Anthropomorphic Waterfowl

The Scribbler is Still Putting a Songlist Together. For Possibly the Strangest Musical Comedy Ever.

Next up is Jerry Lee Lewis, with “Great Balls of Fire”, because that’s about as pure a rock and roll song as has ever been performed. I like the whole image of Jerry Lee, the bad-boy rebel with the punk haircut and the almost predatory way of attacking a piano, the laconic, demonic smile and the combination of gentleman and pervert that he exhibited during his career. He was old and creepy at the end (rather like some other ancient rock stars. I’m looking at you, Mick), but he made some hellfire music, didn’t he?

And while I’m on the older-music track, I’m throwing in Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. The woman could sing, songwriters could write, and this tune is pretty much smoldering in its bones; the classic lovers of all time, and they come off as actual LOVERS, rather than the chaste, Disney-type romantic couples they’re often presented to be. I think William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, but it wasn’t until I got past my freshman-year presentation of ROMEO AND JULIET and started to realize how earthy and sensual the relationship between those two kids was that I really started to appreciate the Bard. Shakespeare is FULL of sex and passion and desire. And Ms. Lee’s song…well, yeah. The fever burns.

Digital Underground, and Humpty (pronounced with an umpty) get the next spot, because “The Humpty Dance” is one of the greatest dance tunes of all time. Not just the beat, nor the clever lyrics, nor the innuendoes, nor the fact that anyone who can get his rocks off in a Burger King bathroom is okay by me, but because it’s sheer FUN and FUNNY. Musicians can sometimes take themselves way too seriously. These guys don’t. They just want to grab you in the biscuit, make you dance like you’re having a seizure, and drink up all your Hennessy.

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Then there’s Heart. Gotta have some Heart. I’ll hunt down their performance of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ soon, because they nailed it (and I’ll hunt down Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar doing ‘Rock and Roll’, and Trent Reznor and Karen O doing ‘The Immigrant Song’, because apparently in my world covers of Led Zeppelin songs are actually better than real Led Zeppelin songs), but for now I’m going to start with their prettiest and most sublime song, ‘Dog and Butterfly’. The image of that big dog playing with that delicate, tenuous, ephemeral flying bug–the girl falling laughing to the ground–everything about that song (not least the heavenly voices, the great guitar) makes my heart surge in my chest.

And, finally, for my tenth song, I have to put on “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead. And not just because I love the umlauts. Because I love Lemmy, is all.

Fair warning—my next group of five is going to contain two country songs and one disco song.

In Which the Scribbler Stoppeth One of Three

I work with a lot of kids who think the 80’s were cool. And who am I to disagree? The 80’s WERE cool.

That said, nostalgia carries some danger. I stole record albums from my parents, and I did a pretty good job of it, but you have to be very, very careful. For every MEET THE BEATLES or SURREALISTIC PILLOW you spirit away, you might end up with a John Fred and the Playboys record. And that could actually hurt you.

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I understand the impulse to recognize the past. At that age, the age between still thinking playing in the dirt is fun, and the age at which you can legally be called by your government to get shot by foreign soldiers, you’re building your identity. And unless you really ARE one of those freaks who’s aware of what’s going on in the music scene in New York and Los Angeles and (who knows, nowadays?) Tokyo and Brussels, the easiest way to show your cred is to whip out a great tune from twenty years ago and say ‘they don’t really do this kind of stuff nowadays’. I had some success with the ladies with BLONDE ON BLONDE.

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Not her, but the principle stands.

So I worry about these kids nowadays. They really enjoy “Take On Me” and THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and more power to them. But what if they end up getting sucked into something that, well, sucks?

It can happen. When nostalgia is thrown at you from every direction, how discriminating can you be? Just because it came from the 80’s doesn’t mean that it was GOOD. And if you’re urging your friends to watch a movie from those halcyon days, they’re going to remember whether it was THE TERMINATOR or GARBAGE PAIL KIDS: THE MOVIE you showed them, and they’re going to judge you accordingly.

So, as a helpful guide, here are what I consider to be the worst things from the decade. Every decade has its bad spots, but we had some truly awful spots. Spots that should be blanked from human history, just in case superior aliens come down and demand a list of our cultural achievements so as to deem whether we’re worthy of joining universal society. Because, let’s face it—any species that thinks the POLICE ACADEMY movies were pretty cool doesn’t belong out there with the higher intelligences.

