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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #9

Posted: July 4th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted December 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

“Zarcon, your time has come,” I yelled out as I leapt through the glass canopy of the palace, causing shards of vibrant colors to shatter against the concrete floor. I too soon hit the ground, but managed to mitigate the impact by performing one of my practiced roll and flip routines that could not have been better executed by the finest ninja. Upon completion, I popped up, unslung my M-16, and gazed about the room. The was General Zarcon, the Middle eastern despot I had come to apprehend, surrounded by his two sons, Tweedle and Deedle Zarcon, as well as a host of other official dignitaries and guards. They had not been expecting to see me and were seated at a table with a game of The Justice League Collector’s Edition Monopoly laid upon it. Several of the guards reached for their arms but I coolly popped off a few rounds from the M-16 and they flew back against the wall, cooing out their final death throes. As I watched, several birds descended upon their bodies, plucked out their eyeballs and flew off to feed them to their hungry birdlings.

Leaping forward I…. Oh. I can’t help but notice that confused look on your face dear diskant reader. Is it possible that you haven’t read the two previous episodes of Bargain Bin Culture and need to be brought up to snuff? Well, first of all, shame on you for not partaking in the finest music review column dedicated to the obscure albums and CDs found in the used bins of the finest pawn shops, second hand stores and music boutiques across the land. But I shall allot you one instance of such neglect and fill you in on current events. I had been chosen by the United State’s elite military unit to become the superspy that would invade the camp of Middle Eastern despot and master of arcane music triva, General Zarcon. My first mission had been to approach his daughter, young Sally Zarcon, a probe her for whatever information might prove relevant (like the size of her cervix). Then… stuff happened… and I ended up here, determined to either apprehend the feared General, or spray his cranial matter across the walls before he could unleash his dreaded “LP Bomb” – a nuclear device that would eliminate record LPs worldwide, thus destroying the backbone of western culture. Make sense? Good, let’s get back to the story.

Well, gosh darn it, while I was wasting all this time explaining my current endeavors to you chowderheads, General Zarcon had done exactly what I feared and leapt into his computer-protected safehouse: an apparatus constructed of three foot thick plutonium nitrate and safe guarded with an encrypted security key. The odds of breaking through the security systems were 1.2 gazillion million to 1 so I knew I’d need my wits about me. As not to be interrupted while I fooled with the computerized lock, I emptied my M-16 rounds into everyone else in the room, thus ensuring their complacency. Then I set to work on the system.

But before we continue, dear diskant reader, I have to apologize for calling you a chowderhead back there. I assure you that it was a momentary aberration brought about by the stress of the moment and I shan’t use such harsh words in the future. It’s been weighing heavily in me and I implore you to forgive me.

Quickly I brought up the visual interface to the safehouse lock system. As with the best electronic lock systems, the only way to get in was to answer a series of five music trivia questions. A true test of man versus machine! I pressed the enter key to initialize the first question.

Who wrote the liner notes for Andre Kostelanetz’s “Lure of Paradise” album?

If such a question was not rock solid proof of General Zarcon’s fiendishness, I knew not what could be. Quickly, I racked my brain. I was familiar with the work; it was an attempt to cash in on the exotica records of the sixties by offering music supposedly drawn from the native culture of the Hawaiian Islands. Symphonic orchestration was combined with the slack key guitar and Hawaiian drums to create the aura of a forgotten paradise lost. The album cover, like all good exotica albums, featured a beautiful naked woman about to bath in a lush waterfall. But who wrote the liner notes? I was momentarily thrown… but then it came to me. James Michener was best known for writing the ornamental prose that aggrandized the islands of Hawaii via such books as “Tales of the South Pacific” and “Hawaii.” And he offered his drippy words to the liner notes of Kostelanetz’s album, including such trite phraseology as “This is the meaning of paradise… that you find yourself in surroundings which permit and encourage you to live intimately with the joys of nature.” (Barrrrffffffff!)

I keyed in my answer and awaited the next question.

What is the overbearing theme to the cover of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” double album?

Aha! Zarcon’s cleverness would not be abated. He traversed the music spectrum switching from 60’s exotica classics to late 70’s disco without batting an eye. Most people were familiar with that album’s pumping tribute to anonymous sex, “Hot Stuff.” They might also be aware that a sizeable chunk on the songs were actually slower numbers and much of it intimated the coming success of such 80’s balladeers as Lionel Ritchie Jefferson Starship. But only a sharp minded music fan like myself could recall the pristine detail of the albums cover at a moment’s notice. It was covered with prostitutes, much as I would like to be. The overbearing theme was prostitution, and I wasted no time telling the computer this.

How did the lead character in Krokus’s “Mr. Sixty-Nine” die?

