“It’s Me And Fee, Drinking Buddies”*

November 18, 2012

tubesI’ve known plenty of fans with an unshakable, enthusiastic devotion to certain acts. I’ve known Dead Heads.

But, no matter how passionate these folks might be, in twenty-five years plus, no one has struck me as having more unerring passion for a band than a friend from high school.

Bosco loved The Tubes.

Bosco had more than a bit of Spicoli in him, though he attained his carefree demeanor (mostly) without additives and preservatives. There was also some Ferris Bueller in there, too.

He wasn’t a jock, the most quick-witted, or the most dashing lad in town, but there might not have been a more genuinely liked popular kid in our school as Bosco.

Bosco and some of his friends intersected with a group of mine and during our last two years of high school, I got to know him quite well and we had more than our share of misadventures.

I was with him once when he informed the cop that had pulled him over that he couldn’t give Bosco a ticket because “I have no job, no money and no future.”

(somehow, like a Jedi Mind Trick, it worked)

It’s still easy to picture him – checkerboard Vans, lank blonde hair flopping about, and the perpetually surprised yet drowsy expression he seemed to always have.

Music was the usual chatter. For the isolation of our remote hometown, Bosco had spectacular impressive taste in music. He seemed to have a bent toward literate songwriters – Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, and Mark Knopfler – during a period when these artists were not at their commercial or artists heights in the early ‘80s.

But The Tubes were all his.

He’d make collect calls to the president of their fan club – some chick named Marilyn in California – from the high school lounge during lunch.

He had pictures of him and the band, backstage, after concerts.

(we had no idea such a thing as backstage existed)

“It’s me and Fee,” – he and lead singer Fee Waybill had their arms around each other’s shoulders – “drinking buddies.”

He’d use Spooner – in tribute to the band’s guitarist Bill “Sputnik” Spooner – as a greeting.

“Hey, Spooner…”

He was a fan of the band long before it became an MTV darling with She’s A Beauty. Bosco knew all of their albums years ahead of that time.

It must have been his older brother that turned him on to The Tubes because, aside from reading about them, stuff like Mondo Bondage and White Punks On Dope was not going to be heard on the radio stations in our orbit.

I haven’t spoken to Bosco in twenty-years. The last time I saw him, we were both home from college, and things had changed. It was him, but there was no whimsy. He was focused on his fraternity and business school.

I did a bit of online sleuthing for him awhile back and the results yielded a lot of stuff involving chambers of commerce and zoning ordinances.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he still listens to The Tubes.

Nevertheless, I still listen to The Tubes. Here is a quartet of songs from Fee and friends…

The Tubes – White Punks On Dope
from The Tubes (1975)

At fourteen or fifteen years old, the wry title of White Punks On Dope alone was a source of amusement to us when Bosco was turning us on to The Tubes. It’s a nifty little bit of social commentary that manages to be a catchy stomp of a song that contains the theatrical flair that helped garnered attention for The Tubes.

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

I’ve heard the earlier stuff from The Tubes – courtesy of Bosco – but I was more partial to their more mainstream stuff and that’s pretty much all I own (I’ve kept my eyes open for some used vinyl with which to reacquaint myself with no success thus far).

And though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it. The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Steve Lukather (of Toto) on guitar. Infectious beyond belief, its title became our standard conversation ender for years to come.

The Tubes- She’s A Beauty
from Outside Inside (1983)

She’s A Beauty was the first time I ever heard The Tubes on the radio and the next day at school I immediately reported to Bosco that 96Rock had played the band’s new single. Two months later, the song had become the group’s only Top Ten single in the US.

Outside Inside was one of the big albums for me and my friends during the summer of ’83 (along with The Police’s Synchronicity, which was the album that summer). It’s still a song that I wont skip on the iPod.

The Tubes – Piece By Piece
from Love Bomb (1985)

Love Bomb came out in the spring of ’85, the last full year my friends and I had together before heading to college. Maybe the fact that it came and went with little fanfare might have been an omen that our group of friends was headed the way of the dinosaurs.

I don’t recall it being a bad record, just kind of uneventful. This was surprising as the great Todd Rundgren – someone else who Bosco had turned us onto – produced it. But, like She’s A Beauty and Talk To Ya Later, I can’t skip the crunchy goodness of an earworm that is Piece By Piece.

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The Drummer On The Couch

March 29, 2012

I spoke with a college buddy last week. He had called days earlier to inform me that a young drummer friend of his was moving to town.

I’m old enough to know better than to let him follow me home.

Years ago, I spent twelve months or so managing a band.

(and actually managed to get a label to offer them a deal)

Not long after meeting them, the drummer crashed on the couch in the house where I was living. Within a couple weeks, he was living on that couch.

It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. He coughed up a third of the rent.

He could have the couch. I had a mammoth room – the biggest in the place – and a hundred dollars more a month to spend at the watering holes.

Cooper was an asset. I could depend on him to diffuse tensions within the band with his antics.

At home, he could be a source of entertainment. I returned late one night after closing one of our local haunts. I slumped down down on one of the couches in our living room. Coop was sitting there with another roommate whom we had dubbed The Chinaman, watching a rerun of The X Files.

I soon noticed the smell of something burning.

“Yeah, those are probably ready,” Coop noted to The Chinaman, shuffling off to the kitchen.

I followed and watched as he pulled a tray of Pillsbury rolls from the oven, charred beyond reasonable – even drunken – edibility.

“You’re not going to eat those? Are you?”

The Chinaman looked at me as though I was crazy as he and Coop headed to the front porch with the busquits and a couple of wedges.

“Where the hell did you get golf clubs?”

The two were standing in the front yard, illuminated by the glow of the street light and the odd car. Mostly the neighborhood was still.

