Monday, September 26, 2016

freakboy muses music: Julie Brown

TV Entertainment Monthly, June 1989.
The article that started it all
It was the summer of 1989 and I was flipping through a magazine that cable t.v. providers used to send in the days before on-screen guides.  There was an article about a show on MTV where a woman poked fun at music videos.  It sounded amusing, plus the article also mentioned a film with the unique and somewhat provocative title of EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, which pretty much guaranteed I was going to watch the series mentioned.

Very shortly after reading this article, I sat down to watch my first episode of JUST SAY JULIE, with Miss Julie Brown.  Not only did this episode include one of my favorite soap opera staples, an evil twin, the plot also involved giving Linda Blair a home lobotomy and Julie Brown's song THE HOMECOMING QUEEN'S GOT A GUN.  Needless to say, I was hooked on Just Say Julie and became obsessed with finding her entertaining music! 

1987 Sire Records
I actually originally bought it on cassette.
1989 Sire Records/Reprise Records 
It's a terrifically fun film!
It wasn't long before I found her 1987 album TRAPPED IN THE BODY OF A WHITE GIRL and the soundtrack to Earth Girls Are Easy, which only had two songs by Miss Brown and a cover of the song that inspired the film, but the original, for whatever reason, was not included on the album.  While I was thoroughly entertained with these two albums, and surprised by a serious song or two, I desired to find Miss Brown's 1984 mini-album GODDESS IN PROGRESS.  Little did I suspect this would be a long and arduous journey.

A form letter totally worth reading!
I searched and special ordered Goddess in Progress at several music stores located in nearby cities.  All of these ended with the worst words in the world to my frantic ears....out of print.  In a desperate move, I wrote Miss Brown, in care of MTV, to find out if she had any information on this elusive album, and I'm sure I also expressed my obsessive enjoyment of her show and music.  I did receive a form letter response from my new idol with, tragically, zero info on GIP.  I was disappointed, but the form letter was very amusing and there was also a nice autographed photo included.
It would have been even more awesome if it had been personalized.

1982/1983 Bulletz Records
I wonder if Madonna was inspired by this image
for the back cover of her Like a Virgin album.
My search continued as the 1980's became, like, totally part of history, for sure.  It was 1993 when I was at a music store with a cousin in Grand Island, Nebraska.  Compact Discs were plentiful, but I was on the floor flipping through used records.  As far as I could tell, GIP was only available on vinyl, so this was my primary target.  I sat there flipping and flipping when suddenly Julie Brown caught my eye.  It wasn't what I had been searching for.  It was something unexpected.  It was something that kept my desire to find GIP alive and burning.  This record was a single for the song I LIKE'EM BIG AND STUPID, and it predated GIP.  I was so beyond excited that I stood up and shouted my cousin's name from across the room and then, while holding the record up like a trophy, announced to everyone in the store, "Julie Brown!"  I'm sure my cousin was a little mortified by my demonstrative exuberance, and other customers probably thought I was absolutely nuts, but I was floating on a cloud and really didn't care what other people thought. 

Time went by and, despite that unexpected boost, my searching waned a bit.  I hadn't completely given up, but there was only so many times I could check nearby stores.  Then I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and on a fateful day in October 1996, I decided it was time to fully resume my quest in a whole new area with completely different stores.  Instead of driving like a manic fool all over the city, I heaved out the enormous Omaha phone book, plopped onto the couch with a relative's dog, and started calling used record stores.  After striking out a few times, I called Dirt Cheap Recycled Sounds and asked if they had the object of my desire and the guy on the phone said he would check.  I held my hand over the receiver and said to the dog beside me, "They won't have it."  After what felt like an eternity, the guy came back on the phone and casually announced that they did have Julie Brown: Goddess in Progress.  He was unaware of the implosion he had just caused in my brain as I sat in stunned silence, collecting myself.  Finally, I managed to speak again, double checking the information I thought I heard.  To my utter amazement, the guy confirmed the title!

Dirt Cheap Recycled Sounds, Omaha, NE.
I think it closed up a long time ago.
Hopefully I kept my cool (yeah, right) as I asked about store hours and other details.  Then I told the guy I would be right there.  After hanging up the phone I went koo-koo bananas!  I hollered in joy while running around grabbing my billfold and keys.  The dog was racing around with me, barking in excitement.  I put on my shoes, got in the car and headed to downtown Omaha from 96th Street.  I had never been downtown by myself, so this was an adventure, but I had a mission to complete.  Nothing was going to stop me! 

