Somewhere Don Meredith Is Clearing His Throat

May 27, 2010

As a kid at the time, one of the highlights of Monday Night Football was – at some point late in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt – hearing commentator Don Meredith croon, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

(According to Wikipedia, Dandy Don also announced that he was “mile-high” before a game in Denver)

If I was that Lipton tea-lovin’, ex-Cowboys quarterback, I’d be cuing up the Willie Nelson song on my iPod, for my iPod.

If the device was Old Yeller, well…

(and, as an odd aside, I realize that the last time I saw Old Yeller, I watched it at a friend’s house with a couple of cats who were unaffected by the flick)

Yes, the iPod is slipping.

I first noticed an occasional, unrequested skip over a song or some other indifference to my command.

Now, there are other symptoms, occuring with greater frequency, that lead me to believe that it’s a matter of time before the longtime companion heads off to eternally dream of electric sheep.

I wasn’t keen on the iPod when I acquired it as a prize. I had an mp3 player. It worked well. And I didn’t necessarily feel the need to have tens of thousands of songs at my fingertips.

It was a throwback to college and most of my twenties when I was used to having a dozen or so cassettes in my backpack for the Walkman.

And there was a method to my madness.

Though I understood that lots of music, easily accessible, was cool in concept, I liked the fact that having fewer songs in one place made me more inclined to listen to tracks I might have overlooked, thus, discovering new favorites.

I can’t say that I was wrong.

How many times over the past three years have I skipped over a song by The Jam because I wanted to hear something I knew and loved?

I quite like The Jam, but aside from a handful of songs of which I am well familiar, I have another 60 or so songs by the trio of which I am far less – or maybe not at all – familiar.

(I bought Paloma the box set years ago)

But, instead of taking the time to check out an obscure track – be it by The Jam or Bob Dylan or whomever -when it shuffled up, I often shuffle forward to find something I know.

(because I do need to hear Fleetwood Mac’s Sara one more time)

I’ve been doing research for this iPod’s replacement. And, of course, it is the model with the greatest storage capacity – enough space for damned near everything I own – that has caught my eye.

And someday, I might actually give all of those songs by The Jam a listen.

Here are four random songs from the iPod…

The Beatles – Back In The U.S.S.R.
from The Beatles

Pat Benatar – One Love
from All Fired Up: The Very Best Of Pat Benatar

Tom Jones – Thunderball
from The Ultimate Hits Collection

Marvin Gaye – I’ll Be Doggone
from The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye

Has This Ever Actually Happened? (and, if so, why isn’t the music of Motown at the heart of our foreign policy?)

October 6, 2009

funk-brothersOne recent evening, I was channel surfing and stopped on Remember The Titans. If you are unfamiliar, the flick, based on a true story, is set in the first few years of the ’70s and chronicles the integration of a high school and its football team.

It’s not a bad movie, a bit formulaic, but I thought Denzel Washington nailed his role as the coach. He certainly carried himself as coaches for whom I played did.

Of course, it had an excellent soundtrack, drawing on iconic stuff like CCR’s Up Around The Bend, Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, and Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

(OK, there are more iconic Creedence songs than Up Around The Bend, but is there a more underappreciated great American band than Fogerty and company?)

At one point in the movie, there was a scene were the tension on the football team is diffused when several players broke into song (something by the Temptations, maybe, I don’t recall).

Though I can’t think of something specific, the scene had a sense of déjà vu. I know I’ve seen Motown used to bring the people together onscreen.

And, in the real world, a lot of folks credit the popularity of the music from Berry Gordy’s label in its heyday as helping to bridge racial, social, and generational divides.

But, watching Remember The Titans, I couldn’t help but wonder – has there ever been an actual, documented instance where a group of disparate souls suddenly broke out into song and, through the communal singing of a Motown classic, found common ground?

Because, if it has, we need to take advantage of this phenomenon.

Let’s drop thousands of boom boxes filled with Supremes cassettes into Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Let’s lock all concerned parties discussing Iran’s nuclear program in a room, giving them nothing but food, water, and a stack of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ 45s.

