Some People You’d Rather Not Meet In A Dark Alley…*

August 4, 2012

Then, there are people like Icelandic singer Bjork, who you’d rather not meet in a well-lit international airport. No, she hasn’t throttled another member of the paparazzi as she’s done a couple times in the past.

From what I’ve read, the beatdowns (one in Thailand in ’96, the other in New Zealand a few years ago) were justifiable, but every time I think of them or come across their mention, the mental picture that comes to my mind is alternately comical and frightening.

Personally, I find Bjork to be one of the more fascinating humans of my lifetime. There’s certainly a unique musical and artistic vision. She’s like a post-punk Neil Young in that you never know what you’ll get, but it’s mostly pretty stellar.

She’s also instilled in me – and, I suppose many other music fans – a curiosity about her Icelandic homeland. Based on what little I know, it’s got to be on the short-list for future destinations. If Bjork’s music and imaginative videos are any indication, Iceland must be the place in this world which most resembles a locale in a Dr. Seuss’ story.

I won’t give too much away as I fear creating an immigration problem for Iceland. Imagine if the mass of humanity that is reading this blog relocated to Iceland (the chaos which would certainly ensue!), but I’ve read that roads are rerouted to not disturb areas in which gnomes are said to inhabit.

Is there legislative debate on their version of C-SPAN regarding such matters?

(I’d truly pop popcorn and be enthralled by such a discussion)

I also recall that some poll once named Iceland as the second least likely country in the world to be hit by a terrorist attack (North Korea took top honor). Not that I really fret over such a possible event, but Iceland’s status – for what it’s worth – has to be considered a bonus.

For me, the idea of Iceland as the Dr. Seuss-like world which Bjork’s music conjures in me is compelling and it’s hard for me to choose a handful of her songs as favorites. Here are five of them…

Bjork – Human Behaviour
from Debut (1993)

“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.

Bjork – Army Of Me
from Post (1995)

Army Of Me would lead a listener to believe that Bjork runs a tight ship – she demands self-sufficience and doesn’t want to hear your bitching. If she has to tell you one more time…well, she’d better not have to tell you one more time.

Bjork – Hyper-Ballad
from Post (1995)

Now, as I’ve mentioned, the fisticuffs Bjork has engaged in in airports ’round the globe seem justified, but this lovely song also reveals her to be a mischief maker. She openly admits to tossing all kinds of items – “Car-parts, bottles and cutlery, or whatever I find lying around” – off the mountain top where she lives.

So, as delightful as she may seem, I suspect that it’s not always a picnic living in Bjork’s neighborhood.

Bjork – Joga
Bjork – Bachelorette
from Homogenic (1997)

A pair of songs from 1997’s Homogenic album. The former is skittering and twitchy, a bit of a nervous wreck of a song with the lyrics given a spoken word treatment.

The latter is more string-laden, adding to the sense of drama, and the beats are more fluid giving Bachelorette a dream-like, melancholy vibe.

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On The Road To Somewhere

September 3, 2011

Paloma got up, less than ten minutes into The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, to go read.

She muttered something about thinking Jackie Earle Haley was cute in the first movie and walked out before Kelly Leak arriving on his motorcycle kickstarted its sequel.

“It’s one of the greatest movies of all time,” I countered, but she was unswayed and headed off with Kindle in hand.

I don’t think I’d seen Breaking Training since 1977, but that review was the consensus of me and my friends leaving the theater.

(we were mostly nine or ten-years old, thus, our standards for such acclaim were the same as more noted critics)

We were growing up in a small town in John Mellencamp’s country and, at least at our age, playing baseball consumed much of our summer days.

We had embraced the ragtag collection of Bears with first movie. These kids looked like kids we knew and not kids in a movie.

And there was Jackie Earle Haley who, as Kelly was not only the best player on the team, but he was angry, long-haired, smoking cigarettes and hooking up with Tatum O’Neal.

He was as badass as a thirteen year-old could be in the mid-’70s.

The sequel lost the wonderful Walter Matthau and O’Neal, but gained a road trip.

Through the clever use of a dim-witted groundskeeper, the team manages to head from California to Texas in a stolen (and very ’70s-styled) van with Kelly Leak behind the wheel.

These were kids, more or less like us, unsupervised and mobile.

