Saturday, May 31, 2008

I can't even think of a word that rhymes!!

...but I think I can string together a few words that make sense!

Well, last week there was my fall off the ladder while gutter-cleaning that left me dinged and bruised, and this week, I nearly guillotined the pinky finger on my right hand!  I was merely opening a window on Thursday in my living rooman ancient one that requires a board to prop it openand the damn thing slammed down on my exposed digit before I could prop it up.  An x-ray yesterday showed no fracture and no permanent damage, so my 43-year streak of no broken bones in my body still remains intact, and my pinky is fully-functional as I type now.  It hurt like hell the other night, tho...

Our mighty Kansas City Royals are in the midst of their seemingly obligatory annual double-digit losing streak (12-and-counting as I type).  Things were looking just peachy a couple weeks ago, after they had a nice five-game winning streak and won two out of three at Florida.  This shit is getting beyond old...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  there ain't nothing worse than a conservative columnist/pundit with an agenda, and Michelle Malkin is Exhibit A of that.  In case you missed it, she made a big stink this week in her regular column about a Dunkin Donuts TV ad featuring TV host Rachel Ray, and more specifically, the thing she wore around her neck in said ad, which Malkin claims is a keffiyeh.  I'll let her clue you in:  "The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.  Popularized by Yassir Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not so ignorant) fashion designers and left-wing icons...The scarves are staples at anti-Israel rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley."

Count me among the clueless, then, because you know what I see this woman wearing?  A garment bearing a strong resemblance to something I'd pull out of the rag bag I keep under my kitchen sink!  Guess that makes me a terrorist too, huh, Michelle?  Okay, maybe this scarf is what Malkin says it is, but even so, are we really supposed to believe that a vapid talk show host like Rachel Ray (let alone Dunkin Donuts) has evil intentions?  Would anyone else besides Malkin be offended by this ad if MM hadn't opened her yap?  Highly unlikely.  Now, if Rachel was wearing a swastika, I might be alarmed, but this is a freakin' travesty!  What next? Danica Patrick buttons her coveralls like a terrorist?  Jared from Subway wears a jihadic zipper in his pants?  Come to think of it, I've always wondered about that thing Kermit The Frog wears around his neck...

Here's Malkin's entire column, if you care to waste precious minutes of your life reading it.  It just astounds me how intellectually bankrupt Michelle Malkin isshe makes Dan Quayle's infamous "Murphy Brown" remark sound like the work of a Rhodes Scholar.  I just find it pathetic when xenophobic people like her go out of their way to find terrorism (and/or racism) at every turn.  Malkin is almost as offensive in her own way as Ann Coulter with the ignorant crap she spews forthhow this twit rates a weekly column in major newspapers across the country is a mystery to me...

HARVEY KORMAN, 1927-2008
Was saddened to learn of the death of funny-man Harvey Korman this week.  My old man hated Carol Burnett, for some reason, so it wasn't until I had my own TV in my bedroom that I got to watch her show and enjoy the exploits of her outstanding ensemble cast, including Korman and Tim Conway.  It was fun to tune in each week to see when Conway was going to make Korman break character and bust out laughing, and of course, Korman was pretty funny in his own right.  R.I.P., Hedley Lamarr...

EARLE HAGEN, 1919-2008
Another important figure in Hollywood passed away this week.  You may not know Earle Hagen's name, but you know of his work if you watched TV at all in the '60s and '70s. Hagen was a prolific composer/musician who created so many instantly-identifiable theme songs to numerous TV shows, including "Gomer Pyle, USMC", "That Girl", "I Spy", "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mod Squad", the latter of which is one of the most kick-ass theme songs from a cop show ever.  And then there's his most famous workthat's Easy Earle whistling along to his "Andy Griffith Show" theme, too.

