On The Road To Somewhere

September 3, 2011

Paloma got up, less than ten minutes into The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, to go read.

She muttered something about thinking Jackie Earle Haley was cute in the first movie and walked out before Kelly Leak arriving on his motorcycle kickstarted its sequel.

“It’s one of the greatest movies of all time,” I countered, but she was unswayed and headed off with Kindle in hand.

I don’t think I’d seen Breaking Training since 1977, but that review was the consensus of me and my friends leaving the theater.

(we were mostly nine or ten-years old, thus, our standards for such acclaim were the same as more noted critics)

We were growing up in a small town in John Mellencamp’s country and, at least at our age, playing baseball consumed much of our summer days.

We had embraced the ragtag collection of Bears with first movie. These kids looked like kids we knew and not kids in a movie.

And there was Jackie Earle Haley who, as Kelly was not only the best player on the team, but he was angry, long-haired, smoking cigarettes and hooking up with Tatum O’Neal.

He was as badass as a thirteen year-old could be in the mid-’70s.

The sequel lost the wonderful Walter Matthau and O’Neal, but gained a road trip.

Through the clever use of a dim-witted groundskeeper, the team manages to head from California to Texas in a stolen (and very ’70s-styled) van with Kelly Leak behind the wheel.

These were kids, more or less like us, unsupervised and mobile.

And Kelly Leak had the vision to make it happen.

The setting for their game against the Texas champions was the Astrodome, a stadium that was a favorite amongst us kids as the most spectacular of sporting venues on the planet.

(it was like something from some other futuristic world)

There was also a new kid playing Englebert the burly catcher. Not only was he now supersized, he was pivitol in the scene that elicited the biggest laughs from us.

During a brawl in the team’s hotel room, the bathroom door is knocked open to reveal Englebert, sitting on the can, trousers around his ankles, plowing through a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken while he answers nature’s call.

(high hilarity for nine year-olds and an act of multi-tasking that present-day corporate America would encourage)

Thirty-four years ago, it all made for a most excellent cinematic experience. Here are four songs from Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart for this week in 1977 that, had we been in that van, my friends and I might have heard…

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop
from 25 Years: The Chain

In 1977, there was plenty Fleetwood Mac on the radio as their Rumours was in the midst of a run that would see it become one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.

The group had already had hits with Go Your Own Way and Dreams when the jaunty Don’t Stop became the third of Rumours‘ eventual four Top 40 singles.

Ram Jam – Black Betty
from Ram Jam

Paloma gets a bit giddy when she hears Black Betty and the lone hit by Ram Jam does grab one’s attention from the opening guitar riff.

I can’t hear Black Betty and not think of junior high when the song would invariably be blaring from the jukebox of the pizza place where most of our football team would gather to eat before home games.

The song made guitarist Bill Bartlett a two-time member of one-hit wonders as he had previously been lead guitarist for The Lemon Pipers who had topped the charts in the late ’60s with the bubblegum of Green Tambourine.

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
from Sweet Life: His Greatest Hit Singles

Singer/songwriter Paul Davis’ I Go Crazy was in its second week on the charts thirty-four years ago. The song wouldn’t reach the Top Ten, though, until late February of the following year as it spent a then-record 40 weeks on the Hot 100.

Though I Go Crazy was melancholic light rock at its most mellow, I’ve often wondered if Davis was ever mistaken for a member of the Allman Brothers.

The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey,Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.

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Very Tall Humans And Light Rock In The Night

December 4, 2010

As a kid in Indiana, the town gym was packed for our high school’s basketball games.

The streets of our town were even more deserted on winter nights if Indiana or Purdue had a game on television.

And yet, though there was an NBA team in Indianapolis – a mere hour or so away – I don’t remember anyone really even knowing if the Indiana Pacers had a game most nights.

This was during the late ’70s and Bird and Magic hadn’t yet raised the profile of the NBA. My friends I were fans and the weekly game on CBS was must-see viewing, but we were fans of certain players and each of us adopted the team of our favorite as ours.

No one I knew claimed to be a Pacers fan.

