Everyone Wants To Beat Daniel-san’s Ass

March 10, 2013

kkEverytime I channel surf the past few weeks, there’s Ralph Macchio sulking, being oblivious or – most often – getting his ass kicked by every living soul whose path he crosses in one of the three Karate Kid flicks.

I was roughly the age of high school student and social pariah Daniel-san, the character Macchio was playing, when The Karate Kid opened in theaters in the summer of 1984.

(Macchio was, at the time, already in his forties)

The movie was, as I recall, an unexpected hit.

I saw it, as did most of my friends, at the old theater in our hometown. It was slight but entertaining and, of course, we all dug Mr. Miyagi who came from another world and possessed wisdom dispensed in riddles.

But Daniel-san…

It’s tough to be the new kid in town, but, having had three decades to reflect on the situation, I have to wonder if Mrs. LaRusso moved him three-thousand miles from New Jersey to Southern California to escape the shame of having an offspring whose mere presence instilled instant hostility and hatred in those around him.

(it couldn’t have been simply the lure of a secretarial job)

And then, she comes to find that there is no East Coast bias when it came to wanting to open a can of whoop-ass on the fruit of her loins.

Yes, you could have put Daniel LaRusso in a room with Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Ghandi, and the peace-loving threesome would have reduced Daniel-san to a pulpy heap identifiable only by dental records.

In truth, not only were Daniel-san and I roughly the same age in 1984, his attire led me to believe that he had been raiding my closet. I should have identified with the kid I was seeing on the screen.

I didn’t.

No one did.

The only people that seemed to dig Daniel-san were Elisabeth Shue and my girlfriend at the time.

(and though the girlfriend was googly moogly for Macchio, her five-year old brother – who loved The Karate Kid – also wanted to kick his ass)

And what about Elisabeth Shue’s interest in this human piñata?

She had money, she was a cheerleader, she was a fetching blonde whose student body was seemingly popular with the entire student body…

…and she would later graduate from Harvard and win an Academy Award nomination.

And she was smitten with Daniel-san.

It was inexplicable.

But, when I come across The Karate Kid on cable, I pause. I watch for the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi, but I also watch because there’s something about watching Daniel-san receive a beating that restores order to the universe.

The Karate Kid also served as an introduction for most of America to Bananarama, whose Cruel Summer appeared briefly in the movie and became a hit with its inclusion on the soundtrack.

Here are four songs from Bananarama…

Bananarama – He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’

Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
from Deep Sea Skiving (1983)

My buddy Beej brought a lot of new music to us via his uncle, a college professor who lived in the city. So, we knew of Tears For Fears, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and Echo & The Bunnymen well before we might have heard them on the radio.

Bananarama was another one. The trio’s Deep Sea Skiving might not have been more than a cult hit in the States, but I did hear He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ and Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) often when 97X went on the air in autumn of 1983.

The former was a cover of a minor hit by Motown girl group The Velvelettes and the breezy, tropical vibe of the song was augmented by a guest appearance by Fun Boy Three, a trio comprised of former members of UK ska group The Specials.

Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) was another cover but of a far better-known song which had reached #1 in 1969 as performed by the studio band Steam.

Bananarama – Cruel Summer

Bananarama – The Wild Life
from Bananrama (1984)

Bananarama’s self-titled second album actually arrived in the spring of 1984 and my buddy Beej was again tuned in, raving about Robert De Niro’s Waiting… which he had discovered via the song’s video being played on the fledgling Night Tracks on WTBS.

By the time we returned to school that autumn, the loping Cruel Summer had become Banarama’s US breakthrough hit, so the trio might have been the only people on the face that didn’t wish to do great violence to Ralph Macchio.

That autumn, Bananarama provided the title track for Cameron Crowe’s The Wild Life, a movie that I don’t even recall being in theaters. The song was belatedly added to the US version of Bananarama and, though stylistically in the vein of Cruel Summer, The Wild Life failed to replicate the group’s prior soundtrack success.

I totally dug those first two Bananarama records. Deep Sea Skiving was a lot of fun, the three girls were cute as buttons, and it’s still the only Bananarama I need to own.

Two years later, Bananarama fell into the clutches of producers Stock Aitken Waterman, scored a mammoth hit with yet another cover, Venus, and I was out.

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Killer On The Rampage…Somewhere

February 23, 2013

(rebroadcast from February, 2010, now with added calcium)

I read the news most days.

But, unlike my parents and their generation, I don’t make a point to watch a news broadcast each day, merely pausing on the news channels if something catches my attention.

The other night, as I was watching some basketball, there was a commercial for the local news. It was some perky chick yammering about a murder suspect possibly being loose – or, in the parlance of our legal system, on the lam – in the “mid-state area.”

Details, she assured me, would be provided at ten.

A killer? In our relatively calm, safe, usually unhomicidal neighborhood?

At ten, I actually went into a holding pattern with the remote. Perhaps this was news that I might need.

(of course, if it had been truly vital information, shouldn’t they have told me twenty minutes earlier?)

It ended up being a murder that seems to have resulted from a domestic disturbance. I’m not even sure if the town where the crime had taken place is even in the station’s broadcast area.

Hardly clear and present danger.

Dodgy attempts to attract viewers aside, this station lost any credibility with Paloma and me long ago. One evening, we happened to be watching and there was a report on a murder at a restaurant in the wee hours earlier that morning.

And the visual accompanying the words was of someone dropping a couple of slices of pizza onto a restaurant’s kitchen floor. The camera was focused on the prone pie pieces as the broadcast moved on to Rudy with sports.

We turned to each other and stared. To borrow from the late, great Bill Hicks – our expressions were like two dogs that had been shown a card trick.

