Posts Tagged ‘MC Hammer’

What a confounding time this is. I’ve been running and lifting weights to prepare for the war with Canada. Fox News claims it will be “a mere matter of marching.” Trump promised me I’d be making love to Celine Dion at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa by Labour Day.

But instead of decimating Canadians with my fabulous hair and sense of irony, the invasion is on hold while the total resources of the United States are focused on locking kids in wire cages. If we don’t want to import kids, waiting until they cross the border before locking them in wire cages is a waste of time. Why can’t we keep them out before they ever get here by slapping tariffs on them? Works with everything else.

While I try desperately to hold onto what’s left of my soul as a U.S. citizen, I want to remark on the passing of the poet Donald Hall, who was 89. Hall wrote one of my favorite books, Life Work, which he published in 1993. The 2003 edition has a new introduction. This is only partly a book about being a writer. It’s mostly about work. Working. Work to do.

The first half of the book is all about Hall’s best imaginable day – spent at his desk, working, of course. (He also walked his dog in the woods and that evening watched two baseball games on TV while dictating letters.) From this I learned that you can’t just have a best day. You have to earn it, grow into it, survive long enough to grab it. “Contentment is work so engrossing that you do not know that you are working,” he writes. “You are only content when you have no notion of contentment.” He quotes the artist Auguste Rodin: “To work is to live without dying.”

Hall’s career might not be possible today. In 1993, he could pay for a typist for a year by selling one extra essay or book review to what he called a “periodical.” He sometimes employed several typists simultaneously, each working about four hours a week. Essays and book reviews must’ve been lucrative in 1993!

Hall provided his own epitaph in the last line of the book: “There is only one long-term project.”

I’m looking forward to my retirement, when I can stop slinging words for The Man and do nothing but my own work. Until then….at the rate we’re going, I might not get to Celine before Boxing Day.

Random Pick of the Day
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991)
MBV was yet another British band that was going to be the next Beatles. On Loveless, they lather on distorted guitars and distorted keyboards and distorted road graders until you get an out-of-focus Smashing Pumpkins or an experience not unlike listening to David Bowie through soup.

They occasionally spawn a mesmerizing melody, and the boy-girl singers are excellent at sighing and singing drawn-out, disconnected syllables, but most of this record sucks. Why is it a Pick? Because if Loveless had been a four-song EP instead of the 11-song equivalent of Shackleton’s struggle to survive the South Pole, this review would be a rave rather than a rant. If you were listening to alt radio in the 1990s, those four songs would be a chunk of your life’s soundtrack: “Come in Alone,” “I Only Said,” “Only Shallow,” and “Soon.”

They’re not good at song titles, either.

Critics noticed that MBV performed while staring down at their shoes and dubbed them “shoegazers.” This was a band that was never going to lose the ball in the lights.

Random Pan of the Day
MC Hammer, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em (1990)
I found this at a yard sale. It’s as monotonous as I remembered. However, this time around I realized that any spot in any song where Hammer is quiet immediately improves. Also, his cover of “Have You Seen Her” (a hit for The Chi-Lites in 1971) completely gets away from him. By the halfway point of “Have You Seen Her,” Hammer is trying to squeeze himself past his backup singers, who don’t notice that he’s there. With no one else to talk to, he asks himself if he’s seen her. Turns out he hasn’t. He gives up in the final 15 seconds, and the song takes off, with a surprising and effective ending.

I was saddened to learn that Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em is the biggest-selling rap album in the history of everything. Hammer hurt us.

 

In 2010, Special D and I went to the ’80s Video Dance Attack at Lola’s Room here in Portland. ’80s videos played until closing. At 9pm the average age in the crowd was probably in the high 40s, but by midnight that had dropped at least 20 years. The ’80s rule! Here are just a few of the lessons I learned at Lola’s:

1) David Bowie made better music than almost everyone else on MTV, but he couldn’t make a video to save his life. “Blue Jean” feels like Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” minus the motorcycle that crashes through the stained-glass window.

2) I’m certain that in 1984 I thought the video for A-ha’s “Take on Me,” in which a woman falls in love with a comic-book hero and then joins him in the book’s pages, was oh so futuristic. Now I see that it was surely inspired by Tron and that its only use for us today is documenting the haircuts.

3) Videos for A Flock of Seagulls document their haircuts and their appalling music.

4) MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” hasn’t budged an inch out of the stupid zone. I want to hurt him.

5) You can’t beat Bananarama in an ’80s video fight.

Somebody has to say this and it might as well be me: It’s far past time for a critical reappraisal of the Bananarama oeuvre. Granted, this reappraisal will be a challenge. The majority of their songs suck. But the few non-suck songs are little pop jewels, such as “Robert De Niro’s Waiting,” “Shy Boy,” and “Cruel Summer.”

The real knockouts on a Saturday night, though, are “Venus” and “I Can’t Help It.” Not only did “Venus” go to #1 on every chart between Earth and Pluto, it completely replaced Shocking Blue’s original. This is the same trick The Clash pulled with “I Fought the Law.”

The video is a gas, complete with devils, vampires, boy toys, and goddesses. When they fired up this video at Lola’s we immediately experienced the “Dancing Queen” phenomenon, as every female present beamed straight onto the dance floor. The Go-Go’s, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and New Order couldn’t match it. Bananarama said  “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” to Duran Duran, The Bangles, and Madonna.

Speaking of Madonna, while Bananarama’s “I Can’t Help It” didn’t turn in the same kind of chart performance as “Venus,” it’s plenty good enough to have made it onto one of Madonna’s records. The video isn’t much (not counting the 20 seconds in which the girls indulge themselves in a group milk bath), but the song is sufficiently infectious to carry you through.

We had a great time that night, and I totally enjoyed Bananarama. That’s really sayin’ something. Bop bop shoo-be-do-wa.