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01/25/2012

Going Crazy Capturing Music

Sometimes I'll hear a song on the radio and I just have to have that song.  I want to listen to it over and over, burn it into my brain.  In most cases, it's because the song makes me recall something in the past, but sometimes, I just fall in love with the music and the lyrics and have to listen to it over and over again.

But it's tough for us digitally impaired people, because we can't always get the songs to work the way we want.  Case in point - I fell madly in love with a song by Gnarls Barkley, Crazy.  Cee Lo Green sings on the song and it certainly has his distinctive style and range.  But where was this song?  It became a huge hit in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, but hardly seemed to receive any radio play here.  Rolling Stone magazine placed it at 100 on their list of the top 500 songs of all time.  Yet I hardly ever heard it on the radio.

Lately, who knows why, but every time I heard the song I liked it more.  Maybe I'm crazy.  I love the lines:

My heroes had the heart/to lose their lives out on a limb/And all I remember/Is thinking, I want to be like them.

So, I decided to download a CD so I could listen to it on the way to work this morning.  I tried to download the song from Amazon, then burn it to a CD.  First the song disappeared into the Cloud (for those of you not familiar with the Cloud, this is a space out on the Internet where you can store various applications such as downloaded music, books, etc., and access them from any computer, anywhere - that is, if you can FIND them...). 

My husband, Mr. IT, started giving me a hard time around midnight.  "Do you want some help?"  "NO."  It shouldn't be that freaking hard to create a CD.  And besides, this is a man who sometimes asks me questions like, "Did you turn your computer on?"  Do you want to die?

At 1:00 a.m., I finally found the stupid music in the stupid Cloud.  By this time, I was so tired I could hardly see straight, but I was able to download the song to my CD, test it and find it worked perfectly.  I fell asleep happy, then jumped up this morning, ready to listen to it again as I drove to the office.  "Ha, ha, ha, bless your soul/You really think you're in control!"

I got ready for work in record time, got in the car, and put my newly minted CD into the slot.  The song started playing - and then suddenly stopped.  I took the CD out and rubbed it on my clothes, hoping that would clear up whatever the problem was.  But no, nothing changed.  Now it wouldn't even play the opening lines.  "I could help you," said Mr. IT.  "I could replace you," said I.  I heard him snickering, I know I heard it, even though he tried not to let me hear it.  "Maybe I'm crazy/Probably..."

Crazy - written by Gian Piero Reverberi, Gianfranco Reverberi, Joseph Brian Burton, Thomas DeCarlo Galloway, Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI, Kobalt, Warner/Chappelle, Sony/ATV

 

Ink-blot-test- Daring adventurer

12/18/2011

Tonight's going to be a Good Good Night

It’s Saturday night and I have the first week off before Christmas that I’ve had in years, maybe in my life.  We decide to go out to see one of our favorite bands, Fast Lane, at an infamous downtown bar called Lillian’s (http://www.gigmasters.com/Music/Fast-Lane/).

Lillian’s has been a Gainesville institution for as long as I’ve been here and that’s a long time.   Today was fall graduation day so the town is kind of quiet.  Most of the students have gone home for the holidays.  The ones who are still here are a little older, tend to live here year-round.  We get the best seat in the house, a booth right by the front window.  We can see the crowds walking by on Main Street, and we can see the band from our airy seats above the crowd. 

The lead singer  SLIMMI HEMPSTIX/SKYNTYTE (Scott Free), says, “What were you doing in 1968?”  Then he laughs.  “I know.  Some of you weren’t even here in 1968.”  The band launches into “Everyday people.”  What a great song.  Just when you think it can’t get any better, they keep the medley going with “Proud Mary.”  The old fogies join in, “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.” The young kids listen in amazement.  They sorta recognize this song.  They sorta like the dancing. “Proud Mary keep on burning.”  Some little chickie in a teeny black dress wags her bottom in our faces.  I sorta wish she would take her tiny charms down on the dance floor.  My husband doesn’t :)

I love it when VELVET (Michelle Banfield)  and  LACE (Lacy Gifford) take their microphones into the audience.  It’s so cute to watch a semi-drunk college student suddenly realize that the vocalist they’re dancing to is actually dancing and singing right next to them.  Lots of hand motions ensue – you are so cool; no you are so cool; no you are so cool….  Good times!

Do I need to say that all the band members are fantastic.  Well, yeah!  DR. ROCKINSTEIN (Vernon Montoya) plays the piano with a frenetic energy that perfectly matches DOPAMINE (Sebastian dela Calle) on the bass and the new drummer (new to me, anyway), TIM-BRRR (Tim Mulberry)  slams it on the drums.  Soon the tables are empty – everyone is dancing.  With the exception of me on my computer and Ken on his iPad.  Geek city up here in the cheap seats.

