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Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

“The Best of Everything”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 8, 2017

I had to take a couple of days off before I could write this one.  It’s just a little too hard emotionally.  I mean, the song is a killer.  A guy reflects on a long-lost love and hopes her life is good and happy.  And while it’s a tad overproduced, the sadness of the lyrics and the melancholy with which Tom delivers them just makes my heart ache.

Of course, this song is a little bit of a double whammy for me.  The overproduction on “The Best of Everything” comes courtesy of Robbie Robertson.  During the lengthy recording of Southern Accents (they had to leave the studio for roughly a year after Tom broke his hand and basically had to relearn playing guitar; many songs from the original sessions ended up being scrapped or totally revamped), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were at the studio the same time as Robertson.  Tom asked him to produce one of the songs, which became the basic track for “The Best of Everything.”  Robertson took it away for post-production overdubs, and was very secretive about precisely what he was doing to the song.  Tom would regularly ask him how it was going, and Robbie would  tell him everything was fine and that it would be done soon.  When the track was finally finished, there was a beautiful horn section and a backing vocal from Richard Manuel.  (BTW, if you don’t know who Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel are 1) Google them, and 2) go away; I don’t think we can be friends anymore.)  That backing vocal ended up being one of the last things Richard Manuel ever recorded before his suicide in 1986.

So it’s safe to say I get a little weepy over this song on good days.

Last Monday, October 2nd, was not a good day.  Tom was gone.  Yes, his physical body was still lingering in this plane, but his energy, his spirit, had already moved on.  I could feel that little bit of emptiness left behind in the Universe.  And I sat on my couch with my iPod on.  As I scrolled and saw this title, I hesitated before I hit play.  I knew it would shatter the last pieces of my heart that were still being held together with spit and baling wire.  I knew it would physically hurt to listen to that song.  But I had to, because this was my good-bye to that voice.

Tom Petty gave me, all of us, so much joy, and there really is no way to adequately thank him for it.  Funny how he wrote the only thank you I could think to give over thirty years ago.

“So listen honey, wherever you are tonight, I wish you the best of everything in the world.  And honey, I hope you found whatever you were looking for.”

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“Swingin'”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 5, 2017

The one bad part about an artist as successful as Tom Petty, with or without the Heartbreakers, is that a lot of really great music gets overlooked or forgotten.  Such is the fate of the album Echo, which is to my mind one of TP & the Heartbreakers’ best.  It’s his divorce album, written and recorded after the end of his first marriage.  But unlike many great break-up albums, Petty gave himself a little time to absorb the loss before he committed his feelings to his music.  (He also gave himself enough time to almost drink himself into a deep, deep hole, which might have been a contributing factor to his divorce.)  It’s not as angry and bitter as these magnum opuses of lost love can be, nor is it morose and depressing.  It’s more elegiac and mournful, almost gentle.  More circumspect.  There isn’t any recrimination or blame, just damn good music.

“Swingin'” has always been one of the best tracks.  The defiance and swagger here are trademark Petty, but more muted.  He knows this isn’t a happy story and adjusts his typical attitude accordingly.  But it is a proud tale of a woman who wasn’t going to give in to whatever is beating her down.  She fights back even though she knows she’s probably going to lose.  Because in losing this way, she really wins.  And she might just take down her adversary, too.  I’ve always felt like it was about Jane; I don’t know what happened to their marriage, but I’ll bet that once she’d decided she wasn’t going to put up with Tom’s bullshit anymore, she made sure he knew it.  You can feel the blows landing in this song, but it’s okay because it was probably at least a fair fight.

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“Learning to Fly”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 4, 2017

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

“The thing about the Heartbreakers is, it’s still holy to me . . . There’s a holiness there.  If that were to go away, I don’t think I would be interested in it, and I don’t think they would.  We’re a real rock ‘n’ roll band–always have been.  And to us, in the era we came up in, it was a religion in a way.  It was about more than commerce, it wasn’t about that.  It was about something much greater.  It was about moving people and changing the world, and I really believed in rock ‘n’ roll–I still do.”

 

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“No Second Thoughts”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 3, 2017

Yesterday I did my laundry, folded it, and put it away.  I read a couple of the articles for this week’s unit in my class.  I ate leftover spaghetti for dinner and finished off a nice bottle of Spanish wine.  I watched the news.  And when Rita Wilde on 100.3 announced that Tom Petty had finally passed on a little before nine pm last night, I cried for ten minutes.

While I consciously cried over losing the voice and physical energy of one of my favorite musicians ever, I also cried all the tears I’d been holding in over what happened the night before in Las Vegas.  People doing nothing more than enjoying music were targeted and gunned down for no discernible reason.  And I’m still sitting on all the grief and anger I feel over that.  (I’m not doing that rant again; it’s just too damn much right now.)  I still want to cry.  I still might.  I slept with a teddy bear last night, which I probably won’t do again.  At least not tonight.

