Friday, December 31, 2010

System of a Down -- "Chic 'n' Stu" (2002)

What a splendid pie,
Pizza, pizza pie,
Every minute, every second,
Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy
Pepperoni and green peppers
Mushrooms, olive, chives


It's almost the end of 2010, and I wanted to give my readers a very special post to mark the occasion.  

This post is no doubt the most narcissistic one I've ever done.  (That's no mean feat, given the posts that have come before it.)  

My original plan for this blog was to identify and discuss good songs that few people knew about.  I planned to talk about how I became acquainted with those songs, or what was going on in my life when those songs were released.  But the emphasis was going to be on the music.

This post turns that noble concept on its head.  Instead of starting with a worthwhile piece of music and putting it in some sort of historical or personal context, I'm starting with a song that is not really worthy of much discussion -- except for the fact that it provides a springboard for a detailed exploration of a seriously trivial aspect of my life.  

I think those of you who read until the end will agree that the degree of self-absorption here is rather breathtaking.

I love System of a Down, but this is not one of their more interesting songs.  (It shouldn't have taken the SOAD boys more than about five minutes to write -- nothing very complex or subtle here, that's for sure.)  The only reason I'm presenting it is that my format requires it.  I have to have a song with 2 or 3 lines that I connect to my topic in some fashion.  And the topic today is . . . pizza and me.  Or to put it more accurately (even at the risk of offending the grammarians among us), me and pizza.

That's right, boys and girls.  We're going to start with the first pizza I remember eating, visit the pizza places I most often patronized in college, law school, and in the cities I've lived in since then -- all the way up to the pizza I had earlier this week.  

I wouldn't say that pizza is my favorite food.  But I am confident that there is no food I've eaten more often over the course of my life (excluding Dr. Pepper, which is not food, strictly speaking).  

And, after all, what is more significant?  What a man says?  Or what that man does?  To quote the immortal Mark Twain, "Actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often."  I think we can all agree on that.  

In any event, I'm not going to say "do as I say, not as I do," as my parents used to say when I pointed out inconsistencies between certain instructions they issued to me and their own actions.  (Their response to me?  To quote my favorite line in all of literature -- taken from The Young Immigrunts, by the immortal Ring Lardner: "Shut up," he explained.)
Before we get to my first pizza, it is incumbent upon me to discuss "Chic 'n' Stu," the song from which the lines quoted above are taken.

Chick Hearn
The title of "Chic 'n' Stu" is a reference to legendary Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play man Chick Hearn and Stu Lentz, who was Hearn's color commentator for many years.  Hearn broadcast 3338 consecutive Lakers games, a streak that began in 1965 and ended in 2001 (at the age of 85) when he had heart surgery.  He is credited with inventing a number of now-common basketball terms, including "slam dunk," "air ball," and "no harm, no foul."  

The first few lines of this song paraphrase what Hearn said when the Lakers had a game in the bag:  "The game's in the refrigerator, the door is closed, the light is out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the Jell-O's jigglin'."

The song supposedly was conceived when some or all of the band's members were watching a Lakers game on television and were struck by all the persuasive and enticing commercials during the broadcast -- hence the lines in the song about "Advertising causes need" and "Advertising's got you on the run" -- especially a pizza commercial that inspired them to order a pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, and chives.

You're probably asking yourself, "Chives -- on a pizza?"  This is Los Angeles, where they invented barbecued chicken pizza, so anything is possible.  But I've never seen chives listed among the toppings at a carryout pizza joint.

This is not the only SOAD song with sports references, by the way.  "Old School Hollywood" (which is on Mezmerize) is about SOAD member Daron Malakian's experience playing in a celebrity baseball game with Tony Danza (among others).

Enough of this.  In the words of the immortal Toby Keith, "I wanna talk about me."

My First Time

The first time I ever ate pizza was at the Pizza Hut (possibly a Pizza Inn) located in the Bel-Aire Shopping Center at 20th and Rangeline in Joplin, Missouri.  I would have said I was in 8th or 9th grade, but on further reflection I think it must have been after I had a driver's license.  (I don't recall parents being involved, so I presume that either my companion or I drove there.)  

