My mom cultivated my "analytic listening" skills, pre-Baby Einstein daze, by making me transcribe song lyrics for the parental pop gigs. I felt like the real Song Hits scribe, or at least the knock-off version Pasig stilez. SH was published by Charlton Pubs and originated in the south back in the 1930's (I think). Its Pinoy incarnation, the one with which I'm most familiar, featured glossy covers that encased pages of smudgy, folio-sized newsprint covered with tablature and song lyrics from the hot 100 like--"Abra Abra Cadabra...I wanna reach out and grab ya..." (Steve Miller band, baby).
Song Hits (SH) wasn't readily available in the I.E. back in the late-early 80's, although the Alpha Beta grocery on the corner of California and Monroe Aves. boasted a shockingly awesome selection of Brit teenybopper mags like Smash Hits. SmH occasionally included song lyrics (mostly Wham!). More on the Anglophilia of So. Cal Inland Emperors and Empresses in a later installment.
Anyway...a lyric-transcription memory I can't seem to forget (for no apparent reason) inolves El DeBarge's solo smash"Rhythm of the Night." The words were easy enough to pick out, thanks to El's earnest readerly delivery. Listen and he sounds almost like a kid working his way through an enchanted storybook for the very first time. Nevertheless, a few lines remained breathily elusive, so I had to listen to the song over and over and over again. Cue synth-steel drums and stocky bass line. To this day I know every word by heart. ROTN was penned by powerhouse movie music composer, Dianne Warren. It provided the theme for the Reagan-era studio flick, The Last Dragon (Columbia TriStar/ Motown, 1985), which some regard as blaxploitation-lite. Must be because Vanity stars in it.
One could call El's solo smash the poor-man's "All Night Long," but there's just something so sweet, lite and scamper-scamper andro-hooves about it--like the world is all unicorns, cummerbunds and scraggly tranny moustaches. Come to think of it, El's attire for his "live" Solid Gold performance of the hit back in '85 provides the template for some of the more spectacular forms of urban andro-lesbo, post-millenial, post-bisekshual, post-Le Tigre's-major-label-debut style. "Lesbians to the Rescue" indeed. I'm pretty sure that plenty of these art-burn white girls are completely clueless about the fact that their "ironic" fashion bravado has everything to do with a bizarre but important moment in Black pop culture.
El, this one's for you and your afro-andro charms...for all that time I spent listening to your 45 (notice I ain't calling it a 7"), and for my momma who wore her own sequined cummerbund for shows. INLAND EMPEROR would also like to send a special shout-out to this week's special guest star la Balance (the 'day known as "Tyne" back in tha day). An Inland Empress in exile, we hope she comes back to us for keeps.
Rollin' deep in the heart of the I.E. through the gnarled concrete arteries of 60+10+91 east to neon sunsets and Naugles, Taco Tia, the Mad/Friendly/Happy or Lucky Greek,The Menagerie, Spanky's, Butch's Grinders, The Denny's Cocktail Lounge at Hardman Center (in pace requiescat). We spell Paris P-E-R-R-I-S, bitches!