Friday Evening Videos

Friday Evening Videos: “Kyrie”

I had been thinking I’d do something related to Prince for this week’s Friday video — since his untimely death, a lot of interesting clips have been surfacing of him performing with other artists, or in unexpected venues — but this morning I had an inspiration to go with something a little different.

I was driving to the train station, headed directly toward the Wasatch Mountains that brace up the east side of the Salt Lake Valley like a fortress wall. The tattered remnants of last night’s rain clouds were snagged on the jagged peaks and flowing through the canyons and contours of the mountains like a thick, steel-gray liquid, and as I grew nearer to this ominous, beautiful sight, a song lyric leaped into my mind: “Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel…”

Don’t look so surprised. For a time in the mid ’80s, there was a middle space between the electric-guitar-based rock that I loved and the synth-based New Wave stuff that I loathed, and the pop band Mr. Mister fell squarely into that sweet spot. “Kyrie” was the second of two number-one hits that emerged from the band’s sophomore album, Welcome to the Real World (the first being the more ballad-like “Broken Wings”). While the refrain was a mystery to me for years — I eventually learned that Kyrie eleison is Greek for “Lord, have mercy,” a phrase found in many Christian liturgies — I always liked the throbbing synthesizer rhythm that underpins the song (yes, there are synth songs I like!) and the overall uplifting tone of the lyrics, which manage to be wistful and optimistic at the same time. And even though I’ve never been a religious person, who hasn’t hoped for a bit of grace as we travel roads both metaphorical and literal?

“Kyrie” was released late in the year 1985 and eventually peaked in March 1986, occupying the Billboard Hot 100‘s top spot for two weeks. That was my junior year of high school. I had my driver’s license by then, and was starting to venture out on my own, usually in a brown 1970 Thunderbird that was probably three times the size of the car I drive today. I remember more than once putting my window down and singing along to this song with the wind in my hair.

The video isn’t especially memorable, I’m afraid, falling squarely into the cliche’d “shots of the band performing in a vast, darkened space juxtaposed with candid backstage shenanigans” category. But the song is good — interestingly, for a synth-based pop song from that era, it doesn’t sound especially dated to me — and the band was reasonably nice to look at. I still trend to dress more or less in the same style as the lead singer, Richard Page, for whatever that’s worth:

Sadly, Mr. Mister didn’t find much success after “Kyrie.” Their third album, Go On…, crashed and burned, despite generally good reviews, and the band broke up in 1990. A fourth album, which had been mostly completed at the time of the breakup, disappeared into the studio vaults for 20 years and was finally released in 2010.

And on that note, have a fine weekend everyone!


Friday Evening Videos: “If We Make It Through December”

[Ed. note: I should have had this one up last Friday, for reasons that ought to be obvious, but it was one of those days — all of my Fridays have been those days recently, which really bums me out. Because Friday is a day to think about music videos, not 25-page white papers that leave you too mentally drained to bang out even a brief blog entry. Anyhow… ]

We’re mostly into rock music around this place — you may have noticed — but I confess to having a soft spot for a certain flavor of country music, too, primarily the stuff that was popular when I was a kid in the 1970s and early ’80s. That’s not as incongruous as it might sound, though. There was a lot of cross-pollination between the genres back then, and the line between country, pop, and rock was often pretty blurry, especially to an unsophisticated child who grew up listening to whatever Mom was playing in her pickup while she drove me around town as she ran her errands.

You’ve no doubt heard that one of the giants of that era, Merle Haggard, died a week ago Wednesday, on his 79th birthday. Haggard was practically the Aristotelian ideal of what we think a country musician is supposed to be: a populist poet who drew on his own difficult history — child of Dust Bowl refugees, incarcerated in San Quentin, married five times, the obligatory struggles with substance abuse — to evoke the lives and losses of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types. In a career that spanned half a century, he scored a mind-boggling 38 number-one hits and continued to record and tour up until mere weeks before his death. (He played one of the Nevada/Utah border casinos only a couple months ago; I wish now I’d made the drive out there to see him.)

