Posts Tagged ‘Romeo Void’

“I am what I am. Thank God.” – Jimi Hendrix, “Message to Love”

A co-worker entered my humble cubicle one day late in 2012 and said, “Flashback!” He was looking at the two shelves above my desk, which held a row of CDs, a display of old postcards, and the Pets.com Sock Puppet Spokesthing. While he gushed about these ancient cultural artifacts, I saw my possessions through his eyes. I realized that I could’ve decorated my space the same way at the job I had in 2000. In fact, I know I did.

I’m stuck in time!

In an email later that morning to this co-worker, after stating that I didn’t care what he thought of me, I wrote without even thinking “I’m through being cool!” and hit Send. Then I thought, Oh no, it’s Devo! I’m really stuck in time.

Rather than consider what all this says about me, let’s use it as an excuse to go back to the future. Welcome to 1986 Week, commemorating that stellar year when, as Paul Simon sang on Graceland, “I was single/and life was great!”*

Most of the artists I loved in the ’80s released nothing new in 1986. Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, U2, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen held off until 1987 (when Prince gave us Sign ’O’ the Times, his equivalent of The White Album, and U2 gave us their masterpiece, The Unforgettable Fire**).

The B-52s didn’t record again until 1989, but in 1986 The Rolling Stones dressed up just like them.

Dirty Work

By 1986 Romeo Void had broken up. David Bowie and Michael Jackson had left the bulk of their best work behind. Gary Numan had left all of his best work behind. Robert Cray debuted with Strong Persuader, though I prefer what he did later. Duran Duran released Notorious, which was notorious for being awful. I refuse to listen to Madonna’s True Blue or Boston’s Third Stage. I can’t decide which is funnier, The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill or Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I’ll get to Depeche Mode, The Pretenders, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and Siouxsie & The Banshees as 1986 Week progresses.

What was the best song of 1986? Yo, pretty ladies around the world: Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care for Cameo’s “Word Up!”

Don’t expect 1986 Week to last all week. Don’t expect a comprehensive survey. Don’t get all army-foldy on me, either.

As we used to say in the peculiar slang we employed back in 1986: See you tomorrow!

* Special D is fond of quoting that line to me. Hey doll: “I sure do love you/let’s get that straight.”
** A tip of the critic’s pointy hat to my friend and fellow softball player Donald Keller, who put “mantlepiece” in my head whenever I want to say “masterpiece.” 

Random 1986 Pick of the Day
The Chills, Kaleidoscope World
1986 gave us albums from The Chills, The Cramps, and The Creeps. This reminds me of an evening I spent at Fenway Park in 1979 when we had three pitchers on hand named Clear, Frost, and Rainey.

I don’t know a thing about Kaleidoscope World; I just needed a Chills album from 1986 to fit my theme. The album I have heard is Submarine Bells (1990), which has two lovely pop songs, “Singing in My Sleep” and “Heavenly Pop Hit” (nice try, boys).

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat
I must honor this man for rhyming “Tijuana” with “barbecued iguana” in Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” Sadly, on his solo debut he sounds like The B-52s’ Fred Schneider with really bad hair.

“Everywhere That I’m Not”
Translator
1982

We tend to give decades shortcut images as they recede in our rearview mirror. The ’50s are Happy Days. The ’60s are Woodstock. The ’70s are disco. And the ’80s, my favorite decade, are shoulder pads, polo shirts, big hair, and Valley Girls.

OK, those first three are true. But not so for my favorite decade! Musically, the ’80s were much more than power pop quartets of skinny guys in skinny ties, dark sport coats, and leather jackets jangling away on their guitars.

Punk got angrier (Dead Kennedys, Black Flag). Metal got even more ridiculous (Def Leppard, Queensrÿche). Grunge, rap, electronica, and the mushy category called “alternative” got ready to invade the mainstream. Christopher Cross, Phil Collins, and Sting got 20 to life for crimes against humanity. (If only.) But today, as we launch into ’80s Week here at Run-DMSteve, I want to talk about Translator’s “Everywhere That I’m Not.”

Translator was a power pop quartet of skinny guys in skinny ties, dark sport coats, and leather jackets jangling away on their guitars. (Surprise!) They were from San Francisco. They never broke into the Top 40 like their neighbors, Romeo Void, who had a hit with “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing).” They never found themselves in regular rotation on MTV like their skinny guys/skinny ties cousins in Seattle, The Allies (“Emma Peel”). But they made a huge impact on the college circuit with “Everywhere That I’m Not,” a downbeat yet driving song about seeing your lost love everywhere you go:

I thought I saw you, out on the avenue
But I guess it was just someone
Who looked a lot like I remember you do

The relentless guitars suggest The Romantics and R.E.M. while producing an undercurrent of despair that neither of those outfits could muster. But what really makes this record for me is the singer, reminding himself that of course that’s not his old flame and leading us into the best sing-along chorus since the Messiah:

’Cause that’s impossible, that’s im-
That’s impossible, that’s im-poss
That’s impossible, that’s im-poss-ible

’Cause you’re in New York but I’m not
You’re in Tokyo but I’m not
You’re in Nova Scotia but I’m not

[whole band now]

Yeah, you’re everywhere that I’m not
Yeah, you’re everywhere that I’m not

[solo]

I’m not, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not

As far as I’m concerned, Translator has only one other song in their catalog, “Un-alone.” (The official videos of these songs are now 30 years old. You can find them on YouTube, but you wouldn’t want to.) This may sound like a harsh judgment, but consider the thousands of bands that form around the globe every day. How many produce even one memorable song? Translator has two and I love them both. That’s not bad for four guys with petroleum-based styling products in their hair.