Popcorn

January 28, 2012

There were few greater things in childhood than popcorn.

Popcorn was a foodstuff that you ate at the movies or a basketball game.

Pretzels, potato chips and their ilk might be in the pantry at home, but popcorn was not such a common nosh.

Popcorn was an event.

I was likely munching on popcorn as King Kong ascended to the top of the Twin Towers and, later that same winter, when Rocky almost upset Apollo Creed for the heavyweight title.

Popcorn meant spectacle.

Of course, there was the occasional tin of Jiffy Pop on the stovetop. If it lacked the scale of the cinema, popcorn at home in the household den still made an impression. In the more intimate setting, popcorn was the spectacle.

The exploding corn under the ever-expanding foil of the Jiffy Pop container was a bit like playing with fireworks in the house.

And, as any kid exposed to a billion hours of Brady Bunch reruns in the ’70s will tell you, it was a trail of popcorn that played a pivitol role in Mike and Carol rescuing the boys from the clutches of Vincent Prince.

Yeah, popcorn is all right.

It would have been early 1972 when I would have seen the first movie I recall seeing in the theater, the cinematic classic Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, the trippiest of all the Godzilla flicks and an experience I’ve recounted before.

As I was four, music wasn’t really on my radar, but here are four songs that I might have heard at the time that were on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 during this week in 1972…

Don McLean – American Pie
from American Pie (1971)

Few songs have been as dissected and parsed as thoroughly in the history of mankind as Don McLean’s magnum opus, so, really, what more is there to add.

Climax – Precious And Few
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

I remember Precious And Few from some television commercial in the ’70s – Kodak, maybe? I don’t know and I’m too lazy to care, but I will consider it a middle finger to the marketing world that I still know the song if I can’t recall what was being shilled.

The Stylistics – You Are Everything
from The Stylistics (1971)

I know that Philly is famous for soul music, but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the genre. The Stylistics are one of those acts who I love the handful of songs I know and keep intending to check out their music beyond the hits.

They’re still on that list – thanks to a combination of apathy and forgetfulness – because I never tire of songs like Betcha By Golly Wow, I’m Stone in Love With You, Break Up To Make Up, and the silky smooth You Are Everything.

Elton John – Levon
from Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II (1977)

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.

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The Spectrum

November 2, 2009

julius ervingOn Halloween night, Pearl Jam played The Spectrum in Philadelphia, the final concert in the forty-five year existence of the venerable arena. At some point in the very near future, the building will be razed.

I’ve never set foot in The Spectrum. Obviously, I never will.

I’ve never lived in (or near) Philadelphia and, unless Paloma surprises me and has it on her short list of potential future destinations, I don’t intend to.

But, as a kid, despite growing up some six hundred miles west of The Spectrum, the building had a prominent spot in my life and the lives of many of my friends. The Spectrum was home court for the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team.

In the pre-Larry Bird/Magic Johnson (not to mention pre-ESPN) era, the NBA wasn’t a big deal. We had the Pacers in Indianapolis, sixty miles away, and their games were shown on a local channel, but no one watched and, most seasons, there was little reason to do so.

The team that had our attention was the 76ers. There was the mammoth center Darryl Dawkins, shattering backboards with his dunks, who worked the media as savvily as Shaq with his eccentric ways. He christened himself “Chocolate Thunder” (one of many nicknames) and claimed his home planet to be Lovetron where his girlfriend Juicy Lucy still lived.

The team had guards like the scrappy Doug Collins and the lockdown artist Maurice Cheeks as well as sniper shot Andrew Toney. We loved the gangly forward Caldwell Jones as much for the fact that he was gangly and named Caldwell Jones as his game.

And, most of all, the Sixers had the good Doctor, the incomparable Julius Erving.

We all spent a lot of snowbound, Sunday afternoons hoping the Sixers would be on the weekly game of the week so we might get a glimpse of Dr. J.

(we often got our wish)

And to this day, I’m far more excited to see footage of Dr. J than Michael Jordan. I suppose it’s because he was likely the first athlete that made me stare dumbfounded, amazed at what I’d seen.

(and, as we didn’t see endless replays in Dr. J’s heyday, there was a mystique – usually, you saw the play live or you didn’t see it)

Erving’s high-flying exploits were often beamed into our living rooms on those drab, Midwestern afternoons from The Spectrum.

I think we even thought the name was cool. It sounded space-age, futuristic and intergalactic.

Maybe Chocolate Thunder was telling the truth.

It’s strange to think The Spectrum will be gone

There’s no shortage of music from Philadelphia natives. To be understated, there’s actually a staggering array of amazing stuff. Here are songs from four such acts – not necessarily classics, merely ones I wanted to hear…

The Hooters – All You Zombies
from Nervous Night

This was the introduction of The Hooters, who had a sizeable local following, to the rest of the country. All You Zombies hooked me first time I heard it in late winter/early spring of 1985. It had an interesting, reggae hitch and portentous lyrics.

Nervous Night left me mostly underwhelmed, but it had several hits over the next year or so. Their second record came and went pretty quickly (though I thought it had a couple of decent tracks).

A songwriter friend hosted a couple members of the band (main lyricists Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian) to do some writing years later. Apparently they were delightful guests.

The Stylistics – You Are Everything
from The Stylistics

I know that Philly is famous for soul music, but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the genre. The Stylistics are one of those acts who I love the handful of songs I know and keep intending to check out their music beyond the hits.

They’re still on that list – thanks to a combination of apathy and forgetfulness – because I never tire of songs like Betcha By Golly Wow, I’m Stone in Love With You, Break Up To Make Up, and the smooth as silk You Are Everything.

Hall & Oates – Wait For Me
from X-Static

Whether you listened to a lot of music in the ’80s or not, if you are old enough to have been there, you likely know (or would recognize) a good number of songs by Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List, Private Eyes, Maneater

And twenty-five plus years later, the stuff holds up and seems to have earned a measure of belated respect. As good as their big hits were, the duo had a lot of hits that seem to have been forgotten a bit – Did It In A Minute and Family Man come to mind – that were pretty fantastic.

I’d put Wait For Me on that list, too.

Ween – Flutes Of Chi
from White Pepper

I just didn’t get Ween. I tried. I really did.

Then, the duo put out White Pepper. Chock full of immediately engaging melodies, I couldn’t believe how effortless it was to enjoy. I intended to revisit their earlier albums but, White Pepper was released in 2000 and I still haven’t gotten around to doing so.

Flutes Of Chi always reminded me of XTC.