Posts Tagged ‘music’

Editorial: Time for a Little River ban

September 30, 2011

I was working in the yard, working not too hard, mostly leaf-blowing. The song came to me from out of nowhere. First the chorus, then the first stanza, then the endless loop that I still can’t get out of my head.

Hurry, don’t be late
I can hardly wait
I said to myself when we’re old
We’ll go dancing in the dark
Walking through the park
And reminiscing

The song, as you may be able to tell, is called “Reminiscing.” In 1978, it was released by an Australian soft rock group called the Little River Band. It shot to Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, representing the peak of LRB’s popularity in America. In 1996 it was covered by Barry Manilow, and again released in 2001 by a band called Madison Avenue. It was used prominently in the recent Will Ferrell film “The Other Guys.”

Now, it must be expunged from all recorded history.

“Reminiscing” was hardly the most vile, mind-numbing affront to Western Civilization produced by the band. They had other hits in the late seventies and early eighties that were every bit as cloying. There was “Lady,” “Lonesome Loser” and ”Cool Change.” There was “Happy Anniversary” (“Happy anniversary, baby/Got you on my mind“), probably the most egregious abomination of the lot. There was “Help Is On Its Way” which, to this day, I kind of like.

But for some reason, it’s “Reminiscing” that’s stuck in my head, an earworm that has wrapped itself around my cerebral cortex and will not let go. Action must be taken to remove this sonic tumor from my brain, before it metastasizes to drumming fingertips, tapping toes and dancing feet.

I am proposing a four-pronged approach to dispatching this cancer.

First, we round up all surviving members of the band and confine them to an internment camp somewhere in the desert Southwest. This could be a bit of a challenge, not just because it smacks of Stalinism, but because the original five were subsequently joined and/or replaced by dozens of other musicians in the 30-plus years of the band’s existence. Original members like Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble can easily be located; they still perform, though they do it under the name Birtles Shorrock Goble since the official “Little River Band” name is owned by former member Stephen Housden, who rents it out to transients. But obscure one-time players like Kip Raines (drummer, 2004-2005) and Hal Tupea (bassist, 1996-1997) are bound to be harder to find, unless we can subpoena the employment records of fast-food giants like Taco Bell and McDonald’s.

Second, we institute a worldwide buyback program. I’ve already lined up the philanthropic might of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a fund of $4 billion, so that every vinyl record, every cassette, every eight-track cartridge can be purchased from the public and destroyed. Preferably by fire, though a giant crusher will do.

Third, I propose we begin a Manhattan-Project-style effort in the scientific community to learn time travel, so we can send a team back to 1975 to abort the band’s formation. Most physicists acknowledge that one-way travel into the future is arguably possible, given the phenomenon of time dilation based on the theory of special relativity. Going backwards in time is more problematic, given constraints of the so-called “grandfather paradox”. This concept raises the question of what would happen if the traveler killed his grandfather before he met his grandmother, and then his father would never have been born, and neither would he. This could easily be addressed, however, if the execution team could terminate both band members and their grandparents.

Finally, I am offering to perform a lobotomy on myself, boring a hole in my forehead with a common household power drill to allow the demons of “Reminiscing” to escape from my mind. If there’s any money left over from the buyback fund, I could use it to help defray my medical bills. However, I am willing to take on the entire risk and expense on my own IF I COULD JUST GET THIS AWFUL SONG OUT OF MY HEAD!

The world can’t afford to ignore this issue. We must pull together and act now. As LRB would themselves say: Hurry don’t be late/We can hardly wait.

If you encounter these guys, report them IMMEDIATELY to the authorities
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Revisited: Three things I hate

July 30, 2011

A lot of people say there’s too much hate in the world today. I say it’s just directed at the wrong things. Instead of hating other races, other countries and other religions, we should focus on the particular entities that have done us wrong.

Here are a few that I vehemently oppose.

I hate watermelon

Maybe it’s a contempt for the familiar, considering I grew up in a melon-inundated south Florida. Maybe it’s the fact that few other fruits are as physically imposing, so dangerous if dropped that they can break your foot. Maybe it’s the rugged rind, the sticky juice or all those seeds.

Or maybe it’s that it tastes like a cucumber soaked overnight in a cocktail of artificial sweetener, Red Bull and urine.

I ate enough watermelon as a kid to know that I hate it as an adult. It’s supposed to be healthy, containing as much as 92% water, but so does the Gulf of Mexico and you don’t see people drinking that in. It has many hidden vitamins in its rind, which most people avoid eating due to its unappealing flavor (the rind is reputedly even worse than the flesh). It stimulates the body’s production of nitric oxide, thought to relax the blood vessels, much like Viagra does. Still, I’d rather be dehydrated, undernourished and flaccid than eat watermelon.

