The Passenger, Or: Boarding? Pass!

Long story short department: Way back in late 1983, I recall popping into a local record shop looking for a few new soundtracks or whatever else caught my eye(ear?) and at some point as I was poking around, the cover to this record jumped up and bit a small hole in my wallet (I think I spent around five bucks on it):

Woof. Just keep telling yourself “It’s only an EP, It’s only an EP…”

Truth be told, I was a bit of a WOV fan, having picked up both of the group’s studio albums Dark Continent and Call of the West along with the soundtrack to Urgh! A Music War, which I picked up after seeing that wild concert film here during it’s brief NYC run in 1982. Although initially released in 1980,This particular EP was new to me and I recall a clerk in the shop noting the shop had recently restocked a few copies after the initial run sold out, so this was snatched up and paid for right away.

I didn’t get to listen to the record until a few hours later, so the first play was sometime at night with a pair of headphones on and lets just say, things got interesting as those six tracks played. For starters, the first track, “Longarm” was an amusingly quirky diversion with lines about a 58-hour week and a workforce soon to be replaced by machines. However, the next song was in a way, somewhat less amusing and a bit more haunting. “The Passenger”, a catchy song/story about (of all things) a doomed airliner’s tragic last flight was up next and man, talk about “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, folks. It’s all in the lyrics and delivery with one.

In my mind at that time, the song almost seemed like it was the one was playing inside D. O. Guerrero’s head as he ran to the restroom to set off his bomb in the film Airport. I can remember once thinking that if someone were ever to remake that film, there’s your main theme right there, although the song uses a different final stop (“Polar route, destination: oblivion”) than that film’s Rome. Or perhaps it might have made for a somewhat depressing way, way (way!)-Off Broadway musical, if someone were to actually write a book for a show that might only run less than a week, including previews.

That song jammed itself inside my head for years at random intervals and I recall when I finally took my first plane trip back in 1992 (Hawaii, If you’re curious), yes indeed, that tune was an unintentional part of my internal soundtrack for the long trip. Granted, some real-life turbulence and a wild ride through a storm on the long second leg of the trip where we bounced around over the ocean like an airplane model on visible wires in a badly made pre-CGI movie almost had me thinking this might have been a trip to a different sort of Paradise. Let’s just say that I ended up making myself laugh on that last leg when a certain Ohio Players tune popped into my head suddenly.

Since you asked (I hope), The rest of the EP is fine, with an excellent cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire that morphs into the Jerry Goldsmith theme from Our Man Flint midway with a ton of feedback as a finale, “Can’t Make Love“, a somewhat relatable ditty about relationships, “Struggle” which, with all the gasping going on sounds like a brief soundscape from a giallo or some other tense fright film. Finally, there’s the rather unsettling “Granma’s House“, which is just 1:21 of a ringing phone backed by a metronome-like heartbeat sound and perhaps, iffy memories if you take in the atmosphere too literally. Speaking of phones, someone please call David Lynch circa 1977, as that track also sounds as if it would be at home in something like Eraserhead. To be fair, the group also (and often) dipped into humor, like somehow making a pesky Tsetse Fly or even an Invisible Man a lot less threatening (but still scary in a way). And (much longer story short) we wouldn’t have Stan Ridgway’s wonderfully varied output without that best version of the group.

While you can download the entire EP online. I’d highly recommend the larger The Index Masters collection as you get more of WOV’s unique mix of soundtrack-flavored music, including a few live tracks. As a personal preference, I liked the group’s output through 1982’s Call of the West, which gave them “one hit wonder” status with Mexican Radio. On the other hand, if you listen to the band’s output from is late 70’s demos up to that point, you’ll hear more than a few tunes that really make themselves stand out with their unique blend of musical influences.

This post is part of the Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, hosted by 18 Cinema Lane from April 29 to May 2nd, 2022. You can see a list of the films covered in this event HERE!

