365 Day Song Challenge: Day 5 – “Domino”

Day 5: A song that you quote to people

“Domino” — Genesis

For those of you who only know the Genesis of “Invisible Touch” and “I Can’t Dance,” it may come as a surprise to you that the band started as a Progressive Rock outfit, with Peter Gabriel as lead singer, specializing in very long songs. Their longest, “Supper’s Ready” is a nearly 23 minute opus broken up in to seven parts. (Stay tuned, for “Supper’s Ready” will get its own mention later.)

Gabriel left, Phil Collins took over as lead singer, and as the 80s dawned, Genesis adapted, (or as some people will undoubtedly say—incorrectly, in my view—”sold out”) and shorter, more radio-friendly songs became the norm, paving the way for the massive success of the singles I mentioned earlier as well as a string of Top 5 albums.

Thankfully, they didn’t completely abandon the long song. Even their most commercial album, 1986’s Invisible Touch, contained two songs that clocked in at over 8 minutes: “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” (also released as a 4+ minute single) and “Domino”, another officially two-part (but more like three-part) suite clocking in at roughly 10:45.

The song deals, broadly, with cause and effect (thus “Domino”), but lyricist Tony Banks took the opportunity to throw a jab in with this lyric:

Well now you never did see such a terrible thing,
As was seen last night on the TV.
Maybe if we’re lucky they will show it again,
Such a terrible thing to see.

I love the subtle tongue-in-cheek element, and, while written almost thirty years ago, these lines are even more relevant today when you consider our current always-online, YouTube-obsessed culture:

“Oh man, did you hear about the guy who crashed into a pole and it ripped his face off! I think he died!”
“That’s horrible!”
“Yeah, you want to see the video? I’ve already watched it twelve times! It’s so cool. Let me get my phone!”

And no, I will not give you the link.

Admit it, you can’t tell if that happened or I made it up, can you? Can you?

Okay, I made it up, but I bet you can easily come up with a real-life analog. Get a life people! Less YouTube, more Genesis. There, I said it.

I could go on and on about this song, as I think it’s a great one with lots of musical changes and nuances, as well as being part of one of my favorite live moments at a concert, but I’ll spare you.

For now.

So… What song do you quote to people?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 4 – “I’m Falling”

Day 4: A song you like from a movie soundtrack

“I’m Falling” — The Comsat Angels*

I can hear you already: “Who the hell are The Comsat Angels, and what movie is this from, anyway?”

By now, my somewhat warped sense of humor should be coming through, and I’m proud to say that it was influenced by the movie Real Genius. This 1985 movie starred Val Kilmer, and was wedged between his roles in Top Secret! and Top Gun. It’s a brilliantly funny movie that bombed in theaters, but became something of a cult classic later. Maybe if they called it Top Genius it would have gotten more attention and box office?

The 80s had its share of college-themed comedies. Animal House (yes, I know, actually the 70s but I lump it into this category anyway), Revenge of the Nerds, and this film among them. While Animal House was over the top, and Revenge of the Nerds caricaturish and completely implausible (see this video for a more likely version of events), Real Genius, although a farce, was more in line with the people I knew. Weird and awkward, yes, but not wearing pocket protectors and ties. (Well, everyone in my high school wore ties, but that’s a different story.) It would hit even closer to home when I went to college. I knew people like this.

Comsat Angels – “I’m Falling”

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Admittedly, I’m a geek, so the fact that Real Genius handled smart people as people and not stereotypes was refreshing. And they were funny. For instance:

Chris Knight: Kent puts his name on his license plate.
Mitch: My mom does the same thing to my underwear.
Chris Knight: Your mom puts license plates in your underwear? How do you sit?
Mitch: You know, um, something strange happened to me this morning…
Chris Knight: Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?
Mitch: No…
Chris Knight: Why am I the only one who has that dream?

It is an 80s movie, so it does have the requisite montage sequence, during which “I’m Falling” played. This particular montage was about people “cracking down” and all the various activities that take place as they gear up towards the end of the year, including one guy just completely losing it and screaming while everyone in the room simply continues to study as if nothing is going on.

No, I’d never heard of this band before, and before the movie, had never heard the song, but it has a vibe to it that fit the scene perfectly, at least in my opinion. And after you watch a movie several dozen times (I’m not joking) the songs seem to stick in your head a bit.

