The first song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” opens with a steady bass line and smatterings of guitar chords. And when the guys sing, Benji sings into a normal mic in a kind of deep whisper and the Jonny sings into a processed mic to make his voice sound kind of tinny (in harmony). And the lyrics are great. I like when the second chorus comes in and the processed vocals go up an octave for a really cool harmony effect. And I mentioned the lyrics. Here’s an interesting verse:
I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere / And he’s all right
Before the second song starts, they have a bit of fun while Benji tunes his guitar. Everyone is standing around awkwardly and Benji tells Jonny to tell his whale joke. Jonny says no and that it’s not his whale joke he took it off the internet and would like to put it back.
For the second song, “It’s On You” the guys switch places (it was suave, kind of Bob Fosse-ish). Benji sings into the processed microphone. The song also has some busy basslines but the guitar is more pronounced. Hearing him sing in that processed tinny voice is really interesting. More interesting lyrics: “You said I’m an anarchist, communist, feminist phlebotomist.”
Before the final song, they switch places again. Benji says he’s “not the most flexible boy in this collection of people.” “Who is?” “Definitely [the bassist].” Bob asks, “Who tells the best jokes?” “Unintentionally [the drummer] Jonny says to the drummer: “You could do the whale joke… don’t do the whale joke.”
The final song, “Weird Little Birthday Girl” is nearly 8 minutes long. It opens with a cool bass riff and some lovely overlapping guitars. There’s a nearly three-minute instrumental opening and when Jonny starts singing it has a distinctly Wilco quality (partly because oft he processing on his voice but also his delicate singing). There’s a nice shout out to Prefab Sprout in the lyrics:
Its so easy to replace it / some things hurt more much more than cars and girls / an evening in an iron maiden / a morning in your funny little world.
I really enjoyed this set a lot and I’m intrigued that their album (on bandcamp) has some really short songs too. I wonder if their sound is different on the record. Guess I’ll have to give it a listen.
[READ: July 12, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980
I foolishly thought that this book would play up the idea of moving into a new decade. But as I should have learned from years past, Schulz doesn’t really care about when it is. His strip is mostly timeless. There are of course references to time passing, but they are very minor. So, on New Years when it turns 1980, the strip heading says 1980, but there’s no other mention of it.
It’s also interesting how some things that he’s talked about in the past cycle again–many many years later. In January 1979 Peppermint Patty is on a quest for a library card (we saw Sally get one like 5 years ago). She says that once she gets one she wont leave home without it. Marcie says Karl Malden will be happy to hear it. This is a reference to a an American Express card commercial that I remember hearing all the time when I was a kid (although I had o idea it was Malden doing it). She also get a very funny line about junk food: “Life is more than carrot sticks, Marcie…what is a stomach that’s expecting a chocolate bar going to say when it gets a carrot stick?”
The World War I Flying Ace never really went away, but it seems to be making a resurgence in this year, with Snoopy wandering around speaking French and then later German to all the young ladies.
Eudora has been making some regular appearances by now (more frequent than Pig Pen, anyway). She encounters the WWI Flying Ace. It’s funny how much a part of the cast she has become and yet I don’t recall her at all. In Feb 1980 she is introduced to Charlie and says “I’m delighted to meet you, Charles and I hope that we become very good friends.” His socks jump off and Sally says, “See, just like I told you. She can charm your socks off.”
Snoopy hasn’t been pretending to be another kind of animal for quite some time. He pretends to be a viper for a bit this year. But in a nice twist on this idea, he gives Woodstock a mask so he can pretend to be a raccoon and hide from the blue jays.
Patty keeps talking about herself, saying that she is ugly and I feel really bad for her. Despite Patty’s “ugliness,” the Valentine’s Day dance is coming up and she calls up Chuck to ask him… to set her up (she knows he hates dancing). But she says “Not Snoopy.” So he sets her up with Pig Pen. She is horrified at first, but at the end of the night she says, “I haven’t had so much fun at a dance in all my life!” He kisses her on the cheek and she gets all swoony. It’s very sweet. Things end poorly though because Pig Pen is excited to ask her out again–for next year’s dance.
