History Wednesday: The Unpronounceable Country

In the minds of many Utah is almost synonymous with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While it’s true the Mormon Church did more to establish and build present-day Utah than any other single entity, it’s also important to keep in mind they were never the only game in town.

400px-Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_Carter

Just by far the largest.

Yes, even the relatively homogenous history of Utah isn’t without its bumps.

Continue reading

Repulsed by Radio

A couple days ago I regaled you with my thoughts on 1980s TV. I suppose it’s only fitting I make a few comments about 1980s pop music as well.

My fascination with music can be traced directly back to 15 July 1984, my 11th birthday. As a gift I received a small “boom box.” This in turn led me to an obsession with the weekly Top 40 show as hosted by Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees. It aired on at 4 pm on Sundays on the local Top 40 FM station, and I often taped the whole frickin’ thing.

Rickdees

There’s no cheese like the Dees.
Image credit: lax.hyundai

I freely admit I liked a lot of the stuff they played on Top 40 radio back then. Still do. However, as time wore on I increasingly came across songs I didn’t like. That’s to be expected, of course. Even so, there were some tracks I found so loathsome that just a few notes would compel me to turn the radio OFF until the offending audio went away.

The following are some of the worst offenders.

Anything by Prince

At roughly the same time I embraced the Top 40, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Prince Rogers Nelson released a film called Purple Rain, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. For approximately the next three years, Western civilization wouldn’t shut up about the guy. At certain times Prince seemed to be more overexposed than the King of 80s Cheese himself, Michael Jackson.

384px-Prince_Brussels_1986

I’d post a YouTube clip, but he’d probably have it taken down before I hit the “Publish” button.
Image credit: Yves Lorson

Why I hated it then: When I was 11 years old there were two things in this world I absolutely despised: Cabbage Patch Kids and Prince. There was no single reason for my loathing of the diminutive Minnesotan, but it probably had to do with his eyeliner, his ruffled shirts, a bouffant which put Kim Jong-il’s to shame, his repeated dissings of Weird Al Yankovic, and the fact he seemed to be everywhere for a very long time. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand the guy.

One Christmas during this period there was a present for me under the tree which was clearly in a cassette tape box. For several days I feared some well-meaning but profoundly uninformed grownup bought me Purple Rain. As it turns out, it was The Best of Spike Jones. My sense of relief was enormous.

spikegun

Possibly the only time in recorded history anyone was so relieved to receive a Spike Jones album.

What I think of it now: My view of Prince has moderated considerably over the years. He’s an undisputed musical genius, and I have to to admit even today “When Doves Cry” is a hell of a dance track. Nevertheless, I still haven’t seen Purple Rain (or any of his other movies, for that matter).

“Always” by Atlantic Starr

If there ever was a song written specifically to be played at wedding receptions, this 1987 track is it. Apologies in advance if this is “your” song.

Perhaps the best-known single by this upstate New York R&B group, “Always” is four solid minutes of the most concentrated shlocky sweet cheese produced to date. Repeated exposure to this track is bound to cause hyperglycemia in just about anyone. Consider yourselves warned.

Atlantic Starr was responsible for many, many awkward high school slow dances.

Why I hated it then: This sort of thing is exactly what a sexually confused 13-year-old boy DOESN’T want to hear, especially in heavy rotation. Sweet YHWH this was a painful experience.

What I think of it now: OK, OK, they were a talented group and it’s crystal clear why newlyweds gravitated to them. Still, if I ever get married again I’d much rather hear Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” at my reception.

“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister

In 1986, someone at the Top 40 station in the 2T must have really, REALLY liked Mr. Mister, as they tortured the whole of south-central Idaho for months with these guys. Overplayed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Remember styling mousse? They do.

Why I hated it then: If it weren’t for the excessive overplay, Mr. Mister would have likely merited little more than a footnote in my memory. But once the damage was done, there was no holding my rage back.

What I think of it now: I still don’t miss it.

“Hippychick” by Soho

If you’ve never heard of this one-hit wonder or their reputed “hit,” you’re forgiven. “Hippychick” was released in 1990, did its requisite tour of the Top 40, and then was quickly forgotten. Or at least I wish it was.

In 1996, some years after I swore off the Top 40 (more on that in a moment), I was a regular listener of an “alternative” radio station out of the Sun Valley area called KSKI. At the time KSKI was an independent, free-wheeling station which wasn’t afraid to play good music, even after an infamous incident involving “special brownies” among the morning drive crew.

Good music, with the glaring exception of “Hippychick.”

Gah!

Why I hated it then: This song is essentially a clumsy sample of Johnny Marr’s iconic guitar riff from “How Soon is Now?” followed by a crappy dance tune. That alone is bad enough. What really set me off is that it was broadcast on KSKI, a station one could reasonably expect to actually play The Smiths. But instead of Morrissey’s plaintive wailing, you were presented with this. Gotcha! I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be KSKI’s idea of a practical joke. If so, I sure as hell didn’t find it funny.

What I think of it now: No wonder why Queen fans hate Vanilla Ice.

“Do the Bartman” by The Simpsons

When The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 it was a big deal. I liked it. Possibly you liked it. In any event, it’s a TV show that’s still in first-run prime time nearly a quarter century later. It’s clearly a groundbreaking series.

