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Nothing More

Alternate Routes – Nothing More

It has been two years to the day since the school shooting in Newtown, CT. This song was written to support the organization Newtown Kindness, which was founded by the parents of one of the children who was killed that day.

I live in a town very much like Newtown. These horrible events always seem like they’re happening somewhere else, someplace not like where you live or happening to people not like you. But not on that day.

To tell you the truth, I cry every time I hear this song, only takes about 30 seconds in.

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Synchronicity II

The Police – Synchronicity II

For Christmas, my younger sister put out a request for some music for her 14-year-old son. You see, though she was exposed to a wide variety of music as a young child and tween, by the time she hit high school, the rest of us were all out of the house. She played the piano and she liked to sing and she was good at both so my mother got her involved in the youth orchestra and some choral groups. I would make her tapes to try to keep her informed about new music that wouldn’t get air play on the local radio but the pull of her everyday music was strong. She spent so much time practicing that she didn’t have much time to listen to other stuff. By the time she got to college she was an early music voice major and it was all over. She met her future husband at the Gilbert & Sullivan society on campus and that was about as modern as her music collection got. Those grade school years spent singing along to I Wanna Be Sedated were all but forgotten.

As a toddler, my nephew could identify all the classical composers that were in constant rotation in their house. And I do mean constant. They have one of those multi-disc players and from the moment my brother-in-law comes down in the morning until they go up to bed at night, some kind of (usually choral) classical music is playing.

As her kids have gotten older, they’ve expressed an interest in listening to the top 40 stations in the car and she’s obliged. I think she’s hoping to make sure they fit in with their peers but it’s not usually music she completely endorses. And especially for a 14-year-old boy, she knows there’s better stuff out there, she just doesn’t know what it is. So she appealed to her older siblings to help out. She was thinking about what was playing in the house when she was young; David Bowie, The Police, Talking Heads but modern stuff was fine too.

I split the difference. I ordered a Kishi Bashi CD, thinking that might interest my cello playing nephew who has been immersed in classical music his entire life, since he puts a new twist on what you expect from a classically trained violinist. Then I made him a CD with a couple of Ramones songs, some Clash, The Police, Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello. I have to say, it’s pretty good. It’s skimming the surface to be sure but I tried to keep my quirky nephew in mind and picked songs that I think he might like. It has the bonus feature of being all songs my little sister will instantly recognize and shock her kids by being able to sing along, and, dare I say it, rock out? If my nephew doesn’t like it, I think she will at least.

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Pit Viper

 

10,000 Maniacs – Pit Viper

This is a curious tape I listened to on my way home from work for Tape Deck Tuesday. I had obviously whited out the track listing but the title (or spine? what would you call the part you can read when they’re all stacked up?) retained the original for side A but whited out side B. It now reads: “Secrets of the I Ching” with “Human Conflict Number 5″ underneath that then a bracket spanning both and “Hope Chest” at the end.

Secrets of the I Ching and Human Conflict Number 5 are both very early recordings by 10,000 Maniacs. Even back in college in the 80s these were sort of lost albums. But a CD came out in 1990 called Hope Chest, which combined the two. I have a copy, a reissue, of Secrets of the I Ching from 1988. This was a really difficult album to get a hold of. I have a very vague memory of having to send away for it through the radio station in college or something like that. I just pulled it out and inside was a purple piece of paper with information about “an Evening in Torpor.”

wpid-wp-1417584955438.jpegWow. Here’s where the internet is a weird and fantastic thing. My memories of the Evening in Torpor recording are soooo vague and I don’t have the album. Maybe my best friend has it? We often used to split things up and tape them for each other. But I have the piece of paper with the track listings for it and somewhere I must have a tape because I knew all those songs. Maybe I’ll find it but until then, there’s always YouTube.

Here’s what I figure I must have done, as I have no recollection of doing this. I must have taped Secrets of the I Ching off of the album, then a couple years later, Hope Chest was released which contained that album plus the EP Human Conflict Number 5, so I taped over the original recording and whited out the track listing in favor of what was on the CD. Why I didn’t just tape the songs I didn’t have and leave the original recording alone I have no idea. CDs were thought of as being “better” so that probably factored into it somehow.

