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Archive for August, 2013

“After the Thrill is Gone”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 31, 2013

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it.” –W.C. Fields

Y’all know that I follow football.  I keep up with news and rumors, gossip and playmaking.  I love my 49ers, and I pay pretty close attention to a few other teams.  The New England Patriots is one of those teams; it’s sort of fascinating how quickly they’ve gone from football royalty to insane train wreck.  Between  serious injury problems, a former player accused of murder, and a defense that just sucks right now, they’ve got a long row to hoe this season.  I suppose there’s still enough quality there to get them to the playoffs, but they’re not going far this year.

Neither is third string quarterback Tim Tebow.  He was picked up by the Patriots this offseason after being cut by the Jets, who got him after he was cut from Denver last year (they made a serious upgrade at QB).  This is the third team to release Tebow in eighteen months.  Tebow has promised to keep pursuing his dream of being a starting NFL quarterback.

I’m not going to get into the mess that has been Tebow’s NFL career too much.  I will say that in spite of his success in college, he has turned out to be a pretty lousy QB; he has what is quite possibly the ugliest throwing motion I’ve ever seen.  He gets a lot more attention for his overt shows of faith, on both sides of the spectrum, than his abilities or lack thereof.  (Many of his more devout fans feel that he’s being persecuted because of his faith, but that’s a giant load of BS.)  The thing is, he keeps on cheerfully trying, in spite of an overabundance of evidence that says maybe he should switch positions or quit.

This Eagles song was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey for bandmate Randy Meisner, who had decided to leave the band.  (There’s been a whole lot of friction between the Eagles and Meisner since then, but that’s another story.)  It’s such a sweet, melancholy good-bye to a relationship that has clearly run its course.  “Time passes, and you must move on.  Half the distance takes you twice as long.  So you keep on singing for the sake of the song, after the thrill is gone.”  Loosely translated, I think that means you shouldn’t beat a dead horse.  Randy Meisner had gone as far as he could with the Eagles, and his frenemies sent him off with love.  (“Frenemies” is really the only word that should be used to describe the relationships between anybody who’s ever been in the Eagles.)  The song is technically about a romance that’s over, but the sentiment applies to pretty much any relationship out there.

There’s a point at which people realize that whatever was there once is gone, and it’s time to cut their losses.  I think that’s what Tim Tebow needs to do now.  He’s not going to be the next Joe Montana (still my gold standard at QB).  He’s not even going to be a mediocre backup.  It’s hard to admit it’s time to let the dream go, but it’s time to move on.  (And I just now thought of a song that is so much better for this post, but I don’t want to start over again.  Listen here.)  He’s gotten so much farther on his dreams than most people do.  But life isn’t a fairy tale, and dreams don’t always come true.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  Like the W.C. Fields quote I opened with, maybe he should just quit being a damn fool.

But I know it’s a hard thing to give up on a dream you’ve always wanted.  I remember when I realized I probably wasn’t going to have kids, even before my surgery.  I’ve still got some complicated emotions about that, but I’ve realized it’s pretty much for the best.  Not all dreams come true.  And not all of them should.  What are your wistful pipe dreams?



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Freaky Friday: “Shoehorn with Teeth”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 30, 2013

Here’s a charming little bit of absurdity from They Might Be Giants, quite possibly the freakiest artists to record anything aimed at children since Shel Silverstein started writing poetry.

Obviously, this is not one of their children’s songs.  It’s from their second album, Lincoln, and it’s so strange it’s utterly irresistable.  At least it is to me.  I like strange things.  Just take a moment and let the lyrics sink in.

Now try to shake them off.  I dare you.

Have a nice day! 🙂

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“(Just Like) Starting Over”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 29, 2013

So tomorrow is D-day.  Or M-day.  Or something like that.  Sometime tomorrow, my mother, her cat, and all her belongings will be arriving.  It will be hot and frustrating (the weather forecast has it in the 90s).  Someone will probably snap at someone else; there might even be crying.  No one of the feline persuasion will be very happy for at least a week.  There’s a fair chance something will get broken or otherwise damaged.  All in all, it promises to be a barrel of fun.

The process won’t be any fun, but my mother moving in is a good thing.  We’re pretty good about staying out of each other’s way if we need to.  And since she’ll still be working for a little while at least, she’ll be leaving the house once in a while–something my father didn’t do much even before his health started failing.  That means I’ll get some “alone time” in the house.  And my mother is pretty similar to me temperamentally: She likes her alone time, too.  I’m gonna have to work on the idea she has that she’s some kind of burden who’s imposing on me, but I think we can fix that.  She’s been lonely for a long time, and I hope this will help alleviate that.

