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.

Advertisements

Fall Break

October 17, 2009

moody-autumn-skyI always believed that fall break was one of the most inspired things. It wasn’t as lengthy as spring break – a mere Thursday and Friday – but it’s placement in the school year was almost flawless.

It usually fell in late October, a week or so before Halloween, half the way between the start of the school year and Christmas break. It was far enough into the semester that the hopeless feeling that the school year would never end had set in, but scattered warm days of Indian summer were reminders of the summer past.

There are a couple schools I pass on the morning commute to work each day. They all have some kind of message board at the front of the school, marquee letters announcing football games and such.

I’ve started seeing dates for fall breaks.

I keep thinking of the fall break in 1984. It was the first fall break where my friends and I all had licenses. Acquiring a vehicle, though, sometimes demanded nimble gamesmanship and negotiation with parents or an older sibling.

I think it was my pyro friend who had snagged his older brother’s car. Another friend, Bosco, had joined us, but, as the pyro hadn’t actually obtained consent to have the car, there had been no time to track anyone else down.

We headed to the city – Cincinnati – and an hour later we were rifling through the racks at a record store. Bosco, an obsessive fan of The Tubes, was determined to snag the recently released solo album by the band’s front man Fee Waybill.

Bosco eventually purchased the album at a Record Bar in the mall from a clerk whom he dubbed “DLR” as the kid had adopted the look of Van Halen’s lead singer. We ended up taking the purchase to a stereo shop where Bosco peeled open the shrink-wrap and we listened to the record on a display system (at least until we were asked to leave).

I remember vividly the overcast skies – much like today – that day, but it was far warmer than it is here, now, where it feels as though we’ve skipped directly from September to November. I seem to recall the sun breaking through a bit on the drive home.

I’m less certain of what music I purchased that day, though I have no doubt that I returned home that evening with several new cassettes. Here’s a quartet of tracks from albums that I very well might have snagged on that break in the autumn of 1984…

INXS – Burn For You
from The Swing

I hadn’t been a fan of INXS’ American debut from the year before, although I thought (and still think) the song Don’t Change is brilliant. And, by the fall of ’84, their second album, The Swing, had been out since the spring.

However, during the summer, another friend had bought INXS’ entire catalog (including earlier Australian releases that were only available to us as imports) and I had become a fan thanks to his incessant playing of the band. Also, our town finally had MTV and the video for the slinky, soulful Burn For You was getting a lot of play that fall.

Roger Hodgson – Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm

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 listened. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

The Fixx – Less Cities, More Moving People
from Phantoms

I think I always liked The Fixx in theory better than execution. Everything was in place – cool name, cool futuristic vibe – for them to be a favorite, except consistently good songs. Aside from Reach The Beach, their albums were maddeningly hit or miss to me.

Not that I gave up trying to embrace them. Although I didn’t like Are We Ourselves?, the first hit from Phantoms, I gave the album a shot nonetheless (and was disappointed). But, there were a couple of worthwhile tracks like the twitchy, shuffling Less Cities, More Moving People.

.38 Special – Teacher Teacher
from Teachers soundtrack

.38 Special was from the South and they were a rock band, but, despite being labeled at times as a Southern rock band, they never really struck me as belonging in that genre. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a big fan of Southern rock and I liked a lot of .38 Special (or, at least the hits in the early ’80s).

Of course, the band was a staple on a lot of the stations in the Midwest, so maybe it was a familiarity thing, but Teacher Teacher was catchy, straight-ahead rock with a punchy chorus and plenty of guitars. I know that we caught the movie Teachers on one of our treks to the city. As we were in high school at the time, it resonated with us, though, for some reason, I don’t think I’ve happened across it since seeing it in the theater.


Supertramp And Pop Tarts

June 26, 2008

Recently, JB over at The Hits Just Keep Comin’ gave a nod to the band Supertramp and their classic album Breakfast In America. I’ve been hoping for a Supertramp revival since the use of Goodbye Stranger in the movie Magnolia.

Oh, my devotion to them isn’t slavish. In truth, it’s rather limited. Their more progressive stuff doesn’t move me and it’s not simply because it’s progressive. I fully admit to having dabbled in progressive rock, but that flirtation was mostly limited to Marillion in the early ’80s. In fact, I’ve had the chance to drink with their former lead singer Fish on a handful of occasions and, I assure you, to walk into a pub in Edinburgh with the man is akin to walking into Cheers with Norm.

