A Doll House for my Daughter

As a dad who can’t get enough of being one, I am always trying to find a way to prove that I am a better father than the next guy.  Not really, but I do feel the need to be thought of as a good father.

The fact is, I’m a little cheap.  I don’t like to spend a lot of money on something I could do myself.  My father was a general contractor, and I inherited all of his toys.  There’s nothing like needing to hang a picture on the wall, and knowing that all I have to do is step into the garage, turn on the 6 ft. tall Campbell-Hausfeld compressor and choose which nail-gun I want to use.  Oh, yeah.  So whenever I see an overpriced toy that I think my kid needs, I think, “I could make that.”

The last time it was a set of bins for her toy that were twice as large as the ones at Ikea, and cost me half as much (if you don’t count the trip to the doctor when I shot a nail through my thumb).

So, with my daughter’s third birthday arriving in a bout two months, I have decided to build…a doll house.  My niece has a cool one that is three stories tall, one room deep, and has the whole back half open for easy access.

I looked around and these things go for around $300.  Of course, I thought, I can build one of those.  I have been thinking about it for a few months now, and collecting materials along the way.  Last month, I did a rough sketch and bought a couple of pieces of MDF and a piano hinge.

I did some more drawing, and realized that I needed another piece of MDF.  So, I finally decided that last weekend, I would have to start it if I were to have any chance of finishing it before her birthday.

I decided that I would not hide it from her for several reasons.  The first was the fact that hiding it would be difficult.  The second was the fact that I thought she would appreciate it more if she saw the effort that it took to make it.  And of course, if it made her love for me grow greater, that would be even better.

So I asked my mother to come and watch her Saturday, and got to work.  It was not that difficult, but it was hot, and as with anything like this, the time seems to fly by when are actually doing it.  By Saturday evening, I had the whole frame put together, and the piano hinge on the roof.  The wood for the interior walls had been cut, and I had decided that a lot of the work from this point on could be done in the house where there is air conditioning.

Since Saturday, I have done a little work every day.  The interior walls are in now, and I have cut the wood for a couch, love seat and chair for the living room, and a couple of beds.

As with most things that I do like this, I have gotten carried away.  I tend to build things that are a little more elaborate or just plain big.  This would fall into the ‘big’ category.  It is 57 inches tall, 49 inches wide, and 18 inches deep on a 24 inch deep base.  There are 10 rooms including a living room, study/library, dining room, kitchen, pantry, full bath, master bedroom, nursery, child’s room, and kid’s playroom.

I plan to make as much of the furniture as I can.  My focus will be on functionality rather than reality.  For instance, I want to make a chair and table for the dining room that will last if my daughter wants to play with it for years, not an ultra-realistic piece of miniature art that will break the first time she plays with it.  And, I want it to be big enough for Barbie when she gets one.

Special thanks to my wife.  She has done most of the measuring and marking, and without her assistance, it would not be done at all.

I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I will continue to document this process in case any other parents out there decide that they want to attempt it.  Stay tuned for pictures, and further documentation.

Cost so far:

3 pieces MDF: $22.00 each

48 inch Piano Hinge: $15.00

Screws: $0 (already had these)

Nails: $0 (already had these)

Tools: $0 (already had these)

Scrap Wood: $0 (already had some of this. Also took two small pieces from a trash pile at a home being built in the neighborhood)

Total: $81.00

Hopping on the Bandwagon

The day after the election, I went to a local fabric store with my wife.  While she was browsing, and I was futilely looking for something to catch my interest, I looked up and saw four full bolts of Barrack Obama fleece that I assume people were supposed to make blankets with.  I was confused and appalled.  Since that time, I have felt like I was being bombarded with Obama products.  The latest Obamination being the Obama Chia Pet.

So, in a effort to add my own instrument to the cacophony, I decided the time had come to bring together America’s new savior and the Savior of men.  Enjoy.

imga0262

National Work Zone Awareness Week

As much as I despise him, I’ve decided to go a little Andy Rooney with my post today.

As I was driving into work today, I looked up to see a message flashing on one of the permanent traffic information boards that are spaced about every five miles apart on my drive through Fort Worth on my way to work. 

