Archive for January 2011

That’s no gorilla, that’s my wife!

January 31, 2011

Another January 31 has arrived, which signals yet another observance of my second-favorite holiday…

It's National Gorilla Suit Day!

It’s National Gorilla Suit Day.

For the non-cognoscenti among us, National Gorilla Suit Day was founded by the late, great Don Martin, longtime cartoonist extraordinaire for MAD Magazine. Martin’s bizarre genius made him a beloved figure among humor aficionados and comic art buffs alike, as well as a corrupting influence on two generations of MAD readers.

Martin was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Comic Artists Hall of Fame in 2004, and deservedly so.

Just be careful if you wander past a Wal-Mart, a biker bar, or a trailer park today. Some of the people you think are wearing gorilla suits… might not be.

Of course, I’ve always been more of an orangutan man, myself.

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 7 — “Word Up!”

January 27, 2011

Artist: Cameo

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: Sometimes, you just gotta rock the funk. “Word Up!” rocks the funk. Plus, how can you not love a dance number that samples spaghetti Western soundtrack music by Ennio Morricone?

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

If there’s music, we can use it,
We need to dance
We don’t have no time for psychological romance.

Fun factoids:

  • Larry Blackmon originally dubbed his band the New York City Players. To avoid confusion with — and potential legal action from — another already popular funk group, the Ohio Players, he changed the name to Cameo.
  • Steve Carell’s character sings “Word Up!” in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
  • In what has to be considered one of the weirdest cover choices in the history of popular music, “Word Up!” was covered by the alt-metal band Korn in 2004. And you what? It works.

Other songs by Cameo that I could have chosen instead: “Candy,” “Back and Forth,” “Shake Your Pants.”

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 6 — “I Want Candy”

January 25, 2011

Artist: Bow Wow Wow

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: Two words: tribal drums. Two more words: Annabella Lwin.

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

Candy on the beach, there’s nothing better
But I like Candy when it’s wrapped in a sweater
Some day soon I’ll make you mine…
Then I’ll have Candy all the time!

Fun factoids:

  • Annabella Lwin was 14 when Bow Wow Wow recorded their version of the Strangeloves’ classic 1965 hit. Her mother was reportedly not amused that Annabella appeared nude (albeit artfully posed) on the cover of the single, and the accompanying EP, The Last of the Mohicans. The latter photo was based on Manet’s painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass).
  • Percussionist Dave Barbarossa developed his signature sound by listening to tribal drummers from Burundi.
  • “I Want Candy” has also been covered by acts ranging from Aaron Carter to Sporty Spice (okay, Melanie C) to Good Charlotte.
  • The Strangeloves, incidentally, didn’t really exist. They were a studio creation, like the Archies.

Other songs by Bow Wow Wow that I could have chosen instead: “Louis Quatorze,” “Aphrodisiac,” “Do You Wanna Hold Me?”

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 5 — “Holding Out for a Hero”

January 20, 2011

Artist: Bonnie Tyler

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: I loves me some Jim Steinman. Who’s Jim Steinman, you ask? He’s the songwriter-producer behind the seminal Meat Loaf album, Bat Out of Hell, as well as such hits by other artists as Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler’s other major single besides this one. Steinman’s drama-laden, overblown, hyperorchestrated style — his music is often referred to as “Wagnerian” — strikes a chord deep within me.

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life
Larger than life…

Fun factoids:

  • “Holding Out for a Hero” first appeared on the soundtrack for the film Footloose. This means that Jim Steinman has a Bacon number of 1.
  • The song has subsequently graced the soundtracks of numerous other films, including Shrek 2 and Nacho Libre.
  • Steinman turned down the opportunity to cowrite the songs for the musical Phantom of the Opera. I’ll bet he’s kicked himself a time or two over the years for that career move.
  • When Meat Loaf thrashed his voice on the Bat Out of Hell tour in the late 1970s, he was unable to record the songs Steinman had composed for the follow-up album, which would have been called — predictably enough — Bat Out of Hell 2. Steinman recorded the album himself, now retitled Bad for Good, using his own lead vocals. This album proved one immutable truth: Jim Steinman cannot sing.

Other songs written and produced by Jim Steinman that I could have chosen instead: “Bat Out of Hell” or “All Revved Up With No Place to Go” by Meat Loaf; “Tonight is What It Means to Be Young” by Fire Inc. (from the soundtrack of the film Streets of Fire).

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]

RIP, Donnie the K

January 18, 2011

This will only mean something to you if you were listening to pop-rock music in the 1960s and ’70s, or watched TV programs of similar vintage revolving around said music.

