Saturday, December 31, 2005

Feel dizzy... need... sports... scores...

It was "girls' night in" at the Hogstrom house last night as Kerstin cued up the DVD player for an "all-nighter" of "Gilmore Girls."
Our 10-year-old daughter had received the DVD of the first season for Christmas.
Last night, we loaded up on pizza, chips, ice cream and the like for a mammoth helping of SIX HOURS of Lorelai and Rory.
I dug some of the music -- the first song played on "Gilmore Girls" episode No. 1 was "There She Goes," the original by The La's and not that dreadfully bland Sixpence None the Richer cover version -- but about midway through the proceedings I requested a much-needed intermission. I had to check sports scores or something. My male psyche felt like it was beginning to ebb away.
The girls are still sleeping, 10 hours after the closing credits of the last episode we watched. It's not so easy watching SIX HOURS of "Gilmore Girls" at once.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Best of 2005

Route 1 readers ponder the final FRIDAY QUESTION for 2005... What was the best new song you heard this year, and what made it so special?
Dave B. -- Green Day "Holiday."
Rick T. -- The song "Blues Man". Recorded by several people, but it's out now by George Jones and Dolly Pardon. Even though the song was not written about George Jones, it sure does fit him. If anyone out there don't know who George Jones is, listen to the song and then do the research. He is the Elvis Presley of Country Music and a REAL live legend!
Shannon H. -- "Gold Digger"” by Kanye West. You can't help but dance. Even if sexist, I just cannot resist it.
Mike D. -- I'd be hard-pressed to name ANY song of 2005, much less anything this millennium. Darn these kids and their blasted music nowadays! Now where are my Night Ranger cassettes?
Diane H. -- I think "Gold Digger" by Kanye West is my favorite song of 2005, but it's quite possibly a three-way tie with "Dirty Little Secret" by All-American Rejects and "Since You Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. They're all just so damn catchy -- in a good way. I can tell you my absolute least favorite song of 2005 is that f*cking Humps song by Black Eyed Peas. I think its immense popularity is a sign of the apocalypse.
Inger H. -- The Weakerthans "A New Name for Everything." Though it came out in 2003, I only discovered it this year. It's a catchy little melody sweetened with a bit of twang. The lyrics are clever and thoughtful and the whole is one of my favorite songs ever: When the one-ways collude with the map that you folded wrong, and the route you abandoned is always the path that you probably should be upon. When the bottle-cap ashtrays and intimate's ears are all full with results of your breath, and the threads of your fear are unfurled with the tiniest pull.
Erik H. -- I had heard perhaps one or two songs by Sufjan Stevens and thought he was just another one of those CLEVER NEO-FOLKSTERS. Then, this year, he produced his homage to ILLINOIS and I heard "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and I realized Sufjan was a GENIUS and I was SO WRONG. A study of a serial killer, it also points to possible similarities to the singer himself. All built into a exquisitely beautiful song, with subdued piano and quietly strummed guitar. It's so easy to become discouraged by the current music scene. This song gave me hope for both the present and the future. Happy New Year!

Agonizing losses are nothing new

Brady Leaf's drive-stifling interception with 33 seconds remaining in this year's Holiday Bowl should have come as no surprise to veteran Oregon Ducks fans, of which I am one of the more rabid.
Oklahoma's 17-14 upset victory over the Ducks proves the often agonizing nature of sports fandom.
Oregon played relatively well in the first half, with a stout defense keeping the Sooners at bay. At least three dropped passes kept the Ducks from building up much of a scoring margin.
Those drops would prove fatal.
Oklahoma played much better in the third quarter and cruised to an apparently insurmountable (based upon their defensive play) lead of 17-7.
Then the Ducks roared back to cut the deficit to three points are were driving down the field with time ebbing away when...
... Well, you know what happened. Close but no cigar.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don't shoot the dialogue coach!

