Life Post Rapture (It’s Not Just The Pious Who Are Bummed)

May 26, 2011

Since that whole Rapture dealio surprisingly fizzled, I can’t help but think that the real losers were the non-pants wearing inhibitants of this planet.

Imagine how elated the animal kingdom would have been had several hundred million humans simply vanished.

I picture camels, cockatoos, coyotes – all creatures great and small – breaking into song and dance like cartoon characters at the idea of fewer of us humans mucking up the scene.

Word would obviously be spread by the whales as they are able to communicate to all of the world’s oceans through their song. I know this because Charlotte Rampling’s professor character said so in Orca.

(I feel that a Dino De Laurentiis’ flick I saw as a kid at the drive-in in 1977 is a credible source for ichthyological information)

I thought that Prof. Rampling also told the hungover college kids something about some philosopher who had speculated that God would return to earth as a whale.

Maybe The Old Fellow Who Cried Judgment Day needs to factor that concept into his calculations.

In the meantime, the animals no doubt have champagne on ice. Here are four animal songs…

The Judybats – Animal Farm
from Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow

I’ve stumbled across songs from Southern jangle rockers The Judybats twice of late as I’ve looked for songs to post and I’m surprised that its taken me nearly twenty years to discover them.

(especially since I’ve had Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow since it was released in ’92 when I snagged a promo copy)

Better late than never, though, and the charming Animal Farm is not only a cover of a song by The Kinks, but it’s nowhere near as dystopian as the classic novel of the same name.

Talking Heads – Animals
from Fear Of Music

One of my high school buddies was a rabid fan of Talking Heads, so I was familiar with the band’s catalog before the mainstream success of the stellar Burning Down The House and its parent album Speaking In Tongues.

I dig The Heads and own a good chunk of the band’s catalog, but there is a portion of their output that is difficult to embrace. If I had to choose one Talking Heads’ album, though, I would likely opt for the textured Fear Of Music.

Somehow I’d forgotten about the delightfully paranoid Animalson which David Byrne expresses his great distrust of the titular creatures – “I know the animals are laughing at us” – and concern that, since “they’re living on nuts and berries” and “they say they don’t need money,” “they’re setting a bad example.”

(damned socialist animals!)

The Fixx – Calm Animals
from Calm Animals

I’ve long liked the idea of The Fixx more than the actual band and much of their music. Their albums were uneven and I didn’t like One Thing Leads To Another even before it got played into the ground in the autumn of ’83.

But, when things truly jelled, The Fixx had some killer tracks – Red Skies, Saved By Zero, Secret Separation – and, listening to it for the first time in years, the more rocking Calm Animals is pretty cool.

Def Leppard – Animal
from Hysteria

It’s Def Leppard, man. I mean, once we’re gone, the animals are certainly going to have a major blowout and why wouldn’t they throw on some Def Leppard?

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No Jakes Were Actually Harmed

July 15, 2010

Donnie lived a few houses down from me as a kid. As we were the same age, we knew each other from school, but he was one of those second-tier friends we all have growing up – not your first choice but someone to hang out with if options were limited.

(or, if the kid’s family had a pool)

I actually hung out with Donnie a fair amount during those last summers before I could drive. There were only a handful of kids in our age group in the neighborhood, so, we needed every warm body we had to have a baseball game.

When we opted to play hoops, Donnie had the home-court incentive of having a court with an eight-foot goal on which some of us could dunk. So, we’d hang out at his house.

There was usually a boom box when we played hoops, especially during the summer, which meant an inevitible argument. It was Donnie’s court and, by law, Donnie’s decision.

I was good with most of his choices. I remember him having stuff like The Go-Gos and Missing Persons, and I vividly recollect him having Men At Work’s second album, Cargo, as he played that one into the ground.

And, then, overnight, he went metalhead.

He was the first metalhead I’d ever known.

Donnie was a slight kid, with lank strands of blonde hair. His eyes were rather beady and darted back and forth behind wire-rimmed glasses. His nose would twitch in a manner that made me think of a rodent.