I don't know how I found my way downtown without any problems.  Maybe I had experienced a temporary form of ESP, or maybe I simply paid attention.  Either way, I walked into Dirt Cheap Recycled Sounds and gave a cursory look around the store to calm down a little before approaching the counter.  I eventually informed the guy of my mission and he seemed surprised to see me so soon, which amused me.  

1984 Rhino Records
I still, on occasion, find myself staring at it in wonder.
The guy pulled out an unopened copy of Julie Brown: Goddess in Progress and handed it to me as the heavens parted with a beam of warm light and the angels sang in triumph, at least in my mind.  I stared at the purple-ish-pink cover in utterly pleased disbelief.  Seven years of searching all came down to this singular moment in downtown Omaha, NE, but it wasn't over yet.  I paid, profusely thanked the guy, and hurried to my car.  How I got back to 96th Street without causing a major accident is beyond me, considering I was constantly looking over at the record and touching it to make sure it was really real.

Soon enough, I was sprawled out on my bed, eyes closed, headphones on while Miss Brown sang five brilliantly clever, funny songs just for me.  Well, it felt like that anyway, especially since the record was unopened, until I opened it, so it also felt like this particular copy had been waiting for me since 1984.  

Yes, I was (am) a total geek-fanboy, and two of the five songs were especially special because I had never heard them before then.  "Will I Make It Through The Eighties" and "Earth Girls Are Easy" gave me such a musically euphoric high that I probably have yet to come completely down 20 years later!  

I suppose you think that finding and listening to this long sought after mini-album would be the end of this tale, and you are right.  Well, as far as this post goes anyway, but there are other tales I could tell involving Miss Julie Brown's awesome music, but those will have to wait for another day.

Thank you for reading this lengthy, obsessive, music-related post! 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Here is a post from earlier this year where I obsess over a very popular book and television series...

P.P.S.  If all goes according to plan, October's blog theme will be, I know what scares me...!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

freakboy muses music: Writing Soundtrack

I often listen to music while I write.  Even as I type these words, "Moment of Truth" by Dan Graham is relaxing my ears.  My offline digital songs are on shuffle, so anything could be next.  Pomplamoose, Black Sabbath, Garbage, Chairlift, Julie Brown, Over The Rhine, or a track from a soundtrack, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pretty in Pink,  Blacula, or The Little Shop of Horrors.

This is typically how it goes with my writing music.  Random, eclectic and may have very little to do with what I'm writing.  When I'm seriously immersed in a project, the music fades into the background as I become one with the literary world I'm creating.  There have been plenty of times I come up for real world air only to realize that the music has stopped, then I'm startled as the clock tells me how long I was out of touch with the physical world around me.  (Take note.  If you want to scare the crap out of me, sneak up on me while I'm writing.)

Occasionally, depending on the project, I thoughtfully choose a particular album or genre to put me in the mindset of what I need to write.  Whether it's a specific character's soul or an overall feeling I want to connect with, the carefully chosen music assists me in finding my words while staying true to that character or feeling.  I guess you could say the tunes lead me to where I need to go, like an emotional Pied Piper of Hamelin.

For the sake of interest, and to give me something to blog about, here are three examples of this specifically music-fueled style of writing.  (WARNING: The following may contain SPOILERS of DARK EXCURSIONS, so proceed with CAUTION, just like if you were actually reading my book.)

Chapter 26 
We now take you to a group... 
("Private Idaho" by The B-52's)
Crop Hoppins, having vaguely recalled committing a violent crime, has checked himself into a sanitarium.  My stories have a history of sending characters to some sort of psychiatric institution, so I couldn't resist a brief fiction fusion.  Two of Crop's therapy group-mates, Larry and Misty, are actually characters from an old, unreleased project of mine which I've referred to in this blog as P.I.  In truth, I borrowed the title of one of my favorite B-52's songs for what became an 8-season/79-episode audio soap opera parody.  With the psychotic Misty and neurotic Larry making cameos in DE, I popped on The B-52's WILD PLANET album for this chapter, with emphasis on "Private Idaho", to remind me of how to write for these other emotionally damaged characters. 

Chapter 73 
We now take you to the common...
(Rosemary's Baby soundtrack-Krzysztof Komeda)
Xylem Smith, the latest sanitarium patient, finds the familiar face of Sister Beatrice Cross in the aptly named common room.  Together they share a violent bond with a sick, twisted man and in the common they discuss forgiveness and the uncertain future.  I felt I needed Krzysztof Komeda's hauntingly beautiful and disturbing score as background music for the one unspeakable burden facing Beatrice that is only indirectly hinted at.  I believe this music helped set the tone for the entire chapter, not just for Beatrice's difficult situation.