And Kelly Leak had the vision to make it happen.

The setting for their game against the Texas champions was the Astrodome, a stadium that was a favorite amongst us kids as the most spectacular of sporting venues on the planet.

(it was like something from some other futuristic world)

There was also a new kid playing Englebert the burly catcher. Not only was he now supersized, he was pivitol in the scene that elicited the biggest laughs from us.

During a brawl in the team’s hotel room, the bathroom door is knocked open to reveal Englebert, sitting on the can, trousers around his ankles, plowing through a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken while he answers nature’s call.

(high hilarity for nine year-olds and an act of multi-tasking that present-day corporate America would encourage)

Thirty-four years ago, it all made for a most excellent cinematic experience. Here are four songs from Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart for this week in 1977 that, had we been in that van, my friends and I might have heard…

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop
from 25 Years: The Chain

In 1977, there was plenty Fleetwood Mac on the radio as their Rumours was in the midst of a run that would see it become one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.

The group had already had hits with Go Your Own Way and Dreams when the jaunty Don’t Stop became the third of Rumours‘ eventual four Top 40 singles.

Ram Jam – Black Betty
from Ram Jam

Paloma gets a bit giddy when she hears Black Betty and the lone hit by Ram Jam does grab one’s attention from the opening guitar riff.

I can’t hear Black Betty and not think of junior high when the song would invariably be blaring from the jukebox of the pizza place where most of our football team would gather to eat before home games.

The song made guitarist Bill Bartlett a two-time member of one-hit wonders as he had previously been lead guitarist for The Lemon Pipers who had topped the charts in the late ’60s with the bubblegum of Green Tambourine.

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
from Sweet Life: His Greatest Hit Singles

Singer/songwriter Paul Davis’ I Go Crazy was in its second week on the charts thirty-four years ago. The song wouldn’t reach the Top Ten, though, until late February of the following year as it spent a then-record 40 weeks on the Hot 100.

Though I Go Crazy was melancholic light rock at its most mellow, I’ve often wondered if Davis was ever mistaken for a member of the Allman Brothers.

The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey,Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.


The Monkey Time

August 7, 2011

Friday morning I woke and, like Red at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, was so excited, I could barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

Not only did I have a rare weekday off work – and one that wasn’t about to be carved up by errands – but the day coincided with the opening of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. As a child of the ’70s, I’ve noted the hold that the films based on Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet Of The Apes had on my imagination.

Though I’d vowed not to be lured in to this latest take on the monkey tale, four months of tantalizing trailers and clips proved to be too much to resist.

That resistence was further eroded earlier in the week as photos began to arrive from Paloma’s brother, on a junket in central Africa, trekking through a remote region that is home to the few hundred remaining mountain gorillas in the world.

This confluence of events prompted me to do a little research.

The first thing I discovered was that the mountain gorillas reside in what is known as the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and live up on the slopes in “cloud forests.”

I find our planet that much more wonderous simply knowing that somewhere, simians or not, is a place known as an impenetrable forest and there is such a thing as a cloud forest. Add apes and I’m wondering if the gorillas would mind a couple of humans and a few cats putting up a treehouse in the neighborhood.

(though, as Bwindi is the only forest where mountain gorillas and chimpanzees live, the latter group should also be consulted)

I also learned that mountain gorillas will run, bipedally, for distances up to six miles.

(most of the humans I know would struggle to do the same…I suspect even fewer know what “bipedal” means)

The intelligence of these creatures is profound and, though early risers, mountain gorillas have the good sense to stay in their nests if they awake and it’s raining or overcast.

(I’ve been trained to leave the nest and go to work in such conditions)

In addition to intelligence, primatologists believe that the gorillas are able to consider the past, ponder the future, and – as some researchers theorize – are capable of spiritual reflection.

(an idea that would, no doubt, chap the asses of the uber-pious among the humans and cause them to fling poop)

I also read that the most common form of intragroup communication between gorillas is “deep, rumbling belches” suggesting contentment.

As for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes…hail Caesar!

Here are four songs from Gorillaz…

Gorillaz (featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien) – Clint Eastwood
from Gorillaz

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring De La Soul) – Feel Good Inc.
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) – Stylo
from Plastic Beach