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!