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Archive for September, 2016

“Memphis”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 29, 2016

Weeks ago, before Mom got so sick, I was drinking a little wine and listening to a little Willie Nelson, feeling a little melancholy and thinking about my Daddy and Grammy.  (Man, that sounds like way more activity than it actually was.  All those gerunds!)  This naturally led to me listening to the saddest Willie songs I could find, and I turned to this duet with Janis Ian that BFF turned me onto on a mix CD of songs about Memphis.*

While this easily qualifies as one of the Saddest Song I Have Ever Heard, it evokes the place so beautifully it just makes me want to go there even more.  It is one of the holy pilgrimages for Rock fans.  This song paints such a sweetly sorrowful portrait of a place that time and economics may have passed by, but which holds such magic.  I’m sure if I ever get there, it’ll be a lot like many other cities, with tourist traps and Starbucks on every other corner; with parts that are so run down they’re almost ruins; with suburbs and parks and schools and churches.  But this is where Sam Phillips and Sun Records made their mark on the world, where so many greats were launched.  And it’s home to a lot of people, something this song reminds us.  “If you could see Memphis the way that I do, she would look different to you.  The Queen of the Delta, tip your tiara, to Memphis the Belle of the Blues.”

*We used to talk about making a list of all the great songs about Memphis and playing it on a road trip there.  BFF finally gathered a bunch of them, many that I’d never heard before, and gave me the CD for Christmas one year, I think.

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The Georgia Satellites

Posted by purplemary54 on September 28, 2016

It is entirely possible that I’ve posted this album before, but I’m feeling a little too lazy to search through my old posts to see.  It’s the kind of thing I would do, though.  I’ve been evangelizing about this band for years.  To be fair, they only made two really great albums and one really crappy one (with the exception of the song “Sheila”).  Their debut was just pure, perfect Rock & Roll.  Barroom style.  You know, the kind of place where the band plays behind chicken wire to keep the crowd from throwing things at them.  Where the band is happily drinking right along with the rest of the patrons.  You know.  The really, really good kind.

 

By all rights, the Georgia Satellites really should’ve just been a forgotten cover band playing–behind chicken wire, of course–in some humid bar somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta.  But they had a fluke hit with “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” in 1986, which led to a decent career and some pretty heavy airplay on MTV.  They were too loose to hang together for very long.  Lead singer and songwriter Dan Baird left after their third album, In the Land of Salvation and Sin in 1989; although the rest of the band reunited in the 90s, they were never the same.  Whatever magic there had been was lost.

But we still have these terrific songs.  Skip “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” if you’ve just heard it too many times (or think it’s really stupid).  Give “The Myth of Love,” “Red Light,” or the stunning combo “Nights of Mystery/Every Picture Tells a Story” a shot.  (The last recommendation is based on the fact that on the original album, those two tracks are bled together seamlessly; it’s just goddamn perfect.)  If you really enjoy their first eponymous LP, track down In the Land of Salvation and Sin.  It is arguably their best album and shows some signs of artistic growth in their hard rocking style.  No matter what else you might think of the Satellites, you cannot every accuse them of dishonesty.  They wear the barroom like a badge of honor.

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“Trudy and Dave”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 23, 2016

This song just makes me feel good.  Hell, the whole damn album makes me feel good.

The video is a tiny bit odd for the song, but it doesn’t do it any harm.

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“Rothko Chapel”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 22, 2016

Considering that I used to go visit my dad in Houston pretty regularly when he lived there, I am saddened that we never went to the Rothko Chapel.  In my own defense, I had not yet discovered the brilliance that was Mark R0thko and his use of color block paintings to convey transcendental emotions.  In this sacred space are the final paintings Mark Rothko completed before his suicide, a series of black tones on huge canvases.  You would think they would be sorrowful and empty, but everything I’ve seen of the chapel conveys something else.

Rothko’s work brings a peace to my mind that nothing else has ever done.  It is the closest I’ve ever come to true silence in my head–no mean feat given the hamster wheel consistency of my brain.  These paintings are to me the Zen concept of nothing mind in color.  And the light, oh my stars, the light!  I will never know how he did it, but Rothko captured light in a way that I cannot describe as anything but pure.  Even his darkest paintings–and those in the chapel qualify–convey a sense of the depth and gradation of light.  The dim brightness of the sunrise, the gentle wash of the sunset.  It’s all there, and it is a miracle.

