“Music To Eat Pineapple To”

March 11, 2010

I’ve been thinking of Samoa more so than usual of late.

(and I think of Samoa often as it is)

That might sound odd, but I’ve long been fascinated by the territory (which, to be technical, is American Samoa, but that kind of kills the exotic vibe). Mostly it is because of the ridiculously disproportionate number of professional football players who have come from the collection of islands in the South Pacific.

For years, my friend Eric and I have nurtured a dream to purchase the Oakland Raiders. Neither of us are fans of the team, but we figure our best bet to ever own an NFL franchise is to trick Al Davis into signing the team over to us.

(here resides some thoughts on Al Davis and his potential role in global diplomacy)

We would then move the franchise to Hattiesburg, Mississippi merely to test our theory that you could place a team in any city and, unless the team is run by two idiots, it’s like printing money.

(and we are just the pair to make it a challenge)

And, as an homage to the cumbersome, nonsensical moniker of the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim (or whatever the hell it is), we rechristen the team the Oakland Raiders Of Hattiesburg.

The final piece of our plan was to field a team comprised of only Samoan players. They play hard. They’re tough. They don’t behave like complete jackasses when they make a meaningless first down late in a blowout game.

They’ve got rock star hair and cool names like Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala, Junior Tautalatasi, and Marques Tuiasosopo.

(Al Michaels would make a mint as he would be the only commentator who’d be able to call our games)

Alas, it remains a dream. It does, though, remain one of our most-enduring schemes we ever conjured up during a late night with drinks.

The dream got pulled to the forefront a few weeks back when 60 Minutes aired a piece on football and how large it looms in the culture of tiny Samoa. Forget Texas and Friday Night Lights. Pago Pago is where it’s at.

And the high school kids profiled were mammoth – sixteen year-olds standing 6’3″, 6’4″, tough as nails, playing on fields of volcanic rock.

I watched the report and was transfixed – an island paradise populated by soft-spoken, courteous people who love American football more than Americans.

I looked over at Paloma, pointing to the screen, not saying a word.

“And what would we do in Samoa?”

I knew that the ecomony there, like most everywhere, was struggling. I also knew that the territory had three radio stations.

And I know that there is one profession for which Paloma would relocate to the middle of the South Pacific.

“We could be DJs.”

There are probably better odds that Eric and I actually hoist the Lombardi as co-owners of Oakland Raiders Of Hattiesburg.

The sum experience I have as a radio personality is having known a few and hanging with my buddy Streuss a handful of times during his shift at our college station. So, I’m impressively unqualified to be a DJ in Samoa or anywhere else in the civilized (or uncivilized) world.

I’m not sure what the people of Samoa might want to hear on the radio, but I’ve always remembered a record store co-worker in college describing the playful grooves and the laid-back vibe of Tom Tom Club as “music to eat pineapple to.”

Here are four songs from the Talking Heads’ offshoot that might serve well for island life…

Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love (long version)
from Tom Tom Club

I vividly recall the first time I heard Tom Tom Club’s oft-sampled classic Genius Of Love. It was on America’s Top Ten, the truncated, televised version of Casey Kasem’s weekly radio program. He showed the video as – I think – it was in the R&B Top Ten.

I was just becoming devoted to an interest in music in the spring of ’82 and was completely mesmerized and baffled at the colorful cartoon video for the song. It was unlike any of the music I was listening to at the time – hell, I’m certain I had no idea who Talking Heads even were.

But the song totally captivated me and, nearly thirty years later, it still does.

Tom Tom Club – Pleasure Of Love (long version)
from Close To The Bone

By the time Tom Tom Club released their second album, in autumn ’83, I knew who Talking Heads were and, drawn in by Burning Down The House, I was becoming a fan. And, despite the Heads’ growing audience, Close To The Bone didn’t get nearly as much attention as Tom Tom Club’s debut.

It’s too bad as it’s a worthy follow-up. The modern rock station which I had discovered gave a lot of airplay to the breezy Pleasure Of Love and the twitchier The Man With The 4-Way Hips.

Tom Tom Club – You Sexy Thing
from Dark Sneak Love Attack

It took Tom Tom Club four years to follow-up up Close To The Bone and another four years to issue Dark Sneak Love Attack. I didn’t pay quite as much attention to either album, but their bouncy cover of the Hot Chocolate song is fun.

