich.

I spent a good twenty minutes – or maybe it was two hours – pondering this existential quandry.

It began when I told a buddy that I wanted the power to picture everything and everyone as cartoons.

(even bad things are amusing in cartoon form)

This friend – a gangly fellow with glasses, prone to bobbing his head in a furtive fashion – immediately wanted to know what kind of cartoon character he would be.

“An ostrich. With glasses. And a rumpled fedora.”

He was less than enthusiastic.

“Is it the fedora?”

It wasn’t the hat that ruffled his feathers. He was unwilling to sign on with my delusion as an ostrich.

He demanded cheetah.

I suspect he was envisioning the über cool Chester Cheetah, spokescartoon for Cheetos.

He was far too quick to dismiss the ostrich.

Paloma instilled in me a healthy respect for the ostrich from her experiences with them.

And if Dr. Grant would have wanted us to take one lesson from Jurassic Park, it would have been how closely dinosaurs were related to birds.

The ostrich, according to the internet, can grow as large as nine-feet tall, run as fast as 45 miles an hour, and has a sharp nail on each toe.

As ungainly and comical as it might appear, the ostrich is, in fact, a descendant of the velociraptor.

The ostrich is one badass bird.

So, while an encounter with a cheetah would undoubtedly result in a dramatic death, I hypothesize that it would be over quickly.

With no teeth and a proclivity for kicking, death by ostrich would be a slow, agonizing ordeal that wouldn’t read as well in the obituary.

I choose the cheetah.

As I have no ostrichcentric songs, here are four random songs that caught my attention…

Sinéad O’Connor – You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart
from So Far…The Best of Sinéad O’Connor (1997)

I dug Sinéad O’Connor from the moment she appeared on the tiny black & white television in my dorm room. Sinéad had just released her debut, The Lion And The Cobra, and, and suddenly this striking girl with a shaved head was wailing like a banshee in the video for Mandinka.

A decade later, O’Connor’s career had crashed and burned (so far as the mainstream American public) and the singer had only put out two albums in the seven years since I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and Nothing Compares 2 U had made her a momentary superstar.

It’s a shame that more people didn’t get to hear the haunting, atmospheric You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart. The song had initially appeared on the soundtrack to In the Name Of The Father several years earlier.

Rush – New World Man
from Signals (1982)

Rush is suddenly everywhere and more beloved than ever.

(Paloma was quick to give me a heads up on the use of Fly By Night in some new car commercial)

I was still listening to mostly Top 40 radio when I entered high school, but Rush had a rabid following with the older kids, especially the few known stoners, and I knew Tom Sawyer from hearing it blaring from beat-up Camaros in the parking lot.

Then, Rush notched their only US Top 40 hit with New World Man and, as I ventured beyond the confines of pop radio, I became a devotee of the band with Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows, eventually digging into their older titles.

Francis Dunnery – Good Life
from Fearless (1994)

I first heard guitarist Francis Dunnery when the groovy American Life In The Summertime, also from his solo debut Fearless, got a smattering of airplay at the time. Good Life, the closing track on the album slipped by me.

But, my boss at the time and his wife, who would both go on to be VPs at separate major labels, were insistent that the song had the potential to be a massive hit, causing me to revisit it.

It’s an uncluttered song – acoustic guitar accented by strings – that allows the focus to be on the words which are an emotional gut punch.

Good Life never became a hit or even a single, but it certainly could have been and is a lost gem of a song. Dunnery has continued to put out solo albums while also serving as a sideman for acts including Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill, Santana and Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe.

Pretty & Twisted – Dear Marlon Brando
from Pretty & Twisted (1995)

I was disappointed when Concrete Blonde broke up (for the first time) in 1995, but lead singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano quickly released two albums that year. The first was with Holly Vincent under the banner of Vowel Movement, which didn’t resonate with me.

Napolitano’s other short-lived union was with ex-Wall Of Voodoo singer/guitarist Marc Moreland as Pretty & Twisted. Moreland had been the inspiration behind Concrete Blonde’s Joey and Pretty & Twisted was very much in the vein of the guitar-driven alternative rock of the Blondes.

Though it found little commercial success, Pretty & Twisted, the act’s lone release, was a pretty stellar record. The chugging Dear Marlon Brando is an ode to the legendary actor and a request to hang with the reclusive man on his private island.

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