Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Church – "Under the Milky Way" (1987)

I think about
The loveless fascination
Under the Milky Way tonight

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I told you about the modest and infrequent vacations my family took when I was a kid.

I don’t know how interesting that post was to people.  I wrote it to provide a detailed factual account of a small aspect of my life for my kids and grandkids.  It was autobiography, not entertainment.

This 2 or 3 lines is going to describe a trip I took by myself when I was in high school.  It was a pretty great trip, if I do say so myself.

I’m going to write it as if I was interviewing another person.

Q: I understand you took a pretty great trip by yourself – not with your parents and sister – when you were in high school.  Tell us about it.

Butch and Sundance
A: Do you mean the weekend at the University of Missouri my senior year?  When we saw the Missouri football team crush Oklahoma, and went to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

Q: Actually, I was thinking of your other really great high school trip . . .

A: Oh, right . . . my trip to Miami Beach in the summer of 1969, just after I finished my junior year of high school.

Q: That’s the one.  What was the reason for that trip?

A: Well, I was the secretary-treasurer of the Key Club at my high school.  My best friend was the club’s president.  That meant we represented our club as voting delegates at the Key Club’s international convention, which was in Miami Beach that year.  

Q: Miami Beach is a long way from Joplin, Missouri.

A: You can say that again, pard.  That was not only the first time I had been on an airplane, but it was the first time I had been in the Eastern time zone.

Q: What do you remember much about the flight to Miami?

A: Quite a bit, actually.  Our flight left Joplin at the crack of dawn and stopped in Fort Smith – or maybe Little Rock – and then Shreveport on the way to New Orleans, where we hopped on a connecting flight to Miami.  I remember that they gave us a donut or a Danish and a cup of orange juice on the first leg of the flight, and that I threw up during the subsequent landing.

Q: What airline did you fly on?

Braniff BAC-111
A: That’s an interesting question.  I know we flew on a Braniff BAC-111 jet that day, but I don’t know if we flew Braniff all the way, or only on the New Orleans-Miami flight segment.  I don’t think Braniff served Joplin then, but it might have.  

Q: What were the convention sessions like?  What were the big issues up for debate?

A: Beats me.  My friend and I and a couple of delegates from Golden, Colorado who were in the hotel room next door to ours skipped all (or nearly all) of the convention sessions.  B-o-r-i-n-g!

Q: What did you do instead?

A: I know we went to a Jewish deli near our hotel for breakfast.  We had never seen bagels, lox, and the other deli-style choices.  I remember our waitress was a stereotypical, middle-aged New Yorker.  I’m sure she thought we were total yokels, and I’m guessing we didn’t tip very well.  We also went out on the balcony on our hotel – we were quite a ways up – and threw rolls of toilet tissue over the side so they unrolled and floated slowly down to the ground.

Sign outside Miami Beach deli
Q: Was that the highlight of the trip?

A: Hell, no!  The highlight of the trip was taking a cab from our hotel to a movie theater that was showing I Am Curious (Yellow), a Swedish pseudo-documentary movie that mixed political elements with plenty of sex.  We weren’t 18, and shouldn’t have been allowed to buy tickets to I Am Curious (Yellow), but the theater wasn’t too curious about our age – all they were curious about was whether we had enough cash to buy tickets.

NOTE: The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that the movie wasn’t obscene, but there’s no chance anyone went to see it for any other reason than the nudity.  

Q: What do you remember about the movie?

A: It was in black and white, which wasn’t all that unusual in 1969.  Of course, it was subtitled – most of the dialogue was political crap that made no sense to any of us.  I sort of remember the female star, a young Swedish actress who spent a lot of time buck nekkid.  She looked a lot different than modern-day porn stars look – she didn’t have well-defined muscles, and she didn’t shave her underarms or pubic area.  She wasn’t as perfect-looking as the women in Playboy magazine, but back then Playboy playmates looked a lot more natural and real than nude models and porn stars look today. 

A shot from “I Am Curious (Yellow)” 
Q: You’ve gone back to Miami Beach many times, correct?

A: Yes.  I’ve been going to Miami annually for the last 20 years or so to attend a trade show.  

Q: A lot has changed, I assume.

A: Everything has changed.  The movie theatre where we saw I Am Curious (Yellow) was on Lincoln Road, just west of Collins Avenue, which is the big north-south road that runs the length of Miami Beach.  Lincoln Road is a tourist hangout today, with a bunch of restaurants and bars.  Back then it was a somewhat down-at-the-heels commercial strip, a little too far away from the beach to attract a lot of tourist traffic.

Vintage Fontainebleau Hotel postcard
Q: Any other memories of that trip?

A: Just one.  I think we were staying at the Fontainebleau, which had been a very swanky hotel that was beginning to look a little dated.  (They’ve totally renovated the Fontainebleau, which is very posh today, although it’s not in the greatest neighborhood.)  In any event, we played a couple of tricks on one of the guys from Colorado who was in the room next door – with the cooperation of his roommate, of course.  First, we squirted hotel moisturizer all over his palm.  Someone had told us that doing that would make the person you did it to rub his face with his hand, which this guy did.  The other trick we pulled was filling some kind of container with warm water and submerging one of his hands in it.  That supposedly makes you pee in your sleep.  A lot of people say that trick doesn’t work but I’m pretty sure it worked for us.

*     *     *     *     *

The Church’s 1988 hit, “Under the Milky Way,” was co-written by Steve Kilbey, the band’s lead vocalist and bass player, and his then girlfriend, Karin Jansson.  (Kilbey is a prolific songwriter who has reportedly copyrighted 750 songs to date.)

Jansson, who was born and grew up in Sweden, played guitar in Pink Champagne, a Swedish feminist punk band that recorded two albums in the early 1980s.  She and another member of the band moved to Australia in 1987, where Jansson met Kilbey.

In 1987, Jansson formed the band Curious (Yellow), which released an EP titled I Am Curious the next year.  Kilby produced that EP. 

Karin Jansson
The couple’s twin daughters, Elektra and Miranda, formed Say Lou Lou in 2012.  they’ve released several singles and one album.

My favorite thing about “Under the Milky Way” is the bagpipe solo at about 2:20 of the song – which was actually played on a Synclavier synthesizer.

Here’s “Under the Milky Way”:

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

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