I remember spending some crazy nights in Lillian’s.  Mostly, alas, I don’t remember, because I used to drink back then.  I remember some of the bands were good, and I loved them, but the haze of alcohol prohibited me from recalling their charms.  Now the music positively energizes me.  At the break, I compliment Michelle and Lacy on how great their show is, how much we enjoy all the new songs.  They say, “We work really hard.”  It’s true.  One of the hardest working bands in Gainesville, and THAT, folks, is saying a lot.

Frankly, now that I don’t drink, it’s a lot more fun going out.  I know the songs, I love the music, I go home with a fine appreciation of the artistry.  And hey, the people-watching isn’t bad, either.  Gainesville after the students leave is a nice place, peaceful, upbeat.  There’s more tattoos and pickup trucks than designer dresses and $100 haircuts.  The new Hampton Inn across the street is lit up for Christmas.  The Downtown Plaza has these cool blue lights with icicles that light up and down like some kind of magic potion is being poured through them.  The night is warm and the young girls are dressed in their sexiest little dresses.  The boys wear t-shirts and skin-tight dark jeans and everyone is smiling.  Every once in a while, a proud set of parents will walk by with some young just-graduated  attached teen, the boy or girl looking longingly into the bar, wondering how long it will take Mom and Dad to go to sleep at the Hampton so they can REALLY celebrate graduating. 

The crowd goes crazy over Cee Lo’s “Forget You,” just as they do when Ken’s band sings it.  It’s such a cute, funny song – of course assuming that you sing it with the Forget you lyrics instead of the lyrics which shall remain unmentioned.  And the Black Eyed Peas, “Tonight’s going to be a good night.” Old and young kick it up.

On the wall there is a painting of a voluptuous naked woman reclining on a feather bed.  She is very old-fashioned and I didn’t really notice the painting when I first came in.  It’s rather retro – looks like something out of the Renaissance.  But when Fast Lane get’s going on the song, the painting begins to sway in time to the insistent drumbeat, do it, do it, do it, of the new drummer. Remember, I have NOT been drinking  - it’s really swaying.  The effect is that the naked woman is dancing, her heavy-set body a cute counterpoint to all those tiny little dancing girls.  I don’t really mind that I, alas, look more like the painting than like the college kids.  I used to look like them once upon a time, and I don’t remember having the fun I’m having now.

Outside our window, the Occupy people hang out on the Plaza, in sleeping bags, waiting for the coming cold front.  Diligent supporters of freedom, impressive in their committment.  They know it’s going to be bad.  It’s tough to hang out without shelter when a cold front comes through, just like a homeless person.  It’s going to be wet and the air becomes frigid. I admire their courage.

Fast Lane tells me they will play the Plaza on New Year’s Eve and I’m already making plans for the night.  Can we sneak in a small firepit?  Maybe I could loan it to the Occupy Gainesville guys and they could hold it for me till New Years’ Eve.   Ken says we’d all go to jail, but hey, that could be a good opportunity to bring demands into the open, right?  Free fire all year round!  Can’t wait till New Year’s Eve!

  Fast Lane 1a

 Old photo - should have taken a new on last night...

12/16/2011

Occupy Locally

Went down to the Civic Media Center tonight to show my support for the Occupy Gainesville movement.  They’ve had a hard time staying organized in Gainesville.  It’s difficult to get the kids motivated these days, the city shut off Internet access (sure – just a coincidence that they’re making Internet changes right when people are trying to occupy the downtown plaza), new curfews were imposed, arrests were made – you name it, they’ve struggled through it.

So I’m impressed that they can hang in there in spite of all obstacles.  And I like one of the musical acts, Lars Din, and the talented trumpeter, George.  So even though I’m tired – it’s been a long week at work – I head out to the CMC to listen to some music.   The place is packed.  I have to park down the street and hurry to get a seat.

We are surrounded by books that advocate revolution, alternative living, simpler lifestyles.  The signs on the wall are revolutionary – “People Before Profit,” “Resistance is Fertile,” “Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate was a governor.  See the difference?”

 The uniform of choice is jeans, t-shirts, hoodies.  Someone in another row insistently hands me various flyers, though I try not to take them.  Not only do I not need more paper to sort through, I already know what they’re going to say.  Can’t stop myself from obsessively reading about the Occupy Everything movement.  I probably know more about the movement than the creators of the flyers.  Last week I wanted to adopt a couple that had been evicted from their home, but Ken went into his “no way,” speech so I gave up the idea.

I can give you stats on the 1% and the 99%.  I keep posting things to Facebook about the inequities in today’s society, so much so that my friends no longer bother to comment.  (It’s okay, guys – I understand.  I can be a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to politics J).

