The Heston

February 17, 2013

hestonAs a kid watching television in the ’70s, it was understood that the future might involve dealing with intelligent apes, urban overcrowding and pollution, or a noctunal clan of mutant cultists.

It was also understood from the regular airings of Planet Of The Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man after school or on late-night television that the one man with the skills to survive in these various dystopian futures – at least until the final reel – was Charlton Heston.

Heston was teaching us about survival well before Gloria Gaynor, Bear Grylls, or Survivorman‘s Les Stroud and, like Stroud, Heston wasn’t bashful about going au naturale.

(watching Planet Of The Apes on an AMC marathon of the movie series, I have already been blindsided twice by Heston’s bare ass in HD)

Over the latter part of his life, Heston was best known for his interest in guns, but, as he had spent so much time battling intelligent apes and mutant cultists as well as trying to avoid becoming finger food for the masses, his desire to be a well-maintained militia of one is understandable.

And no matter how dire the situation around him, Chuck was able to make time for the ladies and, in the case of The Omega Man, he – like the titular character in The Big Lebowski and to paraphrase The Dude – was racially pretty cool.

But, as a kid, it was Heston’s adventures as misanthropic astronaut George Taylor that were most fascinating to me and, fortunately, it was not uncommon to tune into CBS’ Friday Night Movie and find that Planet Of The Apes or, even more so it seemed, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes was the featured flick.

Thirty-eight years ago, I was one bummed out seven-year old as the short-lived (and Heston-less) television series based on The Planet Of The Apes had been cancelled. I might have found solace in music, but that wouldn’t be of interest to me for another four or five years.

However, had I turned on the radio, here are four songs I might have heard as they were on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart at the time…

America – Lonely People
from History: America’s Greatest Hits (1975)

Though I hadn’t yet developed an interest in music in 1975, I was well aware of the songs of America from the light rock stations my parents seemed to favor on the car radio.

The trio received a lot of comparisons to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and, of the songs I know by America, the lovely, resilient Lonely People captures that vibe to me more than any other.

John Lennon – #9 Dream
from Lennon Legend (1997)

I certainly knew the music of The Beatles, but I wasn’t familiar with John Lennon’s solo stuff or #9 Dream at the time. I would have to catch up years later.

Of course, no one would be hearing new music from John Lennon after 1975, at least not until he ended his self-imposed exile to be a stay-at-home dad five years later with Double Fantasy. I eventually got a cassette of The John Lennon Collection in 1982 or so and was introduced to the (suitably) dreamy #9 Dream.

Electric Light Orchestra – Can’t Get It Out Of My Head
from Strange Magic: The Best of Electric Light Orchestra (1995)

Though ELO had no shortage of hits with upbeat stuff, Jeff Lynne and company were equally adept when they opted to slow things down as on the lovely ballad Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, which was the group’s first major single in the States.

Ozark Mountain Daredevils – Jackie Blue
from Billboard Top Hits: 1975 (1991)

The title character in Jackie Blue sounds like one confused girl, but I can’t help but think of pizza when I hear the song. It seems like every trip we made to Pizza Inn during the time that the song was a hit guaranteed one of the patrons putting down their money for Jackie Blue on the jukebox.

I dug the song as a kid. It was catchy and mysterious, though, at the time, I mistook drummer Larry Lee’s falsetto for a female vocalist.

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Kiss Them For Me

June 6, 2012

I was surprised to come across news of the death of Richard Dawson the other morning. Paloma expressed what I had thought as I mentioned it to her.

“Is he still alive?”

He might have been mostly absent from the screen for the past couple decades, but, as a child of the ’70s (as well as the ’80s), I was well acquainted with Richard Dawson from a world before cable television.

Watching Hogan’s Heroes at the end of its original run in the early ’70s is part of my haziest memories.

(I more clearly recall the show being a staple of television programming during the rest of the decade)

During the decade he was also a fixture as a panelist on Match Game which aired in the afternoons. Sometimes I’d catch it after school and, as a kid growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I found the double-entendres and bawdy humor to be irresistible.

During the summers – or on days home sick during the school year – Dawson would be hosting Family Feud about the time we’d begin clamoring for lunch.

And, of course, Dawson was wickedly compelling as he satirized his role of host as Damon Killian in the prescient The Running Man which I watched a number of times on cable while in college in the late ’80s.

That’s the last I saw of Richard Dawson and apparently he was pretty much retired in the twenty-five years since The Running Man.

But he provided a lot of amusement to me as a kid. He had a rougish charm and seems like a guy with whom you’d enjoy sharing a few rounds.

So, I raise a pint to you, Richard Dawson. And here are four songs to accompany the smooching Dawson was known for on Family Feud

Siouxsie & The Banshees- Kiss Them For Me
from Superstition (1991)

I’d discovered Siouxsie & The Banshees in late 1983 when their cover of The Beatles’ Dear Prudence was a staple on 97X. And, I continued to follow them while in college where they were much adored by the college rock crowd.

By 1991, I was a year or so removed from school and Siouxsie Sioux and her gang were losing momentum, but not before the goth-rock pioneers finally notched a Top 40 hit in the US with the swirling sound kaliedescope Kiss Them For Me.

