Reconsidering Bob (But I’m Still Not Buying A #@&%! Ford Truck)

January 9, 2013

(reconstituted and reheated from January 2009)

I’ve never really been one of those music fans who take offense to artists who license their songs for use in commercials. I wouldn’t consider myself such a purist, believing Melt With You helping to entice me to want a burger devalues the song.

I’ve also been blessed with a superhuman ability to, for the most part, tune out commercials.

(working in record stores during one’s formative years will nurture skills in selective listening).

And, recently, I’ve been strangely, unexpectedly compelled to snag half a dozen albums by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. They were in excellent condition and none was more than a dollar – not even the double, live album Nine Tonight.

Purchasing them was surprising (or maybe not) as I’ve never owned anything by Seger in my life on any format despite growing up in the Midwest where he was staple. I knew his hits and even some album tracks from radio and the bowling alley jukebox.

(you know, I wonder if in some parallel universe I was a better bowler and ended up The Dude)

So, I was familiar with a chunk of Seger’s work. My best friend in junior high played his older brother’s eight tracks of the stuff relentlessly. There were songs of Seger’s which I thought were good, but I kind of shelved him with Johnny Hoosier as likable and workman-like but not having the spiritual, transcendent kick of Springsteen.

As I’ve listened to my trove of Seger the past few weeks, I’ve been surprised to realize how much of it I do like. I’m still not elevating him to Springsteen status, but he does now occupy a zone for me as slightly more than erstwhile heartland rocker.

And I was puzzled as to why I’d been rather ambivalent toward him.

Then, I remembered that damned truck commercial with Like A Rock playing and the incalculable number of times I must have been subjected to it, particularly during football season. I had to wonder if, somehow, subconsciously, the use of that song had caused me to dismiss Seger’s entire catalog.

I still have no issue with an artist making some coin through licensing their songs but maybe such a move is a bit more insidious that I’ve believed.

Here are four songs by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, all of which I heard on the radio plenty in the early ’80s when I was first discovering music…

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake
from Against The Wind (1980)

Fire Lake was Bob Seger & The Bullet Band’s current hit during the spring of 1980 when I was first becoming interested enough in music to turn on the radio. It was one of half a dozen songs from Against The Wind that I’d hear on one station or another over the next year.

And, as we were in the Midwest, there were another half dozen Seger hits from the ’70s that were radio staples – a decade or more before true classic rock stations – that you would hear more days than not.

But the one song from the band that I’ve never tired of is Fire Lake. I was in junior high when the song was a Top Ten hit and the whole “bronze beauties/lying in the sun” slant brought to life some kind of Midwestern Valhalla for bikers in my head.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – You’ll Accomp’ny Me
from Against The Wind (1980)

One of the most popular places for kids to hang out in our small town was the bowling alley. On weekend afternoons during the winter, the place was packed.

My buddy and neighbor Will was quite smitten with Kim that winter and every time I’d hear You’ll Accomp’ny Me coming from the jukebox, I was fairly certain his quarter was the one that had conjured it.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance (1983)

Even though our town was fewer than four-thousand people, we did have a radio station. By the time Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band released The Distance, the station had flipped from soft rock and light Top 40 to country.

I would hear the rootsy Shame On The Moon, written by Rodney Crowell, during breakfast on the kitchen radio which would be tuned to the local station. And I wanted nothing to do with country music at the time.

So, by association, I wanted nothing to do with the wistful Shame On The Moon when it came on the rock stations I favored at the time. Over the years, though, I’ve grown to appreciate the song’s loping melody and introspective lyric.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Understanding
from Teachers soundtrack (1984)

Understanding wasn’t from a new Seger album when it was a hit in late 1984. Instead, the song appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Teachers. My friends and I caught the flick while skipping school one day.

Ironically, the movie was about the poor state of the American educational system. Of course, the fictional school in Teachers did hire Nick Nolte as a teacher and enroll Ralph Macchio and Crispin Glover as students, so what did they expect?

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Money, Cocker And The Loaf

September 19, 2012

Eddie Money spooked Paloma.

His mug appeared on the television as he belted out Two Tickets To Paradise in a commercial for some beer or burger or chainsaw.

(or something)

“That’s scary,” she noted.

There was something about the aging rocker, shuffling about the screen in an exaggerated manner and belting out song in a gravelly voice, that made me think of Joe Cocker.

“He reminds me of Joe Cocker. I think that the two should go out on tour together.”

I pictured the pair lurching across America.

“And Meat Loaf,” she added.

She paused, then succinctly expressed the logic with the very thing I was thinking. “He emotes.”

It’s true.

The Dude abides.

The Loaf emotes.

And the world keeps spinnin’ ’round.

And so I imagined Eddie Money, Joe Cocker, and Meat Loaf touring the country, contorting and lurching, belting it to the back rows, emoting with more melodrama than a dressing room full of drag queens…

…it made for quite a spectacle in my head.