It’s interesting to me that our local folks are so determined to affect change locally.  I think we’ve got a pretty good deal here in Gainesville, a bastion of liberality in the midst of the conservative south.  I admire their determination.  It’s not just here – it’s all over the country.  Here is a whole generation rising up, demanding fairness, demanding local businesses be supported, that city hall and the court systems be responsive to their demands.  It’s an inspiring movement, even locally, even in the microcosm that is our town. 

These kids are living their beliefs.  They come out to listen to local bands, to support those who are protesting on the downtown plaza, expressing their desire to change the commercial, irresponsible spending patterns of the nation, the consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few, the gradual shrinking of the middle class, the lack of jobs.  These are brilliant kids, college grads, smart workers, vibrant young people who should have everything to look forward to and who are seeing a dark curtain blocking their horizons.  But they come here to show they are willing to be hopeful.

Lars and George engage the crowd.  Crazy songs.  All the kids sing along.  “It’s the civilized thing to do: We’ve got way too many people here. /So invite everybody over/Someday when the sky is blue./It’s time to eat your neighbor/at your neighborhood Bar B Que.”  “Whew whew,” the crowd shouts.  Lars says, “Definitely an omnivorous crowd – those cupcakes aren’t doing it for you!”  The crowd laughs.

He sings about local places, lost people.  George breathes along for the ride.  “One more broken bottle on the ground.  Who’s with you now?  Someday I will return and lay my sorrows down.”  These kids are doing it, living the new reality, listening to a singer with his acoustic guitar, singing Leonard Cohen’s Halleluah and joining in the song, eating homemade cupcakes and drinking hot chocolate for a $5 donation, having a memorable evening among friends.

 

 

10/13/2011

How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life.

The Fray

 

I heard this song today and it made me cry.  Usually does.  It is such a beautiful, sad song.  I always think of this friend of mine who was in our writing group.  She and I spent many nights talking for hours and hours in my car after the writers’ meeting.  She was funny and talented and tormented and one night she drove her car into a pickup truck at a high rate of speed and killed herself.  I was so upset – I kept thinking if she had called me, maybe we could have worked through some of the problems.  But that’s my arrogance.  There was probably nothing I could do.

I wrote a poem about her, but I didn’t think it was fair to tell the story of the things she told me all those nights when we hung out in my car in front of her apartment.  She never wanted to go inside.  I know she was so lonely.

Still, the first time I heard this song, I knew I wanted to write something about it.  I remembered that a friend had told me her son’s roommate had committed suicide one night when he was out partying and the son felt terribly guilty for not being there.  I turned that into a story that was published in Midwest Literary Magazine.  I decided to make the two men returned vets.  When I started doing research about the problems Iraqui veterans have, I was shocked at what I discovered.  Very high rates of suicide.  It is truly a tragedy that's constantly occurring.  I wanted the mother of the boy who had died to somehow save his friend.

When I sent the story out, I told the editors I sent it to that I meant the title to refer to the song. 

When I was young, I often thought about suicide.  Someone told me once that if I could just hold on for a while, things would get better and I took that advice to heart.  And he was right.  Now I always try to be tuned in when people seem to be in misery, to let them know I’m available if they need to talk.  And I let them know that if they just hang on, things will get better.  That old cliché is true – “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  Still, I wish there was more I could have done for Sonya.

 

How to Save a Life

By Wendy Thornton

 (How to Save a Life, Midwest Literary Magazine, online http://midwestliterarymagazine.com/archives/ (p.14) and in Print Issue, “Bearing North,” November, 2010 (ISBN/EAN13: 1456365002 / 9781456365004).

             Kip has been staring at the pistol on the table for so long, it no longer looks like a distinct object, a Beretta M9 nine millimeter, now only a dark blur on the light oak.  Could be eye strain, or the many shots of tequila he has downed.  He wills himself to pick up the gun.  He holds it in his hands, tries out various positions – under the chin, in the mouth, at the temple.  He is a soldier.  Seems like he ought to know the best way to kill.

            The phone rings.  And rings.  And rings.  The machine picks up and he hears the voice of Jonathan’s mother.  “Kip, Kip are you there?” she asks in a frantic voice, a voice he remembers so well.  “Kip, could you pick up the phone, please?  There’s a snake in the house.  I need you, Kip.”

            Snake?  He puts the gun back down on the coffee table, focuses on the phone.  But by the time he picks up the receiver, Mrs. Andrews is gone.  He listens to the dial tone for a long time.  He tries to remember Jonathan’s home phone number, but can’t.

            Can’t remember the last time he heard her voice, either.  He’s been trying to avoid her.  Ever since Jonathan died, seeing Mrs. Andrews makes him feel like someone is stabbing him in the chest, which, technically, he should enjoy because that’s what he deserves.  Because he let Jonathan die.