Then check out this ancient Amboy Dukes video, featuring my ex-idol Fred Nugent on guitar.  By George, I believe da boy's wearing mascara therehow gauche!  And somehow, the Nancy Sinatra clones dancing along with the band don't exactly strike me as being Gonzo Rock 'N' Roll.  Btw, nice suit, Ted!

This is my bedroom on drugs...

And this is my bedroom today, after nearly two months of remodeling...

And let me tell you, my friends, I am exhausted!

The Streak is ovah!  Royals win!  Royals win!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rock Bottom

With a music collection as large as mine is, there’s bound to be a few clunkers in it, so here’s a little countdown of the 20 or so worst albums in my collection…

20) Purpendicular—DEEP PURPLE (1996)  Here’s a supreme example of when a once-mighty band really needs to hang it up.  The momentum generated by the successful ‘80s reunion of DP’s classic lineup of Gillan/Blackmore/Glover/Lord/Paice had long since dissipated by the time they put out this dull record.  Ritchie Blackmore was long gone too, having been replaced by former Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse, and DP was merely going through the motions.  Why even bother?
19) Live Evil—BLACK SABBATH (1982)  This album was a major flop, and rightly so—there was just something blasphemous to me about Ronnie James Dio singing the old Black Sabbath songs, especially "Iron Man" and "Paranoid".  Dio sounded dandy on his own Sabbath songs here, but his interpretations of Ozzy’s songs were downright silly.  This album didn’t sound very "live" to me, either, almost as if they recorded it in the studio with crowd noise overdubbed.  Cheap Trick, Kiss and W.A.S.P. are also guilty of this (to varying degrees) on their "live" records.
18) Bloodrock 2—BLOODROCK (1971)  This is one of the rare times I agree with a Rolling Stone critic, who called this band "bottom of the barrel".  Apart from their creepy hit single "D.O.A." (not to be confused with the Van Halen tune of the same name) about the aftermath of a horrific plane crash, this album was just pitiful.  I assume Bloodrock 1 was better, since Capitol Records saw fit to let them release a second album.
17) Ceremony—THE CULT (1991)  My expectations were very high for The Cult’s follow-up to 1989’s killer Sonic Temple, which featured a cool triumvirate of songs—"New York City", "Automatic Blues" and "Soldier Blue"—in addition to the big hits off it like "Fire Woman", "Sun King" and "Edie (Ciao Baby)".  Evidently, singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy shot their wad on Temple, because Ceremony was beyond dull—nothing but bland mid-tempo stuff that didn’t rock out at all.  The next album after that one in 1994 wasn’t much better.
16) Good Stuff—THE B-52’S (1992)  The title here could not have been a bigger misnomer.  The B-52’s were totally unprepared for the unenviable task of following up their mega-hit 1989 album Cosmic Thing, and this turned out to be a mega-flop.  While the departure of long-time singer Cindy Wilson rendered the group a threesome, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was still in the group with such lame lines as "I wanna be dangin’ with your dang good stuff!"  Too bad, because the 52’s can be a fun group with the right material.
15) We’ve Got A Fuzzbox, And We’re Gonna Use It—FUZZBOX (1987)  I brought home a promo copy of this album from the "Mighty 1030", KKJC-AM when I was working there.  Why on earth Geffen Records thought we’d have any use for it at our little Oldies/Adult Contemporary station is beyond me, and I’m not sure why it’s even still in my collection.  This was just a bad album by a group of untalented New Wave punk chicks, the highlight from which (if you wanna call it that) being a silly remake of Norman Greenbaum’s "Spirit In The Sky".
14) Gone Troppo—GEORGE HARRISON (1982)  I picked this one up in the cut-out bin at Musicland for a buck—it wasn’t even worth that much!  George was merely phoning his records in by the early ‘80s, and I found it sad that such a lame record would come from an ex-Beatle.
13) If You Can’t Lick ‘Em, Lick ‘Em—TED NUGENT (1988)  Rev. Theodosuis Atrocious’ downward spiral in the ‘80s continued as Nugent did just like George and basically phoned this album in.  Full of lame songs (and lame videos) like "She Drives Me Crazy" and "That’s The Story Of Love", it's no small coincidence that he joined Damn Yankees the next yearhe had nothing better to do, anyway.  And believe it or not, this isn't even Nugent's worst albumread on, friends...
