Today’s playlist is inspired by the January 6 birthdays of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny, Sister Sledge’s Kathy Sledge, Earl Scruggs, Van McCoy, Doris Troy, Polo G, Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson, and Nino Tempo.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not.
I accidentally hired a hooker once. Has that ever happened to you?
It was in 2001, before I became a stay at home dad to my two beautiful doggies. I enjoyed traveling and decided to visit the Czech Republic. On the web-site DestinationPrague.com, I found an amazing package deal. For $1099 (plus fees), one gets an eight night hotel stay, a couple of meals, tickets to the theater, passage aboard a three-hour jazz cruise through the heart of the city, multiple spa treatments, and four hours with one’s own private tour guide. I’ll take a personal Czech! This is an amazing deal! I filled out the form with my credit card info and faxed it over. They confirmed receipt via email. I was stoked!
Hold on for a second. That confirmation email? I noted it didn’t come from DestinationPrague.com; rather, it was sent from CzechBoys.com. I typed the URL in my browser. “You must be over 18 to enter this site. If you are over 18, click here.” I clicked there. On my screen there appeared several rows of headshots of young men. One Pavel after another. Talk about a Czech register!
I was confused. What exactly did I pay for? I went back to the Destination Prague website to see if perhaps I missed any clues. Nope. Hotel stay, meals, tickets, spa treatments, personal tour guide. Well, they didn’t call him a “tour guide.” They used a word that means tour guide. Escort. You know, one who accompanies another. They’re called an escort. I booked an escort.
Before I go any further, let me just say that I know what escort means in America. I’m not completely green. But this was Prague. English isn’t their first language, so why would I think they knew our slang?
I already paid, plus I didn’t know if I actually booked an escort one who accompanies another or an escort Czechoslovakia boom-sha-boom. The email from CzechBoys.com had me pretty sure it was the boom-sha-boom. I had to think about this. For $1099 (plus fees) I’m getting eight nights in a hotel in a beautiful city, meals, shows, spa treatments, and somebody with whom to bake a potato? This deal was more amazing than I initially thought. Beyond stoked for this trip!
Two weeks after I purchased the hotel/spa/hooker package I got another e-mail from the travel agency that began “I’m sorry to have to bring some very disappointing and disturbing news.” It went on to tell me that the Czech police are cracking down on underage prostitutes. Wait, what? “If your plans to come here were partly based on meeting some young men….” No! Old churches! Art! Architecture! I travel to Europe to see that and to overtip waiters. And while it’s true that once I realized what I had done my anticipation grew, that was not why I booked the trip. The email also said that due to a police raid I could no longer stay in the hotel where they booked me. Wait, What – Part II Electric Boogaloo? “If you would like us to try to put you at another hotel, please let us know and we will tell you the additional cost.”
Additional cost? Grrr. “Yes, please book me into another hotel,” I responded, adding “though I’m very disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” I probably should have been clearer that I was referring to the less expensive hotel, though seeing that it was shut down by the police, there’s a better than average chance it wasn’t a Michelin 4-star property.
I didn’t get a reply. I wrote them again. Nothing. Days passed. It’s almost time for my trip, and I don’t know where I am staying, if someone is going to pick me up from the airport, etc.
I imagined the police shut down the “travel agency,” arrested everyone who worked there (poor Pavels) and confiscated their computers. Guess whose name is in those computers! Mine – Greeny McClueless! The Czech police will be waiting for me at the airport. Before I even get off the plane I’ll get arrested and will be thrown in an Eastern European prison cell, which, ironically, I will share with my escort.
I had no intention of starring in the sequel to Midnight Express. Friends said they’d serve as character witnesses at my trial. “Yes, your honor, Glenn really is that naïve.”
First things first, though. My credit card was billed $1338 (damn those extra fees!), and it looked like I was not going to get what I paid for. I wanted that money returned to me, should I need it for bail. I called my bank. “Customer Service? I need a credit for the $1338 charge on my statement.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Ummmmmmm…services cannot be rendered.”
“We’ll issue a temporary credit, and mail you a form to fill out.”
“Great! Thank you!” Glad that got resolved with my dignity intact.
I received the form a few days later. I filled in the transaction date, the amount, and wrote that my recent attempts to reach the merchant were unsuccessful. As part of the bank’s investigation, I was instructed to return the form with all supporting documents. All supporting documents, huh? “The police are cracking down on underage prostitutes.” “I’m disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” Here you go, Chase Banker. I learned something about myself that day. The value of my pride is $1099. Plus fees.
Ultimately, I got my credit. I went to Prague. I didn’t get arrested. I found my way around on my own, and I had a great time. I ended up in a nice hotel, saw great art and beautiful architecture, luxuriated in the most relaxing spa treatments, had many delicious meals, and didn’t have to endure a jazz cruise and pretend I was enjoying it. So to you I say, should you wish to book a travel, go up to Czech without a Pavel.
My naiveté has gotten me into other precarious situations. I’ll save those stories for another time. Right now I should say something about my number 99 album. I don’t love R.E.M.’s Green solely because its title describes me. It was the first R.E.M. album I bought upon its release, and their then new label, Warner Records, put a lot of promotion behind it, so I got to soak it in for a good long while. It holds a special place for me as it was the big stepping stone to my becoming a huge fan of the band. And because I eventually got a job in the catalogue division of Warner Music, I now have five copies of Green. I added the group’s entire back catalogue to my collection and every subsequent album I got on release date.
Inspired by the January 4 birthdays of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, Ash’s Tim Wheeler, Arthur Conley, The Paris Sisters’ Priscilla Paris, and Amyl and the Sniffers’ Any Taylor, and the January 5 birthdays of Blondie’s Chris Stein, Wilbert Harrison, Luscious Jackson’s Kate Schellenbach, and deadmau5.
Inspired by the January 3 birthdays of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Kurt Vile, Buffalo Springfield/Crosby Stills & Nash’s Stephen Stills, singer/songwriter/Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks, James Mtume, Dave Dobbyn, producer (Paul McCartney, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Beatles) George Martin, Michael Zager and Lloyd.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not.
At number 100 is Peter Gabriel’s So, an album that includes “In Your Eyes,” the song Lloyd Dobler played to win over Ione Skye, though most people know the album for “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” and their trippy Claymation music videos that were staples of MTV when MTV stood for Music TeleVision. Omnipresent at the time, I haven’t seen either video in ages. I have copies of them. I taped them off MTV. I always had a tape in my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax at the ready, should one of my favorite performers show up on MTV or any of the other many many mid-eighties cable television channels, 37 in total! That number has since ballooned to just over 300 trillion stations, fully half of which are dedicated to Law & Order reruns and none of which show music videos. In several cartons in my primary bedroom closet are 158 beta tapes of music videos and performances. You may ask “Why did you record videos like ‘Sledgehammer’ when MTV aired it every hour, 40 hours a day?” That I could tell you in one word. Fear. I had a fear that someday MTV would stop showing videos, which, like my fear of getting stuck in an elevator and my fear of being mauled by a raccoon, has come to pass, except for the fear about the raccoon. My fear of MTV ceasing the broadcast of videos falls under a general fear category I have – that one day the things I like will be out of my life for good. That fear applies to the people in my life as well. I mentioned this fear of abandonment by people I care about to my most recent therapist, Dr. Triceratops (NOT HIS REAL NAME), to which he replied “Can we talk about something else?” Not even “please.” The. Worst.
I can’t think of a way to keep the people I care about in my life. Dr. Triceratops was no help. “I don’t know why they left you. I wasn’t there.” The. Worst. I could do something about telecast music performances, though. Anytime someone I liked appeared on screen, I’d press down on the PLAY and RECORD (with the red dot) buttons on my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax and preserve that moment on beta tapes. I have Prince performing “Baby I’m a Star” on the Grammy Awards, Beastie Boys performing “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!!!)” on Joan Rivers’ The Late Show and then wreaking havoc on her set, and that time Courtney Love threw makeup at Madonna while she was being interviewed by Kurt Loder. I have TV appearances by Simply Red. A lot of appearances by Simply Red. It was a phase I was going through. A short yet powerful phase. Because I’m feeling vulnerable and exposing myself to you right now, I’ll cop to it now, but please let us never speak of it again.
You may think with the advent of YouTube I can chuck my beta tapes and thus be able to walk into my closet, which, in theory, is a walk-in closet, but not everything on my beta tapes is on YouTube. So then the more tech-savvy among you say “upload those rare clips from your beta tapes to YouTube,” as if my name is Poindexter. As if I was a computer science major in college, which I was, actually, but they didn’t teach us how to connect stereo components to our non-existent home computers so we can put things on the non-existent Internet. They taught us programming languages like Pascal and Prolog and C. C! What kind of lame name is that for a language? C. Was its inventor spelling it for his assistant when a chicken bone got lodged in his esophagus and he turned blue and died of asphyxiation while his assistant – let’s call them Holmes – was so busy staring at his or her notebook that they didn’t see what happened when they ran into the conference room yelling “He decided to call the new language ‘C.’ Just the letter C, as in callomania.” More like C as in crap name for a computer language. Because I learned C as in cacatorium and not practical things to do with a still years away home computer, I now sit with 158 beta tapes that include Chaka Khan on a Spanish-language talk show and the Chicago Bears rapping “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and every televised performance ever until 1987 of “Holding Back the Years” (please let us not speak of that again). While speaking with Beck’s manager once I told him I had the clip of Beck throwing his sneaker against the wall in response to a question from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (the question not being “Hey Beck – are you able to take off your sneaker and throw it against the wall?”) and every Beck TV appearance on beta tapes (how we got onto the subject I do not recall) and he asked me to make a list of all the Beck stuff I had as Beck was interested in compiling clips of his TV appearances for a home video. Perhaps because as I re-read that last sentence I see that I may have come across as a bit obsessive and a tad stalker-like, I don’t think that home video ever materialized. Good thing I have my beta tapes! Plus what happens when YouTube goes away, as everything that brings me joy eventually does? While you’ll be bored out of your gourd with your significant other or family, I’ll be watching Boy George’s guest appearance on The A-Team. Before I do that I’ll need to get my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax fixed. Presently it sits in my primary bedroom’s theoretical walk-in closet.