Thomas Dolby – Screen Kiss
from The Flat Earth (1984)

The bittersweet, wistful Screen Kiss scrapes the sunny superficiality from the surface of Hollywood dreams and the myth of Southern California and finds a lot of crushed hopes and heartache.

Sun 60 – C’mon Kiss Me
from Headjoy (1995)

The duo of guitarist David Russo and vocalist Joan Jones who comprised Sun 60 (or Sun-60) released a trio of fine alternative rock albums during the first half of the ’90s that deserved more attention than they received.

The brassy come-on C’mon Kiss Me appeared on their swan song, Headjoy, which found the duo a little grungier but still catchy as could be.

Bruce Springsteen – Give The Girl A Kiss
from Tracks (1998)

Bruce Springsteen finally issued the odds and ends of twentysome years with the four-disc set Tracks in 1998.

(and there was much rejoicing)

Though hardly essential, the Darkness On The Edge Of Town outtake Give The Girl A Kiss is a rollicking, horn-infused workout that probably still echoes in some Jersey shore dive.


Things That Rhyme Like Nipsey Russell

January 22, 2012

Paloma and I upgraded to HD recently which is how I ended up on the Game Show Network the other night.

As HD is a new experience, I find that I surf for shows to look at rather than watch.

I didn’t even know we had the Game Show Network, but when I saw The $25,000 Pyramid listed as I scrolled through the channel guide and couldn’t help but be curious as to what a game show from the 1970s might look like in HD.

I tried the channel and the sight of Nipsey Russell and Vickie Lawrence bantering with host Dick Clark materialized from the pixels.

The show used to air in the mornings on weekdays, so I’d only see it on rare occasion during the school years, the handfuls of days off for snow, sickness, or holidays.

During the summer, The $25,000 Pyramid was more regularly viewed. As I watched the show for the first time in thirtyplus years, I couldn’t help but think that, at that time, it was as educational as portions of our actual educational system.

(I undoubtedly learned new words and it stimulated creative thinking)

And, in a world with far less media and far more mystique, The $25,000 Pyramid provided a chance to see television actors outside their usual time-slotted habitats.

Loretta Swit, whose name I’d read during the opening credits of M*A*S*H, was truly a real person and Margaret Houlihan was truly fictitious.

The show was likely my introduction to Dick Clark as I don’t recall American Bandstand airing in our locale. By the end of the ’70s, I’d know Clark for his New Year’s Eve countdown.

In the early ’80s, not long after I discovered Casey Kasem counting down hit songs on American Top 40, I would come across Dick Clark doing the same on The Dick Clark National Music Survey.

Where as Casey’s program aired on several stations, regularly, Clark’s show seemed to only be broadcast on one station, erratically, on late Sunday afternoons. It also used the record charts published by Cashbox as opposed to Casey’s use of Billboard.

Not being familiar with either publication, I recall being puzzled as to the differences between where songs would end up on each countdown, but, probably because it aired on more stations, I assumed Casey’s take was more “real.”

Here are four songs that I might have heard listening to either Casey Kasem or Dick Clark count down the hits during this week in 1983…

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)

There were a lot of acts that previously had not achieved a lot of mainstream radio success making waves in early 1983. Though The Clash had notched a Top 40 hit a few years earlier with Train In Vain, the legendary punk band was having their greatest commercial success at the time with the übercool Rock The Casbah.

Though I knew The Clash by name, I had never heard their music prior to Rock The Casbah. It would be over the next few years – and thanks to the passion my buddy Streuss had for the band – that I would discover what all the fuss was over “the only band that matters.”

ABC – The Look Of Love (Part One)
from The Lexicon Of Love (1982)

ABC’s debut The Lexicon Of Love is widely regarded as a classic ’80s album. It wasn’t as wildly popular in the US as it was in the UK, but The Look Of Love and Poison Arrow got played on even the most pedestrian of Top 40 stations which I was listening to at the time.

Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie
from The Youth Of Today (1982)

Growing up in the lily-white Midwest of the US, reggae didn’t exist. I might have known the name Bob Marley, but it would have only been from perusing Rolling Stone.

The teenaged quintet Musical Youth managed to notch a Top Ten pop hit in America with the pop-reggae of Pass The Dutchie, but had it not been for listening to countdown programs on the radio, I would have never heard the song. It might have been a sizeable hit, but it was one that I never heard on the stations to which I was listening.

In fact, the only Musical Youth that I ever heard on the radio during that period was the song 007 -which was largely ignored – from the group’s follow-up album to The Youth Of Today when 97X went on the air toward the end of ’83.

Christopher Cross – All Right
from Another Page (1983)

Like most of my friends at the time, I embraced much of the new music – New wave and synthesizer bands – that was arriving from the UK. I also maintained an interest in the more traditional pop music I was hearing on the radio. I didn’t make much of a differentiation.

It was all just music and I had a curiousity about most of it.

Christopher Cross had taken three years between his debut and follow-up album – a ridiculously long period at the time. I had made Cross’ mega-successful debut the first album I had ever purchased, but during that hiatus, not only did the rest of the world move on, but I made the quantum leap from twelve to fifteen which is twenty-one years in dog years and during that time I, like the rest of world, came to he startling realization that flamingos and rock and roll don’t mix.

Twenty-five years later, I find All Right to be pleasant enough, though.