The Gift Or: “Where’s Waldo?” Or: “Really Dead Letter Office”

I blame the banana.

Okay, I’ll admit my choice in multiple titles is directly inspired by watching way too many Rocky & Bullwinkle reruns as a kid. But in this case, every chance at humor is a spoonful of sugar in his particularly grim musical case. I first discovered The Velvet Underground’s now classic 1968 album White Light/White Heat on cassette sometime in the early 80’s, but I only barely managed to make it through the first side before tapping out. Between what I thought bask then were some intensely downbeat lyrics and very heavy use of feedback throughout the album, at that time, I wasn’t quite ready for that aural assault (and I hadn’t even heard of Metal Machine Music at that point!).

Flash forward to 1995 and I’m in a record store that was running a closing/closeout sale where I spy the Velvet Underground box set Peel Slowly and See for under $10. I ended up grabbing that, the James Brown box set Star Time and the Little Richard set The Specialty Story all for $20 new, with the cashier rounding the total down because she ran out of change. In any event, the second time was the charm thanks to a few years of broadened horizons and it was when I re-listened to The Gift that I developed a better viewpoint of the band’s output. All I’ll say is that it’s based on a college writing exercise by lead singer Lou Reed, was recorded using a stereo mix that separated the music and vocal tracks (which works quite well when using headphones) and it’s got a killer ending, courtesy of a creative suggestion by Frank Zappa during the recording process.

Not counting the many live concert versions, The song exists in stereo, mono, vocal only, instrumental only, and live instrumental recordings. Take a listen to two of those (or just one, if you prefer your music sans very fuzzy intentional feedback):

Not based on a true story.

And here’s the vocal only version, although I’ll admit without the fuzz, it sounds like a somewhat more frightening campfire story, especially with that well-timed sound effect at the ending.

Still not based on a true story!

Yes, it’s a bit on the macabre side (and how!), but it’s also darkly amusing what with John Cale’s absolutely deadpan reading of Reed’s story. On a side note, YouTube actually has a Lego version of the song that’s definitely not for kids (like the song), uses a live concert version of the tune and yes, here’s a link if you want more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5I43qhtd1M . Er, don’t say you weren’t warned. Although, my overall opinion that a minor issue with the song is the whole Show Biz Bugs nature of it, where if you listen to it once, the shock value diminishes significantly on a repeat. That said, this may be a one-trick pony, but you’ll want to at least ride it through that flaming hoop one time just for that splash in the pool at the end of the jump.

This is another post in Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, hosted by 18 Cinema Lane. See a list of the assorted entertainment covered in this event HERE!

-GW

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

The Death Dealer, Too

(Thanks, Lex121100!)

Okay, I’m back. Sort of.

It’s been a bit of a rocky ride dealing with a recent demise, especially with a few big companies more or less trying to skimp their way out of paying proper annuity settlements. But we’ll not say more about that at the moment save for there’s a lot of things percolating in the background that need eyes kept on. In the meantime. it’s just been a total stress-fest in the writing department, although I have a small army of reviews in assorted states of completion. They’ll get posted at some point.

I suppose I should/could just be like others who post daily or more frequently and try to blank out the current nonsense in favor of a more rosy outlook, but it’s a bit tough what with all these follies going on in the periphery. That and, hell, every time I see someone here not wearing a mask or carrying one in their hand or a pocket then slapping in on as they walk into a shop, I want to dress up like El Kabong and give them a quick guitar lesson. But I don’t, as dressing like a cartoon horse and bashing folks on the head with a gitbox would probably be too sensible a solution and we just have to keep things crazy here in the US just because.

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Post Toasties

I’d really rather not waste such a good song on such a terminally bad person or group of people, but so it goes. Your tune for this Monday, which I hope is going as well as it should, rose colored blinders on or not:

(Thanks,TheGodfathersVEVO!)

