Posts Tagged ‘Ask Run-DMSteve’

“Ask Run-DMSteve” returns, after a refreshing intermission of five years, thanks to fascinating questions from two of my three readers. This week we hear from Dr. D, another working stiff with a Ph.D. Next week we’ll “get down” with my mentor, Accused of Lurking.

Dear Run-DMSteve,

The other day I was listening to Alt Nation (as in alt-rock, not the other alt) which I often do when [redacted] is not in the car. The DJs on it don’t talk much (good!). But the guy who was on said the following: “Next up is a new release by Car Seat Headrest. Gosh, I hate that name. That is the worst name for a band. The best band name? It has got to be U2.”

OK, so what are the best and worst band names in your CD land?

–Sincerely, Dr. D

Dear Dr. D,

I agree with your DJ.

The one official rule in naming your band is that your name has to be a name that people remember. Bonus points if your name scares adults. When the teenaged Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. chose U2, they fulfilled the one official rule. Their name wasn’t scary, but it implied that the fans could do what the musicians do or that the fans and the musicians were part of a movement (à la The Who and the Mods), and they did all that with TWO CHARACTERS. No band will ever beat this name.

(The Who fulfills the one official rule because you have to think about it. The Guess Who is a game you play with your tiny clients at pre-school.)

Car Seat Headrest might as well be Car Seat Stuffing. It’s just three words on the side of a box. The Portland band Nu Shooz used two words everyone says, but they changed the spelling and ended up in a nu place.

Bands with memorable names that also scare adults usually evolve from the punk neighborhoods: The Fuck-Ups, The Dead Boys, The Dead Kennedys, The Butthole Surfers. Add a feminist perspective and you hit a lot harder: Hole, The Slits, The Coathangers. (Politer versions: The Breeders, Bikini Kill.)

Hole is my nominee for the second-best band name.

Third place is AC/DC.

Fourth is Herman’s Hermits because it’s alliterative and because a gang of actual hermits would never put a band together. They’re too busy being hermits.

Fifth is probably And And And.

A special shoutout to Big Head Todd and The Monsters, because our dogs Emma and Sailor were known as Big Butt Emma and The Monster.

As for names as bad as Car Seat Stuffing, there is no shortage. How about The Dentists? An OK band, sort of a more fanciful version of the Hoodoo Gurus. Bands that go with the formula “The” + “plural noun” often run intro trouble. No disrespect to dentists – some of the finest people on earth – but their profession doesn’t lend itself to rock ’n’ roll glory.

There was a Seattle band called Seafood Mama that signed with a major label that changed the band’s name to Quarterflash. What was wrong with Seafood Mama? Quarterfuckingwhat? Another Seattle band, The Dynamic Logs, immediately changed their name to Quarterlog.

This is all a matter of taste, of course. I like the name Bananarama, so why not the name Kajagoogoo? However, by any objective standard, U2 is u-nanimous. It’s the best. As for the worst name ever, here it is:

Portugal. The Man.

Thanks for writing. For those about to rock while listening to their alt-rock station in the car, we salute you.


(Editor’s note: Dr. D was the first physicist to drive a motorcycle lengthwise through a superconducting supercollider.)


Q: What happened to the end of 1986 Week?
A: It collided with the weekend. Party!

Q: Aren’t you too old to party?
A: You’re never too old to party. You might have to party at 12 frames per second instead of 24, but you’re never too old to party.

Q: Well, how would you rate 1986? What kind of year was it musically?
A: It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls of independent means.

Q: Since you were writing about 1986, why didn’t you mention The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead? It’s supposed to be their best album.
A: I’ll end with them. Sort of. Like it’s any of your business anyway.

Q: Looking at your tag cloud, I see that the biggest name is Bruce Springsteen. You mention him a lot, but you don’t write about him very much.
A: You have to form a question in the form of a question. Don’t be a sports journalist.

