A nasally voice speaks up, "I hate America."
"WHAT?! SAME COOKE WAS FROM AMERICA! MARVIN WAS FROM AMERICA! JAMES BROWN...."
"I hate America. Can't you sing something different?"
"YOU WANT SOME SMOKEY?? HEY CHECK THIS OUT!"
Even more nasally now: "how about some Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Bjork..."
"DON'T KNOW ANY OF THEM ... WHO WANTS SOME SMOKEY??"
Nasally Guy gets up, heads for the front of the bus. I turn in my seat to face the singer, who's only two rows behind me. "SMOKEY? YOU WANT SOME SMOKEY?" he asks, then decides to break into Martha and the Vandellas. "CALLING OUT AROUND THE WORLD, ARE YOU READY FOR A BRAND NEW BEAT?" His voice isn't bad, pretty good for 1:15 a.m. on the bus. He's enthusiastic as hell, interjecting a few YEAH's and WOO's into his vocals.
Eventually, the bus divides into the haves and the have-nots (i.e. those who have soul and those who don't.) Aside from myself, gathered around the singer are a guy in a leather jacket, a student with a backpack, and a skatepunk who's wearing flannel plaid pants, an STP jacket, and a Beastie Boys skull cap.
This fat drunk guy with a baseball hat pulled down over his eyes yells from the front of the bus for the singer to shut up. The singer carries on, ignoring him. "YOU GUYS LIKE OTIS?" then breaks into "Dock of the Bay." We clap after he's finished a couple of verses. "WHAT YOU GUYS WANNA HEAR?" "'Kansas City!'" I yell.
"I'M GOIN TO KANSAS CITY, KANSAS CITY HERE I COME ... OOOH YEAH!"
After one verse, the shouts from the fat guy come back louder, angrier. The singer, for once, is quiet. He looks around at his audience. The Skatepunk nods at him, "keep singing." The singer isn't quite sure.
Leather Jacket guy looks at me. "Seems you know the tunes, man."
"How 'bout some Temps?" I ask.
His eyes light up, and he regains his confidence. "YOU LIKE THE TEMPS? ... YOU WANT SOME TEMPS? ... I'VE GOT SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY..." It's his best rendition yet. During the chorus he gets us to join in - shy and tuneless, we try to keep up. Nobody yells at us when we're done.
The Skatepunk rings for the 36th Street stop - my stop also - and we go to shake hands with the singer - "hang loose, men, hang loose" - he says. Making our way to the front of the bus, Fat Drunk Baseball Hat Guy is scowling at us. "Freaks," he mumbles. A fuck-off-and-die smirk appears on The Skatepunk's mouth. He points at the big man as he passes, then pauses and declares:
"Rock, be rocked, or step aside."
I knew this guy briefly in high school whose name was also Bill. A rebel with kind of a cause, he was once reprimanded by the vice principal (who was nicknamed - by the students only - "Scrawny Ronnie" ha ha) for wearing a Coors tee-shirt to school. (Keep in mind that this was 1983, and Coors was not yet available in the North Country, so it still had a mystique. We had yet to find out that Coors is some bad stuff. Plus, we were in high school: what the hell did we know about beer?)
He told me a story once about how he and his buddies saw two cop cars parked in a lot - driver's side facing driver's side. The cops had their windows rolled down and were talking. On a dare, Bill walked up and said, "excuse me officers, can you tell me where the nearest doughnut shop is?"
The new Pearl Jam album stinks. Literally. I opened up the package and it smelled all musty.
I had an allergic reaction a few weeks back to some oven cleaner I was using. These happen to me every year or so and are no fun: not only did my windpipe began to swell shut, it happened right in the middle of a swig of beer - which I had to spit out onto the carpet when I couldn't swallow it. I then had to take some of these stupid white 'n' green antihistamines (stupid because they keep me up half the night) that I have, and when I poured them out of the bottle, all I could think was: "hey cool - these pills look like Sioux home jerseys!"
Think globally, drink locally.
Life Imitates Art: watching Slim Dunlap at Mayslack's, the girl standing next to me keeps glancing at me. Eventually, she asks me if I want to dance. I nod yes, then she walks right past me and grabs the girl next to me; who was her target the whole time.
I beat a quick retreat to the bar, slam a Leiny, think about Chasing Amy, and chuckle.
In the intro to "Let Us Now Praise Lynyrd Skynyrd" (collected in his anthology Fortunate Son), Dave Marsh echoes Lenny Bruce's assertion that no one in American life dare possess a Southern accent, as to have one is to be instantly discredited. Although a Yankee, this rings true for me.