1970s-style Pizza Hut restaurant
I was with my good friend, Bob, who was much more sophisticated than I was -- he probably had eaten more authentic pizza in larger cities.  I readily acceded to his suggestion that we order a mushroom pizza, although I doubt that I had ever willfully consumed a mushroom prior to that.  (I remember that the mushrooms were sliced, canned mushrooms -- probably all that was available in Joplin in those days.)  

The other detail I remember vividly is that I burned the hell out of the roof of my mouth.

Once I lost my pizza virginity, so to speak, it became a regular part of my diet.  On Friday night's after Parkwood football or basketball games, we often went to the Ken's Pizza (a regional chain) at 32nd and Main.  

I also remember wearing a double-breasted navy blazer and tie when I took a date (I won't embarrass her by mentioning her name) to a pizza place on North Rangeline one Saturday night.

All You Can Eat 

When I moved off campus my junior year of college, I went weekly to an all-you-can-eat pizza and salad buffet at a Pizza Inn (possibly a Pizza Hut) on Bissonnet Street in suburban Houston, Texas.  

I'm guessing the buffet cost $2.99 -- maybe $3.99.  In those days, I was kind of finicky when it came to pizza toppings -- I liked ground beef and cheese and not a lot else.  But the buffet was open from 11:30 am to 2 pm, as I recall, so I had plenty of time to wait for a ground beef pizza to show up on the buffet table.  (I usually took a book to occupy myself.)

I didn't grow up with much money, so I always got my money's worth at any all-you-can-eat opportunity.  As a result, I would fall asleep on my sofa within minutes of arriving back at my apartment.

I remember going to a slightly fancier non-chain pizza place with my college girlfriend on occasion -- I forget the name.  I think the main drawing point of the place was that they had beer and (more importantly) that they would sell some of that beer to us.  

"Here, To Go?  Ten Minute."

There was a Greek pizza and sub shop called "Three Aces Pizza" just a block or two from the Harvard Law School dormitories.  A favorite law school trivia question was which ace was missing from the Three Aces sign.

The staff at Three Aces -- I think they were all brothers, or at least cousins -- were men of few words.  Here are those few words:

1.  "Salt, pepper?"  (This was used only when you ordered a grinder -- which was the local argot for a sub.)

2.  "Here, to go?"

3.  "10 minute."  (No matter what you ordered or when, it was always promised to be ready for pickup in 10 minutes.) 

Three Aces closed in 2009.  I've heard two explanations for the closure.  One was that Harvard, which was their landlord, wanted the land (which was directly adjacent to the law school campus) for expansion.  The other was that some sort of toxic waste issue resulting from the way the neighboring dry cleaner got rid of its used dry-cleaning chemicals. 

I brought home a pizza from Three Aces at least once a week for my three years of law school.  During winter exam week, when there was usually snow up to your ass in Cambridge, I might go there 6 or 7 nights in a row.  (My lunches were usually Oscar Mayer all-beef bologna sandwiches -- with cheese, of course -- or homemade chicken noodle soup.  On weekends I would splurge and make Kraft macaroni and cheese.)

One of the perks of working on the law school newspaper was that we got free pizza and beer on the nights that we put the paper together.  We used to order from Three Aces.  But my last year on the paper, some of the younger whippersnappers insisted we try out a new alternative/healthy pizza place.   They sold whole-wheat pizza with broccoli as a topping -- I kid you not.  What hath God wrought?

I Could See Him at All Times

I lived in a number of neighborhoods in "Our Nation's Capital" and its suburbs since moving here in 1977.  

My favorite pizza carryout of all time was Vesuvio's, which was located on Connecticut Avenue near Dupont Circle.  Even after I got married and my wife and I moved far away from Dupont Circle, I would hit Vesuvio's whenever we were asked to dog-sit and cat-sit when my in-laws (who lived near Vesuvio's) were on vacation.  

One Saturday night during one of these pet-sitting visits, my wife was out and I was left behind with our very young son.  I ordered a pizza from Vesuvio's, but they didn't deliver.  So I had to buckle Nick into his car seat, drive a few blocks to Connecticut Avenue, and find a parking place -- not easy to do on a Saturday night in Dupont Circle.