12) Pipes of Peace—PAUL McCARTNEY (1983)  I still haven’t quite forgiven Big Macca for that "Say, Say, Say" debacle.  As I used to parody it, "But don’t play games with my erection…".  Sad to say, but the rest of this album was almost as wretched.  Dirty shame too, because Paul seemed to be back on track with his previous album Tug Of War from ’82 after the string of mediocre records that ensued after Wings At The Speed Of Sound in '76…
11) Antenna—Z.Z. TOP (1994)  You could sense that Z.Z. was falling into a comfortable rut on their 1990 release, Recycler, which was only about half-decent.  Z.Z. was known for taking extended periods off between albums, and it was usually worth the wait, but not this time, as that comfortable rut had by now completely enveloped the band.  All the songs sounded practically identical on Antenna—you couldn’t tell one from the other—and they all had the same bland crunchy guitar riffs and lame subject matter ("Pincushion", "Girl In A T-Shirt", "Cover Your Rig", et al), totally devoid of the sense of humor and/or upbeat blues boogie found on most of their previous albums.  One would think being on a new label (RCA) would have inspired Z.Z. to put out something a tad more lively.  Sadly, they now seem to take their core audience for granted and just put out the same old stuff every time, as their subsequent releases like Rhythmeen and XXX haven’t been much better.  Perhaps they should rename themselves Zzzzzzzzz Top, because this stuff would put you to sleep!
10) Other Voices—THE DOORS (1971)  A lot of people are unaware that The Doors continued on as a trio after Jim Morrison kicked the bucket in his bathtub in July, 1971.  As misanthropic and pretentious as Mr. Mojo Risin’ was, he was sorely missed all the same when Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger tried their hands at singing—hence the album’s very cryptic title.  Manzarek is one of my favorite keyboardists of all-time, and his simultaneous multi-tasking on the bass organ was admirable, but I’m sorry to say the man cannot sing!  Let me put it this way, Brother Ray sings about as well as I wrap Christmas presents, and as my close friends will attest, I suck at gift-wrapping.  Having a song with a title like "I’m Horny, I’m Stoned" did little to enhance this album either.  I don’t know if this LP was purely contractual obligation stuff or just bull-headed stupidity (probably both), but Manzarek, Krieger, and drummer John Densmore really should’ve hung it up the nanosecond Morrison’s heart stopped.
9) Balance—VAN HALEN (1995)  VH began to lose their edge around 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and it was totally gone by the time this album came out.  Apart from the rather humorous "Big Fat Money", this album was totally devoid of the good-time spirit of past Van Halen records, and you could tell they were getting bored with each other.  The insipid power ballad therein, "I Can’t Stop Loving You", sounds like something Sammy Hagar wrote in his sleep.  I wish he'd woken up sooner…
8) Van Halen 3—VAN HALEN (1998)  Wait, it gets worse!  Out goes Hagar, in comes Gary Cherone (formerly of Extreme) to supposedly save the ship.  Uhhh—it didn’t work!  To be fair, Cherone's a great singer when he’s himself, but when he tries to imitate Hagar, the results are far less satisfying.  This colossal flop really wasn’t his fault, anyway, as by this time Eddie Van Halen had morphed into Little Hitler and was making really stupid decisions, like jerking the fans around by bringing David Lee Roth back for two lame songs on the previous year’s greatest hits package.  How’d that work for ya, Eddie?  What struck me about this crappy album is how staggeringly boring it was.  I have a feeling some of Yanni’s records are edgier than this thing…
7) Living In The Material World—GEORGE HARRISON (1973)  Don’t mean to seem like I’m picking on George on this list because I really did like him, but let me quote British authors Roy Carr and Tony Tyler from their book The Beatles-An Illustrated Record and their review of this record:  "It is not the function of this book to comment on George Harrison’s religious beliefs—so long as Harrison himself can refrain from didactically imposing said Holy Memoirs upon innocent record collectors.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what he did (to excess) on this LP."  Amen, brothers!  George probably meant well, and even though Material World yielded a #1 single, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)", this record is so sanctimonious (not to mention boring) with songs like "The Lord Loves The One Who Loves The Lord"—oh, puh-leeze!  George's Hare Krisnha leanings really bogged his solo career down in the mid-‘70s, and it wasn’t until he lightened up on albums like Thirty-Three & 1/3 in 1976, his self-titled 1979 album (featuring "Blow Away"), 1987’s Cloud Nine and the Traveling Wilburys records that the real George Harrison showed through.
