“Traveling in a Fried-Out Combie”

“On a hippie trail, head full of zombie.” – Men At Work

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I recently heard someone say that you should never start your blog out with “sorry I haven’t posted in a while,” because no one cares.  No one reads blogs!  I think that’s hilarious… and partially true.  I barely have time to write this one much less peruse the blogs of the world reading what else is out there, so I won’t ever apologize for the length of time in between posts.  Plus, I have to spend valuable research time on much more important tasks like looking up “fried-out combie,” and “head full of zombie.”

To inform you – my unbelievably, intelligent, beautiful reader – it’s actually spelled “kombi” and the phrase means that it is an over-heated VW Kombivan.  So, a broken-down van, basically.  And “head full of zombie?”  Well, that is apparently the use of a type of marijuana.

The more you know.

“Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?  You better run, you better take cover, yeah.”

The thunder that came rolling into NW Arkansas like a fully caffeinated “Crocodile Dundee” wielding a cross and a Bible was Australian Pastor Michael Murphy (@michaelleaderscape on Facebook).   And, by the way, if you’re already lost when I said “Crocodile Dundee,” then you apparently don’t know who the greatest U.S.-Australian movie star of all time is (or at least of the 80’s)!  So check out this clip first…

Ahh, Paul Hogan.  We loved you back in 1986, you crazy Aussie.  I just found out (if you believe wikipedia) he’s 78 now!

Ok, now back to Pastor Murphy.  He helped Brian and Bobbie Houston lead and start a little church in Australia you may have heard of called Hillsong Church.  Yeah mate, he knows of what he speaks.  And what he speaks is really on leadership within the church and how to cultivate that leadership and help a church organization grow.

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“I met a strange lady, she made me nervous.  She took me in and gave me breakfast”

He estimates that he spends 300+ nights away from his home, so he is meeting many strangers the majority of the year.  Those strangers quickly become friends, and then Pastor Murphy makes the most of his time speaking with church volunteers and leaders.  He was in NW Arkansas last Thursday through Sunday, and spoke numerous times including at multiple Sunday services.  I took some notes and this is just a random collection of some of the things that were impressed upon me during his brief time here.

  • We should frame our world/future.  Have a vision and drive towards that vision.  Be persistent and patient, but see it, and believe it can be done, because how we frame things in our lives will determine how we think about them.
  • Line up your prophetic word under a daily declaration with God’s redemptive power.  Along the lines of believing, affirmation is so important and you should start with yourself.  Give yourself grace and be an affirming person to others.
  • Keep a “River Mentality” / a no step-child; no victim mentality.  Don’t allow negativity to creep into your thought patterns; find the positive in a situation and soak in those words.  Let it flow in you and through you.  Choose to be the victor and not the victim.
  • Sometimes the Love Boat is a battleship  Our current series at our church is on marriage and is called “The Love Boat.”  Pastor Murphy kept this theme when he spoke at our Sunday morning services.  The irony of this is that Pastor Murphy’s wife, Valery, had a very brief cameo in one episode of the classic late 70’s/early 80’s show.  He even showed the black and white photograph of her, “Captain Stubing,” and “Doc” on screen at the Sunday services as proof.  Once again, those of you too young to remember, here’s what “The Love Boat” looked like…

Anyway, the love boat can be many different types of boats through the ups and downs and different stages of marriage.  It’s important to remember that, and to work to keep your marriage boat on course and to make the necessary corrections when needed.  And it takes work!

It was a wonderful and informative few days, and the only thing I regret in my small window of interaction with Pastor Murphy is not thinking to ask him…

“Do you come from a land down under?  Where women glow and men plunder?”

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When you think about famous rock groups or artists from Australia, there’s really quite a few that have made it big in the U.S. – The Bee Gees, AC/DC, Air Supply, Olivia Newton-John, INXS, Keith Urban, and heck even Dr. Noah Drake, Rick Springfield, hails from down under.

But when I think of Australia and the 80’s, the first group that always comes to my mind is Men At Work.  The “Business As Usual” cassette was one of the first ones I remember owning and it was also right around the time of my first walkman.  It was 1982 when this song was released in the U.S., and I was about 11 or 12 when I was blasting this cassette from my walkman.

This worldwide smash from Men at Work celebrated their homeland and introduced the rest of the world to the question of “what the heck is a vegemite sandwich?”  (Apparently the actual vegemite spread is dark, and thick like peanut butter, but with a very salty taste).  The song reached #1 in Australia (1981), New Zealand (1982), Canada (1982), and then in 1983 hit #1 in Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, and the U.S.

Here’s the silly little video from Colin Hay and company.  It’s “Down Under” by Men At Work…

As always, thanks for reading/watching, and go out and be a leader today.  Be a better leader today… and maybe hum a bar or two of this tune as you do.

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  If you want to get a taste of Pastor Murphy’s messages and style, here is a 35 minute video from Jan. of this year…

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“What Do You Want to Do With Your Life!?”

Image result for twisted sister we're not gonna take it 1984

Back in 1984, a M-16 carrying father with anger issues could yell at his son for being “worthless and weak,” and then five questionably dressed grown men with heavy eye makeup could proceed to beat the hell out of that same abusive father, and it was considered comedy gold… borderline Oscar-worthy I would have argued back then.

Fast forward almost 35 years and I don’t think this video gets very far before activist groups supporting gender neutral persons weigh in on these five men known as Twisted Sister (TS).  Bullying groups would be questioning the intended comedic undertones of a clearly abusive father, while anti-violence groups would be outraged at the physical actions against the father throughout the video.  That “father” in the video was poor Douglas C. Niedermeyer.  He was clearly just a victim of his own oblivious timing.

