The A-Team

January 29, 2013

AI got sucked into The A-Team on cable.

Three hours later, I had watched about an hour and a half more of the exploits of Hannibal Smith and friends in movie form than I had ever watched of the television series.

As I was a kid at the time The A-Team initially aired, I was well aware of it. It was enormously popular for awhile and I imagine I undoubtedly checked it out for ten or fifteen minutes on a Tuesday night.

(with five, six channels and no cable, the viewing options were limited)

I was fifteen when The A-Team arrived. I think I essentially shrugged it off as simplistic.

And Mr. T…I remember the first kid in our neighborhood that had made it into The City to catch the previous summer’s blockbuster Rocky III. The next morning, we gathered as usual for a pick-up baseball game.

It was June and the sun beat down on us. It was already hot.

The lot of us were sprawled out on the grass, sweltering, breakfast digesting as Alvin recounted to us the plot of Rocky III and we hung on every word.

He was a generally quiet kid but he verbally jitterbugged as he excitedly got the first few moments out.

And he stopped.

He seemed crazy from the heat, like some addled prospector wandered in from the desert telling tales, as he slowly told of the beast that was Rocky’s opponent, Clubber Lang as played by Mr. T.

Clubber had a Mohawk.

Clubber mostly growled.

Clubber was unstoppable.

His destruction of Rocky for the heavyweight title was done with a stunning savage efficiency.

When we all finally got to see Rocky III – it arrived in our small town’s theater pretty quickly – we might have been rooting for Rocky, but we were in awe of Clubber.

Clubber was soon overshadowed by Mr. T. It seemed he was everywhere – talk shows, magazines, commercials.

Clubber had been a frightening creation. Mr. T soon began to grate on my nerves.

I was also spending more time listening to music during the years that The A-Team originally aired and the show wouldn’t have had enough appeal to pull me from doing so.

As for the movie, it was a decent popcorn flick unburdened by preconceptions or childhood memory.

The A-Team debuted almost thirty years ago to the day. Here are four songs from albums that were also arriving that week in 1983…

Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger
from Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

By the time Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released, several singles had been issued and failed to gain traction. In the States, it took until summer, but the title track finally clicked and gave the Eurythmics a breakthrough hit that topped the charts.

Sweet Dreams might be better remembered, but I’ve always preferred the chilly Love Is A Stranger.

Todd Rundgren – Drive
from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983)

Todd Rundgren’s commercial peak had expired about five years before I was listening to music. However, my friends and I were exposed to the music of Runt – both past and present – through our buddy Bosco. He was a Rundgren fanatic and each new release from the man was an event.

According to the internet, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect was a contractual obligation album and considered a throwaway, but I’ve remained quite found of the set.

(though I need never, ever again to hear Bang The Drum All Day – ever)

And I do love the clanging call to action, Drive. It makes me want to go to work tomorrow, burn down my office building, load Paloma and the animals into The Jeepster, and do as the title suggests.

Journey – Send Her My Love
from Frontiers (1983)

Journey’s follow-up to the iconic Escape was the most eagerly anticipated album of my young life in January, 1983. Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers‘ first single and it quickly became a Top Ten hit.

And, a week or so before the full album arrived in stores, I stayed up to tape Frontiers when it was played on Frog’s Midnight Album, which aired nightly on WEBN.

I played that copy of Frontiers incessantly until I made it into Cincinnati and to a record store to purchase an actual cassette. Even as I listened to it repeatedly into the summer, I could hear it as a calculated attempt to replicate Escape.

However, the haunted Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

Red Rider – Human Race
from Neruda (1983)

Canadian band Red Rider never got much love here in the States. They’d get a smattering of airplay on our album rock stations and the moody Lunatic Fringe was deservedly a staple (even if I doubt most listeners could have named the band performing it).

I seem to recall hearing the sparse, eerie Human Race occasionally that spring and it’s a compelling mix of straight-ahead rock with a slight New Wave vibe.


The Era Of Canadian Bacon Is Upon Me

October 2, 2011

It’s an exciting time to be alive and I’m not referring to the jetpacks, hovercrafts, teleporters and such.

No, it’s bacon.

Canadian bacon.

It’s not really Canadian Canadian bacon (which is, actually, back bacon) but American Canadian bacon (which was invented by McDonald’s).

I brought up the subject once with a Canadian friend and he dropped his head, shaking it slowly back and forth. Like the stereotypical Canadian, this fellow was polite and generally good-natured.

“That’s not bacon,” he sighed.

I’d seldom seen him so peeved as he was over this perceived sullying of the good name of Canadian cured meats.

I was moved by the fact that the rarely witnessed state of agitation had not been brought about by politics or religion, finance or romance, but bacon.

I doubt I had ever respected him more.

But, several weeks ago on the weekly trip for foodstuff, a yellow sale tag in the meat section of the store lured me like a siren’s song to Canadian bacon.

I’d never purchased Canadian bacon though I had enjoyed it on Egg McMuffins.

Now, I’m hooked.

No, it’s not bacon, but it is meat, enchanting stuff blurring the line between ham and strip bacon.