Sometime these signs contain useful or even important information.  They will let me know a few days ahead when there will be scheduled road repair or if a NASCAR race will be affecting traffic that week.  Often there are Amber Alert messages regarding missing children or elderly.  When I see these messages, I make a mental note of their content in case I actually see the car that is wanted or matches the description.  This seems like a great use of technology to me.  Sometimes there is an accident ahead that is significant enough to warrant a warning on the signs.  Those days I take an alternate route.

However, there are also the days when someone is put in charge of the sign who feels like things need to be tricked-up a little.  I have grown used to the “Buckle Up” admonition, and the polite desire that I “Have a Nice Day,” but every now and then some joker feels the need to say something different.  These messages sometimes encourage me to pay attention to road workers even if there is no road work to pay attention to.  In other cases, I have been encouraged to vote.

The only real affect that I have noticed from innocuous messages such as these, is that they affect the flow of traffic as people feel like they have to slow down to read them.  It seems to me that when signs are used in this manner that they defeat the purpose of having the sign in the first place.  I have even seen accidents shortly before getting to the signs that were probably caused by people breaking to read the signs while other people trying to read the signs hit them in the rear.

This morning as I drove to work, I was greeted with a message informing me that it is Work Zone Awareness Week.  I looked this up in the internet, and not only is it Work Zone Awareness Week, it is National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This struck me as a little odd.  Of course, there were no work zones on my twenty mile trip to work for me to be aware of, but that was not all.  I suddenly thought, “Pretty soon we are going to have a week for everything.”  But, there are only 52 weeks in a year.  So, is ‘Work Zone Awareness’ in the top 52 things that I need to be worried about.  I find that hard to believe.

So, I assume there must be some serious overlap here.  Every week must have multiple causes that are competing to make sure that I am aware of them.  In the cacophony of causes something is lost.  I am just not able to care that much about all of this stuff, and  regardless of that, I always try to be safe when I am driving down the road anyway. 

So what is the real purposed of National Work Zone Awareness Week?  I can only assume it is three fold.  1) To give the folks that sit at a desk in a boring job at the highway department something to do.  2) To provide revenues to advertising agencies that have won lucrative government contracts to promote these types of things. 3) To assure that my drive home from work takes a little longer as people slow down to read the ‘very important’ message that has been provided for our edification.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

20. “My Hometown”, Bruce Springsteen– I wasn’t a big Springsteen fan when I was growing up, and I’m still not.  While I consider myself to be a patriotic American, I found his trademark anthem “Born in the U.S.A.” to be way too affected for my tastes.  However, I have to admit that I like some of his slower stuff.  This song has a nice nostalgic message and a cool electric organ part.  Springsteen keeps a nice tone to his vocal throughout the song.  It actually reminds me more of a Billy Joel song in style and lyrics.

19. “The Way It Is”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range– The keyboard part sets the mood at the beginning of this song.  Then, it gets even cooler (word?) when the drums and the rest of the band come in with a jazzy feel.  Hornsby has a nice tone to his voice and just enough grit to keep it serious.  The song has a very pretty, whole sound, but the tempo keeps it from being easy listening.  The most interesting thing about this song is that it tackles a very unusual subject for eighties pop: racism and the American Civil Rights Movement.  You would never get that from the tune and tone of the song.

18. “Stuck With You”, Huey Lewis and The News– This song continued Lewis’ string of hits throughout the mid-eighties.  The video for the song was dreadfully cheesy even though it did have a hottie, but the bee-bop style gave fans of the band exactly what they had grown to expect from them.

17. “Human”, Human League– This song reminds you of “Shout” by Tears for Fears with a forceful beginning and dark baseline, but then the keyboard comes in and lightens the mood considerably.  To call this band androgynous would be an understatement.  Tammy Fae is only slightly less made up than the lead singer.  The tone to the vocal and the DX7 keyboard make the song.  The spoken word in the middle a little cheesy.

16. “Greatest Love Of All”, Whitney Houston– Whitney Houston hit her stride with this song.  She is a powerhouse and the song is a showcase for her vocals.  The tender, positive message of the lyrics was refreshing and different from most of her love songs.  The song makes even more sense when you know that the writer was a mother with terminal breast cancer.  I chose over it “How Will I Know” which also charted the same year.