I decided to take a chance and leave my car in a no-parking spot right in front of Vesuvio's, figuring I could run in, quickly pay for the pizza, and get back to my car before anything bad happened.  

I didn't want to have to unhook Nick from his car seat and drag him in with me.  Carrying a large pizza box and a squirming baby at the same time would have been most inconvenient.  So I left him in the car.

Would you have stolen this baby?

I know, I know -- I probably shouldn't have done it.  But I did lock the car.  And I could see the car at all times while I was in the restaurant -- he was never out of my sight.  

Does it surprise you that my wife has never let me forget this?  I realize you don't know my wife, but you must know other wives.  Would it surprise you if any wife let her husband forget this?  It would very much surprise me.


After three years working at Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, I was offered the chance to work temporarily in the FTC's San Francisco office.  My current wife -- she was not my wife or my fiancee then, but rather my POSSL-Q (that was a Census Bureau term -- "persons of opposite sex sharing living quarters") -- booted me out of her apartment at about the same time, so it was off to the city by the bay for me. 

My best friend from law school was working for a firm in San Francisco then, and we were quite the men about town.  When we didn't feel like fending off the attentions of the many eligible young ladies who frequented the Balboa Cafe, Dartmouth Social Club, and other Union Street establishments, we would head for a tiny local pizza joint in our neighborhood.

The main attraction wasn't the pizza, but a coin-operated "Galaxians" video game.  "Galaxians" was popular in 1981 -- just after "Asteroids" and "Space Invaders" and just before "Pac-Man."

Because I worked for the government, I managed to find quite a bit more time to sharpen my skills than my friend did.  It got to where I could play for about half an hour on a single quarter.  At the end of such a session, I would feel like I had just landed on Omaha Beach, or at least ridden a really scary roller-coaster a few times.  I was so overstimulated and twitchy from adrenaline that it would take me hours to calm down enough to go to sleep.

Eventually, the next generation of games started to replace "Galaxians" in the local bars and carryouts.  I never mastered another game -- I just didn't have the heart to start all over again.

"Just Like Cardboard"

Since returning to the Washington area in 1982, I've lived in the suburbs -- not really prime carryout-pizza territory.  

I've gotten in the habit of picking up a pizza every Friday night on my way home from work.  I usually eat half the pizza Friday night, and consume the rest for breakfast over the weekend and on the following Monday and Tuesday.  (Monday and Tuesday are the nights I've had baked salmon, spaghetti, and French-style green beans for over 15 years now.)

I've searched far and wide for a good source for my Friday night pizzas.  For awhile, I was happily patronizing Continental Pizza, a small, family-run operation in Kensington, Maryland, near the Catholic high school that my daughters attended.  I eventually gave up on Continental -- partly because my commuting patterns have changed, and I no longer drive past it on Fridays.

For the past several years, my go-to Friday-night pizza source has been the humble Pizza Hut (delivery and carryout only) in a nearby strip shopping center.  Until recently, I must say that most of the people who worked at this Pizza Hut were completely clueless.  (I can't tell you how many of my orders there have been screwed up.)  

I remained loyal largely because I could always find some kind of online coupon to use there.  About a year ago, the corporate suits at Pizza Hut decided to implement a single-price strategy -- $10 for pretty much any kind of pizza you wanted.  About the same time, my local Pizza Hut got a competent manager who actually remembers my name and makes sure my order is right.

As long as Pizza Hut sticks with the $10 prix fixe policy, I'll never leave them.  Even though my wife says their pizza tastes like cardboard.

Which doesn't prevent her from sneaking a piece of mine most Friday nights.  Which leaves me with no leftover piece of pizza for my Tuesday breakfast.  

Which makes me bitter!

Here's the "Chic 'n' Stu" song, including lyrics:

I'm not going to bother to include the usual links to order the song -- I can't imagine anyone paying for this song.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frankie Goes to Hollywood -- "Relax" (1983)

Relax, don’t do it
When you want to sock it to it
Relax, don’t do it
When you want to come

Before we get into this song, there's a Venn diagram I want you to see.  It compares and contrasts TSA agents, doctors, and prostitutes.