His signature hit “Okie from Muskogee,” from 1969, is either an ode to or a spoof of a particular set of redneck attitudes, and I frankly despise that one no matter which he intended it to be. More often, though, I found relatable authenticity in his lyrics and his natural vocal stylings, which were so different from the phony twang that nearly everybody in the genre uses these days. Unlike all the modern-day Garth Brooks wanna-bes, Haggard didn’t need to demonstrate his country bona fides with any affectations; he just told stories of quietly brave people who’ve drawn bad hands but keep on striving. Case in point, this week’s video selection and my favorite Merle Haggard song, “If We Make It Through December.”

Initially released in October 1973, the song is frequently classified as a Christmas tune because of its references to the holiday season, and the fact that it came from a Christmas album. But in fact, it’s more a song about economic hardship and loneliness, and also about resilience and hope for a better future, as expressed in the lines about summertime and California. The song spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, from December ’73 through January 1974, and it also crossed over to reach number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Whenever I hear it, I think of the farm town I knew as a boy, and the blue-collar men and women I saw every day, the ones who raised alfalfa and worked at the nearby Bingham Canyon copper mine, and who lingered over coffee and cigarettes at Orton’s Cafe and went boating or horseback-riding on the weekends. This song sounds like home to me, a form of home I haven’t known in decades.

The video clip I found is a 1976 performance on The Donny & Marie Show, which is a whole other gift basket of nostalgia:



Friday Evening Videos: “Call to the Heart”

Isn’t it funny how things occasionally bubble up out of the collective unconscious? I haven’t thought about the band Giuffria or its lone top-20 hit in years, but quite inexplicably, I’ve run across three references to both in the past week. So now, naturally, I have the song running on an infinite loop in my head, and I thought I’d do my part to boost the signal.

I don’t have any specific memories of “Call to the Heart,” aside from the fact that I always liked it. Curiously, I tend to associate the song and its corresponding video with my freshman year of college, 1987-88, when I spent much of my free time between classes in the student union watching MTV on the giant rear-projection television screen that used to dominate the dining area. However, a quick check of wikipedia reveals that the song was released several years earlier, in 1984, and that the band had in fact broken up by the time I would’ve been hanging around the union. So why then does my mind insist on placing it three years later in the timestream? No idea. Perhaps the video was back in the MTV rotation at that point, or maybe it just reminds me of similar-sounding pop-metal ballads that were on the charts around that time. Or it could be that I’m just getting old and all my memories are compressing into each other as the hard drive fills up. I prefer to think it’s one of the former options, but I have a good hunch of which one it really is.

As I mentioned, Giuffria — named for its founder and keyboard player, Gregg Giuffria — had a brief lifespan comprising a mere four years during which they produced two albums. Their self-titled first album did fairly well and spawned “Call to the Heart,” which peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band’s second album, however, crashed and burned, and the group broke up not long after. In 2015, three of the original members got back together to play a few live shows, but Gregg himself wasn’t with them, which frankly baffles me. How the hell can a band named for a specific person go on without the person for whom the band is named? That’s a real paradox there.

I’ll concede this video isn’t anything remarkable. If nothing else, these weekly rambles down memory lane have taught me that most music videos were pretty lame, once the initial burst of creativity that accompanied the break-out of MTV had passed. But as John Scalzi pointed out in his usual tongue-in-cheek fashion, the video for “Call to the Heart” is an excellent time capsule of a particular moment in time, preserving forever the hair and clothes that defined the middle 1980s. Some of that stuff still looks pretty good to me — I tend to dress a lot like the lead singer’s first outfit, the white trainers, snug jeans, and leather jacket — but some of it… well, some of it does not. (Zebra and leopard prints, and spandex. Oy.)