            He and Jonathan had signed up for the Marines together.  It was his idea.  His stupid dad, the only fucking dude in the whole country who served in Vietnam and thought it was a good experience, had encouraged him to go into the service.  He didn’t want to go alone, so he talked skinny little Jonathan into going.  Said the Marines would make a man of him.

            And they did.  He remembered being amazed at the changes in Jonathan, and in himself.  By the time they were done at Parris Island, all the areas mastered, field training, weapons training, physical fitness training and drill training, they no longer looked like the high school kids they had been a mere thirteen weeks before.  They were strong and muscled, liked to compare biceps and triceps.  “Hump-wavers,” the San Diego grads called them.  Fucking idiots, happy as ticks on a dog’s back that they’d made it through the Crucible, though Kip had had his doubts about whether Jonathan was going to get there or not.

            So happy to make it through basic, never really thought about where they’d be sent.  Afghanistan was not what they expected.  Watching their buddies get blown into liquid by IEDs.  In Helmand Province, they’d watched a friend bleed to death while they were pinned down, helpless to help him.  Their second tour, they were sent to Kandahar.  Unrelenting boredom alternating with unrelenting fear.  And finally, they were home again, knowing that at any moment, they could be called up for tour number three.

            Kip, who’d always been a heavy drinker, now let alcohol be his best friend.  Maybe he didn’t notice Jonathan melting down.  Maybe he was too fucking drunk to pay attention. 

            One night he invited Jonathan to a birthday party at some chick’s house.  “No,” Jonathan said, “I’m just going to hang around here.”  Yeah.  That’s what he said.  Kip couldn’t get those words out of his head. 

            The party was in an old house downtown.  Everybody was loaded.  He zeroed in on this girl, a short blonde with big breasts, and they ended up making out in the back yard, guzzling Cuervo and fondling each other.  She put her hands on his cock and he put his head on her boobs, and when he came, it was painful.  Maybe too much tequila.  Whatever.  Later, after she’d left the party, he discovered that she’d stolen his wallet.  He didn’t even know her name, the bitch.

            Embarrassed to tell his friends that he’d been robbed, he staggered home to the house he shared with Jonathan.  The door was locked, but all the lights were on.  He went to pull the keys out of his back pocket and discovered they were gone, too.  Fucking bitch.  He pounded on the door.  “Jonathan.  Hey, Jonathan, let me in.”  Nothing.  He beat the living shit out of the door.  No response.  Pissed, in more ways than one, he sank down on the front stoop, leaned his head against the door, and passed out.

            Mrs. Andrews woke him in the morning.  She pushed his stinking body aside and hammered her fists against the door.  “Jonathan, Jonathan,” she screamed.  “Kip, where’s your key?”

            “Don’t know,” he mumbled, trying to wipe the spit off the side of his mouth.

            “Help me, Kip, get up,” Mrs. Andrews cried.  She was a small, stocky woman with dark hair coiled around her plump face like a helmet.  She kicked him and Kip staggered to his feet. 

            “What’s going on?”

            “Jonathan – he left me a message – we have to get in the house.”  She looked around the porch frantically, then grabbed a big heavy planter and hoisting it to her shoulder, threw it through the front window.  Kip’s ears rang.  His head hurt so bad, he could barely think. 

            “What are you doing, Mrs. A?”

            “Help me,” she cried.  She pushed him off the porch to the edge of the gaping hole in the window.  “I need to get in there.”

            “You’ll get cut,” he said, standing beside her like a salt statue.

            She put her hands on the frame of the windowsill and tried to hoist herself up, but couldn’t get any traction.  Through his disbelieving eyes, he saw her hands were bleeding.  “Stop,” he cried, pulling her back.  “Here, let me help you.”  He bent down and made a step out of his hands and she climbed into them.  He was surprised at her agility.  He helped her boost herself over the window sill where she disappeared from view. 

            Frowning, he climbed up on the windowsill himself, crouching there, trying not to put his hands on the broken glass that still lined the edges of the window like jagged pieces of mirror reflecting the rising sun.  Why couldn’t she just relax?  It was too fucking early for all this melodrama.

            When he heard her scream, he jumped off the windowsill and followed her into Jonathan’s bedroom.  Jonathan’s body hung from an electrical cord he’d cut from the lamp and hooked over the ceiling panels and his mother was trying to hold his body up by the legs.  “Help me,” she screamed. 

