Caldwell Jones

January 16, 2013

caldwellGrowing up in a basketball mad state should have made my friends and I rabid about the NBA franchise a mere two hours north of us.

We weren’t.

No one was.

Yes, it was a basketball mad state, but that fervor was stoked by the high school teams dotting the hinterlands and the in-state college programs, several of which were national powers.

Our NBA team during those childhood years was mediocre at best and abysmal at worst.

And boring.

Yet we were NBA fans and fans that were there as the league was suddenly becoming of interest to an increasing number of folks thanks to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entering the NBA.

As we felt no strong allegiance to the state’s NBA franchise, we were more inclined to be fans of players than specific teams.

Of course, we loved the stars of the day – Bird, Magic, Dr. J – we all loved the good doctor – George Gervin, David Thompson, Alex English, Darrell Griffith, Sidney Moncrief, Gus Williams, Kareem, World B. Free…

There were also the non-marquee players who captured our imagination and, of these, none more than a spindly 6’11″forward for the Philadelphia 76ers named Caldwell Jones.

Caldwell was a teammate of Dr. J.

That was cool.

He had a way cool Afro and goatee.

And Caldwell was a rebounding machine.

Caldwell was a member of those seriously loaded Philadelphia ’76ers teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Darryl Dawkins was breaking backboards and providing entertaining, fantastical quotes about the planet Lovetron.

Later on, Moses Malone arrived and the team won a title.

And though other players got more attention, Caldwell was in the line-up, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and hanging with Dr. J.

(I looked it up and the guy missed a mere ten games in his six seasons with the Sixers)

Well done, Mr. Jones.

Thirty-three years ago, Caldwell and the Sixers were halfway through a season that would end with them losing the finals to Magic, Kareem and the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, I had far more interest in hoops than music.

However, here are four songs that I might have heard at the time as they were residing in the Top 40 of Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 in mid-January of 1980…

The Dirt Band – An American Dream
from An American Dream (1979)

An American Dream, written by Rodney Crowell and with Linda Ronstadt adding backing vocals, was one song which, even with my limited knowledge about pop music at the time, was quite familiar to me. It seemed to be on constant rotation on the jukebox of the bowling alley where my friends and I spent numerous hours loitering and playing pinball during the winter months of 1980.

It’s laid-back vibe and promise of a getaway to warmer climes had a distinct appeal to those of us mired in January in the Midwest.

Cheap Trick – Voices
from Dream Police (1979)

To paraphrase Mike Damone, it’s the magnetism of Robin Zander and the charisma of Rick Nielsen…

Hall & Oates – Wait For Me
from X-Static (1979)

Whether you listened to a lot of music in the ’80s or not, if you are old enough to have been there, you likely know (or would recognize) a good number of songs by Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List, Private Eyes, Maneater

And twenty-five plus years later, the stuff holds up and seems to have earned a measure of belated respect. As good as their big hits were, the duo had a lot of hits that seem to have been forgotten a bit – Did It In A Minute and Family Man come to mind – that were pretty fantastic.

I’d put Wait For Me on that list, too.

Fleetwood Mac – Sara
from Tusk (1979)

I’ve read for years that Sara was about a child that Stevie Nicks’ had aborted.

I have no idea what Stevie’s going on about, but I don’t care. The haunting Sara might be her finest moment and it really does sound like someone “drowning in the sea of love.”

Hall & Oates

December 29, 2012

(originally appeared in December, 2009)
I haven’t really been all that enamored with The Cleveland Show, the latest spin-off from Family Guy. I am still holding out on a final decision, though, as it did take me awhile to warm up to American Dad.

(though I dug Roger, the incorrigible alien, from the start)

The other night they made a reference to Peabo Bryson which was amusing because, musical considerations aside, Peabo is a fun word to say and it is a fun word to hear said.

(unfortunately, aside from that one infommercial for some soft rock collection which Bryson hosted and possibly Casey Kasem, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone say “Peabo”)

Hall & Oates was also referenced as a good angel/bad angel on Cleveland’s shoulders, trying to influence a decision.

I lived through the years of the early ’80s – they were my musical formative years – so, at the time I began listening to radio, Hall & Oates was a pop music juggernaut.