Regardless of the look, though, I still like the sound. That moody opening and closing synth riff evokes neon-soaked alleyways on muggy summer nights, and the kind of angst that you couldn’t wait to outgrow but which nevertheless made you feel completely alive…


Friday Evening Videos: “Lucky Man”

The Moody Blues notwithstanding, I’ve never especially liked so-called “prog rock.” The self-conscious effort to make rock-and-roll more “artistic” has always struck me as misguided and inspired by a weird snobbish shame about the genre’s humble roots, and the music itself is, to my ear, pretentious, the songs overly long and frequently just plain weird. Pink Floyd, Yes, early Genesis before Phil Collins dragged that band in a more popular direction, much of Jethro Tull and The Alan Parsons Project… that stuff just leaves me cold. Or bored. To me, none of it has that swing, to borrow from another genre entirely. It doesn’t, well, rock.

Even so, most of those bands produced an occasional single that managed to get through to me. And in the case of Emerson, Lake and Palmer — more familiarly known as ELP and widely recognized as one of the pioneers of progressive rock — that song is “Lucky Man.”

The elegiac tale of a warrior-king who falls in battle, the song appealed to my college-age romanticism and budding senses of fatalism and tragedy. It was written by Greg Lake (the “Lake” in “Emerson, Lake and Palmer,” if you didn’t make the connection) when he was only 12 years old and made it onto the band’s self-titled debut album basically because they needed one more song to fill out the track list and didn’t have anything else. Released as a single in 1970, “Lucky Man” reached number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and a bit higher in Canada and Europe. It was re-released in 1973, performing slightly worse in the US (51 on the Hot 100) and considerably worse on the Canadian charts, but it’s since become a staple of classic-rock radio programming. It’s now acknowledged as one of the first rock songs to feature a solo played on a synthesizer, and is even credited by some with being the song that popularized the instrument’s use in that genre. Ironically for such a landmark bit of playing, Keith Emerson, who performed the solo, was apparently embarrassed by it. He thought he’d just been “jamming around” on his new toy, and didn’t think the take would be used on the finished recording.

Emerson died today at the age of 71. Some sources are reporting that the cause was a gunshot wound to the head, and that his death is being investigated as a suicide. If true, it’s an unspeakably sad ending for such a talented and successful man. I hope he’s found peace.

And now, by way of tribute, my favorite ELP tune, a song that’s perfect for the late hour and the only one of theirs I particularly like… “Lucky Man.”

A quick note on this video: obviously it’s an unofficial piece created by a fan. “Lucky Man” was recorded long before the music video became a common form, and the live recordings I found were all just Greg Lake performing the song alone on an acoustic guitar. I wanted the album version that featured Emerson’s playing, and this was the best version of that I could find. I have no idea who created it, but I thought it was pretty well done…


Friday Evening Videos: “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”

The Moody Blues are a genuine rarity in popular music, a band that enjoyed two distinct periods of success twenty years apart.

They first came to prominence in 1967 with their second album, Days of Future Passed, which mingled classical music with rock and roll, and produced the iconic single “Nights in White Satin.” They had a pretty good run through the early ’70s, took a few years off in the middle of that decade while individual members pursued solo projects, then began recording together again in ’77. But even though the Moodies scored a number of hits after reforming, their big comeback — if it’s fair to call it that, since they never exactly went away — wasn’t until they released their 1986 album The Other Side of Life.

I’d been aware of them for some time by that point — “Nights in White Satin” was a favorite, along with “The Voice” from 1982 — but it was The Other Side of Life that made me a genuine fan, largely on the strength of that album’s big hit, “Your Wildest Dreams.” “Dreams” was the Moodies’ highest charting single since “White Satin” two decades earlier, and I just adored it, strange as that sounds considering the song’s protagonist is a middle-aged man thinking about a long-lost love, and I was all of seventeen at the time. I’ve always had an old soul, I guess. I just got it. And I liked the song’s catchy pop hook. And I admired the writing in the lyrics too, especially the memorable image of “skies mirrored in your eyes.”

