Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 19, 2014

Rex and Herb, the Hosts of A Claymation Christmas Celebration 

[The One with the Doo-Wop Camels] -- The Winter Solstice is upon us and Christmas Eve is just a few days away. Oh! And our TVs are alive with holiday movies nearly 24/7. As I came of age during the 80s in Small Town, USA, Christmas TV specials were a huge part of my personal history. Now, most of the TV specials I recall from my youth were originally broadcast in the 70s. This is a fact that became only more apparent to me as I went digging for a show to blog about in this week's Flashback post. As much as I love Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, for example, it premiered in 1978. So I can't use it here ... unless I want to talk about its network TV debut in 1980 (I don't).

However, I do recall a fantastic Christmas Special from the 80s, one that had top-notch musical performances: A Claymation Christmas Celebration. Hosted by a pair of very Siskel and Ebert-esque dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, A Claymation Christmas Celebration featured an entire cast made out of clay! They jawed back and forth while they introduce videos of Christmas carols and standards. To date, it is still the only Christmas show starring dinosaurs. Let's look at a few performances from the show!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 12, 2014

[Winter Holidays Week 2 Redux (again)] -- The nice thing about having a year's worth of blog posts is that I can reach back and pluck a choice one from the archives. Such is the case today. In December 2010, I did four straight weeks of music about "Winter Holidays." Two years ago, I did 25 Days of Holiday Music in addition to my usual 80s Flashback posts. So why not re-run a previous Seasons Greetings kind of playlist? To learn, or remember, what stocking stuffers I shared two years ago this week, read and hear more after the break.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 5, 2014

The Meyers say: "Get your moose costume and come over for drinks!

[Better Off Cusack] -- We're into the December stretch now, so the holiday season is getting into full swing. Lights and trees are going up, ugly sweaters are going on, and holiday entertainment is streaming forth. So let's look at a holiday movie shall we? Or, rather, the music from one such movie. Now, I'm not ready to focus on a holiday-themed movie, but I am willing to look at a flick that features a holiday scene. And that movie is the 80s classic Better Off Dead (1985). This John Cusack vehicle is a teen romantic comedy with a bit of a dark streak (but, really, what John Cusack film doesn't have at least a bit of a dark side, right?). Cusack's character, Lane Meyers, is suicidal after his girlfriend, Beth, breaks up with him. He wafts between attempting to kill himself and striving to win Beth back, but ultimately he falls for Monique, the French exchange student next door (not exactly the oldest plot in the book, but whatever). The film is chock full of one-line zingers and teen angst, and the lone Christmas scene is truly a gem. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is a bit of a snoozer. That's primarily because popular tunes that appear in the movie --  Howard Jones' "Like To Get To Know You Well", Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some", Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover", Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady", Frank Sinatra singing "A Man Alone," and Hall & Oates' "She's Gone" -- do not appear on the soundtrack album, most of which was produced, arranged, and scored by Rupert Hines. The album is heavy on synthesizers and light on hooks (and devoid of Christmas songs). However, there are a few standout tracks, even if none of them will really jingle your bells. So, which tunes from the Better Off Dead score made the score this week? Read and hear more after the break!  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 21, 2014

[The Flock] -- Due to movies, TV, and the Space Shuttle, the 80s had something of a fascination with "space age." That simply means folks were fascinated with things that looked or sounded space age. One band that capitalized on that fascination, at least briefly, was A Flock of Seagulls. You remember A Flock of Seagulls, right? They were a UK synthpop band founded by two brothers, one of whom was a hairdresser (look at the image above and guess which guy had that gig).  Mike Score (keyboards, vocals) and Ali Score (drums) formed the original lineup with Frank Lee Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar). A Flock of Seagulls holds the record for actual number of video plays [The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History: The video generation, 1981-1990] -- for their debut smash, "I Ran (So Far Away)" -- but that was likely due as much to the paltry video selection available at the time as it was to fans' demand for their futuristic look. Considering the band's penchant for a futuristic look and sound, it is ironic that they petered out in less than two years. I mean, they kept going for a bit after 1984, mostly with new or session members joining Mike Score, but they never reached the heights of their 1982 popularity (or the heights of Score's 80s hair). Read and hear more about the band after the break.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 14, 2014

