Adventures In Babysitting

September 1, 2012

A buddy of mine has, for a good decade, had the cushiest gig known to man, serving as a nanny to a couple who are cardiologists.

His duties mostly consisted of driving the two kids to and retrieving them from school. In return, he had quarters in a huge home in a posh neighborhood as well as a handsome salary.

As the children have been driving for several years, his responsibilities have been minimal and, now, the position has been rendered obsolete. I fear that he will have a difficult adjustment to the true working world.

My lone experience in child care offered me a taste of this good life.

As a junior in high school, several of my friends and I opted to take Home Economics, causing a bit of a stir as the class had traditionally been reserved for girls which was one of our reasons for taking it.

(our other reason was the expectation that there would be food)

The class did put us in close proximity to some of our more desired female classmates, but, in an unfortunate development, no cooking was involved and, thus, there were no foodstuffs for us to consume.

To my surprise, as the following summer break was ending, our teacher recruited me to watch her three children.

The trio of boys ranged in age from nine to twelve and the gig, as outlined to me, was simple. The afternoon would be spent at the pool of our town’s country club, where my teacher and her husband were members, and, then, home until their return later that evening.

So, for a couple hours, I lounged poolside at The Club. This meant my one task was to make sure that no one drowned.

(actually, water safety fell under the jurisdiction of the lifeguard on duty as – had they drowned – it would have reflected most poorly on him)

This allowed me to give full attention to Kate, a classmate who had arrived shortly after we had encamped. She settled into the chaise lounge next to me, accompanied by her string bikini, to take advantage of one of the last days of summer to work on her already impressive tan.

By the beard of Zeus, the only thing that would have added to the experience was had I, like Chevy Chase in Fletch, ordered a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich and billed it to the Underhills.

The evening ended with me and the kids, back at their house, watching Miami Vice and eating take-out pizza.

Easy money.

Here are four songs from the waning days of that summer of ’85…

Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1 (1985)

The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had once been members of 10cc and had become acclaimed producers of videos.

(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)

So, not surprisingly, it was an innovative video – using the same morphing visuals that Michael Jackson would use for Black And White‘s clip – that garnered the duo attention on MTV. Radio soon caught on to the song’s twangy, hypnotic goodness and Cry became a hit that seems to have been largely forgotten.

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures (1985)

I was well acquainted with Talking Heads beyond their Top Ten hit Burning Down The House from a couple years earlier. When Little Creatures was released earlier in the summer, I was charmed by the cerebral rockers jaunty ode to levitation And She Was.

Though I didn’t hear the song much on radio, it became one of the few songs by The Heads to make the Hot 100.

Jeff Beck – Gets Us All In The End
from Flash (1985)

I’m not sure if I knew of Jeff Beck before 1985. Perhaps I’d come across the name, but I certainly knew no music by the legendary guitarist (who more than a few folks would argue is the greatest guitarist of the rock era).

Flash had already gotten airplay (and MTV play for the video) with his soulful rendition of People Get Ready, on which Rod Stewart provided vocals. On Get Us All In The End, Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall guested on vocals while Beck handled the guitar work which is simply ferocious.

Bryan Ferry – Slave To Love
from Boys And Girls (1985)

Roxy Music was another act with which I had little familiarity in 1985. I know that I’d heard Love Is The Drug on 97X, but I wouldn’t discover them in more depth until a year later when, as a college freshman, a French professor would play the group’s classic Avalon before class.

It was certainly on 97X where I was hearing Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry’s Slave To Love and I liked the suave fellow’s style.

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Go For Soda

May 16, 2012

I missed a lot of class during my junior and senior years of high school.

My friends and I, much like the prison escapees Gail and Evelle in Raising Arizona, felt that the institution no longer had anything to offer us.

(especially now that we were mobile)

We had our escapes down to a science. We worked through some office connections to erase any evidence that we had been absent or I would provide faked doctor’s notes using the nom de plume Dr. A.E. Lifeson, DDS, an homage to the Rush guitarist.

