“It Won’t Be Easy, But I Gotta Be Strong”

If I wanna cry, I don’t need your shoulder.” – Vixen

I love the Olympics. Always have, and this year I am greatly enjoying the momentary distractions it is providing me amongst the chaos that is currently surrounding my life.

My earliest recollections of the Olympics were L.A. in 1984. I don’t really remember the 1980 winter Olympics and the U.S. boycotted the summer Olympics that year, so ’84 is really the first time I recall being really enthralled with it. I love uniting and cheering for a common cause and U.S. athletes, and that’s what the Olympics tends to do. In 1984, we had Carl Lewis, Mary Lou Retton, Greg Louganis, Edwin Moses, Bart Connor, Rowdy Gaines, and the U.S. amateur men’s basketball team featuring Michael Jordan, Steve Alford, Patrick Ewing, and my new favorite collegiate player at the time – OU’s Wayman Tisdale. Russia returned the favor and boycotted the L.A. Olympics that year, but it didn’t really matter that much to me.

A lot has changed about the Olympics since 1984, but one constant has remained for me – if it’s called a sport and it’s in the Olympics, I’ll give anything a chance. Want to check out Olympic surfing? Ok. How about mixed archery? Sure. Badminton? You bet. Those shuttlecocks fly 200 mph! Three on three basketball? Of course! Skateboarding? Why not! I made mention the other night to my wife that it seems like if you just stay on your skateboard that you’re going to be in the medal hunt. It was crash after crash after crash, but somehow a lot of those participants were “still in the hunt” at the very end. Shout out Horigome Yuto on your gold medal! Your board-sliding flip flap cross-footed halfcab 180 was soooo sick! That’s just a totally nonsensical smattering of skateboarding terms, and not an actual maneuver, but you didn’t know, did you?

“It isn’t like you never had the chance to change your tune.

Did you think that I’m a dime a dance, well the dance is through.”

I do love watching many of the events, but swimming and the track events are my favorites. There’s just something about the competition where it’s you against the clock. There are no random judges awarding you points on style or content or difficulty. It’s just who can get from point A to point B the fastest. The first week of the summer Olympics features swimming while the second week moves to track and field, and it’s fascinating that tenths and hundredths of a second can separate the best competitors in the world. And it was no different for the women’s 100m breaststroke the other night.

The event was to come down between the world record holder, the confident American Lilly King and the South African, Tatjana Schoenmaker– who had set an Olympic record in qualifying and beat King in their semi-final. King hadn’t lost a race since 2015. It looked like it was going to be one of those two until a high school senior from Seward, Alaska out-raced the two favorites down the stretch in a thrilling win, and in turn set off a party in our underappreciated 49th state. Check it out in case you missed it…

Jacoby became the very first Olympic swimmer and Olympic gold medal winner from the state of Alaska. Good on you, Lydia.

“I’ve been living on the edge of a broken heart.

Don’t you wonder why I gotta say goodbye.”

Couple of things I had forgotten about today’s featured song and video was that Richard Marx makes a cameo in the video (he was responsible for producing the band’s debut album and co-writing today’s featured song) as does Poison drummer Rikki Rockett. Between Poison and Vixen, that was a lot of big, blonde hair back in 1988. Also, why are there only three females at the beginning of the video? There were four members in the band at this time, and in the rest of the video as well. Just seemed odd.

Anyway there are a lot of athletes on the edge of a broken heart who may have just missed out on their Olympics dream, so even though this song is about love, you can also think of it for any such heart-breaking disappointment including the Olympic type. Led by lead singer Janet Gardner, who was born in Juneau, Alaska (Alaska connection!), here is the all-female hair metal group, Vixen with their top 40 U.S. hit from ’88 called “Edge of a Broken Heart”

Thanks for reading.

USA! USA! USA!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“But Time Makes You Bolder”

“Even children get older. And I’m getting older too.” – Stevie Nicks

As I sat in hospital room 625 next to my dad’s bed the other night, he looked straight ahead and said “Sometimes I wonder why God still has me alive?” It’s probably the most real, lucid, and raw thing he’s said in months. Even though it was a rhetorical question I felt compelled to answer with a cliche that nonetheless was the best I had to offer: “Well, God still has you here for a reason and we don’t always understand what those reasons are. You just keep doing the best that you can one day at a time.” My 81 year old father just nodded misty-eyed in silence while I sat there misty-eyed thinking the same question.

Time has a way of wearing on you like an old beat up coat that you can’t get rid of even though it just soaks up water instead of repelling it. That coat has gotten heavy for my dad. Broken hip, two fractured shoulders (one of which has me sitting bedside this time), a broken clavicle, and memory issues have left a former All-American athlete with communication issues and on the verge of immobility the past few years. He can ask questions, but he can’t answer the simplest of ones now: What month is it? “March?” What year is it? “Nineteen… 88, no 98… no…” What town are you in? I can see him trying to will his brain to produce the right answer like he used to will his teams to victory as a basketball player and coach. I want him to answer every question correctly so badly. It’s hard to watch. Add all of these physical and mental ailments to a man who’s had to watch his wife of 50+ years succumb to the slow decline of Alzheimer’s the past 10 years, and it’s no wonder he’s asking these kinds of questions.

He was transferred to a skilled nursing rehab facility earlier this evening and now he’s laying in a single bed all alone in a barren, drab brown room with random nurses checking on him and the glare of a television to keep him company. I find a little relief in knowing that my dad is a good patient. He still jokes with the nurses and tries to laugh about things. He could be mad and bitter, and I would not fault him for it. There are times when he is mad at the world, but I’m thankful it’s not his default attitude.

Time drags you down slowly sometimes, and then other times it comes at you swiftly, cruelly, seemingly out of nowhere, and cuts a life abruptly and unfairly short. My co-worker and friend Dave passed away unexpectedly Sunday morning at the age of 39. I had just been hitting golf balls with him and a few of my other co-workers at Top Golf on Thursday afternoon. We hit balls and laughed at our lack of golfing skills. We swapped golf stories and work stories, and family happenings. Per usual, Dave was all smiles and laughs and bragging on his daughter and her upcoming performance at TheatreSquared. There was nothing out of the ordinary that told me or anyone else that something was amiss. Dave left behind a 10 year old daughter, a wife, tons of friends, and a future full of memories never to be made. My co-workers are mad and angry and gutted. So am I.

