Return of the VH1 Classic live blog

Enough brooding over medical conditions I don’t have, enough playing out worst-case scenarios in my mind, enough taking MMM Jr.’s temperature. (He’s getting better, but he and I are both beyond stir-crazy, even after a trip to Wendy’s and the grocery store.) Let’s have some fun.

Motley Crue, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away): Haven’t heard this in years, and I was fully expecting a good laugh. But it’s not half-bad. Vince Neil has the perfect voice for this sort of testosterone-fueled tale of breakup survival.

Bon Jovi, Livin’ on a Prayer: Never liked this one. Bon Jovi’s recent efforts at social relevance come across with much more sincerity. Perhaps it’s because he’s an elder statesman of rock, perhaps it’s because Richie Sambora ditched the souped-up wah-wah effects, perhaps it’s because his more recent charity-minded videos show acts of charity, not four minutes of the band clowning around with its concert rigging. Also note the most absurd truck-driver modulation in recorded history, just to make Jon strain that voice a little harded.

Aerosmith, Walk This Way (live at VMA ’94): I doubt Aerosmith could do a terrible version of this classic. They cut loose with panache for the last minute or two, which was a lot of fun.

Kansas, Dust in the Wind: Abrupt change in tone, isn’t it? I know Kansas had a bit of internal conflict over the years as some members veered toward Christian rock and others didn’t, but aren’t this one and Carry On My Wayward Son already as “Christian” as you can get? It’s a deserved classic with sobering thoughts. “All your money won’t another minute buy” is sound advice.

Stevie Nicks, I Can’t Wait: What? Have I heard this? Oh yeah — I recognize it at the chorus. For a while, I wondered why Stevie was doing a Belinda Carlisle cover. Can I hear Belinda instead? This sounds like a bunch of guys on speed with a bank of synthesizers while Stevie bellows something incomprehensible. The chorus is “I can’t wait / Blah blah spinoo when I’m eighty blah two.” Geez, all this song needs to be a stereotype of everything wrong with the ’80s is a tuneless, screeching guitar solo … and there it is!

Clash, Train in Vain: Funny how the Clash roared out of England with all sort of punk political hype, and yet they’re best remembered for two gleeful romps through tattered relationships. And I’ll always remember this for Keith Olbermann’s best SportsCenter moment, passing along the score of a San Jose Clash victory and saying the Clash, of course, didn’t train in vain.

.38 Special, Hold On Loosely: These guys had a few good songs, even if I’ll never understand why they needed two drummers and … four … five? … guitarists to play them. It’s not like they’re playing Blue Man Group tunes here. They apparently have a single drummer now. The video ends with a shot of the album cover, which was probably racy at the time — a woman in a tight short skirt, visible only from the waist down, facing the appreciative band. From what I hear, though, the situation didn’t go well. She asked which guy is the drummer, two guys answered, and she assumed one of them must be lying.

Queen + Paul Rodgers, We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions: I sense a theme here. We’ve got three drummers this time — Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and … Dave Grohl? Chad Smith? I know Smith joined them for Live Earth, but that looks more like Grohl. Someone has to hold up the drumming while Roger Taylor is wailing his horrifying backup vocals. Sounds great, though.

Bruce Springsteen, I’m On Fire: A forgotten classic from Bruce. Those of you who read the blog often know I love understated passion, and this song has it. Simple taps from the drums, subtle guitar arpeggios and Bruce letting the lyrics do the talking: “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of soul / At night, I wake up with sheets soaking wet and a freight train running throught the middle of my head.”

Bruce Springsteen, Radio Nowhere: Once again, it’s a classic/current. Get well soon, Danny.

With that, I’m switching over to Fox Soccer Channel, broadcasting an FA Cup game from a stadium has maybe 500 seats but squeezed in 3,300 or so for the first round game. First camera shot has someon wiping the lens.

Song du semaine: Men at Work, "Overkill"

Do you ever think about death? Yes. Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days… – and you think this makes you a better person? Look, when the shit comes down, I’m gonna be prepared and you’re not, that’s all I’m saying. And in the meantime, you’re gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it. (Source)

I had a bit of a health concern this week. To call it a cancer scare would be a little melodramatic. Narcissistic, even. Perhaps even Malignant Narcissism.

The ingredients for this week’s disaster: A twinge in my belly that felt like it could be a hernia, a trip to urgent care, a lonnnnng wait there, a rushed visit with a doctor who ordered a CT scan, a resulting tender spot, a history of atypical moles and a 21st-century phenomenon called cyberchondria.

See, with the Internet now providing a ready source of mildly reliable medical information, all of our worries can be magnified. Every Web site has to list the worst-case scenarios in this litigious society. That headache you have? Well, it could be from the bump to the head you got a few minutes ago when you were in the kitchen and didn’t notice a cabinet door was open. Or it could be an advanced metastatic cancer that originated in your pancreas. Sure, one is more likely than the other by a factor of a few hundred thousand, but susceptible minds have a hard time absorbing the odds.

Here’s another factor — as someone who spends far too much of his personal and professional time following sports, I’ve grown accustomed to happy endings in medical dramas, and that didn’t happen this week. Basically, if an athlete survives the initial trauma, he always exceeds medical expectations. Bobby Hurley not only survived his traffic accident, he returned to the NBA for a couple of years. Kevin Everett is apparently taking a few steps. So I went to sleep Monday night fully expecting to read the next morning that Sean Taylor had awakened in the hospital and was identifying his assailants. When that didn’t happen, it threw my sense of medical reality all out of whack.

I knew I was being ridiculous. Yet I couldn’t quite convince that loud nagging voice in my head. When I stopped listening, it metastatized to my stomach and claimed most of my digestive system. That gave me a good excuse to call for an appointment with my actual doctor.