6) Victim Of Love—ELTON JOHN (1979)  It pains me to rip on Elton here, being as he’s one of my all-time favorites, but even he fully admits that this record was pure excrement.  In the wake of his unprecedented run of success in the early-to-mid-‘70s, Elton was bound to run out of creative energy sooner or later, and it might’ve served him better to take a year or two off and chill out, but instead he put out this half-hearted slab of vinyl that featured a disco version of Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode".  Nowhere to go but up after this one…
5) Carnival Of Souls—KISS (1997)  As bad as 1981’s Music From The Elder was, Carnival makes it look like Destroyer by comparison.  Just as they did with Elder, Kiss tried to impress the critics here instead of their fans, and this time they tried their hand at playing uninspired grunge Rock.  This was the only Kiss album I ever actually wanted my money back for after listening to it.  I should’ve known not to buy it in the first place when the gnarly dude behind the counter at Streetside Records said, "Ohhh, man—they sound just like Soundgarden now!"  If this is the permanent direction the band was headed in, then the reunion with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss couldn’t have come at a better time.
4) The Best That I Could Do, 1978-1988—JOHN MELLENCAMP (1997)  Oh, wait—I don’t actually own this album, but boy if I did, I imagine this is about where Mellenschmuck’s best-of CD would rank on this list!  (Sorry, Dr. S.!)
3) Intensities In 10 Cities—TED NUGENT (1981)  Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo! from 1978 is one of my favorite live albums ever, and when I heard that Terrible Ted was putting out another live album in ’81, I eagerly awaited its release.  Talk about disappointing!  Instead of going back into the studio to make a proper album, Ted decided to try out his latest material live, and most of it sucked, big-time!  Ted went to the over-sexed He-Man playbook one time too many with songs like "Flying Lip Lock", "Jailbait" (not the far-superior Motorhead song of the same name) and "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron", and he sounded ridiculous singing a lame cover version of Wilson Pickett’s "Land of 1,000 Dances".  This piece of caca all but killed Nugent’s career, and it never fully has recovered from it since.
2) Two Virgins (1968)/Life With The Lions (1969)—JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO  My sophomore English teacher in high school once said something that's always stuck with me:  "There’s a lot of good stuff in Shakespeare, but there’s also a lot of crap in Shakespeare."  The same can be said for John Lennon.  For all his brilliance as a singer and a musician, there were also times when John was full of shit (as was Yoko), and these two records (which I’m lumping together here), are a prime example of that.  Neither of them are even music albums, really, just a bunch of snippets of sounds spliced together with no particular theme at all.  I realize JL had fallen under Yoko’s spell and was totally enthralled by her arty-farty Avant-Garde ways, but I’m sorry—it don’t take a whole lot of talent to fart in stereo!  As with Paul McCartney’s and George Harrison’s entries on this list, one would expect a whole lot better from an ex-Beatle.
1) Laverne & Shirley Sing—PENNY MARSHALL & CINDY WILLIAMS (1977)  Doesn’t live up to the title, especially in Penny Marshall’s case!  In an effort to capitalize on the success of the TV series, Atlantic Records put out this album in ‘77 of Marshall and Williams caterwauling tired old ‘50s and ‘60s hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Chapel Of Love", and the thing is just dreadful.  Both actresses excelled at doing physical comedy, and Marshall has turned into an outstanding film director with hits like Big, Awakenings and A League Of Their Own, but you might as well have teamed Yoko Ono up to duet with Edith Bunker—it would’ve sounded better!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A little dab/blog'll do ya...