“We’ll fight the powers that be, just don’t pick our destiny, ’cause you don’t know us, you don’t belong.”

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” was an anthem for many teens in the early 80’s.  The video was a staple on MTV in 1984, and it introduced my 13 year old self to the band Twisted Sister and also to what a truly ugly cross-dresser looks like.  I commend lead singer Dee Snider for his boldness, but those men were not pretty.  I was not a big TS fan, but the timing of the message was on point for many in 1984… “you don’t know us, you don’t belong!”

When people ask me what my favorite year of music was from the 80’s, I answer 1984.  To be honest though, no one has ever asked me that question, but that is my honest-to-goodness, swear-on-Lionel-Richie’s-sweet-1984-jheri-curl answer!  Nineteen eighty-four had it all – the beginnings of hair metal emergence with bands like Ratt and TS.  Hip-hop groups were popping up and a certain trio from Queens called Run-DMC was starting to catch my attention.  All the big stars were hitting hard in 1984 too – Prince, Madonna, MJ, “The Boss,” Huey,  and Rick Springfield, and you had 70’s rock staples like Van Halen and ZZ Top enjoying arguably their best year as well.

A music lover could have gone broke at Sam Goody buying cassette tapes in 1984 with all of the good music.  I challenge you to look at the hits from that year, and find me a better year.

“Your life is trite and jaded.  Boring and confiscated.  If that’s your best, your best won’t do.”

Well, 1984 would be the best Twisted Sister would do on the charts.  “We’re Not Gonna Take It” peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It would be their only top 40 single.  The follow up single was another similar type song and video called “I Wanna Rock.”  The song featured a new protagonist and that didn’t fare quite as well.

And finally, it took Twisted Sister to tell us that sometimes your best won’t do.  Thank you for not handing out a participation ribbon fellas, because sometimes no matter how hard you try, it’s just not enough.

“Oh we’re not gonna take it.  No, we ain’t gonna take it.  Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

Dee Snider joined Twisted Sister in 1976, and were kind of an underground sensation for many years, but it wasn’t until today’s song and video in 1984 that they broke through into mainstream success.

I actually watched a two hour documentary on Netflix about the band a few years ago called “We Are Twisted F****** Sister!”  The documentary was a little too long for me personally, but it gives a good account of the band’s origins and rise in popularity.

The ensuing video from “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was a call to arms for America’s misunderstood, metal-lovin’ youth.  It was our 80’s version of what our parents went through with The Beatles in the 60’s or Elvis in the 50’s.  It wasn’t necessarily about Twisted Sister.  It was about a movement in music.  It was about outcasts with strange hair and makeup playing loud rock music somehow becoming cool.   It gave hope to a new generation of musically talented misfits and misunderstoods in schools around the country.

It was also about those that made it. It was about Motley Crue, and Ratt, Hanoi Rocks, and Cinderella.  And this video also revived the legend of one Douglas C. Niedermeyer.  Check it out.

Image result for twisted sister we're not gonna take it 1984  “Stand up straight!  Tuck in that shirt!  Tie those shoes!  Adjust that belt buckle!”

If you didn’t make it to the end of this post, then you’re worthless and weak!  Now drop and give me 20!

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  If you’re a little too young to understand who Douglas C. Niedermeyer is from the TS videos, then let this next clip from the classic movie “Animal House” catch you up to speed.

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“Looking Out At the Road Rushing Under My Wheels”

“I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels” – Jackson Browne

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For me (and countless others), Jackson Browne is a brilliant songwriter.  I realize this is a 70’s song, but that’s what I do sometimes on sincerelythe80s.com – I step out of the 80’s when it feels right.  And it just feels right today.  This life is crazy at times.

It’s a beautiful song and a wonderful metaphor.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and in the air the past few weeks.  Much more than usual that’s for sure, and it’s felt crazy.  I recently made the 12 hour drive from NW Arkansas to Boulder, Colorado and watched the road rushing under my wheels for many miles.  My wife flew out to visit me for a few days in Denver and Boulder.  I saw baseball games, many interesting people, and most of all – the inside of a classroom.

I write this silly little 80’s blog as a hobby.  My day job is that of a community banker, and I recently finished my second year at the Graduate School of Banking Colorado (GSBC) in Boulder.  Students (ages anywhere from twenty-something to fifty-something) travel to Boulder from all over the country.  Both coasts are represented by community bankers along with a fair amount of federal and state regulators.

I spent two weeks living in the Bear Creek Apartments just off the campus of CU studying exciting topics like “Deposit Retention and Growth Strategies,” “Loan Portfolio Management,” and “Understanding Corporate Culture” just to name a few.  There were actually eight classes over the two-week span along with guest speakers sprinkled in.

For a community banker, it really is an impressive, informative, and at the same time over-whelming two weeks.  Each week is concluded with four short tests of 12 questions each on the four classes for the week.  It’s an expensive investment paid for by each bank, but it’s well worth the time and travel.  In between the summer sessions each year each student is required to write three research papers that are graded fairly tough by faculty so it doesn’t end when the two weeks ends.

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The Williams Center where I ate breakfast most mornings.

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Wolf Law – where all of our classes were held

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The back entrance of Wolf Law

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My view every morning on my walk to class

While in Boulder, Jackson Browne was performing about 45 minutes away at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.  The venue seats about 9,500 and opened in 1906.  Red Rocks has been played at by The Beatles, U2, and everyone in between.  It’s a beautiful setting in the mountains where you can see the skyline of Denver in the back ground, and an awesome place to witness just about any performer (when my wife got into town later in the week, she went with a friend to watch Sarah McLachlan).

