Friday, September 26, 2014

Paul Revere & The Raiders

This was one of Dad's favorite bands, while in his teens, not unlike the Rascals. I often wondered what it must have been like to have grown up with all of these great bands out there. It must have been hard to choose what the hell to go out and buy, what with so many picks out there!

He played this one for me, and I found that there were some great garage-rock cuts on it. Kind of a shame you don't hear them much anymore, not even on the "oldies" stations, apart from "Kicks", the only song they seem to be remembered for these days. They rocked a little harder than they got credit for, but always got stuck in the "teen band" penalty-box.

Another album he had was called Something Happening, which had almost a completely different band lineup, but a few very strong cuts on it, kicking off with "Too Much Talk", with gnarly fuzz guitar and some very cool basslines. "Don't Take It So Hard" was also another favorite of mine from it. I remember seeing this one back at the Blue House, where I'd heard it for the first time. Angie's school friends were there when Dad played it, and I was more impressed with it than they were.
A few years onward, in the second grade, we were visited in our class during the course of a week by a guy named Jim Valley, who sang, played the acoustic guitar, and wrote songs like "Rainbow Planet" and "The Computer Song", also singing songs for us like Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash". What I didn't know right away was that he had once been the lead guitarist for the Raiders for a few albums, and he was one of the guys on the cover, wearing the red slip-on shoes. Wow, how cool was that? Stupidly, I never brought it in to have him sign it!

EDIT I was shocked to hear of Paul Revere's passing not long after I originally posted this. There were loads of tributes to him by many musicians and friends of his on Facebook, which was touching. I had to go and score vinyl copies of the two original Greatest Hits collections. Geoffrey absolutely loves "Don't Take It So Hard"; I'll hear him singing it around the house, sometimes even just the middle section of it, word for word.

Johnny Rivers

This was one that Dad plonked onto the turntable, and it drew me right in. The cover, not so much. It looked like one of those sort of generic labels one would see on a bootleg 8-Track cartridge. The back cover was not much better, having the song titles listed again, flanked by a few hand-drawn trees, which reminded me of Wright Park. The run of songs on there inlcuded a handful of Chuck Berry tunes, "Secret Agent Man", "Mountain Of Love" (still a longtime favorite), and "Rockin' Pneumonia / Boogie-Woogie Flu". Great stuff. Mom also played this album, but seemed to favor the ballads on it, such as "Poor Side Of Town" and "The Tracks Of My Tears".
The album art was so generic that there wasn't even a picture of the artist himself anywhere on it. Dad had only one other album by him called Realization, kind of a psychedelic/introspective album, with the excellent "Summer Rain". On the photo-collage on the back cover was a guy with dark hair and thick glasses; for a second, I thought it was Doug from The New Zoo Revue!
Much later on, reminiscing about some of the classic stuff with Winter while we were in The Pace, he half-jokingly suggested that we should over-dub a gang of girls to shout, hoot and whistle while the songs were going on, sort of like the cover versions of "Maybelline" and "Memphis". Too bad we never did that!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I don't remember seeing it from the first day of its initial broadcast, but the TV was now all but permanently anchored onto this new channel called MTV, which showed music videos all day and all night, hosted by a revolving gang of cool people who introduced videos, or told the latest about who was putting out a new album or touring.

It was an interesting mix within the first year of the channel starting out. We saw videos by old favorite bands who were still plugging along (The Who, J. Geils Band, the Rolling Stones), new bands and singers coming out (Asia, John Cougar Mellencamp, Survivor, the Eurythmics, Bryan Adams), and a plethora of "new wave" bands, often one-hit wonders (Human League, Madness, Bananarama, A Flock Of Seagulls, Romeo Void, ABC, and the Buggles, who launched the whole thing off with "Video Killed The Radio Star").

Some of the stuff was good, as well as stuff that was rather questionable; one that was hated around the house was "I Know What Boys Like" by the Waitresses, but would soon be followed up by another new band called Huey Lewis & The News, which was much more tolerable. And then, almost as comic relief, there were videos by funny guys like Madness, and Men At Work, whose videos were not only hilarious, but the songs were equally as good and memorable.

As the years went on, the channel got a little more complex, with live concerts being broadcast via satellite, like the Asia In Asia concert in late 1983. Another feature we enjoyed was a half-hour show called Closet Classics, which showcased a lot of videos from the German music show Beat Club, and I got to see clips by bands like Cream, and Blue Cheer. And a few years after that, they broadcast the now-legendary Monkees marathon over an entire weekend, and I was hooked from there (more on them later).

