Pandemic tip: Disinfect your keyboard, especially after you flame me

Posted: March 29, 2020 in music
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hello, fellow pandemicians. I know you were all stunned by the decision on March 26 to stop the Candidates Tournament for the Men’s World Chess Championship. I certainly was. The games were exciting and one of the Russians got so cranky and insulted so many people that he was briefly trending on Twitter.

How weird is it that the last sporting event on earth was chess? See, I’ve been right all my life.

I hope you’re doing OK, and that you’re getting your facts from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and not from uncredentialed idiots. Tying garlic around your neck or balloons to your ankles or eating 44 tons of plankton a day will not protect you.

Here in Oregon, I’m working from home, which I don’t like – work is work and home is home, and I prefer that they not meet – but at least I still have work. I have my wife and my dog. I’m learning how to talk to them and not just walk absently past them. I’m planning my July retirement party – we’ll be on Zoom or GoToMeeting, each with our own cake. This is not my idea of a good time, but I do like the idea of my own cake. Assuming anyone will be baking cakes.

It’s my task to distract you and help you find alternatives to chess, so here’s a movie I made starring a bird. Here’s the DJ whose live stream is boosting my morale. If he’s not on the air – his hours are unpredictable – here’s a recording of his show at the Slam! Quarantine Festival. This is whom I want to be when I grow up. That is the correct use of “whom.”

Let’s return to 1989, a year when the only things we had to worry about were invading Panama and finishing the World Series following the Loma Prieta earthquake, and listen to some music you older teenagers paid good money for.

Depeche Mode, Depeche Mode 101 (1989)

This double-record set gives us Depeche Mode on the night they ruled the universe, their 1988 concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena before 60,000 mesmerized DeModers. It took the Seattle Mariners 12 years to pull 60,000 fans into the Kingdome – and that was the day in 1989 when they promoted the teenaged Ken Griffey, Jr., from the minors.

It took me a long time to engage Depeche Mode in a committed relationship, which seems counterintuitive given my status as a synth-pop artifact. In fact, I panned Depeche Mode 101 in this blog in 2016: “…the songs don’t budge a centimeter from the studio versions. Sorry, boys, but a concert is more than a crowd screaming with joy because you blew up a firecracker. AC/DC would’ve fired a cannon out of a bagpipe.”

But I wrote that after enduring the third Star Trek reboot, which made me angrier than the Hulk trying to play toilet paper bride during a pandemic. Further spins of 101 have given me a different perspective. Sure, Depeche Mode (a former co-worker innocently called them Pesh de Mode) take few chances on these tracks, but overall the drumming is much more muscular and the songs generate far more revolutions per minute.

The audience eats this stuff up – this is the concert where the show ends with the fans still singing the chorus to “Everything Counts” 30 seconds after the band stopped playing. The effect is electrifying, but to give anti-Depeche Mode voices some space here, I’ll quote another former co-worker: “If I went to a show and the band stopped playing and they expected me to sing, I’d want my money back.”

I give Depeche Mode credit for including in their set list one of their earliest hits, “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” from their salad days playing bright poppity pop-pop-pop. That was when the band still had Vince Clarke, who left early on rather than be vacuumed into the gloom machine envisioned by Martin Gore. Clarke did pretty well for himself, founding Yaz (“Situation”) and Erasure (“Chains of Love,” “Who Needs Love Like That?”). By 1988, “I Just Can’t Get Enough” didn’t sound anything like Depeche Mode, but on their big night they played it, and they played it well.

Yaz Fact! The band was called Yazoo in Clarke’s native England, but in the U.S. they were Yaz in honor of former Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski.

I also give Depeche Mode credit for transforming “Pleasure Little Treasure” – a song with a subtle message: If you’re looking for a reason to live, I’ve got one right here for ya – from filler into a dark, howling rocker.

I love this disc now, but there’s an odd moment when someone in the band asks the audience, “Are you having a good time?” This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of what they’re selling and why people are buying it. Listening to Depeche Mode, you can have an epiphany. You can have an emotional release. You can have a nervous breakdown. But to have something as light-hearted as a good time, what you have to have is Yaz or Erasure.

  1. Laurel says:

    I hope the sound at the Rose Bowl was better for D.M. than it was in 1964 for Herman’s Hermits and the Stones (always called the Rolling Stones in those days).

  2. Mr. Seaside says:

    I like your bird video. I assume that you brought him home with you on your last day of work in the office…and that you’re seeing to his well-being as he continues to try to teach you & yours about the mysteries of life. I will always take the ‘bird-brain’ retort as a compliment.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I need plenty of tutoring in the mysteries-of-life dept., but I would’ve had to scale a three-floor building to try to catch him. Some mysteries were not meant to be solved. Bird-brain.

  3. Jerry Kaufman says:

    Thanks for the Flicker flick – I’ve seen birds around here that I thought were flickers, but they didn’t have the black dots on white plumage.

    Pech ala Mode would either be Peach with Ice Cream or Fish with Ice Cream. (Thank you, P. Cook and D. Moore.)

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      You might seen a female flicker, or an albino flicker, or a flicker that went too far trying to clean everything with Chlorox Bleach Wipes.

      Fish with Ice Cream…carp diem!

  4. Accused of Lurking says:

    My vote is for Zoom as your retirement party technology.

    Loved the movie until the sudden, frightening, venetian blind ending. BTW, how did you get the flicker to sit still while you rubber-stamped hearts all over his chest?

    Your DJ is not worth the 4 to 27 fire emojis people are giving him in the chat window. I give him 3 at most.

    I LOVE Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz Fact: He holds the record for longest time with the title “Last Batting Triple Crown in Major League Baseball.” It took 45 years for someone else to do it.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      The bird was out there so long, I made four movies of him, including one from the outside. Between the bird and the void where my co-workers used to be, it was the oddest day I’ve ever had in that building.

      You don’t like James Hype?? I knew I should’ve linked to Bandcamp instead of YouTube!

      I applaud Miguel Cabrera for winning the Triple Crown…reluctantly.

  5. Wm F Seabrook says:

    Melody and I have been eating a clove of raw garlic on the advice of senior doctor friend in London; to be honest I seriously doubt it will keep the virus at bay, but, boy, does it help with social distancing!

    Keep safe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s