Jockomo Feena Nay

My spy boy told your spy boy
Sitting on the Bayou
My spy boy told your spy boy
I’m gonna set your flag on fire

Talking ‘bout hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko ah nay
Jockomo feena ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay.

—“Iko Iko”, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, 1953

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I got spoiled because I couldn't remember Harley's name and I wanted a picture of Harley and Annie together. I’ve really been enjoying Treme, the series created by David Simon and Eric Overmeyer. Locals may remember David Simon as the guy who came up with The Wire and Homicide: Life in the Street, both of which were set in Baltimore. In addition to the music—and there’s a lot of music, even if you don’t necessarily hear most of the songs in their entirety—there are lots of stories going on that don’t necessarily intersect to any great extent.

(And let me just say that in doing some of the research for this piece, I accidentally spoiled myself for the most recent episode, which is still in my DVR and I haven’t seen yet. I’m going to blame you for that, for the time being.)

Among all this music, a specific phrase keeps popping up in lyrics. For the slower-witted among you, it’s “Jockomo feena nay”. Now I’d heard it many times in the song “Iko Iko”, of course, and as long as I’ve heard the song I figured that it was a bit of nonsense lyric, a chunk of filler; kind of like singing scat in jazz. Or, as my high school friend Joe put it recently, “I just thought it was a cool song!” (Joe was the guy who turned me on to The Doors. Yeah, he was that guy in high school. Anyway, he gets a pass because of this.) The song “Iko Iko” (as noted above) was written in 1953 by James Crawford, and at the time was just called “Jockamo”.

But as I started hearing the lyric popping up in other songs, it slowly dawned on me that this phrase might actually mean something. So I did some research, from which you now get to benefit. Everybody wins!

In addition to being a great dramatic show, Treme also has the advantage of being educational. One of the things I learned is that, come Mardi Gras, there isn’t just one parade in town, the way there is on, say, Thanksgiving in New York City. It’s more like a whole series of them all over town, and they go on forever. The whole city is a parade.

Albert Season 1Among the paraders are the Mardi Gras Indians, who are actually several groups (which call themselves “tribes” or even “gangs”) of African-American Carnival revelers. They dress up in very elaborate outfits that are heavily influenced by Native American ceremonial garb. There are nearly 40 of these tribes, and most of them belong to one of two groups identifying themselves as “Uptown” or “Downtown” Indians. Once dressed, they will march out on the streets on Super Sunday, which for them is the Sunday prior to the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19).

About a hundred years ago, competing tribes who encountered each other in the street could conceivably erupt into violence, however this has generally reduced to verbal taunts about the quality of each others’ costumes. But as a result of this violence, certain paraders were given specific roles. The first one out is the Wild Man, who wears a horned hat and literally acts wild. His job is to clear the crowds in advance of the others. (This character wasn’t seen in Treme because he’d died in the storm; we did see his memorial service.) The Spy Boy goes out next, and literally spies out to see if other tribes are in the area. Next comes the Flag Boy, who is always in visual contact with the Spy Boy. The Flag Boy literally carries the tribe’s flag, and is the standard-bearer of the group. Last is the Big Chief, who always far outdoes the others in costumed elaborateness.

From all this we get the story behind Iko Iko. Most people know the version by the Dixie Cups, but it turns out that they were mostly just fooling around and didn’t realize they were being recorded. The producers added backing tracks and bam! Instant hit. But this is why the lyrics they’re singing don’t make a whole pile of sense (“My grandma said to your grandma…”). The song itself is about a collision between two Mardi Gras Indian parades, during which the Spy Boy threatens to burn the Flag Boy’s banner.

Bitch, please. I'm Bob Weir. Part of the problem of deciphering the phrase “Jockomo feena nay” is that all spellings are approximate, and that there are numerous interpretations. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead once said that “Jockomo” derives from a Swahili word meaning roughly, “If you don’t like it, that’s your problem”, or possibly even “Go to hell”. Some have theorized that it’s a corruption of the name “Giacomo”, which they then suggest is Italian (or French) for John or Joseph. Unfortunately, it’s Italian for “James,” so that’s clearly wrong.

The fact is, the words have been used for so long that they’ve become more or less meaningless, since the original words have been swallowed up in time and repetition and garbling. The two strongest theories that follow from this take a broader meaning from the phrase itself rather than an attempt to break down individual words. Thus, “Jockomo feena nay” can mean (loosely), “It doesn’t matter what the Big Chief says” (i.e. “it’s all good”), or, perhaps more appropriately—especially in context of the song—“Don’t mess with us”.

As it happens, offBeat Magazine interviewed Crawford in 2002 and asked him about “Iko Iko”. During the interview, he said:

Crawford: It came from two Indian chants that I put music to. ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them. Really it was just like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” …a phrase everyone in New Orleans knew.

Interviewer: Listeners wonder what ‘Jock-A-Mo’ means. Some music scholars say it translates in Mardi Gras Indian lingo as ‘Kiss my ass,’ and I’ve read where some think Jock-A-Mo was a court jester. What does it mean?

Crawford: I really don’t know. (laughs)

So now, if you’re like me, you’re even more confused than you were when you thought it was just
a nonsense lyric.

Ah, well. Jockamo feena nay.

Doing it Right

Buddy: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.

Elf (2003)

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This is the definitive version. Don't let Arthur Fiedler fool you. I know that in the past, I’ve railed on about Christmas music, specifically the fact that when it comes time for radio stations to begin their All Christmas All The Time programming, they ordinarily have ridiculously small playlists which have no sense of history whatsoever. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey gets played hourly, while Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” goes ignored. It’s not that I don’t like the Mariah Carey song, but when there are so many versions of a relatively small pool of songs out there, it gets old in a big hurry. Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks. Worse yet is the Straight No Chaser version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, because there’s just no way that that song isn’t tedious. Even the parody versions are just painful after the second go-round (Bob & Doug McKenzie notwithstanding).

At any rate, I was given a tip by a friend on Facebook that a station in Colorado was playing ACATT and that I might want to tune in via their Internet stream. I was reluctant, but since I was baking cookies and wanted to hear some Christmas music, I figured “why not?”

Holy cow, this station is actually good at All Christmas All The Time. The station in question is KTRR-FM, billing itself on the air as “Tri-102.5”, and they actually do ACATT right. This is their non-Christmas artwork. Out of season they're a "Light Rock" station, much like the Baltimore ACATT station is. Except, Baltimore's Christmas station sucks. I don’t know who the Program Director is there, but my hat is off to that person. It’s got a mix of the modern and the traditional, the old artists and the new, the familiar recordings and a few that might be new to some people; it was incredibly cool. I was able to listen for literally hours without getting bored. If I had anything to complain about, it would be that pretty much all of the songs I heard were “modern” Christmas songs; there wasn’t an awful lot of the more traditional Christmas carols going on. What’s the difference? Carols are more overtly religious. Tri-102.5 doesn’t avoid them but they appear to prefer songs about Christmas. In the long run it’s no harm, no foul.

So I strongly suggest that you tune in, especially on the weekends when that Fabulous Deejay, Keith Allen, is on the air. Call him at 1-800-964-1025 and request something cool for your Yuletide celebration. Chances are, he’ll be able to play it. And tell him I said Hi.

Unplugged

Icarus: Thank you, you've been a wonderful audience. And now I will play something from my unplugged set. Could someone unplug me?