“Running on, running into the sun, but I’m running behind”

As I sit here some two plus weeks later, I am writing part of this post from Long Branch, New Jersey, and also from the airport in Newark.  My uncle Hans passed away while I was finishing up school and I flew straight to New Jersey from Denver in order to make the viewing and the funeral.  It was very surreal to go from breakfast in the mountains to the La Quinta Inn and the ocean in West Long Branch over the course of 12 hours.

The ensuing emotional toll of a viewing and funeral for a dear family member only drained the tank even more.  Comparatively though, I’m surely running on more fuel than my fellow cousins and sweet aunt Peggy who just lost their father and husband.  The funeral was held in St. Thomas cathedral in Long Branch overlooking the ocean, and included a Taps salute by Navy Servicemen in honor of Hans who had served in the Navy in World War II.

“I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on”

I don’t see many of my Kerwin relatives because they either live on the east coast or in Arizona, so it’s always nice to catch up.  Unfortunately, the last three reasons to get together have all been funerals, so we’re hoping for a wedding or something happy for the next get-together.

I’m now on my final leg.  Newark back to Denver, and then into NW Arkansas tonight where I will get to see my wife and daughter and sleep in my own bed again.  I can’t wait.  The road will end for a while, but the road of life continues to fly by at alarmingly increasing speeds.  I know there are more funerals ahead for uncles, aunts, fathers, mothers, and grandmothers.  It’s a sobering thought, but a real thought nonetheless.  I can only hope for more births, and weddings, and anniversary celebrations to balance out the funerals.

Let’s all hold on and hold together and we’ll make it… even when we feel like we’re running on empty.

“Running on, running on empty.  Running on, running blind”

Below are just a few pictures of the stage and setting at Red Rocks for the Jackson Browne show.  “Running on Empty” was released in 1977 and the song made it to #11 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and is considered Browne’s third biggest hit behind “Doctor My Eyes,” and “Somebody’s Baby.”

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Here is a live version of Jackson performing the song back in 1979.  He still does it justice in 2018 by the way.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Gypsy, Sittin’ Lookin’ Pretty”

“The broken rose with laughin’ eyes.” – Def Leppard

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There are those times in your life.  Those fleeting moments that you want to hold onto forever.  You concentrate, you beg, you pray – don’t let me forget this moment.  It might be a stunningly beautiful view from a mountaintop 14,000 feet high in Colorado.  It could be the setting sun beyond the ocean horizon of your dream beach wedding.  It might be your son laughing with childish abandon chasing bubbles around the front yard of your first house.  It might even be your 17 year old daughter swaying to the sounds of an 80’s rock icon at a sold out arena concert in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Oh for just a few more seconds to savor!  Just a few more glimpses of a time that will only live on in memory.  Some people call it living in the moment or being in the present.  It’ when your awareness and understanding and appreciation come together simultaneously and your heart swells.  I like to think of those moments as a mix between awesomeness with a slight dash of heartbreak.

“You’re a mystery, always runnin’ wild.  Like a child without a home.”

I think there’s always a little bit of heartbreak to those moments, because they are fleeting and I know that moment is destined to become a fading memory soon enough.  But most of all though, I’m thankful for those moments and for the memories to come.  I’m appreciative, but still a little sad at the same time.

I surprised my 17 year old daughter with a Monday daddy-daughter date night.  I told her to be ready about 2:30 and that I would be home and we were going somewhere.  We got in the car at about 3 and as we headed out of town, I cranked up Def Leppard’s iconic “Pour Some Sugar on Me” from the speakers of the car.  I told her we were headed to see these guys in Tulsa (about a 90 minute drive) along with Journey at the BOK Center.  We were also headed for dinner at our favorite restaurant.  She was pumped as we listened to my newly created Spotify playlist cleverly titled “Def Leppard – Journey” along the way.

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Just finishing off our pre-concert meal at our favorite restaurant in downtown Tulsa – Ti Amo

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My wife and I have raised her on all kinds of music.  We have listened to everything from Christian artists to rap to country to pop to classical throughout her life, but she loves her some 80’s rock music, and Def Leppard is one of her favorites.  When your five year old, strapped into her car seat, is singing “Fa, fa, fa, foolin’!” from the backseat then I think you’re winning at parenting.  It may just be a small win, but a win is a win!

Parenting is exhausting.  The challenges are different from day to day, year to year.  It can be draining and unrewarding and agonizingly frustrating at times, but there are those moments that make all the tough times worth it.  The heart softens and the realization of what’s really important in this life surface once again.  Love.  Health.  It’s in those moments that life is truly awe-inspiring and beautiful.  And I was lucky enough to get another one of those moments on Monday night in section 108 standing next to one sweet 17 year old who was swaying to the music.

“You’re bringin’ on the heartbreak.  Bringin’ on the heartache”

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In the land of under-appreciated Def Leppard tunes, I have to put this one in the mix.  There’s nothing quite like a concert to make you appreciate some songs you haven’t heard in a while.  I never thought too much of this minor DL hit, but man has it come to the forefront of my psyche the past 72 hours since the concert.

I know the ballad is really about a girl (aren’t they all?) who won’t let the singer into her heart, but when this was released originally in 1981 (mixed and re-released again in 1984) I doubt the band had little idea of the heartbreak in store for them.  Drummer Rick Allen would lose an arm in a single car high speed automobile accident in 1985, and original lead guitarist and songwriter Steve Clark would lose his life to alcohol poisoning in 1991.  Heartbreak and heartache seem to be ingredients for most rock bands.

