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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Maybe There’ll Be Soylent Bacon

August 14, 2009

Well, the future’s here and somehow we’re expected to handle it without the guidance of Charlton Heston. This is disconcerting.

I realized from watching The Planet Of The Apes as a child that no one was more at ease in dealing with the future than Heston. It wasn’t just maladjusted monkeys. An after-school viewing The Omega Man in the mid-‘70s made it clear that the man was equally as capable of keeping a horde of psychotic, Luddite cultists at bay.

And, with The Omega Man, it’s almost as though the filmmaker had peered thirty-five years into the future and been inspired by a glimpse of a town-hall meeting on health care.

(of course, that flick ended badly for Heston – it would seem that you can only keep a horde of psychotic, Luddite cultists at bay for so long)

Each time I read of the folks who believe that passing a health care program would be like smothering old folks with a pillow, I can’t help but think of another Heston movie – Soylent Green.

I think I was eight or nine, sometime in the late ‘70s, when CBS showed Soylent Green on the Tuesday Night Movie (or whatever night it happened to be). It had one of those “mature audiences” announcements beforehand.

Of course, I watched it.

And it freaked me out.

Soylent Green was set in the future – from an early ’70s perspective – with most of the human population unemployed and sleeping in the crumbling stairways of roach motels.

The small handful of uber wealthy live in high-rise apartment buildings playing video games and eating steaks and strawberries. The poor have never seen a steak, a strawberry, or a Pop-Tart as pollution and global warming has ravaged the environment.

So, the future is playing out pretty much according to that script.

(why couldn’t it have been talking monkeys running the planet?)

And, if the rantings of the misinformed and Sarah Palin are to be believed regarding old people and the health care debate, you’d think Soylent Green – the foodstuff – might be in stores by Thanksgiving.

A Girl Called Eddy – People Used To Dream About The Future
from A Girl Called Eddy

I received a promo of this album; the debut for an American ex-pat in London named Erin Moran who goes by the less Happy Days-centric A Girl Called Eddy. Her 2004 debut was one of those deals where I checked it out, thought enough of it to move it into another pile of discs, and it promptly got lost in the shuffle.

Hearing this song was a fortunate rediscovery. I’m not sure how the rest of the album sounds, but People Who Used To Dream… is gorgeous. If you’re a fan of Burt Bacharach, it’s an excellent use of five-and-a-half minutes.

Leonard Cohen – The Future
from The Future

There are outtakes of stuff I’ve never posted where Leonard Cohen has popped up. And I keep thinking I need to write about him. I mean, the man has lived a full-grown life.

If I were Canadian, I’d want Mr. Cohen to be prime minister.

Timbuk3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
from Greetings from Timbuk3

This song’s simply more fun than killin’ drifters.

Matthew Sweet – Future Shock
from In Reverse

Paloma does not find The Heston to be as endearing as I do. Fortunately, I have studied his work and should we have to address talking monkeys, a horde of psychotic, Luddite cultists, or Soylent Green in the future, I will be prepared with a dramatic, over-the-top solution.

Paloma is extremely fond of the work of Matthew Sweet and, after hearing Future Shock, it’s not difficult to understand why.