Apr 30

Repulsed by Radio

A couple days ago I regaled you with my thoughts on 1980s TV. I suppose it’s only fitting I make a few comments about 1980s pop music as well.

My fascination with music can be traced directly back to 15 July 1984, my 11th birthday. As a gift I received a small “boom box.” This in turn led me to an obsession with the weekly Top 40 show as hosted by Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees. It aired on at 4 pm on Sundays on the local Top 40 FM station, and I often taped the whole frickin’ thing.


There’s no cheese like the Dees.
Image credit: lax.hyundai

I freely admit I liked a lot of the stuff they played on Top 40 radio back then. Still do. However, as time wore on I increasingly came across songs I didn’t like. That’s to be expected, of course. Even so, there were some tracks I found so loathsome that just a few notes would compel me to turn the radio OFF until the offending audio went away.

The following are some of the worst offenders.

Anything by Prince

At roughly the same time I embraced the Top 40, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Prince Rogers Nelson released a film called Purple Rain, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. For approximately the next three years, Western civilization wouldn’t shut up about the guy. At certain times Prince seemed to be more overexposed than the King of 80s Cheese himself, Michael Jackson.


I’d post a YouTube clip, but he’d probably have it taken down before I hit the “Publish” button.
Image credit: Yves Lorson

Why I hated it then: When I was 11 years old there were two things in this world I absolutely despised: Cabbage Patch Kids and Prince. There was no single reason for my loathing of the diminutive Minnesotan, but it probably had to do with his eyeliner, his ruffled shirts, a bouffant which put Kim Jong-il’s to shame, his repeated dissings of Weird Al Yankovic, and the fact he seemed to be everywhere for a very long time. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand the guy.

One Christmas during this period there was a present for me under the tree which was clearly in a cassette tape box. For several days I feared some well-meaning but profoundly uninformed grownup bought me Purple Rain. As it turns out, it was The Best of Spike Jones. My sense of relief was enormous.


Possibly the only time in recorded history anyone was so relieved to receive a Spike Jones album.

What I think of it now: My view of Prince has moderated considerably over the years. He’s an undisputed musical genius, and I have to to admit even today “When Doves Cry” is a hell of a dance track. Nevertheless, I still haven’t seen Purple Rain (or any of his other movies, for that matter).

“Always” by Atlantic Starr

If there ever was a song written specifically to be played at wedding receptions, this 1987 track is it. Apologies in advance if this is “your” song.

Perhaps the best-known single by this upstate New York R&B group, “Always” is four solid minutes of the most concentrated shlocky sweet cheese produced to date. Repeated exposure to this track is bound to cause hyperglycemia in just about anyone. Consider yourselves warned.

Atlantic Starr was responsible for many, many awkward high school slow dances.

Why I hated it then: This sort of thing is exactly what a sexually confused 13-year-old boy DOESN’T want to hear, especially in heavy rotation. Sweet YHWH this was a painful experience.

What I think of it now: OK, OK, they were a talented group and it’s crystal clear why newlyweds gravitated to them. Still, if I ever get married again I’d much rather hear Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” at my reception.

“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister

In 1986, someone at the Top 40 station in the 2T must have really, REALLY liked Mr. Mister, as they tortured the whole of south-central Idaho for months with these guys. Overplayed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Remember styling mousse? They do.

Why I hated it then: If it weren’t for the excessive overplay, Mr. Mister would have likely merited little more than a footnote in my memory. But once the damage was done, there was no holding my rage back.

What I think of it now: I still don’t miss it.

“Hippychick” by Soho

If you’ve never heard of this one-hit wonder or their reputed “hit,” you’re forgiven. “Hippychick” was released in 1990, did its requisite tour of the Top 40, and then was quickly forgotten. Or at least I wish it was.

In 1996, some years after I swore off the Top 40 (more on that in a moment), I was a regular listener of an “alternative” radio station out of the Sun Valley area called KSKI. At the time KSKI was an independent, free-wheeling station which wasn’t afraid to play good music, even after an infamous incident involving “special brownies” among the morning drive crew.

Good music, with the glaring exception of “Hippychick.”


Why I hated it then: This song is essentially a clumsy sample of Johnny Marr’s iconic guitar riff from “How Soon is Now?” followed by a crappy dance tune. That alone is bad enough. What really set me off is that it was broadcast on KSKI, a station one could reasonably expect to actually play The Smiths. But instead of Morrissey’s plaintive wailing, you were presented with this. Gotcha! I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be KSKI’s idea of a practical joke. If so, I sure as hell didn’t find it funny.

