Cleveland, You’ll Always Have Devo

July 12, 2010

Though he is a sports fan, my dad not only had grown up in a city without an NBA team, but the nearest city to us that had a franchise when I was growing up was Indianapolis.

They might have played a mere ninety minutes away, but the Pacers were woeful.

He also shared the opinion of college basketball coach Bob Knight that, if the only thing on television was an NBA game and two mice making love, he’d opt for the mice even if the reception was fuzzy.

So, as a kid, when I asked my dad who his favorite pro basketball team was, he replied with neither enthusiasm nor sincerity, “The Cleveland Cavaliers.”

With such disinterest, he could have actually been a fan of the team which, at the time, was as dismal as Indiana’s.

Thirty years later, and it’s been several days since LeBron James left his city in dust. I confess that I did tune in to watch the spectacle of the hoops superstar announce for whom he would be playing next season and for the foreseeable future.

(it was a scene, man)

Personally, I thought he’d return to Cleveland, but, then again, I grew up in a world where you were assured that Basketball Jesus was in Boston, Magic was in L.A., and Dr. J was in Philly.

The whole event certainly seemed tailor-made for audience members who might not know a world without Survivor, American Idol, and ESPN’s Sportscenter.

(not to mention Twitter and Facebook and…)

I’m not quite sure how I feel about how the events played out, but I can’t help but feel bad for the fans in Cleveland.

If you’re a sports fan, it can be a wonderful distraction from whatever life might be hurling at you, but you do become invested.

And for that investment, you’ll likely experience a lot of frustration punctuated by a handful of moments that amaze and inspire, but you’ll find it to be damn near impossible to disengage.

The ante was certainly upped for a city whose superstar was not only one of the best players on the planet but a local kid, too.

So, Cleveland, Miami might have LeBron James.

And they might have beaches.

And they might never face the risk of frostbite.

But, as far as rock and roll… Miami can’t carry your jock strap.

So, here are a quartet of tracks from less than a handful of the acts that have emerged from the musically rich Cleveland area…

Devo – That’s Good
from Greatest Hits

My high school buddy Streuss was a rabid fan of Devo. Prior to meeting him, I knew little of the band’s music aside from hearing Whip It and Working In The Coal Mine on the radio.

That’s Good appeared on their 1982 album, Oh, No! It’s Devo and, though I never heard it on the radio, I did see the band perform the song – as well as Peek-A-Boo! – on several television shows at the time.

Benjamin Orr – Stay The Night
from The Lace

The late bassist for The Cars sang lead on a number of the band’s classics – Bye, Bye Love, Just What I Needed, Moving In Stereo, Let’s Go, and Drive.

I was a freshman in college when The Lace was released and Stay The Night got a lot of airplay that winter. It’s a pretty song – much the same vibe as the brilliant Drive – and makes me think of staring out the window at the snow falling, daydreaming when I had intended to be studying.

Rachel Sweet – Voo Doo
from More Music From The Valley Girl Soundtrack

Rachel Sweet signed to the legendary label Stiff Records as a teenager which resulted in her being referred to by some as “jailbait rock.”

Sweet ended up releasing a few records, notched a hit duet with Rex Smith in Everlasting Love, and had a television show when cable network Comedy Central was known as The Comedy Channel.

Voo Doo is a fantastically, slinky little number.

Michael Stanley Band – Someone Like You
from You Can’t Fight Fashion

The Michael Stanley Band, from what I’ve read, set attendance records in major venues in Northeastern Ohio that still stand today. Living within a stone’s throw of the Indiana/Ohio border, I do remember hearing songs like He Can’t Love You and, especially, My Town (both of which were Top 40 hits).

My Town was a radio staple in my corner of the world during the autumn of ’83. However, despite the band’s successes, the Michael Stanley Band was one of those acts that, with each record, was touted as one record away from their breakthrough that never really happened.

Not long ago, when Paloma inherited my old iPod, she came home one day asking about a song she’d heard by a group with whom she was unfamiliar. It was Someone Like You, which was the follow-up to My Town. I don’t think I’d heard the song in twenty-five years, but, reaquainting myself with the song, I understood why it caught Paloma’s ear and wondered why it hadn’t been a smash back in the day.