Monday, January 30, 2006

Commuting vicariously

I am working the night shift, so this morning I have been completing some chores while listening to KNX 1070, a Los Angeles radio station, live online. You can visit the Web site here.
I laugh every time the traffic reporter assures listening motorists that there is only "normal slowing" on the 405 Freeway coming out of Orange County. I have cousins in Orange County, so I know there is really nothing "normal" about the slowing on the San Diego Freeway... particularly compared to the roads here in Iowa.
This morning a SigAlert continues in Glendora, where a big rig flipped over the side of the 210 Freeway at the 57 Freeway interchange. The truck landed on a surface street ("Auto Center Road" -- now *THAT'S* a perfect name for a Southland street!) and caught on fire. The interchange has been closed for more than two hours now.
I have experienced my own commuting nightmares: For more than a year I drove from Sonoma County into Marin County via the hopelessly overcrowded U.S. 101.
This morning, I have been wondering why anyone would live in a place where it takes more than four hours to get to and from work each day.
Then, as I gaze out the window and watch the light snow flurries fall here in Dubuque, the KNX forecast answers my question.
Highs in the 70s this week.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Magic on wax

Simply strummed guitar... hand claps... and Gerry Humphreys' anguished howwwwwwling vocals.
"Oh baby I love you soooo.... I can't go onnnnnnnn!"
The Loved Ones' "The Loved One" might be the greatest Australian single ever released.
Oh, there have been memorable ones since, of course, but they have never bettered this two-minute-45-second R&B-tinged rocker from May 1966.
May 1966 holds a certain magic for me. I was born that month in Oakland, Calif.
Across the pacific, jazz fans Humphreys, pianist Ian Clyne and bassist Kim Lynch were joined by drummer Gavin Anderson and guitarist Rob Lovett and the quintet released "The Loved One." It reached No. 15 in Melbourne and No. 2 in Sydney, but its real glory came later: The song worked its way into the Australian consciousness to become the quintessential early rock song. INXS covered it twice. That's the measure of the impact of "The Loved One. "
I am listening to The Loved Ones and sipping on cider, just thinking about music and May and 1966 and Humphreys, who passed away last month in London. His song will never die. I'm thinking about that, too.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Give me that old time rock-n-roll

I mean the REAL OLD Rock-n-Roll.
We cleaned our old apartment today, one of the last steps in our move down the street.
I scrubbed the bathroom -- but good -- while listening to some classic rockabilly tunes from the 1950s.
The rush of adrenalin provided by the white-hot rockin' worked just perfectly as I scrubbed away.
I absolutely enjoy the earliest rock-n-roll recordings: You can hear the joy of discovery mixed with the anarchic breaking of all of the previously established music rules.
These songs weren't really country, they weren't really R&B... they were a combination of both styles.
Mack Self... Warren Smith... Vern Pullens... Ric Cartey...
You rarely hear about these folks anymore, yet they were musical trailblazers of the highest order.
Shame on the so-called "oldies" radio stations for not putting these songs in regular rotation!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Give me some of that old soul clapping

This week's FRIDAY QUESTION seeks to spice up recent bland days by asking for a song that has got a lot of "soul."
Lisa Y. -- Any song by the guy that sings "Shaft" (Isaac Hayes).... That guy has soul coming out of his pores!
Gary D. -- "Jumping Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones. It's the greatest song of all time.
Annika H. -- "Soul Man!"
Mike D. -- Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." You can just hear the longing in his voice.
Kerstin H. -- Billy Currington's "Must be Doin' Somethin' Right." "And close those deep blue need to eyes."
Erik H. -- I equate soul with passion, and few songs deliver the passion of the Staples Singers' 1971 classic "I'll Take You There." Pops Staples was great, but the real force behind this song comes from lead vocalist Mavis Staples. Her voice is so gritty for a girl. As soon as she sings "I know a place," I am completely under her spell.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I feel like... vanilla...

