Forget albums, CDs, or artists. Sometimes all you need to make a definitive statement is a single song.
Rob Hegel did just that in the summer of 1980 with a hilariously scandalous soap opera of a pop song called â€œTommy, Judy & Me.â€ Crass, crude and unforgettably catchy, it embodied the 1980s teen zeitgeist before there was such a thing. Problem was, teen movies, not teen-themed songs, were popular in the 1980s. So Hegelâ€™s adolescent opus stalled out at #109 on Billboardâ€™s Bubbling Under chart and was swiftly forgotten.
â€œTommy, Judy & Meâ€ tackles the sticky topic of teen sex. A lot of people discover sex in high school; what Makes Hegel unique is that he penned a tune that vividly commemorates every perverse feeling and social interaction relating to the topic. He throws in characters weâ€™d soon see on the big screen: a tuff chick, a would-be cool dude, and a nerdy antihero.
Hegel was a songwriter who co-wrote Air Supplyâ€™s hit â€œTake Me as I Am,â€ and penned much of the score to a 1970s Saturday morning TV show called â€œThe Kids From C.A.P.E.R.â€ Nothing in his resume pointed to â€œTommy, Judy & Me,â€ though. The title alone lets you know for the get-go that this is no â€œboy meets girlâ€ story. Itâ€™s more like: Boy gets lousy sex advice from a friend, gets the girl anyway, then learns said friend is a lair. And impotent. Forget New Order — this is one really bizarre love triangle.
The music sounds like a cross between The Cars and late period Styx. But the song stands out because of its semi-spoken, semi-obscene verses (where Hegel seeks advice from Tommy) and singalong chorus. When Hegel sing to Judy that â€œheâ€™d like to know herâ€ and her comely reply is that she â€œonly likes what she hasnâ€™t done twice.â€ John Hughes couldnâ€™t have written it better.
Had anyone heard it, â€œTommy, Judy and Meâ€ might have been labeled offensive. But whatâ€™s most shocking now is how the song casually prophesizes the Columbine school shootings. In verse two, Tommy says heâ€™s â€œbought a gun and that one day theyâ€™ll remember his name.â€ To which Hegel distractedly responds: â€œLetâ€™s change the subject, Tommy, letâ€™s talk of Judy.â€ See how no one takes the time to listen to troubled teens?
Even with its oddball outrageousness, â€œTommy, Judy & Meâ€ works because it captures the anxiety-riddled vibe of teendom. Itâ€™s awkward, embarrassing, immature, and sometimes totally phony. Just teen life like the real world.
â€œTommy, Judy & Meâ€ was released as RCA single #12009. Blog entry originally posted 3/16/06.
In a recent MSNBC commentary, I mentioned that the old danceÂ known as the twist was so ubiquitous in early 1960s that even soul great Sam Cooke spent time twisting the night away. Although some commenters seemed incredulous about this, that really is a fact: Cookeâ€™s â€œTwisting the Night Awayâ€ hit Number 9 on the Billboard charts in 1962 (a cover version by Rod Stewart got to Number 59 in 1973).
That got me thinking about how the twist wasnâ€™t just a trendy dance â€“ it was an all-outÂ craze. It took off in 1960 and then got revived two years later. I first noticed this while I was in college and used to spend my â€œstudy timeâ€ studying the Billboard book ofÂ Â top 100 hits (aka â€œTop Pop Singles), which I later bought. A huge number of artists cut twist records. Most of us know all the hits, by Chubby Checker, Gary â€œU.S.â€ Bonds, etc. So hereâ€™s a list of some of the weirdest.
â€œTwisting Bellsâ€ â€“ Santo and Johnny (#49, 1960)
â€œKissinâ€™ and Twistinâ€™â€ â€“ Fabian (#91, 1960)
â€œEverybodyâ€™s Twistinâ€™â€ â€“ Frank Sinatra (#75, 1962)
â€œThe Alvin Twistâ€ â€“ The Chipmunks (#40, 1962)
â€œOliver Twistâ€ â€“ Rod McKuen (#76, 1962)
â€œTwistinâ€™ Postmanâ€ — The Marvelettes (#34, 1962)
â€œThe Basie Twistâ€ â€“ Count Basie (#94, 1962)
â€œTequila Twistâ€ â€“ The Champs (#99, 1962)
â€œTwistinâ€™ All Night Longâ€ â€“ Danny and the Juniors (#68, 1962)Â Â
1. THE CHIRPING CRICKETS Buddy Holly, alongside rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, bassist Joe B. Mauldin, and drummist-extraordinaire Jerry Allison, formed the immaculately suited, fully self-contained singing/songwriting template upon which some of the greatest pop-rock bands since, from those Beatles most obviously on down, were inextricably linked at the hip.
