Friday, June 18, 2010

Top 10 Opening Lyrics (Ever): Part 1 of ?. #10 - #7

Although it tends toward the well played and the popular, toward the hall of fame and the textbook, it's hard to argue with most of [Spinner's top 25 opening lyrics ever]( Now I wouldn't put "She's a very kinky girl" at the top of my list but I see its appeal and would likely put it in my top 25 opening lyrics as of 25 years ago. Human League's "She was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar" is a gem though it is undone by its ludicrous follow-up line: "that much is true." Come on, League, you've uttered one entire line - do you realy need to reiterate that it's "true"? We never thought you were lying. Speaking of that line, who the hell calls it a "cocktail bar?"

Elsewhere on the list: "Don't call it a comeback" is made even more powerful by its follow-up: "I've been here for years." But LL has a better one and it'll be on my list. Prince says "I was dreaming when I wrote this" and that's evocative and all. But then he challenges you to sue him if he goes too fast. Prince, you're eight seconds into the song. We have no idea if you're going too fast.

And: It's hard to argue with stalwarts like "Hello darkness, my old friend" and "You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips." But I wish the creators of this list had left more room for more recent openers. We did just go through the greatest 15-year period in the history of music. But this is the internet and I can make my own list. I can make a better list. But...I have a job so I'm only giving you 10.

Top 10 Opening Lyrics (Ever): Part 1 of ?. #10 - #7

10. "I sit alone in my four-cornered room , staring at candles."
Mind Playin' Tricks On Me - Geto Boys
Let's dispense with the obvious: Most rooms have four corners. The fact that the claustrophobic closing-in room of paranoid nightmares also has four walls probably doesn't need to be specified. But there's an attempt here to evoke a crazy, unreasonable kind of madness, one that will get anyone into deep trouble if it - the madness - goes too far. But when Scarface delivers the zinger - and I bet he called it a zinger - "staring at candles" we know he's in deep. We know the candles aren't there for romance or ambiance - they're there because he either doesn't want to turn on the lights for fear that the cameras in the bulbs will more accurately catch his movements OR he didn't pay the electric bill.

If you think of the four parts of this song as songs in themselves, you've got four awesome openers. Willie D. strikes a pose for positivity with *I make big money. I drive big cars." (Aside: How the hell did Willie D. get a singing part in Geto Boys? He stumbles over his own words, he lisps randomly, his attempts to go fake-crazy fall flat, and when he says he's paranoid, he doesn't remotely believe it.)_ In verse 3, Scarface comes back with "Day by day it's more impossible to cope." Hend proceeds to blow us away with his expressions of a dual mad love/crazy hate for his girl. Finally, in verse 4, Bushwick Bill delivers the line that would have made the top 5 of this list if it had started the song: "This year Halloween fell on a weekend."

9. "If I see you tomorrow, I don't know what I will do."
Drive To Dallas - The Fiery Furnaces
This is one you have to listen to: the complete utter limitless certainty that the singer holds that she will not be seeing this person tomorrow oozes through the line, as she repeats and repeats and repeats. She will NOT be driving to Dallas. She will NOT be driving to Dallas witrh blurry eyes ever again. Why? She doesn't know what she will do. Good a reason as any.

8. It's four in the morning, the end of December

Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen
Handwritten letters didn't have time stamps. Hence, the need for context as L. Cohen makes a song out of a letter written from one old friend to another - old friends that had been better friends before the letter recipient took the letter writer's train-waiting woman away from him. But think about this for a second: 4AM. Why is he writing a letter so late (not early)? And it's the end of December. Must be cold as hell - that music on Clinton Street is coming from cars or apartments, not the street. He didn't say New Years' Eve. He didn't say Christmas. So it was one of those in-between (secular) holidays days that lengthen that joyous season beyond its capacity.

7. "I come back to town today."
Turtledove - Trip Shakespeare
What an opening line on the opening song of what is essentially the opening album of Trip Shakespeare's career. (Yes they had an album prior to this but this one is miles ahead - streets ahead - if you will. Shortly after he announces his arrival back in town, Matt Wilson mentions "I've been on the highway for days." Meaning -give him a meal. Let him take a shower. With a clean soft towel and moisturizing body wash. I listened to this song over and over again as I made my triumphant summer of 1991 return to Minneapolis. I played it on a boombox in the U-Haul. I would leave Minneapolis quietly eight months later, the soundtrack to that departing trip unremembered, unrecorded.