For the first time in my dress-up-for-work life, I have now worn four WHITE button-down shirts in succession.
I have never felt so pale and bland. So... vanilla.
I blame my sans color dress sense on my lack of options. Since we moved last weekend, I have only been able to find white shirts.
I'm surprised nobody has stopped me on the street, asking for tax preparation advice (apologies to all fashionable accountants, of course).
Well, it appears I am stuck on white until I can dig around for colored shirts this weekend.
I will attempt to counteract my vanilla sensation by listening to some rare 1960s' soul music today. Stuff by Vince Apollo and The Servicemen and Melvin Davies.
Stuff you wouldn't hear on a local oldies radio station, although, you would if I programmed the station.
Maybe all this soul music will help me overcome my sense of pervasive BLANDNESS.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Don't Tread on Ferlin

I listened to my iPod's honky tonk playlist as I drove around today.
No, not the crappy country music that the local radio stations play. That crap all sounds the same to me, like the current Nashville producers are simply concocting all these bands and singers by combining ingredients from some generic kit.
There's not much "country" in that music.
No, I filled my honky tonk playlist with stuff you would hear in a roadside honky tonk back in... oh... 1964 or so.
So there's no Toby... no Tim... no Keith....
Just guys like Buck and George and Hank and Faron and Hank (that's another Hank).
Oh... and Ferlin.
I have got three songs on the playlist that Ferlin Husky recorded back in the 1950s, when he was trying to make it as a rockabilly star. They are exciting and filled with a love of life. They are songs to be sung along to at the top of your lungs. Which I do, so it's a good thing I drive around with the windows rolled up.
Ferlin based himself in Bakersfield. I love the idea that 111 miles north of Hollywood there was a town with a beer-soaked honky tonk on every corner. Bakersfield!
As I drove around today, I pretended I wasn't headed to college press conferences or the dance studio to pick up my daughter. I pretended I was headed for that mythical honky tonk in my own mythical Bakersfield, where I could...
Whoah! I was driving around pretending I was driving to a mythical honky tonk in a mythical Bakersfield?!?!
That's either the coolest thing or the stupidest thing, I have ever pretended to do. Whoah.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let's celebrate weirdness!

I don't know... the world just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
Yesterday I was shocked and saddened when England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson announced he would step down after the World Cup. English preparations have been tainted with controversy now. The goal of winning their first World Cup since the year I was born now seems a pipe dream.
Then I watched live CBC coverage of the Canadian election, courtesy of C-SPAN. I found it slightly surreal, hearing about strange-sounding ridings such as Etobicoke, Nepean and Wascana (and those were just the English language ridings). Coverage lapsed into the truly weird as Paul Martin gave his concession speech. He alternated between French and English, which is admirable, since he was addressing a bilingual country. What was weird about it was that the CBC employed *THE WORLD'S WORST* translator to relay the French portion of the speech.
"I... would like... to... thank... the... con... constituents..."
By the time the CBC translator had completed one of Martin's French sentences, the Liberal leader had spoken a pair of English sentences!
Was the translator surprised Martin would speak in French? That was just plain weird.
Today, I have decided not to fight the weirdness around me, but to celebrate it.
That's why I am listening to The Cramps all day.
Their mix of rockabilly and voodoo became one of the weirdest signature sounds in rock history, a perfect soundtrack to my weird times.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Shhh... Don't mention Janette Carter

Oh great. Just great.
I came home from work Friday bearing news of Wilson Pickett's death. I also worked Saturday and when I came home I casually mentioned to my 10-year-old daughter Kerstin that the bottlenosed whale caught in the River Thames had perished.
"I don't want you to come home from work anymore," she told me. "All you ever do is tell me somebody or something has died."
Now what am I going to do?
I work at a newspaper. High-profile deaths are newsworthy events.
Today, for example, comes news of the death of Janette Carter, at 82 the last surviving child of country music's founding Carter Family.
The daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, Janette Carter worked to preserve her family's music, first discovered by the masses in 1927 after talent scout Ralph Peer came through the Tennessee-Virginia border town of Bristol to record mountain music.
I can't mention this news to Kerstin. She will think all I do all day is scan obits for details designed to send her into a mighty funk.
Yet, it is my nature to share news with people.
The conflict will drive me crazy tonight!
So... let's see... Tonight I need to steer clear of topics that might cause me to mention Janette Carter's demise.
Obviously I can't mention country music. I can't mention Virginia or Tennessee. I can't mention Kerstin's aunt's dog (named "Johnny Cash"... who married June Carter... who... oh, you know!). Could I talk about the Super Bowl. Nope. Pittsburgh is near West Virginia, which is near Virginia. Can I talk about Kobe Bryant scoring 81 points last night? Nope. There is an NBA player named Vince Carter.
Uhhh... today's sunny weather? Nope. "Keep on the Sunny Side" is a famous Carter Family song.
I know! I will limit my conversation to our new home!
What? The Carter Family made a song called "My Clinch Mountain Home" a country music standard. Aw sheesh!
There is no other recourse: I need to come home tonight and not say a single word.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

