Friday, April 24, 2009

I Don't Need a Drink, I Need a Time Machine

I’ve always liked retro man Chris Isaak, with his matinee idol looks, self-depreciating wit, cool daddy wardrobe, Roy Orbison croon, and his catchy, sultry throwback ballads. His early eye-winking cable show, The Chris Isaak Show, ran from 2001-2004, and in 47 quirky but extremely laid back episodes he essentially played himself, a low-key working musician, beset by the usual trivial money, romance, and people problems. Isaak has new talk/performance show, The Chris Isaak Hour on the Bio Channel, where he banters, discuss career and musical choices, and trades both licks and vocals with a weirdly varied, eclectic, and often blatantly uncool batch of guests, which so far have included Trisha Yearwood, Stevie Nicks, Michale Buble, Chicago, Glen Campbell, Smashing Pumpkins, Jewel, and Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens.
It’s an easy hour, peppered with Isaak’s genuine charm and neo-Ricky Nelson persona, but watching the soft parade of well-worn circus dogs and well-scrubbed newbies it brought me back to a time when I first became enraptured by pop music, well before I went through self-hip ionization and started dividing musical acts into uncool, too cool, and oh-so-cool categories, when the FM dial was a wide open, forever beckoning and constantly swinging door, and my listening partner-brother and I just gobbled it all up, no rhyme nor reason, no differentiating genres, no all-abiding rules governing taste and consumption, no clue or concern to what was perceived as hip or the real deal.
Every once in a while, I click onto 3WK Classic Underground Radio, and trip back into a time when we bussed ourselves down (or hoofed it) to the local record shop, and bought lps ranging from the Velvets to The Firesign Theatre, from The Flaming Groovies to Quicksilver Messenger Service, from Andy Pratt to Mose Allison, from Garland Jeffreys to Curtis Mayfield , from Traffic to Grin, from The Fugs to The Mothers of Invention, from Humble Pie to Captain Beefheart.

By the way, here’s a recent quick trip into the wayback machine, courtesy of the one and only Prince. You gotta love the guy...

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