There are two parts I really like in this song.  One is when the guitar takes off at about the 1:07 mark where the song kicks into a different gear. The other is Joe Elliott’s multiple “No(s)!” just after the three minute mark to break up the brief silence in the song.

Only getting as high as #61 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, here is the under-appreciated “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”…

Thanks for reading and may you find one of those moments today – a moment that is awesomely beautiful with just a tinge of heartbreak to it.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Some Days Won’t End Ever and Some Days Pass on By”

“I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.” – Huey Lewis and The News

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I loved that “Bowzer “from Sha Na Na was part of the group.

I’ve been reading a book this week that a friend of mine wrote a few years back.  The book is a collection of stories from his time of coaching a girl’s softball team, and one of the statements that really made an impression on me recently was the phrase “embrace the grind.”

We hear statements or variations of it all the time:  “The struggle is real.”  “I work.  I hustle.  I grind.”  “Embrace the suck.”  “Struggle, hustle, grind, shine.”

One of the definitions of grinding something though is to sharpen it.  As iron sharpens iron anyone?  All the grinding can be worth it.  Embrace the grind.  To “embrace” something is to accept something willingly and enthusiastically.  But don’t you just hate those people sometimes?  It sure is easy to roll the eyes at those type of people, or let out a heavy sigh at a mundane task that we’ve done a thousand times.  Embracing is hard when it’s something we don’t want.

“Hey I’m not complainin’ ’cause I really need the work.  Hittin’ up my buddy’s got me feelin’ like a jerk.”

Growing up in the 80’s, my jobs consisted of odd jobs that are still teenager-related to this day.  I had the occasional babysitting gig through the year.  I worked a girls’ basketball camp or two before my senior year of high school.  But mostly, I mowed lawns with my best friend Barry during the summer.  I worked on my tan as sounds of Van Halen and Guns n’ Roses and LL Cool J reverberated into the depths of my brain while mowing and edging lawns for neighbors and around town.

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I mowed those many lawns with one of these things hanging from my belt loop or strapped over my shoulder.

There’s not much to “the grind” when you’re young.  Everything is new.  You’re making money for the first time and spending it on frivolous things.  I was living under my parent’s roof, so there wasn’t a “struggle” to make rent or pay the electric or gas bills.  Maybe there was a car payment or an occasional date involved somewhere during those days, but for the most part it was just spending money for more cassettes!

“Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.  I get a check on Friday, but it’s all ready spent.”

My 17-year-old daughter got her first real job a little over a week ago working as a cashier at a local grocery store, so she is just beginning to learn about “the grind” and workin’ for a livin’.  She’ll be asking about taxes and everyone’s favorite friend, “FICA” soon enough, but for now she’s excited.  She came home with her very first check yesterday and it was for $141.  When you’re 17, $141 mine as well be a thousand dollars.

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Work that checkout lane, girl!

But she’s on her way.  She’s learning about responsibility and being a team player.  She’s learning about accountability and sacrifice, and she’s also learning about the importance of comfortable shoes when you’re standing the majority of the day for your job.

I want her to be excited about this job.  I want her to be proud of her monetary accomplishment, and I want her to be a good employee.  Her excitement makes me think about various jobs I’ve had through the years and that feeling of excitement and anticipation that came with that new job and new co-workers.

I hope it never does, but the day may come soon enough where she will wake up and feel like it’s the same day as yesterday and work won’t be as exciting.  There will be no newness to it.  It might even be hard and unpleasant and unrewarding.  Even if it becomes a grind, I hope she learns to embrace it, because she’ll be better and she’ll be sharper for it.  If we learn to embrace the grind, we will all be better for it.

“I’m takin’ what they’re givin’ ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin'”
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Anytime you can get a harmonica solo into a hit song there has to be another level of appreciation for something like that!  I, for one, have always appreciated Huey Lewis and The News.  Sure they have a few songs that make me want to scratch my ear drums for relief (“Hip to Be Square” anyone?), but for the most part Huey Lewis and his band provided some of the best sounds of the 80’s.

They formed in San Francisco in 1979 and broke into mainstream success with one of my favorites – 1982’s “Do You Believe in Love?”  And though today’s song and video is not particularly in my top five of favorite Huey songs, nor a big hit for the group, this track, also from 1982, is an ode to the working man or woman.  It’s an ode to all of you out there grindin’ every day and earning an honest dollar.  It’s now a soundtrack song for my  80’s-music-lovin’ daughter as well.

Only reaching #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 back then, here is “Workin’ for a Livin'”

A shout out to Huey Lewis and continued prayers and good thoughts for his battle and ultimate recovery from Meniere’s disease which has caused him to cancel all of his 2018 shows.

Also, I’m just teasing with that “Bowzer,” from Sha Na Na comment.  I know it’s you Mario Cipollina

Thanks for reading all of you that continue workin’ for a livin’, and remember to embrace the grind today.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“Hot Summer Streets and the Pavements Are Burning…”

“I sit around.” – Bananarama

Image result for bananarama cruel summer

In the summer of 1984, America took a stunning crane kick to the face when a karate movie featuring a young Ralph Macchio and an aging Pat Morita debuted and proceeded to win the hearts of Americans everywhere.

The underdog story features an unlikely friendship between a Jersey kid relocating with his mom to Recedo, CA, named Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and the maintenance man (the late, great Pat Morita) at the apartment complex he and his mom move into.  Throw in a gang of karate bullies, their ex U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret sensei, a few cool songs like this one today, some iconic sayings (“Wax on. Wax off.” “Paint the fence.” “Sweep the leg.” etc.), and you had the makings of a classic movie.  And that’s just what it became – classic.

