“It’s Just Time, It’s Not Like It Means Anything”*

November 3, 2012

clocksTonight is the end of Daylight Savings Time, a ritual that is still odd to me.

I grew up in one of two small areas in the US that didn’t kowtow to The Man on the issue of Daylight Savings Time. Aside from some time in Southeast Asia, I was into my twenties before I ever moved a clock forward or set one back. I let time do its thing.

Then, I was suddenly a forced participant in this national game of Hokey Pokey with a chronological twist.

Now, after weeks of adjusting to making the morning commute in the dark, I have to reorient to the dawning sun on the horizon, manhandling my still sleeping retinas as I speed along.

It also adds an added level of complexity to an item that has been a staple in every phone conversation with my mom ever since I left home.

“What time is it there?”

“What time is it there?

(it’s not as though she has to calculate Pi)

Well, the time changed last night.”

(her tone indicates that it is entirely possible that she holds hobgoblins in the night responsible)

“It’s Sunday.”

Mom is not amused. I rehash how time zones work and the unchanging fact that, so long as both of us live where we do, it will always be an hour later there, no matter what hobgoblins might do with the clocks.

But, to quote a line from the movie Some Kind Of Wonderful, directed by the late John Hughes, “It’s just time, it’s not like it means anything.”

There were hundreds of songs with time in the title when I searched the hard drive. Here is a quartet…

Alan Parsons Project – Time
from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)

They might have had progressive leanings, but one-time Abbey Road Studios engineer Alan Parsons’ collective also produced some masterful singles. The ultra-wistful Time is an autumn song to me.

My Bloody Valentine – We Have All The Time In The World
from Peace Together (1993)

Peace Together was a compilation, a charity record for some organization promoting peace in Northern Ireland. My first trip to the UK coincided with the Good Friday Peace Accord which happened four years later.

As a kid in the States in the late ’70s/early ’80s, the troubles in Ireland were inscrutible. All I really understood was that a lot of folks were suffering, mostly ordinary people who merely wanted to live their lives. To watch the news, it seemed like an intractable war.

Three decades later, it seems as though that conflict has been mostly resolved. The relative calm in Northern Ireland now might be the lone thing that gives me hope the major conflicts in the world today might also reach some, if not perfect, at least benign resolution.

Culture Club – Time (Clock Of The Heart)
from Kissing To Be Clever (1983)

I have no qualms in declaring an affection for Culture Club. Boy George had a fantastic voice and they had more than a few brilliantly frothy pop songs – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Church Of The Poison Mind, Victims

They also had some godawful stuff.

(I’ll Tumble 4 Ya immediately comes to mind)

Time (Clock Of The Heart) is one of the former and sounds timeless. When she hears the song, Paloma reacts like I do to bacon.

Matthew Ryan – Time And Time Only
from East Autumn Grin (2000)

I used to take smoke breaks with Ryan when we worked together many years ago. Good times.

It’s been awhile since I heard one of his albums, but I thought his first few releases were pretty compelling collections. The dire Time And Time Only makes Springsteen’s Nebraska sound positively giddy.

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December 3, 1983

December 3, 2011

By December 1983, my radio listening habits were going through a migration from Top 40 stations, which I had been listening to for a couple years, to the album rock of Q95 and, mostly in the evenings when reception was possible, the newly-minted 97X.

But, Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was still a drowsy weekend morning staple and I would often peruse Billboard magazine when I’d come across a copy in the magazine racks at Walden Books while hanging out in the malls in Cincinnati.

During the first week of December, 1983, nine songs debuted on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart…

Rodney Dangerfield – Rappin’ Rodney
from Rappin’ Rodney (1983)
(debuted #96, peaked #83, 8 weeks on chart)

I’d skip most of the songs that debuted this week if they shuffled up on the iPod, perhaps pausing for a nostalgic moment to think, yeah I remember this one, didn’t care for it in 1983 and I am no more interested now.

In the case of Rappin’ Rodney, I’d halt long enough to pay respect to the late comedian, but when it comes to Mr. Dangerfield, I want to watch him verbally joust with Sam Kinison in Back To School or sink Judge Smails’ newly-christened sloop in Caddyshack not listen to him rap.

Streets – If Love Should Go
from 1st (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #87, 5 weeks on chart)

Streets was a short-lived venture formed by keyboardist/singer Steve Walsh who left Kansas in 1981 following the conversion of several members to Christianity and their desire to incorporate their faith into the music.