Some folks last week were getting a kick out of the way I talk: way-up-northisms like saying "me and him" instead of "he and I" or saying "I'm doing good" instead of "I'm doing well" brought guffaws. Others get their jollies out of my saying "dat" instead of "that", "dere" instead of "there", and "I seen dem" instead of "I saw them."
These (I mean "dese") folks are soooo clever in pointing out the nuances of my dialect. They usually 1) repeat what I just said in an attempt to make me feel the shame of sounding the way I do (and then all I feel is pride that I have not yet lost my roots); or 2) tell me the correct way I should have said something. (Like I care...) If a discussion ensues, I am invariably told that I don't use "proper English." My best response for these folks is to quote Homer Simpson: "English? I'm never going to England!"
Whatever. When the sun goes down, I drink my Schlitz beer and listen to my Skynyrd box set, proud of the fact that my being such a stupid fucking backwoods hick can bring so much enjoyment to so many people.
I awoke to the music of my clock radio. Omigod, I thought, this band is Rolling Stones Two, who sound vaguely like Rolling Stones One, if you were to take Rolling Stones One and remove all of their menace and decadent whiskey-soaked absorption of America. Rolling Stones Two gives their albums coyly worded titles that acknowledge the scam they're pulling (e.g. Undercover: they're merely posing as the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band; Voodoo Lounge: Rolling Stones One's voodoo music as played by a Holiday Inn lounge act.) They tend to emerge from their mansions every few years to do an emperor's new clothes thing.
Then I awoke from the dream and realized that there were no Rolling Stones One or Rolling Stones Two; there had just been the Rolling Stones, who disappeared in late 1972 amidst rumors of a hit by an outlaw motorcycle gang. I hit the snooze button, once again destined to be late for work.
Overheard in a bar:
Dude #1: Man, Pearl Jam is just Bad Company for the nineties.
Dude #2: That means Mother Love Bone was Free!
Another Friday night with nothing to do, I trekked to the Edina Theater for the opening of The Replacement Killers, plopped into the fourth row, and found myself right in the middle of a bunch of John Woo Disciples. (Woo, executive producer of the film, has a large cult following in the US, as does star Chow Yun-Fat.) About six of 'em in front of me, with at least another six in front of them, two to my left, another solo to my right, with a whole bunch of 'em sprinkled in the few rows behind me. Wow, actual film geeks, I thought. Geeks, yes, but on the other hand, they've seen more John Woo movies then me - these guys rule! If I ever went to a store other than Video Update, I could rent City on Fire and A Better Tomorrow II and be hip to the scene!
The Disciples cracked me up. While the lights were still on, there was constant talk about cinematography, The Killer, and that rip-off artist Quentin Tarantino. Then the lights went down. One of the previews was for the new Neve Campbell / Matt Dillon movie. The trailer showed lots of scenes with these drop-dead gorgeous high school girls wearing bras or swimsuits. Lots of gasps of excitement from the Disciples. Haven't these guys spent quality time in strip bars getting desensitized to all of this?
The Replacement Killers opens, and upon star Chow Yun-Fat's name appearing, everyone cheers. (Me too: Chow is a hero of mine, ten times cooler than bulky, non-exciting, so-called action heroes like Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Plus, his movies are so much better.) Mira Sorvino's name appears, and there's cheers for her, too, I'm guessing based on last summer's GQ layout (which I, for one, was definitely cheering.)
Then the movie kicks in, and it was pretty damn cool. All style and shootouts and honor and friendship, just like a non-Hollywood Hong Kong action movie - except maybe not as hectic or as bloody. Mira wore a bustier in a few scenes, and Chow ruled. The "deep" scenes were in a Buddhist temple, unlike the Hong Kong movies where they usually take place in Catholic churches. Go figure.
On my way out, a few of the Disciples were gathered by the door discussing the movie, pondering why anyone would use a laser-sight gun in a movie theater. Why indeed?
Fifties nostalgia, I can deal with.
I resent sixties nostalgia, because baby boomers go on and on about how they went out in the streets and stopped a war, man. Yet they didn't stop a war at all, man. It was ended by the North Vietnamese and it was ended in the seventies.
I detest seventies nostalgia, because the clothes were (and are, retrokiddies!) ugly beyond belief. Not to mention the Vietnam War and Watergate were big downers, and don't get me going on Nixon revisionism. Plus, silly Did Ramones or Pistols Start Punk arguments, when it turns out it was invented in the mid-sixties by the Kingsmen.
I abhor eighties nostalgia, because I remember that decade rather well. Reagan was president for most of the decade; about the only good thing about him was that he made the rest of us just look smarter. (Note to the youngsters: Reagan was this cranky old coot who a bunch of people loved because he reminded them of a senile grandfather. Then after he was out of office, it turns out he had Alzheimer's, probably while in office, too - meaning he really was senile. Nobody was surprised by the news.)
