Friday, November 7, 2014


In the spirit of fortune-telling that characterizes my new poetry book, here's a random selection.
Votive #32
I didn't write the hoax.
I scratch over the revelation.

Words fall on my head like stones on the roof,
a crack on my tongue, smoke in my palms.

Divinity cleans up after the devil.
When I write my bible, heaven will flood the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1970s Mix Tape, Vol. 2

Back in May, when I posted the contents of this strange '70s artifact I happened to come across, I had no idea that in a few months, the idea of 1970s cassette tape mixes of random, mostly dumb music would suddenly be all the rage.

I knew very little about Guardians of the Galaxy, and am pretty sure I hadn't even seen that first trailer yet, which prominently featured "Hooked on a Feeling." I've been hearing that song since I was 10 years old, and in the trailer, the inexplicable "Ooga Chaka" chanting finally made perfect sense as the backdrop to space battle mayhem and an angry raccoon shooting a large gun. It works great in the movie itself, too.

Similarly, decades of being subjected to the awfulness of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" suddenly became retroactively worthwhile, thanks to the scene with a blue-skinned alien bobbing his head to it ... and the movie's hero risking his life for a Walkman with such terrible music on it. (To be fair, there was good music on it, too, like the a propos "Moonage Daydream," and "Ooh Child.")

When I look back on my life, at least I can be grateful that I wasn't whisked into outer space with nothing but my own mix tape to listen to, because I'm pretty sure I would have gotten sick of the Paul Anka.

There's already speculation about what songs will appear in the next film (see Nerdist's list here; people are also making wish list playlists on YouTube). In an interview, the director suggested they might not go in the same direction with the next soundtrack, making all speculation for naught. However, since I'm of the same vintage as the fictional character who made the original mix, I feel my two cents is worth at least four, and I might as well jump in for fun with a few suggestions.

I would definitely include "We're an American Band," by Grand Funk Railroad, a huge favorite from my childhood. I think Peter Quill would love this song, and it would play into his self-mythology as an outlaw "from a planet of outlaws."

Sonically, "Bennie and the Jets" (Elton John) seems like it would fit right in, although it might be a little too on the nose ("Oh, but they're so spaced out.") That's also the problem with Sweet's "Fox on the Run," another of my faves from the era, which merges both the classic rock and glam rock styles. It might be a little too appropriate for the kinds of situations the crew is likely to get into. I tend to go for the unexpected ... but on the other hand,"Moonage Daydream" could have been written for its scene in the movie, so maybe I'm overthinking it.

For the inevitable "pelvic sorcery," actual or implied, I'm going with Gwen McCrae's "Rockin' Chair."

And since Peter's mom clearly had a soft spot for schlock, I feel like that has to be represented. What I keep coming back to, God help me, is "Copacabana."

Those of you who read my previous post totally know this is coming. But since I'm sure someone will be trying to destroy the universe in the next Guardians movie, I do think the apocalyptic tone of Stonebolt's "I Will Still Love You" would be perfect for Starlord's Awesome Mix Vol. 2. So listen up, James Gunn!

I will also note, as a point of historical curiosity, that the most common cassette formats in 1988 were 90 minutes and 120 minutes long (45 minutes and 60 minutes per side, respectively). 60-minute cassettes were available, but the average mix would probably have been made with a 90-minute blank tape. The official soundtrack contains just under 44 minutes of songs, and at least one of them, and possibly two, are from the second tape. So it's extremely likely that the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 contains songs that haven't been identified yet, and we should all feel free to mentally fanfic our choices in!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

1970s Mix Tape

Proof that music snobs are made, not born?

While housecleaning recently, I came across an old cassette tape (brand name "Compact Cassette") on which I taped music off the radio, with a few additional songs from my family's (mostly my sister's) record collection. The technical process was this: I held up my rectangular Panasonic cassette player next to the radio, or the stereo speaker, as the case may be. That was the only method I had to record music until high school, when I gained access to a stereo with a built-in cassette player. (My parents eventually got one, but I was pretty close to graduating by then).

The latest-released song on this compilation came out in February 1979, shortly after I turned 14, so it couldn't have been recorded earlier than that.

What kills me about this artifact is that it provides evidence that I liked all these songs enough to tape them. I can't imagine actually wanting to listen to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" on purpose, but at one point, I must have. To be fair, my options were very limited. We had a few TV channels, a few radio stations (country and "Top 40"), and a few places that sold a limited amount of records. I read CREEM magazine whenever I could, but really, that only frustrated me, because even if I heard about bands, that didn't mean I had any way to hear them.

However, we are now in the streaming/instant download age, so you can gain much quicker access (thanks, YouTube!) to some songs I can't believe I ever liked, a few I think are pretty good, and some I had completely forgotten ever existed.

