1980-1981: Years of Growth and Ferment Three: the Police release New Wave's "Hard Day's Night".

In the autumn of 1980 came the album only hinted at by its two predecessors. Zenyatta breathed technicolor into the previously sleek chrome-and-jet-black Police as reflected by the creamsicle-tequila sunrise motif of the sleeve. In Europe when I was a kid this was the most anticipated record since The Beatles: records were broken for advance orders in England and on The Continent.

Rushed into a sleek Dutch facility at Hilversum between dashes around the globe, the band was finally heard in glorious, miles-deep hifi. Engineer/producer Nigel Grey had performed a miracle of space and emptiness at the egg-crate-on-the-wall Surrey Sound studio where The Police recorded their first two shoestring budget albums, but what awaited us on this disc was a whole new step towards the Ethos of Emptiness.

The Police were a heavily marketed, extremely glossy commodity by now, authors of three hit singles (Roxanne, Message In a Bottle, Walking On The Moon) and at the hands of manager Miles Copeland III becoming moreso daily. By today's standards, though, these guys were like god damned Fugazi.

Zenyatta was cut in an environment of Beatlemania-like intensity and stress and is often considered The Police's most undercooked effort. This is certainly the opinion of the band, but one must be reminded of the essential formula of The Police: 1/3 bad, 2/3 transcendent. This held true for their every recorded effort, and if you approach the band that way it makes perfect sense. On Zenyatta we are treated to soundscapes of Zen-like repetition and sparseness, syncopated, meta-African rhythms and songs that often don't evolve past the chanting stage. It's wonderful and very tribal, elemental and modern at the same time.

I am often struck by the similarities between this record and Magical Mystery Tour. Like The Beatles in 1967, The Police are in thrall to an esthetic so distinctive and unique that the songwriting takes an almost appropriate backseat to a sonic ideal. Also common to both efforts is the 1/3- 2/3 formula, where Zenyatta's "Behind My Camel" and "Another Way Of Stopping" neatly echo the throwaways "Flying" and "Blue Jay Way" from Tour.

I think it's great when a band does this, as long as it doesn't become par. I love Mystery Tour, an album that is often written off amongst the greats of the Beatles canon. The Police eased away from the dense, chewy licorice of the first two records and, with Zenyatta Mondatta constructed a big, airy marshmallow of an album that scratched an undefinable itch in the fall of 1980. "Driven To Tears", "Don't Stand So Close To Me", "De doo doo doo" and "When The World Is Running Down (You Make The Best Of What's Still Around)" owned the European airwaves and then the American ones well into the winter, and The Police went from British sensation to international superstars with the carefully executed, beautifully spare thrust of Zenyatta Mondatta.


1980-1981: Years of Growth and Ferment Two: XTC's Black Sea

My elder brother gave me a cassette of this with Elvis Costello's "Trust" on the other side in 1980. To say it rocked my world would be an understatement.

I'm not even going to attempt any sort of analysis of this record. When the universe did one of its loop-de-loops twenty years later and he ended up being the author of the liner notes for the Virgin XTC box set he wrote all that really needs to be written on the subject of Black Sea. I suppose I could recite it by heart...

'Nuff said.

1980-1981: Years of Growth and Ferment One: Pretenders II

Well, I guess I've put this off as long as I can. I had such a good time with my "All My Favorite Records Came Out In 1979" series, and everyone seemed to enjoy it so i figured I was doing something wrong and dropped the original intent. The actual point I was leading to wasn't just necessarily how fuggin' great these records were, and how many of them there were- I had wanted to step into the next year or two and show what happened with their follow-up albums. And I thought I’d be consistent and do it in the original order of the ’79 albums.

Why? Because it lets me go back there for a while. I guess that’s why. I know it labels me as a fogey at the ripe old age of forty, but y’know what? I’ve felt this way since I was 21. I spent most of my musical career so far trying to emulate my heroes in ways other than how they sounded. I mean, I was the perfect age to get in on the stupid Ska revival. I was pretty much in the ballpark when the ‘80’s first came back. I could have ripped off my heroes and had a much, much easier time of it.

I wanted no part of it.

