It’s A Dry Heat So, You Know, It’s Cool

July 1, 2012

I’ve long marveled at the insanely high temperatures of the American southwest. As a kid, I’d stare at the outline of Arizona on the map – which was littered with 110s and 120s – with awe.

Our summers would see temperatures that would reach the low 90s, maybe a few days approaching triple digits, but I couldn’t fathom the highs that appeared on the bottom left quadrant of the screen.

So, I believe 109 is a new, personal best.

Mercifully, it has not been accompanied by the usual, sweltering blanket of humidity, so I think that I am experiencing the dry heat fabled in song and story.

And it would seem to be true that baking in arid heat – as opposed to marinating in humid, lower temperatures – is a preferable state of being.

Of course, 109 is freakin’ hot no matter what the circumstances or whether one is wearing pants or not.

It’s certainly too hot to think much.

Here are four hot songs…

Billy Idol – Hot In The City
from Billy Idol (1982)

Hot In The City was the first time I ever heard Billy Idol. It would have been on American Top 40 as I never heard the song on the radio.

(and MTV was inaccesible)

Billy Idol’s music would be a mixed bag for me, though I’d list Dancing With Myself, White Wedding and Sweet Sixteen as essential.

(please, no Mony Mony or Cradle Of Love)

But the smoldering, dramatic Hot In The City is a keeper.

T. Rex – Hot Love
from The Legend Of T. Rex

I certainly own more T. Rex than I probably need (courtesy to a multi-set collection in the ’90s which I received as promos), but there are few acts whose music brightens my mood like T. Rex.

The first thing I ever owned by Marc Bolan and company was The Legend Of T. Rex, a Japanese import I found while browsing through a record store in college. The hypnotic shuffle and unusual wordplay of Hot Love made it one of my favorites the first time I played it.

The Power Station – Some Like It Hot
from The Power Station (1985)

Duran Duran went on a hiatus after performing the theme song for the James Bond flick A View To A Kill, splitting into two groups which issued their own albums.

The first to arrive was The Power Station named after the venerable NYC recording studio and featuring lead singer Robert Palmer with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor.

My buddy Beej burned me out on the band – which I was lukewarm toward – rather quickly, but I did dig their version of the T. Rex hit Get It On (Bang A Gong) and the aggressive plastic funk of Some Like It Hot sounds pretty good again after not hearing it in awhile.

Benjamin Orr – Too Hot To Stop
from The Lace (1986)

The three albums that I immediately think of when I think of the summer of 1984 are Born In The USA, Purple Rain, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City. It seemed as though all of my friends had a copy of Heartbeat City.

(I had a cassette dubbed from my buddy Beej’s vinyl)

A few years later, bassist Ben Orr had a solo hit with the ballad Stay The Night, which was reminiscent of Drive from Heartbeat City and on which Orr sang lead. Too Hot To Stop was the follow-up and though the driving, upbeat rocker isn’t quite as quirky, it still would have made an excellent Cars’ track.


Terror On The Beach Amidst The Randomness

June 2, 2011

Random lines from Joesph Heller’s Catch-22 keep popping into my head. It makes sense that I have kinship with Yossaran, the protagonist of Heller’s masterpiece, as work has been a serious mash-up of Catch-22 with a twist of Lord Of The Flies.

I used to keep a dog-eared copy of Catch-22 by my bed. It was the go-to when I just wanted to grab something and be entertained.

(surprisingly, the inexplicable logic of those in charge at the heart of the novel is more whimsical to read than experience first-hand)

Sitting down to write, odd things have bobbed to the surface, leading to unfinished posts involving Fish (the ex-lead singer of Marillion), waffles, Skynet, sorcerers, and Socialists.

(but not necessarily all in the same post and, aside from – obviously – waffles, nothing about which I have an impassioned opinion)

And tonight, sitting down to possibly write, Terror On The Beach, certainly dislodged by the zaniness of the workday, was showing in my head.

It seems few people remember this early ’70s made-for-television movie starring Dennis Weaver – just a dozen or so comments on IMDB – and involving dune-buggy driving early ’70s hippies causing mayhem and swiping sandwiches.

The flick is one that seems to surface from my subconscious every eight to ten years. I seem to recall seeing it as a prime-time movie on one of the networks. I might have even caught its premiere, though I would have been only six at the time.

I feel more certain that I haven’t seen it since the late ’70s or early ’80s when it aired late one night.

I remember little of the movie other than a couple creepy scenes involving mannequins, but all of the online reviews mention Susan Dey, as the daughter in the beleaguered family, and her bikini.

It must have been the sight of Laurie Partridge in a bikini that imprinted the flick into my memory banks to be brought forth every so often when my cerebral wiring short circuits.

It’s June now which used to be the start of summer, the most glorious time of the year. Summer meant more time hanging with friends and listening to the radio. And, during those summers in the first half of the ’80s, it would often have been Indianpolis’ Q95 or 96 Rock out of Cincinnati (technically, Hamilton).

Here are four somewhat random songs I might have heard on those stations at the time…

Greg Kihn Band – Sheila
from Rockihnroll

Several friends were devoted fans of the Greg Kihn Band, snapping up each pun-titled album as soon as they were released. The radio stations in our world loved the band, too, even beyond the hits like The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) and Jeopardy.

And what wasn’t there to love? The band’s power pop style might not have always been the flavor dujour, but it never sounded less than brilliant blaring from the stereo on a warm summer day. Sheila could have been a hit at almost any time over the past fifty years and has more than a hint of Buddy Holly to it.

Billy Idol – White Wedding
from Billy Idol

It took me a bit to warm to peroxide punk Billy Idol and, during the summer of ’83, I was non-plussed by White Wedding. I think that had more to do with a friend who adopted Idol as his own and smothered us with his incessant playing of the mini-album.

