Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

June 14, 2012

The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.

Ihe source of this indifference is not the coverage and pontificating pundits parsing a never-ending election cycle.

It’s the vacuum left by honest, intelligent discourse that has been filled by – at best – a din of white noise and – at worst – very ugly and ignorant rancor.

The older I get, the more people like Noam Chomsky and Bill Hicks make sense to me.

I’ve been considering writing in Willie Nelson this November and – damn it – I still might if for no other reason than so that I might honestly tell people that I wrote in Willie Nelson for president.

(and how cool would it be to have the Red Headed Stranger in office?)

Let’s spare ourselves the coming months of nonsense and pick a name out of a hat.

Seriously.

We could take the hundreds of millions of dollars – or more – that will be spent carpet bombing us with soundbites and, instead, make a giant hat into which interested citizens would put their name.

Your name is chosen, you serve a year as the leader of the free world.

Hold the drawing at halftime of the Super Bowl.

The construction of the giant hat would put innumerable people to work.

It would be a lottery where the winner would get a good-paying gig and nice package of retirement perks.

It would all be over in ten minutes, we all get on with life and it’s only slightly less silly than a mostly uninformed electorate using color-codes to choose their candidate.

(which is how Garanimals wanted us kids of the ’70s to dress)

As I don’t have luxury of a giant hat and a pool of applicants, I entered “random” into google, scanned the results for a first name, then for a last name and got Andrew Burt.

Under my proposed system, our next president might be one of several physicians from California, a marshall from Utah, a science fiction writer, or some fellow arrested for a DUI.

Sadly, with the self-serving, petty, visionless group of squabbling suits who serve our country, I’m beginning to doubt that it matters which Andrew Burt actually leads them.

Here are four somewhat random songs that caused my ears to prick up…

Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark (12-inch “Blaster Mix”)

So perhaps the protagonist of Dancing In The Dark is suffering some existential angst, but it’s also an anthemic call to action. Or that’s how the song was imprinted onto my DNA as a sixteen-year old kid when it arrived with the first weeks of summer in 1984.

I was surprised to realize that I have a copy of Arthur Baker’s 12-mix of the song. I suppose the song mortified Springsteen purists, but I heard it a lot that summer.

(I kind of dug it)

Hearing it for the first time in who knows, I still kind of dig it.

John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1982)

Stewart, the man who wrote Daydream Believer, was joined by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on the timeless-sounding Gold. It’s a pretty perfect pop song.

I always pictured this song taking place on some dusty, desolate stretch of road in Arizona, so if Paloma and I ever open up a bait shop in the Southwest, I’d insist this song be on the jukebox.

Sparks and Jane Wiedlin – Cool Places
from In Outer Space (1983)

My buddy Streuss introduced us to Sparks in high school, but the duo has had little commercial success in the States aside from their collaboration with Go-Gos guitarist Jane Weidlin.

Cool Places is typically quirky Sparks and the song actually became a minor hit during the summer of ’83 when it seemed like they appeared on Solid Gold every other week to perform it.

Lick The Tins – Can’t Help Falling In Love
from Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack (1987)

Director John Hughes made music an intrinsic part of the fabric of his films. For the close of Some Kind Of Wonderful, he opted to have the two social misfits walk off together to the energetic, playful take on Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love by the Celtic rock band Lick The Tins.

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A Fistful Of Quarters From A Grown Man In His Underwear

April 21, 2010

The end of the school year is within the distance of one well-spat loogie for the age appropriate. As a kid, it was the annual re-opening of the campground down the road that was a tangible sign that summer break was close.

Before we were old enough to drive, the campground also served as somewhere to waste the little money we had on things like miniature golf and video games.

At that time, our town was still a couple of years away from having an actual arcade and Atari game consoles were not yet in all our homes. The campground game room was one of the few places to play video games.

Of course, there were three, maybe four games and they were always well behind the times with the selection – Space Invaders when Pac-Man was the rage, Galaga instead of Defender.

