The title of this song is how I felt just a few moments ago when I read that founding band member Malcolm Young is permanently retiring from AC/DC because of dementia. I don’t know how advanced his illness is, although the band has recorded and will soon release an album without him. While Malcolm was never the character his brother Angus was, he helped fill out AC/DC’s sound, making them one of the toughest and tightest Hard Rock bands ever.
I can’t imagine how Malcolm and his family must be feeling right now. The idea of losing my faculties and memory so completely is terrifying to me. Dementia is one of the Big Scary Diseases. I do crossword puzzles partly because I like words, and partly because I heard they can help ward off dementia. I think I’ll start doing them a lot more now.
Malcolm Young isn’t all that young anymore, but he’s not that old either, only 61. That’s too young to be losing pieces of yourself that way. As a Buddhist, I know I should be more enlightened and remember that we are all part of the whole, that the individual self is merely an illusion. But in a way, that terrifies me even more. Every little part of himself that Malcolm loses is also a part of me. Forgetting is frightening. Oh, I’ve forgotten lots of small things–phone messages, doing chores, etc. And I’ve forgotten some big ones (there’s a lot of novels, stories, and poems I could’ve written if not for the ideas I’ve forgotten). But to lose chunks of your life . . . to lose people and experiences wholesale . . . to forget the little talismans and rituals that represent your existence. That thought makes me shudder.
I wish the entire Young family luck and peace during this time. And I hope Malcolm keeps the part of himself that remembers how loved he is forever.
Because it just seems like that kind of day.
Little Feat is the kind of music you listen to on a lazy summer afternoon. Although I’m not sure if today would qualify for an Indian Summer day, since it is technically autumn, or just another day in SoCal. It’s not really that warm, just pleasant. (It’s supposed to get really hot again by the end of the week, and I am just screaming inside over that thought.)
This song is probably best listened to with an iced tea, or maybe a bottle of beer, sitting in a lawn chair with your feet propped up on a bucket. It doesn’t matter if it’s the front lawn or the back. Although at least the front yard lets you watch the traffic pass by. All those other people who need to be somewhere else in a hurry. But you don’t need to be anywhere. You don’t need to do anything. All you need is to be willin’.
I’ve been watching quite a bit of television lately, but in my defense, I think most of it was time well spent. The premieres of Gotham and Sleepy Hollow were pretty darn cool (but I’m pretty sure Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has lost me). And PBS has given me some lovely time with antiques and Richard III. Okay, there was a bunch of time with football and poker, which will be repeated this weekend. But a special deal with Time Warner and a local channel meant I got to hear the dulcet tones of Vin Scully while I was jotting some notes the other night. (I don’t particularly like baseball, but Vin is one of the warm voices from my childhood.)
I’ve been writing a bit, too. An idea came to me in a dream the other day, and I’ve been trying to flesh it out. I sent my notes to Mr. BFF because he is my go-to guy for Science Fiction, and this idea falls under that umbrella. I’m trying to write more regularly again. Not just the blog (which clearly, I’ve fallen down on a bit lately), but possible stories and novels. And poetry. I beginning to miss writing poetry. Maybe after the relative peace of my 30s and early 40s I’m ready to get back into angst. Who knows.
But TV has been a thing for me. And it will be for the next little while. I’ve got several hours worth of The Roosevelts by Ken Burns to catch up on. Mom said it was pretty good, so I’m very much looking forward to firing up the DVR. But not tonight. Tonight, it’s an episode of 20/20 about those creepy little girls who tried to murder their friend so they could meet the Slenderman. Hey, I only watch PBS part of the time.
This was originally a Freaky Friday post, but why limit freaky things to Fridays? The October issue of Mental Floss has an article about this famous John Cage composition as part of its 101 Masterpieces series (4′ 33″ is number 47). It got me thinking about this amazing work of art once again.
Went out to dinner with the family tonight, so I haven’t really prepared an extensive freak for today. But a notion struck me today: Why not post one of the strangest compositions of all time? So here it is, in all its glory.
No, the sound on your computer is not malfunctioning. This is John Cage at his weirdest—and that’s saying something. I’ve been thinking a lot more about experimental music since I read Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, since there is a great deal in it about composers like Meredith Monk, La Monte Young, and Phillip Glass. Cage was a bit ahead of these artists, and probably influenced all of them to some degree. In 4′ 33″, there is an artistry to the silence; the sound of the auditorium, the audience, the world, are all part of the composition. I think the purpose of this piece is to get people to think about what music really is. Just like Andy Warhol made people think about what could be considered Art.
