The A-Team

January 29, 2013

AI got sucked into The A-Team on cable.

Three hours later, I had watched about an hour and a half more of the exploits of Hannibal Smith and friends in movie form than I had ever watched of the television series.

As I was a kid at the time The A-Team initially aired, I was well aware of it. It was enormously popular for awhile and I imagine I undoubtedly checked it out for ten or fifteen minutes on a Tuesday night.

(with five, six channels and no cable, the viewing options were limited)

I was fifteen when The A-Team arrived. I think I essentially shrugged it off as simplistic.

And Mr. T…I remember the first kid in our neighborhood that had made it into The City to catch the previous summer’s blockbuster Rocky III. The next morning, we gathered as usual for a pick-up baseball game.

It was June and the sun beat down on us. It was already hot.

The lot of us were sprawled out on the grass, sweltering, breakfast digesting as Alvin recounted to us the plot of Rocky III and we hung on every word.

He was a generally quiet kid but he verbally jitterbugged as he excitedly got the first few moments out.

And he stopped.

He seemed crazy from the heat, like some addled prospector wandered in from the desert telling tales, as he slowly told of the beast that was Rocky’s opponent, Clubber Lang as played by Mr. T.

Clubber had a Mohawk.

Clubber mostly growled.

Clubber was unstoppable.

His destruction of Rocky for the heavyweight title was done with a stunning savage efficiency.

When we all finally got to see Rocky III – it arrived in our small town’s theater pretty quickly – we might have been rooting for Rocky, but we were in awe of Clubber.

Clubber was soon overshadowed by Mr. T. It seemed he was everywhere – talk shows, magazines, commercials.

Clubber had been a frightening creation. Mr. T soon began to grate on my nerves.

I was also spending more time listening to music during the years that The A-Team originally aired and the show wouldn’t have had enough appeal to pull me from doing so.

As for the movie, it was a decent popcorn flick unburdened by preconceptions or childhood memory.

The A-Team debuted almost thirty years ago to the day. Here are four songs from albums that were also arriving that week in 1983…

Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger
from Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

By the time Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released, several singles had been issued and failed to gain traction. In the States, it took until summer, but the title track finally clicked and gave the Eurythmics a breakthrough hit that topped the charts.

Sweet Dreams might be better remembered, but I’ve always preferred the chilly Love Is A Stranger.

Todd Rundgren – Drive
from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983)

Todd Rundgren’s commercial peak had expired about five years before I was listening to music. However, my friends and I were exposed to the music of Runt – both past and present – through our buddy Bosco. He was a Rundgren fanatic and each new release from the man was an event.

According to the internet, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect was a contractual obligation album and considered a throwaway, but I’ve remained quite found of the set.

(though I need never, ever again to hear Bang The Drum All Day – ever)

And I do love the clanging call to action, Drive. It makes me want to go to work tomorrow, burn down my office building, load Paloma and the animals into The Jeepster, and do as the title suggests.

Journey – Send Her My Love
from Frontiers (1983)

Journey’s follow-up to the iconic Escape was the most eagerly anticipated album of my young life in January, 1983. Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers‘ first single and it quickly became a Top Ten hit.

And, a week or so before the full album arrived in stores, I stayed up to tape Frontiers when it was played on Frog’s Midnight Album, which aired nightly on WEBN.

I played that copy of Frontiers incessantly until I made it into Cincinnati and to a record store to purchase an actual cassette. Even as I listened to it repeatedly into the summer, I could hear it as a calculated attempt to replicate Escape.

However, the haunted Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

Red Rider – Human Race
from Neruda (1983)

Canadian band Red Rider never got much love here in the States. They’d get a smattering of airplay on our album rock stations and the moody Lunatic Fringe was deservedly a staple (even if I doubt most listeners could have named the band performing it).

I seem to recall hearing the sparse, eerie Human Race occasionally that spring and it’s a compelling mix of straight-ahead rock with a slight New Wave vibe.

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Stuck Inside The Volvo Behind The #2 Bus With The Heading To Work Blues Again*

February 9, 2011

I commute.

I do so relunctantly and under silent protest and, on good evenings, I can block out Sting howling the lyrics to Synchronicity II, which plays on a loop in my head during the drive.

“Another working day has ended
Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race”

The morning trek, though, is typically Zen. The only people up when Paloma and I arise are us, the kid that drowsily mans the counter at the convenience store down the block, and a coke-binging, downstairs neighbor who probably never sleeps.

(which is good as she needs to devote plenty of time to searching for her pet ferret which she loses on a weekly basis)

The morning commute involves no travel on the interstate and the bulk of the map – once I get a few miles from home – threads through semi-rural, wooded areas. There are deer, a fox, and an old woman in bright red boots who is always walking her dog in her yard.

At such an hour, there is little traffic.

Usually.

Today, I was mere minutes off schedule, resulting in me inhaling the exhaust of the #2 bus. Not only did this predicament ruin the cigarette I was smoking, it frustrated me to not have open road to cruise as usual, with impunity, as though I was on the autobahn.