The one thing that has largely disappeared from popular music (aside from the whole "goodness" and "not absolutely sucking" and "being a load of shitty cynical, worthless crap" things, of course, and the “you’re out to pasture at 25, right when you’re actually developing the first glimmers of actually having something to SAY” thing) is the concept of a CAREER. Back before the Curtain of Shit settled over everything, bands and artists actually GREW and WENT SOMEWHERE and TOOK US, THE FAITHFUL, WITH them.

That was the best part; in this context it was essentially an invention of the Beatles, and truly among their best. You were in on it. It was you and them. It was also an invention of the '60's in a larger sense, simply because that's the way things unfolded. Every year of the '60's after '63 has a character and a specific flavor. Like Lifesavers. Registered Trade Mark. Each year is a rung on a ladder of great drama and ferment, and the Beatles' music reflected the tenor of that particular year so perfectly that one ends up with a simple, streamlined chronology. It runs like this here:

1963- Early awakenings. "Love Me Do"
1964- The Shock Of The New. "She Loves You"
1965- The Softening Of The Shock Of The New, or, Here Comes Weed. "Norwegian Wood"
1966- The LSD Thing. "Tomorrow Never Knows"
1967- The LSD Thing Peaks. "A Day In The Life"
1968- This LSD Thing Can Be Really Heavy. "Revolution"
1969- Wow, Those '60's Were Tiring. "I've Got A Feeling"
1970- Maybe Things Will Get Cool Again in Six Years. "Carry That Weight"

Yes, I know the last two are backwards. Anybody with a ass under their back knows that Let It Be was recorded before Abbey Road but was released later. So that’s what..

So anyway, to a lesser extent this happened in a not-quite-so-monumental way when I grew to record-buying age in the late '70's.

And really, I should have started this thing in '77 because that's really when all these bands started to make noise, but see, 1979 was the greatest year so I went with it. There are other reasons that make 1979 of particular importance to me but that's another story.

So Here's The Deal. Pretenders II- holy shit! "The Adulteress", "Message Of Love", "Talk Of The Town"! The b-side of the “Message Of Love” 12” single, “Porcelain”!!! And by way of growth the ballads on this thing are a revelation. "Birds Of Paradise" and "The English Roses" put to bed the popular and STUPID notion that this album didn't show growth from their debut. Silly people! Silly critics! No sense of the bigger picture!
People didn't have albums back then, they had careers. Sometimes it was time for this album; sometime it was time for that album. Next time we'll do this album. Since it wasn't hurtin' old 2005, but rather cool and ass-kicking 1981, there was time. The Pretenders were actually one of the few exceptions in a milieu of these bands who took less than a year to release their follow up, and this only by a matter of a couple of months. Nowadays, people take so long between records to accommodate the endless slew of marketing that they're lucky to get something out every 2 or 3 years.

It kills the whole momentum. It kills the career. Doesn't anybody know this?

Pretenders II is a badass record. It can’t compete with the debut in the Shock Of The New sweepstakes, but that’s just physics and chronology. This would be it for the original lineup with James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, as they would be deader than shit from drugs that very year. Ah, well. Given the choice, I might well have topped myself from speed if I got to be James Honeyman-Scott for a couple years. You never know. I definitely would have been willing to go at 56 to have been George Harrison. Lennon, I dunno. He had to hang out with that screeching harridan Yoko. That sounds less than fun.

Anyway, I truly love Pretenders II, as a musical statement and as a link in the chain of their career. Chrissie Hynde’s tough/vulnerable thing remains a conceit of wonder, and the guitar work smoulders. As on the first record, the weak point is the Kinks cover.

That would be awesome if artists still had careers. Awesome. ‘Course, it would be awesome if more than 5% of them had LISTENABLE FUCKING MUSIC THAT WASN’T WRITTEN BY SOME FETID DIANE WARREN PLUGGED INTO AN OUTLET SOMEWHERE, but I suppose that’s subjective. For example, if you’re fucking BRAINDEAD, you might not agree.
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Ain't it the truth?

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It's great that this is funny.

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Somewhere in the world this is happening.

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God Damn, I'm Jealous Of Old People.

God damn. I'm jealous of the old people. That's a first. Why? Because they got to live in a better world, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, it wasn't all peaches and regalia, Christ knows. But these days a fella just doesn't know what to think.

