It’s A Dry Heat So, You Know, It’s Cool

July 1, 2012

I’ve long marveled at the insanely high temperatures of the American southwest. As a kid, I’d stare at the outline of Arizona on the map – which was littered with 110s and 120s – with awe.

Our summers would see temperatures that would reach the low 90s, maybe a few days approaching triple digits, but I couldn’t fathom the highs that appeared on the bottom left quadrant of the screen.

So, I believe 109 is a new, personal best.

Mercifully, it has not been accompanied by the usual, sweltering blanket of humidity, so I think that I am experiencing the dry heat fabled in song and story.

And it would seem to be true that baking in arid heat – as opposed to marinating in humid, lower temperatures – is a preferable state of being.

Of course, 109 is freakin’ hot no matter what the circumstances or whether one is wearing pants or not.

It’s certainly too hot to think much.

Here are four hot songs…

Billy Idol – Hot In The City
from Billy Idol (1982)

Hot In The City was the first time I ever heard Billy Idol. It would have been on American Top 40 as I never heard the song on the radio.

(and MTV was inaccesible)

Billy Idol’s music would be a mixed bag for me, though I’d list Dancing With Myself, White Wedding and Sweet Sixteen as essential.

(please, no Mony Mony or Cradle Of Love)

But the smoldering, dramatic Hot In The City is a keeper.

T. Rex – Hot Love
from The Legend Of T. Rex

I certainly own more T. Rex than I probably need (courtesy to a multi-set collection in the ’90s which I received as promos), but there are few acts whose music brightens my mood like T. Rex.

The first thing I ever owned by Marc Bolan and company was The Legend Of T. Rex, a Japanese import I found while browsing through a record store in college. The hypnotic shuffle and unusual wordplay of Hot Love made it one of my favorites the first time I played it.

The Power Station – Some Like It Hot
from The Power Station (1985)

Duran Duran went on a hiatus after performing the theme song for the James Bond flick A View To A Kill, splitting into two groups which issued their own albums.

The first to arrive was The Power Station named after the venerable NYC recording studio and featuring lead singer Robert Palmer with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor.

My buddy Beej burned me out on the band – which I was lukewarm toward – rather quickly, but I did dig their version of the T. Rex hit Get It On (Bang A Gong) and the aggressive plastic funk of Some Like It Hot sounds pretty good again after not hearing it in awhile.

Benjamin Orr – Too Hot To Stop
from The Lace (1986)

The three albums that I immediately think of when I think of the summer of 1984 are Born In The USA, Purple Rain, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City. It seemed as though all of my friends had a copy of Heartbeat City.

(I had a cassette dubbed from my buddy Beej’s vinyl)

A few years later, bassist Ben Orr had a solo hit with the ballad Stay The Night, which was reminiscent of Drive from Heartbeat City and on which Orr sang lead. Too Hot To Stop was the follow-up and though the driving, upbeat rocker isn’t quite as quirky, it still would have made an excellent Cars’ track.

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From The Backseat Of A Turquoise Gremlin

May 21, 2011

Paloma was sweet enough to set me up with a Sirius satellite radio for Christmas to help tamp down the existential angst of the commute for me.

It is the ’70s channel, conveniently nestled between its ’60s and ’80s counterparts, to which I often gravitate. Though I am decidedly a child of the ’80s, enough of that childhood took place in the ’70s that the decade of shag carpet and disco is hardly terra incognita.

I was two as the decade began and twelve as it concluded. Music was just beginning to be of interest to me in the period after disco had crashed and burned. It wouldn’t be until the first couple years of the next decade – the ’80s – that my interest in music became more than passive.

Yet there’s something about the music of the ’70s that makes for a good commute.

The Sirius ’70s channel plays, so far as I can tell, songs that made the US Top 40 in Billboard during the decade. So, here and there are songs that I don’t recognize when the title pops up on the dashboard screen.

Often, the mystery song will click when it hits the chorus and I will think, oh, yeah, I know this.

(White Plains’ My Baby Loves Lovin’ )

Now and then, there will be a song that, though it was a hit and I might have head it at the time, I don’t recall ever hearing.

(Vanity Fair’s Hitchin’ A Ride)

So, most of the playlist is familiar, but there are surprises. It’s that mix – I think – that has drawn me to the station.

And, unlike the stuff that I grew up with in the ’80s when I was listening to the radio obsessively, even many of the big hits of the decade that get played on Sirius’ ’70s channel are songs I’ve probably heard less than some of the minor hits of the ’80s.

Freda Payne’s Band Of Gold might have been a #4 hit in 1970, but I suspect that I heard something like Planet P Project’s Why Me? considerably more during the summer of 1983 despite that song not even making the Top 40.

Even now, I doubt that I’ve heard Band Of Gold as many times as Why Me?, which was constantly on the radio as I was listening thirty years ago. I have no recollection of hearing the former in 1970.

And though the ’70s – like the ’80s – have certainly been unfairly maligned, hearing Hot Chocolate’s Every 1s A Winner, 10cc’s The Things We Do For Love, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, and The Knack’s Good Girls Don’t (as I did on the commute one morning this past week) works well enough for me.

Inspired by whiteray over at Echoes In The Wind, I thought I’d peruse one of the Billboard Hot 100 charts from the earliest parts of my childhood and see if there was much I actually remember hearing at the time.