I will never create anything half as funny as this.  Who would have thought back in 9th grade that a Venn diagram could be put to such brilliant comedic use?  I tip my cap to the man or woman who came up with this one.  

"Relax" was released as a single in the UK in the fall of 1983, and was sitting at #6 on the UK single charts early in 1984 when a BBC DJ noticed the "Relax" record sleeve, read the lyrics, and pronounced the record  "obscene."  He pulled the record off the turntable in mid-play, and the BBC banned the song a couple of days later.

You can guess what happened, can't you?  The record immediately went to #1 on the UK charts and stayed there for five weeks.

The music video for "Relax" -- it depicts a gay S&M club -- is a bit spicy:

"Relax" is featured in a very odd movie -- Brian De Palma's 1984 homage-to-Hitchcock thriller, Body Double.   For some reason, this movie is always available as one of the free on-demand movies offered by my cable-TV provider.  

Body Double has become a cult favorite,  although I would guess that about 99% of the members of its cult are male.  (If there are any women out there who really like this movie, I'm not sure I want to meet you.)  It has a no-name cast -- Melanie Griffith is probably the best-known star in the movie, and she was not well-known when Body Double was filmed.   

Melanie Griffith in "Body Double"

De Palma also cast Griffith in his 1990 movie, Bonfire of the Vanities -- much to his regret.  After the exterior scenes were shot in New York City, De Palma gave the cast some time off for the Christmas holidays before resuming production at a Hollywood soundstage where the interior scenes were to be filmed.  

An "after" photo
During the break, Melanie decided to get breast implants.  She showed up in De Palma's office, stuck them in his face, and asked "How d'ya like 'em?"  De Palma and the rest of the crew was astonished that she could be so clueless as to dramatically alter her appearance in mid-shoot.  Talk about a continuity issue . . .

I'm not going to get into the plot of Body Double, which is complicated and full of twists and turns (some of which don't make a lot of sense if you really think about them) -- I don't want to give anything away.  But I do recommend the movie highly to those of you who aren't put off by movies that show beautiful women being assaulted by creepy guys with big-ass electric drills.  

Big-ass drill from "Body Double"
Suffice it to say the male lead -- a fairly obscure actor named Craig Wasson (a Bill Maher lookalike) -- ends up appearing in a porn video with Melanie Griffith (a/k/a/"Holly Body").  "Relax" is the soundtrack to a scene from that movie-within-a-movie, which is shot like a stand-alone music video.

Deborah Shelton
By the way, if the brunette in the video looks familiar, her name is Deborah Shelton.  She is a former Miss USA (1970) and is best-known for her role as Mandy Winger, who was one of J. R. Ewing's girlfriends on "Dallas."  I don't think she ever appeared in another movie, although she did make guest appearances on a bunch of TV shows -- "Fantasy Island," "The Love Boat," "The A-Team," "T.J. Hooker," that sort of thing.

Here's the "Relax" scene from Body Double:

Here's a link you can use to order "Relax" from iTunes:

Relax - Bang!...The Greatest Hits of Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Here's a link you can use to order a DVD of "Body Double" from Amazon:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eric Prydz -- "Call On Me" (2004)

Call on meeeeeee
Call on me
Call on meeeeee
Call on me
I'm the same boy I used to be

I'm going to wake up in the morning overwhelmed by feelings of remorse about this post.  But I just can't stop myself.  I have an irresistible urge, and there's no immovable object (e.g., my wife) to stop me.

We'll keep this short.  Eric Prydz is the Swedish DJ/producer responsible for "Call On Me," a 2004 dance music track based on a sample of Steve Winwood's 1982 single, "Valerie."

Here's the "Valerie" video.  (It sucks.  The song sucks, too.  Steve Winwood is one of the all-time greats, but I'm not giving him a pass on this one.)

"Call On Me" was a hugely successful single, especially in Europe – it hit #1 on the singles charts in Australia, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.  (It was also #1 on the "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles," which tracks total sales in 15 European countries.)

