Snow Globe

January 30, 2010

There’s probably as much snow on the ground tonight as I’ve seen in nearly twenty years. On the eave, it’s still undisturbed, but in the streets below, it’s already been churned into a sloshy mess.

The usual flow of traffic is non-existent, though, and the snow is still falling in the glow of the streetlights, so the landscape might be pristine again come morning.

One news channel is referring to it as “The Snowpocalypse.”

I think we have about three inches of snow.

It’s more like a snow globe.

(of course, since I started writing this twenty-four hours or so ago, we’ve gotten an additional four or five inches of snow – still far short of a “snowpocalypse”)

Snowfalls of this much and sometimes much more were far more frequent for me as a kid in the Midwest. I’ve told tale of the danger, but all things considered, the snow was usually welcome.

There was something quite zen in sprawling out on the bed and staring at the ceiling, listening to music as a heavy snow fell outside. It was a perfect way to waste a Saturday afternoon as a kid. I could stare up and out the window, watching large flakes falling against the sky.

Stare long enough and – with the lack of visual perspective – they would seem to be drifting upward.

I seem to recall a lot of snow on the ground in the first few months of 1984. I was still listening to Top 40 stations, but I had also discovered album rock radio and 97X was providing my first glimpse of the future and an exposure to modern rock.

Here is a quartet of songs I remember from the early weeks of the year Orwell had warned us about…

Van Halen – Jump
from 1984

Jump caused quite a bit of confusion when it hit the airwaves. At school, we asked each other if we’d heard the song in hushed tones as though someone had died. No one had, but the prominent use of synthesizer, especially when coupled with the brief, instrumental title track preceding it, vexed many of my friends.

The sheer exuberance of the song and the fact that it really wasn’t that startling of a departure from the band’s signature sound helped it gain quick acceptance from most fans and earned Van Halen new ones. Jump and 1984 both proved to be mammoth successes.

And a mere twelve months later, there would be no Van Halen as we had always known them.

Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
from Touch

With the release of Be Yourself Tonight in the spring of 1985, Eurythmics went in the opposite direction that Van Halen had with 1984, adding guitar and a more rock-oriented sound to their dreamy synth-pop.

But, Touch arrived in January, 1984 and was still firmly entrenched in the hypnotic, synthesizer-based groove of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), the album that had broken the duo in the US the prior summer.

Touch received an earlier release in the UK and had already had several hits before being issued in the US, so I’m sure that I likely heard the lovely, melancholic Here Comes The Rain Again as an import on 97X prior to its becoming a major radio hit.

Icicle Works – Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)
from Icicle Works

Tribal drumming and chiming guitars made Icicle Works’ lone US hit a memorable one-hit wonder that still sounds stellar a quarter century later. The song had been a UK hit the year before (titled Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)) and, like Here Comes The Rain Again , I’m sure I heard the frenetic track as an import on 97X months before it became a hit in the States.

Tony Carey – A Fine, Fine Day
from Some Tough City

Paloma had no idea who Tony Carey was when I played A Fine, Fine Day for her. Though the song did make the Top 40, it apparently didn’t get much/any airplay where she grew up.

It was quite the opposite for me. Carey got a lot of play on radio with I Won’t Be Home Tonight and, under the moniker of Planet P Project, Why Me? during 1983. Both of those songs had a sci-fi bent to them.

A Fine, Fine Day is the tale of an aging mobster (or so it would seem) and, in those snowy, early months of 1984, it seemed as though I couldn’t go very long without hearing it on one of several stations while surfing the dial. Later that year, Carey would return to the sci-fi fare with Planet P Project’s album Pink World and one final radio hit, What I See, before vanishing from the scene.

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When An Ex Is Revealed To Be An Interstellar Overlord…

October 29, 2009

kirk_martaThere’ve been a number of commercials for a series called V. It’s a remake – I guess the kids call it a reimagining these days – of a series from the ‘80s.

I never watched the original, but a friend at the time was a devotee, so I knew that the premise of V involved visitors from space arriving on Earth and the hijinks which ensued.

And while the friend came to mind when I saw the commercial for the new version the other night, I was more struck by the apparent alien leader bearing a resemblance to an ex-girlfriend.

It made me think how odd it would be if, when the aliens take a wrong turn and finally land here, their form is not like bulbous-headed creatures from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, but, instead, indistinguishable from humans.

And, consider the drag it would be if the alien ambassador looked like an ex, especially if the end of that relationship had been contentious. Humankind’s first encounter with alien life would receive continuous televised coverage. It would be a carpet bombing from all media.

Friends who you hadn’t spoken to in years would contact you – “Have you seen that alien chick that looks like [name of ex]?”

“No, no I’ve been in a coma and missed the whole alien thing, but it’s nice to be reminded of unpleasant times.”

Of course, then I thought it would be even more disconcerting if the extraterrestrial leader not only resembled but was, in fact, that ex.

It would be a rather jarring reveal and undeniably some kind of feather in one’s cap.

To be someone that had slept with some alien uber being –

You’d get a book deal.

You’d end up on Oprah.

You’d likely need a lot of therapy.

You’d have to consult the one man who could relate to the situation – William Shatner. I didn’t watch much Star Trek growing up, but I do know that in one episode he hooked up with some green chick.

I mean, you’ve bedded an alien, why not up the absurdity quotient and seek the wisdom of Capt. Kirk.

According to online sources, V aired the first week of May, 1983.
Here are some songs from that time…

Tony Carey – I Won’t Be Home Tonight
from I Won’t Be Home Tonight

Tony Carey might not have been a household name with most music fans, but, in our corner of the Midwest, he got plenty of attention from the radio stations with songs like A Fine, Fine Day, The First Day Of Summer, and – as Planet P Project – Why Me and What I See.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about I Won’t Be Home Tonight. It’s just a straight-ahead rock song, but it sounded good on the radio. Also, the cover for the album – Carey, standing outside a UFO with a backpack – fits the subject matter of this post well.

Billy Joel – Goodnight Saigon
from The Nylon Curtain

I’ve noted before that I’ve never considered myself to be a Billy Joel fan until I realize that I own a fair chunk of his catalog and I usually don’t skip his songs when they pop up randomly on the iPod.

Goodnight Saigon is one of his more serious efforts, a rather dire take on the Vietnam War, and I song that I’d rank as one of his most compelling.

Robert Ellis Orrall And Carlene Carter – I Couldn’t Say No
from Special Pain

I don’t remember hearing the breezy I Couldn’t Say No aside from a few times on American Top 40. It’s a pleasant little number, unassuming but endearing, and it always causes Paloma to perk up and ask “Who’s this again?” when it comes up on shuffle.

Wall Of Voodoo – Mexican Radio
from Call Of The West

It’s too bad that Wall Of Voodoo is only known to most listeners for Mexican Radio. The quirky song is an undeniable ’80s classic, but their first couple records are worth seeking out (and, to my delight, I happened across them on one of our last hauls of vinyl).

Also worth the search is the solo stuff from lead singer Stan Ridgway, who got a recent nod over at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart when his song Camouflage popped up on a recent Halloween post.