Side A

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? -  Rod Stewart (1978)
The echoey lo-fi effect of the recording actually makes me like this song a little bit more than I normally would. Fortunately, this was the pre-music video era, so I had no idea how un-sexy I was going to find Rod Stewart. I must have been a fan, because we had "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" on 45, and I'm pretty sure I'm the one who bought it. That came out in 1976, so by this time I was an old hand at songs in which Rod is trying to get someone to have sex with him. Today, of course, I have a lot of respect for his model railroading, which is a very cool rock star pastime.

Last Night (I Didn't Get to Sleep at All) - The 5th Dimension (1972)
This was an oldie, which apparently was still being played on the radio. There's a little bit of female masochism in the lyrics, pining for an ex, but this is one I don't feel any hipster embarrassment about at all. They were actually good.

Home in the Sky - Cat Stevens (1974)
I wrote all the song titles on the cassette, and this is one that didn't sound familiar at all. I recognized Cat Stevens' voice right away, though, and listening to it, especially the chorus, there was a faint bell. "Come the morning, I'll be far from here/Slowly rising in another sphere/Old world goodbye/'Cause I'll be home in the sky in the morning/Bye-bye." Is he ... dying? Huh. Not sure I realized that at the time. Still, those are better lyrics than "Music is a lady that I still love."

Takin' Care of Business - Bachman Turner Overdrive (1974)
This was another oldie, but come on, I still love it, for reasons which are self-evident.

Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton (this was recorded from a 45) (1977)
Not a Clapton fan, and thought I never was, but here it is. Even at the time, I think I questioned just how hard he'd been "trying all night long just to talk" to her. Frankly, I think Sally was thinking, "that was fun and all, but I can take care of my worries myself, thank you very much."

I Don't Know If It's Right  - Evelyn "Champagne" King (just a snippet) (1978)
"I don't know if I should/Give my love to you when I know you're no good." Oh, Evelyn, you know the answer to your question! 

Part-Time Love - Elton John (1978)
And I also doubt the validity of the statement that "You, me, and everybody's got a part-time love." I'm not sure if it was the pop music of the '70s, or just the general atmosphere of the whole decade, but the moral bar seems to be set a little low here.

I Will Still Love You - Stonebolt (1978) (started in progress)
Now, this is really a find! The melodramatic stylings of Stonebolt, whoever they were, make me want to run out and buy their t-shirt, if there was one. Strap yourself in: "When the moooon disappears forever/And the suuuun shines electric blue/When the mountains and trees tumble into the seas/To rest there for eternity/No matter what you do/I will still love you." Just, wow.

Last Episode at Hienton (taped from album Elton John) (1970)
I can hear the crackle on this one! Which, sorry, doesn't exist on your YouTube version. I was a huge fan of Elton's first few albums (Empty Sky and Elton John), and I also loved all his songs about prostitutes and spree killers ("Island Girl" and the unjustly obscure "Ticking"). This is a song I always thought was incredibly romantic, although I'm not sure I really got why her "thighs were the cushions/Of my love and yours for each other," or why that made Valerie a woman. Geez, sometimes I think the Peters Brothers were right -- it is all about drugs and sex. Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with that ...

Your Song (also taped from album Elton John) (1970)
An oddly "greatest hits" choice in this company, so not much to say about it.

Jet - Paul McCartney and Wings (starts in progress, cuts out) (1974)
You know, why on earth did he mistake the major for a lady suffragette? This has puzzled me since at least 1974, although I haven't lost any sleep over it. A blog post here makes an intriguing case that it's all a play on David Bowie, which would be fantastic if it were true. Even if it's not, it's a pretty brilliant idea. Sadly, I wouldn't hear "Suffragette City" until 1983 ... but at least I would be on my way to becoming a music snob by then. Whew.

Side B

Lotta Love - Nicolette Larson (starts in progress) (1978)
Starts in mid-verse, with "So if you are out there waiting, I hope you show up soon." Kind of funny considering how long it would take my future husband to show up. Since he's 6 years younger than me, though, it's probably just as well I didn't know about him when I was 14. I wouldn't have known what to make of that.

Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond (1979)
Oh, god, I really can't believe this one. I remember a conversation at the local tavern when this played on the jukebox, and we were all like: "Honey's sweet, but it ain't nothing next to baby's treat? WTH?" There's more single entendre, with"tonight by the fire, all alone, you and I/nothing around but the sound of my heart and your sighs." I also get a kick out of the formal "If you'll pardon me, I'd like to say" something about how they'll be forever in blue jeans.