Hercules, “Hercules and the Prom” (12/21/98)

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This past weekend, Wife and I went over to Holden’s Lair for a house concert. The house involved is the home of another Baltimore-based blogger who I probably could identify but I’m not positive if it’s OK, so I’ll just leave you with the house concert’s link here. At any rate, Baltimore being a small town posing as a big city, our paths have crossed now and again but I’ve never been to his house concerts before. This week, Wife and I needed some down time, so I decided to pull the trigger.

This photo was totally nicked off of her website. It's a shame it's not more up-to-date. The artist performing was Patti Rothberg, who has been to the Lair before, about two years ago. Of course, that was in Holden’s other Lair, before he moved, but while the place was a bit on the small side, a bunch of people were there and we all had a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s more fun in the close quarters.

In addition to singing songs from her albums, she took some requests and we did a bit of sing-along. I don’t think anyone in attendance knew all of the words to ANY of the songs we sang  (the guy looking up lyrics on his smartphone notwithstanding), but a great time was had by all, although I have to wonder what was on the neighbors’ minds as her amplified voice & guitar mingled with us acting as her backup singers.

Patti’s merchandise was available for purchase that night, but I’m not an impulse buyer (plus, we didn’t have a lot of cash with us). So I’ll probably be going to Amazon in the next week or so to add some of her stuff to my collection. I was particularly taken with the songs from her first album, although I love the sense of wordplay she brings to so many of her songs.

Before the show, and at the end of the first set, there was a lot of mingling and sharing of food that most of the attendees brought. I did a baked ziti and brought along some cookies I’d baked with Wee One. I’m pretty sure the cookies were more popular than the ziti. I’ll have to share that recipe here soon, although I nicked it from the Washington Post.

Ending the Madness

Alex Russo: What was that name of the song? "Stop, You're Hurting My Ears?"

Wizards of Waverly Place, “Make It Happen” (1/1/09)

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Make it stop makeitstopMAKEITSTOP!!! For those just tuning in, I’ve spent the last week or so looking at a list of songs that AOL Radio deemed to be the 100 worst. As far as I was concerned, there were a bunch of holes in the logic and  songs that just didn’t belong on the list for one reason or another (worst reason: it wasn’t released as a single).

Worse yet, there were several songs which I felt belonged on the list and were egregiously overlooked. A few of you had some suggestions (both here and on Facebook), and we’ll get to those as well. Some of the songs that were suggested already appeared on the AOL list (“Seasons in the Sun,” “Disco Duck”), so I won’t address those in this space.

Anyway: let’s take a look at fifteen of the the Bad Songs That AOL Missed. Numbering notwithstanding, these are in no particular order:

  1. “I’ve Never Been To Me”, Charlene. This is one of those woulda-coulda songs that was released and did nothing, then was re-released a few (in this case, five) years later and became a hit. This is another reason not to like Scott Shannon; this re-release is his fault.
  2. “Lovin’ You”, Minnie Riperton. This one appeared on a couple of the lists that people sent to me. Is it the chirping birds throughout the record? The high F note (which, we hear, can set off bombs)? The cheesy lyrics? I’m voting for all of the above.
  3. “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”, Rupert Holmes. OK, so here’s yet another song with the parentheses in the title, which makes me crazy anyway. But there’s no real fallout in this song, namely the fact that both the narrator and his wife were planning on fucking around on each other, but find it funny when they both figure this out. Really? This wouldn’t have started the fight from hell?
  4. “Float On”, The Floaters. Putting aside the fact that a “floater” never refers to anything pleasant, we also have what’s essentially a series of 1970s pickup lines/lonelyhearts club postings punctuated by the same boring chorus.
  5. “Run Joey Run”, David Geddes. This would have been in my Top Ten. It’s the story of a guy who falls in love with a girl and gets her pregnant (in the 70s this could only be implied). Her father, kind and understanding fellow that he is, beats her up and, when the boy goes to help her, the father shoots at him and the girl takes the bullet. And the chorus gives Minnie Riperton a run for the money on the shrillness meter. One of the last of the Teen Death Splatter Platters.
  6. “Annie’s Song”, John Denver. I can’t explain my dislike of this one; it just grates on me. I actually got into an argument with my girlfriend one time because we were in a place where this was playing over the PA system and she wanted to stay and listen to it, and I wanted to get the hell out of there. Her attraction was because it’s called “Annie’s Song” and her name was (still is, I presume) Anni. That’s not a typo; that’s how she spells it.  

    Actually, I feel kind of bad about that argument now.  
    See, there was a time when Berkeley Breathed was kind of funny.

  7. American Pie”, Madonna. This is probably the only cover that I’m putting on the list. So many covers fail to match up to the original, and others are just a product of their era (c.f. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by Elton John, which was also kind of poor) but this was just execrable. Another one in my personal Top Ten.
  8. “Every Time I Think of You”, The Babys. I like to think that this song was the reason The Babys broke up.
  9. “Gloria”, Laura Branigan. Practically everyone who suggested songs mentioned this one. When I was a Baby DJ on college radio back in the 80s, I played this song specifically so I could scratch the needle across it, tear it off the turntable and shatter it on on the air. I also pulled this stunt with (let’s call it 9A) “Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale. There’s a certain brand of satisfaction that you get with destroying bad records with lots of people listening.
  10. “Mr. Roboto”, Styx. Another one that signaled the end of a band’s relevance. And what was up with the lyric “Please, thank you”?
  11. “Heartlight”, Neil Diamond. Some people are under the impression that this was written for the film E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial and just never used. In fact, it was inspired by the movie when Diamond, Carol Bayer Sager and Burt Bachrach went to see the film together. Because of this, they had to pay $25,000 to Universal Studios because of the ideas from the film used in the song. Not nearly enough of a fine, in my head.
  12. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Twisted Sister. The best thing about this song is that if you don’t listen too carefully, it sounds like a heavy metal cover of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”.
  13. “Color My World”, Chicago. I was in third grade (I think) when this song came out. Even then I knew it was a ripoff. No wonder Terry Kath blew his brains out.
  14. Kings Park “Billy Don’t Be a Hero”, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods”. OK, so when I was a kid growing up in Kings Park, NY, because of our location midway out on Long Island and on the North Shore, we were able to listen to a lot of radio stations that were broadcasting out of Connecticut, especially Bridgeport. Once in awhile I would tune in to WICC-AM, which still had a Top 40 playlist and in the evenings had a listener-request show hosted by a DJ named Frank Derek. One of the things I got a kick out of hearing on his show was requests for songs that weren’t on the playlist. A listener would call in and request a song and, if it was on the list, Frank would grab the cartridge, jam it into the player and hit the start button. Instant gratification. If it wasn’t on the list, Frank was gracious enough to let them request another song. One night I remember a listener asking for “Come and Get Your Love”. It wasn’t on the survey "(yet), so he gave the guy another chance. “Oh, well, how about Redbone, then?” the guy asked, not realizing that he’d asked for the artist this time instead of the title. All of this has nothing to do with the fact that one night I fell asleep with the radio tuned to WICC, and was awakened very early the next morning by the fife-and-drum intro to “Billy Don’t Be a Hero”. And that was the first time I’d heard it. (What, you have a BETTER “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” story?) The song itself is pretty cheeseball, but the other problem I have with it is that it doesn’t have a good flow; for instance the additional “she said…” before the second chorus. It’s a stumbling block that turns a passable song into a bad one. (I have a feeling that Nick K. will argue this one with me.)
  15. “Baby I’m-a Want You”, Bread. This song has the opposite problem from “Billy” in that David Gates had no choice but to add a syllable to the line in order to make it scan right. I actually rather like most of Bread’s stuff (sorry, Laura), but this one can get tossed out. While I’m talking about Bread, let me point to you the song “Everything I Own” (which appears on the same album). On its surface it sounds like a typical “lost love” kind of tune, but it’s really about Gates mourning the loss of his father. Now go back and listen to it again and see how the meaning changes. 

