||As far as I can tell, the Zicam zinc cold cure has one significant drawback: you get well so fast you promptly have another cold. Or is this just a remnant of the last? If it’s the start of something new, I’d best start jamming quarts of zinc up my nose again because you’re supposed to take it as soon as you get the symptoms. I think you have a 45-minute window in which you can launch. (The British report said 15.) But how can you tell, really?
Pulled up at the video store yesterday.
“There’s a restaurant there too,” said Gnat from the backseat. Every week we go there; she’s never noted this before.
“That’s right. Have we ever eaten there?”
“That’s right, we. Have we ever eaten there?”
“Oui,” she repeated. Pause. “I’m speaking French!”
Oh my. The 80s playlist just unearthed “Obsession” by Animotion. I still remember that video: this singer who looked like a thermometer on which someone had glued two basketballs – and stil all you noticed was her nose – and the ur-80s guy with shades and cast-iron jaw. Horrible song. I love it. Okay, let’s just cut off shuffle play and listen only to the 80s stuff; wife and child are at the library, and I can turn everything up loud. . .
Well, I’ve nothing else to say tonight, so let’s swipe from Proust and do Musical Madeleines. See, one of the reasons we’ve had such a bland & boring streak o’ Bleats is because I’m spending my nights scanning, and there’s nothing less conducive to writing that scanning. You can’t get any momentum going. But scan I must, as Con Ed would say. I am on the bring of an announcement of sorts, and trust me – all will be clear in a few weeks. Anyway, let’s listen in.
Oh, my. I need to rearrange my iTunes list; it believes that “Don’t Look Back” is an 80s song. It is not. It comes from 1978, and I know exactly where I was living at the time: in a small room off a kitchen in a dilapidated apartment building on 4th street:
right across from – well, “Positively Fourth Street,” a record store named after the Dylan song, which was named after this very street. And of course Ralph and Jerry’s was at the end of the block, grocery store and culture center for our small world. The stores are gone but the apartment buildings are still there, a quarter century later. When I first got to the Birchwoods in 1978 the barber shop on the corner had recently closed.
The sign, I discovered, was still there a quarter century later.
Chances I will find myself in 16 years standing in the very same apartment where I once lived, helping Gnat set up, feeling as though everything had happened in the blink of a eye: quite good.
Oh, my. “Telecommunication” by Flock of Seagulls. A maligned band, I think. We used to sing our own lyrics to their big hit:
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
United Arab Emirates and you, Emirates and you
Syria Jordan Libya
Sudan Morocco Turkey too, yes and Turkey too
And Iran . . . Iran’s so far away
“Telecommunication” sounded different from anything else on the album (first song second side, if I remember – and those things used to be important. Album order often went like this: Second hit, first hit, not so bad up-tempo number, slow crap, throwaway. Second side: impressive start, so-so tune, two dullards, pretentious finale because it was produced by Bill Nelson, the brilliant guitarist behind “Be Bop Deluxe.” And I’d just thought of him an hour ago while sifting through some arts sites – came across a picture from “Angels in America” of someone in a hallway lit by candelabras held by human hands. That’s a swipe from Cocteau, of course (didn’t you just love that “of course”? What a pretentious ass I am!) and Nelson was perhaps the only prog-rock guitar hero who worked Cocteau references into much of his work.
“Funkytown.” Heh. Big hit. Done right here in Minneapolis. The start of the Minneapolis sound, I believe. Killer guitar riff, which Huey Lewis stole for that list of cities in “Heart of Rock and Roll.”
“Call Me.” The death of New Wave, right there – Deborah Harry singing a Morodor drone. I hated Morodor. Kraftwerk for drunks. This is one of those songs I had to listen to six times a night while I bartended, and it’s interminable.
“Gloria” by Laura Branigan. A song about someone named Gloria, as far as I can tell. She’s always on the run, now. I think she got to slow down, before she start to blow it. I think she’s headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it. I am appalled that I remember this. Odd song – I swear it modulates every mix measures. This song has more keys than a Pentagon janitor.
(Note: Gnat is home now, and just came to my room and performed an interpretive dance to “Gloria.” Very nice.)
“Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes. I was living in a ramshackle house that had been given an unenthusiastic upgrade. Roommates: College students and waiters working at the same restaurant. Lost touch with them all except my friend Wesley. The house – which was originally home to the U of M’s president 75 years before - has been demolished and replaced with a gigantic apartment building, the residents of which were probably not yet born when that slap-slap sound Changed the Face of Rock Forever.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Hmm: it’s by Yes, a group about which I always thought, well, no. Too much noodling. The singer made the guy from Rush sound like James Earl Jones. The entire point of the band seemed to be “okay, you get stoned, and we’ll play in 7/8 time and mix the bass like a lead instrument.” This tune does not stink, thanks to Trevor Horn’s production. This was their Genesis moment – years of toiling in the prog-rock ghetto paid off with an uncharacteristic hit, but they dropped the ball and didn’t follow up. For which the world is grateful. First use of the “orchestral hit” or “orchestral strike” patch in a top 40 hit, if you care.
