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.

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It’s Just Like The Battle Of Stirling Bridge…Yet Completely Different

April 8, 2010

Before joining the ranks of corporate America several years ago, the end of the month merely meant that the rent would soon be due.

That was then.

Some of you might also labor in offices and cubicles, hunkered in some flourescently-lit bunker performing some task that, when you truly stop to ponder what it is that you do, is not only rather pointless but bordering on ridiculous.

(perhaps it’s all beamed somewhere as a reality show for aliens)

The end of the month means that there are goals and such that simply must be met lest it become a new month…

And to lead this crusade, the powers that be – paunchy, white men younger than they appear to be – tap into repeated viewings of Braveheart, channel Sir William Wallace (as portrayed by Mel Gibson) and roust the troops with militaristic speech.

It’s a strange ritual and difficult to take seriously.

But it’s a gig, right?

It’s been more than a week and my brain is still a bit addled. As I wait for normal brainwave activity to resume, here are four songs about the art of work…

Huey Lewis & The News – Workin’ For A Living
from Picture This

There was a period of about five years during which it was damn near impossible to surf the dial and not come across a song by Huey Lewis & The News. Some folks had an almost deranged reaction to this saturation of the airwaves.

I quite liked some of their songs and the others I ignored.

The infectious Workin’ For A Living is one of the former.

Dramarama – Work For Food
from Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

Dramarama was from New Jersey, but their sound always made me think of Minneapolis bands like The Replacements and Soul Asylum. I snagged one of the band’s CDs from a box of promos at a record store where I worked.

I was quite pleased and Work For Food was a massive hit in some parallel universe. It’s too insanely catchy not to have been.

Devo – Working In The Coal Mine
from Heavy Metal soundtrack

My high school friend Streuss was insane for Devo. The rest of us mostly knew a few songs and not much more.

One song which we all did know was the quirky gem Working In The Coal Mine. It was on the radio a bit and we all had seen Heavy Metal.

And I seem to recall Devo performing the song on the television show Fridays.

Aztec Camera – Working In A Goldmine
from Love

I first learned of Roddy Frame when I heard the effervescent Oblivious on 97X out of Oxford, Ohio in high school. I think that I heard Working In A Goldmine on the syndicated show Rock Over London and immediately was smitten with the dreamy song – “glitter, glitter everywere.”


"I Don’t Want To Make Money, Folks…I Just Love To Sell Guns."

April 13, 2008

Recently, Paloma and I caught a late-night showing of a movie called Equinox, a sci-fi flick from the early ’70s which has a cult following due to the fact that it began as a student film by Dennis Muren. Muren would find much success later for his special effects work on numerous films, including the Star Wars series.

Equinox was a familiar feature from my childhood as it seemed to be shown every other week on WTTV’s Science Fiction Theater. Seeing it again also brought back vivid memories of a personal bogeyman spawned by consumerism run rampant…

…Don, erstwhile proprietor and namesake of Don’s Guns.

Don was a regional phenomenon, his advertising reach relegated to central Indiana where his lone storefront/armory was located. His budget allotment for marketing apparently only great enough to purchase face-time in the wee hours on an independent television station, but his leering mug made quite an impression as I have learned from fellow Hoosiers, few of whom seemed to have escaped seeing Don hawking his wares.

His commercials were like an ambush. One minute, I’d be sitting there, a nine-year old in Spiderman pajamas, huddled under a blanket, watching Channel 4 only to have Don practically burst from the screen and into the living room. If Equinox or Night Of The Lepus wasn’t frightening enough, there was Don.

Don epitomized snake-oil salesman, approaching a level of smarm that would be the envy of any elected official and doing it so effortlessly. Perhaps it was his resemblance to an extremely dodgy Kenny Rogers. Possibly, it was the sheer, unadulterated glee with which he made his pitch.

Most likely it was the manner in which he closed every commercial – Don gazing maniacally from the screen, toothy grin flashing as he delivered his mantra, “I don’t want to make money, folks. I just love to sell guns.”. (This linked commercial must be of more recent vintage – note the Spanish subtitle – and puts a twist on his trademark closing quote)

And then he’d be gone. DeForest Kelly would return – battling the bunnies in Night Of The Lepus – but somehow it lacked the punch to follow-up the spectacle of Don.

And where is Don now? Googling him, my computer screen was filled with results, most of which sullied my fond memories of Don as many alluded to numerous alleged improprieties involving his business. In fact, one item feted him as “the nation’s sixth-worst dealer” based on the number of firearms sold that were used in criminal activity.

And all the daffy bastard wanted to do was sell guns. Is that so wrong?

Adrian Belew (with David Bowie) – Gunman
A record store co-worker from years ago lived next door to Belew who was, by their account, a model neighbor. Neighbor-wise, Paloma and I are stuck with a crack dealer, a drunk who considers himself an artist (for his sculptures not his drinking), and an extraordinarily mediocre jam band who insist on mistakenly referring to their sound as “trip-hop.”

Pray For Rain – Money, Guns And Coffee
This track comes from the soundtrack to a movie called Straight To Hell, a bizarre, quasi-Western about a town populated by java junkies and starring Courtney Love, Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan (and other members of The Pogues), and Elvis Costello.

Warren Zevon – Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
I once had a dream that Zevon, for some infraction, was sentenced to do community service in which he was to take underprivileged kids camping (for some reason, I was part of this expedition). Instead of communing with nature in the great outdoors, Warren had us spread out our sleeping bags on the floor of some posh hotel suite and, as we all sat around gorging ourselves on room service, he repeatedly bellowed, “We’re roughing it now, aren’t we, kids!”

The Connells – Get A Gun