James Bond

August 9, 2012

Paloma has developed a little thing for Daniel Craig.

Though she had devoured the books, I suspect Craig’s starring role goosed her interest in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

And she’s been raving about his performance as James Bond as she’s become a belated convert to the cinematic spy series.

(at least I don’t ever recall her expressing an interest in the long-running franchise)

At the risk of being labeled a communist, socialist, or some other ist that I isn’t, I must confess that, as Paloma has now seen both of Craig’s turns as 007, she has seen at least one more James Bond movie than I have.

Yes, I have only seen one James Bond movie in its entirety.

The first James Bond movie that I remember from its original run in theaters would have been The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977 when I would have been nine. It might have played in our town’s old theater, but, if it did, I didn’t see it.

I have no doubt that The Spy Who Loved Me would have popped up a year or so later as a hyped, world television premiere on the ABC Saturday Night Movie. Other films from the series would appear in prime time on a regular basis and I somehow missed them all.

It’s surprising when I think of it.

I was more into science-fiction and horror movies as a kid, but there was a mere half-dozen television channels from which to choose. It seems that at least once – with so few viewing options – I would have come across a James Bond movie, paused, and gotten drawn in.

But it didn’t happen.

I was well aware of James Bond. The character is so iconic and global that if you told me that there were Buddhist monks in some far-flung monastery who only broke their meditative ways to hang out and watch James Bond flicks I wouldn’t be surprised or necessarily question it.

And if such a thing would prove to be true, it means that they too have seen more of 007’s exploits than I.

Here are four of the many hit theme songs from James Bond movies over the years…

Paul McCartney & Wings – Live And Let Die
from All the Best! (1987)

Sir Paul and his other band provided the theme song for 1973’s Live And Let Die, the first time that Roger Moore took on the role of James Bond. As I was a small kid in the ’70s, it is Moore, starring in the then-current films in the series, who I associated as James Bond.

I wasn’t all that enamored with Live And Let Die when I became truly acquainted with the song later in the decade. But, for some reason, I dig it – the glam-rock parts, the reggae hitch, the dramatic builds – more and more as the years pass.

Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better
from Clouds in My Coffee (1995)

I once asked a friend’s girlfriend if people ever noted her resemblence to Carly Simon.

She was unfamiliar with the singer, but a couple of days later, the buddy called and informed me that the girlfriend had looked up Carly on the internet; she was none too pleased with my comparison.

But, wasn’t Carly simply one of the sexiest women of the ’70s? I mean, I was nine when Nobody Does It Better, the theme song from The Spy Who Loved Me, was a hit and I’d figured that out.

Sheena Easton – For Your Eyes Only
from The Best Of Sheena Easton (1989)

Sheena Easton was inescapable in 1981.

I knew the Scottish lass from the radio and her numerous appearances on Solid Gold. As a thirteen year-old just becoming interested in music, I did find her fetching, but her upbeat songs were mind-numbingly perky and her ballads were rather maudlin.

I did dig For Your Eyes Only, which was a big hit in the autumn of that year. It was a bit moody and a bit evocative (and, though I love Blondie, far superior to their song – also entitled For Your Eyes Only – that was apparently written in consideration of being the theme).

Duran Duran – A View To A Kill
from Decade (1989)

The lone James Bond movie that I have seen – in its entirety – was 1985’s A View To A Kill.

I was already tired of Duran Duran’s theme by the time the movie played in my hometown. Those early ’80s hits of Duran Duran were hit and miss for me and A View To A Kill was among the latter. It just went nowhere for me.

As for the movie, I thought Grace Jones was cool as May Day. I knew the singer for her menacing version of The Police’s Demolition Man, which 97X played a lot.

The movie left me far less impressed.

(according to Rotten Tomatoes, it is the worst-reviewed entry in the series)


Tim Sings Blue Silver

June 17, 2012

The first time that I ever heard of Duran Duran was from a classmate who lived a few houses down the road, touting the greatness of Hungry Like The Wolf.

(by summer, this same kid had gone metal and was slavishly devoted to the bands in Circus)

Three days later, I heard Hungry Like The Wolf for the first time, listening to the radio on a sleepy Saturday morning with snow on the ground outside.