(I have no idea if his middle actually begins with an E, I simply liked the feel)

However, the nearest civilization was forty-five minutes away in Cincinnati. We yearned for the thrill of the escape, but time, financial or transportation constraints sometimes made such a trip logistically impossible.

And, these escapes had become too easy.

The rock station perferred by most of us at the time would play a song called Go For Soda by Kim Mitchell and its conclusion – “might as well go for a soda” – provided inspiration.

We challenged ourselves with a game we quickly dubbed Go For Soda.

We had ten minutes between classes and the goal was to sneak off the grounds and get to the nearest grocery store – about three minutes away – to get soda. We then had to return to school and make it to our next class on time.

(the best chance for success was if one of our twin friends – known as Smart and Dumb to us – was behind the wheel)

We soon became adept enough to return with grocery bags of donuts, Cheetohs, and Pop-Tarts.

We’d sit in the back of English class, munching on our provisions and plotting our next move.

Here are four songs that were possibly running through my head as I ignored Mr. Haynes droning on about Greek mythology as the school year wound down in early May, 1985…

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Don’t Come Around Here No More
from Southern Accents (1985)

It was recording the Southern Accents album when Petty broke his hand against a studio wall. I thought that I read in Rolling Stone at the time that he did so in a fit of excitement as he mixed the album.

Whatever the case, we all loved Petty and I eagerly awaited Southern Accent‘s release as it unexpectedly paired him with Eurythmic Dave Stewart as producer. The album was a bit of a mixed bag, though the title track might be the loveliest song the band has ever done.

Don’t Come Around Here No More was as wonderfully demented as I’d expected. The sitar-laden song was trippy and the video equally so.

(and it’s still one of the coolest clips ever)

Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You
from Be Yourself Tonight (1985)

Dave Stewart also had a new album that spring with partner Annie Lennox. The first song to hit radio was the surprisingly soulful stomp Would I Lie To You.

The two truly were a fortuitous musical pairing and made some of the most evocative music of the ’80s. And though Annie is undeniably cool, I’ve always thought Dave Stewart was underappreciated.

The Hooters – All You Zombies
from Nervous Night (1985)

Outside of the Philadelphia area where the band was a popular regional act, All You Zombies served as the The Hooters’ introduction to the rest of the US. With its reggae hitch and portentous lyrics, the song hooked me the first time I heard it on Q95.

Nervous Night left me mostly underwhelmed, but it had several hits over the next year or so and the band caused a stir for a brief time.

The second record came and went pretty quickly (though I thought it had a couple of decent songs).

A songwriter friend hosted a couple members of the band years later to do some songwriting and apparently they were delightful guests.

‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry
from Voices Carry (1985)

And, in early ’85, Aimee Mann’s platinum blonde rat tail was the Annie Lennox orange buzz cut of two summers earlier. When ‘Til Tuesday first came up in conversations with friends, the striking Mann and her feathery ‘do and its braided appendage was duly noted.

The moody Voices Carry was a smash and, like Don’t Come Around Here No More, featured a memorable video. It would prove to be ‘Til Tuesday’s greatest commercial success. Though subsequent albums would be stronger, fewer listeners heard them and the band shed members until Mann eventually went solo.


February 2, 1985

February 4, 2012

In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.

By ’85, my friends and I had our driver’s licenses, so there were more opportunities – if we could procure transportation – to make the trek into Cincinnati for music.

(of course, funding such purchases was an ongoing challenge)

Though MTV had finally made it into the homes of our small town the previous summer, not all of us had cable, so the channel was merely a piece of the puzzle in shaping our tastes.

The alternative rock of 97X – which had been broadcasting for a little more than a year – had captured my fancy, but reception of the station was often dodgy.

The stations that were available to us on the dial were mostly a mixture of Top 40 and album rock, not necessarily adventurous but far more eclectic than they would be by the time we left for college. As playlists hadn’t yet been completely whittled down, Top 40 was still a viable, if less captivating, option.