A suburban legend of my youth was that a kid once got a watermelon seed stuck in his nose, and it took root in the nutrient-rich “soil” of his nostrils. Because the melon can grow so fast, he woke up the next morning with a huge swelling in the center of his face. Doctors at first thought it was a brain tumor, then were even more horrified to learn it was a watermelon, growing right there in his sinuses. They conducted emergency surgery on the poor boy, then had a picnic right there in the operating room, literally enjoying the fruit of their labor.

On my first trip to India, I endured a 36-hour plane ride, off-the-chart jet lag, and the culture shock that comes from encountering unimaginable poverty, intense heat, overcrowding, card-carrying lepers, and the smell of a sewage river next door. But that was nothing compared to what I came upon at my first breakfast. I asked for my usual OJ, and was told that all they had was watermelon juice. There would be no mystical experience of the subcontinent for me. Hundreds of millions of people living in third world squalor is one thing; drinking a liquefied melon first thing in the morning is quite another.

Fun facts about the massive green orb — that it was declared the official state vegetable by a confused Oklahoma state senate, that it is hollowed out and used as a football helmet by fans of football’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, that it can now be grown in square and pyramid shapes — do little to mitigate its status on my list of the most loathsome things in the world.

Ever see David Letterman pitch a truckload of watermelons off the seventh floor of his New York studio? I’m with Dave.

I hate Black Oak Arkansas

I arrived back at the office after lunch Friday, and was honored to have my position as the King of Music Trivia once again confirmed. A debate had arisen in my absence about who recorded the seventies hit “Jim Dandy,” also known as “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.”

“I bet Davis will know,” said Donna and, regrettably, I did. It was the Southern rock band known as Black Oak Arkansas.

I then proceeded to internally hum the timeless chorus — Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Go Jim Dandy, go — for the rest of the afternoon.

If you’ve never heard this band’s distinctive growling, whining, falsetto style, it may be simply enough to know a little about the group. They formed in 1965 in Black Oak, Ark., and promptly stole their first amplifier system from the local high school. Convicted of grand larceny and sentenced in absentia to 26 years in prison, they fled to the hills to “refine” their musical style, doubtless influenced by the baying hounds that continued searching for them.

By 1969, they had moved on to Memphis, Tenn., and signed a deal with Stax Records. Their debut album, which fortunately is almost impossible to find, is described as representative of their interests in psychedelia, Eastern spiritualism and the Southern Baptist church. They eventually ended up in Los Angeles and toured extensively, gaining a reputation as an impressive live act despite questionable grooming habits.

The year 1973 was a rough one for this country. The last American troops staggered out of Vietnam. The Watergate scandal began to unfold. Lon Cheney, Lyndon Johnson and “Dagwood and Blondie” creator Chic Young died. And a song so upbeat you’d think the singer was meth-addled reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Jim Dandy” had arrived, and he was urgently in need of someone to rescue.

Fortunately, less-than-stellar subsequent releases combined with the nation’s return to relative sobriety to rob “BOA” of its momentum. They faded into obscurity for the next ten years. For their obligatory eighties revival, they were kind enough to record a song called “I Want a Woman with Big Titties,” which quickly sent them back to their deserved place in the shadows.

I hate the immigration officials at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka

In 2007, I made my first visit to the beautiful nation of Sri Lanka (nickname: “India Lite”). I was to spend three weeks training employees of an outsourcing firm my company had hired. Except for a pesky civil war that required armed soldiers to be stationed everywhere except inside my hotel bathroom, it was a wonderful visit.

I should mention that the civil war was in the country, not at the outsourcing company. The workers there were wonderful people, at least the ones who weren’t out sick with Dengue Fever.

Anyway, I found out just before leaving the U.S. that I should’ve had a “working visa” if I intended to do business there. Instead, I had something cryptically called a “landing visa,” which meant they’d let you on the ground at the airport, but only long enough to determine if you were a tourist, who required no further documentation. If you were found to have come for work, I guess they’d make you spend the rest of your life in a small anteroom behind the luggage carousel, jumping up and down so that you were constantly “landing” on Sri Lankan soil.

After I landed in Colombo, I was directed to immigration and customs for “processing,” something I thought was done only to meat. I found the right line, and waited for what seemed like an eternity to learn my fate. Members of the military stood at the ready to dispatch anyone fooling with the rules including, I assumed, the law described on several signs warning that drug trafficking carried an automatic death penalty. I thought about the Ambien I had been prescribed for jet lag, and got even more nervous.

I sidled up to the pasty, shorts-wearing Germans in front of me on the chance I’d be mistaken for one of their group. I thought about my extremely limited German vocabulary, hoping someone would either sneeze (“Gezunheidt”) or invade the Netherlands (“blitzkrieg”) so I could prove myself.