I want to write something funny or nostalgic. I want to be witty and clever and, I want to laugh. But it hurts right now and I simply can’t. I find temporary distractions in work, and sports, and movies, until something snaps me back, and the familiar feeling of water welling up within my eyes rushes at me again. Time can be a ruthless, selfish bastard, and now it feels like I’m wearing the coat.

“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills ’til the landslide brought me down”

Neither of these versions fits the 80’s theme of this blog because Fleetwood Mac’s original came out in 1975 and The Smashing Pumpkins’ version was released in 1994, but they fit my mood. I suppose if you take an average of these two releases though, you do end up in the 80’s. Regardless, I like both versions for different reasons. Pensive, melancholic, and beautifully sung, pick your favorite or have a go at both of them.

Time to go hug someone. It’s a season. There are better days ahead.

sincerely,

Kyle

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“Tongue-tied and Twisted”

“Just an earth-bound misfit, I.” – Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd in 1988 (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

The title today (and subsequent line) is actually one of my favorites from any 80’s song ever. What’s crazy is that I’ve never been a fan of Pink Floyd. And to be honest, this song comes from the only Pink Floyd album I’ve ever owned. I only own it (still have it on cassette) because my cousin Tina bought it for me either as a Christmas ’87 (or possibly birthday early ’88) gift. She was big into Pink Floyd if I recall. Prior to this album, my total knowledge of Pink Floyd consisted of knowing two songs – 1973’s “Money” and 1979’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).” Those two songs and the common perception that Pink Floyd was “stoner music” was the extent of limited Pink Floyd knowledge around that time. I’m also sure at sometime pre-1987 I thought Pink Floyd was a person, but I think by ’87 I knew just enough to realize that it was a group even though I couldn’t have told you any one single member of the group at that time. (Side note thought: I wonder if the artist Pink has ever performed any Pink Floyd songs in concert? I’d much rather attend a Pink concert too if given a choice. Anyway, I digress.)

“Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything”

I follow a few different music blogs fairly regularly (links to a few of my favorites at the bottom of this post). They’re older bloggers (or shall I say “more mature bloggers”) like myself, so a lot of the music they feature and write about is right in my wheelhouse. One post recently featured a review of this particular album by Pink Floyd from 1987 titled “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” I have to admit that when Tina bought me this cassette I had to feign excitement while curiously wondering if I would play it through more than once. I would have never bought this album, but out of respect for my cousin Tina who I always thought was pretty cool, I was determined to give it a fair shot. And I was pleasantly surprised with the album and how much I enjoyed a few of the songs including today’s featured song “Learning to Fly.”

“A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try”

I was 16 or 17 listening to these lyrics and not really understanding that they are tailor made for those coming-of-age years. As a teenager, I think my soul was in tension a lot as I navigated the tricky world of being a teen as I worried about school and clothes and grades and sports and girls and what the next phase in life was going to look like. “Condition grounded” was a common phase for many of my friends. Groundings for missed curfew or poor grades or poor attitudes. My few groundings were mostly for lack of acceptable grades though I also was grounded once for skipping my afternoon classes when I was a senior. But feelings of being grounded persisted in general for most teens just from the fact of living at home under your parents rule dreaming of the day you’d be living on your own.

The one thing about these Pink Floyd lyrics is that they can be interpreted many ways, and I think that’s the mark of a complex, well-written song. It’s no surprise that I think of my self-described gypsy-nurse cousin Tina when I hear this song. Our paths have crossed a few times through the years, but it’s been nearly five years now since I last saw her.

Around the time I was a senior at Norman High School in 1988-89, she was taking courses at Oklahoma University and working at the McDonald’s not too far from campus. My best friend Barry and I went there to bother her late one night, video camera in hand, during Christmas break.

I think it was Tina who told me she would occasionally skate on the frozen hamburger patties late at night on the McDonald’s floor. Remember that the next time you stop in for a late night burger. We also met up again at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a few years later where she lived in the same dorm (Haskell Hall) just a floor above me for about a semester before she mysteriously disappeared. I remember seeing her in her little convertible, bandanna around her head, and sunglasses covering her eyes as she and her girlfriends would drive off to who knows where. I saw her again at Grandma Ruby’s 100th birthday celebration in Norman in August of 2016, and that’s the last time I’ve seen her in person.

“Above the planet on a wing and a prayer. My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air.”

Coincidentally (or not), Tina is now a Fight Nurse, so she apparently spends a lot of time above the Earth’s surface in a helicopter helping to save people. I see her posts on Insta so I know she’s in Tulsa for the time being, but I may see her scroll one day and she may be in New Mexico or Colorado or Cali. There’s no telling with Tina. She’s travelled much (thus the “gypsy-nurse” moniker), and she’s lived an interesting life of which I know very little of. Our grandma Ruby referred to her on more than one occasion as “a free spirit.” True words indeed and ones I’m sure Pink Floyd followers could relate to back in 1987.

“There’s no sensation to compare with this. Suspended animation, a state of bliss.”

So when my eyes take to the circling skies and they spot a medical chopper, my kudos, my appreciation, admiration, and most of all my thanks go out not only to my cousin Tina, but to all of the flight nurses everywhere that are suspended in animation on a daily basis helping to save lives, and to make this revolving rock a little safer.

“A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night”

The song only reached #70 on the Billboard Hot 100, though it was a #1 hit on the Billboard Rock Tracks chart, but I did enjoy this video anytime it popped up on MTV. It won a MTV Video award for “Best Concept Video” in 1988, and features a young indigenous male wielding a sickle at the beginning of the video. You don’t see that everyday, but cutting through wheat like they used to do does not look like a very fun job. I’ve never tried it, but I actually own an antique sickle like the one he’s using in the video. I inherited it somewhere along the way over the years and now it sits in a storage unit. Another artifact determined to grow old in the shadows.