The follow-up album, Sur la Mer was released in 1988, when I was in college. It wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, charting at only 38 in the U.S. (as opposed to The Other Side, which reached number 9), but it did produce a hit single called “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” which is a great little song on its own but becomes really fascinating when you realize it’s a direct sequel to the story told in “Your Wildest Dreams.” The protagonist of the earlier song basically decides he’s wasted enough time mooning about that lost love of his and sets out to find her.

The video was also a sequel, featuring the same love interest (played by actress Janet Spencer-Turner) that we’d seen in “Your Wildest Dreams.” Together, the two videos form a warm and fuzzy little diptych that celebrates the mod Sixties the Boomers were pining for by the ’80s, as well as the universal experience of wondering “whatever happened to… ”

All of this has been on my mind because of a brief interview I read earlier this week with Justin Hayward, the lead singer of the Moody Blues. Hayward says he doubts the band will record any more studio albums, that they’re mostly a nostalgic touring act now, and that interestingly enough, their audience these days includes as many Gen X fans who fell for them in the ’80s as Boomers who’ve followed them since Days of Future Passed.

However, the thing I’ve really been mulling over is this observation from Hayward: “People think the ’60s were our best time… but to be honest, the most fun was that time in the ’80s – to have that opportunity to be on TV and have all the times of having hit singles in your early forties.”

Early forties. So… the middle-aged protagonist of these songs about mid-life crisis that I loved when I was seventeen was in fact… younger than I am now. That kind of hurts.

But I still like the songs, and as it happens, I associate them with springtime, so here’s the second half of that diptych to carry us into what promises to be a beautiful weekend here in Utah. From 1988, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”:


Friday Evening Videos: “Nothin’ at All”

At first listen, the song in tonight’s Friday Evening Video might not strike you as especially romantic. It’s an uptempo rocker instead of a ballad, and the word “love” isn’t uttered once in the lyrics. But the thing about this song, the thing that made me think of it as we head into the Valentine’s Day weekend, is that it brilliantly captures the sensation of a new romance if not the poetry of it, that giddy euphoria you get right at the beginning when everything seems to be going right and you can’t stop thinking about that lucky girl or guy, and you’re counting the minutes until you can be with them again.

It’s also one of the handful of songs that effortlessly make me happy; something about its sonic construction — the melody, the beat, the quality of the vocals — presses a button in me and makes me feel good regardless of what sort of day I’ve been having. And the line “I walk home every evening and my feet are quick to move/because I know my destination is a warm and waiting you” is simply one of the dead sexiest lyrics I’ve ever heard.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of my absolute personal favorites:

“Nothin’ at All” was the fourth single released from Heart’s self-titled 1985 album, which was the band’s first on the Capitol Records label. Heart had been around for roughly a decade at that point, depending on which date you use as its official beginning, and I know some older fans were a bit put off by this album, which brought Heart a new, slicker sound and a hair-metal visual makeover. But it also yielded their greatest commercial success, becoming their first (and so far only) number-one album and spending a mind-blowing 92 weeks on the Billboard charts. The album yielded four hit singles, one of which — “These Dreams”  — was their first number-one. “Nothin’ at All” was released in April 1986 and peaked at number 10. Curiously, the song exists in different forms; the mix featured in this video and on the 45 rpm single is an alternate version of the album track, although some early pressings of the Heart album used this mix as well. The original mix, which has a far more subdued vocal track and guitar solo, appears on other pressings of the album and some compilations. For what it’s worth, my preference is the punchier alternate mix you just heard in the video.

As for the video itself, well… it’s admittedly not so great. Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson were never terribly comfortable with the MTV thing and its emphasis on musicians’ appearance over the music, especially Ann, who has long been self-conscious about her weight (needlessly, in my opinion, but then I know firsthand that how you see yourself often isn’t how others see you). They both seem pretty awkward in front of the camera to me, much as I like looking at them, and the whole bit in their bedroom with Nancy trying on different outfits is just cheesy. Nevertheless, I do enjoy watching this one. It has an air of glamour that was common to a lot of popular media in the mid-1980s, and which I think we lost with the closing of that decade. I miss that kind of moody lighting. And it doesn’t hurt either that the video was filmed in Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building, a gorgeously preserved structure from 1893 that’s instantly recognizable fans of the movie Blade Runner as the home of JF Sebastian.