I went to yoga class this morning.  It’s a “gentle” class, so most of what we do is on the floor.  I felt unbalanced and uncentered the whole time, like I was leaning just a little bit to one side or the other.  I couldn’t get any equilibrium.  I still feel that way.  I still feel just a little bit like a hole has been torn into me.  It’s going to take a long time for the space Tom left behind will be refilled.

It will, though.  I will regain my psychic footing, put together more coherent thoughts, make it through one of his songs without bursting into tears.  that’s how the Universe works.  Nothing is ever really lost.  His energy is still there.  And I can still reach out and hold it in my heart.

I dug out the iPod so I could listen to Tom while I was watching the football game last night.  For whatever reason, I gravitated to the softer songs.  I cried then, too, but it felt like a balm on the wound.  This is one of my all-time favorites, from the second Hearbreakers’ album, You’re Gonna Get It.  A gentle song about moving on.  Time to start doing that.

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Tom

Posted by purplemary54 on October 2, 2017

When I was thirteen, I walked up to the counter at Big Ben’s music store and asked “Who is this?”  The bored clerk pointed to the red and black album displayed on the counter and said “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”  I was stone cold in love from that moment on.

No, he wasn’t especially good-looking.  But there was a gleam in his eye and a sly grin on his face that told you all you needed to know.  He was funny and sexy and he never took anything, especially himself, all that seriously.  Except the music.  He always took the music seriously.

I remember an interview with Petty back in the 90s.  He told his parents he was leaving school to become a musician.  His father said he might want to get an education anyway, just in case he needed something to fall back on.  But Petty replied, “I won’t fall back.”  There were a lot of rough times at the beginning, but he was right.  Tom Petty never fell back, he never backed down, and we have all his wonderful music because of it.

The song that was playing in the store when I was thirteen was “You Got Lucky.”  I was lucky my parents wanted to rent a movie that night so I could hear that song on the store’s PA system.  It’s still my favorite.

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Walter Becker

Posted by purplemary54 on September 3, 2017

Steely Dan was always just Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.  Sure, they started out as a real band, but that eventually dissolved and the Fagen/Becker duo performed as Steely Dan with some of the best studio musicians ever.  They were also pretty much a studio band, a record band.  Yeah, they performed live and toured pretty regularly, especially after they reunited and found out how much money they could make touring the nostalgia circuit.  But they were at heart a duo that was best when they were recording.

The duo has now become a solo act with today’s passing of Walter Becker.  He co-wrote most of Steely Dan’s best work with Fagen, played bass and guitar, and was generally just a musical badass.  I am surprisingly saddened by losing Becker, and I’m not sure why.  I’m definitely a fan; they did some of coolest, funkiest, swinging-est, jazziest, most literary rock music ever.  Come to think of it, Steely Dan was pretty much a genre of one; no other musical act as been like them.  Which maybe is what makes Becker’s death so devastating.  No one else was like this act, and no one is ever going to replace him.  Donald Fagen has announced that he will keep Steely Dan’s music alive as long as can after losing his partner and friend, but it will never be the same again.  Half the heart of Steely Dan is gone.

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Hail to the King

Posted by purplemary54 on August 16, 2017

It’s been forty years since Elvis Presley shuffled off this mortal coil.  While he’d slipped into pop culture irrelevancy in the last few years of his career, the musical landscape was just as shaken by his death as it had been by the earthquake of his arrival in the 1950s.

But Elvis holds an odd relevancy today.  See, when he started out, Elvis explicitly tried to blend two different musical worlds: Black R&B and white Country & Western.  I know there have been a lot of critics who say he “stole” that music from the blacks, but considering that he was always friends with and surrounded by a vital African-American community in Memphis, then I think it might be a little harsh to say he willfully took from black artists for his own profit.  He used the music he loved and that influenced him to develop his own unique sound.  If people want to lay blame for the magnificent, brilliant black musicians that didn’t get the credit or reap the financial rewards of fame, then blame the music industry; they’re the ones who exploited people.  Elvis just made the sound he heard in his head and heart manifest.

Some people reacted badly to Elvis.  Besides being kind of lewd in some people’s eyes, he was also committing the worst sin any white man from the South could commit: He liked black culture and black people.  He freely associated with them.  He sounded like them.  To these people, Elvis was some kind of traitor.  The people who thought this were what I like to call racists.  This was the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, and Jim Crow was still the rule of law throughout the South (and the rule of custom in so many other places).  Things were changing, and racists didn’t like it.  They didn’t like the idea that their pure white children might go to school with those nasty black folks.  They didn’t think they should have to serve or sell products to people they had decided were subhuman simply because the color of their skin was different.  The racists still held on to the notion that the South would “rise again,” a phrase I’m pretty sure is code for “reinstate slavery and destroy all those dirty n*****s once and for all.”  They were afraid that their “way of life” would be taken from them and they would be forced to treat black people equally.