Like anything else that starts out great, it went to rack and ruin over a quick period of years. They introduced "Yo! MTV Raps", game shows, movies, reality shows, and then by the time the channel was twenty years old, anything that made the channel what it once was didn't even seem to exist anymore: the music video. Not that there was anything left that I wanted to see or hear (I'd given up years ago), but what it was built on wasn't there anymore. VH-1 was another great music channel until they, too, caught the same plague. Another childhood memory left to dry out. Ah well, there's always YouTube if I want to see the old videos again.

In retrospect, and not unlike the K-Tel albums I'd been subjected to in my earlier days, there was more trash to rummage through in order to get to the good stuff, but I gave up after a point. Even then, a lot of the new stuff coming out had a superficiality that I couldn't get into, with new styles coming and going at alarming rates. Less and less to hook me in, or even hold my interest.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"The Shining"

I had just started kindergarten in September of 1981. I don't think I'd been more than a week into starting my schooling when something happened that not only polarized my future upbringing, but also blew out the inside of my mind completely.

I was playing outside in the backyard by myself one evening, and it was just starting to get a little dark; Angie was next door with friends, and Mitchell wasn't there. Dad came out of the shed that was tacked onto the rear of the house; he invited me to come in, and that there was something on that I had to come and check out.

What could it be? I came into the living room, and there was a movie on, showing something I hadn't seen before. It was about twenty minutes into it, so I had to sort of piece together what was going on as I was watching. It seemed to be about a family who was in this massive (and empty) hotel somewhere in the mountains, looking after it. What drew me in right away was a tight shot of a kid around my age on a bigwheel, riding all around through this huge hotel, almost in a huge circle. I had myself one of those, but--damn, that looked like fun!

What was being shown was Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Shining. I had never heard of it, nor had I ever heard of those two names before. I recognized Jack Nicholson vaguely from the movie version of Tommy, where he was the "specialist" who tries to cure Roger Daltrey by having electrodes taped all over his face, and melon-ball cutters over his eyes. This time, he was actually acting in a movie, and I was impressed by his performance. In one sitting, I was introduced to Stanley, Stephen and, talk about a crash course! This was going to be an interesting ride!

All I can say for my fist-ever viewing was that I was drawn in. Completely. I didn't move, didn't get up to get something to eat, or go to the bathroom. I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen for the remainder of the time that it was on. I was mesmerized by all what was going on, the settings, the atmosphere, the music...everything.

The that was an interesting facet of the movie. I was astonished years later to find out that the music (apart from the Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind synthesizer compositions) was not composed for the movie; it was selected from Kubrick's own picks, and all of them went perfectly with what was going on. Hearing things like Bartok's "Music For Percussion, Strings and Celesta" and Penderecki's pieces during the latter half were opening up some new doors in my head. Even hearing something like "Midnight, The Stars and You" was a little on the haunting side, almost ghostly in a way.

I had some seen some stuff in the "horror" genre before, such as Damien: Omen II and The Amityville Horror, but this was something different entirely. For me, it was more "haunting" than scary. There were lots of scenes and/or images that stayed with me long after it was over. You could never forget the image of the Grady girls lying dead in the hallway, the encounter in Room 237, the conversation with Grady himself in the men's room, Hallorann's fate, and the final image of Jack frozen in the snow. So many others, and everyone has their favorite, but this was definitely unlike anything I had ever seen before, or virtually anything after that. I knew I had to be the only five-year-old watching this; actually, it was almost like seeing it from Danny's point of view, as I was exactly his age at that moment. We thought he was great, and wished he lived nearby, so we could hang out with him!

Well! I couldn't wait to see it again. It might have been a week later when we asked if Mitchell could stay the night at our place, and--as luck would have it--the movie was on again, and this time I got to watch it from the beginning. And there we sat, the three of us, right up front, for the next 144 minutes. Everything really fell into place for me this time. And it was great to share the experience with Angie and Mitchell. I know they liked it. The next morning, when we went outside, Mitchell wanted to play a game (of some sort) based on the movie. Of course, he wanted to be Danny, and so I got to chase after the others with an imaginary axe! Oh, if only someone had a camcorder on us at the time!

Another time, not long after that, we watched A Clockwork Orange (typical of the cable channels, they were showing Kubrick's other films as well). Definitely not something to be watched by a small gaggle of grade-schoolers, but we did, and were equally as mesmerized, even if we didn't understand everything that went on in it (let alone the "nadsat" slang throughout it). Although I didn't catch that Kubrick had directed this one as well, I noticed that the two films sort of went hand-in-hand for some reason!

Another seed of influence had been sown into me gulliver.

When it snowed a few months later, I was out in the backyard, and I suddenly remembered the part with Danny in the maze, making fake footprints in the snow. I went and did that myself, leading my tracks halfway toward the garage. Unfortunately, no-one noticed, and they got covered over by more snow rather quickly.