Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

June 14, 2012

The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.

Ihe source of this indifference is not the coverage and pontificating pundits parsing a never-ending election cycle.

It’s the vacuum left by honest, intelligent discourse that has been filled by – at best – a din of white noise and – at worst – very ugly and ignorant rancor.

The older I get, the more people like Noam Chomsky and Bill Hicks make sense to me.

I’ve been considering writing in Willie Nelson this November and – damn it – I still might if for no other reason than so that I might honestly tell people that I wrote in Willie Nelson for president.

(and how cool would it be to have the Red Headed Stranger in office?)

Let’s spare ourselves the coming months of nonsense and pick a name out of a hat.

Seriously.

We could take the hundreds of millions of dollars – or more – that will be spent carpet bombing us with soundbites and, instead, make a giant hat into which interested citizens would put their name.

Your name is chosen, you serve a year as the leader of the free world.

Hold the drawing at halftime of the Super Bowl.

The construction of the giant hat would put innumerable people to work.

It would be a lottery where the winner would get a good-paying gig and nice package of retirement perks.

It would all be over in ten minutes, we all get on with life and it’s only slightly less silly than a mostly uninformed electorate using color-codes to choose their candidate.

(which is how Garanimals wanted us kids of the ’70s to dress)

As I don’t have luxury of a giant hat and a pool of applicants, I entered “random” into google, scanned the results for a first name, then for a last name and got Andrew Burt.

Under my proposed system, our next president might be one of several physicians from California, a marshall from Utah, a science fiction writer, or some fellow arrested for a DUI.

Sadly, with the self-serving, petty, visionless group of squabbling suits who serve our country, I’m beginning to doubt that it matters which Andrew Burt actually leads them.

Here are four somewhat random songs that caused my ears to prick up…

Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark (12-inch “Blaster Mix”)

So perhaps the protagonist of Dancing In The Dark is suffering some existential angst, but it’s also an anthemic call to action. Or that’s how the song was imprinted onto my DNA as a sixteen-year old kid when it arrived with the first weeks of summer in 1984.

I was surprised to realize that I have a copy of Arthur Baker’s 12-mix of the song. I suppose the song mortified Springsteen purists, but I heard it a lot that summer.

(I kind of dug it)

Hearing it for the first time in who knows, I still kind of dig it.

John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1982)

Stewart, the man who wrote Daydream Believer, was joined by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on the timeless-sounding Gold. It’s a pretty perfect pop song.

I always pictured this song taking place on some dusty, desolate stretch of road in Arizona, so if Paloma and I ever open up a bait shop in the Southwest, I’d insist this song be on the jukebox.

Sparks and Jane Wiedlin – Cool Places
from In Outer Space (1983)

My buddy Streuss introduced us to Sparks in high school, but the duo has had little commercial success in the States aside from their collaboration with Go-Gos guitarist Jane Weidlin.

Cool Places is typically quirky Sparks and the song actually became a minor hit during the summer of ’83 when it seemed like they appeared on Solid Gold every other week to perform it.

Lick The Tins – Can’t Help Falling In Love
from Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack (1987)

Director John Hughes made music an intrinsic part of the fabric of his films. For the close of Some Kind Of Wonderful, he opted to have the two social misfits walk off together to the energetic, playful take on Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love by the Celtic rock band Lick The Tins.


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.


And Then The Ceiling Comes Down

February 8, 2012

It was late January or early February and I was trapped in the special hell that was inventory at the large record store where I worked.

The store was so large that it took our staff of sixty or so two days at about ten hours each day to accomplish the task of counting – and recounting – everything.

And, the festivities started at six in the morning.

(if you wish more grisly details, they’re here)

On this particular morning, my head was splitting with a headache that – surprisingly for that period – was not a hangover.

(we were not opposed to a cocktail or six before, during, or after our shifts)

Attendence for inventory was non-negotiable; absence was a fireable offense even for veterans, but I had enough tenure and title to skate late that afternoon. I had realized that I had cracked a molar which had been the source of the headache.

I managed to get a dentist whose office was a fifteen-minute walk from the floor of the house I shared with two roommates, one a drummer who resided on the couch. The staff had mercifully agreed to stay a few minutes late and see me after the last scheduled patient.

The assessment was that a root canal would be necessary, but I would have to return the following morning. However, I was provided with the means to alleviate the pain until the problematic tooth could be properly addressed.

I stepped out of the doctor’s office, dazed and hungry. And then, the skies opened and, though it was unseasonably warm for the time of year, I was drenched to the bone within minutes.

I continued the trek home, now dazed, hungry, and drenched. Across the street from our house was a small grocery store and, though I was pretty much skinned, decided that, after the traumas of the day, I deserved something of sustenance more than Ramen noodles.

Ten minutes later, I unlocked the front door, salivating at the prospect of the Tombstone pizza I had purchased.

(truly a luxury at the time)

I preheated the oven and went to my room to change into dry clothes.

Entering the room, I noticed a large “blister” on the ceiling in one corner. I actually mumbled to no one, “Hmmm…that doesn’t look good” a split second before a chunk of the ceiling came crashing to the ground.

Fortunately the mess of plaster and water missed the stereo by eight inches.

Here are four songs from CDs that were likely in the stacks nearest the stereo that day…

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
from (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

Though it was received mostly with a shrug here in the States, Paloma and I loved Definitely Maybe, Oasis’ debut, spending a lot of time listening to it during the early portion of our friendship.

A friend who was a label rep snagged me a copy of the band’s sophomore effort and, though we weren’t quite as passionate about (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, I professed our approval.

(then I added that I didn’t think that it would break them here)

Six months later, Wonderwall was finally making the Gallagher brothers a sensation Stateside (albeit briefly). Personally, my favorite track was the shuffling sonic tower of grandeur that is Don’t Look Back In Anger.

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
from The Ghost Of Tom Joad (1995)

Late in 1995, Bruce Springsteen released the stark solo album The Ghost Of Tom Joad, which recalled his grim masterpiece Nebraska. I lived with the album for months.

And though the album wasn’t as stellar as Nebraska, I’d put The Ghost Of Tom Joad‘s haunting title track on the list of Springsteen’s essential songs.

(and, sadly, the lyrics resonate far more now than they did fifteen years ago)

Pulp – Common People
from Different Class (1995)

I discovered Pulp from reading British music magazines in the mid-’90s and, though the band never really broke through in the States, I became a fan when I snagged a promo of His ‘n’ Hers in 1994.

A year later, Different Class became an even bigger seller in the UK, making Pulp and lead singer Jarvis Cocker superstars in their homeland. In the US, the group remained a cult act relegated to college and alternative radio or MTV in the middle of the night.

The witty, slightly acerbic Common People – in which Cocker describes a relationship with a female acquaintance from a wealthy background – has an infectiously elastic melody and is impossible to dislodge from the brain.

Aimee Mann – You’re with Stupid Now
from I’m With Stupid (1995)

Aimee Mann was a favorite from the first time I saw her platinum blonde rat tail in Til Tuesday’s video for Voices Carry. I hung with Til Tuesday through a trio of albums in the ’80s, each better – and more ignored – than the previous with the wonderful curtain call Everything’s Different Now being essentially a solo effort from Mann.

The quasi-title song from Mann’s second true solo album I’m With Stupid was as stripped down as anything she’d done before. Uncluttered and sparse, the song was a lovely showcase for Mann’s clever wordplay and knack for a catchy, melancholic melody