What The Hell?

February 22, 2012

Paloma was twitterpated when I arrived home this evening over the spectacle of a pair of preachers proselytizing on the sidewalk down the street.

Apparently the duo was covering, loudly, the things that would result in the college kids at the university across the street heading straight to hell – no need to pass go, no need to study for finals.

(of course, this misses the point that the main reason for attending college is to spend four to nine years doing things that might earn you eternal damnation)

We had a street preacher at my school who remains a part of lore there. His name really was Max, but I’m not sure if the Mad portion of his moniker predated or was inspired by the Mel Gibson flicks.

Mad Max was already a fixture the moment that I set foot on the campus more than a year after the cinematic character walked off into the sunset beyond Thunderdome. He was in the same spot in the heavily-trafficked heart of campus delivering fire and brimstone daily.

The movies have remained entertaining, but our Max went from being riveting street theater to merely being part of the landscape before I made it home for Thanksgiving break that first autumn.

Paloma and I live in a region where, even in such an über religious nation, most folks are crossing off the days ’til the rapture. I’ve long suspected that if I asked a random sampling of citizenry to balance their bank account, they’d stare at me like a dog that had been shown a card trick.

However, ask the same random sampling about what God wants and they’d blather away with absolute certainty.

I might be crazy, but if there is some omnipotent entity that steers the universe, I’d think it would be far more incomprenhensible than basic algebra.

So, perhaps there is some fiery destination where those who’ve misbehaved end up as Beelzebub’s bitch.

Or, perhaps hell is no different than heaven except there is no cake.

I doubt I’m getting the answer from someone screaming on a sidewalk.

In the meantime, here are four songs on the subject…

AC/DC – Highway To Hell
from Highway To Hell (1979)

I remember reading an interview with AC/DC guitarist Angus Young sometime in the late ’80s upon their release of a new album. The interviewer asked him to address critics that accused the band of releasing the same album twelve times.

Angus corrected him, informing him that it was, actually, thirteen times.

Well played, sir.

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell
from Hot (1997)

Hot was released as there was a retro swing music revival in the US and resulted in Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Hell being inescapable for months on end.

Sure the song is supposed to be a cautionary tale, but it’s so intoxicatingly festive that it fails to spook.

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers – Have You Ever Been To Hell
from Conscious Party (1988)

Conscious Party was released in the spring of 1988 as my sophomore year of college was ending. That summer was the first one which I wouldn’t return home as I was taking classes and working in a record store.

Produced by Talking Heads’ rhythm section Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Conscious Party was perfect to put on and groove to for forty minutes or so during lazy summer days at the store. The breezy Tomorrow People managed to reach the Top 40 in the States, but the album was worthwhile from start to finish.

The Clash – Straight To Hell
from Clash On Broadway (1991)

Straight To Hell is hypnotic and off-kilter. The song’s lyrics are hypnotic and scathing – particularly those about a Vietnam-era soldier abandoning a child he fathered during that war.

I always thought it was one of The Clash’s finest moments and most fully-realized songs.

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Scribblings

February 1, 2012

The Drunken Frenchman once told me that “if you’re good with your barkeep, you’re good.”

Earl was our barkeep and, with him, we couldn’t have been better.

And The Iguana, a local bar with a quasi-cantina vibe where he plied his trade, was a reliable place to find grist for my imagination

From one night’s worth of notes…

Dave sits nearby, a sodden sort who perpetually attempts to engage me in conversation. He’s not good with his barkeep, nursing his drink as though he intends to still be drinking it when The Rapture arrives.

Elizabeth Shue is sitting alone, sipping a Bud Light.

(it’s not really Elizabeth Shue but, rather, a reasonable facsimile)

Would Elizabeth Shue drink Bud Light?

There are snatches of conversation everywhere.

“I keep a place in the city, but I’m building a townhouse.”

“I think I’m a nympho.”

“Five grand and they’re all mine.”

Gina Zinnia is several seats down, perched at the corner of the bar; devouring a burrito as though she is performing origami with knives. I know her name because she has announced it in a shrill voice that has surely awakened the dead for George Romero’s next movie.

She has been babbling without pause for forty-five minutes about her opera singer father, a bad flight to Seattle, the time she was lost as a girl scout (I suspect she was abandoned), and numerous other traumas both small and smaller.

Her date sits slack-jawed and inert, certainly wishing for death or a stronger drink.

“To make a long story short…” says Gina.

I now know better. Gina Zinnia has never made a long story short. She has, however, made short stories into excruciatingly painful, long epics.

A blonde nearby – a model she claims – is lamenting for all to hear that she’s not in New York and nothing compares to New York and she should know because she just got back from Paris.

I want to write a bad country song and call it This Imperfect World Doesn’t Suit My Perfect Ass.

A smartly dressed young fellow is leaning against the bar, waiting for his drink and reeking of cologne. He waves to someone he obviously knows on the other side of the watering hole.

“I’ll be right back,” he tells his companion as she makes no effort to hold back a yawn.

“No,” she says. “Take your time.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

He asks the question flirtatiously, but, in the most honest moment, in this particular bar, on this particular night, the girl replies, “Yeah.”

Here are the first four songs to catch my fancy on the iPod…

Phantom, Rocker & Slick – My Mistake
from Phantom, Rocker & Slick (1985)

Take two Stray Cats (Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker) and add journeyman guitarist Earl Slick and you have the short-lived trio Phantom, Rocker & Slick.

The ferocious Men Without Shame got a lot of airplay when the self-titled debut arrived in late ’85 and though My Mistake apparently got some attention, too, I don’t ever recall hearing it.

The threesome hardly reinvents fire, but My Mistake is a loose, bluesy rocker that recalls The Stones.

Porno For Pyros – Pets
from Porno For Pyros (1993)

Perry Farrell’s post-Jane’s Addiction venture failed to capture the imagination or interest of his previous band, but there are some pretty cool tunes on both of Porno For Pyros’ albums.

On the atmospheric Pets, Farrell considers a world where humans have been supplanted as rulers of the planet, noting that “We’ll make great pets.”

(personally, I’d opt for a dog, cat, or howler monkey)

Lone Justice – Ways To Be Wicked
from Lone Justice (1985)

Lone Justice had quite a buzz surrounding them when they were burning down the clubs on the Sunset Strip of Hollywood.

(or so I was reading at the time in Rolling Stone)

Everything would have seemed to be in place for the band’s success, including a lead single written by Tom Petty in Ways To Be Wicked. Instead, Lone Justice remained a cult band and critical darling favored for their ramshankle country rock and the sultry vocals of lead singer Maria McKee.

Duran Duran – Rio
from Rio (1982)

Duran Duran hooked me the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf. The song seemed to be always on the radio during the first few months of 1983 (and the song’s video a staple on the fledgling MTV – though our small town wouldn’t get the channel ’til the following summer).

Q102, the station of choice for me and my friends, was playing Rio well before Hungry Like The Wolf had worn out its welcome. Though I much preferred the latter, Rio‘s manic charm proved to be irresistible as well and made its parent album one that most of us owned.


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.