I'll tell you one thing- I would have left an arm on the beach at Normandy to live in the time of Cole Porter and FDR and Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey and Tracey and Hepburn. I shit you not. I would have left it there with a god damn bow on it. Here's a nice arm for you, Fritz. Now let me live in a pre-digital, pre-solid state pre-cable, pre-cell phone pre-American Idol, pre-Paris Hilton, pre-Dick Chaney world like a MAN. LIKE A FUCKING MAN.

I think old people are laughing at us, because they know they had it good and they can fuck off sooner than us and leave this pusbag world to us suckers.

God damn, I'm jealous of old people.

This Censorship Thing.

Boy, it would be a lot easier to take this whole FCC-fine-Censorship thing a lot more seriously if a) one side wasn't comprised of scumbag politician puppets run by freako Christer pressure groups and the other side wasn't comprised of the billionaire VH1 assholes who make reality T.V. and stupid, stupid shows like that idiotic Desperate Housewives. YOU fucking idiots with yer "slippery slope" and yer "if we can't show Janet Jackson's titty TODAY, tomorrow They're going to take away our right to show people going at each other with strapons with corporate logos on them. That's what these Republicans are going to do. These moral refuseniks, these pent-up Falwells. They'll steal our God-given right to show your children naked whores doing coke off each other and people shoving gun barrels down each other's throats. Boo hoo. Boo hoo."

I honestly don't know who of these two groups is more reprehensible. All-a-ya remind me of what I'm blowing out my nose every morning as my sinus infection clears up, y'know? Who the fuck are you people? Ain't none of you living on my street. On my street we have this kooky thing called an OFF button that is right on the front of your Stupid Box. And we're using it to shut YOU IDIOTS OFF. You're having this Big Debate and NO ONE fucking cares. We don't have the time. We have to try to get by in this fucking Third World country. Censorship. Jesus Christ.
Listening to you idiots go on about it on the radio and on T.V. Gimme a fucking break. I hope you ivory tower wankers are having a nice circle jerk over this thing, tugging at each other's atrophied little puds, your wrinkled li'l noodles, thinking normal Americans give a FUCK. You know what we're doing, you IDIOT Hollywood ASSHOLES and you Moral Dickhead Incorporated Shit Heels? You know how we're spending our endless leisure time????????


We're trying to sleep at night, you fucking weasels.

The fucking Pope? Oh, my GOD. Who gives a fuck about THE POPE???? FUCK!!! AAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE FUCKING POPE AND CENSORSHIP BULLY FOR YOU. I'm really REALLY HAPPY for you that you have the TIME and the INCLINATION to jack yourself off over the FUCKING POPE. SQUICK, SQUICK, SQUICK. I can hear it all over America when I put my ear to the ground. IT'S THE SOUND OF A MASSIVE WANK, is what it is. You know where I hear it the most? You know where it's the most deafening? Where it actually makes the timbers rattle with its incessant SQUICK, SQUICK, SQUICK?

That would be in th' churches. The Place To Go To Set Your Mind At Ease Because Your Conscience is So Fucked Over What You're Having To Do To Put Food On The Table. TM. Trademark. Registered Trademark. This Registered Trademark Is The Sole Property of Jeebus Industries International. Now Accepting Your Cash So You CAN SLEEP. A SAWBUCK A MINUTE. NIGHT NIGHT, YOU SUCKERS.

Anyway, at least the wierdo cultist Christers have some kind of moral agenda, as fucked up and 50's as it is. These other idiots are just money grubbing ASSholes who ACT like they do to elicit sympathy from us downtrodden lefties. Trust me, folks. Take it from Lightfootinsky. These people acting like they're defending your free speech? Um, they're not. They're defending their right to continue making bank off showing Brigitte Nielson's wizened Labia Majora and Flava Flav's pathetic Uncle Tomming. Um, gee whiz. Does anyone think these people are actually defending our right to free speech by showing more ASS? Oh, gee, whiz- that was some politically subversive shit I had under my mattress in tenth grade, yeah huh? I didn't realize I was such a trailblazer, discovering America's favorite pastime SQUICK SQUICK and fomenting radical free speech at th' same time! Man, I was cool!