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Macchio and Morita formed a powerful duo in the 80’s

Around that same time I owned a “how-to” book on Judo.  Judo was very popular for some reason back in the 60’s, and I’m pretty sure that’s when the book was written.  I’m not even sure how I came to possess such a book, but I thought I could read the book, look at the pictures, and teach myself Judo all from the comfort of my own bedroom!  Sure, it wasn’t karate, but it was still a lot of kicking and punching, and I was going to be a total badass!

Well, amongst minor details like my overall lack of desire and dedication, I also didn’t have a partner to practice on nor anyone to tell me if I was doing everything correctly.  Eventually (like two days later), I just gave up on learning judo, but told myself I would learn some sort of martial arts at a later date.  I never did, but I always imagined that one day I would be the skinny underdog who was picked on but eventually became a karate champion by defeating those same bullies along the way in a tournament in front of thousands.  Oh, and I would win the heart of the prettiest girl in school just like Daniel LaRusso of course!

“The city is crowded, my friends are away, and I’m on my own”

Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and as I was browsing through an issue of “Sports Illustrated,” and I saw an advertisement for a new Youtube series called “Cobra Kai.”  Realizing that this new series stars the original characters from “The Karate Kid” in Macchio and his enemy, Johnny Lawrence (outstandingly played by William Zabka), I watched all ten 30 minute episodes over the course of about three days and loved it.  I loved it so much I told my wife and daughter that they needed to watch it, and so I watched it a second time with them.

The story picks up some 30+ years after the All Valley Championships and catches us up on what has transpired, and what is going on in the lives of Daniel and Johnny.  Lawrence, down on his luck, reopens the defunct Cobra Kai dojo reigniting a rivalry with the already successful Daniel LaRusso.  Throw in some flashbacks to the original movie, introduce a whole new crop of young talented characters, provide some brilliant writing by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, and you have something special.

It’s definitely PG-13 for all the language and high school humor, but if you are a fan of “The Karate Kid” or just a fan of well-written, action packed comedy dramas then you should give this series a shot.

“It’s too close for comfort, this heat has got right out of hand”

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The movie and subsequent MTV video helped introduce us to three quirky young women that summer called Bananarama.  With their smoky eyes, messy, low-hanging bangs, and British accents, my 13 year-old self was immediately seduced by this London trio.  I was transfixed to my MTV anytime this video appeared.  “Cruel Summer” helped propel Bananarama to top 10 status for the first time ever in the U.S., and the song also reached #8 in their native UK.

I found it interesting in an interview by original member Siobahn Fahey that the group was first introduced to cocaine during this video shoot by some local dock workers.  Fahey was quoted as saying “That was our lunch.  When you watch that video, we look really tired and miserable in the scenes we shot before lunch, and then the after-lunch shots are all euphoric and manic.” 

That alone made me watch it again just to see if I could tell.  Not sure that I really could, but maybe you can when you watch.  Nonetheless, this song is actually a rather dark song about being alone under an oppressive heat watching the summer slip by.  But with it’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, it still has to be a staple on any summer playlist.

One of my all-time favorite 80’s songs – it’s “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama…

 

As a bonus, here is the song featured in “The Karate Kid”…

Thanks for reading, and just remember:  Strike first.  Strike hard.  No mercy.

sincerely,

the 80’s

kkcobrakai

 

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“Have You Ever Been Stabbed in the Back…”

“By someone you thought was really cool?” –  Jody Watley

I hope none of you will be getting stabbed in the back metaphorically, or physically for that matter.

I remember how every May brought the anticipation of the end of another school year, and the beginning of summer.  I have a daughter who is a junior in high school now, and I was curious about one timeless end of school year tradition the other day.  On my way to drop her off at school, I asked her if they still sell yearbooks at school.  She said yes.  I followed up by asking if kids still sign them for each other, and she replied affirmatively even saying that they have a “yearbook party” at the end of the school year.  Apparently all of the students eligible to attend the party (my daughter thought you had to have at least a 2.0 GPA to attend) gather in the gym one afternoon during the last week of school and sign yearbooks for each other.

I remember how exciting, yet scary it could be when it came to yearbook signing.  Do I dare ask that person?  Will they ask me so I don’t have to ask them first?  It was intimidating for an introvert like myself to go ask one of “the cool kids” or one of “the pretty girls” to sign my yearbook.  And then if they did sign my yearbook, what would they say?  If I had to sign theirs, what would I say?  “You’re cool.  Have a great summer.  Glad we had class together.  See you next year.  Hope we have classes together next year.”  Lame.  Lame. Lame!  Oh the pressure of the yearbook signing!  I’m sure I would be horrified by some of the things I wrote 30-35 years ago.  I have no clue what I wrote to other people, but I know one year I signed many of them “Your friend and mine, Kyle Kerwin.”  Insert slapping my forehead emoji right here.

Surely yearbook signing anxiety is a thing, right?  Can one see a therapist for this?  I just remember that you had to be either witty, or sincere and nice (without sounding creepy).  The really good signers could do both.  Signing a yearbook that can still make that person smile all these years later is a resume’ worthy skill in my opinion!

“Smiles they hide behind.  Never know what’s on their mind.”

I read through many of my friends’ messages in my old yearbooks the other day.  I made it easy for a lot of people because they knew me as a good basketball player so they could always write how awesome I was at basketball or encourage me to “keep up the hard work!”  “I know I’ll see you in the pros ones day!”  Lol.  There were funny ones and nice ones, and messages from people I don’t even remember now.  What do kids today sign?  ‘Your Facebook profile picture is awesome.’  No.  Kids aren’t even on Facebook.  How about ‘Your Instagram photos are on point!’ or ‘Your Twitter feed is lit!’  Maybe it’s ‘I’ll check you out on Snapchat,’ or ‘Text me this summer (heart emoji, smiley emoji, peace emoji)!’