(as someone living in an über-pious part of the country, those born-again Christians can be a shrill bunch and, as Hank Hill once opined on King Of The Hill, “You people are not making Christianity any better, you’re just making rock ‘n’ roll worse”)

I used to hear If Love Should Go a lot on the radio, but it’s fairly generic and unremarkable arena rock that hardly stood out. By the end of the ’80s, Walsh had reconsituted Kansas, which had broken up after two albums released during his absence.

Anne Murray – A Little Good News
from A Little Good News (1983)
(debuted #88, peaked #74, 9 weeks on chart)

I have a soft spot for Anne Murray’s early ’70s stuff hits Snowbird and Danny’s Song as I’d often hear them on the car radio on whatever light rock station my parents would have dialed up.

I also heard A Little Good News a lot, again, thanks to the parents who would have the kitchen radio tuned to our town’s radio station before school. The station had flipped from light rock to country, so Murray was a natural fit.

However, hearing Murray’s lament about the state of the world makes me think of Lori, a sophomore classmate at the time. She was a tomboy who was on the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams and I spent much of that year quite smitten with her.

The smit went unrequited, but the two of us were good friends and hung out in several classes we had together. For some reason, I still remember her singing A Little Good News one day while we were working on an experiment in chemistry class.

The Doors – Gloria
from Alive, She Cried (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)

Although, not unexpectedly, the kids with whom I went to school were mostly into the then-current bands of the early ’80s, there was a great, mass appreciation for the music of The Doors, who had ceased to exist well before any of us had even reached school age.

(there were even classmates who claimed to have a very personal connection to the band)

Alive, She Cried was a live compilation culled from performances by The Doors between 1968 and 1970 and I remember hearing Gloria a lot on Q95 that autumn. Personally,I’d rather hear the band doing one of their trippy originals than a version of the Them classic.

Jump ‘N The Saddle – The Curly Shuffle
from Jump ‘N The Saddle (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #15, 14 weeks on chart)

Three Stooges-mania swept through our junior high in the late ’70s/early ’80s, though I’m not sure what triggered the mass rediscovery of Larry, Curly, and Moe amongst us.

There must have been something going on in the rest of the country, too, as Jump ‘N The Saddle’s homage to the Stooges was inescapable in the winter of ’83. It was a fun song for the first several thousand times and, then, it was not so fun.

Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock in America
from Midnight Madness (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #51, 12 weeks on chart)

The San Francisco band Night Ranger was quickly embraced by the rock stations I was listening to and Don’t Tell Me You Love Me and Sing Me Away got their 1982 debut album a lot of attention.

So, it wasn’t a surprise to hear (You Can Still) Rock in America a lot when Midnight Madness was released even if the song didn’t reach the Top 40. The song had a sound tailor-made for the heartland and to be played on the radio alongside contemporaries like Journey, Foreigner, and Billy Squier.

A few months later, Sister Christian was issued as the second single from Midnight Madness, propelling Night Ranger to headlining status for a few years and giving the band one of the more enduring hits of the ’80s.

Bonnie Tyler – Take Me Back
from Faster Than The Speed Of Night (1983)
(debuted #75, peaked #46, 9 weeks on chart)

I’ve dug Bonnie Tyler’s raspy vocals from the first time I heard the Welsh singer in 1978 on her Top Ten hit It’s A Heartache.

Five years later, Tyler had another hit in the States with the Total Eclipse Of The Heart, a song so epic that it had its own postal code and sold millions of copies of its parent album, the Jim Steinman-produced Faster Than The Speed Of Night.

Take Me Back was another dramatic lament to love lost and, while not a bad song, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor.

The Motels – Remember The Nights
from Little Robbers (1983)
(debuted #67, peaked #36, 12 weeks on chart)

Each and every time I do one of these recaps, it seems that The Motels pop up.

Not as dark or moody as Only The Lonely or Suddenly Last Summer, Remember The Nights is still a nice showcase for the compelling vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and, though not as successful or as well remembered as those two songs, it still managed to reach the Top 40 for a few weeks in early 1984.

Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
from Colour By Numbers (1983)
(debuted #52, peaked #1, 22 weeks on chart)

Though I wouldn’t have trumpeted it at the time, I quite liked Culture Club’s first two singles – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Time (Clock Of The Heart) – and, now, I’d call both of them brilliant, timeless pop songs.

(there was no excuse for I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, though)

The group had reached iconic status by the time the harmonica-driven Karma Chameleon was released in late ’83 and the irresistibly catchy song became Culture Club’s biggest hit in the States.

