You know, it seems kind of silly that I haven’t posted this for Halloween before. I loved this song when I was a kid, almost as much as I loved old monster movies.
Kudos to Gary Ramey for creating this video for the song. It’s pretty darn cool. Happy Halloween to y’all! Don’t eat too much candy.
You’ll notice I added WordPress’ “I Voted” badge to the site. I really do think voting makes a difference, and it’s the easiest thing any of us can do to effect change.
Of course, that means you also have to pay some attention to what’s going on. You have to educate yourself about the issues facing your community, your state, your country. It’s more than just not changing the channel whenever those endless (and endlessly biased, inaccurate, and enraging) campaign commercials come on. My state election board–and probably yours, too–sends out a voter information guide that contains the various propositions and initiatives on the ballot. These guides are pretty darn helpful if you bother to at least skim them. They contain the text of the proposed law or amendment, what it might mean financially for the state, plus arguments on both sides. I like to look at who’s on each side. Just like I try to find out who’s paying for those irritating commercials. Deep Throat told Bob Woodward to follow the money; that still holds true in politics today.
For example, there’s a proposition on California’s ballot that will let the insurance commissioner have veto power over unreasonable health insurance rate hikes. The insurance companies have been spending beau coups bucks to convince people that that’s a bad idea. Me, I’m not buying it, but I’m afraid a lot of people will be. (We’ll see; I don’t place bets on sporting events and elections for a reason.) The point is, it helps to know who’s got some skin in the game. Democracy is a participatory sport. The only difference is that if you don’t play, you still pay. And, as far as I’m concerned, you don’t get to complain if you don’t vote.
I decided to vote by mail this year, and I applied for permanent vote by mail status. Since they closed down my old elementary school, my polling place is no longer around the corner from me. (This year, it’s being held at the fire station not that far away, but still quite a bit farther than I used to walk.) I’d also pretty much made up my mind on the issues. If you haven’t voted already, get your butt down to your polling place next Tuesday and vote. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I’ve been catching up on my DVR viewing (Sleepy Hollow is just as bananas as it ever was). But I keep thinking I can smell tuna sandwiches somewhere. I don’t know what that means. But it led me back to this Freaky Friday classic.
I chose this old Dr. Demento standard by Barnes & Barnes for this weeks freaky post because I wanted to lighten things up after last week’s visit from The Residents. (Although, let’s face it, pretty much everything is happier than that freaky short film. Sorry if I actually freaked anyone out; that’s not actually the point of Freaky Friday.) Except the video for “Fish Heads” is a lot freakier than I’d remembered it being.
I’d buried this in the comments section quite some time ago, but didn’t pay much attention otherwise. “Fish Heads” is one of those songs meant to amuse and nothing more. There is no hidden meaning, no secret political agenda (although I’d like to hear it if anyone can come up with some kind of philosophy to attach to this one). It’s just a surreal little trip into the brains of Barnes & Barnes.
Art and Artie Barnes are actually former child star Billy Mumy and his childhood friend Robert Haimer (thanks, Wikipedia!). They got together as adults and recorded some weirdly funny songs and short films. “Fish Heads” is the best known, eventually becoming the most requested song in the history of the Dr. Demento show. There’s a whole backstory about the “twins” being from another planet, which explains the guys dressed in garbage bags with funky makeup, I guess. (I assume that’s Mumy and Haimler dressed up in lo-tech, low-cost alien “costumes.”)
Is there any redeeming social value to any of this? Well, it makes people laugh. That ought to be good enough for anyone.
You wouldn’t really think of Olivia Newton-John as any kind of revolutionary. In the 70s and early 80s, her image was pretty much as squeaky clean as it got. Even when she got all tarted up at the end of Grease in pants so tight she had to be sewn into them, the change was so Sandra Dee could win over her man, presumably so they could go off into happily married bliss. It was all pretty conventional and, frankly, wholesome.
So when the album Physical and its title single were released in 1981, it was something of a shock. Here was the sweetest Pop singer in the world singing about (gasp) sex! Sex outside of marriage! With a guy the character in the song couldn’t have been dating all that long! “Physical” was about a woman with a libido, with wants and desires that she wasn’t afraid to articulate. A woman with agency.
Sure, by 1981 women had been “liberated” by the second wave of feminism. There was all sorts of lip service paid to women’s power economically and socially, but they were still expected to be demure, deferential, and polite. The Reagan 80s were beginning, and while we would soon see the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, a woman’s primary function was still to fit into whatever role a man wanted her in. For Newton-John to be singing about a woman wanting to get it on was pretty heady stuff for a lot of people. She confidently declared that “There’s nothing left to talk about, unless it’s horizontally.” The suggestive lyrics got the song banned in some markets, although today they would be considered kind of quaint.