When I got to the official who was to review my passport, he spoke not at all, choosing instead to quietly scroll through his ancient computer screen. He summoned an associate to show him something, and they chatted briefly in Tamil, either about how cool a YouTube video was, or that I might be an enemy insurgent or drug smuggler. More humorless glances in my direction eventually gave way to about a dozen stomps from his official stamper, and I appeared to survive admission to the island nation. But not after a suspenseful interlude that made me more scared than I’d ever been in my life.

He’s the scandal-plagued rep from New York’s 9th District

June 10, 2011

I was listening to the “Sixties on Six” radio station on Sirius XM this morning, and an old favorite from Jan and Dean came on. “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” was originally performed by The Beach Boys before becoming a Top Ten radio hit in 1964 for the surf music duo. Among their other hits were “Surf City” and “Dead Man’s Curve.”

For whatever reason, the tune became stuck in my head. Later, while scanning The New York Times website, it occurred to me how well a parody of this song might work to describe the current scandal of a certain congressman from Queens.

While I’m not enough of a singer to do such a song justice, I do consider myself a magnificent libretist. Those of you old enough to remember the tune might appreciate my effort.

There’s this guy in Congress named Anthony Weiner
(Go Tony, go Tony, go Tony, go)
Has a girlfriend online but he hasn’t seen her
(Go Tony, go Tony, go Tony, go)
But she’s seen him and his engorged member
They’ve been texting and tweeting since last December
 
Now everybody’s sayin’ that it’s smaller and leaner
Than they’d expect from a guy named Anthony Weiner
He types real fast and he types real dirty
He’s a terror on Twitter when he’s feelin’ flirty
He’s the guy from Congress named Anthony Weiner
 
If you see him on Facebook you might un-friend him
(No Tony, no Tony, no Tony, no)
Not even fellow Democrats will try to defend him
(No Tony, no Tony, no Tony, no)
You knew he’d get found out sooner or later
Now he can’t keep his hands off his wife’s vibrator
 
Now everybody’s sayin’ that it’s smaller and leaner
Than they’d expect from a guy named Anthony Weiner
He types real fast and he types real dirty
He’s a terror on Twitter when he’s feelin’ flirty
He’s the guy from Congress named Anthony Weiner
 
You see him all the time on the cable news shows
(Whoa Tony, whoa Tony, whoa Tony, whoa)
He says he’s sorry and yet still his nose grows
(Whoa Tony, whoa Tony, whoa Tony, whoa)
The lies keep comin’ as he swigs on his drink
A little smell turned into a great big stink
 
Now everybody’s sayin’ that it’s smaller and leaner
Than they’d expect from a guy named Anthony Weiner
He types real fast and he types real dirty
He’s a terror on Twitter when he’s feelin’ flirty
He’s the guy from Congress named Anthony Weiner

Revisited: Rewritten songs reflect reality

April 2, 2011

It’s that time of year when we roll down the ragtop, crank up the radio, and give full voice to our inner Thia Megia. Nothing is more American than hitting the open road with a song in your heart that bursts unchecked onto your lips, causing the guy in the next car over to wonder if you’re spastically seizing or merely rocking out.

Singing along with our favorite popular tunes is a great warm-weather pastime in this country, ranking right up there with foreign invasions. Though both often involve a brutal assault, the sing-along’s casualty counts are far more contained, with only your fellow passengers suffering. If only innocent Libyan, Iraqi and Afghan civilians could simply wait for the next stop light to hop out of harm’s way.

I try to limit collateral damage by taking the advice of American Idol judges and “making the song my own.” I’m not content to regurgitate well-worn lyrics verbatim; I like to modify the words to fit my personality. This allows me to still feel the original songwriter’s spirit while accommodating my own peculiar pecadilloes.

For example, I like to try to clean up the grammar and syntax. As a former copy editor, it bugs me no end to hear supergroups like the Supremes, the Rolling Stones and the Who mangle our language. So I take a few liberties, knowing I’m probably beyond the long reach of ASCAP as I tool down Interstate 77 in my Honda Civic. So “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” becomes “There Isn’t Any Mountain The Elevation of Which is Higher.” The classic interlude of “Satisfaction” is changed from the huffing “Can’t get no…/Can’t get no…” into “I can’t get any…/I can’t get any…”. “Summertime Blues” is transformed from a passionate working-class teenage lament into a well-reasoned labor complaint:

Well, I’m going to raise a fuss and I’m going to raise a holler
About working all summer just trying to earn a dollar
I went to the bossman and I tried to get a break
But the boss said “No dice, son, you have to work late”
Sometimes I wonder what I’m going to do
Because there isn’t any cure for the summertime blues.

