It’s a big week in sports. The world is enthralled by the the FIFA World Cup, which began Friday. I had big plans for a World Cup-themed MP3 Monday, but bailed out when I realized I didn’t have any songs from Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, or Angola. (Although one presumes that Gal Costa’s “Não Identificado,” Sound Directions’ “Theme for Ivory Black,” and the Weary Boys’ version of “It Takes A Worried Man” performed live at Angola Prison could have subbed in.)
Aw, hell, here’s that Weary Boys track anyway.
But instead this week’s MP3 Monday focuses on the mania du jour here at crabwalk.com HQ: the NBA Finals, which pit the Dallas Mavericks — force for all that is good, wholesome, and German in the world — against the bloated, retrograde Miami Heat, a team so awful it can’t even afford a plural noun for a name. This week’s schtick-to-match: Dallas songs vs. Miami songs.
First off, the Big D.
The Soul Seven were a funk band formed in 1969 at Bishop College, the since-closed historically black college on Dallas’ south side. (Its campus is now Paul Quinn College.) The band didn’t last long and would have been forgotten long ago were it not for Eothen Alapatt (a.k.a. Egon), the soul-collector genius who compiled The Funky 16 Corners, a great amalgam of old funk 45s for Stones Throw Records. (The Soul Seven also appears on the Egon-produced South Dallas Pop Festival 1970 live album.)
(For the non-locals, South Dallas is the traditionally black part of the city — hence the name of the song.)
Check out Egon’s narrative of roaming the country, tracking down old funk tracks and bowling every night.
Bedhead were probably the biggest indie band to come out of Dallas in the 1990s. I saw them live twice. The first time was in a small space in Cleveland, on Fourth of July weekend 1996. I was visiting my buddy I-Huei, who was interning in Cleveland while I was interning in Toledo. Bedhead was great. The second time was with then-girlfriend Kelly in Detroit, at The Magic Stick. They were horrrrrrible. Lead singer Matt Kadane was sick, and his brother Bubba sang everything in his place. There was a reason Bubba was not the regular lead singer. The energy drained out of the place, and I ended up apologizing to Kelly for submitting her to the show.
“Felo de Se” is one of their later songs, and one of their peppier ones. The title means suicide. Having song titles in Latin makes perfect sense for a smartypants like Matt Kadane, who got his Ph.D. from Brown last year (dissertation: “The Watchful Clothier: The Diary of an 18th-Century Protestant-Capitalist”) and is now a lecturer at Harvard.
People think of Stevie Ray as an Austin product, but he was born and raised in Dallas (Oak Cliff, more specifically, also on the south side), and that’s where he’s buried. I haven’t yet been to the SRV Museum, but that’s a field trip for some upcoming weekend. This is from a radio broadcast of a Stevie Ray show on April Fool’s Day 1980, when he was still just an Austin club rat, three years before his first album. (It’s also my favorite SRV album, if you’re looking to pick one up.)
AMC wasn’t from Dallas, but how could I pass up this song title? The surprisingly upbeat shuffle doesn’t give any clues what the title refers to, but my best guess is Delta Flight 191, which crashed at DFW on landing in 1985.
The last time AMC lead singer Mark Eitzel played a show in Dallas, I yelled out a request for this song. It was ignored.
The Mountain Goats aren’t from Dallas, either. And I didn’t even choose their one Dallas-based song, the Casio-fueled “Blues in Dallas” (“Down in Dealey Plaza / The tourists mill about”). But Denton’s just outside town, and I have a special love for this song. Any song that ends with a rousing call to “Hail Satan!” gets the crabwalk.com seal of approval.
And I love this lyric: “The best ever death metal band out of Denton never settled on a name / But the top three contenders, after weeks of debate / Were Satan’s Fingers, and The Killers, and The Hospital Bombers.”
Cottonmouth, Texas was (is?) the spoken-word project of Deep Ellum denizen Jeff Liles. This particular tracks tells the tale of an ill-timed acid trip.
I actually reviewed this album in my past life as a Professional Rock Critic™ and got a nice email from Jeff himself: “Thanks for buying my album. It’s the lowest selling record in the history of Virgin Records. You are a part of a small family of people who actually own it. I hope that you found it entertaining, and feel free to make cassette dubs for your friends. Peace to you and yours.”
So that’s Dallas. What about Miami? I have to say, Miami has not produced a big part of my music collection. I love Latin music, but the Miami stuff that’s reached any sort of national scale has been more poppy (Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, etc.) than grimy. (The one great songstress I assumed was from Miami, the Cubana Celia Cruz, was actually based in New Jersey most of her career.) And I love hip-hop, but Miami bass has never struck me as one of the more positive influences on the genre. And as for guitar music…geez, south Florida’s just a black hole. Hell, even the panhandle has lapped it a thousand times over. (Seriously, look at this list. And the gall of claiming Debbie Harry as a Miamian when she moved to New Jersey at three months old!)
So I’m forced to rely, in large part, on songs others have written about Miami. I was tempted to include “Florida (Is Shaped Like A Big Droopy Dick For a Reason),” the post-2000-election plaint by Cex, but sadly the song’s just not that great.
Probably the most socially transgressive song in the short-lived history of MP3 Monday, but in many ways the ne plus ultra of Miami bass. Be sure to gather the kids around the computer speakers for this one — it’ll encourage them to ask all sorts of interesting questions.
At least K.C. (nee Harry Wayne Casey) was from Miami. He got his start working in a record store: “He noticed often that customers would come in not remembering the titles of the records they wanted, and the store would lose the sale — this is the reason so many of his songs repeat their titles over and over.” Something to contemplate while listening.
Superchunk’s from North Carolina, not Florida, but they can watch the news like anyone else (“Don’t you know that the dirt’s on fire down here?”). It’s a shame that it’s been five years since this record; I count the ‘chunk among the great underrated ’90s indie bands and Here’s To Shutting Up was strong.
Trivia that’s well known enough it doesn’t really count as trivia any more: Mac and Laura from Superchunk are the forces behind Merge Records, which would be on any sentient person’s short list for Best Record Label Alive (Spoon, American Music Club, Neutral Milk Hotel, Richard Buckner, the Arcade Fire, Destroyer, Dinosaur Jr., Imperial Teen, etc.).
I remember getting a promo of the previous Girls Against Boys album in 1998. The press materials had an entire section telling critics how to refer to the band’s name. You had two options, if I remember: either write out the entire Girls Against Boys or use the shorter GVSB. Other variants, like Girls vs. Boys or Females In Direct Opposition To Males, were verboten. Anyway, I’d thought they were dead, but apparently they still tour every so often.
Trivia: New Wet Kojak, a GVSB side project, was even better than the original, in this reporter’s opinion. A little lounge-y, a little whispery.
Further trivia: GVSB bassist Johnny Temple runs a small publishing house off the money he made from that 1998 album, Akashic Books. Yet another man living the crabwalk.com lifestyle of choice, literary lion by day, rocker by night. And, to close the loop, here’s an article on Akashic written by none other than Jessica Winter, my old college newspaper buddy.
My head hurts all over again thinking about that Bedhead concert.
Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.