Cage was very influenced by Eastern music and philosophy, so this Zen-like approach isn’t really surprising. It’s just taking things a bit further than most composers would. No. This isn’t music in any real sense. It’s the sound of possibility. Everything is open in these four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Anything is possible.
I just love this song. Pete Townshend’s musical exploration of his probable bisexuality is also one of the great Rock songs, period. Like much of Townshend’s ouvre, “Rough Boys” is also an angry song. There’s no room for tenderness here. This is about a quick hook up in a back room or an alley. As a result, it also feeds into some nasty stereotypes about homosexual behavior, but I don’t think that was Pete’s intention. There’s a particular perspective to this song, a point of view born not only from Townshend’s sexuality but also from his rage.
I don’t know if he ever actually fooled around with any guys, but Townshend himself has admitted bisexual feelings. And there’s really no denying the content of the song. “Tough boys, come over here. I wanna bite and kiss you” isn’t exactly subtle. Of course, there’s also a couple of references to a “her,” so it could also be from the perspective of a woman picking up some rough trade. Yeah, I’m not buying it either. The woman referenced is probably the wife or girlfriend of the male character in the song, who is ignorant of her man’s desire to fuck other men. I kind of hate using the word “fuck” here, but that’s what the song is about. Remember, there’s no room for tenderness in this hook up.
This is actually a pretty provocative song. Released on 1980’s Empty Glass, it was a pretty bold choice as both a track and a single (it failed to make the Top Forty, however). This was not the kind of thing mainstream Rock stars sang about. Heck, Rob Halford of Judas Priest hadn’t even come out yet. The video is also provocative, but much more sly about the sexual innuendo. There’s a lot of glancing and pushing and aggressive/suggestive pool cue wielding. It’s very smartly done, keeping the spirit of the song alive without directly offending any sensibilities.
Another interesting possibility raised by “Rough Boys” is the fact that on the album’s liner notes, Townshend dedicated the song to both the Sex Pistols and his children. I get the Sex Pistols. If anyone could’ve been called rough boys, they could’ve. I’m not quite sure how his two daughters fit into it. (His son Joseph wasn’t born until 1990.) But the dedication raises the idea that it’s more of a generational thing. Which makes it a song about a creepy middle-aged guy, probably married, picking up some young dude(s) in a bar for some extracurricular activities.
Imagine my surprise this weekend when I saw the news that there had been a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs on a freeway near Corona. The Hell’s Angels and the Mongols, no less. The response and resulting investigation caused a massive traffic jam in one of the most jammed up areas in SoCal. Sadly, one person was killed in the gunfire.
I was shocked at the news. While I knew both gangs were still in operation, and that both were still pretty horribly violent, I had no idea this kind of stuff still happened. Biker gangs were long ago supplanted by street gangs in terms of newsworthy crime in California. For a few minutes, I wondered if it was 2014 or 1974.
Before I was born, there were some Hell’s Angels living across the street from our family in north Long Beach. My mother would go out with my brother in his stroller, and if they were out, they would say hello to the “little mother” and the baby. They thought my brother was pretty cute (he was). They didn’t cause a lot of trouble in the neighborhood and were relatively quiet–as quiet as guys with huge Harleys could be, anyway. But I know most people’s experiences with the Angels haven’t been as benign. These guys are hardcore criminals; from what little I know of the Mongols, they’re not any better. Movies like Easy Rider went a long way to romanticizing motorcycle gangs, even though the characters in that film weren’t members of a gang. They rode around on bikes, having adventures and hijinks, thumbing their noses at conventional society and mores. These days, I think Sons of Anarchy presents a slightly more accurate picture, albeit one that’s highly dramatised. There’s a lot of unsavory characters and behavior in the modern biker gang. Remember, the emphasis should be on “gang” not “biker.”
Avast, me hearties! Scottish independence from Great Britain has been scuttled! (It’s also International Talk like a Pirate Day, so I’m killing two birds with one stone.)
The vote was pretty close, something like 55% to 45%, but the majority of Scots felt it was in their best interest to stay part of the Kingdom . . . er, Queendom (little baby George isn’t quite ready to take over yet, although he’s already conquered the world with cuteness). I understand that even though the United Kingdom will be remaining fully united, there’s going to be some changes made. I guess there’s some controversy about Scottish MPs voting on things that don’t pertain to them, but English MPs aren’t allowed to vote on Scottish matters, or some such. That’s just one little bit I picked up from CNN late last night; I don’t actually know anything about British politics, except that the system is pretty complicated. (I’m not judging, just saying. American politics isn’t exactly a relaxing walk in the park.)