[Time to Catch Up] -- This week in 1985, Depeche Mode released Catching Up With Depeche Mode, a compilation album for US and Canadian fans. This release gathered singles and album tracks from the previous four studio albums (Speak & SpellA Broken FrameConstruction Time Again, and Some Great Reward) in an attempt to help fans across the Atlantic "catch up" with the band's growing discography. It was the second of two such compilations in the 80s (the first being People Are People in 1984). Now, Catching Up is similar to, but slightly different from, a singles compilation that was released in the UK: The Singles 81→85. We can see that in the track listing for each release:
Track listing for Catching Up With Depeche Mode: 
01 - Dreaming Of Me
02 - New Life
03 - Just Can't Get Enough
04 - See You
05 - The Meaning Of Love
06 - Love, In Itself
07 - Master And Servant
08 - Blasphemous Rumours
09 - Somebody
10 - Shake The Disease
11 - Flexible
12 - It's Called A Heart
13 - Fly On The Windscreen  
Track listing for The Singles 81→85: 
01 - Dreaming Of Me
02 - New Life
03 - Just Can't Get Enough
04 - See You
05 - The Meaning Of Love*
06 - Leave In Silence
07 - Get The Balance Right
08 - Everything Counts
09 - Love In Itself
10 - People Are People
11 - Master And Servant
12 - Blasphemous Rumours
13 - Somebody*
14 - Shake The Disease
15 - It's Called A Heart

*CD only (not on original vinyl)

What trio of tunes have I selected to help you Catch Up as you Flash Back? Read and hear more after the break!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 7, 2014

A Side - Take The Skinheads Bowling 7"

[Camping with Beethoven?] -- I recently listened to Episode 546 of WTF with Marc Maron. In this October 30 podcast, Maron interviews David Lowery who is best known as the founder of Camper Van Beethoven (1983–1990 and 1999–present) and co-founder of Cracker (1990–present). As this is an 80s Flashback post, I'll be focusing on the first of those two bands. So, yeah ... remember Camper Van Beethoven? I remember the moment I discovered them during my freshman year at PSU. Well, OK, it was more like I was introduced to them, but that's still a form of discovery on my part, right? Anyway, While I don't remember who first spun their discs for me -- it could have been my roommate at the time, Paul from down the hall, or half a dozen other folks -- but I do remember thinking, "Who is this band? Camping with Beethoven? Well, do they have more?" I immediately loved their sound, which I thought to be a fantastic blend of jangly Americana, punk, and rootsy hillbilly. When I dug into their back catalog a bit, I found their earlier stuff also featured their imitations of ethnic-type instrumentals (they must have been developed by thinking something along the lines of, "What would a Klezmer band based in India sound like?"), and it all had a hint of that punk DIY attitude fueling it.

It should come as no surprise that the band was eclectic and experimental. David Lowery, the vocalist and main songwriter for Camper, is also a mathematician and something of a tech-head. (Side note: Lowery has done pretty well for himself through investing and side work as a financial analyst, and he has also headed up a number of music-related businesses). Camper Van Beethoven released five studio LPs and four EPs during the 80s. Two of the LPs and at least one of the EPs were self-produced and released on the bands own label, Pitch-A-Tent Records. While their records never charted big sales numbers, the band did earn effusive critical acclaim, and they toured rather successfully. Check out a few of their tunes after the break! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

National Cat Day 2014: High and Low Kittehs

Here are Milo and Otis doing their split-level napping (photo taken 10/21/14):

Milo (left) and Otis

I guess this is also sort of a three-dimensional Yin & Yang nap setup. 

Simon the Cat, 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

On this day in 2003, Simon the cat passed away unexpectedly. He was our first cat and he paved the way for making this house a cat home (we currently have two orange cats we adopted about a year later).

Here is the photo collage I posted in 2004 to mark the one year anniversary of his untimely death.

Thank you, Simon, for 7+ wonderful years: 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

We still love you and miss you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 24, 2014

[Orchestral Manoeuvres in the US] -- Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, who had known each other since primary school in Wirral, England, played together in various bands in the mid-70s. Out of the ashes of two of those bands -- the seven-piece ensemble known as The Id and the electronic quartet called Dalek I Love You -- they founded Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) in 1978. Initially a duo, OMD played live gigs with backup help from a Teac 4-track tape-recorder (named "Winston" after a character in Orwell's 1984). In February 1980, OMD released their self-titled debut album in the UK. This record was pretty much the work of the core duo and Winston, but it also included some drumming by Malcolm Holmes (from The Id) and a bit of saxophone from local (i.e., Wirral) musician Martin Cooper. After a tour supporting the debut, OMD went back into the studio and recorded their second album, Organisation, which was released in October 1980.