I had to work the late shift yesterday and when I returned home to an empty house (Jill and the girls remained in central Iowa for an additional day), I decided to watch one of the DVDs I received for Christmas.
I chose "Reservoir Dogs," certainly one of the most stylish releases of the past dozen years.
It remains my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, perhaps because of the film's obvious reflection of Nouvelle Vague classics. I love the hand-held, documentary style. I love the black humor. I especially love the cast. Harvey Keitel is great. I have always loved Steve Buscemi and the rest of the gang are superb. I adore the work of Tim Roth and I laughed my head off when I watched one of the bonus-feature interviews that accompanies the DVD.
Roth is an English actor who was playing an American (he was also ostensibly a good guy -- a cop -- who was in effect the "bad guy" within the community of diamond thieves, which I find an interesting juxtaposition of roles). During the interview, he admits to working long hours with dialogue coach Suzanne Celeste in order to master the Southern California accent. Now here comes the hilarity: Celeste plays a cameo role as the woman driver who shoots Roth's Mr. Orange in the stomach as he and Mr. White commandeer her car. Mr. Orange shoots her in return. In return for what? All those long hours of running dialogue? Hmmm...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Just one CD present, but it is a great one

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I returned today after several days in central Iowa, where Jill's side of the family combined with my west-coast family members for a big weekend of holiday festivities.
My sister and I drove back to Dubuque last night (she returned to San Francisco today), listening to some CDs we received for Christmas. While she received discs by Coldplay, Matt Pond PA and others, I received only one musical present this year -- the three-disc Trojan Mod Reggae Box Set.
It is wonderful. The music on the three discs cover the period of 1962 to 1970, mixing early ska and rocksteady classics with Booker T. and the MG-like instrumentals. I had to purge my iPod of some other, classic tunes in order to make room for this new set of songs. It will be worth it, however. These songs never seem to age.
My other gifts included a quartet of DVDs, notably "Reservoir Dogs," "Rushmore," "Ghost World" and the complete season of the BBC's mid-90s comedy classic "Knowing Me Knowing You," starring Steve Coogan as chat-show host Andy Partridge. Now, I just need to find the time to watch them all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sex Pistols? That'll never fly

It's not every day you that you can exchange e-mails with a bloke who auditioned for the Sex Pistols. I did this week, when I corresponded with guitarist Faebhean Kwest.
Kwest has said he wanted to audition for Sparks originally, but instead played for Malcolm McLaren. He turned down McLaren's gang as being no-hopers (a career choice he laughs about now) and instead teamed up with Sean Purcell to form The Raped. They were among the first UK punk bands to play in Belfast and eventually mutated into the Cuddly Toys, one of my favorite of the early 80s bands.
Unlike many of their safety pins-and-bondage trousered brethren, Cuddly Toys emphasized glam elements in their act. They thus presaged the glam-metal movement by about five years or so. I e-mailed Kwest about his Cuddly Toys Web site and in e-mailing me back, he enquired about Dubuque's location after updating me on Web-site expansion plans.

Monday, December 19, 2005

They were from Georgia, but they weren't R.E.M.

I ran an errand and did the dishes today while listening to the woefully underappreciated Guadalcanal Diary.
Does anyone remember them?
They had the misfortune of following R.E.M. out of Georgia in the early 1980s.
Because of their roots, people always compared them to Michael Stipe and the boys.
However, in Murray Attaway they possessed a distinctive vocalist who drew from a country music tradition far more heavily than R.E.M. ever did. I think that's why I really like Guadalcanal Diary: In the mid-80s, they were one of the few bands to include pedal steel guitar on their songs. Did they help spawn Possibly.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Music to soothe the lost soul

My aunt passed away yesterday in Oregon.
We were never really close (my mom was never even really close to her sister), and her death ended a painful bout with brain cancer.
Her death left me sad, confused and missing the west coast portion of my family.
I went on a long walk on the snow-and-ice-covered sidewalks while listening to Pink Floyd's "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn."
Syd Barrett's confusion, there for everybody to hear on the album, seemed to sum up how I was feeling at the time. I felt a little lost in an alien environment.
It's odd how some music can so completely mirror human moods, even when those moods hint at a mental collapse.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Punk starts here... perhaps

