The A-Team

January 29, 2013

AI got sucked into The A-Team on cable.

Three hours later, I had watched about an hour and a half more of the exploits of Hannibal Smith and friends in movie form than I had ever watched of the television series.

As I was a kid at the time The A-Team initially aired, I was well aware of it. It was enormously popular for awhile and I imagine I undoubtedly checked it out for ten or fifteen minutes on a Tuesday night.

(with five, six channels and no cable, the viewing options were limited)

I was fifteen when The A-Team arrived. I think I essentially shrugged it off as simplistic.

And Mr. T…I remember the first kid in our neighborhood that had made it into The City to catch the previous summer’s blockbuster Rocky III. The next morning, we gathered as usual for a pick-up baseball game.

It was June and the sun beat down on us. It was already hot.

The lot of us were sprawled out on the grass, sweltering, breakfast digesting as Alvin recounted to us the plot of Rocky III and we hung on every word.

He was a generally quiet kid but he verbally jitterbugged as he excitedly got the first few moments out.

And he stopped.

He seemed crazy from the heat, like some addled prospector wandered in from the desert telling tales, as he slowly told of the beast that was Rocky’s opponent, Clubber Lang as played by Mr. T.

Clubber had a Mohawk.

Clubber mostly growled.

Clubber was unstoppable.

His destruction of Rocky for the heavyweight title was done with a stunning savage efficiency.

When we all finally got to see Rocky III – it arrived in our small town’s theater pretty quickly – we might have been rooting for Rocky, but we were in awe of Clubber.

Clubber was soon overshadowed by Mr. T. It seemed he was everywhere – talk shows, magazines, commercials.

Clubber had been a frightening creation. Mr. T soon began to grate on my nerves.

I was also spending more time listening to music during the years that The A-Team originally aired and the show wouldn’t have had enough appeal to pull me from doing so.

As for the movie, it was a decent popcorn flick unburdened by preconceptions or childhood memory.

The A-Team debuted almost thirty years ago to the day. Here are four songs from albums that were also arriving that week in 1983…

Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger
from Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

By the time Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released, several singles had been issued and failed to gain traction. In the States, it took until summer, but the title track finally clicked and gave the Eurythmics a breakthrough hit that topped the charts.

Sweet Dreams might be better remembered, but I’ve always preferred the chilly Love Is A Stranger.

Todd Rundgren – Drive
from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983)

Todd Rundgren’s commercial peak had expired about five years before I was listening to music. However, my friends and I were exposed to the music of Runt – both past and present – through our buddy Bosco. He was a Rundgren fanatic and each new release from the man was an event.

According to the internet, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect was a contractual obligation album and considered a throwaway, but I’ve remained quite found of the set.

(though I need never, ever again to hear Bang The Drum All Day – ever)

And I do love the clanging call to action, Drive. It makes me want to go to work tomorrow, burn down my office building, load Paloma and the animals into The Jeepster, and do as the title suggests.

Journey – Send Her My Love
from Frontiers (1983)

Journey’s follow-up to the iconic Escape was the most eagerly anticipated album of my young life in January, 1983. Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers‘ first single and it quickly became a Top Ten hit.

And, a week or so before the full album arrived in stores, I stayed up to tape Frontiers when it was played on Frog’s Midnight Album, which aired nightly on WEBN.

I played that copy of Frontiers incessantly until I made it into Cincinnati and to a record store to purchase an actual cassette. Even as I listened to it repeatedly into the summer, I could hear it as a calculated attempt to replicate Escape.

However, the haunted Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

Red Rider – Human Race
from Neruda (1983)

Canadian band Red Rider never got much love here in the States. They’d get a smattering of airplay on our album rock stations and the moody Lunatic Fringe was deservedly a staple (even if I doubt most listeners could have named the band performing it).

I seem to recall hearing the sparse, eerie Human Race occasionally that spring and it’s a compelling mix of straight-ahead rock with a slight New Wave vibe.

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H ve A Great Summ r

July 31, 2010

For years, the realization that July had become August produced a Pavlovian sense of dread in me.

As a kid, August was the month in which we were herded back into the educational system. The first day of the month made that impending event palpable to me.

Sure, there was still a few weeks of warm days spent idly doing nothing at all, but – deep down – I felt the awful truth that it was over.

Wimbledon and the 4th of July – two signposts of summer for me – had already happened.

If we had gone somewhere on vacation it would have likely been in July. By August 1st, the trip seemed as if it had happened a lifetime before rather than mere weeks (at most).

August turned me into a dead man walking as I shuffled toward the first day of classes.

Not this year, though, not this summer.

This summer, there is absolutely not one fiber of my being that has twitched reflexively at the approach of August.

Each morning, I sit drinking coffee in a state of early-morning confusion. The local news is on the television where it remains until the weather forecast has been delivered (at which time, it’s ESPN2 and Mike & Mike In The Morning).

Usually, I halfheartedly listen to the weather, mostly making sure that there isn’t some impending weather disaster headed our direction.

This has been the ritual.

But, the past few weeks my attention to the weather report has been increasingly focused. The extended forecast causes me to marshall the limited powers of concentration I possess at 5:10 a.m.

93-96-98-95-97-94

I study the forecasted daily highs like a hobo that has spent his last dollar on a pick-6 ticket and shake my head.

I welcome August this year because August is next to September and – unless this is the year that summer never ends – that means that the temperatures have to abate.

Ten weeks ago, the marque outside a high school on my morning commute heralded the end of the school year. A week later it wished all to “Have A Great Summer.”

