Saturday, May 07, 2005

Herb Alpert Is Trapped in My Skull

...and I bet he wants out!

I grew up in a very musically confused (or eclectic, depending on your perspective) household. I had parents who came into adulthood with the big band sounds of the 30's and 40's. My mother played classical piano, and I remember, as a bug-eyed kid, sitting by the legs of the much-abused spinnet as she described Kiev in flames before starting to pound out some Tchaikovsky that still gives me chills today. My father? Oh, hell. He listened to warbling Irish tenors (long before they became the darlings of the PBS fund drive set) and Scottish bagpipe music. That's pretty much all he listened to. No, seriously. That was it. Well, that and a battered Willie Nelson 8-track he kept in the basement by his spider-infested desk.

When I was little, I had siblings around who had cut their teeth on 50's music, 60's music, and 70's music. Music was huge for all of us. Early on, I had a taste for the Beatles (and I really miss my Alvin & the Chipmonks Sing the Beatles lp, dammit), the 5th Dimension, and the Mamas & the Papas. And showtunes. Lots of showtunes. Dear god, I had the soul of a gay Manhattanite as a small child. (This theory is further proven by the fact that my very first LP was actually the soundtrack to the "Wizard of Oz". Friend of Dorothy, indeed.) My mom had a Reader's Digest fake book of Broadway showtunes, and I would bang out notes on the piano (poor thing) and sing showstopping numbers to myself. Really loudly. You've never lived until you've heard a 7-year-old thrashing the songs from "Hair" and "Oklahoma!"

My mom developed a taste for Burt Bacharach, Barbra Streisand, Ferrante & Teicher, and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass at some point in the 60's. When most of my siblings had flown the coop, Mom played the Tijuana Brass all the time. In retrospect, it was a scream. Heck, it was a scream back then, too. I can see my mom, doing her Bonnie Prudden and Jack LaLane exercises, with Herb Alpert and the band jammin' in the background. Whipped Cream, South of the Border, the Lonely Bull... oh yeah. If you're too young to know what the heck I'm talking about, you need to get yourself some Tijuana Brass, my friend. Seriously.

Da shiznit, circa 1964. Hot dude with a horn and serious chops.
Does it get any better than that?

Every once in a while, I find myself with a Herb Alpert song stuck in my head. It's like one of the memory cells gets stuck in my parents' living room, sometime in the late 60's. The needle's in the grove, but skipping. I will keep whistling or humming that one tune until I can find it on iTunes or Amazon and get it out of my brain. I really dig Herb Alpert - he wrote a ton of songs you'd remember from the 60's - things for the Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, real classics. He's also the "A" in A&M Records. Great musician, smart businessman. But, why does he have to hang around in my head at inopportune moments???

I went to bed at a semi-reasonable time tonight. All is well. Situation normal. I start to fade...

And then it happened.

1 a.m.

The damn "Mexican Shuffle" started playing on that cheap Sears console stereo between my ears. You know it. Oh yes you do. It's a classic. It screams "Hip and Swingin' 60's". Back in the day - when all we had was black and white tv (eek!), it was the music behind a series of commercials for Clark's Teaberry Chewing Gum - people would chew it and start to dance. I swear to god. I can see this dude in a business suit doing the "Teaberry Shuffle".

Damn. I am much older than I thought. Clark's Teaberry Chewing Gum? Shoot me now, please! I'm not even sure if the Sasquatch would remember Teaberry gum. The Atomic Editor might - he has a mind like a steel trap for Useless Pop Culture Crap (and I admire that in him!)

Now, mind you - it could have been worse. There have been nights when it's the theme to The Banana Splits or The Flintstones that are on continuous loop in my skull. The Tijuana Brass is a major step up. But I need to sleep, so I'm passing my music mania on to you. Hie thee to Amazon right now and listen to the soundbite of Mexican Shuffle. Be sure to listen to Whipped Cream (aka, the theme to The Dating Game) and A Taste of Honey and Spanish Flea, too.

As Cartman would say, "Kick ass!"

Seacrest out.


Anonymous said...

I remember Herb Alpert...and I remember Teaberry gum, because I used to chew it.

Merujo said...

The Doublemint Twins disturb me less than the scary chick in the Orbits gum ads. She needs to GO AWAY NOW. Please.