The 30 Day Song Challenge – Part 1

Y’all know I’m a rebel, right?? You also know that on previous occasions I have been inspired by things I see on social media. I saw this challenge on Facebook awhile back and immediately knew it was something I wanted to dive into. However, not only do I not have the patience to post a different song every day for an entire month, but I also didn’t want to be flippant in my answers…I feel like it is important to provide context. I have been listening to a lot of music the past few months, so I’ve taken some time to really ponder my responses. I have added the extra stipulation…just as a fun obstacle for myself…that no artist can have more than one song (although there is one exception to that rule). I could do this challenge several more times and choose totally different songs, but I’m pretty satisfied with the list presented. Enjoy.  

 

 

 

 

1       A song you like with a color in the title…

Purple Rain (Prince)

I have to be honest…I was never a huge Prince fan when I was a kid & he was popular. It wasn’t until I grew up that I really understood the depth of his talent. His performance at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2007 is certainly one of the best ever. In 1984 the film Purple Rain was released in theaters, but let’s be real…all anyone remembers about that movie is Prince’s love interest Apollonia Kotero appearing topless, which 12 year old Me was rather psyched about. The song is much more memorable. There are dozens of tunes with a color in the title, but this one popped into my head almost immediately.

 

 

2       A song you like with a number in the title…

1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky)

Countless songs come to mind. I could pick any of several dozen tunes, but I’ve chosen to go off the beaten path. It seems odd that a song written over 120 years ago to commemorate a Russian military victory could become a staple of America’s celebration of independence, but it is one of my favorite moments every July 4th, especially when played by the Boston Pops. The song is about 16 minutes long, and I encourage everyone to enjoy every single second of it.

 

 

3       A song that reminds you of summertime…

Summer Wind (Frank Sinatra)

Ol’ Blue Eyes!! Summer is my favorite season, and there is no shortage of songs out there that symbolize it in various ways. Having said that, one can’t go wrong listening to The Chairman croon about painted kites, golden sand, & a blue umbrella sky.

 

 

4       A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget…

Bad Bad Leroy Brown (Jim Croce)

This one is really difficult for me because I associate music with happiness & good memories, and I’m not sure I even bother to connect music with people I don’t like. However, after much ponderation I did recall a funny story. About two decades ago I spent seven years as a supervisor at a teleservices company. We always played music during the call session, and then we’d turn up the volume at break time. One day a busybody from the corporate office was lurking and questioned whether or not Bad Bad Leroy Brown was “call center appropriate” because of the lyric “baddest man in the whole damn town”. The company liked to represent itself as having “Christian values”, although in my experience that wasn’t exactly true. At any rate, I am a Christian myself but far from a prude, so I found her opinion laughable. I wonder what she would have thought had she heard us playing Brick House by The Commodores (which was a regular part of the rotation)?? I have more than one reason to dislike this person, but the Leroy Brown story fits the present criteria just fine.

 

 

5       A song that needs to be played loud…

Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Meat Loaf)

I have a lot of great college memories, especially when it comes to Greek life. Paradise was kind of an unofficial theme song for one of the sororities on campus, and things always got a little bit rowdy when the song came on. Meat Loaf enjoyed a brief career renaissance in the early 90’s, so I suppose that was part of it too.

 

 

6       A song that makes you want to dance…

Gimme Some Lovin’ (The Blues Brothers)

Forgive me, but another college story. This is our fraternity’s unofficial theme song, accompanied by a well-choreographed dance (always sublimely performed once we were…comfortably numb) and a bawdy post-dance chant that I cannot repeat within the family friendly confines of The Manofesto.

 

 

7       A song to drive to…

I Can’t Drive ‘55 (Sammy Hagar)

Has it aged well?? I don’t know. Certainly driving 55MPH seems like a quaint idea in these days of 65/70 miles per hour speed limits. But when the song was released way back in 1984 exceeding 55MPH seemed cool & edgy. Actually Sammy Hagar could easily update it to I Can’t Drive ’85 and wouldn’t have to change anything else.

 

 

8       A song about drugs/alcohol…

Cocaine (Eric Clapton)

I have never been into drugs myself with the exception of a few adventures with weed, and my drunken frat boy days are way in the rear view mirror. However, there are a ton of superb songs about such activities, and this one immediately sprang to mind. Clapton is truly one of the all-time greats.

 

 

9       A song that makes you happy…

Footloose (Kenny Loggins)

I can’t dance myself, but how can one not love a snappy tune that just makes you want to shake your groove thing?? If I’m in my vehicle and Footloose comes on the radio I’m turning up the volume and rockin’ out, and I’m not shutting off the engine ‘til the song is over.

