The Music Blog: Poker, Boom Boxes, Apollo 13 and the Art of Being Kind

I used to have this theory that always made a lot of sense to me. It was a theory of why some relationships work and even thrive, while others just fall apart. In fact most relationships will ultimately fail and when I say relationship I mean intimate not friendship but I suppose its true of any relationship. I compared them to a poker game specifically Texas Hold Em. You see that game doesn’t get exciting until one person goes all in and when 2 people go all in it can be edge of the seat stuff. Relationships are the same way the only way they work is if two people go all in nothing held back. Most people just are not willing to do that so they hold a few chips in their back pocket. I used to tell people this and they would nod sort of roll their eyes and move on. Maybe it is too simplistic.

Genesis is one of my favorite rock bands of all time. I have two favorite albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway the last album with Peter Gabriel and Duke which features Phil Collins on vocals. I love Peter Gabriel and for a lot of people my age it was like he was alternative before there was even such a thing maybe the Father of Alternative Music. After breaking with Genesis Gabriel recorded 4 untitled albums. Technically they are all titled Peter Gabriel. Some people call them 1, 2, 3, 4. Other people refer to them as Car, Scratch, Melt and Security for the album cover art. There is something special about the cover art for English artists and bands. The cover art is almost as important as the music itself. Anyway, whatever you want to call Peter Gabriel’s first four albums, I just call them wonderful.

In 1986 Gabriel released his 5th studio album, So. I bought this album on cassette, hey at least it wasn’t 8 track. I bought the album for the song Red Rain. I love that song. There was a second hit on that album, and actually it may have been the first released song Sledgehammer that I don’t like near as well. But it was the last song on that album that would go supersonic and be as loved today as it was then but it took three years for that to happen. Regardless it was not the big song on So. No doubt though it was a beautiful song.

In 1989 film maker and music lover Cameron Crowe released the movie Say Anything starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. Now Cusack to me is like an American version of Hugh Grant. Every character he plays is pretty much the same but we love his movies because well they make us happy. They have happy endings and we have enough reality in our lives that enjoying movies with happy endings is just a bonus. Remember that song, that last song on the album by Peter Gabriel So? Well the title of that song was In Your Eyes and it featured prominently in that movie. You might even say that one single moment in that film was Cusack’s best moment in any film ever and it most certainly defined that movie. It’s the first thing you think about when someone asks remember the film Say Anything?. It was memorable and it was epic. Heartbroken over his break up Cusack (Lloyd) goes to a park and plays that song and when the chorus plays he holds the boom box over his head and you can even see the desperation in Cusack’s eyes. It is a gut wrenching moment and Cusack must have drawn on something we all understand. There are clichés about heartbreak. You would be willing to crawl over broken glass if she would just take you back, you would get down on your knees and it’s a hundred times worse if you have gone all in. I have gone all in twice, both one sided affairs. It is the worst feeling in the world that loss and only something like losing a child can come close if you are all in. Many times it involves cruelty from one person to another compounding the misery. The evil that people do to each other always amazes me. That Say Anything moment ruined every girl and every guy who ever saw it. From that point on every girl wanted a guy who would do that but you want to know what would have happened if they had. “You couldn’t think of anything original?” Every guy from that moment knew he would have to step up his game, flowers just weren’t going to cut it anymore. It was now expected to play some love song over a boom box. Nah, that stuff doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. One it’s been done on the big screen so now you would be a copy cat. Secondly, you have to have two people all in to really make such a moment work and without that you just have rejection. Trust me I understand rejection. For someone like me born to lose I could spend all night holding up boom boxes and not get a single thing. That moment was pivotal. I remember in the early 90’s I was out on this first date with a girl I hardly knew. That’s the point of dating right? I was asked out of the blue if we broke up what song would you play in a boom box outside of my window. Now seriously I was concerned about getting a second date or even wondering if I wanted a second date. We had not even ordered yet. I don’t have many moments with the opposite sex. I am aware of all my faults and usually as soon as I start talking they start to drift off to sleep but I responded with Sanitarium by Metallica. She threw her napkin down and walked out of the restaurant. I ate alone at least not wondering if I was going to get a second date or not.

Movies are not reality, even the ones which are supposed to be. Remember Apollo 13, the movie. Ron Howard made this popular movie and one of the premises was that the astronauts persevered despite having an inferior astronaut aboard despite not getting along and despite their genius astronaut being on the ground. None of it was true. Mattingly got scrubbed from the mission for medical reasons and then he had nothing to do with the rescue of those astronauts. The amazing engineers in mission control did. Jack Swigert was not inferior. There Is no such thing as an inferior astronaut. He was a gifted pilot who came and did his job. In fact it was Swigert who notified Mission Control they had a major problem. The astronauts never argued never resented Swigert, they worked together because that’s what NASA trained them to do. Why that story was not good enough only Opie knows but he harmed two men’s reputations who were already dead, Swigert and Haise when he made that movie.

Now we truly have slipped off the deep end. Peter Gabriel has been a vibrant performer since his days with Genesis and the wonder of him is that he stays so relevant to my generation and really to younger people as well, and that voice. I think he is a terrific vocalist. Name a great vocalist and Gabriel is just as wonderful. I have a really good friendship with someone who just adores Van Morrison and why not, he is terrific. Gabriel remains for me that guy that edgy performer but singers have to sing and boy can he sing. If you don’t know much about Gabriel’s music that’s ok. We are about to journey into the depths of his music and not long after we will dive into some Genesis too. For now…………

Play your boom boxes loud.

Let her know how you feel.

Don’t play Zappa.

Sanitarium by Metallica is also not a good choice unless it’s her song then it’s an excellent choice. Not really pick another song.

Throw all your chips in, yes even that one in your back pocket and that one in your hat too.

Let it rip.

Whatever happens remember be kind to her, more than any song you might play her, be kind.

And girls you might not believe it or think so but some of us guys are really fragile so being kind that goes for you too. You may not like the guy with the boom box, maybe he is a bit of a loser, and maybe he picked the wrong song but you know what hug his neck and when you reject him be kind.

Bah Mike out.