Chapter 86 
We now take you to an entrance...
"Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt
What can I say about this chapter and song choice without giving everything away?  I knew while writing the very first three chapters that in the end there would be a major death.  "It's called Dark Excursions, not Light Voyages," as I once explained to a friend.  Once I understood which character would perish, I fought it, struggled to think of a scenario where this character could live and claim the happiness so deserved.  I accepted the inevitable in the end and with the painfully beautiful "Goodbye My Lover" on repeat, I wrote the final, bloody kiss between two lovers at the bottom of a perilous marble staircase.  Even after all this time, whenever I hear James Blunt's voice, I think about these characters wrapped together in tears, blood, and the promise of a tomorrow that would never arrive.

Music truly is the universal language because of the emotions it can contain, so it makes sense writers utilize this external source to enhance internal feelings.   I will continue to do so, no matter what I'm writing.  Now I end the main body of this post with "Blackout" by Garbage thumping in my brainsphere.  Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy music-related post.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  If Dark Excursions were a film or television series, I would want "The Trick Is To Keep Breathing" by Garbage to be its opening credits song and "Devil Inside" by INXS for its closing credits.  

P.P.S.  In case this post peaked your interest...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

freakboy muses music: The Lapse

On Labor Day, 2016, my sister and I paid final respects to one of our favorite book/movie/music stores.  HASTINGS typically has a nice eclectic collection of new and used titles, from the mainstream to the relatively obscure, but this fantastic store will soon be a part of history.  It's the digital way the world is headed.  Even I have downloaded e-books, music and a t.v. show or two, but it's still sad to see it go.

Chris Leo & Toko Yasuda

On this day, I was flipping through the CD's, not looking for anything in particular, when a cover caught my eye.  The photo, for some reason, made me think of the 1960's as if viewed through a contemporary prism.  Then the name of the band, THE LAPSE, made me grin slyly.  It all made sense to me, so I picked up the CD to examine it further.  The album title and song titles were intriguing, which clinched my decision to purchase this used disc at 80% off.

A week later, I finally sat down to listen to The Lapse: Heaven Ain't Happenin'.  I wanted to give this music my undivided attention.  Within seconds I smiled because I was already digging The Lapse's sound, which might be described as funky-alternative-rock.  As the disc progressed through its 10 tracks, I continued to enjoy it, even if the meaning behind some of the lyrics were a mystery to me.  Though, this was ultimately part of my overall enjoyment because the lyrics caused me to use my brain while neck-dancing to the music.

Heaven Ain't Happenin'
2000, Southern Records
While I enjoyed all ten tracks, the following spoke to me the loudest...(my interpretations may be totally off, but it's what the songs made me feel and think)...

I VOW FOR NOW is a blunt commentary on the fleeting nature of romantic relationships, with a startling brutal honesty in its conclusion.  I was truly surprised by the use of what sounds like real names, and the emotion behind them.

FRUIT is a moody, mellow expression of long-distance love.  I can't resist a song with a lyric like, 'When I have the last scoop of you, I get a little bit sad'.  Hmmm...maybe I'm wrong and it's really about cannibalism.

INTO THE PSYCHOMANTEUM, CHRIS & TOKO is a funky piece of concluding instrumental to play you and The Lapse back into however you and they define reality.  This song title played a huge part in my decision to purchase this CD, and it ends with no regrets on my part.

If there is a point to this post, it is to take a chance on the unknown once in a while.  You may occasionally find a gem among the  music, movies and books.  Which is ultimately why I'm bummed to see brick & mortar stores closing.  While it is still possible to run across random digital gems, it doesn't seem quite as satisfying to me.  A physical disc or book can be special in the sense that it feels like you've discovered some magnificent treasure that is unknown to all but you.

So, if what I've blogged intrigues you, consider this your random find and search for this CD of The Lapse!  FYI: an album titled Betrayal! is streaming on Spotify, but currently Heaven Ain't Happenin' there, so to speak. 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Here is a not too old post that centered round Hastings as I frantically searched for my favorite dolls...

Monday, September 12, 2016

freakboy muses music: Perry Como

It all began in the mid-to-late 1980's with a television series called Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection, which I watched on Nickelodeon After Dark (Nick at Nite).  This series would take an old movie, edit it, and dub in new dialogue to make a brand new plot.  At its best, Mad Movies was ingenious!  They turned The Little Princess, with Shirley Temple, into a tale of a little girl possessed by her evil, stinky doll, but I'm not here to blog about Shirley Temple.