Here are some other songs that were submitted and/or considered:

  • “Alone Again (Naturally)”, Gilbert O’Sullivan. There are a lot of sins in this one, especially given that it’s essentially a suicide note. But it’s kind of catchy for such a depressing topic. If I were listing 20 songs (I kind of am, but still), it’d probably make the cut.
  • “Honey”, Bobby Goldsboro. I think this one gets a bum rap because it’s pretty sappy (sappy like a tree, see how big it’s grown?). But it’s also kind of clumsy in its execution. This is another song “bubbling under” the list that would have made it into a Top 20.
  • “Muskrat Love”, Captain and Tennille. Only gets a pass because it’s a cover. Likewise “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell and “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede.
  • “Heartbeat—It’s A Lovebeat”, The DiFranco Family. I was going to list this one but I decided to give it a pass. It’s the “MMMBop” of its time, and I gave that one the pass. So, fair’s fair.
  • “Teen Angel”, Mark Dinning.  Another Teen Death Splatter Platter that didn’t make the Top 15 because I just thought of it. Also because I have a sneaking admiration for the lines “I’ll never kiss your lips again/They buried you today.”

Finally, from the “What the Hell?” Department: this evening I asked Wife about what songs would go on her list, if she was compiling one. Wife doesn’t read this blog (it cuts into her “Real Housewives of _____” viewing, I guess), so she asked me what I was talking about. When I told her what I’d been up to for the past nine or ten days, she offered up four choices, in this order:

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      • “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley;
      • “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna;
      • “Hey Jude” by The Beatles;
      • “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

I can’t really argue with “Crazy”; it’s another one I’d just blocked out. “Love the Way You Lie” would have been a lot better without the Eminem, but those are the breaks.

There wasn’t much reason given for the Beatles tune other than “It’s just….ecch”. But that’s how a lot of things get described, so I’m still not 100% clear on the reasoning. “Stairway to Heaven”, on the other hand, was described as being “too long”. From my standpoint, I say that you’re more than welcome to mock her on Facebook if you’re one of her friends.

This series of posts have been a hell of a ride! Feel free to join in the fun in the Comments section.

And a Surprise Ending! (Part 0)

It seems like ages ago, but it was in fact only Thursday that I began this series of posts covering the 100 Worst Songs as determined by the folks at AOL Radio. We’re into the Top 30. Cringe along with me!

 

30. “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”, The Offspring. (Parenthetical title Number Thirteen.) Musically, it’s kind of a rehash of “Come Out and Play”, so there’s my complaint. However, AOL’s noting that the song is simultaneously telling the joke and being its target is the thing that actually appeals to me. I’d give this one a pass.

29. “Axel F”, Crazy Frog. Even Harold Faltermeyer didn’t like “Axel F”; it only appears on his album because the label insisted on it. And I think that says something when a song isn’t even as good as the version that the composer recorded and subsequently hated.

28. “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, Ricky Martin. I’m glad I got out of the DJ business before this song charted. Having said that, it’s not bad in the smaller doses.

27. “Wild Wild West”, Will Smith. This is the one with the musical bed lifted from Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”, not the Escape Club dance track, which could easily replace this one on the list. Or, perhaps more accurately, sit alongside it on the list.

If only these heads were resting on platters instead of their own reflections. 26. “Afternoon Delight”, Starland Vocal Band. How is this one not in the Top Ten? Another song I hated on the day it was released. Unfortunately, my brothers (BOTH OF THEM. Richard, I’m looking at you) and my grandparents loved it and I was forced to endure it that entire summer.

25. “I’ll Be There For You (Theme from Friends)”, The Rembrandts.  (Fourteen.) The ubiquity of this song, because of the popularity of this show, has turned this band into a one-hit wonder. Sucks to be them. It’s a shame, because most people know only the first verse and the ending; the other verses and the bridge are kind of cool. Of course, that could just be the novelty talking.

24. “Hangin’ Tough”, New Kids On The Block. Whoa-oh-oh-OH-oh! Meh, whatever. I can’t really work up the energy to hate on this one. It’s like poseur rock.

23. “Nookie”, Limp Bizkit. Here’s the thing about Limp Bizkit, at least for me. Whatever they do, Linkin Park does better. And Linkin Park pretty much sucks, too. No, wait, that was a cheap shot. The problem that I have with Linkin Park is that their songs all seem to follow the same pattern, so I get bored pretty quickly when I’m listening to them. And Limp Bizkit isn’t even that good.

22. “We Built This City”, Starship. This song is another one that really depends on my mood. Today I’m feeling generous, other days not so much. If it hadn’t come out of Grace Slick and Co., I’d probably give it a pass. But this was a musical bridge too far.

21. “One Week”, Barenaked Ladies. I rather like Barenaked Ladies, if only because I like songwriters who have fun with the English language. Bob Dylan used to do this sort of thing. So did Bruce Springsteen.

20. “What’s Up?”, 4 Non Blondes.  It may be a rule that this song has to appear on “worst” lists; I think it’s on everyone’s. But everyone liked it back then, only to be struck with Buyer’s Remorse.

19. “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”, Will Smith. Mr. Smith makes his second appearance on this list but I’m OK with this one, unlike the other one. Go figure.

18. “Achy Breaky Heart”, Billy Ray Cyrus. This song is arguably the reason that line dancing broke into the mainstream. And for that, BRC must die.

17. “MMMBop”, Hanson. Believe it or not, this one gets a pass from me. It’s bubblegum, but it’s not really bad as such.

16. “Hollaback Girl”, Gwen Stefani. No argument from me.

15. “Rico Suave”, Gerardo. The very name “Rico Suave” has become a bit of a fallback punchline for amateur comics. The chorus (such as it is) reminds me a little bit of the Emerald City scene in the film The Wiz. It’s a passing resemblance—specifically to the “green” segment—to be sure, but it’s enough to call it to mind:



Watch Emerald City Sequence – Green, Red, Gold in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

And because I have not much else to say about “Rico Suave”, I’ll pass along some “Wiz” trivia about this scene. They used over two hundred dancers, each of whom had more than one costume (because of the color changes). According to director Sidney Lumet, this scene wasn’t shot on a soundstage designed to look like the World Trade Center’s plaza, it was shot AT the World Trade Center’s plaza. He writes in his book “Making Movies” that the “Dead Red” scene had to be cut short because of wind and scheduling issues. The scheduling problem probably arose due to several takes being spoiled, because the set was so huge. Why? Speed of sound, Baby: when they played the music, the sound took too long to get from the speakers to the far end of the set. As a result, the dancers were out of step with one another because they were hearing the beats at different times.  They solved the problem by putting in lots of extra monitors so that everyone heard the music at about the same time. (This probably also explains why much of the “Red” segment doesn’t have much synchronized sound; it’s mostly long shots of the dancers.)

