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Archive for September, 2012

“Chest Fever”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 30, 2012

I’m having a little trouble settling my brain tonight.  This song doesn’t help much.

It’s a confounding tune, all swirling organ and hard-edged guitar.  The lyrics are cryptic: It’s probably about a romantic relationship, but there is no other context to ground you.  “I know she’s a tracker” is not exactly a clear statement about anything.  It’s a song about disappearances and reappearances (which is sort of fitting, since I’m still absorbing last night’s episode of Doctor Who).  It’s a song about nothing and everything.  A mystery.

I like mysteries, even the unsolved ones.  In some ways, an unsolved mystery is better.  I don’t really want to know what actually crashed at Roswell, or who Jack the Ripper really was, or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  Part of the fascination with these cases is the lack of a clear answer.  You can project any ending you want on an unsolved mystery.  In my universe, D.B. Cooper got away with the money.  Butch and Sundance made it out of Bolivia and came back to the U.S.  My favorite part of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Trilogy is when it’s explained that 42 is the answer to the question, but that you can’t know both the answer and the question at the same time because then everything will be destroyed and replaced with something completely different, if it hasn’t happened already.  Got that?  Good.

This is what happens inside my head some days.  I’d apologize, but I’m not sure if I’m sorry or not.  It’s hard to settle on anything.


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“Black Coffee in Bed”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 29, 2012

It’s International Coffee Day!

Okay, so I’m not much of a coffee drinker (but lord, do I love how it smells).  I prefer tea for my hot breakfast beverage.  I also know that drinking coffee is sometimes less about the drink and more about the ritual.  Dad says that he stopped drinking as much coffee when he quit smoking; the two always just went together in his mind.  Coffee shops are gathering places, just like bars, where the drink is a shared communal experience.  And there’s just something soothing about sitting down with a cup of something warm and comforting.

Squeeze managed to parlay all the emotional connotations of coffee quite nicely in the charming “Black Coffee in Bed.”  The guy has been dumped by the girl, and all he has to remember her by is a coffee ring left on his notebook.  But he moves on, going “out with a friend, with lips full of passion and coffee in bed.”

Coffee in bed becomes the metaphor for intimacy.  Or  a lack thereof. . . I’m never quite sure with this song, and I like the ambiguity.  Real relationships are full of that kind of ambiguity all the time.  He misses her, but he doesn’t.  He’s moved on, but he keeps thinking about her all the time.  Love and break-ups are messy, resolution a myth.  There’s always a coffee stain left in a notebook somewhere.

And sometimes the only thing you can do is have another cup of coffee.

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“Come a Long Way”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 28, 2012

Fifteen or so years ago, L.A. had a radio station I liked.  Well, that’s an understatement.  My radio dial never, ever left 101.9, KSCA.  I’d heard about them when they were new, so I checked it out.  They played John Hiatt.  They played The Band (I heard “Chest Fever” once; I was stunned).  They played Elvis Costello, for crying out loud!  No one plays Elvis Costello (which is completely inexplicable to me).  I felt like I had found a home on the FM dial for the first time since KMET died (RIP).  I tried to listen from 7 to 11 PM, because that’s when Mama Mia was on.  Mia (I can’t remember her last name, sorry) was the DJ that shift, and she was called Mama Mia because she would often bring her baby daughter to the studio with her.  If you listened carefully, you could sometimes hear the baby playing while Mia did her patter.  Dr. Demento moved there for a while.  It was without a doubt the most awesome radio station ever.

And then it went off the air.  Everyone knew it was coming; the format change was announced a few weeks beforehand. (101.9 became, and still is, a Mexican station.)  On their last night on the air, they got as many of the staff and DJs as they could on the air to say thanks to all their loyal listeners.  The GM even compared them to WKRP in Cincinnati, that’s how much like a family they seemed.  Then they played their last song.