And with that, I’m going to press play on the video again and wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day. See you in the pyramids in light!


Friday Evening Videos: “Manic Monday” (Repost)

I posted “Manic Monday” as a Friday Evening Video about a year and a half ago, but the song has been on my mind again since I read that Wednesday, January 27, marked the 30th anniversary of its release. Yes, you read that correctly: “Manic Monday” is now thirty years old. How is that even fracking possible? How can I possibly be old enough to have loved a song for three decades? Damned if I know… but considering how grim this week’s other 30th anniversary was, I thought I’d send everybody into the weekend with something a bit more pleasant.

I still love this song. And I still think Susanna Hoffs was (is) utterly adorable. (Michael Steele, the redhead in the hat, ain’t bad either!) And I still wonder whatever became of my “older woman” that I forever associate with this little ditty. The video, with its nostalgic combination of sepia-tone coloring and golden-hour lighting, resonates with me now more than ever.

Here’s my original post:

My junior year of high school, I was lucky enough to land a cushy job as a media aide during the class period just before lunch. What that means is, I got to hang out for an hour — unsupervised, no less! — in an isolated room just off the school library where we kept the VCRs, projectors, and assorted stage equipment. Once in a blue moon, I would have to check out some of this gear to a faculty member, or do a bit of cleaning and light maintenance when something was checked back in, but mostly I did homework from my other classes, read trashy paperbacks, and generally killed time before lunch while listening to the totally kick-ass stereo system that was set up in the back corner. (It had a graphic equalizer, the absolute pinnacle of audio technology at that time! At least I thought so… I just liked monkeying with all the sliders.)

The word soon got out that I was down there, and friends began dropping by for visits on one pretense or another. There was one friend in particular who was about to become… very memorable. She was an older woman, a senior to my junior, but — I have to be honest — I’d never given her much thought. Oh, I liked her well enough. We were definitely friends, and I enjoyed talking with her on the bus and such. But as far as romantic interest? Nada. I had my eyes too firmly fixed on the girls who were emulating Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”-era look, and this girl was the diametric opposite to that. She was a good church-going Mormon who carried her scriptures in her backpack and dressed very modestly and gave no indication that there were any ulterior motives whatsoever behind her visits to that equipment room. Until one afternoon when this song was playing on that way-cool, fully equalized stereo with the quadrophonic sound:

The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” debuted the week of January 25, 1986, and it stayed on the charts for months, eventually peaking at the number-two position in April. It was ubiquitous and inescapable, and it made The Bangles’ career. I loved it because it was cute and catchy and Susanna Hoffs’ breathy, little-girlish voice made me weak in the knees, and because it had that naughty line in the bridge about “making some noise.” And I loved it even more after it became the soundtrack for my very first lessons in French kissing.

Following that first afternoon, I had a brief and intense affair with this friend of mine, this good Mormon older woman who taught me such a valuable life skill, consisting mostly of her coming to the equipment room during my aide period and making out like crazy with me (often to the tune of “Manic Monday,” as it seemed to play sometime during that hour every day), then the two of us pretending nothing had changed during our bus ride at the end of the day. It lasted maybe a month, if that long. As I recall, we just sort of… stopped… as quickly and unexpectedly as we’d begun. And at the end of the year, she wrote in my yearbook, “Sorry you didn’t get everything you wanted.” (That was a fun one to explain to my mom, who of course loved reading everything her baby’s friends wrote in his yearbook.)

That makes it sound like this girl was a tease, or like I’d pressured her to go farther than first base. I don’t recall either of those scenarios being the case. In my mind, I was pretty satisfied with our arrangement. But who knows… I am seeing it through a hazy filter of 30-year-old nostalgia, after all. Maybe I was more of a boor than I remember. I hope not. I like to think I was just a little adventure for this conservative girl as her graduation and grown-up life loomed before her.

