Friday, August 1, 2008

Wash Me

Though the Pagan calendar indicates that autumn begins on August 6, just about every spot in the northern hemisphere can count on at least four to six more weeks of warm weather. Eight weeks if the gods think we deserve it.

And even though gas prices will soon convert North America into a horrifying wasteland with a barter-based economy ruled by ruthless thugs sporting Mohawks and leather harnesses, chances are your car needs a good washing.

Really, you don't want to make one last weekend cruise down to the beach in a vehicle encrusted with sap, bird turds and highway dust, do you?

The point is, when breaking out the bucket, mitt and hose -- or driving down to the local coin-op wash & go -- there's a certain soundtrack required. You have two choices, and The Typing Monkey recommends both: Sweet's Desolation Boulevard and Van Halen's self-titled debut.

Much has been written about both records. However, a trusted Monkey associate summed up the appeal of both choices as prime auto sanitation accompaniment with this elegant notion: "Play these and your car will practically wax itself."

You'll want the American version of Desolation, as that release not only opens with "Ballroom Blitz" but divides the songs equally. All the Nicky Chinn- and Mike Chapman-penned tunes are on side one, and the band-penned tunes on side two.

Sweet may be English, but their candy-coated machismo was destined for blue collar American pastimes. A night of drag races, demolition derby and funny car time trials requires "Fox on the Run" over the cruddy PA system at your local racetrack.

You're likely to hear Van Halen's "Runnin' With the Devil" there too. And though the release dates of Van Halen and Desolation are separated by four years (1978 and '74, respectively), the two albums temper silly rock & roll hedonism with self-awareness -- as if both bands had one foot on Led Zeppelin and the other on Queen.

David Lee Roth admits that there's nobody waiting for him at home when he returns from er, running with the Devil. And Andy Scott's ever-rising guitar solo that closes "Sweet F.A." ends with an explosion. Take that, Peter "James" Bond!

Both quartets boasted flashy lead vocals*, fantastic guitar leads, no-nonsense bass playing, drums that flirt with big band rhythms and massive harmonies that you might not notice but would miss terribly if absent.

Right. Back to this car-washing thing. The Typing Monkey will pretend you already own these records, and that even if your "car" is a Turkey Monster Bike with metal-flake vinyl on the banana seat, you now have something to do with yourself some Saturday morning in the near future.

*The Typing Monkey has nothing against Sammy Hagar or Gary Cherone, but when Diamond Dave left after 1984, we followed him.