The Man Doesn’t Want You To Dance And The Man Doesn’t Want You To Know How To Fight For Your Right To Dance, Either*

June 10, 2012

Paloma claims to have never seen the movie Footloose. It surprised me to learn of this fact because we are nearly the same age and, as far as I know, everyone our age saw Footloose in 1984.

I knew little of the crushing, oppressive nature of totalitarian regimes before Footloose. Sure, we were at the height of Cold War tensions in 1984, but the Soviets merely wanted to nuke us like microwave bacon; they didn’t want to stop us from dancing.

Then, I saw Footloose – as a double bill with Flashdance at our local drive-in no less – and saw the peril to personal freedom that could result from unchecked power and a failure to separate church and state.

(especially when John Lithgow is involved).

And, thanks to Kevin Bacon, I learned that petulance, Bible passages, encouragement from the owner of the local grain mill, and Kenny Loggins was all that was necessary for one man to fight tyranny.

So, you can imagine my delight when I saw that Footloose was showing this evening on one of the cable stations. In these days of wire taps, the Patriot Act, and all-expenses-paid trips to Guantanamo, the lessons of Footloose are more important than ever.

But no, it was not to be.

Of late, some of our cable channels will simply freeze as though the interns at the station have gotten stoned and paused the DVD – “Dude, it’s like we have the power to stop time.”

Paloma and I settled in and turned to the appropriate channel but instead of Kevin Bacon, there was Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein, motionless and inert. I could only wonder if it was the result of stoned interns or something more sinister.

Perhaps from some undisclosed bunker, Dick Cheney doesn’t want the subversive lessons of Footloose to be viewed by the American people.

We ended up watching The Family Stone which, coincidentally, starred Sarah Jessica Parker who also appeared in Footloose. In one scene, she got liquored to the gills, dancing drunkenly to a song on the bar jukebox.

I turned to Paloma. “She has Kevin Bacon to thank for that dance.”

Here are four songs about The Man…

Rage Against The Machine – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
from Live & Rare (1998)

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought some of their lyrics and politics to be half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2, made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of their music. The Ghost Of Tom Joad has become one of my favorite Springsteen songs and their version is a stellar.

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)

John Lithgow didn’t approve of dancing and the Sharif didn’t like “that boogie sound.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a farm kid in the hinterlands of America or a Bedouin in the deserts of the Middle East, The Man will try to keep you down if you let him.

Bruce Cockburn – If I Had A Rocket Launcher
from Stealing Fire (1984)

Fortunately for John Lithgow, it didn’t come to armed conflict in Footloose, but I have no doubt that Kevin Bacon was keeping all of his options on the table.

Unfortunately, If I Had A Rocket Launcher is all that most people know of Bruce Cockburn, one of the more underrated artists out there. I met him once, following a show, and he was as cordial, gracious, and unassuming as any musician I’ve encountered.

Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ – Fly Me Courageous
from Fly Me Courageous (1991)

I remember seeing the video for Fly Me Courageous in the middle of the night while I was in college and being blown away by its monstrous groove. It still never fails to make me stop whatever I’m doing when I hear it.

The song arrived as the US was prepping to drive Iraq from Kuwait and interpreted by many listeners as a pro-war anthem. It sounds more like a cautionary tale to me.

*remixed from June 2008

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The Arch-Nemesis

September 21, 2011

For a good decade or so, I have had an implacable foe, an entity which I have formally and officially declared to be my arch-nemesis.

Making this struggle more complex is that my arch-nemesis is the brother of a good friend.

In truth, I don’t know David very well. I’ve been buddies with his brothers for close to twenty years, but I’ve been around David no more than a handful of times.

Our rivalry has no origin other than a decision I made to declare him my arch-nemesis.

(it actually was encouraged by his brothers)

But David is a good guy, so this confrontation has gone no further than our mutual understanding of the conflict and our verbal acknowledgement of it on the rare occasions that we do meet.

Our relationship lacks the cold war sizzle that existed with my previous arch-nemesis –

The Dutch.

I had never had an arch-nemesis until a half dozen or so of us who were drinking buddies and worked at a record store together suddenly began hating the Dutch.

(it happened during an evening of drinks)

We took to the idea with enthusiasm, blaming the Dutch for all of the ills of the world several years before it was chic to blame Canada.

We would shuffle into the back room of the store, muttering expletives directed at the Netherlands under our breath after dealing with difficult customers.

If our usual barkeep at our favorite watering hole was not working and the music being played did not meet our approval, it was a plot originating in Holland.

But our distress over the Dutch was inexplicable.

I had assumed – for some reason – that it dated to the 1994 World Cup, which we had followed that summer.

One evening, during the 1998 World Cup, I asked one of my buddies why we hated the Dutch.

He proceeded to tell tale of another large record store where he had worked and a customer visiting from the Netherlands who threw a tantrum over some perceived grievance, bellowing to all who listen that his mistreatment was because he was Dutch.

“I figured that we must have some long-standing issues with the Dutch and I wanted to do the least that I could do,” my buddy said with a shrug. “It would have been unpatriotic to not hate the Dutch.”