With two hits ("Electricity" from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and "Enola Gay" from Organisation), OMD's record label must have thought it was time to conquer the US. There was no truly new material for OMD's first eponymous US release. It is a morphing of the UK debut and the second LP. The five tracks from the debut are "Bunker Soldiers," "Almost," "Electricity," "Julia’s Song," and "Messages." Organisation contributed six songs: "Enola Gay," "2nd Thought," "Statues
The Misunderstanding," "Motion And Heart," and "Stanlow." So, which tracks made it into this week's playlist? Read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 17, 2014

[Walk it Off] -- My mother likes nothing more than burning off some excess energy, stress, and calories by taking a brisk walk. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I once made her a mix tape so she could have some upbeat tunes to accompany her. She liked it so much she uses it to this day (albeit the cassette has been replaced with an iPod Shuffle). Well, she fell and broke her leg two weeks ago. Earlier this week, she had surgery to set it properly (apparently, the fracture wasn't where the doc wanted it to be after a week in a full-leg cast). She comes home on Saturday, and she'll be alternating between a wheelchair and a walker for the next two or three months. So, in honor of her recuperation, I have posted a workout music 80s playlist I found on YouTube. You can check out the songs in this playlist after the break.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 10, 2014

Open Novel on Shelf (image via

[Novel Ideas] -- I love music, and I love reading, so why not put the two together for a Friday 80s Flashback? This week, I'm bringing you a trio of tunes that are somehow related to a work of literature. The connection could be in a lyric, a title, or maybe just a bit of inspiration. You might be surprised just how many 80s artists were quite the literary connoisseurs. Well, maybe that is stretching the point, but a fair number of our fave performers looked to the written words of others to get ideas for their own works. Wondering if your favorite work of fiction is just a few degrees a way from a song in this week's playlist? Well, to find out, you can read and hear more after the break.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 3, 2014 (On a Saturday)

[30 Years of Red Sails] -- On October 1, 1984, a mere 30 years ago this week, Midnight Oil released their fifth studio album, Red Sails in the Sunset.  It was the band's first #1 album in their native Australia, and it charted within the US Billboard 200. The album cover was a chilling "what if?" scenario, as in "What would Sydney Harbour look like after a nuclear strike?" Following on their previous efforts, the lyrical content of Red Sails focused on politics, consumer culture, expanding military, the auspices of nuclear war, and environmental threats. Two singles were released in the US -- "When the Generals Talk" and "Best of Both Worlds" -- but neither of them charted. Musically, there was enough polish (from increased studio wizardry) and the experimental rhythms and textures should have lured in new listeners, particularly from the college radio set. So, what kept the singles grounded? Perhaps it was lead singer Peter Garrett's judgmental tone. However, it was more likely Garrett's lurching and towering presence in the band's music videos. I recall thinking he was pretty cool, but I also recall my friend, Daniels, and I being on the receiving end of our classmates' scorn for liking "that Frankenstein dancing guy."  Anyway, Midnight Oil was about three years from breaking huge with Diesel and Dust. And when that album hit, fans finally started digging into Midnight Oil's back catalog to discover this gem. For a blow-by-blow appreciation of Red Sails in the Sunset, check out A Look Back At Midnight Oil's Landmark LP 'Red Sails In The Sunset'. You can also listen to a full playlist from the album on YouTube. And, of course, I've selected three tracks that you can check out after the jump.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for September 26, 2014 (On a Saturday)

The Who Face Dances (1981)

[Who Was That?] -- After four weeks with a fractured clavicle, I'm still in recovery mode, but I'm no longer typing impaired. So, I figured I would try posting a new flashback instead of mining my archives. But what to write about? What theme could I employ? Well, while I was musing on that very question on Friday morning, I saw a story that The Who were marking their 50th anniversary by releasing their first new song in eight years. Down to only two surviving members (Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend), The Who is set to embark on a 50th anniversary tour in November. The new song*, "Be Lucky," references Daft Punk and AC/DC. And it will close out the band's 50th anniversary compilation, The Who Hits 50! As some of the hits featured on the 2 CD set were released in the 80s, I figured this news was a perfect jumping off point for a Flashback post. The new song (royalties of which will be donated to Teen Cancer America, a US outgrowth of Daltrey’s successful UK charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust) is embedded below, and you can read and hear more about The Who in the 80s after the break.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for September 19, 2014

High five image from the very empowering

[Uplifting 80s Tunes -- Redux] -- I'm mid-way through my fourth week with my left arm in a sling while I recover from a fractured clavicle. So, with my typing still impaired, I'm dipping into the archives again, this time to bring you a post from September, 2010. Now, that was the month I first started this venture known as the Friday 80s Flashback. And I must have been feeling rather inspired on 9/24/2010 because I offered two separate Flashback posts on the same day! This one, the Uplifting Edition, was the second of the two (there's a link to the first, angrier, post here as well). Why re-share the uplifting edition? Well, let's just say that I'm not the only one around here ("here" being very general) who could use a little pick-me-up. If you're in that same camp, I hope you get a boost from this rewind.

