Posts filed under ‘nostalgia n crap’
2016 was a big year for celebrity deaths. It became kind of a competition in some ways. David Bowie’s death hit a lot of people hard, but then the famous people kept dropping, and soon it was like “oh yeah? Prince was whatever. GEORGE MICHAEL really had an impact on my life!” and then the person would have to talk about how everyone is celebrating/mourning/talking about _____, but nobody is mentioning ______ as much as they should blah blah blah.
I’m not about to do that. Everyone’s death in 2016 was tragic (except possibly Phyllis Schlafly’s and Antonin Scalia’s, but that’s another entry). However, I would like to bring your attention to one death in particular that made me think: Paul Kantner.
I grew up a cynical, cranky Gen-Xer raised by hippies. My upbringing was not that unusual; many people of my generation were raised with the idea that everything in the 80s was boring, and that nothing was as good or exciting as it was in the 1960s. Baby Boomers adopted a superior attitude of “you weren’t there, you have NO IDEA how boring it is now!” Note, “the 60s” = 1967-1974.
I loved 80s music and was totally into punk and New Wave. In 1986, when this video came out (see below), I was heavily into U2, Big Country, Simple Minds, and other bands which my parents deemed “crap.” In their minds, in order to be cool, I had to listen to 60s music. They sat me down and made me listen to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen (RIP), whom I have an appreciation for now, but to the ears of a 13 year old obsessed with British New Wave, it just sounded like dreary noise.
60s music was played as background music in every store in my neck of the woods. New Wave was spectacularly un-cool. In my time-forgotten corner of Upstate NY, all my peers were into Pink Floyd and The Who. The Beatles were omnipresent, but they were so cliché at that point; I had heard every song a million times, and their music had become shorthand for “what follows is supposed to appeal to old people.”
Out of all the 60s music I was forced to listen to, the Jefferson Airplane was the only one I could relate to. I liked “White Rabbit” a lot, and I discovered that when a group of Baby Boomers were together and reminiscing, I could name drop the Jefferson Airplane (after many caveats that no, I did not equate it with Starship, the band’s incarnation at the time), and Boomers would think I was “cool” and that I “get it” and didn’t have to give me the lectures on how everything we did was boring and pointless and how they engaged in Real Activism Back In The Day, unlike whatever crap passes for whatever now.
Which brings me to the song “America” by the KBC Band (a band comprised of Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady from the Jefferson Airplane). This is the first song I had heard that actually celebrated the youth of America that was released in my lifetime. It was optimistic!
Streets of gold
Streets of wonder
Streets of people growing stronger
Revolution and voices of thunder
It’s a New world, new people
New dreams for all of the children
Young country, new love
New dreams of freedom
The part that really resonated with me was this:
don’t be afraid of anything
don’t be afraid of anyone
young men are dreaming and
young girls believing
and asking questions like
where are the frontiers?
how do i get there?
I was inspired. I was uplifted. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it, but it made me resent my parents’ generation slightly less. I thought, hey, if the members of the Jefferson Airplane can maintain optimism about my generation, anyone can! Throughout all my Babyy Boomer dominated childhood, I had internalized that my entire generation was doomed because we were lazy slackers who listened to shitty music. Maybe we don’t suck so much after all! I mean, even Paul Kantner sang:
something’s happening in america
can you feel it? can you feel it comin’?
it’s like the green party in Germany
young people with visions and dreams
in Nicaragua n’ Chile, Poland and South Africa
freedom brewing, it’s an uphill dream
At this point in my life, I was harboring secret desires to be a revolutionary (I wanted to join the IRA), and this song made it seem like maybe I wasn’t the only one. Of course, the closest thing I ever got to revolution was writing a lot of letters to my Congress people and on behalf of Amnesty International, but still. This song had a giant impact on my early adolescent life. My generation (it didn’t really have a name yet; I don’t think Generation X was yet coined as a term for my peers) wasn’t just a cheap imitation of the one before it, we could make our mark for ourselves!