She was able to take a better look at the situation and reassure me that it couldn’t possibly be what I was fearing. We had a good talk about cyberchondria, Sean Taylor, the Washington sniper and actual medical conditions.

So I’m glad I held onto this song for an appropriate week. It’s an ode to paranoia with tasteful understatement and one of the most beautiful choruses ever written. Ghosts appear and fade away …

Fun with Office themes

I had a sudden urge to download Handbags and Gladrags, an oft-covered English tune used as the theme music for the British version of The Office. A Ricky Gervais fan came up with a staggeringly comprehensive history of the tune and offers an explanation of why it works so well as the theme:

One reading of the lyric is as a commentary on the futility of fashion and the irrelevance of outward appearances. In this sense it is well chosen as the theme for The Office, as David Brent is a man concerned, above all, with image, status and perception.

I can’t possibly improve on that.

I searched for video of The Office credits, but what I found instead was equally interesting. At least, it’s interesting if you, like me, did a senior recital on percussion and spent significant time behind a marimba. Yes, it’s the American theme song … on marimba.

Too short, but pretty sweet.

I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the UK version, but I know the consensus is that it played up the pathos a bit more than the American version. I think that opinion stems from two brilliant scenes with Tim and Dawn, the predecessors of Jim and Pam.

The first, which is one of the most perfectly directed and acted moments of TV I’ve ever seen, was near the end of the series finale. But since the series didn’t really end there, we get another one near the end of the Christmas special. (The background you need to know — Dawn, like Pam, was always interested in doing something with her artistic skill, which her warehouse-worker fiancee didn’t appreciate. And in case you can’t hear Gareth — the blonde guy — in the pivotal scene here, he says, “She’s got a fiancee.” Dawn’s response says it all.)

And yes, you do have to love Yazoo’s cheesy synth-pop love song Only You bubbling through that final scene.

Skipping "denial" — moving straight to "anger"

If you live near Washington and aren’t one of those total *^&#@s who despise all things relating to the Redskins, you’re grieving today for Sean Taylor, whose utterly senseless death has shocked the region.

But another death in the news caught my attention as well. Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow, not an old man by any reckoning, suddenly passed away.

It’s easy to think of DuBrow and company as a little cartoonish. That was their image for a while, and it worked for them. But these are very real people. If you want a reminder, check the official site of drummer Frankie Banali, who shares his pain with an eloquence you might not expect from a guy whose band bashed out Metal Health back in the day.

I’ve been home with MMM Jr. today, and as entertaining and lovable as he is, I’ve been feeling kind of angry. The way I figure it, death and decay are always going to be in greater supply than any of us want. The great idiocy of mankind is that we invite more of them into our lives.

We don’t know the details of why Taylor was shot. We don’t know anything about DuBrow’s death. But at some point, the message has to sink in. We as a species are absolute failures in the most basic need of living creatures — taking care of each other.

I don’t hear any politicians talking about such things — they’re all reciting the same banter we’ve been hearing for decades, and the “citizen journalists” that are supposedly replacing those of us who are being bought out and laid off (speaking in generalities here — last I checked, I still had a job) aren’t doing any better at broadening the conversation beyond the same rhetorical tricks carefully coached by the Vogon warlords who serve as their strategists.

Can we do better? I sure as hell hope so.

(Back to more uplifting fare tomorrow.)

Nee pudak poy Feelyat!

I’ve always been fascinated with the creative process. As a kid, I read a lot of music magazines. Today, that interest extends to technology and even some Food Network shows. In between, I majored in philosophy, which technically means “love of wisdom.” In retrospect, I think the wisdom is OK but the ideas are the key. The Socratic method of refining and revising ideas through frank questioning by guys in togas is fine and necessary, but without the initial ideas — from systems of government to methods of cooking — the human species is no better than any other.

Sometimes, I wonder how a particularly offbeat idea survived the Socratic method. Every idea has to be pitched to become reality — even on a blog, the idea doesn’t really take off unless someone reads and appreciates it.

And so I sometimes picture the members of Kids in the Hall, pitching ideas for their fifth and final season, having some sort of conversation like this:

“OK — imagine a game show in which you’re suppose to feel an object with a pair of oven mitts and guess what it is.”

“Hmmmm. Could be interesting. So what happens?”

“Well, Scott could play an old contestant who’s not really aware of what’s going on. Mark could do his Darill character. And then we could have a young kid whose head is too small for the bucket.”

“Um … bucket?”

“Yeah — when you get an answer wrong, you wear a bucket with a sad face painted on. And we could introduce that when we return to the game after an interruption for a news bulletin about flooding on the Rhine, mixed in with some footage of hammerhead sharks.”

“Wait, wait … sharks? And why are they on the Rhine?”

“Oh, did I mention this is in Europe?”

“OK, I suppose we can get away with that. Might be one way to explain why it all seems so weird.”

“Yeah, and they’ll be speaking some language that falls somewhere between Dutch, German and gibberish.”

(long pause) “A whole sketch. In which language? German?”

“Not exactly. It’s sort of German, sort of Dutch. We’ll have a bunch of people counting the time remaining by clomping wooden shoes — let’s call them the Nederlander Foot Choir.”

(longer pause) “Sort of German, sort of Dutch?”

“Sure! I’ve even got a catch phrase.”

“A catch … in Dutch? German? … (sigh) … OK, what is it?”

“Und specifica, ut kunder meat?”

(blank stares) “Do you think our entire audience is high or something?”

I’m not sure what impresses me more — the open-mindedness of the other Kids in seeing just how funny this sketch was going to be or the devotion of some fan who took the time to transcribe the whole freaking thing phonetically.

Whatever your expectations are at this point, you won’t be disappointed. Here are The Kids in the Hall circa 1993 with “Feelyat!”: