Mohawks And Middle Linebackers

February 12, 2011

One of the cable stations is running some week-long airing of the movies in the Rocky series.

I remember seeing the first movie in the theater in ’76 when the film was captivating the country and I’ve never seen an audience more electrified . It’s a stellar movie.

Numbers II and III were decent popcorn flicks, but by the time I got dragged to number IV, things had reached a cringe-inducing point.

That aside, I had to watch the opening montage to Rocky III when I happened across it if for no other reason then to hear Survivor’s mighty Eye Of The Tiger. The movie and that song arrived during the summer of ’82 – the summer before my friends and I entered high school – and both were inescapable during those three months.

But watching as Mr. T laid waste to one opponent after another as Clubber Lang, I realized that it might have been the first time I had ever seen someone with a mohawk.

It was 1982 and the big bang of punk rock had come and gone without us even noticing in rural Indiana.

(hell, we didn’t even have cable in ’82)

That was the summer that Bow Wow Wow had a hit with I Want Candy and, if we’d had cable and MTV, I might have seen the video and the band’s mohawked and fetching lead singer Annabella Lwin.

As it was, I might have seen a photo of Annabella in a music mag or, on a rare trip to an actual record store, on an album cover.

So, perhaps the first person that I ever saw with a mohawk was Annabella and not Mr. T.

In real life, the first time I ever recall seeing someone in public with a mohawk would have been autumn of ’82. Our freshman football schedule included a road game with a school whose name we didn’t know – Triton Central.

It was a formidable sounding name and, as we were unfamiliar with the school, the game stood out on our schedule from amongst the usual opponents. As the game drew closer on the calender, there was considerable chatter.

Someone on our team had a girlfriend who had a cousin from the next county who knew a girl who had moved to their school who had been a cheerleader at her previous school – Triton Central.

(or some such equally credible relay of information)

Rumors swirled in the weeks before the game of our opponent having a linebacker who was so frighteningly good that – much like Forrest Whittaker’s character Charles Jefferson in Fast Times At Ridgemont High – you’d have believed he lived somewhere more glamourous and “just flew in for games.”

The kid’s name was spoken of in hushed tones.

It was said that he had a mohawk.

I don’t remember the kid’s name and I only vaguely remember the game.

He was – as rumored – a middle linebacker and, as I recall, he wasn’t bad but hardly the next Jack Lambert. I do know that I had to block him on one play.

It was a task which – as a wide receiver – I approached with same enthusiasm which most wide receivers have for assignments that don’t involve the ball being thrown to them.

(actually, I put forth effort on blocking plays, I just wasn’t a good blocker)

I don’t remember the play where I blocked this superhuman being as any more eventful than most, but I do remember that the kid did, indeed, have a mohawk.

And I wondered to myself if he was really from a small town like the ones dotting our part of the Midwest or if “he just flew in for games.”

Here are four songs by the mohawked Annabella Lwin and Bow Wow Wow…

Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild in the Country
from See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy

Impresario Malcolm McLaren had poached the members of the Ants from Adam and, needing a singer for the new outfit, added fourteen-year old Annabella Lwin, who had been discovered singing along to the radio in a laundromat.

Within a year, the group known as Bow Wow Wow, had its first UK hit with the manic Go Wild In The Country.

Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy
from I Want Candy

In the States, Bow Wow Wow would be best known for their cover of The Strangeloves’ hit from the ’60s, I Want Candy. The song had all of the elements that would be associated with the band – chanted vocals, a bit of surf rock, and tribal drumming – in a sugar-coated pop song.

Surprisingly, I Want Candy would become an iconic song of the early ’80s yet never reach the Top 40. I know that I never heard the song on radio at the time and, as I recall, my friends and I were familiar with the song from a friend who had the cassette I Want Candy, a compilation of previously released UK material.

Bow Wow Wow – Louis Quatorze
from I Want Candy

Like I Want Candy, Louis Quatorze had originally appeared on the 1982 EP The Last Of The Mohicans, a four-song release that had stirred up controversy with its cover reproduction of Édouard Manet’s painting The Luncheon on the Grass.

Needless to say, we were all quite smitten with Annabella who, though roughly our age, was unlike any of the girls we knew from school.

