Wednesday, March 27, 2013

American Woman, Stay Away From Me!

I remember with great fondness the power trio I played bass in circa 1996-97. We had perhaps the worst name of any band ever: Sexx. Because three x’s would have been silly. We played only one show: a gig in Framingham, MA that resulted in folks at the bar shouting for us to stop, mainly, I figured, because the guitarist was drunk and, at one point, was playing a different section of Van Halen’s “Panama” than the drummer and I were.

Sexx had a set list of nearly 20 songs, all but three of which were covers. My thinking was that we needed more originals. So I tried to introduce songs I had written. Unfortunately, Kevin (fake name) the guitarist appeared dizzy when I played my songs for him. My guess? Too many chords, too many sections.

Of the three original songs we played there was “Bad Day,” consisting of the same three chords throughout the entire tune; “Becky,” which included one guitar riff and three chords; and “Cruisin’,” which caused massive confusion for me because its intro was identical to that of “Panama,” which, as I stated earlier, we also played! I could never tell which song we were doing until at least five measures in!

My reason for writing about my rock stardom from seventeen years ago is that my four-year-old LOVES the Guess Who song “American Woman.” Just yesterday, as I was driving him to and from school, we listened to it three times on the way and three times going home. And we did the same today. No “Undun.” No “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.” Not even “No Time,” which he also kind of likes. Just “American Woman” over and over again. We’ll probably do the same tomorrow.

I don’t think I realized until hearing that song twelve times in two days how utterly repetitive it is. The same guitar riff for four minutes! It would have been a wonderful song for Sexx to perform. When you notice that and actually listen to it, it’s obnoxious.

I have a love/hate relationship with these types of songs. For example, Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” How ‘bout a bridge, Tom? Something other than those three chords throughout? Or anything by Blues Traveler, particularly the hits “Runaround” and “Hook.” While John Popper is enjoying himself on that goofy harmonica, the guitar player is falling asleep playing the same progression for an eternity.

Or my generation’s favorite song, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” How did Kurt Cobain pull the wool over our eyes by becoming a legend with a song that not only has three lousy chords, but has a horrible guitar solo that’s the same as the verse? “Teen Spirit” was Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” all over again! That’s right! Nirvana? No better than Twisted Sister!

Good golly, sometimes songs need a bridge just to break up the monotony. This is, I think, what Kevin didn’t like about the songs I tried to introduce. I always had at least one bridge in my songs, sometimes two or three. It was only recently that I realized how influenced by Def Leppard I was. Take “Foolin,’ for example. Two bridges in that song. Or my favorite Leppard song, “Armageddon It,” which has two bridges between the verse and the chorus, and a third after the guitar solo.

Is that overwriting? Perhaps. But it’s freaking cool to me.

I remember, when I was in high school, a band named Drivin’ N Cryin’ gaining a little popularity with songs like “Build a Fire” and “Fly Me Courageous.”  I told a friend of mine, “It’s just the same riff over and over.”

“It’s rock and roll,” he said.

I used to say the same thing to another friend of mine about The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” and there are thousands of songs like this, sure, such as “Bad to the Bone.” Blues songs are almost always that way, but here’s the weird thing: I LOVE old blues songs from the 30s and 40s. Which is strange - and I’m just writing until I get bored here, you probably left me paragraphs ago – because there was certainly nothing quite as repetitive as old blues. It bugs me in modern blues, but not in the old stuff. I love me some Robert Johnson, Mississippi Sheiks, anything from back then.

Anyway, sticking with music, here are a couple of exchanges between my wife Amy and I last night while listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket Radio on Pandora. Oh, how we enjoy ripping each other’s musical tastes:

Me: Ecch. Counting Crows, followed by Coldplay?

Amy: Van Halen blows.

We laugh.

Me: Ew. Radiohead? Fake Plastic Trees? As opposed to real plastic trees?

Amy: Juliana Hatfield is a hole.

Me: Damn you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Zero Wrestlers Under 50 Die in 24 Months!

Good news, everyone! Wrestlers are dying older!

Remember six years ago when everyone pretended to be up in arms because over 100 wrestlers under the age of 50 had died in the previous decade? Well, those days are over, Jack. In fact, my short, lazy research finds not a single wrestler less than a half-century old dropping dead since the spring of 2011. And even then it was someone named Chip Fairway, who I think might have been a character in Caddyshack.

If you think back to the summer of 2010, Trent Acid, JC Bailey and Lance Cade all died in their late 20s. No one cared. You, imaginary reader, surely didn’t, but it happened. Then I don’t find any wrestlers under 34 dropping dead in 2011. And do you know who we can thank?

That’s right. The “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

When Savage passed away in May 2011 at the age of 58 many of us were sad. But just as he did in his heyday, the Macho Man raised the bar. Suddenly wrestlers started hanging on. Even midget wrestler Little Tokyo held on until age 71 when he died four months after Savage.

By the time we were a quarter of the way into 2012, the average age for a dead wrestler that year was 56 years, seven months. And you would have had to be familiar with former Universal Wrestling Federation Television Champion Savannah Jack or powerlifter and tag team champion Doug Furnas to even shed a tear.