I digress. My meager devotion to Supertramp is to about a dozen songs and the Breakfast In America album. When that band worked, they were capable of producing a nearly perfect pop song and almost every track on Breakfast In America works (I seem to recall Oh Darling being the only song which I ever skipped).

Not only is the music worth the price of admission, Breakfast In America has an album cover that always makes me smile – a jovial waitress, menu in hand and orange juice at the ready (her name has to be Bev). God I love a well-thrown breakfast.

Now, here is where the Pop Tart connection comes in (with no help from Kevin Bacon so far as I know). Bev simply looks like someone that would deliver a well-balanced breakfast. Remember the commercials during Saturday morning cartoons in the ’70s for cereals when they would conclude with a shot of the “balanced breakfast” consisting of said cereal, juice, milk, bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fruit, and an entire pot roast? Did that ever strike anyone else as a lot of food?

Pop Tarts, in their commercials, were touted as something to accompany a “balanced breakfast.”

Personally, I have long been a fan of Pop Tarts. They’re magically delicious and their simplicity is a stroke of genius. When traveling abroad or even ‘cross town, I always keep Pop Tarts in my backpack for those unexpected twists in the road. Once in Kuala Lumpur, I traded one to a buddy for an aqua Walkman when there was no Burger King or Pizza Hut to be found.

I also admire the way that Kellogg’s has steadfastly unveiled new flavors to a salivating public. Remember the early days of Pop Tarts when they only came with fruit fillings? You could kind of pretend that they were healthy. Well, somewhere along the line they just said to hell with that.

Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts? Yeah, who doesn’t love sundaes?

Fudge chocolate, chocolate-filled, chocolate chip Pop Tarts? Why not?

Frosted Cookies And Creme With Bacon Bits Pop Tarts? We’ve almost reached a pre-fabricated food moment of such goodness as I know that there is now Cake Batter Pop Tarts.

Sometimes I get concerned that I don’t take things seriously enough. You know, stuff like God, evolution, evil neo-cons, evil liberals, paper or plastic, and such. Then I realized that Pop Tarts are something that I truly feel passionate about.

And sometimes Supertramp.

Supertramp – Give A Little Bit
Not even incessant commercials for The Gap (wasn’t it The Gap?), could make me sick of Give A Little Bit. Like so many of their songs, it sounds like a nursery rhyme and it does have a lovely sentiment. Of course, my fairly staunch anti-human stance keeps me from getting carried away by the lovely sentiment and, then, I simply space out and bob my head to the pretty melody and music.

Supertramp – The Logical Song
Effortlessly, Supertramp manages to sound positively giddy (I suppose it is a giddy tinged with melancholy) as they sing of conscription into a lifetime of conformity where banality can be a ticket to success. The song is as delightfully singsong as – and I could be encouraging howls of protest here – anything ABBA ever did (and I say this with great admiration for those songsmithing Swedes). You could couple this song with Marianne Faithfull’s take on John Lennon’s Working Class Hero and give yourself a case of manic depression.

Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home
Sadly, after singing its praises, I realize that I no longer have a copy of Breakfast In America (and I’m jonesing to hear Gone Hollywood (good call JB), Lord Is It Mine and Child Of Vision). And, unfortunately, the only version of Take The Long Way Home I own is the single version with the edited intro.

Supertramp – Breakfast In America
Oh man. I have no idea what this song is about, but it is jaunty little number. Would this be considered a shanty? (did I just type the word shanty?) Apparently, Roger Hodgson feels his girlfriend has less than fulfilled her girlfriend potential, but God help you if he catches you checking her out. However, he seems to be quite fond of kippers (add kippers to the well-balanced breakfast, Bev), so the mind boggles at what hell might rain down on the scoundrel who takes his kippers.

Supertramp – Cannonball
I had to include a fifth song today (Paloma encouraged me – “It’s Supertramp”). And that fifth song had to be Cannonball. It’s a snappy tune with quite a bit of pep, but it also earns my appreciation for…you really need to see it (I assure you that unless you are feeding starving children, negotiating piece in the Middle East, or napping, you will not use 4:51 more constructively today)…

Supertramp – Cannonball

Cannonball is simply the greatest caveman music video I have ever seen.
I find his determination as he runs down the interstate inspiring. Truly. But what the hell am I meant to take from this video? I think it’s that our ancient ancestors gave us art, fire, an inborn protectiveness toward crockery rivaled only by the protectiveness Roger Hodgson has toward his kippers, and a primordial affection for Supertramp that lives on in our DNA.

If so, there might be hope for the humans, yet.