Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In Appreciation of Freddy Curci, My New Savior of Sickness

Sometimes I get inspired to post by strange, random things.  This is one of those times.  Sunday night, I was on my way to to Target with the kids.  They were being total shits, as kids are wont to do.  We were listening to the '80s channel on SiriusXM, as I'm wont to do, and "When I'm With You" by Sheriff came on.  I have not heard that song in, I would guess, 25-28 years.

As a faithful weekly listener to American Top 40 in the mid '80s to early '90s -- both in the Casey Kasem and Shadoe Stevens eras -- I tend to remember things that have no relevance to anything other than in my own mind, thanks to the little facts about songs that Kasem and Stevens would often mention.  Of course, as the years go by and there is some strange factoid I heard once upon a time, I now question if it was something real or if I was misremembering.  One of those things I remembered as soon as I heard "When I'm With You" Sunday night was that, at the end of the song, the singer sang what was the longest-ever sustained note in a Top 40 song.

That's something that will keep me up at night, so I made sure to look up the song as soon as I got into Target.  I was confused when I saw that the song was originally released in 1983.  How could this be?, I thought, This song wasn't popular until I was in fifth grade.  Well, friends, this is where the story gets interesting -- not that you haven't been captivated thus far.  

Sheriff was a Canadian rock band in the early '80s.  They released one album, their self-titled 1982 release that included "When I'm With You."  The song was a hit in Canada, hitting #8 on the Canadian pop charts, but only a minor hit in the U.S., topping out at #61 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Sheriff broke up by 1985, and the guys in the band went their separate ways.

Fast forward to late 1988, and a few DJs in the U.S. start playing "When I'm With You" on their local stations, and sure enough, it started to gain popularity.  Capitol re-releases it as a single, and it goes to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1989, becoming one of the only songs in the MTV era to hit #1 without a music video.  And sure as shit, the last note of the song, which singer Freddy Curci sustains for 19.4 seconds, is the longest known note sustained by a male singer in pop history.

So what's a broken-up band to do when they have a #1 song six years after it was released?  Well, the keyboardist (who wrote the song) and bassist had already formed another band, so a Sheriff reunion was out of the question, leaving the lead singer (Curci) and guitarist Steve DeMarchi to form their own band, Alias.  Of course, Alias had a #2 hit in 1990 with "More Than Words Can Say," another power ballad I haven't heard since the elder Bush Administration.

As I drifted off to sleep Sunday night, I had an earworm in the form of "When I'm With You."  In the pantheon of non-hair band power ballads from the late '80s and early '90s, I'll admit that I used to mix up Sheriff, Alias, and Bad English, and their respective songs "When I'm With You," "More Than Words Can Say," and "When I See You Smile."  Throw in Extreme's "More Than Words," and it could get very confusing back between 1989 and 1991.  I will never make those mistakes again.

It turns out that my earlier concerns about Sheriff-related trivia keeping me up at night were unwarranted.  What would keep me up, however, was severe digestive issues.  As I mentioned in my post earlier tonight, Sunday night and early Monday morning were marked by nausea of an unknown origin.  After tossing and turning for a couple hours with some queasiness, I woke up at about 4 a.m. Monday morning, stumbled to the bathroom, and had a rather voluminous vomit.  Well that was strange, I thought, I didn't feel queasy before I went to bed.  Surely, it was some freak glitch in the computer game that controls my life, and now that I've got that out of my system, I'll go back to bed and wake up refreshed when my alarm goes off.  That's always how these things work, right?  Wrong.  Around 5:15, after some restless half-sleeping, I realized that if I didn't get up right then, I'd be cleaning puke out of my sheets for the first time since I was a kid -- well, my own puke anyway.  I gave whatever was left in my stomach to the bottom of the toilet, and then some, before returning to bed, informing my wife that I would not be going to work, and curling up in the fetal position wondering what I had done to upset Xenu.

Sometime between 9 and 10, after the wife and kids went to work and school, respectively, I crawled out of bed and made my way downstairs to grab a cup of water, feeling like someone had beaten my abs and kidneys with one of those little souvenir baseball bats.  My head felt worse.

