Go For Soda

May 16, 2012

I missed a lot of class during my junior and senior years of high school.

My friends and I, much like the prison escapees Gail and Evelle in Raising Arizona, felt that the institution no longer had anything to offer us.

(especially now that we were mobile)

We had our escapes down to a science. We worked through some office connections to erase any evidence that we had been absent or I would provide faked doctor’s notes using the nom de plume Dr. A.E. Lifeson, DDS, an homage to the Rush guitarist.

(I have no idea if his middle actually begins with an E, I simply liked the feel)

However, the nearest civilization was forty-five minutes away in Cincinnati. We yearned for the thrill of the escape, but time, financial or transportation constraints sometimes made such a trip logistically impossible.

And, these escapes had become too easy.

The rock station perferred by most of us at the time would play a song called Go For Soda by Kim Mitchell and its conclusion – “might as well go for a soda” – provided inspiration.

We challenged ourselves with a game we quickly dubbed Go For Soda.

We had ten minutes between classes and the goal was to sneak off the grounds and get to the nearest grocery store – about three minutes away – to get soda. We then had to return to school and make it to our next class on time.

(the best chance for success was if one of our twin friends – known as Smart and Dumb to us – was behind the wheel)

We soon became adept enough to return with grocery bags of donuts, Cheetohs, and Pop-Tarts.

We’d sit in the back of English class, munching on our provisions and plotting our next move.

Here are four songs that were possibly running through my head as I ignored Mr. Haynes droning on about Greek mythology as the school year wound down in early May, 1985…

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Don’t Come Around Here No More
from Southern Accents (1985)

It was recording the Southern Accents album when Petty broke his hand against a studio wall. I thought that I read in Rolling Stone at the time that he did so in a fit of excitement as he mixed the album.

Whatever the case, we all loved Petty and I eagerly awaited Southern Accent‘s release as it unexpectedly paired him with Eurythmic Dave Stewart as producer. The album was a bit of a mixed bag, though the title track might be the loveliest song the band has ever done.

Don’t Come Around Here No More was as wonderfully demented as I’d expected. The sitar-laden song was trippy and the video equally so.

(and it’s still one of the coolest clips ever)

Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You
from Be Yourself Tonight (1985)

Dave Stewart also had a new album that spring with partner Annie Lennox. The first song to hit radio was the surprisingly soulful stomp Would I Lie To You.

The two truly were a fortuitous musical pairing and made some of the most evocative music of the ’80s. And though Annie is undeniably cool, I’ve always thought Dave Stewart was underappreciated.

The Hooters – All You Zombies
from Nervous Night (1985)

Outside of the Philadelphia area where the band was a popular regional act, All You Zombies served as the The Hooters’ introduction to the rest of the US. With its reggae hitch and portentous lyrics, the song hooked me the first time I heard it on Q95.

Nervous Night left me mostly underwhelmed, but it had several hits over the next year or so and the band caused a stir for a brief time.

The second record came and went pretty quickly (though I thought it had a couple of decent songs).

A songwriter friend hosted a couple members of the band years later to do some songwriting and apparently they were delightful guests.

‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry
from Voices Carry (1985)

And, in early ’85, Aimee Mann’s platinum blonde rat tail was the Annie Lennox orange buzz cut of two summers earlier. When ‘Til Tuesday first came up in conversations with friends, the striking Mann and her feathery ‘do and its braided appendage was duly noted.

The moody Voices Carry was a smash and, like Don’t Come Around Here No More, featured a memorable video. It would prove to be ‘Til Tuesday’s greatest commercial success. Though subsequent albums would be stronger, fewer listeners heard them and the band shed members until Mann eventually went solo.

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“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head”

March 15, 2012

Yes, though I might recently have questioned Morgan Freeman’s aquarium-related advice, I find the words of his iconic character Red from The Shawshank Redemption appropriate this morning.

In less than three hours, the true opening round of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament – as opposed to the cash grab “first four” – tips off.

For the first time in many years, I have arranged to be home to bask in ten hours or so of college hoops, the entire venture goosed by having upgraded to HD television.

I’ve noted in years past that the time period during which I was in college coincided with the rise of ESPN and the availability of all of the tournament’s games. The lax schedule of a college student allowed me to take advantage of the situation and my attendance of a university that was a hoops power in a basketball-mad state made doing so justifiable.

So, early this morning I took care of getting one of our animals to the vet and – aside from retrieving her later this afternoon – my agenda is juggling four channels’ worth of basketball with the added bonus of my alma mater’s return to prominence and two nearby universities also participating, one of them being a highly-touted upset pick.

I’m as giddy as Red headed to Zihuatanejo, so giddy that I’m considering having pizza for breakfast.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a college freshman and likely having pizza for breakfast as my school was beginning a run that would end up with them winning the championship three weeks later.