Wikipedia has this to say about the song:

Call On Me" is partly known for its music video, which features women and one man performing aerobics in a sexually suggestive manner.


Tony Blair
The "FemaleFirst" website reported that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this about the "Call On Me" video:  "The first time it came on, I nearly fell off my rowing machine."

(That'll happen if you don't have a good two-handed grip on the oars.)

As you can imagine, the "Call On Me" video inspired many parodies:


Here's a much longer parody:

I don't think this one is intended to be funny:

Here's an instructional video featuring Deanne Berry (the Australian dancer who appears in the original "Call on Me" video), which will teach you how to do the same moves she did:


Finally, here's the famous Jamie Lee Curtis-John Travolta aerobics workout scene from the 1985 movie, Perfect, set to "Call On Me":

Here's a link you can use to order "Call On Me" from iTunes:

Call On Me (Radio Edit) - Call On Me - EP

Here's a link you can use to order "Call On Me" from Amazon:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tupac Shakur (feat. Snoop Dogg) -- "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" (1996)

I got a pit named Pea, she Nigerina
I got a house out in the hills right next to Chino . . .
Ain't nothin' but a gangsta party

I can't believe how much fun "2 or 3 lines" has turned out to be.  Not very lucrative, unfortunately, because NO ONE IS CLICKING ON MY ADS -- but still fun.

Earlier this month, "2 or 3 lines" featured a guest post from Carl Wiser, the creator of Songfacts.  Carl had e-mailed me some time ago and said something nice about one of my posts, so I asked him to pick a song and write something about it -- and he did.

After that, I decided to send a blind message to the Rap Genius website and ask if someone there would do a post for "2 or 3 lines."

Rap Genius is where you go if you can't figure out what a rap song means -- chances are they will have an explanation for you.  Rap Genius is a very important reference tool for old white guys like me who are otherwise clueless about rap culture.

Here's a link to Rap Genius's "The History of Hip Hop."

Here's a link to another Rap Genius post of great interest to me: "Rap Genius LLP -- A New Legal Service for the Rap Community," many of whom have spent time in jail.

Much to my surprise, I got a prompt response from Mahbod Moghadam, the founder of Rap Genius:

Yooo wassup Gary, I'm the founder of Rap Genius.

This sounds like a great idea!

I'll send a post over ASAP.
Mahbod Moghadam

A few days later, Mahbod sent me the following explanation of why he started Rap Genius:

"2 or 3 Lines" asked me why I decided to convince my homies to decode the corpus of rap lyrics.  One night, the Prophet Muhammad appeared to me in a dream, flanked by 2Pac and the Archangel Gabriel.  After some dancing and fireworks, they said unto me:

“Mahbod! Um . . . am I pronouncing your name right?  O Chosen One!  You must build a site to explain rap lyrics to the Kafirs, that they may learn Wisdom from your exegesis."

The next morning, I was a man with a mission.  I wanted to explain ALL OF RAP, line by line. I wanted people to click on a line and -- poof! -- an explanation pops up.

Don’t get it twisted -- I’m not saying I didn’t know anything about rap when we started the site.  I know more about rap than anyone, basically. I love hip-hop, it’s my religion.  Rap is like Islam . . . but better.

But even a rap dictionary like me gets corrected here and there.  The first explanation on the site was wrong!  I was teaching Tom -- my genius white friend, good with computers -- about Killa Cam.  He was confused by the line “80 holes in your shirt, they’re your own Jamaican clothes.”  [Note:  "Killa Cam" is a stage name used by Cameron Giles, a rapper who is also known as "Cam'ron."  This line is from his 2004 song, "Family Ties."]

I told him Cam’ron was simply talking about Rastas wearing tattered up clothes, like your clothes would look if you got shot up.

At the time, I had no idea about this creepy fashion trend:

And that’s why Tom and I made the site. So that we could learn more about rap, cause all we listen to is hip-hop (also you should’ve seen the way Pac’s eyes shone as Muhammad spoke).

Stanford Law School
As I was looking for an online picture of Mahbod to embed in this post, I came across this article on "Above the Law," a legal website.  It turns out the Mahbod is a 2008 graduate of Stanford Law School.