What I think of it now: No wonder why Queen fans hate Vanilla Ice.

“Do the Bartman” by The Simpsons

When The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 it was a big deal. I liked it. Possibly you liked it. In any event, it’s a TV show that’s still in first-run prime time nearly a quarter century later. It’s clearly a groundbreaking series.

Which is why we can almost forgive them for dropping the festering turd known as The Simpsons Sing the Blues on us a year later. “Do the Bartman” was the lead single.

I don’t care if he’s dead. I still want to bitchslap Michael Jackson for writing this.

Why I hated it then: Although by the time “Do the Bartman” came out I had given up on pop music (again, more on that in a moment), my hatred for it was nearly automatic. Unlike Mr. Mister, it didn’t need to be overplayed. Being the most ham-handed attempt to cash in on a fad since the advent of The Archies a generation earlier, there were plenty of other good reasons to despise it.

What I think of it now: Yeah, it still makes me want to go out and break stuff.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Oh my, this is the granddaddy of them all. Not only did this track elicit an immediate, visceral response, it also triggered a significant watershed moment in my life. For a variety of reasons, including some of the aforementioned songs, by the time the Biz hit the radio in late 1989 I was already quite disgruntled with the whole pop music thing. Then one fine day I was presented with this:

Absolutely stupefying.

Why I hated it then: As I recall my initial reaction was something to the effect of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?” Don’t get me wrong, I like old-school rap. At this point I was the proud owner of Run-DMC and Public Enemy albums. But this … this made Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” sound like Sgt. Pepper.

It was at that moment I shut off the radio and resolved never to willingly listen to a Top 40 station ever again. Over 20 years later I continue to make good on that promise. Not long after I started discovering the good stuff, including Living Colour, R.E.M., The Police, Jane’s Addiction, The Dead Milkmen, Erasure, the Pixies and – of course – Rush.

What I think of it now: In all seriousness, I think today is the very first time I managed to listen to “Just a Friend” the whole way through. In an odd way, I’m almost thankful to Biz Markie for delivering the coup de grâce to my Top 40 habit.

Damn, I feel dirty now. I think I need to take a shower and listen to Permanent Waves for awhile.

Apr 08

Resetting the Circadian Rhythm

For years my sleep schedule has been off. Every few months or so, it gets so FUBAR I find it difficult to function during daylight hours in any capacity. I’ve found the best remedy for this is to stay up all night and as much as possible the next day, completing tasks as I go. When I was in college I occasionally extended these “reset” sessions to 60 hours, but I can’t do that anymore.

Well, the time has come to make it happen. Again. My agenda before any thought of sleep is as follows:

– Take care of the daily SB post. If you’re reading this, check.
– Stay up until at least 11 am.
– Call the paramedics and answer their questions about my head injury.
– Pick up a prescription and get some stuff at the supermarket.

That’s it. It may not sound like much, and frankly it isn’t. But when you’re bipolar and on the down side like I am right now, it’s a busy day. I don’t want to let any of this go until Tuesday, y’all. If I let myself sleep until 5 pm again, it probably will.

With that in mind, here’s the timeline of the previous night … and the day. Yup, this entry is going to be even more stream of consciousness than usual.

12:52 am

Caffeine plays a major role in these resets. I have some Cherry Coke, but soda doesn’t really do the job. Nope, this calls for a hot caffeinated drink, and lots of it. My caffeine of choice for a situation like this is Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend coffee.

Unfortunately, I’m out of Peet’s. The only coffee I have in the Command Center at the moment is a contemptuously cheap, obnoxiously bitter store brand “100% Colombian” blend I unwisely bought a couple years ago. Juan Valdez’s goat wouldn’t touch this stuff.


And it’s seriously expired too. Score.

Well, I guess I’d better try tea. I know I have some of that around here somewhere ….



Next attempt, an unopened box of Fred Meyer Tea Bags. The date stamp was very faint, too faint to photograph. I think it said … “BESTBY AUG2606.” Holy shit, I haven’t even been on my own that long. That’s bad even by my standards.

One more shot: the Red Rose Earl Grey.



A truly embarrassing trip to Jackson’s avoided, I press on.

2:27 am

On my third cup of Earl Grey, I began playing Civilization IV: Warlords, which is a great way to kill a few hours. With my Pandora app up, it’s time for some empire-building. Yes, I’m well aware there’s a Civilization V and has been for several years. I’m not much of a gamer.

7:24 am

Wow, that worked better than I expected. These Civ IV games eat up time, but rarely last five freakin’ hours. I won. Then again, I always play on the easiest setting because I’m a wanker like that. Ha ha.


