The Remains Of The Day

November 24, 2012

Years ago, while studying in Singapore, a half-dozen of us took off to Thailand for a stretch.

During the last few days of the junket, several of us were verging on cashed, including me and my buddy Vince. To maximize our minimal funds and thus afford passage back to Singapore, we put into effect a plan to not eat before sunset each day.

(any similarities to an observance of Ramadan would have ended hours earlier at the pool’s bar)

We were at that bar late one afternoon, having a pint as the sun edged toward the horizon and anticipating grabbing some dinner. Several nights earlier our group had discovered a pizza place not far from the beach.

Babylon Pizza could have been located in the States. Open to the street, it was filled with wooden tables, checked tablecloths, and lots of brick. They served the only good pizza we had eaten in six months.

The impending feast caused the conversation between Vince and I to become about Thanksgiving. We sat at the bar, stomachs growling, ticking off the dishes that made the holiday a glorious one. One of us would describe an item in detail as the other nodded in agreement, struggling not to drool.

We reached the conclusion, though, that as wonderful as Thanksgiving might be, the best meal of the day was later, often after everyone had gone to bed and the house was still. It would then be into the kitchen to pile a plate high with leftovers from the fridge.

And, this year, I invoked that tradition. With Paloma and the animals slumbering, I shuffled out to the kitchen and prepared a late-night feast.

As I topped it all off with some gravy, I paused and raised the ladle in a toast to Vince before heading into the living room and settling in to watch Gonzaga and Clemson in some holiday hoops tournament.

It was the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Here are four songs by bands who had success as leftovers following the departure of well-known lead singers…

Genesis – Follow You, Follow Me
from …And Then There Were Three… (1978)

The first Top 40 hit for Genesis in the States, Follow You, Follow Me came after Peter Gabriel’s exit and the reduction of the band to a trio, an incarnation that would have considerable commercial success in the ensuing decade. I imagine it caused considerable angst for the long-time fans of the progressive act.

Follow You, Follow Me is a song that I’ve always adored. It’s mysterious, distinctive, and hypnotic.

Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love
from 5150 (1986)

Music fans can (have and will) argue about the quality of the Sammy Hagar-led version of Van Halen as opposed to the output of the band’s music when fronted by David Lee Roth, but there’s little denying that the band’s second act garnered them a more mainstream audience and sold a lot of albums.

The pulsating Why Can’t This Be Love served as Van Hagar’s introduction to the world when it hit radio in early 1986.

Marillion – Easter
from Seasons End (1989)

I actually grabbed a copy of Marillion’s Seasons End while on that trip to Thailand, completely unaware that lead singer Fish had left the progressive band until I read the liner notes.

Fish’s departure would have received little mention or been of much interest in the States where Marillion had little more than a cult following. I had only become aware of Marillion from the scant airplay of their song Kayleigh in 1985 and seeing the band open for Rush at the time.

With new lead singer Steve Hogarth, Marillion continued to have success in their native UK into the ’90s including having a hit with the lovely, elegiac Easter.

10,000 Maniacs – More Than This
from Love Among the Ruins (1997)

As a college student in the latter half of the ’80s, I was quite familiar with alternative folk rockers 10,0000 Maniacs who were darlings of the burgeoning college rock scene. Mainstream success eluded the band until issuing their MTV Unplugged set in 1993 and scoring a hit with a cover of the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen composition Because The Night.

When lead singer Natalie Merchant set out on a solo career, 10,000 Maniacs tagged Mary Ramsey, who had played violin and viola as well as adding backing vocals on MTV Unplugged, as their new vocalist.

As Merchant was selling millions with her solo debut Tigerlily, easily eclipsing the commercial fortunes of her former band, 10,000 Maniacs notched a second Top 40 hit in the States as Ramsey gave voice to the band’s version of Roxy Music’s More Than This.