He was hired as an associate by a very large and prestigious law firm, but was offered a year off to do whatever he wanted if he would accept one-third of his current salary and promise to come back at the end of a year.  (A lot of firms offered a similar opportunity to their new hires when the bottom dropped out of the economy in 2008 -- they didn't want to lose them, but also didn't want to have to pay them six-figure salaries when they didn't have enough work to keep them busy.  So they offered them a reduced salary not to work for 6 months or a year.)

Mahbod used his time off to start Rap Genius.  And he persuaded two Yale Law graduates he knew to quit their full-time jobs and help him.  Here's what the "Above the Law" article had to say:

They're hoping to make more money from Rap Genius, once they start integrating advertisements. “On the one hand, I know it’s a huge risk,” said Moghadam. “It’s hard to get a new business started.”
But Moghadam points out that the business of providing lyrics is an undeveloped market on the Web — many sites are laden with spyware and flashing, annoying ads, in part because “lyrics is the most popular word searched on the Web after Facebook,” said Moghadam.  He claims that the leading lyrics site, Metrolyrics, makes $10 million a year, and they don’t even offer exegesis.
The site is run Wikipedia style, with new interpretations and definitions of lyrics invited from readers (though editors pick and choose the best of them). Lawyerly rap fans helped out with the interpretation of Jay-Z’s "99 Problems," for example. We think Rap Genius is pretty cool, though the Daily Swarm was less impressed, saying it explains rap in “the whitest language possible.”
Moghadam would love to get Dewey partners involved in the site in some way, since there are some there with music industry connections who could help the site take off. His dream would be to link up with music and entertainment partner Londell McMillan, who has repped Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Usher, L.L. Cool J, Kanye West, Mos Def, and Russell Simmons, among others. “He’s kind of a meme at the firm,” explained Moghadam. “Everyone wants to get in with him.”
He imagines spin-off sites for rock music, poetry and the Bible. “We’re hoping to explain everything with cute little pictures and pop ups,” said Moghadam. “That’s what’s cool about a recession. It frees people up to go off on tangents.”
Let's get back to the song.  Mahbod's e-mail also discussed one of the lines quoted at the beginning of this post, which is from a classic rap song I had never heard before -- "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" by Tupac Shakur (a/k/a "2Pac") and Snoop Doggy Dogg.  Here's a link to Rap Genius's commentary on this song.

Since starting the site I’ve learned the meaning of some curious rap lines from our crowd-sourced pool. “I’ve got a pit named Pea, she Nigerina” sounds so hard, but I was always afraid to rap it (because of the “N”-word).

When the song came on at parties, I’d be like “I got a pit named Pea, she hmm-hmm huh-huh.”

But as the Rap Genius comment on this line notes, there was once a grand champion pit bull named Nigerino who was a very popular sire.  (A number of breeders advertise their pit bulls as coming from Nigerino's bloodline.)  Snoop's female pit bull -- which he calls "Pea" -- must be in Nigerino's bloodline.

Snoop Dogg and friends
"2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" appeared on 2Pac's All Eyez On Me double CD, which was released in early 1996 -- just seven months before Shakur was the victim of a drive-by shooting while riding in a car in Las Vegas after attending a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand.  (After 2Pac was killed, his body was cremated, and members of his posse mixed some of his ashes with marijuana and smoked it.  Now that's living the thug life, boys and girls.) 

The All Eyez On Me album, which has been described as an unapologetic celebration of the thug life, is considered to be the masterpiece of 1990's rap.  It was hugely successful -- it is a "9x platinum" album, which means that it sold 9 million copies.

Shakur was only 25 years old when he was murdered, but produced an amazing quantity of music in a short period of time.  His parents were Black Panthers (his stepfather was on the FBI's "most wanted" list for four years), and he was accused in a number of crimes, but he was also a remarkably gifted musician.

Shakur is a major figure in the history of 20th-century popular music.  Not knowing about 2Pac -- and I admit I didn't know much about him before researching this post -- is like not knowing about Elvis Presley.  Even though both of them died years ago, they are still cult figures who have legions of dedicated, even obsessive fans.  