15. “Glory Of Love”, Peter Cetera– This was the first song released by Cetera after he left Chicago and was released on his Solitude/Solitaire and again on the soundtrack to the Karate Kid Part II for which it earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.  It is a power ballad in the Cetera/Chicago style, and features his unmistakable tenor vocals.  The piano and string parts round-out the song nicely.  The horns in the song are quite different from those to be found in a traditional Chicago song, and are much more orchestral in tone, but they go well.

14. “Take Me Home”, Phil Collins– The staccato percussion at the beginning of the song sounds like rain in a good way, but by the time the song hits the chorus it has sort of an anthem quality.  This is more easily understood when one realizes that the full sound of the vocals is bolstered by both Sting and Peter Gabriel among others.  Most people associate the song with fond memories of home, but Collins claimed that it was about a patient in a mental institution and likened it to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

13.  “Livin’ On a Prayer”, Bon Jovi– The anthem style of this song and the bass line make you tap your toes as you sing along.  It is really just a straight up rock & roll song with Jon Bon Jovi singing in his quasi rock/metal style.  This song has become the trade mark of the band, and experienced a revival during the weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

12. “Alive and Kicking”, Simple Minds– It was clear from the production value of the video, that the band had a budget of about 50 cents to spend on it, but I was afraid while watching it that the bassist would fall off the edge of the cliff that he was standing on.  As for the song, it continued with the same style that their mega hit from the year before, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” delivered.  The vocal is strong and clear, the percussion continues to deliver a punch, and the piano solos are memorable.

11. “If You Leave”, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark– The vocal is very much like the one found in the previous listing for Simply Minds.  It has the same strong whole tone to it.  However, the whisper quality that the vocals take on when they get to the chorus makes the song more interesting.  The synth-keyboards drive the song from beginning to end with a nice sax solo thrown on the middle.

10. “No One Is To Blame”, Howard Jones– There are several incarnations of this song out there.  My favorite is the one that starts out with the light percussion and keyboard.  It is really nice to listen to.  Jones voice, as always, sounds great on the song.  I think that Howard Jones may be the most underrated artist of the 1980s.

9. “True Colors”, Cyndi Lauper– She may have been hard to look at, but Cyndi Lauper could deliver a great song when she tried in the middle 1980s when she tried, before the drugs destroyed her career.  “True Colors” was the first single released of her follow-up to her mega album, She’s So Unusual, and was the title track.  It was the only good song on the album, but it was a very good one.  The soft guitar with percussion that is the main instrumentation throughout the song is very nice, as is the soft tone of Lauper’s voice and her ability to deliver emotion.  If you are going to listen to her version of the song, you need to know, that she has very little diction, and her dress in the video makes it unwatchable.  However, the lyrics are what make this song truly great, and I have sung it to my daughter since she was a tiny baby.  It has proved its staying power by being used in ad campaigns by seven different products world-wide.  I would like to know how much money she made off of Kodak alone.

8.  “Higher Love”, Steve Winwood– This song has an upbeat island quality to the rhythm and the instrumentation.  Winwood’s vocal is kind of a Bill Medley meets Huey Lewis sound.  It has a little edge, but still a good tenor tone to it. The backing vocals are great, and remind me Howard Jones’ back-up singers.  The music video, once again, looks like someone spent about a dollar on it, but for some reason MTV nominated it for an award, which it did not win.

7. “Your Love”, Outfield– This song has a cool rock & roll feel to it, and the vocals sound great.  The lead singer’s voice goes so high that it is practically impossible to sing along with, unless you sing an octave lower than he does, but it is still one of my favorite 80s songs.  It is the most tender song ever written about a guy who just wants to screw a girl behind his girlfriend’s back without any consequences.  How could a girl possibly say no to a proposal like that?

I have a memory that sort of goes along with this song.  The stars had aligned in the summer of 1986.  My favorite band, Journey, had gotten back together with Steve Perry to produce their last decent album, Raised on Radio.  It, of course, was no where near as good as their precious stuff, but I rushed out to buy it, and quickly knew every song.  Journey was coming to Dallas that summer, and I rushed out to buy my tickets.  It got even better, their opening act was slated to be The Outfield, my favorite new group.  Greatness.

