Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rollin' by the Record Machine

I was in late junior high when I first heard the song that titles this post. I loved it immediately, and bought the 45 (which sounds positively antiquated) at my local drugstore. Over the next 20-odd years I'd listen to the song countless times, first recording it onto cassette mixes (ahh, the days of "tapes"!) and then as technology improved I finally got my now-scratchy tune burned onto disc.

I never gave much thought to the band who recorded the song, though. Sure, I knew the name - The Rockets - but because for me the song existed in a musical vacuum I never really explored any of the rest of their music. One time I bought a tape of theirs I found: a live album that had Rollin' by the Record Machine on it, as well as another song I grew to like, Can't Sleep. Otherwise, though, I never gave 'em another thought.

Which is a shame, really, because now I've discovered that The Rockets were the best bar-band classic rock group I'd never heard of. Understand: I came of age in small-town Michigan, where I obsessed about Kiss and, later, Twisted Sister. I didn't read anything but Hit Parader, Metal Edge or Creem for music mags, and The Rockets didn't make it into those publications. It was a pre-internet world, and I was a Thumb-trapped teen whose idea of a big day out was to drive 60 miles to the mall. I'm saddened now that I didn't find out more about The Rockets back in the day for three main reasons: 1) they're awesome, 2) they're a local Detroit band, which I never knew until literally 2 days ago, and 3) they OPENED for Kiss, for gods' sake!

I'm dwelling on all of this right now because I just recently purchased a dual-disc CD of theirs featuring their albums Back Talk and Rocket Roll, the latter opening with my fave song. You know what? There's not a bad song in the bunch! The Rockets seem to be among the most depressing of "shoulda-been" stories BECAUSE they were so darn good. Don't get me wrong: there's no new ground broken in their music. They come off as a classic rock group on a par with Boston, Bob Seger and Thin Lizzy, with the slide guitar and country-esque harmonies of southern-fried rock similar to .38 Special or April Wine. This is a band made for cruising town, swigging Strohs from long-necked bottles and puttin' on the jukebox at the pizza parlor. I guess their ALMOST fame was because their music WAS so good, but ultimately they didn't have enough about their act that was distinguishable from many other solid, mid-70s bands of the same ilk.

Sadly, The Rockets have slipped into a relative obscurity, and so today's homage is really just a sort of "aw, damn!" missive. I'm sad that I didn't know more about The Rockets when I had a chance to buy more of their music. I'm sad that I could have been a fan, and maybe made a difference in their success as a major act. If you want to read more about them, there's a long soliloqy on the group (and deceased lead singer David Gilbert) at:

More Rockets info can be found by visiting the website of founding member Johnny Badanjek at:

You can also listen to a lot of The Rockets music there, and join me in a toast to a great band that "shoulda been."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reliable Things