I have no idea whatever happened to her. I’ve looked for her on Facebook, and to the best of my Google abilities, and I haven’t found so much as an outdated phone number. Wherever she is, I hope her life turned out well… and that she gets as much of a warm glow from the opening riff of “Manic Monday” as I do…


Friday Evening Videos: “Part of Me, Part of You”

Nearly all the commentary I’ve read this week about the late Glenn Frey has focused on his work with the Eagles, which I guess isn’t too surprising given the band’s position in the rock pantheon. And the sad truth is that his solo career never really caught fire the way his bandmate Don Henley’s did. Even so, he did score a few hit singles during the 14 years between the Eagles’ breakup in 1980 and their 1994 reunion, and those are worth mentioning, in my opinion. The biggest of them were from soundtracks: “The Heat Is On” from the Eddie Murphy film Beverly Hills Cop, and “You Belong to the City,” a beautifully moody, bass-and-sax driven anthem that was featured prominently in the second-season premiere episode of the TV phenomenon Miami Vice. Both songs reached number-two on the Billboard charts, and “You Belong,” in particular, was inescapable during my junior year of high school. Hearing it now instantly catapults me back to that time and place, and conjures up all sorts of emotional detritus and half-memories, in a way that few other songs do. But that’s probably another entry…

Also noteworthy was “Smuggler’s Blues,” a number-12 hit that first appeared on Frey’s album The Allnighter, but is more associated with (again) Miami Vice, which used the song in a first-season episode of the same name. (The episode is said to have been inspired by the song’s MTV video, in which Frey plays the smuggler of the title; Frey played a different character — also a smuggler — in the Vice episode, which led to other acting gigs in the TV series Wiseguy and Nash Bridges, and most notably in the feature film Jerry Maguire.)

However, the song that came immediately to mind when I decided to blog about Glenn Frey’s solo work is a bit more obscure than those others. Another soundtrack tune, “Part of Me, Part of You” from the 1991 film Thelma & Louise only reached 55 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nevertheless, I heard it a lot during the spring and summer of 1991, when that film was playing at the movie theater where I worked and I was cleaning up the auditorium every two hours while the end credits ran in the background. I loved Thelma & Louise, and I love this song, which manages the nifty trick of wrapping an upbeat “road tune” sound around a core of melancholy lyrics.

Those lyrics suggest to me the unspoken thoughts of a mentor, a parent, or maybe an insecure lover, depending on how you interpret them; their bittersweet suggestion that time is short and relationships evanescent has become especially poignant over the years as I’ve lost people, endured changes (some more welcome than others), and gotten old. There have been times when this song has made me too sad to continue listening… and other times when it’s simply brought a smile and the itch to get behind the wheel of my old Galaxie again. The fact that the man singing the song is now gone as well just adds another layer of meaning for me.

I’m sorry to say the video isn’t much to write home about. Like most videos for film music, it’s just a collection of clips from the movie interspersed with Glenn singing with a soulful expression. And this particular instance of the video isn’t even of very good quality, but it was the best version I could find. Just listen to the music and enjoy the visual of that long, sleek, beautiful T-Bird cruising through the southwestern deserts, and try to imagine me at the age of 21…


Friday Evening Videos: “A Little Less Conversation”

I wasn’t planning to do a Friday Evening Video this week; I only have half a dozen other entries on my “to-do” list, including a review of The Force Awakens, which will no doubt run a bit long (ahem). But when one of my Facebook friends posted the following in honor of the late, great Elvis Presley’s birthday today (he would’ve been 81, as difficult as that is to imagine), I simply couldn’t resist doing the same here.