 

 

10     A song that makes you sad…

I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston)

I’m a sucker for a good romance. 1992’s The Bodyguard starred not only one of my favorite actors in Kevin Costner, but was the film debut of songstress Whitney Houston, a longtime teenage crush. Houston was enchanting, and her premature death devastating. At any rate, for The Bodyguard she remade what had originally been a hit for Dolly Parton in the early 70’s. I am a person who is always rooting for the guy & girl to end up together at the end, so a song about things not quite working out makes me sad anyway. Add in Whitney Houston’s haunting rendition of the song and her tragic demise and…well…I’m a little verklempt.

 

 

11     A song you never tire of…

Leave a Tender Moment Alone (Billy Joel)

I’m a huge Billy Joel fan, so I could listen to practically his entire catalogue all day every day. However, given the task of choosing just one song things become clear. Joel’s vocals are so good on this tune, and my heart longs to meet a gal that can make me feel what he expresses.

 

 

12     A song from your preteen years…

Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)

No one was bigger than Michael Jackson in the 1980’s. Billie Jean was released in January 1983, before I turned 11 years old. It was a catchy song with a cool video, and that spring Jackson performed the song on a Motown TV special, introducing the masses to The Moonwalk. My childhood was full of pop culture moments like that.

 

 

13     A song you like from the 70’s…

Somebody to Love (Queen)

I almost hate broad questions like this. Can you narrow it down for me?? The 70’s were such a great decade for music, so it’s hard to make a definitive choice. Using my own self-directed parameters makes things a little easier, and I feel like I really need to include a song from Queen. You can have Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, & We Will Rock You (all fine songs…don’t misunderstand)…for my money it doesn’t get much better than this. Queen’s combination of beautiful lead vocals by Freddie Mercury, impeccable musicianship, and melodic harmonies is unmatched in rock music.

 

 

14     A song you’d love to be played at your wedding…

Now & Forever (Richard Marx) & From This Moment On (Shania Twain)

I can’t choose just one. I suppose one could be played during the ceremony and the other as a first dance, although to be honest I’ve never been enamored with the whole idea of a bride & groom’s first dance for obvious reasons. Anyway, I think both songs are perfect for such an occasion.

 

 

15     A song you like that’s a cover from another artist…

To Make You Feel My Love (Garth Brooks)

About a year ago I was laid up in the hospital and kind of tired of television (the more things change…yada yada yada), so I began listening to a lot of music via the Amazon Music app on my phone. I’m not a country music guy, but I do enjoy some Garth Brooks and stumbled onto this one, much to my everlasting pleasure. What I didn’t know until later was that Brooks recorded the cover in 1998…the original had been written by Bob Dylan a year or so earlier, and even though it was on one of his albums he never released it as a single. A few months before Dylan’s album dropped my man Billy Joel recorded the song for his Greatest Hits Volume III. As much as I love Billy Joel I have to say that I enjoy the Garth Brooks version better.

 

 

 

This feel like an appropriate time to take a break. Stay tuned for Part 2!

80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 1

Welcome back to 80’s Movie Mania!! Before we move on let’s tie up some loose ends. I’m still not getting more than a couple of votes on the polls I post, which is rather vexing. Anything below double digit votes and it’s my call and that’s not how I’d prefer this whole thing work, but it is what it is. So…in the Tubular Division’s first round it’s La Bamba over Three Men & A Baby, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure over History of the World Part 1, and European Vacation with a bit of an upset over Three Amigos!. Today we focus on first round matchups in the Gnarly Division. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Gnarly – Round 1

 

The Outsiders              vs.              My Tutor

outsidersThe Outsiders is based on a 1967 novel written by an Oklahoma high school girl. The story revolves around a gang of boys called The Greasers, who are essentially a tougher, darker version of The T-Birds from Grease, and their battles with the neighborhood preppies called The Socs (pronounced “soshas”). The film was made in 1983 and has remained in the collective pop culture consciousness because it stars several young up n’ comers who would go on to become Hollywood superstars…Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, & 45 year old Ralph Macchio (the future Karate Kid), here playing a junior high schooler. My Tutor is a personal favorite of the teen sex genre. Also produced in 1983, it tells the story of a recent high school graduate who must pass a French exam to secure admission into Yale. He’s more interested in chasing women and trying to lose his virginity (that again), but his rich Daddy hires a tutor to make sure he studies for and passes the test. Fortunately the tutor is young, blonde, hot, & enjoys late night skinny dipping in the family pool. Not surprisingly the kid passes French and gets lucky with the tutor.