Note: Back in 2010, I was not posting an intro image or lyrics with Flashback posts. In this re-share, I have added both. That, and the above intro, are the only differences between this and the original blog entry which starts below. 

From 9/24/2010: I already posted the Angry Edition this morning, but I wanted to end on a more positive note by providing a set of "uplifting" flashback songs. Fortunately, the 80s are rife with upbeat songs that speak to the power of potential. Read about them, and hear them, after the break!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for September 12, 2014

[The 'Mats are Back! -- Redux] -- I'm still in a sling for a fractured clavicle. So I'm dipping into the archives again, this time to bring you a post from June 2013. It's a neat little coincidence that this 2013 Flashback was inspired by The Replacements making news with a live performance. You see, the 'Mats kind of did it again this week (see Watch the Replacements Rock the House on Jimmy Fallon; 9/10/2014). Go ahead, check out that performance, then come back here for a rewind on my Replacements retrospective.


From 6/14/2013: This week I heard some news that made me cautiously optimistic about the state of music: the surviving members of the Replacements will perform together on stage for the first time since July 4, 1991. For those who don't know -- or, perhaps, don't remember -- The Replacements formed in Minneapolis in the late 70s. According to drummer Chris Mars, the band's name reflected their sense of a secondary status: "Like maybe the main act doesn't show, and instead the crowd has to settle for an earful of us dirtbags" [Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. 2001. p. 199]. They were never commercially successful, but they did receive critical accolades and have been cited as a major influence for many bands.

The Replacements (or, simply, The 'Mats to their fans) are probably my favorite of what I call the "sloppy" American rock & roll bands. Their sound was informed by a combination of the arena blues-rock of their collective youth and the post-punk that was in vogue when they took up their own instruments. Now, they never achieved a high level of proficiency as musicians during their time together, but they did evolve from garden variety garage band to a genuinely tight if oft-times shabby outfit. Their songs touched upon the pains of growing up, hating your job, and relationship issues, and they did so in their own loud but tuneful manner. I've chosen three songs from their 12+ year career. I hope they are among the setlist for Riot Fest Chicago. Read and hear more after the break. And if you're interested, you can download a copy of the Replacements' last show in Philadelphia, played July 28, 1987.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for September 5, 2014

[Unused 80s Montage Playlist - Redux] -- I'm going to be in a sling for a few more weeks. So for this week's post, I'm dipping into the archives to bring you a post from a year ago. Strangely enough, I spent much of this week preparing the sound FX for a theater production, just one set in a different era. So none of the songs below are in my current show.


From 9/6/2013: I spent much of this week's free time -- not that it's really "free" -- preparing a set of 80s music for the latest production at Montgomery Theater. It's for a scene in which one of the lead characters introduces a montage telling the story of getting together with her first boyfriend. First, she asks for some music to set the scene, but the song that plays is needed later, so she asks for something more upbeat. The second tune doesn't work for her either, so she requests a cheesy love song which is finally what she wants. Researching and assembling the options for this playlist left me with very little time to work on the Flashback. I don't even really haven't worked out a theme for this week. So how about I just share some of the tunes that won't be used in the show? OK? OK! Read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday 80 Flashback for August 29, 2014

Cover Image from

[Worlds Apart] -- Though I graduated over 20 years ago, Labor Day weekend makes me think of college. I am particularly mindful of bands I learned about within my first two years at Penn State. One such band was Cactus World News. Although they are best known for "The Bridge" -- their very first single (1985) which was produced by Bono (lead vocalist of U2) -- I tend to remember them for "Worlds Apart," the second single of their first full length effort, Urban Beaches (1986). Perhaps that is the more appropriate song as, with each passing year, I am vastly more worlds apart from the self of my college years. Unfortunately, I cannot spend more time musing on this as I fractured my clavicle in a cycling accident this past Tuesday, and typing is a tad difficult. So, this week, I simply offer up three tunes from Cactus World News, but I do so without my customary editorializing. (I'm sure you're all suitably crushed).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for August 15, 2014

[Revenge of the 80s] -- A few years ago, June of 2009 to be a bit more precise, I created an 80s playlist for a friend's birthday. She's about half my age, so she never got to experience the 80s. At least not directly. I titled the CD "Revenge of the 80s." It was a 12 track extravaganza, and each song fit the scheme because it met one of the the following four requirements:

  • an 80s song by an 80s artist, 
  • an even older song covered by an 80s artist, 
  • an 80s song covered by another 80s artist, or
  • an 80s song covered by a later artist. 