This week, I noticed that a couple letters were missing.

Here are four songs that accompanied me back to school in Augusts past…

John Denver – Annie’s Song
from The John Denver Collection

As six-year old starting school in ’74, I knew John Denver. He had one of the biggest hits in the country with Annie’s Song. Mostly, though, I knew him from his television specials.

There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair. I dug the guy.

I still think Annie’s Song is lovely (if a bit melodramatic).

Joan Jett – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
from Bad Reputation

In August of ’82, I was fourteen and headed from the comfortable confines of grade school to the unknown petri dish of high school. It was a fairly seamless transition as I had Will, my best friend from our neighborhood and a year older than me, as a guide.

Music had really gotten it’s hooks in me that summer. My interest having reached critical mass after simmering for about a year or so. It was mostly radio or mix tapes of songs I’d taped from the radio since I owned no more than a dozen cassettes.

One was Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll which had been massive since winter -when the title song became an ’80s anthem – and throughout the summer with a version of Crimson And Clover.

By August, I was catching up to her solo debut and another stellar cover song.

Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1

Three years later, August brought the beginning of senior year. It was a good time, but it had been hyped in the “86”s scrawled on notebooks and spraypainted on bridges since fifth grade.

That August, Godley & Creme’s video for Cry was causing a sensation on MTV. The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had split from 10cc and become acclaimed producers of videos.

(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)

Cry was a groundbreaking video and the song is hypnotic.

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Boy Inside The Man
from Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

I didn’t realize that Red Rider was relatively unknown in the States until lead singer Tom Cochrane had a solo hit with Life Is A Highway. Growing up in the Midwest, the band got a lot of attention from several rock stations I listened to in the ’80s.

I was the buyer for a large record store in another part of the country when Life Is A Highway became a hit for Cochrane. It seemed clear that, unless they were more than casual music fans, the customers searching for the hit were generally unaware of Cochrane or Red Rider.

But, five years earlier in August, 1986, Cochrane was still a member of Red Rider and, as I prepared to head of to college, I was hearing the band’s Boy Inside The Man on the radio.


Au Revoir, Canada

March 3, 2010

Well, for the first time in two weeks I’m not watching NBC‘s coverage of the Olympics and I am having the same disoriented feeling as I do during the switch to/from Daylight Savings Time.

I miss Al Michaels.

I’m wondering what’s going on in Whistler.

And though I never did quite understand curling, the event had me spellbound.

But it was all pretty swell. You did good, Canada.

You won a record amount of gold medals and the US won a record amount of total medals.

(and Canada got the gold in hockey which means we can pull the sharp objects out of storage in Buffalo and ship them back across the border)

Actually, even outside North America, everyone seems to be going home with a smile. The one exception, I suppose, would be Yevgeny Plushenko, the Russian skater, who mouthed off after settling for a silver medal.

I liked Plushenko. Sure he was less than gracious, but he also looked like Nick Gilder (or, at least Nick Gilder as I remember seeing him singing on television) of Hot Child In The City-fame. That song makes me think of summer and it makes me think of Paloma.

So, I’m giving him a pass.

And the closing ceremony of the Olympics was a well-done affair.

You get Neil Young, William Shatner, Catherine O’Hara, and Michael J. Fox together and it’s a compelling roster for someone that was a kid in the early ’80s.

(though I really didn’t get to know Neil until college)

The only thing that the past two weeks was missing was John Candy.

(imagine the insights he might have offered into curling – it would have been brilliant)

So, thanks for everything, Canada. Take a twenty out of petty cash and get yourself something nice.

The amount of stellar music from the Great White North is ridiculous. So, instead of the more obvious choices, here’s a quartet of songs from some less-appreciated (at least less appreciated here, south of the border) Canadian acts…

Red Rider – Big League
from Victory Day

From the personal experience of working in record stores years ago, I can assure you that everyone knows Red Rider’s Lunatic Fringe, but few people could tell you the name of the song or who does it. During the ’80s, the band had a few other songs that got a bit of airplay, but they were never able to break here in the States.

(lead singer Tom Cochrane would desrevedly find success with Life Is A Highway)

Big League is based on the true story of a prize, high-school hockey prospect who was killed in a car accident. Supposedly Cochrane was inspired to write the song after meeting the player’s father who told him that his son had been a fan of the band.

Bran Van 3000 – Cum On Feel The Noize
from Glee

When I stumbled upon Glee, I was an instant fan of the Canadian ensemble Bran Van 3000 and their engaging melange of alternative rock and hip-hop. I gushed about it to Paloma who, when she finally heard the album, was duly unimpressed.

For their cover of the Slade/Quiet Riot classic Cum On Feel The Noize, the group takes a decidedly low-key and jangly approach to good effect.

The Pursuit Of Happiness – I’m An Adult Now
from Love Junk

I was still in college when I first heard I’m An Adult Now and was greatly amused by the humorous take on growing up. It’s still a pile-driving, power-pop tour de force (produced by Todd Rundgren) that I adore, but the humour is a bit more gallows in nature now.

Rush – Tom Sawyer
from Moving Pictures

Yeah, I was going to highlight some overlooked Canadian acts, but, though incredibly successful here in the US, Rush have been underappreciated. Plus, it was twenty-four years ago this week that I saw them live.

Rush had a small, but ardent following in our high school that consisted mostly of the jocks and the kids in band – two clans who rarely intermingled but could find common ground in the beloved trio’s music.

As for Tom Sawyer, everyone – no matter what their taste in music – dug the song.