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.


I’m Taking The BC Lions And The Eleven Points

September 25, 2010

Of late, Canada has had an increased presence in my life.

(not that there’s anything wrong with that)

There’s long been music from north of the border in my world and some fantastic stuff at that.

And, a month or so ago, I happened across a groovy website for the brilliant Canadian sketch comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall.

(I keep the page open at work and – to balance out the moments when I want to set fires – I often will read a transcript of a sketch or two)

As much as I dug Second City Television, I thought that The Kids In The Hall was the better of the two groups. In fact, I’m willing to state that The Kids In The Hall was as good if not better than the more heralded Monty Python.

(of course, Monty Python did provide the demented template for acts like The Kids In The Hall)

I digress.

There’s been more than music and merriment that has made me wonder if I’m turning Canadian.

I’ve been watching broadcasts of the Canadian Football League on Friday nights.

It happened unexpectedly one evening when I dialed up the NFL Network and found a pre-game show for that night’s CFL game – Calgary and Saskatchewan. It was no-frills, football not antics.

I dug it.

The games I’ve watched have been entertaining and the style – due to differences from the American version – is wide-open. The quarterbacks seem to take more shots deep than their brethren here in the US.

It is strange to hear the announcers note the difficulties for teams that find themselves in a lot of “second and long” situations. For thirty plus years, that scenario has merely meant your team needed some yardage to avoid having to convert on third and long.

(that missing down really makes the brain a bit dizzy)

And I find myself mentally chastising quarterbacks for throwing passes that I expect to sail out of the endzone only to remember that there’s twice the amount of real estate in the Canadian version.

Oh, I’m not ready to abandon the NFL. Not yet.

But it is a pleasant throwback to watch a game and not have the screen plastered with so much information and a neverending crawl that makes focusing on the actual game a potentially seizure-inducing effort.

It is a delight to not have to sit through the “entertainment” added to attract viewers that would otherwise have little interest in tuning into a game.

(seriously, does the NFL feel that the health of the league can only be ensured by having that fleshy-headed icon of mediocrity known as Daughtry perform at each game?)

No, I’m not Canadian, but I realize that I might be edging toward the morning when I spit out my coffee, demand a cup of brew from Tim Hortons, and start planning Thanksgiving break around the Grey Cup.

Anyone know a Canadian bookie?

While I sort out how to develop a problem gambling on Canadian football, here’s some songs by the first four Canadian acts that scrolled up on shuffle…

Daniel Lanois – The Maker
from Acadie

The ridiculously talented Daniel Lanois helped U2 achieve greatness and helped Bob Dylan reclaim relevence, and those are just two of the highpoints of a career that has seen him produce and work with a staggering area of music legends.

He’s a talented musician in his own right, though, and Aaron Neville makes an appearance on the moody, world-weary modern spiritual The Maker from his solo debut.

Blue Rodeo – 5 Days In July
from Five Days In July

It makes me happy to read Blue Rodeo described as “a veritable institution in their home country” on All-Music Guide’s site. The alternative roots rock band should have had a larger audience in the States.

Paloma and I saw the band live in the mid-’90s. I believe it was some show we’d gotten into as guests of the label and had no expectations or much knowledge of Blue Rodeo. It was a small club – maybe two hundred people – and I left believing I the band was one of the best live acts I’d ever seen.

Bryan Adams – Diana

Diana hit radio during the summer of ’85 when Bryan Adams’ career had taken the jump to megastar with the release of Reckless the autumn before.

The song wasn’t on the album – I think it was on a twelve-inch single with one of the hits – but the stations in our area played the hell out of the catchy rock song in which Adams pined for the Princess Of Wales.

At the time, my buddy Beej had a girlfriend who was obsessed with Diana. She actually resembled her and cut her hair to mirror the princess.

(it was a bit trippy)

The Odds – Wendy Under The Stars
from Neopolitan

The Odds were a wonderfully quirky band who released their debut, Neopolitan, in 1991. I saw the band sometime that autumn as the opening act for Warren Zevon.

(great show except for the loon who squawked for Mohammed’s Radio through the entire two hours)

The band might slow things down a bit on Wendy Under The Stars but the engaging song is still power pop with a bit of jangle as the protagonist recounts his memories of the night Elvis died.

(the song captured the attention of a crowd that had been – up to that point – indifferent as soon as the band got to the chorus)