Got that?

Now, I recently learned of the streaming service known as Mixcloud. After playing around with it a bit, I thought it might be a fun experiment to upload the entire Revenge of the 80s playlist to share it with other 80s fans. You can check it out after the break.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for August 8, 2014

From the Lunch Bag Gallery

[Last Chance to Go Someplace Fun!] -- I've noticed a certain kind of advertisement on TV recently. And I have also noticed some youngsters worrying that the Summer will wind down before they go someplace or do what they want. Yes, we are getting close to "back-to-school" season. There is still time, however, for one last trip before kids give up their sun-drenched freedom for assigned seating and homework. So, for this week, let's enjoy some 80s songs about ... going places (other than a classroom). To read and hear more about this theme, just travel beyond the break. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for August 1, 2014

[This week in 1982...] -- I am finally over the jet lag of taking the redeye home from San Diego on Wednesday morning. I am not, however, quite recovered from the end of SDCC 2014. So rather than create a theme and find three 80s songs to fit it, I've decided to simply look at what was on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 this week in 1982. Do you remember what was in the top three slots 32 years ago? Join me in a little walk down a sonic memory lane after the break!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for July 25, 2014

The Teen Titans rendered in the style of The Breakfast Club by Cliff Chiang

[See You in the Funny Pages - Redux] -- I'm re-using a previous Flashback, because I am currently in the midst of heroes. Well, comic book, video game, TV and movie heroes. And several hundred people trying to dress like comic book, video game, TV, and movie heroes. If you want to feel like you're at SDCC with me, you can check out Mark Anderson's tutorial on how to draw Batman (but there is, however, no tutorial showing you how to autograph your drawing like one of the artists who actually work on the Batman comics ... sorry). You can also follow some of our adventures by checking out our little friend, Mocha ( This Flashback has something of a heroic theme. To find out what songs made the playlist this year, read and hear more after the break.

"Warhead" by Katrina Kuntsmann (at SDCC)

Found a cool indie comic called Warhead at SDCC yesterday. It's written and drawn by Katrina Kunstmann. She signed my copies of issues #1 and #2, and she drew a doodle of her title character for me. His name is Adam, and he has a nuclear bomb for a head. Find her in the Small Press section, or visit her online at!

Warhead (issues 1 and 2)

Adam enjoys a cuppa

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for July 18, 2014

[No Age] -- SST Records was launched in 1978 as a punk label. Founded by Greg Ginn, the leader of and primary songwriter for Black Flag, SST had originally been an electronics company called Solid State Transmitters. He repurposed the company as a record label so he could independently release his band's material and distribute other musicians who couldn't get a major label deal or just didn't want to deal with the demands and loss of artistic control that would come with such a deal. From this humble beginning, Ginn built SST to become the most influential underground label of the 80s. The Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets, Soundgarden, and many others released seminal albums on SST. However, near the end of the 80s, Ginn's label acquired New Alliance Records and, after re-issuing some of their key releases on SST, he redirected New Alliance to focus on experimental jazz, unusual rock, and spoken word performances. This activity, along with the overall diminishing of SST's roster, really took the glow off SST for many of their fans. In the midst of this, in 1987, SST released the compilation album, No Age. No Age is a double LP set clocking in at a little over an hour. Notably, it's a collection of avant-garde (for the time) instrumental music. This is notable because, although SST had started delving into jazz releases, all the bands on this compilation hail from SST's staple of punk and underground rock artists.

To give you a taste of this unusual release, which remains one of my favorite compilations, I have selected three tunes and created a playlist on my SoundClound account. This playlist has the following songs:

  1. "Let's Go Places and Eat Things" by Scott Colby (from his 1987 solo release, Slide of Hand, an incredible showpiece of slide guitar virtuosity)
  2. "March of the Melted Army Men" by Lawndale (which later appeared on their own LP, Sasquatch Rock, a dazzling collection of surf guitar tinged alt rock)
  3. Over The Counter Culture by Alter-Natives, a flute and sax driven quartet keen on improv. 

The songs are embedded in a player below. Enjoy!

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

There is a Calm ...

There is a calm before the storm.
There is a calm after the storm.