What’s more, the video took a pretty radical approach to sex and sexualized images. Livvy was prancing around in her Jane Fonda-esque exercise togs, glowing with perspiration and leering at the camera. But the objects of lust were the bodybuilder physiques of the men in speedos. It was all about the beefcake in this video. But “Physical” upped the ante by making the “joke” of the video the fact that none of the boys were terribly interested in getting physical with the very good-looking woman. Although it was played for laughs, seeing men holding hands with and embracing other men in any sort of positive, affectionate way was almost unheard of in mainstream popular culture at that point (and it got the video banned, too). What appears to be a cheesy video for a cheesy song turns into an artistic shot across several discriminatory bows.
All of this pretty much passed right over my twelve-year-old head. I just liked the song. I remember liking the whole album. It didn’t dawn on me until I saw this video again a couple weeks ago just how radical this stuff must have seemed. But I think exposing myself to these songs and images helped shape the way I see the world today. Women have control of their own lives, including how they express their sexuality. And sexuality is about more than who you have sex with. It’s about how you are perceived and treated by the world. In a perfect world, none of this ever would have been controversial.
Boy, I hate coming back from a break of any sort to this kind of news. I’m finding it hard to be too sad, though. Mom’s home, and doing much much better, thank you. But the news of Jack Bruce’s death makes me ache that much more for his family and friends. I get to celebrate and coddle my mother a little; they don’t.
Bruce was a talented bass player and performer best known as one-third of Cream. Cream weren’t really my cup of tea, but there is no denying the skill of all three of these men. Like his bandmates–Ginger Baker and some guy named Clapton–Bruce’s love of the music is clear in every note. I like this clip from Cream’s brief reunion because it shows how ageless and easy they made the music seem. It takes a mountain of ability to make it look this easy. Bruce, Baker, and Clapton sound like it’s still 1967.
Last week I sort of didn’t have anything to say. I wish that were my problem this week.
Mom had a UTI that got out of control and turned into something a lot worse. She’s at the hospital with some of the same problems she had last year, which has got me all kefuffled. I worry so much, and I feel a little bit like I let her down. Like I didn’t take good enough care of her. I’m not blaming myself; she’s a grown woman who made her own choices. I just wish I were blessed with the insight to know when to let her take care of herself, and when to nag her until she does what I want her to.
That’s why I’m probably going to be a little spotty in posting for the next little while. I’ll be back, but I need to devote more energy to Mom.
I’m not sure anything I have to say about “Sweet Dreams” would really do this song justice. Patsy Cline’s performance on this song is masterful, made even more bittersweet by knowing it was one of the last songs she recorded before her death in March of 1963.
Cline’s version wasn’t the first. Songwriter Don Gibson recorded his own composition in 1956, and it was a top ten hit on the Country chart. Country singer Faron Young also recorded “Sweet Dreams” in 1956, and had an even bigger hit with it. Gibson re-recorded it in 1960. Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, and even Elvis Costello have all tried their vocal cords at this classic. But Patsy Cline owns this song. You can hear it in every single note. I don’t know what she was thinking while she sang, but she took what could’ve been just another generic performance and turned it into the purest, loveliest heartbreak imaginable.
Who cares if the world is going to hell in a handbasket? Dial-a-Song is coming back!
Dial-a-Song was a service from the perfectly weird They Might Be Giants which was pretty much what it said on the tin. You dialed the number, listened to a song TMBG recorded, and presumably hung up. I never had the guts to call the long distance number myself (this was a time before unlimited long distance plans on landlines, much less cell phones), but I just loved the idea that it existed. Only a band this strange and smart could do something like that. And now, thanks to the wonders of the interwebs, they’re doing it again.
The new Dial-a-Song is a website that will officially begin in January. The video I posted is the song that’s currently available on the site, “Authenticity Trip” from the 2011 compilation Album Raises New and Troubling Questions (which I might have to get just for the title). It doesn’t quite have the cool cache of calling a New York area code just to hear a song taped on an answering machine, but I know I’ll be clicking at least once a week. More if the song is as awesome as this one.
I suppose my last post could be seen as ripping on the Bangles, but that wasn’t my intention. True, I think “Eternal Flame” is one of the most hideous songs to ever assault my ears (think nails on a chalkboard, and you have my opinion of that song). I also didn’t think much of “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Manic Monday”. Something about their biggest hits just kind of grates on my nerves.
But the Bangles were a talented band, and I know it meant a lot to girls of my generation to see an all female Pop/Rock band be successful. They usually weren’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy some of their stuff. Their cover of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” is far superior to the Simon and Garfunkel version. They added some glitz and grit to the pathos, making it a more evocative song, IMO. And sometimes, they were just kind of irresistible.
The hook in “Hero Takes a Fall” is one of the sharpest I’ve ever heard, delivered with verve and sex appeal by Susanna Hoffs. The music is tight, and they always looked like they were having a great time performing. I think people underestimate the Bangles a little bit. Maybe because they’re “girls.” Or maybe because their music always seemed kind of slight and lightweight. But good Pop/Rock is hard to pull off; you have to walk a very thin line between being appealing and accessible without looking stupid. The Bangles walked that line–in high heels, no less–like experts.