Here are four songs from the catalogs of the trio…

Eddie Money – Think I’m In Love
Eddie Money – Shakin’
from No Control (1982)

Eddie Money’s career was in a lull when I started listening to music at the outset of the ’80s. Of course I knew his early hits like Two Tickets To Paradise and Baby Hold On To Me as I heard them often on the rock stations, but as those had been several years earlier, it was ancient history to me.

Then, he released No Control. I vividly recall hearing Think I’m In Love for the first time and how damned catchy it was (and still is).

As for Shakin’, while it failed to match Think I’m In Love‘s success, it seemed to get as much airplay and it was notable to me and my friends for the novelty of hearing “tits” on the radio.

Joe Cocker – Shelter Me
from Cocker (1986)

Like Eddie Money, Joe Cocker’s career was waning as the ’80s arrived. I imagine that the only thing that I knew by the man was hearing him croak his way through the mawkish You Are So Beautiful.

Then, he duetted with Jennifer Warnes on Up Where We Belong and I saw him perform on Solid Gold – something for which I was wholly unprepared.

I understand that Cocker is well regarded, but he didn’t exactly make a good first impression on me and, over the years, I’ve not become much more acquainted with his oeuvre beyond the basics. I did hear Shelter Me on the radio a bit in early ’86 and, though I imagine the song is unlikely to make a list of his essentials, I finally took to his gruff, soulful voice.

Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
from Hits Out Of Hell (1984)

I’m still bitter about reality television ruining my concept of Meat Loaf.


Sooooo…The Phone Can Tell Me If It’s Raining?

May 12, 2012

I have never negotiated a hostage release.

I am not a surgeon awaiting word that an organ needed for me to perform a transplant is on ice.

Those are two of a cornucopia of reasons that I didn’t bother getting a cellphone until two years ago.

The phone I have is basic, a mere conveyance for telecommunication that would have been an impressive device in a ’70s sci-fi flick from my childhood.

It would have still wowed us when I was in college and Gordon Gekko had a mobile phone the size of a brick pressed to his head.

My phone doesn’t talk to me or advise me.

I keep seeing a commercial for the iPhone in which Zooey Deschanel asks her phone if it’s raining.

Her home doesn’t appear to be very large. In fact, it has a cozy bungalow feel. So, unless the place isn’t hers and she secretely lives in the attic, there has to be a window within a few steps.

In fact, as the voice in the phone gives an affirmative on the precipitation, Zooey is shown peering out the window.

Thus, you might not need a weatherman, to know which way the wind blows, but apparently a talking phone is needed to know if it is raining.

I’ve read that mountain gorillas in the wild have been observed to remain in their nests, delaying the start of their day, if they wake and it is raining.

Without a phone to tell them, the gorillas are able to figure out that it is indeed raining and have the good sense to stay in bed.

Undoubtedly, they will be ruling the planet in the future.

A search for songs about “talk” yielded a few dozen. Here are four of them that seemed good for today…

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

I was well acquainted with The Tubes via a high school buddy who worshipped the band. Though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it.

The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitar was infectious beyond belief and its title became our salutation for years to come.

A Flock Of Seagulls – (It’s Not Me) Talking
from Listen (1983)

When A Flock Of Seagulls arrived with I Ran (So Far Away) and their self-titled debut, I quickly adopted the Liverpool quartet as my own. I was hearing the music of the future and I wasn’t about to be left behind.

The future was short-lived, but it was fun while it lasted and the band left behind more than just their lone hit in an underrated catalog that produced two wildly entertaining albums.

The hyperkinteic (It’s Not Me) Talking is about a man who believes that he is receiving messages from aliens in his head.

The Alan Parsons Project – Let’s Talk About Me
from Vulture Culture (1985)

The progressive-pop/rock consortium The Alan Parsons produced a string of successful albums during the latter half of the ’70s and early ’80s. Songs like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, Games People Play, Eye In The Sky, and Don’t Answer Me were radio staples during those years.

Vulture Culture marked the beginning of the decline in The Alan Parsons Project’s commercial fortunes. However, I did hear the catchy Let’s Talk About Me fairly often on rock radio during the spring of ’85.

Bongwater – Everybody’s Talkin’
from The Big Sell-Out (1992)

I discovered the avant-garde, art-rock duo Bongwater through Paloma with their gorgeous cover of Roky Erickson’s You Don’t Love Me, Yet on a various artist tribute to the Austin cult musician.

On The Big Sell-Out, Bongwater’s final release, the pair offered up a strange, surreal take on the Fred Neil/Harry Neilsen classic Everybody’s Talkin’ that reimagines it as a spoken word tale delivered by a failed actress who has had a nervous breakdown and believes she is actually working with suicidal people.