The only difference between 
these two states and the state 
of your mind during a storm

Words and image ©BSW

Friday, July 04, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for July 4, 2014

80s Boombox via Zazzle

[Red, White, and Bruised ... er, Blue!] -- Once in a while, the Fourth of July lands on a Friday. When that occurs, many of us in the States are given a three-day weekend to celebrate a unique event: when 13 scrappy, English colonies engaged in an act of civil disobedience. Well, it was actually an act of treason. And it was committed by writing a sternly worded letter to King George III, who wouldn't receive his copy until August 30, 1776. Now, I don't know what the Founding Fathers would make of this week's playlist. But there will be plenty of serious fare discussing the events of 1776 on the web, radio, and television. So on the Flashback, we're gong to cut loose and have some fun. If you're ready to celebrate with me in 80s rock style, then read and hear more after the break. We'll enjoy a few tracks that somehow have a little red, white, or blue associated with them.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for June 27, 2014

[An Idol Post] -- I heard a Billy Idol song on the radio this week. Now, finding Billy Idol on the FM dial is not exactly a rare occurrence. As a solo artist, and not counting compilations, the man released seven studio albums, a live album, one EP, and 34 singles. And he's not exactly a slouch: Over his career, he has been nominated three times for a Grammy and ten times for the MTV Video Music Awards (he even won one of those). So, there's a pretty good chance that at any hour of the day, some pop/rock station, particularly if it's an 80s station, will be spinning one of his tracks (if we can still call what DJs do "spinning). However, it got me to thinking: What about the band he left just before he became a solo star?

Billy Idol first garnered some notoriety as a member of the punk band, Generation X. Generation X got started late in 1976 and, after a few lineup tweaks that saw Billy Idol move from guitar to vocals, they released their debut album in 1978. Ignoring most of the "rules" established by other UK punk bands, Generation X took much of their inspiration from British pop of the 1960s. Consequently, they were one of the first punk bands to appear on the BBC show, Top of the Pops. Musical tensions regarding the band's direction surfaced between their second LP, Valley of the Dolls (January 1979), and what would have been their third studio LP, Sweet Revenge (recorded in 1979 but unreleased until 1998). 1980 saw more personnel changes and the band made another go at a record. They abbreviated their name to Gen X and released Kiss Me Deadly (1981). The album failed to chart, and the band fell apart.

After Kiss Me Deadly, Idol took one of the tracks ("Dancing with Myself") to launch his solo career, while bassist Tony James formed Sigue Sigue Sputnik in 1982. Sigue Sigue spun their creative wheels (and a few synthesizer dials) for a few years before releasing their debut record in 1986. Overall, they released two albums and nine singles between 1986 and 1989. They were also active in the mid to late 90s and the early 00s.

Now, with that windup, you're likely wondering what songs are on tap for this week. Well, you can hear and read more after the break.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Audition Notice: Snyder v. Phelps ... THE MUSICAL!

Sharing for my theater peeps: Audition for Snyder v. Phelps … THE MUSICAL!

My friend, the amazing Shelli Pentimall Bookler, has a new play coming out and you could get a part in it. Information is below (all text and images after this line are borrowed from strictly for helping to promote the show).

Snyder v. Phelps, the musical will premiere at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 


September 12-14 at The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

Special performance at Bucks County Community College September 11, 2014

Books and lyrics by Shelli Pentimall Bookler
 Music by Josh Martin
Music Director Mark Urmson

Snyder v. Phelps follows the controversial Supreme Court case of a grieving father of a fallen marine battling  the infamous Westboro Baptist Church

Funded in part by Bucks County Community College Cultural Planning Committee and the Bucks County Community College Foundation

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for June 20, 2014

[Do You Remember?] -- Bob Mould recently released his 14th studio solo album, Beauty & Ruin (2014). In the 80s, however, he was the frontman for the seminal rockers out of St. Paul, MN, Hüsker Dü. Named after a popular 70s memory boardgame (the title of which meant, "Do You Remember?"), Hüsker Dü was largely known for being a hardcore band that crossed over to alternative. Or, rather, they were the band that pretty much created the so-called alternative genre. So, we'll celebrate Mould's new music by glancing back at his older material. Jump the break to read and hear what old tracks I picked for you this week. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 30, 2014