Michelle Shocked’s loving tribute to L.A. was the best song they could have chosen.  Nothing else I’ve heard has ever captured the diversity, the beauty, the sheer weirdness of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities.  And that’s the kind of thing KSCA always tried to capture.  They were a radio station in a town that has multiple personalities, and they tried to reflect that sort of cultural schizophrenia.  They played what was (and still is) called “Adult Alternative” music.  I don’t know what that means, I just know a significant portion of the artists and musicians I listen to fall under that format.  KSCA represented what might have been the last gasp of original programming and freedom in commercial broadcast radio.  There’s still a little glimmer occasionally, like 100.3 The Sound right now, but a free radio station that decides what to play without a corporate master list is pretty much a memory in SoCal.

So this song, a song about freedom and joy and a place that really doesn’t exist anywhere else, was the perfect way to say goodbye.*




*After the song ended, there was a really long pause, during which I wiped my tears away, I suddenly heard a very familiar guitar chord.

Now that’s the way to end something.

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“The Warrior”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 27, 2012

Okay, seriously.  What is it about this song?  It doesn’t make any sense; I can’t even understand half the lyrics (and I’ve never cared enough to look them up).  It sounds like the show-stopping finale on an episode of Fame. (Remember that show?  I loved it when I was in high school.  Yeah, I can totally see Nia Peeples and Jesse Borrego dancing around each other in some sort of psuedo-romantic, jazz hands-heavy number complete with glitter and a fog machine.)  And the video looks like some kind of post-apocalyptic Cats.

Bad costumes and 80s makeup aside, Patty Smyth really had a pretty good set of pipes.  (I haven’t heard her sing in a long time, so I’m not sure how good she still is.  These days, I know her best as Mrs. John McEnroe.)  And for whatever reason, this song is catchy and fun.  Maybe that’s it.  It’s fun.  There’s an innocence to “The Warrior”  that you only hear in music recorded by prepubescents these days (and even then only occasionally).  This is not a song about hooking up or booty calls.  Nor is it about an epic everlasting love.  It’s about. . . . dating.  The weird dance men and women do around each other after they’ve exchanged numbers but before they have sex.  (I’m pretty sure there’s still some time in between those two events.)  This is going out for coffee.  Or to the movies.  This song is all about holding hands and making out (hands above the waistline, please).  Flirting.  Fun.

Huh.  Maybe it does make sense after all.

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Andy Williams

Posted by purplemary54 on September 26, 2012

I once dated a guy who once sang back-up for Andy Williams on a tour.  That’s about the only time I’ve ever thought of Andy Williams.  He was always a little too smooth for me.  He lacked the swagger of Sinatra, the boozy charm of Dean Martin, the quiet command of Bing Crosby.  He was one of the also-rans in my mind for many years.

But he sang “Moon River” with such a gentle sadness and a touch of a smile.  Even though I sort of prefer the original from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, his version might be the definitive one.  It’s so lovely to hear a good song sung by a good singer.  He seemed like a good man who loved his family and treated his audience with respect.  That’s more than a lot of people can say.

I hope you’re crossing that Moon River in style today, Mr. Williams.

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“Classical Gas”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 25, 2012

I was over at Dangerous Minds this morning, and I saw this post about Mason Williams’ beautiful instrumental piece “Classical Gas” and how it came to be the soundtrack for a student film by Dan McLaughlin titled “3000 Years of Art.”  This is apparently not the original, but it’s pretty darn fun, nonetheless.

Honestly, this video really hits all my geek buttons: music geek, art history geek, even comedy geek–indirectly, since Williams was a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at the time.  The film was shown on the show, helping to propel “Classical Gas” into the Top 10 the summer of 1968.  My dad is a fan of Mason Williams, although whether it’s for his music or his weirdness is up for debate.  (One of my father’s favorite stories about Williams is how he had walls in his house that moved.  This may or may not be true, since my father has a tendency toward tall tales.  He really did have an elephant once, though.)

Watch the video if you haven’t already.  It promises that you’ll be “cultured” after it’s done.  Maybe.  And then again, maybe culture is just for yogurt and petri dishes.  I just like the art and the music.

