Posts Tagged ‘The Cure’

In the first week of May, I made my 500th connection on LinkedIn. What does this mean?

I don’t know. But it must be a milestone because 500 is a cool number. It’s not a prime number, but it’s right next door to one: 499. So when I made my 400th connection I decided to work very seriously on my next hundred. Because these numbers look like career homerun totals, I made a game of it, announcing each stage to my wife:

407: “I’m neck and neck with Duke Snider.”
439: “I’ve got Andre Dawson in my rearview mirror.”
453: “Bye-bye, Yaz!”
493: “Did you know that Crime Dog was tied with Lou Gehrig? What? Who is Crime Dog? Why am I talking to you?”

I stood at 499 for about two weeks. I wondered if I should invite someone special for my 500th. The obvious choice was Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, but I figured he was kinda busy being a co-founder and I didn’t want to wait 200 years for Reid to say yes. I also thought it would be fun to connect with someone who had the same name as a person I admired, but either that person had no presence on LinkedIn or there were 119 of them (as with David Bowie).

Number 500 arrived when I wasn’t looking – an invitation I’d extended weeks before and forgotten about. Lucky 500 is an editor who works with a publisher I once worked for. As with many of my connections, I’ve never met this person, but if he’s one of my guys you can be sure that he rocks.

(Note: At this point I didn’t actually have 500 people in my network, because at least one had died. Her profile is still active. If we’re connected and you’re still breathing, write and say hi. I’d love to hear from you.)

When I hit 500 feedbacks on eBay, they sent me a certificate. Actually, they sent me a link to a certificate that I could print myself. I wasn’t expecting LinkedIn to give me a handjob and a parade, but still I was disappointed when nothing happened. Then I thought, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I’m the one who should be doing something, and not just my end-zone dance. Maybe I should be printing T-shirts for my posse. (Don’t send me your shirt size. I’m not doing this.)

LinkedIn (the site also spells it “Linkedin”) long ago transformed itself from sparkly toy to networking ninja. If I want to find out who I know at a particular company, I can do it in seconds. Before LinkedIn, this would’ve taken days or weeks, if it could be done at all.

So if nothing much happens when you make your 500th connection, so be it. In fact I’ve moved past that mark now. I believe I’m tied with Eddie Murray (504), but then, who’s counting?

Random Pick of the Day
Various artists, The Crow (1994)
This movie is about a murdered man resurrected by a mystical crow to reign death and destruction upon his enemies. Please don’t make me write a sentence like that again. The heart of the soundtrack is “Burn” by The Cure, closely followed by Nine Inch Nail’s cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls,” “Snakedriver” by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the dreamy “Time Baby III” by a band called Medicine. (The vocal on that one is by a former Bangle.)

As for the other 10 songs, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Big Empty” has had so much radio play that it bounces off my brain. The remaining nine are interchangeable, but appropriately mopey, metal.

Random Pan of the Day
The B-52s, Cosmic Thing (1989)
Why am I panning this record? I love The B-52s. Cosmic Thing was their big comeback. It has “Love Shack,” “Roam,” and one of their best lines, on the eternal topic of shaking your booty: “Don’t let it rest/on the president’s desk!”

But most of Cosmic Thing is easy-listening filler. “Roam” still sounds good, but “Love Shack” is getting tired. When this record came out, the mellifluously named Bart Becker, music editor at my paper, Seattle Weekly, wrote that this was a band that had pretty much lost it. Twenty-five years later, I reluctantly agree. By 1989, The B-52s were not even all that wacky anymore. I can only recommend Cosmic Thing to confirmed idiots such as myself. For anyone else, The B-52s and Wild Planet are all you need.

Bart Becker would’ve been the perfect name for an infielder on the San Francisco Giants.

 

Siouxsie & The Banshees
Tinderbox
1986

Siouxsie & The Banshees are proof of the power of networking. Susan Dallion was one of a group of early Sex Pistols fans who were inspired to go out and make music too. She changed her name to Siouxsie Sioux, which is impossible to type, and recruited the first Banshees in 1976.

Siouxsie’s drummer, John Ritchie, changed his name to Sid Vicious and joined the Pistols. Her first guitar player, Marco Perroni, kept his name but joined Adam & The Ants. She got a guitarist back from the Pistols, Steve Jones, but it didn’t take and he ended up recording with Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, and Iggy Pop. This is starting to read like a LinkedIn profile. When two other band members quit during a tour in 1979, Siouxsie recruited Robert Smith of The Cure and a drummer named Budgie to fill in. Budgie had already changed his name from Peter Edward Clarke. Still with me? Smith eventually went back to The Cure. Budgie eventually married Siouxsie. None of this ever happens at the monthly lunches of the Oregon Columbia chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

I’ve written about Siouxsie & The Banshees in my round-up of female acts of the 1980s. I called them (and The Cure) “goth outfits.” That was doing them an injustice. They’re much more than stereotypical black-clad, pale-skinned, bloodless disciples of H.P. Lovecraft who long for death’s ashen caress. They also rock with considerable force…though not on this record.

