Finally! Friday: Streets Of Fire (1984)

Honestly, this one’s pretty hard to write up.

Why Finally? “You’ve never seen this movie?!” someone with a wide-ranging Apple movie collection said—and off we went.

People, I had barely heard of Streets of Fire. Movie-wise, I spent 1984 watching The Secret of NIMH repeatedly on cable (while begging to be allowed to watch Flashdance), getting the bejeezus scared out of me at Gremlins, laughing at Ghostbusters and, sadly, not watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.
(In that last case, as the man in a later movie said, I chose… poorly.)

Here is what I knew about Streets of Fire before last weekend:

This video. That’s it.

The Premise: When hometown girl turned rock star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped from the stage by weird bikers (led by Willem Dafoe as “Raven”), old flame/current mercenary Tom Cody (Michael Paré) is called upon to rescue her. Which he does in spectacular fashion—for the ’80s, that is,  back when less stuff exploded—thanks to the help of a fellow ex-soldier (Amy Madigan in what may be my favorite role in the film).  Also along for the ride is Ellen’s current squeeze, music manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis).

Streets of Fire calls itself a “rock ‘n’ roll fable,” which is a nice clue that things aren’t always going to make sense. The setting, for example, seems to be simultaneously the 1950s and the 1980s, with spandex pants and punky makeup for performers, but greasers all over the place like it’s set in a Stephen King town. I recall a lot of people in the ’80s complaining that TV and movies were becoming like music videos, and I bet this was held up (down?) as an early example. The story itself is about an inch deep, but evokes so many of the Classic Plots that it has the appeal of a fairy tale.

The Verdict: On one hand, I used the word “delightful” about five times during viewing, and I really enjoyed Streets of Fire. That may be less about the movie itself, though, and more about its resemblance to other works of its time. It has an underdog-mercenary plot like Extreme Prejudice or The A-Team, the random serendipity of the Buckaroo Banzai movie, a neo-retro underbelly like Blue Velvet (and two years before Blue Velvet came out, too), and, heaven help me, the good-will-prevail attitude that is the only thing I like about classic clunker Megaforce.

It also has, at most, 1.5 actual streets of fire.

Even though I found it delightful, I can imagine the film having a lot of haters: the loner-with-a-heart-of-gold hero, for one thing,  is a trope that should be using a rollator to get around by now. Had Streets of Fire been one whit more realistic, I think it would have sunk like a stone.

Might go well with:  I mentioned so many movies above that I’ve got nothing but popcorn for this one.


Next time: In the Quest For Monday, Race tours the facilities.


Apropos Of Fridays In December: Theme Month!

While making a list of things to watch during October, I noticed a certain… similarity about my choices. An actor who kept popping up again and again like a bad penny or a relentless supernatural killer.

Then I wondered if I’d have time to watch all this stuff by Halloween.

Then, like a certain other holiday figure, I got a wonderful, awful idea.

This December, I’m going to focus on putting the Chris Sarandon back in Christmas.

The Sentinel, Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Resurrected and Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood are all coming at you this month. After all, red is a holiday color.

If you've ever secretly rooted for Humperdinck, have I got a month for you.
If you’ve ever secretly rooted for Humperdinck, have I got a month for you!

Found-Again Friday: Guadalcanal Diary’s Flip-Flop Album

Why Found-Again? I’m not sure how a Found-Again music post will go; my inability to write technically about music is exceeded only by my inability to write technically about movies. But in the midst of tearing my hair out trying to find a topic for Friday, I realized I’d already revisited something for the first time in a long time this week: Guadalcanal Diary’s 1989 fourth album, Flip-Flop.


The prosaic answer to the question above is therefore “because I finally ponied up for a CD player for my bedroom.”

The Background: I’ve already done a Musical Interlude post about the southern power-pop trend of the ’80s—popularly typified by REM—which for me managed to combine music I loved with a sense of regional pride. A less sheltered kid would have found out about these bands organically, but my first exposure to Georgia’s Guadalcanal Diary was a review of Flip-Flop in my mom’s copy of People magazine. I tracked down the cassette at a record store in Norfolk after I heard the single “Always Saturday” on the radio, and a decades-long enthusiasm was born.

The single wasn’t entirely typical of the band’s sound, but I fell in love with Flip-Flop…until I got my hands on their first full-length album, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man. Guadalcanal Diary released four full-length LPs in the 1980s, and my personal ranking of them would involve two ties:

  1. Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man and 2×4
  2. Jamboree and Flip-Flop

The albums in the number-one spot are a huge part of the soundtrack of my existence from ages sixteen to nineteen. The others…less so.

