Friday, April 11, 2008


Listen to STRAY CAT STRUT by The Stray Cats.
Listen to TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP by The Romantics.

Jason dropping in.

Wtih Bill's current theme of "Jukebox classics", I've decided to decidedly stay on-piste this time.

I've gone for 2 tracks that leave you awash with over-familiarity and guilty pleasure. And that's the joy of the jukebox - either you're slouched against the 'box in your local, flipping through albums that you haven't heard in eons, looking for that long-forgotten classic; or you're sitting in that same local and someone else puts something on that makes you look around to find others that are experiencing their own silent "hell yeah!".

That's how I feel when I hear these two songs. Reminiscent of 80s music television, bouffant hair and leather. To properly bring you into this, I'm going to have to reach for the vids.

The Stray Cats were a neo-rockabilly band from Long Island, New York. Brian Setzer on vocals, the super-cool Slim Jim Phantom (great name for someone born James McDonnell) on drums and the "I-didn't-really-have-enough-time-to-pick-my-name" Jim Rocker (real name Leon Drucker) on double bass.

The video below is not the poxy "official video" with the wedge-tail hair from 1981. This is the "real" Stray Cats, playing live. Brian Setzer's look begat Pete Doherty and Billie Joe Armstrong and the sassy vocal delivery and lyrics are smooth, but its Rocker's swaggering bass that provides the track with such panache: check out the slap solo at 2:38!

Singing the blues while the lady cats cry
"Wild stray cat, you're a real gone guy."
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
but I got cat class and I got cat style.

The second song was created two years later by The Romantics from Detroit. The Romantics were a boundary band - they crossed the 60s British Invasion sound of the Kinks with the 70s punk of the Ramones. A power-pop song with a new-wave clip - and the video may be the singular one that straddled the transition from 80s pop-big-hair videos to 80s soft-metal-big-hair videos. Think of Duran Duran's "Reflex" performance vid compared with Bon Jovi's "Runaway". The clip even has the old "focus on drummer double-hitting the tom" at 3:00 which I was sure hadn't been "invented" until at LEAST '84 (sheesh!).

Singer Wally Palmar (there are those names again) is the original new wave nerd - you just can't explain that "Anthony Michael Hall" type of coolness (I NEED to learn that little sway he does at 3:16). Man, to my then-teen eyes, these guys were the bomb.

You know, in writing this, I've watched The Romantics vid about 20 times - seems I just can't get enough of it (I'm not alone - 43,500 views on YouTube and counting). I'm struggling to think of another vid that embodies the 80s any better. Jukebox please!

Photo: PLACE DES VOSGES, PARIS, 2003. Photo taken by Jason Bryant.



bill said...

There's something facile about that photograph that I like

uncle billy said...

Nice cap to a great theme week, Jason. All week songs that emote the joy of JUKEBOX!
And no Tom Petty!
All his stuff seem to qualify for Jukebox Classics, but when I plunk my quarter(dollar) in the Jukebox(cd player randomly skips to best of TP) I find that I listen 20 sec of each tune, skip to the next, wash, rinse, repeat. All the tunes have great hooks with many providing the "Hell Yeah!" moment, but I find none can be enjoyed to the end. Maybe they were abused/overplayed or probably they just aren't classics.

Jason said...

thanks uncle billy

i enjoyed writing that post the most (so far).

the romantics clip has suddenly jumped by another 7,000 views in the last week

now i just have to get a band to make a vid with them standing on those square neon tubes...