Eating Pop-Tarts, Ogling Go-Go’s

July 14, 2011

It’s been too hot to really think of anything but nothing the past week. When I have had a thought, I’ve been trying to reconstruct my discovery of Rolling Stone magazine.

(this all prompted by the recent death of Bill Johnson, who designed the magazine’s logo)

The magazine was not readily available to me as a kid. I don’t recall seeing it in the limited selection in the racks at either of the small, family-owned drug stores in town.

I was familiar with Rolling Stone mostly through a buddy who would mention stuff that he’d read in the issues swiped from his older brother.

By the summer of ’82, the Kroger supermarket downtown (such as downtown was for us) relocated to a considerably larger location much closer to our house. It was there that I began reading Rolling Stone.

When boredom and the sweltering summer heat left us with little to do, my neighbor Will and I would hop on our bikes, head over to Kroger, and enjoy the refrigerated air of the store.

We’d loiter at the magazine rack, leafing through the offerings as we munched on Pop-Tarts purchased with whatever change we’d scrounged up.

The music magazines were limited to Circus and Rolling Stone and the album reviews in the latter were of particular interest to me despite the critical shellacking most of the bands I loved at the time received.

These slights indicting my young musical tastes where quickly forgiven the day we found The Go-Gos staring back at us from the cover wearing nothing but their underwear and some smiles.

Sadly, it was likely the most memorable moment involving girls in any state of undress for us that summer, but it did amuse Jane Weidlin years later as I discussed that cover with her during an interview.

I was also greatly intrigued by the album chart in the back of each issue and seeing the names of bands with whom I was wholly unfamiliar.

Oh, I had come to expect seeing names I didn’t know in the rest of the magazine, but how could I not have heard of an act that apparently had a popular album?

But, during that summer, it was a most excellent way to waste away some sweltering afternoon munching on Pop-Tarts in the air-conditioned cool, wondering who the hell The Jam were, what they sounded like, and why I had never heard them on the radio.

Here are four songs from albums that would have made me go “hmmm” as I scanned those album charts in the back of Rolling Stone twenty-nine years ago…

Roxy Music – More Than This
from Avalon

I remember seeing the movie Times Square late one night on a local station when I was about twelve or thirteen. Roxy Music’s Same Old Scene played over the opening credits

(not that I knew who it was)

It wouldn’t be ’til college that I’d really listen to Roxy Music. A French professor I had would play their albums before class.

And, on nights when I had a shift at the record store where I worked, I found Avalon to be a suitable choice as I went through the closing tasks

Squeeze – Black Coffee In Bed
from Sweets From A Stranger

My introduction to Squeeze came sometime in high school through one of my friends who had a copy of the UK band’s compilation Singles – 45’s And Under. I enjoy their music, but I’ve never been bothered to own anything other than a handful of songs I’ve accumulated along the way.

Black Coffee In Bed is pretty nifty and a bit of a sequel – musically and thematically – to their better-known Tempted (a song I long ago burned out on) from the year before.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement

I thought XTC to be an odd name when I came across it in one of my Columbia Record & Tape Club catalogs. Then, I noticed English Settlement on the Rolling Stone charts.

A year or so later, I would become familiar with XTC thanks to 97X and songs like Making Plans For Nigel and Love On A Farmboy’s Wages.

But I mostly knew XTC’s music through my buddy Streuss who became enthralled with their quirky style of alternative rock far earlier than most of the kids I knew in college who loved the band.

The Blasters – American Music
from Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings

I want to like The Blasters. I’ve read wonderful things, they seem like the genuine article, and I have liked the handful of songs I know. Yet, when shuffle pulls up a song by the band, I have to check the screen for the title of a song I don’t recognize, see that it’s The Blasters, and hit next.

It simply seems as if each and every time I’m presented with the chance to check them out, I’m not in the mood for their sound.

I guess it’s not them, it’s me as American Music is pretty groovy little rave-up.

Dark Night

April 1, 2009

So, Paloma and I participated in Earth Hour over the past weekend. For those of you who missed it, ignored it or simply don’t live on Earth, the rules entailed turning off all of the lights for one hour.

(not that the Earth has ever done the same for me, but…)

So, there we were, sitting in near darkness with only the reassuring glow of the television to comfort us through the perils of the unilluminated, nocturnal world.

(much like our ancestors did thousands of years ago)

In a seemingly fortuitous twist of fate, the movie 10,000 B.C. had arrived from Netflix. I hoped to pick up a few coping skills.

Time became meaningless as seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to more minutes. It could have been the movie which left me with possibly the most vacant feeling a movie ever has. It was kind of like the cinematic experience of eating Chinese food.

