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Entry date: 4-18-2024 – And So It (really) Begins – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

As of yesterday afternoon, we have a new bathtub in place thanks to Ryan. I helped a little, but the kid did the hard stuff. Now the fun really begins as I get to put the rest of the bathroom back together. Time for the crash course in the better parts of home repair.

 

*****

 

It also starts the true beginning of the end of the school year as we finish our state mandated testing today. From this point forward, it’s all review and getting the students as ready for 5th grade as possible. For my advanced kids, I can start them on some 5th grade(ish) assignments, and for the rest, it’s just tightening up the screws.

 

Onward to the end, I suppose.

 

*****

 

Here’s to a good Thursday for everyone out there. I’m just here, doing my thing, avoiding writing any fiction. The decision to move away from posting parts of “The Bet” here has really put a kink in my drive to write it. I’ve got to get over that.

 

All this house stuff is probably playing a part, too. I keep forgetting that I am living in a construction zone and coming to grips with a lot of big change in my life. I’m going to let go and let it flow.

 

***** 

 

Movies have played a huge role in my musical taste. One of the first movie soundtracks that I really loved was the score from the1979 Warren Beatty film, Heaven Can Wait. Dave Grusin was the composer of that one, and the main guy for several films I love like Tootsie, On Golden Pond, and The Graduate. Something about that music from Heaven Can Wait has always stuck with me.

 

I love a good movie soundtrack, though, and as I got into my teenage years, I began to really mine them for good music. In 1984, I saw a movie called Suburbia. If you haven’t seen it, the movie is about a group of suburban punk kids (including Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers) who crash out at an abandoned house, go to shows, and get into a lot of trouble. One of the shows they go to is a Vandals show and the band plays “The Legend of Pat Brown.”

 

The movie features DI and TSOL, too, but I was really drawn to the Vandals. Something about the song and how the band was briefly portrayed in the film was attractive to me. I went out and tried to find a record with “Pat Brown” on it, but only found it on the Suburbia soundtrack on cassette at first. The first Vandals record I found was When In Rome Do as The Vandals.

 

It was among my first four or five punk records, I think, that I bought. I still have the OG vinyl, too. It didn’t have “The Legend of Pat Brown,” but it had a bunch of songs that became my new favorites. There was a time in 1984 and 1985 where I would have said that The Vandals were my favorite band. I wanted to be Stevo, their singer.

 

It was a bummer, but by the time I first saw the Vandals play live, Stevo was already out of the band and things were never the same between me and the band, but that’s another story. “Ladykiller” was a great song and even incorporated some hip-hop style record scratching and the punk rock version of rapping. If I have listened to “Ladykiller” once, I’ve heard it 10,000 times. I even did it in a lip sync contest at least once.

 

As album openers go, “Ladykiller” is right up there with the most fun ways for an album to make a splash. I love that about the Vandals, too. They were all about having fun. Punk rock doesn’t have to be super serious all the time. I’ve incorporated that into a few of my projects over the years, although sometimes it hasn’t been as obvious to the crowd as I might have hoped it was.

 

To be honest, there are several pretty cringy moments on When In Rome Do as The Vandals. A fair amount of the humor falls a little flat in 2024, but there is still enough really fun, entertaining stuff, to keep me coming back every so often. At the end of the day, it’s a punk rock record from 1984.

 

Jan Nils Ackermann’s guitar work on the album is pretty great, too. He has a really unique style for Southern California punk, and while the production on the record isn’t great, he typically sounds pretty raw and rad throughout. Brent Turner’s bass lines are pretty top notch, as well. He was pretty much in the band for a cup of coffee, I think, but did manage to play on this record.

 

“Bad Birthday Bash” is just pure fun, as is “Master Race (in Outer Space).” The latter rips on nazis, which is always fun. This is one of the songs that the casual listener might find offensive but if you listen closely, it is definitely not praising the fascist losers.

 

I love “Big Brother vs. Jonny Sako” because it has always reminded me of my favorite Godzilla movie, Godzilla Vs. Megalon. “Giant Robot, please wake up. We need you right away” is a great line. 

 

“Mohawk Town” is pure silliness about how “skinheads aren’t allowed in Mohawk Town.” Next up is “Viking Suit” and it has this rolling bassline that spawned about a thousand copy cat riffs from lame Orange County pop punk bands. The song itself is pretty dark in subject matter but I’m fairly certain that Stevo wasn’t a child molester.  My guess is that there was a guy in the neighborhood taking illicit pictures of boys in Viking suits.

 

The second song on side two is a righteous cover of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it for 40 years now. I did see them do this live a few times back in the mid-80s and it was epic.

 

“I’m a Fly” is more punk rock fun and is followed by the cringiest of the songs, “Slap of Love.” This one is honestly tough to listen to for me these days because no matter how I wrap my brain around it, it still comes off as glorifying domestic violence. There are a couple of lines in the song that suggest it is being done in a ‘tongue in cheek’ kind of way, but still. Bad juju.

 

On Spotify, it has even been replaced by the song, “Frog Stomp.”

 

“Airstream” is nice and fun, though, and so is “Rico.” It is a perfect example of how the Vandals liked poking fun at themselves in their own songs. I’ve always loved how they really didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously. “Rico” showed a side of the Vandals that also hinted to a bit more sophisticated songwriting.

 

 

More bands should try taking a lesson from the Vandals and not take themselves too seriously. It has served me well on most of my projects. Cheers to the dudes who made this record.

 

***** 

 

See you tomorrow.



AI is so weird.

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