Q: Right. Bruce – WTF?
A: Springsteen has been around so long and recorded so much that it’s impossible not to notice him. He’s a handy measuring stick. Dylan has been around even longer and has recorded even more, but he doesn’t have the same impact on our culture. Bruce has remained relevant, or at least topical. Bob has not. Plus I don’t like Dylan’s voice. But to answer your question, I don’t know what I could add to the existing mountain of Springsteen music journalism that would make a difference or sound original by even one gram. So I’ll go on referring to him and trying not to refer to Dylan. Or Donovan.

Q: How are you getting along in the novel-writing sector?
A: I’ve written 15,000 words.

Q: Is that a big number?
A: If I keep them, yes. If not, no.

Q: Would you say that writing a novel is an iffy proposition?
A: I’d say I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Q: What did you listen to today? Sweatin’ to the Oldies?
A: Today I listened to M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011). The radio hit, “Midnight City,” sounds like vintage Depeche Mode. I’m still wading through the rest of this two-disc set. This French band is kinda arty, like Arcade Fire but without the beat. I might have to counter with Oingo Boingo. I might spend this week listening to M83, blink-182, Haircut 100, Matchbox Twenty, Heaven 17, Maroon 5, The Dave Clark Five, The Bobby Fuller Four, 3 Doors Down, and Fun Boy 3.

Q: Fun Boy 3?
A: I bet I’ll be able to dispense with some of these guys in a song or two!

Q: Where’s Deadmau5 on your list?
A: I just learned that the 5 should be pronounced as an s. I feel as ridiculous as the day someone busted me for pronouncing R.E.M. as “rem.” Which reminds me of something I read recently. What a way to begin a review: “I don’t ordinarily like to think about sex and R.E.M. at the same time…” I don’t even care what the rest of the sentence is! (Review of the film Fourplay in Portland Mercury, 27 February 2013)

Q: Let’s get back to The Smiths. Are you hating on them?
A: As if. I like half a dozen of their songs very much, but they’re scattered across their four studio albums, so their 1986 disc, The Queen Is Dead, didn’t move me.

I have tons of respect for Johnny Marr, their guitarist, but not much for Morrissey, even if he’s still being treated like a god. If all bands can be explained by The Monkees, then Johnny Marr is Mike Nesmith and Morrissey is Davy Jones.

Nevermind all this Q&A BS. Here’s a real interview for you. In the April 9 Seattle Weekly, Duff McKagan, the original bass player in Guns N’ Roses, interviews Marr. (Marr has a new album, The Messenger. It has some surprisingly strong tracks for a guy whose heyday was in 1986.) The interview is not only fun, it produced this gem:

McKagan: You were sort of the anti-guitar hero. I’m just so fascinated by your guitar style. I try to picture you guys in 1979 or whatever. I don’t know what he was listening to to get that sound.

Marr: Joy Division were rehearsing in the room above my band. They were scary guys just to look at because they wore old man’s clothes. With haircuts like they just came from the second world war. And that was much scarier than looking at someone who looked like the New York Dolls, or one of the Rolling Stones.

A: Everyone have a good week. Sweat to the oldies all you want, but don’t sweat the small stuff.
Q: I didn’t ask a question!
A: Deal.


Questions are flooding in! If this deluge continues, I might have to outsource the answers to India. If you have a question and you’re not too picky about an answer, leave it in the comments. From there on, it’s clobberin’ time. 

Dear Run-DMSteve,
Here is a question that I have often pondered. Everyone goes on and on about how brilliant John Lennon was and how thought-provoking and brilliant his solo music was. Has it ever occurred to others that John wouldn’t have been so “out there” if it hadn’t been for his partner in life and crime, Yoko Ono. It’s so interesting that people are quick to joke that Mark David Chapman would have been a hero if he had aimed a little more to the left and shot Yoko, but I truly believe it is because of Yoko that John became the critical darling he was so admired for. Your thoughts?
– Orin

Dear Orin,
John had two partners in life and crime, Paul and Yoko. John and Paul came of age together, worked together, and together achieved results they never would’ve seen on their own. After they became adults, they needed to get away from each other. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have been together for 50 years, but they should’ve divorced 30 years ago. John and Paul had the sense to go their separate ways while they were still on top.

