Don’t Wake Me When It’s Over

January 20, 2010

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about this Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien/NBC three-way steel cage death match and I can’t say that I’ve really cared.

Yeah, I’ve read about it in the news, and while promises seem to have been broken, its difficult to work up much sympathy for two uber-wealthy guys who get to do what they want fighting over the same shiny, expensive toy.

When it’s over, one will have the toy and a pile of cash, the other will get a bunch of loot and a different toy, and a couple million Haitians will still be homeless.

As a five-year old in the early ’70s, I was quite aware of Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show. I didn’t watch it, but the commercials fascinated me.

(I think that I thought of Johnny as something very adult like cigarettes and moustaches)

It was sometime around junior high, in the late ’70s/early ’80s, before I started watching The Tonight Show. I most vividly remember watching during the summer months when no school meant staying up late and sleeping in.

The summer nights in Indiana could be sweltering, especially without air conditioning. I’d often spend the summer months crashing out on a large couch in the wood-paneled womb that was a basement in the American Midwest of the ’70s.

Though I’d first check to see if there was anything worthwhile on the CBS Late Movie, there were many nights I’d end up watching at least some of The Tonight Show.

I’d construct a structurally sound sandwich and devour a midnight snack watching Johnny run through his monologue, banter with Ed McMahon, and roll out the evening’s line-up of guests.

It did make for a pleasant way to wind down the day.

I was a fairly regular viewer for several years aside from Fridays which was reserved for Fridays. I don’t recall watching The Tonight Show after I left for college. On nights when I was home, I was enamored with having cable for the first time and the only late night appointment viewing was Late Night with David Letterman.

I would catch Johnny from time to time and I did make a point to watch some of the last episodes before he signed off in ’92 (which was made easier as I didn’t have cable at the time).

In the nearly twenty years since, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have watched Jay Leno or Conan O’Brien (and that statement would probably hold true even if I had flippers instead of hands). If I’m home and up, I’ve opted for Letterman.

Someone will be hosting a show following the late local news on NBC next week. Unless they exhume Johnny and Ed, I’ll have to read about it.

I can’t really remember watching Johnny Carson anyplace else than on the television in our basement during those summers as a kid. It’s hardly summer, but it feels like we’re considerably closer to spring than we were a week ago. Here are some songs from albums on Billboard‘s chart in July of 1980…

The Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing
from The Pretenders

From the debut by The Pretenders, a cover of a song written by future paramour of lead singer Chrissie Hynde (Ray Davies) and produced by a man (Nick Lowe) who would later write a song (I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll) alledgedly about the ex-wife of a co-worker of mine.

Van Halen – And The Cradle Will Rock…
from Women And Children First

It’s kind of gotten lost in the wake of the last quarter century – between Sammy Hagar, Gary Cherone and a lot of inactivity – but Van Halen was a great band. For a good half dozen years, the band ruled the planet as one of the biggest acts of their time.

Somehow, the further we get from their heyday, the more I recognize their greatness.

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers
from Peter Gabriel

An ex-girlfriend insisted that the line Kate Bush sings was “She’s so frontier.”

What the hell could that even mean?

(The line is actually “Jeux sans frontieres”)

Roxy Music – Same Old Scene
from Flesh And Blood

I remember seeing the movie Times Square late one night on a local station when I was about twelve or thirteen. I have no doubt that when Same Old Scene by Roxy Music played during the opening scenes it was the first time I had ever heard the band.

It wouldn’t be ’til college that I’d really listen to them again. My French professor used to play them before class and I began to check out more of their music. On nights when I had to close the record store where I worked, Roxy Music’s Avalon was one of my go-to albums to play as I went through the closing tasks.