1979 introduces us to The April Fool (snoopy in a stupid outfit–glasses, hat, fake ears–that he had used to try to cheer up Woodstock earlier in the season. This character doesn’t last long.
In Feb 1980 snoopy comments that you have to be careful when jogging after Lucy shouts, “Still following that fat stomach around, I see.” He notes, “You can always run into a barbed comment.”
Some cultural references: In April of 1979 Woodstock makes a joke where the punchline is a bar code. Bar codes came around in 1974 but began to get adopted a lot in the late 1970s. Phil Donahue called them a conspiracy sometime in 1980. That same week Charlie Brown is wearings a medical tag “lots of people wear them.” In December, 1979 Linus says they made chestnuts in a microwave oven.
Woodstock is quite prominent in 1979, he sings a note with a smiley face in it and a chürp. And for a couple of weeks in the summer of 1979 he is a farmer (with a tiny tractor–he raises one radish).
Most of the funny puns come from Sally but Schroeder gets off a good one. Lucy says, “When we go to high school, I’m hoping that we’ll have lockers next to each other.” He quips, “That would be an odd combination HA HA HA HA HA!”
But Sally gets a great school line: “This is my report. I sat up all night working on it. Well actually I didn’t sit up all night working on it. What I did was I sat up all night worrying about it. There’s a big difference.”
In June we get introduced very briefly to Blackjack Snoopy the gambler with two mustaches (and a top hat).
In July, Charlie isn’t feeling good at a game so he goes home. Then he goes to the ER (he says he doesn’t have a social security number). Some people are genuinely worried about him. Patty and Marcie wait outside the hospital. Patty say “We miss you, Chuck.” Marcie says, “We love you, Chuck,” “We do?” “We do, Chuck!” On Sunday, Marcie says “I love Chuck. I think he’s real neat. …Someday I hope he’ll ask me to the senior prom. In fact, if he asked me, I’d even marry Chuck.” Awwww.
Even Lucy is angry that Charlie is in the hospital, “What’s wrong with a world where someone like Charlie Brown can get sick and then not get any better?” She even makes this promise: “If you get well, I promise I’ll never pull the football away again.” He gets better of course (we never do find out what was wrong with him) and Lucy agrees to her promise. But when Charlie Brown finally gets the chance to kick the football (in Aug). He misses and hits her finger instead.
In September 1979, Woodstock gets jury duty (but not much comes of it).
There’s a lot of stuff about the girls playing sports. Linus tries to play football with Sally (who is having none of it)
Later, Patty comes over and says, “In 1978, the average budget for intercollegiate athletics for men was $717,000 but for women it was only $141,000.” Marcie commenting “You’re not against women’s sports, are you, Chuck?” Then they get Lucy on board who shouts “SPEAK OUT!” Marcie is even on board even though she hates sports.
In December Patty succumbs and says that maybe a student’s appearance is important. She wears a bow and gets a C+ instead of D- so the next day she adds another bow. The following day she wears a bow and a dress but has to convince her teacher, “this really is me.” Wearing the dress was quite an experience, she “got a wonderful feeling of femininity and a better understanding of myself …and another D-.”
Although there’s no big fanfare for 1980, in the first week, Patty gets an answer right! “How about that! Drinks are on me!”
Later in January Woodstock brings over a handheld electronic game BOOP BEEP BOOP (Snoopy hates it).
The Beagle Scouts continue their romps through the woods. They get distracted by a tree full of chicks, which is pretty cute. And in December, they get lost on a hike and wind up at Santa’s house. In May of 1980 they get a new scout Harriet who brings along an angel food cake with seven minute frosting. Snoopy says “I’m not against having a girl in our hiking group, sooner or later of course she’ll learn just how difficult these hikes can be… Harriet wait for the rest of us!!”
