“I’ve got meat juice on my haunches…”

August 19, 2012

I pay little heed to television commercials that do not include bacon. Hell, most of the time I have no idea what they’re even wanting me to buy.

However, there are rare occasions when I am stopped in my tracks, riveted by some marketer’s attempt to get into my head and into my pockets, and, recently, it was hearing one, simple phrase that got my attention…

“I’ve got meat juice on my haunches.”

I looked up from the computer.

(how could I not?)

And what was displayed in high-definition for my wondering eyes to see but a man dressed as a centaur at a renaissance fair and – by the beard of Zeus – he did indeed have meat juice on his haunches.

I was gobsmacked with amusement.

It was far better than my lone, previous renaissance fair experience. I had been duped into attending by a promise of giant turkey legs and hippie chicks pretending to be medieval wenches.

It was a bust. Yeah, there were giant turkey legs but there was something that psyched me out to have each and every wench whose path I crossed hit me with a “m’lord.”

(I was some long-haired, ’90s slacker dressed like a Pearl Jam roadie, not Henry VIII)

The angst of this centaur, though, was the result of a structurally unsound paper plate and gravity leaving the feast which he was about to shove into his gaping maw sullying his horse costume.

(turkey leg, centaur dude, turkey leg)

And I’m riveted when the damned commercial comes on which, thus far, hasn’t been often. It’s that damned centaur’s lament, delivered with irritable resignation, that cracks me up.

In the corporate world, each morning in the office is to run a gauntlet of inquiries as to one’s well-being. Some of the queries are sincere, but, for the most part, it’s a reflexive thing, an obligation meant to be polite and little more.

“How are you?” is asked repeatedly and a soundbite of positivity is expected lest an inquisition begins.

I like the idea of “I’ve got meat juice on my haunches” entering the lexicon as an acceptable reply that conveys “I’m having a rough day and I’d rather not discuss it” and I think that centaur might be able to make it happen.

During the early summer of ’98, I spent a couple weeks wandering through the UK with the same buddy that dragged me to my only renaissance fair and another friend.

Here are four songs that I heard often on that trip…

Texas – Say What You Want
from White On Blonde (1997)

I had heard a couple songs by Texas when their first album came out while I was in college in the late ’80s and was non-plussed. And while the Scottish band led by Sharleen Spiteri had great success in the UK, there was no breakthrough for the them in the States.

Though White On Blonde had been released a year before I arrived in the UK, the album of frothy, blue-eyed soul was a mammoth seller and the hits from the album were still on the stations we’d tune in on our rental car’s radio.

Julian Lennon – Day After Day
from Photograph Smile (1998)

Julian Lennon had burst onto the music scene with his debut Valotte in late 1984 with several hits and a lot of attention. Then, subsequent releases fizzled with little fanfare.

We were surprised to come across Photograph Smile, Lennon’s first new album in nearly a decade, and purchased a copy. The cassette soon became a staple of that trip, a dozen tracks that found John’s oldest son seeming to embrace the legacy of his father’s band.

The Verve – Lucky Man
from Urban Hymns (1997)

I stumbled across the debut from The Verve in early ’94. It might have been from reading about the British quartet in Q or some other music magazine from the UK which was enthusiastic about the band.

I quickly became a fan of their dense, swirling psychedelic-styled modern rock and lead singer Richard Ashcroft struck me as a near-perfect representation of a rock star with his angular features, tousled hair, and indifferent swagger.

Unfortunately, aside from a brief bit of attention after Nike used the song Bittersweet Symphony from 1997′s Urban Hymns in a commercial, The Verve was generally ignored in the States and the masses missed out on one of the best bands of the ’90s.

Catatonia – Mulder And Scully
from International Velvet (1998)

In 1998, The X-Files was at its peak creatively and commercially, having become an iconic pop culture sensation. The Welsh band Catatonia, and their catchy ode to the series’ main characters, was another discovery of ours on that trip and, for two weeks, we played International Velvet into the ground.

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The End Of Time As We Knew It

November 9, 2011

So, the clocks have been turned back, an act that still is an odd thing to me as I grew up in one of the few swaths of the US that didn’t acknowledge such antics.

(Paloma is like a ninja somehow resetting all of the numerous timepieces in the treehouse so swiftly, so deftly that I never see her do it, but the feat is accomplished by the time I awake)

As the citizens of my hometown were ignoring the changing of the times in autumn, 1984, my friends and I had all reached our sixteenth birthdays and, thus, all had our drivers licenses for the first time.

The end of Daylight Savings Time did not go completely unnoticed. Most of the radio and television stations we received were broadcast out of Southwestern Ohio. The clocks moving back in Cincinnati meant having to stay up later to watch the end of Monday Night Football and hear Dandy Don Meredith croon.

The upside was that we gained an hour to troll the record stores and malls on treks into the city.

During the summer months, by the time one of us procured transportation, it was usually after someone’s parents or older sibling had returned home from work.

(my buddy Beej often loaned himself his brother’s Datsun B210 which we had nicknamed, for reasons unexplained, The Invisible Jet)

We often had to make tactical decisions regarding which record stores to hit in a limited timeframe and the last scheduled stop hinged upon closing times.

Invariably, we would underestimate the time spent elsewhere and these junkets often ended with us hurriedly searching through the aisles of Peaches as clerks eager to close for the night were turning down the lights.

There was no rush like taking a roa trip and returning with new music. Though I was branching out at the time and listening to more alternative rock, I was still tentative when it came to actually parting with the little cash I had. So, I was still tethered to buying more mainstream stuff.

Here are four songs from purchases that autumn…

Julian Lennon – Valotte
from Valotte (1984)

For folks who grew up with The Beatles, it must have been a bit trippy to hear the voice of John Lennon’s son when Valotte arrived and became a big hit. The title track was all over radio that fall and the sparse, lovely song simply sounded like autumn.

Tommy Shaw – Girls With Guns
from Girls With Guns (1984)

If you grew up in the Midwest in the late ’70s/early ’80s, there was probably a great likelihood that you owned something by Styx, be it The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight, or Paradise Theater. It seemed half the kids in our high school had a well-worn t-shirt commemorating one Styx tour or another.

For me, Styx was my first concert experience and, though I quickly soured on the band with Kilroy Was Here, the punchy title track to guitarist Tommy Shaw’s first solo album caught my ear at the time and was enough to lure me in.

Toto – Stranger In Town
from Isolation (1984)

I’d worn out the cassette of Toto’s mega-selling Toto IV that I’d purchased from the Columbia Record & Tape Club. The band was hardly reinventing fire, but to a kid just discovering pop music, it was a thoroughly engaging collection of pop/rock that clicked with me even beyond the hits like Rosanna and Africa.

Isolation arrived a good two years after Toto IV. It was a lengthy gap between records for the time. Toto had changed and so had I, but I totally dug the mysterious vibe of Stranger In Town, which – based on how quickly the album vanished – must have put me in the minority.

Big Country – Steeltown
from Steeltown (1984)

Though just a year after becoming a sensation in the US with In A Big Country, Steeltown was greeted with a yawn in the States. It got excellent reviews and deservedly so as, even without a hit, it’s a better album than their debut.

The title track has a thunderous cadence reminiscent of In A Big Country. It’s bone-rattling.