She can't stand the size of his needle

It's hard to feel the pain associated with moving large pieces of furniture when you are laughing too hard.
I realized that bit of wisdom today, our official moving day, when I tripped over a step walking backwards and a 6-foot-long oak dresser landed in my lap.
I was laughing too hard to care, thanks to the unofficial "Moving Day Theme Song" my friend Matt and I adopted early during the hectic day.
We heard Lord Kitchener's brilliantly bawdy "Dr. Kitch" from 1963 and after exchanging shocked glances about the double (triple) entendres, I cued it up to play many more times on the CD player in the pickup truck I drove.
"I am not a qualified physician/and I don't want to give this injection" he sings.
Kitch does at least attempt to give the injection:
"I push it in/she push it out/I push it back/She start to shout."
The song continues in a similar vein, to the degree that I turned to Matt while we carried a bookcase and said: "This song would make a porn actress blush."
Music historians rank Lord Kitchener alongside Mighty Sparrow as the twin titans of calypso.
Born Aldwyn Roberts in 1922 in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, Kitch began composing calypsos at age 10 and was still singing when he passed away in 2000.
I have to thank him for making my moving day enjoyable -- even with a large dresser in my lap.

Friday, January 20, 2006

FQ: Moving Day Edition

The Route 1 team officially relocates to its new venue this week (just down the street, basically). It's wholly appropriate, then, that this week's FRIDAY QUESTION seeks the answer to: "What song would you want to hear while moving heavy furniture up a twisting staircase?"
Rick T. -- The song "Chain Gang!" Sounds right to me.

Mike D. -- As kids, my brother and I used to whistle "Sweet Georgia Brown" as we put away the groceries. It always inspired some creative passes with the produce and twirling of the toilet paper. However, since moving boxes and furniture sounds a bit more laborious, Sam Cooke's "Working on the Chain Gang" might be appropriate. Crack that whip, Erik. Hmmm. Wait a minute. Perhaps some Devo might be more fun.
Gary D. -- "It's Too Late to Turn Back Now."
Matt K. -- Bob Dylan's "I Shall be Released."
Erik H. -- Saxon's "Never Surrender."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thanks for the tunes, "Wicked" Pickett

Wilson Pickett was among the great classic soul singers, and I was surprised and saddened to learn of his death today at age 64 of a heart attack.
I need to continue our family household moving this evening, and I plan to blare such "Wicked" Pickett songs as "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1,000 Dances" while I work.
He never reached the mainstream stature of James Brown or Sam Cooke. Still, Pickett created a memorable style and songs that will far out-distanced his time here on earth.
Here is a giant of music. I plan on playing his music loudly tonight to celebrate the magnitude of his work.

Yeah the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone

Once in a while I stumble upon a song and wonder how I could have missed it when it debuted.
I discovered one such song last night -- "Khe Sanh" by Cold Chisel.
Now, if any Australians are reading this post, they can go ahead and navigate toward another Web site. Australians know "Khe Sanh" like Americans know "Born in the USA." The song has iconic status down under, where the ode to a Vietnam veteran's struggles to cope upon his return to the homefront remains a staple of classic rock.
Americans tend to forget, but Australia provided troops to the Vietnam conflict, too.
Cold Chisel's 1978 single tells of a veteran trying to find a place to settle, "where my mixed up life could mend."
The narrator fails to hold down many jobs and even unsuccessfully seeks answers during return trips to Southeast Asia.
Cold Chisel's song received a radio ban at the time of its debut, with the government citing "lyrical content" for its decision. Despite the ban, the song sold enough to reach No. 43 on the national charts and No. 4 in Cold Chisel's native Adelaide. The song is a masterpiece and I cannot believe I never heard it until last night, when I found it on an mp3 blog.
I immediately uploaded it onto the iPod and slotted it into my Australian playlist. So, a few songs after Slim Dusty's "Waltzing Matilda," I can listen to "Khe Sanh," one of the most powerful tunes to emerge from the Lucky Country.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