Tinderbox is not only misnamed (I don’t hear much on it that’s flammable), it’s so smooth that I can’t always tell which song I’m in. The exceptions, however, are more like the Banshees I remember. “Cities in Dust,” an unblinking glimpse of the apocalypse, was the hit. It’s good – it takes The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone” one step further and almost makes it danceable – but “Cannons” is the real sleeper. I also like “92 Degrees,” which starts slow but builds to a satisfactorily melancholy finish.

Tinderbox is a record for confirmed Banshees. As for the rest of us, keep networking, because a) you never know, and b) you never know.

Random 1986 Pan of the Day 1
Pretty in Pink soundtrack
When I posted this in 2013, I made Pretty in Pink a Pick. I’ve changed my mind. Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses” is the only superlative song, and it’s available everywhere. However, this album is notable for a rare appearance by the strangest name of the 1980s, Belouis Some. Some, who was Neville Keighley when he made his first appearance on earth, had two hits that were popular in ’80s dance clubs: “Some People” and “Imagination.” His contribution here, “Round, Round,” is not in that league. Overall, the Pretty in Pink soundtrack is still better than the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club (1985), but not within a light year of the soundtrack to Singles (1992).

Random 1986 Pan of the Day 2
The Church, Heyday
Midnight Oil without the grit. So otherworldly it can barely be detected through the Hubble Telescope. They had a hit in 1988 with “Under the Milky Way,” which was easily within Perry Como’s comfort range.

 

“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.

In our last, very exciting episode, I watched The Doors, listened to The Doors, and was floored. I then set out on a quest to find the Best Debut Albums of the 20th Century By Newcomers Who Aren’t Somebody Stupid Like Foreigner. I restricted the contestants to albums named for the band (as in The Doors by The Doors). This squeezed out some worthy discs. Here are my favorites.

The Beatles, Please Please Me (1963)
There are two amazing things about this record. One, The Beatles recorded Please Please Me in, like, a day, even though Paul was dead, John was a walrus, and Yoko had already broken them up. Two, rock ’n’ roll went from holding your hand to sleeping in your soul kitchen in about three years. Shake it up baby now.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? (1967)
I have two connections with Jimi Hendrix. According to Wikipedia, “Hendrix’s first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue, Seattle’s Temple De Hirsch. After too much wild playing and showing off, he was fired between sets.” In 1981, I played in Seattle’s Jewish softball league for Congregation Beth Shalom. Playing Temple De Hirsch was like playing the New York Yankees. They had the money and the manpower – their congregation was five times the size of ours. One of their rabbis searched their roster until he found half a dozen men who had played minor-league ball and then persuaded them to join the temple’s team. You could not hit anything past that infield. And all of those guys had visited that basement.

My other connection comes from the 1997 marriage of my friends Liz and Mitch. While speaking to the bandleader between sets, he confided in me that he had known Hendrix as a kid and had taught him “everything he knew.” I wanted to ask him why the man who taught Hendrix everything he knew was playing weddings 30 years later, but then the bride and groom handed out bubble blowers and I got distracted. Anyway, I shook the hand of the man who taught Hendrix everything he knew.

If Jimi Hendrix were alive today, he’d be cutting discs with Wynton Marsalis, Danny Elfman, and Yo-Yo Ma, but not, I hope, with Coldplay.

Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True (1977)
This jet-propelled collection of songs gives you absolutely no clue to the musical continents Costello would explore over his career. Even so, he’d still be remembered today even if he had just recorded this disc and his follow-up, This Year’s Model.

The Cure, Three Imaginary Boys (1979)
The normally dour Robert Smith must’ve been on antidepressants when he made this zippy little record. The cover of “Foxey Lady,” once it finally gets going, is hilarious.

Gary Numan, The Pleasure Principle (1979)
When I was 24 I wanted to be an android and I’m sure you did too. Numan isn’t as frightening as he used to be – he’s on The Muppets’ soundtrack. (If you’re curious, The Muppets is Prairie Home Companion with better jokes.)

Echo & The Bunnymen, Crocodiles (1980)
Crocodiles is haunting and dreamlike, which makes it the closest thing on this list to The Doors, emotionally. Echo and all those bunnies don’t rock as hard as The Doors, but they do pretty well with “Read It in Books” and “All That Jazz.” Their lyrics are fun to sing but mean just about nothing. The first few notes of “Rescue” somehow tell the story of my life.