Casey Kasem’s weekly countdown of the most popular songs in the land was no longer appointment listening, but one of our town’s drugstores was now stocking Billboard magazine in the racks. I’d often peruse the latest issue.

And, twenty-six years ago this week, there were half a dozen songs that debuted on the Hot 100…

Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora – When The Rain Begins To Fall
from Voyage Of The Rock Aliens soundtrack (1984)
(debuted #95, peaked #54, 11 weeks on chart)

Jermaine is, of course, Tito’s brother and Pia Zadora was an ’80s b-movie actress who’d had a hit a couple years earlier with The Clapping Song which I had never heard outside of its time on American Top 40.

I seem to vaguely recall the movie Voyage Of The Rock Aliens being in theaters and I think I might have even stumbled across it late night on cable in college, but the synopsis on Wikipedia leads me to believe I’d have changed the channel swiftly.

As for the song, Tito likely shook his head over the generic dance/pop fluff of When The Rain Begins To Fall which featured lyrical puffery such as “When the rain begins to fall, you’ll ride my rainbow in the sky.”

The Manhattan Transfer – Baby Come Back To Me (The Morse Code Of Love)
from Bop Doo-Wopp (1985)
(debuted #87, peaked #83, 3 weeks on chart)

The jazz vocal quartet The Manhattan Transfer had notched a major hit several years before with the retro-styled The Boy From New York City. That song was catchy even if, at the time, it had the stink of something my parents might have listened to all over it.

The group failed to recapture that success with the similar Baby Come Back To Me, a song that I hadn’t heard before. It’s doo wop vibe still relegates it to being from my parents generation, but that’s a far more forgivable offense now and I kind of dig it.

Jermaine Stewart – The Word Is Out
from The Word Is Out (1984)
(debuted #82, peaked #41, 15 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Word Is Out. Of course, I’ve heard it now and can’t remember it.

A year or so later, Jermaine Stewart would suggest that folks could stay dressed with the earworm We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, a song that, even having mostly abandoned Top 40, I was familiar.

David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
(debuted #66, peaked #32, 12 weeks on chart)

Unlike the previous three songs, I was quite familiar with This Is Not America, David Bowie’s collaboration with the Pat Metheney Group (even though I had no idea who Metheney or his group was or what David Bowie was doing mixed up with them).

Bowie had released Tonight, his follow-up to the massive Let’s Dance, six months or so earlier to considerable hype and subsequent disappointment. This Is Not America, taken from the soundtrack to The Falcon And The Snowman – a Cold War thriller starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton – wasn’t a big hit, but the moody, hypnotic song was far better than anything on Tonight (aside from Loving The Alien).

Bryan Adams – Somebody
from Reckless (1984)
(debuted #59, peaked #11, 17 weeks on chart)

Bryan Adams seems to get slagged quite a bit and perhaps it’s a bit deserved for Everything I Do (I Do It For You), but prior to gifting the world with that ubiquitous track from Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood flick, the Canadian singer had a string of hit albums.

Adams was hardly reinventing fire with his straight-forward, meat-and-potatoes rock, but the stuff sounded pretty great blaring from the radio on a summer day. And Reckless had a half-dozen tracks that made the album a fixture on the radio for a good year or so including the anthemic singalong Somebody, a song that Paloma is surprisingly fond of.

Duran Duran – Save A Prayer
from Arena (1984)
(debuted #53, peaked #16, 14 weeks on chart)

Duran Duran broke in America with their second album Rio and the hits Hungry Like The Wolf and the title track. Having dug the hits, I shelled out the money for a copy of Rio and felt it money well spent.

The British quintet’s subsequent string of hit singles were hit and miss for me, though, and nothing was compelling enough to make me purchase another Duran Duran album, certainly not The Wild Boys, a new studio track which heralded the arrival of the live set Arena.

As a follow-up, the band issued a live version of Save A Prayer. The shimmering ballad had been a favorite when it first appeared on Rio and, even now, it would absolutely make the cut as one of the five or six Duran Duran songs that I’d consider essential.