Alas, no soundtrack album for Real Genius was ever released, so getting the music is an exercise in research and hard work. (I started looking for the songs on Napster! Remember Napster? I guess it didn’t turn out to be the downfall of modern civilization.) But with some perseverance it can be done. Heck, as you can see I couldn’t even find a mainstream link to this song to include in the post.

In that vein, at some point I had also found and downloaded an album by The Comsat Angels. “How was it?” you ask? Well, let’s just say that “I’m Falling” is the only Comsat Angels on my iPod right now and leave it at that, shall we?

Oh and one last quote, which I often repeat:

Professor Hathaway: You still run?
Chris Knight: Only when chased.
* This is another instance where the song I’m writing about is not the song that I chose the first time around. That was “Think” by Aretha Franklin in The Blues Brothers. Great song; great movie. But this song seems to gel with the movie more than “Think” which is more of a performance piece in that film.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 3 – “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me”

Day 3: A song you listened to as a kid, that you thought made you cool. Real Cool.

“It’s Still  Rock & Roll To Me” — Billy Joel*

Most people I talk to of my generation have “roller skating songs.” That is, songs that they relate to going around and around at the roller rink ad nauseum while a “DJ” played the latest tunes. And of course “The Limbo.” When typed out like that, the concept just sounds silly, so I suspect there’s some sort of Manchurian Candidate-style hypnosis going on from the constant circles that firmly ingrains these songs into your head and makes you think “Roller Skating! All right!” Some sort of covert roller skating rink manager plot to make you want to come back or something. I dunno.

As you may have guessed “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me” is one of my roller skating songs. I can’t hear it without thinking of “Magic River”, the local rink, where I heard it too many times to count. At the time, (and at that age, which for me is 8 to about 11) roller skating was cool. Hanging out at the rink was cool. And I seemed to spend a lot of time there, even though it probably wasn’t as much as I remember. Video games (in their very early stages), bad snack bar food, and friends. What more could you ask for, right?

I was really just starting to pay attention to music that didn’t come from my parents when this song was released. My brother, who is a pretty big music junkie himself, had what seemed to be every album ever released. Billy Joel’s Glass Houses was among them. So like a good little hypnosis subject, I promptly had him put the first side (which culminated with today’s subject song) on a cheap cassette. I can’t tell you how many times I played that tape on my cheap tape player. Ah! The good old days. (I seem to be regressing, because this is both pre-Power Wagon and pre-boom box)

I was never cooler, really. The teen years come along and social strata change. What (and who) are cool at age 10 aren’t necessarily cool when you’re 12 or 14 or in high school. Luckily, things change again when you become an adult and the cool factor isn’t just about the clothes you wear or the car you drive. Well, not as much anyway, depending on the circles you run in.

Years later, I would remember that early tape and think “I really should have had my brother tape both sides.” And  then one day I bought Glass Houses and discovered that (with the exception of “All For Leyna”) um… no, I did the right thing. I mean, c’mon Billy, “C’Etait Toi”? WTF?

But, y’know, it’s funny, to this day I start to listen to the album, get to “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me” and the next thing I know, it’s three hours later and I’m wearing roller skates…

“Every limbo boy and girl, all around the limbo world…”

* This is one instance where the song I’m writing about is not the song that I chose the first time around. That was “Run, Runaway” by Slade, which, while a good song, was more of a grasp for something than this one.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 2 – “If This Is It”

Day 2: A song that reminds you of summer

“If This Is It” — Huey Lewis And The News

I’m fond of telling people (as if they care) that “If This Is It” is the song that finally convinced me to buy the Sports album. Well, cassette tape, really, since all I had was a boom box at the time. (This was pre-Power Wagon.)

So, no, it wasn’t “Heart And Soul,” it wasn’t “I Want a New Drug,” it wasn’t even “The Heart of Rock & Roll.” All good songs, maybe great songs, but no, it was this somewhat schmaltzy ballad that convinced me to go to Strawberries and plunk down $6.98 for the privilege of subpar sound and no liner notes. (I’m a bit of a liner note junkie.)