So, we’re officially at this stage of the game now. Morbid humor as a reality check in some areas here, but it’s more a dry, hoarse chuckle from a very tired people at this point because we’re all tied to the couch as loud Uncle Bob starts setting up the old slide projector and has revved up some really bad Borscht Belt jokes to go with the carousel of everlasting pain:

(Thanks, Browingate!)

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Broken Machines

(Thanks, AustroPopArchives Vienna!)

So, we had a death in the family a few months back we all recently found out about (last week), which means it’s been a bit busy here with all sorts of shock and paperwork to tackle and quite a few ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross. Fortunately, the deceased was a very excellent record keeper, so most affairs are in good order and although there are a few important things to tackle for the near and far future, I think we have much of the important things covered.

Courts are all still closed here, so there’s the matter of waiting for a few important papers which need filing, so the waiting is the most annoying part. Well, next to figuring out a too smart Smart TV that was inherited that has a few subscriptions that need shutting down. After connecting the TV, it automatically started playing a film that wasn’t even chosen or someone who wasn’t me as I was walking into the kitchen to get some coffee pressed a button on that arcane backwards-designed remote it has (I need to go look up an online manual, stat!) and a movie no one ordered started up. While I was trying to figure out how to shut it down, this scene was playing in my tired head:

(Thanks, TheBoilingFrog!)

Anyway, I need to help out a family member in securing a few benefits and go through a few too many accounts and passwords as we play Match Game for a bit. I’ll be back in a bit or sooner if most things go smoothly as most seem to be so far. I just need to figure out that remote that has a list of pages of services and which services need that OFF switch. I have enough Blu-rays and DVD’s here to keep me busy for some time and nope, I just can’t afford more digital services than I can ever watch in a lifetime.

Wear a mask, people.

-GW

The Moment of Truth (and Dare)

(Thanks, Jay Partridge!)

I’m sure that I noticed exactly when people stopped taking the idea very horrid fact of a still thriving pandemic a whole lot less seriously here where a few too many people have died from it or assorted complications arising from it. By my estimation, it was about two weeks ago, give or take. I know this because I live across the street from a car wash and in the past few months, it’s been busy there, but mostly quietly so. About two weeks back, a sudden blast of loud music woke me from seven floors up. It was some person who drove up and yes, was blasting their music for all to hear too early in the day.

I was of course, annoyed by this, but I did take it as an alarm clock of sorts as I’d overslept (again) and dragged myself out of bed. A pot of coffee/chicory blend went to brew up and it was decided to kick off another Groundhog Day of mostly staying indoors and side-eying both the news and my backlog of work to do.  It’s harder to concentrate on fun stuff with actual life now a lot less fun, but it is sort of a necessary non-evil these days. To be honest, I liked the solitude for the most part except the MIA partner in crime part. But that’s part of the job description when you have a new virus, a new potential thing to kill you added to all the other things than may or may not set your expiration date to SOONER THAN YOU’D CARE FOR. “Did you hear? That guy died when he slipped in the shower while trying to dodge the plague!” makes for a rather poor epitaph.

Well, a funny one, but still poor.

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Package Lander II: The (Not) Quickening

(Thanks, tarash oniani!)

So, in the middle of this more very urgent chaos taking place, I have 19 pounds of someone else’s medical supplies here. They’ve been here over a week and it’s FedEx’s fault for “just doing their job”. Hi, FedEx. Anyway, here’s the deal: someone ordered whatever is in this box and had it shipped here, but they seem to have mixed up their address with mine or the person who took the order scrambled the numbers or couldn’t read someone’s handwriting properly. I say this because just over two weeks back, I got two large boxes bundled together that for the same person.

After about 45 minutes to an hour spent going to the FedEx website which constantly sent me to an automated call line no matter what I tried, I held on for a live operator and explained the situation. The problem seemed to be solved when he said the box would be retrieved (which took a few days), but guess what?  It wasn’t.  A week or so later, another large box labeled medical supplies arrived and was left at the door before I even had the chance to open that door and explain to the driver this wasn’t the correct address. FedEk was called again, and almost 52 minutes of looping muzak later, someone said they would be picking up the box… and that was what, almost a week ago?

