The Music Blog: The Drop Zone

Some time in 1997 or 1998 I settled down with my then wife to watch some movies at home. Our toddler was with my mom and we had gone to rent movies. We rented a few and both of us really enjoyed Murder at 1600 with Wesley Snipes. Now truthfully, I liked Wesley Snipes movies. Like some types of music or bands we need movies where we don’t have to think, the plot is simple the good guys win and get the girl and that’s the kind of movies Snipes did. I still use “What’s your boggle?” from the Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone movie Demolition Man. It is my favorite question to ask my dog. Now this particular night my wife and I watched this fantastic movie about a murder in the White House. After the movie, my wife, a nurse asked me the question “So I don’t get it. The murder happened in the early hours of the morning not at 4pm. Where does the title come from?” I stood there looking at her and then it struck me all that military time nurses use and said with a straight face, “The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” Yea it still took her a second to realize that should have been common knowledge. I will get back to Mr. Snipes though.

Look I get that I am pretty weird. Sometimes I don’t like a song or a band because of the name of the song or band. I will judge a band based on their name. I know and yea I pay for it sometimes. Had Hootie and the Blowfish not had a huge hit song on their first album I would have never bought a single thing from them. No, this isn’t a story about Hootie, or the blowfish but the band I am writing about was loved by Hootie, and I guess the Blowfish too.  In 1994 Wesley Snipes, yea remember I said I would get back to him starred in the movie Drop Zone.  Now, to be fair as much as I mostly liked Snipe’s movies this one just wasn’t very good, but since the theme centered around skydiving some of the cinematography was breathtaking. There was a song too, a great song that was up tempo and seemed perfect for the movie. That song was about all I took away from that movie, well that and I didn’t want to ever skydive. I searched for the song and found one of those bands with one of those names that I was all not into and had avoided even when other people suggested I give them a try. I had judged them and now here they were with a song that was stuck in my head.  Sure enough the song was on their latest album which had also been released in 1994. The name of the song was Fall Down, the album Dulcinea, and the band Toad the Wet Sprocket. I must have listened to that song ten times before I ever listened to the rest of that cd. Now somewhere my friend Steve who I have known since childhood is squirming because I already know he loves this album. The first song on the album is Fly From Heaven and that song, all by itself made me fall in love with the band. Right about now Steve is nodding his head vigorously in agreement. The song is just that good and for that matter so is the album. If you have never heard the song, find it now and listen. That album I just cherished for a long long time and that was my journey with Toad the Wet Sprocket. I just didn’t need to buy anymore. Then somewhere around 2004 while I was listening to that album for the one millionth time I asked myself why I had never bought another, because I knew they had other really good songs like Walk on the Ocean, All I want and Hold Her Down. The time seemed right so I bought their albums and loved every single one.

Like many fans I follow my favorite bands on Twitter and/or Facebook including Toad the Wet Sprocket and Glen Phillips the sInger and a primary songwriter for the band.  During the pandemic Glen Phillips has put on twice weekly short shows from his home. Each show lasts about 30 minutes and each show allows you to donate money to that day’s charity which he always speaks about. Over the past year he has raised thousands of dollars for charity. He takes requests, sometimes has guests, doesn’t just play Toad songs but also songs that are covers and even songs that he has written lately. He is always kind, patient, great with fans and like clockwork he plays twice weekly. He has helped keep many of us sane, often playing in the daytime for a quick respite from worry and stress and for good causes too. I think that says a lot about him.

Whether he did those things are not I would still love this band that I almost never knew and I owe it all to Wesley Snipes.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Comfort Food

So, if you have ever read any of my music blogs then you will know a few things about me. You know how much I love music, all music of all genres. After all, why else would I have a music blog? You also know that the way I am hard wired has a lot to do with music. My memories are all wrapped up in music, categorized neatly, well actually sometimes chaotically. Most of the songs or bands I rave about have strong memories attached to them; heartbreak, sadness, joy, moments in time all recalled by a song or an album. I know more than a few of you feel the same.

