Bagpipes

February 18, 2012

I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout.

With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.

The commercial always causes me to lose the next ten minutes to two hours pondering whether this cat is supposed to be Irish or Scottish and, if he’s Irish, should his speil be accompanied by bagpipes.

I think of bagpipes, I think Scotland.

I also think of a trek to work one summer day. I must have had the four-to-midnight shift at the record store where I worked. The store was located across the street from a large college campus and there was a small meadow that I would often cut across to get there.

On this particular afternoon, I stopped, hearing bagpipes mixing with whatever I was listening to on my Walkman. I pulled the ear buds out as I shuffled through the grass and past a girl, sitting underneath a tree, playing bagpipes.

I thought to myself that it wasn’t every day that you see a girl sitting under a tree playing bagpipes.

(and it isn’t)

Here are four songs by Scottish acts…

Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)

Altered Images released a trio of albums in the early ’80s and even managed a handful of hits in the UK, but the group had little success in the States.

I don’t recall if I heard I Could Be Happy back in the day, though it’s entirely possible that 97X played the song. Produced by Martin Rushent, who had recently helmed Human League’s breakthrough Dare, I Could Be Happy is shiny New Wave reminiscent of New Order, with Clare Grogan’s perky, playful vocals juxtaposing the dark lyrics.

It’s ridiculously catchy.

Primal Scream – Movin’ On Up
from Screamadelica (1991)

There are a handful of songs that never fail to make me smile. Movin’ On Up is one of them.

Snow Patrol – Run
from Final Straw (2003)

I’ve lost track of most of the music world since the odometer hit this century for various reasons (time, or lack of, being partially responsible). However, Snow Patrol is one act since the millenium that has often caused me to prick up my ears.

There’s a brooding tension about Run that draws me in, almost hypnotically, and, when it pops up on the iPod, it’s rare that I don’t listen to the song five or six times.

Big Country – Steeltown
from Steeltown (1984)

Though just a year after becoming a sensation in the US with In A Big Country, Steeltown was greeted with a yawn in the States. It got excellent reviews and deservedly so as, even without a hit, it’s a better album than their debut.

The title track has a thunderous cadence reminiscent of In A Big Country.

It’s bone-rattling.


Honey, I Love You, But I Love Attention More So Shut Your Piehole And Go Live With Gary Busey For Awhile So I Can Be On Television

January 3, 2012

I don’t do reality television. Watching nimrods behaving like nimrods is not entertainment for me.

(I work in corporate America)

But I couldn’t help but be drawn to a commercial for Celebrity Wife Swap. Amidst the flotsam and jetsam of Dee Snider, Flavor Flav and other past-expiration date notables, there was Gary Busey.

I shuddered a bit as I realized that, though I have no idea who might reign as America’s idol, star dancer, or top chief, the idea of some C-list celebrity handing over his wife to Gary Busey – in exchange for his – intrigues me.

There’s something about the deranged leer of the hyper-orthodontal Busey that commands my attention.

It could be because I have feared that I might discover Busey hiding in the house since I saw him hiding in a house in the movie Hider In The House.

(I wrote of it many moons ago)

Busey also is shown in tears in the commercial and I can’t help but wonder what could have reduced him to such a state. It might be good to know how to effectively neutralize him should, indeed, I find Gary Busey hiding in the house.

In the meantime, here are four songs devoted to crazy…

Flesh for Lulu – I Go Crazy
from Long Live The New Flesh (1987)

In the mid-’80s, I remember a buzz for fifteen minutes or so surrounding Flesh For Lulu, but it passed in about ten minutes.

I Go Crazy has a catchy little chorus, but it does sound tied to 1987 (especially with the goofy lyrical reference to Miami Vice). I also seem to recall the gothic rockers sounding both more gothic and more rocking than they do here.

However, the song did end up on the soundtrack to John Hughes’ underrated Some Kind Of Wonderful, so I suppose Flesh For Lulu did achieve some measure of immortality.

Nazareth – Crazy? (A Suitable Case for Treatment)
from Heavy Metal soundtrack (1981)

I’m familiar with little by Nazareth aside from Love Hurts and its accompanying album, Hair Of The Dog. My buddy Will had an older brother and the eight track seemed to be permanently lodged in his Trans Am’s player.

One of the few other songs I knew by the Scottish band was Crazy? which was on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal, which as a teenager, was a late-night cable favorite with me and my friends.

Heart – Crazy On You
from Greatest Hits (1998)

Though Heart might have had a commercial lull in the early ’80s, the band remained popular on radio stations in our area of the Midwest. Then, the band exploded in the mid-’80s, notched a string of massive hits and platinum-selling albums that not only revived their career but took it to new heights.

