Killer On The Rampage…Somewhere

February 23, 2013

(rebroadcast from February, 2010, now with added calcium)

I read the news most days.

But, unlike my parents and their generation, I don’t make a point to watch a news broadcast each day, merely pausing on the news channels if something catches my attention.

The other night, as I was watching some basketball, there was a commercial for the local news. It was some perky chick yammering about a murder suspect possibly being loose – or, in the parlance of our legal system, on the lam – in the “mid-state area.”

Details, she assured me, would be provided at ten.

A killer? In our relatively calm, safe, usually unhomicidal neighborhood?

At ten, I actually went into a holding pattern with the remote. Perhaps this was news that I might need.

(of course, if it had been truly vital information, shouldn’t they have told me twenty minutes earlier?)

It ended up being a murder that seems to have resulted from a domestic disturbance. I’m not even sure if the town where the crime had taken place is even in the station’s broadcast area.

Hardly clear and present danger.

Dodgy attempts to attract viewers aside, this station lost any credibility with Paloma and me long ago. One evening, we happened to be watching and there was a report on a murder at a restaurant in the wee hours earlier that morning.

And the visual accompanying the words was of someone dropping a couple of slices of pizza onto a restaurant’s kitchen floor. The camera was focused on the prone pie pieces as the broadcast moved on to Rudy with sports.

We turned to each other and stared. To borrow from the late, great Bill Hicks – our expressions were like two dogs that had been shown a card trick.

Here is a quartet of songs inspired by real-life murderers…

The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
from The Fine Art Of Surfacing (1979)

San Diego teenager Brenda Spencer shot two adults, killing them, and wounded eight children from her bedroom window in 1979. Her explanation for her deeds was “I don’t like Mondays.”

For The Boomtown Rats, the song was on its way to becoming their American breakthrough when the Spencer family threatened legal action and the label stopped promoting the song.

Thirty years later, the wickedly dark and totally catchy almost hit is rightfully regarded to be a classic from the period.

Die Toten Hosen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
from Learning English, Lesson One (1991)

The Dead Pants – that’s the English translation of German punk band Die Toten Hosen’s name.

That was enough to make me snag a promo copy of Learning English, Lesson One one day at work. I was glad I did as it was more fun than killin’ strangers.

Killin’ strangers is what led to Giilmore being executed in a well-publicized affair in the mid-’70s. He requested that his eyes be donated for transplant.

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes is a cover of The Adverts’ original from the late ’70s.

Concrete Blonde – Jonestown
from Mexican Moon (1992)

I was in junior high when the Jonestown massacre occured and over 900 people, at the urging of Jim Jones, drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid. I remember the vivid images in Newsweek magazine and the television mini-series that had me and my friends tripping the next day at school.

I think it was one of my first what-the-@#$%! (international division) moments in my life.

As for Concrete Blonde, I always mentally shortlist them as one of the acts of the late ’80s/early ’90s that deserved a bigger audience.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
from Nebraska (1982)

In 1982, I mostly knew Bruce Springsteen for the user-friendly The River from two years earlier. I was bumfoozled when I heard the stark Nebraska.

I was in college when Springsteen released the mammoth Live/1975–85. If you weren’t there, I assure you that the hype surrounding the five-album set was considerable.

Hearing some of the songs live prompted me to really spend some time with Nebraska.

(I quickly understood the praise heaped on it over the years)

Nebraska‘s title song was inspired by the two-month killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in the ’50s.

Those events also inspired the 1973 movie Badlands starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. I remember Badlands airing on prime-time television with those parental warnings that only served to make the movie a must-see event to a kid.

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Norman, Daryl, And A Brother Named Daryl

November 20, 2011

Though Kevin Costner has provided me with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to surviving apocalyptic scenarios involving water and lack of mail delivery in Waterworld and The Postman, respectively, he’s offered no cinematic advice for dealing with the undead.

Fortunately, Norman Reedus has become a fine role model to me for how best to navigate a zombie apocalypse through his portrayel of the crossbow-wielding, squirrel-gutting, walker-slaying, Southern redneck anti-hero Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

(and he’s Zen)

Norman Reedus is new to me. His lengthy list of credits contains nothing with which I am familiar, though apparently he’s pretty stellar in the vigilante flick The Boondock Saints.

This unfamiliarity with the actor makes it believable to me that Daryl truly is some mountain hillbilly, plucked from rural Georgia and put in some television show.

(if Daryl was a real person, he would summarily put an end to Chuck Norris, gut him, use his ears as a necklace, and, then, deadpan a line revealing someone quite self-aware)

But Norman Reedus is apparently a real person and, based on his Wikipedia bio, seems like a fairly interesting cat in his own right, having left home at twelve and lived in England, Spain, and Japan.

He also had a kid with Helena Christensen, who broke Chris Isaak to the mainstream with the video for Wicked Game.

If you’re hooking up with supermodels, you must have some kind of mojo.

Of course, the two apparently named their kid Mingus which, if true, is either genuinely cool or pretentitious, hipster silliness.

As for Norman, I don’t recall that name having much cachet during my lifetime, being neither plentiful nor iconic.

(I can’t think of knowing a Norman and – thanks to Three’s Company – the first one that comes to mind is Norman Fell)

I did know a Daryl as a kid, the brother of a good buddy and neighbor.

Daryl was six or seven years older and out of high school when Will and I were still in junior high. I think he worked in construction.