14. “Convoy”, C. W. McCall. Listing this song is kind of like listing “The Twist”: it’s just a product of its times, a period when there were more CB radios in cars than in trucks. The part I don’t get is why the backup singers’ voices are so much higher than McCall’s.

13. “With Arms Wide Open”, Creed. Yeah, just boring. This is “Having My Baby” for the 2000s.

12. “Wannabe”, Spice Girls. It’s written that this Girl Power anthem was composed in a half-hour and recorded in about an hour. So…zigazig-ha.

11. “My Heart Will Go On”, Celine Dion. I didn’t much like “Titanic,” either. This was just so much overwrought noise, I can’t argue with its inclusion on this list.

10. “Macarena”, Los Del Rio. Stupid song, stupid dance, and if you hear this song and decide that you’re so annoyed by it that you’re going to kill the DJ, I recommend following through on that impulse because you’re probably doing him a favor. This is another song that has many versions—at least thirteen, TWO of which are Christmas versions.

9. “Ebony and Ivory”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Sir Paul's second appearance on the list, and this one deserves to be in the Top Ten. Given that the key to the song is the second line, “Live together in perfect harmony", and this (harmony, that is) is the one thing they DON’T achieve, one would think that these two pros would have listened to the mix, scrapped the recording and gone back into the studio. More trivia: McCartney and Wonder performed this song at the White House on this past July 27, the first time EVER that they’d performed it together, live.

8. “I’m Too Sexy”, Right Said Fred. Yet another song with numerous mixes available. On the bright side, Right Said Fred cracked the Billboard Top 10 only the one time. In England, however, they scored FOUR times between 1991 and 1993. Suck on that, England.

7. “I Am Woman”, Helen Reddy. OK, here’s the thing: I like most of Helen Reddy’s oeuvre. But this song, which essentially launched her career (“I Don’t Know How to Love Him” notwithstanding), passed quickly into cliché territory and just got old. I was eight years old when this song was a hit and I knew it was getting over-played on the radio. 

6. “U Can’t Touch This”, MC Hammer. I don’t think this necessarily belongs in the top ten of this list. My biggest complaint is that, at the time, it made people completely forget about Rick James, whose riff was lifted for this song. “Super Freak” is a great song, especially if you lived in Chapman Hall at Adelphi University at the time and you knew what kind of effect it had on the co-eds there. Just sayin’.

5. “Barbie Girl”, Aqua. I can get behind this one being in the Top Five. This record makes my ears bleed. Just knowing that the MP3 file is on my hard drive is making my teeth hurt.

4. “She Bangs”, Ricky Martin. Blah blah blah, double entendre, that chick is hot yada yada yada making me all horny blah blah blah de blah. Let me just say this, Mister Martin: STINKIN’ LIAR!

3. “Ice Ice Baby”, Vanilla Ice. I have no argument one way or the other about this song’s presence on the list. Frankly, I have no strong feelings one way or another about it. Which, I suppose, is a good argument for its being here.

2. “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, Baha Men. Again, no argument here. Given its ubiquity in sports arenas and being used as a source of “humor” for so many, I’m all in on this one.

1. (It’s Time To) Beat Dat Beat”, DJ Pauly D. (Fifteen!) Yes, it comes from “Jersey Shore", which is nonsense all by itself. And yes, it’s just so much boring-ass noise. But I’m not even sure that this was a single. I know the soundtrack album cracked the Billboard Top 100 Albums chart, but I see nothing that suggests that anything other than the Enrique Iglesias song was ever released as a single. So I’m disqualifying this one.

So in my opinion, AOL Music pretty much punked out on this list by setting us up with a non-single (or, at the most, a single that wasn’t a hit) as being the Number One Worst Song. And they also (again in my opinion) listed a bunch of songs that could have gotten the wave-off in favor of some truly awful songs that DID make the charts. Some of those songs will be listed in my next post.

Naturally, if you have suggestions, I’m more than happy to hear what’s on your mind. So let me frame the question: what Top 40 (US) song that didn’t appear here would you classify as truly bad? You may open your blue books and begin.

OK, it’s Just Getting Worse. (Part I)

A couple of days ago, I started the countdown of AOL’s 100 Worst Songs Ever.

Some quick responses came, and of course there was Nick’s live-blogging the event in my comments section. But it was Yellojkt’s comment about not being aware of some of the songs that struck me. The AOL site has a link to each song in the list, so if it’s not familiar, I can just click and listen to the badness. Through this method, I’ve learned that I do know most of these songs; perhaps I’ve succesfully blotted them from my memory.

So with that, let’s resume the count with Number 50.

50. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, The Proclaimers. Some songs are woulda-coulda-shoulda, when a decent single is resurrected by some deejay and it becomes more famous on that second go-round than it was when it was first released. This is more like Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, where a song that’s several years old suddenly becomes hot because it appeared in a movie. At any rate, this one I can take or leave, depending on my mood that day. If I put it on the list, it would appear at a lower position for that reason.

49. “The Bad Touch”, The Bloodhound Gang. I agree with AOL on this one; the Discovery Channel thing was pretty clever.

48. “(You’re) Having My Baby”, Paul Anka. Yeah, this was treacle then and it’s treacle now. I’ll give Anka points for sneaking the veiled reference to abortion through, though.

47. “C’mon and Ride It (The Train)”, Quad City DJs. In the last post, I noted that a bunch of songs have the word “Song” in the title, as though we would be unclear on that point. You’ll also notice that many songs on this list have some portion of the title in parentheses, as though further explanation is needed. We’re up to nine of the bracketed songs. Just saying.

46. “I Touch Myself”, The Divinyls. I kind of like this one; I wouldn’t have listed it. I’ll say this, though: I’ve seen recent pictures of The Divinyls, and while I’m not ordinarily a sexist, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say this chick really can’t carry off the sex kitten routine anymore.

uncle junior guy 45. “We Like to Party”, Vengaboys. The only good thing that came out of this song was that creepy Uncle Junior-looking guy in the Six Flags commercials.

44. “Laffy Taffy”, D4L. What’s cool about this song is that there’s actually some dispute brewing over who wrote it. And it’s not a couple of people blaming each other; they’re actually both claiming credit.

43. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), Backstreet Boys. (Ten.) This song kind of reminds me of the story behind Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light”: he banged out the song in a matter of minutes by stringing together a bunch of clichés. The lyrics to this song have that same sort of thrown-together feel.

42. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, Billy Joel. This is the song that ended the 16-year cycle of pop culture lists broken up by a chorus. It started in 1958 with “Follow the Rock” by the Bay Bops, then came “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” by Reunion in 1974.  Billy Joel’s song appeared in 1990. Fortunately, nothing like this happened in 2006. Here’s an interesting note: I was in the audience for the video’s World Premiere. Take that, bitches.

41. “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, Eiffel 65. (Eleven.) This is one of the songs I had to play to jog my memory. Four seconds in, I said, “Oh, FECK!” and stopped playback.

40. “Sometimes When We Touch”, Dan Hill. Overwrought, “I’m so conflicted” nonsense. More clichés strung together. And here’s one of those times when I do a little research and the result is “yeah, that figures”: one of the writers (and there are THREE) is Barry Manilow.

39. “Physical”, Olivia Newton-John. This is one of those songs that was so ubiquitous when it was on the charts that I got sick of it in short order. So I have no problem with this one being here.