Hey, there's an Internet now. You don't have to turn to T.V. for this shit anymore. You can just type www.childrenshootingandassbangingeachotheroncrack.com, y'know? And so they're afraid. They've gotta one-up it. And how do you one-up the Darkest Recesses Of The Fucked Up Human Mind on prime time?

Scheming, advertising-dollar sucking hypocrites. Fuck all of you. I just horked out my left lung in sheer disgust. Glack, gack, glack. Thanks a LOT. Now I can't BREATH GOOD. You people NEVER STOP. Don't you hafta take a lunch break or something? You're like a bunch of hiccupping camper children trying to impress the counselor with who can possibly SUCK the most. YOU ALL WIN. YOU ALL WIN. Aaaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee. Which brings me to my second point:

b) has anyone noticed there's a god damned WAR on? Oh, you fucking rich media creeeeeeeeeeeeeps. Oh, you tax-evadin' friends-a-Jeezis. How dare you draw breath? Any of you? Oooohhhh....... ooh...........uuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh ...... glurrrrrpppppp....bleeeaaaaagggghhhh..... Take all your money and give it to the Iraqi civilians who I'm not sure exist, since we never fucking HEAR about them. They never come on on McCNN. Or on Burger Fox. Unless they come up with a kooky sitcom where a nutty Iraqi nuclear family throws yucks back and forth while dodging ordinance and getting into madcap misadventures at roadblocks and relentlessly Product-Placing in EVERY GOD DAMNED SCENE, my keen intuition tells me WE WON'T. You idiots. I guess it would be tough raising advertising bucks with programs that featured THEM. OUR FUCKING BAGGAGE. OUR LEGACY. Whom we will be HEARING FROM SOON ENOUGH.

Then you dried up old foreskins can walk around naked and beg for alms like you deserve.

And I'll do what my hilarious buddy Gerry Kammer used to do in 8th grade- I'll throw a bottle cap in your cup. Ha ha ha. Haw haw. HAW HAW HAW.

So, there ya go. There's my well-reasoned, insightful take on censorship.

I once had a comic where this guy murdered these three fellers and buried them in a swamp. Then they come back and waste him. When they break down his door the scream they make is "Krreeeeegggahhhh". That was awesome. "Kreeeeggaaaaahhhhh!"


My Sunday Mea Maxima Culpa, Delivered Monday

Dear Baby Creepus;

I just wanted to take this chance to take back everything I said last week. I forgot to do this yesterday because I was too tired because I ROCKED A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF ASS on Saturday night at the Route 63 Roadhouse in Miller's Falls MA.

Nice to know there's still something I can do right. I can rock the People, dig? Thank you for giving me the tools to Rock your Flock. I might be all polysyllabic and high-falutin' when it comes to ridiculing the God-fearin', but when the money's on the table, the shots of Patrone are waitin' on the bar and the stage beckons, never let it be said that Bobby Lightfoot doesn't know how to take a hunnerd people to the Land Of Rock. And keep 'em there until nigh-on 1:30 AM.

You give 'em a little Chuck Berry, you give 'em a li'l Larry Williams, you give 'em a whole lot of Wicked Wilson Pickett and you don't talk down to 'em. People got a hard row to hoe these days, what with it being 2005 and the thing about everything coming apart at the seams with these Polesmoking NeoCon Felcheteers making sure that if you clear less that 100 Large a year you're on a collision course with a Career In Walmart. The last thing they need is some smartass B.A. getting up and being all Lib'ral EE-lite on their ass.

You drink with the people, you shake it with the people, you laugh with the people. You're not ready to do that then don't pick up a axe or a drumstick. Just don't. People don't remember you because you played a flawless solo on "Whipping Post", fuckface. They remember you because you took the shot they gave you and you inserted tab A into slot B and got on with the business of rocking. They remember you because you made friends with the drunk guy who jumped you on stage 'cause you wouldn't play his request. They remember you because you closed the place with the barkeep and you shared a final round with the staff. Just keep it screwed on straight because the Man is lurking around every corner, ready to pounce and steal another honest soldier from La Lucha. Keep it screwed on straight. Run a tight ship. Keep a stiff upper lip and don't get behind that wheel if you can't walk a straight line. There's no shame in sleeping on a pool table. Let me tell you, I've made a circuit or two around this great land of our'n where that was about the best sleeping acommodations you were gonna get.

