Last Friday, after witnessing Jason Bonham’s Led-Zeppelin Experience, pal Rob and I had a big discussion about music, eventually getting to the brilliance of 1980s pop. (We were unaware that, earlier, a jihadist had tried to vaporize us. It was a strange night.)
Recall that 80s pop — even at its most putrid — had a remarkable and rarely discussed quality. For instance, beneath the noxious pep of Wham! was a foundation of extremely high-caliber musicianship.
Wham! arrangements typically featured such ace studio musicians as bassist Deon Estus, who seemed capable of mimicking Jaco Pastorious at will. And maybe I’m reaching, but I posit that Wham!’s “Freedom” is a mall-pop descendant of Weather Report‘s “Birdland.”
Wham! wasn’t alone in this regard. Go back and listen to the most irritating and bland Top 40 artists from the 80s — the Cutting Crew, Mr. Mister, Richard Marx — and beneath the crap surface lay a bedrock of virtuosity.
That’s not the case in today’s vapid pop scene.
Rob and I decided there should be a Wham!-Jaco tribute band called Wham! Report.
With that impetus, I created a list of “hybrid cover bands” for this week’s column. I won’t pretend that any of ’em are good ideas. Still, it’s a fun hashtag meme, the kind often seen on Twitter, e.g.
#ToiletMusic — Olivia Newton-Portable John.
Who cares if it is played-out, with real-life bands like Jon Cougar Concentration Camp offering a slightly similar joke? Let’s do it.
FAKE HYBRID COVER BANDS
Mister Mr. Bungle (Mr. Mister and Mr. Bungle)
All right, enough of that.
On a final note, I thought I’d share the weird coda to my Friday night of Bonham, jihads, and jiggling flesh.
We felt an icy strangeness.
“I TRY NOT TO HAVE OPINIONS ON THINGS.”
That’s fine, whatever. A man of few words. Commendable, perhaps, but in stark contrast to the two motormouths he was chauffeuring around.
Cabbie Drago didn’t say anything else until…well, I’m getting to that.
“Is Burt Bacharach still alive? I asked.
Rob shrugged. “Hmmm. I dunno.”
We pondered this for a bit and moved on to other topics. Eventually Cabbie Drago arrived at my parked vehicle in Southeast Portland.
We paid the man (tipping adequately) and readied ourselves for departure.
But a booming voice stopped us COLD.
“BURT BACHARACH IS STILL ALIVE,” announced Cabbie Drago.
Mystery solved. Yeah.
That’s how the night ended — with easy listening and fierce, Slavic certainty.
“Oh,” I said, moderately pleased. Maybe Burt will pen another chart-buster for Dionne Warwick.
Rob was equally enthused.
On the way back to East County, we watched a coyote dart in front of us.
Right then, our l’il corner of hell seemed rather lovely.
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