I did not coin the term “Babysitter Rock.” It’s hazy as to who did, someone undoubtedly funnier than I, so I’ll leave it alone. I am, however, an expert on the genre.
The Rules of Babysitter Rock:
1. All Babysitter Rock is AOR (Album-Oriented Rock), though not all AOR is Babysitter Rock.
2. Babysitter Rock immediately predated and predicted 80’s pop metal. Some bands, like Rainbow, would only record one Babysitter Rock song, while being better known for another style, like 70’s hard rock.
3. Like Afternoon Rock, in order qualify, a Babysitter Rock song must have charted in the Top 40.
4. Babysitter Rock is far heavier than Afternoon Rock. I think that goes without saying. Some people need things spelled out.
5. Babysitter Rock provides an excellent soundtrack to pre-event drinking or the completion of projects.
The Hall of Greatness:
1. April Wine “All Over Town” (1981) Fun fact: Almost power pop and superior to any Cheap Trick song.
2. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “For You” (1980) Fun fact: “For You” carried on MMEB’s tradition of only being able to chart with songs from Bruce Springsteen’s first album. Be wary, the Boss’ versions of “Blinded By The Light”, “Spirit In The Night”, and this one, all suck.
3. Aldo Nova “Fantasy” (1982)
4. Head East “Never Been Any Reason” (1975) Fun fact: The first ever Babysitter Rock song.
5. Saga “On The Loose” (1981)
6. Donnie Iris “Ah! Leah!” (1980) Fun fact: Iris is one of the only “three-hit wonders”, charting with three disparate styles….first in the Jaggerz (“The Rapper”), then in Wild Cherry (“Play That Funky Music (White Boy)”), and then with this song.
7. Vandenburg “Burning Heart” (1982)
8. Rainbow “Stone Cold” (1982)
9. Triumph “Fight The Good Fight” (1981)
10. The Alan Parsons Project “Games People Play” (1981) Unfun fact: Light fare for this genre, but rocking nonetheless.
My first non-music writing for The Memphis Flyer:
J.G. Ballard Conversations
Edited by V. Vale
RE/Search Publications, 360 pp., $19.99 (paper)
The only star graduate of the “New Wave of Science Fiction” of the 1950s and early ’60s, J.G. Ballard tended to shuck hokey plots for more human statements. Like his American (arguable) counterpart, Philip K. Dick, Ballard became unclassifiable as the ’60s wore on. Intensely tuned in to the decay left behind by urban and technological advances, it could be said that Ballard’s real protagonists by the ’70s were abandoned buildings and shipyards and decommissioned military bases. Man was thrown in just for giggles, and the reader watched as the foreboding environment psychologically broke him (it was usually a male) down.
The Terminal Beach (1964), The Crystal World (1966), Concrete Island (1974), and High-Rise (1975) are powerful and highly recommended, but it was The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), a collection of incendiary stories, and the automobile-accident, scar-fetish porn of 1972’s Crash (adapted for the screen in 1996 by David Cronenberg) that brought Ballard notoriety. Then he wrote what the general public knows him for: the semi-autobiographical best-seller Empire of the Sun (1984), a fictionalized account of Ballard’s childhood in a WWII Japanese internment camp in occupied China, which was subsequently made into the award-winning Steven Spielberg film.
RE/Search Publications has always embraced Ballard, making him the subject of two previous volumes (one a reprint of The Atrocity Exhibition) and now honoring the writer with the simultaneous publication of J.G. Ballard: Quotes and this collection of interviews. Sadly, Conversations is as much about RE/Search founder V. Vale’s agenda — he is a terminal and alienating sycophant of all things Counter Culture 101 — as it is about the subject at hand, a problem that plagues most RE/Search books.
Vale edited and published Search and Destroy, one of the first punk-rock fanzines of the ’70s, before launching RE/Search, a narrow-minded but definitely interesting player in the world of ’80s/’90s underground publishing. Though Incredibly Strange Music, Incredibly Strange Films, and Pranks! are of merit, RE/Search too often strayed into contrived, “shocking” territory with titles such as Modern Primitives and Bodily Fluids, the latter hilariously devoid of pictures.
In Conversations, Vale claims that Ballard’s only literary equal is William S. Burroughs, going so far as to say that they are the only two writers who have ever mattered. This is ridiculous and indicative of the shortsightedness that only assigns quality to art that is self-consciously fringe, weird, controversial, difficult, in-your-face, etc. In truth, the glaring commonality between Burroughs and Ballard is that the same letter begins their surnames. Burroughs, a man far more interesting to read about than to read, in no way approaches the level of Ballard.
True to its title, Conversations is not so much interviews but seemingly unedited tea times among Ballard, Vale, and Vale’s secret-handshake club of longtime RE/Search collaborators: Mark Pauline (founder of Survival Research Laboratories), Greame Revell (leader of the industrial group SPK), and writer David Pringle. The conversations span the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, offering Ballard’s surprisingly light-hearted and humorous takes on the political and social climates of each decade, which are amusingly in direct contrast to the interviewer’s predictable efforts to “serious-up” and sabotage things with fatalistic negativity.
Not to be lumped in the for-fanatics-only category, Conversations is still an insightful read into Ballard’s head, but his fiction and nonfiction collection A User’s Guide to the Millennium (1996) are better places to start. — Andrew Earles
The Flyer, this writer’s oldest freelance outlet, has only run my music writing. It felt nice to sneak a book review in there.
Afternoon Rock Hall of Greatness Part IV
See parts 1 – III for descriptive back info.
Note the inclusion of Jefferson Starship, not an Afternoon Rock band in motive or sound, while “Miracles” was one of the best songs of the type. This happened.
1. Robert John “Sad Eyes” (1979)
2. Dan Hill “Sometimes When We Touch” (1977)
3. Hall and Oates “She’s Gone” (1973, re-released as a hit in 1975)
4. Fleetwood Mac “Hypnotized” (1973)
5. Dave Mason “We Just Disagree” (1977)
6. Jefferson Airplane “Miracles” (1975)
7. The Dirt Band “American Dream” (1979)
8. Bob Welch “Ebony Eyes” (1977) Fun fact: Almost too hard for Afternoon Rock. Approaches the sister genre of Babysitter Rock.
9.Al Stewart “Year of the Cat” (1976)
10. 10CC “I’m Not In Love” (1975) Fun fact: Probably the greatest Afternoon Rock song. The king. The tent pole moment.