The offbeat music of Men At Work suited him.

It created a juxtaposition that struck me as odd and comical when I’d look through his cassettes and find Krokus, Mötley Crüe, and Twisted Sister titles where The Fixx had been a week before.

He was quite serious about these bands that I knew mostly from leafing through Circus in the drugstore, having already read Rolling Stone.

(those were pretty much the only music magazines that the store stocked on a regular – or even erratic – schedule)

Sometime in ’84, my buddy Beej informed me of cassette that his brother David had. The tape had a home-made cover that made me think it could have been done by a very rambunctious six-year old with poor motor skills.

It was Donnie.

As best as we could make out, the band was called Room Of Doom and one of the songs had the same title.

(it did work for Big Country)

The songs were actual metal songs by other bands – and not instrumentals – over which Donnie delivered his own lyrics, sometimes using a cookie monster-style. I suppose that he was a bit of a visionary.

It was dreadful. I still remember one of the lyrics from Room Of Doom – “I met a man named Jake, so I killed him with a rake.”

I suppose that a rake could be wielded with menace. Maybe.

The tape made the rounds for a few days and was soon forgotten. I had forgotten about it until, for whatever reason, the incident popped into my head the other day.

Of course, in a post-Columbine world, Donnie would have likely been disappeared.

Then, again, in a post-You Tube world, he might have become a sensation.

The outcome was more mundane and less tragic. Donnie was just some kid who liked heavy metal. I saw him several years ago on a trip to our hometown. He was cruising the main drag of town near the movie theater.

Something loud was blaring from his car stereo.

It was like being back in 1984.

1983 saw heavy metal go mainstream with acts like Def Leppard and Quiet Riot selling millions of albums and getting airplay on radio and the fledgling MTV.

Though I suppose it could be debated as to what bands were or weren’t heavy metal, here are four songs from acts that, during the summer of ’84, I’m sure I saw while perusing Circus or heard on 96Rock…

Van Halen – Panama
from 1984

Panama immediately makes me think of MTV as the channel finally became available in our town in 1984 and, that summer, I must have seen the video for the song several hundred times (and we didn’t even have cable). I’d go over to my friend Beej’s house, we’d turn on MTV, and, more often than not, we’d hear the drone of the airplane that opened the video before the band crashed into the song.

What odds would you have gotten in Vegas that a year later, Van Halen would be no more?

Def Leppard – Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
from Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits (1980–1995)

Def Leppard’s Pyromania had been one of the best-selling albums of ’83 and I think that I heard just about every song on the album on the radio at some point. As it began to lose steam in ’84, the band’s previous album, High ‘N Dry, was reissued.

Bringin’ On The Heartache was remixed and gave radio something new to play from the band, but it was the video for the song Me And My Wine – a new track added to High ‘N Dry – that seemed to be on MTV when Panama wasn’t.

(we waited for almost three years to get MTV and the only two songs that I got to see that first summer were those two)

Ratt – Wanted Man
from Out Of The Cellar

By the time school ended in ’84, there was a lot of hard rock/heavy metal on the radio, but it was Ratt that had one of the songs of the summer with Round And Round. The song seemed to be everywhere that summer – especially blasting from cars – and it truly is difficult to dislodge it from the brain.

It didn’t get played as much, but I quite liked the more mid-tempo Wanted Man . It has a swagger and I always picture a spaghetti Western in my head when I hear the song.

Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve – A Whiter Shade Of Pale
from Through the Fire

HSAS brought together Sammy Hagar, Journey guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Kenny Aaronson, and drummer Michael Shrieve – the latter two had been in Santana together.

Hearing the group’s version of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale on radio might have been the first time I ever heard the song.

I don’t think that the original is quite as iconic here in the States as it seems to be in the UK, but it’s a beautifully trippy song and I could have done worse in experiencing it for the first time than hearing this version.


The Colonel

March 17, 2010

Growing up in a basketball-mad state and half an hour away from the school that inspired the movie Hoosiers, this time of year meant the culmination of the hoops season with the state-wide tournament.