[Down to the Wire] -- Wire formed in late 1976 and immediately took up the flag as part of the new vanguard for British punk. And I mean that almost literally: Their first studio album, released in 1977, was titled Pink Flag. After Wire released three seminal punk records,  Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed (drums) ceased working together as a band for a few years. Between 1981 and 1985, they each pursued solo, decidedly non-Wire ventures. They reformed in 1985 and expanded their palette to include more electronic musical instrumentation while refusing to play any of their old material. This was something of a brand new Wire, a Wire II if you like (though they didn't actually change their name). This week, we are focusing on Wire's three studio albums released between 1985 and 1989, the ones on which they more fully embraced sequencers, synthesizers, and drum machines: The Ideal Copy (1987), A Bell Is a Cup ... Until It Is Struck (1988), and It's Beginning To And Back Again (1989). You can read and hear more about these releases after the break.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 23, 2014

"Hansel and Gretel's Cottage in the Woods" via

[Into the Woods] -- Tonight, Montgomery Theater in Souderton, PA, begins a two-weekend run of "Into the Woods, Jr." As this musical is inspired by classic fairy tales, Brothers Grimm or otherwise, I thought I would use this week's Flashback post to highlight 80s songs with the same muse ... or tunes that I can somehow tie to a fairy tale or two. As fairy tales are typically short and may have an element or two of fantasy, pop songs are almost an ideal vehicle for revisiting or recreating such tales. I think so, and I hope you agree. So, if you want to know this week's playlist, and how I tied them to the theme of fairy tales, you can read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 16, 2014

[Live Your Life] -- Last week, I heard a song on my way to work and thought, "Y'know, that has to go in the latest Flashback." It also inspired the theme for the post as I went in search of additional songs that, at least in some part, spoke of how to live one's life. I was going to finish the post last Friday evening, after I got home from work. Unfortunately, after I got home, my hard drive crashed. Well, technically, there was an OS corruption that prevented the drive from booting. Still, the bottom line was I could not use my laptop. And, as I had recently changed all my passwords, I could not access my Blogger account from another computer. I took it to a local Mac shop on Saturday and did not get it back until Wednesday evening.

So, last week's Flashback is now this week's. And maybe, just maybe, I added a bonus tune. Want to know what tunes I think are about life and how to live it? Read and hear more after the break!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Comics, Cancer, and Captain Marvel

Mar-Vell confirms his diagnosis in The Death of Captain Marvel (1982)

A year ago, I lost my father to cancer. In fact, one year ago this very day (but not the date, that would be tomorrow), I delivered the eulogy at his service.

Dad's final journey began, I would say, in March of 2013. Because I was driving across the state (from Bucks County, PA, to either Cleveland, OH, or Johnstown, PA), and then staying in hotels for big chunks of March and April, I had lots of time to read or listen to stories. I mean, sometimes I needed to escape into stories far removed from my situation. Comic books, obviously, were part of that although I couldn't right now pinpoint any stories I was reading at that time. I mainly remember some podcasts and memoirs I listened to.

Anyway, this past week, I've been thinking of comics as a medium for not only communication, but also transformation. All good storytelling is a vehicle for healing, so why not comics? As far as I can tell, the earliest comic book I can list as an example of this would be Marvel's THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1982). Sure, there had been "death of a hero" stories before this, and I'm sure other comic stories tackled the notion of a loved one's loss to illness prior to 1982. However, THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (Marvel's first, true Graphic Novel) was the first book to tell the story of a hero's death due to cancer rather than self-sacrifice during some cosmic or otherwise world-shattering threat. And, as it was Marvel Comics Group, this was the first time that death due to illness was played on such a huge stage. And, in my opinion, this is a story that achieved, at least on some sense of scale, that concept of story as healing agent. No, people who read the story were not cured of anything. But I know folks who were touched by that story, by the sense of identifying with the cast of characters who were watching Mar-Vell's life fade away while they could do nothing. And many of those folks continue to be touched by it.

So, are there books or stories that you turn to again and again? Are there "mere" comic books that are transformative tools for you, that enable you to process difficult emotions, to transform grief or even rage into something more useful?

Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 2, 2014

[Scared to Get Happy] -- I didn't offer a single Friday 80s Flashback post in April. I'm as surprised as you, but it just kind of happened. I suppose I could claim I took the month off for my birthday. I could also, possibly, claim I needed processing time as I neared the one-year anniversary of my father's passing. However, I'm not sure making either claim retroactively is appropriate. So, why don't we just chalk this up to neglect while you accept both my apology and my promise to do better in the future, OK?