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“One Day at a Time”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 24, 2012

TV themes have always held a special place in my heart.  Maybe because besides the radio and whatever my parents listened to, TV theme songs were my first real exposure to music.  They are, sadly, a dying breed.  Most shows have sacrificed a good theme song for more ad space, and they run the opening/closing credits over actual scenes from the show.  I kind of hate that.

I also kind of hate that I just read over at IMDB that Bonnie Franklin, TV mom and early feminist role model extraordinaire, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Now I’m no dummy.  I know that this is one of the toughest cancers to treat, and the survival rate is very low, so I’m not holding out a lot of hope.  I am sending Bonnie and her family my love and prayers.  She was one of the best, most realistic, TV moms.  She didn’t have all the answers, she didn’t wear pearls while doing housework (heck, she didn’t have time to do the housework; she was too busy supporting herself and her daughters), and she refused to be a doormat for any man.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but Bonnie Franklin’s Ann Romano taught me a lot about what it meant to be a Feminist.  It seems kind of trivial, but every time I introduce myself as Ms. Purplemary, I think about her and her insistence on taking back her own last name after her divorce and that she be referred to as “Ms, M-S, no period.”  These days, all women are Ms. (with the period, thanks to usage) unless they state otherwise, so no one really thinks about how revolutionary that act of naming oneself really was.  I am not a child or a wife.  I am not beholden to anyone else for my existence.  I do not have to justify myself with patriarchal identifiers.  I will decide what to be called, and if you don’t like it, take a hike.

The theme from One Day at a Time has always been one of my favorites.  I used to watch the show in reruns during the mornings and afternoons when I was a young teenager.  I’d sing along and tap my toes against the shelves the TV sat on (I liked to lay on the floor to watch TV back then).  Sometimes, I’d watch the closing credits just to hear it again. It’s a pretty cool song.

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Happy Birthday, Boss!

Posted by purplemary54 on September 23, 2012

In honor of Bruce Springsteen’s 63rd birthday (and because I’m really don’t feel like posting much more at the moment), I hunted down one of the better live versions of my all time favorites.

“Thunder Road” is a transformative song, but whether the transformation is good or bad is left entirely unresolved.  Part of Springsteen’s appeal for me is the fact that he pulls no punches.  He doesn’t try to force a happy ending on his characters, knows damn well that a happy ending might be impossible for them.  But there’s hope that these people really can win if they can just make it to the car together, “take that long walk, from your front porch to my front seat.  The door’s open, but the ride ain’t free.”  That’s all they have to do.  But those are the hardest steps of all, and there is always a price for escape.

I love watching the E Street Band play together.  These people are consummate musicians, perfectly in synch with one another.  But something that really shines through in this clip from a concert at Madison Square Garden is how much they love what they do, how much they love the music.  Bruce, Patti, Little Steven, the late great Big Man.  The looks on their faces say they know how truly blessed they are.  (FYI: Max Weinberg has the most perfect posture I have ever seen in a drummer.)  They are true believers in the transformative power of music, a belief that can’t be bought or sold.  It just is.

I guess that’s why I’ve always like Springsteen.  He believes in the things he sings about, he believes happily ever after is possible.  More importantly, he makes us believe in it, too.  And that’s the biggest transformation of all: Believing in what is possible.

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“We Are Family”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 22, 2012

I mentioned yesterday that Kina nominated me for the “Sisterhood of World Bloggers” award, which is awesome and cool, so thanks Kina!  I’m so glad you enjoy what I’m doing.  I will keep posting as long as wonderful people like you keep reading.

Since this is an award about sisterhood, what better tune than the ultimate sister song, sung by a family of beautiful, talented sisters.  Kim, Kathy, Joni, and Debbie gave us one of the enduring classics of disco (no, that’s not an oxymoron).  This is also one of those party songs that everybody enjoys.  Play “We Are Family,” and I guarantee the dance floor will be filled.