Tragedy struck a few weeks before the Dallas concert.  Apparently, A bass amp fell on the head of a member of The Outfield, and they were scratched from the Dallas show.  Glass Tiger of “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” fame was inserted in their place.  I don’t know why, but I have always been bitter that I had Glass Tiger foisted on me instead of getting to hear The Outfield.

To be honest, Glass Tiger was pretty cheesy in concert.  The lead singer had the whole 80s big curly hair thing going on, and the white, rocker, sequined-jacket worn open with no shirt underneath.  He sat down on the edge of the stage and blatantly pandered to the girls in the front row as if they were actually there to see him.

My bitterness was pretty focused by then.  My seats were on the second row on the left side of the stage, and there was a gangway for the singers to walk almost up to where we were sitting right in front of us.  I had my lighter, as all good fans at a concert did in those days, and when he made his way up the gangway right in front of me, I lit the lighter, and threw ‘the bird’ (flipped him off) up for him to see in perfect backlight.  He did not even make it to the end of the gangway, but immediately turned around, and went to the gangway on the other side of the arena where he sang for some time.  Giggle.

I still have hardness in my heart toward this band for upstaging The Outfield (even if they really had nothing to do with it), and that is probably why they did not make my list.

6. “Never”, Heart– Heart continued their dominance as the biggest female group of the 1980s with “Never.”  I chose this or over the softer, “These Dreams” because it was a much bigger it, but they are both great songs.  Anne Wilson’s voice dominates this song, as it does all Heart songs.  This is another song that can be heard yearly on American Idol, and it usually either makes or breaks the contestants.

5.  “West End Girls”, Pet Shop Boys– I had to have at least one song from the Pet Shop Boys on my lists, and that song had to be West End Girls.  The bass-line is the most memorable part of this song.  It has a funky quality to it, and the vocal, while spoken in the verses, has a nice tone in the chorus.  The song and lyrics are obviously concerned about something, but I was never quite sure what it was until I read on Wiki, that the song is a social commentary “inspired by T.S. Elliot’s poem The Waste Land.”

4.  “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel– This song would probably make anyone’s top 10 songs of the 80s list.  It was everywhere in the summer of 1986.  The surreal quality of the video and the cool stop-motion animation make it arguably the best music video ever.  It has won the most MTV music video awards (nine), and is the most played video ever (according to MTV).  Gabriel sings with a quirky style, and is backed by a big band funky horn section that sounds great.  The Japanese synthesized flute solo in the middle of the song always makes me think of dancing chickens.  The R&B background singers at the end of the song are also very good.

3.  “Addicted To Love”, Robert Palmer– This was another great 80s song and video.  You only have to hear one Robert Palmer song to know his rock & roll style, and you only have to see one of his videos to understand his main marketing technique: Sexy girls in semi sheer black tights and no bras sell.  And, boy do they.  I was a pretty traditional guy growing up in the 80s.  I liked the hot, pretty girl, and I was always turned-off by the hot, dirty or skanky girl.  When Robert Palmer came along with his pseudo-gothic girls, I was faced with a dilemma.  Those girls were definitely not traditional, but they were also definitely hot.  Eventually, I stopped wondering why, and decided to just enjoy the show.

2.  “Broken Wings”, Mr. Mister– I made these lists a while ago, and have been writing the blurbs about each one as I prepare to publish them.  When I went back to the 1986 list, I immediately realized that I had made a mistake.  One of my rules from the beginning was that I was not going to put more than one song from any group on the same list.  However, when I opened the 1986 list back up, I realized that I had two songs from the same group at the #2 and #3 spots.  It was just a careless error, but it underscored to me how much I liked both of these songs when I tried to decide which of them to actually include at #2.  In the end “Broken Wings” barely beat-out “Kyrie.”  The iconic bass line with the brush on snare at the beginning of the song let you know what song you listening to from the first couple of notes.  Together with the keyboards, they give the song an eerie and ethereal feel.  The vocal has a whole and strong tone that is easy to sing along with, and when it gets to the “Let us in…” lyric, it soars (good effect in a song about wings).