Not my actual sickle, but it looks just like this one.

The wheat field, the airplane, the feathers, the silly old man dancing around, the conversion into a red-tailed hawk after leaping from a mountain – I like it all. I thought the videography was fantastic in this video directed by Storm Thorgerson. Written primarily by David Gilmour, but also by Anthony Moore, Bob Ezrin, and Jon Carin, here is Pink Floyd with Gilmour on lead vocals and a video shot outside of Calgary, Alberta, it’s “Learning To Fly…”

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to thank a nurse one day soon.

sincerely,

an earth-bound misfit from the 80’s

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My gypsynurse/flight nurse/travelnurse/former McDonald’s employee of the month cousin Tina in the black with glasses in the picture above celebrating Grandma Ruby turning 100 in August of 2016

Oh, and as promised here are some of my favorite music blogs, so check them out:

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“Intensify Security”

“Break the chains that hold me down.” – Platinum Blonde

It was Canada. It was the 80’s. And these guys were apparently a pretty big deal.

I just finished reading another book by Donald Miller. I say “another” like I’ve read ten of his books or something, but this is actually only my second Donald Miller book. I really loved “Blue Like Jazz,” which I read probably 10 years ago (it was published in 2003). I liked his thoughts, and his writing style and the pace of his words They seemed concise and thought-provoking. Yet, I didn’t pick up another Miller penned book until my wife bought me “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” a few months ago. The curious title alone demanded I open the cover.

The book comes about when two producers approach Miller about turning “Blue Like Jazz” into a screenplay for a movie. Miller comes to numerous realizations throughout the process of “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” and that process and self-reflection forms the basis of this book. The realizations force him to make decisions about his own life and what he wants that life to look like and represent. In turn, it makes the reader (or at least it made me) stop and pause at various points throughout as well.

“I thought about Heaven, about how if we were shooting a movie about heaven, at the airport, we would want to shoot it there, and how in the movie, people would be arriving from earth and from other planets, and when the angels picked us up, they’d put us in their cars and drive a million miles for a thousand years, and it would be miserable until you got to where you were supposed to stay, where you would see your family and the girlfriend you had in the second grade, the girl you always believed was the only one who really loved you.” – Donald Miller

There are all kinds of good nuggets and analogies and quotes scattered throughout the book. I also like the fact that he’s introspective enough to convey his thoughts clearly and sometimes hilariously. They’re thoughts I could relate to, and thoughts I’ve had before. Anyone that writes or tries to write has had them. The thoughts and insecurities and self-doubt that come with putting words on paper or on a computer screen can be as perpetual as the blinking cursor on my screen that never tires but still begs to be put to rest.

“If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.” – Donald Miller

I like a good story. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t. And I think we all want to tell a good story with our lives. That’s the quest, right? The question though becomes am I telling a good story? Are we? It’s for each of us to decide and to judge for ourselves. It’s purely subjective, and that’s part of the beauty of individuality – one man’s happiness need not dictate someone else’s.

So what the hell does Donald Miller have to do with a Canadian 80’s glam rock band? Honestly, I just thought to myself – ‘how can I write about this band and this author and make it into one halfway coherent post?’ Well, I probably didn’t succeed. It’s too random, but how about this – I do wonder if Donald Miller could have written some of these lyrics? “Sad Sad Rain” by Platinum Blonde, vocals by Mark Holmes, lyrics by Donald Miller? Eh. It kind of works. Just to be clear, Donald Miller has absolutely nothing to do with Platinum Blonde though the author was born in 1971 putting this band squarely within his influential teenage years.

“Another mask of innocence. You hide away for convenience.”

Sometimes I come across these bands that have their story for the most part, and I wonder if they knew they were writing that story while it was happening, or if they just woke up one day a little soft in the middle, still fancying bad habits, and with little or no financial gain to show for their success? I wonder if the time slipped by so quick that they didn’t slow down to enjoy the success? I wonder if Platinum Blonde is disappointed that they were never more successful in the U.S.? It seems to me they were overlooked, and I will fight you about it too… sans weapons… like Canadians. I don’t care what you think, but I like these guys.

To be honest, I don’t remember this Toronto band that formed originally as a trio in 1982 at all, yet I really have enjoyed listening to their collection of hits the past two weeks. I feel like I’ve stumbled across a brand new band with a nice collection of songs I’ve never heard before. New music from the 80’s! It’s easy to dismiss Platinum Blonde by their name or looking at the hair and makeup, the clothes they have on, and the same cut and paste format in their videos that a lot of bands from the 80’s used. Yet, I would caution you not to do so. I didn’t, and now I have a Canadian 80’s band to add to my Spotify 80’s playlist.

But let this be a lesson to you, because this is what can happen when you Google “Canadian rock bands of the 80’s.” If you’re not familiar with Platinum Blonde either, don’t feel bad. They had zero top 40 hits in the U.S. Zero! Even Tone Loc and Men Without Hats had multiple hits. Yet, Platinum Blonde had only one song that even cracked the top 100 in the U.S. In their homeland, where they are rightly more appreciated, they had 13 songs crack the top 75 including a #1 hit that I’m featuring in this post today. To this statistic, I say bravo Canada. I’m almost ashamed that the U.S. barely bothered with one of your most treasured bands of the 80’s.

My wife loves a movie from 2007 called “Music and Lyrics.” We still own in on DVD. It stars Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. In the movie, Grant stars as a washed up singer from a fictitious 80’s group called “PoP!” If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out sometime. If you have seen it, then Platinum Blonde reminds me of a cross between the fictitious PoP! and Duran Duran – catchy hooks combined with plenty of 80’s style. Here’s the opening video from the movie featuring their fictitious hit, “PoP Goes My Heart.”

“‘Cause I ain’t gonna be your fool no more. ‘Cause I ain’t crying, crying over you.”

Honestly with some of the garbage on the radio in the 80’s, I’m surprised those of us in the lower 48 didn’t hear more from these blond boys north of the border. A real-life #1 hit in Canada in September of 1985 (and by then a quartet featuring Mark Holmes on vocals, Sergio Galli on guitar, Chris Steffler on drums, and Kenny MacLean on bass), here is Platinum Blonde with “Crying Over You.”

I’ll leave you with one last Donald Miller quote from the book:

“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.”

Now get out there and go live a good story. Platinum Blonde surely has even if it wasn’t necessarily in the U.S.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Now, red, white, black, tan, yellow, or brown,”

“It really doesn’t matter, we can all get down” – Digital Underground

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Last Friday morning I told my twenty-something-year-old co-worker that it was a sad day in the music world, and then I asked her did she knew who “Shock G” was? I didn’t really expect her to know, and she didn’t. That did allow me to recite the first verse of his most famous song, “The Humpty Dance.” Even then, she barely recognized the song. The only reason she did is because she has a five-year-old and they had seen the animated Disney movie “Sing” where apparently an alligator performs a short portion of “The Humpty Dance” during an auditions scene. I probably should have asked her mom instead.

Gregory Jacobs, aka “Shock G,” aka “Humpty Hump” passed away last Thursday night in L.A. at the age of 57. If you know me, or have read some of my posts in the past on this site, then you know of my affinity for rap music especially in the 80’s. For me, rap music was new and fun and interesting and exciting. Others didn’t really “get it” or understand it, but in the 80’s I voraciously consumed the likes of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, and The Beastie Boys among many others.

As the 80’s were coming to a close though, rap music was dropping very political and raw lyrics as groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy were stepping to the forefront speaking out against social injustices and what life was like for many growing up in the hood. A lot of this new “gangsta rap” I totally dug too, but I couldn’t really relate. After all, I was a suburban middle-class white kid living in Oklahoma.

I think that’s why I gravitated so hard towards a brand new group out of Oakland that burst onto the rap scene nationally in 1990. The group was Digital Underground and the album was “Sex Packets,” and it truly was unique. The album steered myself and those like me back into that fun arena; that danceable arena with cool grooves and clever lyrics, and it really started with Shock G’s alter ego Humpty Hump and the iconic song “The Humpty Dance.”

Many thought Humpty Hump and Shock G were two different people. Jacobs even created a fictional biography for Humpty Hump. The fictitious backstory was that Edward Ellington Humphrey III, former lead singer of “Smooth Eddie and the Humpers,” had become a rapper after burning his nose in a kitchen accident with a deep-fryer. The story was apparently even told by Casey Kasem on his then countdown show “Casey’s Top 40.” I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but if it is, it’s hilarious, and I would love to hear it one day. I wonder how mad Casey was when he found out, or if he ever found out, or if he even cared.

At most public appearances, Jacobs would show up as one person or the other, but at live shows and video shoots he would use a stand-in (he apparently has a brother that bears a similar resemblance), or camera tricks to maintain the illusion. I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure at first either if they were two different people or not.

It was “The Humpty Dance” that led me to purchase the D.U. cd, “Sex Packets,” my freshman year at St. Gregory’s College. I bought two subsequent cd’s after that as well in 1991 – “This is an E.P. Release” and “Sons of the P.” Ultimately, “Sex Packets” will forever be their crowning achievement, and if that’s all Shock G, Money B, and the rest of the Underground had ever done, it would have been enough in my books. But then they went and appeared in a Disney animated film as well so five-year-olds across the world (and their moms) would know about Humpty Hump.

“Now as the record spins around, you recognize this sound,
Well, it’s the Underground,
You know that we’re down with wutchyalike”

Most people have heard “The Humpty Dance” in one form or another, so here are five more of my favorite Digital Underground songs to check out if you have any interest in diving further into the Digital Underground catalog:

  1. Same Song” – Probably my favorite D.U. song. Plus, it introduced us to one-time D.U. member Tupac Shakur. That’s right – Tupac makes his rapping debut on this tune… “Tupac, go ahead rock this…” The song was also oddly featured in the Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy movie “Nothing But Trouble.” Favorite lyric: “Hypothetical, political, lyrical, miracle whip (same song). Just like butter, my rhymes are legit.”
  2. Doowutchyalike” – the video is below and there is an extended version of this song that is worth checking out on Spotify or Apple or wherever you stream your music from, but whatever you think of the video, the song was for “… rich, poor, high, low, or upper-middle class, let’s all get together and have a few laughs, and doowhatewelike.”
  3. Kiss You Back” – the best song from their ’91 album “Sons of the P.” You’ll be humming “Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop” in no time after one or two listens to this danceable track.
  4. Freaks of the Industry” – what kind of self-respecting rap group doesn’t have a classic freaky sex song? D.U. brought the heat with this entertaining tale. Favorite lyric: “After the ride, put my clothes on and walk outside, and before anybody gets a chance to speak, I say, ‘Yo, don’t say nuttin’, I guess I’m just a freak!’
  5. Packet Man” – Another song from their “Sex Packets” album which was a concept album loosely based on “G.S.R.A.” (Genetic Suppression Relief Antidotes) intended for astronauts. I’ll let you go down that rabbit hole further should it peak your interest. Favorite lyric: “These are 40, these are 80, and this one here is 10. Just give me a hundred dollars, I’ll call it even. But don’t pull your money out yet, see. There’s one or two narcs in this area that sweat me.”

(Also check out 2Pac’s “I Get Around” from his second album “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” The song features Shock G and Money B)

Still questioning my fandom? Well, I present to you the NSU Redmen basketball media guide from 1992-93. Just check out the nickname I gave myself when I had to fill out the questionnaire for said media guide back in 1992. (I really didn’t think they’d print it, but they did…)

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Maybe “The Humpty Dance” should be the featured video in this post, but Shock G was much more than just an alter-ego with a glasses and nose prop. Jacobs learned drums early in his life as well as bass, and taught himself to play piano too. He was creative and funny and talented (Jacobs drew the cartoonish covers you see on the album covers as well). He was also occasionally raunchy and raw, but he helped cultivate the early Oakland hip-hop/rap scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and he helped give us all a solid legacy of funky rap music to enjoy.