Of course, we didn’t really hate the Dutch. We just enjoyed having an arch-nemesis.

Here are four enemy songs since arch-nemesis is a bit cumbersome to use in a lyric I suppose…

Swan Dive – Sweet Enemy
from Circle (1998)

Swan Dive’s music has been described as bossa nova pop.

Sweet Enemy is light, breezy, and sophisticated stuff, but its just a hint of the wonderous sounds made by the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder.

The Waterboys – Be My Enemy
from This Is The Sea (1985)

This Is The Sea was my introduction to Scottish band The Waterboys. I’d been prompted to purchase the cassette after hearing the glorious The Whole Of The Moon before school one morning on a rock radio station out of Dayton.

(it might have been the only time I’ve ever heard the band on radio)

I was immediately smitten by their “big music” and the tape spent a lot of time in my Walkman that senior year. The rollicking Be My Enemy clatters alongs with a dizzying urgency that caught my attention and made me hit rewind a time or two.

(which, of course, drained the double-AA batteries rather quickly)

Roger Hodgson – Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm (1984)

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I was listening at the time. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

Rage Against The Machine – Know Your Enemy
from Rage Against The Machine (1992)

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought their politics to be somewhat half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2 – a band for whom the same accusation could be made regarding politics – made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of Rage’s music.

A few friends and I bumped into the band before that show at a vegetarian restaurant. The might have made some angry music, but the band members and crew were quite polite and friendly.


The Headless Maiden*

October 23, 2010

moonGrowing up, there was no house in my hometown that the kids passed warily, whispering amongst themselves as they eyed the dilapidated structure and weed-riddled, overgrown yard reined in by nothing more than a decaying wrought iron fence.

However, I know from the television and movies I’ve consumed over my life, that everyone else had such a landmark in their life.

In fact, I can think of nothing in my small hometown that had a paranormal bent to it – no legends, no lore, no creatures lurking in the woods. There was simply no sinister goings on and never had been.

(perhaps the townsfolk lacked imagination)

The closest thing to the macabre I recall was one grave.

On the southwest edge of town, one street led to a small, non-descript bridge which sped travellers into a vast stretch of sparsely populated farmland. There were fewer homes as you approached the bridge, even though it was no more than a twenty-minute walk from the center of town.

It was dark out that way at night.

A classmate lived in a large two-story house which was one of the last homes before reaching the bridge. Running past their home, off that main street, was a tree-lined lane which led to,a half-mile or so from the street, a cemetary.

The trees grew more dense as you walked deeper into the grounds, culminating in a woods, separated from the cemetary by a small ravine. There, under a canopy of thick trees, was a rectangular, stone slab, with weather-worn scripture quotes and no name.

At one end of the slab was a small stone lamb with no head.

The story our classmate had told us was that, a hundred years or more earlier, the property had been owned by a vicious racist. One day, as he was hunting in those woods, he spotted a young Native American girl on the far side of the ravine.

Then, like Roland did to Van Owen in Warren Zevon’s Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, the racist land owner raised his gun and blew off the Native American girl’s head. I remember our classmate saying, “Her head popped off and rolled into the ravine.”

It was the Native American girl supposedly buried beneath that slab.

It would make the tale more eerie I suppose if I could tell you that townsfolk had claimed to have seen a headless spirit or heard mournful wails from those woods. But, as far as I know, there no such stories.

There was little reason to go back there. There were a number of places for the high school kids to escape from supervision, so that cemetary wasn’t even a gathering place where minors might smoke or drink.

I might have to trek back there the next time I visit.

Curve – Horror Head
from Doppelganger

Curve caught my attention when Doppelganger arrived in our record store at the time and a few of us played the hell out of it. The British duo’s music was dense and cacophonous, but there was also melody underpinning the towering layers of guitars and swirling electronics and Toni Halliday’s vocals were provocative and sensual.

Queen – Don’t Lose Your Head
from A Kind Of Magic

My friends and I remained devoted to Queen throughout high school, even though their popularity in the States cratered following the massively successful The Game and that album was released while we were still in junior high school. A Kind Of Magic hit stores just weeks after we graduated and we were stoked to check it out as it featured a number of songs from the movie Highlander which we had seen months before.

For the most part, I was disappointed in the album, but the dance rock workout Don’t Lose Your Head was one track I did dig. And, the song features a cameo by singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading that’s always struck me as anu unusual union.

Rage Against The Machine – Bullet In The Head
from Rage Against The Machine

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought their politics to be somewhat half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2 – a band against whom the same accusation could be made regarding politics – made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of Rage’s music.

Concrete Blonde – Your Haunted Head
from Concrete Blonde

I didn’t truly fall for Concrete Blonde until their third album Bloodletting, but I quickly went back and grabbed their two previous albums. Both Bloodletting and the trio’s eponymous debut were staples in college and the band was also much beloved on alternative radio.

Though Concrete Blonde was quite adept at producing quasi-gothic tracks with crooned vocals, there were also songs in their catalog like Your Haunted Head that brought the grit and the snarl with equal aplomb and harkened to the band’s punk roots.

*reposted – with some alterations – from Halloween ’09