Sad news in the world of comedy over the weekend came with the passing of comedian Dick Martin at age 86.  He was co-host of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In", along with the late Dan Rowan (who died in 1987), a show that caused great divide in our household.  My ultra-liberal sister Renee loved the show, but there was a constant battle between her and my ultra-conservative father over control of the TV on Monday nights.  He (and I) favored "Here's Lucy" and "Monday Night Football", so guess who won that battle most of the time...

As a small child, I just didn't get the whole "Laugh-In" thing, but flash ahead a decade later when I first got cable TV in the Summer of '84 when WGN out of Chicago aired "Laugh-In" reruns at 2:30 in the morning, and I found myself hooked by this crazy show.  The jokes were a bit dated, but I still got them, and I loved the veritable potpourri of personalities on the show, like Arte Johnson and Ruth Buzzi, as well as my personal favorite, Judy Carne.  Dick Martin played Jerry Lewis to Dan Rowan's Dean Martin (no relation), and he was brilliantly goofy in that role.  He looked rather sqaure, but he could be as bawdy as Benny Hill at times.  Oddly enough, Dick Martin was three months older than my old man, and a whole lot hipper!  Say goodnight, Dick...

First impressions don't always last, as "Laugh-In" proves rather mightily, in my case.  I'm also currently watching the first season of "Ren & Stimpy" on DVDa show I thought was total crap when it first came out, but now I find myself celebrating "Yak Shaving Day" annually.  Here's a little compilation of that which I was initially put-off by or unimpressed with that I now love (or at least embrace)...

Ozzy Osbourne
Bruce Springsteen
Shooting Star
Kiss (yes, it's true!)
Billy Joel
The Rainmakers
Fleetwood Mac

"Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In"
"Ren & Stimpy"
"Barney Miller"
"Empty Nest"
"Beavis & Butt-Head"

Thanks to the beloved innovation known as the iPod, my personal little pocket radio station played three songs in succession the other day that I'm positive have never been played (in succession) ever before in the history of mankind:  "Walking In L.A."-Missing Persons, followed by "The Big Beat"-Fats Domino, followed by "Smooth Dancer"-Deep Purple.  If nothing else, this gives a pretty good idea of how eclectic my musical tastes can be...

Stuff like these old walkways that led to the upper deck seats, like this one at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.  Ramps like these almost made you feel like you were walking the plank to get to your seats.  Old Municipal Stadium here in Kansas City had ramps similar to this one, and it was a total trip to a little kid like me to look down and see all those people in the lower deck looking up at us as we traipsed across the ramp.

Another thing about old stadiums I love are the light towers, like these at Detroit's Tiger Stadium.  Big and bulky, to be sure, but they illuminated the ballpark like nothing else could.  These same banks of lights were part of the opening title sequence to "Monday Night Football" in the early '70s, and I always thought they were the coolest things.  The old "toothbrush"-style light towers like those found at old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Municipal Stadium here in K.C. were awesome too.  Nice to see them replicated in new stadiums like PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

And then there was how some parks would allow fans to exit via the warning track through the outfield wall, like in this pic from Forbes Field in the '60s.  Old Municipal Stadium here in K.C. allowed patrons to do the same thing in the early '70s, and what a thrill it was for this youngsta to traipse through the bullpen on the left field line.  Yes, I realize they let the kids run the bases at Kauffman Stadium nowadays after Sunday Royals home games, but that's hardly the same thing.  Long live the old ballparks...