This isn’t a music video per se; rather, it’s a clip from the 1968 movie Live a Little, Love a Little. However, Elvis’ movies were arguably long-form ancestors of the MTV-style video, existing for little reason other than to sell his music, as well as a particular image of Elvis himself (it’s not by accident that he almost always plays some kind of sexy, fun-loving playboy in those flicks). In addition, Elvis movies, like MTV videos, usually take place in some kind of artificial reality that is weirder, funnier, more exotic, and more glamorous than our own, populated by beautiful young people who don’t behave quite like any real person you’ve ever known, and always throbbing with an undercurrent of decadent lust. And the blue-screen effects are always atrocious, too. It really wasn’t that big a leap from Live a Little, Love a Little to “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

But hey, how about we do as the song requests and talk a little less:

“A Little Less Conversation” was released a month prior to the film as the B-side to a single called “Almost in Love,” and it became a minor hit. Elvis also recorded an alternate version of the song for his 1968 television special (usually referred to as the “comeback special,” even though it wasn’t officially titled as such; it’s also known as “the one where he wore that black leather outfit”), but the alternate ultimately wasn’t used in the special and it wouldn’t be officially released until it turned up 30 years later on a 1998 compilation album. I wouldn’t say either of version of the song was remembered as an important part of the Presley oeuvre, at least not until the start of the 21st century.

Then things got weird. The song was briefly heard in the 2001 George Clooney/Brad Pitt film Ocean’s Eleven, and suddenly it was back on the pop-cultural radar. An electronic remix of the tune by Junkie XL (or JXL) became a smash hit around the world, reaching the number-one chart position in at least 10 different countries. A version of the remix was used in a Nike ad and credited  to “Elvis vs. JXL,” and that was a number-one hit in 20 countries. In the U.S., the Elvis vs. JXL cut peaked at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Elvis’ first Hot 100 appearance since 1981 (remember he died in 1977). According to Wikipedia, one version or another of the tune has since been heard in TV shows, movie trailers, films, advertisements, and even political campaigns. Not bad for a minor tune from an era that’s widely dismissed as a low point in the King’s career.

One more thought: one of my greatest disappointments is that real-life computers do not have lots of meaningless blinking lights or make bleep-bleep noises…


Friday Evening Videos: “My Own Worst Enemy”

My company holiday party was last night and it was… well, it was really something. An incredible venue with a panoramic view of Salt Lake City, a live band, an open bar, an ice luge, and a whole lot of people both younger and prettier than myself who were wearing their holiday finest. Despite my occasional griping, there are some real perks to working in the advertising business. And I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t overindulge just a bit, but under those circumstances, how could I not, right? Right?

Fortunately, I didn’t make an ass of myself — so far as I know, anyhow — and I had a nice long train ride in which to sober up before I had to drive home from the park-and-ride lot. Even so, I had to laugh when I snapped on my car’s radio and the first song that came up was this:

Lit was one of a handful of so-called “pop-punk” bands I became briefly enamored of during the last period in which I made any real effort to remain current in my musical tastes. (If you’re curious, the others were Sugar Ray, Blink-182, The Offspring, and Bowling for Soup.) “My Own Worst Enemy,” the band’s best-known song, was released in March 1999 and landed on a number of charts, including the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking there at #51), the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 (#31), and Billboard‘s Alternative Songs, where it was a number-one hit. Unlike the music of those other pop-punkers, I still hear this one from time to time; one of our local Sunday-night sports shows was using it as a theme song for a while, I believe. I still love the opening guitar riff, so raw and catchy at the same time, and the the lyrics still amuse me too, although now they’re more a reminder of a certain period of my life — the time when I was teetering on the edge of responsible adulthood, about to turn 30 — than anything I can actually relate to. Except of course when I’m driving home from a really wild party in the wee hours of a school night.

As far as I can recall, today was the first time I’ve ever seen the song’s video, and it amuses me too. I don’t know about you guys, but the the late ’90s “lounge lizard revival” fad seems a lot more dated to me than anything on Miami Vice. I might have to write a longer entry about that sometime. But for now, I’ve got a train to catch and a weekend awaiting. And some hair of the dog to imbibe…