-GW

Go Ask Alice… Then Turn to Page 38

I’ve gotten a few more paperbacks since last we spoke, all fantasy themed, as usual. Most have been fun to dip into for a spell, but I’ve had the most fun with Johnathan Green‘s Alice’s Nightmare In Wonderland, published by Winged Hussar and Ace Gamebooks. I had to go buy a deck of playing cards at Dollar Tree, but if you have those, or a pair of dice handy, plus a pencil with a good eraser (plus a notepad so you don’t have to deface the book). you’re good to go.

Yes, this is a fine choose your own adventure novel clocking in at 328 pages, and there are plenty of lovely illustrations by Kev Crossley that look like vintage art from the early 1900’s. In fact, the art charmed me so much. I’m sorely tempted to get back to drawing myself, and soon. Fortunately, the plot is pretty good and indeed, this is quite the page turner, with multiple scenarios for everything from deadly combat encounters to fancy tea parties, Mad Hatter included. There’s a bit of hiariously gory content when things go wrong, but if you got a chuckle out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you’re pretty much all set here.

The only drawback to this book is it really, really wants you to write in it, making loaning it out a bit tricky, Now, you can do what I did and transcribe certain stat charts to that notepad and pass the book for a friend to play, but that’s up to you, of course. Looking at Ace’s selection of other Gamebooks, I’m tempted to pick another one up to play one of these days, well. once I whittle down the pile of work I’m slowly getting to. Uh, anyone want to borrow a book?

-GW

Crackers

Controversies big and small aside, Phineas Taylor Barnum was quite an interesting guy on a few fronts. “This way to the egress” made me laugh as a well-read kid in grade school who got that little joke and I think that I imagined an egress being some sort of catlike creature one could never quite get a good look at, but everyone would have a description of if asked. You know how that business tends to go, right? Someone asks if you saw the thing and without fail, a person will offer up a thin description that another person will agree with and add to until you have something that might look like a cat (maybe, sort of). No one can agree on the actual size, but sure, it looks like a cat.

Barnum was quite the con man with many successes and failures and even more awful when it came to animal care, but he sure could pack in the crowds for better or worse. The whole egress stuff came about when the folks who came to see his exhibits were sticking around a wee bit too long and he wanted to free up space fast. Granted, it’s entirely possible that a few smarter attendees to his museum knew what an egress was and maybe didn’t fall for the ruse. But I’d like to think that given the rather non-clever state of today’s rubes, people back then were about as smart as they are now. But today, they own assorted computing devices that actually make them less smart because they take too much information they see online as some sort of fact and don’t even consider filtering out the more bizarre things they read.

On another note, I was in the supermarket last week and picking up a box of unsalted tops, I spied a familiar, smaller row of red boxes on a higher shelf. Yes, there were a bunch of Barnum’s Animals staring back at me, now free-roaming without the familiar cage bars. I’ll note that I didn’t like the new artwork, but saw the need for the change. Growing up so long ago, circuses and zoos were part of the childhood routine. But the last time I was at a circus, there were no animals in that big top, and as for zoos, the one up here in the Bronx has gotten a few new attendance rules since the pandemic started. By the way, while I liked those animal crackers as a kid, my preference changed to the Stauffer brand a bit later. That hint of mace and nutmeg did it for me. if you must know.

-GW

Voodoo, Child (Slight Return)

By either direct connection or extension, I know (knew?) quite a few recently deceased people, but I’d like to think some to too many of us do these days. That sort of balancing act is quite the bitch, by the way. One wanting to free up the mind space to be otherwise occupied by more lighter and vastly more entertaining fare gets into quite a tumble with actual reality when a message arrives that someone else has unexpectedly left the building.

Of course, the unmasked killer is still inside the house making collect worldwide phone calls and pretty much having its merry way with the rest of the planet’s tenants. As we’re discovering from assorted news outlets, during last year, response from the recently departed government had been awful, at best. Too many holes in rules state to state meant no national plan despite, as Roddy McDowell in a great Twilight Zone episode once noted, “People Are Alike All Over”.

Of course, it’s just past 4am and I hit publish too soon, but I’d guess you get the point here. Eh, I’m going to go back to bed now. I may re-edit this post later, but there’s a better chance I’ll post something else. We shall see.