Kung Fury

What do Nazis, dinosaurs, Vikings, and Miami-Dade cops have in common? The 80s action satire film Kung Fury. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an odd one, but if you have any appreciation for the likes of 80s era action films, it is a MUST SEE. Plus, it’s only a half-hour long. Apparently the film’s financial backing came via a Kickstarter campaign.

The 2015 film was directed by David Sandberg who also plays the epic, martial arts super-cop Kung Fury. The story line is ridiculously funny. KF has to go back in time to vengefully kill Adolph Hitler. (That’s after KF becomes “The Chosen One”. He was “hit by lighting and bitten by a cobra” or something like that. Naturally, he sports a reddish headband a la various 80s icons: Rambo, Loverboy’s Mike Reno, Johnny from the Cobra Kai Dojo, Olivia Newton-John, etc. )

Along the way, he gets some help from an ensemble of oddballs: Thor, two barbarian chicks, a computer geek called Hackerman, and his new partner named Tricera-cop. As random as it seems, the satire of the 80s is a big (and funny) part of the whole deal – video game arcades, enormous mobile phones, David Hasselhoff , and boomboxes to name a few. There are some big nods to Arnold Schwarzenegger via one-liners. I also felt the influence of Miami Vice and Tron as well. Plus, there is plenty of synth music.

If you were alive in the 80s, you owe it to yourself to see this film. I can’t tell you how many action movies I saw back then. You had Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal to name a few action stars from the big screen. I wouldn’t call these guys action stars, but TV had the likes of Hasselhoff on Knight Rider and Don Johnson on Miami Vice. It’s funny to look back now at all of the computer-themed technology. (Yes, it really did look like that. ) The big thing I would says is we didn’t have the internet, streaming, or even blogging back then. We had to do something to keep ourselves entertained besides watching MTV. The best part of all is a full length film which is due to be released some time soon. It will feature some of those 80s icons like Schwarzenegger and Hasselhoff.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

White Bike-Psych

The Sixties — more specifically the Summer of Love (1967) — produced some interesting art and music. To me, there’s something appealing about the whole psychedelic thing. Spirals, kaleidoscopes, vivid colors, and Indian-influenced music. Apparently the origin of psychedelic is supposed to mean “soul revealing” or “mind manifesting.” Whoa, man, that’s heavy. (For the record, the only acid I’ve ever “dropped” was the saclicylic kind — commonly known as Compound W — you know, plantar wart removal.)

In any event, I find it hard to separate the music and the imagery — maybe that’s because I enjoy them both. I thought about doing a list of my favorite or all-time best songs in this category, but decided to start with a hidden gem called “My White Bicycle” by a British band called Tomorrow.

The song has a definite trippy, Indian feel to it — thanks in part to the backwards instrumentation on it and the whispered echoes of “My White Bicycle.” (More about the origin of the song in a moment.) When you hear the words “white bicycle” you automatically get an image of one. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the psychedelic thing, too — putting a trippy spin on something ordinary.

The first time I heard this song was riding in the car with my cousins at Lake of the Ozarks. It was on an 8-track tape with Nazareth’s harder rock version.

It’s a different interpretation from the original, but I’m living proof that Nazareth kept this song alive and spread it to the masses. Osage Beach, Missouri is a long way from Abbey Road (where Tomorrow originally recorded the song. Tomorrow featured a pre-Yes Steve Howe on guitar.)

Apparently the song was inspired by an Amsterdam anarchist outfit called The Provos. They wanted to alleviate traffic by leaving free, white bicycles at the disposal of their countrymen among other things.

If you don’t like the song or the psychedelic thing, hopefully, you’ll get a chuckle out of this novelty version featuring Neil the Hippie (Nigel Planer) from 1980s British TV comedy The Young Ones.

If you enjoy parody and/or psychedelia, you must seek out “Neil’s Heavy Concept Album.” Great title. “My White Bicycle” was written by Tomorrow band members Keith Hopkins and Ken Burgess. To put it into perspective, I even found pics of John and Yoko with a Provo White Bike.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

Snack Cake Smackdown

If you put all of your favorite snack cakes into a wrestling ring for a battle royal, who would would be the last one standing? It’s a tough question, but one which absolutely bears discussion.

As an elementary school student, I would have no doubt said Hostess Cupcakes. Chocolate icing AND cream filling? Yes, please! Then, and now, I would probably put Little Debbie’s Star Crunch as an easy pick for one of the Top 5 Contenders. I was surprised to meet some adults my age who haven’t tried them. Blasphemy! For the uninitiated, Star Crunch is a chocolate covered rice cake with a caramel center. It should have come with a label — “Guaranteed to rip your braces and fillings right out of your mouth!” — but they are DELICIOUS! The beauty of them, like most snack cakes, is they’re just small enough to keep stuffing your face with them.

I’ve never been a big fan of Twinkies, but they’ve made it into some major motion pictures like “Die Hard” and “Zombieland” so you have to respect that. Back in the day, Hostess came out with something called Chocodiles — it was sort of like a chocolate Twinkie with some lame crocodile mascot on the box. Yes, I’ve eaten them, but I’d make Chauncy Chocodile a safe bet to be the first one tossed over the top rope. Other snack cakes which, personally, don’t do it for me include: Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cookies and Nutty Bars along with Hostess Fruit Pies and Suzy Q’s.