Ask a dozen music fans to name the start of PUNK and you will likely receive a dozen different answers.
Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction!" Iggy and the Stooges! New York Dolls! The Ramones! Sex Pistols! Dead Kennedys! Avril Lavigne!
Hah! I was just kidding with that last one.
To conclude Route 1's PUNK WEEK, a celebration of all things PUNK, I have been playing an iPod playlist devoted to the first bands to take up the punk ethos -- that anyone could grab an instrument and make music.
In my opinion, this proto-punk movement began when kids in American (mostly suburban) garages picked up guitars and decided to make their own form of rock-n-roll.
The first song on my (admittedly ever-evolving) playlist is "Jungle Fever," a thrashy instrumental released by The Playboys in 1959. I followed that with Link Wray's "Jack the Ripper" and Dick Dale's "Misrlou."
The fourth song really sums up the notion of "punk" for me, although most musicologists would also rightly call it "surf."
The Bel Airs released the instrumental "Mr. Moto" in 1962. There aren't many chords and a really ragged saxophone battles with a plonking piano. That's what passes for virtuosity on this track. Is it a leap to go from "Mr. Moto" to "Anarchy in the UK?"
I don't think so. The underlying mindset seems to be the same: Damn the convention, because anyone can make their own music.
The next song on the playlist? The Pygmies' 1963 instrumental holler-fest "Don't Monkey With Tarzan." You don't get much more PUNK than that one.

Friday, December 16, 2005

SF's Pistols, perhaps?

I am cleaning out the basement today -- the "working" portion of my "working vacation" during Route 1's PUNK WEEK. While cleaning, I am listening to some punk rock oldies such as "Hot Wire My Heart" by Crime.
I was only 10 years old when San Francisco's legendary Crime first unleashed their brand of punk on an unsuspecting world.
As I grew up in the Bay Area, however, I heard about Crime in real referential tones from older alternative music fans.
The lads in Crime -- Johnny Strike, Frankie Fix, Ripper and Chris Cat -- billed themselves as "San Francisco's First Rock n Roll Band," and while that appears slightly off the mark, I think of them as San Francisco's Sex Pistols.
When "Hot Wire My Heart" came out in 1976, Britain's New Musical Express reviewed it as an essential purchase for "people who run fanzines." I would add "people about to form punk bands," because from what I heard, Crime influenced a generation of Bay Area kids to do just that.

Turn down that awful _______ , right now!

As part of Route 1's celebration of PUNK WEEK (a week I just made up myself -- so there!), this week's FRIDAY QUESTION asks for music in readers' collections that their parents would simply H-A-T-E.
Ellen B. -- My mom would dislike my Eminem CDs and any songs on it.

Ann K. -- My dad hate all rap music because he can't understand anything they are saying.
Mary N.-P. -- All our blues music. It's indecipherable, unmelodic noise to them.
Mike D. -- I had recently moved out of the house when I acquired Extreme's "Pornograffiti," but I'm sure my parents would not have appreciated one of my favorite songs off the album, ­"Get the Funk Out,"­ simply because of the implied swearing.
Laura C. -- Beyond the usual grousing about "that noisy rock and roll," my dad used to scoff at the vapid lyrics of pop music when I was a kid. One day, he strolled through the living room as I was listening to CSNY, shook his head and said, "'I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are?' What the hell is that supposed to mean?" To which I replied, "Well, you're right, dad...I guess it can't hold a candle to 'mairzy doats and dozy doats and little lamzy divey.'" That pretty much shut him up. Inger H. -- I think my Mom would rather not listen to Sleater-Kinney. Its probably a little loud and raucous for her taste.
Rick T. -- My Elvis music. Somehow our previous generation never understood Elvis or the early Rock N Roll. They'd have a fit if they heard todays Rock N Roll, (if that what they call it now)! A lot of LOUD guitars now, so where's the music?
Madelin F. -- Once, when my parents were out of town, I played my CD single of Sir Mix-a-lot's "I Like Big Butts..." song in their brand new home stereo which was wired to play throughout the house. I cranked it up and got down and, subsequently, forgot to remove the disk. My father was the next person to use the stereo and it was the first and only time he ever scolded me for my choices in music but let's just say he was less than impressed. He was the smartest, most giving and forgiving person I ever met in my life, but he just didn't know how to appreciate Sir Mix. He missed the boat on that one because you can play that song in a club, a library, or a church and watch people's lips as they mouth every single clever word. My favorite lines? "Red beans and rice didn't miss her," and "My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon!" That song hit the collective funnybone of several generations. Even white boys got to shout!
Kerstin H. -- Cher. Because I play it all the time.
Erik H. -- If my mom ever heard me playing Cabaret Voltaire's "Nag Nag Nag" at full volume, she might ask me to tune into a station so as not to hear that much static. Not many people would classify the Cabs as "punk," per se, but in reality they used noise as a guitar band would use the proverbial three chords. I have always wanted to pull up alongside some cranky older person on a hot summer day, roll down the window, and just BLAST "Nag Nag Nag." I don't know why I would want to do such a cruel thing. Perhaps I need professional help?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's 4 a.m. Do you know where your car is?

