It’s A Dry Heat So, You Know, It’s Cool

July 1, 2012

I’ve long marveled at the insanely high temperatures of the American southwest. As a kid, I’d stare at the outline of Arizona on the map – which was littered with 110s and 120s – with awe.

Our summers would see temperatures that would reach the low 90s, maybe a few days approaching triple digits, but I couldn’t fathom the highs that appeared on the bottom left quadrant of the screen.

So, I believe 109 is a new, personal best.

Mercifully, it has not been accompanied by the usual, sweltering blanket of humidity, so I think that I am experiencing the dry heat fabled in song and story.

And it would seem to be true that baking in arid heat – as opposed to marinating in humid, lower temperatures – is a preferable state of being.

Of course, 109 is freakin’ hot no matter what the circumstances or whether one is wearing pants or not.

It’s certainly too hot to think much.

Here are four hot songs…

Billy Idol – Hot In The City
from Billy Idol (1982)

Hot In The City was the first time I ever heard Billy Idol. It would have been on American Top 40 as I never heard the song on the radio.

(and MTV was inaccesible)

Billy Idol’s music would be a mixed bag for me, though I’d list Dancing With Myself, White Wedding and Sweet Sixteen as essential.

(please, no Mony Mony or Cradle Of Love)

But the smoldering, dramatic Hot In The City is a keeper.

T. Rex – Hot Love
from The Legend Of T. Rex

I certainly own more T. Rex than I probably need (courtesy to a multi-set collection in the ’90s which I received as promos), but there are few acts whose music brightens my mood like T. Rex.

The first thing I ever owned by Marc Bolan and company was The Legend Of T. Rex, a Japanese import I found while browsing through a record store in college. The hypnotic shuffle and unusual wordplay of Hot Love made it one of my favorites the first time I played it.

The Power Station – Some Like It Hot
from The Power Station (1985)

Duran Duran went on a hiatus after performing the theme song for the James Bond flick A View To A Kill, splitting into two groups which issued their own albums.

The first to arrive was The Power Station named after the venerable NYC recording studio and featuring lead singer Robert Palmer with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor.

My buddy Beej burned me out on the band – which I was lukewarm toward – rather quickly, but I did dig their version of the T. Rex hit Get It On (Bang A Gong) and the aggressive plastic funk of Some Like It Hot sounds pretty good again after not hearing it in awhile.

Benjamin Orr – Too Hot To Stop
from The Lace (1986)

The three albums that I immediately think of when I think of the summer of 1984 are Born In The USA, Purple Rain, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City. It seemed as though all of my friends had a copy of Heartbeat City.

(I had a cassette dubbed from my buddy Beej’s vinyl)

A few years later, bassist Ben Orr had a solo hit with the ballad Stay The Night, which was reminiscent of Drive from Heartbeat City and on which Orr sang lead. Too Hot To Stop was the follow-up and though the driving, upbeat rocker isn’t quite as quirky, it still would have made an excellent Cars’ track.

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Friday Night Videos And The First Chill Of Autumn

September 18, 2011

The living room of our treehouse is a very cozy nook to me.

From the second floor perch at the corner of a T intersection, there is often a steady flow of traffic and pedestrians to observe.

A friend once called and asked what I was doing.

“Watching Afternoon Traffic Theater,” I replied, describing the actual scene playing out down below, some twenty-yards away – two middle-aged woman who had had some minor mini-van tête-à-tête.

I covered the incident until its underwhelming conclusion without lifting my head from the back of the couch and with most of my attention focused on ESPN.

But the room is usually a calm place with the traffic usually nothing more than a steady, soothing background hum almost like the urban equivilant of ocean surf.

It’s a glorious place to have the windows open.

Tonight, there’s something in the air that arrived with the setting sun a couple hours ago.

(aside from a very luminous moon through the tree branches)

For the first time, as summer ends, there’s a chill in the evening air that is unmistakeably autumn to me.

As a kid, that hint of chill was the signal that the months of sleeping with the bedroom window open – a necessity growing up in a ’70s-styled ranch house with no central air – was coming to an end.

The hum of the interstate, a mile down the country road running in front of the house but audible at night, would soon no longer be lulling me to sleep.

(but those last few nights with the window open and the crispness in the night air did make for the best sleep of the year)

When that chill arrived in 1983, it did so a mere six weeks or so following the debut of Friday Night Videos.

MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the following summer, though my friends whose families had cable had been watching music videos on WTBS’ late-night, weekend show Night Tracks all summer.

(my buddy Beej would rattle off the names of bands whose videos he had seen that were unfamiliar to us)

Though video clips for songs had existed for years, MTV had become a phenomenon in the early ’80s and Friday Night Videos offered those of us without cable ninety minutes each week to feel like we were living in the modern world.

Here are four songs whose videos I most certainly saw on Friday Night Videos as autumn arrived in 1983…

Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
from Don’t Stop

With a mere ninety minutes less commercials, Friday Night Videos had little time to show more than videos that were popular songs or new. In 1983, Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself was neither.

The song had appeared on Idol’s four-song EP debut from two years earlier, but, since its release, the singer had a couple hits from his self-titled full-length album with Hot In The City and White Wedding.