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That’s Entertainment?

stop the world

Where’s the brake pedal, please?

Yeah, I’m still here – just thinking about too much stuff as I guess we all are these days. Or most of us, as a few folks clearly aren’t much for sensible thought. There are a lot of half-written things here because it’s hard to concentrate on being entertaining when the planet is spinning in “Stop The World – I Want To Get Off” mode, whee.

(Thanks, RetroAlexander!)

Anyway, I’ll pop in here later in a more “reviewery” mode as I’ve actually been playing a load of stuff that’s been quite good, but I don’t want to give the total impression that I’m totally clueless to all this distress going on. The blinders were, in fact, never on here. I just keep my annoyance with many things in check with the insane hope that we figure out one day that we should maybe have a test for leaders like the ones they give sanitation workers or some other public employees or maybe even the those that choose to volunteer for medical research for a few spare dollars to live on.

Some music to lighten the mood (not by much, though):

(Thanks, IamPersonMan!)

-GW

It’s My Party…

at-the-florist

At The Florist – Frederick Childe Hassam

So, I got a birthday card last week (it’s today, so go get me some cake, please, thank you) and I laughed aloud when I opened it because the card had a portion of a painting I’d seen a while ago and it impressed me so much that I went and wrote a (bad) short story based on the image. This was some decades ago, but I recall more or less it was about humans being briefly ruled by a flower race and it not being so bad because it was more a symbiotic relationship at the end of the day.

As those flowers smelled nice and only tasked humans with carrying them from place to place, things were pretty laid back. If I’m not mistaken, this period of peace ended with a few servants, tired of allergies and a few bee stings, attacked their masters and realized they weren’t able to do much in the way of defending themselves. Hey, I said it was a bad story, didn’t I? Okay, it was VERY bad. Anyway, the point was today’s flower markets are reversals of how flowers once shopped humans to work for them and my, how things have changed, haven’t they? Yes, I used to write some weird stuff. Eh, oh well.

(Thanks, good times!)

Back to the salt mines and all that jazz.

-GW

Banner Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash

The Missing, The Mail, And The .19 Pork Chop

Well, Hi There.

If asked how I’m doing, I’d say I’m more very much more annoyed these days than usual, but I’m still breathing, which is a hard realization to work around with all this dice throwing going on by the political machine in spots. “Roll your dice, move your mice!” Yes, it’s hard to dance around the elephant in the room, but after seeing EMS pop by the building a few too many times over the months, plus a growing amount of undelivered mail sitting downstairs, it’s been a bit too joyless around here. Well, until I found out that the mail carrier who regularly did the job perfectly was off taking care of his parents for a spell and the person now doing his job was pretty much rushing it by what it seems was sticking the mail in whatever mailbox was laid eyes on and getting the hell out of the building as fast as possible.

Boo, Sir, Ma’am, or otherwise. At least I got to play mailman for an hour or so by dropping off some bills and letters to their correct apartments later, as did a few others who got someone else’s correspondence. Now, I’m a fan of the post office normally, but not when an employee does this to everyone’s mail on the route. Whatever miserable death count I was grimly thinking of was chopped down considerably by some mislaid mail, but that was a merely a small decline in the joylessness. One bit of a laugh came when I deposited some bills at one apartment and the guy who lived there opened the door, saw he had bills and let out a deadpan “Wow. Gee, Thanks.” he really didn’t mean.

Hey, don’t shoot (a mean glare at) me – I’m only the messenger.

(Thanks, MyMotownTunes0815007!)

Still, a few neighbors have gone and left the building (is that literally or figuratively? I forget!*), so that’s a painful fact to work with. Even though we weren’t close, a chat in the elevator, a wave and smile at the right time, or some weird conversation about ice cream are all memory banked and filed for future use now. Processing is different for all of us, but I’d say similar in how we hold onto that past. Presently I’m back and forth on a few things relevant and not so, but I try not to go under the waves more than necessary, as madness stalks that dark, dank alley and that’s a total drowning pool.

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