Night of the hunter

Posted: December 22, 2013 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , ,

The Biggest Prize in Sport

When I moved from Boston to Seattle in 1980, I didn’t know anyone closer than Los Angeles. That was one of Seattle’s attractions. Soon after I arrived and found a job and a place to live, I turned my attention to finding a vital resource: women. To meet women, I developed a simultaneous, two-step strategy:

1) I joined science fiction fandom and went to lots of conventions.
2) I followed the local music scene and went to lots of cheap concerts in small clubs.

The fandom idea was a spectacular success – I eventually got a wife out of it, and a pretty gone one, too.

I had mixed results with the cheap-concerts maneuver. My best opening line, “What do you think of these guys,” which I had to scream into the ear of the woman of the moment against the full volume of whichever band was playing, most often led nowhere. But it did cause me to think of lines that women could use on me with 100% expectation of victory:

“What do you think of these guys?”
“How about this weather?”
“Are those Armani?”

Most of the bands I saw in those days were made up of males who were about as clueless as I was, but I did see some bands that really impressed me. One such was 999.

This British outfit formed in 1977 and is still on a stage somewhere, even though they’re older than dirt (as well as dust, mud, soil, and earth). They’re known for two milestones of first-gen punk, “I’m Alive” and “Homicide.” When I saw them, I was surprised at how many of their supposedly punk songs were danceable (like “Homicide,” which you can find on – can you believe this title? – Punk’s Not Dead – 30 Years of Punk).

999’s album The Biggest Prize in Sport doesn’t have either of these songs, but it’s the one I know best. With the exception of one track that’s devoted to reggae, a punk preoccupation at the time, it’s a rock ’n’ roll romp. “Hollywood” was close to a hit in the USA, but several songs on this set are even better, especially “Fun Thing.”

(Bonus: Their song “Lie Lie Lie” is a direct steal from Zager & Evans’ “In the Year 2525,” while “Stranger” owes a lot to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” by way of The Ramones and The Clash.)

The Biggest Prize in Sport is a great party album, but it probably won’t help you clueless guys pick up chicks. If they’re old enough to remember 999, they’re old enough to see right through you.

Same as it ever was
You may ask yourself, why didn’t I mention 999 this past summer when I was reviewing bands with numbers in their names? That question is easy to answer: I’m an idiot. Just ask most of the women I was hitting on in the years 1980 through 1982. In fact, not only did I forget a band I’ve actually seen and always enjoy, I also forgot all of the following:

3rd Bass
This crew of white hip-hoppers from the late ’80s/early ’90s were approximately 1,000 times better than their Caucasian contemporary Vanilla Ice. Their big hit was “Pop Goes the Weasel,” which samples the horns from Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” Sort of clever, sort of monotonous. The song I like is “The Gas Face,” which is hilarious, though I have no idea what it’s about (and I’ve read the lyrics twice).

Radio 4
An alternative band from the ’00s that I believe has gone out of business. Of course you can never tell about these things; 20 years later these bands are back on the road, in new costumes but with the same plots. Sort of like Star Trek movies. The one song I know by them is “Party Crashers” (2004), a rocker that has nothing to do with the Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn movie The Wedding Crashers (2005).

The Five Stairsteps
A soul family act, contemporaries of The Jackson 5, who had a mega hit in 1970 with “Ooh Ooh Child,” usually written as “Ooh Child” even though there are definitely two “oohs” in this unforgettable song.

Hundred Reasons
There’s no telling who these guys are. They’re English, they were hatched in 2002, they play metal, they play indie rock, they remind me of Seattle in the ’90s, they seem to be hiding somewhere. I like them for their peculiar cover of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” and for “If I Could,” which sounds like Soundgarden flossing Candlebox out of their teeth.

Happy holidays, everyone! In our next, very exciting installment, I’ll report on the New Year’s Eve dance Special D and I are suiting up for and what we heard when the organizers unleashed their star attraction, DJ Hippie Joe.

  1. Barb says:

    Memories of dance floor dating Seattle circa 1980s immediately brings these immortal words from (you guessed it) the Gang of Four: “Your kiss so sweet, your sweat so sour. Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you, but I know it’s only lust.” There’s another story there.

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