But Kip already knew.  One look and he knew.  “It’s too late, Mrs. A,” he said, trying to make her release Jonathan.  He grabbed her arms, but she held onto her son’s legs with super-human strength.  “Let go, Ma’am,” Kip said, his voice sounding hollow and strange, formal, like someone who’d just been told he was going to die.    He got right up in her face and said, “You let him go, Mrs. A., and I’ll get him down, okay?”

The noise she made wasn’t human.  He’d heard it before, in-country, when this lady’s kid had died in a rocket attack.  Like Mrs. Andrews, who grabbed Jonathan as Kip lowered him to the ground, that lady had made the same kind of animal noises as she clutched the bloody body of her son.  Kip stood over Mrs. Andrews, waiting while she recovered her self back.  When she was quiet, rocking Jonathan’s body silently, Kip said, “What do you want me to do, Mrs. A?”

“Call 9-1-1, Kip,” she whispered.  “Please call 9-1-1.”

So he did, and he stood awkwardly beside her as they loaded Jonathan onto a gurney and took him away.  They didn’t even put on the siren.

It was only later that Kip realized he might have been able to save Jonathan.  If he hadn’t been so fucking drunk, if he’d gotten in the house, if he’d had his keys.  He confessed this to Mrs. Andrews at the funeral.

“Oh, no, Kip, that’s not true,” she cried, touching his shoulder.  But he moved away from her, stood by himself away from the crowd, his face impassive, his eyes empty.  Of course she would say that.  Of course she would.  She was a nice lady and she didn’t want him to feel guilty for killing her son, his best friend.

Mrs. Andrews called him a lot after the funeral, to see how he was doing, to see what he was up to.  He got to the point where he stopped taking her calls.  He helped her pack up some of Jonathan’s stuff.  She didn’t want the clothes or the books.  She took his pictures and his diaries and his boots.  Weird that she would take his boots.  And she asked Kip to give everything else away. But after that, there was nothing else he could do for her.  He was a fuck-up who didn’t deserve understanding.

He set about proving this to everyone’s satisfaction.  He lost his job at the Target Copy Center.  It wasn’t much of a job, but still, it paid the bills. When they kicked him out for being drunk, he got so mad he went through the place ripping up fresh copies of customer jobs and throwing them around the place like confetti.  The bitch office manager, Lily, wanted to call the cops, but the assistant manager, Jay, told her to let him go.

That night, he went to his parents’ house to borrow money.  Mr. Self-Righteous, his dad, gave him a big lecture about getting his act together and his mother, who had never been known to make it through an evening without her bottle of wine at her side, told him he should go to AA.  Fucking hypocrites.

For a long time, for days, maybe weeks, he’s been hanging around the house drinking up what’s left of his money.   This morning, he starting vomiting, and this time there was blood in it.  So that’s how he knows he’s torn up his stomach equal to what he’s done to his head and his heart.  He retched until his teeth ached and then he fell naked on the bathroom floor and stared up at the ceiling.  Jonathan had painted the bathroom when they first moved in and the ceiling was light blue.  Like sky.  Jonathan is the lucky one, Kip thinks.  No more headaches, no more vomiting, no more remembering, no more waking up in strange places, no more pain.

That pistol has been sitting on the coffee table for days now.  Every once in a while, he walks by, tries it out – mouth now, chin now, temple now – and then sets it back down, secure in the knowledge it’s there if he needs it.  He’s getting closer to pulling the trigger.  He wonders if he will see Jonathan.

The phone rings again, the sound breaking the melancholy silence he has listened to for so long.  “Kip, I know you’re there.  Please, I really need your help,” Mrs. A. says.  He gets up slowly from the floor, his head spinning.  He staggers into the hall, picks up the phone. Jonathan wanted them to have a land line, didn’t like cell phones.  Was afraid of them.  Thought they caused brain damage.  Ha ha, like that really mattered in the end.  “Mrs. Andrews?” he slurs politely into the phone.

“Oh, thank God, Kip,” Mrs. Andrews breathes.  “I was afraid I was going to have to call the police or something.  And then, you know, they’d think I was crazy and it would be in the papers.”  Everything Mrs. A does is in the papers these days, Kip knows.  Every time she has one of her PTSD rallies, the press swarms around her.  “The face of bereavement,” one caption had said, below her picture. 

“What are you going to call the police about, Mrs. A?”

“There’s a snake in my house, Kip. I swear to you, it’s huge.”

“What kind of snake?”

“My God, Kid, I don’t know.  I just saw it slither behind the fridge – I didn’t get a good look at it.  But I need your help.  Can you come over here and get it out of my kitchen?”

“Now?”

“Kip, if I call anyone else, they’ll just think this is a manifestation of my grief.”

Kip rolled that phrase around in his mouth, a manifestation of my grief.  Yes, a snake could be that, he supposed.  She was a weird lady, that Mrs. A.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Come over and kill the snake.”