So they fought back by beating sit-in participants.  By turning fire hoses and police dogs on Civil Rights marchers.  By lynching and shooting both black and white activists who committed sins like registering black citizens to vote.  They didn’t call themselves racist.  They didn’t even call themselves white supremacists for the most part.  They called themselves good, honest, hardworking, Christian Americans.  They really truly believed God was on their side.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It should.  Because it’s still going on today, some sixty-odd years after the Civil Rights Movement began in earnest and Elvis Aron Presley burst onto the scene.  What happened a few days ago in Virginia, before, during, and after a so-called “Unite the Right” rally was pretty much the same thing.  These neo-Nazis, these white pride adherents, these alt-right followers–whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves–were as sickening as the racists back then were.  They carried torches, for crying out loud!*  All they needed was a couple of white hoods and a giant cross to burn, and we would’ve gone back in time a few decades.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And because of the Cheeto masquerading as president, these imbeciles think it’s okay to come back out of the woodwork and show their pathetic faces.  They think it’s okay to intimidate and beat counter protesters.  They think it’s okay (and it actually is okay in a lot of places) to carry assault weapons to a supposedly peaceful protest.  With all the racist, xenophobic rhetoric coming from the Cheeto, these racists think they can do whatever they want to anyone they think is an inferior because the idiot they voted for says it is.  He refuses to call them out largely because he agrees with them.  They are essentially his unpaid army of thugs.

Now I support the right to free speech.  That means I also support the right of these racist fucks to say what they want.  It’s a hard, bitter pill, but I will swallow it because they do have the right to speak their minds and express their opinions.  I hate what they have to say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it.  But they surrender any Constitutional right to free speech the second they start carrying weapons and torches.  They give up any and all First Amendment protections when they assault anyone who dares to disagree with them.  They deserve to be arrested and prosecuted when they do things like drive their cars into a crowd of pedestrians and counter protesters.  These so-called people, these useless piles of flesh and bones, are the living breathing definition of terrorism.  They always were, going back generations upon generations, and they should be treated as such.

Like the racists who resisted both Civil Rights and Elvis, these terrorist neo-Nazis are scared because they think they’re losing something when other groups, primarily the groups that they hate, gain something.  They see society changing and progressing, and they see it as an assault on their power.  It is.  And it isn’t going to stop.  As more and more marginalized people gain greater and greater rights, the social order these terrorists want to see will continue to die out.

I’ve gotten a bit farther away from Elvis than I thought I would, but I think that’s kind of a testament to his power.  He brought musical styles together and created something magical.  Today, no one even really thinks about how revolutionary his sound was.  Imagine what would happen if we could finally, FINALLY, stop dividing ourselves by the colors of our skins and unify.  Think of what we could accomplish if we actually stopped treating each other differently because we look or speak or pray or vote differently.  Then the real revolution would finally begin.

 

*Okay, they were tiki torches, but that would’ve only leant the scent of citronella to the cross burning.

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“Blue Letter”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 29, 2017

One of the side effects of taking melatonin is an increased vividness to REM sleep.  And I have to say that in the few years I’ve been taking this supplement on a semi-regular basis that my dreams have become markedly more odd and much more vivid.

The vividness comes from an increase in senses other than sight and sound, although those senses have heightened in my dream world as well.  I can feel, smell, and taste things in my dreams now.  It’s disconcerting but also kind of fun.  I feel like my emotions and lucidity when I dream are also increased.  That doesn’t mean I’m lucid dreaming in the sense that I’m controlling what’s going on, but that I know I’m dreaming more often than I used to.  I suppose if I were prone to nightmares this would be less pleasant than it is, but for the most part my dreams are weird but not disturbing or frightening.  I find myself replaying recent actions and activities with dream logic, or symbolically dealing with my various anxieties.  One frequent trope of my dreams is that I am either watching or appearing in a movie or TV show–sometimes both simultaneously.  One part of me in the dream knows what I’m seeing/doing is merely fiction while another part is participating in the story being told.  Like I said, weird but not unpleasant.

Last night’s melatonin-induced oddity included the Fleetwood Mac song “Blue Letter.”  It was being played for some reason, though I can’t remember why.  I heard the opening verse quite clearly.  This wasn’t a case of the song being played just before I woke up and seeping into my sleep cycle; I didn’t have the radio on and the TV was tuned to the NFL network.  It’s more like the music shuffle phenomenon I’ve had ever since I got an iPod, although that usually happens when I’m awake.  The song basically just popped into my head.  As a result, I haven’t been able to shake the song all day.  So now y’all can sing along with me.