Jefferson Airplane was awesome, but they belonged to my parents’ generation. The KBC Band was something that belonged to my generation. Even though it was made up of Baby Boomer icons, the music was still new, and mine. It wasn’t me discovering something from the old days, that I could bring to my elders and they would condescendingly talk about how great it was and what’s wrong with me that I was just discovering it now? I heard the KBC Band first. My parents would not hear it unless I played it for them, because they were too busy wallowing in the music of the past to ever bother with anything new. I felt that unlike with Starship, the Jefferson Airplane made finally itself into a version for me.
OK, it may be a long shot to attribute the stalling of my rapidly snowballing cynicism of an entire generation to one pop song, but that one pop song forever cemented in my head that Paul Kantner was awesome (along with Balin and Casady). Rest in Peace.
By me, of course. In a fit of nostalgia, i’m going to nominate the Videos That Sum up the 80s the Best. By “the best” I mean “in the most hilarious ways possible.”
Journey, “Separate Ways”
here are some highlights:
nobody ever actually looks at the chick who’s meaningfully stomping around the warehouse.
Did I mention the entire thing takes place on the ground of a warehouse?
0:01 AWWW YEAH ROCKING THE AIR SYNTH!
0:53 I can’t tell if the air-drummer is actually sitting on a real stool or on an air stool. Either way it’s impressive.
0:56 more air synthing– the guy looks like he’s at an air scratching post.
1:31 The drummer is wearing a ripped-off collar sweatshirt advertising a foosball tournament.
1:44 the awesome grimace on the keyboard guy’s face
1:55 you finally see the chick who’s stomping around’s face. WOW HER AMAZING SQUARE PUFFY MULLET HAIR!
2:18 Whoa, extreme close-up of Steve Perry’s teeth!
2:22 Steve saunters backwards through a maze of pallets, but not without a quick look behind him to make sure he doesn’t smack into machinery.
2:31 two guys are facing each other singing with the chick in the middle. They are not looking at her.
2:45 synchronized head turn!
3:12 Bass dude’s got a Steinberger! SO JEALOUS!!! He shows off some sweet moves
3:51 keyboard guy has his keyboard mounted sideways on a wall again. The 80s were a tough time– it’s hard to look cool while playing a synthesizer. One had to break new ground!
the end: was it all a dream?!?!?!
I LOVE this song. Seriously. I love Journey, and I don’t care who knows. I realize I lose like 85% of whatever small shreds of indie street cred I ever had by admitting this, but I do! I also realize that I get most of my dance moves from Steve Perry. I just realized this this moment. I can’t dance for shit, and I mostly flail my arms and occasionally make fists. This video must have imprinted on my subconscious somehow.
For some reason, I haven’t been able to sleep lately. Blame cat butts in my face, Daylight Savings Time, being too hot, too cold, whatever. I don’t know. Anyway, after tossing and turning for a couple of hours last night I decided to watch something on my new awesome tablet. Since I cancelled my Hulu Plus and Netflix subscriptions because I didn’t use them enough, and Amazon Instant Video only works on iThings, I turned to my old friend PBS. Yes, one can watch all the PBS videos one wants on an Android tablet. I scroll through all the programs until I come to one called Secrets of the Dead. SECRETS OF THE DEAD! Who wouldn’t want to know some secrets from dead people at 3:30 a.m on a Tuesday morning? Awesome! I fired it up, and the first episode was about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I wasn’t sure what this had to do with secrets (although I’m sure there are plenty of classified documents about it) or the dead (but as I found out, one person died in the event, the U-2 spy plane pilot that Castro shot down), but hey! Maybe it would bore me to sleep. I’ve never been a huge fan of 1960s history, preferring other eras instead. As a kid in the Baby Boomer-run 1980s, the 1960s were held as the Greatest Era in History and we learned in great detail everything that went down then; none of it interested me that much. So hey. The Cuban Missile Crisis.
Basically, this documentary-style show was like a historical submarine movie. It was mostly shot from the point of view of the submariners aboard the subs that were carrying nuclear missiles from the USSR. They interviewed a couple of the guys who were on that sub and their wives (maybe that’s where the secrets of the dead come in? Since this happened 50 years ago, some of the participants have died).
