Life Post Rapture (It’s Not Just The Pious Who Are Bummed)

May 26, 2011

Since that whole Rapture dealio surprisingly fizzled, I can’t help but think that the real losers were the non-pants wearing inhibitants of this planet.

Imagine how elated the animal kingdom would have been had several hundred million humans simply vanished.

I picture camels, cockatoos, coyotes – all creatures great and small – breaking into song and dance like cartoon characters at the idea of fewer of us humans mucking up the scene.

Word would obviously be spread by the whales as they are able to communicate to all of the world’s oceans through their song. I know this because Charlotte Rampling’s professor character said so in Orca.

(I feel that a Dino De Laurentiis’ flick I saw as a kid at the drive-in in 1977 is a credible source for ichthyological information)

I thought that Prof. Rampling also told the hungover college kids something about some philosopher who had speculated that God would return to earth as a whale.

Maybe The Old Fellow Who Cried Judgment Day needs to factor that concept into his calculations.

In the meantime, the animals no doubt have champagne on ice. Here are four animal songs…

The Judybats – Animal Farm
from Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow

I’ve stumbled across songs from Southern jangle rockers The Judybats twice of late as I’ve looked for songs to post and I’m surprised that its taken me nearly twenty years to discover them.

(especially since I’ve had Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow since it was released in ’92 when I snagged a promo copy)

Better late than never, though, and the charming Animal Farm is not only a cover of a song by The Kinks, but it’s nowhere near as dystopian as the classic novel of the same name.

Talking Heads – Animals
from Fear Of Music

One of my high school buddies was a rabid fan of Talking Heads, so I was familiar with the band’s catalog before the mainstream success of the stellar Burning Down The House and its parent album Speaking In Tongues.

I dig The Heads and own a good chunk of the band’s catalog, but there is a portion of their output that is difficult to embrace. If I had to choose one Talking Heads’ album, though, I would likely opt for the textured Fear Of Music.

Somehow I’d forgotten about the delightfully paranoid Animalson which David Byrne expresses his great distrust of the titular creatures – “I know the animals are laughing at us” – and concern that, since “they’re living on nuts and berries” and “they say they don’t need money,” “they’re setting a bad example.”

(damned socialist animals!)

The Fixx – Calm Animals
from Calm Animals

I’ve long liked the idea of The Fixx more than the actual band and much of their music. Their albums were uneven and I didn’t like One Thing Leads To Another even before it got played into the ground in the autumn of ’83.

But, when things truly jelled, The Fixx had some killer tracks – Red Skies, Saved By Zero, Secret Separation – and, listening to it for the first time in years, the more rocking Calm Animals is pretty cool.

Def Leppard – Animal
from Hysteria

It’s Def Leppard, man. I mean, once we’re gone, the animals are certainly going to have a major blowout and why wouldn’t they throw on some Def Leppard?

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Fuzzy Memories Of A Record Store From The Past

April 24, 2010

Thinking of record stores not long ago, I realized that I didn’t have a chance to frequent indie record stores until college (at that point, there were a half dozen within a few blocks of each other).

Though my friends and I spent a good deal of time trekking to Cincinnati in high school, we usually stuck to the malls. The malls had everything we didn’t have in our hometown – record stores, book stores, arcades, food courts, escalators – in one place.

And a lot of girls.

(there were, obviously, girls in our town, but we had known most of them since first grade – mall girls were exotic and mysterious)

Somehow, though, there was one record store that I have hazy memories of being an occasional stop for us. It was a funky, little store, deeper than it was wide, tucked away in a strip mall setting.

I couldn’t come up with the name.

A bit of research leads me to believe it was called Globe Records and that name does sound right. There’s not much info on the store, though – there is a mention of incense which I remember this store selling.

It was a low-key place, lots of simple wood bins and racks. I seem to remember an open upstairs level which must have served as a good perch to monitor potential shoplifters.

There were large posters on the walls, haphazradly arrayed. I think the store’s backroom (and the stairs leading to the loft) might have been separated from the floor by a curtain of beads.

I can almost picture the place.

(I couldn’t have shopped there more than a dozen times and it was twenty-five years ago)

It had to have been one of the more bohemian places my friends and I had been at that time in our lives.

It would have been the spring of ’84 when my friend and I would have been hitting Globe Records as we finally had our drivers licenses. It was a time of great change in my musical interests as I had discovered alternative rock and we finally had MTV available to us.

Here are four songs from that spring that I remember hearing quite a bit…

Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know
from You Broke My Heart In 17 Places

That Tracey Ullman is quite a talent and They Don’t Know was our introduction to her, especially as the video seemed to air each and every time I had the chance to vegitate in front of MTV.

Fortunately the song was an utter and complete earworm and, though I had little frame of reference at the time, it totally capture the girl group vibe of the ’60s. It also was written and recorded by the late, great Kirsty MacColl, but I wouldn’t become familiar with Kirsty until the following year when I heard her version of Billy Bragg’s A New England on Rock Over London.

The Fixx – Deeper And Deeper
from Greatest Hits – One Thing Leads To Another

The Fixx had become fixtures on radio the year before with Reach The Beach and that album’s subsequent hits Saved By Zero, One Thing Leads To Another, and The Sign Of Fire.