(personally, I’ve never found a shred of truth in that cliché)

Even Straight To Hell left me humming some songs and puzzling over what I had just seen.

10,000 B.C. completely flat-lined me.

Stuff happened. More stuff happened. Some cave people wandered a desert. I think that the good guys triumphed.

It was like Quest For Fire without the personality.

(I quite liked Quest For Fire)

I looked up at the clock once to see that we had only doused the lights forty-six minutes earlier. I was certain it had been an hour.

Either it was an incredibly boring flick or sitting in the dark had bent the time space continuum or induced some psychosis due to light deprivation.

I think it was likely the former.

The Jayhawks – Stumbling Through The Dark
During the twenty years or so that they’ve been releasing records, The Jayhawks have hardly reinvented fire, but while they might not be groundbreaking, they certainly do what they do quite well.

Whenever one of their songs pops up on the iPod’s shuffle, I know that I’m likely set for three minutes or so of something quite breath-taking.

The Police – Darkness
The hits of The Police were so effortlessly melodic, it was often easy to miss that much of their lyrical content was quite dark.

Darkness isn’t one of the best tracks on their Ghost In The Machine album (I’d have to go with Spirits In The Material World or Invisible Sun), but it’s hardly filler, either. Stewart Copeland wrote the song and its theme of the drudgery of day to day life makes it a cousin of sorts to Sting’s lyrics for the title track to The Police’s next record, Synchronicity.

The Blasters – Dark Night
I want to like The Blasters. I’ve read wonderful things, they seem like the genuine article, and I have liked the handful of songs I know. Unlike The Jayhawks, when shuffle pulls up a song by The Blasters, I always seem to look at the screen for the title of a song I don’t recognize, see that it’s The Blasters, and hit next.

It simply seems as if each and every time I’m presented with the chance to check them out, I’m not in the mood for their sound.

I loved Dark Night from the first time I heard it during the closing credits of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. As I was in a theater, I couldn’t fast forward and, besides, the song was perfect for that flick.

Blue Oyster Cult – After Dark
I rarely am able to pass up a chance to post something by Blue Oyster Cult. After Dark was on their Fire Of Unknown Origin. That album might not be noted as a seminal moment in the history of music, but – from the moody title track to the eerie closer Don’t Turn Your Back – it is a fantastic rock record (and the cover artwork is a favorite)

(and doesn’t it seem like everyone knows Burnin’ For You even if they might not know who sings it?)

However, if pressed, I might point a finger at After Dark as the weakest link on Fire Of Unknown Origin. It’s still an engaging track, though.

Perhaps My Future Includes A Shot At Being Secretary Of State

October 2, 2008

In the past, I’ve considered the career path of puppet master/leader of a small, beachfront nation, this dual identity necessary as there’s no scenario in which I could be ever elected to office.

However, getting appointed Secretary Of State might be doable as I’ve been feeling quite confident over the past week or so – thanks to Sarah Palin – of my foreign policy credentials. Let’s consider Russia…

Not only have I been within sight of Russia, I have walked on Soviet soil. Yeah, the Soviet Union who was the mortal enemy of the States before Sting wondered if they loved their children and Sylvester Stallone ended the Cold War in Rocky IV.

Studying in Southeast Asia led to the opportunity for me to leave my footprint on Soviet turf. One of our professors assigned us to write a paper on Soviet/Indonesian relations. The university library had three books on the subject – two by our professor. We were being set up.

Several friends and I decided we’d go to the Soviet embassy near where we lived and get a quote on the subject from the horse’s mouth (or the horse’s mouthpiece). No one would talk, but we did make it inside the embassy and embassy soil is technically foreign soil. Boom.

I can now tell people, “Yes, I spent a bit of time behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall,” shaking my head, grimacing, and adding cryptically, “I don’t like to talk about it.”

I also had an allergist who looked, and sounded, so much like Henry Kissinger that I have long suspected it was him, fulfilling some secret dream of being an allergist. If it was him (and I’m not saying it was, but, please, feel free to spread this rumor like a bad rash), then I could also tout my foreign policy experience by osmosis.

Yes, I am claiming that the fact that I had an allergist who was the doppelganger of a man who had plenty of foreign policy experience should, obviously, speak volumes for my qualification to get appointed Secretary Of State.

Then again, being Secretary Of State would have to be a serious drag. I think I’d prefer being our ambassador to Ireland, a position for which my fondness for Guinness would be an asset.

Warren Zevon – The Envoy

Elton John – Border Song

Rush – Territories

The Blasters – Border Radio