Another film they reworked was DOLL FACE.  At the time, this movie was unknown to me, but I recognized Carmen Miranda and had only the vaguest notion of PERRY COMO being some old singer.  This episode of Mad Movies stuck with me over the years for two reasons.  1.) The scenes looked really odd, which made me curious to what was going on in the original film.  2.)  Kent Skov, the host of Mad Movies, didn't say what the original plot was, which made me doubly curious.  I was determined that one day I would see DOLL FACE so I would understand what it was all about!  Oh, and by the way, the Mad Movies plot centered around the questionable rules in a seedy beauty pageant.

Fast forward to 2006.  I was casually flipping through a DVD catalogue when I spotted DOLL FACE.  Well, I knew I would be ordering it so I could finally relieve my curiosity, and I did.  I discovered the plot was about a burlesque performer who wants to perform in legitimate theater, but her less than classy background is preventing this dream.  Her manager/boyfriend comes up with the idea of hiring a ghost writer to pen a questionably truthful autobiography of Doll Face, to prove she has the class to perform outside of burlesque.  As you can imagine, a romantic triangle is formed and comedic misunderstandings abound, with some singing in between.  DOLL FACE entertained me more then I expected, and it solidified my vague notion of Perry Como. 

I don't know if it was the eclectic songs he sang in DOLL FACE or his deep, soothing voice, but I wanted to hear more of Perry Como.  I quickly found a very best of collection that included Dig You Later, a groovy, and somewhat politically incorrect, number from DOLL FACE.  This collection inspired me to read up on "The Como" and this started a slippery slope of purchasing four more CDs.

From what I  read Perry Como was seriously into Christmas, he used to do annual TV specials, so I had to have a Christmas album.  Then I noticed a CD with his cover of My Funny Valentine, which I snatched up without a second thought or regret.  After listening to these three discs many times over, I realized I especially enjoyed the songs he sang with The Fontane Sisters.  This sibling trio often provided upbeat fun in Perry's songs, so it wasn't long before I had acquired a CD of nothing but Como/Fontane combos.

Little did I suspect that my final purchase would bring my Perry Como obsession full circle.  Critics' Choice Video is the catalogue I ordered DOLL FACE from and, in the end, from the company's music catalogue (Collectors' Choice Music), I ordered The Long Lost Hits of Perry Como, which included the song Here Comes Heaven from DOLL FACE.  This collection focused on his lesser known songs from the 1940's & '50's, which, in hindsight, is my favorite time period in Perry Como's decades-spanning career.  

If I have one disappointment in this 20+ year tale, it is I became a fan too late to see him in concert or at least write him a fan letter.  Perry Como passed away in 2001, but he left us with an interesting selection of songs to entertain and even emotionally move us, if you are so inclined to search for them with an open mind and ear.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Perry Como acted, and sang, in three other films, though, from what I've read, he didn't take his brief film career so seriously.  His heart belonged to music and crooning.

P.P.S. Here is a slightly older post about an album from an artist with a name that rhymes with Perry...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

freakboy muses music: Anachronistic Origin

I have decided to focus on music for the month of September.  Before I blog about any particular performer or album, I feel I should give a brief account of my first taste of music. Perhaps it will give you a better understanding of these music-related posts and of me in general.

I was born in the 1970's and for the first ten years of my life I predominately listened to what my sisters and I fondly referred to as Mom's Songs.  My mom had an eclectic collection of records that I could not get enough of.  I don't know what my American peers were listening to in their first decade of life, but my ears were full of Elvis, Fabian, Debbie Reynolds, Brian Hyland, The Coasters, Annette Funicello, Johnny Preston, Nancy Sinatra, Lonnie Donegan and a little Scatman Crothers(*), among many other artists.   *(my mom was hip)

These songs were my 33/45 rpm audio world, but other music managed to slip in.  Some from a sister or two...The Beatles, AC/DC and the soundtrack to GREASE.  Some from radio....I have a vivid memory of the aroma of my mom's pancakes, mingled with a hint of my dad's Old Spice aftershave, while Blondie sang "Sunday Girl" into my heart, mind and soul.  Even my dad's seemingly endless love of 8-track polka and peculiar country songs(**) may have ultimately contributed to my eclectic view of the music landscape.  **(sample lyric: "I love coffee in a cup...and grass.")

In hindsight, it wasn't until Michael Jackson's THRILLER hit the charts that I really took active notice of "new" music.  Then thanks to the music I saw on MTV and HBO's Video Jukebox, my view expanded, and continued to expand over the decades thanks to a relative and a friend or two sharing their interests, plus from a few unexpected sources, which I may or may not blog about this month. 

Now, many years later, I find my view at an almost limitless expanse thanks to streaming services.  So much music literally available at my fingertips, and while I still listen to Mom's Songs, I keep an open mind and ear to new, weird, and interesting music I may come across online.

Freak Out,

P.S.  Here is an old post about a turning point in my music history...