Hookers Must Wear Shoes

April 12, 2012

The first time I visited the nation’s capitol was with a buddy. His friend’s band had played the night before in Philadelphia and we were still sobering up – a condition we quickly set to rectify with a few pre-gig drinks at a bar in Georgetown – when we arrived in D.C.

The fact that the friend’s band had a tab at the club – The Bayou, I believe – necessitated that we continue to drink. By evening’s end, I was blissfully ignorant of the impending pain I had booked for the following day.

As my buddy and I trekked the twenty-odd blocks back to our hotel in the early morning chill, my only thoughts were for food. And for twenty-odd blocks, there was no food to be found.

There wasn’t a convenience store.

There wasn’t a Waffle House.

Arriving at our hotel, we realized that there was no consensus on what our room number was.

“I know it’s on the third floor,” I said. “If I’m wrong, I’ll go forage for food.”

I was wrong.

I did the honorable (and least intelligent) thing, wandering off into the night in a city where I had never been, squiffy and in search of food. I picked a direction and went with it, but I soon realized that things were looking progressively dodgy with each block I went.

I considered the idea of turning back when I saw it – a gaudy, neon oasis in the form of a ramshackle liquor/convenience store.

I entered, procured goods – an armload of salty, crunchy things and chocolate, caramel items – and got in line. It was a sketchy collection of ne’er-do-wells with darting eyes and, I suspect, concealed weapons.

Feeling a presence, someone else joining the processional march to the register, I turned slightly. There stood a petite, black woman wearing nothing more than a black thong under a see-through, thigh-length plastic raincoat.

She introduced herself as Tweety and a friend, wearing red go-go pants, as Simone. Tweety shattered the vacuous stupor of the crowd as a bunch of boggled-eyed men leered through bleary orbs.

She chattered away as we shuffled along, nearing the counter.

I was up.

The gruff, indifferent clerk who seemed to be wishing for death looked up and over my shoulder. He was staring at Tweety and Simone.

“Uh-uh,” he grunted, shaking his head side to side under a mop of wiry, grey hair. It was obvious that he wasn’t pleased with their presence – competition for dollars, I suppose.

“I told you,” he said firmly. “You can’t be in here…not without shoes.”

I looked down and Tweety was, indeed, barefoot.

Here are four shoe songs…

Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
from The Red Shoes (1993)

Kate Bush was an artist whom I had read about for several years before I actually heard her music. Then, the gloriously hypnotic Running Up That Hill became her lone hit single here in the States and I purchased its parent album The Hounds Of Love.

(which I wore out during the winter of 1985/1986)

I fell hard for the quirky and eclectic singer and worked backward through her weird and wonderful catalog. And, then, I learned of how being a Kate Bush fan required great patience as there would be lengthy waits between the arrival of future albums.

Personally, I lost patience and haven’t given as much attention to her few albums since The Red Shoes, an album that I enjoyed, though it didn’t dazzle me. The title track was one of songs I favored, a frantic tale of a dancer and a pair of enchanted shoes.

Paul Simon – Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
from Graceland (1986)

Paul Simon had already reached his commercial peak – both with Garfunkel and solo – by the time I truly began listening to music. I knew little of his catalog aside from his more popular hits when Graceland was released.

I had just started college and a musician living a few doors down from me lavished Graceland with praise. It would take a few months, but a raft of rave reviews and a video featuring Chevy Chase led to the album blowing up, making Ladysmith Black Mambazo a household name, and giving Simon’s career a second wind.

Tom Waits – Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)
from Closing Time (1973)

The same dorm mate who sang the praises of Graceland to me was equally smitten with Tom Waits’ Frank’s Wild Years. In the past twenty-five years, I’ve become no more than casually acquainted with the gravelly-voiced troubadour’s work, but I have heard enough to think that Tweety and Simone wouldn’t be miscast in one of his songs.

Robin Zander – Walkin’ Shoes
from Robin Zander (1993)

After a commercial resurgence in the late ’80s, Cheap Trick’s career was in another lull which is why most folks likely never heard lead singer Robin Zander’s self-titled, solo debut from 1993.

That’s unfortunate. Though Robin Zander wasn’t in the same league as classic Cheap Trick albums from the ’70s, it is Robin Zander, the man my buddy The Drunken Frenchman once dubbed the “second best rock singer” (after Eric Burdon).


The Arch-Nemesis

September 21, 2011

For a good decade or so, I have had an implacable foe, an entity which I have formally and officially declared to be my arch-nemesis.

Making this struggle more complex is that my arch-nemesis is the brother of a good friend.

In truth, I don’t know David very well. I’ve been buddies with his brothers for close to twenty years, but I’ve been around David no more than a handful of times.

Our rivalry has no origin other than a decision I made to declare him my arch-nemesis.

(it actually was encouraged by his brothers)

But David is a good guy, so this confrontation has gone no further than our mutual understanding of the conflict and our verbal acknowledgement of it on the rare occasions that we do meet.

Our relationship lacks the cold war sizzle that existed with my previous arch-nemesis –

The Dutch.

I had never had an arch-nemesis until a half dozen or so of us who were drinking buddies and worked at a record store together suddenly began hating the Dutch.

(it happened during an evening of drinks)

We took to the idea with enthusiasm, blaming the Dutch for all of the ills of the world several years before it was chic to blame Canada.

We would shuffle into the back room of the store, muttering expletives directed at the Netherlands under our breath after dealing with difficult customers.

If our usual barkeep at our favorite watering hole was not working and the music being played did not meet our approval, it was a plot originating in Holland.

But our distress over the Dutch was inexplicable.

I had assumed – for some reason – that it dated to the 1994 World Cup, which we had followed that summer.