Normally I'd use this space to bitch about something, or try to give those few of you reading the blog something extra to think about. All of that seems pretty negative, though, and so today I want to give a few "shout outs" to those things that are GOOD in my life. These are things, in no particular order of relevance, that have never let me down, even in the face of an all-too-often uncertain world...
• Dap Patching Plaster: I'm reminded of this as I've been skim-coating the walls of our studio/nursery (status to be finalized soon, we hope!). I've used a ton of different home-repair products, from goofy cheap shit at the local do-it-yourselfer Big Box, all the way to expensive and hard-to-obtain professional/industrial stuff. Dap in general outdoes 'em all, but that patching plaster...pre-mixed, open the container and spread away. And when the container is empty, the lid seals tightly enough that I can empty the last pint or so of paint out of rusty, dented metal cans and store it for touch-up use.
• Mom: I have friends who have good relationships with their mothers, and those who don't. Some have lost their moms to age or accident, and some moms have walked a dangerously close edge with death. I'm so happy that my mom is a great person, and that I've enjoyed her company both as a child AND as an adult. Although I've disappointed her in the past, I can't think of a time she hasn't been there for me. What's more reliable than that??• Small metal Slinkies: As I wait for web pages to load, or for CDs to finish importing, I seem to need to DO SOMETHING with my hands. A little Slinky fits the bill nicely: I can wave it around, pour it from hand to hand...all the stuff you'd do with the big version, but in the confined space of the desk. I've played with small plastic Slinky-style springs, mostly in the form of swag sent with a catalogue order. They always break. Always. I found a package of little metal Slinkies, though, and while they might occasionally get bound up (you remember: when your Slinky would get a "kink" in it, and you'd have to figure out how to twist it to undo it), they've been exactly the kind of durable desk distraction that keeps me sane.• Close friends: many, MANY people to list in that category...a fact for which I'm eternally grateful. Mike, Lisa, Mark, Lisa, Eric, Lisa (hey, waitaminute!), Kirsten, Stephene, Brent, Joy...I could actually go on, but the point is, acquaintances will find an excuse not to be there. Good friends make it there, no matter the cost. My eternal thanks to all of you.• iPod: I'd like to say that Apple in general has been without complaint, but the early decision to withold licensing of the Mac operating system had the effect of relegating us Mac users to cult status. Likewise, the iTunes program, while replete with fantastic music, still is missing some (to me) very logical songs. The iPod, though...Apple hit it outta the park with this little baby. I've never run out of juice mid-run, I can plug it into my Roland V-Drums and play along, and it supplies me with a seemingly endless stream of shitty heavy metal and stuck-in-my-childhood pop music. Wonderful!• Paul Stanley: While his partner Gene Simmons likes to plaster his face over everything in the world, Paul is a more private guy, and I really like that. He's no bullshit: he makes his music, does the whole "rock star" thing, and then goes home at night and doesn't waste our time with an endless parade of heard-it-before quotes. He's also a fantastically nice guy: when I walked up to get my picture taken he tried to calm my fanboy nerves by sticking his hand out, asking where I was from, and engaging me in direct eye-to-eye conversation. He clearly enjoys his "day job," but also keeps himself enough to himself that I don't roll my eyes every time I hear his name in the press...which ain't all that often.• Burt's Cuticle Butter: My spouse calls me a "delicate flower" because of some of my finicky habits. That's fine...I like what I like, with no apologies. After years of biting my nails (and suffering the inevitable receding gum line that accompanies that habit) I finally started cutting them. I tend to develop little skin tags right where the nail meets the top of my finger, though, and delicate flower or not those little bastards HURT! Burt's makes a lovely lemon salve that not only strengthens nails, it helps keep those bad boys under control. Good stuff.• Miss Tessmacher: From putting up with that nickname (shouted, Lex Luthor-style, at the top of my lungs...usually in public) to putting up with my heavy-metal posing (aggressively, with much hair flipping...usually in public), there's nothing about Tess that has EVER been a letdown. I only wish the same could be said about me.• Fish keyring, with bottle/can opener: You know the one I mean. Metal, with a bottle opener on one end, can punch on the other and a plastic "fish" glued to the strip in between. My fish fell off back in high school, but I've slung my keys around on this object since I've HAD keys, and see no reason to abandon it. I can feel like a hot shit when I walk down the street twirling them around my finger, it opens my fussy little glass bottles of Coke, and the can punch end is good for prying, cutting box tape, and a host of other little odd jobs. 'Nuff said.• Ramona Q.: Literally a foundling, the feline love of my life showed up as a tiny catlet on my mother's front porch. As she was working on being a crazy cat lady with 4 or 5 furry friends of her own at that point, she graciously allowed me to take the mischievous little creature back to my apartment. Named for the brave, pesty heroine of Beverly Cleary fame, 'Mona has stolen my heart every day since. And, like Tess, she puts up with my bullshit.

As I said, this list could literally go on & on...but I think you get the point. Every once in a while it's good to forget about all the complaints you COULD lodge against this crazy world, and just enjoy those things that make the grade day in & day out. So look around...find those things you can count on, and let 'em know how you feel. ("I love you, little keyring! You complete me!") And now, if you'll pardon me...I need to go spread some Dap.