And if you don't have a Service Mentality then don't perform the service of Rocking The People. To Serve Is To Rule, tough guy. The People aren't stupid, tough guy. They're you and they're me.

In fact, a lot of them are JUST like me. People with college degrees who'd just as soon punch The Man's clock as little as possible.

Who gets away with not punching The Man's clock? Not me, not you, sailor. Isn't a man or woman born who doesn't punch that fucking clock. But you don't have to RUN to punch in, you know? You don't have to RACE for that Clock. You don't have to. Yeah, I know you've got mouths to feed. Well, you've got MINDS to feed too, man. You've got SOULS to feed and CONSCIENCES to feed too. So punch in but don't punch out without a few of the Man's pencils, you know? Don't punch out without a few of the Man's pens. That's winning the fight, brothers and sisters. Poco a poco.

Anyhoot, baby Creepus, here's what I'm sorry about this week:

1. I didn't steal enough pencils and pens from the man. I'll do better this week.
2. I'm sorry I suggested the Pope should be a slut. That's rough, man. I'm sorry.
3. I'm sorry about the whole Michael Bolton episode. I kissed and told.
4. I'm sorry I have but one life to give for The People. I'm sorry I have but one human body's worth of spit and piss and shit and puke to hurl at John Bolton. Fuck that guy. Dickhead.
5. I'm sorry I acted like Gordon Lightfoot is my dad. Gordon Lightfoot doesn't know me from a lamp post.
6. Nothing else is coming to me, baby Jeebus. I hope I still qualify for The Kingdom Of Heaven Registered Trademark.

If only because I live to Rock your Flock. And I do, B.J. I rock your flock and I will as long as I get my 2 free drinks and something toward the rent at Closing Time. I'll do it every night if that be Thy Will. And I sure hope it is. They deserve it, I deserve it.

Can somebody every now and then get what they deserve Baby J? Just once in a gibbous fucking moon, Creepster? If I could see that every now and then it'd be like turning water into wine, dig? I've tried so hard to be a good man, Creepo. You know. You know. You see it all, right, C-Creepio? And what's it got me? What am I looking at here, Creepster? You gonna deny the Kingdon Of Heaven Registered Trademark to every fucking Buddhist who takes a day to walk a mile so he won't step on an ant and then that cocksucking child molesting eater of human brains Charlton Heston walks right in on the heads of me and mine? Fuck that, Jeebus. Just fuck that with a football bat, y'know wh'am saying? If that's where it's at then I'll be right Over Here, you know? Did I read something wrong, R2-D-Christ? Did the King James get translated wrong? Was it s'posed to say "The creeps shall inherit the earth"? Did it say "the Polesmoking NeoCon Felcheteers shall inherit the earth"? Do I need new glasses, Christio? Who's fucking America is this anyway? John F. Bolton's? Dick Cheney's? Huh? Or is it mine and my brother's and my lover's and everybody who's just trying to scrape a couple dimes together and not end up behind the counter at Mickey Dee's with a B.A. under their belt? Huh?

Well, it still feels good to do what you're good at. It feels really good. I'm grateful for that. I really am.

But you knew that. And you know my soul is pure. You know I'm one of the ones who lives hard and dies early because there's a job needs doing and it's gonna get done fucks sake. You know I would have walked up Anzio Beach at a slow steady clip. You know I would've stuck a flower in that soldier's gun and another up his ass and said WAKE UP. You know I would've steered that plane down into that field in Pennsylvania. That's what The People do. It's not what John Bolton or Dick Cheney or GWB would do, fuck knows. They'd be crying and pissing themselves and trying to wave dollars at It. But You know that. I know You do. I know a lot of people would've done that. They aren't in The Current Administration, that's for sure.

Me 'n' you are A-O.K., Creepzilla. That's why I can call you a fucking lying shit heel bastard construct of the military industrial complex and still sleep the sleep of the just.

Amen and good night,
Bobby Lightfoot.