Ha! Little did the machine know that it had stumbled into the area of 80’s hard rock: my specialty. The selection in question was part of Krokus’s fantasmagorical (I doubt that’s a real word but it seems made to describe Krokus.) “Hardware” album, which also featured such numbers as “Easy Rocker,” “Rock City,” and “Smelly Nelly.” “Mr. Sixty-Nine” describes the adventures of a male individual whose job was to go about performing oral sex on as many women as possible. (Weren’t the eighties great?) And he died, as described in the song, by “choking on a lady’s sanitary pad.” But fear not because, “.. you lucky angels in heaven will be fine, having lots of fun with Mr. Sixty-Nine.”

3 out of 5. The computer and its nefarious owner were sweating now.

Who wrote the songs on Kim Wilde’s self-titled debut album?

Clearly the computer had practically given up. Everyone should be familiar with the early work of Ms. Wilde, and this album not only spawned the great hit, “Kids in America” it featured one of the great instances of “robot rock” in the song, “Tuning In, Tuning Out” which features a slithering melody that rides on top of a computerized buzz. Both songs, like rest of the album had writing credits for Marty Wilde, and former 60’s rock star and Kim’s father, as well as Kim’s brother Ricky.

This was it. I was down to the last one.

What warning do the Brother’s Johnson offer on the liner notes of their 1980 A&M album, “Light up the Night?”

Uh-oh. I hadn’t expected this. Like all good earth people, I was quite familiar with this classic of stompin’ funk from the Johnson Bros. I knew that it featured the stellar funkorama, “This Had To Be” featuring a young Michael Jackson. I knew that the album was produced by mega talent (and future Jackson producer) Quincy Jones. I knew that the album cover featured brother Louis holding a 12 inch tall spotlight in a manner that seemed suspiciously close to a phallic symbol. (You know what they say about black dudes!) But a warning? I was baffled. What would anyone need to be warned about in 1980? Voodoo Economics? Tree pollution?

Ahh, slowly it dawned on me. In the 1980’s the drug known as angel dust was plaguing urban communities and The Brothers Johnson indeed offer an admonition against it. Remember kids, don’t trust that dust!

With a smooth click, the door to the safehouse slipped open and I leapt inside. There was General Zarcon, quivering in the corner of a room that contained several boxes of Army rations, 20 or so pornographic videos and a Christmas tree loaded up with a healthy amount of presents. Obviously Zarcon thought he could celebrate the holidays in here while the forces of goodness and truth tried to work his dastardly security system. But he hadn’t counted on western culture’s advanced knowledge of music trivia!

As I entered the room Zarcon pulled a revolver out and fired upon me. I ducked, tried to return fire, but realized that I had emptied all my ammunition into his cohorts. I dodged his attacks and rolled over to the Christmas tree with the aim of using the presents as missiles that could be thrown at him. I picked one up and flung it, but it was light as a feather and only went a few feet. I tried another, then another. The boxes were empty.

“Your Christmas presents are empty,” I yelled at Zarcon, hoping he could explain.

“I know,” he whined. “They have been every Christmas. Everyone fears me and trembles in my presence, but no-one think to give me, General Zarcon, a Christmas present.” “Gosh, is that why you constantly invade other nations and gas your own people?” I queried. “Because you’ve never had a Christmas? Are you simply using outward aggressiveness to make up for you perceived lack of love?”

“I.. I guess so,” Zarcon replied. “How insightful of you.”

“Look, if that’s all it takes, I want you to have this. My sole copy of Reo Speedwagon/Live You get What You Play For.'” I removed it from my backpack and handed it to him.

“Dude… awesome!” Zarcon replied. “Is this the one with Gary doing the superlong guitar solo?”

“It is indeed. Merry Christmas, General Zarcon.” I moved in and gave him a hug.

Minutes later I walked out of the safehouse, while Zarcon played the album on his hi-fi. Using my comm unit I called up General Steinbren, my immediate superior at the CIA and gave her the good news. “It’s all taken care of, General. Turns out Zarcon was such a meanie because he’d never gotten a Christmas present. Now there’s no longer any need to launch and invasion of his native country of… ummm, ZiraQ. I saved the day! Call off the attack.”

“No can do” crackled the comm unit. “We’ve already got our birds in the air, so we might as well go through with the invasion. Expect to see missiles landing in ZahgDag within five minutes!”

“Wil?” came Zarcon’s voice from inside the safehouse. “Is anything wrong.”

“Uhhh, don’t worry about a thing, Zarcy!” I replied. “Just keep enjoying your album. I think the really loud drum solo is coming up. I’m going to make a quick run to the bathroom. I think those Zarconian crackers are starting to filter through!”

* * *

KIDS: That’s it for the first music trivia adventure in Bargain Bin Culture. Write to your Representatives in Government to request more.

ALSO: Let’s give a big “Rest in Peace” out to Ray Coniff, 1950-60’s bandleader who died recently at 85. Without Ray the landscape of bargain bin records would be vastly different.

Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


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