So, here are four songs that were on Billboard‘s chart
during this week in 1971
when I was three and whatever music I was hearing was likely from the backseat of the family’s Gremlin…

The Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays
from Gold

One of my earliest memories of music is The Carpenters and I can effortlessly picture sitting in the back seat of the Gremlin and there always being something on the radio from the duo. Maybe it’s because the song was a Springtime hit or maybe I’m channeling the lyric and vibe of the song, but it does make me think of overcast skies.

Paloma actually bumped into songwriter Paul Williams who co-wrote the song not long ago. Apparently, he is not tall.

Carole King – It’s Too Late
from Tapestry

Not surprisingly, the songs that I do remember hearing from forty years ago are by some of the most popular acts of the time and Tapestry would, for a time, hold the distinction of being the biggest-selling album of all time.

(not that Carole King’s place in pop music history would be any less secure had she never released anything as an artist)

The Raiders – Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)
from Have A Nice Decade

About all I knew about Native Americans in 1971 would have been from whatever Westerns I had seen and the anti-littering PSA featuring Iron Eyes Cody that debuted that Spring.

Though the message behind The Raiders’ smash Indian Reservation was likely lost on me then, I vividly recall loving the groove of the song at the time.

T. Rex – Hot Love
from The Legend Of T. Rex

Despite tooling around in a stylish turquoise Gremlin, the parentals were quite pedestrian and, based on the music that I remember hearing, the radio must have been tuned to light rock stations. So, no, I can’t imagine hearing Hot Love in 1971.

And I would wager a lot of folks listening to the radio at the time missed out on hearing Hot Love, too, as T. Rex’ massive success in their UK homeland was largely ignored here in the States.

(maybe everyone’s parents were tooling around in turquoise Gremlins and listening to light rock in ’71)

But, the song gets included here as it’s just so damned catchy and hearing it instantly and without fail improves my mood.


Four-Year Old Rages Against The Machine

January 16, 2010

I have been mistaken for David Lee Roth, Axl Rose, Anthony Keidis, Andre Agassi (before he shaved his head), Andy Gibb (before he died), and some kid from some show on MTV. And that is the short list.

Yes, I am a guy with long hair and, apparently, we all look alike to most people.

A lot of people assume that we are criminals, stupid, hobos, or hippies which isn’t always the case. And, although my hair is long, it’s clean, so clean that, like Elaine Benes once boasted, you could eat off my hair.

(but that would just be strange)

Yes, it can be fun to be mistaken for a musician, but, just as often, people assume that I can’t count to ten or that I live on a commune.

(I’m not, I can and I don’t, haven’t, and likely wouldn’t)

So, when I read the tale of four-year old Taylor Pugh, I understood. This tyke got booted from kindergarten because he has long hair.

(he hardly looks like a menace – more like a child baffled by the angst of the grow-up humans around him)

But, he apparently likes his hair long and he heroically gave the finger to The Man, striking a blow for all of us guys with long hair. We should lobby to have him put on a postage stamp.

Way to go, little man. You bring great honor to the tribe and it’s always fun to rock the topknot.

You might come under greater scrutiny in airports, but sometimes strangers in foreign countries will buy you drinks or offer to steal a bicycle for you merely because they believe you might be some famous long-haired musician or tennis pro.

(the universe is funny sometimes)

But it is possible for a guy with long hair to accomplish whatever you want.

You could be a rock star.

Or a tennis player.

Or a hobo.

Or even an astronaut.

(OK, maybe not an astronaut because I think you have to have a military background to have a shot at the space program, but, in another galaxy, far, far away, a guy with long hair could be a Jedi Knight, so, you know, that’s pretty cool)

I would have been four in January, 1972, I had little interest to music beyond a song here and there. So, there are a lot of songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 for this week from that year which I might not remember hearing then, but a lot of them I know now.

Here are some of them…

Three Dog Night – An Old Fashioned Love Song
from Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1965-1975

Strangely, my boss – who had a few moments of glory as a musician – mentioned Three Dog Night the other day, telling me of a time he had worked lights at one of their shows.

I often forget how many songs I do remember from Three Dog Night’s string of hits in the early ’70s. I’ve never owned a single album by the band, merely stray tracks, but the choruses of half a dozen songs come easily to mind.

An Old Fashioned Love Song seemed to get played a lot on the station that was played at the pool when I was a kid.

Elton John – Levon
from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

One of the few times I remember taking note of a song as a kid was hearing Elton John’s Benny And The Jets blaring from a jukebox in a Pizza Inn in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I don’t remember hearing Levon from a couple years earlier.

I do love Levon, though. The lyric has always intrigued me and the song is more striking to me the older I grow.

T. Rex – Bang a Gong (Get It On)
from The Legend Of T. Rex

Has there ever been talk of a bio-pic on Marc Bolan?

(did I wonder that when I yammered about T. Rex last autumn?)

The Carpenters – Hurting Each Other
from Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition

I do remember hearing The Carpenters as a kid and they seemed to be on television a lot, too. I liked them as a kid. I did take note of their numerous hits and Karen was a cutie.

Then, once I began to fall in love with music and learn more about pop culture, I learned what a horrible blight The Carpenters were on the collective psyche of pop music. They were loathed more than the Bee Gees and I promptly forgot about the duo.

I was fifteen when Karen died and, over the next fifteen years, there was a serious re-evaluation of The Carpenters and their music culminating in a host of alternative acts from the early ’90s paying tribute. Suddenly The Carpenters were cool and the flawless perfection of their singles was appreciated.

It’s been good to have them back.