John found a new muse in Yoko, and so we have Imagine, Some Time in New York City, and Mind Games. Double Fantasy bored me, but by then John was supremely happy with Yoko, and I can’t knock happiness.

Yoko never had a fair chance. She faced a public relations attack from the first day her name was linked with John’s. Even today, when the clue in the crossword puzzle is “Lennon’s love,” I laugh to myself as I write in “Ono.” Why do we laugh at her? What was her crime? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the only thing she was guilty of was not being Caucasian.

(John had another girlfriend, May Pang, while he and Yoko were estranged, but I can’t say what influence she had on his work.)

Four things I always remember: Where I was and what I was doing the day Ruby killed Oswald, the day Nixon left office, the night Chapman killed Lennon, the afternoon Challenger exploded. Just to lighten the mood here: When Nixon walked out of the White House for the last time, my Grandma Bella, who was in her 70s and glued to her TV, cried because “they’re throwing the poor man out of his house and he has a wife and two children to feed.”

Keep watching the wheels go round and round, Orin.
– Run-DMSteve

Dear Mr. Run-DMSteve/AKA mrlonelyhearts,
Since you asked, I will lay just a very few of the multitude of burning questions which I’ve been carrying around for far too long on you:

Am I the walrus?
How can heroin be “my wife” and “my life”?
How can I live a normal life if I only have eyes for you?
How can Mick get satisfaction?
How can Rhonda help ME?
If it’s my life…what am I doing here?
Is this love or confusion?
What happened to the “Eve of Destruction”? Did the “Dawn of Correction” cancel it out?
What IS new pussycat?
Who did put the bop in the bop shoo bop?
Who did write the Book of Love?
Why can’t you roller skate in a buffalo herd?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do you keep me hanging on?
Why does no one call me Mellow Yellow?
Why must I be a teenager in love (even at age 60)??
Why won’t my boomerang come back?
Why’s everybody always putting me down?

Your sage answer(s) will be appreciated.
– Mr. Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,
Your questions require answers from sagier pundits than Run-DMSteve. Have you considered Dan Savage, Dear Prudie, or Rick Santorum?

Alas, all I can do is add more questions to your burning multitude:

If I relax too much, won’t I slip out?
If she blinded you with science, did she deafen you with metal shop?
If you put a ring on it, do you buy it from the Shane Company or Good Vibrations?
That’s the way? That’s what way?
Who let the dogs out?
Who’s next?
Why haven’t you found what you’re looking for? You’ve been looking for it since 1987!
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?

Thank you for the most excellent laugh, and good luck on your lifelong quest for enlightenment, you love-struck teenager!

(PS: Speak up. Tommy can’t hear you.)

I believe my music is the healin’ music. I believe my music can make the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf and dumb hear and talk, because it inspires and uplifts people. It regenerates the heart, makes the liver quiver, the bladder splatter, and the knees freeze. I’m not conceited, either. (Little Richard)

In this very exciting new feature, regular workin’ stiffs just like you (and Mitt Romney) ask for my opinion and regret it later!

Dear Run-DMSteve,
There are small moments in songs – a guitar riff, a single lyric, a repeated refrain – that resonate so strongly that I have an overpowering emotional reaction to them. As I was driving to work this morning, I heard Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” It came out in 1968, when I was 11 years old. I have no idea why I was so moved by the music/lyric combination of “And I need you more than want you/and I want you for all time/and the Wichita lineman/is still on the line.”

Any thoughts?
–Accused of Lurking 

Dear Lurking,
Here’s a specific thought: Glen Campbell had a good voice, not in the Sinatra or Tony Bennett league or in the second rank with Bobby Darin, but about on a par with Dean Martin. That’s not a slam. Dino and Glen knew how to use what they had to the fullest. (Sinatra was so phenomenal that he could goof off in a song and still sound good.) Like Martin, Campbell almost never got anything great to sing. That’s one of the reasons “Wichita Lineman” stands out among his recordings. It’s a terrific song and he puts everything into it, but in his Glen Campbellian, low-key way. The arrangement is a sort of countrified Nelson Riddle, but it works here, perhaps because Campbell sings like an Everyman. The words and the music enter your heart, even if you’re just 11, and the line you quote powers it all. I’d never really thought about it, but you nailed it.