There are few artists I love that don’t have some great memory attached to them, or a memory of a girl or something. It would also be a little disingenuous to say that an artist I love doesn’t have any memory attached to the music.  So, I won’t do that to you.  There is at least one artist who I love though that the memories associated with the artist are completely neutral.  There is no heartbreak, no grief, no sadness, no moment of fun with friends, nothing scary or tragic.  Every memory completely neutral and maybe that males a little sense considering the artist.

I remember hearing the song Sweet Baby James on the radio. I was young, nine or ten years old. It was so easy to sing, rock a bye sweet baby James. It was just a great song, and still is. I remember talking about James Taylor and Carly Simon and thinking with my young brain that the two of them being married made sense. They should have been married. As far as memories go that’s about it.

When my parents went shopping and offered to buy me an album, meaning one album, there were usually 10-20 albums I could think of before any James Taylor. Later, after I was working and making my own money and deciding how to spend, James Taylor also wasn’t high on my list.  Yet , he always had songs on the radio, great songs that you could not help but sing along to; songs like Fire and Rain, How Sweet It Is, Shower the People,  and Handy Man to name just a small few. James Taylor always seemed to have a song on the radio and no matter what was going on in the world or in your life you could stop and sing along, or drive and sing along. For just those brief few minutes you could leave the world behind.  The music of James Taylor is like comfort food.

In 1991 James Taylor released the album New Moon Shine. Right about now you are saying so what? I said that like in 1969 we landed on the moon. It is significant though because for the first time I walked into a music store and bought it. Me buying an album not surprising right? This time though I walked into that store with the purpose and intention to buy that album. I had fallen in love with the song Copperline; in fact it’s still my favorite James Taylor song. Buying that album made me wonder why I hadn’t bought a record of his before. From that point on I did start to slowly build up my collection of his works.

James Taylor isn’t flashy, he never has been. The nice thing for me is that the music doesn’t make me remember things that happened long ago. I can just listen to his music sing along and fill myself with harmony, a lot like comfort food.

Are you ready?

Think about your favorite comfort food, chicken and dumplings, soup on a cold day, your mother’s meatloaf maybe even some amazing chicken fried steak.

Here we go, the albums of James Taylor.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Come Sail Away

There are about a million things about music that I just love. When I was in college, I met people from all over the country, although for some quirky reason Illinois people and I seemed to gravitate towards each other. I was always sort of surprised to find that the music we each grew up with was different even though we all loved rock music primarily. In high school we were sort of homogenous in that regard, everyone mostly listening to the same bands so that if you got into someone’s car you could expect they were playing the same music you had in your car. Now that isn’t to say that there were not some small differences. I had a friend who loved Molly Hatchet something that still makes me scratch my head. Hey at least it wasn’t Zappa, right? My friends from Illinois listened to and loved bands that were bands I liked but not really bands that I just loved.  Back in the 70’s a band could be fairly successful, have gold albums without being huge nationally or internationally.  One band that they loved and that I loved was Styx.

          It took Styx a while to become a huge nationally famous band. Their first 3 or 4 albums sold well but not enough to really be a national hit. This really began to change to me when they added Tommy Shaw. Tommy Shaw was not an original member of Styx, but he grew so much in importance and prominence that it was hard to tell the difference. Styx finally hit it big with the album The Grand Illusion when I was in junior high. Up until that time, I had never heard of Styx and had you told me it was their first album I would not have questioned you. Oddly enough The Grand Illusion was their 7th release. I loved that album, still do although its really hard to sing along to Come Sail Away without slipping into an Eric Cartman voice. Maybe that’s just me.   The follow up album was Pieces of Eight. Friends loved that album and always wanted to play it when they would see that album at my house. I loved the song Blue Collar Man which is one of my favorite Styx songs all time.  I still am not too crazy about that album and  a lot of friends still love it. Some things don’t change.

As I moved into high school and later college Styx was one of those bands that just sort of faded for me, replaced by bands that I liked better. I was really upset that my high school senior class decided to make Best of Times our Senior song. Gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl. That’s an industry term for gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl.  I thought the song sappy, stupid and in hindsight probably perfect for any and all high school graduating classes.  While in college Styx broke up and it wasn’t hard to see why. Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung hated each other. Mostly the band was sick of DeYoung’s insistence on silly sappy ballads and concept albums. They wanted to rock. Both DeYoung and Shaw released solo albums within a very short time in almost the same week.  Tommy Shaw delivered a great album with Girls With Guns, a great 80’s rock album with his amazing vocals. DeYoung released an album that seemed to be an attempt to show that he could rock. It really failed to connect with younger audiences and other than the title track which was excellent, Desert Moon reflected the vast chasm between Dennis DeYoung and the rest of Styx.

That should have been the end, but bands like Styx always seem to find new life and usually it’s the same exact way by releasing a greatest hits album. That album was simply too good and soon the band was back together. For me, that album introduced me to songs I had never heard; songs like Suite Madame Blue, and Crystal Ball. I was soon collecting the rest of Styx’s catalogue of music. DeYoung proved that he had not changed and was soon dictating to the other members of Styx how they would move forward. Instead of breaking up the band simply fired him.

Today my feelings towards Styx is as enigmatic as the band. Some days I love them and some days I don’t and a lot of days I find myself a little indifferent. Right now though I feel warmly towards them as I get ready to start playing the music of this band. You can come along for the ride, just make sure to sing like Eric Cartman when Come Sail Away plays.

Mike out

The Music Blog: The Boss

The thought of going through high school in the 70’s or college in the 80’s without knowing who Bruce Springsteen was seems quite impossible to me. He remains for me one of the more interesting musical figures in my life. I cannot say I am his most avid fan because that would imply that my music collection would include his entire catalogue. I do not have even half of his entire catalogue nor do I want it. Of course, if you want to buy it for me then please knock yourself out. I will say however that the music I have is wonderful and meaningful.

One of the great things about the movie Dazed and Confused is that it captures so nicely what going to high school in the 70’s was like. The fact that the movie is about a high school in Texas only makes it more relevant to me. It certainly captures what high school life was all about. During football season life revolved around Friday night games whether you attended, played or were belonged to the band or drill team or even a cheerleader. Saturdays were something else. There wasn’t really a lot of discussion of what we would do. Sometimes there might be a party, sometimes you might break the monotony up by going to a movie. Maybe you were lucky and actually went out on a date. Regardless, invariably you ended up driving around, whether doing an official drag, or cruise spot or something like what my school did which was mostly piling into a car, driving around and listening to music. That meant, 8 tracks. Most groups who hung out with each other had their go to selections. My group always had the Cars, Journey, if we were smoking weed, and I am not saying we were, it was the Outlaws Green Grass and High Tides, and it most certainly included Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. It was a universally loved song and I am betting that like me and my group part of the magic was figuring out during the pause when that count would start….1, 2, 3, 4 and the ensuing laughter at missing it or boasting that you nailed it.   Forty years later when I hear that song, I still do the same thing and laugh when I miss it and rejoice when I hit it.

In my senior year 80-81 Springsteen released The River, a double album I bought on vinyl and still have.  I went on a double date to see him live that year and its still one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. That girl was so special to me, still is. I remember sitting on her floor in her room and listening to that album which was why I asked her to go in the first place. That entire album makes me think of her and that amazing concert.

College life was all about the album Born in the USA. The album has not held up well to me. In fact, the album wore pretty thin in a very brief time, but I still love the title track and Dancing in the Dark. Bruce lost me with the album Tunnel of Love although I have that album. I was content to let Bruce stay as a beautiful memory and then I saw the documentary The Promise which was actually about the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. I wanted to follow up on that documentary and went back and bought Darkness. I had never heard the album in its entirety before and it was instant love. The album is my favorite from Bruce Springsteen.

So, I developed an interest in Springsteen’s later albums mostly falling in love with the albums The Rising, and Magic.  It just seems that for every stage of my life Bruce Springsteen has been there and its impossible for me not to think how wonderful that is because I can say that about so few artists. If you have never seen the Bruce Springsteen show that he did on Broadway then I highly recommend it. You will find yourself laughing, crying and just loving every single minute. I saw it on Netflix but I am not sure if its still there. If it is then the show is very much worth your time.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Now

The concept for the song didn’t seem to fit the band in some ways. In other ways it seemed so experimental that it was almost a throw away song. The song was released on compilations multiple times and by the time it was released as a single most had already heard it, so sales were not stellar. Yet the song remains the band’s signature achievement. Mention the song or the band and you automatically think of the other. The songwriter was known for multiple chord songs and so everyone was a bit surprised when he suggested the band write a song around a single chord, in this case F sharp. In typical fashion the musicians spent the entire night working on this song, experimenting and playing with that one single chord. At one point the song was well over eighteen minutes long but they eventually cut it way down although still very long for a single. In the morning, the band’s singer and lyricist walked in, listened to what the band had done and began going through his book of lines, poems and lyrics finally coming to a few lines he had written recently. He thought they could work and so began laying the tracks for the vocals.  It is one of the more interesting facets to the song, a song so long, but with very few actual lyrics.  This is how songs get written.

In one of the more unusual parts of my musical journey, this band rose to prominence and fame and were gone before I had ever heard a single song. I came upon them because I had stopped listening to R&B because of the Seattle bands. In some ways its sort of surprising that I had not heard the band before. I was not cut off from other types of music and should have maybe even did hear the band while I was in college but they didn’t click with me. When I bought a greatest hits album in the early 90’s I believed them to be a lot like New Order or Depeche Mode, two bands that I loved dearly but had missed their early days.  I had no idea that they were no longer together as a band.

The song I described at the beginning is of course How Soon is Now. The song didn’t really resonate with me until the mid 90s. The song I had always loved by the Smiths was Bigmouth Strikes Again. Seriously how great are lyrics that say “sweetness, I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed” all to a snappy up tempo beat. That’s what I love about them, the beauty of Johnny Marr’s jangling guitar to Morrissey’s biting lyrics. And those lyrics do bite. Morrissey had a lot to say and still does which is likely why so many people don’t like him, but I love him. I get him. I love his solo work as much as the work he did with the Smiths. Morrissey doesn’t care if he rubs you wrong. He doesn’t care if he looks petulant walking off a talk show because one of the other guests glorifies in hunting or eating meat. He is true to himself.

How Soon is Now though is the song you think about when someone mentions the Smiths. I know I had heard the song before, probably even countless times but one day that song hit me like a ton of bricks. That iconic intro I just fell in love with, but I wondered why there were so few words to the song. When I finally heard the lyrics and really processed them it was equally stunning. Remember I am not a lyrics guy because most songs are written just like this one, with music written first and then the lyricist looking through bits of line until he or she finds something that works. There is little profound process to it. They are not writing a song just for you. The fact that some songs maybe even most songs do that very thing to me is the astounding thing about music, the miracle the driving force that makes it all become so important to us. How Soon is Now is about shyness and not just any shyness but a shyness criminally vulgar; a self-defeating shyness that encapsulates most of my life with the opposite sex. I am the worst wingman ever. If you expect me to keep some girl company while you woo her best friend, then be prepared to deal with failure. I have fumbled and fought with it all my life no matter how social you think I am. It is just hard for me so I am either silent or talk nonsense about some subject that no one else is interested in. So yea I love the song and I love the band and yea I love Morrissey and I love Johnny Marr.

So oh well get over it.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Smashing Pumpkins

Several years ago before blindness took so much away from me, I was driving home from another stressful day of work. I was listening to satellite radio because I absolutely despise commercials or too much talking. I never understood why people liked morning radio, the stupid skits, the endless talking and the complete lack of music. It always put me in a cranky mood by the time I got to work. I always wanted a morning radio show that played lots of music, no stupidity, maybe a quick news report and a quick traffic report. To me that was perfect. Sirius/XM was the closet I ever found.

So there I was driving along and I changed channels to something edgier and found an ongoing interview with not one but two of my favorite rock stars. The fact that they were being interviewed together and clearly having a good time surprised me because I could not think of two more different rock stars. So, I am sure you want to know who  the two were, right? Well the first was Marilyn Manson, who I love to hear interviewed. The other though was Billy Corgan. Well it turns out that the two are friends and both had made what they felt were come back albums getting back to the music they liked to play and so Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins were touring together. It was the most stimulating interview I had ever heard.

Obviously, since we are on the letter S, today’s blog is about Smashing Pumpkins.  They meet every criteria I have for great music. They have great melodies, great vocals packaged in these wonderful songs that leave me spellbound. I know that not everyone loves them but I just always have. I first heard them on the soundtrack to the movie Singles, which by the way is still one of my favorite movies.  When I heard the song Drown I went to see if they had more music and found the album Gish. It was love at first listen.

I bought Siamese Dream the week that it was released. Soon the song Cherub Rock was all over the radio and band were suddenly superstars. I have always loved that album and I think it and the follow up Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness hold up amazingly well today. That’s what happens when you write great songs. Siamese Dream is one of those albums that just doesn’t have any bad songs. The strength of Billy Corgan is that he doesn’t have to keep writing the same songs over and over. He continues to grow.  For a while in the early 90’s I lived with my best friend and his wife in a huge house in Fort Worth. I pretty much had half of the house to myself. One day when I thought no one was home I was playing Siamese Dream and playing it really loudly. I was doing laundry and cleaning my two rooms and my bathroom. When the album was over, I went to my stereo to play something else and my roommate walked in behind me and scared the crap out of me which of course brought her great joy. I apologized for having the music on so loudly and she waved me off and asked if I could play the album again. This was a person who tended towards county music or quiet storm jazz so it surprised me but I always think of that moment as a way of describing just how good that album is.

I think the defining song for Corgan was the song Today off of Siamese Dream. The song is so seemingly happy and upbeat. The melody of that music just makes you feel good until you realize the song is about depression and was written at a time when Corgan was feeling suicidal. Once you know that the song will never be the same for you. Corgan’s music continues to be as vital today as it ever was, great melodies with insightful strong lyrics. If you have never really listened to the band well sit back and enjoy the ride.

Mike out

Hanukkah

By now many of you know that I am in the process of converting to Judaism. Its actually been a journey of years. I am not Jewish at least yet. I am a conversion candidate, but I have every hope, desire, dream that one day I will be a Jew. Judaism is the only belief system that has ever made any sense to me and it began with a Hanukkah party for a co-worker a long time ago. Since that time, I have dabbled and for the past several years I have had both a Menorah and a Christmas tree even though Christmas never meant that much to me. I always loved the lights.

Last year I had no tree, only a Menorah. I began to be filled with wonder as I had the last few years why lighting those candles in that specific order and saying such a simple blessing would give me such a stunning sense of peace. As Hanukkah continued, I made the decision that it was time to figure out why. I bought two books, one on Judaism and one terrific book on conversion because I wanted to understand Judaism and also to understand what would happen in the conversion process which is a long process and worth every second.  I also had a powerful conversation with a trusted friend over lunch and a few beers and he asked me a lot of questions all of which I had already asked myself. He didn’t judge me. It was one of the most powerful and supportive conversations I had ever had.

I found a rabbi, and a Reform Synagogue close to me and I reached out and that has been the best decision I have ever made.  I try not to get too excited, try to keep it all in perspective even though my nature is to go full bore as fast as I can. I have laughed a lot. I have cried a lot. I have faced personal demons. I have had an amazing conversation with my father. I have also faced Anti-Semitism from an unlikely source, but I knew eventually I would.

Now Hanukkah approaches again and I have been reflecting on what is really a minor holiday. I still am looking forward to lighting those candles and to say those beautiful blessings, this time in Hebrew. Oddly enough I am also really aware of Christmas. I don’t miss it, that’s not it but this time around its pretty different. I am sure next year it won’t be. I don’t really know how to manage some things. A friend asked in a group text what the 5 best Christmas songs were and the 5 worst and I stumbled. Of course, I don’t really know a lot of Christmas songs anyway but it was just whether I should answer or not. Seems silly right? It is silly as all of the friends on that text message know that I am converting and those friends are as special to me as anything in the world. That’s really how its been for me as the days creep along. Hanukkah will be over by the time Christmas comes along. Someone is going to say to me Merry Christmas. So I reflect on all of this and I wait for those candles to be lit. For the record lighting Shabbat candles does this same thing only it’s a wonderful combination of pure joy and peace.

So whatever holiday you are celebrating that’s what I wish.

Peace, Health, Love, Understanding

The Music Blog: Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

The first thing I have to say is that I don’t really have anything to say but I feel the need to mark the occasion with a music blog entry. Maybe you expect some witty take on Alice’s Restaurant but when have I ever been witty other that to myself. I think I am hilarious.

Nope I have nothing pithy or thought provoking. I hope everyone stays home and stays safe. With a vaccine so close it seems oddly irresponsible to get Covid now. I am cooking a small meal and calling my dad and kid who is spending the holiday with his mom.

If you have been following along musically with me then you know we are well into the letter S. We are way more than half way. In fact, the letter S is the largest letter left. There are a couple of moderate sized letters but nothing like some of the past big letters. You might think that with a letter so large that there would be more blog entries but its really a long way to what I expect will be the next blog. There are not that many blogs in the letter and here are the reasons why. For me to write about something at least one of two things must exist preferably both. One, I have to love the band or in some rare cases hate them but mostly it’s a love thing. Now I can write about an artist simply based on how much I love them, but it’s a lot better when the other thing exists. I need a hook, something about me or a story to really get engaged.

The letter S is full of bands I like but I don’t love or I love but just don’t feel that passionate about. Here is an example I love Simon and Garfunkel and I have quite a few albums but I don’t have anything to write about. That’s the letter S; a lot of artists with one or two albums and then on to the next one. Its fun to listen to but not exactly inspiring.

I also have a few things going on. I am converting to Judaism. That’s not up for discussion. I have already dealt with a friend and their anti-Semitism so I am not allowing it on my blog for sure. That takes up some time, in fact its my primary focus. I am writing a novel. Don’t get all excited I have written novels before and they remain unpublished, but still it takes some of my time and being vision impaired I have a small window to write in or do anything in before my eyes just get exhausted.  The election had taken some of my attention. I have an entire imaginary love affair going with Zola Jesus. Don’t laugh. Don’t judge.

For the first time I missed two artists back to back that I intended to write about so let me catch you up with at least a small bit about them both.

First the Sex Pistols. Now let’s consider a few things. They only had one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. An entire industry now has cropped up around the band and you can find concerts, live recordings and other things out there but one studio album is all they have. Before their reunion tour they had never played in front of more than five hundred people. Yet I consider them one of the five most influential bands of all time. Literally a hundred bands were inspired to form up and play music that they felt was right. Without them there is no Clash. No Joy Division/New Order, no Generation X or Billy Idol. Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees formed because of them. So too did the Pogues and those are just the big bands. I could name more. There are not many bands who influenced more than they did.

The second artist I intended to blog bout was Charlie Sexton. I bought Charlie’s first album in 1986. I associate that album with graduating college, with the most active love life I had ever had and with being on my own. He was already a legend in Austin when that album hit and its sort of a new wave album. I love every song. His career is a head scratcher to me, all that talent and yet few albums and not major success. He is probably best known for the band and album Arc Angels. He has small tours and actually is probably most busy with his work as Bob Dylan’s guitarist.

So that is my catch up hodge podge blog for you. Since its Thanksgiving it seems like such a good time to thank any of you who follow and read my blog. If you have your own blog on wordpress I have tried to follow you back and have done my best to read what you have to say because I know how hard it is to bare your soul and write for others. I adore and cherish every one of you. Keep it up.

Stay safe my friends

Mike out

The Music Blog: Klaus and the Gang

Late in my college life I started to hang out with a guy I played a lot of basketball with. It was that last time-period of a person’s life before adult life started to infringe on all the fun. You know, before college life was put behind you and you started to find your way into a career. While I know many of you were already married and juggling adult responsibilities, I had mostly stayed away from serious relationships. I had the same problem then as I do now, very shy with the opposite sex and girls were not crawling all over me.  It seemed that every girl that thought I was attractive wasn’t attractive to me. I also didn’t work a lot outside of summers and times like spring break which I never got to enjoy like other college students.  Jim was completely different from me. He was very tall and he was from the Chicago area of Illinois.

One of the things that I became aware of was that there were regional differences in the music people listened to. I think a lot of this had to do with Texas radio being a little conservative, They played all the big huge bands but not a lot of the smaller bands until they hit it big, REO Speedwagon is a good example although by that time they had hit the national scene.  Jim’s dad was the contractor for the Charlie Clubs and he was building one in Arlington which is how Jim ended up there. Jim got me a job working at Charlie Club as it was being built. So Jim and I would come to work about 4:30 PM and work til about midnight. Every evening Jim’s dad would give us a list of tasks to complete, mostly clean up with the secondary role to watch over the place. Jim had this big boom box and we would play cassettes of music awhile we were working. There were always some construction guys around mostly ceiling guys who needed space for the lasers they used to put up the ceiling framework and we would shoot the bull with those guys and they liked the music we played. One night Jim brought a band I didn’t know and I really think that it was more a Texas radio thing.

The Scorpions had not hit it super big yet. They were a German band that played good old fashioned rock and roll to me with a leaning towards the metal or hair band type of music that was popular in the 80s. I fell in love with them and it coincided with their release of the album Love at First Sting. Now the other thing about the Scorpions is that they were really a guy’s band. If there is any doubt look at their album covers to see just who they were marketing to. Their album covers were part of the allure, the overt sexuality to it all.  Mostly what I liked and still like about the Scorpions is that they are just a fun band. They are not pretending to be shaking up the world. It is not their goal to make you think about the world around you. Instead they want you to sing their songs to enjoy the music simply because its straight ahead rock and roll.  I saw them twice. The first time was during that Love at First Sting tour. Klaus Meine seems like the most unlikely of front men.  Being German, his English is less than stellar. In fact sometimes you can’t understand anything he is saying. He is having so much fun though that you have to enjoy it and that’s why I love the Scorpions.  They take your mind off every day worries and stressors. You can hear their music and not feel its some sort of political statement. They likely don’t care if they ever win a grammy or make it to the rock and roll hall of fame. They just want you to enjoy what they are playing.

Isn’t that what music is supposed to do?

Mike out

The Music Blog: Reflections

For the first eight years of my life we lived in a 3 bedroom house in North Richland Hills. The house was small but in my memories it seemed so big because of course I am remembering it as an 8 year old or even younger. That time period, those first 8 years seem so idyllic to me. We would move to a bigger house, a new house and from that point on it seemed it was all about keeping up with the Joneses or whoever. Those first 8 years where my parents struggled a bit but always fed us, and the neighbors all looked out for each other was really the happiest time of my youth. At night we would sit in the living room, sparsely furnished, and watch television. I always think of that television as a black and white television but it might have been a color television. A lot of what we watched were variety shows because those were popular and would remain so through most of the 70’s.

There was one show that I loved, one variety show that I never wanted to miss. When the host was on other shows I didn’t miss those either. I would get as close to the television as my parents would allow. She was always smiling, always laughing and she was beautiful. She was my first crush. She was beautiful too, and in the 60s and early 70’s in Texas I didn’t even consider that she was a black woman. I just saw her as a Supreme.

When I found out much later that Michael Jackson had a crush on her I totally understood. If I hear a song today, bam I am 8 years old again trying to get as close to the television as my parents would allow. The Supremes always had those form fitting dresses to give a boy thoughts. No wonder I had a crush. It was more than just their appearance it was those songs and those great vocals that only could come from Motown. They had hits galore. I slowly moved onto other musical crushes still have a few, my latest being Zola Jesus but that’s another blog entirely.

In 1988 America and Americans had finally embraced the Vietnam war and realized that a great wrong had been done to the soldiers who fought. They had been blamed for being soldiers for being wounded, called names and discarded. America was now embracing them. In 1988 the show China Beach premiered on television. I loved it for many reasons but mostly because it dealt with the dark edges of war in general and was mostly told from the perspective of the nurses who gave everything to save the lives of soldiers wounded in horrible ways. The opening song of that show was Reflections a song by Diana Ross and the Supremes. It is my favorite song from the Supremes maybe not as well known as others but it was so perfect for a show that was looking back on a war that was horrible and ugly. I didn’t always watch the show but if I was around even if I was about to walk out the door I would stop when I heard those opening notes and I was 8 years old again. So you will have to indulge me if I swoon a little over Diana, that smile, that laugh and that amazing voice and the songs that she and Mary and Florence sang. I still love them they still make me smile.

Now about Zola Jesus

Yeah I know we will wait on her or you can check her out early.

Mike out