Pull up a list of their hits and run through their singles during that period; it’s staggering.

I don’t recall if Hall & Oates had any credibility in the early ’80s. The only rock criticism I had access to at the time was a still somewhat relevent (but beginning to decline) Rolling Stone. I think that the magazine mostly ignored Hall & Oates.

But, I don’t remember animosity toward the duo, either. Everyone knew the songs and most were big radio hits. However, this ubiquitousness didn’t seem to generate the rancor usually accompanying such familiarity.

You’d hear the songs, enjoy some more than others, but I don’t remember knowing anyone, personally, that was passionate about Hall & Oates – no one mocked them, no one wore their concert shirts.

Most of those songs still sound fantastic thirty years later, though. And Hall & Oates do seem to be experiencing a rediscovery during the past few years (and getting some long-overdue acclaim).

It made me consider what Hall & Oates songs that I’d most want to hear at this moment.

I don’t want to hear You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. To be honest – and I know this statement will make some shake their heads in dismay – I don’t want to hear that song by anyone.

I’m so tired of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, I can’t remember if I ever liked it.

(Thanks Top Gun)

I dug Adult Education at the time, but time has not been kind to the song. Now, I think I find it overwrought and even a bit creepy.

Method Of Modern Love was too goofy for me in 1985 and it’s still goofy but not in a way that appeals to me.

But most of the hits of Hall & Oates are songs that are more than welcome to pop up on shuffle.

Some of the lesser hits – How Does It Feel To Be Back, Wait For Me, Possession Obsession – are appealing (maybe because they didn’t wear out their welcome as monstrous hits like You Make My Dreams, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), or Maneater did).

So, if I wanted to hear some Hall & Oates right now, I think here are a quartet of songs I’d be inclined to pull up…

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
from Voices (1980)

So, after touting Hall & Oates lesser hits, the first one I opted for was one of their biggest, but, from the stutter-step opening, Kiss On My List hooks me when I hear it. It’s lighthearted, playful, and has a fantastic chorus.

It’s also the first song by the duo which I remember being all over the radio. It also makes me think of rainy Friday afternoons in seventh grade when our homeroom teacher would allow us to play albums. She usually went with Christopher Cross, but I recall Kiss On My List being a favorite, too.

Hall & Oates – Your Imagination
from Private Eyes (1981)

In the summer of ’82, we took a family vacation to Western Pennsylvania. For two weeks, I heard Your Imagination, which I hadn’t heard on the stations back home. Those stations still weren’t playing the song when we returned and it was though it had never existed.

Maybe it was because Hall & Oates had already had the massive hits Private Eyes and I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) as well as the underappreciated gem Did It In A Minute from their Private Eyes album, but the quirky, understated Your Imagination seemed to get lost in the wake.

Hall & Oates- Family Man
from H2O (1982)

Dark and paranoid, Family Man stood out from Hall & Oates hits of the early ’80s with its agressive guitars and New Wave vibe.

The track is actually a cover of a song by Mike Oldfield, of Tubular Bells fame. I used to have a copy of Oldfield’s version and, aside from the female vocalist on the original, Hall & Oates take is, as I recall, pretty faithful.

Hall & Oates – Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
from Big Bam Boom (1984)

By the time Big Bam Boom came out in late 1984, pop music and Top 40 stations had begun to hold far less interest for me than it had merely a year earlier. So, I was unimpressed with Out Of Touch and Method Of Modern Love, the first two hits from the album. I’ve already declared the latter to be goofy, but the former just seems soulless and stilted.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid was the album’s third hit the following spring and is neither soulless nor stilted. It bobs along on a gentle melody and was one of the last songs by Hall & Oates to get a lot of airplay even if it didn’t reach the heights that they had earlier in the decade.

Summer Cometh When The Iceman Goeth

June 23, 2012

As a kid, the NBA championship meant that summer had arrived.

School would have ended a couple weeks before the title series, so staying up until the wee hours watching tape-delayed broadcasts of playoff games on late-night CBS was a seasonal ritual in the early ’80s.

(as was sleeping in ’til mid-morning)

We had an NBA franchise within a short drive, but all of our media was from Cincinnati, across the border and as the city no longer had a team, pro basketball received scant coverage.