Note the absence of abominations like “gonna” and “ain’t” and “gotta”. Think about how much more likely I would be to have a Schedule Variance Form approved by my supervisor than a whiner like Roger Daltry.

I’m also not comfortable singing certain songs in the first person. I’m not one to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and prefer instead to croon about hypothetical feelings. I might’ve wanted very much to hold her hand, or became extremely agitated when I saw her standing there, but I don’t like to admit it. It works better for my own personal style to comment on the angst of others:

Oh, yeah, he’ll tell you something
He thinks you’ll understand
When he says that something
He wants to hold her hand

Or perhaps:

Well his heart went boom
When he crossed that room
And he held her hand
In his …
Well, they danced through the night
And they held each other tight
And before too long they fell in love with each other

I don’t have to actually become the Alan Parsons Project:

He was the eye in the sky
Looking at her, he could read her mind.

… and I can belt out one of the most clever song lyrics in the history of rock without feeling gay:

He walked into the party like he was walking onto a yacht
His hat strategically dipped below one eye
His scarf it was apricot
He had one eye on the mirror as he watched himself cavort
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be his partner, they’d be his partner

He’s so vain, he probably thinks this song is about him
He’s so vain, I bet he thinks this song is about him
Doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?

Finally, I try to put certain songs in a more realistic perspective. When these classics were current hits some 40 or more years ago, they reflected our youthful yearnings. Now that we’re older and more concerned with losing our hair than losing our baby, it only makes sense that we adapt those charmingly naive lyrics to reflect lives that are well lived but mostly over. So a favorite Beach Boys oldie requires a few changes:

Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had been older?
Then we wouldn’t have had to wait so long
And wouldn’t it have been nice to have lived together
In the kind of world where we would’ve belonged?
You know if would’ve made it that much better
When we could’ve said goodnight and stayed together
Wouldn’t it have been nice?

Maybe if we would’ve thought and wished and hoped and prayed it might’ve come true
Baby then, there wouldn’t have been a single thing we couldn’t have done
We could’ve been married, and then we would’ve been happy
Oh, wouldn’t it have been nice?

I can still be an inveterate romantic and a huge fan of Lennon and McCartney’s timeless songbook, yet still retain my respect for Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

I find comfort in sacred music

March 28, 2011

As I cast about for solace and comfort in my currently troubled life, I can’t help but wonder if organized religion might provide an answer.

Generally, there are two ways that people come to their god in a prayer of “Hi, how’s it going? Maybe we should hang out.” Most people are born into the faith of their fathers. This is how I came to be a pious Lutheran during the first 16 years of my life. I was an altar boy, I was an off-key alto in the junior choir and I was confirmed at age 14 following a year of catechism study. (To this day, I remember a key tenet: God good, Devil bad). I believed in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, and any other god they might want to come up with.

One of the Gods

Then, in 1969, I experienced a revelation. It came in the form of Jim Morrison, lead singer for The Doors, revealing his private parts during a concert performance in my hometown of Miami. An outraged community of South Florida Christians, led by songstress Anita Bryant, decided to stage a “Decency Rally” in the Orange Bowl. The goal was to demonstrate that most area teens were repulsed by the idea of breaking on through to the other side, lighting fires, and touching Jim, no mater how many times he pleaded “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon”.

My church youth group planned to organize a bus trip to attend the rally. By the time they got around to calling and inviting me, my conversion had become complete.

“Gee, I kinda like the Doors,” I told Pastor Papke. And that was the end of my life as a Lutheran.

After a few years had passed, Morrison died of a heroin overdose in the bathtub of his Paris apartment, and Anita Bryant began a long and fruitful career promoting orange juice, homophobia and uplifting music. I had made the right choice.

Now, I am contemplating the possibility of arriving at a religious belief by the second most-common means: a conscious, intentional decision. It’s not a choice I’m quite prepared to make. I’ve spent over 57 years leading a mostly charmed life, free of the major trauma that usually inspires such conversions. (I thought about coming to Christ once around 20 years ago when I got a $280 ticket for speeding in a school zone, but when the judge said he wouldn’t put any points on my license, I lapsed back into apostasy).

Most of American Christianity seems to have been hijacked by right-wing political ideologues and, while I might otherwise consider adopting a mythical worldview involving angels and resurrections and miracles, I’m not quite ready to give up on my belief in national health insurance and the rest of the progressive agenda.

For now, I’m holding onto my plans for a death-bed conversion to each of the top 20 world faiths, hoping the scattershot approach will buy me entrance into somebody’s heaven. (I just hope it’s not Zoroastrianism that turns out to be the One True Religion; I hear they let vultures pluck at your deceased body rather than bury or burn you. Vultures, you may have noticed, are ugly).