As for music, the eighties wasn't all 1) fems, 2) skinny ties, and 3) spandex.
The eighties I remember started with Miracle on Ice, and ended with the Berlin Wall coming down. In between were "Let's Go Crazy", Nebraska, "Jump", Big Daddy, Master of Puppets, "Peace Sells (But Who's Buying)", Pleased to Meet Me, "Rockbox", Appetite for Destruction, Exit 0, "Louder Than a Bomb", Under a Blood Red Sky, "Loud Love", Hysteria, Hang Time, "The Message", and "So. Central Rain." You all have your own versions, I'm sure they're better than whatever nostalgia trip you're being fed these days.
Ayn: Hey, have you heard DJ Spooky? Get this - he remixed Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" for the Spawn soundtrack. The thing is, I always thought of them as being more of fodder for a techno band.
Ayn: Die Krupps covered a whole album of their songs a few years back.
Ayn: Think about it: throughout the eighties, your heroes were all dry, relentless, precision; it wasn't until their black album that they began to swing a little.
Ayn: You didn't catch the hip-hop beats implied in "Holier Than Thou"?
Ayn: I'm going to hang up now.
Could we have Jerry Lee Lewis fight Marilyn Manson or Liam Gallagher or that annoying little twit from Prodigy? That'd be so fucking cool. Or how about he fights all three of them at once?
And I'm not talking Jerry Lee in his prime. I'm talking The Killer RIGHT NOW at age 62, kicking their collective asses IN ONE BRAWL. "All you punks ever did better'n me was take better drugs," he'd snarl over them as they lay on the pavement in pain after he's taught them a lesson.
NWA: Nodaks With Attitude
In her book Kiss This, Gina Arnold rebukes D Boon's wish that every block in America have its own punk rock band, mostly for the reason that it's hard to be different when everyone's being different just like you.
But I think the "punk band on every block" moment already came and went. The Nuggets series (available on Rhino, of which I own the first two), contains many of the greatest early punk songs (note: my world view being that "punk" means garage more than mohawk.) The first disc contains the Monkees "Pleasant Valley Sunday"; which is not a punk song (and the Monkees weren't a punk band, although the Sex Pistols did cover "Stepping Stone"), but has the opening lines "the local rock group down the street is trying hard to learn their song." If you read into this line, it means that 1) every street had a rock group, who of course played in a garage, and 2) every said band had only one song! Just like seminal sixties punks like the Count Five, the Knickerbockers, and the Standells.
Well, actually the Standells had four or five hits, and these guys just might be my favorite of all the sixties punk bands. Their song "Why Pick on Me" asks "do you get your kicks when you see me cry?" and at the very end when the song is fading out they change it to "do you get your kicks when you're kinda high?" no doubt at the time pissing off Maryland governor candidate Spiro Agnew. Then there's "Try It", which in its bloozy stance out-Stonesed anything the Rolling Stones were doing in 1967 (they were in their baroque period - "Ruby Tuesday" and "She's a Rainbow" - yawn.) In fact, it's probably the sleazy predecessor of "Stray Cat Blues."
The booklet that comes with Nuggets, Vol. 2, tells us that the Standells hated their classic "Dirty Water," because it tarnished their slick nightclub image. Then once it became their first hit, they gladly accepted the roles of greasy youth rebels. So sometimes selling out and/or being posers is a good thing!
Even Chip Douglas on My Three Sons had a garage band. There was this one episode where this guy from England was coming to stay with one of the band members, and Chip and his posse heard that the guy was a guitar player. They were all pumped because they assumed this guy would join their band, they'd get instant cred, and unlike the Count Five or the Knickerbockers, they'd be one step up on imitating Brits like the Yardbirds and the Beatles. Fame, fortune, and go-go-boot wearing girls would soon be theirs! Then the guy turned out to be a classical guitarist and tells them he can't be in their band because they don't have garages in England or something like that. I think he ended up joining the band anyway, and they incorporated his classical playing into their act. Which means Chip Douglas invented Art Rock, so next time you hear "Roundabout" on KQRS you know who to blame.
The Little Uptown Girl speaks: "I believe in Freedom. I am not sure whether I believe in Love. And the price for Love is Freedom."
This issue dedicated to Gretchen. (I'm not there yet, but I've come far. Thanks again.)
A big howdy-do to whoever it was out there who left the message on my answering machine that consisted of nothing but a Muzak version of "Bungle in the Jungle."
Thanks to Sandy Tuomala for important Chip Douglas info.
Everything written by me, except where noted.
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