From their 1990 debut album, “Sex Packets,” here is their first hit song and accompanying video which was actually released in 1989.

“Just havin’ fun y’all, and if you think that it’s wrong, you got to admit, it’s a new type of song, Doowutchyalike…”

R.I.P. Shock G, and wherever you are, I hope you doowutchyalike.

Peace and Humptiness forever.

sincerely,

the 80’s, aka “The Packet Man”

P.S. As a bonus… For an awesome abbreviated version of “Packet Man,” check out this “Sesame Street” rendition…

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“Running Just As Fast As We Can”

“Holding onto one another hands.” – Tiffany

I can’t run as fast I used to be able to. I turned 50 a few weeks ago. I don’t really feel any different than I did when I was 49, but yet I can’t seem to shake that number. It seems big. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s just perspective. I think I’ll just go with perspective. After all, forty didn’t seem too big. Thirty was barely a blip. I don’t even really remember 20. The only thing 50 really reminds me of immediately is that my general physician said I’ll need to have a colonoscopy this year. Shit.

For some reference: In 1971, movie tickets were $1.50, and a gallon of gas averaged 40 cents. The average cost of a new house was $25,250. Disney World in Florida opened while the voting age was officially lowered to 18. Federal Express and Tupac Shakur were born in 1971, and on the music scene Led Zeppelin IV was released while Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison died of a drug overdose in Paris at the age of 27. The Billboard Song of the Year was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, and also in 1971 The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards turned 73 (unverified). You keep going Keith!

“Rat, when it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.”

I’m also reminded how time is ticking ever so quickly especially when I watch a movie or a video or old concert footage where the star is no longer with us. I watched an old documentary on Amazon Prime the other day about The Eagles and their “Hell Freezes Over” album and concert from 1994. I bought that cd a day or two after it was released. I love The Eagles, but it’s hard to imagine that was about 27 years ago. It makes me sad to hear the sweet sounds of Glen Frey and realize he’s been gone for over five years now. But I do imagine Glen is somewhere taking it easy.

This blog hasn’t even been around five years yet, but it’s getting close. I think I like writing on here because the words are out there. They seem permanent, and they may even be out there long after I’m gone. I told my wife to make sure she pays my annual website domain fee should anything happen to me, because all of these words may disappear like they were never written, like they never existed should my payment lapse for too long. She just shook her head at me. I’ve heard of digital and social media executors so maybe I should look into that. I don’t know. Maybe my wife and/or daughter will ultimately fill that role. I have a lot of other things with higher priority right now, so I’ll worry about social media executors and the such tomorrow, and hope that tomorrow comes.

But whatever does come along during my 51st year in this earthly body, I want to do my best to be present and fully immersed in the moment. Ultimately, that’s really all I have control over. And, I’ll keep running just as fast as I can… except when it’s time for the anesthesia for my colonoscopy.

“Look at the way we gotta hide what we’re doin’ ‘Cause what would they say if they ever knew.”

You know who else turns 50 this year? You got it. Tiffany Darwish turns 50 this September. I wasn’t exactly into Tiffany when she debuted in 1987, and had her ensuing “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87.” I liked shopping malls, but I wasn’t going to a concert at one. I wanted to buy fresh kicks and cassettes and books at the mall, not watch a peer sing pop covers of Tommy James and the Shondells. But that’s exactly what Tiffany’s management team did – they scheduled a 10 city tour that included three twenty minute performances at various shopping malls starting in Peramus, New Jersey.

At the age of 16 years, Tiffany became the youngest female artist to achieve a No. 1 album (quadruple platinum) and also the youngest to have two consecutive No. 1 singles. I hadn’t watched this whole video probably since since 1987, and I have to say I wasn’t totally turned off by it. The fact that some of the scenes are in soon-to-be-relics known as shopping malls makes this video somewhat nostalgic. A Motley Crue video this is not, but a solid 80’s representation this video most assuredly is.

There are two parts of this video I really like: at the 1:10 mark you get to see “security” holding back the raucous shopping-mall crowd, and then the dance sequence that begins around the 2:23 mark and includes the old man with the crazy hair dancing on stage with Tiffany. In a few more years I may be the old man with the bad hair dancing at a concert with a teenage superstar. Life is full of possibilities. Possibilities that include being a worldwide superstar singer at the age of 16.

So, here is then 16-year-old Tiffany with one of those two consecutive number one singles – a remake of a #1 hit from 1967 by Tommy James and the Shondells – “I Think We’re Alone Now”…

A happy early birthday to Tiffany, and, as always, thanks for checking in and reading. I appreciate you all… even you – random internet reader whom I’ll probably never meet.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“And When the Night is Cold and Dark”

“You can see, you can see light.” – Corey Hart

I’ve found myself pondering on Matthew 5:45 more than normal the past 12 months.

For those of you who haven’t memorized The Bible yet, it’s the scripture that (paraphrasing) says how God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and that He sends rain on both the righteous and unrighteous.

Basically, just because you’re a “good person” or call yourself a “Christian,” doesn’t mean you’ll be without your share of hardships or times of tribulation whether they be physical, mental, financially, emotionally, etc.

That’s logical right? You’re living on Fantasy Island (shout-out Ricardo Montalbon) if you think you’ll be able to avoid pain and suffering during our time on this rock. But let’s be honest, that verse, that thought, is much easier to quote when it doesn’t really affect you.

There’s still something in the deep recesses of the human psyche that says do good things and good things will be done to you, good karma begets good karma. But good deeds and good karma also end in cancer and divorce and mental illness and bankruptcy, and in global pandemics.

“With a little perseverance, you can get things done.”

There are numerous difficult times in our lives where we just need an encouraging word, a helping hand, a warm embrace. Even a nice email or text can make a difference. Heck, even a comment from a stranger on a random blog post can be a lift for those of us that pose as part-time writers like myself.