See? Ugly, I tell you.

While I might, for now, be able to deny the lure of Christianity, it’s a good bit more difficult to deny that the creed sure has a great soundtrack. Just as I might hate the TV show “Glee,” I still find myself singing along to the cast’s spirited rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. (Ironic, huh?) By the same token, I’ve begun recently to search out the traditional hymns and sacred music I recall from my youth as a halfway measure to giving my life over to Christ.

The Lutheran songbook is a rich and inspirational collection of mediocre music that instantly transports me back to those early years of piety. I listen to “Just As I Am” and remember the procession down to the communion font, where I’d get my first sip of wine. I recall “Bless’d Be The Ties That Bind” and remember having to don a too-tight necktie every Sunday morning. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “How Great Thou Art” remind me of Protestantism’s appreciation for architecture and the classic paintings of the Renaissance.

But there was no piece of sacred music I’ve ever found more uplifting than Handel’s “Messiah.” My parents incessantly played the Eugene Ormandy/Mormon Tabernacle Choir version on their ancient hi-fi while I was growing up, and ever since I’ve been spiritually moved by the soaring 18th-century oratorio. When I went off to college in 1971, that record occupied as hallowed a place in my collection as did Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Deja Vu” and the Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Past.” Though my classical purist roommate scoffed at the flaws of the work while simultaneously pointing out it was “Messiah,” not “The Messiah,” and Handel was actually pronounced “Hen-del,” I was inalterably down with George Frederick.

The great "Hen-del"

(The only part I didn’t care for was that you were supposed to stand up during performance of the triumphant “Hallelujah Chorus,” which I always found to be awkward and arbitrary. Why did you have to alter the position of your body just because somebody was playing a catchy tune? Next thing you know, we’d have to bend over for each playing of Bach’s “Prelude in C Major” or put our hands over our ears during Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”. Actually, that last idea kinda makes sense).

So now, I while away a Sunday afternoon in search of succor, watching funny YouTube videos while Handel’s masterpiece plays over and over as the great composer always intended, on iTunes. Though this particular recording clocks in at just over 100 minutes, the libretto is surprising sparse, encouraging listeners to sing-along.

I love how Handel goes to such lengths to stretch out the lyrics in creative ways. The Mormon Tabernacle singers pronounce “accomplished” as “accomp-li-shed” and turn one- and two-syllable words like “shake” and “desire” into virtual arias of their own: “… and the de-si-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-re of all nations shall come.” He makes it fun to come up with misunderstood lyrics during the few boring parts: “his yolk is over easy and his permanent is light.” Or, “Are we like sheep?” Some of the phrasing is pleasantly cryptic: “He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off His hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.” Sing it!

There’s even a bit of frivolity that the Baroque master tosses in near the end, inserting what was meant to be a stage direction — “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised” — that later interpreters have sung as a lyric. (Though I’d love to see someone stage a back-to-the-original performance that actually included bugle-playing zombies).

By the end of “Messiah,” I feel spiritually lifted up, ready to face my modern-day trials with a faith that there is one who is greater than I. Actually, there are probably millions who are greater than I, and just knowing that takes off a lot of pressure.

Even though I may feel guilty spending the Lord’s Day watching piano-playing cats and the evolution of dance, I know that my soul is at peace and that my burden (and my permaent) is light.

Recharging the ol’ batteries

December 27, 2010

Back in college at Florida State, I had several good friends who were studying music at the university. Though it may come as a surprise to many who tend to associate FSU more with football than any sort of artistry, the college at the time had one of the top music schools in the country, second only in some rankings to Juilliard.

Two of these guys excelled on keyboard instruments, one on piano and one on organ. So it came as no surprise for the latter of these, that a common joke was told.

“His major is organ,” his friends would tease, “and his organ is major.”

No matter how many times it was said, it was always funny.

+++

Some regular readers of these postings — I’m looking at you, Paul — have noted what they perceive to be a certain change in the quality of the blog.

Perhaps it shows itself in word choice. What I think of as a creative stretching of the rules of language may come across to some as simply awkward phrasing. So turning “mayonnaise” into the action word “mayonnaising” to describe the act of applying that eggy condiment to my sandwich is seen by some as questionable. Changing “prehensile” into the adverb “prehensiley” to tell how my cat picks up food bits with his claws is viewed as dubious.

What can I say? I love words and enjoy playing around with them. I’m still trying to figure out a way to work my two favorites — “jubilee” (a time or season of celebration) and “bolus” (a soft rounded ball, especially of chewed food) — into the same sentence. I’ve even considered staging an annual festival to honor gnawed, sodden masses of nutrition, just so I can promote the First Annual Bolus Jubilee.