So imagine my surprise and joy when I found out there was music composed to accompany the Rothko Chapel paintings.  The chapel opened not long after Rothko’s death, and they commissioned his friend Morton Feldman to compose a piece.  It is perfect.  I don’t mean perfect as a piece of music, although I think it is very, very good.  I mean that is matches these paintings perfectly, complimenting their monochromatic atonality and diversity, creating a space for meditation and quiet while simultaneously honoring their spirituality.

I’ll get back to Houston one day and see the chapel in person.  Until then, I can listen to it.

 

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“New York, New York”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 11, 2016

It’s that time of year again.  Fifteen years later, and I still cannot wrap my head around what happened.  I’ll never be able to.  I’ll never understand why anyone would hate so much that they would kill themselves just to try to destroy the thing they hate.  I’ve been angry; I’ve even hated some people and ideals.  But I will never comprehend that level of pure, unadulterated hate.

I do not believe politics and religion should have anything to do with each other (and neither did America’s Founding Fathers), but this op-ed from the Los Angeles Times today tries to clarify why many Muslims do.  There is no separation between civic law and religious law for them.  That’s cool.  That’s why Muslim countries are what they are.  But it doesn’t explain why some zealots decided to impose their version of Islam on everyone else, why the destruction of everything they did not agree with became their sole cause.  Blaming every other Muslim for these lunatics is not the way to end terrorism.  That is just more hatred I do not understand.

On this day fifteen years ago, the United States was ushered into a world that most other nations had been living in for decades.  It is a world of fear and worry and, yes, hatred.  It is poisonous, and you only have to look at the current election cycle to see what it has done to us.  I am ashamed of all the people who think the Republican candidate is right.  They are giving in to their anger and hatred.  They are letting their fear win over any possibility of hope or peace.  They are the most un-American Americans I have ever seen.

It’s hard to remember the world before 9/11.  It’s hard to remember a time when a football player’s peaceful protest became headline news (seriously, there are WAY more important things going on).   It’s difficult to visualize a world where we weren’t looking for bombs in every forgotten bag and backpack.  It’s hard to picture the New York skyline without that huge scar of blank space on it.  (Yes, they’ve built a new tower, but it just isn’t the same; it never will be again.)  That’s partly why I chose Ryan Adams’ “New York, New York” as my song this year.  It was filmed right before the attacks, and you can see the World Trade Center towers standing tall and proud.

But there’s another, more important reason I chose this particular song.  It’s one of two that thoroughly embodies my emotions surrounding 9/11–the other is Bruce Springsteen’s elegiac “My City of Ruins”.  A huge part of my love for this song is tied up in its connection to this life-changing event.  But unlike the Springsteen song, it is not filled with sadness, it is not mourning what is gone.  It is full of optimism and joy and life.  Adams wrote the song long before 9/11; it has absolutely no thematic connection with what happened.  The video was filmed before the attacks; the only reason a disclaimer had to be added was because it was obviously released after everything was irrevocably damaged.  “New York, New York” is a love song–although whether it is for a person or the place is both unclear and irrelevant.  Yes, the singer had his heart broken, but he isn’t going to let that stop him.  He isn’t wallowing in his grief and pain.  He declares “hell, I still love you New York.”

“Love won’t play any games with you any more if you don’t want ’em to.”  Love does not lie.  It can be a little misguided, and it can hurt sometimes.  But it is the only truth any person will ever need in this, or any other, lifetime.  Love builds space inside your heart for the whole universe.  Love lets you see the world from all other perspectives.  You might get angry sometimes.  You are definitely going to be sad and scared.  But love will always shine a light that leads you out of the darkness.

So I wish for the same thing I wish for every year on this day: that we all just love each other.  Don’t give in to hate and fear.  Don’t build any walls.  Don’t stop people from coming to this country.  Don’t ban ideas.  Stop bombing people.  Stop shooting people.  Just stop.  Listen to what the other side says.  Learn about their culture and religion, and teach them about yours.  Prove that you are not trying to destroy them.  Prove that you really believe in the Enlightenment ideals this country was founded on.  If we handed out food and books and medicine more often, maybe the kind of hatred that flourishes in some places would just die out.  Because nothing kills hatred like love.

I’ll always love you New York.  I’ll always love the whole world, no exceptions.

 

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