As part of Route 1's PUNK WEEK festivities, I just finished watching the GREATEST PUNK MOVIE EVER MADE.
It's "Repo Man," by a country mile.
Remember it? Emilio Estevez stars as Otto, a white suburban punk who gets involved with the "tense" world of car repossession. He also gets involved with the search for a certain Chevy Malibu with a dangerous secret in its trunk.
British director Alex Cox produced a work of comic genius, with such moments as the two punk robbers deciding on their next course of action...
Debbie: "Let's go do some crimes." Duke: "Yeah, let's go get sushi and not pay."
and then there is Repo Man sage Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) explaining the world order to young Otto...
Bud: "Credit is a sacred trust, it's what our free society is founded on. Do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia?" Otto: "They don't pay bills in Russia, it's all free." Bud: "All free? Free my ass. What are you, a f*ckin' commie? Huh? Otto: "No, I ain't no commie." Bud: "Well, you better not be. I don't want no commies in my car. No Christians, either."
And of course, the No. 1 PUNK moment in the history of cinema...
The Circle Jerks performing a "lounge act" version of "When The Sh*t Hits the Fan" and Otto shaking his head and saying:
"I can't believe I used to like these guys."

Oh yeah, and all the repo men are named after brands of beer (Bud, Miller, Lite, Oly, etc.) and all of the products like beer and food are "generically" named "beer" and "drink" and "food" and...
Oh, I could produce an entire blog on REPO MAN.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Snow days are soooo PUNK ROCK!!!

Especially when you use slightly ROTTEN cherry tomatoes for Snowman eyes.
I am pretty sure that is what the DEAD KENNEDYS used to do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Feederz: Please stop scaring me

If a community becomes too complacent and conformity begins to grow among its members, the best punk rock can roar through, scaring society back into a healthy, questioning unsettledness.
As Route 1 continues to celebrate PUNK WEEK, I'll admit that the Feederz have been scaring the crap out of me since I was 15 years old.
Like Jodie Foster's Army, the Feederz hailed from Phoenix, Ariz. -- where I attended high school. My first exposure to the Feederz came from the Phoenix New Times alternative newspaper, which published a photo of Feederz lead singer Frank Discussion (possibly not his real name) walking around town with a dead rat hanging from his mouth.
I first saw that photo about 22 years ago, and it has been scaring the crap out of me ever since.
Part of punk's appeal lies in its ability to consistently shock and outrage (although, try telling that to the look-alike "punk" fans who purchase millions of records by bands more comfortable appearing on MTV2 than in someone's garage party). Songs never seem to shock me, but the image perpetuated by the Feederz never stops shocking me despite the passing of decades.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A true punky reggae party