Side A:
Planned Obsolescence
The Latin One
Katrina’s Fair
Poor De Chirico
Grey Victory
National Education Week
Death of Manolete
Orange
(unlisted but Wildwood Flower is tacked on the end here)

Side B:
Tension
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Daktari
Groove Dub
Pit Viper
My Mother the War
(lots of dead space)

There’s another video for Pit Viper with Natalie Merchant, John Lombardo, and Steve Gustafson in Dennis Drew’s student film made in Jamestown in 1982 that you should totally check out if you’re remotely curious to see how they all looked way back when.

Some of this early stuff sounds really different from what people normally associate with 10,000 Maniacs. I have to give them credit for introducing me to De Chirico and the metaphysical art movement with this album. Back in those pre-internet days, if bands I liked mentioned things in interviews or if I figured out some lyrics, I’d head over to the library to learn more. No, I didn’t have much of a social life, why do you ask? I sometimes think I learned more during those four years of college by following my curiosity about what influenced the bands I loved, than I did in the classroom.

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Lights Out, Words Gone

Bombay Bicycle Club – Lights Out, Words Gone

So NaBloPoMo is in the books, or in the blog archive. I missed one day, probably one-third of my entries were posted after midnight (though if I haven’t gone to bed yet, in my mind it is still the same day), and many were so short as to hardly count as writing. If I do it again, I think it would go better if I planned a little ahead of time and had some drafts ready to be used on days when I couldn’t manage to get around to it, or was thwarted by internet connection problems.

The crappy connection is really a nuisance because I’m usually spending a bunch of time looking for  a song before I start writing. On days when the song is already in my head and the entry is about the song somehow, either it jogs a memory or it’s related to something that’s happening, the post is easy and I can do most of it without the internet at all. Other times I don’t have a song in mind and it can take a lot longer to find the right fit, especially since I really try to mix it up and not just go back to my old standbys all the time. Hard to believe sometimes, I know, but I really do like finding new music and given that I had thirty days to fill up, this was the time to do it. Those days were really frustrating and time consuming when I’d have trouble just getting a video to load, let alone go back and forth between several while trying to decide on the one I wanted to use.

This month was also challenging because of all the things I crammed in. Two shows in one week that had me driving 3-4 hours each way, Thanksgiving up at my mother’s, and the kids had only one week that was a normal 5 days of school. I’m not sure who came up with the idea for NaBloPoMo (or WriMo for that matter) but I think a better month to propose would be March or April.

My main goal of blogging was never to be a writer. It was to have a way to share thoughts and ideas about music and bands, or tell a story about why a song had some deeper meaning for me. I used to do that in real life with friends but now my friends all live somewhere else and so writing became the only way I could keep doing that. I heard from one of my friends that even though some of these posts this month were skimpy (my words), she thought it was great to “hear” from me every day. If I look at this experiment as a way to make that connection with people and music, and focus less on whether my writing was the best it could be, then I guess it was pretty successful.

November 30, 11:45 p.m., NaBloPoMo, Lights Out, Words Gone.

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Blur the Line

The Meeting Places – Blur the Line

We are not Black Friday shoppers. For one thing, we’re not morning people. Being in line at 6am to go shopping sounds like a nightmare to me. It’s also pretty rare that I’m in the market for anything that might be on one of those big sales. Plus the crowds, the short tempers, really, there’s just no appeal.

I know the day after Thanksgiving has long been the unofficial start of the Christmas season, or at least the shopping season, but I don’t like the way it’s been creeping in sooner every year. I noticed several stores that made a point of opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving day. How shitty would that be for the people working there? I guess they would at least get paid double time but I would sure feel cheated if it were me.

When I was growing up we would all go to my grandparents’ in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. My mom’s from a big family too and there would be lots of uncles and aunts and cousins. I remember years when we had the grown-ups table, the kids table, and the spill-over table when there wasn’t enough room at either to fit everyone. The day after was always time to hang with the family members you didn’t see often and play with the weird old toys at grandma’s house.

