Killer On The Rampage…Somewhere

February 23, 2013

(rebroadcast from February, 2010, now with added calcium)

I read the news most days.

But, unlike my parents and their generation, I don’t make a point to watch a news broadcast each day, merely pausing on the news channels if something catches my attention.

The other night, as I was watching some basketball, there was a commercial for the local news. It was some perky chick yammering about a murder suspect possibly being loose – or, in the parlance of our legal system, on the lam – in the “mid-state area.”

Details, she assured me, would be provided at ten.

A killer? In our relatively calm, safe, usually unhomicidal neighborhood?

At ten, I actually went into a holding pattern with the remote. Perhaps this was news that I might need.

(of course, if it had been truly vital information, shouldn’t they have told me twenty minutes earlier?)

It ended up being a murder that seems to have resulted from a domestic disturbance. I’m not even sure if the town where the crime had taken place is even in the station’s broadcast area.

Hardly clear and present danger.

Dodgy attempts to attract viewers aside, this station lost any credibility with Paloma and me long ago. One evening, we happened to be watching and there was a report on a murder at a restaurant in the wee hours earlier that morning.

And the visual accompanying the words was of someone dropping a couple of slices of pizza onto a restaurant’s kitchen floor. The camera was focused on the prone pie pieces as the broadcast moved on to Rudy with sports.

We turned to each other and stared. To borrow from the late, great Bill Hicks – our expressions were like two dogs that had been shown a card trick.

Here is a quartet of songs inspired by real-life murderers…

The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
from The Fine Art Of Surfacing (1979)

San Diego teenager Brenda Spencer shot two adults, killing them, and wounded eight children from her bedroom window in 1979. Her explanation for her deeds was “I don’t like Mondays.”

For The Boomtown Rats, the song was on its way to becoming their American breakthrough when the Spencer family threatened legal action and the label stopped promoting the song.

Thirty years later, the wickedly dark and totally catchy almost hit is rightfully regarded to be a classic from the period.

Die Toten Hosen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
from Learning English, Lesson One (1991)

The Dead Pants – that’s the English translation of German punk band Die Toten Hosen’s name.

That was enough to make me snag a promo copy of Learning English, Lesson One one day at work. I was glad I did as it was more fun than killin’ strangers.

Killin’ strangers is what led to Giilmore being executed in a well-publicized affair in the mid-’70s. He requested that his eyes be donated for transplant.

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes is a cover of The Adverts’ original from the late ’70s.

Concrete Blonde – Jonestown
from Mexican Moon (1992)

I was in junior high when the Jonestown massacre occured and over 900 people, at the urging of Jim Jones, drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid. I remember the vivid images in Newsweek magazine and the television mini-series that had me and my friends tripping the next day at school.

I think it was one of my first what-the-@#$%! (international division) moments in my life.

As for Concrete Blonde, I always mentally shortlist them as one of the acts of the late ’80s/early ’90s that deserved a bigger audience.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
from Nebraska (1982)

In 1982, I mostly knew Bruce Springsteen for the user-friendly The River from two years earlier. I was bumfoozled when I heard the stark Nebraska.

I was in college when Springsteen released the mammoth Live/1975–85. If you weren’t there, I assure you that the hype surrounding the five-album set was considerable.

Hearing some of the songs live prompted me to really spend some time with Nebraska.

(I quickly understood the praise heaped on it over the years)

Nebraska‘s title song was inspired by the two-month killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in the ’50s.

Those events also inspired the 1973 movie Badlands starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. I remember Badlands airing on prime-time television with those parental warnings that only served to make the movie a must-see event to a kid.

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Freakies, Pop Rocks, Mello Yello And McPizza

June 3, 2010

Though Paloma will likely roll her eyes, I’m not one to be swayed by commercials.

Sure, there are things that are of use to me that I’ve learned about via an advertisement – the garden weasel or Hardee’s mushroom and swiss thickburger – but I’m not going to merely goose-step to the store because of a celebrity or a snappy jingle.

As a kid, though, it was far easier to be drawn to the siren song of commercials, especially the ones sprinkled throughout a morning of viewing cartoons on Saturday mornings.

The main obstacle to acquiring the necessities proffered before me during Land Of The Lost was a lack of funding and parental cooperation.

Our parents didn’t allow us to drink Coke with breakfast or have a plate of cookies for dinner – and for that, I thank them – but there was sometimes room to negotiate for food items with little nutritional value.

One of the first I times they acquiesced was with Freakies, which captivated me with their animated commercials featuring a bunch of bizarre little creatures.

The cereal was nothing more than little golden hoops of sugar and corn with a taste similar to Cap’n Crunch without the ability to strip all of the skin from the roof of your mouth.

In fact, they went from crisp to soggy in what seemed like seconds.

Freakies went off the market in 1976. I wasn’t listening to music aside from what I might hear on the radio in the car. There’s a lot of songs from this week – that year – that I somewhat remember hearing then; a lot more which I met later on. Here’s one of the latter…

Heart – Crazy On You
from Greatest Hits

A couple years later, one of our teachers brought candy her husband had gotten on a trip to California. She doled out a small pile of pinkish-colored pebbles into our hands and, on her command, had us pop them into our mouths.

It was Pop Rocks.