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That’s Right, The King Is Going To Have Us All Fat And Happy

January 9, 2009

Rejoice remote Thai villagers, Inuits of Greenland, and all other begrimed peoples who have yet to smell the bright lights of civilization. W was correct and freedom is on the march. But it won’t be any god, government or game show which will bring you the riches we in the modern world take for granted.

It will be a king. Specifically, The King.

I long ago declared allegiance to Burger King. Actually, fast food wasn’t often on the menu growing up, but once I got to college and occasionally opted for a burger from under a sunlamp, it was the flame-broiled goodness I would usually crave.

Burger Kings were plentiful in Southeast Asia when I had the opportunity to trek through that part of the world. I still cannot hear Def Leppard’s Rocket without picturing the girl at the counter in a Singapore BK Lounge. She sang along with that song (not quite at the top of her lungs) as she took an order from me and my friend Simon.

In one recent commercial, The King appears in a man’s yard. The man looks away and when he looks back, The King is right in front of him, standing on the porch offering a delicious breakfast sandwich.

Paloma finds it to be creepy. Yes, perhaps it is a bit creepy, but it’s also a wonderful thing.

In another series of ads, people from more isolated places around the world get to enjoy a Whopper. As you can imagine, the footage reveals it to be quite possibly the most amazing moments of their lives except for one Inuit fellow who declares that he still prefers seal meat.

(I hope this ungrateful bastard’s next encounter with Western culture involves a visit from PETA)

I also read the other day that obesity among most of the world’s population is skyrocketing (for various reasons). Finally, a global consensus on something.

So those of you dismayed by the state of the human race, take heart, because a glorious new age of peace and harmony, love and understanding, is coming – a portly new world order and we will all bow to The King.

Marillion – The King Of Sunset Town
I suppose it was never cool to admit liking Marillion, yes? But there is a chunk of their catalog which I do love and their album Season’s End would be on the list. I stumbled across it, not even knowing they had a new album, while in Thailand. Less rigidly progressive and looser conceptually, it was their first record with new singer Steve Hogarth, who immediately reminded me of Peter Gabriel.

Jellyfish – The King Is Half-Undressed
There’s little I could say in praise of Jellyfish which wasn’t covered quite nicely over at My Humps here.

R.E.M. – The King Of Comedy
1994’s Monster was the last time I truly cared about R.E.M. and I’d been with them most of the way up ‘til then (I was in college in the ‘80s; it was the law). I did like Monster and I thought that the King Of Comedy, a shimmering slab of ear candy, was an overlooked gem.

The Rave-Ups – Respectfully King Of Rain
I didn’t know the Rave-Ups were from Pittsburgh but apparently they were. I did know that Molly Ringwald was a friend of the band which led to them appearing in Pretty In Pink (performing the stellar Positively Lost Me). Respectfully King Of Rain is pretty wonderful, too.


Supertramp And Pop Tarts

June 26, 2008

Recently, JB over at The Hits Just Keep Comin’ gave a nod to the band Supertramp and their classic album Breakfast In America. I’ve been hoping for a Supertramp revival since the use of Goodbye Stranger in the movie Magnolia.

Oh, my devotion to them isn’t slavish. In truth, it’s rather limited. Their more progressive stuff doesn’t move me and it’s not simply because it’s progressive. I fully admit to having dabbled in progressive rock, but that flirtation was mostly limited to Marillion in the early ’80s. In fact, I’ve had the chance to drink with their former lead singer Fish on a handful of occasions and, I assure you, to walk into a pub in Edinburgh with the man is akin to walking into Cheers with Norm.

I digress. My meager devotion to Supertramp is to about a dozen songs and the Breakfast In America album. When that band worked, they were capable of producing a nearly perfect pop song and almost every track on Breakfast In America works (I seem to recall Oh Darling being the only song which I ever skipped).

Not only is the music worth the price of admission, Breakfast In America has an album cover that always makes me smile – a jovial waitress, menu in hand and orange juice at the ready (her name has to be Bev). God I love a well-thrown breakfast.