Chairman Mao thought he could take me on. He was very sorely mistaken.

Time to change the Pandora station. The likes of Yes, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd – as much as I dig them – are getting old. Some Erasure perhaps? Nah, too poppy for my current state of mind. Gabriel & Dresden it is.

7:39 am

Contact lenses aren’t meant to be worn for this long, at least as not as far as I’m concerned. Switched to glasses. Also changed underwear. I’m not incontinent or anything; it’s just those damn chafing waistbands ….

8:29 am

The paramedic office has been contacted. I’m glad that’s out of the way.

10:02 am

I’d say I’m about seven cups of tea into things at this point. I started coming down with a headache and a sore throat, so I took some ibuprofen to knock that out. It seems to be working. In the meantime I verified this site with Google, Bing, Pinterest and Alexa. I really don’t get the appeal of Pinterest, but whatever.

10:36 am

Went downstairs to check the mail and take out the trash. I figured this would be a good time to see if there was anything else expired in the kitchen. Turns out there was. To wit, cappuccino mix, microwave popcorn, rice, Pasta Roni, a loaf of bread, horseradish, three cans of soup, two bottles of pancake syrup, mini ravioli, peas, olive oil, garlic pepper, Italian herb seasoning … and a can of spicy Indian poppadum chips. Yeah, buddy.


Apparently salt doesn’t go bad. That’s probably just as well.

11:40 am

Just read Margaret Thatcher died. In recognition I’ve been watching old Spitting Image clips.

Why can’t they import this concept from the UK instead of crap like American Idol?

1:07 pm

The day’s stated agenda is complete. As an added bonus I changed the cat box and did the dishes. My supply of Peet’s is replenished, so I can dispense with the Jean-Luc Picard schtick.

Although it’s rather crisp outside, for the first time this year I saw noticeable leaves on the neighborhood deciduous trees. The HOA also had the sprinklers going. That was a nice way to end things for the day. I’m going to try to stay up a few more hours, but I daresay mission accomplished.

I just hope I don’t have to do this again for awhile.

Feb 25

In Concert With Indifference

I understand the Oscars were last night. Yippee skip. Did Gilbert Gottfried win anything this year? How about Penn and Teller?

Behold, unheralded geniuses.

Yes, I don’t give a rat’s ass about movies. Hell, I only recently bought a DVD player because my daughter wouldn’t quit bugging me about it. I don’t watch a lot of TV either. If I didn’t like my cable modem so much I probably would have dumped that bill a long time ago.


Too much “ghost hunting” crap. Not enough Rik Mayall.

That leaves music. I have a large collection of 20-year-old scratched CDs I’ve been slowly converting to corrupted MP3 files. I hosted a live music show on public access in Pocatello in the mid 90s. Recently I picked up an electric bass. Left-handed, of course. More on my bass skills (or lack thereof) in a later post.


Need an on-air bathroom break? Look no further than “The Gates of Delirium.”

Despite that, I haven’t made it to very many concerts. Let’s see, I saw fIREHOSE at the Crazy Horse in Boise in 1993. Um, there were a some opening acts I checked out: Cooler Kids (meh), Elkland (decent) and Mr. Big (no comment). As a matter of fact, there’s only one band I’ve seen in concert more than once.


I may very well be Erasure’s straightest fan.
Image credit: Andrew Hurley

The best concert I ever went to was way the hell back in May 1992. I turned south, journeying into the dark, forbidding lands of Salt Lake City to see Rush on their Roll the Bones tour. Ever since then I’ve vowed to see them at least one more time before they retire. Given that all three of them are around 60 now, the clock is ticking.

As I write this I’m waiting for tickets to go on sale for a late July show at the unfortunately-named Sleep Country Amphitheater in the Vancouver, Washington, area. I chose that venue over Salt Lake City because (1) my sister, brother-in-law and twin nieces live in Portland and (2) screw Salt Lake City. I’m hoping my daughter wants to come. She likes Rush, but I’ve been accused of overplaying Clockwork Angels in her presence.

But it’s so good, y’all.

I’ve been told I need to get out more, preferably without knocking myself out in the process. I quite agree. So I’ve been checking out other events as a result. Another one of my longtime favorites, They Might Be Giants, is playing at the Egyptian Theatre in June. I’ve been following these guys since high school. Unfortunately the show is not all all ages. Despite the fact TMBG has made several children’s albums, no one under 14 is admitted (a rather arbitrary cutoff in my humble opinion), which means I can’t take my daughter to see them. I’m not sure I want to go alone either.

Does this mean I should re-open my dating site profiles? Feh. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on something that drastic.