Rob Hegel’s Bizarre Love Triangle

 

Rob HegelForget 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 “Tommy, Judy & Me.” 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 Hegel’s adolescent opus stalled out at #109 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under chart and was swiftly forgotten.

 

“Tommy, Judy & Me” 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 we’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 Supply’s hit “Take Me as I Am,” and penned much of the score to a 1970s Saturday morning TV show called “The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.” Nothing in his resume pointed to “Tommy, Judy & Me,” though. The title alone lets you know for the get-go that this is no “boy meets girl” story. It’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 “he’d like to know her” and her comely reply is that she “only likes what she hasn’t done twice.” John Hughes couldn’t have written it better.

 

Had anyone heard it, “Tommy, Judy and Me” might have been labeled offensive. But what’s most shocking now is how the song casually prophesizes the Columbine school shootings. In verse two, Tommy says he’s “bought a gun and that one day they’ll remember his name.” To which Hegel distractedly responds: “Let’s change the subject, Tommy, let’s talk of Judy.” See how no one takes the time to listen to troubled teens?

 

Even with its oddball outrageousness, “Tommy, Judy & Me” works because it captures the anxiety-riddled vibe of teendom. It’s awkward, embarrassing, immature, and sometimes totally phony. Just teen life like the real world.

 

“Tommy, Judy & Me” was released as RCA single #12009. Blog entry originally posted 3/16/06.

A Twister of Twist Songs

In a recent MSNBC commentary, I mentioned that the old dance 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: Cooke’s “Twisting the Night Away” 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 wasn’t just a trendy dance – it was an all-out 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 “study time” studying the Billboard book of   top 100 hits (aka “Top 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 “U.S.” Bonds, etc. So here’s a list of some of the weirdest.

Rod McKuen - The Oliver Twist

“Twisting Bells” – Santo and Johnny (#49, 1960)

“Kissin’ and Twistin’” – Fabian (#91, 1960)

“Everybody’s Twistin’” – Frank Sinatra (#75, 1962)

“The Alvin Twist” – The Chipmunks (#40, 1962)

“Oliver Twist” – Rod McKuen (#76, 1962)

“Twistin’ Postman” — The Marvelettes (#34, 1962)

“The Basie Twist” – Count Basie (#94, 1962)

“Tequila Twist” – The Champs (#99, 1962)

“Twistin’ All Night Long” – Danny and the Juniors (#68, 1962)  

Gary’s Buddy

TEN REASONS WHY
BUDDY HOLLY
STILL MATTERS

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. BUDDY’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 Cat’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 Lubbock’s very own Elvis, Scotty and Bill …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 “That’ll Be The Day” at a 1956 demo session (“the worst song I ever heard” 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 1960’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 “That’ll Be The Day” 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-who’s-honor Hollies), and pioneering British record producer Joe Meek …who subsequently became so obsessed over Holly that he not only killed his landlady, but himself on the eighth anniversary of Buddy’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/McCartney’s “I Wanna Be Your Man” unceremoniously relegated to the single’s B-side! And speaking of whom…

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. FOOL’S PARADISE
Buddy’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 “Not Fade Away” I kid you not), the Grateful Dead, The Knack and even Linda Ronstadt. Not to mention “It’s So Easy“ (-Off oven cleaner) and “Oh Boy” becoming “Oh, Buick!” television jingles at the behest of Holly’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 1978’s Buddy Holly Story. Now while its script may have taken inexcusable Hollywood shortcuts in recounting our hero’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 film’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 “Everyday” and “Well… All Right,” Buddy’s last recordings leap even further into the unknown with covers of Ray Charles (!), Bing Crosby (!!), plus Holly’s own final compositions. Exquisite guitar-and-voice-only recordings, they are far more than simply “unplugged.” 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."
— Bob Dylan, 1998 Grammy Awards acceptance speech for Album of the Year Time Out Of Mind.