Also on the yes list: Ding Dongs (Very tasty in mildly frozen form), Ho Hos and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls (Is there really a difference?), and I’m sure there are more. For example, there’s a brand called Bimbo which makes very tasty cupcakes and little pound cakes.

I would easily put Little Debbie Zebra Cakes in the Top 3. White icing with yellow cake and cream filling. Scrumptious! Not only that, but they come two to a package. It’s like they’re saying, “It’s OK, go ahead and eat them both.” It would be one heck of a steel cage match between Zebra Cakes and Star Crunch. Getting either one of those in my lunchbox could have been game changers as a youngster. (Incidentally, when I was in first grade I told an 8th grader to shut up for mocking my Space: 1999 lunchbox. It did kick ass.)

So what is #1 snack cake of all time?

It may sound like a bit of a wild card, but I would have to pick Hostess Coffee Cakes (Cinnamon Streusel) as my current favorite. Does that sound too uppity to the Zinger eaters and Moon Pie lovers out there? Well, TOO BAD!! They are snack CAKES after all. They are sweet. They are gooey. Plus, they’re packed with cinnamon. Not only that, but their ability to be gulped down one after another really clinches it for me. If you haven’t tried these three…please, FOR YOUR OWN SAKE, go immediately to the snack cake aisle and try them:

3. Little Debbie Star Crunch

2. Little Debbie Zebra Cake

  1. Hostess Coffee Cakes Cinnamon Stresuel

You will thank me later!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Little Richard Live

I was probably fifteen or sixteen-years-old when I spotted a “hidden gem” in the cut out bin of cassettes – it was at a Camelot Music store in a now-defunct suburban shopping mall. The album was the somewhat boringly titled “Little Richard’s Greatest Hits: Recorded Live!” – at least they put the exclamation point on there for what that’s worth.

The album, on the other hand, is anything BUT boring. Prior to spotting the bargain bin cassette, I was familiar with some of his hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”, but this recording gave me a whole new appreciation for Little Richard and his powerhouse vocals. Not only that, but there was a lot of crowd interaction during the album. I really hadn’t heard that done before and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do it quite the way he did. Nobody can scream “whooooo” quite the same way he can. (Paul McCartney did a pretty nice job imitating his hero on some of The Beatles’ recordings like “Long Tall Sally” or even “I’m Down.”)

The album also introduced me to some songs I hadn’t heard. My favorite from the album is the New Orleans-styled ballad “Send Me Some Lovin’ ” (written by John Marascalco and Leo Price).

(Buddy Holly also recorded a song with the same title, but they are completely different songs.) “Send Me Some Lovin’ ” is a simple song, but Little Richard’s voice makes you FEEL the sentiment and emotion of missing someone he’s trying to convey. In my humble opinion, the studio version of this song and “The Girl Can’t Help It” (written by Bobby Troup) both pale in comparison to these live versions.

The album itself is barely over a half hour in length, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in soul shouting like you’ve never heard! According to Wikipedia, Little Richard himself actually didn’t like this album — too much emphasis on horns, but it left a lasting impression on me. Other notable musicians on the recording are none other than Billy Preston and Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

There’s nothing left to say except Little Richard’s last name is Penniman.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Show Me MO Music

I’m a native of Missouri – the Show Me State. I’m biased towards it because it’s my home. I thought I’d do a list of bands/musicians I’ve encountered here which I think are worth checking out. If you’re ever in St. Louis, the city’s walk of fame on Delmar Boulevard has some well-known musicians with their sidewalk stars: Chuck Berry, Albert King, Ike and Tina Turner,Michael McDonald, and more. (I should clarify some of these folks were born in MO or lived here for a time. Call it a “sliding scale.”)

However, I’d like to focus on some musicians who might not be quite as well-known. The first band that comes to mind is The Bottle Rockets. Great band name. Who doesn’t have a great story involving bottle rockets? This is a band that’s in the cowpunk, roots rock vein. My favorite lyric is “Can’t go west, can’t go east, I’m stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that’s deceased” from their song “Indianapolis.”

Great stuff! Along the same twangy, roots rock line is a band called Hadacol. The first song of theirs grabbed me is about (I’m assuming a Missourian) who won’t budge even though a “Big Tornado” is coming right at him.

I absolutely love their album called “Better Than This.” It has some serious songs and a romp called “Pappy”, which bemoans not wanting to do any more farm labor. Their second effort “All in Your Head” also features a song called “Another Day” which, to me, just sounds like Missouri.

There are plenty of other musicians/bands out of Missouri. Sheryl Crow was born and raised in “the bootheel” of the state. There was even a band called Missouri which is best known for a song called “Movin’ On”. If you’re into blues, leggy blonde Samantha Fish is also worth a listen. She plays a mean slide guitar (sometimes on a cigar box guitar) and has been known to belt out Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” on occasion.

Till next time, keep your MO Mojo on the Horizon!