I'll never forget the first time I heard The Ruts, the band responsible for my favorite punk song.
As Route 1 continues to mark PUNK WEEK, here is the story behind a song love affair:
It was the summer of 1986 when my sister's friends the Berg family visited our California home from Cambridge, UK. About my age, Karen Berg was also a music lover who had brought several cassette mixes with her to America.
The first song on one of her mixes was the pile-driving "Babylon's Burning" by The Ruts.
By the time I heard "Babylon's Burning" -- a song that had risen to No. 7 in the UK charts in June 1979 -- lead singer Malcolm Owen had been dead six years.
The Ruts mixed reggae with punk better than any band, even better than The Clash. For "Babylon's Burning," the quartet wed the strident sound of punk with the lyrics of roots reggae with mesmerizing effect.
I begged Karen for the cassette, if only to hear "Babylon's Burning" again and again. I have since acquired it on CD and iPod and the song's power has never dimmed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Did I mention it's PUNK WEEK?

Probably not... Since I just decided this week will be PUNK WEEK about 30 seconds ago!
Still enraged over my fantasy football team's complete lack of scoring ability, I have been trawling the various blogs devoted to punk music while listening to a gem from my past -- the "Blatant Localism" EP by Jodie Foster's Army.
Although I grew up in the San Francisco suburbs, I went to high school in Phoenix, Ariz. -- home of the original skate punks, Jodie Foster's Army.
In the early 1980s, Jodie Foster's Army represented all that was the thing called "punk" to me. They named themselves after an actress who unknowingly influenced a would-be presidential assassin. Things just don't get much more punk than that!
I arrived in Phoenix in 1984, a few years after J.F.A. hit their creative peak. However, among alternative hipsters (I knew one or two) these were the guys who ruled the roost in the Valley of the Sun.
Listening to Brian Brannon, Don Pendleton and the boys once again, I am reminded of a much more youthful time.
Check out blogs such as 7 Inch Punk, located here and Dressed for the H Bomb, located here for more information and some awesome music.
Oh yeah... and shout "ANARCHY!" every opportunity you get this week, OK?

Wallace: Please invent a fantasy football enhancer!

Alas, I am afraid it is too late even for one of Wallace's fanciful (and often slightly wrong) contraptions to save the Hogstrom family's fantasy football team.
Our fantasy team picked a terrible weekend to quit scoring touchdowns -- the first weekend of the playoffs. Usual point producers Carson Palmer (1 TD today) and LaDainian Tomlinson (0 TD) did next-to-nothing, so we finish out of the money.
Rather than subject myself to the ongoing humiliation of poor NFL results flashed on the television screen, I grabbed 6-year-old Annika and we watched the initial trio of Wallace and Gromit classics on DVD -- "A Grand Day Out," "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers."
These claymation shorts work so well on so many levels. They are funny and clever and even thrilling (the toy-train-bound chase scene with the penguin in "Wrong Trousers" comes close to perfect moviemaking). I have always been a great admirer of "Thunderbirds," and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park so obviously adores the overly complicated technology of "Thunderbirds," too.
Annika and I watched and laughed and sat blissfully unaware that NFL results were all going wrong. Did I mention I am a lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan? They were beaten by the Seahawks, 41-3. Oh dear. Perhaps I should cue up the Wallace and Gromit DVD again: The long, unfruitful NFL season has not yet run its awful course.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"...a horrendous state of tunelessness..."

The New York Dolls' self-titled debut is blaring out of the iPod right now and I am reading a 1974 feature on the band from an old NME.
The feature, collected in a glam-rock history, recounts a Paris trip for David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain and the rest of the lads.
While the band sneers through such trashy numbers as, well, "Trash," on the iPod, I am reading about their 31-year-old gig at the Paris Olympia:
"Johnny looks about as well as his guitar is in tune. He staggers around the stage in obvious pain, beating his instrument into an ever-more horrendous state of tunelessness, which reaches its nadir on 'Vietnamese Baby,' when it becomes grotesque to listen to. On the next number, Thunders stops halfway, puts down his guitar and disappears behind the amps to throw up for five minutes."
That description is almost enough to make me start my own punk band, which is what plenty of people did after experiencing the anti-glamour of the Dolls.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It was 30 years ago today...

See today's FRIDAY QUESTION feature for news on today's anniversary and other important moments in music history.

Here comes the historical knowledge!

With several important musical anniversaries upon us, the Route 1 crowd ponders this week's FRIDAY QUESTION: What is the most historically significant musical moment of your lifetime? (Listed in chronological order, to assist musical education efforts.)
Mary N.-P. -- Why at least in pop music, the Beatles landing on the shores of the

U.S. in 1964. I think it changed the whole face of American music for the best -
shook it loose and broke it open to global influences...
Brian C. -- Feb. 9, 1964 -- The Beatles make their U.S. debut, on the Ed Sullivan Show. I believe I've said this before: In today's era of MTV and dozens of cable channels, it may be hard for young people fully appreciate the impact of this TV event on American society (and youth in particular).
Rob K. -- The 1969 release of "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies. It led to a
long-distance romance with a girl in New Jersey, which only lasted 8 months, but I got a trip to New York out of it.
Erik H. -- Exactly 30 years ago today, Dec. 9, 1975, the Sex Pistols played a sparsely attended gig at Ravensbourne Art College, about 20 minutes outside London. This early gig by the punk rockers might have passed into obscurity, except for a band-formation ripple effect it caused. One of the few onlookers at the gig, Simon Barker, returned home to the suburbs with news of the new punk sensations. He told his schoolmate Steve Bailey (later dubbed Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees fame). Bailey told his friend Bill Broad (later Billy Idol). Schoolmate Sue Dallion (Siouxsie Sioux) later heard the news, as did Simon John Beverly (Sid Vicious). One sparsely attended gig helped launch the post-punk scene that reverberates through alternative music to this day.
Rick T. -- Without a doubt, August 16, 1977, the day Elvis Presley died! Besides John F Kennedy, it is the date almost everyone knows where they were and what they were doing when they got the news that Elvis died. He was, is and always will be "The King"!!!
Jill H. -- The release of Madonna’s debut album.
Dave B. -- Live Aid 1985.
Mike D. -- This historical moment is one of a more personal nature, but March 21, 1987, sticks in my mind because it was the date of the first paying gig for Anxiety, a hard-rock band that my brothers and I formed. Vera's Tap in Goose Lake, Iowa, was packed with hundreds of crazed and music-starved young people. They made us feel like Bon Jovi. As a matter of fact, the first song we played was "You Give Love a Bad Name."
Shannon H. -- I don't know if it's important and it's doubtful that it's historic. But I remember where I was standing and who was there the first time I heard Nirvana's Teen Spirit. It always strikes me when I hear the song, even now. And I can't remember where I was the first time I heard any other song (except Dylan's Maggie's Farm, but that's another story.) I like hearing it now because it reminds me of being a young teen at my first real high school party with all the older kids.
(My friend and best friend were included because it was her brother's bash. He didn't want us to tell on him.) The song is so distinctive -- and funny, we thought at the time since some of us used Teen Spirit deodorant. I hope it's the former and not the latter reason that I remembered it.
Diane H. -- I still remember where I was when I heard about Kurt Cobain's suicide
(I was at the apartment of my college boyfriend, and we were watching TV), so I guess I'll name that as my important musical moment. I was never a huge Nirvana fan, but I would agree that the success of Nirvana and Cobain's suicide at the height of their popularity did a lot to change music. But I can also remember the first time I saw Michael Jackson moonwalk on TV, and that might be a more fun answer.
Scout S. -- On a rainy day in April of 1994, a DJ announced that Kurt Cobain had killed himself, which seemed like it had to be a joke, and yet at the same time was clearly not. I never met the man, had no reason to be as devastated as I was (and still am, truth be told), but it just seemed, somehow, like his death signaled the end of youth. I was 22 years old and it was suddenly clear that none of us even had a chance. Courtney systematically returned every fan letter Kurt ever got; a friend of mine got his back. It had been opened, read. I always wondered whether letters like that pushed Kurt towards his end or held him back for as long as they could. The day I saw that letter, withered and torn and practically collapsing in on itself, is the most important moment in musical history for me. Later that summer I, like most everyone else our age, wrote a song about Kurt. I never played it for anyone; it was just a way to deal with the loss of hope and innocence. I never stopped writing songs after that, and every one of them is, in some weird way, because of him. We still don't have a chance, not really, but we keep trying. One of us will get it right. We have to.
Kerstin H. -- The invention of the iPod.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The love you found must NEVER STOP

Writer Delfin Vigil provides an endearing remembrance of post-punk heroes Echo & The Bunnymen in a recent issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. You can find it here.
Reading his tale of a fan on a singular mission -- to renew a splintered alliance of musicians -- reminded me how important the Liverpool band were to me during my college days.
College in Iowa seemed like a stint in a foreign land for me as a Bay Area native. For one thing, I was never prepared for the weather. In California, sunshine almost automatically meant nice weather. In mid-winter Iowa, sunshine can mean minus-14 degrees (hmm... much like today). My mind could never come to terms with that juxtaposition of sunshine and bitter cold, and the resulting confusion only seemed to amplify my feelings of being a stranger in a strange land.
That's where Echo & The Bunnymen come in to the frame. More specifically, it was a marvelous cassette EP that I carried with me EVERYWHERE I went. It included "Back of Love" and "The Cutter" and the incomparable "Never Stop," a song that still rolls through my head from time to time.
"Measure by measure, drop by drop and pound for pound we're taking stock..."
The songs served as a lifeline to my California roots -- they were songs played with regularity on first "The Quake" and then "Live 105" -- at a time when such a lifeline helped comfort me in what seemed like a very strange place.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"It kind of came out of nowhere"

I was listening to Jacques Brel's classic "Ne Me Quitte Pas" this morning when 10-year-old music critic Kerstin H. laid out her objections to my current obsession with old French pop music:
1. "You can't understand it."
2. "You are insane."
3. "It kind of came out of nowhere."
Si J'avais su!
Actually, she has a point: None of us speaks but a lick of French, my musical obsessions probably do lend more than a hint of insanity to our daily lives and this current love of French pop did come out of nowhere.
How did it start? Oh yeah... I have been watching Jean-Luc Godard's "A Bout de Souffle" a tad too much.
Oh well... Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Where are the other 997?

I will find any excuse to spend a day off listening to music.
Today's excuse? Too bloody cold! It is currently minus-7 degrees Fahrenheit in Dubuque.
I plan on leaving home to pick up the girls from school this afternoon. Otherwise, I am mostly certainly staying inside.
Right now, I am listening to a collection of UK indie tunes from about 20 years ago.
The Three Johns are currently bellowing about going "AWOL" and now Gene Loves Jezebel are dishing out "Bruises."
I can remember hearing some of these songs on "The Quake" radio station way back in the day.
Today's headline refers to a sadly forgotten group from that era.
Actually, "Where are the other 997" was a joke in a March 1985 issue of "Sounds" newsweekly about the band 1000 Mexicans. The bad was only three blokes -- Julian Griffin, Michael Harding and Andrew Hobday -- and not a one of them was Mexican.
Their music was real ace, though. It mixed that angular approach common to many of the post-punk groups with trumpets and a jazzy sort of temperament.
From that description, you can see they were never going to find mainstream success. That's too bad. Songs such as "The Last Pop Song" and "Diving for Pearls" will help keep me warm today.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pouvez-vous traiter mon animal contre les tiques et les vers

It snowed about 4-1/2 inches last night and I have a pathological fear of driving in the damned stuff, so I skipped my company's Christmas party and downloaded some kitschy French pop from the 1960s and photos of Brigitte Bardot instead.
Ooh-la-la! Appelez une ambulance!
I am fairly obsessed with France at the moment. I have never been there, sadly, although my globe-trotting sister has spent time there.
I also wish I had taken French instead of German as my foreign language in high school.
Who takes German?!?! And why?
French is so much better.
Even the most mundane phrases sound absolutely fabulous in French.
For example: Today's headline reads: "Can you please treat my pet for ticks and worms?"
Absolutely beautiful!
Right now I am listening to some of that French pop I downloaded last night.
France Gall... Adèle... Françoise Hardy... Patricia...
They could all be singing about their parasitic dogs and cats and I wouldn't care. It all sounds marvelous to me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Comment allez-vous?