Asteroids was a hip as it got.

The couple that ran the campground was on the staff of our high school.

He was a burly fellow, taught shop, and was known to all as Bandsaw Bob.

She was on the bony side, was the school nurse, and seemed to be going for some Jackie Kennedy vibe.

I don’t believe that I ever saw him without a tooth pick lodged in his teeth.

I couldn’t say the same for her.

The game room was downstairs from the gift shop/concierge desk/campground office which was usually our first stop to exchange a few dollars for quarters.

Several friends and I entered one afternoon and found the gift shop vacant. We stood at the counter, growing impatient to blast space bugs and such.

A door behind the counter of the gift shop led to the proprietor’s home and, as our conversation grew louder, we heard stirring from the adjacent dwelling (which was our objective).

Through the door lumbered Bob, muttering about “nobody minding the store” and “been out digging up a stump.”

There he stood, his large, round face flushed and beads of sweat trickling from his forehead met his flat top.

He was wearing nothing but his underwear.

And he had his tooth pick.

“You kids need quarters?” he asked jovially. He was a jovial fellow.

Before we could offer an affirmative, wife Jackie burst through the doorway. “Bob,” she barked. “Go take a shower and get cleaned up for dinner.”

He shrugged. “You all have seen a man in his underwear before.”

We’d seen pictures of Ted Nugent in a loin cloth in music magazines. And now, we had seen our high school’s shop teacher in his underwear.

Of course, in retrospect, I realize that, had this event – which became an oft-recounted part of me and my friends childhood lore – taken place in 2010 instead of 1980, Bob might have found himself in trouble, but there was nothing dodgy.

When you grow up in a small town, everyone knows everyone else fairly well, certainly well enough to know that sometimes a man in his underwear is just a man in his underwear.

Here are four songs that might have provided some clothing suggestions…

Sparks – Angst In My Pants
from Valley Girl soundtrack

Though they never got radio airplay where I lived, I had seen Sparks duet with The Go-Go’s Jane Weidlin on Cool Places in ‘82 on Solid Gold. And, my friend Streuss owned several of their cassettes like In Space, Whomp That Sucker, and Angst In My Pants.

Quirky and amusing, Sparks often had an uncanny knack for getting to the heart of life’s truths amidst all of the melodic musical insanity.

Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
from The Red Shoes

I fell hard for Kate Bush when I discovered her music. It was, like many listeners here in the States, with The Hounds Of Love. I’d read about her and was intrigued, but hadn’t really had the opportunity to check out her prior albums.

Of course, subsequent albums were slow to arrive but worth the wait.

Haircut 100 – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) (extended version)

I didn’t like Haircut 100 back in the day. Of course, they weren’t around very long and I never heard their lone hit, Love Plus One, on the radio much.

It was years later – when the song kept popping up on ’80s compilations – that I grew fond of Love Plus One. I finally snagged a copy of Pelican West on vinyl a year or so ago and it was underwhelming.

Favourite Shirts is more manic than Love Plus One and manic Haircut 100 doesn’t have the same charm to me (but I didn’t have a lot of “shirt” songs).

Bob Dylan – Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
from Blonde On Blonde

I hadn’t heard Bob Dylan in 1980. I wouldn’t begin a relationship with Dylan for a few more years.

Sartorially speaking, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat would have been a fitting suggestion for Bandsaw’s wife. She did have the Jackie Kennedy thing about her.


An Underrated Movie With A (Once) Much Sought After Soundtrack

June 17, 2009

Recently, I referenced an iconic scene from the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High. And while that movie was a staple for me and my friends, the lesser-known film Valley Girl was on equal footing for us during that period.

I’m not sure how my friends and I were turned on to the movie. It certainly didn’t play in our hometown theater.

I do know that it was a movie that, once discovered, was one which we constantly rented on videocassette. Surprisingly enough for a town our size (three thousand people or so when everyone was home), we had a video rental joint even before most of our families had a VCR.

