CD Review published in City Monthly Magazine May 2004

Rick Springfield: Shock, Denial, Anger, Acceptance

I had a great time at the movies the other night. Went to see "Connie and Carla" starring Nia Vardalos, whose "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" became the highest grossing independent film of all time, and Toni Collette, who has been a favorite ever since she starred in Muriel's Wedding, becoming an icon when she uttered the line, "I only wanted my life to be as good as an ABBA song. I wanted my life to be as good as 'Dancing Queen.'" Well, honey, didn't we all. My friend didn't 'get' Muriel's Wedding, and I said to him, "that's because you weren't a Muriel when you were growing up." And that's what it comes down to. You're either a Muriel or you're not.

You either spent your adolescence in your bedroom with the headphones on, listening to Fleetwood Mac and ELO and the Captain and Tennille, with posters of ABBA and Queen and Olivia over your bed, dreaming that any day now Danny Bonaduce would get fired and the call would come for you to be in the Partridge Family, as it should have been in the first place.

Or else you didn't.

"Connie and Carla" started off a bit cheesy and I was nervous. The girls start out as pathetic lounge singers in Chicago who accidentally witness a cold blooded murder, turn all Thelma and Louise and drive across the country in a station wagon. They end up a huge hit in West Hollywood, posing as female impersonators in a drag club, the toast of L.A.'s gay community. X-Files hero David Duchovney appears as as a regular guy somewhat out of place amid all the chiffon and chaos, who can't understand why he's attracted to a drag queen (Vardalos, a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.) (Haven't we all been there!)

I haven't laughed so much since "Finding Nemo." My favorite lines from Ellen as Dory, the blue fish, "Be careful with that hammer!," and Allison Janney as the starfish, "That is the shortest red light I've ever seen!" Don't get me started.

When "Connie & Carla" ended I was on such a high I didn't want to go home, so I snuck in to see "13 Going on 30", starring Jennifer Garner from the critically acclaimed tv show "Alias". Months ago I bought the dvd box set of "Alias Season One" because everyone said it was so good, but haven't had time to watch it beyond the first episode, which I enjoyed. I feel like there's a whole world in that box, sitting there quietly, waiting for me to enter. Kind of like "the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". But with better wigs, more explosions and better editing.

So, not having much of a relationship with Jennifer Garner, who is being touted by Hollywood as the New Julia Roberts (do we need a new one already?) but having seen the Tom Hanks film "Big" several times, I felt I was prepared. Plus if I haven't paid to see a movie, and I don't like it, I'm OK with leaving. You wouldn't believe the movies I have sat through just because I had paid and didn't want to waste my money. One of my favorite lines ever from "Will & Grace" is Will trying to convince Grace that she has courage. He says, "you walked up to Kevin Spacey and said he owed you nine dollars for K-Pax."

"13 Going on 30" is the story of a young girl (13) in 1987 who wishes she was a grown up (30) and then wakes up 17 years in the future (which would be, like, now). While I wasn't a teenage girl in 1987, I totally related to the 13 year old Jenna Rink, who spent her time in her bedroom watching Rick Springfield videos, reciting the oh-so-prophetic words to Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield", and learning the dance steps to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Knowing all the steps to "Thriller" comes in very handy later, when the thirty year old Jenna needs to kick start a dreary but crucial reception, and is the best part of the movie. It was so... well, thrilling! When the scene was over, I unconsciously reached for my TiVo remote to play it again. I was so disappointed that I couldn't, and more so when I realized I would have to wait for the DVD to come out this Christmas before I could watch that scene again. (If you're starting my Christmas wish list, begin here.)

Of course, if you're like me (no offense), you have already seen the glaring inaccuracies of the music in this movie. A teenager in 1987 would not be mooning over Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" video (1981), reciting "Love is a Battlefield" (1983), no matter how profound, and learning the steps to "Thriller" (also 1983). She would have had posters of George Michael, Jon Bon Jovi or Richard Marx, and Michael Jackson - well, his subtle metamorphosis into Diana Ross had already begun, and he was now a few shades paler, decked out in red leather and zippers, claiming to be "Bad."

I admit it's hard to quibble about the accuracy of the music in a movie that has a teenage girl age 17 years overnight. Although playing the Go-Go's (1984) and Belinda Carlisle (1987) in the same breath is bordering on sacrelige.