Whatever it is these days I still love that I have these little thoughts frozen in time on paper from the people I grew up with.

Some of my “friends” from 8th and 9th grade in 1985 and 1986…

Some of my high school friends from 1988 & 1989…

“Friends are hard to find.  Friends, yours and mine
I’m talkin’ ’bout your friends”

By the time today’s featured song and video was released in April of 1989 I was about a month away from graduating high school with my friends.  Also during this time, Chicago-born Jody Watley was killing it.  She was the god-daughter of the late, great Jackie Wilson, and got her start in the entertainment business as a dancer on the TV show “Soul Train.” 

She was an original member of the band Shalamar from 1977-1983 before embarking on her successful solo career that saw her garner a Grammy in 1988 for Best New Artist.  This song would be the seventh of eight straight singles to appear in the top 10 of either the Billboard Hot 100, the U.S. R&B charts, and/or the U.S. Dance charts between 1987-1989.

During this time in the late 80’s, it was also becoming common for R&B singers to include rappers in the extended versions of their songs.  Many times the rap parts would be edited out for Top 40 radio and you would never know they existed.  Who was cooler back in the 80’s rap game moreso than the duo of Eric B & Rakim.  There’s no question mark because that’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is nobody!  The fact that the “Paid in Full” duo lent their talents to a Jody Watley jam upped her street cred in my books, and not the other way around.  This song peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989.

Here is the extended remix featuring the musical rap stylings of MC Rakim and his DJ, Eric B, who happened to be back on tour this spring for the first time in 25 years.

I wish Eric B. & Rakim and Jody Watley were my “Friends,” because I’d let them sign my yearbook, and then I’d retroactively be the coolest NHS Tiger class of 1989.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

NHS Grad

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“People Always Told Me, Be Careful of What You Do”

“Don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts.” – Michael Jackson

I’m not sure what actually led me down the Michael Jackson YouTube rabbit hole at 11pm last night.  It might have been the fact that I recently purchased tickets for to see his sister Janet at the Amp in NW Arkansas in July.  Or maybe it was because I stumbled across a video of Michael and Britney Spears performing together in 2001 (video at the end of the post).  I had no recollection of their duet to Michael’s song “The Way You Make Me Feel.”  Michael crushes his 1987 hit while Britney does a good job strutting across stage I guess.

Whatever the reason, I watched about 30 minutes of any live Michael Jackson videos that popped up on my screen.  As a performer, he was unmatched.  He was a talent that comes around once in a generation.  My dad commented recently that as people get older and pass on, many times it’s those people who really understood the greatness of their era in terms of witnessing talent in the entertainment world (sports, movies, music, etc.).  I think it’s especially true in the older eras where video was very limited (think 1950’s and 60’s especially).

Next June it will have been 10 years since Jackson passed away.  But back in the winter of 1982, I was just 11 when Michael Jackson (then 24 years old) was beginning his ascension to the title as the undisputed “King of Pop.”  His album “Thriller” was released at the end of November in 1982 and it wasn’t long before I owned the cassette.  I received it as a Christmas present at my grandma’s house in Tulsa that year, and it wasn’t long before I began my quest to be the best damn Michael Jackson impersonator in the family!

“Billie Jean” was the second single released in January of 1983 and in May 1983 I was barely 12 when he performed the song “live” on a tribute to 25 years of Motown.  He appeared on stage with his signature white glove, his hat, and his black pants purposely tailored too short to show off his white socks.  And, oh the shiny sequins!  They were all over Michael, and somehow it looked very normal.

Well, it didn’t take me long to have my own white glove and hat and a black jacket.  I would wear my penny loafers and roll up my black slacks to display my white socks, but I didn’t have any sequins, which is probably a good thing for me at that time.  I would wet my dark curly hair just to see if I could get any of the curls to drop down the front of my face, and I would cue up Billie Jean on whatever cassette player was available.

“‘Cause we danced on the floor in the round”

It was during that live “Motown 25:  Yesterday, Today, Forever” performance that Michael performed a dance move called the moonwalk.  Variations of the move had existed for many years, but the performance became a pop cultural event, and that move would become one his signature moves for live performances of the song.

When he did the moonwalk (he did it twice during the song) I stared in disbelief.  What just happened!?  He looks like he’s walking forward, but he’s moving backwards!  Impossible!  My twelve year old head almost exploded and I, along with every other MJ fan in the world, had to learn to moonwalk!  I actually saw the “how-to” on a book or a magazine somewhere not too long after that and practiced it until I could do it.  I was a very average moonwalker, but an average moonwalker still made me the best moonwalker in the family!

If you’ve never seen or haven’t seen that historic performance in quite some time, here it is in all of its’ lip-syncing glory.  No one even cared that MJ didn’t sing it live.  There was just something magical about his presence and the way he moved.  The moonwalks are brief and they happen at the 3:39 and 4:34 marks if you don’t want to watch the whole song.  You can hear some of the girls scream when he does the first one as I’m sure they didn’t know exactly what he was doing either, but they knew it was extraordinary.  And it was.  It was Michael.

 

“People always told me be careful of what you do, and don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts”

Oh how I was going to break the young girls’ hearts!  So with a very average moonwalk in my MJ repertoire, this skinny white boy was ready to perform!  I could spin.  I could land on my toes, and I could kick my leg out like Michael.  I could thrust my pelvis to the beat at the beginning of the song.  I had the wardrobe less the sequins.  Mind you the performance was probably very average or below average, but in my mind I was practically Michael’s dancing twin!  All I needed was an audience, and my younger cousins and sister became the first to see my almost identical Michael Jackson moves.