But, I grew to enjoy a lot of Idol’s music and White Wedding is lean and kinetic.

Scandal – Love’s Got A Line On You
from Scandal (EP)

Sure, everyone could hum The Warrior (and picture its Kabuki-themed video) in 1984, but Scandal was well known to us a summer earlier when Goodbye To You and Love’s Got A Line On You were radio staples.

Goodbye To You was not to be trifled with, a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass, but Love’s Got A Line On You was a mid-tempo groove, revealing a more vulnerable side of things.

(neither reinvented fire, but both were ridiculously catchy.

Triumph – Magic Power
from Allied Forces

Triumph never quite became a major act in the US, but I heard their songs often on radio in the early ’80s. And it wasn’t uncommon to see kids in our high school halls wearing Triumph concert shirts.

I was mostly ambivilant about the band, but I did kind of dig Magic Power.


Dennis Hopper

June 1, 2010

Scrolling through the filmography of Dennis Hopper, I realized that I’ve only seen about half a dozen of his films and that several that would be considered essential aren’t on that list.

I’ve seen Straight To Hell, but I haven’t seen Giant.

I’ve seen Waterworld, but I haven’t seen Blue Velvet.

I’ve seen portions of Easy Rider and, honestly, I can’t say that it moved me.

(maybe, like Woodstock, it helped to have been there)

But, I have been a fan of Apocalypse Now since high school when my buddy Streuss used to cue it up often when we’d all end up hanging out in his den at the end of a Friday night.

Even today, one of my friends and I make attempts to rattle off some of Hopper’s manic verbiage from the flick…

…”One through nine, no maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can’t travel in space, you can’t go out into space, you know, without, like, you know, uh, with fractions – what are you going to land on – one-quarter, three-eighths? What are you going to do when you go from here to Venus or something? That’s dialectic physics.”

That’s insane, man.

And, of course, there’s Hoosiers.

I grew up in Indiana and one of the schools in our conference was the tiny high school that provided the inspiration for Hoosiers.

In college, I attended Indiana University at a time when the basketball team was a perennial contender for the national title (actually winning it at the end of my freshman year).

So, I had a frame of reference when Hoosiers arrived in theaters at Thanksgiving in 1986. It was during the first semester of that freshman year and it was my first time home since starting school.

A handful of high school friends, also home from college, and I headed to Cincinnati one morning like we had done so many times only a year before. And, after roaming the malls and browsing for music, we caught an afternoon showing of Hoosiers.

I don’t know how accurately The Godfather movies portrays the Mafia or if Platoon is more than one man’s take on Vietnam, but I do know that Hoosiers nailed high school hoops in our part of the state.

Hooper scored an Oscar nomination for his portrayel of the town drunk Shooter, attempting to get sober, whose son is on the team.

We too had our town drunk (actually several), Duck. He was a gangly, goofy fellow who moved furtively like Don Knotts. I used to see him around town, particularly at the bowling alley and he’d affably offer a greeting.

Shooter finds redemption as an assistant coach, helping the team win a game when he has them run “the picket fence.”

(I think Duck once bowled a 300)

That Thanksgiving break, when we saw Hoosiers, was one of the last times I think so many of us were together. Over the next few years, our clan got distracted, scattered, and – for the most part – lost touch.

Duck dropped dead in his beloved bowling alley several years later.

And, now, Shooter has staggered off the court for the last time.

I have no doubt that some music was purchased on that Thanksgiving trip, but I have no specific recollection of what albums I might have snagged. Here is a quintet of songs from albums that I did acquire late that autumn…

Bob Geldof – This Is The World Calling
from Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere

Prior to his turn in The Wall, I was wholly unfamiliar with Bob Geldof and/or The Boomtown Rats. The band’s one, brief brush with US success, I Don’t Like Mondays, hit our shores a few years before music was of much interest to me (not that it likely got any airplay in our region).

By 1986 – post-Band Aid, post-Live Aid – I was well familiar with Geldof and the Rats and had collected most of the band’s catalog.

So, I was eagerly anticipating Geldof’s solo debut, Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere, and subsequently disappointed with most of it. However, I loved the moody plea This Is The World Calling which features Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet, and Lone Justice’s Maria McKee on backing vocals.

Billy Idol – To Be A Lover
from Whiplash Smile

Several of my friends had worn out Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell when it came out our sophomore year of high school. Little did we know that we wouldn’t hear from Idol again ’til we were in college.

That Thanksgiving break, he returned with a rollicking single, To Be A Lover, a cover of a late ’60s hit by soul singer William Bell.

The Pretenders – Don’t Get Me Wrong
from Get Close

Like Billy Idol, Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders had been on a relately lengthy layoff since 1984’s Learning To Crawl, another record that had been quite popular with us during our sophomore year.

Though it wasn’t quite as strong as Learning To Crawl, Get Close was the last album by The Pretenders that I truly gave a lot of attention. And, leading things off was the energetic, giddy Don’t Get Me Wrong with its video homage to the classic British television series The Avengers.

Lone Justice – Shelter
from Shelter

Lone Justice’s self-titled debut album garnered a ton of rave reviews, but I didn’t hear it when it was released in early 1985. However, with their name still in mind, I snagged a copy of the Little Steven-produced follow-up, Shelter.

Though the title track got a lot of airplay, the album was a disappointment to those that had championed their earlier effort, criticized for being slick and over-produced. True, there is a late ’80s sheen to Shelter and less rockabilly influence, but lead singer Maria McKee possessed one of the finer set of pipes of the period and, though it isn’t as raw and immediate, the song (and album) are still worth checking out.