What The Hell?

February 22, 2012

Paloma was twitterpated when I arrived home this evening over the spectacle of a pair of preachers proselytizing on the sidewalk down the street.

Apparently the duo was covering, loudly, the things that would result in the college kids at the university across the street heading straight to hell – no need to pass go, no need to study for finals.

(of course, this misses the point that the main reason for attending college is to spend four to nine years doing things that might earn you eternal damnation)

We had a street preacher at my school who remains a part of lore there. His name really was Max, but I’m not sure if the Mad portion of his moniker predated or was inspired by the Mel Gibson flicks.

Mad Max was already a fixture the moment that I set foot on the campus more than a year after the cinematic character walked off into the sunset beyond Thunderdome. He was in the same spot in the heavily-trafficked heart of campus delivering fire and brimstone daily.

The movies have remained entertaining, but our Max went from being riveting street theater to merely being part of the landscape before I made it home for Thanksgiving break that first autumn.

Paloma and I live in a region where, even in such an über religious nation, most folks are crossing off the days ’til the rapture. I’ve long suspected that if I asked a random sampling of citizenry to balance their bank account, they’d stare at me like a dog that had been shown a card trick.

However, ask the same random sampling about what God wants and they’d blather away with absolute certainty.

I might be crazy, but if there is some omnipotent entity that steers the universe, I’d think it would be far more incomprenhensible than basic algebra.

So, perhaps there is some fiery destination where those who’ve misbehaved end up as Beelzebub’s bitch.

Or, perhaps hell is no different than heaven except there is no cake.

I doubt I’m getting the answer from someone screaming on a sidewalk.

In the meantime, here are four songs on the subject…

AC/DC – Highway To Hell
from Highway To Hell (1979)

I remember reading an interview with AC/DC guitarist Angus Young sometime in the late ’80s upon their release of a new album. The interviewer asked him to address critics that accused the band of releasing the same album twelve times.

Angus corrected him, informing him that it was, actually, thirteen times.

Well played, sir.

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell
from Hot (1997)

Hot was released as there was a retro swing music revival in the US and resulted in Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Hell being inescapable for months on end.

Sure the song is supposed to be a cautionary tale, but it’s so intoxicatingly festive that it fails to spook.

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers – Have You Ever Been To Hell
from Conscious Party (1988)

Conscious Party was released in the spring of 1988 as my sophomore year of college was ending. That summer was the first one which I wouldn’t return home as I was taking classes and working in a record store.

Produced by Talking Heads’ rhythm section Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Conscious Party was perfect to put on and groove to for forty minutes or so during lazy summer days at the store. The breezy Tomorrow People managed to reach the Top 40 in the States, but the album was worthwhile from start to finish.

The Clash – Straight To Hell
from Clash On Broadway (1991)

Straight To Hell is hypnotic and off-kilter. The song’s lyrics are hypnotic and scathing – particularly those about a Vietnam-era soldier abandoning a child he fathered during that war.

I always thought it was one of The Clash’s finest moments and most fully-realized songs.

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Up With Up With People

September 10, 2011

Like millions of us here in the States, I was watching the Saints/Packers season opener this past week.

There was a lot of hullabaloo and fireworks and shiny objects.

And I couldn’t help but think that Maroon 5 is Collective Soul for this era.

(which isn’t exactly a bad thing)

Then, Kid Rock appeared and I decided to surf and find something interesting to kill some time until – you know – the actual game.

I hit on Batman Begins, got sucked into it, and missed the kickoff and first handful of plays.

Even as I watched Aaron Rodgers carve up an overmatched Saints secondary, the pre-game bombast lingered in my head. I thought of a more simple time when a stellar match-up involving two championship-caliber teams didn’t need The Black Eyed Peas or Daughtry to goose the drama.

Instead, the only entertainment concession made to get my mother and/or twelve-year old girls to watch was halftime and Up With People.

Up With People…

Was it a cult?

Were spaceships and/or Jesus involved?

Were they hippies that had been caught, removed from their native habitats, scrubbed, sanitized, and taught to dance?

My memories of the troupe are fond, though, as it seemed that they performed at several Super Bowls in the late ’70s/early ’80s when I, not quite a teenager, got to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers almost annually in the title game.

It was hardly lost on me that Up With People featured more than a few fetching, young females gyrating through choreographed routines who could have – only a few years earlier – been cheerleaders from the high school I’d soon be attending.

In fact, a girl that had been a cheerleader at our small town’s high school had gone on to be a member of the Up With People cast performing on the television. Deb had also once been a babysitter for me and my brother.

We certainly didn’t see Deb amongst the throng of performers nor did we see Glenn Close, who, in her pre-bunny boiling life, was also apparently a member of Up With People.

But we also didn’t have to sit through yet another performance by The Black Eyed Peas and Let’s Get It Started.

Here are four songs about people…

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers – Tomorrow People
from Conscious Party

Conscious Party, the third album by Ziggy and several siblings, was released in the spring of 1988 as my sophomore year of college was ending. That summer was the first one which I wouldn’t return home as I was taking classes and working in a record store.

Produced by Talking Heads’ rhythm section Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Conscious Party was perfect to put on and groove to for forty minutes or so during lazy summer days at the store. The stand-out track was the breezy Tomorrow People which managed to reach the Top 40 in the States, something that their iconic father was never able tp accomplish.

Pulp – Common People
from Different Class

I discovered Pulp from reading British music magazines in the mid-’90s and, though the band never really broke through in the States, I became a fan when I snagged a promo of His ‘n’ Hers in 1994.

A year later, Different Class became an even bigger seller in the UK, making Pulp and lead singer Jarvis Cocker superstars in their homeland. In the US, the group remained a cult act relegated to college and alternative radio or MTV in the middle of the night.

The witty, slightly acerbic Common People – in which Cocker describes a relationship with a female acquaintance from a wealthy background – has an infectiously elastic melody and is impossible to dislodge from the brain.

Sly & The Family Stone- Everyday People
from Greatest Hits

Despite being one of the biggest acts around at the beginning of the ’70s, Sly & The Family Stone had imploded and weren’t heard a lot on radio by the time I started listening as the decade wound down.

Like a lot of the groundbreaking act’s music, Everyday People was a call for unity offered up in fine, funky fashion.

David Bowie – Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
from The Singles: 1969 To 1993

There are two versions of David Bowie’s Cat People which I have. One appeared in the 1982 movie of the same name in which Nastassia Kinski frolics about murdering bunnies (OK, it’s only one rabbit of which she makes a meal). The other version appeared on Bowie’s Let’s Dance, the singer’s commercial comeback album from the following year.

This one is from the former and has a nifty, smoldering intro and was produced, if I recall correctly, by Giorgio Moroder.