A tall, lanky kid, Daryl had sideburns and shoulder-length hair, and his usual attire would have gained him admittance to any biker bar (there being a few in the area).

He might not have been killing zombies – though he did hunt, on occasion, with a crossbow – but we considered him to be pretty badass.

And when Daryl screamed out of their driveway in his beat-up Camaro on Saturday night, gravel becoming tiny, lethal projectiles, he might well have ended up at some watering hole that would have been frequented by his Walking Dead namesake.

Here are four songs that might have been blaring from the eight-track player in his Camaro…

Nazareth – Hair Of The Dog
from Hair Of The Dog (1975)

One eight-track that I know resided in Daryl’s Camaro was Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog. Every now and the, Daryl would give me and Will a ride somewhere and the language of the album’s ferocious title track made us feel like we were on the highway to hell with a true outlaw.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
from Agents of Fortune (1976)

There will be no cowbell joke here. The mighty Blue Öyster Cult deserves more respect than that and, to quote The Smiths (to Paloma’s delight), that joke isn’t funny anymore.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone
from Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd (1973)

Like Blue Öyster Cult, Skynyrd has been reduced to many to one tired joke. And, classic rock radio has so burned me out on the Southern rock band to the point of disinterest.

Then, I hear something like the wistful Tuesday’s Gone and make a mental note that a personal reassesment of Skynyrd might be in order.

Alice Cooper – School’s Out
from School’s Out (1972)

My all-time greatest arch-enemy might have been a third-grade teacher who, on more days than not, I was at odds. She was an Alice Cooper fan, so I’m not sure if that was why I never bothered with the music or rather because during the ’80s – my musically formative years – he wasn’t on top of his game.

But I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Cooper’s catalog in recent years and, even as a third-grader in the late ’70s, had an appreciation for the sentiments of the stomping School’s Out.


Today, My Best Friend…Tomorrow, Who Knows?

May 11, 2011

Sometime last week, during the spate of coverage on the demise of Osama bin Laden, I happened upon a program on the life of the iconic terrorist.

One of the people interviewed was described as bin Laden’s best friend as a teenager.

It must make a pretzel of the mind to have such a notorious character as a former best friend.

The first best friend that I can remember having was a kid named George. There’s little else I recall aside from his name and I have no recollection as to what earned him status as numero uno amigo.

I do recall that I stripped him of the title and I slotted another classmate into the position.

I wanted John as my best friend because he was tall, a head taller than everyone else.

(people have been placed in high office using such logic, but I was five)

I’ve had no contact with either of these kids in almost forty years, but it seems as though George is a DJ in the upper Midwest, so perhaps I was being prescient about the interest I’d someday have in music.

By the time I reached high school, I was in a transitional period with friendships. The concept of best friend had evolved into a group of eight or nine of us who would end up together in different permutations and numbers.

One of these buddies was a bit of a fire enthusiast and devotee of things that go kaboom.

During senior year, Kirk The Pyro went to California with another of our friends for spring break.

(most of us settled for wandering the malls in Cincinnati)

This dynamic duo returned to the grimness of March in the Midwest with tans and dynamite.

“Where did you get dynamite?”

“Tijuana”

“So, you brought dynamite from Tijuana on your flight home from California?”

It was a simpler world and a time when – relative to today – the airlines essentially had a don’t ask/don’t tell policy.

The interviewee on the television screen had described bin Laden as quiet and polite, their friendship rooted in a shared love for soccer.

I could only describe Kirk The Pyro as like Woody Woodpecker in human form and our bond forged by a common appreciation for antics, hijinks, and shenanigans.

And though I haven’t had contact with him since college, I also haven’t seen him become the target of a global manhunt.

Here are four friend songs…

Clarence Clemons And Jackson Browne – You’re A Friend Of Mine
from Hero

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were probably as big as any act in my lifetime. During the mid-’80s. Born In The USA sold ten million copies and pretty much every song on the record got extensive airplay on the radio. The group’s success was so massive and demand for more music so great that b-sides like Pink Cadillac and Stand On It got played heavily.

E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons even had a solo hit during the winter of ’85 when he duetted with Jackson Browne on the upbeat and catchy You’re A Friend Of Mine.

The Rolling Stones – Waiting On A Friend
from Tattoo You

Personally, I’ve always thought that Waiting On A Friend was one of the Stones’ finest post-’70s moments. The song is so casual and the vibe so laid-back that it’s always welcome when it pops up on shuffle.

Apparently it was the first video by the Stones played on MTV (with reggae great Peter Tosh hanging out on the steps).

Grateful Dead – Friend Of The Devil
from Skeletons From The Closet: The Best Of Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead got discovered my generation while I was in college when A Touch Of Gray put the venerable band all over MTV. I liked the song and I even liked a lot of its parent album, In The Dark, which was played often in the record store where I worked.

I’ve also enjoyed stuff from their catalog as I’ve been introduced to it here and there, but I’ve never felt the rabid passion for The Dead that they inspired in a lot of my peers.

Jellyfish – He’s My Best Friend
from Spilt Milk

I discovered Jellyfish when the record store where I worked received a promo copy of the band’s debut, Bellybutton, in 1990. The psychedelic album cover was eye-catching and the music earned the group from San Francisco comparisons to greats like Queen, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, XTC, and Cheap Trick.

Despite plenty of swooning by critics, Jellyfish was unable to find mainstream success and would split up after just one more album, 1993′s Spilt Milk, but the group has continued to loom large in the hearts of power pop devotees for the past two decades.