38. “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, Meat Loaf. (Twelve.)The best thing about this oddball mashup of musical styles (is it rock? Is it opera?) is that it generated this:

Meat Loaf graph nicked from GraphJam dot com

37. “I Love Rock and Roll”, Britney Spears. Some songs aren’t meant to be covered. This is definitely one of them, unless you’re Joe Piscopo breaking out the Sinatra impression. And speaking of which, why the hell isn’t Madonna’s “American Pie” on this list??

36. “Party All The Time”, Eddie Murphy. Here’s a true story: back when Eddie was just starting to hit the big time, he had a girlfriend named Lisa. Lisa and I lived close to one another because we were classmates at Adelphi University. It would be a bit much to say we were friends, but we knew each other. Not that she’d remember me or anything. She was a very pretty, really sweet and smart girl. It wasn’t long after his star began rising that he dumped her unceremoniously. Even then, three or four years before this bit of nonsense came out, Eddie Murphy was buying into his own hype. I like to think that stuff like The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion and Imagine That is an example of karma coming around to bite you in the ass for things like breaking Lisa’s heart and “Party All The Time”.

35. “Tubthumping”, Chumbawamba. Did you know that there are at least nine different mixes of this song out there? You’ve got your original mix, the album mix, the “Danny Boy” mix, the MAWR mix…screw it. I was going to defend this song but the hell with it.

34. “Jump, Jump”, Kris Kross. Meh, I kind of like this one. I’d give it a pass. There are certainly bigger musical crimes than this one.

33. “Informer”, Snow. I didn’t know this one, so I played the audio clip on AOL’s site. I really, really liked the opening segment of this song. And then it turned into pretty typical crap.

32. “The Loco-Motion”, Kylie Minogue. This is another one of those “Last in the Cycle” songs (cf. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” above). There was a “Loco-Motion” that made the Top 40 charts in the 1960s (Little Eva), the 70s (Grand Funk), and then the 80s (Kylie). LaToya Jackson recorded it in 1992 and if it had charted, it would have continued a pretty cool chain, I think. Each one pretty much reflects its time and I give this one a pass, too. Incidentally, the song that knocked Grand Funk’s version out of the #1 spot? “The Streak” by Ray Stevens.

31. “Mmm mmm mmm mmm”, Crash Test Dummies. In his book All The Trouble in the World, P.J. O’Rourke writes: "Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’ by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes."

OK, that’s all I can take for now. The Top 30 will be out in another couple of days.

I’m going to follow this series of posts with a short list of my own. If you have suggestions, by all means send me a note (don’t put it in the comments). You can email me at claudecall(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Eh, Not So Bad, Maybe. (Part II)

Franklin Bean: What are you singing, Petey?
Petey: Erm… I just kind of made it up as I went along, really.
Franklin Bean: That’s just weak songwriting! You wrote a bad song, Petey!

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

———————————–

This past weekend, AOL Radio released a list of the 100 songs that they considered to be the worst ever.

Stuff like these lists are pretty subjective, so I usually give them a pass, but there were some songs whose presence (in my opinion, anyway) wasn’t strictly necessary. Part of the problem, I think, comes from the fact that we really don’t have much idea what criteria were used to select this particular batch, other than a comment at the top about how “it takes all sorts of half-baked musical ideas, crimes of imaging over talent or reliance on quickly burned-out trends to land on [their] list.” Which is fine, but then a little explanation to go with the songs themselves, rather than some aren’t-we-too-clever commentary, would probably go a longer way toward explaining their presence.

So here are the Bottom 50 of the list, along with some commentary of my own. I’ll post Part I of this report, featuring the top 50, in another day or two.

 

100. “My First Kiss”, 3OH!3 featuring Kesha. Meh. One of those pairings that did nothing for me.

99. “This is Why I’m Hot”, Mims. I rather like East Coast rap that’s about the self-affirmation. I could do without the over-reliance on him rapping the title, plus his frequent dropping of the N-bomb.

98. “Looking for Freedom”, David Hasselhoff. ‘Nuff said.

97. “The Girl is Mine”, Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson. I don’t know, this one isn’t awful. They could have done without the “witty banter” close to the end of the song, and it would have improved matters a lot.

96. “You’re Beautiful”, James Blunt. Cloying as hell, but did you know the version you’re probably hearing all the time is edited? Jimmy drops the F-bomb right in the middle of it. It’s also kind of funny because it’s one of those songs that guys would probably put on mixtapes (CDs, iPod playlists, whatever) for their girlfriends without realizing that it’s about unrequited love.

95. “Mambo Number 5”, Lou Bega. I kind of like this one, but I have a fond memory of it involving an eight-year-old girl and a carnival ride, so maybe I’m biased.

94. “America A O”, Aaron Carter. This one only gets a pass because it’s from 2002 and everyone was still sorting stuff out.

93. “Jenny From the Block”, Jennifer Lopez. She had such a reputation that nobody was buying the conceit behind this one. But we did get that cool Shepard Smith blooper as a result.

92. “Escape (The Piña Colada Song")”, Rupert Holmes. Yeah, I guess if you’re going to list it at all, it should be down here. There are bigger crimes out there than this one.

91. “Here Comes the Hotstepper”, Ini Kamoze. I tired of this one pretty quickly, too, especially the “lyrics” he nicked from Cannibal and the Headhunters. Really?

90. “Heartbeat”, Don Johnson. Well…it’s no worse than Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind”. Oddly enough, that didn’t require a spoiler alert.

89. “Cherry Pie”, Warrant. This one is really just nothing new. If you weren’t listening closely, you’d think it was the bastard child of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.

88. “Thong Song”, Sisqo. It’s just boring, man.

87. “The Fast Food Song”, Fast Food Rockers. Have you noticed that we’re already up to three songs that have called themselves “_______ Song”? Just sayin’. This, at least, is an artist whose name suggests strongly that there won’t be a follow-up single.

86. “Cotton Eye Joe”, Rednex. It’s a tough song to screw up, and yet…

85. “Girl You Know it’s True”, Milli Vanilli. In my head, anything Milli Vanilli is automatically disqualified, so this one is off the list.

84. “Popozao”, Kevin Federline. What? Did this song even chart? The album spent one week at #151 and then dropped off altogether. Why is this song here? This is like listing my rendition of “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” recorded on Karaoke Night.

83. “Feelings”, Morris Albert. It ranked this LOW?

82. “Some Girls (Dance With Women)”, JC Chasez. The best thing about this song is that his monotone voice gets lost in the mix.

81. “Get Ready for This”, 2 Unlimited. I wouldn’t have listed this one. It seems like the only reason they put it on the list is because of its ubiquity in sports arenas. I kind of like it, but these are subjective after all.

80. “My Humps”, Black Eyed Peas. There aren’t many songs out there that can make “Baby Got Back” look classy.

79. “The Hamster Dance Song”, Roger Miller and Hampton, Dixie, Hado & Fuzzy. One of our earliest memes and the grandfather of the Rickroll. And this is song #4 with “Song” as part of the title.

78. “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”, Tony Orlando and Dawn. I don’t mind the song so much. What bugs me is the way it’s constantly misused, because it’s misunderstood. The guy in the song was in prison because he was a criminal. Putting up ribbons for folks in the military shows a lack of awareness, I think. I’m pretty sure that the first widespread use of the ribbons was for the Iranian hostages in 1979-80. At least it made some sense in that context.

77. “Butterfly”, Crazytown. I have to agree with AOL on this one; I like the source material much better.

76. “Electric Boogie”, Marcia Griffiths. No kidding, this song and a few others like it are the reason I quit being a mobile DJ.