 

The Verdict:       The Outsiders. To be honest My Tutor isn’t a great movie. I’m not even sure it is all that good. But it came along at just the right time (probably around the summer of ’84 on video and HBO) to rev the engines of a certain 12/13 year old boy, which is why it holds a special place in my heart. Actress Caryn Kaye: I’ll never forget you. However, The Outsiders is a juggernaut of greatness. It is based on a good book, directed by the legendary Frances Ford Coppola, and has an amazing cast. This is the very definition of an unfair fight. And I’m kidding…Macchio was only 22 when he starred as a high school student The Outsiders.

 

 

 

 

Weird Science             vs.              Raising Arizona 

WeirdScienceIs Weird Science a Brat Pack film?? Ehhhh…kinda sorta not really…but close enough (it was written & arizonadirected by John Hughes afterall). It came out in 1985, which is why Anthony Michael Hall didn’t reprise his role as Rusty Griswold in European Vacation. He chose this movie instead. The story follows a couple of high school geeks who decide to use a computer to build their perfect woman. Somehow it works and the guys suddenly become popular. The woman…whom they name Lisa…teaches them a few things about life and does much to improve their confidence and self-esteem. Weird Science is amongst the earliest works of both Robert Downey Jr. & Bill Paxton and has a very 80’s soundtrack featuring songs from Oingo Boingo, Ratt, & Van Halen. 1987’s Raising Arizona was one of the first films written, produced, & directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, who have since had tremendous success with movies like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, & No Country for Old Men. Raising Arizona stars Nicolas Cage & Holly Hunter as a career criminal and police officer respectively, who marry but are unable to have children. They hatch a plot to kidnap one of the infant quintuplets of a well-known local businessman, because “anybody with five babies won’t miss one”. Of course things quickly get hilariously out of control. It is a twisted, madcap, slapstick farce, with Cage at his over-the-top zany best.

 

The Verdict:       I have my opinions, but I’m going to give The Manoverse an opportunity to weigh in. Vote!! Tell your friends to vote!!

 

 

48 Hrs.                vs.              Teen Wolf 

4848 Hrs. was one of the first of its genre…the mismatched buddy cop film. It is a formula that works really teenwolfwell when a delicate balance between action & comedy is achieved, and has since become the foundation of a plethora of films with mostly diminishing returns. In 1982 Eddie Murphy was still a regular on Saturday Night Live (he wouldn’t depart until two years later) but snagged his role in this movie when plans to cast Richard Pryor fell through. It is still amongst Murphy’s best work. The story has Nick Nolte as a San Francisco detective who enlists the help of a wisecracking criminal nearing the end of his prison sentence to track down a dangerous escaped convict. The humor is provided by Murphy but is also found in the dysfunctional relationship between an uptight cop and his streetwise partner (in this case a thief). 1985’s Teen Wolf stars Michael J. Fox as a high school basketball player who discovers that lycanthropy is in his bloodline and he has inherited the condition. He uses his newfound “talent” to become the coolest guy at school and lead his basketball team to success, though it all eventually backfires on him and he figures out that just being himself might be preferable. Fox made Teen Wolf right after the first Back to the Future film. The combined success of the two movies, along with the popularity of the TV show Family Ties, cemented Fox’s place as a bona fide star.

 

The Verdict:       48 Hrs. This is a tough call, but Teen Wolf, though a fun popcorn flick, isn’t even the best work that Michael J. Fox did in 1985. Conversely, if Eddie Murphy was still as good in his more recent movies as he was in 48 Hrs. he’d still be on top instead of an afterthought resting on his laurels.

 

 

 

 

Beetlejuice          vs.              Turner & Hooch

beetlejuiceEveryone pretty much knows going in that a Tim Burton film is going to be a weird experience, and 1988’s hoochBeetlejuice is no exception. Alec Baldwin & Geena Davis star as a couple happily settling into their idyllic New England home when they meet an untimely demise. But instead of walking on streets of gold or burning in perpetual fire they find themselves back in their house. That’d be okay, except for the fact that another family soon moves in. The original (now dead) owners want to run this new family off and enlist the help of the titular ghost, a “freelance bio-exorcist”. Hilarity ensues. Part comedy, part horror film, Beetlejuice has enjoyed a cult following (pun unavoidable) for a quarter century, mostly due to the manic performance of Michael Keaton as the title character. Winona Ryder is also…interesting…as the goth daughter of the odd family that has moved into the house. 1989 brought us Turner & Hooch, in which Tom Hanks stars as a California police detective who teams up with a rather ugly, destructive, slobbery dog to bring down a drug lord. It’s a different take on the buddy cop genre, or atleast it would have been different if the very comparable K-9 starring Jim Belushi hadn’t been released the same year. But since, in most people’s hearts & minds, Hanks > Jim Belushi this movie is generally thought of as the better of the two.