If The Beatles had come from Lima

I am relaxing after a full day of work and yet another evening of moving household items. I hate moving.
I am sitting here sipping a glass of red wine, thinking about how much I hate moving and grooving to some weird, 1960s psychedelic music from Peru.
No Fun Records, whose Web site is located here, has CDs of music you have never heard in your life, but probably should have heard.
"Back to Peru" is a fine example.
If you thought American garage rock was cool, what with kids in Detroit picking up guitars for the first time because they thought they were as good as The Beatles, just imagine the cool quotient of Peruvian garage rock. Kids in Lima, Peru, for gosh sakes, picked up guitars for the first time because they thought they were as good as The Beatles. Then, of course, these Peruvian kids took too many drugs and thought they were as good as Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. They weren't. But they still made some good music. I imagine the junta just hated these guys. Long hair. Loud guitars. Amps turned up to 11.
Yeah... take that, junta. If there's one thing I hate more than moving. It's juntas.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Not exactly... relaxing... music...

So, after having moved my CD collection and various other items to our new house tonight, exactly why am I "relaxing" to the sound of Saxon's ridiculously hard-rockin' album "Strong Arm of the Law?"
Er... good question. I'm not really relaxing actually. Unless you call pumping my fist in time to the power chords and headbanging like a moron relaxing.
Well, actually, compared to moving, it *IS* rather relaxing!
Bring on the wailing guitars, you Big Teasers from Barnsley!

Can you tell me where my country lies?

I am one of those insufferably snooty Genesis fans who began to lose interest after Peter Gabriel left and the band's commercial fortunes soared. I like "Follow You Follow Me," but that hit single merely provides the proverbial exception that proves the rule. My personal Genesis high-water mark comes in the form of the 1973 album "Selling England by the Pound," which played on my iPod as I drove to various assignments and errands today. There are so many highlights on this album, including Steve Hackett's brilliant guitar solo on "Firth of Fifth," Tony Banks' sublime acoustic piano work in the same song, the beauty of "The Cinema Show" -- with fantastic drumming by Phil Collins -- and of course the catchiness of "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)." People only familiar with the Collins-led Genesis of "Abacab" would probably steer clear of early songs such as "The Battle of Epping Forest" and "After the Ordeal." I think that's a real pity. With "Selling England by the Pound," Genesis were among the most talented, most daring risk takers in rock. Add Gabriel's emotional singing to the mix (although most of the time I haven't the faintest idea what he is on about) and you have a stellar musical monument.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What a noisy, wonderful racket!

We took a break from moving today and instead spent our day off browsing the furniture shops.
Now, with my head swimming full of images of "captain's beds" and computer armoires, I am taking a break (from taking a break?) by listening to some 1960s garage rock. Well, I have got to clear my head somehow.
I just finished hearing the marvelously pulverizing "Flash & Crash," the great 1966 single by Seattle legends Rocky & The Riddlers. According to some Internet sources, there were as many as nine members in the band. At least six of them must have been instructed to simply thrash about on their instruments until guitar strings and drum skins snapped from the intensity.
Rocky & The Riddlers, a man exhausted from moving salutes you!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

You'll lose your mind and play free games for May

In recognition of the hallucinatory aspects of moving ("Where did that box appear from? Why can't I move my arm? I am sloooowwwwwinnnnng dooooowwwwnnnn!"), I deposited my first load of things to the new house this morning while listening to some Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
First came "Arnold Layne," then the fabulous "See Emily Play" (my favorite Pink Floyd song, hands down) and finally "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" LP. By the time "Interstellar Overdrive" was rolling through its whacked-out nine minutes and 41 seconds, I was really feeling it. I didn't know who I was, where I was, or how we were ever going to get all of our daughters' clothes packed up and moved.
As a matter of fact, I am still not entirely convinced we will be able to accomplish that last bit -- the bit about all their clothes.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ow! My aching _________!