Let’s equip the helicopter gunships in Afghanistan with speaker systems like in Apocalypse Now, but, instead of Wagner, we have them blasting Stevie Wonder.

Hell, let’s have every radio station here in the States pump out the hits of The Jackson 5 until everyone realizes that, no matter what differences we might have, everything’s better when there’s a catchy hook and infectious melody.

It’s not such an insane idea when you observe the never-ending squabbling that passes as problem solving these days.

Years ago, I had the good fortune to speak with Jack Ashford, percussionist for the legendary Funk Brothers (pictured above), the Motown house band which performed on most of that label’s hits from 1959 through 1972. He was championing a friend’s band for whom I was writing a bio and they wanted me to include a quote or two from him.

It was brief, but it was probably one of best ways I’ve ever spent half an hour. So, to do my part to help everyone get along, here’s a quartet of Motown classics featuring performances by Ashford and his funk bretheren…

The Four Tops – Reach Out I’ll Be There
from Reach Out

Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
from Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
from What’s Going On

The Temptations – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone
from All Directions

Godzilla, I Can’t Stay Mad At You

March 14, 2009

The first movie that I can recall seeing in a theater was Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster.

(simply typing the title makes me as giddy as when I was four)

Yes, perhaps you’ve seen a Godzilla flick or two, but there’s none of them like his match with the Smog Monster.

It has an early ‘70s environmental bent to it, blending psychedelic rock music, cartoons, Japanese hippies, and a Godzilla that could fly.

It truly was everything that a child’s first big-screen experience should be.

Some of it did, admittedly, frighten me (I was four).

Through the years, it was always like Christmas to stumble upon a Godzilla movie on late, late night TV. I must doff my chapeau to the Japanese for enriching my life through a man in a giant lizard suit.

Godzilla, sushi, and providing inspiration for Styx’ Mr. Roboto – the Japanese have greatly contributed to who I am today.

I thank you all (seriously).

So, I bought into the hype for the Godzilla remake in ’98. I remember checking out some trailer for the movie which arrived on the internet a year ahead of the flick.

The movie eventually did come out and did so while I was traveling in the UK with a couple friends. So, it had been in theaters for a week or so before I managed to see it. If I recall correctly, I went with some friends the evening of my first day back in the States.

Undone by jet-lag and crushed by the weight of expectations, Godzilla left me angry, disappointed, and hurt. You can’t CGI the inestimatable charm of a man in a fake suit (and the Puff Daddy song that came out the week before I left for the UK should have been taken as a very bad omen).

I’ve caught it on cable a few times in the last year, though, and I’ve learned to love it for what it is and not lament what it isn’t. I do think that the opening credits work well.

And the first twenty minutes or so do a good job of building suspense. His arrival in Manhattan, though, is where Godzilla and I part company, but it’s with much more mutual respect now than there was a decade ago (we both are older and more mature I suppose).

But it sure would be cool to stumble upon his predecessor – hanging with the hippies and saving the world from pollution – while channel-surfing.

There simply aren’t enough songs about Godzilla and I’ve already posted the Blue Oyster Cult classic, so here are a handful of songs that were popular in the spring of 1971 (when Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster was released)…

Keiko Mari – Save The Earth
OK, this wasn’t a hit, but, by God, it should have been. Save The Earth plays over a montage which opens Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster and truly sets the tone. It was actually kind of creepy – lava lamp graphics, images of pollution-choked harbors filled with manikins and such.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
To state the obvious, What’s Going On needs no comment from me.

The Doors – Love Her Madly
In high school, The Doors were arguably the most popular band amongst the general population (despite the fact that Jim Morrison had been dead for more than a decade). So popular were they that two sisters were adamant that they were the illegitimate daughters of The Lizard King (Morrison, not Godzilla – although going with the Godzilla angle would have been equally as believable).

Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
This is the one song in the bunch which I actually remember hearing on the radio at the time. I imagine the fact that the singer had a dog appealed to me (my brother and I had to make do with a hamster and hamsters, if no one has ever told you, don’t fetch).