My eyesight has never been great. As a child, I had no idea what a guitar case looked like (even though I played the violin). I was routinely creeped out by perfectly normal 1970s album covers. I thought the cover of Decade was a weird blob-monster lurking in the desert.
Even more inexplicable was my terror at the sight of Queen’s A Night At The Opera. I couldn’t understand why the goose was on fire. I had no idea the name was inspired by a Marx Brothers film, or that in ’75, it was the most expensive album ever recorded. All I saw was the burning bird. When an entire episode of Family Guy focused on Stewie Griffin’s fear of News Of The World‘s cover, I laughed very, very hard, and knew that I wasn’t alone in my childhood terrors. (That cover is much scarier, to be frank.)
I think I’m misremembering the album cover that scared me the most as a toddler; I could’ve sworn it was Arlo Guthrie, whom my dad was a big fan of back in the day. However, when I looked it up, it’s different from how I recalled. In my memory, the boy and man pictured are at the top of a hill, above indistinct wreckage, and the album featured a folk song about a terrible plane crash. I swear the man was wearing a gas mask. However, the actual cover is practically wholesome:
We’re going way back here folks, and I might be confusing it with something else. That plane crash song freaked me out so badly my father had to talk me down. Granted, I was 3 or 4, but still. I think Arlo Guthrie frightened me in general. The cover of Alice’s Restaurant gave me the heebie-jeebies, for no apparent reason. Embarrassingly, I mistook Guthrie for a sinister retarded man. Despite appearances, I myself was not retarded. I just had a dad who enjoyed folk music, which was not abnormal in the 1970s.
The “errata” correction was courtesy of Eva Vandergeld, a contributor at the excellent Jabootu site. (Somewhere in a previous article, I noted that women correct my mistakes more often than men, and are generally nicer about it.) She suffered through such cinematic dreadnoughts as Jenny McCarthy’s Dirty Love (the one where McCarthy menstruates all over a pharmacy floor), Gregory Poirier’s Tomcats (the one where David Ogden Stiers mistakenly consumes a diseased testicle that had bounced down a hospital hallway), and the Twilight series (bizarro Mormon sex fantasies involving vampires and baseball). Jabootu is where I started visiting to get my wretched-movie fix after The Agony Booth did a feature on Heavy Metal, which irritated me. The Agony Booth was best when its founder, Albert Walker, would review poverty-row excrement like Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972). However, let me tell ya, doing all the work yourself isn’t a sustainable business model, so The Agony Booth had to conscript reader reviewers. One of ’em made the case that Heavy Metal was sexist agony. It is not. This doesn’t change the fact that The Agony Booth’s early reviews are gold.
Here’s that Neil Young video we were watching in panel 2. I mean, what the fuck, Neil.
Neil made a movie called Human Highway in 1982, co-directed by Dean Stockwell. Dennis Hopper was abusing drugs during production, if you can believe such a notion, and he severed one of Sally Kirkland’s tendons with a knife. The score was Mark Mothersbaugh’s first (of many), and for DEVO’s appearance, they were asked to write their own parts. This is why DEVO has the best part in the entire fiasco, and why their characters are consistent with their other output. For years, I hunted a copy of “It Takes A Worried Man”, until it was finally released on the 2000 Pioneers Who Got Scalped retrospective. Thanks to Human Highway, the following footage exists. For that, the film will always hold a special place in my heart.
Q: Is this not great?
As you all know, Neil Young is Canadian, which is what pissed off Lynyrd Skynyrd when he did “Southern Man”. (If you really don’t know the story, they replied to him in the lyrics to a rarely-heard song about Alabama.) Let me let you in on another secret.
I grew up in New Jersey. I was born in New York. At eighteen, I migrated South.
When you live anywhere else in the United States, you identify your state. Here in the South, you state that you are from the South. That’s enough. That’s the kinship we enjoy down here. That’s why Southerners get snippy when you talk shit about the South. That’s why there’s Southern hospitality, and no equivalent in any other direction. And no one outside of the South knows jack shit about life in the South. Get it Yankee?
(I actually like “Southern Man” more than “Sweet Home Alabama”, but don’t tell nobody.)