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Thursday, October 9, 2008

GMVW # 40: "Misfits"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 40:  Misfits
Song:  Spike by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
(Songwriter: Tom Petty)
October 9, 2008

After coming home from a 4-year college stint in 1984, I spent a good year or so trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do.  I bounced around for a while in Franklin, commuting into Boston to intern for the National Park Service Regional Office.  I also got my bartender license seeing as I had to find some way to make money (since the responses to my resumes consistently included words like ‘However’ and ‘Although’).  It was quite a transition from campus life.

Most of the old Franklin crew was scattered, but Dave was still a reliable connection.  Our friendship normally covered the gambit, but that year it was primarily focused on one common denominator: Competition.  We matched up against one another in all forms of one-upmanship from Risk to ping pong, for the most part splitting the fruits of victory and agony of defeat.  In a way, I guess I was unconsciously preparing for the dog-eat-dog world that lay ahead (thanks, Dave).  For Dave, it was not too many years down the road before he had replaced me with an equally competitive wife, cousin Becca (observing them during the show Jeopardy is a treat).

The most consistent and competitive of our matchups was billiards and there was only one place to do that: The Train Stop.  Over the years, the Train Stop in downtown Franklin had been and would be the location for a number of big-event sport gatherings from Celtics-Lakers to “Squish the Fish”, all witnessed on the bar’s big screen.  The heart of the place, however, was the 4-table billiard room. 

When you played pool with Dave at the Train Stop, the chip on your shoulder grew a bit larger.  This was true when we played against one another, but was even more so when we teamed up against outsiders.  This was home turf.  We were supposed to be familiar with the nuances of all the pool tables.  I covered the tight slice shots, Dave did well with the cross corner banks. For the most part, we did the place proud. 

Most everyone who played pool at the Train Stop, including Dave and I, would try to get the pool table by the juke box.  The music on this juke box was pretty darn good, so having a few chosen songs playing in the background was an added inspiration.  There was one song in particular that I always loved to play: Tom Petty’s ‘Spike’, this week’s Gem Music Video.  To this day, it’s the first song I look for on any juke box.  The subject matter and tempo of the song was perfect for a smoky pool-hall atmosphere, which needless to say, fit the Train Stop environs to a capital T. 

In the song ‘Spike’, Petty as lyricist and vocalist, sings from the perspective of an antagonist in the dark corner of a Southern Dixie bar, poking fun at an unconventional townie named Spike, who just strolled in rather innocently.  Petty himself is from the South (Gainsville, FL), and for such a peaceful soul, does a tremendous job of play acting this intimidator (“Hey Spike, your scaring my wife!” : “Hey Spike, tell us about life…. Can you tell us about life, Spike?”).  Mike Campbell does a great job laying out the attitude (along with Petty’s vocals) on the lead guitar.  Spike was a real-life character from Petty’s home town, and was nicknamed after the spiked dog collar he wore around his neck.  It’s that dog collar that draws the attention of the guy in the shadows, who I always pictured as someone like the dude who blew away Peter Fonda’s & Denis Hopper’s characters (Wyatt and Billy) at the end of ‘Easy Rider’.

The real meaning of the song, though, is about intolerance and, in the case of Spike, independence.  It’s a testament to the oddballs of the world, and their ability to stick to their guns despite the abuses they face.  The Train Stop was frequented often by both of these extremes (the intolerant and the independent), and on this level proved to be an unexpected location for experiencing some of life’s most valuable lessons.  With ‘Spike’ playing in the background, how could it not?

Speaking of letting your freak flag fly, I hear that the best place in the world to do that is Whitehorse up in the Yukon Territories.  Talking to someone from Whitehorse recently, it sounds like the type of place that makes the characters in Northern Exposure look like the characters in the Andy Griffith Show (Barney aside).  Spike would have no problem fitting in there. 

Tom Petty is always a great take in.  I saw him again this summer with Mac, John and Steve Cummings.  Great show.  Petty is as steady as they get. 

Below the Gem link are the lyrics to the song for your sing along, clap along pleasure.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Spike
or

Oh, we got another one, just like the other ones
Another bad ass, another trouble-maker
I'm scared, ain't you boys scared?
I wonder if he's gonna show us what bad is?
Boys, we got a man with a dog collar on
You think we oughta throw ol' Spike a bone?

Hey Spike what do you like?
Hey Spike what do you like?

Here's another misfit, another Jimmy Dean
Bet he's got a motorbike,
What'a y'all think?
Bet if we be good we'll get a ride on it
If he ain't too mad about the future --
Maybe we oughta help him see
The future ain't what it used to be

Hey Spike, you're scarin' my wife
Hey Spike what do you like “

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About the video: Filmed live at Farm Aid (1986)

Video Rating: 1

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Best Feedback: Dave

Pete, you have brought a tear to my eye, perhaps the recollection of the heavy smoke in the Stop, cough, cough..... wheeze...

I do miss the non-stop competition; I still have a small taste with Bec and Sara, but nothing like it used to be.

Have not heard this one for quite some time.

Dave

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Also: Steve

Hi Pete;

I like this line, 'I guess I was unconsciously preparing for the dog-eat-dog world that lay ahead'
Then you go work for the US gov't for 20 years! You are also right on seeing some very interesting characters in Whitehorse. I've been to Whitehorse twice, Yellowknife a bunch of times and lived in Iqualuit on Baffin Island in the Arctic for 6 months.

People in the North are there for a reason - they're crazy! Think of the wildest, stupid, drunken thing you've ever done - they would think that's lame. Always a good party in the North! Come see me sometime, I'll be your tour guide!

Cheers
Steve

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