Pop Rocks became a genuine phenomenon. I doubt there was a fifth grader in the US at the time that wasn’t aware of the rumor that “Mikey,” from the Life cereal commercials, had died from a burst stomach as a result of ingesting Coke and Pop Rocks.

I still wasn’t listening to much music in 1978 when I first experienced Pop Rocks, but I do especially remember hearing one particular song that was on the charts this week

Bonnie Tyler – It’s A Heartache
from Super Hits of the 70s: Have A Nice Day Volume 21

Two years later, the kids were all abuzz over a recently introduced soft drink – Mello Yello.

Maybe it was because I didn’t drink a lot of colas then (or now, for that matter), but I was non-plussed with the citrus-flavored drink that billed itself as “the world’s fastest soft drink.”

In 1980, I had just finished my first year of junior high school and was beginning to find myself drawn to the radio. I was familiar with most of the popular songs during this week, including this one…

Paul McCartney & Wings – Coming Up
from All The Best

There was one food fad that didn’t happen and I feel partially responsible – McPizza.

In 1985, I was slaving in a hot kitchen at my first real job, manning the grill at McDonald’s. Our store was chosen as a test market for McPizza, a wonderful newfangled food item that was a giant pizza roll, deep-fried with love.

It was a Hot Pocket fifteen years before Hot Pockets arrived in stores.

Unfortunately, one of my friends and I were immediately smitten with the McPizza. Over the next two weeks, the two of us spent our shifts continually frying them up and eating them. I think we went through all the three or four cases we were alotted with few, if any, actually registered as sales to the public.

By then, we had ended our junior year of high school and music was one of the few things that I could be bothered to care about. It was the summer of Live Aid and, on the advice of a friend that had seen the video for Rain on MTV, I snagged a copy of the final album by The Boomtown Rats…

(the song had appeared on the UK release as Dave and had been rerecorded and renamed for the version of In The Long Grass for the States)

The Boomtown Rats – Dave
from In The Long Grass


Killer On The Rampage…Somewhere

March 24, 2010

I read the news most days.

But, unlike my parents and their generation, I don’t make a point to watch a news broadcast each day, merely pausing on the news channels if something catches my attention.

The other night, as I was watching some basketball, there was a commercial for the local news. It was some perky chick yammering about a murder suspect possibly being loose – or, in the parlance of our legal system, on the lam – in the “mid-state area.”

Details, she assured me, would be provided at ten.

A killer? In our relatively calm, safe, usually unhomicidal neighborhood?

At ten, I actually went into a holding pattern with the remote. Perhaps this was news that I might need.

(of course, if it had been truly vital information, shouldn’t they have told me twenty minutes earlier?)

It ended up being a murder that seems to have resulted from a domestic disturbance. I’m not even sure if the town where the crime had taken place is even in the station’s broadcast area.

Hardly clear and present danger.

Dodgy attempts to attract viewers aside, this station lost any credibility with Paloma and me long ago. One evening, we happened to be watching and there was a report on a murder at a restaurant in the wee hours earlier that morning.

And the visual accompanying the words was of someone dropping a couple of slices of pizza onto a restaurant’s kitchen floor. The camera was focused on the prone pie pieces as the broadcast moved on to Rudy with sports.

We turned to each other and stared. To borrow from the late, great Bill Hicks – our expressions were like two dogs that had been shown a card trick.

Here is a quartet of songs inspired by real-life murderers…

The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
from The Fine Art Of Surfacing

San Diego teenager Brenda Spencer shot two adults, killing them, and wounded eight children from her bedroom window in 1979. Her explanation for her deeds was “I don’t like Mondays.”

For The Boomtown Rats, the song was on its way to becoming their American breakthrough when the Spencer family threatened legal action and the label stopped promoting the song.

Thirty years later, the wickedly dark and totally catchy almost hit is rightfully regarded to be a classic from the period.

Die Toten Hosen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
from Learning English, Lesson One

The Dead Pants – that’s the English translation of German punk band Die Toten Hosen’s name.

That was enough to make me snag a promo copy of Learning English, Lesson One one day at work. I was glad I did as it was more fun than killin’ strangers.

Killin’ strangers is what led to Giilmore being executed in a well-publicized affair in the mid-’70s. He requested that his eyes be donated for transplant.

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes is a cover of The Adverts’ original from the late ’70s.

Concrete Blonde – Jonestown
from Mexican Moon

I was in junior high when the Jonestown massacre occured and over 900 people, at the urging of Jim Jones, drank cyanide-laced Kool Aid. I remember the vivid images in Newsweek magazine and the television mini-series that had me and my friends tripping the next day at school.

I think it was one of my first what-the-@#$%! (international division) moments in my life.

As for Concrete Blonde, I always mentally shortlist them as one of the acts of the late ’80s/early ’90s that deserved a bigger audience.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
from Nebraska

In 1982, I mostly knew Bruce Springsteen for the user-friendly The River from two years earlier. I was bumfoozled when I heard the stark Nebraska.

I was in college when Springsteen released the mammoth Live/1975–85. If you weren’t there, the hype surrounding the five-album set was considerable.

Hearing some of the songs live prompted me to really spend some time with Nebraska.

(I quickly understood the praise heaped on it over the years)

Nebraska‘s title song was inspired by the two-month killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in the ’50s.

Those events also inspired the 1973 movie Badlands starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. I remember Badlands airing on prime-time television with those parental warnings that only served to make the movie a must-see event to a kid.