Personally, I dug a lot of their mid- to late ’80s hits, but I preferred their less-varnished ’70s stuff. The ubiquitousness of that later period made it easy to forget how much raw energy the band possessed and how utterly fierce they could be.

And Crazy On You – made transcendent by Ann Wilson’s piercing banshee wail – was as fierce as a band could hope to be.

Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
from The Ozzman Cometh (1997)

I willingly confess I’ve always found Ozzy Osbourne to be goofy and not necessarily in a good way. I do not, have not, and – much to Paloma’s chagrin – probably will not ever have much affection for his work with Black Sabbath aside from a few songs

(as opposed to giving them credit as an influence for legions of bands, I blame them for a lot of very bad imitators)

But I have liked some of Ozzy’s solo stuff throughout the years and near the top of that list would have to be the thundering Crazy Train. And, as a recent television commercial has proven, the song is, at heart, simply a very heavy pop song.


Please Put The Laser Down

April 10, 2011

I half-heartedly and groggily took in the yammerings of the assembly-line spokesperson.

He was a freshly-scrubbed fellow and his casual, yet completely unrumpled attire made it obvious that he could be trusted. He was just one of the guys, hanging out on my television, yipping and yapping.

It must have been Saturday morning and I was channel-surfing for something that would allow me to ease into consciousness with coffee.

(morning is an extremely confusing time for me…seriously)

Why I would have paused where I did is inexplicable. Perhaps I had momentarily abandoned the remote to light a smoke.

It was an infomercial from our cable provider touting some new, wonderful feature that would have pop-ups pop up for products and, with a click of the control, I would be able to pause my viewing and be provided with more information on some product or service.

The psychotically pleasant spokesman presented this new effort in the onslaught to commercialize each and every waking moment of my life as something to be applauded and celebrated.

I lit the damned cigarette, swigged some coffee, and with all of the vigor I could muster in my still-sleepy state, remotely banished this Stepford huckster from the screen.

(some Three Stooges cleansed the mental palette quite nicely)

I forgot about witnessing this ad for more ads.

Until tonight.

There, during a commercial break, the bottom third of the screen was filled with an offer for more information on the service being advertised. All necessary for me to be learn about my options for laser hair removal was to hit “OK” on the remote.

I don’t mean to sound ungracious. This truly is the land of opportunity and I’m genuinely choked up that total strangers are so concerned that I might have hair needing to be removed.

It’s just that I’m requiring nothing more this moment than to slouch on the couch and watch Indiana Jones overcome obstacles and battle Nazis. Laser-hair removal is not on the radar.

I might be often inert, but when I make a decision and action needs to be taken – it’s time to make a sandwich! – I take it.

So rest assured good people slaving tirelessly to laser remove my hair, if I need your services, I will get in touch.

Blue Öyster Cult invented the laser in ’76, though it wasn’t for hair removal but, rather, for the band’s lightshow on its Agents Of Fortune tour.

(or, maybe the laser was designed for the US’ bicentennial hullabaloo that year – it’s really impossible to know for sure)

Agents Of Fortune wouldn’t come out until May, but here are four songs that I might have heard on the radio in April of 1976 (had I been listening to the radio as an eight-year old)…

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
from Greatest Hits

How did listeners react to hearing Queen’s iconic Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time in the spring of ’76?

Were they completely baffled? Were they spellbound and delighted? Did it immediately resonate with listeners or did they need repeated hearings of the track before it clicked?

I did some quick research and found that, at the time of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s release, Queen had only had a few hits in the UK and one lone hit in the States (that would be Killer Queen).

Was the band in any danger of being labeled a novelty?

Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon
from Greatest Hits

I realized some years ago while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s box set The Chain that there is little by the band – from the early Peter Green stuff through their time as a commercial juggernaut – that I don’t enjoy.

That said, I’ve always been relatively indifferent about Stevie Nicks’ signature song. Mostly, when I hear Rhiannon, I hear a friend who would croak, “I’m a witch, I’m a witch,” whenever the song came on the radio.

Andrea True Connection – More, More, More

Anyone that has ever come across one of those VH1 retrospective shows on the ’70s is well aware that Andrea True was an adult film actress from the period. According to Wikipedia, True recorded the breathy More, More, More while stuck in Jamaica during a political crisis.

Of course, the song gained renewed attention twenty years later when the Canadian band Len sampled More, More, More in their delightful 1999 hit Steal My Sunshine.

Paul McCartney & Wings – Silly Love Songs
from All The Best

Though I wasn’t hip to much music in ’76, I vividly remember Silly Love Songs. The breezy little song seemed to be played constantly at the pool where I spent a lot of time that summer.

More than three decades later, I still associate Silly Love Songs with warm weather and the song’s mellow vibe and infectious melody suits the season well.