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“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 24, 2017

I recently got the chance to see the Talking Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense at a movie theater and I jumped at it, largely because I had never actually seen it from beginning to end.  Ten minutes here, five minutes there, I’d watched it in fits and starts and MTV clips for the last thirty odd years; it was high time I corrected this, as it turns out, grievous gap in my music & movie viewing.

Stop Making Sense was directed by the late Jonathan Demme and presents a show from the Heads’ tour to support their 1983 classic Speaking in Tongues.  What the film drove home to me more than anything else was how percussive and textural their music is.  I mean, yeah, you know that if you’ve ever heard a single Heads song, but I don’t think it ever really sunk in until I watched the concert in its entirety.  The Talking Heads managed this weird part Punk, part performance art, part tribal chant sound thanks to electronic keyboards and the crack rhythm team of Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz.  I don’t know how much their music comes from their marriage or how much of their marriage comes from their music, and I don’t care.  I just want to listen to them match themselves to each other’s heartbeats and David Byrne’s artistic vision.  Repeatedly.

The closest analogy I can come to in describing the Talking Heads’ sound is a Jackson Pollock painting.  Pollock’s drips and splashes and splatters build up, swirling around and on top of each other until it’s impossible to distinguish any one thread or color from the whole.  Looking at Pollock, I sometimes feel as if I could thrust my hand into the center of the painting, and come out with a tangled mass of color strings wrapped around it.  The Talking Heads weave sound the exact same way.  No one instrument is dominant over another, although each sound is distinct in and of itself.

The touring band they put together to help flesh out the studio sound was unbelievable.  These were crack musicians and singers who were far more than just hired guns; they were part of the group.  Which was vital to making the sound work.  They had to work together as seamlessly as the splatters in a Pollock.  And in the film, there is no preference of the “official” band members over the touring musicians.  They aren’t treated with less respect or as if their contributions were secondary to the success of the shows.  They’re just the other members of the band.

So you’d think for my song I’d choose the version of “This Must Be the Place” from the film.  And yeah, it is great, but when I was searching for the song on YouTube, I found the previously unknown to me music video for the album cut.   This video features the Talking Heads as configured for the Stop Making Sense tour.  They are together watching home movies of themselves, although they seem less like home movies and more like fantasy visions.  Or, if I can throw my own interpretation in, like some kind of ideal of who each person maybe feels they are.  The place where they feel most at home.

I chose this video because, like all the best songs and visual arts, it took me someplace I didn’t expect to go.  The video shows them all at home, together, the way a family would be (it even includes Weymouth and Franz’s toddler).  And the clip not only reminded me of a value I hold very dear, it also added a dimension to the song I hadn’t fully considered before.  “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” is a love song, pure and simple.  But it’s not just a romantic love song (although it obviously can be, especially if you listen to Shawn Colvin’s stellar version); it’s a love song about family–chosen family.  Because your romantic partner is nothing if not chosen family.  And so are your friends, and the people you work and create art with.  Love in all its glorious and myriad forms.  And all those glorious keyboards and percussion instruments and voices help demonstrate the beauty and complexity of love, the way it thrums and builds and grows until you can’t tell one from another.  Until you can’t imagine being anyplace else with anyone else doing anything else.  And it doesn’t matter what it looks like or who you share it with.  It’s perfect just as it is.

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Chester Bennington

Posted by purplemary54 on July 20, 2017

Richard Manuel.  Michael Hutchence.  Chris Cornell.  Robin Williams.  And now, Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington.  They all have one horrible thing in common: They committed suicide by hanging themselves.

I have to start here by saying I don’t really understand suicide.  I have never been in the depths of a depression so deep and dark that the only way out was to die.  I have never struggled with mental illness so powerful and damaging that I finally listened to the disease.  I have never fought addiction.  But knowing what I know about how you die when you hang yourself, I do know that a person has to be truly desperate to harm themselves in that way.  It is an awful way to die.  I’m glad that it is not still an option for the death penalty (which ought to be abolished completely anyway, but that’s a different rant).  All of these men battled their various illnesses and addictions; all of them lost.  It makes me despair a little at the waste of beautiful life.

Not being a fan of Linkin Park, I don’t really have anything to say about their music.  But I know so many people do love this band.  And Chester Bennington’s family and friends loved him.  And I ache for all of these people.  Knowing his pain is over doesn’t end the pain for everyone else.  Most of all, I hate that he felt like he had to die to end his pain.  I don’t want anyone to feel like that, but I know I can’t stop it.  So here’s a link that might be able to help at least one person out there choose something different.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

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