I don’t think that I ever heard the energetic and catchy Dancing With Myself on the radio, but the apocalyptic, zombie-filled video seemed to pop up on Friday Night Videos each week until Idol’s Rebel Yell album was released later that fall.

Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel The Noize
from Metal Health

From all I’ve read and based on a few first-hand accounts, Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow worked ceaselessly to break his band. Then, he proceeded to alienate most of the music industry and Quiet Riot, who had been the first metal act to have a Number One album in the US, plummeted back to obscurity (with DuBow getting fired from the band).

However, during the autumn of ’83, Quiet Riot’s cover of Slade’s classic Cum On Feel The Noize was inescapable and Metal Health was heard blaring from every car stereo in our high school parking lot

The Motels – Suddenly Last Summer
from Little Robbers

With the sultry vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and their moody style of New Wave-tinged rock, Los Angeles’ The Motels had broken through the year before with the Top Ten ’80s classic Only The Lonely.

As I headed back to school in 1983, the band had issued its follow-up, Little Robbers, introduced by the single Suddenly Last Summer. The wistful, almost eerie song became a second Top Ten hit for The Motels and the song’s video apparently featured one of Davis’ daughters.

(and, somewhere out there, there might be a compilation of The Motels featuring liner notes by yours truly)

The Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy + 17
from Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats

I didn’t really like rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats when their Built for Speed became a smash in late 1982 and Rock This Town and Stray Cat Strut were constantly on the radio. They were a band that might have existed when my parents were in high school which was not a selling point.

By the time Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats was released, I was becoming more curious about lots of different music and I was more receptive to the retro trio. Plus, (She’s) Sexy + 17 was too damned catchy to dismiss.


Terror On The Beach Amidst The Randomness

June 2, 2011

Random lines from Joesph Heller’s Catch-22 keep popping into my head. It makes sense that I have kinship with Yossaran, the protagonist of Heller’s masterpiece, as work has been a serious mash-up of Catch-22 with a twist of Lord Of The Flies.

I used to keep a dog-eared copy of Catch-22 by my bed. It was the go-to when I just wanted to grab something and be entertained.

(surprisingly, the inexplicable logic of those in charge at the heart of the novel is more whimsical to read than experience first-hand)

Sitting down to write, odd things have bobbed to the surface, leading to unfinished posts involving Fish (the ex-lead singer of Marillion), waffles, Skynet, sorcerers, and Socialists.

(but not necessarily all in the same post and, aside from – obviously – waffles, nothing about which I have an impassioned opinion)

And tonight, sitting down to possibly write, Terror On The Beach, certainly dislodged by the zaniness of the workday, was showing in my head.

It seems few people remember this early ’70s made-for-television movie starring Dennis Weaver – just a dozen or so comments on IMDB – and involving dune-buggy driving early ’70s hippies causing mayhem and swiping sandwiches.

The flick is one that seems to surface from my subconscious every eight to ten years. I seem to recall seeing it as a prime-time movie on one of the networks. I might have even caught its premiere, though I would have been only six at the time.

I feel more certain that I haven’t seen it since the late ’70s or early ’80s when it aired late one night.

I remember little of the movie other than a couple creepy scenes involving mannequins, but all of the online reviews mention Susan Dey, as the daughter in the beleaguered family, and her bikini.

It must have been the sight of Laurie Partridge in a bikini that imprinted the flick into my memory banks to be brought forth every so often when my cerebral wiring short circuits.

It’s June now which used to be the start of summer, the most glorious time of the year. Summer meant more time hanging with friends and listening to the radio. And, during those summers in the first half of the ’80s, it would often have been Indianpolis’ Q95 or 96 Rock out of Cincinnati (technically, Hamilton).

Here are four somewhat random songs I might have heard on those stations at the time…

Greg Kihn Band – Sheila
from Rockihnroll

Several friends were devoted fans of the Greg Kihn Band, snapping up each pun-titled album as soon as they were released. The radio stations in our world loved the band, too, even beyond the hits like The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) and Jeopardy.

And what wasn’t there to love? The band’s power pop style might not have always been the flavor dujour, but it never sounded less than brilliant blaring from the stereo on a warm summer day. Sheila could have been a hit at almost any time over the past fifty years and has more than a hint of Buddy Holly to it.

Billy Idol – White Wedding
from Billy Idol

It took me a bit to warm to peroxide punk Billy Idol and, during the summer of ’83, I was non-plussed by White Wedding. I think that had more to do with a friend who adopted Idol as his own and smothered us with his incessant playing of the mini-album.

But, I grew to enjoy a lot of Idol’s music and White Wedding is lean and kinetic.

Scandal – Love’s Got A Line On You
from Scandal (EP)

Sure, everyone could hum The Warrior (and picture its Kabuki-themed video) in 1984, but Scandal was well known to us a summer earlier when Goodbye To You and Love’s Got A Line On You were radio staples.

Goodbye To You was not to be trifled with, a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass, but Love’s Got A Line On You was a mid-tempo groove, revealing a more vulnerable side of things.

(neither reinvented fire, but both were ridiculously catchy.

Triumph – Magic Power
from Allied Forces

Triumph never quite became a major act in the US, but I heard their songs often on radio in the early ’80s. And it wasn’t uncommon to see kids in our high school halls wearing Triumph concert shirts.

I was mostly ambivilant about the band, but I did kind of dig Magic Power.