Even though “(Just Like) Starting Over” is a love song, it’s sort of appropriate for this new phase.  We are starting over in a sense; my mother and I haven’t shared a home for over 20 years (I’m not counting the couple of months I lived with her when she broke her arm).  With the work done on the house, it is both literally and figuratively a fresh start.  Now I just have to get her to quit smoking.

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Dream On

Posted by purplemary54 on August 28, 2013

This is enough of a song for today.

It’s been exactly fifty years since Dr. King made that speech in Washington, D.C.  What makes me sad and angry is that everything he says is still relevant today.  It’s been fifty years, and we are still dreaming of a time when the problems of racism, prejudice, and poverty are gone.  We are still dreaming of equality for everyone, and fair wages for a day’s work.  Things are better, but work still needs to be done.  Don’t think that the dream has been reached just because we have an African-American president.  The dream was always about more than one man climbing the mountaintop.  It’s about making it possible for all men and women to get the same rights and opportunities to succeed.

So dream on, brothers and sisters.

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“Dixie Chicken”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 27, 2013

I usually get befuddled looks from people when I mention Little Feat.  I wouldn’t call them Criminally Underrated, but they are definitely underappreciated, especially these days.  FM radio doesn’t have room for bands like Little Feat anymore, which is how I discovered them.  (Or it was from reading Rolling Stone.  My two main methods for discovering who the great acts of previous generations tend to blend together after a while.)  I know I sought them out because I knew Jackson Browne was friends with Little Feat’s founder, lead singer, and guitarist Lowell George.  Since Jackson Browne pretty much walked on water as far as I was concerned, I figured this Lowell George fellow couldn’t be too bad.

Not too bad is something of an understatement.

Little Feat had a loose, funky feeling to them.  You got the feeling they were always just a little buzzed (not an unfair assumption, given the time).  Their music was a little bit of everything–Country, Rock, Funk, Blues, etc.  all thrown in and mixed together like gumbo.  While they had a certain Southern flavor to their style, Little Feat was actually a California band.  George and Bill Payne formed the band after George was booted from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (Payne had auditioned for the Mothers, but decided not to join).  They were also one of those bands that was better live than in the studio, which sometimes made selling records a bit of a challenge.  They were critically acclaimed, but commercially challenged.  As their style veered more into Jazz fusion, Lowell George declared that Little Feat was over.  It seems he didn’t like the new style his bandmates were experimenting with.  His only solo album was a collection of covers, even though he was an excellent songwriter.  While touring to support that album, George died from a heart attack at 34.

Little Feat stayed disbanded for a few years, but reunited in the late 80s.  They even had a hit with “Hate to Lose Your Lovin'”.  I really loved that song, but that was mostly because I hadn’t heard the sardonic and slinky “Dixie Chicken” (or “Oh, Atlanta” or “Willin'”, or any other of their best songs).  This song just moves.  It’s also one of the best examples of their sound.  They were dynamic without being demanding.  It was fun and danceable, with disarming lyrics about lost love and good times.  This is the kind of music you listen to at a bar, hanging out with some of your best friends you just met.

I encourage anyone to go out and give Little Feat a try.  If you’re not sure where to start, listen to their live album Waiting for Columbus.  Recorded just before Lowell George quit, it features pretty much all of their best tunes just the way they were meant to be heard.

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Linda Ronstadt

Posted by purplemary54 on August 26, 2013

Linda Ronstadt announced over the weekend that she has Parkinson’s Disease, and has lost her singing voice because of it.  I’m heartbroken.  Linda Ronstadt doesn’t get as much attention these days as a lot of the 70s SoCal artists because she didn’t generally writer her own songs, or play any instruments on stage.  She was just a singer, and a pretty one to boot.

Just a singer.

Linda Ronstadt is one of the great vocal stylists of her generation.  She could do rock, country, pop, big band, and just about anything else.  She chose the songs she sang, and made hits out of many songs that might’ve been otherwise forgotten.  She had the best musicians backing her up, and was responsible for launching quite a few careers.  I mean, you’ve heard of the Eagles, right?  They started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backup band.  To hear that she can no longer sing is something of a tragedy.  (It’s almost as awful to me as losing the great Julie Andrews’ voice because of a botched surgery.)

A lot of the attention she got from the press in the 70s and 80s was for who she dated, not her skills as a singer and performer.  (She always did have interesting taste in men, Jerry Brown and George Lucas among the most notable.)  But she continually reinvented herself as an artist.  When she tired of rock and pop, she collaborated with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra for a successful series of standards albums.  She joined friends Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for the country collection Trio.  She even drew on her cultural and ethnic heritage, and sang traditional Mexican songs on Canciones de Mi Padre. Linda Ronstadt was never one to rest on her success.