Have I mentioned before that I FREAKING LOVE SUBMARINE MOVIES?!!? I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Phantom, starring David Duchovny and Ed Harris, which is about a submarine that, uh, does submarine stuff. I don’t really care what; I just love sub movies! There’s pretty much only one plot a submarine movie can have, anyway– there’s a submarine. Someone is trying to destroy it. It has to dive deeper, which puts stresses on the sub because of water pressure. Can it escape and not be crushed under the unrelenting weight of the ocean? Can a bunch of guys trapped in a small, confined space keep it together and not go crazy? Unfortunately, Phantom was only in the theaters for about 0.8 seconds, so I missed it. Alas. But Submarines AND David Duchovny? How can you go wrong?!?
But back to the Cuban Missile Crisis… I didn’t finish watching the show, because the innernets crapped out and the streaming died half way through. I’ll probably watch the rest of it tonight or tomorrow or something. Anyway, it awakened all sorts of 1980s Cold War anti-nostalgia for me. I remember being terrified of nuclear annihilation when I was a kid. My favorite anecdote about environmentalism is how we were told that it was our PATRIOTIC DUTY to stop global warming– because if global warming happened, then all the permafrost in Siberia would melt, making it fertile farmland. Meanwhile, the breadbasket of America would turn to desert, and how would THAT affect the balance of power?
We watched all the same propaganda films in school that they watched in the 60s– the ones about “history” where the map of Europe is all happy and brightly colored until a dagger stabs into Russia and bleeds red all through the former Soviet Bloc.
Baby Boomers liked to scoff at how they had drills where they had to “duck and cover” under their desks in case of nuclear war, and how it wouldn’t do anything. What we took away from that lesson as kids was that in the event of nuclear war, we’re all screwed. Maybe duck-and-cover wouldn’t have helped, but at least it showed a tiny bit of optimism. Maybe while kids were ducking and covering, their last thought would have been “HOLY SHIT I’M GONNA DIE… maybe…” rather than the message we got which was “WE ARE ALL SCREWED. PERIOD.”
Anyway, I got up this morning fresh from weird 1980s inspired Cold War dreams and stumbled to the computer to look at the news headlines, like I do every morning. I see that Kim Jong-Un is vowing to “annihilate the enemy” and wants to blow up some South Korean island. Seriously? I’m getting those pangs of “HOLY SHIT WE’RE ON THE BRINK OF WAR” like I had when I was a kid. It’s odd, since I haven’t really worried about this stuff in decades. What is that crazy douche up to? Geez. I thought this was the 21st century. Of course, who knows what’s really going on– the media is far from unbiased on both sides of the ocean.
It just seems that that kind of country-border dick measuring is SO pre-second millennium!
This past weekend was Stormageddon aka Snowpocalypse 2013 aka Winter Storm Nemo. Yes, the weather was pretty epic. Everything was closed and pretty much all of Boston was housebound. I was stormed in at Doug’s house– we had a cozy weekend of “Twin Peaks” marathons and frozen pizza awaiting us.
Anyway, on one of the days I drank lots of coffee and water and juice and other things and had to “use the facilities” as my late grandmother would have said. However, Doug was in the shower. So, I waited for signs that his shower may be over (that was why, really. I am not normally in the habit of eavesdropping on peoples’ person hygiene routines). I heard the shower water stop. I stood up, ready to pounce as soon as the door opened… but then I heard the unmistakable sounds of peeing in the potty, followed by the toilet flushing. My first thought was “whoa, who gets out of the shower to drain the lizard?” But then my thoughts were quickly flooded with elation and joy.
