Friday, September 30, 2011

Music Week: 1988 -- "Simply Irresistible"

We're wrapping up Music Week with a look at a song that has one of the most memorable videos ever -- 1988's "Simply Irresistible" by Robert Palmer.

Nearly everybody's at least aware of it, regardless of whether or not they had MTV. A follow-up to his similarly themed video (and no less iconic) "Addicted to Love," "Simply Irresistible" saw the uber-smooth Palmer crooning it up with a bevvy of nonchalant models standing around in the background. Red lips! Undulating beauties in swimsuits! Words like "inscrutable" and "irrefutable"! Video aside, what I really liked about it was the sweet "whip-schwiiing!" sounds.

I can think of a few songs with equally iconic videos -- ones that really changed the way videos were perceived: "Thriller," of course. "Money For Nothing." "Sledgehammer."

How about you? Were you a Palmer fan? And what's your all-time most innovative music video from the '80s?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Music Week: 1984 -- "Somebody's Watching Me"

"I always feel like...somebody's WATCHing me," sang Rockwell back in 1984. Well, no wonder, buddy -- your dad is Motown mogul Berry Gordy, and you scored background vocals by the most famous man in the world, Michael Jackson. You're not exactly going to be flying under the radar.

Still, while people may have been watching him, after this song, they weren't really listening anymore. As catchy as this tune was, he scored only one more Top 40 follow-up hit, "Obscene Phone Caller."

Check out this Wikipedia entry for more information about this one- (OK, two-) hit wonder. The very best nugget? The record label was who suggested changing his name from Kennedy William Gordy to Rockwell. Rockwell went for it, because he reportedly believed he "rocked well."

Remember this spooky haunted house video, with Mr. Well in the shower, Psycho-style? It's gotten 4.4 MILLION hits on YouTube. Go figure. He was right -- and people are watching him, still.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Music Week: 1982/83 -- "Pass the Dutchie"

Ah, 1982/1983. How does somebody even go about picking a single song to feature, when EVERY tune from those years is worth a few paragraphs? Safety Dance, Come On Eileen, Goody Two Shoes, Puttin' on the Ritz. They're all musical crack.

I'm going for "Pass the Dutchie," by Musical Youth, though -- for the funny frog noise the littlest kid makes at the end, but mostly because I listened to it accidentally the other day, and I still can't get it out of my melon. This bouncy bit of reggae-pop has gotten a bad rap, since most people assume it's talking about pot. And, I guess it kind of is. According to Wikipedia, anyway, apparently it refers to a Dutch-oven-like cooking pot. (It's also cover of a song called "Pass the Kutchie," which really did talk about pot.)

Either way, why you have to pass it on the left-hand side, I have no idea.

Be blunt: What'd you think of this tune? And also of Musical Youth's cut-off shirts?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Music week: "Billy, Don't Be a Hero," 1974


"Billy, Don't Be a Hero" was my favorite song in first grade, in 1974. How do I know this? Because I sent my poor older sisters running all over town looking for the 45 (45!) for me so I could bring it to school for Show and Tell. (My daughter's preschool calls this "Special Sharing" today and I am still unsure why the name change.)

It seemed weird that I wanted to bring a record for Show and Tell. I can only guess that they played it during the class, and it must have been a regular thing people did, brought in a record (a record!).

Anyway, I just loved the song, by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. I still remember "Deeper and Deeper" was on the B-side (B-side!) and I didn't like that nearly so much.

As revealed yesterday with "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," I looooved story songs. Still do. And "Billy" is a great one for a young kid to love. It's romantic and dramatic and sad all in one. She begs him not to go to war, and if he does, to stay out of the line of fire! And he says he would, but he LIES! He volunteers, full of vim and vigor and youthful bravery, for a dangerous mission, and blam, so much for that.

"I heard his fiancee got a letter / that told how Billy died that day / the letter said that he was a hero / she should be proud he died that way / I hear she threw the letter away." DAMN THAT'S SONGWRITING.

Here's what I just learned now: The song was about the CIVIL War. "The soldier blues" were the Union Army. WHAT WHAT WHAT? It was 1974, of course I (and pretty much everyone else, as is noted in Wikipedia) thought it was about the Vietnam War. Well, it was to us anyway, no matter what Bo D and the HWs had in mind. I actually had to relisten to the whole thing just now to make sure it matched up with an older war -- not only is there no mention of tanks or planes or anything, but the only real verb that could fit a time or place is "I need a volunteer to RIDE out." Which...I guess could mean horses, though at the time I guess I thought he was riding in a Jeep, or something.

Anyway. Loved this song. Love the whistle part. Love the sadness. Still love it. Don't necessarily love the band's matching clown suits, though.

What do you think? Ever bring a song for Show and Tell? Did you play 45s? What's the best war song?


Monday, September 26, 2011

Music Week: 1971 -- "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves"

It's music week here at Gen Xtinct. We're dividing the 1970s and 1980s into 5 eras, and each day we'll pick a song from a different era.

For Monday, we're starting at the very beginning of the era, with 1971 and Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."