In fact, Sports Illustrated devoted a feature story to my high school’s team during the last open tournament in ’97. That team had been ranked third in the state and, with the tournament being divvied into classes the following season (a highly contentious and unfortunate decision), the team from my hometown had become the darlings of fans statewide who hoped for one more run from a small school at the state title.

Fifteen years earlier, I was in junior high and the high school team replaced a beloved coach that had won a couple sectional titles. The new coach was greeted with the same open arms and small-town hospitality that Gene Hackman found in Hickory. But, he won and soon all was right with the world.

My freshman year, the team was loaded, led by a small forward who could have played Division I ball, opted for a smaller, Division III school and was an honorable mention All-American.

(dude was also a state-champion high jumper)

We lost two games all season.

Two.

Both games were to team from a school five times our size who had made several, recent trips to the Final Four. The first time was on their court, by a point, during the regular season.

The second time was on their court, by a point, with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

The team which beat us went on to win the state title.

It was a fun trip to experience up close and it locked in the once-suspect coach as entenched. Two years later, I had the coach for a teacher – geometry class.

My buddy Bosco quickly dubbed him The Colonel – “Bobby Knight’s called The General, so…”

I’m not sure if it was an homage or a dig

(with Bosco, it was sometimes hard to tell)

Despite the drowsy hour – it was first period – we looked forward to The Colonel’s class. Bosco would often side-track the preceedings by bringing up the idea of dating The Colonel’s oldest daughter, a freshman.

Bosco was far more Spiccoli than scoundrel, so The Colonel played along and the two would good-naturedly banter. The Colonel often countered our antics by immortalizing us on his exams as stick figures with identifying characteristics (my stick figure had long hair, Bosco’s sported checkerboard Vans, another friend had oversized glasses, etc.).

The Colonel, like many of our teachers, was often subjected to having his house pelted with eggs on the weekends by disgruntled students. I’d see Bosco in school on Monday morning. He lived across the street from The Colonel and he’d tell of coming home in the early morning hours to find him in his yard.

“He was in his robe, hosing egg off his siding. He shook his fist at me.”

“Really?”

“No. He’s The Colonel, man. He waved.”

The Colonel was a good teacher. He seemed to enjoy it and, more so than most of our teachers, he seemed to remember that, though we were almost adult-sized, we were still kids.

I think he still was, too.

Here are some of the songs I remember during that run by The Colonel’s team in March of ’83…

Def Leppard – Photograph
from Pyromania

There are few acts that seemed to explode overnight to the degree that the Leps did with Pyromania. I’m thinking that I might have heard Bringin’ On The Heartache from their previous album, but, if I did, it wasn’t a song that got more than a smattering of airplay.

But Photograph launched like a rocket. It was as though I heard it for the first time and – twenty minutes later – the song (and Union Jack t-shirts and shorts) were everywhere. It was just one of those songs that seemed so obvious that it would be mammoth and it still sounds stellar.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Change Of Heart
from Long After Dark

I was non-plussed by You Got Lucky (though the video was pretty cool at the time), but there was something rough and tumble about Change Of Heart that I found far more appealing. I’d argue that the song is one of Petty’s most underrated hits.

Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart

I know that they’ve released a lot of albums during their career, but the Canadian band Saga didn’t have much success here in the US. No doubt best known for On The Loose, I much preferred the follow-up, Wind Him Up.

And, it was always fun for us to mimic lead singer Michael Sadler saying, “No luck today.”

Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On
from Something’s Going On

I’m sure that, initially, I had no idea that the voice on I Know There’s Something Going On belonged to one of the women from ABBA. And, I doubt at the time that I recognized the drumming on the song to be Phil Collins (although I’d soon become familiar with the cavernous sound that was his trademark).

Instead, I loved the thunderous sound and omnious vibe of the song. And, in retrospect, it’s odd to think of Frida’s lone hit getting played on the rock stations playing Petty, Saga, and Def Leppard that would have never touched ABBA.

As Bosco would have no doubt said, it was a one-eighty.