This is also a nice place for me to say that all my readers and followers are like family, in a way.  You’re my online family.  For a very long time, I have used the internet as a way to escape people.  What I forgot is that there’s some really awesome people out there.  I’m glad I only spend some of my time escaping people on the internet (but I really have to stop reading comment threads on Yahoo! and Pro Football Talk).

And now I want to pass this wonderful “Sisterhood of World Bloggers” award on to a few fine sisters out there:

Summer Solstice Girl for her optimism and bravery–and in spite of the fact that she made me jealous with all the pictures from her Washington, D.C. trip a couple of weeks ago.

Trans*forming Family for letting us all share her and her family’s amazing trip with her transgender son.

Free Penny Press for her shameless advocacy of the Arts–and in spite of the fact that she’s a Cowboys fan.

And last, but certainly not least (she might even be first in my mind), the amazing Satchie!  She got her cool name because her mommy and daddy thought she was a boy at first, but we all know there’s nothing wrong with a little gender fluidity.  She is easily the most beautiful of all my blogging sisters, and smart, too.  (Can you tell I love cats?)

I know there’s a lot of other blogs I read that I haven’t included here (partly because some of them men, and this is all about the sisters doin’ it for themselves), but rest assured, you are all award winners all the time in my mind.

Part of the conditions for accepting this lovely award is to tell you seven things you don’t know.  Problem is, right now, I can’t think of seven things I haven’t already revealed somehow.  So here’s seven of my all-time favorite foods.  Since this is a music blog, food doesn’t come up a whole lot, so this is my chance to inflict my culinary habits upon you all.

1) Coke-a-Cola Yeah, I know it’s not really a food, but it’s my one truly bad habit.  And soooo wonderful!

2) Chocolate Chip Cookies Any kind, really, but home-baked are still the best.  Unless you burn them into charcoal briquettes, you really can’t screw up chocolate chip cookies.

3) Fried Chicken I don’t really need to explain this, do I?

4) Chinese No specific kind, since what I want really depends on my mood, but I could eat Chinese take-out three or four nights a week and not be sorry.  The place near us that delivers even has barbecued pork fried rice, which is a fave from childhood.

5) Mexican The nights I’m not eating Chinese could easily be spent eating Mexican.  I know it varies from state to state, both here and in Mexico, but I favor the particular style that comes out of SoCal.  Now I’m craving something with melted cheese and Tapatio.

6) Grapes When I was a kid, I thought grapes only came in the green seedless variety.  But I’ve found all the wonderful variations since, and I can eat them until I pop, frankly.  And you can make wine with them!  What’s not to love?

7) Cheeseburgers In my universe, there is no such thing as a burger without cheese (I’ve eaten them, but I didn’t like it.)  This is my go-to food when I’m recovering from being sick.  I know I’m getting better when I start craving cheeseburgers.

Now you know what to feed me if you ever invite me over for dinner.

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“The Needle and the Damage Done”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 21, 2012

I have been nominated for an award by the lovely Kina, which I will get to tomorrow–partly because I need a little time to think about it, and partly because I can’t stop thinking about this song.

Neil Young wrote this song in the early 70s in response to the heroin addiction and/or deaths of bandmates, roadies, and friends.  Heroin is one of the ugliest drugs ever.  From what I’ve heard and seen, it is insidious and almost impossible to get away from.  (It’s the one real moral and emotional challenge I have to my stance that all drugs should be legalized.  The only way I can justify it to myself is that it would at least be regulated.)  The music world, especially, has been hard hit by heroin.  In 197o, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose.  Jimmy Page managed to survive it, somehow.  Eric Clapton, too.  Jerry Garcia struggled with it for years.  I could keep going, but frankly, it’s starting to depress me.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” is such an odd emotional experience.  Young wrote it shortly after a roadie for Crazy Horse died of an overdose, so the palpable grief is understandable.  But listen a little closer and you can hear rage.  And just underneath the rage, terror.  I can imagine the helplessness of watching someone you love descend further and further into a hell of their own making.  That’s where the rage and terror come from, I think–knowing that the addiction is killing someone, and you can’t do anything to stop it.  You just get to stand by and watch.

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone.”


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