I think those people that say “I don’t care what people think of me,” are covering for some sort of insecurity. We need someone to notice us, or just give us some assurance that we are being seen or heard, or that we make a difference, and that this too shall pass. The difficult times and circumstances are different for everyone as we all struggle with grief, illness, self-doubt, and self-worth. They are often referred to as valleys, and those valleys can seem dark and endless. The thing about valleys though is that they give you an appreciation for the peaks.

My wife and I recently hiked a popular trail here in Arkansas called Whitaker Point Trail. It’s about three miles in and out, and not too strenuous. It leads you to a great photo op and a fantastic view within the Ozark Mountains called “Hawksbill Crag.” The Crag is a rock formation that juts out from the side of a bluff about 1,900 feet off of the ground.

Appreciation comes at the top – high above the valley below. And thank you random college girl for taking our photo and not running off with my iphone.

Obviously people have died there, and there are warning signs before you even begin the hike, though we were out there with many people who had children and pets (on leashes) along the trail. So the fact that you could plummet to your untimely death can definitely be in the back of your mind, particularly as you wind your way along the side of a bluff for some of the hike to this particular point.

There’s a path to this point. The path takes you from the parking area down through the trees and near some water and then winds you up and to the top. You look out and enjoy the view for a bit. You sit and think about the vastness of nature, and the greater power that created it, and how small we all really are. Small, but not insignificant.

Along the path you realize you’re not alone. There are others on the same path that know where they’re going. And there are others wandering and meandering in different directions for different views and just enjoying the trip. Time is just a minor inconvenience. And still there are others who are in a hurry with sands in the hourglass seemingly dictating their pace as they hurry from point A to point B, and then onto the next adventure, the next path.

Whatever path you’re currently on or whatever road you’re travelling, let this be a little reminder that there are those that have been there before you and those that will be following your path soon. Whatever you do, whether through rain or in sun, whether you’re at a peak or in a valley, just keep going.

“And if your path won’t lead you home, you can never surrender.”

When people think of Corey Hart, I would say “Sunglasses at Night” comes to mind for most simply because it was so popular and MTV played the wayfarers out of that video in 1984. Even though it was not his highest charting single in the U.S. (peaking only at #7), I think many casual listeners equate that as his most popular single. I saw Corey in Norman, Oklahoma when he opened for Rick Springfield on Rick’s “Hard to Hold Tour” in 1984, and of course “Sunglasses” was his only recognizable hit at that time for most of us there.

Truth is, in August of 1985, this single – “Never Surrender” peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Both weeks it was kept from moving up as Tears For Fears (“Shout”) and Huey Lewis and the News (“Power of Love”) took turns at #1 and #2 keeping Corey’s survival ballad out of the top two spots. In his native Canada though, this single spent four weeks at #1 and won the Juno Award as the single of the year. Props to you, Canada, because I think Corey was cheated out of a deserving #1 spot in the U.S.

His first single (and most successful) from his second studio album, “Boy in the Box,” here is Corey Hart and “Never Surrender”

As a bonus, Corey put together an updated, stripped-down 2020 version of the song, which I had hoped would end with him wearing a black leather jacket at the end of the video. Appreciate you Corey, but if you’re going to ditch the suit, the least you could do is don your circa mid-80’s black leather jacket. Regardless, it’s a nice sentiment in a tough time for many…

Thanks for reading, and thanks Corey for your gift of this song.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“It’s Early Morning, the Sun Comes Out”

“Last night was shaking, and pretty loud.” – Scorpions

“Hey Uncle Kyle, do you know the song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by The Beatles?”

Uh, you mean Scorpions?

“(Laughing) Oh, yeah, Scorpions.” – Keller P. (age 5)

Paul, John, George, and Ringo they are not.

Well before the aforementioned “morning sun” peaks over the horizon at his country home in Wisconsin, my cool little nephew Keller is up and ready for the day. His dad (my brother-in-law) Nick gets up very early most mornings to go into work so Keller follows suit and is usually up and awake and at full throttle by 5 a.m. getting some quality time with dad before he’s out the door.

My sister came to visit my wife and I here in Arkansas, and brought Keller and his little sister Sylvie with her. We haven’t seen them since just before the pandemic shut down the country last year. They’ve been isolated much of the time back at their home outside of Madison. Keller is five but as tall as a seven year old, and with his wavy blonde locks he looks like he belongs on a west coast beach carrying a surf board.

I’d put his musical acumen up against any five year old in the country. The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Grateful Dead, Imagine Dragons, Beastie Boys, and The Rolling Stones (though he can’t name a song when pressed for one) are just some of the artists he’ll name for you, but the list of musical artists he can name and identify doesn’t stop there.

Keller can talk, and by that, I mean he has no shortage of words. Depending upon the study, men speak somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000 words per day. I think Keller is cruising into 15k by about 9 or 9:30… a.m. At times keeping up with him can be totally exhausting (as my sister and brother-in-law can surely attest), but most of the time he’s funny, and strange, and outrageous and intelligent and sometimes just full of five-year-old absurdities. I tell people that if he starts a podcast it should be called “And Guess What?” because he loves to say “and guess what?” He barely waits for you to respond with “what?” before launching into some topic or story.

The future “And Guess What?” podcast

He introduced me to the Australian animated Disney show “Bluey.” He tells me that back in Wisconsin they have a neighbor who talks like they do on “Bluey” and calls he and his sister “mates” (he’s apparently from New Zealand). Keller is going to be a dino rancher one day (another Disney show). He loves Super Mario and is a self-described expert when it comes to winning at any Super Mario game ever on any platform anywhere.

Speaking of video games, he downloads games onto his iPad so frequently taking up all of the memory storage that his mom has to constantly delete games so that he’ll have space to download more games in the future. At first he thought my phone was pretty lame since the only game on it is the Wheel of Fortune of app. Shout out Pat Sajak and Vanna White! But after I helped him win some fake money and solve a few puzzles, he really started liking it, and who can blame him? #futurewheelwatcher

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bluey-2.jpg

His memory is fascinating. With no prompting, he remembered a spot where we watched fireworks from on the 4th of July in 2019 when he was barely four. He likes Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (obviously), but also cheers for the Everton FC and can sing their unofficial (official?) club song, “It’s a Grand Old Team.” And it’s made even cuter when little sister Sylvie joins in and sings along. Heck, I didn’t even know Everton existed until recently. Now I know it’s a soccer, excuse me, football team in England and… “We only know that there’s going to be a show when the Everton boys are there!”