1.  “Say You, Say Me”, Lionel Richie– This is my personal favorite song by Richie.  The lyrics have a positive message about people getting along and understanding each other.  It was in the great date movie, White Nights for which it earned an Oscar and a golden Globe, but did not appear on the soundtrack.  Richie released the song on his Dancing on the Ceiling album after it had already hit number one in December the year before (1985) as a single.  The music has a creepy, reverb quality that is highly synthesized, but it is the vocal that is great.  If I hear this song on the radio today, I can’t help but sing with it, and when it is over, I always want to hear it again.  Greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Hey Michael Phelps, Let’s Party!

Everyone does it.  Well, I didn’t.

I never thought I would be able to say that I could do anything that Michael Phelps could not, but today I realize that I can do something that he can never do.  I can say that I have never done drugs.  He, obviously, cannot.

I have made some mistakes I my life.  I remember drinking a few times when I was in high school.  I remember driving recklessly on some occasions, and regrettably I remember doing both on a couple of occasions.  I remember bullying one kid a little, and I regret that also, but for the most part I was a good kid.

I had lots of friends, and tons of acquaintances.  As a result, during my junior and senior years I was invited to several parties.  At these, there would always be alcohol, and occasionally the stakes were higher.

I remember one night several of my friends did something pretty stupid.  There were five of us.  We had just purchased food at the local Taco Bell, and we were about to get into the car to leave when a car full of hot girls pulled up and started to talk to us.  No lie.  It was like a scene out of Porky’s or something.  They were leaning and yelling out of the windows of the car, “Hey, do you guys want to go to a party?”  As God is my witness, it happened just like that.  Of course, if we had taken just a moment to analyze the situation, we would have noticed that: 1) no of us were the studs of our high school (though we were not horribly disfigured), 2) these girls were really nice looking, 3) and they looked a little older than us.  No, we did not consider any of this, because we were 16 year old boys full of hormones.

So, we hopped in the car and followed them.  We drove to an apartment out by Lewisville Lake, and followed them into it.  Several things were instantly apparent.  First, this was no sorority bash.  All of the girls had boyfriends there, and the boyfriends did look older than us.  Second, we were not prepared for a party in any way.  We had no alcohol of any kind, and the partiers were not offering any.  And third, these people were doing a lot more than drinking.  There were several couples engaging in what was sure to become sex at some point, and the smell of pot was in the air.  I was confused at first, not knowing what to do, then a girl offered me a pill.  It was ecstasy.  I was not prepared, but since I had decided long before that I did not want to ever do drugs, I was able to fall back on my default answer, “No thanks.”  A friend and I sat with our backs near the door for a while watching what was going on and feeling uncomfortable.  Finally I suggested that we leave which we did.  Honestly, these kinds of stupid decisions are how people end up in 55 gallon barrels at the bottom of a lake.  We had no idea where these girls were taking us or what would happen when we got there.

On another occasion, I went to a party with some friends at a house where a member of the quasi-successful local area band ESFM (the Electric Sheep Farming Method- no lie) had the house to himself (no parents) for the weekend.  This time I was in a place where I knew all of the people, and they liked me.  I had brought some alcohol, and was drunk before long.

There were about two dozen people at the party, and after a while, I noticed that they were all taking turns stepping out into the backyard.  They were smoking pot, and after a few minutes, one of my friends asked me if I wanted some.  This was my big opportunity, and it was the situation where most kids fall.  I was with friends, and they were having a good time.  All I had to do was say, ‘yes,’ but I was faced with my own reasons that I had determined long before that day.  I knew that some things could limit you and your future possibilities in life, and pot was one of those things.  Since I did not know exactly what I wanted to be in life, I reasoned that I shouldn’t do anything that would limit my possibilities.  So, I said, “No, that’s OK.”

I was expecting a scene out of Reefer Madness or some after school special to unfold in which they all surrounded me and ritualistically ostracized me from the group while baiting me into taking the drugs at the same time.  It did not happen.  In fact, they were extremely nice about it.  Honestly, at the time I believed that they were actually going outside to smoke for my benefit.  In retrospect, it seems more likely that they did not want pot smell to permeate the house for the parents of the guy who lived there to smell when they returned.  I stayed at the party and enjoyed myself with my friend late into the evening.