2. BUDDYâ€™S BUDDY When no less than that up-coming King of Western Bop Elvis Presley first blew into Lubbock, Texas on tour in 1955, homeboy Buddy Holly was not only right there in the front row cheering him on, but afterwards appointed himself the Hillbilly Catâ€™s exclusive host, guide and confidant for the ensuing sixteen hours. Duly inspired, Buddy immediately revamped his burgeoning Crickets from an alt.-bluegrass combo into Lubbockâ€™s very own Elvis, Scotty and Bill â€¦so successfully so, in fact, that several months later, when Elvis triumphantly returned to town, Buddy Holly had graduated from mere tour guide status to that of official on-stage opening act.
3. LEARNING THE GAME After somehow failing to impress the usually infallible Owen Bradley with â€œThatâ€™ll Be The Dayâ€ at a 1956 demo session (â€œthe worst song I ever heardâ€ was his verdict), Buddy determinedly drove one thousand miles from Nashville to the Clovis, New Mexico studios of Norman Petty, where over the next eighteen months they turned a simple two-track facility into an audio workshop/lab from which came not only the look and attitude, but the very sounds of the 1960â€™s to come. Despite his so obviously prescient George Martin ways though, Petty must be docked serious points for screwing Buddy royally over songwriting credits, royalties, and even concert proceeds until the Holly estate could eventually be forever wrenched from his Machiavellian claws.
4. LISTEN TO ME It may have lasted only twenty-five days, but when Buddy and his Crickets toured the United Kingdom in the spring of 1958, those watching closely and taking serious notes for future use were, amongst thousands of others, John Lennon and Paul McCartney (whose first-ever recording was a near note-perfect â€œThatâ€™ll Be The Dayâ€ shortly afterwards), Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (the former already proud owner of the Chirping Crickets album), Graham Nash and Allan Clarke (who soon grew their two-man Everlys act into the full, named-in-guess-whoâ€™s-honor Hollies), and pioneering British record producer Joe Meek â€¦who subsequently became so obsessed over Holly that he not only killed his landlady, but himself on the eighth anniversary of Buddyâ€™s own tragic demise.
5. NOT FADE AWAY It did indeed take a Buddy Holly composition to first put The Rolling Stones securely into the American hit parade with, at the very height of Beatlemania, Lennon/McCartneyâ€™s â€œI Wanna Be Your Manâ€ unceremoniously relegated to the singleâ€™s B-side! And speaking of whomâ€¦
6. WORDS OF LOVE Buddy wrote the best song on the Beatles VI album; and, come to think of it, maybe even on Beatles For Sale.
7. FOOLâ€™S PARADISE Buddyâ€™s wealth of songs have proven so adaptable, durable and downright sturdy as to withstand covers from the likes of Rush (who also debuted on seven-inch vinyl with â€œNot Fade Awayâ€ I kid you not), the Grateful Dead, The Knack and even Linda Ronstadt. Not to mention â€œItâ€™s So Easyâ€œ (-Off oven cleaner) and â€œOh Boyâ€ becoming â€œOh, Buick!â€ television jingles at the behest of Hollyâ€™s supposedly sympathetic post-Petty publishing magnate Sir Paul McC. Quite highly recommended nevertheless is the 1977 McCartney-produced Holly Days, um, tribute album by then-Wing Denny Laine.
8. MAYBE BABY Years before he was to become the serial tragic clown of television reality programming, that perennially short-pant-legged dust storm known as Gary Busey deservedly nabbed an Oscar nomination for his title role in 1978â€™s Buddy Holly Story. Now while its script may have taken inexcusable Hollywood shortcuts in recounting our heroâ€™s life and music, at least Gary, alongside co-stars Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith, became pretty damn garage-worthy Crickets all over the filmâ€™s soundtrack, performing as close to live whenever possible before the unforgiving cameras.
9. CRYING, WAITING, HOPING Weeks before his last-ever tour, a newly married Holly sang several song sketches into a tape recorder in his Greenwich Village apartment for what turned out to be posterity. Having already hinted at still non-categorizable sounds-to-come with tracks like â€œEverydayâ€ and â€œWellâ€¦ All Right,â€ Buddyâ€™s last recordings leap even further into the unknown with covers of Ray Charles (!), Bing Crosby (!!), plus Hollyâ€™s own final compositions. Exquisite guitar-and-voice-only recordings, they are far more than simply â€œunplugged.â€ They are sublime, heartbreaking, and totally unique. As with most things Holly.
10. STANDING IN THE DOORWAY "And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him. And he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way." â€” Bob Dylan, 1998 Grammy Awards acceptance speech for Album of the Year Time Out Of Mind.