Merci, et vous?
Although, I must admit I am going through a bit of a French phase.
I was reading about French Nouvelle Vague cinema the other day ("A Bout de Souffle" is my second favorite film, after "Shichinin no Samurai"), and that caused me to check out some Parisian maps and guide books from the library yesterday.
That, in turn, caused me to seek out some Serge Gainsbourg music.
Now, with Jill and the girls gone to central Iowa for the weekend, I can listen to whatever music I wish for two days.
Crank up the Gainsbourg!
His 1969 duet with Jane Birkin, "Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus," is deservedly famous. It sold six million copies in the UK and spent 34 weeks in the charts. MOJO Magazine named it one of the Top 100 "World Changing Moments" in music back in 2003.
I am really enjoying some of his other tunes, including his latin-tinged songs such as "Couleur Café" and "Les Cigarillos."
I was listening to some Gainsbourg yesterday and 10-year-old Kerstin said" "Why do you want to listen to something you can't even understand?"
Huh? I wasn't really listening to the poor girl. I was imagining myself sipping a glass of red wine under a café umbrella somewhere warm.
Je voudrais une bouteille du vin!

Friday, December 02, 2005

radio history

Route 1 readers head to the airwaves by answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION... What is your all-time favorite radio station and why?
Matt K. -- WGN (Chicago). It's a connection to what radio used to be -- deeply driven by personality. It's not like national radio. You can connect with these people. It's like having a friend in the car with you.
Gary D. -- WLS (Chicago) in the late 70s and early 80s had Larry Lujack with his sidekick Little Tommy Edwards and they would have "Animal Stories." It was 15 minutes of laughing. If you were driving you would almost drive off the road, you would be laughing so hard.
Jill H. -- I would have to say KLYV (Dubuque)... from my high school years. They played a great mix and there was not too much talk and they also took requests and actually played them!
Ellen B. -- 101.3 KDWB in Minneapolis. We had to switch because we moved. Now I have to listen to 105.3. There are not too many choices in Dubuque.
Rick T. -- AM 650 WSM Nashville, Tenn., home of the Grand Ole Opry. I listen to it every chance I get. Thanks to computers, I can listen anytime of the day.
Dave B. -- When I get Sirius Radio it will be Channel 22. It plays all the music I used to listen to in college.
Rob K. -- I am such a channel surfer on the radio dial. I fill every preset I have in our cars and on my digital receivers. Probably my favorites are WHHI and KUNI (public radio), for music KGRR and KDTH, for news KDTH and WBBM and for relaxation KSUI (classical). Besides that, nothing is more fun than scanning the airwaves late at night to bring in stations from Denver to New York, Dallas and Atlanta. Then there is shortwave....
Mike D. -- Back in the day, D93 (KAT-FM's "album rock" predecessor) was THE station to listen to in the Dubuque area. Now, in my old age, I find myself flipping between 107.1 (WPVL) and 107.5 (WDBQ) on my car radio. They seem to play a lot of forgotten oldies -- top 40 hits I haven't heard in 25 to 30 years -- plus a lot of classic Bee Gees.
Kerstin H. -- 101.1 The River. They play all the country music I want to hear.
Erik H. -- Earlier this week I wrote about my all-time favorite radio station, San Francisco's late KQAK ("The Quake"). Here is a story about my second-favorite radio station: My grandfather lived in the tiny town of Maxwell, Calif. -- about an hour north of Sacramento and far from most of the Bay Area radio stations. At night, you could idly twist an A.M. radio dial and discover a number of far-flung stations. One night in the early 1990s, I stumbled upon "Coast 1040." Vancouver, B.C.'s CKST was a real rare find, as its programming mirrored that of the F.M. alternative music stations I loved from San Francisco. That night, with the atmospheric conditions just right, I listened music ranging from vintage UK punk to the latest release by otherwise unknown British Columbia bands. I just checked, and now "Coast 1040" is no more. It is an all-sports station called "Team 1040" and it carries the B.C. Lions CFL games.