With no abiding loyalty to our local team because they were mediocre at best and boring with no superstar, my friends and I were fans of individual players and, by extension, their team.

Everyone loved Dr. J, so the Sixers were popular.

The Lakers had Magic and the Celtics had Larry Bird, our state’s greatest gift to the world, so both of those teams had their loyalists.

I dug, George Gervin, the rail thin, guard for the San Antonio Spurs who was the best pure scorer in the league.

No one was more chilled on the court than the Iceman and one thing he could do…was finger roll.

Unfortunately, Ice would end up on summer vacation before I would. There were a couple seasons during which he managed to get the Spurs to the brink of the finals but no dice.

I’ve been watching a lot of the NBA playoffs this spring and Oklahoma City’s superstar Kevin Durant – Gervin 2.0 – has made me think of watching the Iceman as a kid.

And, as I did as a kid, I’ve been watching this season’s final series.

It’s been compelling and, whether you’re a fan of his or not, if you know basketball at all, you know what an epic romp through the playoffs and championship LeBron James had.

I didn’t stay up late, though, shutting things down most nights during the third, maybe early fourth quarter.

I no longer sleep until mid-day.

And the end of the series is no longer a marker, a sign post noting that for the next ten weeks you were mostly unfettered.

The summer of 1983 began with the Spurs losing in the conference finals. It would be the last time during Gervin’s seasons with the team that they would get so close to a championship.

It would be the last summer that my friends and I would lack driver’s licenses, but it was also the last summer that most of us were unencumbered by jobs.

I have no idea how George Gervin spent that summer, but I spent it with a lot of music. Here are four songs that I was hearing as the summer began in 1983…

Hall & Oates – Family Man
from H2O (1982)

Hall & Oates were in the midst of a ridiculous run of hit singles as the summer began and Family Man hit radio. Dark and paranoid, the song was a bit of a departure for the duo with its edgy guitar and New Wave vibe.

Family Man was a cover of a song by Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame and, despite its darker feel, followed Maneater and One On OneH2O‘s previous hits – into the Top Ten.

The song seems to have been lost in the wake of all of those other hits from Hall & Oates during the early ’80s as I’ve rarely heard it on the radio in the past thirty years.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)
from Listen (1983)

1983 was also the year when I began to really build a music collection and few releases were as eagerly awaited by me as Listen, the follow-up to A Flock Of Seagulls’ debut from the year before as I had adopted them as my band. Heavier on its use of electronics than its predecessor, the album initially disappointed me.

I did love the first single, Wishing, which would become the last of the A Flock Of Seagulls’ three Top 40 singles in the US and possibly their finest effort.

The dense, swirling cascade of multi-layered synthesizers and guitar gave the song a wall of sound for the New Wave era feel not surprising given that the band’s best-known song, I Ran (So Far Away), had apparently caught the ear of legendary producer Phil Spector.

The Kinks – State Of Confusion
from State Of Confusion (1983)

Despite the bulk of their success coming before we were born, The Kinks were one of the most popular bands among my friends and our schoolmates. It wasn’t just the classic ’60s stuff, but the newer material from albums like Low Budget and Give The People What They Want.

So, it was a given that 1983′s State Of Confusion would have our attention. It turned out to be popular with a lot of listeners as Come Dancing was the band’s biggest hit in years.

My favorite song from State Of Confusion was the driving title track, a lovely mix of angst and optimism with a mesmerizing chorus.

Iron Maiden – The Trooper
from Piece Of Mind (1983)

I wasn’t a metalhead and never went through such a phase, but I was well acquainted with Iron Maiden at the time as my buddy Beej’s little brother was obsessed with the band. As we spent a lot of time at his house that summer, we heard a lot of Maiden blaring from Davy’s room.

A year or so later, once we had our driver’s licenses, another buddy, Streuss, would baffle us when he’d toss in a cassette he had made with Men Without Hats on one side and Iron Maiden on the other. I soon developed an appreciation for the band.

Though not as memorable to me as some of their songs, The Trooper is standard-issue Maiden, galloping along at a breakneck pace driven by their twin-lead guitars and Bruce Dickinson’s throaty wail.

It also might be the only song I know with the word musket in it.