Saturday, April 28, 2007

"It ain't the end of the world..."

..."it's just the Wreck Of The Barbie Ferrari."

My little self-imposed alphabetical-by-artist sojourn through my CD collection that began in late January is now well into the H’s, and I’m up to my man John Hiatt, one of the dandiest songwriters you’ll ever hear.  "Beyond soulful", as his one-time cohort Nick Lowe once deemed him, Hiatt is one of the most underrated people in the music biz.  Let me put it this way: anyone with the balls to incorporate amoebas and porcupines into the same song ("Thing Called Love") and make it work is a better man than I am...

Big John’s first taste of success was way back in the nether year of 1974 when Three Dog Night had a minor hit with his composition "Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here".  He bounced around for a while in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s trying to find his niche (with varying degrees of success) and began to hit his stride musically in the mid-to-late ‘80s, ironically while his personal life was falling apart.  John’s long battle with alcoholism, coupled with his first wife’s suicide in 1985, might well have done him in, but he sobered up and emerged with the most creative period of his career, which lasted through the mid-’90s.  Lowe co-produced John’s 1983 LP Riding With The King, and the two reconvened for 1987’s Bring The Family, which was a turning point for Hiatt in his career.  That album featured the lineup that would later become the short-lived supergroup Little Village, with Lowe on bass, Ry Cooder on guitar and Jim Keltner, the greatest session drummer in Rock history this side of the legendary Hal Blaine.

John’s signature song "Thing Called Love" appeared on BTF, and was later successfully covered by Bonnie Raitt, royalties from which would subsequently "keep fresh tires on the tour bus," as Hiatt would quip onstage, as did the Jeff Healey Band’s version of "Angel Eyes".  BTF also featured the nostalgic "Your Dad Did", plus another signature track, "Memphis In The Meantime."  John’s next album, 1988’s Slow Turning was even better, with standout tracks like "Drive South" (also a hit for Country singer Kelly Willis), "Paper Thin", the title song, and "Tennessee Plates", all about two small-time crooks on the lam who break in to Graceland and steal one of Elvis’ Cadillacs ("…anyway he wouldn’t carehell, he gave ‘em to his friends!").

I first came to know John Hiatt’s work via the self-titled 1992 Little Village album.  I got that CD mostly to hear what Nick Lowe had to say, but it was Hiatt who handled most of the vocals therein, and his gentle good humor was evident to me right away.  The following year, JH released his finest album of all, Perfectly Good Guitar, and I’ve been a convert ever since.  I must have played that tape from start to finish at least four times during a lengthy 1994 road trip—it was that good.  PGG came out during John’s really edgy period, which echoed some of the stuff you heard on the radio from alternative bands at the time, and the writing on it is top-notch, including songs like "Something Wild", "Loving A Hurricane", "Buffalo River Home", "Permanent Hurt", and the awesome title track where John sings, "Oh, it breaks my heart to see those stars smashing a perfectly good guitar..." Obviously he ain’t too keen on the likes of Pete Townshend or Paul Stanley!

It’s hard to describe John Hiatt’s music because he’s dabbled in so many different styles over the years—folky acoustic stuff, straight-ahead Rock, a little country twang, some calypso even (one song he did in 1982 even sounded kinda techno-pop!), but I guess you could say that he’s kind of a cross between Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffett, with a little Bruce Springsteen edge and Bob Seger growl mixed in.  And like Croce, Hiatt excels at story songs and character portraits like "Tennessee Plates" (see above), as well as "Rock Back Billy", all about a struggling guitar player who "took a gig playing bass for Sonny & Cher/He took it on the chin, but never got it off his chest/He wouldn’t be caught dead wearin’ that vest!"  Another song that almost takes you to the actual scene is "Icy Blue Heart", all about a lonely jilted woman looking for true love at a bar:  "She came on to him like a slow-moving cold front/His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes…"  John has a way with words that is incredibly descriptive, and perfectly-tinged with humor too.

Many of his songs are about real life in general, and John is outstanding at getting to the heart of the matter about emotions and such, yet does so in such a colorful way.  A prime example is "Permanent Hurt", all about those inevitable times when you get burned by someone else:  "What is that fallin’ out of your eye?/What is that rollin’ on down your shirt?/Thunder and lightning from the bloodshot skies—this time it’s gonna be a permanent hurt."  Another poignant one is the Little Village track "Don’t Think About Her (While You’re Trying To Drive)", which features beautiful guitar work from Ry Cooder.  "Buddy, you’ll be alright…" John reassures this poor guy who’s broken-up while pining for his ex-girlfriend who has moved on.