But by last fall, 50 and 60-something former wrestlers were dying like 30-year-olds were ten years ago. Bobby Jaggers, who formed the tag team the Kansas Jayhawks with “Dirty” Dutch Mantel in the NWA during the mid-80s, died in September at 64.

In October, Mike Graham, 61, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, just as his father Eddie Graham did nearly 28 years before. Five days later, Dave Deaton, who wrestled as one of the masked Thunderfoots (Thunderfeet?), drowned in the Missouri River.

November 2012 was particularly nasty as Brad Armstrong died from “medical distress” on the first of that month. Armstrong spent many great years in the NWA, UWF and WCW, but it was his brother Brian who had the most success in the family, wrestling as “The Road Dogg” Jesse James as part of the New Age Outlaws and D-Generation X in the WWE in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Then, something I only found out yesterday, Awesome Kong died on November 17. Kong’s real name was Dwain McCullough and, as his ring name would indicate, he was a monster, most notably defeating Jerry “the King” Lawler for the USWA title and teaming with another Kong to wrestle Ric Flair and Sting at Clash of the Champions 24. McCullough later spent some time in prison, presumably for something to do with steroids, but I ain’t asking any questions.


Finally, on November 29, “Freebird” Buddy Roberts joined his former tag team partner Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy in the Dead Wrestler Society, dying of pneumonia at age 65. Anyone who’s seen the WWE documentary The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling saw Buddy talking through a voice box, which was quite depressing.

Now in 2013, what have we had so far? Well, the only one of these guys to get any write ups after death (and a lot of ribbing from CM Punk on Monday Night Raw thanks to his gimmick with the Undertaker) was William Moody, AKA Percy Pringle III, AKA Paul Bearer, dead at the age of 58. But a month before Moody died, and this I also just learned, Spike, of the mid-80s NWA tag team the MOD Squad, passed away at age 52. Spike’s real name was James Jefferson. Which reminds me - I still need a partner to dress in old women’s clothing with me to wrestle as The Maude Squad.

Now, my dear, non-existent reader, you might say that men in the 50s and 60s drop dead all the time. And, yes, I’m sure some of you have even killed them yourselves. But picture, if you would, 10 to 12 baseball players you watched as a youth, whose cards you collected, dying in just 12 months. Let’s say Darrell Porter, Alfredo Griffin, Carney Lansford, Dane Iorg, Garth Iorg, Kent Tekulve, Ron Kittle, Len Sakata, Rusty Kuntz and Rick Burleson all died in the same year. Holy crap! Where did I pull those names from? None of them better die in the next few months or I’m fucked.

So while the list in 2007 was so long that The Sun decided they didn’t need to include any wrestlers born before American Bandstand premiered, dying in your 50s and 60s is still not advisable, even for a wrestler. Stan Stasiak, Giant Haystacks, Hiro Matsuda, Gorilla Monsoon , Giant Baba, Wahoo McDaniel, Nelson Royal, Moondog Spot, Pez Whatley, Ernie Ladd and Bad News Brown weren’t on that list, but they all died in their 50s or 60s between 1997 and 2007.

So, whether this new trend is the Macho Man’s doing or wrestlers are just giving up the business and installing air conditioners for a living, death is death. And I salute these fallen men as they battle in the great squared circle in the sky.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Puppet Shows Trailer!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages - the trailer for my hilarious collection of short stories, so absurd people are scratching their heads with it, Puppet Shows!

Anyway, I was thinking of how underground I am, and that not even my Facebook friends or Twitter followers (with a half dozen of so exceptions in the former, maybe two in the latter) pay just the slightest attention to the magic that is Puppet Shows. I say "Please share," they say, "Fuck you!" I say, "Please retweet," they say, "Suck it!" Never mind that they'll probably enjoy Puppet Shows, laugh a lot, and maybe help my children eat something other than dirt sandwiches for a couple of nights. They don't want to be bothered. (Don't worry. They surely won't read this either.) If it isn't a photo of a cat or baby or something some schmuck ate for dinner, it isn't important.

Enough venting. I was reminded of the very last poem of my second wonderful collection Long Blue Boomerang, which was titled "Underground."


I want to be undergrounder than underground,
not just digital or draped in velvet,
but cloven-hoofed with fetus hands,
and worms popping from my
empty eye sockets shouting,
“Eat our shit, Charles Bukkake!”

I want to dig to China
and recite poetry in pictures,
write haiku in my own feces,
and sing dirty limericks
nude while tied to a subway track

I want to take Sylvia Plath
from behind while she’s
face first in the oven,
dead like Doo-wop

I want my sestinas and cinquains
to scrape the top of a coffin,
and the ashes of my
pantoums and villanelles
to be spread across hell

I want to be an ostrich,
a ghost, a monster
with swords and guns
to prove the pen is not mightier.

I want to be underground,
dead like poetry,
dead like Stephen Crane,
dead like Bob Crane,
or at least endangered,
like the whooping kind
of crane that once flew
like words do.