These little victories were important in a teen ager’s battle not to partake in what everyone else was doing, and they made me feel good about myself, and stronger if I should have had to face the same thing again.  I thought that I was the only one, but I still have a friend that I met about a year later who also says that he never did drugs, and I’m sure that he had opportunities (being in a band well into his late twenties).

This brings me to the Michael Phelps situation.  It’s a real shame.  Here we had a young man that could have been the poster-boy for clean, positive, American achievement, and he lost it all when he put his mouth on a bong like everyone else at the party was doing.  It can’t be undone, and the pictures can’t be unseen.  In so many ways, Michael Phelps proved how different and stronger he was that the average human being.  His discipline can probably be only matched by a few people in the world.  However, he knew what the consequences of smoking pot were for him.  His handlers had warned him over and over, but he chose to do so anyway.  He chose to be just like everyone else, average.  And now, his incredible Olympic legacy will forever be tainted by a picture of him with dumb-face toking on a bong.  Sad.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

20.  “Twilight Zone”, Golden Earring– This was one of the first videos I ever saw before I had MTV, and we had to wait for Friday Night Videos to be shown on one of the local UHF channels in the Dallas area.  It was the first video to feature a cinematic storyline, and it would make my Top Ten One Hit Wonders List (maybe I’ll have to do that sometime).  The song was very edgy with a great strong guitar part and a four note baseline that every bassist learned as quickly a he picked one up.  It charted through 1983 for the Dutch band, but there was so much great music in 1983 that I pushed this one back so that I could get more into that year.

19.  “The Safety Dance”, Men Without Hats– The video for this one had everything:  medieval setting, hot girl, weird lead singer prancing around, irritating echo, and creepy dwarf, all swirling around singing a song that somehow championed safe sex.  The tune was catchy, and employing the cheer-like tactic of spelling out the word harkened back to the days of the Village People, and their mega-hit “YMCA”.  It would also make the Top Ten One Hit Wonders List.

18.  “I Melt with You” Modern English– This is the first hit by the British new wave band Modern English.  It has a great chorus, and is easy and enjoyable to sing along with.  It had a popular video, and was featured in the Nicholas Cage star vehicle Valley Girl.

17.  “Sweet Dreams”, Air Supply– This Air Supply song has a synthesized ethereal keyboard sound that is a little different from their other stuff.  The voices almost sound like they are going through a harmonizer.  It was a top ten hit, and I liked it better that their other hit that year, “Even the Nights Are Better.”

16.  “I Can’t Go For That”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– was the fourth Billboard #1 hit for Hall and Oates and the second song released off of the album, Privates Eyes.  It knocked Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of the top spot after an amazing 10 weeks at the top of the list.  It also topped the US R&B chart which is unusual for a couple of white guys (one did have a huge ‘fro).  I like it better than “Private Eyes” which also charted in 1982.  It is still one of the most sampled songs by modern Rap and Hip Hop groups.

15.  “Do You Believe In Love”, Huey Lewis and The News– This was the first song to hit the top ten by one of my favorite 80s bands.  Huey Lewis has a great, powerful voice that is easy to listen to, and the band had the coolest looking bassist in the business (I remember buying a pair of those sunglasses and a London Fog trench coat in the early 80s).  The back-up singers’ dissonant harmony helps make the chorus of this one

14.  “I Love Rock N’ Roll”, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts– This is simply a cool song.  She’s got a sexy voice, and the strong beat is hard to forget.   It held Billboard’s #1 slot for 7 weeks.

13.  “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band– If you have not had enough whammy-bar in your music lately, check out this hit from the Steve Miller Band.  It is a tune that you hum for the rest of the day once you hear it.

12.  “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Phil Collins– As I said in my criteria for this list, I was not going to include a lot of ‘covers.’  For the most part, I am against the cover.  Unless you are Willie Nelson or Elvis, or unless you do a significantly different and worthy remake of the original, there is no reason to cover it in the first place.  My only other exception to this rule is when I like a cover song better than the original which is extremely rare.  Notable examples of this are Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”, Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” (thank the Lord someone finally removed the voice harmonics and made a good version of this song), and of course the greatness that is Phil Collins’ rerelease of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  The fun and upbeat style of this song almost forces you to sing along.  I loved the video with Phil and the three back-up Phils (complete with different personalities) singing perfect harmony.  Fun times.