Then there are times when John goes a little loco, like on my favorite Hiatt tune of all, "The Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari", a humorous look at a beleaguered family man who’s been pushed to the edge and wants to end it all, but doesn’t have the guts.  "Wreck" also features Cooder playing the sitar (credited as "Ravi Oli"), which enhances the overall trippiness of the song.  Songs like 2002's "The Tiki Bar Is Open" and 1995's "Shredding The Document" also display John’s slightly-warped side.

This dude belongs in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame too, but I won’t bother going down that road again at this time…

My All-Time John Hiatt Top Five:
1) "The Wreck of The Barbie Ferrari" (1993)
2) "Tennessee Plates" (1988)
3) "Perfectly Good Guitar" (1993)
4) "Rock Back Billy" (1990)
5) "Permanent Hurt" (1993)

Lookin' better there, Edward...

The returns aren't all in yet, but based on appearances, it looks like that little rehab stint did Eddie Van Halen some good. Not sure I care for the Sting-like haircut and dye job or not, but at least he doesn't resemble a bag lady anymore.

Keep up the good work, Ed...

"Ponderous...fucking ponderous!"--Casey Kasem

And so goes that annual exercise in overkill known as the NFL Draft, which began today in New Yawk...

Actually, the draft itself isn't the problemit's ESPN's over-zealous coverage thereof.  Good gravy, peoplemust we analyze every last fucking detail about every team and every player here?  Then again, you can't spell "analyze" without "anal", which pretty much describes ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage of this thing.  Keep in mind, this is coming from a dyed-in-the-wool football fanatic here!  Sadly, they take all the fun out of football for me every year when they assualt us with their squadron of so-called "experts" and talking heads jaw-jacking and dissecting every possible move each team might make, with the vaunted Mel Kiper, Jr. right in the middle of it all.  For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, ESPN trots this bozo out every year to give his analysis and opinions on the draft, yet he has all the accuracy of Otis from "The Andy Griffith Show" skeet-shooting!  This guy makes Miss Cleo look legit...

One thing I did enjoy was watching QB Brady Quinn sweat and despair over dropping like a tombstone at sea until the Browns finally snagged him at #22.  He's a Notre Dame douche, you know, so he deserved it...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Doin' the "Chy Chy"!

Just finished watching Disc 1 of the newly-released "WKRP In Cincinnati" Season 1 DVD set via my Netflix rental, and thoroughly enjoyed itit's kinda like reconnecting with an old friend whom you haven't seen in like 20 years.  The set is worth it alone just to hear Les Nessmanthe Ted Baxter of radiomangling his news copy with his infamous "Chy Chy Rodrigweez" mispronunciation, not to mention hearing the Hallelujah Tabernacle Choir's rendition of "You're Having My Baby", but there are plenty more classic moments to behold here.

This DVD release is sadly flawed in that they couldn't afford to license the use of the music that was included in the original episodes (the precise reason there's been such a long delay in this series making it to DVD), so you won't be hearing the likes of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded", et al, but that's a small price to pay, reallyit's better than the show never being released at all.  They did make up for it a little by including a bit of commentary from Hugh Wilson (the show's creator), Frank Bonner, who played the insufferable Herb Tarlek, and (much to my surprise) Loni Anderson herself.  And I must say that I'd forgotten how pretty she was back in the day!  I don't normally go for platinum blondesI'm more partial to dark-haired women and redheadsbut Loni most definitely kept me tuning in each week when I was going through puberty!

Another thing that was fun for me was seeing the location shots of Cincinnati in the opening title sequence again, now that I've actually been there a few times, thus giving me a better perspective.  AND, I finally got to see the beloved "Turkeys Away" episode that, for whatever reason, I had never seen in its entirety until now.  What a classic line from "The Big Guy", Mr. Carlson: "As God is my witnessI swear I thought turkeys could fly!"

One thing that always drove me crazy about this show was the set layout.  The orientation of the hallway that supposedly led from the reception area behind Jennifer's desk to the studios is impossibleunless they had some sort of open-air skywalk that ran outside the window in Mr. Carlson's office!  Another boo-boo was how Les and the DJs rarely ever wore headphones while speaking on the air.