He has a girlfriend at school, and her name is apparently Julie Kim (unverified), but she’s 12 and he doesn’t really know her that well. These Gen Alpha romances. The next day he told me he had 10,000 girlfriends and they all lived right next door so take the girlfriend comment with a grain of salt.

He digs “hug tag,” which is a game my wife created combining the basics of tag with giving hugs. He’s a fan of David Bowie’s “Magic Dance” from the movie “Labyrinth,” and he also likes Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” We played “Eye of the Tiger” during our boxing matches over the course of two days which totally wore me out. He loves chicken nuggets, french fries, and fruit punch from “Chic-filets.”

“The night is calling, I have to go. The wolf is hungry, he runs the show.”

He thinks A LOT about anacondas and tarantulas and werewolves. We played werewolf sounds on the Alexa one night (at his request), but it scared him so we had to tell Alexa to stop. He told me on numerous occasions that he saw an anaconda in our backyard even though he knows they’re mostly found in rain forests. I’ll be extra cautious though when venturing out into my suburban back yard from now on.

He thinks my knock-knock jokes are hilarious: “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Who. Who-who? What, are you an owl?!” Hysterical laughing follows every time.

He accidentally dropped a “dammit!” but he used it appropriately when he couldn’t get his pajama shirt on right so I didn’t feel the need for correction at that point. Pajama tops have caused me to say dammit before too. He can drop quotes from “Lego Batman,” and can spin half-hour tales from the bathtub if you let him all the while spilling bathwater all over the floor. He loves Avengers. He says red and black are his favorite colors because they’re the colors of Deadpool even though he’s never seen one minute of Deadpool.

Keller can be a handful. He will test boundaries and your patience. He might resemble a miniature hurricane at times, but he’s sweet and will give hugs and kisses and lay on your chest and fall asleep. He will tell you he loves you, and at the end of a long day, that makes it all worth it.

“Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.”

The Scorpions have been around in some incarnation since 1965 making them some of the elder statesmen of the heavy metal world. Formed by song-writer and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, they enjoyed their most success from the late 70’s through the early 90’s.

Truth be told, Keller actually prefers this song as covered from the “Trolls World Tour” sung by actress Rachel Bloom. Sorry Scorpions. Uh, I never said he was perfect ok? I’m blaming it on the Gen Alpha thing again. He also said he got stung by a scorpion once. It didn’t hurt though. Guess those Wisconsin scorpions don’t have quite the same sting as their southwestern relatives.

This group has some sting though and one of my favorite 80’s guitar solos belongs to Matthias Jabs in this iconic 80’s song. It was their lead single from their ninth (yes, ninth!) studio album in 1984 called “Love At First Sting.” I was 13 and this was really the first time I recall being introduced to the Scorpions. I sure wasn’t five. This video lacks anacondas or werewolves, but still may be a little too scary for Keller at this time. But when the time is right my little man, crank up the volume, and immerse yourself in Germany’s greatest hard rock band with their sexy vixens and their shaking cage and what has ultimately become their signature song – “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” And if this version properly rocks your face off, well, I’m sure Rachel Bloom will understand.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“You Belong Among the Wildflowers”


“You belong in a boat out at sea” – Tom Petty

(Photo by Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

My daughter moved most of her stuff out of the house last night. She’s 20 and working two jobs and well, it’s time I guess. That didn’t make it any easier to watch her go though. It was tough. My wife and I had a glass of wine. That didn’t really help. We made busy with household chores to distract ourselves, and then we had a second glass, and that did help… a little. She’s only moving across town about 10 minutes away, but it mine as well be Australia. The sting is still real.

At times it seems like your children will be with you forever, and you want them to be with you, and you get used to that familiar feeling of family and the highs and lows that go along with that on a daily basis. And then there are times where you’re ready to throw all of their crap on the front lawn and demand they leave. And then all of sudden, one day they do. They go. Those firsts – first steps, first words, first lost tooth, first bike ride, first girlfriend/boyfriend, first heartbreak, and first drive have suddenly turned into first apartment and first bills.

The house becomes quieter. The mood a little more somber at times. The mind becomes a playground for doubt and fear. Prayers are called out to combat the vicious lies… but are they? Did we really teach her enough? Did we fail her? What happens if her car breaks down? She has no savings! Were we very good parents? Will she get enough nutritious food to eat? Is her new place safe? Is she hanging out with the “right kind” of people? Oh man, I never got around to making that homemade shiv with her, and showing her how to use it!

Will she make it on her own? If she doesn’t, and ends up back at home in three weeks or three months or three years from now, what does that even mean?

I thought back to August of 1989 when I moved out of the house and into the dorms for my first semester of college. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I remember that I cried a little bit that day too as I made the 45 minute trip to St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee. I don’t remember my dad being home when I left. I’m sure he was on the road recruiting for the University of Oklahoma at the time, but my mom was definitely there. She was there as I backed out of my parents’ driveway in the ’84 Camaro they had bought me.

I wonder if she cried after I was gone. Probably. At least she still had my sister at home, but I was still the first and I was leaving. I wasn’t really gone totally. I was immediately back home that Friday afternoon after classes ended that day, and did so a lot that first semester away from home. Leaving and letting go of home is not easy on the child either.

“Go away somewhere all bright and new. I have seen no other who compares with you.”

Our daughter is one that has always forged her own path. As parents, my wife and I envisioned a different move that probably aligned more with our vision than hers. We thought maybe it would be into a college dorm (college just isn’t her jam yet), or maybe into a cute little apartment with her best friend. The move out wasn’t contentious, but it wasn’t exactly like what we thought her moving out would look like. My wife envisioned being able to help her pick out a place and help her move into it and decorate it. That did not happen. I thought she would live with us until she actually had some savings and some sort of plan for her future. That really didn’t happen either. One day it was “hey, I’m moving in with Ally” and over the course of about 30 days she’s made it happen. At the time, she had no job and 200 bucks in a savings account. Since then she’s worked three different jobs and is somehow making it work so far. That alone demands some sort of respect and admiration however painful it still may be right now.

