The Music Blog: Who Cares?

So I guess given the title and where we are you are probably guessing which band this blog is about and that I might just not like this band very much. If you are thinking the Who then you would be right on both accounts. But since I really don’t like them, not quite Zappa level and many of you do then you at least ought to get an explanation.

To be honest, I don’t really owe you an explanation. I have spent a long time bashing Frank Zappa so when we get to the letter Z you can be sure I will lay it all out for you and you can either agree or disagree. The Who is different though. There are lots of bands I don’t like. I have certain rules that I like to keep regarding bands I don’t like. Recently I shared on facebook music from four early albums of Kanye West. You see where I am going? Many people can’t stand him and will tell you so and they won’t listen to his music because they have already judged it. It’s rap music, or eeew Kanye he is a horrible person.  I don’t particularly care for his politics for his attention seeking behavior but his early stuff, was sensational. I don’t like the person Ted Nugent is but I don’t throw his albums away which in my teenage years meant so much to me because he is a gun nut and a crazy whack job. That’s a technical term.  I don’t generally make pronouncements about bands without listening to their music because that’s all I am judging.  I decided I didn’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers only to find how wrong I was. I always have considered that a lesson learned.

Regarding the Who you must understand that I grew up in their hey day for the most part. When I was a kid My Generation and Behind Blue Eyes and Magic Bus, were songs played frequently on the radio. Just of those songs My Generation is the only song I actually like. They might have four or five songs I could say I really enjoy. Some of my reasons are a bit personal. I don’t care for Roger Daltry including his voice.  To me he always seemed to be measuring himself and trying to emulate or outdo Robert Plant. Pete Townsend many consider a tremendous guitarist but to me he seemed to have a huge chip on his shoulder. I can see where it was probably not easy to live in a country the size of England and have guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and George Harrison. Townsend is nowhere close to those guys in ability.  He also seemed to be in love with the power stance and stage theater and maybe this was because he was in a band with Keith Moon.  I think Keith Moon was an amazing drummer like a mad scientist full of uptempo jazz with the heart of mad rock and roller. It’s a shame he died when he was so young. Another big issue I have with Townsend is that he really is a one trick pony.  Take David Gilmour for example so I don’t have to use Clapton who I think is a bit overrated. You can put an acoustic guitar in Gilmour’s hands and its magic and he is equally good electric. Townsend limited himself by so much electric that you can’t see him any other way. He probably would be great on acoustic or maybe not.

All those criticisms are style critiques but I have already said that I don’t like their music either. Too many concept albums that I just can’t get into. A quick One, The Who Sell Out, Quadrophenia I think are all horrible, too structured and just not good enough from first to last. There are little gems on each of them but to me a great album ought to have more to it than a concept and one or two good songs.  Quite honestly I like the Kinks a lot better.

Now I know I might get pushback. If you like the Who then fine that’s okay with me. I have got at least two days of music for you. I have more than a few albums. I have given them more than a chance and yea Baba O’Riley is a great  great song, probably in my top 50 of all time. I know enough that I grimace when someone calls it teenage wasteland.  So there. I know at least one person who thinks Townsend hung the moon and not Keith Moon either and the Who is one of their real all time favorite bands. To each their own.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

I think every generation believes the music of their youth was the best ever, but my generation’s music really was. Born in 1963 I have been truly blessed to grow up with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and a host of others. I literally could go on and on. My generation appreciated album cover art, in fact there are albums I bought because of the cover alone. When Grunge came to life I was of an age where I could really appreciate it, as those guys were my age. No wonder my life is filled with music and it holds such prominence in my life. We all die though, and inevitably that generation of rock stars that I idolized so much are all slowly inexorably dying. Some of those deaths hit me harder than others, and some who will eventually die are going to devastate me. There have been times in my life where it seemed the music I loved was my only friend and when I couldn’t relate to my parents at all I could perfectly relate to the music I listened to. That music comforted me, was the soundtrack to amazing times, and horrible sadness.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

If you had asked me a month or a week before his death what it would mean I am very sure I would have said something like that it would be sad, but I would be all right. I loved Van Halen but I can’t say I lived and died by what that band was doing. I am one of the few who think the band was better with Sammy Hagar than David Lee Roth but I like the band’s music regardless of who was singing. Yes, I ignore the Gary Cherone debacle.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

I was surprised, but my reaction baffled me.  I couldn’t stop crying for hours and was saddened for a week. His death hit me so hard that I had to really think about what it meant and why it meant so much. Everything in my life is tied up in memories all built around music and songs. The grief I felt was about more than Eddie. It was about a memory of kindness, in fact one of the kindest moments that has ever happened to me.

Some time in my freshman year of high school, which in my school district we just called the 9th grade as we were still housed in the junior high, my dad started traveling more and more for work, assisting rural post offices with their accounting problems. More and more he was away from home and more and more the distance between us grew. My mom worked a lot. It did not take a genius to figure out there were problems. Eventually they would separate and divorce. Life happens. On my 15th birthday my mom worked and my dad was out of town. My sister graduated high school that year and was gone from home more than she was home. She had a steady boyfriend, a man she would marry and the father of her two children. I thought Tim was a great guy. It did not take much for me back in those days. He would sometimes buy me and my friends some beer or even a bottle of something stronger if we asked. He would always tell me to be careful. Every time he came over to our house he stopped by my room to say hello.