He thinks about this for a moment.  “You want me to shoot it?”

“Well, I – sure, I guess.  I was thinking you could hit it with something, but shooting would be good, too.  Whatever you think.  Only please hurry.  I’m afraid it’s going to come out from behind the fridge and then God knows where it could go.”

“Yeah.”

“Can you come now?”

“I guess.”

“Please, Kip.  Come now.”

“Okay,” he says reluctantly.  “Let me get dressed.”

“Yes,” she answers with a strange little laugh.  “Please do that first.  I’ll see you in fifteen minutes?”

“Yes ma’am,” Kip answers.

He pulls on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, slips into his flip flops.  He tests the pistol one more time, mouth, chin, temple.  Then he walks out the door, to rescue his best friend’s mother from the snake.

 

 

 

 

 

10/08/2011

Pumped Up Kicks

Okay, I've tried to stop singing the song.  But now Foster the People is going to be on Saturday Night Live so I guess I might as well give up and admit that everyone's going to be singing it.

The song is rapidly turning into the stuff of urban legend.  Apparently the songwriter, Mark Foster, actually put the song out on the Internet as a free download:

(http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/hot-ticket-foster-the-people/article2195307/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Home&utm_content=2195307 )

To my credit, I found out recently that the original version played on MTV was edited.  In other words, the lyrics were:

All the young kids with their pumped up kicks

better run from my ______

run from ____________

So it's no wonder I misinterpreted the lyrics.  (see previous post).  They weren't all there!  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

I'm glad Foster the People has been invited to sing on Saturday Night Live.  They're very talented.  Listen to some of their other songs and enjoy! 

But Pumped up Kicks is such an infectuous song.  According to Wikipedia, "When "Pumped Up Kicks" was first recorded, frontman Mark Foster played all of the song's instruments for what he thought was going to be just a demo, but the version he recorded ended up as the final version on Torches."  And it was cool that he was willing to give it away for free.

This song will continue to be my guilty pleasure - in my car - when it comes on the radio and I will have no choice but to listen to it.  (Yeah, yeah, the button on my radio might not work so I might not be able to change to another channel - those old radios are soooo finicky.)  So, if you see me driving down the road merrily singing along with this song, don't imagine that I'm enjoying it.  I'm TRYING not to.  I really am.

 

09/20/2011

Perception Versus Reality

Music can make you believe you hear things you don’t actually hear.  Think of how many times your friends have misquoted the lyrics to songs.  Some of my favorites: “The girl with colitis goes by,” instead of the real Beatles lyric, "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” Or how about Bob Dylan’s, "The ants are my friends, they're blowing in the wind” instead of "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”  And who can forget the infamous rearrangement of Silent Night, "Round John Virgin," rather than "Round yon virgin.” That John, he’s a roly-poly young boy.

So, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get the lyrics right when I first heard the song “Pumped up Kicks,” by the indie-rock group, Foster the People.  Didn’t matter.  I loved the song.  It was so catchy and fun.  I had my own interpretation of what they were saying, of course.  “All the other kids, all the pumped up kids, better run through the park, better run, faster than I can.  All the other kids better run through the park, better run…”  You know, sort of a challenge.  I can run faster than you can.  Even if you’re pumped up to beat me.  All in good fun.

Wikipedia describes the band this way,( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foster_The_People  ) “Members Mark Foster (vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, guitar, programming, percussion), Mark Pontius (drums and extra percussion), and Cubbie Fink (bass and backing vocals) formed the band while in their mid- twenties.”  Really?  They look like they’re still in their mid-teens now. 

But they’re handsome and genial and you see them in the music video, heads bobbing to the tune, and then throwing a Frisby and singing and walking the sidewalks and being normal guys.  They’re in t-shirts and jeans and they adjust their instruments and wax their surfboards and catch a few waves and leap into lakes and whistle.  Whistling is a very important part of the Pumped up Kicks song. It makes you want to snap your fingers.  And put on your sneakers, like Foster the People. You want all the other kids to like them. 

The song is so genial, so happy, you start thinking maybe you should get the lyrics right so you can sing it without being humiliated when someone inevitably says, “Whaaa?  Those aren’t the right words!”  So you go to one of the cool Web sites that lists the lyrics and you read them.  And you think, wow, that can’t be right.  You go to another lyric Web site.  Yup, that’s right – “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” Huh?  Is that right?  “You better run, better run, outrun my gun.”

Wow, talk about a let-down.  I haven’t felt this disturbed by a song since John Lennon wrote, “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”  And of course, years later that song gave me the absolute creeps when someone shot Lennon, who was one of my heroes.  I still can’t listen to it, to this day.