It isn’t the greasy chore to make like strip bacon is and it is the perfect size for an English muffin.

It’s pretty damned wonderous stuff.

(even Paloma, often a reluctant carnivore, is smitten)

Here four slightly random songs from Canadian acts…

Rush – The Body Electric
from Grace Under Pressure (1984)

By 1984, I’d begun to spend most of my radio time listening to album rock stations, of which I had a pick of perhaps half a dozen in our swath of the Midwest depending on the reception.

(if conditions were favorable – usually at night – I’d try to pull in the modern rock of 97X, instead)

So, I was hearing a lot of Rush, particularly their more-accessible, synthesizer-laden albums of the time like Moving Pictures, Signals and Grace Under Pressure. Sure, the stoners in band were most passionate about the band, but Rush was held in high regard by most of my high school classmates.

Though not essential Rush, the galloping The Body Electric had an android on the lam, binary code for a chorus, and a reference to a work by Ray Bradbury, making for a pretty groovy mix.

I Mother Earth – So Gently We Go (acoustic)
from So Gently We Go single (1994)

The Toronto-based foursome I Mother Earth will forever be, to me, one of the great lost bands of the ’90s and one that served as an introduction to me on the harsh realties of the music industry.

With a sound that fused elements of then-current bands like Jane’s Addiction and Sound Garden with Pink Floyd and Santana, I Mother Earth was also one of the most ferocious live acts I’ve ever seen.

(I think I tested Paloma’s patience when I obssessed over the band for a few weeks recently)

So Gently We Go appeared on the band’s 1993 debut Dig and here in a stripped-down version here that highlights a trippy stoner vibe that was often present in their music.

Kim Mitchell – Go For Soda
from Akimbo Alogo (1984)

Guitarist Kim Mitchell has apparently had a long and successful career in his native Canada, but the only thing I’ve ever heard is Go For Soda, a minor hit here in the States.

My friends and and I dug the song and it inspired a game we played often our senior year of high school. If we decided to “Go for soda,” the object was to leave school grounds, get to the Kroger supermarket (it was the closest food), and return in time to attend our next class with a bag full of snacks.

We had ten minutes

The Pursuit Of Happiness – I’m An Adult Now
from Love Junk (1990)

I was still in college when I first heard I’m An Adult Now and was greatly amused by the humorous take on growing up. It’s still a pile-driving, power-pop tour de force (produced by Todd Rundgren) that I adore, but the humour is a bit more gallows in nature now.


Dumbing Down The Cosmos

February 26, 2011

I happened across some television program on aliens the other night that was focused on theorists proffering the idea that human evolution has been influenced by extraterrestrial beings.

One fellow rattled off the Nazca Lines, the Pyramids of Giza and the Moai statues of Easter Island as evidence.

There was speculation that aliens might have altered the DNA of humans, resulting in some six billion or so lab rats.

The theory was also offered that some of their experientation with the various species on the planet explains the strange creatures depicted in ancient mythology – lions with wings and such.

And, these creatures might have, then, been taken by the aliens to populate other worlds.

I thought of our planet’s inhabitants as Sea Monkeys for extraterrestrials.

(it would be far less disappointing than brine shrimp)

Then, I considered Earth as a potential reality show for more advanced civilizations in the cosmos. Perhaps it competes for the attention of viewers with “reality” shows set in the other worlds the aliens have created.

Earth is probably quite popular in extraterrestrial trailer parks and a guilty pleasure for others.

(maybe it has a snappier title like So You Think You Can Evolve?)

Here are four television songs…

A-ha – The Sun Always Shines On T.V.
from Hunting High And Low

Here in the States, the Norwegian trio A-Ha has been relegated to one-hit wonder status which is unfortunate.

Sure, everyone knows Take On Me, but I’ve always been partial to that song’s follow-up, The Sun Always Shines On T.V. It hurtles along with a gloriously yearning melody and, as I recall, the video was almost as striking as the song for which they’re better known.

David Bowie – TVC 15
from The Singles Collection

TVC 15 is a jaunty little number that originally appeared on Bowie’s Station To Station set. Apparently the song was inspired by a drug-fueled hallucination by Iggy Pop that a television set had swallowed his girlfriend. Iggy wished to crawl into the television and join her.

(Burger King commercials have the same effect on me)

Pulp – TV Movie
from This Is Hardcore

I owned a trio of Pulp’s records from the mid-’90s when they reached their highest profile in their native UK. Here in the States, the group garnered little attention (which is too bad).

Jarvis Cocker always reminded me of a latter day Ray Davies. This is Hardcore was a darker, more somber affair than the band’s previous Different Class. TV Movie, lamenting a failed relationship, is somber, but it is also lovely and moving.

The Tubes – T.V. Is King
from Remote Control

My high school buddy Bosco turned me on to both The Tubes and Todd Rundgren. Though Remote Control was released several years earlier, I have no doubt it was a memorable moment for him as the album found Rundgren producing the band.

Rundgren also received writing credits on a pair of songs from Remote Control, a concept album about television, including T.V. Is King. The amusing track has Rundgren’s fingerprints all over it.