And then I heard it again…and again…and again…

By the time we returned to school on Monday it was impossible to surf the radio and not hear, on one station or another, the suddenly familiar laugh that opened the song.

Most of us dug Hungry Like The Wolf, but, in 1983, cable television was still exotic to most of us and MTV wasn’t available in our area, so the opportunities to see Duran Duran’s groundbreaking music videos was limited to those who had access to USA Network’s Night Flight.

Duran Duran mania might have been raging in the outside world, but not so much in our small town in the hinterlands of the American Midwest.

The trappings of the New Romantic movement were not easily adopted with the nearest Chess King and Merry-Go-Round locations sixty miles away.

We were mostly a jeans and t-shirt crowd in our high school.

Except for Tim.

Like half of the kids with whom we attended school, Tim was a farm kid whose family lived at the outskirts of the furthest bus route. He had five older brothers who were indistinguishable having the same curly hair and low-key demeanor as Tim.

Tim was a bright kid who, since grade school, we had watched drive our teachers to distraction with his mumbled answers that would invariably prompt requests to be repeated.

He was, like a lot of us, mostly an extra in the daily drama of high school life.

But, as we settled back in for a new school year that August, with Duran Duran on the radio with Is There Something I Should Know?, a track culled from their debut album that had been ignored in the States two years earlier, Tim returned with a new look.

It wasn’t a profound transformation – his curly hair sculpted into a swoop with a hint of purple that covered one eye, a shirt with a flap across the chest that snapped closed on the side – but it was enough to set him apart in the sea of Rush and Triumph concert shirts of our high school hallways.

It had the makings of a PR fiasco.

Instead, Tim was drawn into conversations with kids from social cliques who had never paid much attention to him.

I didn’t experience Duran Duran mania, but the band did provide entrée for one of us into a higher echelon of the high school caste.

Here are four songs from Duran Duran…

Duran Duran – Girls On Film
from Duran Duran (1981)

A lot of my friends owned copies of Rio, but I think it was my buddy Beej who quickly picked up a cassette of Duran Duran’s debut.

(he was also one of the few friends who had cable at the time and, thus, was familiar with the band from seeing their videos)

The video for Girls On Film caused a stir, but, when I finally saw it several years later, it was a bit underwhelming and less racy than what aired on Cinemax late at night.

And, I was underwhelmed when I heard Duran Duran on the heels of Rio, but I loved the lean, frenetic Girls On Film.

Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
from Rio (1982)

Hungry Like The Wolf exploded within hours of my first hearing it on the radio, becoming immediately inescapable as it would be for the next several months.

It’s odd to think of a world without Duran Duran as Simon LeBon and company have been a part of the musical landscape from almost the beginning of my interest in music. I was entranced with the kinetic and mysterious Hungry Like The Wolf from the first time I heard the laugh of LeBon’s girlfriend that opens the song.

Duran Duran – Do You Believe in Shame?
from Big Thing (1988)

I loved Rio, but going forward found their singles to be a mixed bag and their albums to offer diminishing returns. The band went on a hiatus after recording A View To A Kill during which the members split into Arcadia and The Power Station.

When Duran Duran returned with the funkier Notorious, I was in college and had no interest remaining in the band. I saw the videos for Big Thing‘s hits I Don’t Want Your Love and All She Wants Is often, but I was non-plussed.

When someone at the record store where I worked played Big Thing, it was the somber, hypnotic Do You Believe In Shame? that I wanted to hear.

(I still thing it’s damned hypnotic)

Duran Duran – Ordinary World
from Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) (1993)

Duran Duran had vanished from the scene when I found an advance cassette of their single Ordinary World. I was working a Saturday morning shift at record store with a prickly co-worker who was immersed in the grunge scene.

We popped the cassette in and I was surprised by the song. It seemed so grown-up.

Somber and deliberate, Ordinary World renewed interest in Duran Duran and became one of the biggest hits of their lengthy, hit-laden career. The lyrical content was as memorable as the musical packaging and I’d likely name the song as my favorite by the band.

April 2, 1983

April 4, 2012

The hoops season has ended.

Yeah, there’s still the remainder of the NBA season and the interminable playoff march, but that can’t match the tension of its high school or college equivilant.