As I moved into my sophomore year things for me just fell apart. Over the next year they would get worse and really I felt this way until about half way though my junior year and I have never once in my left felt as lost as I did then. The first Van Halen album was released in 1978. I loved that album. High school is not easy for many people. I have a friend my age and high school is literally the best years of her life. My life only got better after high school and that’s true of most people I know. The friends I had in junior high didn’t seem to be as available in high school. I played sports and they didn’t. My sophomore year though I was really the bottom of the barrel athletically. I was picked on a lot. One of the worst was a guy who was an ass to me for three years but his bullying was worse in my sophomore year. One day I was leaving the locker room and was confronted by this jackass who was about double my size. He blocked my way and called me a few names shoved me against a wall and all the while Van Halen’s Running With the Devil was playin weg in the weight room. I was rescued that day by a coach and I went home. I was going to throw Van Halen away and put the album on my bed. I felt so alone. Then Tim walked in just to say hello. He saw the album on my bed and started talking about how great the album was, took the album put it on to play and was air guitaring right there. Just hanging out and it meant the absolute world to me. He loved the song Ain’t Talking Bout Love which is still my favorite song on that album.

Tim died way too young. He married my sister and they had two beautiful, amazing kids. He was not the guy my parents would have picked for my sister. I always loved him no matter what he did. Eventually they would divorce and Tim at a young age had a really big stroke. He was disabled for the rest of his life, He loved his kids a lot though and I think he always loved my sister. I did not see him a lot but when I did he would light up with that big smile and he always had something kind to say.  His ashes are buried next to my mom’s. Whenever I go to pay my respects I always say something kind to Tim.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Magic Power

Long ago before there was any real conception of something called social media teens gathered in places or went to certain places to find out what was happening. Now don’t get me wrong as we spent a lot of time on the telephone with long twisty cords that would ultimately get so tangled and twisted that no amount of work could get them back to normal. Every town no matter the size had that certain place where you went and sat or did some other activity to see what was going on in your tiny world. Whether it was sitting in the drive in or sitting out front of the dairy queen. If you sat there long enough someone would come by and tell you about a party or where everyone was going. Mine was the carwash.

Our lives, my generation, revolved around the car. It didn’t matter if you drove a Maverick, a Z-28 Camaro, Trans Am, beat up pick up truck or any vehicle of the 70’s. You took care of your car, and that meant you went to the car wash. The carwash is where I met nefarious individuals who sold me ground up weeds from time to time. In the great words of Eddie Murphy, I may have fractured a few laws in my youth. Its where I went when I was bored or looking to get away from my dad and sometimes even my mom. You could pop something into the old 8 track and listen while you did your wipe down, applied armor all and windexed your windows. One day while I was there a guy showed up from a rival school. I knew him slightly. He was playing something that seemed familiar. I was sure of the band but could not name the song. He was a rich kid and had a really awesome car although I cannot remember exactly what he drove. We exchanged greetings and I asked what was playing. I had been right about the band but the album was new, really new. So he turned his up, and I turned mine off and we finished our cars listening to Allied Forces. Every time I hear the song Magic Power its like I am in that car wash again.

Next to ZZ Top, Triumph is my absolute favorite trio. Yes I know about Rush but I am not a big Rush fan. At that time Just a Game was an album I played a lot. I loved the vocals and I loved the drums. I still think Gil Moore is one of the most underrated drummers of all time. I cannot figure out why he isn’t considered one of the great drummers.  Triumph really became my band in college as they were one of the few rock bands I still listened to. The album Thunder Seven was a cruising favorite. Just hop in the car and pop that in and turn it up. They are also a band that I have never gotten tired of. I like them as much today as I did back in the day. I can always measure how much I love a band by the memories they stir up. Triumph stirs up many. I picked up a girl cruising on Arlington’s Cooper St. and she wouldn’t get out of my car when we found her friends. So I drove her home and her mother wanted to know who I was, wanted to see my driver’s license and then called the cops on me. The girl, embarrassed, retreated to her room. The cops were super nice and told the lady she should be thankful that someone was nice enough to drive her daughter home. The girl called me the next day and wanted to go out on an official date. Maybe I should have said yes, but her mom was a freak!! Why do I have that memory because she jumped in my car in the first place because I was playing Never Surrender, a pretty good Triumph song and I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. I couldn’t tell you what that girl looked like but I remember her jumping in my car and shouting let’s go, turn it up. I remember that song.

Now you might think that with memories like that maybe I should try some good old fashioned repression or at least have a little less regard for Triumph. That memory is hilarious to me. She called the cops on me for goodness sake. I shared that story and laughed about it a hundred times. I had friends telling me that’s what I got for being so nice but it was funny. Everyone of those guys I was friends with would have done the same thing and some of them would have said yes to the second date.

So if you like Triumph here we go.I have a fair amount of albums to play.

Mike out

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