Then there was the incident this past Friday, where I re-posted a biography of the artist Christo that had run only five days before.

“Wow, Davis,” wrote one commentator who claims to have roomed with me during my freshman year of college, though I recall no such living arrangement. “You re-gifted your blog from Dec. 19th. This might be the first re-gifting in the brief history of blogging. I guess we can all count our blessings twice.”

Well, maybe I intended to republish the piece so quickly because there was such a demand. Maybe it’s like those “instant classics” they show on ESPN, when a particular athletic event is so enthralling that it demands to be watched again only several days after it originally aired. Maybe I intend to run the Christo post every day from now on. He is, after all, the preeminent fabric-draper of buildings and geographic features of our time, and would be thoroughly deserving of such recognition.

The reality, however, is that I probably need a break, or a “hiatus” as they call it in the broadcast television and hernia repair industries. Excluding the weekends, and the unfortunate incident Friday that ruined several people’s Christmas Eve, I have posted original content in this space every single weekday for almost two years. Regardless of whether or not I felt funny, whether or not I’d had a tough day at work, whether or not I’d had a root canal on the number 12 lateral incisor, I showed up every day on WordPress with a unique offering. Occasionally, it was even humorous.

Now, after an estimated 520 essays, I’m going to take this week between Christmas and New Year’s off. Starting tomorrow and continuing until January 3, I’ll be re-running classic Website Reviews and other works that first appeared in late 2009 and early 2010 in this blog. Think of it as something akin to the various TV marathons we’re seeing a lot on cable over the holidays, only (hopefully) a bit more entertaining than back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of Top Chef: Boiling Water.

Given the chance to recharge my batteries, I am confident that I can return in the New Year with fresh and amusing compositions, many of which will use real words. Look for other changes as well here at DavisW’s Blog, as I attempt to remain current and keep up with all the latest in online technology. For example, all new posts appearing in January will be dated in 2011, whereas I had only used 2010, 2009 and 2008 in the past. I’m also thinking of publishing a picture of myself in which I’m wearing something other than a T-shirt.

So hang in there, you 162.17 average daily readers. Enjoy the “revisitings,” as I’m calling them, for the next week. Or find something more constructive to do with your life, like getting up from your computer long enough to recall that you have loved ones living in the same house that you can say “hi” to.

I hope to see you back in January.

Revisited: The worst Christmas song of all time

December 12, 2010

Yesterday, I listed what I thought were four of the five worst Christmas songs of all time. Today, we learn who the winner is and, of course, by “winner” I mean “loser.”

The perhaps unlikely recipient of this honor is “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?” by Band Aid. I will admit that this song had at least two positives going for it: (1) it was a genuinely catchy and inspiring arrangement, and (2) it single-handedly saved the African continent from the ravages of hunger. Those are pretty strong plusses, so you can imagine the kind of negatives it would take to offset all that good, and transport this effort to the status of worst Christmas song of all time.  

I know he’s already considered something of a “Gloomy Gus,” but consider what singer Morrissey had to say about the song. “I’m not afraid to say that I think … (Band Aid creator) Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. The record itself was absolutely tuneless. One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it’s another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England. It was an awful record considering the mass of talent involved. It was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.”    

Another critic suggested “the song presents a very bleak view of Africa, which the lyrics appear to refer to as a whole. Some of these, such as the suggestions (if read literally) that the continent has no rainfall or successful crops, have been seen as absurd by critics. The lyrics as patronizing, false and out of date.”    

Well, let’s take a look and see what we, and by “we” I mean “I”, think.    

It’s Christmastime (for the half of the African continent that is Christian)
There’s no need to be afraid
(yes there is, if you’re living in many part of Africa)
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade (thank you, ‘80s British rockers)
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy (that’s your best idea?)
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime
(just not practical) 

But say a prayer
Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it’s hard when you’re having fun
(please, don’t put yourself out)
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you
(that just seems terribly selfish)
 
And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime (Accuweather calls for humid)
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
(except the Nile, Niger, Zambezi, Victoria Falls, etc.)
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all? (do these people have no calendars?)
 
(Here’s to you) raise a glass for everyone (we’ll have champagne; you drink the tears)
(Here’s to them) underneath that burning sun (thanks for that shade banishment)
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
(OK, OK, we heard you the first two times)
 
With only a few weeks left till Christmas, I think I can avoid radios, malls, medical offices, elevators, etc., long enough to avoid this song for the rest of the season. If you can’t hole up quite the way I plan, then all I can say is

thank God it’s you instead of me.   