75. “Break My Stride”, Matthew Wilder. Another one I wouldn’t have listed. I dig this song, despite its cartoony-ness.

74. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, Band Aid. If it sounds like it was thrown together very quickly, that’s only because it was. This may have to go on my annual “bitching about Christmas songs” post.

73. “Tootsee Roll”, 69. Another crappy line dance that—thank god—faded away.

72. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection”, Nelson. You know, Nelson would have been a better act if only…forget it, I got nothin’.

71. “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, Taco. I’ll give him this much: Taco brought Irving Berlin back to a bunch of people who otherwise would have known nothing about him. However, I much prefer this version:

70. “The Lady in Red”, Chris DeBurgh. This guy reminds me of Michael Bolton in that they both had an actual rock and roll career before a chart-blasting ballad turned them into sensitive guys. Another bit of poison for mobile DJs: this is one of about three songs that will get a guy to dance with his girlfriend/wife, so women request it all the time, regardless of what they’re wearing.

69. “Liquid Dreams”, O-Town. Here’s a trivia bit for you: this song reached #1 on the Billboard sales chart without ever making it to the airplay chart.

68. “Hold My Hand”, Hootie and the Blowfish. Their first hit but far from their best, which was…hell. I got nothin’ again.

67. “Rumors”, Lindsay Lohan. Even the opening music is bad. If you start to play this song, you’ll shut it off before she even opens her mouth.

66. “How Bizarre”, OMC. I know I probably shouldn’t, but I kind of like this one too. It’s quirky.

65. “Whoomp! (There It Is)”, Tag Team. The best thing about this song was all the people who were unsure about how “Whoomp” was supposed to be spelled.
It doesn't get much more culturally insensitive than this.

64. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, Deep Blue Something. Come on! This song was about one of Mickey Rooney’s finest performances!

63. “Seasons in the Sun”, Terry Jacks. I have a soft spot for this song for two reasons: first, because it’s one of the first singles I bought with my own money, and second, because of the performance of this song that Roseanne (Arnold, then) did along with Laurie Metcalf on her show.

62. “Supermodel (You Better Work)”, RuPaul. It’s not that good or bad, it’s really just so typical. If being RuPaul is the best gimmick you’ve got, the song needs to be a hell of a lot better.

61. “Walk the Dinosaur”, Was (Not Was). Another one where I should know better, but I just dig it. Boom! Boom! Lacka-lacka-lacka-boom! Also, the dancers in the video just look like they’re having so much fun, it’s kind of infectious.

60. “Make ‘em Say ‘Uh’”, Master P. I think this made the list based on spelling alone.

59. “From a Distance”, Bette Midler. Typical overwraught noise. And is that an electric harpsichord I hear?

58. “American Life”, Madonna. Well…interesting. But not necessarily rising to the level of bad. She tried something, it didn’t quite work out.

57. “Boom Boom "(Let’s Go Back to My Room)”, Paul Lekakis. At least he’s straightforward. The 90’s answer to “Your place or mine?”, thus dispensing with that little mystery.

56. “Love Will Keep Us Together”, Captain and Tennille. Hey, it’s a Neil Sedaka song (hence the “Sedaka is back” sung at the end). And it beats the holy living hell out of “Muskrat Love”.

55. “It Wasn’t Me”, Shaggy. Heh. I love this song because the verse melody is so catchy. And the chorus part is so dumb.

54. “Disco Duck”, Rick Dees. You know, some songs you like at the time and then later on you wonder what you liked about it. This isn’t one of them. I hated this song in 1976 and I hate it now.

53. “Summer Girls”, LFO. I get the feeling that this is supposed to be a kind of callback to Will Smith’s “Summertime”, but if it is, it failed miserably.

52. “The Ketchup Song”, Las Ketchup. (Five.) Another act whose name suggests that we’re not likely to be blessed with their presence again.

51. “You Light Up My Life”, Debby Boone. Most people picture this song as the genesis for the movie starring Didi Conn lip-synching Boone’s recording, but the fact is, the film came out first and the work that was lip-synched was done by Kasey Cisyk. Boone was recruited to record the single and the two came out almost simultaneously. This is how bad the movie was: the song was considered its strongest feature.

Stay Tuned! It only gets worse!

Book ‘em, Danno.

Miller: Everybody knows that Steve McGarrett only takes orders from the governor and God – and occassionally even they have trouble.

Hawaii Five-O, “Cocoon (Pilot)” (9/20/68)

————————-

Since this week marks the 51st anniversary of the fiftieth state to join the union (which may make mine the first generation not to have a state added in their lifetime), I thought I’d do a little breakdown of one of the most dynamic sets of opening credits ever to hit the small screen.

Opening credits were considered pretty important for a long time. With some shows (e.g. Patty Duke, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Star Trek), the credits were a means of entry for the new viewer: “Here’s the setup; now you know all you need to know to understand the conceit of the show.” Others (e.g. I Love Lucy, Donna Reed Show, Lost in Space) were just billboards for the stars of the show. Nowadays, they just cut into the potential commercial/storytelling time, so they’re either very brief (Community, Parks and Recreation) or nonexistent, running entirely over the opening scenes (later seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, and I noticed last night that The Soup runs ALL of its credits during the beginning of the show).

Hawaii Five-O was different, though: It provided the billboard for the stars but also let you know that HAWAII was one of the show’s stars. Let’s take a look at the opening sequence, which (other than the show’s cast) changed very little throughout the show’s 12-year run. Remember that the show  had a “teaser,” which provided the early setup for that week’s story. From the teaser they’d do what they call a “smash cut” to the opening shot:

OK. Ready to do some breakdown? Let’s go. The credits, incidentally, were created by director Reza Badiyi, who also designed the credits for the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Big Wave! This shot was also used as the "bumper" from the show into the commercials. We’d get this shot of the wave and the show’s title would emerge from the curl. This was the first ten seconds of the opening credits, which ran nearly a full minute. It was originally used in a 1967 film called Surfari, about which even Wikipedia knows nothing, but I can tell you that among the cast is a guy named Skipper Fats, playing himself. (You’d think that a guy with a name like that would be a natural to play Alan Hale Jr.’s role on Gilligan’s Island, wouldn’t you?) From here we go to several shots of the water, then a couple of aerial shots of Hawaii, including a quick look at Diamond Head. 90-Aloha_TowerAnother one is a sweeping fly-by view of the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  The shot at left is from the credit sequence; the shot at right is a more recent ground-level view. 50alohaTourists can take an elevator to the tenth floor to get a 360-degree view of Honolulu Harbor and Hawaii in general. After this, we’re treated to a fast zooming-in shot of the top balcony of the Ilikai Hotel, upon which our star, Jack Lord is standing.   As we close in on him standing in that penthouse balcony, there’s a quick reverse angle and the zoom continues from the other side as he turns around to face the camera. He gives you only the barest hint of a smile, and if it weren’t for a breeze blowing his hair, you’d think that it was a freeze-frame. 5-O Upside down carFrom here we do a swing-dissolve to a shot of a car passing under the camera, Hawaii_Five-O_5-0_Jack_Lord_Steve_McGarrett_title_creditand the camera turns to follow, essentially turning the image upside-down (this image was a screen shot I got from YouTube, and it was the best I could do).

After this are perhaps the most iconic shots of the entire bit.