This song was a rockin' revelation for many of us. We kind of thought gypsies were a made up thing, created so that girls who didn't plan ahead at Halloween could just throw a skirt and some scarves on and load up with jewelry. Bingo, instant gypsy costume. We didn't realize they were an actual group of people who were totally discriminated against by lecherous men in various towns, man!

I love how subtly Cher gets knocked up in this song. "Papa woulda shot him if he knew what he'd done" and then "three months later" she's a "gal in trouble." He got filled with more than just a hot meal, if you ask me.

This might just be my favorite Cher song ever. "Born in the wagon of a traveling show..." is a great opener, and there's a real feel of looming sinister goings-on in "every night all the men would come around...and lay their money down." And of course, how the end makes a complete circle, with now Cher's daughter being born in the same wagon and Cher as the one who takes over her mom's role as the sexy dancer. It's got all the great elements that make a story song work. I miss the great story songs of that era.

Was this a favorite of yours growing up?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Right hand on green!

"Twister" may join some of our other favorites in the Toy Hall of Fame, which sounds like a rockin' cool place to visit.

Nowadays it seems like the game is always mentioned in some weird sexual way, like "let's play naked Twister!" But we loved it in a very G-rated way as kids. Backbending yourself all up and landing smack on your butt on that weird plastic mat was pretty fun.

I once interviewed the inventor of Twister, Reyn Guyer. He also invented Nerf. Twister took off when it was featured on the Tonight Show and Johnny Carson played it with a scantily clad Eva Gabor. (Note: Wikipedia is now claiming that Guyer wasn't involved, which is weird to me. He isn't on the patent, supposedly.)

Was Twister a part of your childhood?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Sometimes you feel like a nut

You know, there are many things I have learned in life that would be useful to have kept around in my brain, but that immediately flew away.

And yet somehow I have still allotted valuable brain space to knowing this jingle.

"Sometimes you feel like a nut...sometimes you don't..." (Remember that jockey riding BACKWARDS?)

"Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't!"

And I'll also never forget that guy's deep voice intoning "Beeee...cause!"

Remember this jingle? I also remember being shocked that I liked coconut in candy, because in every "Peanuts" strip ever the kids never wanted to get a coconut chocolate and always did. Charle Schulz must have hated the stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Your dream "Star Wars" bedroom of the '70s

We all knew someone who OD'd on "Star Wars" memorabilia as a kid. He (it was almost always a "he") had every action figure, including the giant Millennium Falcon, plus a "Star Wars" lunchbox, bedsheets, pajamas, even a wastebasket.

The Retroist (love that site!) found a picture of what might have been that kid's room.

Tell us: What "Star Wars" memorabilia did you have as a kid? What did you envy?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Classic Clip Monday: Jean Nate, Jean Nate!

This commercial made me think that once you grew up, you just pretty much drenched yourself (and your bathroom) randomly in something called after-bath splash. And then went out and won the Kentucky Derby. This ad is such a classic, and I can still smell the stuff.

Friday, September 9, 2011

McDonald's orange drink

Can we talk about McDonald's orange drink please?

As kids, we rarely went to McDonald's, but when we did, we sure didn't get pop or milk. We got ... this stuff, which was non-carbonated and had a not-quite-juice-but-not-quite-pop flavor to it. It was almost...mediciney?

The Urban Dictionary definition doesn't mince words: "A fantastic, almost magical drink supplied by McDonald's for public functions. Usually indicative of a long, drawn out, poorly prepared and funded school event (orange drink=suck). It tastes like orange, but only not really. More like you mixed frozen orange juice, rain water, and paid a hobo a Twinkie to piss in it."

Yes! It was totally served often as weird church or school group events, often in a big cooler with a spigot and teeny little McDonald's cups.

Apparently it no longer exists, and there is a Facebook page begging for its return. Wikipedia says it was "replaced with Hi-C Orange Lavaburst in some areas."

I know some of you remember this. Should they bring it back, or is it better off dead?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"It's called New Wave Rock"

Hilariously straightforward 1979 Hugh Downs report on New Wave. (Via Metafilter.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Classic Clip Monday; Look for the union label

Man, the message of "buy American" is lost on me as I am so consumed by the ugliness of these 1981 clothes. Am not sure I would want to buy an outfit from some of these people based on the fashion sense they display here.

But damn is that isn't the catchiest jingle ever. "Remember somewhere, a union's sewing, our wages going, to feed the kids, and run the house. we work hard, but who's complaining..."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Funky Food Friday: Garbage Can-dy

Remember Garbage Can-dy? You got a little plastic trash can that you could open, and it was stuffed with SweeTart-like candy that was in the shape of trash. Bones, fish skeletons, opened tin cans...all the stereotypical trash shapes.

Like the person in the Flickr comments, I kept the trash can and used it in my dollhouse. And I also remember the Mr Bones version, a little plastic coffin with candy bones inside.

Weirdly, it was invented by Maus cartoonist Art Spiegelman when he worked for Topps. Supposedly he also invented Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail Kids.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Little Professor

I had the Little Professor, and man I LOVED it.

It was like a calculator, but it asked you the questions. And if you got the answer wrong, it said "EEEEE."

 The guy's little mustachioed face always cracked me up.