Ramblings on The Ramones

I’ve thought about doing a video or book called “Guitar for the Musically Impatient.” The Ramones were that kind of band. They got right to the point. It wasn’t sophisticated or progressive. It was like a shot of adrenaline. That’s what I love about rock n roll music. You don’t “get” it next week or next year…you get it RIGHT NOW! It’s like getting punched in the face.

I definitely went through a Ramones Phase a couple of summers ago. I’d always loved the energy and the attitude of their music, but I really knew very little about them as a band or as individual members. They were the odd-looking guys in the leather jackets, blue jeans, and white sneakers. Really tall lead singer with long black hair and dark shades. I had a collection of theirs called “Loud, Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits. “ Before that, I had a collection of 60s covers they did called “Acid Eaters” on cassette.

A couple of general things jump out at me from my Ramones Phase. I never knew bass player Dee Dee Ramone was the driving force behind a lot of their songwriting. One of my favorite tracks is the surf rock masterpiece “Rockaway Beach”.

Another thing I learned is lead singer Joey Ramone was an enormous music hound and was a completely self-taught singer with a fantastic voice. His love for rock n roll music and sense of romance can be felt in his singing. As much as I love the speed and energy of their sound, I wish Joey and the band had recorded a few more ballads like “My My Kind of A Girl.”

My favorite part of the song is from about 1:40 to the 2 minute mark. Some great harmony and lead vocals. Apparently they went to record an album with Phil Spector and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Maybe that scarred them.

I read a couple of books about The Ramones — one is the cleverly titled “I Slept With Joey Ramone” (which was written by his brother Mickey). One part I always remember is when guitarist Johnny Ramone told Mickey rock n roll guitar should only be played with downstrokes. You could pick any number of their songs to demonstrate their sound. For me, “Cretin Hop” is a good one and this sound check is interesting.

Lyrically, they had some hilarious, off-the-wall things going on in their songs — DDT, Chicken Vindaloo, Pinheads, the S.L.A., Ice Capades just for starters. For my money it’s hard to beat the line “Now i guess i’ll have to tell ’em that i got no cerebellum.”

You could say the band was “stripped down” before that was even a thing. Give credit to all of the band members. Plus, I feel obligated to mention Johnny’s low-slung Mosrite guitar.

Viva, Ramones!!

Pandora’s Broken Box

First of all, I’m a music lover. I listen to it, I collect, and I even play it sometimes. About ten years ago, a younger, hipper co-worker of mine suggested I try the music streaming internet radio entity called “Pandora.” I’d heard of it, but never checked it out. His description of Pandora was you tell it what you like to listen to and then it makes recommendations based on your taste preferences. Here’s the short version of what I experienced:

Me: I like The Beatles.

Pandora: You like The Beatles, you must like Herman’s Hermits.

Me: Not really. Let’s try again….I like The Rolling Stones.

Pandora: You like The Rolling Stones, you must like Herman’s Hermits.

Me: (OK, like I said, I don’t LIKE Herman’s Hermits…this is getting annoying)…I like The Who.

Pandora: You like The Who, you must like Herman’s Hermits.

Me: I DON’T LIKE Herman’s Hermits! Is this thing stuck on British Invasion bands or what? I was going to mention The Animals and The Kinks, but I’ll try a band outside of that category.

Me: I like Social Distortion.

Pandora: You like Social Distortion, you must like Herman’s Hermits

Me: How the hell can you compare The Who and Social Distortion to Herman’s Hermits?! Are you on crack or something? The Who’s sound is loud and angry. Social Distortion’s sound is DARK, LOUD, AND ANGRY. Nihilistic. Do you think either one of those bands would record some bubble gum song like “I’m Into Something Good”? Does the album “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” sound like something Herman’s Hermits would record? No, it doesn’t!! I don’t remember hearing “Lonely weekends, lonely nights – the judge he gave me 99 To Life” on a Herman’s Hermits’ 45 RPM. Furthermore, what do Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Mike Ness (Social Distortion) have in common? Nothing — you’d better shut up before I kick you in the recommendation box, Pandora!

Whew….OK….so that was my experience with Pandora.

It’s my understanding it works off an “algorithm”. Maybe that’s my problem — my mathematical education stopped with a “D” in Algebra II. Or maybe people just like to throw around the four-syllable word “al-go-ri-thm” in tea time conversation while they raise their pinkies. My REAL problem with Pandora is you and me (i.e. the listeners) never get to pick one single song you want to hear. The idea behind it is, in theory, a good one, but it didn’t work for me.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I put Pandora in the same category as those retail store “discount cards”. Do you think they really WANT to give you a discount? Of course they don’t. They want to track your buying habits and set prices accordingly. Pandora, ultimately, wants to “recommend” artists you haven’t heard so you’ll BUY THEIR MUSIC.

Are there die-hard music fans like me who feel the same way? If it’s just me, I can live with that. For me, I WILL NOT let some computer algorithm thing tell me or even SUGGEST to me what I like. I will take the juke box over Pandora any day.

The only way to settle my long-standing dispute with Pandora is for Social Distortion to record a punk rock version of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Till next time, keep thinking for yourself and keep your Mojo on the Horizon!