Bow Wow Wow – Do You Wanna Hold Me?
from When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

Though remembered for I Want Candy, Bow Wow Wow actually had a second minor hit when the infectious Do You Wanna Hold Me? scraped into the lower portions of Billboard‘s Hot 100 in 1983.

Happy Trails, Dandy Don

December 11, 2010

From the time I was ten until I had turned sixteen, one of the highlights of Monday Night Football was – at some point late in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt – hearing commentator Don Meredith croon, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

So, I was a bit bummed to hear of his death this past week.

I missed the first four seasons during which Meredith was one of the original Monday Night Football announcers. When he returned to the booth in 1977, I was becoming a devoted football fan and – finally – old enough to stay up to watch each week with greater frequency.

It was a world with a mere three television networks and no such thing as ESPN.

Monday Night Football was an event.

In junior high, Monday morning was spent discussing the previous day’s games, but, by afternoon, the conversation between (and sometimes during) classes was often about that evening’s Monday Night Football match-up.

Thus, on Tuesday, the banter amongst me and my friends was regarding Monday night’s events.

And, more weeks than not, the antics of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith would prove to be as compelling to us as the game.

(especially the latter)

We had been too young to see Meredith quarterback the Dallas Cowboys of the ’60s, but we delighted in the affable Texan and his folksy needling of Cosell. He was a constant presence in our lives during those early years of the ’80s be it announcing the games or selling Lipton tea.

Oh, as a fan of the game, I eventually learned more about Meredith’s place in its history which included him under center for the Cowboys when they lost the fabled Ice Bowl – and a trip to the Super Bowl – to the Green Bay Packers in ’67.

Then, following the 1984 season, Meredith was gone, leaving Monday Night Football and retiring to New Mexico.

“Meredith was the guy who sang in huddles, read Hemingway, shot mid-70s in golf and strummed and sipped with Willie Nelson,” wrote Brad Townsend from the Dallas Morning News in a fantastic piece on the man in retirement.

Another sportswriter noted that, though a lot of football fans might have hated the Dallas Cowboys, he knew of no one that wasn’t a fan of Don Meredith.

Happy trails, Dandy Don.

Here are four cowboy songs for the man known as the original Dallas Cowboy…

Kirsty MacColl – Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim
from Galore

The late, great Kirsty MacColl never was able to attain more than a fringe following in the States and her best-known song here would be Tracey Ullman’s cover of MacColl’s They Don’t Know which the comedienne took into the Top Ten in 1984.

It’s unfortunate that MacColl isn’t better known as she not only possessed a lovely voice, but her material was quirky, ecclectic, and usually catchy as anything out there. The lilting Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim added a bit of south of the border twang as MacColl lays down the law with an uncommitted paramour.

Willie Nelson – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
from The Essential Willie Nelson

There needs to be a Willie Nelson fantasy resort. Who wouldn’t pay good money to spend a week living like Willie?

Get up early, shower, dress semi-presentably, endure a death-defying commute, and spend nine hours being a drone or get up considerably later, put the hair in pigtails, let someone else pilot the biofuel bus, and inhale.

Not a difficult choice there.

Boys Don’t Cry – I Wanna Be A Cowboy
from I Wanna Be A Cowboy

My friends and I were greatly amused when we first heard I Wanna Be A Cowboy during the winter of our senior year of high school. It popped up now and then on the rock station we’d be listening to as we hung out on weekend nights, searching for something to do.

Then, the song was everywhere and it grew a bit tiresome.

However, listening to it again after rarely hearing it over the past twenty-five years, it’s easy to understand how we were charmed by the quirky techno-pop track that touted the joys of riding the range on a horse named Trigger (of course).

Kitchens Of Distinction – Cowboys And Aliens
from Cowboys And Aliens

The British trio Kitchens Of Distinction released a quartet of albums filled with dense, swirling walls of guitar often drenched in reverb before splitting after their swan song Cowboys And Aliens in 1995.

Paloma and I spent plenty of hours listening to both the band’s The Death Of Cool and Cowboys And Aliens. The title track of the latter expressing a longing for extraterrestrials to whisk the less accepted of this world to a more caring place.

I’m Taking The BC Lions And The Eleven Points

September 25, 2010

Of late, Canada has had an increased presence in my life.

