Please Put The Laser Down

April 10, 2011

I half-heartedly and groggily took in the yammerings of the assembly-line spokesperson.

He was a freshly-scrubbed fellow and his casual, yet completely unrumpled attire made it obvious that he could be trusted. He was just one of the guys, hanging out on my television, yipping and yapping.

It must have been Saturday morning and I was channel-surfing for something that would allow me to ease into consciousness with coffee.

(morning is an extremely confusing time for me…seriously)

Why I would have paused where I did is inexplicable. Perhaps I had momentarily abandoned the remote to light a smoke.

It was an infomercial from our cable provider touting some new, wonderful feature that would have pop-ups pop up for products and, with a click of the control, I would be able to pause my viewing and be provided with more information on some product or service.

The psychotically pleasant spokesman presented this new effort in the onslaught to commercialize each and every waking moment of my life as something to be applauded and celebrated.

I lit the damned cigarette, swigged some coffee, and with all of the vigor I could muster in my still-sleepy state, remotely banished this Stepford huckster from the screen.

(some Three Stooges cleansed the mental palette quite nicely)

I forgot about witnessing this ad for more ads.

Until tonight.

There, during a commercial break, the bottom third of the screen was filled with an offer for more information on the service being advertised. All necessary for me to be learn about my options for laser hair removal was to hit “OK” on the remote.

I don’t mean to sound ungracious. This truly is the land of opportunity and I’m genuinely choked up that total strangers are so concerned that I might have hair needing to be removed.

It’s just that I’m requiring nothing more this moment than to slouch on the couch and watch Indiana Jones overcome obstacles and battle Nazis. Laser-hair removal is not on the radar.

I might be often inert, but when I make a decision and action needs to be taken – it’s time to make a sandwich! – I take it.

So rest assured good people slaving tirelessly to laser remove my hair, if I need your services, I will get in touch.

Blue Öyster Cult invented the laser in ’76, though it wasn’t for hair removal but, rather, for the band’s lightshow on its Agents Of Fortune tour.

(or, maybe the laser was designed for the US’ bicentennial hullabaloo that year – it’s really impossible to know for sure)

Agents Of Fortune wouldn’t come out until May, but here are four songs that I might have heard on the radio in April of 1976 (had I been listening to the radio as an eight-year old)…

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
from Greatest Hits

How did listeners react to hearing Queen’s iconic Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time in the spring of ’76?

Were they completely baffled? Were they spellbound and delighted? Did it immediately resonate with listeners or did they need repeated hearings of the track before it clicked?

I did some quick research and found that, at the time of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s release, Queen had only had a few hits in the UK and one lone hit in the States (that would be Killer Queen).

Was the band in any danger of being labeled a novelty?

Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon
from Greatest Hits

I realized some years ago while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s box set The Chain that there is little by the band – from the early Peter Green stuff through their time as a commercial juggernaut – that I don’t enjoy.

That said, I’ve always been relatively indifferent about Stevie Nicks’ signature song. Mostly, when I hear Rhiannon, I hear a friend who would croak, “I’m a witch, I’m a witch,” whenever the song came on the radio.

Andrea True Connection – More, More, More

Anyone that has ever come across one of those VH1 retrospective shows on the ’70s is well aware that Andrea True was an adult film actress from the period. According to Wikipedia, True recorded the breathy More, More, More while stuck in Jamaica during a political crisis.

Of course, the song gained renewed attention twenty years later when the Canadian band Len sampled More, More, More in their delightful 1999 hit Steal My Sunshine.

Paul McCartney & Wings – Silly Love Songs
from All The Best

Though I wasn’t hip to much music in ’76, I vividly remember Silly Love Songs. The breezy little song seemed to be played constantly at the pool where I spent a lot of time that summer.

More than three decades later, I still associate Silly Love Songs with warm weather and the song’s mellow vibe and infectious melody suits the season well.

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.

Four-Year Old Rages Against The Machine

January 16, 2010

I have been mistaken for David Lee Roth, Axl Rose, Anthony Keidis, Andre Agassi (before he shaved his head), Andy Gibb (before he died), and some kid from some show on MTV. And that is the short list.

Yes, I am a guy with long hair and, apparently, we all look alike to most people.

A lot of people assume that we are criminals, stupid, hobos, or hippies which isn’t always the case. And, although my hair is long, it’s clean, so clean that, like Elaine Benes once boasted, you could eat off my hair.

(but that would just be strange)

Yes, it can be fun to be mistaken for a musician, but, just as often, people assume that I can’t count to ten or that I live on a commune.

(I’m not, I can and I don’t, haven’t, and likely wouldn’t)

So, when I read the tale of four-year old Taylor Pugh, I understood. This tyke got booted from kindergarten because he has long hair.

(he hardly looks like a menace – more like a child baffled by the angst of the grow-up humans around him)

But, he apparently likes his hair long and he heroically gave the finger to The Man, striking a blow for all of us guys with long hair. We should lobby to have him put on a postage stamp.

Way to go, little man. You bring great honor to the tribe and it’s always fun to rock the topknot.

You might come under greater scrutiny in airports, but sometimes strangers in foreign countries will buy you drinks or offer to steal a bicycle for you merely because they believe you might be some famous long-haired musician or tennis pro.

(the universe is funny sometimes)

But it is possible for a guy with long hair to accomplish whatever you want.

You could be a rock star.

Or a tennis player.

Or a hobo.

Or even an astronaut.

(OK, maybe not an astronaut because I think you have to have a military background to have a shot at the space program, but, in another galaxy, far, far away, a guy with long hair could be a Jedi Knight, so, you know, that’s pretty cool)

I would have been four in January, 1972, I had little interest to music beyond a song here and there. So, there are a lot of songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 for this week from that year which I might not remember hearing then, but a lot of them I know now.

Here are some of them…

Three Dog Night – An Old Fashioned Love Song
from Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1965-1975

Strangely, my boss – who had a few moments of glory as a musician – mentioned Three Dog Night the other day, telling me of a time he had worked lights at one of their shows.

I often forget how many songs I do remember from Three Dog Night’s string of hits in the early ’70s. I’ve never owned a single album by the band, merely stray tracks, but the choruses of half a dozen songs come easily to mind.

An Old Fashioned Love Song seemed to get played a lot on the station that was played at the pool when I was a kid.

Elton John – Levon
from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

One of the few times I remember taking note of a song as a kid was hearing Elton John’s Benny And The Jets blaring from a jukebox in a Pizza Inn in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I don’t remember hearing Levon from a couple years earlier.

I do love Levon, though. The lyric has always intrigued me and the song is more striking to me the older I grow.

T. Rex – Bang a Gong (Get It On)
from The Legend Of T. Rex

Has there ever been talk of a bio-pic on Marc Bolan?

(did I wonder that when I yammered about T. Rex last autumn?)

The Carpenters – Hurting Each Other
from Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition

I do remember hearing The Carpenters as a kid and they seemed to be on television a lot, too. I liked them as a kid. I did take note of their numerous hits and Karen was a cutie.

Then, once I began to fall in love with music and learn more about pop culture, I learned what a horrible blight The Carpenters were on the collective psyche of pop music. They were loathed more than the Bee Gees and I promptly forgot about the duo.

I was fifteen when Karen died and, over the next fifteen years, there was a serious re-evaluation of The Carpenters and their music culminating in a host of alternative acts from the early ’90s paying tribute. Suddenly The Carpenters were cool and the flawless perfection of their singles was appreciated.

It’s been good to have them back.