So, for the first Friday of May 2014, we'll delve a little into a wonderful boxed set I received as a gift last Christmas: Scared to Get Happy: Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989. This is a five-disc set that attempts to explore the '80s U.K. indie pop scene. It has 134 songs, selected and compiled by John Reed of Cherry Red, the London-based independent record that has made a habit -- er, rather, a business practice -- of re-releasing out-of-print albums. Now, for today's installment, I'm focusing on the first disc in the set which more or less focuses on the post punk era. Curious as to which tunes got featured this week? Well, read and hear more after the break!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

War is Boring

Is war an aberration or the most basic human function, the thing we resort to when all our comforts crumble? … Had war chosen me or had I chosen it? And what did that say about me?"  -- David Axe

On Sunday (4/28), I found a copy of WAR IS BORING (story by David Axe, art by Matt Bors; 2010) in my to-read pile. I was slightly surprised because I had forgotten about picking up a signed copy through Matt Bors' website.

But, when I found it, I was excited for it again. So, I read half of it on Sunday evening, and the rest of it yesterday morning. And, you know what? I very much enjoyed it. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Saying "I enjoyed it," is akin to dismissing this work as a mere piece of entertainment. And, I suppose it is in a way. Or, perhaps, it's an example of that "edutainment" that's all the rage these days. (Um, please note that is a tongue-in-cheek comment).

Bottom line: I'm not going to say this is a staggering piece of journalism, but it is certainly an affecting one. At least … it affected me. And I'll be back for more.

War Is Boring - David Axe and Matt Bors - page 76

War Is Boring - David Axe and Matt Bors - page 122 top panel

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for March 21, 2014

[Spring is all Rite] -- Ah, Spring has arrived. Well, at least according to our celestial calendar because the Vernal Equinox was this week! I was wracking my brain to come up with some appropriate 80s fair for this week's flashback. Finally, I realized I could just go with the classics. Or a classic. As in classical music: The Rite of Spring by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Now, it was written and first performed in 1913 in Paris, France. Original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky, and that choreography was long thought lost. However, in 1989, it was reconstructed by the Joffrey Ballet in Los Angeles -- and there is our 80s connection!

For more information about The Rite of Spring, visit this Milestones of the Millennium article on NPR. To hear and see the Joffrey Ballet's performance, check out the videos after the break!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A New Breastplate (And a Message for St. Patrick) Redux

[This post is a slightly updated version of one that I published on 3/17/2009 and 3/14/2012.]

So, Monday is St. Patrick's Day. Well, I for one will not be putting on the green and celebrating. I do not celebrate the lives (real or imagined) of those who tried to put down my ancestral faith. For those of you who didn't realize, the driving out the snakes thing has been pegged as a likely metaphor for stomping out the ethnic and traditional practices of the Irish people. (However, you should also know that Celtic Reconstructionist Brenda Daverin -- Branruadh -- indicates that this metaphor is one of three common misconceptions about Patrick). Still, Patrick is the focus of the upcoming holiday as well as the ire of many a Pagan. Hence, this post is directed at "him."

Patrick, if you truly existed (even if only as a composite of several individuals as I suspect), I have a message for you. Neither you nor your brethren drove out the "snakes" -- you merely forced them undergound. Nor did you eliminate their traditions. In fact, your beloved Church is riddled with more of my ancestor's traditions than those of the early Christians, and by this I am referring to practices from the first few decades of Christianity, or "the Way of Yeshua" as it was likely known by its earliest adherents. And in case you missed it, Patrick. The "snakes" are back. We are back, and every year our numbers grow as more people awaken to the old ways -- be they Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Romanic, etc. -- and make them relevant today. For our ways are relevant as they are a means of being in this world, being with it, and not trying to simply control it or ignore it in the hope of achieving some afterlife. Originally written and posted in 2008, "A Heathen's Breastplate" is still appropriate to post now:
The Lorica (or Breastplate) is a prayer written in Irish and Latin that is often attributed to Saint Patrick. There are many variations of it (one can be found here), but I have decided to rewrite it in "honor" of the old saint who is said to have driven out the pagans. Now it has a nice Heathen slant...
A Heathen's Breastplate 
I arise today 
Heir to the strength of Asgard; 
Light of the sun, 
Splendor of fire, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 
I arise today with mine own strength to pilot me; 
Thor's might to uphold me, 
Frigga's wisdom to guide me, 
Odin's hand to guard me, 
Heimdall's watch to shield me, 
Freyr's vitality to sustain me, 
And Freya's love to bless me. 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude. 
The ancestors are with me, 
before me, behind me, 
on my right, on my left. 
As sure as 
The Earth beneath me, 
The Sky above me, 
The Holy Powers within me. 
I arise today 
Rooted in the mighty traditions of my past. 
And I walk Midgard, 
Sending forth the blessings of this day's deeds to generations yet unborn. 
copyright 2008 and 2010, BSW