Tom Tom Club – Let There Be Love
from The Good, The Bad & The Funky

One of the curveball’s in Tom Tom Club’s catalog popped up on 2000’s The Good, The Bad & The Funky with the cosmic love song Let There Be Love. Guest vocalist Charles Pettigrew gives a soulful performance that makes me think of the wonderful Terence Trent D’Arby.

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Doot Doot (The Future Must Be Now)

July 14, 2009

The movie Rain Man had a personal connection. It had nothing to do with autism, though I did have an ex-girlfriend who once accused me of being slightly autistic.

The early portion of Rain Man – where Tom Cruise first meets Dustin Hoffman – takes place in Cincinnati, a city about forty-minutes from where I grew up and known to us as The City. So, I was familiar with some of the landmarks and places mentioned.

However, the real connection was when Cruise and Hoffman hit the road. Hoffman’s character tunes the radio to WOXY out of Oxford, Ohio. You might recall Hoffman incessantly repeating the station’s tagline – “97X, Bam! The future of rock and roll.”

97X just happened to be my station of choice for several years in high school. Oddly enough, according to the station’s page on Wikipedia, it began broadcasting as a modern rock station in September, 1983 and I had stumbled across it a month or so later.

It was the station where I heard Aztec Camera, Gang Of Four, The Suburbs, and other bands I wouldn’t hear elsewhere. It was the station to hear Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and U2.

It was even the station where I first heard Cyndi Lauper and Nena before they became mainstream pop sensations on Top 40 radio.

The thing that triggered me to think about 97X wasn’t coming across Rain Man on cable. Instead, it was a far more surprising event – a television commercial.

I’m not even sure what the commercial was pushing on me. It was the music that caught my attention. It was a song by a Welsh band called Freur called Doot Doot (not to be confused with Trio’s Da Da Da or The Police’ De Do Do Do De Da Da Da).

Freur was short-lived, but members of the band would go on to be Underworld and be global with their wonderful song Born Slippy from the movie Trainspotting. Apparently, Doot Doot was Freur’s lone hit in the UK and a small on – #59 – at that. I think it did little here in the States.

But I did hear it numerous times while listening to 97X in the winter of ‘83/84. I even had it recorded on a cassette. I haven’t heard it on the radio – or elsewhere – in twenty-five years.

I wouldn’t describe Doot Doot as rock and roll, but it certainly seems as though 97X knew something about the future.

Doot Doot and a few other songs I was hearing on 97X at the time…

Freur – Doot Doot
from Freur

Freur – Doot Doot (12″ mix)
from Freur

I was surprised to hear Modern English’s Melt With You in a commercial.

(the first time)

Of course, Melt With You was a fairly popular song in 1983 even if it wasn’t a massive mainstream radio hit. In seven years of working in record stores, I can remember seeing anything by Freur once, on an ‘80s compilation.

I hope the commercial makes it a hit twenty-six years later. It’s sparse and spacey with the earworm of a chorus being little more than the title.

Is there a more obscure song or artist to be used to sell humans products two decades after it was released?

(I’m guessing maybe Nick Drake would be in such a discussion)

Aztec Camera – Oblivious
from High Land, Hard Rain

During the winter of ’83/’84, few things could make the day less dreary than hearing the bouncy Oblivious. Whatever name you want to pin on it – New Wave, modern rock, alternative rock – there were some classic pop melodies in the ’80s.

Tom Tom Club- Pleasure Of Love
from Close To The Bone

Sure, everyone knows Genius Of Love (another ’80s song that’s made its way into a television commercial), but Talking Heads’ spin-off Tom Tom Club have released a handful of worthwhile albums.

Though not as groundbreaking as Genius Of Love, Pleasure Of Love, is, like most of Tom Tom Club’s songs and in the words of a friend, “music to eat pineapple to.”

It truly is.

ABC – That Was Then This Is Now
from Beauty Stab

ABC’s debut The Lexicon Of Love is widely regarded as a classic ’80s album. It wasn’t as wildly popular in the US as it was in the UK, but The Look Of Love and Poison Arrow got played on even the most pedestrian of Top 40 stations which I was listening to at the time.

That Was Then This Is Now, the first song from their follow-up, was something of a shock upon arrival. Yes, lead singer Martin Fry still croons (he can do nothing else), but the music is harder, more guitar-oriented, not the lush New Romantic/Roxy Music we had all come to know.

I liked it. The song wasn’t around long and I pretty much forgot about it ’til years later. It seems as though Beauty Stab is held in higher regard now than it was then.