It’s a new chapter for her. It’s a new chapter for us. Adjustments will be made and life will go on, but it’ll just be different now. She still has a world of possibilities before her. But one day and God-willing, she’ll be the parent releasing the child and thinking about how fast it all went, and maybe she’ll wonder if mom and dad cried after she had left this house those many years ago. We did.

“You belong somewhere you feel free. You belong somewhere you feel free.”

It’s not an 80’s song today, but close. Instead, it’s one of the great artists of the 80’s, Tom Petty with his 1994 song from the album of the same name, “Wildflowers.” The video below was a home recorded demo version of the song with video that was released posthumously in 2020. My daughter has a little bit of this song to her, so I found it fitting for today’s post. It makes me a little sad to watch Tom in this video and I do miss that he’s no longer with us. And I miss my daughter.

Thanks for the reading. Go hug your child, and if you don’t have any, go hug a random child. No, wait, don’t do that. Just go hug your mom.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Shortly after my daughter’s birth in Dec. 2000
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“There’s No Stopping Us (No Stopping)”

“No one does it better (No one does it better).” – Ollie & Jerry

And no one did it better in 1984 for the poppers and the lockers than this duo that teamed up for the title track to the 1984 movie “Breakin’.” I had never seen this entire movie until a recent podcast I listen to (shoutout “Stuck in the 80’s“) covered this movie and its’ relevance coming on the heels of the COVID-related death of Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones (aka Orlando “Ozone” in “Breakin'”) in December.

So I pulled the movie up on Youtube and watched it in the nine parts it’s broken into. The movie also features Christopher McDonald (who? you’ll recognize him when you see him), Ice-T, and even a cameo of Jean-Claude van Damme in his first role though it was so small it was uncredited. Saying the acting is poor is not even relevant for this movie, because if you’re watching it for the acting then you know nothing about “Breakin’.” The dancing is where it’s at and no one did it better in 1984 than Quinones and his co-star Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers. I’m just hypothetically speaking though because I of course have no idea if anyone could do it better, but let’s just say these were two of the best.

By 1984, even kids in the sticks (like me in Seminole, Oklahoma) knew what poppin’ and lockin’ was, and we had all also seen Michael Jackson perform the mesmerizing moonwalk by this time. We (myself included) had all tried really hard to imitate it, but the results were poor at best. Interestingly, it was Chambers (after learning the move from his older brother) who had helped Michael Jackson perfect the moonwalk and taught him his style of popping as well.

Shortly after “Breakin'” exposed kids everywhere to the popular dance form, I bought this album below. Now, this is not to be confused with the 1984 album “Breakin'” from the movie I’ve been writing about so far. No, this was a different album with breakdance music that came with a “how-to” poster so you too could be the next “Ozone” or “Turbo.”

I actually think I owned the cassette, but whether it was the cassette or the album, I definitely had this poster. The album was produced by K-tel, a company that was popular particularly in the 60’s and 70’s for compilation albums. Think of it as the precursor to Spotify or Apple or Amazon Music playlists. People would purchase K-tel albums with hits from various artists. My first K-tel album was an album I think I got for Christmas in 1979 or possibly my birthday early in 1980, and it was called “Wings of Sound.”

The album definitely had some songs I played over and over in my room. The ones I enjoyed were the two Michael Jackson hits (“Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough), “the Pina Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes, K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go,” and “Lonesome Loser” by The Little River Band. Occasionally “This is It” by Kenny Loggins and “Ladies Night” by Kool and the Gang were allowed to play as well as Blondie’s “Dreaming.” The other songs by Journey, Nick Lowe, John Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sniff n’ the Tears, ABBA, and France Joli were all relegated to being skipped on the turntable if I was close by.

“Out in the street
You don’t survive by being weak
This is our time
Walls were made for us to climb”

So, back to my K-tel “Breakdance” album and poster… I worked diligently in my bedroom for what had to have been literally days, maybe even weeks (gasp!) trying my best to become the greatest break dancer in Seminole. I could actually moonwalk a little bit in my penny loafers. I could do a small amount of body poppin’. I could not top-rock, nor could I headspin. Pretty sure I hurt my neck at one point trying to headspin. So, utterly frustrated by my lack of mastery after at least two weeks, I did what any spoiled, lazy 13 year-old would do – I gave up.

I have no idea what happened to this poster or this album. I’m sure it was given away or sold in some garage sale or possibly just thrown out at some point. I have to imagine that the tracks on this album were hastily compiled without a thought or a care to longevity, but instead with a nod to the almighty dollar. No, this album wasn’t exactly put together to challenge The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” or Prince’s “Purple Rain” for greatness.

“Don’t you try to lock us out
Cause were breaking down the doors
And ohhhh…we just came to fight.”

And dance fighting they did in this movie! Ollie and Jerry (Ollie Brown & Jerry Knight) joined forces in 1984 for the movie soundtrack to “Breakin’,” and put together this masterpiece which peaked at #5 in the UK and #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The duo never did much after this. They tried to duplicate their success with the song “Electric Boogaloo” from the sequel “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The song barely charted in the UK, and failed to chart in the U.S. Shortly thereafter, there was no more Ollie & Jerry. It’s ok though, because for three minutes and thirty seconds they gave dancing kids and dancing wannabes all over the world a classic in which to break, pop, lock, and spin.

Relive your youth and enjoy the dance craze that was sweeping the nation in 1984 with Ollie & Jerry and “Breakin’: There’s No Stopping Us.” Oh, and watch for Jean Claude in his black wrestling singlet dancing in the background around the 2:30-2:45 minute mark!

Thanks for reading, and now that there’s no stopping you, go show off your poppin’ and lockin’ skills.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Straight outta church: Your poppin’ and lockin’ author circa 1983 with trusty Duke the poodle in one arm and a vintage turntable and television in the background.
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