Don Kirshner is gone.

Kirshner — or Donnie the K, as I like to call him — started out as a Tin Pan Alley music publisher, whose stable included numerous legendary songwriting duos, from Goffin and King to Sedaka and Greenfield. But he became a household name in the ’60s as the impresario behind prefabricated-for-television pop groups such as The Monkees and The Archies.

In the ’70s, Kirshner’s eponymous record label signed the progressive-rock band Kansas, unleashing a string of hits including “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”

That same decade, Kirshner began producing and hosting the late-night TV music series, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Donnie the K’s eerily awkward on-camera presence made him the butt of numerous jokes — including an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch starring Paul Shaffer, who later starred in a sitcom produced by Kirshner called A Year at the Top — and proved the venerable maxim that record producers should be neither seen nor heard. Still, the show ran for a decade, and featured pretty much every big-name act in pop music at one time or another.

As a kid who loved the songs of The Monkees and The Archies (“Sugar Sugar” was one of the first mainstream pop records I ever owned), and later as a teenager who was a major-league Kansas fanatic (I celebrated my 19th birthday at a Kansas concert at San Francisco’s Cow Palace), Don Kirshner contributed mightily to the soundtrack of my youth — even though he never sang or played a note. (For which, if his musical talents matched his abilities as a master of ceremonies, the universe should be eternally grateful.)

They also entertain who only sit and write checks.

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 4 — “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

January 13, 2011

Artist: Blue Öyster Cult

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: If I could narrow a list of my top five favorite rock songs of all time, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” would be on it. Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser busts out the perfect synthesis of guitar pyrotechnics, ethereal lyrics, and silky, seductive vocals. Yes… and cowbell.

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear that she couldn’t go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew and then disappeared
The curtains flew and then he appeared
(Saying, “Don’t be afraid”)
Come on baby
(And she had no fear)
And she ran to him
(Then they started to fly)
They looked backward and said goodbye
(She had become like they are)
She had taken his hand
(She had become like they are)
Come on baby
Don’t fear the reaper

Fun factoids:

  • From the time “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” debuted in 1976, controversy has raged over the song’s meaning. People have variously argued that it’s about teen suicide, ritual murder, Satanism, and vampires. All of the above theories are, quite frankly, hogwash. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is about facing death without fear. I have always imagined that the girl in the song is nearing the end of a long battle with cancer, and is at last able to let go and find peace.
  • During the final hours of KJ’s life, as I sat by her bedside holding her hand, two songs played on endless loop in the iPod of my mind. The first was “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” The other: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
  • I was a major Blue Öyster Cult fan back in my misspent youth. I still own a complete set of the BÖC’s first nine LPs, in the original vinyl.
  • I got a fever… and the only prescription… is more cowbell!

Other songs by the same artist that I could have chosen instead: “Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll,” “R.U. Ready 2 Rock?,” “In Thee,” “Burnin’ For You.”

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]

36 Days of Adrenaline: Day 3 — “White Wedding”

January 10, 2011

Artist: Billy Idol

Why this song is an adrenaline rush: Chalk it up to Steve Stevens’s alternately ringing and driving guitar lines, coupled with Idol’s bitter, sardonic vocals. You have to be packing a ton of sack to dub yourself “Billy Idol,” but the former Generation X front man born William Broad (now there’s irony for you) earns the right. Easily one of the most recognizable rock songs of the early 1980s.

Lyric line that’s fun to belt at maximum volume:

Hey little sister, who’s your superman?
Hey little sister, who’s the one you want?
Hey little sister, shotgun!

Fun factoids:

  • The complete title of this song is actually “White Wedding (Part 1).” The little-heard “White Wedding (Part 2),” which also appears on Idol’s eponymous album, is a mostly electronic reprise — sort of like the alternate version of a hit song that might find its way onto the B-side of a movie soundtrack album. Assuming there were still such things as albums and B-sides. Which there aren’t. Man, I feel old.
  • When my best friend from high school got married, I spent the better part of two days parked in front of a TV set watching MTV while the bride and groom bustled about with prenuptial preparations. The “White Wedding” video — featuring the singer and his then-girlfriend Perri Lister — was then in heavy rotation on the video music channel, and I must have seen it a half-dozen times in the 24 hours before the actual wedding took place.

Other songs by the same artist that I could have chosen instead: “Cradle of Love,” “To Be a Lover.”

[Late to the party? Here’s an explanation of 36 Days of Adrenaline.]