Anyway, it was ironic because earlier that week I had been standing in front of Mr Rick Springfield himself. He has a new album out, called "Shock Denial Anger Acceptance", which seems to me more like a Laurie Anderson or Peter Gabriel album title, but, then again he didn't ask me. Besides, it's already too late. Rick was playing at the House of Blues in support of his new cd, and I wanted to get him to sign my "Working Class Dog" LP. (Yes, LP). As I walked down Sunset Blvd, I saw there was a line of girls (yes, girls) who had sleeping bags, boom boxes, chitos and teddy bears, apparently having been in line all night.

I thought, "Wow, Rick Springfield's popularity has crossed a generation." Much like ABBA, who became hugely popular again after "Muriel's Wedding", and this new generation of fans who like them "because my Mom had a cassette of ABBA that she played all the time." Sheesh. I never know whether to laugh or cry at that remark.

Well, stranger things have happened, but I just had to know, and crouched down to talk to the cluster of girls at the front of the line, and asked, "Are you waiting for Rick Springfield?" and they said, "Oh, no, we are waiting for Hansen, who are playing here tomorrow night," and then proceeded to show me (framed) pictures of the three lads and how much they've grown since their "Mmmm Bop" days. They also showed me their teddy bears which they said they weren't going to throw at the stage, but I'm not sure I believed them, having been to several Duran Duran concerts and concurrent teddy bear hail storms. Then they pointed across the parking lot to a line up of women who could have been their mothers, and said, "that's the line for Rick Springfield."

Whew. My peeps. I guess. So I casually strolled over and stood on the other side of the parking lot, my LP discreetly tucked under my jacket (you never want to show your hand too soon), not really knowing what to expect. I'm kind of used to being the only guy in a crowd of women, having been to a Wham! stadium concert in 1985 - Andrew, George, 49,999 screaming girls and one me. Hmmm.

Soon enough, Rick drove up in his Range Rover, looking quite slim and more than a little bit older than the picture on my record. I asked him to sign my album, he seemed agreeable and walked over to me. But soon the line up of soccer moms (and I use that as a term of endearment) realized what was happening, and began to encroach on our happy little one-on-one autograph session. Rick's minder touched him on the shoulder and said quietly, "If you don't go now, this is going to get real ugly," and Rick looked up and saw the swarm of women moving in for the kill. Suddenly it was 1984 and we were in the movie "Hard to Hold," and Rick said quickly, "gotta go," handed me back my sharpie and zipped up the stairs into the club.

Being somewhat overly devoted to the artists that I like (the secret, they say, is knowing when to stop, but I pay 'them' no mind), and more so to those who choose to be nice to me (I'm not dropping names but I doubt I will ever buy another B-52's album), I stopped at Tower Records and bought the new cd sight unseen (or, I guess, sound unheard). Not expecting to like anything on it, I popped the it in, and felt like that guy in the Maxell tape ad. You know, where he's sitting in front of the speakers and the sound is blowing his hair back.

Blown away.

If you liked the wall of sound behind "Love is Alright Tonight" (1981) and "Human Touch" (1983), you will like "Shock Denial Anger Acceptance" (2004). It is a rare event when a performer's voice and style don't change over the course of twenty years (witness Elton John or Stevie Nicks) and Rick's music sounds as fresh as it did back then, if a grade more gritty. "Invisible Girl" from "S/D/A/A" (as it's known amongst fans) has a hook just as strong as "Jessie's Girl" (1981), and a guitar riff in the break that is a direct homage, albeit with a slight nu-metal edge.

"Will I", the first single, seems poured from the same mold as "I've Done Everything For You" (1981), which was actually written by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen. The new single, "Beautiful You," starts off with a grinding Aerosmith guitar and Mellencamp hand claps, then a tinkly McCartney piano riff sets the song off into a soaring anthem with layered vocal harmonies, and would sound great covered by U2. The only cover on the album, "I'll Make You Happy" is a hard rocking version of the Easybeats hit from the 60's (also covered by the DiVinyls in the late 80's) and is a muscular blend of power pop styles - AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Jellyfish and Jars of Clay - guaranteed to get any party kick started, "Thriller" dance moves or not.

Rod Reynolds ©2004 The Art Dept Los Angeles

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