Because despite bringing the guitar-heavy sound that characterized Guadalcanal Diary…

and making lots of room for the outstanding vocals of singer Murray Attaway, who wails and snarls and purrs like no one else on earth…

…There’s something a little lacking when Flip-Flop is compared to the previous albums. The only word I can think of for it is urgency, and when you consider this was the “final” record for an awfully long time—there has been more music since, and the band members have done other projects—perhaps its slightly elegiac tone makes sense. Compare, for example, to one of my favorites from 2×4:

The Verdict: The same as it was for the movie Oscar, really. Would I change its place in the ranking above after giving Flip-Flop another listen-through? No. Does it deserve more attention than I’ve paid to it over the years? Hell yes.

Might go well with: Pour the summer beverage of your choice and have a listen.


Next time: Set robots to stun.


Apropos of Nothing: The Day The Music (Un?)Died

A music-flavored anecdote from my youth:

When I was a kid, time in the car with my parents was spent listening to WLTY*, the “lite” radio station that played ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music, with a little ’50s thrown in. (This is probably where I get my lifelong affinity for sappy songs. You will pry my copy of History: America’s Greatest Hits from my cold, dead fingers, if that.)

Sometimes WLTY would play Richie Valens, and Mom would say, “He was so good. It’s a shame there won’t be more music from him.” Valens, of course, was dead.

Sometimes they’d play Jim Croce—actually, often they’d play Jim Croce—and again: “He was so talented. It’s a shame there won’t be any more music.” Jim Croce, as you probably know, is also no longer with us.

Sometimes they’d play “American Pie” or “Vincent” by Don McLean, and my mother would say exactly the same thing…

You can see where this is going, can’t you? To me being the only person struck with eldritch terror upon finding out Don McLean was playing Harborfest in 1990, that’s where.

Well, technically yes, in the sense of "alive."
Well, technically yes, in the sense of “alive.”

Our house had an open-plan kitchen/living room. I was on the sofa. “Mom?” I called out.

Mom, cooking dinner: “What?”

I cleared my throat meaningfully. “It says here Don McLean’s playing in Norfolk this weekend.”

Nothing. If he weren’t a zombie, wouldn’t she express some interest since she loved his music? Then again, if he were in fact a zombie, she should definitely express some interest. I tried again.

“But isn’t he, you know…”

She did not know.

“…um…you know…dead?”KillingMeSoftlyWithHisTeeth

Thinking a musician from times past is dead is a normal mistake (especially in 2016). That’s the point at which a normal human being would have looked at the news and concluded that they’d misinterpreted what might be called Mom’s Standard Eulogy For Musicians. I’d love to say I have no idea what I was thinking, but I do. I was thinking GHOSTS AT HARBORFEST!, and for some reason couldn’t be deterred from thinking it.

What was even less  normal, in retrospect, was the way I not only brought it up but  backed gently into the idea, as if I were actually going to find out that Don McLean was a revenant, but only if I asked in just the right way so as not to alarm the ‘rents.

Eventually my mother stopped laughing at me…for this particular incident, anyway.

And I have never, in the intervening decades, been in any doubt as to whether Don McLean is alive or dead. In fact, every time I tell this story I seem to gain yet another person who will personally call me on the phone if and when the sad news ever breaks.

I can’t say I actively recommend the “embarrass yourself horribly” method of remembering whether a given famous person is alive or not, but I do know it works like a charm.


*I see that the WLTY call letters are now used by a station in Cayce, SC. The mystic Edgar Cayce used to live in…the Tidewater area, where I grew up! Coincidence? You bet.

Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 11

Let’s take a walk on the lighter side this Friday. These aren’t all “novelty songs” per se, but they do amuse me, and I hope they’ll amuse you.

I first heard this one on Norfolk’s Z104 Morning Zoo *mumblety* years ago. If by any chance you don’t know what “embarrassment” is, try describing this song to someone without resort to YouTube. You will, my friend. You will.

A song for my favorite beverage…

…And one that is probably better than watching The Raven (I refer to the horror comedy from the ’60s, but we’ll let it ride):

Here’s one for lounge lizards and the people who definitely don’t wish to love them:

(Note: when I first heard of Webb Wilder—about four years after I heard of Kip Addotta, so that’s *mumblety* minus 4—I read that he made short films. I then went on to treat YouTube as Narnia for several years, but recently discovered the shorts are available there. It is genuinely fun to cross something that long-standing off my to-do list, and I really enjoyed them.)

For our last track, it’s been months and I still can’t stop listening to this. I’d say send help, but it’s right in my commute-time singing range.

Have a great weekend!

Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 10

You didn’t think I’d leave you without folk music with St. Patrick’s day coming up, did you?

Of course you didn’t. Here’s one adapted from a William Allingham poem…

Get out your tissues for this one.