When I was a youngster, my mother spent a lot of time razzing me for being uptight. I was square. I was dorky and un-cool. I was totally anal-retentive, which was amazing because I apparently also had a broomstick up my ass. Moth and her creepy boyfriend at the time (we’ll call him Bucephalus) picked on me because I wouldn’t walk around the house naked, for example. Obviously I was a stuffed shirt. Also, I wouldn’t let MOth into the bathroom to brush her teeth while I was on the can. This annoyed her to no end. You’ve probably heard this story already, but here it is again: I’m probably the only kid in the history of the universe who got yelled at for NOT swearing. I said “oh phooey” or words to that effect when I dropped something once. Moth’s creepy boyfriend at the time heard and was horrified. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?!” he demanded. “uh… phooey?” I said (I was about 10). “NO, WHEN YOU DROP SOMETHING, YOU SAY *FUCK*!!! NOBODY WILL EVER RESPECT YOU IF YOU SAY LITTLE MAMBY PAMBY PUSSY WORDS LIKE PHOOEY! LET ME HEAR YOU SAY FUUUUCCCKKK!!!!” I, of course, was annoyed at this and liked to piss people off, so I went on saying “ffffffffffff…ffff…iddlesticks!” and things. I finally had to say “fuck” just to make him shut up, but I didn’t like it. I was 10, OK? Being uptight was my only way of being rebellious! This is my mother, who took one look at the rock star on the record album cover I was lovingly gazing at (I think it was Green from Scritti Politti) and said “Oh, he’s totally gay. Look at him. He’s so gay. Do you know what gay means? It means he doesn’t like girls. He likes men. He’d rather have sex with men than women. Do you know how they do that? In the anus. One man puts his penis in the other man’s anus.” So ok, it’s one thing that Green would never love me (and who says he wouldn’t? I mean, this was the 80s. He was European. Everyone looked gay in 1985!), but quite another to the 10-year-old mind to picture (1) his penis at all (2) putting it in another man’s anus– this all kind of made my head explode. But truthfully, I didn’t care what he did with his penis. Shocking me was what my mother lived to do, and pretty much all I could do was play my role as the shockee, which wasn’t always just a role. Later on, I would go on to do really uptight dweebish things like drive the speed limit and slow down for yellow lights. Yes, I was doomed, and no amount of forcing me to listen to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits would make me cool.
I recall one evening at dinner Mom and Bucephalus were bad-naturedly ridiculing someone or other they knew. “He’s the kind of guy who probably gets out of the bathtub to take a piss.” Bucephalus said, and Moth cackled appreciatively. I, however, truly was aghast. It truly wasn’t an act this time. I spent a lot of time in the bathtub since it was the only warm place in the house (we only turned the heat up as high as 65 for special occasions like birthdays), and the thought of stewing in my own excreta was particularly foul to me. I might have gasped. Moth and Bucephalus laughed. “YOU MEAN YOU get out of the bathtub to pee?!?!?” They demanded, laughing as if it was the most hilarious thing on earth. I sputtered. I tried to set up a logical rebuttal, explaining that languishing in urine was not my preferred hobby. As you probably guessed, using logic was not a way to win arguments in my household. For a few weeks after, every time I went into the bathroom, I was followed by comments like “careful not to get any bathwater in there!” or “here’s a jar, just take it with you into the tub; then you won’t have to get out HAHAHAHAHAH!”
So Ok, I’m uptight. But Doug gets out of the SHOWER to answer nature’s call. He removes himself from a place where water is constantly washing down a drain to do his business where it should be done. He’s dweebier than I am! AND IT’S FREAKING AWESOME!!! Not just because I’ve met someone who’s a bigger dork than I am, but I feel like we’re on the same wavelength… at least about the separation of waste elimination and bathing!
Certainly not fucking Bryan Adams. My 20 year high school reunion is this week. Yes, I’m going to it. Well, the Ithaca High School one anyway. I missed the Cortland one though I was invited. ACS? My graduating class was like 23 people. They generally don’t bother with reunions, except occasionally they have one for anyone’s who has ever attended the school and really, do I want to do a giant group hug with tofuheads past and future? Not unless Art Stark would be there and he died sometime in the 90s. I think. He was the awesomest teacher ever! Anyway, I’m trying to get into the spirit of ’91 by checking out some of the music… but seriously. 1991 was probably the worst year ever for pop music. 1991 was more than a rut. It was a gaping chasm of suck in the world of the top 40. The #1 song of the year was…
Yes, Bryan Adams managed to squeeze this parenthetically titled steaming pile of turds into the top 100 the longest of any other artist that year. Not only did the song suck giant blue wombat balls, but it was the theme to “Robin Hood: Prince of Dweebs”, a movie that will live in infamy at the very least for having Kevin Costner attempting to have an English accent occasionally. Not even Alan Rickman could save that movie, I’m afraid.