I performed the act a handful of times in front of them and whatever other family members I could drag into the performing area.  Those members typically consisted of my parents, my grandma, and whatever uncles and aunts were around at the time.  They oohed and ahhed and clapped and whistled and encouraged every spin move and every moonwalk.

As far as I know, there are no videos or pictures of my Michael Jackson recreation which I performed on numerous occasions throughout 1983.  That is both good and a little disappointing at the same time.  Maybe somewhere in some family member’s photo album exists a picture of me in all of my MJ glory, but until that photo surfaces the memory will just have to exist in my head, and now in yours too.

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one

“Billie Jean” has always been my favorite MJ song.   The song was a huge hit in 1983 hitting #1 not only in the U.S., but in many countries around the world.  It stayed atop the top spot on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks.  The video for “Billie Jean” became the first video by a black artist to be shown in heavy rotation on MTV.  At the time, MTV was barely two years old, and considered more of a channel for rock music.  Jackson and “Billie Jean” broke that mold and expanded MTV’s reach.

One of my favorite songs and a very cool video even to this day, it’s “Billie Jean.”

I hope your steps light up someday when you’re walking down the street.  May you never forget the greatness that was Michael Jackson, and should our paths cross, I will always accept your moonwalking challenge.

Thanks for reading

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  As a bonus, here is the Michael – Britney performance from 2001

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“What Started Out As Friendship Has Grown Stronger”

“I only wish I had the strength to let it show.” – REO Speedwagon

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In January of 1985 I was an awkward 8th grader hitting puberty and starting my second semester at Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma.  That same month, one of the mushiest, lyrically corny love songs of the 1980’s was released.  It was a huge hit… and I loved it.  REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” brought us lyrics about candles in windows, and ships, and crawling around on the floor and crashing through the door.

I disliked a lot of slow 80’s love songs, but this one was somehow different.  By this time the 8th grade Whittier Warrior basketball season was in full swing.  My skinny legs, arms and bushy hair were in full glory in my #10 bright blue Warriors uniform.  We had a full slate of games inside our recreational gym that winter and also traveled to play competition in and around the area including our biggest rivals in Norman – fellow middle school rivals Longfellow (they were terrible) and Irving (they were good).

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All arms, legs, and braces in 1985.  Pretty sure the trophy was the result of a 3rd place finish at a holiday tournament in Moore.

“You’re a candle in the window.  On a cold, dark winter’s night.
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might.”

I also had my first real girlfriend during this time.  She had blond hair, blue eyes, and lived across Highway 9 about a mile from my parents’ house.  We held hands.  We hugged.  We walked with our arms around each other.  We flirted on the playground at recess between serious games of six-square.  I put my arm around her in the movie theater.  We even (gasp) kissed!  I still remember a make-out session in my backyard late one weekend night.  It was a sloppy, wet, I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-I’m-doing, totally awesome mess.

And so this particular song brings me back to the memories of 8th grade “love” every time.  I recall my best friend Barry and myself having a conversation about this song in 8th grade.  It was something to the effect of how the song spoke to both of us because we had these girlfriends, and we just couldn’t break up with them.  We were too cool to be attached, but every time Kevin Cronin belted out that it was time to “bring this ship into the shore, and throw away the oars, forever,”  we just had to agree with him.  We just couldn’t fight the feeling anymore, and I’m positive we weren’t the only ones in the midst of middle school passion who felt that way.     

“I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever.  I said there is no reason for my fear.”

We couldn’t see past tomorrow when we were 13.  We were living for the next moment to hold hands, to have a hug, to sneak a kiss.  Those 8th grade moments seemed like they would always be there.  This song, at its’ heart, is really about fear of change, a fear of commitment.  And to some extent, that is what our little pubescent 8th grade minds and bodies were struggling with at that time – change and fear.

“The wind blows and we are gone – as though we had never been here.” – Psalms 103:16 NLT

Thinking back to those days makes me realize how short life really is.  My 8th grade girlfriend didn’t last past 8th grade, but Barry’s did.  They actually ended up dating through high school, college, and marrying, but then sadly divorced shortly after.  Change and fear are constants through life no matter what your age.

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I love this team picture taken near the end of our season for so many reasons.  Our eighth grade faces etched forever in time.  We were so cool.  I still remember all of their names.  I can’t tell you what they’re all doing these days, but I still keep in contact with some of them.  I see a few of them every now and then when I go back to Norman.

One thing about 8th grade basketball, it didn’t matter if you were very good or even really loved basketball, because all were still welcome at this age.  Everyone made the team.  We had 21 players in this picture and I know we’re missing at least one person from this photo because one of our starters is not in it.

I didn’t want this post to just be about an 8th grade flame, but also as an ode to my teammates, my brothers on the Whittier Warriors basketball team of 1984-85, because we were all in this together.  We were all experiencing levels of change and fear during that time.  We battled together against a common opponent with a different name on their jersey, but we also fought with common, bigger opponents then like rejection and insecurity and anxiety.  Those opponents truly never go away I suppose.

By 9th grade, this group had dwindled to about six or seven of us.  And by the time we were all juniors in high school I was the last of this group still playing school basketball.  Others were playing soccer or baseball or football while others were out of sports completely and were just chasing girls and cars and music.  But for a brief time, a beautiful time, we were all teammates banded together by the blue and white of Whittier Warrior basketball.

(The grainy yearbook photo below paints a different set of players that actually totaled 27 players.  This photo was taken at the beginning of the season.)

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“And I can’t fight this feeling anymore.  I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.”