I spent most of yesterday lying on my couch, occasionally checking my email on my phone, and then checking out YouTube to listen to "When I'm With You" and Alias's "More Than Words Can Say."

If you were to walk into my living room yesterday, you would have seen one a rather pathetic scene.  An outside observer might have assumed I was in the throes of a devastating break-up with the only girl I've ever loved.  Here I am, curled up on the couch under a blanket in a dark room, shades drawn, lights off, TV off, looking like pallid death, eyes half open, mouth breathing, half-groaning every third breath, staring blankly at the ceiling, while listening to '80s power ballads about unrequited love.

What one contemplates when lying on his couch at 11:30 on a Monday morning is why "When I'm With You" wasn't a hit in 1983, but then was a #1 song in 1989.  My only thought was that it was ahead of its time.  I'm not kidding.  So Sheriff was a rock band.  I won't call them a hair band because, after a quick listen to the other songs from their album, I'd put them more in the category of a Foreigner or a Boston or a Night Ranger.  Good, solid AOR.  But the hair band reference is important.  It wasn't for another few years before Mötley Crüe released "Home Sweet Home" that really kickstarted the era of the rock power ballad, which was mainly spearheaded by hair bands.  By the time "When I'm With You" was rediscovered in 1988, it was not only acceptable for rock bands to have power ballads, but that's what the record companies wanted and expected, for better or worse.  To paraphrase some hair band rocker, you released the hard rock songs to get the guys to buy your records, and you released the power ballads to get their girlfriends to buy your records.

When you listen to "When I'm With You" -- and you will, very soon, I promise -- you may or may not reach the same conclusion as I did:  this could just as easily be on an Air Supply record in 1982 as it could be on Warrant record in 1989.  I don't mean that in a bad way.  It's catchy as hell.  Curci's "bay-bay-ee-yay-ee-yay" at the beginning of each verse is bound to stay in your head for a few days.  And don't forget to listen to that last 19.4 seconds.

Curci's follow-up hit, Alias's "More Than Words Can Say" is another solid power ballad, with a little more power (and a wicked guitar solo), given that it was written in the era of the hair band power ballad.  And that song actually has a video!

So in the matter of two days, I have gone from barely remembering "When I'm With You" and not knowing the name of Sheriff's lead singer to forever equating Freddy Curci's voice -- which is fantastic, by the way -- with praying for the strength to eat a piece of toast and wishing I hadn't eaten chicken the night before.  I'm serious when I say that I'm going to think of these two songs whenever I'm sick from here on out.  But don't think this is a negative connection.  If given the choice of lying alone on a couch in agony for seven to nine hours and listening to or not listening to "When I'm With You" and "More Than Words Can Say," always chose the former, and then may-bay-ee-yay-ee-yay-yay you too will feel a little bit better thanks to two highly successful power ballads sung by a relatively obscure Canadian rock singer.  Thank you, Freddy Curci, for making yesterday a little less miserable than it could have been.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: The Last Two Beers

I had to take a night off of the beer advent calendar last night because, at about 4 a.m. yesterday morning, something of unknown origins caused me to vomit my brains out and then, about an hour later, vomit out whatever was left in there.  So, I spent much of yesterday lying on the couch, hovering in and out of consciousness while occasionally sipping water and waiting for the moment I could muster up the courage to have a piece of toast.  That moment came in the early afternoon, and I'm happy to report things improved after that and another three-hour nap.  Ahh, to be sick when no one else is home.  But anywho, I wasn't feeling up for a beer last night, so I put it off until tonight.
Beer #17 was quite refreshing -- Middle Brow's White Light, a witbier.  I enjoy wheat beers, white ales, and witbiers in all seasons.  This was delicious, with a hint of apricot, but not too much.

Name:  White Light
Brewery:  Middle Brow Beer Co.
Location:  Chicago, IL
ABV:  5.1%
Good for drinking if:  You're making the shit out of some lemon bars because, dammit, you're a good father.
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 4

Beer #18 was back to the norm, which unfortunately means hoppy.  This is Illuminated's Junior Astronaut Juice.  I love the name, but this is another juicy IPA, which seems to be all the rage this beer advent calendar season.  Billed as a double dry hopped IPA, this actually isn't as bad as some other IPAs.  That is to say, I don't like it.

