Today, My Best Friend…Tomorrow, Who Knows?

May 11, 2011

Sometime last week, during the spate of coverage on the demise of Osama bin Laden, I happened upon a program on the life of the iconic terrorist.

One of the people interviewed was described as bin Laden’s best friend as a teenager.

It must make a pretzel of the mind to have such a notorious character as a former best friend.

The first best friend that I can remember having was a kid named George. There’s little else I recall aside from his name and I have no recollection as to what earned him status as numero uno amigo.

I do recall that I stripped him of the title and I slotted another classmate into the position.

I wanted John as my best friend because he was tall, a head taller than everyone else.

(people have been placed in high office using such logic, but I was five)

I’ve had no contact with either of these kids in almost forty years, but it seems as though George is a DJ in the upper Midwest, so perhaps I was being prescient about the interest I’d someday have in music.

By the time I reached high school, I was in a transitional period with friendships. The concept of best friend had evolved into a group of eight or nine of us who would end up together in different permutations and numbers.

One of these buddies was a bit of a fire enthusiast and devotee of things that go kaboom.

During senior year, Kirk The Pyro went to California with another of our friends for spring break.

(most of us settled for wandering the malls in Cincinnati)

This dynamic duo returned to the grimness of March in the Midwest with tans and dynamite.

“Where did you get dynamite?”

“Tijuana”

“So, you brought dynamite from Tijuana on your flight home from California?”

It was a simpler world and a time when – relative to today – the airlines essentially had a don’t ask/don’t tell policy.

The interviewee on the television screen had described bin Laden as quiet and polite, their friendship rooted in a shared love for soccer.

I could only describe Kirk The Pyro as like Woody Woodpecker in human form and our bond forged by a common appreciation for antics, hijinks, and shenanigans.

And though I haven’t had contact with him since college, I also haven’t seen him become the target of a global manhunt.

Here are four friend songs…

Clarence Clemons And Jackson Browne – You’re A Friend Of Mine
from Hero

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were probably as big as any act in my lifetime. During the mid-’80s. Born In The USA sold ten million copies and pretty much every song on the record got extensive airplay on the radio. The group’s success was so massive and demand for more music so great that b-sides like Pink Cadillac and Stand On It got played heavily.

E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons even had a solo hit during the winter of ’85 when he duetted with Jackson Browne on the upbeat and catchy You’re A Friend Of Mine.

The Rolling Stones – Waiting On A Friend
from Tattoo You

Personally, I’ve always thought that Waiting On A Friend was one of the Stones’ finest post-’70s moments. The song is so casual and the vibe so laid-back that it’s always welcome when it pops up on shuffle.

Apparently it was the first video by the Stones played on MTV (with reggae great Peter Tosh hanging out on the steps).

Grateful Dead – Friend Of The Devil
from Skeletons From The Closet: The Best Of Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead got discovered my generation while I was in college when A Touch Of Gray put the venerable band all over MTV. I liked the song and I even liked a lot of its parent album, In The Dark, which was played often in the record store where I worked.

I’ve also enjoyed stuff from their catalog as I’ve been introduced to it here and there, but I’ve never felt the rabid passion for The Dead that they inspired in a lot of my peers.

Jellyfish – He’s My Best Friend
from Spilt Milk

I discovered Jellyfish when the record store where I worked received a promo copy of the band’s debut, Bellybutton, in 1990. The psychedelic album cover was eye-catching and the music earned the group from San Francisco comparisons to greats like Queen, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, XTC, and Cheap Trick.

Despite plenty of swooning by critics, Jellyfish was unable to find mainstream success and would split up after just one more album, 1993′s Spilt Milk, but the group has continued to loom large in the hearts of power pop devotees for the past two decades.

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It Must Be Spring When You Come Home With A Carnivorous Plant

April 11, 2010

For a week or so, it appeared that we were in store for one of those years in which the weather essentially leapfrogs from winter to summer – no spring for you!

But the last few days have given us at least a bit of spring with today being a beautiful day in which the baggy sweater/cargo shorts/sandal ensemble I sported was perfect.

(I am speaking from a standpoint of comfort – sartorially, I am wholly unqualified to comment)

Paloma and I opted to temporarily throw off our city slicker shackles for a drive into the country. She had wanted to browse at a garden show.

It was lazy, zen, and a wonderfully placed pause, and, we are now the proud owners of our first carnivorous plant.

Here are four songs that shuffled up on the drive and seemed to suit the day well…

Everything But The Girl – When All’s Well
from Love Not Money

Though I’d known of Everything But The Girl since college, it wasn’t until several years later that Paloma turned me on to their catalog in depth.

The breezy When All’s Well, from one of the duo’s early albums, is a brief shot of B12 for the spirit.

Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right
from Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day

Sure, Starbuck’s soft rock smash Moonlight Feels Right might have been more appropriate later in the day, but the song always puts a smile on Paloma’s face.

Personally, the marimba-laden hit makes me think of hearing it at the pool, blaring from the radio during the summer of ’76, as a kid.

James Iha – See The Sun
from Let It Come Down

Iha rose to the top of the music world as a member of Smashing Pumpkins, the band that he formed with Billy Corgan. Following the mammoth success of that band’s Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Iha put out his solo debut, Let It Come Down, which failed to generate much interest.

It’s unfortunate that so few people heard Let It All Come Down. Simple, understated, and intimate, the album was the polar opposite of the Pumpkins. In truth, tracks like the lovely See The Sun would have fit nicely alongside Starbuck on late ’70s radio.

Richard Ashcroft – Crazy World
from Alone With Everybody

The Verve were one of my favorite bands of the ’90s with their expansive, spacey sound, walls of guitar, and charismatic lead singer Richard Ashcroft. But, aside from their breakthrough with Urban Hymns, tensions within the band and legal hassles from outside seemed to thwart them from sustaining momentum.

Following one of the group’s numerous break-ups in the late ’90s, Ashcroft took the solo path, issuing Alone With Everybody, a surprisingly upbeat release that lead a friend (and fellow Verve fan) to dismiss the record.

The pleading Crazy World isn’t completely angst free, but the string-laced song is insanely catchy and inviting.