Fill in any muscle group -- I am sore all over.
We closed on our new house late yesterday and began the arduous process of moving today. I made numerous trips down the street (it is about a dozen blocks away), my car laden with totes while my father-in-law's truck held massive furniture pieces.
We worked until we could barely stand... and today is only day one!
We actually have a week or so to move, but we wanted to make a significant dent in the workload on day one.
Mission -- ouch! -- accomplished.
Now I am relaxing while listening to a song that debuted in the UK 25 years ago today, "Vienna" by Ultravox.
I always loved this song, even if it was just about the most pompous thing on San Francisco's alternative radio stations at the time.
Here is what singer Midge Ure said of the track in an issue of NME from 1981:
"We wanted to take the song and make it incredibly pompous in the middle, leaving it very sparse before and after it, but finishing with a typically over-the-top classical ending. The whole thing was a bit tongue in cheek."
Whew! Thank heavens for that! I thought they were serious!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cinemaphiles of the world, unite and takeover

Settle in your seats and splash butter on the popcorn this week as Route 1 seeks answers to the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
What is your favorite movie and why?
Inger H. -- "The Best Years of Our Lives" is a stunningly realistic portrayal of WW2 vets returning from combat. As they attempt to resume their lives, each one discovers that not only is he not the same person that left, but that his loved ones changed just as much in the years they were gone. In turns poignant, funny and melancholic, I am always amazed by the fact that a movie that looks this unflinchingly at its subject was made in 1946. Of special note, the acting by real-life amputee (and unprofessional actor) Harold Russell is astounding.
Dave B. -- "Breakfast Club." What other movie can you see someone throwing a piece of olive loaf on a statue in a library?
Annika H. -- "The Rescuers." Because it is about animals that save a little girl.
Rick T. -- "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne. It's a good clean movie with action.
Jill H. -- I love "American President!" I just love the lead actors and the story is excellent and it is one I can watch with my girls.
Mike D. -- If I limit my choices to musicals (since this IS a music blog, after all), I'd have to go with "The Sound of Music." I guess I'm partial to the story of the Family Von Trapp because I also come from a large family of singers who were taught music by a young nun (who just last month, I referred to as "our Maria" when we Christmas caroled to her at Mount St. Francis). The movie is fun and filled with great, singable songs like "Edelweiss" and "Do-Re-Mi." And it has a happy ending. (OK, maybe fleeing your homeland to avoid a Nazi regime is a bit of a downer, but they DID escape, no thanks to Rolf).
Kerstin H. -- "The Rescuers." I like the story of the mice heroes and the little girl.
Diane H. -- I love "Swingers." It spawned some good catchphrases -- "Vegas, baby, Vegas!" and has a fun soundtrack. "Bull Durham" probably runs a close second, though...
Rob K. -- I have long enjoyed black and white films, especially Bogart's "Maltese Falcon" and the Fred Astaire flicks with Ginger Rogers. Totally will stop in my tracks for a Marx Bros. or W.C. Fields movie, anytime. War flicks pull my chain, especially "Midway," "Patton" and "We Were Soldiers." My DVDs of the Lord of the Ring trilogy will have to be pried from my cold, dead hand, along with my copies of Star Wars and Matrix. I have gotten into subtitled flicks recently. I really enjoyed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and just saw an amazing Chinese movie, which I believe is called "King of Masks."

Erik H. -- I love "Tirez Sur Le Pianiste," also known as "Shoot the Piano Player," by Francois Truffaut. As threatened, I watched the film again last night accompanied by the audio commentary of two film scholars. It only confirmed what I love about this film. It is funny, sad, violent, romantic, whimsical and serious -- sometimes all within five minutes. It reminds me of "Reservoir Dogs" in its approach: A young, creative cinema freak gets to make a movie and pulls all of the film-making tricks out of his bag. Some of it works, some of it doesn't, but the director is having so much gleeful fun that the viewer just gets swept up in the joy of movies.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I am film nerd, hear me roar

A chilling, frightening question swept through my mind as I toiled on a pair of stories at the newspaper today: What the hell am I doing with my life?!?!
Whoah... wait...
Yes, that frightening question did sweep through my mind, but I actually meant *ANOTHER* frightening (and far less common) question that swept through my mind:
Have I become the dreaded FILM NERD?!?!
I have no problem admitting that I am a music geek. My becoming a film nerd is a wholly other manifestation of my eccentric ways.
Film nerds complain when brainless marketing men decide to colorize black-and-white classics. Film nerds recite lines from obscure films of 20 years ago. Film nerds watch their favorite movies with the audio commentary of a cinema history switched "on."
That's me!!!
As I sat at my desk typing away (and day-dreaming about holding a far more glamorous job than newspaper reporter, say, street sweeper), I actually thought how nice it would be to settle down to "Tirez Sur Le Pianiste" (film nerds also refer to foreign-language movies by their original, foreign-language titles) while listening to film critics discuss its greatness.
Film nerd. Film nerd. Film nerd.
If they sold "Shichinin no Samurai" action figures, I would collect them.
If they made a "Repo Man" game complete with glowing car trunk, I would play it.
If they colorized "A Bout de Souffle," I would kill them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Persistence of the past

I watched Alain Resnais' beautiful and haunting "Hiroshima Mon Amour" on DVD last night.
This 1959 French feature's story is deceptively simple: A French actress visiting Hiroshima has an affair with a Japanese man. He listens as she recalls her first, tragic love, with a German soldier in the last days of occupied France.
While the story seems simple, the film-making is anything but, as Resnais mingles the past with the present to display the "long struggle between love and its own erosion through the passage of time," as film critic Pierre Kast wrote in "Cahiers du Cinema."
Of course, the setting is also significant. The film is set 14 years after the atomic bomb shattered Hiroshima, and the scars -- physical, mental and emotional -- so obviously remain.
One of my goals this year is to revisit the French Nouvelle Vague of cinema. Last night, I took a great stride toward that goal.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Mighty Quo

"On the Level," the 1975 album by Status Quo, has not budged from my CD player much in the past few days.
Here are SIX REASONS why the Quo are so mighty...
1) Rocking songs such as "Down Down" make you bob your head and smile, no matter your previous mood.
2) They scored UK and US hits with "Pictures of Matchstick Men" in 1968, then changed musical direction by dropping psychedelia in favor of B-O-O-G-I-E!
3) The band have sold more than 100 million albums and have had more than 50 UK hit singles.
4) They opened the Wembley Live Aid show in 1985.
5) The band celebrated its silver anniversary in 1991 by entering the Guinness Book of Records by completing four charity concerts in four British cities in a 12-hour span.
6) The band attempted to sue Britain's BBC Radio 1 in the late 1990s for refusing to add the Quo to the playlist. Although the band lost the case, they raised awareness of possible age discrimination in the pop world.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Near neighbor

Billy Zoom provided one of the iconic images of California punk.
While John Doe and Exene Cervenka serenaded each other in the seminal band X, Billy stood quietly beaming, legs spread apart while hands strummed the most amazing rockabilly riffs.
Imagine my surprise when I learned Billy Zoom was actually Ty Kindell, a guitar-playing kid from Savanna, Ill. -- just across the river and down a wee bit from us in Dubuque.
The Billy Zoom Web site, located here, provides a comprehensive interview that serves as the best biography of the guitarist.
He cut his teeth in touring rockabilly bands, which explains how he could craft such wonderful riffs to accompany X's pioneering exploration of Americana.
He says he just stood still and smiled as a reaction against the wildly gesticulating guitarists who tried to make even the simplest chord change look difficult. Good for him!
I am listening to 1982's "Under The Big Black Sun" right now, marveling at Billy Zoom. I think it's high time for an X revival. They were so great.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What caught your ear this week?