One evening, during the 1998 World Cup, I asked one of my buddies why we hated the Dutch.

He proceeded to tell tale of another large record store where he had worked and a customer visiting from the Netherlands who threw a tantrum over some perceived grievance, bellowing to all who listen that his mistreatment was because he was Dutch.

“I figured that we must have some long-standing issues with the Dutch and I wanted to do the least that I could do,” my buddy said with a shrug. “It would have been unpatriotic to not hate the Dutch.”

Of course, we didn’t really hate the Dutch. We just enjoyed having an arch-nemesis.

Here are four enemy songs since arch-nemesis is a bit cumbersome to use in a lyric I suppose…

Swan Dive – Sweet Enemy
from Circle (1998)

Swan Dive’s music has been described as bossa nova pop.

Sweet Enemy is light, breezy, and sophisticated stuff, but its just a hint of the wonderous sounds made by the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder.

The Waterboys – Be My Enemy
from This Is The Sea (1985)

This Is The Sea was my introduction to Scottish band The Waterboys. I’d been prompted to purchase the cassette after hearing the glorious The Whole Of The Moon before school one morning on a rock radio station out of Dayton.

(it might have been the only time I’ve ever heard the band on radio)

I was immediately smitten by their “big music” and the tape spent a lot of time in my Walkman that senior year. The rollicking Be My Enemy clatters alongs with a dizzying urgency that caught my attention and made me hit rewind a time or two.

(which, of course, drained the double-AA batteries rather quickly)

Roger Hodgson – Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm (1984)

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I was listening at the time. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

Rage Against The Machine – Know Your Enemy
from Rage Against The Machine (1992)

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought their politics to be somewhat half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2 – a band for whom the same accusation could be made regarding politics – made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of Rage’s music.

A few friends and I bumped into the band before that show at a vegetarian restaurant. The might have made some angry music, but the band members and crew were quite polite and friendly.


They Never Mention Possible Cult Abduction On Cigarette Warning Labels

August 18, 2011

An episode of Seinfeld is airing in which George mistakenly assumes the identity of the leader of a Neo-Nazi organization.

It reminds of my own inadvertant encounter with some fringe folk.

I had made a pilgrimage to meet up with a couple friends and catch a U2 show. The three of us had spent three weeks traveling through the UK in a rented Daewoo, but we hadn’t all been together since that trip several years earlier.

As we hadn’t been together, the occasion required a toast and we had essentially rendered ourselves incapacitated by the time the band took the stage.

(we had arrived just moments earlier having drank all the way through the opening act with some Irish kids at a nearby bar)

As the show ended, I hastily exited Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for a cigarette. By the time my friends made their way outside, I was being chatted up by some young ’90s-styled bohemian chicks.

(I think I just heard Paloma’s eyes roll)

My compatriots ushered me off with them as my potential hackey sack harem vanished like a mirage. The next morning as we struggled through hangovers, the three of us examined the artifacts from the event – some literature with cringe-inducing poems and a CD of music.

It was hysterical stuff.

It was the Zendiks – some bunch of commune-dwellers with names like Fawn, Arol, and Wulf and concepts such as Ecolibrium and Creavolution.

(I try to be open-minded, but if you dub something Creavolution…I’m struggling to take you seriously)

As for the CD…it was so dreadful we didn’t mind laughing, loudly, incessantly through pounding hangovers as the Zendiks raged against the machine in the most obvious of fashion.

(I do hope that during the next move I stumble across it somewhere…I fear, though, that it is lost)

Ten years on and I’m still not sure if I should consider the experience with amusement or concern.

Sure I had long hair.

Sure I was no fan of The Man.

Sure I dressed a bit like Jeff Lebowski.

Sure I found hippie chicks to be fetching.

But I was just a drunken slacker that wanted a smoke.

Thanks for the consideration, Zendiks. Here are four songs by the band The Cult…

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
from Love

My buddy Streuss turned me onto The Cult not long after Love finally reached US shores. I thought that the name was pretty dumb and uninspiring, but I was hooked upon hearing Love.

The sleek, supersonic She Sells Sanctuary was perhaps the high point of Love, a near perfect fusion of Billy Duffy’s pyrotechnic guitar work and lead singer Ian Astbury’s otherworldly howl.

The Cult – Fire Woman
from Sonic Temple

I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric – the follow-up to Love – was an unredeemable disaster aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

(I seem to be in a minority on this one)

I was in school in southeast Asia when Sonic Temple followed Electric in 1989 and I was surprised to read that the album had made the Top Ten back in the States.

I finally snagged a bootleg cassette of the album at a street market in Bangkok and was duly back on board with The Cult. The band had regained the slinky swagger of Love and the breakneck boogie Fire Woman almost became a Top 40 hit in the US.

The Cult – American Horse
from Sonic Temple

Of course, The Cult were well known for their psychedelic trappings and – despite hailing from the UK – a lyrical fascination with the American west and Native American culture. And lead singer Ian Astbury was oft compared to Jim Morrison.

The sturm und drang of American Horse rumbles on for five minutes or so, flattening everything in its path like The Lizard King fronting Led Zeppelin. I’ve always thought the song was an underrated gem in their catalog.

The Cult – Star
from The Cult

After Sonic Temple, The Cult lost me again with the unmemorable Ceremony. There was also plenty of tension and instability within the ranks. In 1994, the band released a self-titled album that incorporated elements from the burgeoning electronic music scene.

(it made me think of hearing U2’s Achtung, Baby for the first time)

I thought it was their most interesting stuff since Sonic Temple and I really dug the pulsating Star. I think that Paloma and I had tickets to see them on the ensuing tour but the band broke up before reaching our date.