The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine and Roses (1982)
In the 1960s, the Philadelphia Phillies had a double-play combination of Bobby Wine and Cookie Rojas. No headline writer of that era could resist the headline “Days of Wine and Rojas.”

The Dream Syndicate was a major influence on what is today called “alternative.” Don’t ask me to tell you what “alternative” means. But I can tell you that this is a terrific rock record, especially the title track. Steve Wynne sounds just like Lou Reed, who initially tried to sound just like Bob Dylan. No one wants to meet the guy Dylan has been imitating.

Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
One of the best records of the ’80s, with a title that will always describe my first dog, Emma. Trent Reznor, who recorded almost everything on this album by himself and then formed a band, is not a happy man:

Hey God
Why are you doing this to me?
Am I not living up to what I’m supposed to be?
Why am I seething with this animosity?
Hey God
I think you owe me a great big apology.
(“Terrible Lie”)

If you’re feeling euphoric and you want to tone that down a little, Pretty Hate Machine is the album for you.

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (1993)
Ms. Phair can’t sing, and when she tries she’s consistently flat, maybe because her mouth is shaped funny. But she has an interesting voice, and she writes piercing songs in the manner of Chrissie Hynde, though she’s more vulnerable:

And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead
But if you’re tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am
(“Divorce Song”)

Liz Phair emerged from the lo-fi indie world. (“Lo-fi” and “indie” are code for “We are so not Steely Dan.”) Exile in Guyville reflects her origins – it sounds as if it had been put together in her living room. It’s one of the landmarks of the ’90s, even though it doesn’t include her big hit, “Supernova,” which is about me. Many of these songs throw structural tricks at you, such as “Johnny Sunshine” – the first minute of that song is the best minute on the album. Like The Doors, Phair has never hit this personal standard again.

Beck, Mellow Gold (1994)
Jim Morrison may have acted like he was a shaman, but Beck actually is. The ubiquitous “Loser” leads off this monster, but it’s nowhere near the best song – just listen to “Beercan.”

Veruca Salt, American Thighs (1994)
You read it here first: Veruca Salt and Soundgarden are actually the same band. Chris Cornell was the voice of Soundgarden; Louise Post and Nina Gordon were the voices of Veruca Salt. You could swap them and the music would be almost the same. I’d love to hear Louis and Nina sing “Fell on Black Days,” with Chris singing “Seether.” Soundgarden released Superunknown, their fourth album, in the same year, which just proves that these are people who get a lot done in a day.

Postscript: No way am I choosing two obvious debuts, R.E.M.’s Murmur (1983) and Pearl Jam’s Ten (1990). These bands are way overrated, plus look how boring the album titles are. And now Eddie Vedder is giving ukulele concerts! The B-52s warned us about what could happen if parties got out of hand. R.E.M. and Pearl Jam are Exhibits A and B. Puny humans.

“Pictures of You”
The Cure
1989

“Space Age Love Song”
A Flock of Seagulls
1982

I coach a chess club at a local school, grades 3-8. My toughest challenges are not explaining how to castle or how the knights move. It’s not the 4th-grade belching contests or the two 5th-grade boys I had to separate because they were fighting over the good-behavior trophy. The real problems are the 12- and 13-year-old girls.

One year, Madison, a 6th-grade girl, came to the club in a torn denim jacket and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. Trying to bond with her, I said that I’d seen Led Zep in concert. Madison rolled her eyes and I suddenly saw myself as she saw me: an old man, claiming to know something about her music! The following year she showed up with black hair, black lipstick, black fingernail polish, and a Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me Cure T-shirt. I could’ve told her that I’d seen The Cure, too, but I’m a nice guy. I didn’t want to ruin another band for her.

The Cure have been around long enough to draw pensions. They (“they” meaning Robert Smith) are best known for being gloomy. Right up my alley! I’ve already written about my favorite Cure song, “Pictures of You,” a ballad of lost love that is 278 words long. That’s like a Dickens novel in rock ’n’ roll years.

Let’s instead move on to A Flock of Seagulls (affectionately known as A Flock of Haircuts). Loyal Reader Julius questions their existence. My apologies, Loyal Reader. No ’80s dance party would be complete without their two biggest hits, “I Ran (So Far Away)” and “Space Age Love Song.”

There’s not much to say about “I Ran (So Far Away)” that the song doesn’t say itself:

And I raaaaaaan.
I ran so far away.
I just raaaaaaan.
I ran all night and day.
I couldn’t get away.

