Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mobilze Some Laughs with Just one Call

Nothing matters but the weekend from a Tuesday point of view...

When I got to college, I bonded over music almost instantly with Sarah, a total Beatles freak who also worshipped the Ramones. No doubt my bizarre collection of punkish vinyl from the 60s (and my Badfinger obsession).

But there were always things she loved that I just didn't get.

And things I loved that were perplexing to her.

One of them was the one-hit wonder The Kings. Amazingly, the band is still going strong after more than 30 years, still playing "This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide."

Yeah, the lyrics are shallow, the boasting is sophomoric, and the Bob Ezrin production lends a late-70s synthy blandness to the proceedings.

But I never could resist the hook. From the first time I heard the song while driving through the woods in Western Massachusetts in my Mom's car. I pulled over to listen, wondering to myself what the hell band this was.

As I was sitting on the side of the road listening, an Amherst police department crusier pulled up behind me and a rookie cop questioned me about why I had stopped. When I told him, he listened to a snippet of the song and sneered. "That's the Kings," he said. Then a moment later, he added: "I hate this song," walked back to the cruiser, and drove off. I bought the album two days later.

When I went to college, I lugged the record with me (along with albums by Badfinger, the Beatles, Joe Jackson, and the original double-LP vinyl release of Nuggets. When Sarah's little brother Alec came to visit, he made a point of thumbing through all my old records. Mostly he nodded approvingly. Then he pulled out The Kings are Here and taunted me with it. "What the hell is this?" he demanded.

"I love that song," I said.

Alec stared at me, then looked over at Sarah. "I thought he was cool," he said, then shook his head. "I thought he cared about music. I guess not." With that, Alec put the record down on the floor and left the room.

Years later, Alec would join a country rock band that played Skynyrd-like songs with the intensity of the Sex Pistols. They got a record deal and toured all over the world.

Guess he showed me who's cool.

And maybe this song has slipped from the unabashed love column to the guilty pleasure column. Maybe Alec and the cop were right. But when the needle drops onto the vinyl, the chugging T-Rex-ish guitar starts, and the organ kicks in, it's like I'm back on Route 9 again, pulled over on the side of the road, listening carefully and wondering "what the hell is this anyway?"

Update: John Picard, who plays guitar with the Kings under the nom-de-axe of Mister Zero and co-wrote this song, noted in the comments that the video for this song, which Warner Music had taken down (to call them overzealous about this stuff is being kind) is back up. So please click here to enjoy the video (and a very short Dick Clark intro).

And pop over to their website to order a 40-minute documentary about the making of "This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide" on DVD.


William V. Madison said...

I called her Motown because she was so cool. Where is that woman these days, anyway?

As for the song … I've got to side with Alec here. But take it in stride: not every piece of music you write about can be a revelation to me.

WZJN said...

Just listened to the Kings in my car the other day. Blasting full tilt, windows all the way down, singing along ... you get a lot of strange looks doing that. But, I didn't care - still love the track! Great pick.

John Picard said...

Hey, I'm the guitar player for The Kings and co-writer of 'Beat/Switchin''. These Google alerts are great fun. You should try and watch the official video: it was taken off youtube by Warner and is now back up. And it is on our website with other great stuff. I love the story of the cop who didn't like the tunes. What better endorsement! And this Alec character, what band was he in? What burger joint does he work in now?

John Picard aka Mister Zero
The Kings

Kinky Paprika said...

Route 9! The Ted Williams Highway.

Alex said...

Hey John,

Thanks for dropping by... and thanks for all the enjoyment this song has brought me for all these many years!