I will listen to other songs by Foster the People and hope I find something that I like as much as I originally liked Pumped up Kicks.  The band is incredibly talented and original and I’m impressed with their simple riffs and straightforward musical ability.  But I won’t be downloading Pumped up Kicks.  Not that they care.  They’re making a fortune off the song – and probably even more off the controversy.  And I’m sure this confirms their edgy, indie aesthetic, so they’re happy that the tune got so much attention.  And when some crazy person uses it as background on their Web site before shooting their fellow students, it won’t be the fault of Foster the People.  They didn’t create crazy.

One of many comments on the YouTube Video for the song, this one by writingmypassion, states,

“Okay. Everybody who dislikes this song mainly say it is because of the shooting in the school theme. Yet songs about suicide, rape, and others crimes are fine. Just enjoy the damn song and stop your complaining about stupid things.”

Well Passion, baby, I ain’t that fond of songs about suicide, rape and other crimes either.  But the thing that really got me about this song is it sounds so upbeat.  It really hurt me to find out it’s such a downer.  I love the song, but what do you think?  Am I going to play it for my grandkids?  Hell, no.  I’m embarrassed that even I like it!  Guess I’ll sing it – my way – to the cats when it comes on VH1 at 6:00 a.m.

 

Non copyright free image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PumpedUpKicks.jpg

This is the Front Cover for the Digital Download Pumped Up Kicks by the artist Foster the People. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Columbia, or the graphic artist, Unknown. 

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Copyrighted media files may be used in Wikipedia articles on a limited basis, provided they satisfy both the legal test for fair use and Wikipedia's own guidelines for non-free content, found at Wikipedia:Non-free content. Each image or audio file has a file page where any fair-use concerns must be addressed.

 

08/31/2011

Heavy Petty

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing a Tom Petty tribute band, “Heavy Petty.”  The lead singer, Jason Hedges, does a fantastic job of channeling Tom and his band was an inspiration.  It was funny to see all the old Mudcrutch fans, (i.e., the Gainesville hippies), rocking out to the songs, but inspirational to see how many young people knew all the words.  I think that’s due in large part to the popularity of Heavy Petty.  The band, which consists of Jason Hedges, Jimmy Kinzer, Daniel App, Ryan Baker and Logan Fischer, are all competent musicians and they kept the crowd engaged.

Of course Tom Petty has had an important influence on my life.  How could he not? Local boy makes good.  I came to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida at a time when AM radio was all we knew.  I don’t think I’d ever been to a live concert.  I was listening to songs like Go Away Little Girl by Donny Osmond and Knock Three Times, by Dawn, insipid little songs that played over and over on every radio station in every town until they forced their way into your consciousness and you repeated them over and over in your head until you wanted to beat it against a wall to make them stop.  But that could just be me.

When I moved to Gainesville, my entire world changed.  Suddenly music was available I’d never heard before.  I went to concerts – Elton John, Deep Purple, Stephen Stills, The Association, Led Zeppelin, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Emmy Lou Harris, New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Eagles, and on and on.  I used to go to this little whole in the wall place out in Archer and watch one band in particular, a Gainesville band called Mudcrutch.  I loved that band.  The lead singer was a skinny kid about my age named Tom Petty.  Other band members included Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench who went on with Petty to form the Heartbreakers.

I saw Tom and his band Mudcrutch when they played at a little house out in the woods.  Watching Mudcrutch, I realized that I was watching greatness on the hoof, that these guys could really make it.  I kept saying to anyone who would listen, “Are these original songs?  Did they write the songs?  Who’s that singer?”  I had never danced in public – I was a shy, geeky person who hung out with fellow geeks who either didn’t know how to dance or danced so strangely the world watched.  But I danced to this band’s songs.  In a field, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by blue-jeaned  gangs of ecstatic kids convinced they were listening to the next big thing.

I remember a couple of times I was supposed to see the band at a famous local bar called Dubs, but I missed their performance.  Twice I had had too much to drink and never made it inside the bar.  I ended up sleeping in someone’s car in the parking lot while a band destined for international acclaim made their mark on our town.  Duh…  There’s a reason I don’t drink, folks!

But I followed Petty’s career, and fell in love with his songs.  Half the time, as my life unfolded, it seemed he was writing about my life.  When I was living in a trailer with a 1-year-old baby, waiting on tables, avoiding my ex-husband, trying to figure out how I was going to get back to school, I drove around town blaring the song, “You Don’t have to Live like a Refugee.”  Until of course, the day the lyrics finally penetrated my befuddled brain and I packed up my baby and went home to live with my parents and go back to school.  Best move I ever made – the move made me get my act together.

I frequently play, “I Won’t Back Down,” when I get mad about anything. 