 

 

 

The cover text reads:  "Vigor and languor on glowing tropical isles, Hawaii, 50th state, in color". Elizabeth Logue running down the beachThe next shot is a young Hawaiian lady running down the beach, and she appears to be pulling a clip or some such out of her hair. This would be model Elizabeth Logue, whose real name is Elizabeth Louise Malamalamaokalani White Logue. Just sayin’. She was the poster girl for Hawaiian tourism starting back in 1960, and she was also Miss Air Force ROTC 1959, but most Americans probably first saw her in the photo to the right. This is the October 8, 1965 issue of Life Magazine. (Hover your mouse over the photo to see the cover text.) Can’t get enough of her? She’ll be back.

Lady Columbia represents all grieving mothers. Another quick series of shots of water, and we do a bunch of what the Hollywood folks call  jump-cuts, zooming in on the “Lady Columbia” statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as “Punchbowl National Cemetery”. It got the latter name because of its location in Punchbowl Crater, which was previously used for human sacrifice. So, human sacrifice in a cemetery…that’s pretty efficient. Lady Columbia is standing at the top of a stairway (as can be seen in the longest shot of the sequence), on the bow of a ship, holding a laurel branch. Mel, in his Baby Surfer days. One of the cool things about this sequence is that the jump cuts are synchronized with the drumbeats.   From here we go to a quick series of shots: Anything with the black bars to the left and right is a screen shot I nicked from YouTubea profile shot of a girl looking up, who appears to be Elizabeth Logue again (I’m not positive but it looks like her), then a boy looking at the camera. The boy, incidentally, is named Mel Kinney, and he’s 13 years old in that shot.  In later years, it appears he became kind of a big deal in the sport end of surfing. Then there’s a VERY dramatic shot of  Ms. Logue, positively rocking the head-turn toward the camera. I’m willing to bet that millions of men, Here's Mel Kinney again in 1996, at the age of 41. from 1968 through 1980, used that shot as their one and only reason to take their families on a trip to Hawaii, just on the off chance that a Rocking the Head Turnhot Hawaiian chick would turn and look at them in just that way, with exactly that expression.  Hell, she died in 1988 and I’d probably still go to Hawaii hoping I could nail her. (UPDATE: As you can see from the comments section, I've heard from a relative who notes that Ms. Logue is still alive and well and living under a different name. Also see my follow-up comments about how a little extra research confirmed this and how this mistake apparently propagated.)

 

 

 

 

Fish-eye planeWe’re next treated to several images of a jet airplane through a fish-eye lens. I think this is mostly because United Airlines was the carrier that flew the cast and crew back and forth from the mainland. Whenever you see a plane in the show, it’s always obviously United; however in the credits you can’t really tell. On the other hand, this theory of mine is not original; I got it from here:

 

This is from Mad Magazine's satire, "How-Are-Ya, Five-O?" which appeared in March 1971. I actually remember reading this the first time it appeared, although I don't remember "Catch-All 22," which was in the same issue. Go Figure! After the plane shots, there are several quick still shots of a sunset, zooming in and out, again in time with the music (no screen shots because I couldn’t be bothered), and next we see a close-up shot of a Hula dancer’s hips:

50hips

The thing that always fascinated, yet bothered me was the fact that this shot ran for a few seconds, then did a freeze-frame, then another freeze-frame almost immediately, then continued on till the end. It wasn’t in time with the music and seemed to have no real purpose. Why were those freeze-frames in there, dammit? I have no real answer except: because this shot appeared during a scene in the pilot, and the freeze-frames happened there, too. There were a couple of times that the pilot used this technique, and in each case it was for no apparent reason. Here’s a bit of trivia: The hula girl’s name is Helen Kuoha-Torco, and according to her, the brief scene in which she appeared took 16 hours to shoot. She later became a professor at Leeward Community College but has since retired. And we only know all this because the shot came from the pilot, where her face can be seen, too.

Tops Restaurant,

More zooming: several repeated zooms on this red neon sign, which my research tells me was once called Tops Restaurant. Tops is not to be confused with another place called Tree Tops Restaurant, which appears to still be around. I was unable, however, to find out what’s there now.Blue Police Light Tops, however, does appear to elicit some fond memories in people, and I’ve even found a few obituaries of people who worked there, so apparently it held some measure of fame. Whether that’s because of Hawaii Five-O is another matter. From the Tops Restaurant we do yet another zoom, on a blue police light. This is the really old-style light, where the reflector rocks back and forth rather than spinning 360 degrees. Nowadays they’re equipped with strobe-style lights, so they don’t even rotate anymore, more’s the pity. At this point, by the way, we’re at the 41-second mark and haven’t seen anyone in the cast besides Jack Lord. All of that changes now, as we get:

James MacArthur

James MacArthur running down a hallway and freeze-framing as his credit appears on-screen. “With” and “as” are a Very Big Deal in Hollywood contracts, for what that’s worth. (Update: Merry just reminded me of something I forgot to mention: James MacArthur’s mother was very famous, and appeared in a Season 4 episode. Go do your own research.) After our first view of Danno, there’s a closeup of a pair of hands loading a revolver and spinning the chamber. If you look carefully, though, you may notice something’s not quite right. Good luck shooting those bad guys. The spot in the middle of the cartridge is where the gun’s firing pin strikes the cartridge. All of the cartridges have depressions in them—which means that these bullets have already been fired and the gun is therefore being loaded with spent shells. Oh well.

Zulu as Kono Next up: Zulu as Kono! It’s a pretty cool shot of him charging up a gangplank, and again we get the freeze-frame as the graphic pops on. It’s probably the most action we ever see out of this guy during the series, as he spends a lot of time just standing there stock-still and spouting his lines. This shot is also from the pilot. Zulu’s real name was (I’m not making this up) Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauh, so it’s small wonder that they called him “Zulu”.

 

Kam Fong as Chin Ho A quick blurry shot of police lights, and we get our last credited cast member: Kam Fong as Chin Ho. At this point, with “Zulu as  Kono” and “Kam Fong as Chin Ho”, you have to think that the producers are just screwing with our heads. And, maybe they are. Kam Fong appears to have done this shot specifically for the credits, given the way he does a full-body turn to face the camera. He kind of rocks it, too, but not like Elizabeth Logue. Although he plays a Chinese type on the show, he was a Hawaiian native, and ponder this for a minute: he was at Pearl Harbor for three days straight after the attacks on December 7, 1941, and he lost his entire family in June of 1944 when a couple of B-24s collided and rained down burning debris on his neighborhood. He re-married and had four more kids before he and his wife died within six months of one another in 2002. And his second wife predeceased him, so he was widowed twice. That’s kind of harsh, even for an arbitrary universe.

Motorcycle shot Finally, we get to the last shot, which is a night view of the street looking back from the seat of a police motorcycle, again freezing when the graphic appears. According to Wikipedia, this street is in Waikiki, and the motorcycle is heading west. But it’s Wikipedia, so do with it what you will. This shot is also used in its entirety during the closing credits of at least the first season; later on they switched to the shot of the locals in the outrigger canoe.

 

For those of you who aren’t aware, CBS is bringing the show back this fall (Kono is a woman! Chin is being played by Jin from LOST! The title will have a zero instead of a letter O!). I’m not sure why, but my feeling is that if they just leave the theme music intact, that’s going to be half the battle to success. At any rate, I’m trying to think positively.

Finally: while several of the pictures are screen shots I grabbed, a bunch of the pictures came from a site called BigBob.com, and I’m not even sure that Big Bob remembers that those pics are there, since they’re not linked from his home page.