No No Song - Ringo Starr (taped from 45) (1975)
We didn't have DARE back then, but we did have anti-drug classes in which we learned that "horse" was a euphemism for heroin, and other useful information. A friend and I had a dance routine to this song, which I believe involved some miming of smoking, sniffing, and moonshine drinking. We could have been a PSA!

Le Freak - Chic (1978)
I got sick of this song, and other dance songs of the era, but it's definitely come around the other side, and now I quite like it! It was sort of disappointing that disco had fizzled out by the time I was old enough to go to one. Thank goodness for First Avenue's "Club Degenerate."

Only the Good Die Young - Billy Joel (1977)
Another song trying to talk a girl out of her virginity! That theme is a perennial favorite. I've quibbled about many Billy Joel tunes: I cringe every time I hear him say "punk rock" in that "We Didn't Start the Fire" song, and "Uptown Girl" was only redeemed by Ashes to Ashes. But I do have a fondness for this one. It's fun, and his sales pitch of "I might as well be the one" shows he's not taking it too seriously.

Pinball Wizard - Elton John (1975)
Suddenly we're on a roll. Three songs in a row that are perfectly tolerable! Because I knew this version first, I've always thought of it as the "real" one, instead of the Who's.

This is Love - Paul Anka (1978)
Yup, it was too good to last. This is pure schmaltz, musically and lyrically, about a couple of friends who "were like sister and brother." Until suddenly: "Last night was wild/Together til dawn/And something entirely different was born," with the result that "I can't work/I can't eat/I can't sleep any more." From the Complete Incapacitation School of Romance. Sigh.

Stumblin' In - Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman (1979)
I'd completely forgotten about this song, too, but it came back to me. The metaphor of "foolishly laying our hearts on a table" is quite a mental picture, but I've watched a lot of Friday the 13th movies between then and now, so it might not be their fault.

Heart of Glass - Blondie (1979)
I definitely bought 1980's "Call Me" on 45, but I didn't remember having any particular feeling about this big hit. Still, if you're going to tape disco songs off the radio, you could do worse than Blondie.

All I See is Your Face - Dan Hill (1978)
Another amazing find. Not only is this more impassioned emoting from the man who brought us the all-time kitsch classic "Sometimes When We Touch," but the two singles were released the same year. Was he trying to kill us? Here he's pining over the woman who left him: "A stranger touches me and all I can feel is your embrace/A stranger looks my way, and all I ever see is your face." For some reason, the memorable part to me was "I've got my songs to protect me" -- yeah, I wouldn't count on that.

Lotta Love - Nicolette Larson (1978)
We wrap up with another incomplete version of "Lotta Love." I must have figured having two parts of it were better than none. What I really remember about this song from the time is that she had really long hair; I'm surprised to learn that Neil Young actually wrote it! It seems too cute and peppy for me, much less for him.

So there you have it, a snapshot of my life in audio form.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Best Punk Band That Never Existed

Introducing ... the Ice Water Baggies

"We may be different ... but we're not stupid." -- K. Hospoda, circa 1984

Katrina Hospoda, 26, from Northern Minnesota
: former drummer/background vocalist of the Doorknobs, a psychedelic group, who broke up due to artistic differences. They were stagnating, trapped in one place and time and style.
: spent her youth as a political radical, protesting when protesting wasn't cool. Denounced capitalism at an early age.

Katrina Usklebek, 20
: from a small Minnesota town with a strong underground movement, living from day to day as a marginal member of the local hard-core scene, involved in illegal concerts in basements and garages.
: no previous professional experience, an amateur with unrealized potential.

Levon Nevazony
: at 3 - 1/2, he left home to hang out with the band the Diaper Rash. When their drummer left unexpectedly, he filled in and became their permanent drummer. Hospoda took in the homeless waif after she discovered him sitting in a hazy corner corner of a club, drumming absent-mindedly along with the music. After watching him drink strawberry sodas all night, she got up and introduced herself.

"He said he liked the Doorknobs, but thought they lacked something in guitar cohesiveness." -- Hospoda on Nevazony

Early recordings
"Ronnie, Ronnie, he's our man
If he can't kill us, nobody can!"

1500 Mutants
Hurry up! Start today!
Manipulate that DNA!

Conceive him in a petri dish
Make him any way I wish.

Chorus: What about the mutants? Fifteen hundred mutants?

Make him strong
Calculating, cruel
In the future he will conquer you

Chorus: What about the mutants? Fifteen hundred mutants?

The consummate leader
Filled with brilliance
That's my son
In the petri dish

Chorus: What about the mutants? Fifteen hundred mutants?

Get to work
Split those genes
I don't care about DNA
Make him, make him, make him my way.

The days are few
What's enlightenment worth to you?

(Repeating) I want perfection
There will be no exception.