11.  “We Got The Beat”, Go-Go’s– This song was a huge hit for the British all-girl band the Go Gos.  I could still listen to this song in the right atmosphere, but too much of this type of music would make me tired.

10.  “Ebony And Ivory”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder– This was a great duet that dealt with an unusual topic for Pop Music, racial harmony.  McCartney and Wonder sound very good together.

9.  “Physical”, Olivia Newton-John– This single was huge.  It was not my favorite song ever, what with the workout craze that it helped to start, but I still considered Olivia Newton-John to be the girl who wore the black leather and tights in Grease.  Any chance to see her jumping around in something that was tight-fitting was a bonus.

8.  “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, Foreigner– This is one of the great power ballads of the early eighties.  I really like the tone of Lou Graham’s voice when he sings a ballad.  It is a very nice sound when someone can have an edge to their vocals as they enter their higher range, but still have the tone sound whole without any screeching.  You will find this to be the case with this song.

7.  “Heat Of The Moment”, Asia The first thing that I think of when I hear this song is the television commercial campaign that accompanied the release of the album.  They were the first band that I associated with a logo (their band name in the shape of a pyramid was iconic).  The use of distortion on the guitar together with the keyboard that sounded like rain dropping at the end of a line sounded good.  I like the strong vocal also.

6.  “Love Me Tomorrow”, Chicago– Chicago 17 may have been a better album from top to bottom, but my two favorite Chicago songs were both from Chicago 16, and they were both released in 1982.  They were of course, “Love Me Tomorrow” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”.  These are two of my all time favorite ballads.  The guitar part in “Love Me Tomorrow” makes it more of a power ballad while the keyboard led melody of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” makes it more of a soft rock song.  Neither song has the Tower of Power horn sound that is usually found on Chicago songs, but they do not suffer for it.  “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” hit #1, but in the end I chose “Love Me Tomorrow” because of the terrible idea that the band had for ending the “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” with “Get Away”.  Most radio stations refused to play the tagged song and opted for an awkward ending that simply truncated the song before “Get Away” could get started.  It was better that way.  The best analogy I could come up with is this.  Imagine Charles Monet painting his famous Lilli Pads, and at the very end, Jackson Pollock is brought in to provide the final touches.  The resulting mess would be the visual equivalent of marrying these two songs together.

In the end, I chose “Love me Tomorrow” because it did not have anything to take away from its greatness.

5.  “Eye Of The Tiger”, Survivor– In a world desperate for more of the good feelings given them by the first two Rocky movies, Stallone and the group Survivor delivered with this song featured in the third installment of the movie.  It was a physical education anthem when I was growing up, and who would not be inspired to run in place a little faster or do their jumping jacks a little harder while listening to this great song.  And at the end of the routine, you always had to suppress the urge to clench your fists and put your arms straight up in the air as if you too were a champion.

4.  “Open Arms”, Journey– This is one of Journey’s two best power ballads (the other being “Faithfully”).  It only reached #2 during its release, but the song has had as much staying power as any song from the 80s.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  As with most of the Journey power ballads, Neil Schon was not a fan.  He said that it “sounded kind of Mary Poppins,” and tried to keep it off the album.  Luckily for the rest of us, sanity prevailed and we were presented with on of the greatest love songs ever.

3.  “Centerfold”, J. Geils Band– I remember my mom finding the 45 for this song in my little sister’s room and throwing it away.  I did not even know she had it, but by the time it was banished, I had already become a big fan of the song on my own.  The quirky sound provided by the keyboard, sax and harmonica is great.  The baseline is good, and I really like the whistle that accompanies the music at the end.  The fade-out to this has you whistling for the rest of the day.  The video provided some nice leggy eye-candy, but my favorite part of it was the reprise when the percussionist really lays it on the snare drum, and we are surprised by the effect as the top of the drum is covered in milk.  Great song.

2.  “Rosanna”, Toto– One of the best songs of the 80s.  The base line lets you know what song playing in a couple of notes.  I love how it builds toward the chorus, then smacks you with a strong rock beat, and a full horn section.  It has a very Chicago-like quality to it.  The video with the hot blonde simply dancing around in a Marylin Monroe style dress while the bad plays is very good.  It is the best song provided by the band, Toto.

