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.

And Then There Was Maude

April 30, 2009

So Bea Arthur has moved on. She was 86 and she had a good run – as good as a human could hope (I would think).

I wasn’t even yet in grade school when she showed up as the title character in the television show Maude. As JB astutely notes, the show did have one of the funkiest themes of all time. Even at four or five, I knew there was something about it.

The show was incredibly topical, or so I’ve read. The subjects that the show addressed – abortion, racism, alcoholism – were not on my radar. I remember watching the show as a kid, but I had little idea what most of it was about.

I’m sure that I was amused by Maude’s brassy persona and sarcasm.

And I do most definitely remember Adrienne Barbeau.

Like Donny Hathaway’s theme and Maude herself, there was something that I found compelling about Adrienne Barbeau (even if I didn’t quite understand it).

So, bon voyage, Bea. You seemed like swell dame.

Some of the songs that were hits when Maude debuted in September, 1971…

Paul McCartney – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
I don’t recall hearing this song in 1971. If I did hear it, it didn’t register.

It is a wonderfully jaunty little tune. I mean, would it be considered a shanty?

What makes a song a shanty – a certain musical style or lots of nautical references? And with the Somalian pirates making headlines (or are they losing their audience?), could shanties be the grunge of this decade?

John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads
I do remember John Denver on the radio and he was one of the first acts to catch my ear. Of course, those television specials were some of the first music performances I probably viewed. At the age of five, this long-haired fellow in the floppy hat, traipsing around the Rockies with bear cubs and denim-clad hippie chicks was, in my mind, The Man.

I still love Take Me Home, Country Roads. Every time it pops up on shuffle Paloma and I wonder if Emmylou Harris sings on the song (and, each time I make a mental note to research that and, each time, I forget).

The Carpenters – Superstar
Like John Denver, The Carpenters hits in the early ’70s are some of the first songs I vividly remember hearing on the radio. If I had to make a short list of favorites by the duo, Superstar would most definitely be on there.

As someone who listens to a lot of music, I probably should receive demerits for not knowing songwriter Leon Russell’s version (actually, I confess to not really being familiar with Russell at all (although I’m sure I’ve read about him at Whiteray’s blog).

All of that aside, Superstar is pretty glorious.

The Doors – Riders On The Storm
Even though Jim Morrison had been dead for well over a decade, The Doors were one of the bands among most of the students in my high school. The band’s hold was taken to an extreme by two sisters who were rather adamant that they were illegitimate hatchlings of The Lizard King.

Apparently, it was the last song that The Doors recorded as a band, from sessions in December of 1970. Three months later, Morrison would move to Paris.

Riders On The Storm would have to be considered one of The Doors’ signature songs and it is one cinematic trip.

Help Me, Burt Bacharach, You’re My Only Hope

April 26, 2008

I’ve often been the dissenting voice among friends in expressing some disdain for music snobbery, offering the view that the kids that will be alright will be alright, and defending their musical missteps. Today, the universe woke me up loudly with a sonic reminder that no good deed goes unpunished and I found myself muttering semi-coherent rants in a sleep-deprived state.

Every year, there is a marathon whose route includes the street outside my apartment, literally right beneath my bedroom window. The first time this happened, it took me unawares and my slumber was interrupted by runners in the street and bystanders on the sidewalk, applauding with each intermittent pack of primates exhibiting locomotive skills.

Today, though, there was a special twist. The occupants of the apartment below opted to have a band on the porch. Soundcheck commenced at 6:30 and by 7:00, I realized that I was trapped like Noriega and there was no way to sleep through what can only be described as Emerson, Lake & Palmer covering the Grateful Dead (sans the musicianship). It drowned out the applause of the observers, but it prompted hooting and hollering from the marathon participants.

The band – a bunch of paunchy, geeky white guys – soon set about disemboweling classic soul and funk by artists like Sly & The Family Stone and James Brown complete with extended jams. There was a lounge, kitsch version of Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger that was hardly the ironic, hipster moment that I imagine they had hoped it would be. I heard Proud Mary three times with the final rendition schizophonically teetering between a smoldering blues number and some stripped-down, bluegrass-tinged interpretation.

The performance led me to realize that alcohol consumption by the band doesn’t really enhance the performance except in rare cases like The Pogues. As the morning wore on and the beer began to flow, things rapidly deteriorated. I was hearing double.

The lead singer, though, remained committed to the show going on. Where early on, he stuck to formulaic banter that had me waiting for him to bellow, “Hello Cleveland!” he chose to go with the accidental experimentation of his rhythm section. Soon, he was yipping and yammering about sea turtles and the cosmos in some beat-poet cadence with an earnestness that would have made Jim Morrison jealous. If there is a Sea Turtle Anti-Defamation organization of some kind, they certainly will be issuing a grievance.

Five hours later, it was over. Bruce Springsteen is quite capable of playing three-plus hour sets that are spectacularly riveting, bordering on religious. This was not the E-Street Band. Whatever street they were from, it’s best that it’s from a place where they have no name.

So, for the rest of the day, or until I have a nap, the gloves are off. Should anyone dare play any music that doesn’t meet with my approval, I intend to ridicule their choice heartily and pummel them in the mid-section until their gums bleed.

Music snobs, I have heard the light.

Actually, pummeling and ridicule aside, I’m opting to counter the cacophony with some selections from the Burt Bacharach songbook – four pristine, impeccable, structured, sonically crafted gems.

Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head

The Carpenters – (The Long To Be) Close To You

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You

Dionne Warwick – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again