Norman, Daryl, And A Brother Named Daryl

November 20, 2011

Though Kevin Costner has provided me with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to surviving apocalyptic scenarios involving water and lack of mail delivery in Waterworld and The Postman, respectively, he’s offered no cinematic advice for dealing with the undead.

Fortunately, Norman Reedus has become a fine role model to me for how best to navigate a zombie apocalypse through his portrayel of the crossbow-wielding, squirrel-gutting, walker-slaying, Southern redneck anti-hero Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

(and he’s Zen)

Norman Reedus is new to me. His lengthy list of credits contains nothing with which I am familiar, though apparently he’s pretty stellar in the vigilante flick The Boondock Saints.

This unfamiliarity with the actor makes it believable to me that Daryl truly is some mountain hillbilly, plucked from rural Georgia and put in some television show.

(if Daryl was a real person, he would summarily put an end to Chuck Norris, gut him, use his ears as a necklace, and, then, deadpan a line revealing someone quite self-aware)

But Norman Reedus is apparently a real person and, based on his Wikipedia bio, seems like a fairly interesting cat in his own right, having left home at twelve and lived in England, Spain, and Japan.

He also had a kid with Helena Christensen, who broke Chris Isaak to the mainstream with the video for Wicked Game.

If you’re hooking up with supermodels, you must have some kind of mojo.

Of course, the two apparently named their kid Mingus which, if true, is either genuinely cool or pretentitious, hipster silliness.

As for Norman, I don’t recall that name having much cachet during my lifetime, being neither plentiful nor iconic.

(I can’t think of knowing a Norman and – thanks to Three’s Company – the first one that comes to mind is Norman Fell)

I did know a Daryl as a kid, the brother of a good buddy and neighbor.

Daryl was six or seven years older and out of high school when Will and I were still in junior high. I think he worked in construction.

A tall, lanky kid, Daryl had sideburns and shoulder-length hair, and his usual attire would have gained him admittance to any biker bar (there being a few in the area).

He might not have been killing zombies – though he did hunt, on occasion, with a crossbow – but we considered him to be pretty badass.

And when Daryl screamed out of their driveway in his beat-up Camaro on Saturday night, gravel becoming tiny, lethal projectiles, he might well have ended up at some watering hole that would have been frequented by his Walking Dead namesake.

Here are four songs that might have been blaring from the eight-track player in his Camaro…

Nazareth – Hair Of The Dog
from Hair Of The Dog (1975)

One eight-track that I know resided in Daryl’s Camaro was Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog. Every now and the, Daryl would give me and Will a ride somewhere and the language of the album’s ferocious title track made us feel like we were on the highway to hell with a true outlaw.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
from Agents of Fortune (1976)

There will be no cowbell joke here. The mighty Blue Öyster Cult deserves more respect than that and, to quote The Smiths (to Paloma’s delight), that joke isn’t funny anymore.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone
from Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd (1973)

Like Blue Öyster Cult, Skynyrd has been reduced to many to one tired joke. And, classic rock radio has so burned me out on the Southern rock band to the point of disinterest.

Then, I hear something like the wistful Tuesday’s Gone and make a mental note that a personal reassesment of Skynyrd might be in order.

Alice Cooper – School’s Out
from School’s Out (1972)

My all-time greatest arch-enemy might have been a third-grade teacher who, on more days than not, I was at odds. She was an Alice Cooper fan, so I’m not sure if that was why I never bothered with the music or rather because during the ’80s – my musically formative years – he wasn’t on top of his game.

But I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Cooper’s catalog in recent years and, even as a third-grader in the late ’70s, had an appreciation for the sentiments of the stomping School’s Out.

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One Penny

April 13, 2011

I’ve lamented the lack of music easily available to me pre-drivers license.

There was a small section devoted to albums, cassettes, and 45s in the one diminutive department store of my hometown. There couldn’t have been more than three hundred titles and the lot of it would have fit easily into our den.