When we all saw Fast Times in the theater during the summer of ’82, it resonated with us, but it wasn’t a world in which we lived – not as we were two-thousand miles from its Hollywood setting in a town with one red light.

Valley Girl arrived a year later. It, too, was set in Hollywood, but its characters and vibe struck closer to our hearts. Most likely it was because a year in high school is a lifetime.

During the time between the two movies, we had completed our sophomore year of high school. We had gone from pedestrians and passengers to drivers and, therefore, masters of our own destinies.

And we personally knew some of these characters.

(not that we hadn’t wished we had known Fast Times‘ Spicoli)

I doubt if we really considered that Valley Girl was simply a modern-day telling of Romeo And Juliet with new wave music and Nicholas Cage in his first starring role.

(and now that I think about it, in a year Cage had gone from a bit role in Fast Times to the lead in Valley Girl)

That said, I would have a hard time choosing between the two movies, but there’s no hesitation choosing between their respective soundtracks.

Though The Cars, Tom Petty, and The Go-Gos have songs in the movie, and Cheap Trick, Blondie, and Van Halen are referenced (and were all favorites of ours), Fast Times’ soundtrack was loaded – after some purported label pressure – with the likes of solo Eagles (four of them) and Jimmy Buffett.

Valley Girl used music by The Plimsouls, Sparks, Men At Work, and Modern English – some of the artists we did know, but there were a lot who were unfamiliar and exotic.

(as opposed to, say, Poco, who appeared on Fast Times’ soundtrack)

Alas, Valley Girl‘s soundtrack was in print for about as long as the movie was in theaters. And during my years working in record stores, there was no title for which more listeners clamored for a CD re-issue.

Fortunately, the good people at Rhino Records rectified that oversight, releasing two volumes of music from the film in the mid-’90s.

And all was right with the world…

Sparks – Eaten By The Monster Of Love
from Valley Girl soundtrack

Sparks was an act for whom I needed no introduction. Though they never got radio airplay where I lived, I had seen them duet with The Go-Go’s Jane Weidlin on Cool Places in ’82 on Solid Gold. And, my friend Chris owned several of their cassettes like In Space, Whomp That Sucker, and Angst In My Pants.

Quirky and amusing, Sparks often had an uncanny knack for getting to the heart of life’s truths amidst all of the melodic musical insanity.

Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
from Valley Girl soundtrack

It seems to me that my friends and I discovered Valley Girl on cable during the summer of ’84. My friend Brad had discovered Psychedelic Furs on Night Flight, the USA Network show which aired music videos over night on weekends. As MTV had just become available in our town, Night Flight was the only chance to see the new medium for music.

During the summer of ’84, we wore out Psychedelic Furs’ new album, Mirror Moves, but it was the dreamy Love My Way (which kind of reminded me of Thompson Twins’ Hold Me Now) that was my first exposure to the Furs.

The Plimsouls – Oldest Story In The World
from Valley Girl soundtrack

The Plimsouls actually appeared in Valley Girl as a band in the club where Cage hangs out. One of the songs, A Million Miles Away, was a minor hit and is a staple on a lot of ’80s compilations.

Here’s the lesser known Oldest Story In The World. It’s far more downbeat than most of The Plimsouls’ stuff I’ve owned which is driving, guitar-driven rock. Like Valley Girl, The Plimsouls were under appreciated.

Modern English – I Melt With You
from Valley Girl soundtrack

Of course, I Melt With You is better known now than it was in the early ’80s. My mother would probably recognize the song from its use in several commercials.

Modern English’s album After The Snow, on which I Melt With You appeared, inspired the term Modern English Syndrome for me and a college roommate. It was our shorthand for an album which, while quite good, had one song which so dwarfed everything else that it made the rest of tracks seem almost mediocre.

The music of the ’80s has been much maligned (and, at times, I would argue unfairly). I Melt With You is as perfect a pop song as any that came before or after it.