Hot Pursuit in a 1991 publicity photo
In my capacity as music writer, I have been asked by Editor-in-Chief Bob Fitrakis to write a review of the police band Hot Pursuit's 1988 D.A.R.E graduation concert at St. John Arena. This has presented some difficulty -- first, I wasn't at the concert, and second, I'm not entirely sure the event occurred. Although I'm not necessarily averse to stretching the truth in the service of a good story, outright fabrication of an entire concert seems a bit much. I try, however, to be accommodating to Bob. Therefore, I have collected before me a 1988 AP piece on the band which somehow ended up in the Los Angeles Times, some slightly terrifying pictures, a YouTube clip of the band performing "The D.A.R.E. Song," a 2013 Dispatch article in which the members of the band are crying about having their funding cut off, and my own vague memories of 1988. I also watched some videos of people playing volleyball in the arena to get a feel for the space. It's weak, but what am I supposed to do? Anyway... It's a brisk windy day in April, and Hot Pursuit is about to take the stage at St. John Arena for the D.A.R.E. graduation, whatever that is. I personally missed out on the D.A.R.E. program, with the minor exception of high school friends wearing its T-Shirts ironically. I know that it has something to do with convincing children that drugs are bad. I also know that the U.S. General Accountability Office has found that it doesn't do this and might actually make children more likely to do drugs. This is what I know. I comment on the weather because I'm outside, watching as 6th graders arrive by the busload and are herded into the arena. I'm here to see the band, not to be harangued on the perils of angel dust, so I wait to hear guitars before heading inside. When I finally hear the unmistakable sound of an electric guitar through a taxpayer-funded Marshall, I go inside where my press credentials are accepted (again, this is fiction). I walk in and see five uniformed police officers and some douche on keyboards and OH MY GOD ARE THOSE REAL GUNS ON STAGE!?!?! I make a quick calculation as to where the bullet is headed if the drummer left his safety off, and hurriedly change my seat. As I re-situate, the band kicks into a high energy version of the loathsome Tommy James and the Shondells tune "Mony Mony," followed by an unnecessary cover of "Twist and Shout." The band then plays their theme song, "Jailhouse Rock." I have a soft spot for “Jailhouse Rock,” mostly because its writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, always seemed like nice guys. Presumably Jerry and Mike receive performance royalties every time Hot Pursuit plays it publicly -- because to not do so would be like, you know, illegal. Anyway, it's a little discomfiting; it's three songs in and they are already threatening imprisonment. The bands goes on to churn out 60's and 70's rock tunes which satisfy the criteria of being (1) not about drugs and (2) mediocre. What they were I can't really say, because after the band plays "Wipeout" I stop taking notes. I just don't give a shit anymore -- I have no patience for "Wipeout." The 6th graders, however, are digging it. I wouldn't say they are dancing in the aisles (a maiming risk in St. John’s if the volleyball videos are accurate), but the band is a competent wedding/Mexican restaurant act. The drummer has chops, it's loud enough, and there is a good quality light show. Rock and roll at high volume is primal, sexual music, and even I can't resist a backbeat. I certainly don't advocate children using drugs -- I'm not a monster. It does seem curious, however, teaching drug abstinence with sex music. I mean, when Tommy James sings "[b]ut don't stop now / come on Mony / come on yeah" he isn't reminding Mony that it's her move in checkers. The guys playing this music are in uniform, carrying pistols and sporting guitars shaped like M-80 machine guns. So sex, deadly force, and illegal firearms. But this is a music column (albeit this week a fictitious one), not a political screed. I flip on my tape recorder to catch the closer, "D.A.R.E. Song." The lyrics are: "[a]nd they hide their pain and tears / and they waste their youthful years / by giving up on love and hugs / and escaping into drugs." It goes on…."DARE! / To keep a kid off drugs / DARE! / to give a kid a hug" and so forth. You can draw your own conclusions. As for me, I magically fast forward to 1999, bop across Lane Avenue to the Varsity Club and order some nachos.