I’ve gotten to see my alma mater win a national championship, but that wasn’t as memorable as the run our high school team had in ’83. Twenty-six wins, most of them in dominant fashion…

…two losses, both by one point, both on the opponent’s court to a school that went on to win the state title that season.

9our state didn’t divide schools into classes based on enrollment – it was one title, period)

The school that ended our season was about four times the size of ours.

Our team was loaded and led by an all-state small forward who was also a state champion high jumper during track season. Though he was entirely capable of dunking in games, one of the few times he did that season was on the last play in the regionals.

It left the margin of the loss to the eventual state champs as one, single point.

(at that time, there was no three-point shot that would have given us the chance to tie)

Twenty-nine years ago, a lot of us were still in the doldrums from that loss several weeks before. I helped muddle through it with music and I was well familiar – or would be – with the eight songs that were making their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100…

U2 – New Year’s Day
from War (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #53, 12 weeks on chart)

U2’s first hit single couldn’t even crack the Top 40 in the US and, at the time, I rarely heard New Year’s Day on the radio. I do know that I heard of U2 from my buddy Bosco who was continually turning us on to new music.

(of course, at the time we thought Bono was pronounced like Cher’s ex-partner)

But come that autumn, I discovered U2’s music for myself with the live Under A Blood Red Sky and the newly-minted 97X. And though War hasn’t aged as gracefully as some of the band’s catalog, the adrenaline rush of New Year’s Day is essential.

Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart (1983)
(debuted #89, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

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.”

Scandal – Love’s Got A Line On You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #59, 13 weeks on chart)

Sure, everyone could hum The Warrior (and picture its Kabuki-themed video) in 1984, but Scandal was well known to us a summer earlier when Goodbye To You and Love’s Got A Line On You were radio staples.

The former was not to be trifled with, a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass, but Love’s Got A Line On You was a mid-tempo groove on which tough-chick singer Patty Smyth seemed slightly more vulnerable.

(neither song reinvented fire, but both were ridiculously catchy)

Modern English – I Melt With You
from After The Snow (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #78, 10 weeks on chart)

In 1983, I Melt With You was a minor pop hit with an undercurrent of Cold War fatalism.

Thirty years later, my mom would recognize the song from its use to sell Burger King and Hershey’s chocolate.

And though the music of the ’80s has been much maligned, the dizzingly romantic I Melt With You is as perfect a pop song as any that came before or after it.

Champaign – Try Again
from Modern Heart (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #23, 20 weeks on chart)

There was only one R&B station available on the dial within reception and I didn’t spend much time tuned into it. But, I heard Champaign’s laid back Try Again a lot on the pop and soft rock stations. Its mellow groove wasn’t too different from their hit How ’bout Us from a couple years earlier.

ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin’
from Eliminator (1983)
(debuted #79, peaked #37, 12 weeks on chart)

I knew little of ZZ Top when Eliminator was released aside from I Thank You, which I knew and loved from hearing it on the bowling alley jukebox. Though Gimme All You Lovin’ wasn’t a mammoth hit, it was all over the radio that spring and summer as Eliminator – propelled by a series of videos – became one of the biggest albums of the year.

Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
from Flashdance soundtrack (1983)
(debuted #77, peaked #1, 25 weeks on chart)

I saw Flashdance at the drive-in with Footloose sometime during the summer of ’83. I thought that the movie – despite being a major hit – was uneventful and the song – despite being a major hit – to be equally uninspiring, but, as I was neither a dancer nor a welder, I might not have been the target demographic.

(more notable to me – as a fifteen year-old boy at the time – was Flashdance star Jennifer Beals)

Duran Duran – Rio
from Rio (1983)
(debuted #58, peaked #14, 13 weeks on chart)

Duran Duran hooked me the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf. The song seemed to be always on the radio during the first few months of 1983 and the song’s video a staple on the fledgling MTV.

(or so I’ve read as our small town wouldn’t get the channel ’til the following summer)

Q102, the station of choice for me and my friends, was playing Rio well before Hungry Like The Wolf had worn out its welcome. Though I much preferred the latter, Rio‘s manic charm proved to be irresistible as well and made its parent album one that most of us owned.