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.

Mermaids, Elvis And The Wow! Signal

June 13, 2009

Only once have I ever bought a tabloid newspaper. I can’t recall the exact headline, but I do vividly remember the photo that made the purchase a necessity.

The black and white picture was of an old, bushy bearded salt holding a sandwich with both hands. His mouth was wide open, but he was frozen just before biting into the feast as he recoiled – one eye squinting, one wide open – in disgust.

Sticking out from opposite sides of this unfortunate mariner’s sandwich was the head and tail fin of a mermaid.

It made me dream of a journalistic life, bringing the truth to the people of such amazing things – things that the anti-mermaid sandwich, mainstream media apparently deems to be not newsworthy.

Then, I got distracted thinking about having a fish sandwich.

Happily, the dream is not dead. The other night, I stumbled across something that – with a bit more research – will certainly land me a supermarket rag cover story and, subsequently, journalistic accolades.

It began when I read a story on SETI – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – and how this scientific project is now capable of monitoring a far vaster portion of the skies for potential transmissions from deep space and, thus, proof of alien intelligence, than ever.

The article made mention of The Wow! Signal (pictured above). This signal was one received for 72 seconds on August 15, 1977. There’s a lot of superfluous, scientific gibberish on this signal, but the upshot is that some experts believe “the signal matched the expected signature of an interstellar signal.”

Apparently, in human talk, the source of the signal could have had an intelligent extraterrestrial origin.

The scientists have never found the transmission again.

It was the date, though – August 15, 1977 – that had me forget about aliens and clicking the keyboard to figure out why that date seemed to have some significance.

It was the day before Elvis died.

It should be obvious as to the implication of these two, seemingly unrelated events occurring within a single twenty-four hours…

…the alien signal resulted in – for reasons I have yet to make up – Elvis being sucked into space.

I was headed for third grade when Presley “died” and only remember Vegas Elvis. That period is burned into my synapses.

So, forgive me, but I’ve never really cared enough about the man to take him as even cheap entertainment.

Instead, here are some songs that were hits during the week that Elvis was beamed up and out.

(and, curiously enough, there was a song called The Martian Boogie on the charts)

Alice Cooper – You And Me
from Lace And Whiskey

Ram Jam – Black Betty
from Ram Jam

Supertramp – Give A Little Bit
from Even In The Quietest Moments…

Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better
from The Spy Who Loved Me soundtrack