Over the next six months, there would be several more hits from Colour By Numbers but the celebrity of Boy George and his antics would soon outstrip interest in the music of Culture Club.


Nothing Like The Threat Of Armageddon To Stoke An Appetite*

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, like the once annual airing of The Wizard Of Oz used to be, is an event.

Yeah, some people make it out to be dysfunction junction (and for them, maybe it is), but getting to watch football all day on a day which usually would be spent slogging through work is a brilliant concept.

And, of course, it is a chance to feast.

It’s like being king for a day.

Bring me gravy! I shall gnaw on this turkey leg in a slovenly fashion as these superhumans on the television perform amazing feats for my amusement!

OK. It’s not necessarily that dramatic and, as the Lions always play on Thanksgiving Day, the feats are not always amazing in a good way.

(though I cannot imagine how empty a Thanksgiving without the Lions playing the early game would be – it would be like a Halloween without a visit from The Great Pumpkin)

One Thanksgiving was spent living in London, eating some take-out pizza in an ice-cold flat.

And, in a cruel twist, my favorite team was making a rare Thanksgiving Day appearance. They would lose, in overtime after a bizarre coin toss snafu to begin the extra period.

It was a game that would have been maddening to have watched and it was maddening to miss.

Thanksgiving hasn’t been brilliant every year, but that year – no food, no football, no heat – is really the lone one I recall as being truly miserable.

As a kid, our parents dragged us off to mass. I mean, you have the day off school and can sleep in and lounge on the couch; the last thing you want to be doing at an early hour is trudging off to church.

When I was fifteen, the priest decided to use his sermon to rattle off a laundry list of accidental nuclear exchanges between the US and USSR that had been narrowly avoided.

(this was 1983 and two months earlier there had been all of the hullaballoo surrounding the television movie The Day After)

I kept having images of an extra crispy bird and excessively dry stuffing.

It was a bit of a bummer.

It was also a year when my favorite team had a Thanksgiving game. Detroit bottled them 45-3.

I had forgotten (or blocked it out) and had to research who played that season.

But, global tensions and football smackdowns aside, I have no doubt that the food was good.

That autumn, I was still listening to a lot of Top 40 stations, but Q95, an album rock station out of Indianapolis, had caught my attention as well and 97X was exposing me on a semi-regular basis to modern rock for the first time. Some of the songs on the radio that Thanksgiving…

Survivor – Caught In The Game
from Caught In The Game

Eighteen months or so after Survivor unleashed Eye Of The Tiger, the band returned with the follow-up to that album. There was hoopla with one of the stations promising “the premiere of new music from Survivor.”

And then I heard the title track. It was no Eye Of The Tiger.

Caught In The Game obviously had no chance to duplicate the monster success of Eye Of The Tiger and the song is rather generic. Of course, when it popped up on shuffle not long ago, it made me smile and prompted a second listen, so, there is something that I dig about it.

Human League – Mirror Man
from Greatest Hits

I actually don’t know if any of the stations I listened to at the time played Human League’s follow-up to (Keep Feeling) Fascination. 97X might have, but really I only recall hearing it on American Top 40 and it wasn’t there long.

Too bad as I thought Mirror Man was very cool, much prefering the song to the better known Human League hits Fascination and Human. The background vocals of Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall gave the song warmth and the song has oft been described as “Motown inspired.”

Culture Club – Church Of The Poison Mind
from Colour By Numbers

Though I wouldn’t have trumpeted it at the time, I quite liked Culture Club’s first two singles – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Time (Clock Of The Heart) – and, now, I’d call both of them brilliant pop songs.

(there was no excuse for I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, though)

I thought that Church Of The Poison Mind was well done, too, but some of the production dates it in a way that keeps it from having the timeless vibe of those first two songs.

Blue Öyster Cult – Shooting Shark
from The Revölution By Night

I heard Shooting Shark sporadically and could never catch its name or even knew who sang it, but it mesmerized me. It was mysterious and trippy.

I eventually discovered that it was Blue Öyster Cult.

I knew a couple of songs by BÖC but a lot about the band’s lore as a friend had been an unwavering champion of the group since third grade.

He disavowed The Revölution By Night upon its release, but I made it the first album I ever owned by Blue Öyster Cult. It might not have been their best album – I’d opt for Fire Of Unknown Origin – but I still am mesmerized by the mysterious, trippy Shooting Shark.

*reposted – with some alterations – from Thanksgiving ’09