(I loved the great George Gervin, so I followed – as much as I could in a pre-cable/pre-internet world – the San Antonio Spurs)

One of my first memories of the Pacers was a telethon held on the independent television station to help the team sell tickets and ensure it didn’t fold.

The team’s name was dreadfully uninspired and there was no compelling superstar.

(I have proposed to a friend that, should I acquire great wealth, I would purchase the team and rename it the Indiana Children Of The Corn)

Sometimes on weekend nights during the season, I’d catch the last quarter of a game on the same independent channel before watching Nightmare Theater.

I’d be sprawled out on the couch, watching the Pacers lose again,and be grateful I was on the couch awaiting a bad horror flick and not braving the frigid winter elements to be at the game.

But it was on such a night, in early December 1981, that I ventured to Market Square Arena to see a Pacers game. One of our neighbors had an uncle in his mid-twenties who offered to take several of us to a game.

Jay had played hoops in high school. He had height at 6’5″ or so, but he had the athleticism of a tree.

(we were impressed by the height, though)

I truly remember no details of the game aside from the fact that Indiana played the Detroit Pistons. This was a couple seasons before Detroit’s run of great teams in the ’80s and their recent history had been as pitiful as the Pacers.

I think I mostly just stared down at the court with a sense of awe. Seeing NBA players live had an element of scale that television couldn’t capture.

A few clicks and I learn that the game took place on December 4, 1981, a Friday night, and Indiana won 105-95. It was their third win in a row.

Maybe that night is a tipping point at which music was beginning to hold as much interest to me as sports. Though my memories of the game are minimal, I vividly remember the ride home. It was late, there was a light mix of sleet and snow falling, and I could barely keep my eyes open as we drove through the night.

And the radio was on, tuned to a light rock station out of Indianapolis whose call letters I can’t recall.

Here are four songs that I vividly remember hearing on that ride home…

Dan Fogelberg – Leader Of The Band
from The Innocent Age

I’ve noted before that it seems that each and every used record store I visit has plenty of Dan Fogelberg vinyl in the bins. Apparently not everyone held onto them, but the bearded troubadour sold a lot of albums in his day.

And he also had a lot of radio hits during the late ’70s and early ’80s most of which I was fairly ambivilant toward. I always enjoyed hearing the now seasonal staple Same Auld Lang Syne (especially at the holidays) and Run For The Roses will get played as long as they run the Kentucky Derby.

But of all of Fogelberg’s work with which I am familiar, it’s hard not to be drawn into the singer’s gentle ode to his father,

Paul Davis – Cool Night
from Cool Night

I was surprised when I first saw the man who gave voice to the late ’70s light rock classic I Go Crazy – he looked like a long lost Allman Brother who should be raising some hell rather than delivering melancholic ruminations on a love affair gone sideways.

Of course, Paloma and I’ve pondered Paul Davis in the past.

Rod Stewart – Young Turks
from Tonight I’m Yours

By the late ’70s/early ’80s, Rod The Mod was still having hits and selling records, but his adoption of elements from the disco craze of the time on songs like Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? and Passion had alienated some long-time fans even as it earned him new ones.

Young Turks found Stewart chasing trends again, giving the song a synthesized, New Wave vibe, but I always dug the song which chronicled the tale of Billy, Patty, and their ten-pound baby boy.

Sneaker – More Than Just The Two Of Us
from Sneaker

The group Sneaker not only took their name from a Steely Dan song (Bad Sneakers), but longtime Steely Dan (as well as Doobie Brother) guitarist produced the band’s self-titled debut.

I snagged a copy of the album trolling for vinyl and it’s definitely got that laid-back, shuffling sound so typical of Southern California pop acts of the period. Their lone hit, though, was the airy ballad More Than Just The Two Of Us that is so wispy it makes Air Supply sound heavy.


Let’s Have John Madden Make Kim Jong Il An Offer He Can’t Refuse

May 27, 2009

So, Kim Jong Il is engaging in shenanigans again. I can’t help but think that it’s a damned shame that there’s the whole threat of an isolated, paranoid, totalitarian regime possessing nuclear toys overshadowing the amazing comedic potential of the little fellow.