But really, Mr. Adams didn’t exactly have a lot of competition. The second biggest song of the year was “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd. (a) How exactly does one sex one up? (b) Is the act, in fact, “badd” with 2 D’s?
Ok, the third one was “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C&C Music Factory (most people know it as “Everybody Dance Now”, the song that was a minor scandal of people suing for zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz yawn). That song was at least fun, and it opened the pop charts to all sorts of vacuous dance music. This is not a bad thing. If pop music is going to be dominated by vacuous tunes, at least you should be able to dance to them!
I’m not going to dwell on each song, let’s recap some of the highlights (i.e., lowlights): Michael Bolton covering “When a Man Loves a Woman.” ::shudder:: People of my generation, we are largely responsible for this. Music wouldn’t make it onto the pop charts unless kids were buying it. What were we thinking? Really? A balding old guy with a mullet trying to be soulful? WTF people? I am embarrassed to be a part of Generation X.
The rest, let’s see… some minor songs by Paula Abdul, Gloria Estefan and Madonna. These are the songs that make it to the end of the 3rd Greatest Hits albums. “More than Words” by Extreme. That song may have been the #1 cause of teen pregnancy in America at the time. Come on, the words are so creepy– Here’s the (slightly grammatically puzzling) first verse:
Saying I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It’s not that I want you
Not to say, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cos I’d already know
Come on Nuno and Gary– what example were you trying to set for the Youth of America? Like I said, anyone born around 9 months after June 1991 probably has these guys to thank:
And yeah, they’re from the Boston-ish area. Unlike most natives here, I don’t claim that Boston has produced better music than any other city. One word? Boston. I don’t even think Boston is from Boston yet they still cast a grey-tinged aura of suck around the whole damn city’s musical reputation.
“Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. Here’s a video that got everyone all hot and bothered:
Whoa, scantily clad people stretching the limits of “rated for television”! Truthfully, neither party in the video ever did it for me. Perhaps if the song had been less awful I would have been able to watch more than the first 10 seconds of it.
“Touch Me (All Night Long)” by Cathy Dennis. Who? Cathy Dennis? That name doesn’t remotely ring a bell. CATHY DENNIS? What kind of lame name is that? Cathy Dennis probably plays bingo with Barb Johnson and Doris Murphy down at St. Mary’s on Wednesdays. Come on, Cathy, couldn’t you have thought up something cool to call yourself, like… Sting? Ok never mind. I don’t think I even knew her name at the time. The only words I ever caught from this song were:
Hold me baby, drive me crazy
Touch me all night long
which always totally cracked me up because all I pictured was sitting in the backseat of a car with my little sister screaming “DON’T TOUCH ME!” and me poking her yelling “TOUCH! TOUCH! TOUCH!” with each poke. This is what I envisioned this song to be about.
What else? Wilson Phillips, Amy Grant, Roxette– it truly was the year for lite rock.
“Losing My Religion” by REM. I loved REM but really? They had sucked for 2.5 albums already at this point. I heard this song on the radio the other day and it was kind of sad, it was their “good” period. Everything they have done since has sucked even worse. Alas.
“O.P.P” by Naughty By Nature. OK, this is one of those songs that goes in the “HOLY CRAP SOMEONE ACTUALLY WROTE THAT?” category. It belongs there with “Hollaback Girl,” “Macarthur Park” and “My Humps.” It will always make you shake your head in confusion; it did at the time and it will even more so now. I freaking love this song!
“Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch Featuring Loleatta Holloway. Why not? This song was pretty fun in that totally dumb way. Plus, the Funky Bunch featured members named Miss ? and Hector the Booty Inspector. How could you go wrong with those monikers? Cathy Dennis, TAKE NOTE! Nobody ever thought Marky Mark would eclipse his brother Donny of New Kids on the Block fame’s shining star. Wow, I guess we were wrong. Side note: it took decades for people of My Generation to stop referring to him as Marky Mark (and probably a good half still didn’t stop). It doesn’t matter how many critically acclaimed movies he’s starred in or Academy Awards he’s won– he’s still Marky Mark to us. I guess it was a good year for Boston music.