“Poison Arrow,” ABC. What was that singer’s name? Martin something. Martin Frey. He was Bryan Ferry lite – all the angst but only half the Euro-weenie weariness. Not that I don’t like Bryan Ferry; any man who ever dated a model knows exactly what motivates his vocal style. Bryan Ferry songs are all about being 39 years old, sitting in a hotel room in a resort, looking at the high-heeled shoes on the floor, and hearing her flip through Vogue in the bathroom while she tunelessly hums some song you can’t stand. This can only come to harm. But still.
“(I wear my) Sunglasses at Night,” Corey Hart. Because you’re a dork, that’s why. Only one person can carry that off: Sonny Crockett, he of the Tragic Stubble.
More? Why not! Mind you, my iTunes playlist consists of 6000+ tunes legitimately purchased; the 80s stuff comes from compilations I bought at the second-hand store. I take no responsibility.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Whoa. It’s 1980something, and I’m coming back from a meeting with two women who wanted me to ghostwrite a book about something or other. They had a boutique. My agent set it up. Nothing came of it, but as Tom Lehrer said, I am never forget the day. Driving north on the freeway on a summer evening, windows down, young & single & speeding. We all loved this song. No one knew what the hell the lyrics meant, but it was true nevertheless. “All for freedom and for pleasure / nothing ever lasts forever / everybody wants to rule the world.” And for a few minutes or hours or days, you do, you know.
“Der Kommissar.” A few years ago in New York I ran into a GF from Lakes / Uptown era. She’d moved to NYC and we’d lost touch, but I was walking along 54th and I heard a familiar voice shout “Lileks!” She was the only one who called me by my last name. (Pause; do google search on name.) (Majel Barrett voice: Working . . . wow. One hit for a New York City marathon. She was a runner; that’s her.) I remember expressing condolences over the death of Falco – not that she loved the guy, but he was an Austrian singer, and she’d spent a lot of time in Austria. He sang “Der Kommissar,” which was covered by the poorly named band After the Fire. That version was a big hit in the house where I lived with Viktor and the Crazy Uke, because it had that deplore-the-East-Germans-vibe that went well with a staunch anti-commie Ukranian household. Okay, next.
“Hot Girls in Love,” Loverboy. I have stated this before and I will state it again. My one big guilty pleasure is “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy. This tune is a different matter. But you know, it’s not bad. It just has that Ricky H taint. Ricky H was a friend in the 80s – fry cook, pinball player non pariel, and a crackerjack radio man. He would vanish for months at a time – off he went to Montana, Iowa, up and down the dial. He’d work a station, get canned, come back, flip bacon and shoot pins, then vanish again. Last time I saw him I was standing outside the Strib working on a cigar; a bus pulled up, the door open, and the driver shot me that index-finger salute. It was Rick.
He thought Loverboy was the thing. And from an FM hot-rockin’ perspective, he was right. In fact much of what he liked I have come to appreciate, somewhat, but he never got new wave / power-pop, and it annoyed me that he liked these groups that co-opted the skinny-tie ethos without understanding that this was A REVOLUTION, MAN!
“The Boy from New York City” Manhattan Transfer. Blast from Past. File under Bette Midler’s “Bugle Boy” remake. About 3:55 into the song, sublime harmony; overproduced, but worth the wait.
“Real Love,” Dooble Bros. Haven’t heard this in ages. Didn’t miss it. Another favorite of the sorority sisters. It doesn’t hold up – lyrically and musically incoherent, but it made sense at the time. How odd.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
“What I Like About You,” The Romantics! Best song ever! Sounds like the Kinks! They wore red leather! I saw them in concert with a friend named Bridgett! She had red hair! The Romantics opened for Cheap! Trick! I am not! Kidding! When they played this song about 28,043 people all! Jumped! In! the! Air! When they said HEY! And the harmonica solo started! A frickin’ HARMONICA SOLO, people!
And now because the 80s deities are smiling on me: the best song of the era, by my lights. “What Do All the People Know,” the Monroes, 1983. It came along at one of those moments you experience once and spend your life remembering. Not first love; not first glories, not first anything, for that matter. No, it’s a moment when everything you’ve known before combines again at a perfect time. Which for me was November 1983. I was the co-editor of the literary section for the paper; I had my own new place; I was nuts over a woman (First date: Casablanca, on the big screen) and it was all wheels-up and full throttle. Sweet!
And . . . I had no idea that 21 years later this song would come up on my digital jukebox shuffle play, and that I’d stand to air-guitar the chorus, and in doing so I would unplug the headphones, which meant I would have to get on my hands and knees to replace the plug, and that my spouse would come upstairs at that moment and catch me in that inglorious position.
Next week: the 70s! See you then. In the future, I mean.