A.M. Shuffle, where we go back to “1985″ with Bowling for Soup

Greasing the day’s writing gears by writing a few words about whatever tune pops up on shuffle. Today: Bowling for Soup’s “1985.”

“She hates time/Make it stop/When did Motley Crue become classic rock?”

Growing old sucks. Shakespeare said that, in those exact words, which was a rare departure from his usual mellifluous turns of phrase. But he was right, and now he’s dead. So there you go.

Every generation, once it hits a certain age, stops looking forward and starts strip-mining its own past; this generally happens about the time that you have kids, and whatever time you might have had to consume new media gets smothered beneath an avalanche of safe-for-kids pablum. (Sing it with me: “Let it go, let it goooooo….”)

Which brings us to today’s song. It’s a sad irony that the people who most need to hear it might never have, because “1985″ was written by a bouncy little pop-punk outfit named Bowling for Soup who don’t look old enough to have meaningful memories of 1985.

Still, the song hits all the marks, name-checking everything from Springsteen and Madonna to “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink.” Sure, there are nerdy quibbles. (Nobody listened to Blondie in 1985, trust me. And “who’s the other guy who’s singing in Van Halen?” Sammy Hagar JOINED in 1985, he said in Comic Book Guy voice. Unless the reference was to Gary Cherone, in which case Gary Cherone thanks you for remembering him.) Still, it’s a sweet little bop-your-head-in-the-minivan ditty, which is all you want out of music after you hit a certain age, anyway. Plus, never ever EVER underestimate the power of a woman writhing on the hood of a Jaguar to summon up memories for an entire generation of now-fortysomething men.

Other things that happened in 1985: “We Are The World,” the first Wrestlemania, New Coke, “Back to the Future,” Pete Rose gets the hits record. Feel old yet?

Anyway, whatever Bowling for Soup is up to these days, there’s nothing they could do that would be more profitable than resuscitating this song and doing a different version for every single year. Shoot, make it micro-focused: charge ten grand and crank out a version specifically geared to someone’s own life in 1985, or 1995, or whenever. On-demand songwriting! It’s the future, I tell ya! And we gotta go back … to the future!

A.M. Shuffle sends you on the “Love Rollercoaster” with the Chili Peppers

Greasing the writing gears with some words about whatever music pops up on shuffle. Today: the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Love Rollercoaster.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a Hall of Fame band, icons and influential, and yet we’ve never answered the question of whether they’re morons with flashes of brilliance or geniuses with occasional lapses of infantilism. Both are on display in this cover tune, which marries a lumberjack-funk Flea bass line to Anthony Kiedis’ filthy-nursery-rhyme scat-rapping … you know, like pretty much every Peppers song ever.

Anyway, this song is from the era when Dave Navarro played guitar, which means the Peppers will never acknowledge its existence again. It was also part of the “Beavis & Butthead Do America” soundtrack, which means it’s of a time when MTV wielded enough power to get everyone from Aerosmith to Rob Zombie to Englebert Humperdinck to pony up original tunes for cartoon soundtracks. (Fun fact: the last song Nirvana released during Kurt Cobain’s lifetime was on a Beavis & Butthead CD, a cheery ditty entitled “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.”)

Speaking of death, the most interesting thing about this song is the legend surrounding the original version by the Ohio Players. According to lore, you can hear the scream of a woman being murdered in the background of the song. (See for yourself at the 2:32 mark here.)

This would be the most gruesome recording-session tale in rock, but by no means the only one. Let’s recount a couple others that I can think of off the top of my head:

1. While the Rolling Stones were recording “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” cops busted in searching for drugs. (Why? On what probable cause?) The recording engineer, thinking quickly, got them on tape recording their night-sticks clacking in rhythm while the rest of the band flushed the evidence. You can hear the clacking during the breakdown of the song at 1:40, here.

2. The Kingsmen were a barely-competent band that recorded one of the world’s greatest drunk-rock songs, “Louie Louie.” And even in this two minutes, they brushed up against the narrow edges of their talent; the drummer drops his sticks and you can hear an audible “fuck!”