Name:  Junior Astronaut Juice
Brewery:  Illuminated Brew Works
Location:  Chicago, IL
ABV:  6.0%
Good for drinking if:  You have to play tennis with Don Cornelius.  On the moon, bitch.
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 3.25

Monday, December 17, 2018

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Fortysomething man, upon learning friend was going to see Straight No Chaser in concert:  "I really miss the a capella circuit."
--Draft Room, Rosemont, IL
Eavesdropper:  Kilbourne Identity

A man and his children are watching the Autonation Cure Bowl on TV:
Man:  "That red team has one of my favorite mascot names."
7-year-old daughter:  "The Dicks!"
Man:  "No, the Ragin' Cajuns."
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Man walks into living room and sees older movie playing on TV, with a woman with short hair on the screen:
Man:  "What are you watching?  Rosemary's Baby?"
Wife:  "The Sounds of Music."
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

As always, if you overhear something funny or ridiculous (or that can be taken completely out of context), email it to gmyhblog@yahoo.com, along with the location you heard it and your preferred eavesdropping handle, for inclusion in the next exciting edition of Midwestern Eavesdropping.

New Book: The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone

A week or two ago, I finished reading Hidden History of Lincoln Park by Patrick Butler.  It was a good, quick read highlighting some of the notable events that have happened in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, or interesting people who have lived here.  Obviously, this is geared more towards people who live in Lincoln Park or nearby, but I thought it was a fun book.  Apparently, some hardcore shit has gone down around here, and that's aside from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and John Dillinger's death.

Since then, I started The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone, M.D.  Stone is a forensic psychiatrist, and the purpose of the book is to try to categorize evil into 22 groups, so that a better understanding of the causes of what makes people do horrible things.  Criminal profiling has long been a fascination of mine, so this is right up my alley.

Books Read in 2018:
-How Music Works by David Byrne
-But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
-Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
-My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman with Alan Light
-Different Seasons by Stephen King
-Hidden History of Lincoln Park by Patrick Butler

Sunday, December 16, 2018

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Last Three Beers

During a weekend in which I saw Bob Seger in concert, drank a lot of beer, and watched some bowls, some college basketball, and the Bears clinching the NFC North, it's a wonder I even had time to drink more beer. But I did.  Here are the three beers from the advent calendar I had this weekend.
Beer #14 was an interesting one.  Due to the aforementioned Seger concert Friday night, I had to hold off until Saturday to drink it, but it was worth the wait.  It was Sketchbook's Ripe Now, which is described as a "Farmstand Porter with Cranberries."  I don't know what I "farmstand porter" is, but most importantly, it's a porter, so I was a fan.  The cranberries gave it some tartness, but it wasn't too sour.

Name:  Ripe Now
Brewery:  Sketchbook Brewing Co.
Location:  Evanston, IL
ABV:  6.6%
IBU:  25
Good for drinking if:  You don't even know you're going to see your alma mater hit a  last-second three to beat an in-state rival on national TV in like two hours.
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 4

Beer #15 was from one of my favorite breweries, Chicago's own Pipeworks.  I know they have a ton of hoppy stuff, but they also do wonderful things with stouts and other non-hoppy beers.  Unfortunately, this beer -- Close Encounters -- falls into the former category and not the latter.  It's a black IPA.  To paraphrase Hawk Harrelson's "right size wrong shape," this is the right color, wrong IBU level.

Name:  Close Encounters
Brewery:  Pipeworks Brewing Company
Location:  Chicago, IL
ABV:  6.0%
Good for drinking if:  You're trying to down a quick beer before heading to a holiday party to drink a ton of Christmas beers, and you want a beer that looks like it should be full of malts, but, in reality, is here to kill you.

Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 3

Beer #16 is one of Ballast Point's 831 varieties of their Scuplin IPA.  This one is the Spruce Tip Sculpin.  As you might expect, it is very piney and sprucey -- and way too hoppy.  I am a fan of a lot of Ballast Point's non-IPAs.  Their Victory at Sea porter is excellent, and this time of year, the Peppermint Victory at Sea is both festive and delicious.

Ballast Point opened up a tap room here in Chicago either last year or earlier this year.  I've been a few times, and I highly recommend it.  They have probably 60 Ballast Point beers on tap.  Definitely check it out if you're looking for some time to kill before a dinner reservation in the Fulton Market area.

Name:  Spruce Tip Sculpin IPA
Brewery:  Ballast Point Brewing Company
Location:  San Diego, CA
ABV:  7.0%
IBU:  70
Good for drinking if:  You really wanted to drink a Christmas tree.

Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 3

Friday, December 14, 2018

Hair Band Friday - 12/14/18

1.  "Blackout" by Scorpions

2.  "Live and Let Die" by Guns N' Roses

3.  "Young and Wasted" by Kiss

4.  "Still of the Night" by Whitesnake

5.  "Slick Black Cadillac" by Quiet Riot

6.  "I Believe In You" by Y&T

7.  "Lightnin' Strikes Again" by Dokken

8.  "Mistreater" by Great White

9.  "Wild World" by Mr. Big

10.  "Fire and Ice" by Cinderella

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Maplewood Charlatan

Beer #13 was another hoppy one:  Maplewood's Charlatan, which deems itself an American pale ale.  Whatever it was, it was too hoppy.  Maplewood is a great little brewery not too far from where I live.  As you may expect, I'm a fan of their darker beers.  Fat Pug, their milk stout, is particularly good.

Name:  Charlatan
Brewery:  Maplewood Brewing Company
Location:  Chicago, IL
ABV:  6.1%
IBU:  35
Good for drinking if:  You want to line up some apples for no reason for a picture.
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 3

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Deschutes Fresh Haze

We’re at beer #12 in the advent calendar — halfway to Christmas Eve. Today's selection is Deschutes’s Fresh Haze IPA. You guys know how I feel about IPAs. I will say that I can tolerate “juicy” IPAs more than other types, and that’s what this is. It’s got a lot of citrus flavor, but also a lot of hops. Mind you, I am a big fan of a lot of Deschutes’s beers — the Black Butte Porter is great, and the Obsidian Stout is even better, especially if you can find it on a nitro tap — but the Fresh Haze just isn’t my bag of sweet Valencia oranges. But it is winter, and I'm drinking something hazy, so as a music fan, I can take some solace, even if there's not a patch of snow on the ground at the moment.

Name:  Fresh Haze IPA
Brewery:  Deschutes Brewery
Location:  Bend, OR
ABV:  6.5%
IBU:  45
Good for drinking if:  You're listening to Simon & Garfunkel or The Bangles -- well, one particular song by each of them, anyway.  Or maybe you're just watching Less Than Zero.  Hell, I don't care.
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments): 3.25

Retro Video of the Week: "I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas" by Bon Jovi

In this week's holiday-themed edition of Retro Video of the Week, I'm going with Bon Jovi's 1992 song/video, "I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas," which was the B-side to the band's "Keep the Faith" single.  While I appreciate the sentiment, if every day was like Christmas, Christmas would cease to be special.  Ask any self-entitled rich asshole.  "Other than the most dangerous game, nothing excites me any more because I have everything I could ever want."  Let's keep Christmas at one day a year, Jon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Hailstorm Hotel Life

Beer #11 on the advent calendar is a North American Adjunct Lager, courtesy of Tinley Park's Hailstorm.  It's aptly named Hotel Life.  Without even reading what kind of beer it was, I knew it was a light lager because what else could a beer called Hotel Life be?  It's not bad, as far as light beers go -- a step above your average Miller Lite, Bud Light, and Coors Light.  Light, crisp, and refreshing.

Name:  Hotel Life
Brewery:  Hailstorm Brewing Co.
Location:  Tinley Park, IL
ABV:  4.7%
IBU:  12
Good for drinking if:  You're a cotton-headed ninnymuggins. 
Rating (out of five stars, by quarter star increments):  3.75