Mixed up chromosomes
Frozen embryos
Mutilated fetuses
The head of a cow
What the hell
Are you going to do now?

(Repeating) I want perfection
There will be no exception.

But what about the mutants? Fifteen hundred mutants?

He Thinks I'm a Doll
Take a pin
Ram it through my hert
Babe, I'm your voodoo doll.

Slam me to the ground
Stomp, stomp on my guts
Why? I'm your voodoo doll.

Pins up my ass
Pins in my eyes
Rap my head against a tree
Abuse me, destroy me
Oh, I'm your voodoo doll

Hang me by my toes
From your basement ceiling
Hit me with a baseball bat
Feed my hair
To your pet rat
Treat me like shit, babe
Huh, I'm your voodoo doll.

(The editor recalls that the intro began with a Ronald Reagan impersonation saying "Nancy, where's my voodoo doll?" There does not, unfortunately, appear to be any written evidence of this).

It's getting dark
The light
It doesn't work

It's getting dark
It's getting darker
It's getting darker
It doesn't work

The light

It doesn't work
It's getting dark
It doesn't work

The light
It doesn't work

Another Christmas Season
Frozen waters
Empty gymnasiums
Corporate immunity
Christmas trees decorated with bitterness

Peaceful words
Birds at feeders
Salty sidewalks
Churches filled with the army of oppression

Lighted candles
Abandoned houses
Iranian terrorism
Bars contain the confused minds

Empty thank-yous
Busy parking lots
Blank staring eyes
Private heaven when she kisses his chest

Festive wrappings
Hidden doubts
Fur lined gloves
Appearances count more than what's in the heart

Blinking lights
Broken promises
Chemical explosions
Why is John Lennon dead?

Exploited women
Bags of cocaine
Confining bureaucracy
The military budget is a sacred cow

Forgotten Indians
Starving children
Live by the dollar and burn in hell.

Rude Girls Against Boschwitz
Rudy Boschwitz
He's a fright
Spending money left and right
Buying nerve gas -- it's the pits

He wants MX, he wants Stealth
He just loves himself and wealth
Down the tubes, our state aid went
Blind support for the President

Rudy moved to the Big DC
Only comes home to collect his fee
He won't pass the ERA
They should be home washing socks all day

How can people be so dumb?
Out with him, out with him, out with the bum!

Notes on the Recordings

1500 Mutants: Katrina on vocals, bookcase and table drums; Katrina on background vocals, harmonica, Vaseline percussion and woodblock.

Drums: Katrina
Recorder: Katrina
Background percussion: Katrina
Vocals: Katrina & Katrina

General Notes

Song titles with no other documentation include "Dead Languages," "Dippity-Do," "The Boss," "Nuclear Winter," "Dig Her Vibes" (a retro tune, possibly a left-over from the Doorknobs), "Sounds Like Chaos," and "Say It Correctly in Russian," which, I believe was an instrumental, with a periodic vocal comment of "Say it correctly in Russian." It's unclear if these songs were actually written or performed, or were unfinished concepts. There is also an existing snippet which sounds like a country song: "I don't want to hear about your cows/You don't want to hear about my cows."

There is also a liner note on a song called "Pumpkin Lust," with "Todd on vocals, Bill on guitar and rhythm guitar, Ken on synth. Sadly, no information about this song, or the identities of Todd, Bill, or Ken, has been unearthed.

Where are They Now?
It's a mystery. But wherever they are, I'm sure their Christmas trees are still covered in bitterness. They wouldn't want it any other way.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Classics Club


I've decided to stop ranting about the state of the humanities and do some things about it. So, under the October umbrella, I've added the Skull and Book Library, where I'm reviewing books as part of the Classics Club. I hope to get some stuff on there about literary adaptations I've done, for public reading purposes, but haven't gotten that whipped into shape yet. And some other notions ... with the idea of passing things on "pro edificatione posterorum," or "the edification of posterity," as my friend Johannes Trithemius put it (he was a German abbott, late 1400s, writing about the value of hand-copying books).

The reason I'm putting it under a separate sub-heading, instead of folding it in to the main blog, is that, while my reviews, for example, tend toward that jaunty, irreverent Anarchivist tone, it's still a case of doing silly things for serious reasons. I want to shine a little spotlight on literature and its concerns ... even if it's all completely futile in the end.

Fortunately, since I've been making an effort to live more off-line (calling people rather than messaging them, for example: I know, as if the phone isn't technology too, but talking is more direct of a communication), I'm finding more energy for blogging. Even when being online, there is a difference between producing something and random scrolling down Facebook. It's hard to stay mindful, but I'm working on it. So with any luck, I'll be updating more here, too!