(not that there’s anything wrong with that)

There’s long been music from north of the border in my world and some fantastic stuff at that.

And, a month or so ago, I happened across a groovy website for the brilliant Canadian sketch comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall.

(I keep the page open at work and – to balance out the moments when I want to set fires – I often will read a transcript of a sketch or two)

As much as I dug Second City Television, I thought that The Kids In The Hall was the better of the two groups. In fact, I’m willing to state that The Kids In The Hall was as good if not better than the more heralded Monty Python.

(of course, Monty Python did provide the demented template for acts like The Kids In The Hall)

I digress.

There’s been more than music and merriment that has made me wonder if I’m turning Canadian.

I’ve been watching broadcasts of the Canadian Football League on Friday nights.

It happened unexpectedly one evening when I dialed up the NFL Network and found a pre-game show for that night’s CFL game – Calgary and Saskatchewan. It was no-frills, football not antics.

I dug it.

The games I’ve watched have been entertaining and the style – due to differences from the American version – is wide-open. The quarterbacks seem to take more shots deep than their brethren here in the US.

It is strange to hear the announcers note the difficulties for teams that find themselves in a lot of “second and long” situations. For thirty plus years, that scenario has merely meant your team needed some yardage to avoid having to convert on third and long.

(that missing down really makes the brain a bit dizzy)

And I find myself mentally chastising quarterbacks for throwing passes that I expect to sail out of the endzone only to remember that there’s twice the amount of real estate in the Canadian version.

Oh, I’m not ready to abandon the NFL. Not yet.

But it is a pleasant throwback to watch a game and not have the screen plastered with so much information and a neverending crawl that makes focusing on the actual game a potentially seizure-inducing effort.

It is a delight to not have to sit through the “entertainment” added to attract viewers that would otherwise have little interest in tuning into a game.

(seriously, does the NFL feel that the health of the league can only be ensured by having that fleshy-headed icon of mediocrity known as Daughtry perform at each game?)

No, I’m not Canadian, but I realize that I might be edging toward the morning when I spit out my coffee, demand a cup of brew from Tim Hortons, and start planning Thanksgiving break around the Grey Cup.

Anyone know a Canadian bookie?

While I sort out how to develop a problem gambling on Canadian football, here’s some songs by the first four Canadian acts that scrolled up on shuffle…

Daniel Lanois – The Maker
from Acadie

The ridiculously talented Daniel Lanois helped U2 achieve greatness and helped Bob Dylan reclaim relevence, and those are just two of the highpoints of a career that has seen him produce and work with a staggering area of music legends.

He’s a talented musician in his own right, though, and Aaron Neville makes an appearance on the moody, world-weary modern spiritual The Maker from his solo debut.

Blue Rodeo – 5 Days In July
from Five Days In July

It makes me happy to read Blue Rodeo described as “a veritable institution in their home country” on All-Music Guide’s site. The alternative roots rock band should have had a larger audience in the States.

Paloma and I saw the band live in the mid-’90s. I believe it was some show we’d gotten into as guests of the label and had no expectations or much knowledge of Blue Rodeo. It was a small club – maybe two hundred people – and I left believing I the band was one of the best live acts I’d ever seen.

Bryan Adams – Diana

Diana hit radio during the summer of ’85 when Bryan Adams’ career had taken the jump to megastar with the release of Reckless the autumn before.

The song wasn’t on the album – I think it was on a twelve-inch single with one of the hits – but the stations in our area played the hell out of the catchy rock song in which Adams pined for the Princess Of Wales.

At the time, my buddy Beej had a girlfriend who was obsessed with Diana. She actually resembled her and cut her hair to mirror the princess.

(it was a bit trippy)

The Odds – Wendy Under The Stars
from Neopolitan

The Odds were a wonderfully quirky band who released their debut, Neopolitan, in 1991. I saw the band sometime that autumn as the opening act for Warren Zevon.

(great show except for the loon who squawked for Mohammed’s Radio through the entire two hours)

The band might slow things down a bit on Wendy Under The Stars but the engaging song is still power pop with a bit of jangle as the protagonist recounts his memories of the night Elvis died.

(the song captured the attention of a crowd that had been – up to that point – indifferent as soon as the band got to the chorus)