1) RUBIK’S SNAKE

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I understand the Cube. The Cube was cool, and brilliant, because it was such a simple idea—a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Some people grasped the intricacies behind the mechanism, and they were rightfully given accolades and featured on THAT’S INCREDIBLE!, and some people (me included) bought books that helped them solve the problem, and most people just ended up peeling off the stickers and pasting them back on where they belonged. But the Snake was overkill, an attempt by Ernő Rubik or his dark minions to cash in on the phenomenon. It’s the same kind of hubris that spawned, years later, BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2. You catch lightning in a bottle, you’re tempted to do it again. Understandable, but you can’t force it. And the Snake was a bad, bad idea.

2) NEW COKE

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The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s most valuable brand. Everyone likes Coke. Even Pepsi drinkers (there are a few of you out there, I know) will chug it down if it’s the only vaguely caffeine/cocaine-flavored carbonated beverage available. And then Coke went and decided to switch to a sweeter formula, to compete with that upstart Pepsi…and the uproar was so amazingly loud that it even reached the floor of the Senate (Democratic Senator David Pryor of Arkansas calling the moment when Coke repented and brought back the old recipe a “meaningful moment in U.S. history”). People went crazy, stockpiling cans of Old Coke, importing the stuff from Mexico, threatening executives of the company with death and dismemberment. And so Coke returned to its original formula, racking up so much public awareness and media attention that Pepsi couldn’t do a thing about it. Brilliant marketing strategy by the folks from Atlanta. But the stuff itself…it was horrible. Coke drinkers drink Coke because it’s NOT as sweet as other colas. It’s got a bite to it. And it should stay that way through eternity.

3) Valspeak.

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There is no longer any need to say ‘fer shurr’, or ‘tubular’. That is all.

4) HOT DOGS STUFFED WITH STUFF

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Hot dogs are bad enough as they are, but they’re oh, oh so good. Random meat in a cylindrical form, stuffed into a bun and covered with cheese sauce or onions or mustard or sauerkraut or whatever—but when Hormel decided to cut out the middleman and inject crap into the middle of the crap, that was too much. I might also mention Smucker’s, and their attempt to put peanut butter and jelly into the same jar

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Don’t mess with the basics. We can do some things ourselves.

5) GENERIC BEER

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‘Nuff said.

6) THE MUSIC OF BILLY SQUIER

7) LEG WARMERS

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I like a lot of the fashion of the 80’s still. Big hoop earrings? Sexy as hell. A sweatshirt slipped down over one shoulder? Gives me chills. Aqua-Net? Oh yeah, baby—the more the better. Throw on a hypercolor pair of shorts and a Swatch, maybe a pair of Vans, and I’ll be all over you. But what on Earth was behind the leg warmer thing? I don’t want my women’s lower bits covered, especially by modified tube socks. I want fishnets and torn hose, if we’re gonna go that route. Go full Samantha Fox. Not this:

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8) THE SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE

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Singers don’t play football. Football players don’t sing. Good god, do they not sing. If the Seahawks or the Patriots ever do something like this, they should be kicked out of the league forever, their cities razed and the ground seeded with salt. Perhaps nuclear blasts will be necessary.

9) HALLOWEEN 3, GREASE 2, SUPERMAN 3, AMITYVILLE 2, MEATBALLS PART 2, RAMBO, LEONARD PART 6, TEEN WOLF TOO, CADDYSHACK II, STAR TREK V

Please. Please, you kids enjoying the nostalgia of the 80’s. Learn from our mistakes. When you come up with a movie that’s halfway fun, or halfway scary, or halfway exciting, just accept it. Don’t keep pulling it out of the closet where you keep your happy memories and beating it with sticks and clubs and spikes and shooting it up with heroin and dragging it through acid baths and firing high-velocity rounds through it and directing your dogs to relieve themselves on it. Just accept the original movies as happy things, eager only to give you a few carefree hours. Don’t murder them for their puppy-dog willingness to please.

And, yes, I know LEONARD PART 6 wasn’t a sequel. But it belongs up there anyway. And, while we’re on the subject:

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Don’t make the same mistakes that we did. Please.

10) I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO SAY THE WORD. I’M JUST GOING TO HOPE AND PRAY TO ALL THE GODS THAT EVER EXISTED OR MIGHT SOMEDAY EXIST THAT THIS HAIRSTYLE NEVER, EVER COMES BACK

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It’s your future, kids. Use it wisely.