Route 1 welcomes the New Year with the inaugural FRIDAY QUESTION of 2006: What was the catchiest song you heard this week?
Ann K. -- "Tequila makes her clothes fall off." I'm not sure if that is the name of the song, but that is the song I can't get out of my head.
Rick T. -- Hank William Jr.'s song "It Takes a lot of Liquor to Like Her."
Mike D. -- Well, maybe not catchy, but hauntingly unforgettable... On my way to lunch today, I heard Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" on my car radio. The last time I heard it was this past spring, shortly after my parents died within four days of each other. At the time, I couldn't get that song out of my head for about a month. (If you're wondering why, listen to the last verse.) I'm hoping for a happier 2006.
Kerstin H. -- Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone."
Clint A. -- The Living Things' "Bom Bom Bom." It keeps pounding through my skull... please make it go away.
Erik H. -- It came from 1963... it came from Germany... it came with an unrelentingly catchy chorus. It's Die Sweetles' "Ich Wünsch Mir Zum Geburtstag Einen Beatle," and it has been rattling around in my brain all week long. This song roughly translates to "I want a Beatle for my birthday" and was sung by a bunch of lovestruck female Beatles admirers. It doesn't matter that the song is in German. In Deutsch or any other language, this song remains flat-out catchy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I (heart) steadicam shots

I am such a sucker for long, single-shot movie scenes. They make a film more realistic for me. They provide the view you would get from an unblinking look at something or someone.
I saw one of the most famous single-shot scenes just a few days ago. It is the classic steadicam shot of Ray Liotta (Henry Hill) taking his girlfriend into the backdoor of the busy Copacabana nightclub in "Goodfellas." A steadicam is a harness device that enables a camera operator to follow a subject in one stable motion regardless of movement.
In "Goodfellas," we see Liotta
traveling through doorways and up and down steps through the entirety of the restaurant in one continuous shot. It is marvelous! The cinematic device enables the viewer to mirror the experience of a character who has never stepped into the back of the Copacabana, such as Liotta's girlfriend and future wife.
Other single-shot scenes I adore:
1. The famous opening scene of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," in which a bomber plants a device in a car and we see Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh walking out of a Mexican border town simultaneously with the car.
2. Jean-Paul Belmondo steps through the offices of a Paris travel agency, one of several innovative shots in Jean-Luc Godard's amazing "A Bout de Souffle." Overdone, of course, such shots would appear as mere trickery and would lose their potency. Judiciously applied, these long, single-shot movie scenes add to the magic of cinema.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tall Cool One on a cloudy day

I am bound to live in the Seattle area one of these days. I have "almost" lived there twice, and they do say "three times is a charm." My dad almost received a work transfer to Seattle in the late 1970s. His employers sent him to Phoenix, instead, and that's where I went to high school. I almost went to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., but a last-second scholarship deal sent me to a college in Iowa instead. Given these two near misses, I am rather confident I'll be calling "the Emerald City" or its environs "home" one of these days. Good thing I like coffee. I thought about Seattle today, as I walked through an unusually cloud-draped, dreary Dubuque while listening to "Tall Cool One." This 1959 instrumental hit by Tacoma's The Fabulous Wailers weds a catchy piano riff with before-their-time, "crunchy" guitars. It seemed like a perfect song to hear while trying to shake myself out of a rather dark mood.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Early front runners: Band of the year

Well, it might be a wee bit premature, but surely Arctic Monkeys should be considered among the front runners for 2006 Band of the Year accolades. Perhaps.
I listened to the Sheffield band's debut, "Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not," as I went walking just now. The band's propulsive sound echoes Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, but vocalist Alex Turner isn't like your everyday lyricist.
The youngster cites the "Bard of Salford," 1970s' punk-poet John Cooper Clarke among his prime influences, and it shows. Cut through Turner's South Yorkshire dialect and his words come across all biting and funny.
Plus, in "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" the band have one of those "hey-I'm-dancing-to-a-rock-song" numbers that just makes you smile. And dance.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

C'mon boys, do it one more time for Suzi!

I just listened to my first song of 2006 (I don't count the songs I heard driving home from the party last night, because I wasn't really listening too well).
We needed to kick 2006 into an immediately high gear, so I cued up "Devil Gate Drive," Suzi Quatro's thumping UK No. 1 song from February 1974.
"Well, at the age of 5 they can do their jive/Down in Devil Gate Drive!"
I would have danced around the room while Suzi belted out this classic, but I am still a little "tired" from the New Year's Eve festivities.
So... I just let Suzi do her thing while I sat back and just listened:
"So come alive! Come alive!
Down in Devil Gate Drive!
So come alive. Come alive!
Down in Devil Gate...down in Devil Gate!
Down in Devil Gate Drive!
Down in Devil Gate...down in Devil Gate!
Down in Devil Gate Drive!"
Happy New Year!