My favorite singalong song in this selection:

*goes down rabbit hole involving a YouTubed live performance of Robin Williamson covering “It’s All Over Now (Baby Blue)”* Sorry. Where was I?


That… was not technically Irish, but it was fantastic. Moving on!

This next one is quite special to me: years ago, the Future Ex-Husband and I went to a local restaurant for corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. They’d hired bagpipers for the night, who went from dining area to dining area playing “The Orange and the Green” and a few other holiday standards; then they stopped. The pipers conferred for a few minutes… played “The Orange and the Green” again… stopped again… and then played this.

And we’ll end as we began—wondering why I’m playing the Irish Rovers and studiously ignoring “The Unicorn Song.”

Enjoy your holiday!

Found-Again Friday: Miller’s Crossing

With the newest Coen brothers film, Hail, Caesar!, in theaters, the whole internet seems to be ranking their movies—no two lists agreeing on anything, as far as I can tell. Once I realized I was reading those lists looking for Miller’s Crossing, this week’s re-viewing chose itself.

Why Found-Again?: Miller’s Crossing is my favorite movie from the Coens by far, but since it demands my full attention, it doesn’t get rewatched like those movies I can both love and do paperwork with.

The Premise: Pity poor Tom (Gabriel Byrne): his boss Leo is being crowded by a rival crime mob. He’s got the kind of gambling debts that get the attention of leg-breakers. He’s sleeping with his boss’s girlfriend. And he’s the one tasked with saving her con-man brother (John Turturro), who’s in over his head and about to earn a trip to Miller’s Crossing—easily the most beautiful spot for an execution in all of cinema. Tom’s only chance to survive may be to betray everything he loves.

In addition to the just-plain-fun of a crime story and the interpersonal twists—pretty much everyone mentioned above takes a swing at Tom in the course of the movie— Miller’s Crossing is a study in conflicting loyalties, obligations, and brains vs. brawn. To me, though, this is a love story at its most platonic, with Leo and Tom almost a modern take on King Arthur and Lancelot in a corrupt Camelot where the mayor and police chief are sold to the highest bidder… and all done in language that is 80% 1930s gangster flick and 20% poetry.

This is probably the prettiest movie I have ever owned on DVD. (It’s certainly the prettiest American one; Amelie is the only other contender that leaps to mind.) Exhibit A:

Exhibit B: Gabriel Byrne. Yowza.
Exhibit B: Gabriel Byrne. Yowza.

The Verdict: This may also be as close to a perfect movie as I own: a gorgeous, well-constructed film with the atmosphere of  a long-forgotten golden-age noir that never seems to be cribbing or parodying its inspirations. Indeed, the only thing wrong with Miller’s Crossing is its tendency to make viewers say “What’s the rumpus?” as a casual greeting for days after viewing. It’s a fantastic film that, if my reading is any indication, is undervalued by the entire internet.

Might go well with: Pasta, whiskey, a Chieftains CD, Oscar.

Next time: Into the jungle with Jonny Quest, who is absolutely the person you want rooting around old temples.


Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 9

Let’s ease into the cold weather with songs that may cause car-dancing, violent lip-syncing and dramatic gestures!

This is not only a great song, but it’s the only time I ever felt good about the haircut I had when it came out. Admittedly, Patty Smyth wears it better than a nerdy 10-year-old.

My current favorite car-dancing track:

I blame any affection I have for this video on a parochial-school education:

Just try keeping your feet still:

And what I strongly suspect is my future favorite car-dancing track:



Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 8

One of those projects I keep meaning to do but have never done, despite first having the idea back when mix tapes were popular, is making a mix to approximate the rec center dances I used to attend as a young teenager. So let’s finally get it done and party like it’s 1988…or ’89 or ’90! (Some of these may seem a bit odd for that time, but I assure you, they were there.)

And finally, the song I am perversely proud to say was playing when I fell asleep next to a giant speaker at one of these things:


Found-Again Friday: Musical Interlude 7

We’re going waaaaay back this time, to the music I heard as a very small child. My dad grew up on a farm and liked to listen to a lot of WCMS FM, our country station... and as a result, so did I.

Listen, at least. Like? Sometimes.

Every few years, I am distressed to discover I still remember the chorus to this one.

This next one was one of my favorites when I was three or so— pretty embarrassing given what I can’t even really call the subtext. It’s just…text:

By the time I was five, I was just barely starting to grasp that whole subtext thing, though.

I’ve been trying for years, but have never managed to reconcile Conway Twitty’s lyrics with…well, with his hair, for one thing.

And there’s no way to make a list like this and not end on Dolly Parton. Pretty sure that’s a law.