Change In The Weather

November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving was the finest of holidays – feasting, football, feasting, and leftovers for midnight feastings.

The calculus of the holiday changed dramatically after leaving for college.

There was still the feasting and football, but it was now a complex puzzle of equations to balance feast, football and familial obligations with the chance to hang out with your high school friends (who were also battling the same logistical issues).

Coordinating getting together was a series of fits and starts. Half a day or more could be blown trying to track down who was in town as we were moving targets.

By by second year of school, I was working in a record store, so the week at home I had the previous Thanksgiving had been whittled down to two, maybe three days.

It made the break a bit of a disjointed, exhausting affair that caused me to miss the comfort of the couch in my apartment back at school.

By Thanksgiving of 1990, I was logging the final few credits needed to graduate before year’s end. Several of my high school friends had already done so earlier that spring and summer, scattering us all to an even greater degree and leaving reunions that holiday with more of us missing in action.

So few of us were going to be around for Thanksgiving – most opting to make a pilgrimage weeks later for Christmas instead – that I didn’t even negotiate for an extra day or two from work.

Instead, the night before Thanksgiving, I actually trekked to Indianapolis with my buddy Streuss to attend a Warren Zevon show.

Oddly enough, the opening act was a guitarist from Louisville whose band, Hopscotch Army, was one of the most popular draws when they’d hit our college town every few weeks or so.

But, as I was used to seeing him clad in camoflage cargo pants and combat boots, a long rat-tail braid sprouting from his shaved pate as his band covered songs by Concrete Blonde, The Smiths, and The Cure, I wasn’t prepared for this solo turn.

Nattily attired in a sports jacket and clean shirt, the combat boots replaced by more formal footware, his style was more in the vein of New Age noodlings.

Even the rat-tail was gone.

Zevon was fantastic, but everything seemed a bit off kilter from even the previous Thanksgiving.

Walking through the still neighborhood following the show, even the weather was off. It was nearly midnight and it was unseasonably mild for late November with the temperature in the low 60s, a light rain falling.

The next morning, I headed home for Thanksgiving while Streuss, who had also gone to high school with me, but whose parents had moved while we were in college, opted to spend the break at school to work on a paper.

I spent the day with the family, did some feasting, watched some football, and returned to school the next morning to work a Friday afternoon shift at the record store.

That night, with my adopted town eerily deserted and campus empty, I stretched out on the couch in my apartment – my roommate still out of town – with my dog beside me.

The two of us munched on leftovers I had brought from home and watched basketball on ESPN.

Thanksgiving was still a fine holiday – the finest, really – and remains so, but that year it seemed to be over before it had even begun.

The transition from the Thanksgivings I had known as a kid had begun.

Here are four songs from albums that we were playing a lot at the record store that Thanksgiving…

Prefab Sprout – Looking For Atlantis
from Jordan: The Comeback

The first time I heard the name Prefab Sprout, it was from my buddy Streuss who briefly had interest in finding a copy of their well-reviewed ’85 album Steve McQueen. I thought the band name incredibly stupid and the album title – retitled Two Wheels Good here in the States – equally so.

I had no interest in even giving them a listen.

Five years later, I got my comeuppance the first time I heard the band with the shimmering Looking For Atlantis and the brilliant, Thomas Dolby-produced Jordan: The Comeback.

It was irresistible.

And, one of the first things I remember of Paloma is, several years later, watching her wander the aisles of the record store where we worked, singing along to Prefab Sprout’s The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Fuckin’ Up
from Ragged Glory

Neil Young was in – even for him – a musically idiocentric way during the early ’80s when I first started listening to music, so I didn’t hear much of his music. I became far more familiar with him when he returned to mainstream prominence with This Note’s For You in ’88 and Freedom a year later.

I had particularly loved the latter and one of my roommates and I would play Ragged Glory every shift that we worked together. We played it for months and I think we had exactly one customer that heard the chorus to the gloriously grungy Fuckin’ Up and objected.

The Posies – Suddenly Mary
from Dear 23

The Posies’ debut had more than a few moments of power pop brilliance, but Suddenly Mary was the song that lodged into brain and burrowed deep after hearing it the first time.

It’s hypnotic – chiming guitars, angelic harmonies, and a wickedly dark tale told within the sunshine of its grooves…

The Sisters of Mercy – More
from Vision Thing

We had a sizeable goth community at school that used to hang out at an immense arcade at one entrance to the campus. Some of the kids pulled it off far better than others.

I felt the same way about the music popular with the goth scene, though a lot of those acts had a profound influence on the sound and style of the time.

There were a handful of songs by The Sisters Of Mercy that I thought were pretty stellar and More is most definitely one of them.