Personally, I always seemed to like the idea of The Fixx more than most of their music. I dug earlier stuff like Red Skies and Stand Or Fall, but most of their output was hit or miss for me (and One Thing Leads To Another grated on my nerves).

Deeper And Deeper was a keeper, though, revealing a bit more muscle in the band’s sound. The song appeared on the soundtrack to the rock fable Streets Of Fire, a movie which I managed to miss that summer.

Human League – The Lebanon
from Hysteria

In the spring of 1984, my buddy Streuss was eagerly awaiting the long-delayed release of Human League’s Hysteria. It had been two years since they had burst onto the musical landscape in the States with Don’t You Want Me and there had been no follow-up to its parent album Dare.

In the interim, Streuss had amassed everything he could acquire by the band – much of it as imports for us – including the dub remix collection from Dare credited to The League Unlimited Orchestra.

Of course, The Lebanon was a surprise when it arrived as the first single from Hysteria that spring – the synth-pop band who had an edict declaring “no guitars” had issued a song that was built heavily around guitars.

We didn’t care. We loved it and, though it might be a bit half-baked lyrical, I still do.

Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good
from Human Racing

Wouldn’t It Be Good wasn’t a very big hit in the States and I don’t recall seeing the video for the song. I think it was actually my friend Beej that turned us onto the song after he saw the video on the USA Network’s Night Flights.

The discontented vibe of the song – kind of a New Wave take on “nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go eat worms” – tapped into our burgeoning teen angst. A couple years later, the song would reappear on the soundtrack for Pretty In Pink, but in a version by Danny Hutton, one of the vocalists for Three Dog Night.


Fall Break

October 17, 2009

moody-autumn-skyI always believed that fall break was one of the most inspired things. It wasn’t as lengthy as spring break – a mere Thursday and Friday – but it’s placement in the school year was almost flawless.

It usually fell in late October, a week or so before Halloween, half the way between the start of the school year and Christmas break. It was far enough into the semester that the hopeless feeling that the school year would never end had set in, but scattered warm days of Indian summer were reminders of the summer past.

There are a couple schools I pass on the morning commute to work each day. They all have some kind of message board at the front of the school, marquee letters announcing football games and such.

I’ve started seeing dates for fall breaks.

I keep thinking of the fall break in 1984. It was the first fall break where my friends and I all had licenses. Acquiring a vehicle, though, sometimes demanded nimble gamesmanship and negotiation with parents or an older sibling.

I think it was my pyro friend who had snagged his older brother’s car. Another friend, Bosco, had joined us, but, as the pyro hadn’t actually obtained consent to have the car, there had been no time to track anyone else down.

We headed to the city – Cincinnati – and an hour later we were rifling through the racks at a record store. Bosco, an obsessive fan of The Tubes, was determined to snag the recently released solo album by the band’s front man Fee Waybill.

Bosco eventually purchased the album at a Record Bar in the mall from a clerk whom he dubbed “DLR” as the kid had adopted the look of Van Halen’s lead singer. We ended up taking the purchase to a stereo shop where Bosco peeled open the shrink-wrap and we listened to the record on a display system (at least until we were asked to leave).

I remember vividly the overcast skies – much like today – that day, but it was far warmer than it is here, now, where it feels as though we’ve skipped directly from September to November. I seem to recall the sun breaking through a bit on the drive home.

I’m less certain of what music I purchased that day, though I have no doubt that I returned home that evening with several new cassettes. Here’s a quartet of tracks from albums that I very well might have snagged on that break in the autumn of 1984…

INXS – Burn For You
from The Swing

I hadn’t been a fan of INXS’ American debut from the year before, although I thought (and still think) the song Don’t Change is brilliant. And, by the fall of ’84, their second album, The Swing, had been out since the spring.

However, during the summer, another friend had bought INXS’ entire catalog (including earlier Australian releases that were only available to us as imports) and I had become a fan thanks to his incessant playing of the band. Also, our town finally had MTV and the video for the slinky, soulful Burn For You was getting a lot of play that fall.

Roger Hodgson – Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I listened. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

The Fixx – Less Cities, More Moving People
from Phantoms

I think I always liked The Fixx in theory better than execution. Everything was in place – cool name, cool futuristic vibe – for them to be a favorite, except consistently good songs. Aside from Reach The Beach, their albums were maddeningly hit or miss to me.

Not that I gave up trying to embrace them. Although I didn’t like Are We Ourselves?, the first hit from Phantoms, I gave the album a shot nonetheless (and was disappointed). But, there were a couple of worthwhile tracks like the twitchy, shuffling Less Cities, More Moving People.

.38 Special – Teacher Teacher
from Teachers soundtrack

.38 Special was from the South and they were a rock band, but, despite being labeled at times as a Southern rock band, they never really struck me as belonging in that genre. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a big fan of Southern rock and I liked a lot of .38 Special (or, at least the hits in the early ’80s).

Of course, the band was a staple on a lot of the stations in the Midwest, so maybe it was a familiarity thing, but Teacher Teacher was catchy, straight-ahead rock with a punchy chorus and plenty of guitars. I know that we caught the movie Teachers on one of our treks to the city. As we were in high school at the time, it resonated with us, though, for some reason, I don’t think I’ve happened across it since seeing it in the theater.