Well I know what's right, I got just one life

in a world that keeps on pushin' me around

but I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down

 

It just cheers me right up.  Like Petty once said, he didn’t fire-spit or perform backflips.  He just played good rock ‘n’ roll.  I loved it when he called disco “trance music.”   (http://www.mudcrutch.com/index.php?pageid=heartbreakers_history) .  My sentiments exactly!

Petty was so determined not to get taken advantage of that he literally ended up filing bankruptcy to protect himself.  He ended up broke and unable to record or play concerts while lawsuits were filed.    He stuck to his guns and managed to get out of the contract that was so ridiculous he made a $10,000 advance on an album that went on to become one of the hottest releases of all time.

And he worked to protect his fans.  When his album “Damn the Torpedoes,”  was released in 1879 it jumped 84 spots on the Billboard chart, eventually ending up at the number two spot behind Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” 

As Scott Homewood in The Rock and Roll Report (http://rockandrollreport.com/where-tom-pettys-concerned-theres-no-backing-down )  says:

Whether it was involving members of his old band Mudcrutch in his original record deal instead of simply going solo, riding out a record company buyout and the personal bankruptcy it caused to rally his band and create Damn The Torpedoes (ie – one of the best rock and roll albums ever), fighting his new record company to lower the list price on his album Hard Promises, punching a wall and breaking his hand just because he hated the producer’s mix of his album Southern Accents and on and on, Petty has consistently done whatever it took and made the right choices, not just for personal economic/monetary reasons but personally and for his fans. This is a man who lives and breathes rock and roll, but seems to love his fans even more and is a genuinely nice guy to boot. A life lived in the spotlight with very few scandals to speak of and nothing but admiration from your peers is a very rare thing indeed in the rock and roll business.

Well, possibly the breaking your hand deal is not that smart a move for a guitarist, but I’ll bet he made his point!

 A few years ago, I got to see Tom Petty again, this time in a huge arena where we were so far away, he looked like a tiny stick figure.  He brought out a buddy, the inimitable Stevie Nicks, and the crowd went wild.  They both still sing like champions, and Stevie is as beautiful as ever.  It was a night to remember. 

 Maybe not as memorable as dancing beneath the stars in a field in the middle of nowhere and realizing that you were listening to a group that was destined for greatness, but hey, the Heartbreakers were playing for free back then and they deserve their fame now.

 So Jason, let’s see history repeat itself.  When do we get to hear your ORIGINAL songs?

 Heavy Petty1
Heavy Petty 2
Heavy Petty 3

08/12/2011

Newgrass - Nook & Cranny

 The other night I attended a concert at the Civic Media Center by a local band, Nook & Cranny.  This coxy environment is perfect for the band.  They were, as always, funny , original and oh so talented.  Someone told me the type of music they perform is “Newgrass.” They call their music “Folk.” 

I don’t know – I regret to say I don’t understand bluegrass well enough to know when someone is producing old or new music.  But I know what I like!

Nook & Cranny 2
The band consists of singer Dana Myers, Scott Ashcraft, guitar, Mark Archer, various instruments, Andrew Cook on fiddle, along with David Cook on bass, and Harold Gertner on snare.  They write a lot of their own music and the songs are funny, sweet and strange.  The combination of stellar guitar playing, dobro, violins and drums is fantastic, and Dana has an amazing voice, as do other band members. 

Mark told a story about having a dream recently in which he was  listening to a John Prine song.  When he woke up and realized it WASN’T a John Prine song he’d been listening to, he decided to write it. He’s really hoping it’s NOT a John Prine song after all.

Listen to the song, “Dreamin’ of Prine” on their Web site and you’ll see how original they make these old-fashioned “newgrass” songs.

Told my baby I was going to hell,

She looked me over and she wished me well.

I wouldn’t let ya if it was up to me

At least I know you’ll be in good company.

 Their songs are catchy, infectious and very unique. 

Nook and Cranny
 They also do a fantastic job of interpreting the songs of others.  Thanks to Nook and Cranny, I learned about Lucinda Williams, who in 2002 was voted America’s best songwriter by Time Magazine.    When they sang Happy Woman Blues, by Williams, I had to download it, just for this line, “I’m trying to get satisfied.  My mind is in the city but my heart is in the countryside.”

 That night at the CMC, they played songs they’d written the week before.  Scott’s song, “Something about you,” is funny and sarcastic “When I walk that road with you, there’s a light that I can use, and I think I might.”  Another recent song,  “Summer Skies” has that same snarky humor.

Take me back home with you.

I’ll let you do all the things you promised to.

I’ll even forgive you tonight.

 The band is playing again August 27 at Lighting Salvage.  If you get a chance, you should definitely go before they hit the big time.    Because you won’t get a seat then.

 

Nook & Cranny 1

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