Biggie Smalls
To understand "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," you have to go back to 1994.  Shakur -- who was on trial for sexual assault at the time -- was shot five times and robbed one night as he entered a recording studio in Manhattan.  He suspected that rival rappers Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Biggie Smalls ("The Notorious B.I.G.") set him up.  (A friend whom he also suspected of being involved was shot and killed the next year.)

The music video for "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" was filmed four months before 2Pac's murder.  As the video begins, a wounded Shakur confronts two very nervous men he calls "Piggie" and "Buff Daddy," who beg him for mercy.  

[WARNING:  Some of you are likely going to find the language and subject matter of this song offensive.  So proceed at your own risk.]

Here's how the song begins:

Ahh sh*t, you done f*cked up now --
You done put two of Amerikaz most wanted in the same
Motherf*ckin' place at the same motherf*ckin' time
Snoop Dogg had been charged with murder in 1993, so it's accurate to say that he and 2Pac -- who was no stranger to legal problems -- were, in fact, "two of Amerikaz most wanted."
Break out the champagne glasses
And the motherf*ckin' condoms
Have one on us, aight?
Ain't nothin' but a gangsta party

These lines are quite remarkable given that Shakur was incarcerated for eleven months after being convicted of sexual assault.  He had allegedly sodomized a woman in his hotel room and then encouraged his friends to sexually abuse her.  "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" was recorded shortly after he was released from prison. 

2Pac refers to his 1994 shooting in the song:

They wonder how I live, with five shots
Niggaz is hard to kill, on my block 

The video ends with 2Pac and Snoop celebrating as they drive away from a shot-up police van.  The following words appear on screen -- "No police officers were harmed during the filming of this video" -- and there's a closing shot of a banquet table with a huge roast pig at its center.

Once again, my thanks to Mahbod Moghadam and his posse at Rap Genius.  I'll be citing Rap Genius in future posts.

Here's the video of "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted":

Here's a link you can use to buy this song from iTunes:

2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted - All Eyez On Me (Remastered)

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

David Bowie -- "Moonage Daydream" (1972)

I'm an alligator
I'm a mama-papa coming for you
I'm the space invader
I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you . . .
Keep your 'lectric eye on me, babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!

In case you've forgotten -- and who could blame you? -- "2 or 3 lines" is still in the middle of a very long series of posts featuring songs that were on albums that were popular on my college campus back in the early 1970's.  Given his popularity and his singularity, I had to include a David Bowie song in that series.

Imagine that Jeopardy had a category titled "Animals That Rock Stars Most Resemble."  If the answer was "David Bowie," my question would definitely be "What is a chameleon?"

Bowie with Bing Crosby in 1977
Over his 40-year-plus musical career, Bowie has performed in a dizzying variety of musical styles -- skiffle, folk, Merseybeat, blues, guitar-based rock, glam rock, funk, soul, minimalist/ambient, Krautrock, dance, electronica, and probably a few others I've overlooked.  And that doesn't include his televised performance in 1977 of "The Little Drummer Boy" along with Bing Crosby.  

Bowie at age 17
Bowie -- who was born David Robert Jones in 1947 -- formed his first band (the Kon-Rads) when he was 15.  He then formed Davie Jones and the King Bees and released his first single when he was 17 -- "Liza Jane," a somewhat disguised version of the old standard "Li'l Liza Jane."

("Li'l Liza Jane" was also the signature tune of the fife, jug, and bottle band I was a member of after I left the Rogues.  I played two one-gallon Dr. Pepper soda-machine syrup jugs, tuned to C and G.  I don't think I ever got to the end of a song without having to take a break.  Blowing enough air into the jugs to make a nice loud "ooom-pah" sound quickly resulted in hyperventilation severe enough that I came perilously close to passing out each time we performed.)

After he left the King Bees, he joined the Manish, the Lower Third, the Buzz, and the Riot Squad, respectively.  None were successful.  

One problem with the name "Davie Jones" is that the Monkees had a guy named "Davy Jones," so David Jones became David Bowie.  He released a solo album under that moniker in 1967, but it sank without a trace.  A couple of years later, he released his Space Oddity album, with the eponymous hit single ("Ground control to Major Tom," etc.).  In 1971, he released Hunky Dory, which had the hit single "Changes" ("Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes," etc.).