Jim Steinman co-wrote and co-produced the song and, thus, it’s suitably epic – Rock You Like A Hurricane-guitars, gospel-styled backing vocals, and the growl of lead singer Andrew Eldritch.

It’s Just Like Thunderdome

November 12, 2008

So, Paloma and I have recently returned from the land of sun and shuffleboard and I’m here to tell you that southern Florida is indeed much like Del Boca Vista. Actually, the tales which were recounted to us – many revolving around condo board association hijinks, power struggles, and turf wars – lead me to believe these condominium enclaves to be some kind of geriatrically-tinged take on Lord Of The Flies.

Discounting the apparently constant threat of carnage, it was a relaxing trip and our intrepid and gracious hosts (Paloma’s mother and her husband) were kind enough to indulge us some time trolling through records in two stores that we’d highly recommend.

The first was called Bananas, pretty much a warehouse tucked away near an interstate. There was barely enough room to move between aisles of metal shelving that went to almost the ceiling. It made me feel like I was in one of the upper floors of the main library in college.

Personally, the major score was picking up Patti Smith’s entire pre-early retirement catalog – Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Easter, and Wave in excellent condition for less than the airport jacked us for four days of parking. Paloma was thrilled with a new copy of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

I confess that I’ve not heard the Coltrane album. There’s various reasons – for one, I’ve never really listened to much jazz – but I also wonder if I’ve subconsciously avoided it as I’ve heard so much about it…has hype set the bar at an unattainable level?

That meandering aside, the other stop was a much smaller, street side store called Daddy Kool. The name made me think of a bookie with whom a good dozen of us used to place bets at the record store where Paloma and I first met – the mysterious Stick Daddy (I had never met him as most of us placed the bets through one a couple friends).

Anyhow, Daddy Kool’s selection of vinyl was brilliantly schizophrenic. The unexpected titles to volume ratio was quite high. For a mere dollar each, I snagged the debut albums by Blue Oyster Cult and Zebra, and a copy of Bob Seger’s The Distance.

I need to sort out this Seger thing as, only days early, I had bought several other records by him for less than a dollar each – I’ve never really considered myself to be more than an occasional fan of his stuff.

There were also titles I’d never seen before – Danielle Dax, the soundtrack to The Mission, and Diesel. I’d file it under one of the more memorable shopping sprees Paloma and I have had in the brief time we’ve been collecting vinyl.

Royal Tannenbaum would have found it to be most satisfactory.

Diesel – Sausalito Summernight
I hear this song and I immediately think bowling alley which is where I heard this song from the jukebox all through the autumn of 1981. I haven’t listened to the full album, yet, and I’m almost hesitant. I mean, what’s the point? Could they possibly have another song on there even remotely as catchy as this one?

The song titles – stuff like Alibi, Ready For Love, Bite Back – inspire little hope, sounding generic at best and simply dumb at worst. But, Sausalito Summernight is instantly memorable and inspiring (especially when you’re hearing it repeatedly hanging at the bowling alley in the Midwest during the winter as a bored teenager in the early ’80s). The song sounded like Southern California to us (we were duped, Diesel was Dutch).

Moving Pictures – What About Me
The only time I heard this song in the winter of ’82/83 was on American Top 40. It didn’t get very much (if any) airplay on the radio in our area, but on the rare occasion when I would hear it, it stood out. I thought I read somewhere that one of the non-American Idol idols (Australian Idol? Bolivian Idol? Easter Island Idol?) had a big hit with his cover of What About Me.

Anyhow, it’s quite the dramatic production this one, a veritable anthem for all the little people that make the big people big. Like Diesel, I haven’t heard the rest of Moving Pictures’ album. Like Diesel, I’m not expecting much.

Prefab Sprout – The King Of Rock And Roll
Of all of the Sprouts’ songs (and Paloma and I have most of their music), this one reminds me of Paloma most of all. I remember her playing their videos at the record store where we both worked and I can still vividly picture her singing along to The King Of Rock And Roll. It’s truly criminal that they never found an audience here in the States.

Ennio Morricone – On Earth As It Is In Heaven
I spent more than I usually do when I saw a copy of Morricone’s soundtrack to the movie The Mission, but it’s worth it. It’s Ennio Morricone, for God’s sake. No matter what the movie, Morricone doing the music makes it worth the price of admission.

It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie (maybe since college), but it’s a pretty powerful flick. It is a bit of a slog at moments and it’s a bit heavy (the role of organized religion in “civilizing” natives of the rain forest doesn’t really lend itself to light and carefree), but it’s worth checking out for the scenery (and music) alone.