OK ok there were a couple of songs that *didn’t* suck–
I Touch Myself” by Divinyls and two songs by Jesus Jones (“Real Real Real” and “Right Here, Right Now”)– Those were the last death twitches of New Wave. God how I loved New Wave. Hair Metal killed New Wave and I am still bitter to this day. Really now, how could
ever supplant the awesome awesomeness that was these people?:
Wow, looking at those pictures now, a casual user probably couldn’t even tell the difference in eras, styles, and general coolness by looking at the hairdos. Well whatever. *I* know, and since this is my blog post, that’s all that matters!
Back to music of 1991… Someone posted on Facebook looking for songs to play at the reunion. They asked everyone what music reminded them of high school. Half the people of course said shit like “The Grateful Dead” and “Pink Floyd” and “Bob Marley.” Fucking hippies. I went to the lamest school on earth. In a Baby Boomer dominated town all anyone listened to to be cool was classic rock. I said “the thing that reminds me most of high school was saying ‘I don’t listen to pop music. I don’t even know what’s popular these days. I only listen to classic rock.'” because seriously, that’s all anyone did. Our fucking prom theme (I didn’t actually go to the prom, partially because it) was STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN! What crack smokers came up with that? “Why?” you ask, “because it’s a song about suicide?” well yeah, but also because it was a song from our fucking parents’ generation! Way to move ahead and look to the future, morons!
But I can kind of see why people shied away from the pop charts. I mean, I’m looking over 1990 and sadly, the song that is the best is “Ice Ice Baby” probably for the kitsch factor, making a nice meaty sandwich filling between the twin white bread slices of Nostalgia and Irony.
“Do Me” by Bel Biv DeVoe comes in a close second. That was when pop music no longer needed innuendo. Even in songs like “Let’s Spend The Night Together” there’s some ambiguity. Sure we *think* we know what they’re going to get up to spending the night, but it never is spelled out. For all we know they could be spending the night playing Monopoly and having pillow fights. Maybe they’re even doing something as innocuous (in the 1990s at least) as worshiping Satan. There really is nothing ambiguous about “You can do me in the morning, you can do me in the night, you can do me when you want to do me , oh… yeah.”
Moving farther back in time to my sophomore year… Phil Collins ballads and Richard Marx. Milli Vanilli. “Toy Soldiers” by Martika– that was an awesomely puzzling and overblown song. Who would have thought that 20 years later the little chick on Kids Incorporated would be famous? (that’s Fergie, in case you all forgot). Martika had a pop song back in 1989, what happened to her?
OH GOD THAT BILLY JOEL SONG THAT SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS! Moving right along…
1988 brought us lots of Bon Jovi and Rick Astley. I was not a fan at the time. INXS was there at least.
Basically my four years of high school were a popular music wasteland. I spent a lot of time listening to Tears for Fears’ “Seeds of Love” album as well as all the 80s music I still listened to. ::sigh:: aren’t you supposed to feel nostalgic and see the music of your teenage years in the soft focus hazy light of a sitcom flashback? Maybe I would if the music hadn’t been so damn shitty.
Seriously. My generation has a lot to answer for.
I’m not one to wax poetic about Days of Yore. My grandmother could spend hours lamenting the deaths of stores she used to shop in and could pinpoint everything she ever bought at one of them. I, however, do not hold monuments to consumerism on this level of reverence. I really could care less, especially in the world of chain stores, who buys out who, why and where.
But, it did give me a tiny twinge of sadness in my Central New York bred heart when I read that the P&C grocery stores went bankrupt and have been bought out by Tops, a chain from Buffalo. The P&C was all over Central NY and wherever I lived, there was always one in the town. It makes me sad to lose out on this bit of “history” (ok, they’ve only been around since the 1940s) for this one important reason: Now, generations of school children will never know the answer to the Eternal Question…
Where was the glass toilet invented?