(top 6 coming soon)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Want A Name When I Lose

I'll take the blame. Yes, it is my fault that USC's football program suffered a severe penalty at the hands of the NCAA - two-year bowl game ban, forfeited wins, etc.

I try not to speak of luck or fate. Or even that indefatigable undefinable standby, karma. I'll talk about probability and random flux and likelihood. And of course the stuff that happens due to clearly seen and understood reasons (e.g., not washing ones hands -> spread of bacteria -> unhappy society).

So how do we explain the undeniable fact that every institution of higher education that I attend or work for suffers a major scandal or loss in one or more of its athletic programs. Looking backwards:

USC football: It's ugly. It's likely well deserved. The cheating was pretty blatant. But remember: I was hired with one game left in the 2005 season. The Trojans had won the 2004 national championship. The Saturday after I started working for the Family, we crushed UCLA in a game so decisive my friends on the Westside couldn't even make eye contact with me. Then, it imploded. "We" lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl early in '06. Then the bad losses to teams from the Pacific Northwest (it hurts to say it.) Yes, it all happened because they hired me and it will continue until someone buys the screenplay (for a lot of money) or the MacArthur Grant works out. (Note: one more thing: didn't the whole Pete Carroll unites a city and creates a gang truce while not drinking water seem a bit ridiculous to anyone other than me?

USC basketball: Shady Blagojovich-esque coach (allegedly) hands envelope full of cash to young superstar with infamous first two initials and friendship with extremely short minor rapper from Beverly Hills. Scholarships are given to each of the two players. Then, NCAA sanctions a bit less brutal than those the footballers got.

Minnesota basketball: In 1997, months after after I began grad school at my old alma mater, several players on my favorite school's favorite sport's team were rumored to have cheated - a lot - on academic papers. Vague tales were told about a backup point guard from the Lakota tribe in North Dakota and how he took on a hoarse-voiced ostrich farmer from Kentucky. So yeah we made the Final Four in 1997. Except we didn't - all victories forfeited.

Cal-State-Fullerton football: During my two years getting my career-delaying masters degree (but gaining a rather memorable and informative education on psychology - that faculty was solid), the school's Academic Senate voted to end the football program. The school president fought the move but eventually the team was gone, a year after I too was gone, a minor deity soaring up the 57 freeway past Diamond Bar, past San Dimas, toward America.

Cal-State-Fullerton basketball: Some time around the midpoint of my CSUF career, this guy arrived to play basketball. Yes, one of my schools was partly responsible for that blighted period (2003 to 2007) when the NBA was nearly ruined by one team (the San Antonio Spurs) and when you get right down to it, the Spurs were unwatchable because of one man - yep, him

Minnesota basketball: In January 1986, months after I arrived on the overly brick campus, three players were charged with sexual assault in Madison, Wisconsin. They were later acquitted. But if I remember correctly, at the time this was considered a huge scandal. The team, the university, the city, and the state all seemed embarrassed. That winter quarter, the campus just seemed numbed and chastened, the sex scandal combining with brutal cold to crush one's spirit. I, on the other hand, coasted to my very first 4.0 college term (on 21 credits!) and have barely strayed from higher education since.

Penn State-Ogontz and Normandale College: I speak only in whispers of my first year of college - at the delightfully hilly suburban Philadelphia satellite campus (for freshmen and sophomores only) of the Pennsylvania State University system. But yeah I was there. And yes I performed poorly. Then, the family shuttled itself to Minnesota and I ended up at the quaint fake-named Normandale College and my GPA improved and my hair got too big. What's the sports connection? Both schools disbanded all of their team athletics programs during and after my time there. (Bonus fact: I was THE sportswriter for the Normandale College paper, The Lion.)

Why me? What did I do to create all that upheaval? Nothing. It's just that this blog needed content. And no one else but me is around to provide it. It's just a coincidence. I mean, how do I even fit in Fullerton's 1995 and 2004 baseball championships or five U of M hockey titles (in both genders!) during and just after my tenure there? You see, I hadn't written much of note lately and I used my time-honored gimmick of writing in a encyclopedia-like "multiple entries" list style. Excessive? Sure but are you still reading?