The crazy hair, the diminutive stature, the dubious stylistic decisions – Dear Leader is a craze waiting to happen. With the proper marketing campaign, there wouldn’t be a car in this country without a facsimile of him hanging from the rear view mirror or a puppy without a Kim Jong Il chew toy.

Unfortunately, there is that whole nuclear weapon thing.

Kim actually is not so dissimilar from an icon in the American sports world – Al Davis.

Davis, of course, is the owner of the Oakland Raiders, once one of the premier franchises in the National Football League; now, the organization is an isolated, paranoid, totalitarian regime.

Like Kim, Al has crazy hair, though he opts for an oily, slicked-back coif as opposed to Kim’s towering wall of hair.

Sartorially speaking, Al has his infamous white jumpsuit and granny glasses on a chain. Kim, too, also favors jumpsuits, albeit of a more drab variety, and shades.

Both are also obsessed with the vertical game – in Kim’s case, its intercontinental rocketry; for Al, its rocket-armed quarterbacks and track-star wideouts.

Al even once had a quarterback nicknamed The Mad Bomber.

(I must consult with my intelligence expert – don’t laugh, I have one – and I hope to find that Kim has a rocket expert nicknamed Darryl Lamonica)

Now, as both North Korea and the Oakland Raiders are failed, rogue states, isn’t it possible that the solution to the angst caused by both men is connected to the uncanny similarities between this dynamic, diminutive duo?

Before he became a video game inventor, John Madden proved adroit at working with Al, managing to coach the Raiders to a Super Bowl win. Madden is now retired.

Bring him into the mix, have him broker some kind of treaty between the two figureheads. Maybe it’s as simple as having Kim own the Raiders and Al lead North Korea.

Both would still receive the attention they so desperately crave.

Al’s good at rattling the cages of the powers that be and thumbing his nose at popular opinion. Kim has managed to drive an entire country into despair and destitution.

(ask any of the demented, psych hospital escapees that make up Raider Nation if that doesn’t sound familiar)

Maybe the two are too alike. Maybe the result of a swap would be status quo.

But consider the hilarity as draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. bursts a blood vessel in his eye as he goes all apoplectic if Kim uses the sixth pick in next year’s talent hunt to select some unknown receiver from Southern Idaho State named Ray Ray Gorgonzola simply because he ran a 4.22 40 at the Combine

Tell me that wouldn’t be preferable to where things stand now.

Kim and Al might not have the market cornered on inexplicable behavior, but, when it comes to crazy, they certainly have the makings of a good cartel. So, here are a few songs for them…

Francis Dunnery – Crazy Is A Pitstop
from Let’s Go Do What Happens

I posted a track from Dunnery’s solo debut, Fearless, awhile back. This trippy little number comes from his second album and both are worth seeking out – very talented fellow.

Crazy might, indeed, be a pit stop, but it seems like an awful lot of folks treat it as a parking lot.

Nazareth – Crazy (A Suitable Case For Treatment)
from Heavy Metal soundtrack

As a teenager, Heavy Metal was among the favorites for movie rentals with me and my friends. The movie’s soundtrack was far more diverse than its title implied, ranging from Devo and Stevie Nicks to Donald Fagen and Blue Oyster Cult.

As for Nazareth, my best friend in our neighborhood as a kid had an older brother who we all held in awe. He had sideburns, sunglasses and a Camaro. And usually blaring from that Camaro was Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog (on eight track, no less).

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
from Singer of Songs: Teller of Tales

If Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald is the light rock Stairway To Heaven of the ’70s, then I Go Crazy is…what? I do remember when this was a hit in ’77 and it was inescapable. It seemed to always be playing over the loudspeakers at our town’s public pool that summer (and on the radio of our bus returning from swim meets).

Bob Marley & The Wailers- Crazy Baldhead
from Rastaman Vibration

To Rastifarians, a baldhead is someone without dreadlocks, a non-believer. I have no idea what Kim Jong Il or Al Davis believe and, whatever it is, it’s likely mentally inscrutable to the sane.

However, I have no doubt that the two could benefit from throwing on some Bob Marley albums and blazing away. As hilarious as Harold And& Kumar Go To White Castle was, someone needs to draft Kim & Al Make A Taco Bell Run. It simply must be done.