Calling Linda Ronstadt just a singer does her, and all female vocalists of her caliber, a huge disservice.  Yeah, she was pretty and sexy (without ever being trashy, something a lot of women performers today should take a lesson from).  But her looks weren’t why she made it to the top of the charts so often.  You don’t have a career as long and varied as Linda Ronstadt’s without talent.

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Posted by purplemary54 on August 25, 2013

One of the few exceptions to my general anti-Prog Rock stance is the Marillion album Misplaced Childhood.  It’s a loose concept album about fractured romances, sort of a pseudo break-up album, since I don’t know exactly how much of it is based on any actual break-ups.  (I’m sure my friends who happen to be huge Marillion fans will enlighten me.)  I really don’t listen to the complete album all that much, although it is designed to be listened to as a whole (linked songs, repeated images, melodies, and themes . . . the whole nine yards).  It’s good stuff, but almost all of the goodwill I have toward this album is based on the single “Kayleigh.”

I don’t know what drew me to this song.  The story of a relationship gone to pieces was a little lost on me at first (I freely admit I didn’t always understand the lyrics; the British can be such a mumbly bunch).  I didn’t think anyone in the band was particularly cute (I was a teenager when this came out, after all).  Maybe I just dug the title name.  Maybe I responded to the aching regret in singer Fish’s voice (although I never would’ve articulated it that way back then).  I just know it hooked me right from the moment I heard it.  It’s one of the least progressive sounding songs they ever did.  And aside from any images that are exclusive to the concept of the album (the boy in the elaborate uniform that keeps popping up is from the cover, and plays a figurative role in the album themes), it was a very accessible song.

Marillion never really hit it big commercially, although they do have a loyal following.  They’re more of a cult band than anything else, but they always showcased accomplished musicianship and very emotional songwriting, especially during the Fish years.  (Fish was their original frontman, but left the group to pursue a solo career in 1988.  They’ve continued to record without him, but neither act has ever had the same kind of success, creatively or commerically, since the split.)

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Freaky Repost: Can

Posted by purplemary54 on August 23, 2013

I’m currently too busy enjoying the decent breeze from my small and adorable USB fan to feel very freaky about anything.  But here’s a flashback to one of my favorite Freaky Fridays.  Sorry if I offend any Germans out there by so blatantly stereotyping your nationality.

Let’s face it: Germans are weird.  If you subtract their warlike tendencies and their brilliant business and engineering abilities, they are one odd bunch.  This is not a bad thing.  The Weimar period between the two world wars is one of the most fascinating creative times of the 20th century.  Of course, that was kind of a strange period all over Europe, but Germany seemed to radiate weird.  The war had taken such a horrible toll, and the punitive treaty that France and England imposed guaranteed that the Germany would be crippled economically (it made them easy pickings for a smart madman like Hitler).  It also led to images like this.

Lichtsignale (The Flare), Otto Dix, 1917

Okay, this one is actually from the end of WWI, but the psychic damage had already been done.  Otto Dix is a favorite of mine; a German Expressionist, he would later be declared a “Degenerate” by Hitler, and his work would be banned and burned.

Germany seems to pass its psychic scars on to musicians very well.  David Bowie and Lou Reed both went there and created darkly beautiful and hypnotic music.  U2 had its first midlife crisis there.  For goodness sakes, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill are German.  (Names seem familiar?  Try this classic by Bobby Darin to refresh your memory.)  The country inspires strange music that is filled with anxiety and dread, or, to use the proper German term, Sturm und Drang.

All this oddness brings me to one of the oddest, and most legendary, German bands ever: Can.  From Cologne, the band members were influenced by avant-garde music.  Irmin Schmidt traveled to New York in the late 1960s, and was exposed to Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Velvet Underground (you can hear that influence clearly in their sound).  They managed to blend the avant-garde sound with jazz and psychedelia to create something that is sometimes called krautrock, but I think is better left unnamed.

(I must note that this video was not created by Can, although it fits the song perfectly.  Kunkmonk over at YouTube did a pretty good job.)

Of course, nothing Can did back in the 70s sounds old now.  You can hear echoes of them in Beck and Radiohead, just to name two of the acts I’m sure have been influenced by Can.  They were so ahead of their time, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking they were current.  I remember buying one of their albums when I was around 19, because Rolling Stone told me it was brilliant.  I was not ready for it.  There’s something menacing about their spacey musings, something dark and freaky.  As I’ve gotten older and learned more about the weird world that spawned both Expressionism and Surrealism, I get where that darkness was coming from; I appreciate it.  There’s this feeling, just underneath, that nothing is right and nothing is good, but you keep on going anyway because you know that giving up is worse.

