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.

Strike Up The Children’s Choir!

July 2, 2009

Paloma accused me of being an aficionado of songs with children’s choirs. I found myself on the receiving end of this perceived slur when we chanced across The Lost Boys on cable.

As we watched the antics of ‘80s-styled vampires, the song Cry Little Sister played on the movie’s soundtrack; said song featured a children’s choir.

It was then that she made her allegation (despite the fact that the song means nothing to me – though the movie’s soundtrack was fun back in the day).

I stammered for a comeback to an accusation that was truly a first. My fifth-grade teacher said I was “as trustworthy as a rattlesnake,” but this children’s choir charge had me bumfoozled.

Could it be true?

The Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want has a children’s choir. No shame in being a fan of that one.

The only other song that popped into my head was, of all things, Kenny Loggins’ Welcome To Heartlight. Aside from one, maybe two songs, I’ve never been a fan – his association with Top Gun pretty much demanded that I blacklist him – and I loathed Welcome To Heartlight when it was a hit in ’83.

If the only thing standing between me and a sullied reputation as a fan of children’s choirs was a dislike of Kenny Loggins, I was standing on shaky ground.

Some research quickly reminded me of The Carpenters’ Sing and Clint Holmes’ Playground In My Mind (“My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”). Both featured children’s choirs and I remembered hearing both as a youngster when they were radio hits.

Could affection for the dulcet strains of vocalizing urchins been ingrained in me when I was but an urchin myself? Is there something about the pint-sized choral harmonies of scamps and ragamuffins that cause my ears to perk up as though it was bacon sizzling in a pan?

I lost interest in researching pretty quickly. The results were inconclusive. For every song with a children’s choir that I liked, there was one that was not good.

Not good.

Actually, I didn’t even come up with a dozen songs. I have to have missed or forgotten some obvious ones.

However, here’s an assortment of songs that do have children’s choirs…

Sammy Davis, Jr. – The Candy Man

I think I was four when this song topped the charts. To a four-year old – when one of the few desires in life is candy – The Candy Man was as stirring as We Shall Overcome was to those marching for civil rights.

And though it wasn’t Sammy’s version, the song appeared in the movie Willie Wonka & Chocolate Factory, which seems to have quite a following with my fellow Gen Xers.

There must be a thesis in the relationship between that flick and slacker culture.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall, Part II
from The Wall

Like the concept of candy, a dislike for being confined to a classroom is a common thread in the DNA of kids. So, when I heard Another Brick In The Wall blaring incessantly from the bowling alley jukebox, it resonated.

It was one of the first 45s I ever bought with my own money and, though I wouldn’t really get into music for another year or so, Pink Floyd’s unlikely hit song helped awaken that interest.

Pat Benatar – We Belong
from Tropico

Pat Benatar’s rise to start status coincided with my teenage years, so she could have been singing Bolshevik work songs and she’d have had our attention.

Nonetheless, I owned most of her cassettes and likely bought Tropico soon after it came out. And, I’ve proven adept at repeatedly buying copies of her albums on vinyl which we already own.

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Why I haven’t swooned harder over Gorillaz is a bit of a mystery to me. I love cartoons. Their music has always entertained me. And, I might be one of the few people that enjoyed the movie Tank Girl which was based on the comic book created by Jamie Hewlett who handles the animated aspects of the band.

I’d accept the blame except that would make me responsible. Instead, I think I need to devote more time to the music of Gorillaz. This should delight Paloma who is a big fan and – oh by the way – Dirty Harry features a children’s choir.