1.  “Down Under”, Men at Work– I put this song on the list at #1 as an homage to the kid that I was in 1982.  At the time, I was a goofy 7th grader who was just getting into Pop music, and this was the perfect goofy song for me to really like.  To describe it and the band as quirky, would be an understatement, but the song was huge.  The flute part has a whimsical quality which matches well with the band’s lifestyle.  It was played a lot during the early 80s, and I’m sure Australia is still trying to get away from the association.  Today, I smile when I rarely hear it played somewhere, and I have to admit that I do not remember choosing to play it for myself in the last 15 years.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Drain Nightmare

One of my favorite stories happened when I was a sacker a Minyards in Lewisville, Texas, while I was in high school.  It was a good job for me that taught me some responsibility and provided me with spending money that came in handy for a kid in high school at the time.

For the most part, I liked the job, and the people that I worked with.  Also, my managers liked me, and knew that they could count on me to do a good job.  As a result, I was consulted to do a lot of things besides just the daily bagging requirements that were my normal job description.

One of my managers was named Dale.  He was sort of legendary as a guy who really liked to catch shoplifters, and I liked working for him.  On this particular occasion, Dale pulled me aside and asked me to assist him with an unusual project.

The store contained four walk-in coolers in the back of the store: one for meat, one for vegetables, one for frozen foods, and still another for dairy perishables.  It was the diary perishable cooler that he wanted help with.  There was a lot of condensation in this particular cooler, and the drain in the bottom of the floor was essential to leach away the extra water.  Unfortunately, during the several decades that this particular store had been open, many gallons of milk and quite a few eggs had leaked or broken while in the cooler and seeped down the drain.  Eventually, these binding agents had worked together to clog the drain, and now there were about three inches of standing water in the bottom of the cooler which had begun to slightly sour.

Rather than call an expensive plumber to deal with the problem, Dale had decided to try to deal with it locally first.  This is where I came in.  On the way to the back of the store, he handed me what looked like some futuristic weapon.  It was in the shape of a “laser gun,” was about 18 inches long, and was made of hard plastic.  There was a large pistol grip big enough to grab with both hands and a trigger.  The front end was round, about 3.5 inches across, and shaped like a funnel that tapered down to a nozzle point with a hole in it about ½ an inch in diameter.  In the back of the gun, was a little slot in which you would insert a carbon dioxide cartridge (the kind you would put in a pellet gun).

The idea was simple.  You put the nozzle into the offending drain and pulled the trigger expelling the entire CO2 cartridge in one second.  The result would be that most clogs would simply get blown down the line, freeing up the drain to function properly.

Dale quickly explained all of this to me, and he demonstrated by positioning himself over the drain and putting his weight on the gun to make a good seal.  He told me to be sure to put all my weight down on the gun, and he assured me that there was nothing to worry about.  I thought it was odd that as he was saying this, he was backing out of the cooler through the clear plastic “drapes” that hung down in front of the door, but I was not too worried.

I placed myself over the drain, made sure the nozzle was firmly in the hole, and put my full weight (about 220 lbs. at the time) onto the grip of the gun.  Then, I pulled the trigger.  I would say that time slowed down, but everything happened so fast that it would be impossible to think of it as slow, though I still remember it vividly over twenty years later.

My hands immediately shot past my face and hit the top of the cooler above my head.  Then, a scene which could only be described in language that would have been used at Spindletop unfolded.  Old Faithful would have been impressed at the geyser of old eggs, soured milk and sour cream that spewed forth and coated my whole body (chunks included).

There is no way to describe the awfulness of the smell.  Skunks would have run from it.  My manager looked at me (and smelled me) and said only two words, “Go home!”  This only made sense to me.  The problem was, there was only one way out of the store, and that was through the front of the store.  I figured that the best approach would be to go as fast as I could down the widest aisle, and straight out the front of the store.  So, this is what I did.

It was a surreal experience as I walked down the aisle, and came up behind people.  Before I even got to them, they would straighten up quickly, and cock their heads to the left, and slowly turn toward me with a horrified look on their faces.  I just blew on by them, but I assure you, it was an ill wind.

I went straight out the door without even clocking-out, got into my truck (rolling down the windows), and beat a hasty retreat to my home and a very long bath.