And in October 1980 there’s a very lengthy section about the scouts getting lost. They get permission to go into town on leave and all the birds get into a fight and Harriet winds up in jail. Charlie goes down to bail her out and then tries to bring her back to the group but he gets lost. When Patty and Marcie find out that he’s lost in the woods they decide to go looking for him them. Then it starts snowing and everyone is lost. But they all find each other with some good humor involved.
There are still plenty of sports–baseball is always with us. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are caddies again in 1980 and Snoopy is still playing tennis. In May 1980 he dressed like John McEnroe and then like Tracy Austin.
Summer camp in 1980 is very interesting because it proves to be an evangelical camp. Patty says the food is terrible. Marcie says you weren’t supposed to start yet! Everyone is standing for prayer “they’re giving thanks for what we are about to receive.” Patty says “I’ve already received it and it was terrible.” Camp proves to be terrible–no comic books, the campfire songs are inspirational choruses, there’s a bed check and the discussion group is led by a prayer. And then the leader says the world is coming to and end (which freaks Patty out). Marcie tells her not to believe everything you hear..the sun is shining in Australia. And after two weeks of this Linus raises his hand and says, “has it ever occurred to you that yo might be wrong?”
Even better, in the next panel, Patty wants to call home to tell her dad about the end of the world and then Marcie points out a drawing of the new camp they’re trying to raise 8 million dollars for and Patty says “Forget the phone, ma’am. Maybe the world will end tomorrow but I wasn’t born yesterday.”
In July of 1980, Patty goes for the 10 braided hair–the “Bo look” which freaks out Snoopy. In August of 1980, Snoopy is skating with big headphones on.
In July, Schroeder gets a little series for himself too. Typically he never leaves the piano but this summer he is going to music camp. But Lucy books him on Snoopy’s airlines and for the very first time we know officially that the doghouse doesn’t actually go anywhere.
In September the kids play “squeeze squash applesauce.” When you’re feeling low, nothing cheers you up like a few rounds of ‘squeeze squash applesauce.'” I’ve never heard of it–it is just smashing each other off of a bench.
Throughout October 1980 Snoopy tries to guess what kind of bird Woodstock is: yellow billed cuckoo, Canada goose, warbler… with Snoopy making the sounds that the birds do.
Despite Lucy’s promise, in 1980 she’s back to pulling away the football. She uses the lines from “Turn Turn Turn”: “and a time to pull away the football.”
As they get reading for Christmas break there’s a new book they have to read: Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Patty calls Marcie and says the book great: “I may be into reading.” Marcie says, “I’m glad, Sir, and the more you read the less you’ll use dumb expressions like that.”
One of my favorite recurring jokes is seeing Charlie Brown trying to write to his pen pal and smudging his ink. It’s more or less the same joke every time but I think it’s very funny and I love seeing him get frustrated at it.
Al Roker is the intro writer for this book. I may be one of the few people in America who doesn’t love Roker. He’s just too ubiquitous for being a weatherman. But I found his introduction to be surprisingly moving. He says he was 7 years old when his family moved from Brooklyn to Queens–they were searching for the American dream and they subscribed to The Long Island Press which ran Peanuts (in 1963, The Daily News did not! Shocking!). He loved them then and appreciates them more now–how the jokes appeal to kids and adults.
He started clipping every strip and organizing them in a book (Roker was a nerd as a kid, too!). He imagined that the collected strips would be valuable some day.
But the best thing for him was in July 1968 when Franklin showed up. Seeing him build a castle with Charlie was huge and then seeing him in class with Patty in such a normal setting was amazing. He interviewed Schulz and asked him about that. Schulz said he wasn’t making a statement with Franklin, he was just a character whose time had come. He was surprised by the reaction to Franklin (some of it was quite negative).
Roker says that when Sparky got cancer he wanted to do one more interview and he asked for Roker.
That brought tears to my eyes, sure enough.