A paradoxical thought came to mind…

…I don’t want to go to work, so why am I rushing to get there?

(is that a paradox?)

I set the controls for the heart of the sun (part of the drive, depending on the time of year, is directly into the rising sun on the horizon) and I set to scrolling through the stations on the Sirius satellite radio Paloma got me for Christmas.

I often opt for a ’70s pop station.

The music is from before I was a teenager, before music was of particular interest to me, but I know most of the songs.

Some of the songs I hazily recall from the time that they were hits and the others are ones I’ve come to know over the intervening years.

There’s something about the mellow vibe of a lot of the pop hits from the ’70s that calms the nerves and allows me to ease into the day.

Here are four songs that I’ve heard on that station on recent mornings…

Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me
from Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box

Few artists over the past forty years have made as much wonderful music that has been as ignored by the masses as Todd Rundgren. Personally, I really wouldn’t discover his music until high school through my buddy Bosco who was rabid for Runt (and Utopia).

The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect was the one that I quite liked at the time.

(aside from Bang The Drum All Day which went from amusing to annoying rather quickly)

But years before Bosco’s guidance, I knew the brilliant Hello It’s Me from hearing it on the car radio as a tyke.

Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
from Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box

Though I was a toddler in 1971, I do remember hearing Lobo’s Me And You And A Dog Named Boo on the radio at the time. I imagine the fact that the singer had a dog appealed to me.

(my brother and I had to make do with a hamster and hamsters, if no one has ever told you, don’t fetch).

But I dig the breezy song which I can’t help thinking would have made a most excellent theme song to a Saturday morning kids show.

Kiss – Beth
from Greatest Kiss

Whenever I hear Peter Criss crooning Beth, I can’t help but wonder if the song was the first great musical curveball – a successful hard rock band scoring an unexpected hit with a ballad.

(though, Alice Cooper did have a hit with Only Women Bleed a year earlier)

Kansas – Dust In The Wind
from The Best Of Kansas

So, I’m ten-years old and I’m groggily sitting at our kitchen table, having been rousted out of a warm bed at six in the morning for school.

There’s news coming from the radio and, then, a song – a pretty, acoustic song with soothing guitars and lovely harmonies – is playing. And they’re singing about everything crumbling to the ground and only earth and sky lasting.

I’m pondering whether it’s possible to – just once – get through a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles before they liquified into a slushy mush and Kansas is playing the soundtrack.

*reimagined from a post on February 6, 2009


“We have a piper down. I repeat – a piper is down!”

January 31, 2009

Well, not exactly a piper, but a drum major…

As further proof that everyone gets their fifteen minutes, John Coleman has popped up in headlines the last few days. Coleman has left the pipe and drum regiment of which he was a member because he waved to Barack Obama during the inaugural parade.

So, yeah, I suppose he violated the esprit de corps and broke ranks with his fellow pipers and drummers, but it’s an understandable, spontaneous lapse in decorum. It’s not like he molested a collie.

The article I read made me feel like this incident has left Coleman a broken man (“burned bridges” and “hurt feelings” are mentioned). Sure, it’s probably a bummer as he’s been with the band for 17 years and I suppose finding a pipe and drum band to join is probably in needle/haystack territory.

However, in the long run, I think he’s coming out ahead.

Thirty years from now, he’s retired and living in some condo enclave (though, he’s not entirely relaxed) in Florida (unless, due to a rise in the oceans, South Georgia is on the coast three decades from now).

Coleman will be the toast of the compound, though. He can regal them with embellished tales.

“Yeah, I was a drummer in a band…”

The women will swoon, their eyes glazing over (except for the ones who might once have dated a drummer), having spent decades married to bankers, plumbers, doctors, and others engaged in more mundane professions.

The men – most of who will have once aspired to be in a band – will take a jab to their egos (except for the ones who might once have had a drummer crash on their couch for more than a year).

The tale will conclude – each and every time – with him recounting getting kicked out of the band, how it was politically motivated by a controversial incident involving him and Barack Obama during his band’s gig on the day Obama was sworn in.

The chicks are going to dig John. I have no doubt.

He might even be able to put the band back together.

Todd Rundgren – Bang On The Drum All Day
Pound for pound, few artists over the past forty years have made as much wonderful music that has been as relatively ignored as Todd Rundgren. Sadly, Bang The Drum All Day, is probably one of his better-known songs as it seemed every radio station would play this song on Fridays.

The Beautiful South – You Play Glockenspiel, I’ll Play Drums
I can’t say I’m overly familiar with The Beautiful South (despite owning several albums), but what I have heard is consistently wonderful.

Peter Gabriel – A Different Drum
Peter Gabriel’s music for the movie The Last Temptation Of Christ is powerful stuff, drawing on Middle Eastern instrumentation. A Different Drum is certainly one of my favorite tracks from that album.

Bongwater – The Drum
Bongwater was a strange little duo (which is not surprising as they opted for the moniker Bongwater). Singer Ann Magnuson has popped up as an actress on a handful of mainstream movies and television shows, quite against type as Bongwater was as much avant garde performance art as music.