(which was of the typical, Midwestern, wood-paneled variety, circa 1979)

This lack of a proper record store was hardly an issue for the first year or so as this small selection of music available to me was strictly the most popular stuff – AC/DC, Journey, Styx…

It would be another year before I would be searching for titles that might require a trip to the nearest record stores, fifty miles (and several hours spent with the parents) away.

As I made my way through the final months of junior high in the spring of ’82, the sum of my music collection was, perhaps, half a dozen cassettes including Christopher Cross’ debut, Journey’s Escape, and J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame.

I was hardly cutting edge. I was a thirteen-year old kid in a town that sometimes didn’t make the map and those handful or so of titles had been purchased with most of the little wealth I had at that age.

So, it was a momentous morning that spring when, sprawled on the den floor leafing through the Sunday paper for the comics, I stopped, mesmerized by the text on the insert.

The bold headline promised me a dozen titles for a penny and my eyes scanned the titles from which I could choose.

I had certainly seen this offer before but my interest in music had reached a critical mass and I had to own more. This was a no-brainer and as I penciled in my selections I chose with the careful consideration of someone manning a key in a missile silo.

And so, I entered into a contractual obligation as a member of the Columbia Record & Tape Club.

Four to six weeks later I arrived home from school to hours and hours of music, the smell of newly-opened cassettes filling the air.

Each month, a new catalog arrived and I pored through the titles as I fulfilled the however many tapes it took for me to fulfill the deal.

I suddenly had a music collection.

I soured on the club by the following spring for the lack of liner notes. The stuff Columbia House had licensed would have a simple paper sleeve with the album cover art.

I needed more.

And, as my friends and I now had drivers licenses, I no longer needed Columbia House.

I don’t recall all of the cassettes I snagged with that intial haul of a dozen. There was Queen’s Greatest Hits , The Best Of Blondie. and Air Supply’s debut.

Here are four songs from four tapes which I do know arrived on that glorious April afternoon in 1982…

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts – Victim Of Circumstance
from I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll

The title track from Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was a juggernaut. The song caught my ear the first night I heard it and, within a day or two, everyone at school was abuzz about it. The song dominated Q102’s Top Ten At Ten for what seemed like forever.

By April, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll had been joined in the nightly countdown, on various evenings, by several other songs from the album including Crimson And Clover, You’re Too Possessive, and the driving Victim Of Circumstance.

(the latter two being about as close to punk rock as most of us had ever gotten)

Loverboy – Take Me To The Top
from Get Lucky

I’d wager that radio in our part of the Midwest had to have embraced Loverboy as much as anywhere south of their Canadian homeland. Not only did the hits from their first couple albums – Turn Me Loose, The Kid Is Hot Tonight, Working For The Weekend – get played incessitantly, other songs got plenty of attention, too.

Take Me To The Top was an album track that all of the rock stations were playing. The moody, mid-tempo song had the expected Loverboy mix of synthesizer and guitars that was heard blaring from every Camaro in town.

Aldo Nova – Fantasy
from Aldo Nova

The deciding factor when I selected that chosen dozen was, usually, song recognition. I wanted songs that I had heard, preferably on the radio but, also, on the jukebox at the bowling alley.

(hence the Queen and Blondie compilations)

One title on which I “gambled” was the debut by Canadian Aldo Nova. The cooler-than-cool Fantasy was the only song I had heard, but I dug it so much I had to get the full cassette.

Quarterflash – Find Another Fool
from Quarterflash

I’ve duly noted how fetching my friends and I found Quarterflash lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross to be. And, for a brief year or so, the usually mellow rockin’ group notched a few hits.

I suppose the only song most people remember Quarterflash for is Harden My Heart, but the follow-up Find Another Fool was quite popular at the time, too. It’s got a far more frantic feel with a similar lyric of a woman scorned and is a bit like the kid sister to some of Pat Benatar’s more New Wave-tinged tracks from the early ’80s.