Don't mean to nit-pick, thoughthis was a fun little show!  The plots were a little hokey sometimes, but when you have a good ensemble cast with great characters, you can get away with that.  I look forward to seeing the rest of the series, especially the episode with Les warning people to take cover from those "Godless tornadoes" and former Reds manager Sparky Anderson's guest appearance, as well as the really poignant one based on the 1979 Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati.  The one with Herb and Jennifer getting stuck in the elevator was pretty good too.  Let's hope they put the other three seasons out with a bit more alacrity...

Good night, and may the good news be yours...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Exhibit A...

...on why I so despise organized religion: Praise the Lord and pass the loot, eh Jerry?   What a parasite!

TV evangelists are precisely why I'm a non-believer, and the bigger they are, the less I trust them. It's sad how these so-called religious "leaders" like Falwell, Robertson, Swaggart, Graham, et al, constantly prey upon emotionally-crippled people and convert them into a bunch of God-fearing check-writing idiots.  Pathetic...

In the words of my man Lemmy from Motorhead in their song "Bad Religion": "Evangelistic Nazis--you cannot frighten me..."

Happy Michael Moore's b-day!

...just to rile all you ├╝ber conservatives up out there...

With all the rancor and insanity from the past couple weeks, I'm practically all ranted-out, so I'll keep the anarchy to a minimum tonight, with one little exception...

OOPS! SHE DID IT AGAIN...
No, I'm not referring to Britney Spears shaving her head, but instead I'm talking about about conservative wing-nut Michelle Malkin (left) writing yet another inane column, this time suggesting that we should arm college students on campuses across the country with handguns so they can defend themselves in the unlikely event that another piece of human feces like that Cho dickhead goes on a rampage.  Oh yeah, Michelle, putting firearms in the hands of those mature young people fresh out of high school will certainly make college campuses so much safer!  You think the carnage at Va. Tech last week was bad?  Just wait until you get a bunch of drunken frat boys packing heat at a kegger...

Perhaps Miss (near Miss?) Malkin oughtta shave her head and Britney should try writing newspaper columns for a while instead...

FOR ONCE I AGREE...
...with college football coach Steve Spurrier, who recently stated that he thinks the state of South Carolina needs to lose the Confederate Flag at their Capitol building.  Whaddya know?  The "Ol' Ball Coach" isn't such a dumb redneck after all!

HOW 'BOUT THOSE YANKEES?
Bravo to the Boston Red Sox for not only sweeping the New York Yankees over the weekend, but for doing it with style by cranking out four home runs in a row in last night's game.  Although I'm totally burned out on the whole Yankees-Red Sox rivalry thing and the way ESPN plays it up so much, it was still pretty funny...

CLASSIC MISHEARD LYRIC #25
"Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)"--THE HOLLIES (1972) "Well suddenly we heard the sirens..."  Sirens sounded more like "sunrise" to me. "Well I told her don't get scared 'cos you're gonna be spared..."  I always thought that line went "'cause you've gone off--it's bad."  That song never did make a whole lot of sense to me, but I guess it was still better than "Short Fat Woman (In A Brown Dress)"...

AND NOW, THE END IS NEAR...
I saw by the paper over the weekend that Bannister Mall, located just outside of Raytown, will be closing for good on May 31st.  This comes as no great shock, as this once-mighty mall has been in a nosedive of epic proportions over the last five years or so, thanks to commercial over-development/overkill in the surrounding area and one too many carjackings in the parking lots, culminating in the one-by-one defections of the mall's anchor tenants, beginning with Dillard's, followed by J.C. Penney, then the Jones Store, and the final nail in the coffin when Sears closed just after last Christmas.

I distinctly remember the summer of 1980 when the mall first opened, how us Raytown South High students in search of gainful employment all flocked there to apply for jobs.  Camelot Records was my primary target, naturally, and desperation even once caused me to apply at something in the food court called Taco Factory, but I never actually worked at the mall.  I also remember spending a small fortune at Fun Factory during the winter of '81-'82 on video games.  Kinda sad to see the place go, but unfortunately enclosed malls have fallen by the wayside in favor of the en vogue "big box" retailer clusterfuck shopping centers that you need a road map and a fucking compass to find your way around in.  Rumors abound that they're going to bulldoze Bannister Mall and build a soccer stadium on the site for the Wiz(ards), assuming that David Beckham doesn't bankrupt Major League Soccer first.

TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
Not that I really care about this "American Idol" palaver, but it seems that the dearly-departed Sanjaya was quoted as saying that "being famous feels weird."  Must be true, being as he seems like an aficionado on weirdness.  Okay Bud, your 15 minutes are now up, so please go join William Hung and the rest of the faux celebrity wanna-bes/never-weres.  See you in Branson in a few years...