Here are four songs from cassettes that would have been in my Walkman at the time…

Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over
from Crowded House (1987)

Led by Neil Finn and including fellow ex-Split Enz member Paul Hester, Crowded House garnered more attention with their first single than Split Enz ever had in the States. It was certainly deserved as the wistful and haunting Don’t Dream It’s Over is as classy as pop music gets.

Of course, I can no longer hear the song without thinking of its evocative use in the mini-series of Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic book The Stand. The song gave added poignancy as it played over scenes of a barren, empty world, lingering on a shot of a teddy bear bobbing in the surf on a beach.

Paul Simon – The Boy In The Bubble
from Graceland (1986)

Though Graceland had been released at the beginning of the school year, it took months for mainstream attention to catch up to the critical kudos the album received upon its release. I was well exposed to the album from its arrival by a music major on my dorm floor who quickly embraced Paul Simon’s collaboration with some of South Africa’s most respected musicians.

The song that stood out to me – aside from the rustic postcard that was the title track – was the loping The Boy In The Bubble and its surreal juxtaposition of imagery.

‘Til Tuesday – Coming Up Close
from Welcome Home (1986)

Like most guys watching MTV in 1985, my friends and I were left slack-jawed and smitten with Aimee Mann in ‘Til Tuesday’s video for Voices Carry.

Image aside, ‘Til Tuesday made three very good records, shedding members over the course of those albums. By the time the band reached its end after Everything’s Different Now, Aimee Mann had guided their sound from chilly New Wave to a more organic, guitar-jangling alternative rock.

That sound had been hinted at on the group’s second album, especially on the stellar – and surprisingly twangy – Coming Up Close.

U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
from The Joshua Tree (1987)

Released the week before the tournament began in 1987, The Joshua Tree was the first album I ever bought on CD on the day of release. I had already been a rabid fan since discovering War through a high school friend as, in the Midwest, the band was still a little-known, cult act.

That changed quickly with the release of the first single, With Or Without You, and I still vividly recall putting the CD into the player for the first time, hearing the bracing, windswept opening of Where The Streets Have No Name, the album’s opening track and realizing that my favorite band was now going to be a mainstream juggernaut.


Morgan Freeman Is Leading Us Down A Path To Economic Ruin

May 17, 2009

That headline is more than some sensationalistic ballyhoo. It’s more than some flimsy, baseless caterwauling from someone possessed by the spirit of a carnival barker, newsstand tabloid, or Republican pundit.

No, I fear that, sadly, there is considerable truth behind it.

Like many people, I too have been a fan of this award-winning thespian, but I now realize that I might have been lulled into a false sense of admiration.

I used to look at him as a kindly fellow – compassionate and wise. I mean, if he wasn’t offering rides to cantankerous, elderly women, you might find him engaging in the much-needed rehabilitation of falsely convicted criminals or – great Gotham! – lending logistical support to masked vigilantes wishing to rid our cities of such criminals.

(of course, lily-livered, bleeding heart types would rather that we not rid our streets of falsely convicted wife-killing bankers and, instead, target bankers who merely engage in casual games of multi-billion dollar three-card Monte)

The existential threat posed by Morgan Freeman to America came to my attention weeks ago, but it didn’t really register until this morning when I saw his most recent commercial for Visa before I’d ingested enough caffeine to think straight.

(oftentimes things only make sense when you don’t really think about them)

In this commercial, calming images of undersea flora and fauna fill the screen accompanied by the soothing strains of The Moody Blues’ Tuesday Afternoon.

Then, you hear the earnest voice of “the only guilty man in Shawshank,” asking, in an accusatory manner, “When was the last time you went to the aquarium, with your daughter, on a Tuesday?”

Sure, it sounds like a lovely way to spend the day after Monday. One of the finest aquariums in the country is a two-hour drive away and, though I have no daughter, the way some of my co-workers squeeze out offspring of both sexes as though it was a bodily function, I could likely borrow one…

But this is exactly what Morgan Freeman wants me to do. In other words, he is promoting not only truancy, but he is espousing a fiscal policy that encourages absenteeism from work.

This would all be well and good for aquarium barons, fishmongers, and oceanographers who would likely see profits that would make those of Exxon be mere pocket change, but at what cost?

Well, the rest of the economy would fall into a death spiral. If people were relaxing at aquariums instead of engaging in the daily grind of commerce, consider the revenue lost simply by those treating bleeding ulcers, intense malaise, and depression.

And the cost would extend to the next generation who – instead of learning how to take tests at a level that places them smack dab at mediocre compared to the rest of the world – would end up as ichthyologists or marine biologists.

Fortunately, today is Sunday and I suggest we all give Morgan Freeman (and his dubious, probably Socialist economic theories) the finger and head to the aquarium today.

Moonpools & Caterpillars – Sundays
from Lucky Dumpling

Joe Jackson – Sunday Papers
from Look Sharp!

‘Til Tuesday – On Sunday
from Welcome Home

The Pretenders – Everyday Is Like Sunday
from Boys On The Side soundtrack