Suicide Hill

December 15, 2010

Like a good portion of the States, our region was smacked with the first snowstorm of the season.

The cover of white that we awoke to this morning, though, had largely disappeared by the time I faced the evening’s rush hour hell. Nothing makes the trip as potentially as treacherous as when a wintery mix is added to the commute.

Yeah, the cast of Ice Road Truckers might brave the elements, but they don’t do it with thousands of other vehicles driven by oh-so attentive folks who – aside from a couple days a year – have little experience with such conditions.

I exited the interstate and headed home along a frontage road, From the road, I could see several kids were making use of the conditions and gravity, hurtling down a good-sized hill on various crafts.

Though it’s fortunate for me that we get little snow and it’s rarely on the ground for more than a few days, it’s the children who suffer. The snow on that hill already had wide swaths that was revealed the grass.

Those kids were sledding on borrowed time.

Growing up in the Midwest, me and my friends could usually expect ample oppotunities to hit the slopes each winter.

Several of us lived along a country road that bisected a subdivision and farmland. As soon as there was snow, we would jump the fence across the road and drag our sleds up a small hill.

If there was enough snow, we would eventually create rudimentry bobsled runs, piling the snow and creating a half pipe. If the weather held, over the course of a week or so, the run would pack – smooth and slick – and become more delightfully lethal.

As we grew older, we would head for Suicide Hill with most of the other kids in our hometown. From the top, we’d stare down at the state road in the distance. The busy road posed no danger as it was unreachable, separated from us by a drop into a small creek.

To get to the bottom, you navigated a path that took you between the 11th and 18th holes on a golf course. And, if you managed to make the run cleanly – avoiding trees and such – you still had to contend with that water hazard.

We lived for the rare spectacle of someone plunging into the drink.

As Christmas approached in 1980, my friends and I were halfway through our middle year of junior high. It was beginning to dawn on us that it might be better to be inside on winter days – somewhere where there might be music and girls – then outside risking hypothermia.

But, in December of ’80, Suicide Hill was still a siren’s song to which we had to respond. Music was still mostly incidental to me, but, over the next six months or so, I’d be hooked.

Here are four songs that were on the chart in Billboard thirty years ago…

Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart
from The River

Hungry Heart most likely served as my introduction to The Boss. The River was his current release in late 1980 and, though I was just discovering radio, I was familiar with this song as well as Cadillac Ranch, Fade Away, and the title track.

It would take more time for my young ears to embrace the stark brilliance of the follow-up Nebraska , but I was on board for the long haul.

Blondie – The Tide Is High
from Autoamerican

Blondie was one band that had caught my attention in 1980. Songs like Heart Of Glass and Call Me were such mammoth hits that you would have had to have made an effort to not hear them at the time even if, like me, the radio was nothing more than an occasional companion.

(lead singer Debbie Harry also gave the band a visual component that did not go unnoticed)

I vividly remember hearing the breezy, island groove of The Tide Is High blasting from the radio when someone’s older sister gave us a ride home after one of those afternoons spent sledding. It was a wonderful antidote to the winter weather then and it still is.

The Korgis – Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime
from Dumb Waiters

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the lone US hit by The Korgis on the radio. I certainly don’t recall hearing it thirty years ago when it was a hit.

The first time I do know I heard Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime was when The Dream Academy covered the song in the late ’80s. And, I also heard Beck perform a version of it on the soundtrack to the movie Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind before I heard the original.

There really was no need for the song to be covered, though. The Korgis’ version is lovely – wispy and fragile – and flawless.

ABBA – The Winner Takes It All
from Super Trooper

ABBA and T. Rex occupy a similar niche in my music world. I could probably distill both to a dozen songs (most of which I never tire of), but I own way more of both acts’ work than I truly need.

That said, The Winner Takes It All is a shimmering tower of melancholy and Agnetha really belts it to the back row.