Here’s a general thought: Proust thought that food was the ultimate time machine to the past, and that was probably true when music was not available for replay. You couldn’t “own” music in human history until the eye blink of the past 100 years. Now music has replaced food as the time machine. We experience them much the same, but music is more powerful. Why that is, I can’t say, as I’ve expended my philosophical budget for this question. I just know that music can make you cry. Can food? (I’m talking about food that hasn’t been prepared by my mother.)

Special D adds, “What always got me was the lift in his voice from ‘still on the…’ to ‘…li-i-ine’ followed by the telegraph-key sounds. I pictured this man’s yearning voice stretching thin, traveling the wires, and reaching his lover. That, and the masculine but non-macho poetry of ‘I need you more than want you/and I want you for all time’ just kills me.”

Keep drivin’ the main road, Lurk!

Dear Run-DMSteve,
I like to listen to the jazz station on the radio while I’m making dinner. I would never consider myself a jazz aficionado; it’s more of a relaxing backdrop while I’m concentrating on my cooking. Tonight, of course [Feb. 14], there was someone singing “My Funny Valentine.” That song has always struck me in a weird place and I can’t explain why. It always feels like the wail of a wounded animal, no matter if it’s Frank Sinatra or Elvis Costello or Rickie Lee Jones. Where does that come from?
–Perplexed Valentine Girl

Dear Perp,
“My Funny Valentine” is an odd one; it’s short, yet it packs some ambiguous meanings. “Your looks are laughable/unphotographable.” Is the singer in love with his partner despite her flaws? Does he love her for them? Is he GGG or just a manipulative asshole?

Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?

But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

This is too close to Billy Joel territory (“She’s Always a Woman”) for me, man.

The music isn’t exactly a winner either. Your “wounded animal” description is apt. I don’t know what kind of song this is but I wouldn’t play it anywhere near Valentine’s Day.

Next year, ask for the chocolates.

Dear Run-DMSteve,
Your opinions are rubbish, mate. Did you have any experience writing music criticism before lobbing this blog at us? Or are you mucking about in blogland because someone at your paying gig gave you the boot? Have you any qualifications at all up your sleeve, or are you having us on? And just an FYI: Chris Martin rules.

Dear Sexy,
I haven’t received any training in writing about music. I can’t even read music. I’ve never written about music before, except in tenth grade when I reviewed the J. Geils Band’s Full House. I’m still proud of my lead: “Rock is rhythm.” I didn’t even know about sex yet.

It was Special D’s idea that I embark on this voyage. She knew I had run out of crafts projects. She also felt that she shouldn’t be the only person who had to listen to me babble about music. Spreading me around has taken the burden off her. I am indebted to Special D for this fab idea and she is indebted to my readers for egging me on.

I immediately set goals for my blogging career. I would be deluged with free CDs and other band merch, an all-expenses-paid trip to SXSW, and money. Crumpled singles, jars of pennies, checks with funny animals on them, and my favorite: four-figure transfers via PayPal. This didn’t happen.

However, I can report that Domino’s is making money from my blog. Every time one of their ads appears at Run-DMSteve, Loyal Reader Krafty orders one of their pizzas. I hope you’re enjoying them, Loyal Reader Krafty, because Domino’s won’t even send me a thank-you note! I can’t get anyone to pay me for an ad, and the only way to keep the ads out is to pay WordPress, which doesn’t sound like revenue generation to me (though it does to WordPress).

So you see, Sexy, I have no real qualifications beyond some spare time and the ability to type wicked fast. All I know how to do is to put things in groups and compare them. I’ve been listening to the radio all my life, and my head is brimming with everything I’ve listened to. I keep finding ways to connect the dots. Which is more than I can say for Coldplay.

I’m back in The Nervous Breakdown after a lengthy hiatus while I wrestled with my novel. So far the novel is ahead two falls to one. I might have to resort to Plan B and install a plot.