And then came the album that changed everything -- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a concept album which was released in 1972 and was one of the albums my friends and I listened to a lot when we were in college.

Wikipedia describes Ziggy Stardust as "the human manifestation of an alien being [and] the definitive rock star: sexually promiscuous, wild in drug intake and with a message, ultimately, of peace and love; but he is destroyed both by his own excesses of drugs and sex, and by the fans he inspired."  Not a bad way to go, n'est-ce pas?

Bowie hoped to turn the album into a theatrical production or television special.  Here's how he later explained the concept behind Ziggy Stardust:
Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth.  It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources.  Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted.  The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything.  Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll.  There's no electricity to play it. . . .
Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes "Starman," which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately . . . . 
The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers.  Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth.  They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village.  They don't have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us.  They just happened to stumble into our universe by black-hole jumping.  Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe.  In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a black New Yorker.  I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox . . . . 
Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen.  He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples.  When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world.  And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide."  As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible. 
(Whatever you say, David.)

Bowie as a movie alien
Bowie later starred in the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth.  He played a humanoid alien who came to earth and used his advanced scientific knowledge to patent a lot of inventions and make a lot of money.  The character needed some serious dough-re-mi in order to be able to transport water back to his home planet, which was in dire straits due to a terrible drought.

His Earthling girlfriend (played by American Graffiti star Candy Clark, one of my personal favorites) introduced him to church, alcohol, television and human-style sex.  Eventually, he became addicted to -- you guessed it! -- alcohol and television.  Even worse, the government figured out he was an alien and held him captive, preventing him from saving his home planet.

Candy Clark in "The Man Who Fell to Earth"

The Bowie character had really weird eyes -- orange-colored cat-like eyes, as I recall.  He wore colored contact lenses to conceal his alien appearance.  When government scientists were trying to figure him out by submitting him to all kinds of intrusive and unpleasant test procedures, the X-rays they used in one examination resulted in those lenses becoming permanently bonded to his eyes.

Here's the trailer for The Man Who Fell to Earth:

One inspiration for the Ziggy Stardust character was a crazy Texas  performer named the "Legendary Stardust Cowboy."  

Here's the Legendary Stardust Cowboy performing on "Laugh-In":

And here he is performing his song "My Underwear Froze to the Clothesline" many years later:

"Moonage Daydream" is a killer song -- it hits you upside the head immediately and never lets up.  According to Songfacts, it was originally released as a single in 1971 by a Bowie-led band named Arnold Corns, which shortly thereafter morphed into the Spiders from Mars.

Bowie later explained that he decided to pair a piccolo and a baritone sax in the instrumental break (which begins not quite two minutes into the song) after hearing an old Hollywood Argyles song featuring the same combination:

Songfacts also quotes from Bowie's description of how important guitarist Mick Ronson was to this song:

Mick's raw, passionate, Jeff Beck-style guitar was perfect for Ziggy and the Spiders. . . . I would literally draw out on paper with a crayon or a felt tip pen the shape of a solo.  The one in "Moonage Daydream," for instance, started as a flat line that became a fat megaphone-type shape, and ended up as sprays of disassociated and broken lines. . . . Mick could take something like that and actually bloody play it, bring it to life.

Here's a link to the Songfacts page on "Moonage Daydream."

As great as "Moonage Daydream" is, I was tempted to feature "Suffragette City," which is the penultimate song on the Ziggy Stardust album.  (Those of you who know me will hardly be surprised to hear that.)  I can't think of a song that's more fun to sing along to at a drunken party than "Suffragette City."  But I didn't think that "Wham, bam/Thank you, ma'am" met even the liberal "2 or 3 lines" standards for lyrics to quote at the beginning of a post.

Spend a little time on YouTube and you can find covers of "Suffragette City" by Alice in Chains, Poison, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Boy George.  But the weirdest cover of this song by far is the one by the 1980's pop band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood:

Here's "Moonage Daydream":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

Moonage Daydream - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon: