“Squeeze Box”

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Let’s see.  Finally caught up on Pop Culture Happy Hour?  Check.  Basketball and hockey finals over after about two months.  Check.  Laundry waiting to be put away?  Check.  Pigeons eating all the bird seed?  Check.  World going to hell in a handbasket?  Check and check!

In other words, things are just about normal around here.  I did find out last week that maybe I shouldn’t be quite so fastidious about paying the mortgage on time; it seems that if I pay the bill too early (read: within a couple of days of receiving it), they count it as an extra principle payment, not the regular monthly payment.  Apparently, the employees of my mortgage company have a little trouble reading the printed payment stub they sent that I always include with the check.  Don’t pay your bills too early, or it’ll confuse people.

It’s just one of the many absurdities of existence that we are confronted with on a daily basis.  I’m beginning to realize that it’s not so much that quality and customer service are extinct, or that there’s no kindness or decency left in the human race.  It’s just that no one has the ability to think past their check list or pre-planned script anymore.  If you move ahead a space or two on the chart–say, try unplugging your device and plugging it back in to reboot it before you call technical support–you confuse people.  They’re not stupid (not really, anyway); they just didn’t plan on you thinking for yourself.  No one plans on someone thinking for themselves anymore.  Follow the steps.  Follow them in the order they’re presented.  Failure to do so will upset the system.

I’m guilty of it myself.  I like things to be fairly linear, with clear instructions and whatnot.  You should’ve seen me struggling with papers in college.  I had to begin at the beginning and end at the end.  I couldn’t write the middle section until I had an introduction.  My brain didn’t work that way.  I get the need for a set of rules to follow; it makes life simpler when you don’t have to think critically or outside the box.  Improvisation is hard work.  We like it when someone gives us the answers ahead of time.

What does any of this have to do with the Who or their awesomely catchy song “Squeeze Box”?  Not a flipping thing.  I just figured we all needed something nice to listen to after realizing that our entire current culture is based almost entirely on not putting too much effort into anything.

 

“Who Are You?”

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I’ve recently begun following bottledworder, and she wants to know who her readers are.  I thought since I’ve gained a few followers since I started this little enterprise that I ought to give explaining myself an update.

Whenever somebody asks me who I am, I always want to respond, “I’m just me.”  Like most people, I’m pretty complicated and pretty simple at the same time.  I feel like I’m a low-maintenance person, but I know I can be passive-aggressive and needy (both of which are pretty high-maintenance qualities).  I’m essentially lazy, but productive and efficient when I’m taking care of business.  I like being alone much of the time, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stay in better touch with my friends and family.  I am, as the song says, “a walking contradiction” (bonus points for naming the song . . . I’m testing out a possible new blog feature that could result in prizes).

I’m a single, middle-aged white woman living in the suburbs.  My mom has moved into the house with me, which has filled in a little of the gigantic hole left when my father passed away last May.  I don’t have kids, but I do have cats, which sometimes amounts to a similar amount of work.  I like books and movies and music (duh).  My idea of a nice day out is visiting a museum.  I abhor stupidity.  I believe in equality, justice, and all around fairness.  I’m a raging liberal, a Buddhist, and (gasp!) an intellectual.  (That’s right, boys and girls, I’m the Tea Party’s worst nightmare.)

I like all kinds of music, but I’m partial to Classic Rock and singer-songwriter types.  As a writer and reader, words are especially important to me, so I tend to place a lot of emphasis on lyrics.  I can’t sing or play an instrument, but I love to listen.  Don’t look to me for detailed discussions of guitar tunings or recording techniques; I’ll opine on what I know, and fake the rest.  Music is one of the most important parts of my life, and I will always try to treat it with respect.  If I go off on a particular artist, it’s because I think they add nothing to the musical lexicon.  And if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than, say, five posts, you probably already know a lot of this.

But a little refresher never hurts.  (Just for the record, I have a lot of trouble spelling the word “maintenance,” even though one of my favorite books is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.)

The Who

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There is no such thing as a good cover of a Who song.

Oh sure, every so often some band or artist gets the idea to do one.  There are even a few that are pretty listenable.  (Heavy metal band W.A.S.P. did a decent enough cover of “The Real Me”; the band holds up okay under the pressure, but Blackie Black’s vocal ability is exposed as inferior.)  But what makes a cover good, IMO, is the way the new artist owns the old song, the way it becomes something new and different.  The way it brings someone else’s creativity and spirit to life.  Artists covering the Who inevitably sound like bad wedding/bar bands–all their weaknesses are exposed.  The vocals are just a little too thin or reedy (see Blackie Black above).  The guitars or bass are just a little too tinny.  The drums just a little too neat.  There’s always, always something missing from Who covers.

There’s an intensity to the Who that cannot be recreated by anyone else.  After Keith Moon died, it took Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwhistle approximately two decades to get an adequate replacement for him.  (Kenny Jones does not count as an adequate replacement for Keith Moon; Zack Starkey has managed to fit the bill nicely.)  They were a bit like The Band in that they created something that no one else has been able to touch–not even them, really.  All incarnations of the Who since Moonie’s death have been pretty good, because even at their worst, the Who is  just about as good as any other band’s great.  But none have managed to fully recapture the brilliance of that original musical moment.

Of course, it’s really hard to recreate a supernova.  You just kind of have to be in the right place at the right time.  The Who were always greater than the sum of their parts.  Pete Townshend is the driving creative force, but his musical vision is never quite complete without at least Roger Daltrey (and that’s all he has, now).  They made each other better.  It’s hard to believe there are only four men on stage in this clip.  (I believe the synthesizers were programmed and run like a machine; musical special effects, as it were.  The Who were one of the first rock acts to really experiment with this technology in the 70s.)  There ought to be more to make that sound happen.  It is huge and tough and desperate, the sound of hearts and minds searching for a path through the rage.  It’s something no one else has ever managed to do.  No matter how hard anyone tries, they will never be the Who.

Got Live If You Want It: The Hollywood Bowl

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Bowl.  Two or three years, I think.  For those of you who don’t live in SoCal, it is the perfect place to go see a concert of any sort–everything sounds good there.  Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, it is blessed with history, beauty, and an aura of otherworldliness.  It’s like you leave the freeways, pollution, crime, and superficiality of California behind and land in this green theater filled with music and magic.

image from www.seeing-stars.com

Pretty, isn’t it?

I’ve seen Yo-Yo Ma there.  I’ve seen Sting, Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers there (twice for the last one).  I like to sit in the cheap seats (those benches in the foreground of the image; you can rent a cushion for seventy-five cents if you don’t bring your own).  It sounds just as good, and I’ve long since lost the need to be right next to the speakers.  You can bring your own food and wine, and dine under the stars.  That’s really great if you take advantage of Park & Ride, which gives you time to sober up before you get home–and ensures you don’t have to deal with the nightmare of parking at the Bowl itself.  (Park & Ride is this fabulous system in which you park at a pre-determined meeting spot near your home, and ride a bus up to the Bowl.  It saves time, only costs a little extra, and you might even make friends on the way.)

One of my fondest memories is going to see The Who in 2002, their first show after the death of John Entwhistle.  It was also right after my aunt had died, so I was feeling really melancholy.  I went with the BFF, who called me spur of the moment to go.  We just felt the need to be there, to honor the memory of one of our musical idols.  It was a breathtaking and cathartic experience.

I found out later that one of my mom’s (and aunt’s) cousins and his wife were at the show, too, probably feeling a lot of the same things I was.  The whole audience was transported.  I know I couldn’t have been the only one brought to tears by their rendition of “Love Reign O’er Me” that night (wish I could’ve found a clip of that).

The Hollywood Bowl just released its 2013 schedule, and I want to try to hit a couple shows there this year.  The ABBA show might be fun, but I’ll bet everyone will want to see that.  It’s just so much damn fun to be out in the open air, surrounded by trees and music and joy.  We could all use a little more joy in our lives.