Are There Raisins In This?

December 24, 2010

Due to my non-use of condiments, a friend used to disapprovingly refer to me eating “communist burgers.”

(I appreciate the honesty of a burger that is willing to be presented with little more than cheese and lettuce or maybe some mushrooms and onions)

It’s true that I am often a minimalist with food.

It’s not that I haven’t been willing to take the palatte on a wild ride and toss something new down the gullet.

(haggis comes to mind)

So, I know from experience that I do not like raisins.

And for as long as I can remember – for as long as I’ve known I do not like raisins – people have been trying to get me to ingest them.

In bowls of breakfast flakes, in toast, in cookies, in chocolate…they’re everywhere. I don’t think there’s been a food group whose inhabitants haven’t been used in an attempt to dupe me into eating raisins.

I like grapes.

I have no palatable interest in the shriveled, desiccated carcasses of a once fine fruit and reject the raisin on not only principle but taste.

Yet they’re so ubiquitous I have to wonder if there is some sinister plot behind this reign of raisins.

(and who might be doing the plotting? – the government? the International Monetary Fund? aliens?)

And, at this time of the year, when baked goods are all the rage and Paloma is spending more time in the kitchen than Paula Deen, it is necessary for me to be more vigilant than usual.

I’ve drawn a line in the vineyard.

The first Christmas Eve on which I would have fallen asleep with the radio on would have been 1982. Here are four songs from the Billboard chart that week which I know I heard that Christmas night…

Toto – Africa
from Toto IV

Is there a more enduring hit from the ’80s than Toto’s Africa? It seems to have seeped into the collective consciousness of most of the planet, including that of a Slovenian a cappella group.

Men At Work – Down Under
from Business As Usual

Men At Work had dominated the radio during the late summer and early autumn of ’82 with Who Can It Be Now? By Christmas, Down Under had become the Aussie act’s second smash.

I do know that my friends and I had seen both of those videos on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 and been delighted by lead singer Colin Hay’s expressive antics and emotive nature. And, I do know that I received a copy of Business As Usual for Christmas that year which I wore out over the following winter months.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance

One of my best friends in our neighborhood as a kid was a big fan of Bob Seger, so I was familiar with his music, but I wasn’t impressed. And, at the time, I wanted nothing to do with Shame On The Moon when it would come on the radio. It was far too rootsy for my tastes.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I had a greater affection for the music of Seger than I had known. That included the loping and wistful Shame On The Moon, penned by Rodney Crowell.

Donald Fagen – I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)
from The Nightfly

I knew a handful of hits by Steely Dan when Donald Fagen, half of the creative force behind that partnership, issued his solo debut in autumn of 1982. Their music bored me as did I.G.Y. (which usually prompted me to change the station).

In retrospect, the stuff was simply too sophisticated for my young ears which were more attuned to Journey and Missing Persons. Over the ensuing years, I’d begin to catch up to the wickedly twisted works of Fagen and Becker.

Listening to the lush, shuffling track now and its vision of the future, I can’t help but think of folks who wonder where the flying cars we were told would dot the skies are.


Monday Rears Its Ugly Head Again

January 24, 2010

Like grim death it does.

No sleeping past six. No lounging on the couch nursing an extra cup of coffee. No plotting out whether to take that nap after breakfast or hold off ’til after lunch.

As a kid, the weekend essentially ended the moment that I heard that stopwatch ticking to open 60 Minutes. As my parents settled in to watch the weekly news program, I knew that the clock had run out on my weekend.

In college, the transition from Sunday to Monday was far less jarring. Monday morning hardly loomed as some ominous, unstoppable force because liberation was as simple as noting with bleary eyes that I had forty-five minutes before my first class, rolling over, and waking two hours later, refreshed and ready to skip my afternoon classes to watch Twilight Zone reruns.

By refusing to play with Monday, an implacable foe, or even acknowledge its existence, I won.

That ride should have come to an end upon graduation, but, fortunately, my commencement from school coincided with the rise of slacker culture, a glorious period when it was no more acceptable to put off grown-up nonsense, but doing so had a nifty name. It was a good excuse to take an extra year or ten to live on noodles, attend shows on guest lists, and continue to ignore Mondays.

Monday had been reduced to merely the day before Tuesday, the day new albums were released, and life was good.

These days, that damned 60 Minutes stopwatch is, once again, a harbinger of the impending work week. As soon as I hear its ominous ticking, I switch the channel to The Simpsons and spend the final couple hours of the weekend with cartoons.

As a kid, I’d usually shuffle off to my bedroom, turn on the radio, and dial up 101.3 from Richmond which would be rebroadcasting that week’s American Top 40. I’d listen to Casey Kasem count down the songs and the weekend.

Here are some songs that were on Billboard‘s Hot 100 for this week in 1983…

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance

One of my best friends in our neighborhood as a kid was a big fan of Bob Seger, so I was familiar with his music, but I wasn’t impressed. And, at the time, I wanted nothing to do with Shame On The Moon when it would come on the radio. It was far too rootsy for my tastes.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I had a greater affection for the music of Seger than I had known. That included the loping and wistful Shame On The Moon, penned by Rodney Crowell.

Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two
from Night And Day

Another artist that I have had a major reassessment of since I was a kid, Joe Jackson’s sophisticated pop was a bit too mature for me to truly appreciate at the time. I hadn’t cared for Steppin’ Out and though I liked Breaking Us In Two a bit more, my interest was still tepid at best.

But it’s hard to resist the charm of the song with its hypnotic, tick-tock melody and yearning lyrics.

Greg Kihn Band – Jeopardy
from Kihnspiracy

Greg Kihn got a lot of airplay from the stations in our area and his engaging power pop always sounded great on the radio. It wasn’t just his bigger hits like the infectious The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em), but even lesser-known singles like Reunited and Lucky got airplay.

Jeopardy was a monster. Of course, between a friend of mine who was a devotee of Kihn and wore out Kinhspiracy and the mammoth success of the song on radio, I did get burned out on it, but my ears perk up when I hear it these days.

ABC – Poison Arrow
from The Lexicon Of Love

ABC garnered heaps of attention and accolades when the group issued its debut, The Lexicon Of Love, particularly in their native UK. Their first single, The Look Of Love, was all over the radio during the autumn of ’82 and Poison Arrow arrived with the new year.

The song possessed the same air of drama as well as being flawlessly produced by Trevor Horn. It practically glistened. For whatever reason, the radio stations I was listening to – that had so embraced The Look Of Love – didn’t show Poison Arrow nearly as much love and I rarely heard the song outside of its appearances on American Top 40.