 

The Verdict:       Beetlejuice. To be honest it’s not exactly my kind of flick, but the cast is undeniably great and it is one of Keaton’s signature roles, despite the fact that he’s really not onscreen that much. I like Turner & Hooch just fine, but it just ran into stiff competition. Sometimes those are the breaks.

 

 

 

 

Purple Rain                  vs.              Crocodile Dundee

purpleWhich came first…the song or the movie?? In the case of 1984’s Purple Rain the song (and album of the crocsame name) was released just before the film, which essentially serves as unique advertising for the album. Prince stars as a small-time Minneapolis musician battling thru problems at home with abusive parents, professional rivalries in his music career, & a rocky relationship with the lovely Apollonia. Paul Hogan was already a well-known actor & comedian in his native Australia, but he became a worldwide celebrity in 1986 after the release of Crocodile Dundee. The story follows a NY City magazine writer who travels to The Outback for a story about a bushman that’s been involved in some almost mythological exploits. She finds that Mick (as he prefers to be called) isn’t quite as legendary as the anecdotes about him would indicate, but is nevertheless a really fascinating individual. The writer invites the bushman back to The Big Apple to finish the story, at which point the film becomes a classic fish-out-of-water story with a little romance thrown in for good measure. Two sequels followed over the course of the next fifteen years, but neither retained that witty charm of the original.

 

The Verdict:       Crocodile Dundee. Purple Rain has a kickass soundtrack, but that’s about it. Dundee puts a unique spin on a formulaic concept and is good for more than a few laughs.

 

 

 

Biloxi Blues                  vs.              Parenthood

biloxi-bluesIt is said that the character of Eugene Jerome is an autobiographical representation of playwright Neil parentSimon and his youth in Brooklyn during The Great Depression. In the 1988 dramedy Biloxi Blues, the second installment of The Eugene Trilogy, Matthew Broderick portrays Eugene as he heads off to basic training near the end of World War II. The viewer will recognize several young faces that you can’t quite remember where you know them from, but the best parts of the film are the interactions between Eugene and his quirky drill instructor, played by the incomparable Christopher Walken. 1989’s Parenthood is an ensemble dramedy with an all-star cast including Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Dianne Weist, Keanu Reeves, Rick Moranis, & Joaquin Phoenix. It has been adapted as a TV series twice. The first try was in 1990 and starred Ed Begley Jr., David Arquette, & Leonardo DiCaprio (you may have heard of him). It lasted for only one short season. The second attempt, starring Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, & Lauren Graham was better received and recently concluded its run after 6 seasons.

 

The Verdict:       This is a tough one, so I am going to leave it up to The Manoverse. I would REALLY love some help deciding this matchup folks!!

 

 

 

Police Academy          vs.              The Last Starfighter

police-academyPolice Academy was released in 1984 and was followed by six sequels in the next decade. For awhile it starfighterseems like a new Police Academy film was made every year, and there have been (unsuccessful) efforts to revive/reboot the series in the past several years. However, the only film that really matters is the original. It was fresh, funny, well-written slapstick comedy with a talented cast. Steve Guttenberg headlined a class of misfits trying to become police officers (for various reasons). It is an obvious riff on The Bad News Bears, but that’s okay. It’s another formula that works. 1984’s The Last Starfighter tells the story of a teenager named Alex who is obsessed with a particular video game. Because he is so skilled at the game it is revealed to him that it is actually real, and he is whisked off to outer space to help save the planet Rylos while a robot doppelganger fills in for him on Earth. The film’s special effects may seem a bit cheesy now, but thirty years ago they were pretty remarkable. The scenes with Alex’s robot double are quite funny. This is a movie that will get remade someday because Hollywood won’t be able to resist updating it with all the latest & greatest gadgetry at their disposal, but it’ll have to be a heck of an effort to improve on the original.

 

 

The Verdict:       The Last Starfighter. Reminiscent of a NASCAR photo finish, this is a really close call. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the plethora of subpar Police Academy sequels don’t carry some weight in my decision, as they really did water down the perception of the first film’s originality, charm, & humor. While The Last Starfighter doesn’t rank alongside Star Wars or Star Trek, it is a fun, quirky, unique entry in the sci-fi genre.