A Random Walk Through Wednesday

August 4, 2010

Several months ago, one of the cable stations burned an weekend showing episodes of The Twilight Zone. I, not wanting to appear ungrateful, burned an entire weekend watching episodes of The Twilight Zone.

This continued a tradition dating back to college when – fall semester, sophomore year – I had to skip all classes that interfered with me watching Rod Serling’s visionary show on WGN (it aired weekedays, noon ’til one o’clock).

One of the classes that I often missed due to this unfortunate scheduling conflict was a class on the occult and strange phenomena.

(The Twilight Zone was better done and far more thought-provoking, so I felt it was a no-brainer)

One of the episodes, The Midnight Sun, was set in a New York City apartment as the earth – due to a change in orbit – is headed for the sun and a fiery end. At the episode’s conclusion, it is revealed to have been a fever dream of a young woman and that the earth is actually drifting away from the sun and to a frigid demise.

So, as this summer swelters on, that episode has popped into my head.

It’s made me think.

If I am in some fever-fueled state of delerium and the earth is heading toward an icy rendezvous with Pluto…Paloma, please get me a sweater…and soup…yes, soup would be nice…with a grilled cheese sandwich…

I am relatively certain that I am not in some bizarre, Twilight Zone-esque netherworld.

I am completely certain that it is hot. Too hot to do much more than think about skipping classes, lying on the couch, and reveling in the genius of Rod Serling.

Here are four songs that shuffled up on the iPod…

The Thorns – Blue
from The Thorns

The Thorns was a trio comprised of Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins (with Jim Keltner on drums) and their lone album from 2003 immediately made me think of Crosby, Stills & Nash – it’s the harmonies and chiming guitar.

It also is much in the same vein as The Jayhawks – a band that Paloma and I devoted much attention to – who they cover faithfully on Blue.

Warrior Soul – Love Destruction
from Salutations From The Ghetto Nation

I honestly know nothing about Warrior Soul and I think I snagged Salutations From The Ghetto Nation as a promo in the early ’90s, dug it, and filed it away for future listens. Like a lot of music from that time, I never truly got around to devoting more time to it.

And I keep intending to do so as Love Destruction pops up on the iPod rather often and it always demands my attention. It’s a brooding slab of thunderous rock with serious punk attitude.

Bow Wow Wow – Fools Rush In
from Girl Bites Dog – Your Compact Disc Pet

I think that Bow Wow Wow released two..maybe three actual albums during their career and, somehow, I have a good half dozen or more. I’m a fan, but, you truly need no more than five or six essential tracks by the creation of the late Malcolm McLaren.

Fools Rush In is a pleasant if inconsequential cover of a song that had already been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Brooke Benton to Etta James and Doris Day.

Journey – Still They Ride
from Greatest Hits Live

Of course I loved Journey in the ’80s. I was in high school and allegiance to the band was hardly an uncommon thing.

But, during the summer of ’82 when Still They Ride was the latest hit from the monstrously successful Escape, I didn’t care for the song much. It plodded.

Now, the song falls into a well-populated group of songs that I have far more affection for thirty years later. There’s no arguing that Steve Perry was perfectly suited for the band and the style of music. The dude has pipes and, on this live version, he belts it to the back row.

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H ve A Great Summ r

July 31, 2010

For years, the realization that July had become August produced a Pavlovian sense of dread in me.

As a kid, August was the month in which we were herded back into the educational system. The first day of the month made that impending event palpable to me.

Sure, there was still a few weeks of warm days spent idly doing nothing at all, but – deep down – I felt the awful truth that it was over.

Wimbledon and the 4th of July – two signposts of summer for me – had already happened.

If we had gone somewhere on vacation it would have likely been in July. By August 1st, the trip seemed as if it had happened a lifetime before rather than mere weeks (at most).

August turned me into a dead man walking as I shuffled toward the first day of classes.

Not this year, though, not this summer.

This summer, there is absolutely not one fiber of my being that has twitched reflexively at the approach of August.

Each morning, I sit drinking coffee in a state of early-morning confusion. The local news is on the television where it remains until the weather forecast has been delivered (at which time, it’s ESPN2 and Mike & Mike In The Morning).

Usually, I halfheartedly listen to the weather, mostly making sure that there isn’t some impending weather disaster headed our direction.

This has been the ritual.

But, the past few weeks my attention to the weather report has been increasingly focused. The extended forecast causes me to marshall the limited powers of concentration I possess at 5:10 a.m.

93-96-98-95-97-94

I study the forecasted daily highs like a hobo that has spent his last dollar on a pick-6 ticket and shake my head.

I welcome August this year because August is next to September and – unless this is the year that summer never ends – that means that the temperatures have to abate.

Ten weeks ago, the marque outside a high school on my morning commute heralded the end of the school year. A week later it wished all to “Have A Great Summer.”

This week, I noticed that a couple letters were missing.

Here are four songs that accompanied me back to school in Augusts past…

John Denver – Annie’s Song
from The John Denver Collection

As six-year old starting school in ’74, I knew John Denver. He had one of the biggest hits in the country with Annie’s Song. Mostly, though, I knew him from his television specials.

There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair. I dug the guy.

I still think Annie’s Song is lovely (if a bit melodramatic).

Joan Jett – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
from Bad Reputation

In August of ’82, I was fourteen and headed from the comfortable confines of grade school to the unknown petri dish of high school. It was a fairly seamless transition as I had Will, my best friend from our neighborhood and a year older than me, as a guide.

Music had really gotten it’s hooks in me that summer. My interest having reached critical mass after simmering for about a year or so. It was mostly radio or mix tapes of songs I’d taped from the radio since I owned no more than a dozen cassettes.

One was Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll which had been massive since winter -when the title song became an ’80s anthem – and throughout the summer with a version of Crimson And Clover.

By August, I was catching up to her solo debut and another stellar cover song.

Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1

Three years later, August brought the beginning of senior year. It was a good time, but it had been hyped in the “86”s scrawled on notebooks and spraypainted on bridges since fifth grade.

That August, Godley & Creme’s video for Cry was causing a sensation on MTV. The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had split from 10cc and become acclaimed producers of videos.

(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)

Cry was a groundbreaking video and the song is hypnotic.

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Boy Inside The Man
from Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

I didn’t realize that Red Rider was relatively unknown in the States until lead singer Tom Cochrane had a solo hit with Life Is A Highway. Growing up in the Midwest, the band got a lot of attention from several rock stations I listened to in the ’80s.

I was the buyer for a large record store in another part of the country when Life Is A Highway became a hit for Cochrane. It seemed clear that, unless they were more than casual music fans, the customers searching for the hit were generally unaware of Cochrane or Red Rider.

But, five years earlier in August, 1986, Cochrane was still a member of Red Rider and, as I prepared to head of to college, I was hearing the band’s Boy Inside The Man on the radio.


In Hopes Of Appeasing The Sun God…

June 25, 2010

I give.

I’ve tried to be patient as the daily high temperatures crept up into the low 90s from the high 80s.

And as those daily highs steadily climbed from the low 90s to the mid 90s, I told myself and anyone who would listen – essentially Paloma and the cats – that maybe we were getting the worst out of the way before we even hit July.

But, for the past several days, we’ve flirted with triple digits.

Something has to be done.

I suppose that Superman could alter the rotation of the Earth (or something) and cool things down to a more temperate and normal state of meteorological affairs, but I haven’t seen him since I stumbled across Superman II on cable last month.

I’m not sure he’d be up to this challenge.

El Sol is pissed.

Perhaps a virgin thrown into the gaping maw of a volcano – perhaps an Icelandic volcano – might set things right, but such shenanigans haven’t been acceptable since the ’50s.

So, as an homage to that great, fiery globe in the sky who is usually a welcome, nurturing presence and to honor the season – albeit several days late – I offer four songs for the sun and a plea that you chill the @#$%&! out…

Queens Of The Stone Age – Feel Good Hit Of The Summer
from R

Queens Of The Stone Age are one of the few bands in recent years that have really wowed me with everything I’ve heard (though I’ve missed their last couple albums). But I had also been a big fan of Kyuss, the previous band of Queens Of The Stoneage guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme.

(of late, he’s worked with John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl in Them Crooked Vultures)

Feel Good Hit Of The Summer is a jackhammer – thunderous, pummeling, with some serious buzzsaw guitar.

And catchy as hell (with an interesting background).

Everything But The Girl – British Summertime
from Worldwide

Like few other artists, it is impossible for me to hear Everything But The Girl and not think of Paloma. I first heard the band in college when a girl named Peggy Sue with whom I worked in a record store would play their albums, but it was during countless hours listening to them with Paloma that made them staples.

You can throw anything on by Everything But The Girl and I’m good. Obviously, there are songs by the duo of which I am more fond, but Tracey Thorn’s voice – and Ben Watt’s, too -is as comfortable as the nostalgic memories of childhood summers.

(even if British Summertime is also rather melancholic)

Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain’t The Summer Of Love
from Agents Of Fortune

I think that I’ve been quite clear about my affection for Blue Öyster Cult.

Nuclear Valdez – Summer
from I Am I

The debut album from rock quartet Nuclear Valdez quickly became a favorite of a college roommate and me when the record store where we worked received an advance copy. The group garnered notice from magazines like Rolling Stone and attention from MTV.

Nuclear Valdez’ guitar-driven, anthemic sound and socially conscious lyrics positioned them alongside similar acts that were finding audiences at the time such as U2, The Alarm and The Call.

The sweeping Summer chronicled the plight of those in exile following the Cuban revolution in 1959 – three of the members of the band were children of such exiles – and takes me back instantly to a summer twenty years ago.