“Space Age Love Song” is a simply structured number that moves from start to finish in an unvarying line. Sort of like an object in space. It was in constant rotation on MTV in 1982. As Springsteen put it, “57 Channels (and Nothing On).” It is exactly 73 words long, of which 15 are “I was falling in love” and 12 are “Falling in love.” Pithy. “I saw your eyes/and you made me smile,” the Haircuts sing in stanza 1, which is sweet, but the next line is “For a little while,” which is ungrateful. What have you done for me lately, person with eyes? In stanza 2, the narrator sees the eyes again, and this time “you touched my mind.” Cool. Telepathy. No wonder you fell in love.

Don’t take my word for it. Here are A Flock of Haircuts at the height of their powers.

A few years ago in chess club we had a boy who loved Culture Club. When I made the mistake of telling him that I didn’t, he started singing “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” By the end of the school year my answer was yes. Music from the 1980s can heal us – or it can be weaponized. Madison understood this when she adopted The Cure as a lifestyle. I’m sure it was her defense against the world and her rebellion against her parents. In the early ’70s I did the same thing to my parents with The Doors (minus the drugs, alcohol, and multiple sex partners).

You wouldn’t think these issues would arise in a roomful of kids playing chess, but they do. Adult themes play out in miniature, just as we play this miniature substitute for war. All you can do with these children is be patient, try to put yourself in their place, and don’t let on that you know anything about their music. Kids need to rebel, and The Cure are a good ally in a rebellion. Or The Doors. But not A Flock of Seagulls.

Today’s vocabulary word is “leverage,” and I don’t mean the TV show about happy-go-lucky con artists who police the global economy but can’t figure out how to date. I have leveraged my blog into a regular slot at www.thenervousbreakdown.com, and if you enjoy what I’m dishing out here I hope you’ll visit me there. My first post is up and it’s about my voyage to extreme manliness. My second post will probably be about how to turn blogging into cash money. Special D will be especially interested in that one.

What then is the future of Run-DMSteve? I’ll continue to write about music here, as I still have plenty of elitist opinions, judgments, and body slams to dispense. My goal is to post to each place once every two weeks, on alternating weeks. If that turns out to be overly ambitious I’m sure I’ll complain about it. If you’d like to be alerted, or warned, that I’ve published something, you can subscribe to my little corner of The Nervous Breakdown just as you can subscribe to me here.

The Clash sang, “Know your rights/all three of ’em.” I’d like to thank my readers, all three of ’em, for your continuing flow of encouragement, comments, and surplus food.

Cover me
It seems to me that there are four types of covers:

1)     You can transform the original and make it your own.
2)     You can fail to transform the original and make everyone laugh at you.
3)     You can transform the original but no one cares.
4)     You can hew close to the original but still rule by simply changing the vocal.

Transformation and total ownership: The Clash’s “I Fought the Law.” The original, by The Crickets, doesn’t measure up. (The Bobby Fuller 4 version doesn’t cut it, either.)

Failure to thrive: Hall & Oates going postal on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

A tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it: The Charlie Hunter Trio’s “Come As You Are.” This jazz version of the grunge anthem is fantastic, but Charlie Hunter is not going to make anyone forget Nirvana, not even on an album that includes the evocative “Fistful of Haggis.”

That leaves the miracle of a good voice. Here are two examples:

Chris Isaak, “I Want You to Want Me”: Musically, this one’s close to the Cheap Trick original, and it makes me realize the main reason I dislike Cheap Trick – the lack of a decent singer. Chris Isaak usually makes you cry but here he’s almost exultant.

Elizabeth Harper & The Matinee, “Pictures of You”: This Elizabeth Harper is not the 7-foot Amazon who married Dennis Kucinich. Her wistful voice is perfectly suited to this classic from The Cure:

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real
I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel

Compared to Elizabeth Harper, Robert Smith sang the original as if he and his emotions were spending the night in separate rooms. Harper and her band add a couple of strategic pauses, but otherwise it’s her voice that brings the song home.

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”
A while back I wrote about a startling trend in naming songs: using four consecutive nouns. Here’s a statistical offshoot. If you haven’t spent some time singing “Na na na na, na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye,” you’ve at least heard other people doing it. And in either case I’m sure you’re sorry.

It took 40 years, but this “song” by “Steam,” a band that never existed, has spawned what I thought at first was a sequel: “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” by My Chemical Romance. A close examination of both works reveals that the only element they share is the doo-wop na na nas. While I give MCR credit for rhyming “From mall security” with “Get plastic surgery,” their paranoid drug rant is not going to become a staple at sporting events anytime soon. Hey hey hey, good-bye.