Monday, December 14, 2009

Got to Get It All to Get It All to Grow



I was 14 and it wasn't just lasers it was lasers and rock n roll, a combo better than stars and stripes, Rowan & Martin, an old-fashioned one ticket doubleheader, whichever two of Charlie's Angels most zinged your wings (and if you say Tanya Roberts and Shelley Hack, you're just being perverse). I liked ELO enough I even saw what's dubbed "The Big Night" tour at Madison Square Garden, complete with spaceship and live lasers (much cooler than those on tv, particularly 1970s sets, that now seem quaint enough that the smart apes of 2001 would no doubt pass right by them on the way to the monolith and HD). But still there's something charming about this, the thrill for them, "We've got mighty focused light beams--behold!" My childhood was a much much simpler time.

For then there's The Midnight Special, which, along with Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, brought live rock n roll into suburban homes and made us all a bit more antsy than we might have been if we had never got beyond childhood bopping on a hobby horse while listening to Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights (if, as a pre-teen, I understood the symbolism of riding and the flat-out sexuality of that LP's cover, I didn't know it at the time, promise). For you kids out there, imagine the M in MTV stood for music. That's what these shows were, but not just videos, concert footage, live playing, lips that moved as sound came out in time always. Plus the shows were on late, so seemed even more forbidden, at the edges of permission or into stolen moments territory. If, by some misfortune, you ended up sneaking a way to watch only to catch a mediocrity like Gary Wright, you just figured "Dreamweaver" had to be deeper than you thought. Late night rock TV--it had to mean something, or else why would they hide it?

Take "Do Ya," just one of the many songs that might have entranced you from ELO's A New World Record, so straightforward a pun it's practically an out-tendre, and I refuse to get into another of the album's cuts, the maudlin tugs of "Telephone Line" that somehow is playing at some high school party in some basement one of the first times I'm in crush and it still means the world to me, despite at a party you can just go talk to a girl and not use a phone, well, unless you're a humble bumbler like, oh, some people. "Do Ya" is the opposite of that, anyway, announcing itself with brio-istic chords that underline the title's do. And then all the strings, but I've on-ed and on-ed about them in pop before, all the grandness they confer, all the swelling we want to feel, all the drama. All the so much in goddam tune.

But then the chorus. The "do ya do ya want my _____s" relatively sweet, group sung, even (see, everyone thinks you need to be with me!) and then at the end of each line, the id flips its lid, the more guttural "I need it" and more insistent "c'mon now" and warning "ahhmmm look out!" How fitting for a tune titled "Do Ya" which is both the start of a question and all of a promise shading to threat. What else does rock ask? What else does a 14-year-old hope to know, and soon?

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Freealonzo said...

That's probably the most lucid ELO essay written in the last 30 years. Bravo.

5:34 AM  
Blogger E-6 said...

Brought back great memories of sneaking out of bed and down to the TV room in the basement with a dish of vanilla ice cream--my drug of choice at age 12. A lovely read.

And "Do Ya" rocks!

9:26 AM  
Blogger Queen Whackamole said...

You write especially well on Mondays. Is that Luke Skywalker on keyboards?

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Al Bonowitz said...

ELO: What a guilty pleasure! In 1977, I held out for Slingerland drums because Bev played them.

1:49 AM  

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