So there you have it: a very lengthy, almost scholarly, view of the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O. Did I spend too much time on this post? You bet your ass. But tell me what you thought anyway.

A Little Cream in the Coffee

Mike: Maryland is for… lovers. Bumper sticker?
Sue Claussen: Virginia. Virginia is for lovers. Maryland is for crabs.

Management (2008)

———————–

The other night I attended a Crab Feast that was held over at Martin’s West.

This is notable for a couple of reasons: first, because it was the first time that I’d attended this annual event, since it was the first time that I was a member of the school system’s administrators’ union; and second, because I’d never been to Martin’s West before. This, for some reason, surprised many of my co-workers. Then some of them decided that it was because of my skin color.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never been invited to an event that large since I moved down here. I will concede, however, that I did feel a bit like the inside of an Oreo.

I got to the event and, despite getting there only about ten minutes after the scheduled start, the place was hopping. There were lots of principals and several of my counterparts there, and there was a DJ up front playing music. Let me tell you about this DJ: he was terrible. If I’d been in a crappier mood, I’d have gone up to him to get his card specifically so I could tell you “Don’t hire this guy”.

Believe it or not, I say that rather reluctantly. I used to be a mobile DJ and I know what a tough job it is sometimes, especially when you get groups of varying types of people. When I did, say, birthday parties? No problem because everyone’s the same age and has similar tastes in music. But when you get those multigenerational groups, you get complaints when the music is too modern, or when it’s not modern enough, or the older people think it’s too loud and the younger people think it’s not loud enough, and you wind up playing the same few songs at these events and it just makes your brain hurt. So I know it can be a tough gig.

However: when you have a group like this, who are mostly of similar demographics, the job becomes stupidly easy. From that standpoint he did okay, but he had no sense of being able to go smoothly from one song to another (dude, it’s called a “segue”). He also found it necessary to play several songs more than once. I was only there for about two hours or so, and in one case I heard the same song three times. I’m kind of pissed off that my union dues paid for this guy.

For those of you who are white have also never been to Martin’s West before, it’s a pretty typical big Wedding Factory kind of place. Big, gaudy chandeliers, columns all over the place, sweeping staircases, heavy draperies everywhere and relatively dim lighting. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a catering hall with a terrazzo floor before, so there’s that.

The food wasn’t bad: it wasn’t just crabs that they served; there was an assortment of non-crab food out there, and they had a kind of “crab station” where you picked up your crabs three or four at a time, set up whatever condiments you liked for them (e.g. extra Old Bay, drawn-butter-flavored grease, etc), and an array of desserts, plus hot and cold beverages, including beer (which, everyone knows, goes fabulously with crabs).

The most amusing part to me, however, was the little tent cards that were propped up pretty much EVERYWHERE throughout the place:

PLEASE UNDERSTAND OUR PROBLEM: Our food is served continually and the amount is unlimited as long as you eat it here. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TAKE ANY FOOD OR BEVERAGE OFF THE PREMISES. ALL BAGS WILL BE EXAMINED

One of my co-workers saw that and remarked, “That’s so ghetto.” I don’t know if it’s that, but it’s certainly something. For what it’s worth, I left with a cup of hot tea in my hand and nobody challenged me.

iScrewedUp: a Cautionary Tale

Alex: I just want you to know, you’re a one in a million friend!
Marty: Thanks, Alex! You are a true friend!
Alex: And I’m sure you won’t mind when I tell you…
Marty: What? Tell me what?
Alex: I broke your iPod!
Marty: What?
Alex: The buttons were so small! It made me mad!
Marty: The horror!
Alex: It was an accident!
Marty: I’m gonna kill you!

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

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A few weeks ago, Wife and I were in her car going…I don’t remember. Somewhere. It doesn’t matter, does it? Jeez, just let me tell the story.

So we’re in her car, and we decided that we wanted to bring a little entertainment along. Specifically, we wanted to hear The Mike O’Meara Show podcast. I brought my iPod with us and plugged the cable into the car’s radio jack designed for such things. We were enjoying the show and, when we reached our destination, I disconnected the iPod from the cable, letting it hang free. Then, as I do with my own car, I put the iPod into the console between the two front seats.

The important difference between my console and Wife’s, is that there’s room in my console for an iPod. Not so much with hers. So when we shut the console’s lid, it damaged my iPod. I didn’t discover this until we got back in the car and discovered that the screen was completely screwed. I couldn’t read the top half at all and I could barely make out the bottom half. Dammit.

So, online I go, looking into what it would take to get the iPod fixed. And, believe it or not, here (not the previous paragraph) is where the story takes the ominous turn. In researching how to get my iPod repaired, I learned that there are basically three ways you can go:

  1. Take it to the Apple store (quite pricey);
  2. Go the postal route and send it to one of several companies that do such repairs (cheaper, but still pretty pricey);
  3. Fix it yourself, it’s easier than you think (quite inexpensive).

Fixing things is not something that scares me away, and given the step-by-step directions that one can find online, it seemed like a not-so-tough option. Also, given that my iPod is well out of its warranty period, opening the unit up wasn’t going to void anything. So I chose a dealer and ordered a replacement screen and a couple of plastic gizmos called “Pry Tools”, which would assist me in opening up the iPod.

Naturally, as soon as I placed the online order I got an auto-reply email that read “We’re on vacation and we’ll fill your order next week, thanks.” That was my own fault, though; there was something about it on the webpage that I’d overlooked.

So two weeks after my original order was placed, I received a padded envelope with my screen and my pry tools. I broke out a couple of iPod repair websites—one of which demonstrated with a video—and set to work.

This is where things got ugly.

barely cracked open. What you now see inside is attached to the front. The first step, according to all of these sites, is to use the pry tool to pop the back of the iPod away from the front. You essentially have to use something non-marking, such as the plastic tool, then you can use something a little harder to finish the job. And the pictures, including the video, all make it look relatively easy to get the pry tool in between the two surfaces and then open up the crack to the point where you can separate front from back. It is NOT, in fact, easy at all, and I broke both my pry tools trying.

I went back to the Internet to see what I might be missing, and I came across a website that recommended I run a hair dryer, set to “high”, on the iPod to loosen/melt the glue that’s holding the front to the back. Sure enough, the job got easier after using the dryer, although I had to run it longer than the site recommended. And, I had to use a harder-edged item to get the initial pry started. One site recommended a butter knife, which worked OK.

pulling apartI finally got front separated from back and had to be careful at this point because there are flat “ribbon” cables that still connect the two halves of the unit.  In the photo at left, you can see the battery (in the back half) and the hard drive (suspended from the front). The screen is at the left side behind the hard drive. So you have to disconnect the ribbon cables to make it more accessible.

In addition, the front half has six tiny screws that have to come out so that you can remove the electronics board from the front. The screws are also holding in a metal plate that backs up the screen, so you have to take them out in order to get to the screen.

Removing the screws and separating circuit board from front half was easy, however removing the ribbon cables was not nearly as easy to do as the directions suggested. Essentially, I broke the hold-down for the screen’s ribbon cable, and one of the other connectors as well (I forget which, now).

So now what I have is a small pile of electronic parts, including a brand-new iPod screen, and no iPod. And it’s probably going to be awhile before I can afford a new one. Take heed, folks, at my cautionary tale. This is one project that, despite the hype, is NOT nearly as easy as they would have you believe.