Perhaps if we’d stayed home for Thanksgiving, and the day after was just us in our own house, shopping would have become something that made sense when you had a day off anyway. But that was never our custom and I like having a little buffer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like taking the time to just enjoy it before rushing onto the next holiday.

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Blood Bank

Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Look at that album cover. Brrrr. It doesn’t matter that I know exactly what I’m getting out of winter in New England, I am never ready for its arrival. It’s not that I’m caught off guard, I just live in denial until the last possible minute. Why spend one second more than you’re forced to thinking about it?

I don’t really wish I could join the legions of people who love winter, or even those who tolerate it well and think it can be pretty. I am very content to continue singing the praises of spring and summer. And one thing’s for sure, if I ever moved to someplace that doesn’t have winter, I would never miss it. People have questioned me on that one but I have lived through more than enough winters to last me a lifetime.

As I sit here now, wrapped up in a blanket, the wind is blowing down the chimney and rattling the glass doors on the fireplace. Snow is falling and pelting the window screens making an icy sound. So it begins.

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Cuyahoga

R.E.M. – Cuyahoga

I didn’t post yesterday. I had been thinking of a post in my head during the day but by the time I got home from work, we’d put the kids to bed, I talked with my mother about Thanksgiving travel plans, and I finally could get a chance to write, I felt I had nothing to say. I was disgusted by the grand jury decision in Missouri yet anything I thought of to write felt like too little too late. I stayed up late reading articles and watching Twitter and kept coming up short when I tried to find the right words.

The post I had been mulling over during the day yesterday came to me courtesy of driving my daughter to school again. It was raining heavily and I decided I could just as easily drop her off and spare her the wait for the school bus in the rain. She started telling me about a project they are doing in school. They have been divvied up into groups and each group has to start its own country. It’s an interdisciplinary project so all of her classes were taking part. In math they discussed different monetary and economic systems, in science they had debates about the impacts of genetic modification and from there, whether or not the countries they were building should allow it. In social studies they discussed different forms of government, laws, and rights.

I started singing this song then said they should use it for their country. No, she said, they had to write their own anthem, both the music and the lyrics, for the music part of the project. I wondered to myself if the social studies teacher, who organized this whole assignment, is an R.E.M. fan. In any case, I feel like congratulating him. We don’t really get to start a new country up but getting the kids to put their heads together and think about it, and understand how many different elements there are, what the ramifications of different decisions will be, I hope it will be a lesson they can take with them.

It could be a lesson for us as well. It’s clear that our system is not just flawed but skewed heavily in favor of those in power remaining in power. By any means necessary, it sometimes seems. Is this a government of the people, for the people, by the people? A police force so heavily armed it looks like it belongs on a battlefield instead of a city street?

When I was a kid we had School House Rock on Saturday mornings in between cartoons. I grew up absorbing those little history and civics lessons to catchy tunes and believing that’s how our country really worked. I can recite (or sing) the preamble to the Constitution because of it. Sing along. “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…” Where is the justice? How can the police insure domestic tranquility when they are dressed for war?

So I go back to we the people, in order to form a more perfect union. I know it sounds sappy and simplistic but if we are ever going to achieve justice, it is going to be a lot of hard work. A lot of putting our heads together and thinking about the end results. There are no quick fixes. We need to work on the more perfect. A union that incorporates the view points of those who were left out of it when our father’s father’s father tried would be a good start. This can’t just be something we tell our kids to do for a school project. It has to be what engaged citizens just do because this land is the land of ours.

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Had to Hear

Real Estate – Had to Hear

I’m back home after a quick trip down to New York for The Twilight Sad/We Were Promised Jetpacks show. It was not a late night, especially for New York, but I’m still a little tired after going to two shows this week. I am telling myself it’s the driving to these places that’s the culprit rather than the actual going out to see bands. Being at a show is always really rejuvenating for me and the effects can last for days.

I wasn’t joking the other night when I said live music was addictive. If the show was good, it leaves me jonesing for more and I start looking for another show to go to soon. If the show was great, it makes me want to hit the road and go catch that same band the next night in some other city. This is usually pretty easy to accomplish in the northeast, so long as you can swing the time off.

Thanksgiving is in a few days so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on some sleep then, but I really had to hear some live music this week.