Now, here is where the Pop Tart connection comes in (with no help from Kevin Bacon so far as I know). Bev simply looks like someone that would deliver a well-balanced breakfast. Remember the commercials during Saturday morning cartoons in the ’70s for cereals when they would conclude with a shot of the “balanced breakfast” consisting of said cereal, juice, milk, bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fruit, and an entire pot roast? Did that ever strike anyone else as a lot of food?

Pop Tarts, in their commercials, were touted as something to accompany a “balanced breakfast.”

Personally, I have long been a fan of Pop Tarts. They’re magically delicious and their simplicity is a stroke of genius. When traveling abroad or even ‘cross town, I always keep Pop Tarts in my backpack for those unexpected twists in the road. Once in Kuala Lumpur, I traded one to a buddy for an aqua Walkman when there was no Burger King or Pizza Hut to be found.

I also admire the way that Kellogg’s has steadfastly unveiled new flavors to a salivating public. Remember the early days of Pop Tarts when they only came with fruit fillings? You could kind of pretend that they were healthy. Well, somewhere along the line they just said to hell with that.

Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts? Yeah, who doesn’t love sundaes?

Fudge chocolate, chocolate-filled, chocolate chip Pop Tarts? Why not?

Frosted Cookies And Creme With Bacon Bits Pop Tarts? We’ve almost reached a pre-fabricated food moment of such goodness as I know that there is now Cake Batter Pop Tarts.

Sometimes I get concerned that I don’t take things seriously enough. You know, stuff like God, evolution, evil neo-cons, evil liberals, paper or plastic, and such. Then I realized that Pop Tarts are something that I truly feel passionate about.

And sometimes Supertramp.

Supertramp – Give A Little Bit
Not even incessant commercials for The Gap (wasn’t it The Gap?), could make me sick of Give A Little Bit. Like so many of their songs, it sounds like a nursery rhyme and it does have a lovely sentiment. Of course, my fairly staunch anti-human stance keeps me from getting carried away by the lovely sentiment and, then, I simply space out and bob my head to the pretty melody and music.

Supertramp – The Logical Song
Effortlessly, Supertramp manages to sound positively giddy (I suppose it is a giddy tinged with melancholy) as they sing of conscription into a lifetime of conformity where banality can be a ticket to success. The song is as delightfully singsong as – and I could be encouraging howls of protest here – anything ABBA ever did (and I say this with great admiration for those songsmithing Swedes). You could couple this song with Marianne Faithfull’s take on John Lennon’s Working Class Hero and give yourself a case of manic depression.

Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home
Sadly, after singing its praises, I realize that I no longer have a copy of Breakfast In America (and I’m jonesing to hear Gone Hollywood (good call JB), Lord Is It Mine and Child Of Vision). And, unfortunately, the only version of Take The Long Way Home I own is the single version with the edited intro.

Supertramp – Breakfast In America
Oh man. I have no idea what this song is about, but it is jaunty little number. Would this be considered a shanty? (did I just type the word shanty?) Apparently, Roger Hodgson feels his girlfriend has less than fulfilled her girlfriend potential, but God help you if he catches you checking her out. However, he seems to be quite fond of kippers (add kippers to the well-balanced breakfast, Bev), so the mind boggles at what hell might rain down on the scoundrel who takes his kippers.

Supertramp – Cannonball
I had to include a fifth song today (Paloma encouraged me – “It’s Supertramp”). And that fifth song had to be Cannonball. It’s a snappy tune with quite a bit of pep, but it also earns my appreciation for…you really need to see it (I assure you that unless you are feeding starving children, negotiating piece in the Middle East, or napping, you will not use 4:51 more constructively today)…

Supertramp – Cannonball

Cannonball is simply the greatest caveman music video I have ever seen.
I find his determination as he runs down the interstate inspiring. Truly. But what the hell am I meant to take from this video? I think it’s that our ancient ancestors gave us art, fire, an inborn protectiveness toward crockery rivaled only by the protectiveness Roger Hodgson has toward his kippers, and a primordial affection for Supertramp that lives on in our DNA.

If so, there might be hope for the humans, yet.