Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.
I was reading The Avengers regularly in 1975-76, when writer Steve Englehart brought the character of Patsy Walker into the mix. I don’t think I’d read any issues of Marvel‘s Patsy Walker teen humor comic book in the ’60s, nor had I seen Patsy’s more serious appearances as a supporting character in The Beast (starring in Amazing Adventures). I had seen Marvel’s short-lived Claws Of The Cat book, so I recognized the costume Walker donned in The Avengers # 144, which was Patsy Walker’s first appearance as Hellcat. Decades later, I was several episodes into Marvel’s Jessica Jones TV series on Netflix before I realized that the character “Trish Walker” was Patsy Walker, albeit without the Hellcat identity.
“Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” was yet another of my many favorite songs on the radio in the early ’70s. I didn’t remember any of The Hollies’ ’60s hits from when I was younger, but I sure loved this song. My interest in The Hollies expanded as I began to explore more oldies radio, and I picked up a copy of The Very Best Of The Hollies outta the cut-out bin at Gerber Music in Penn Can Mall. Granted, it didn’t include “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” but it did have “Bus Stop,””Look Through Any Window,””Stop, Stop, Stop,””I Can’t Let Go,” and “On A Carousel,” among others, so I was in Heaven. I also picked up the soundtrack to the David Essex movie Stardust out of the dingy basement at Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights, and that contained The Hollies’ “Carrie Anne.” And, after all these years, I still don’t care about The Hollies’ 1974 hit “The Air That I Breathe.”
HOLLY & THE ITALIANS
In 1981, Creem magazine described Holly & the Italians’ debut album The Right To Be Italian as something like Lesley Gore or The Angels backed by Leave Home-era Ramones. Well, I was sold! I first heard Holly & the Italians on a CBS Records various-artists collection called Exposed II, which included “Rock Against Romance” and the group’s signature tune, “Tell That Girl To Shut Up.” A Holly & the Italians flexi-disc was also included with one of my subscription copies of Trouser Press magazine, and I bought a copy of The Right To Be Italian (with a water-damaged cover) from a record store in New York. The Right To Be Italian remains one of my all-time Top 25 albums.
I was a big fan of Mattel‘s Hot Wheels cars–my first Hot Wheels car was Splittin Image–and I liked the 1969 cartoon TV series on ABC. DC Comics licensed the rights to adapt the TV series, and these were some really well-done comics, with stunning artwork from Alex Toth and (in its final issue) Neal Adams. DC’s Hot Wheels comic ran for only six issues, and the daunting prospect of trying to navigate the Sargasso Sea of licensing complications will likely prevent it from ever being reprinted.
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There is really no such thing as a guilty pleasure in pop music. Unless you happen to love neo-Nazi ditties or glorifications of hatred or violence, I’d say it’s okay for you to dig whatever you wanna dig. Yes, even the hits of The Eagles. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE POP SONGS! Guilt-Free Pleasures (A Defense Against The Dark Arts) celebrates pop songs. The guilty need not apply.
R. DEAN TAYLOR: Indiana Wants Me
Written by R. Dean Taylor
Produced by R. Dean Taylor
Single, Rare Earth, 1970
He fought the law, and the law won.
R. Dean Taylor‘s “Indiana Wants Me” was all over AM Top 40 in 1970, the very year I began listening to radio with more deliberate intent and focus. Is it a guilty pleasure? SPOILER ALERT: no, don’t be silly. It’s a terrific single, I love it, and I still attempt to sing along with it each time I hear it play.
But let’s talk about its story.
“Indiana Wants Me” tells the sad tale of a guy on the run from the police. This fugitive is a murderer; he confesses his guilt in the song’s first line, If a man ever needed dyin’, he did. We learn immediately that the murder victim had said something inappropriate about the murderer’s wife, thus prompting his violent demise and the murderer’s status as a wanted man fleeing justice. The murderer has no remorse whatsoever for his crime; his only regret is the pain he’s caused his beloved wife, his only real wish that he could see her, their home, and their little baby. One last time. The law catches up with him, he refuses to surrender, and his story ends in a hail of gunfire.
Pulp as pop. But I think there’s even more pulp beneath this story’s surface.
For reference, let’s give our three principal characters names, just so I can stop calling them “the murderer,” “the victim,” and “the murderer’s wife.” I thought of calling them Archie, Reggie, and Veronica, but–let’s face it–the Riverdale TV series has done enough damage to those names. I almost went with Pancho, Lefty, and Emmylou, but that woulda been unfair to Emmylou (and besides, Pancho needs your prayers, it’s true, but save a few for Lefty, too). So we’re gonna go with Manny, Moe, and Jaqueline. Manny is our killer on the run, Moe is his late victim, and Jacqueline is Manny’s soon-to-be-widowed wife.
What in the world could Moe have said about Jacqueline that so enraged Manny? No one had the right to say what he said about you. I guess it’s possible that Manny’s skin was so thin that an offhand comment about our Jacqueline’s looks or demeanor ignited homicidal fury. If so, well, it’s amazing Manny lived as long as he did before running afoul of the whole Thou shalt not kill thing. Instead, I keep coming back to one line of thought:
What if Moe said he loved Jacqueline? And what if Moe swore that Jacqueline loved him? Furthermore, what if Moe claimed that he and Jacqueline had consummated their love. Y’know…physically. Bouncy-bouncy.
If a man ever needed dying, he did. How dare Moe tell such an awful lie?
With that, we understand what sparked Manny’s sudden rage. We don’t excuse it–Manny is very much guilty of murder–but at least we can comprehend what happened. But I say that ain’t all.
Because Moe wasn’t lying.
Moe and Jacqueline were together. Whether a single night’s shaking of the sheets or a long-term affair (or more), Moe and Jacqueline did it, marital vows be damned.
And I’ll add one more little detail: the little baby that Manny wishes he could see, just once more? The baby ain’t his. Moe is the father.
Regardless of R. Dean Taylor’s actual real-world intent in crafting the lyrics, I’m convinced that “Indiana Wants Me” is about a guy whose wife cheated on him, and the hijinks that ensued thereafter. Whether Manny is in willful denial of the affair or knows (but won’t admit) what really happened, the sins of the flesh led to the mortal sin of murder. And it’s so cold and lonely here without you. All that’s left is the loss.
And the guilt.
VERDICT: Well, the song’s characters are guilty as sin. But the song itself? Innocent, not guilty.
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