Column 140 — Football Music; Song Remains the Same, Harptallica tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:31 pm September 6, 2007

This column came out of nowhere. The sports genius behind blogsite Husker Mike’s Blasphemy is a colleague and a friend of mine and easily the best football mind I’ve ever encountered. If you’re a Husker fan, you’re already reading this site regularly. Its’ a no-bullshit perspective on that program in Lincoln by someone who knows better than to drink the Kool-Aid but still loves his team. As I say below, I’m not a huge Husker fan. I graduated at UNO and that’s where my loyalty lies. Still, it’s impossible not to get caught up in Husker-mania if you grew up in Omaha during the Johnny Rodgers era.

Column 140: Taken Too Sirius-ly?
A tradition with a backbeat
There is a cathartic reality to the Nebraska Cornhusker tunnel walk. Even I, a dyed-in-the-wool UNO Mavericks fan with little interest in that “other team” in Lincoln, have experienced watching the legendary ceremony where Husker football players get all pumped up, bouncing their fists off each other’s shoulder pads within the tunnel while the low-end throb of Alan Parson Project’s “Sirius” blares over the stadium’s PA. Fans watch on their feet, staring at the team on the massive HuskerVision jumbo-tron, like watching popcorn simmer in a pan about to explode.

It’s rousing, there is no question. It’s one of the few things I remember about going to a game at Memorial Stadium — even more memorable than the game itself. It is a special spectacle, a Midwestern tribal group hug that more often than not (though not as often these days) ends four quarters later with the mighty Huskers holding the still-beating hearts of their unfortunate victims in their bloody fists.

The tunnel walk’s formula is simple but effective, its power based on fan adulation and the balls-out “I-want-to-kill-someone” impact of Alan Parsons’ music. APP is considered sort of a quaint joke these days by most music fans. Their songs, from the earnest “Games People Play” to the bell-bottomed strut of “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” epitomize a ’70s-’80s smooth FM culture that’s best left forgotten. It was the kind of music that you’d hear blaring from Malibu’s and Novas while cruising Dodge St. on a Saturday night, chasing a Pinto-load of high school girls into the Golden Spike Drive-In.

As dorky as APP’s catalog sounds today, there’s no denying that “Sirius” is a powerful, though somewhat cheesy, piece of instrumental music made-to-order for just such an event as a Husker tunnel walk. I knew this the first time I heard it, when I bought my copy of App’sEye in the Sky way back in ’82. It became a pseudo test track for both my Panasonic home stereo and for every car stereo I owned throughout my high school years. You played it loud, but you always made sure to turn it down before the album’s prim, prissy title track began.

The Huskers have been using “Sirius” for 13 years. Fans know when they hear that familiar low-end synth chord what’s about to happen. So it came as a surprise when I read on the fan blog “Husker Mike’s Blasphemy” that the university had decided it was time to change the formula. As an aghast Husker Mike so poignantly put it: “‘Sirius’ is the key to making this work. Yes, it’s been used over and over again by countless sports teams. It’s not unique to Nebraska. But what made ‘Sirius’ so successful is that simple deep bassline that reverberates through the stadium, and it’s been used in every tunnel walk, including the walks by three national champions.”

Word, brother. Why fix it when it ain’t broke? Here’s what I think probably happened: The university’s marketing or recruiting “geniuses” put their heads together weeks prior to the season opener to discuss what to do about the “tunnel walk situation.” Their concern: How can we possibly recruit bright young students (and players) with that relic of a song as the centerpiece for the most exciting experience leading up to a Husker game? Heck, that song was released before those kids were even born. Kids these days want something hip and now, something that speaks to their generation. Something with hip-hop flair.

It’s hard to argue against their logic. Think about the possibilities of replacing “Sirius” with something as grim and angry as Nine Inch Nails or urban-lethal as a bullet-ridden Fitty Cent fantasy, or with, say, an indie anthem by Built to Spill. (I had to throw that in because I’ve always dreamt of hearing the instrumental break in the middle of Built to Spill’s “Temporarily Blind” used as intro music for the UNO Mavs basketball team, instead of the always-lame “Thunderstruck”).

Enter hayseed DJ, Mikey Bo, the whitest guy to lay down a hip-hop beat since Vanilla Ice. Before long, the Husker chat boards were ablaze with links to Mikey Bo’s website for hints of what would replace “Sirius.” Husker fans quivered in anger — and anticipation — before Saturday’s game to see and hear what surely would be disappointing.

In the end, they had nothing to fear. You can see the new version of the tunnel walk on YouTube, recorded by some industrious cornhead. It starts with an ultra-cheesy video where a bunch of slouching Huskers dressed in shirts and ties jump out of a C52 transport plane, presumably on a military mission. The video is nonsensical and reeks of one of those death-fantasy videogame-style TV commercials used to recruit Marines. The only thing worse than the video is the boom-clap early-2000-era hip-hop soundtrack that sounds more dated and cliché than anything Alan Parsons ever produced.

As the video rolled on, our old friend re-emerged. There was “Sirius,” gussied up for this century with poorly executed trip-hop beats. Was it possible to make a song as cheesy as “Sirius” any cheesier? The answer, it seemed was a resounding yes. Though the tunnel walk was deemed “the worst one ever” by Husker Mike, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes ingrained in Husker culture, with an update scheduled for sometime around 2020.

Here’s another chance to see if my live music reviews are full of ca-ca. The Song Remains the Same — the Zeppelin tribute band that I wrote about here and here, are playing tonight at Murphy’s Lounge 4737 So. 96th St. See for yourself if they can pull it off as well as I say they can. I haven’t been to Murphy’s in years and years. I certainly have never seen a band perform there before, so I can’t vouch for their PA. It’s doubtful that it’s as good as The Waiting Room’s massive sound system. If you would rather wait and see this band on a primo stage, TSRTS is playing at TWR on Thanksgiving weekend with one of Matt Whipkey’s bands. Tonight it’s Murphy’s, though, 9:30, $5 (And — get this — it’s “ladies night” so the ladies get in free. Woo-hoooo!).

A tribute of another stripe is going on at The Saddle Creek Bar tonight. It’s called Harptallica. According to the Saddle Creek Bar site, Harptallica consists of “two hot chicks playing a Metallica tribute on harps.” What in hell? $5, 9 p.m. The opening band is that famous act we’ve all seen before called TBA.

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