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My actual 45 that I still own of the REO classic

This song spent three weeks at #1 in March of 1985 and is considered REO’s most successful single.  The group had achieved the top spot one other time before this with my personal REO favorite.  It was another soft rock power ballad back in 1981 called “Keep On Loving You.”

The band from Champaign, Illinois actually formed in 1967, but it wasn’t until the early and mid-80’s when the band had their most success behind lead singer Kevin Cronin and his awesome hair.  I’m fully convinced that my hair would have looked like Kevin’s if I had been in a band in the 80’s instead of playing basketball.

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The video is a trek through the changes in life beginning with a baby and ending with an old man.  What it may lack in continuity or comprehension it more than makes up for in awesome 80’s graphics!

Here is the Wagon with that #1 hit that pulled on my heartstrings and was the love song of choice for many of us back in 1985 – “Can’t Fight This Feeling”

Thanks for reading, and let me know if Kevin Cronin spoke to you like he did to me in 1985!

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“Shooting at the Walls of Heartache (Bang Bang)”

“I am the warrior” – Patty Smyth of Scandal

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The hair.  The makeup.  The look only Patty Smyth could pull off in 1984.

Another grown man nearly brought me to tears last night and even this morning as I reflected on his true story.  It’s one of those “feel-good” stories that we all need to soak in from time to time amidst the constant barrage of garbage we’re fueled with from media news outlets every day.

Andre Ingram made his debut in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers last night at the NBA ripe old age of 32.  Andre has been grinding in the minor league of basketball for ten years.  Ten years!  I hate to waiting longer than 10 minutes for my food at a restaurant, and this guy toiled on buses and stayed in cheap motels in outposts like Fort Wayne, Indiana, Erie, Pennsylvania, and Sioux City, Iowa.

The NBA’s developmental league formerly known as the “D League,” but currently called the “G League.”  The “G” is for Gatorade, the current sponsor, and the league is the home to many hooping hopefuls trying to work their way up to a spot in the NBA.  Very few succeed out of the approximately 10-11% that are ever called up to the NBA.  Most of the players in the G League are making less than $27,000 per year, which is a far cry from the average NBA salary of $6.2 million this season.  Hell, teachers in Oklahoma are making more money than G-leaguers and we all know by now they aren’t making near enough money.

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(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

Ten years.  How many of us would have given up on a sports dream if it meant toiling in the minor league system for that long?  Patience and perseverance and sacrifice is what I see when I look at the graying hair of Andre Ingram.  He’s the first to admit there were times when he was discouraged.  Times when he thought this day would never come.  Times when he thought about hanging it up.  Patience and perseverance.  And what kind of wife would support a husband playing a game for that long and all of the travel and nights away from the family?  A wife willing to sacrifice her happiness at times for the dream of her husband.  It’s beautiful really.  Were there fights and arguments at times?  Surely.  Were there tears and anger and disappointment along the road?  There had to be.  They would not be human otherwise.

Still, I got to sit and watch most of the game last night as Ingram not only played, but played well, pouring in 19 points in a Lakers’ loss to Houston.  He made his very first shot (a three-pointer no less), and even received chants of “M-V-P!  M-V-P!” at one point during the game.  It had to feel good to be him in that moment last night.  He’ll get at least one more game in a Laker uniform in their season finale’ tonight against the Clippers.  He may get some more games.  He may never get another into another game.  Either way, I felt good for him last night and for his family.  I was happy for the warrior within him who persevered and never gave up.  Kudos to you, Andre Ingram.

“Yes I am the warrior, and victory is mine”

Ironically enough my Bible reading this morning consisted of a true warrior and his name was David.  Almost everyone has read or heard the story of the handsome youngest son of Jesse who bravely stood up to the nine foot Philistine named Goliath.  David rejected the traditional battle gear and opted for his rod, his sling, and five smooth stones.  It took just one shot to the giant’s head to take him down and turn the momentum of the battle against the Philistines and in favor of the Israelites.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled “David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” Gladwell points out that the victory by David was not necessarily an upset of epic proportions because David possessed the right combination of attributes to actually own the advantage in a non hand to hand combat situation.  He wasn’t weighed down by heavy armor and he obviously was a great shot with a sling and rock.  As a young man who had spent countless days and nights defending his father’s flock of sheep from bears and lions, David was already well equipped with the skills to overcome obstacles and the skills needed for that very meeting with Goliath.

Of course God had also already blessed David and appointed him as the future king to succeed Saul, but God had also prepared him for this moment in history.  David was already a warrior in his heart and mind at this point pleading with King Saul to let him fight Goliath by telling him When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too…(1 Sam 17:34-36)” 

“I don’t want to tame your animal style.  You won’t be caged.  In the call of the wild”

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Today’s featured video is just another ho-hum apocalyptic scene shot in or on top of a warehouse somewhere.  It’s hysterically campy and it makes me laugh thinking that there could be apocalyptic dancing someday which could make this video prophetic.  Video cheesiness aside, this has always been one of my favorite 80’s songs because of Patty Smyth and her vocals and just the rhythm and pace of the song.  Sure the lyrics may be referring to a love affair of some sort, but I like to think that anyone who has persevered through trials and tough times like the aforementioned Andre Ingram or in the ancient days of David, deserves to think of themselves as a warrior.  This song kind of pumps me up.  Sometimes I wish I could walk into a room with intro music.  If so, this would be one of my go-to songs.  If I could only pull off the makeup and the hair as brilliantly as Smyth!

This is Scandal with lead singer Patty Smyth and their 1984 #7 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hit, “The Warrior”…

Go be a warrior today in whatever you do, and thanks for reading.

Bang, bang.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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