“Fore!” Coop bellowed as he chipped one of the briquettes and we watched it arc lazily into a neighbor’s yard across the street.

One by one, the two of them took turns until a dozen or so freshly-roasted Pillsbury rolls had landed on the green. Apparently this neighbor had invoked their ire and this was their vengeance.

It became a late-night ritual, though we soon opted for using foodstuff that had already spoiled.

Here are four songs featuring drummers I dig…

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
from Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)

I don’t often notice drummers, but I’ve come to realize that the ones that do seem to catch my attention are propulsive and primal which is exactly how I’d describe Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlain.

(coincidentally, the drummer on my couch claimed to have known Chamberlain back in Chicago)

As for Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Paloma and I spent countless hours listening to the double album during the autumn of ’95 and, from the first time I heard it, Tonight, Tonight was among my favorite tracks.

(though it’s still strange to hear it on the Major League Baseball playoff commercials)

The Who – Baba O’Riley
from Who’s Next (1971)

And, if you want propulsive and primal, you want Keith Moon.

(yes, Won’t Get Fooled Again better fit the bill, but I prefer Baba O’Riley)

Peter Gabriel – Secret World
from Secret World Live (1994)

I suspect part of my affection for Manu Katché is his name which is lots of fun to say.

(Manu Katché, Manu Katché, Manu Katché)

However, I do quite like Manu’s mystic rhythms which seem perfectly suited for the songs of Peter Gabriel. Coop once spent twenty minutes pointing out Katché’s prowess on video to me and, given a bit of insight, I was duly impressed.

(and I’m thinking our next addition to the menagerie might be named Manu Katché)

Rush – Tom Sawyer
from Moving Pictures (1981)

There were few concerts for me before I reached college and the opportunity to see Rush was a day-of, last-second opportunity.

A ticket, t-shirt, and the chance to see a sold-out arena full of never-would-be musicians airdrum to Tom Sawyer on the Power Windows tour cost me less twenty-five years ago than it did to fill up my car with gas last night.


The Great White North

December 10, 2011

Long ago I noticed that there seemed to be a significant portion of visitors to this outpost of mental noodlings arriving from the upper Midwestern US and parts of Canada.

I’ve also realized that I often frequent the writings of folks from from those same parts of the planet.

Having grown up in the American Midwest, I suppose that there is some common ground – similarities in temperment and mindset – that makes for more likely connections. Scientifically speaking, birds of a feather…

During our most recent trips to my homeland, I have noted to Paloma that the locals, who usually impress her with their considerate manner, are “charmingly bland.”

Before the hate mail arrives, by charmingly bland I mean that there is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense vibe that I find refreshing and endearing. Everyone’s temperature seems to be set a bit lower.

I’ve not been to places like Minnesota or Wisconsin, but based upon the folks I’ve known from these locales, that vibe seems to be even more profound, more deeply engrained and pronounced.

And the Canadians I’ve known through the years have mostly lived up to their nation’s reputation of being affable and good natured to the point of arousing suspicion.

So, if I truly am drawing a disproportionate amount of traffic from those residing north of the 42nd parallel, I’ll take that as keeping good company.

Of course, the image above isn’t an actual representation of the places to which I refer, but a good buddy from college who hails from Brainerd has told me that he and his fellow Minnesotans like to perpetuate the myth of their homestate as an Arctic tundra.

“It helps keep the riff raff out.”

I’ve often sung the praises of music from Canada, so I thought that I’d see what acts hail from Wisconsin and Minnesota. I knew that there were plenty from the latter – even if you limit it to ones from the ’80s – but I was surprised tha there were also a surprising amount from the former.

So, here are a two pair of songs from acts with ties to those states…

First, Wisconsin…

Robin Zander – I’ve Always Got You
from Robin Zander (1993)

After a commercial resurgence in the late ’80s, Cheap Trick’s career was in another lull which is why most folks likely never heard lead singer (and Wisconsin native) Robin Zander’s self-titled, solo debut from 1993.

That’s unfortunate. Though Robin Zander isn’t in the same league as classic Cheap Trick albums from the ’70s, it is Robin Zander, the man my buddy The Drunken Frenchman once dubbed the “second best rock singer” (after Eric Burdon) and I’ve Always Got You is a bit of catchy power pop.

Garbage – Stupid Girl
from Garbage (1995)

In 1991, Butch Vig had made his way from Viroqua, Wisconsin to become the toast of the rock music universe as the producer behind Nirvana’s landmark album Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish.

Though he continued to be an in-demand producer, he soon put together a new band of his own (following earlier short-lived efforts with Spooner and Fire Town.

I’d adored Blondie in my teens and, a decade later, Garbage filled a void that had been left when Blondie split up, becoming one of the finest alternative rock acts of the ’90s. I quickly embraced Garbage’s debut and loved their first few albums before losing track of them.

And now, two for Minnesota…

The Jayhawks – I’d Run Away
from Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995)

Paloma and I spent innumerable hours listening to Tomorrow The Green Grass, the third record by the alternative country-rock band The Jayhawks. Though the group never really broke beyond having a devoted grass-roots following and a slew of swooning critics, the Minneapolis quartet was beloved at the record store where we worked at the time.

I’d Run Away has always had special meaning to us and had everything we’d come to expect from The Jayhawks – stellar songwriting and musianship delivered in an exuberant mixture of country, folk, and roots rock.

Bob Dylan – Dignity
from Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume 3 (1994)

The parents of one of my best friends in high school had attended the University of Minnesota and claimed to have known Hibbings-native Bob Dylan during his brief stint at the school.

(closer to now, Paloma’s mom gets giddy at the mention of the troubadour)

As for Dignity, supposedly the shuffling song was inspired by the late, great Pete Maravich.