3. And, hey, speaking of which: during the spacey bridge of Guns n’ Roses’ “Rocket Queen,” you can hear a woman moaning in ecstasy. That’s because classy cat Axl Rose allegedly took her in the recording studio and, well, gave her a ride on the ol’ Love Rollercoaster while the tapes were rolling. Apparently, she was also drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend, further proving that Guns n’ Roses is the world’s greatest band.

4. During the making of Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That,” John Oates skinned and devoured a live possum while Daryl Hall looked on in horror, hence the song’s title. (This one may or may not be actually true.)

Rock music is the best.

A.M. Shuffle, in which Metallica visits Game of Thrones territory

Getting the writing engine going by writing about whatever song pops up on shuffle. Today: Metallica’s “Last Caress/Green Hell.”

Generally, bands release “back-to-basics” albums when their credibility starts to fray, and they release covers albums when they want to lasso themselves to a greater musical tradition. So with Metallica, it makes perfect sense that they’ve released three completely different back-to-basics covers albums, two of which came in the band’s first half-dozen years of existence. (Metal fans need constant reassurance that their favorite bands aren’t becoming, you know, rock stars. With Metallica, we’ll leave that sad little irony right here next to our cassette copy of The Black Album. Say your prayers, little one.)

Anyway. “Garage Days Revisited” came out in 1987, a mini-collection of five (or so) thrash/punk/hardcore ditties, and no core was harder than this Misfits mashup. Its lyrics are the kind of thing you don’t really want attached to your name in Google searches, but you’ve got dead babies and defiled mothers in the first 30 seconds.

Your first thought on hearing this is there’s no way a song like this could be released today. Your second thought is that, just two days ago, on one of the most popular shows in America, you had one character raping another beside the corpse of a child, and another character telling a young boy he was going to eat the boy’s mother and father. So, yeah: Metallica was in “Game of Thrones” territory before “Game of Thrones” was even a thing.

As for where Metallica is now: look on Hetfield’s flip-flops, ye mighty, and despair:

Master of Prada.


Kids are stupid, Part MCMLXVII: How I voluntarily stopped my own heart

This week, a story broke about Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, who was stabbed in the leg by his brother in what they termed a playful “wrestling match.” A wrestling match. With knives. Know what I say to that?


All right, I wouldn’t say that to their faces. First off, both of them could pull me apart like a buffalo wing. Second, as a rule, it’s wise not to piss off guys who knife-wrestle. But still: I can top that story.

I, like most of you, grew up in the pre-litigation days of childhood, when your every move hadn’t already been forecast and risk-assessed by an armada of personal-injury lawyers (or, for that matter, Facebooked by your parents). But this isn’t an in-my-day rant. No, based on this story, I’d rather my kids stay inside and play Xbox all the live-long day.

Anyway, on weekday afternoons we’d wander around my neighborhood, which was the very definition of safe suburbia. We’d mix with the usual hierarchy of grades, bigger kids holding sway over wide-eyed young’uns, high schoolers ruling all when they deigned to join us.

When I was around fifth or sixth grade, a strange “game” spread through the underground kid-rumor network. Called “Pass Out,” it involved this: doing a bunch of deep-knee bends, then standing against a wall, crossing your arms over your chest, and having other people press on your chest until you, yes, passed out.  Brilliant, huh? (For once, one of those alarmist “here’s what kids are doing these days!” articles was correct, albeit decades late.)

One afternoon, succumbing to peer pressure — you did it too, you know it — I played Pass Out, leaning against a brick mailbox as three or four kids pressed on my chest. Boom, down I went. I remember waking up and feeling like I was coming to after a deep sleep, although I was apparently only out for a couple seconds. (Fun note: I noticed that exactly none of the seven or eight kids around me was in any way concerned, which was enough for me to never do the Pass Out game again.)

It was an insanely stupid, dumb, ridiculous, irresponsible thing to do, which is why idiot 12-year-olds were doing it constantly. As far as I know, there were no lasting effects … unless all this and all of you are nothing but my extended dream, and I’m going to wake up a fifth-grader again. That would be kind of awesome.

Sports. Novels. Comics. Poker. Beer.