Friday, January 31, 2014

Lulu Brings Back The '80s

As many of my hapless Facebook friends know, Lulu has taken to a couple of '80s music compilation CDs with a vengeance, and plays them daily. Certain tracks get played over and over and over and well you know.

It's been a mixed blessing for me. This is music I spent that decade trying to avoid. I was mostly successful. I was too busy making my own music to have to deal with much of it, I usually had command of the radio in my car, and when I couldn't keep it out, I would shiver and marvel in disgust. Why? A lot of it was the production. It's not reverse snobbery, honestly, the sound was just an instant turn off. Like biting on a saccharine tablet. To people who don't feel the same way, I have had a very difficult time explaining exactly what about it drove me up the wall. But it did. And I actually like some synthetic sounds. Wendy Carlos, Synergy, early Tangerine Dream, Bowie's Berlin trilogy, '80s King Crimson drum and guitar sounds, etc. But the majority of '80s pop stuff...uh uh. Perhaps it was the combination of production with a lot of insipid writing/marketing/image, etc. My opinions have mellowed, or my nerves have deadened (more likely the latter, but hopefully some of both). And I have actually found more to like. This is a good thing, or life around here recently would have been intolerable.

My FB friend Ric Parnell will be amused to know that one of the discs opens and closes with Toni Basil's "Mickey"- once in English, once in Spanish. (Ric played drums on this.) I have many alternate lyrics which I try to keep to myself, but as I tend to mutter under my breath and the girls have caught on to this, I am frequently unsuccessful at being discrete. One section suffers the most from a "fill in the blank" treatment: "You take me by the heart when you"
"take me by the gland"
"take me to Japan"
"call me Ray Milland"
That last is the only one that still makes me chuckle because it's completely absurd, but the other ones keep spilling out of my mouth out of decades of habit. Oops.

Each disc comes with a big fold out with a little picture of each band. Lulu keeps this open to learn more about each one. A huge favorite for the last few days has been Limahl's soundtrack tune, "The Neverending Story". (I told her the song was for a children's movie and she got even more excited.) She searched through and found Limahl's picture. She wanted to see more of him. I told her, "If you've seen one, you've seen Limahl". She didn't get it.

Back in the early'90s, the poet Vivian Wallick gave me a very cool blank book with a hand-decorated cover as a gift. Several years ago I started keeping prospective song titles in there. I've been keeping lists of these for years (as has Hyam Sosnow), and they do come in handy. The girls have been very good at bringing me funny titles like little gifts, sometimes intentionally, often not. Today Lux warped a title from one of the '80s songs, and "Living In A Box" became "Living In The Bobs". Yes! Grab that book! It's a done deal!

I was never a big Culture Club fan. Nothing to do with homophobia, I could care less about him being in drag. Just didn't really like the music. "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" would come on and I would shout "Yes!" at the radio. Which I didn't, but the song irritated me. There was one exception with them, "Church Of The Poison Mind". To me, that's a really good R 'n' B song, and the performances are wonderful. So I've been enjoying hearing that one again...and again...and again...well maybe I could have done with a few less repetitions. But I like it. Nonetheless my Norm Crosby gene snuck in, as it will do; and it became "Church Of The Poison Mime". Hmm. Interesting. Has possibilities. A mime as a sinister villain. Sure, why not? You know, the makeup, they don't talk, it's kind of creepy. But then I thought, no, a mime is bound to be ineffective as a predatory killer. They're always getting into problems with unseen forces. Here's your killer, he's stalking a frat girl or the guy who just screwed the frat girl or the mime who stole his act, whatever. And he's creeping up behind, creeping, creeping closer- and suddenly he's trapped in an invisible box! And the intended victim gets away, never knowing how close he was. Or he's coming up on someone, the knife gets raised- and suddenly he's stabbing against the wind! And he can't make it, he keeps getting blown back! It's sad, really. Pathos.

Finally, after ten reps of "Neverending Story" and another return visit to a hit by T'Pau, I'd had enough and told Lulu, "OK, daddy's turn, time to listen to something daddy wants". She protested loudly, demanded to know what I was going to put on, and I told her the truth- I didn't know but it wasn't going to be the other '80s disc. Eventually I found something that floated my boat and I put it on. "What is it, what is it?" I said, "Something I've been playing you off and on since you were a baby. I think you like this. Anyway I like it and I need something like this for a few minutes, you'll live, just listen." And then "Dance To The Music" came on and she said "I know this, what is this called?" Sly and the Family Stone's greatest hits dear. Enjoy. And she did! She wanted to take the cover and look at it, which she did; asked me who was who in the picture, which I told her to the best of my recollection; told her what the songs were called as they came on. The nicest surprise was Lux, who was sitting at the table with me, eating apple slices and goldfish crackers. She was DIGGING HARD on it! Closed her eyes and shook her head around blissfully and danced in her seat. Nice! As for me, some of those arrangements, 45 years later, still make the hairs on my arms and legs stand up. "Everybody Is A Star", "Hot Fun In The Summertime" Soul with a capital "S". Do I care that it doesn't sound like the '80s stuff? Yes! I care. I'm thankful.

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