Let's get back to the countdown of songs that manage to be MORE inappropriate for an Angels 7th inning stretch than the current self-aware disaster, The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup". We're stuck with that song for the foreseeable future, but this countdown is here to remind you that it could always be worse.
In today's installment, I look at the surf rock classic "Walk, Don't Run", and relate it to the Angels base-running woes of the 2010 season. I also delve into man's pursuit of speed, of going faster at all costs, and how the Angels almost ended up being the Icarus' of the baseball diamond, almost burnt by the sun that is exorbitant, long-term contracts. After the jump: The Ventures-"Walk, Don't Run."
There may be no musical genre, or sub-genre, better representative of southern California, and especially Orange County, than surf rock. And while today's musical artist in question never really considered themselves to be a part of that movement, it's undeniable that The Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run" was massively influential to the burgeoning surf rock scene of that time(think mid to late 1950's). The building blocks are all there: snare-heavy jazz/rock syncopation, sturdy electric bass lines, sonic, one-note guitar hits drenched in cool, clear reverb and of course, no vocals. This is definitely a Blueprint Song; a track that set the tone and pace for decades worth of surf-inspired music. The Ventures have quite the catalog of songs in this vein, an embarrassment of riches in the realm of beach tunes, and almost all of them could be plopped into the 7th inning at Anaheim Stadium, much to the delight, I'm sure, of Angels fans both old AND young. But unfortunately, their genre-defining moment would be horrid in this slot, mainly because it only points out what most astute fans of the Halos' 2010 season know already: the Angels methods on the base paths have gone from dynamic to listless, plodding and downright uninteresting.
The video I found for "Walk, Don't Run" is a curious thing in and of itself. It features Arte Moreno on lead guitar, for one. I never knew he was in The Ventures, but I'm guessing this was in the late 70's, so sometime after he was in Vietnam. Sounds about right, no? Oh, and look at young Joe Biden on bass guitar! This clip just gets weirder and weirder, especially because David Schwimmer is on drums...which means David Schwimmer has a time machine. That alone blows my mind, and I could probably write a few thousand words on what I'm now calling The Schwimmer Effect. So anyway, here's a song which the title alone sounds like something almost every Angels offensive player got in a fortune cookie at one point last season, and took it entirely too serious. The team used to be one of the best first-to-third units in major league baseball, yet took two giant leaps back last year, what with their lowest total stolen bases since the 2000 team, and all. Whether or not it was Mike Scioscia's fault for lack of emphasis on the base-running strategy, or the Angels were just a different squad, one suited to get more runs out of home runs than guts on the base paths, doesn't really matter. What matters is the results, which no doubt helped the Halos end up in 3rd place, and with one of their most anemic offensive years in the past decade. So of course, when the off-season came around, the front office let us believe they had speed on their minds, and would set out to rectify the speed problem in the form of Carl Crawford. As we all know, that didn't quite pan out. But are we better for it?
The front office almost went all-in on Crawford...or, depending on who you've read or talked to, actually did go all-in, but were rebuked by Crawford's intent on playing for Boston from the get go. Either way, what matters is that the pursuit of speed almost led us to spend a boat load of money and years on a guy who will only be getting slower from here on out. We could have the speed for a year or two, sure, but is it worth it? Like Icarus, or even Ricky Bobby, going fast would have been our downfall. Many have tried to wrangle it and obtain it all costs, and many end up in a flaming fireball of carnage and failure. Some songs hint at this, and serve as cautionary tales to counteract "Walk, Don't Run's" blase attitude towards base running. Let's look at some who've gotten all the speed they wanted, and crashed and burned because of it.
Atari Teenage Riot's 1995 debut album, Delete Yourself, is best described as pure, aural adrenaline. One of the standout tracks from the LP, "Speed", is a frantic, Digital Hardcore classic that's ramped up with unrelenting bass drum kicks, 8-bit bleeps and bloops and a speed metal guitar sample hellbent on creating nothing but frenzy in your brain. It's a head-banger, no doubt, but the frantic, senses overload sonic delivery hints at what happens to you if you find yourself actually living in the fast lane, with lyrics like:
"Tomorrow, tomorrow always tomorrow...
There is no future in the western dreamin'!
We feel it, we must beat'em ! it's too late to create a new world!"
These guys were from Berlin, and when the album was released, their English was a little shaky. But the point is still made: you go fast, then you want to go faster. You go faster, and you want to go lightspeed. You go lightspeed and next thing you know, you've gone Plaid, and after that it's only a matter of time till you've disintegrated into a pile of Halo-red dust.
What's even scarier is an alternate history 1994 America, in which the entire country is built upon speed, and it's lingering after taste on our minds seems to have turned all guys into Rob Halford analogues, and all the women into Peaches-biting, electroclash sexpots. This is just one theme from the near-future(of 1980, at least) vision of the musical The Apple. In this song, America's fixation with speed is laid out for all to witness and revel in, as there is no remorse at that point. It's just the way the country had become. Although, as I stated, this movie came out in 1980 and took place in 1994, so obviously we know the movie was off the mark a tad, in that America has not yet fully succumbed to the Desire of Speed. But if our jails are any indication, we may not be too far off. A sampling of lyrics, if you will, from "Speed":
"America the Land of the Free, is shooting up with pure energy. And everyday she has to take more, speed!
America, the Home of the Brave, is popping pills, to keep up the pace. And everyday she cries out for more, speed!
From New York out to L.A., everybody does it her way. Popping power, by the hour, speed!!!!"
or my favorite:
"America, your red, white and blues are in our blood, we're strung out on you! There's just one thing we're all dying for: Speed!"
Dangerous stuff, speed is. Like any good thing, you have to be careful about what you're willing to do in order to obtain it. Whether it's spending almost as much money for a player as you did to buy the team in the first place, or using the stuff to get your kicks in a dystopic, corporate run society. Of course, I'm also reminded of the legendary Kowalski, from one of my all-time favorite films, Vanishing Point. He bet his drug dealer he could drive a suped-up, 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in just under 24 hours. He sealed his fate with that bet, as he soon learns there's only one way to do it: go fast, don't sleep, drift away from the world. He encounters various remnants of the fading 1960's hippie culture along the way, as well as people who signify the change in America to come. The man has lost everything he ever loved or wanted, and now he just wants to go fast. The question though, is that is Kowalski's final, speed-ramped middle finger to the world justifiable in regards to the Angels front office going after speed in the same cavalier manner? If the decline in stolen bases and first-to-third occurrences continues in 2011, you might say Tony Reagins is behind the wheel of his own white Dodge Challenger, there's two cement roadblocks ahead, and he'll have no choice but to put the pedal to the metal and go out in a ball of fire.
"Walk, Don't Run" is one extreme. "Speed" is another. Somewhere in the middle would be nice, I think.