The video is likely what did it, to be honest. I probably saw it at my friend Mark’s house; I’m not sure we had MTV* at my house at the time. For those that have forgotten (or blocked it out of their mind after years of therapy) storyline 1 was focused on a very uncool family packing up their gear and going to the beach. Storyline 2 centered on poor Huey Lewis, who had called his girl and she’d blown him off, telling her friend to “Tell him ‘I’m not home.'” For the record, in the video her mouth moves, but for some reason her voice sounds remarkably like Huey’s. Strange. But I digress…

hueylewisifthisisitCut to the monumentally packed beach. The family is there. Conincidentally the girl is there with her friend. And for some unknown reason, Huey Lewis and The News are there. Fully clothed, no less. Although for much of the video you can’t tell if The News are clothed or not, they’re buried up to their chins in sand. (That must have been a fun shoot.) Long story short, Huey sees his girl and confronts her, she storms off. The family roams around all day, never finding a place to sit down. Cut to late afternoon: The family finally plunks down on the near-empty beach. Meanwhile, a dejected Huey sitting  alone. (What happened to the News? Did the tide come in and drown them?) But, surprise! He’s approached by the friend from paragraph one, who it should be noted, is not hard to look at. In the words of Mark’s father way back in 1984:  “That’s a hell of a consolation prize.”

So there you have it. This song oozes summer to me. The video all but screams “Hey moron! It’s summertime! You’re hot!” It was released as a single in July of ’84 (and was a big hit that summer, peaking at #6). And finally, the song’s got that laid-back “let’s just move slow and stay cool” vibe. Y’know. Summer.

Oh sure, I could have gone with the more obvious “Summer In The City” (Lovin’ Spoonful), “Summer of ’69” (Bryan Adams) or even “California Girls” (Beach Boys or David Lee Roth, depending on your age or what you want to admit to), but that would have been too easy. Heck, I actually thought of over a dozen songs I could have used, but the truth is, when I read the Day 2 song description, this is the one that came to mind first.

My parting thought: if I was in the band, I would have demanded a bigger cut of the royalties if you’d buried me in the sand like that for hours. Although I think they did alright for themselves either way.

What’s your summer song?

* Yes, children, MTV once stood for “Music Television” and actually played videos!

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 1 – “And She Was”

Day 1: A song that reminds you of your first car

“And She Was” — Talking Heads



If it was good enough for David Byrne to start a hit song with, it’s good enough to start my 365 Day Challenge, too. As anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a “Hey!” will tell you, it’s a good way to get your attention.

So, a song that reminds me of my first car…

Ah, that first car. I didn’t own it, but I drove it for so long it seemed like it. What memories! It was a light blue 1982 Chevy Mailbu Classic…

…Station wagon. <insert sound of record needle scratching here>

Now, I realize that I am not the only teen to have suffered the fate of the family wagon. But when you read “Malibu” you might conjure images of the Malibus of the 70’s, when they were powerful and cool.

This car was neither of those. In fact, my friends and I called it the Power Wagon. Because it had none.  You could put your foot to the floor and it would literally take two or three seconds before anything happened. So, despite the name, it was not a classic. At least it didn’t have have the fake wood side panels. Because, y’know, that would have made my friends who drove Mustang GTs really, really jealous. As it was, they were only really jealous.

Or something…

But back to the amenities… Finest vinyl seats money could buy. Useless “air foil” over the back window. And its best “feature”: the windows in the back seat didn’t go down.

That’s right. A car with no air conditioning and the freakin’ back windows don’t go down.

By design!

In my younger days when it was our primary family vehicle, it was not uncommon for those of us in the back seat to lose about 60% of our body weight from sweating. Moaning and dehydration fueled hallucinations were common. Whoever designed that car should be shot. Or better, made to ride in the back seat on a 95 degree day.

At any rate during my senior year of high school, my parents upgraded to a newer, nicer car  and the Power Wagon sort of fell into my hands. And as we all know, when you’re in high school/college and free wheels come your way, you can’t afford to be choosy. You can barely afford gas.

Despite its myriad faults, it did have one redeeming quality: a tape player. (Cassette tapes. Remember those? Anyone under 25 who’s reading this, ask your parents what those were.) Even then, I had a pretty good music collection, so, I made mix tapes. A lot of them.

Fast-forward to junior year of college. I got a co-op job with a thirty minute commute one way. I had one particular feel-good kind of tape and I listened to it over and over, to the point where the tape actually broke. “And She Was” was the first song on side A. David Byrne’s bizarre tale of the girl flying over everything may have been lyrically bizarre, but it was damn catchy.

The world was moving and she was right there with it. And so was I. Dozens of times. So the Power Wagon and “And She Was” kinda go together for me now and likely, forevermore.

And she was.