Which is why we can almost forgive them for dropping the festering turd known as The Simpsons Sing the Blues on us a year later. “Do the Bartman” was the lead single.

I don’t care if he’s dead. I still want to bitchslap Michael Jackson for writing this.

Why I hated it then: Although by the time “Do the Bartman” came out I had given up on pop music (again, more on that in a moment), my hatred for it was nearly automatic. Unlike Mr. Mister, it didn’t need to be overplayed. Being the most ham-handed attempt to cash in on a fad since the advent of The Archies a generation earlier, there were plenty of other good reasons to despise it.

What I think of it now: Yeah, it still makes me want to go out and break stuff.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Oh my, this is the granddaddy of them all. Not only did this track elicit an immediate, visceral response, it also triggered a significant watershed moment in my life. For a variety of reasons, including some of the aforementioned songs, by the time the Biz hit the radio in late 1989 I was already quite disgruntled with the whole pop music thing. Then one fine day I was presented with this:

Absolutely stupefying.

Why I hated it then: As I recall my initial reaction was something to the effect of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?” Don’t get me wrong, I like old-school rap. At this point I was the proud owner of Run-DMC and Public Enemy albums. But this … this made Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” sound like Sgt. Pepper.

It was at that moment I shut off the radio and resolved never to willingly listen to a Top 40 station ever again. Over 20 years later I continue to make good on that promise. Not long after I started discovering the good stuff, including Living Colour, R.E.M., The Police, Jane’s Addiction, The Dead Milkmen, Erasure, the Pixies and – of course – Rush.

What I think of it now: In all seriousness, I think today is the very first time I managed to listen to “Just a Friend” the whole way through. In an odd way, I’m almost thankful to Biz Markie for delivering the coup de grĂ¢ce to my Top 40 habit.

Damn, I feel dirty now. I think I need to take a shower and listen to Permanent Waves for awhile.

More Embarrassing 80s Videos

A little over a month ago I wrote about a couple video relics from the 80s which stuck with me over the years. As a writer I find this is a pretty good well to go back to. If my site stats are any indication, you agree. So here we are again.

If you know what the image below is, this will all be review. As for the rest of you, prepare for an education.

guard

No fair Googling or using Tineye.

You Can’t Beat Our Meat

I had the “honor” of working at the Wendy’s in the 2T in 1991. Before I say anything else, let me assure from personal experience that this is 100 percent REAL.

As those of you who have worked fast food know – which I assume is damn near all of you – the job sucks. It’s sweaty. It’s greasy. You don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits, and you have to wear the same goddamn shirt every day. You’re also controlled by corporate shills who just don’t understand the “younger scene.”

EXIF_JPEG_T422

“But, but, everybody loves Justin Bieber!”

And no, I didn’t live in the “good old days.” Consider this 1989 training video on “grill skills,” which I was instructed with in those dark days. It’s a bit slow at times. I’m posting only the second half, but stick with it and bathe in its innate cheesiness. The first half features a lot of the late Dave Thomas blathering about your “important job” in a curious accent. If you really want to watch that, it’s here.

Who’s up for chili?

Check out the rap and country rock excellence here. It’s somewhere between Biz Markie and, um, Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Incidentally, they had me wearing the exact same teal shirt featured, unfortunately without the glitter.

I was so glad when I got to leave and go to Idaho State later that year. You have no idea.

Canoe, Canoe?

Oh man, every time this spot appeared on MTV I cringed. Just cringed. Even though at the time I had no chance whatsoever of dating a hot chick – and if I somehow managed to succeed I would have blown a gasket – I knew this was just … wrong. If you kids think the marketing for Axe is over the top (and you’d be correct), you should have seen what it was like a generation ago.

So from the same pheromone experts who brought you such venerable female magnets as English Leather and British Sterling, Canoe allows you to talk to hotties familiar with international maritime signal flags, and smell like you raided a 10-year-old’s Christmas stocking in the process.

“We now return to Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp.”

I don’t know about you, but to this day I’m pretty sure if the first words out of my mouth in any singles setting were, “Oh! Canoe canoe?” a restraining order wouldn’t be too far behind. Afterwards, every once in a great while MTV would redeem itself by giving me a glimpse of the mystery girl in the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” video, but usually this crap was followed by more crap like Night Ranger.

The Proto-King of Cars

OK, this never aired nationally per se, but the basic concept plagued several media markets throughout the country in the 80s. The 2T was one of them. As a matter of fact, this guy like the 2T so much he actually moved there from somewhere back east later in his career. I want to say he was originally based in upstate New York, but I’m not 100 percent certain about that.

Anyway, meet Dave Campo, the undisputed master of local used car ads. In the 2T he worked for an outfit called Latham Motors, which was at the time the local Chrysler dealership. Sadly I was unable to find any Campo-era Latham Motors ads, but in his heyday his modus operandi was the same for all his clients. Take a look:

“With all the candy!”

Campo made what the industry calls a “shitload” of ads during his career, easily over 1,000. To this day anyone who lived in the 2T while he was active can recite the basic ad structure word for word, myself included. Campo died a few years ago. His favorite client Latham Motors went under at around the same time. Yet his legacy lives on in loudmouth used car TV spots to this day.

Is the US a lucky nation or what?