Album: Sixteen Tambourines
. . .
You know what album I woefully underrated at the time? The Three O’Clock’s debut full-length, 1983’s Sixteen Tambourines. I stuck it in the mix a couple of months ago and while things like “When Lightning Starts” and “A Day in Erotica” are experiments that still don’t quite gel for me — the former tries to hard to be soul and the latter tries too hard, period — I really love the songs featuring Mike Mariano’s piano, “Fall to the Ground” and (especially) “Tomorrow,” and as I’ve come around on Michael Quercio’s voice over the past forty years, the rest of it is better than I remember.
That said, best of all then and now is the opening track, the rollicking “Jet Fighter,” which is driven by the beat drummer Danny Benair half stole from the Bay City Rollers “Saturday Night,” over which Mariano lays a sliding, liquid keyboard riff, guitarist Louis Gutierrez crunches his guitar, and there’s even a bunch of radio voices for sound effects, which might mean something. Or might not. They might just be a link to “Yellow Submarine,” which is equally as ridiculous and equally as fun as “Jet Fighter.”
Jet fighter man that’s what I am
‘Cause tanks go too slow
Airplanes, flying yet I feel so low
See Mark and Ann come watch me land
I’m sure that they would know
Airplanes, flying yet I feel so low
This all leads into one of The Three O’Clocks most memorable choruses, a purely joyful singalong that’s so infectious that you forget that, like Quercio, you’re not a jet fighter man, either.
‘Cause I’m a
Jet fighter man in the daytime
Jet fighter man in the nightime
Jet fighter man and the Reds they go aaahhh…
So, if I’m reading this chorus correctly, Michael Quercio is a 24-hour-a-day pilot shooting down Commies. The inspiration for Top Gun. Do they shoot down Commies in Top Gun? I’ve never seen it, so I’m going to so that’s what happens in it.
(“You’ve never seen Top Gun?!?”
“That’s what I just said!”)
As often is the case with my favorite Three O’Clock songs, there’s a great guitar break from Gutierrez, while the radio voices go absolutely nuts, leading to a bomp-bomp bomp-bomp-bomp drum break, and an explosion into the final chorus.
Best of all is the end, which is just basically everybody singing “Jet fighter mannnnnnnnn” a few times, followed by an “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” while the drums, guitars, keyboards, and what sounds like synth explode all around until the fade.
So, The Three O’Clock played the Star Palace in April, 1984, — with the like-minded Game Theory and mods New Breed — that show was responsible for one of my all-time favorite promos/commercials I ever did for KFSR. At the time, I had a part-time overnight job working the boards at KFYE-94FM, which was fully automated, so my entire job was to stay awake and make sure that the carts (which were basically tape loops in an 8-track style cartridge) were loaded up properly for next commercial break. So, basically six hours of mostly boredom with occasional moments of pure terror, especially if a cart didn’t work.
Which meant I had plenty of time, and I used KFYE’s production studio to record more than one promo/commercial for KFSR, including the one for the Three O’Clock, Game Theory and New Breed show that was coming up, and my absolute stroke was to record the Time Lady saying, “the time is three o’clock, exactly” at 3:00AM one morning, and incorporating it into both the beginning and the end of that promo. There are very few things I’ve ever done in my life than having that idea, and the sucky shitty thing is that I lost that promo. Well, not so much “lost” it per se, but rather it was on a reel of promos that got erased by a guy who didn’t like me. Oh well.
That was neither the first nor the last thing from my 1980s that got lost, of course, but its one of the ones that hurts the most.
“Jet Fighter” Official Music Video
“Jet Fighter” Live at Club Lingerie, 1990
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