Awesome stuff.  Just don’t listen to it with the lights off.

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The Hazards of Being a Teen Idol

Posted by purplemary54 on August 22, 2013

Former teen idol David Cassidy just got arrested again for DUI.  This is not a surprise.  Not because Cassidy is such a flagrant substance abuser; he’s got a definite problem with alcohol, but he’s not really known for repeated trips to rehab.  The news isn’t surprising because David Cassidy used to be a teen idol, a career move that in and of itself seems to guarantee a lifetime of problems.

If you appeared in the pages of Tiger Beat, or if your face was used to market lunch boxes and school supplies, then there’s a better than fair chance that you have Issues.  You probably became a superstar before you were old enough to drive.  You probably had more money, fame, and power than anyone going through puberty should ever have access to.  Puberty’s hard enough, what with the raging hormones, poor impulse control, and lack of practical experience doing pretty much anything.  To go through it while millions of teenage girls are screaming your name everywhere you go is just kind of cruel.

Thing is, teenagers in general are not equipped to make important decisions regarding their own welfare.  Their brains are literally not developed enough to do it.  And when surround by the kinds of wealth that teen idols tend to generate, the adults who are supposed to be looking out for these kids often fail to make responsible decisions.  These kids are overworked and undereducated.  They are isolated from the world, surrounded by Yes Men and Stage Mothers. (Don’t get up in arms about gender stereotyping; I know that rotten business people and parents come in both sexes.)  They are often burdened with being the sole financial support for their families; so even if they want out of the spotlight, they feel like they have to stay.

The list of former teen idols and child stars who have wrecked on the highway of life is long.  Leif Garrett.  Tiffany.  Brittany Spears.  Lindsay Lohan.  The entire child cast of Diff’rent Strokes. These days, Justin Beiber is well on his way to crashing and burning; I’m not so sure Miley Cyrus isn’t so far behind.  (Okay.  That’s two Justin Beiber mentions in two posts; I think I’m gonna start checking the house for pods.)  The horror stories run the gamut from broke by 21 to addicted to multiple substances.  The least bad thing that can happen to a teen idol is that they outgrow their marketability, and go on to lead anonymous lives in the suburbs.  I’d bet cash that they all have regrets about losing their childhoods and adolescence to the fame machine.

I don’t have any magical advice, or pithy quips to offer here.  I just felt like ranting a little about what these very adult businesses do to these children.  The troubles linger, as former teen idols struggle for happiness, or try to recapture the adulation of their youth.  Either way, the picture is pretty sad.

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“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 21, 2013

Warning: There is no real point to this post.  Any attempt to find any significant meaning herein will be met with laughter and derision.

I’ve always had a great affinity for small things.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that I’m not an especially tall person (I have to buy pants in the petite section), or with the fact that at one point I was a twelve-year-old girl.

Twelve-year-old girls love small things.  Small things are cute.  And nobody loves cute more than twelve-year-old girls.  They might try to hide it and appear more grown up with midriff-baring t-shirts or their first pair of high heels, or makeup, or whatever.  But small cute things are their great weakness.  Show a twelve-year-old girl a picture of a kitten, and you will soon be surrounded by a gushing chorus of coos and awws.  Trust me.  (Not so coincidentally, there’s a program on Animal Planet called Too Cute which causes me to revert back to that dark time of early adolescence.)

I used to think that I only wanted to buy the small cute items at the market.  You know, the little bottles of liquid dish soap, or the travel-sized tubes of toothpaste.  Luckily for my wallet, I got over that pretty fast.  But I still love small cute things, even when they have no real purpose.  For example, today, I was out at Target buying new curtains so that my mother doesn’t end up flashing the neighbors when she moves in 9 days from now ( I should have a countdown clock, but I’m not that invested in creating one).  I picked up a few other items as well, stuff I needed for the most part.  Except the itty bitty, USB fan.  It’s adorable!  (Strangely, Target doesn’t have a picture of it at their website, but some guy on YouTube made a three-minute video about the one he bought.)  It also creates a decent breeze, so I guess it wasn’t entirely useless for an impulse buy.

What’s any of this got to do with the song?  Nothing.  I just wanted a song about something small to connect to my “topic,” even if it was by the thinnest of threads.

Speaking of small things (cause I don’t think he’s very tall), doesn’t Brian Hyland in this clip bear a very strong resemblance to a current teen idol?  Just sayin’.

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