Here is a quartet of songs inspired by real-life murderers…

The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
from The Fine Art Of Surfacing (1979)

San Diego teenager Brenda Spencer shot two adults, killing them, and wounded eight children from her bedroom window in 1979. Her explanation for her deeds was “I don’t like Mondays.”

For The Boomtown Rats, the song was on its way to becoming their American breakthrough when the Spencer family threatened legal action and the label stopped promoting the song.

Thirty years later, the wickedly dark and totally catchy almost hit is rightfully regarded to be a classic from the period.

Die Toten Hosen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
from Learning English, Lesson One (1991)

The Dead Pants – that’s the English translation of German punk band Die Toten Hosen’s name.

That was enough to make me snag a promo copy of Learning English, Lesson One one day at work. I was glad I did as it was more fun than killin’ strangers.

Killin’ strangers is what led to Giilmore being executed in a well-publicized affair in the mid-’70s. He requested that his eyes be donated for transplant.

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes is a cover of The Adverts’ original from the late ’70s.

Concrete Blonde – Jonestown
from Mexican Moon (1992)

I was in junior high when the Jonestown massacre occured and over 900 people, at the urging of Jim Jones, drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid. I remember the vivid images in Newsweek magazine and the television mini-series that had me and my friends tripping the next day at school.

I think it was one of my first what-the-@#$%! (international division) moments in my life.

As for Concrete Blonde, I always mentally shortlist them as one of the acts of the late ’80s/early ’90s that deserved a bigger audience.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
from Nebraska (1982)

In 1982, I mostly knew Bruce Springsteen for the user-friendly The River from two years earlier. I was bumfoozled when I heard the stark Nebraska.

I was in college when Springsteen released the mammoth Live/1975–85. If you weren’t there, I assure you that the hype surrounding the five-album set was considerable.

Hearing some of the songs live prompted me to really spend some time with Nebraska.

(I quickly understood the praise heaped on it over the years)

Nebraska‘s title song was inspired by the two-month killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in the ’50s.

Those events also inspired the 1973 movie Badlands starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. I remember Badlands airing on prime-time television with those parental warnings that only served to make the movie a must-see event to a kid.


If You Don’t Read This Post, The Terrorists Win

February 5, 2013

dropI’m not going to gild the lily here, partly because I’m a straight shooter, but mostly because I am neither a metallurgist nor a botanist.

For the past year or so, we’ve been receiving an increasing amount of traffic here with each month attracting more hits than ever before. It seemed as though the good times would never end.

However, something has happened in the last week. Traffic here has plummeted to less than half of what it had been over the last six months.

In the corporate world, this situation would be conveyed by a sixty-three minute conference call with the center of attention being a slide with a line moving steadily at a forty-five degree angle in a northeasterly direction. Then, boom, the line drops straight south.

It’s quite odd.

The easy thing to do would be to blame al-Qaeda, but I’m not here to name names or point fingers.

Instead, we choose to earn your traffic. And, if you’ve got nothing else, sex sells.

Here are four sex songs…

Berlin – Sex (I’m A…)
from Pleasure Victim (1982)

Berlin was a band that I knew in early ’83 by reputation only as the L.A. band had caused a stir with the lyrics for their song Sex (I’m A…) and a lot of stations across the country wouldn’t play it.

I heard the song later that summer. My buddy Beej returned from a couple weeks in Arizona with albums by bands that he’d discovered on a Phoenix alternative radio station and Pleasure Victim was one of them. I dug it, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hoopla.

Years later, I’d interview lead singer Terri Nunn who was an absolute sweetheart.

Soul Asylum – Sexual Healing
from No Alternative (1993)

Not long after Soul Asylum released their breakthrough Grave Dancers Union in late 1992, the Minneapolis band came through town. A good dozen or so of us from the record store where I was working attended the show.

To the surprise of those of us that had worked a shift together earlier that day, the opening act Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ set featured a guest appearance by a shoplifter we had busted who rushed the stage, sang a few lines with the lead singer, and exited with a poorly received stage dive.

A year later, Soul Asylum appeared on the benefit compilation No Alternative with their run-through of the Marvin Gaye classic Sexual Healing.

Eurythmics – Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
from 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) (1984)

Eurythmics were coming off Touch and several hits from that album – Here Comes The Rain Again, Who’s That Girl?, and Right By Your Side – when they were commissioned to provide the soundtrack for the remake of 1984.

Apparently, the selection of the duo was at odds with the film’s director, and much of the music was unused in the finished product. Meanwhile, American radio wouldn’t touch the single Sexcrime and, though it was a minor hit, I never heard the song on any station at the time.

Bow Wow Wow – Sex
from Girl Bites Dog (1993)

I have close to a hundred tracks by Bow Wow Wow, the result of the band’s catalog (and several compilations) being reissued at some point in the ’90s and the promotional copies which I was provided.

Now, despite having so much Bow Wow Wow at my fingertips, I can conjure up maybe half a dozen of their songs in my head.

As charming as I find the band and as adorable as Annabella Lwin might have been, there is a repetitiveness to Bow Wow Wow’s music that leaves much of their oeuvre indistinguishable to me.

(of course, it is the repetitiveness of those chanted choruses that made songs I Want Candy and Do You Wanna Hold Me? staples of ’80s New Wave compilations)

I couldn’t recall if I’d ever heard Sex or not when I queued it up. It’s certainly Bow Wow Wow.

It has the twangy surf guitar.

It has the manic, tribal drumming.

And it has Annabella yelping.

But the song is practically an instrumental and she could be yelping about sex…or sushi…or Scatman Crothers.

It is fun, though and kind of reminds me of Talking Heads’ I Zimbra.