Revisited: Worst Christmas songs of all time

December 11, 2010

Today I begin my list of the five worst Christmas songs in the history of the universe. In reverse order, they are:

Number 5 – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Michael Jackson

This is the only song on my list that is a re-imagined classic rather than an original composition. It was recorded back in the Jackson Five days and features Michael at his high-pitched screeching worst. (I’d say he was pre-pubescent at the time, but then I could be talking about any time during his adulthood.) In the final bars – “…mommy kissing Santa Claus … last … night” – the pitch is so grating that I get a headache just describing it. It’s so bad that it’s possibly even worse than the allegations of child abuse against him.

Number 4 – “Little St. Nick” by the Beach Boys

Allow me to quote what is otherwise one of my favorite groups of the rock era:

Well, way up north where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas that you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends the whole year workin’ out on his sled

It’s the little Saint Nick / Ooooo, little Saint Nick
It’s the little Saint Nick / Ooooo, little Saint Nick

And haulin’ through the snow at a frightenin’ speed
With a half a dozen deer with Rudy to lead
He’s gotta wear his goggles ’cause the snow really flies
And he’s cruisin’ every pad with a little surprise

Run run reindeer / Run run reindeer / Run run reindeer / Run run reindeer

Ahhhhhh / Oooooooo
Merry Christmas Saint Nick
Christmas comes this time each year

I think that last line is my favorite. Nothing puts cheer in the season like reminding us that holidays come on a regularly scheduled basis.

Number 3 – “Step Into Christmas” by Elton John

I don’t know if Elton collaborated with long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin to create this song, or whether it was one of his rare song-writing efforts with the ghost of Adolf Hitler. Either way, it’s a sorry, sorry offering.

Welcome to my Christmas song
I’d like to thank you for the year
So I’m sending you this Christmas card
To say it’s nice to have you here
I’d like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Christmas with me

Step into Christmas
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Christmas
The admission’s free

 Note that he’d like to sing about “all the things your eyes and mind can see,” in other words, virtually everything known to mankind, from kangaroos to the tensions on the India-Pakistan border to the third law of thermodynamics. Just “hop aboard the turntable so … we can watch the snow fall forever and ever … because the admission’s free.” Excuse me, but I just have to ask: what?

Number 2 – “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

This “song” is an absolute abomination. Even if you didn’t compare it to other holiday efforts by former Beatles – the haunting “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon and the not-really-a-Christmas-song-but-I-think-it-mentions-Jesus “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison – it would still be ghastly. Let’s look at some of the “lyrics”:

The moon is right
The spirits up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The party’s on
The feelin’s here
That only comes
This time of year

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The choir of children sing their song
Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding ohhhh
Ohhhhhhh

“Ohhhhhh” indeed. And, I might add, “arrgghhh” and “eeewww.”

Tomorrow, the number-one worst Christmas song of all time.

Revisited: My suggestions for Thanksgiving carols

November 21, 2010

It’s Thanksgiving this week, and I think I know the reason it’s snuck up on us again. There are no warning songs, like you tend to get for weeks before Christmas. As much as I love the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s difficult to get in the spirit without appropriate musical accompaniment. (I think that’s why I always forget to buy everybody Labor Day presents).

To remedy this sad lack of audio cheer, I’m hereby submitting my ideas for new Thanksgiving carols. I’m suggesting existing holiday melodies, so once the turkey is done, we can easily transition into already familiar tunes for the rest of December.

[To the tune of “Joy to the World”]
Joy to the world
The bird has come
Let us remove his wings
Take out the heart,
Take out the lungs,
But leave the gizzards in
But leave the gizzards in
But leave … but leave the gizzards in
 
[To the tune of “Silent Night”]
Silent night, holy night
Hours until the first light
Time to hit the malls and stores
Time to start the busting of doors
TVs for $499
Xbox for $299
 
[To the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”]
Uncle Wenceslas looked down
On the feast from mama
Said she did a bang-up job
Then started on Obama
“He’s really Hitler in disguise, his policies are failin’”
Then the poor man gave us fright, said he’s reading Palin.
 
[To the tune of “What Child is This?”]
What time is dinner?
I need to know
Should I skip lunch
Or pick up “to go”
I’ll gladly starve
If we’ll eat at 3
By 4 though I’ll be crabby
 
[To the tune of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”]
I watched stupid TV marathons
Nothing else was on Thanksgiving Day
“Dirty Jobs” will make you sick
“Real Housewives” makes you thick
“Hell’s Kitchen” makes you want to bludgeon Ramsey with a stick
 
[To the tune of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”]
Lions stinking in the Silverdome
Cowboys rarely scoring ten
Watching football on Thanksgiving Day
It makes you want to leave the den
Go to the kitchen and help the people cleaning plates
Here there’s fellowship to see
While in Dallas they’re imploding again
As Romo blows another third and three
 