Now that the vote is in, it’s time for my local news to stop doing vaguely informative man-on-the-street segments from British-style pubs and showing clips of men in kilts playing bagpipes. We can get back to our full time coverage of crime, bus crashes, and high speed chases. (And saving little dogs who get hit by the idiots who start the high speed chases.) But here’s some awesome Rock from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band to complete the Scottish experience.
I’ll be honest: I kind of hate this song. It’s one of those lite radio staples that makes my teeth itch. But it’s also the perfect description for our weather right now.
The heat wave broke last night, with temperatures dropping below 78 before midnight for once. Today’s been about normal–around 85 and sunny–and there’s this amazing breeze out of the west that has somewhat mitigated the higher humidity. Because it is kind of sticky today. My laminate floor feels vaguely damp under my feet, and just getting up to feed the cats makes me a little sweaty. But after the last week, it’s heavenly.
Not much else happening on the home front today. I rotated the cushions on the couch and loveseat (otherwise, the two or three that get sat on all the time get flat while all the others stay puffed (sorry for the inadvertent Ghostbusters reference . . . actually, no, I’m not sorry about it. :) ). I went online and applied for some jobs today, and I might take a look around the immediate area, and see if there’s any Mom & Pop retail places hiring. (I’m not very happy in my job right now; I think I’ve hit my limit for tutoring in one lifetime.)
I’m also anxiously awaiting word on the Scottish vote for independence. I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other; there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. I just think it’s refreshing that someone is voting to split from Great Britain, rather than going to war or being negotiated out as part of a treaty. This is so much more civilized. Either way, tomorrow’s post will have to be from someone Scottish.
Heat makes my brain malfunction. So does being tired. That’s the deadly combination that’s keeping me from a new post. But here’s a nice oldie for your listening pleasure. Please disregard anything about “new” Shawn Colvin material; this is two years old, after all.
I really need to start paying more attention. Sign up for more newsletters or something. I had no idea Shawn Colvin has a new album out. And a book. Finally, some juicy gossip by one of my favorite singer-songwriters EVER. Seriously, she’s fantastic. I posted about her way back when I started this thing and her cover of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” She inhabits the songs she sings in a way not a lot of people do. I don’t know for sure how autobiographical her songs really are, although this article calls her a “confessional singer-songwriter,” so I’m gonna assume that on some level she’s singing about herself–even when it’s someone else’s song.
“New Thing Now” is all Colvin, though, and it is such a sad, tender, acidic song. Yes, I did combine those three things; no, it is not a mistake. This is a love song with a nasty bite. It could be to a lover. It could be to a music executive. It could be about the entertainment press. The main point is not who it’s for, but the co-dependent relationship she finds herself in with that person(s). It’s a tug of war that she is not really happy about, but has accepted as part of her life. “This is your new thing now. Naked as a rose, everything exposed, but not quite. Cards out on the table, a genius with no label, but not quite.” She can see through the masks of the business, knows its ugliness but has to live with it, “just a poet and her pimps, but not quite.” She chose this life, but hates the way it eats into everything, tainting friendships and romance. The relationship she finds herself contemplating isn’t comfortable anymore, but she has to keep up the facade–for herself if no one else. “This is your new thing now, and it makes the whole world spin, it’s at least as old as sin, but not quite. This is your new thing now, and now you’re turning grinning, but maybe no one’s listening, and you might lose it all my darling. Yes, you might.” Almost as if she’s singing to a singer. Almost as if she’s singing to herself.
The most co-dependent relationship any artist has is with the art they’ve chosen. Colvin knows that music is the one thing she can’t let go of. Men, labels, reviews, audiences, whatever–they’ll all come and go. In the end, it will still be Shawn and her voice and a guitar and all the stuff she can’t say any other way.
“This is your new thing now, and it feels so good to doubt you, I could almost live without you, but not quite. Not quite.”
I know two Eagles songs in a row is a little beyond the pale, but this pretty much describes how I feel right now.
Southern California is currently hell. We’ve been in the 90s for nearly a week now. The heat is supposed to break tomorrow, but the humidity will be back because of the remains of hurricane Odile. I know my electric bill is going to be sky-high because we’ve been running the AC something like 12 hours a day. The biggest problem is that it isn’t cooling down that much at night. Although last night, for the first time in a while, there was a bit of a breeze. That’s a good sign in my book.