Similarly, I like to own copies of the music I like rather than rely solely on music streaming services. I can listen to my vinyl LP of Olivia Newton-John’s If You Love Me Let Me Know. (I love you, Olivia!) You only have Spotify? Sorry, Charlie (or whatever your name is). ONJ’s IYLMLMK is not there. What’s that you say? You’re dying to hear P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss?” Enjoy the C as in crappy rerecord on Spotify while I pop the C as in cassingle of “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” into my cassette player, once I get my cassette player fixed. It’s in my primary bedroom’s theoretical walk-in closet. Paul McCartney’s “Spies Like Us” isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music or Amazon Prime Music (or, presumably, Tidal, but who the hell knows). However, I can play my 45. Sucks to be y – okay, point in your favor there. Ooh ooh, what did you do, Sir Paul? Peter Gabriel’s So didn’t hit streaming services until less than three and a half years ago. Luckily, I had my original vinyl album all this time, so throughout the years I could enjoy “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” and “Don’t Give Up” and “Red Rain” and that song Lloyd Dobler played on the boombox he held above his head to woo Ione Skye in that scene from Say Anything… that I have preserved on a beta tape. And thank science I held onto that album, as it’s a good one. How good? So good. Thank you, ladies and germs. Tip the wait staff.
Prince, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Kool & the Gang. It must be my list of favorite songs of 198-, uh, 2021. The aforementioned veterans rub elbows with Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Wet Leg, serpentwithfeet, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, The Avalanches, Adele and Little Simz.
Here are my top 100 songs of 2021:
Same Size Shoe – serpentwithfeet
Love Again – Dua Lipa
Body – Megan Thee Stallion
Black Like Me – Mickey Guyton
Easy On Me – Adele
Thot Shit – Megan Thee Stallion
Up – Cardi B
Save Your Tears – The Weeknd
Good Days – SZA
Under the Table – Fiona Apple
Wet Dream – Wet Leg
Rumors – Lizzo & Cardi B
Find My Way – Paul McCartney
Levitating – Dua Lipa feat. DaBaby
Chaise Longue – Wet Leg
I Love You, I Hate You – Little Simz
Best Friend – Saweetie feat. Doja Cat
Brando – Lucy Dacus
So I Lie – Miguel
We Go On – the Avalanches feat. Cola Boyyy & Mick Jones
Twerkulator – City Girls
MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X
Butter – BTS
Cold Heart – Elton John & Dua Lipa
Therefore I Am – Billie Eilish
Your Power – Billie Eilish
INDUSTRY BABY – Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow
Point and Kill – Little Simz feat. Obongjayar
Scratchcard Lanyard – Dry Cleaning
Security – Amyl and the Sniffers
Puppy and a Truck – Jenny Lewis
Don’t Judge Me – FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again…
Pursuit of Happiness – Kool & the Gang
Savage Good Boy – Japanese Breakfast
Pay Your Way in Pain – St. Vincent
ARE YOU WITH THAT? – Vince Staples
Hot Summer – Prince
Diamond Studded Shoes – Yola
Solar Power – Lorde
chinatown – Bleachers feat. Bruce Springsteen
The Divine Chord – the Avalanches feat. MGMT & Johnny Marr
Don’t Go Yet – Camila Cabello
Strong Feelings – Dry Cleaning
Rainforest – Noname
Working for the Knife – Mitski
Take My Breath – The Weeknd
Boomerang – Yebba
ooh la la – Run the Jewels feat. Santa Fe Klan & Mexican Institute of Sound
Candypaint – Joey Purp
Free from Gravity – Django Django
Spanish Doors – Liz Phair
Roaring 20s – Flo Milli
Rhetorical Figure – John Grant
THAT’S WHAT I WANT – Lil Nas X
The Doll – Audiobooks
Strange – Celeste
WUSYANAME – Tyler, the Creator feat. YoungBoy Never Broke Again & Ty Dolla $ign
White Dress – Lana Del Rey
family ties – Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar
Starlight – Yola
The Melting of the Sun – St. Vincent
Pick up Your Feelings – Jazmine Sullivan
I am not a woman, I’m a god – Halsey
Hertz – Amyl and the Sniffers
Please – Jessie Ware
The Adults Are Talking – the Strokes
Got Me – Laura Mvula
We’re Good – Dua Lipa
Kiss Me More – Doja Cat feat. SZA
I Don’t Live Here Anymore – The War on Drugs feat. Lucius