[To the tune of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”]
Rudolf the Grey Tofurkey
Had a very shiny glow
Made up of roots and veggies
Making your digestion slow
All of the other families
Eat a real bird of meat
However your hippie grandma
Likes to mix her food with peat
Then one foggy afternoon
Grandpa rose to say
“I refuse to eat this crap
That’s not gravy, that’s tree sap”
All of the other relatives
Jumped and shouted out with glee
“Let’s all run out to Wendy’s
For a burger and large Frostie”
 
[To the tune of “White Christmas”]
I’m dreaming of a Black Friday
Just like the one they had last year
Where the guy at Wal-Mart
Was torn apart
Because low prices started here
 
[To the tune of “Home for the Holidays”]
Oh, there’s no place for you in the dining room
Looks like you’ll have to sit back with the kids
Though they yell and they spit and they smell real bad
Now you know your life has really hit the skids
You met a girl from Tennessee
She looks just like your aunt
But you’re 21 and she is only eight
All she talks about is SpongeBob
While you like Gothic bands
They should have left her with a sitter
Man, you really want to hit her

An editorial: Time for a Little River ban

October 7, 2010

I was working in the yard, working not too hard, mostly leaf-blowing. The song came to me from out of nowhere. First the chorus, then the first stanza, then the endless loop that I still can’t get out of my head.

Hurry, don’t be late
I can hardly wait
I said to myself when we’re old
We’ll go dancing in the dark
Walking through the park
And reminiscing

The song, as you may be able to tell, is called “Reminiscing.” In 1978, it was released by an Australian soft rock group called the Little River Band. It shot to Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, representing the peak of LRB’s popularity in America. In 1996 it was covered by Barry Manilow, and again released in 2001 by a band called Madison Avenue. It was used prominently in the recent Will Ferrell film “The Other Guys.”

Now, it must be expunged from all recorded history.

“Reminiscing” was hardly the most vile, mind-numbing affront to Western Civilization produced by the band. They had other hits in the late seventies and early eighties that were every bit as cloying. There was “Lady,” “Lonesome Loser” and “Cool Change.” There was “Happy Anniversary” (“Happy anniversary, baby/Got you on my mind“), probably the most egregious abomination of the lot. There was “Help Is On Its Way” which, to this day, I kind of like.

But for some reason, it’s “Reminiscing” that’s stuck in my head, an earworm that has wrapped itself around my cerebral cortex and will not let go. Action must be taken to remove this sonic tumor from my brain, before it metastasizes to drumming fingertips, tapping toes and dancing feet.

I am proposing a four-pronged approach to dispatching this cancer.

First, we round up all surviving members of the band and confine them to an internment camp somewhere in the desert Southwest. This could be a bit of a challenge, not just because it smacks of Stalinism, but because the original five were subsequently joined and/or replaced by dozens of other musicians in the 30-plus years of the band’s existence. Original members like Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble can easily be located; they still perform, though they do it under the name Birtles Shorrock Goble since the official “Little River Band” name is owned by former member Stephen Housden, who rents it out to transients. But obscure one-time players like Kip Raines (drummer, 2004-2005) and Hal Tupea (bassist, 1996-1997) are bound to be harder to find, unless we can subpoena the employment records of fast-food giants like Taco Bell and McDonald’s.

Second, we institute a worldwide buyback program. I’ve already lined up the philanthropic might of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a fund of $4 billion, so that every vinyl record, every cassette, every eight-track cartridge can be purchased from the public and destroyed. Preferably by fire, though a giant crusher will do.

Third, I propose we begin a Manhattan-Project-style effort in the scientific community to learn time travel, so we can send a team back to 1975 to abort the band’s formation. Most physicists acknowledge that one-way travel into the future is arguably possible, given the phenomenon of time dilation based on the theory of special relativity. Going backwards in time is more problematic, given constraints of the so-called “grandfather paradox”. This concept raises the question of what would happen if the traveler killed his grandfather before he met his grandmother, and then his father would never have been born, and neither would he. This could easily be addressed, however, if the execution team could terminate both band members and their grandparents.

Finally, I am offering to perform a lobotomy on myself, boring a hole in my forehead with a common household power drill to allow the demons of “Reminiscing” to escape from my mind. If there’s any money left over from the buyback fund, I could use it to help defray my medical bills. However, I am willing to take on the entire risk and expense on my own IF I COULD JUST GET THIS AWFUL SONG OUT OF MY HEAD!

The world can’t afford to ignore this issue. We must pull together and act now. As LRB would themselves say: Hurry don’t be late/We can hardly wait.

If you encounter these guys, report them IMMEDIATELY to the authorities