Posts filed under ‘listening’
2016 was a big year for celebrity deaths. It became kind of a competition in some ways. David Bowie’s death hit a lot of people hard, but then the famous people kept dropping, and soon it was like “oh yeah? Prince was whatever. GEORGE MICHAEL really had an impact on my life!” and then the person would have to talk about how everyone is celebrating/mourning/talking about _____, but nobody is mentioning ______ as much as they should blah blah blah.
I’m not about to do that. Everyone’s death in 2016 was tragic (except possibly Phyllis Schlafly’s and Antonin Scalia’s, but that’s another entry). However, I would like to bring your attention to one death in particular that made me think: Paul Kantner.
I grew up a cynical, cranky Gen-Xer raised by hippies. My upbringing was not that unusual; many people of my generation were raised with the idea that everything in the 80s was boring, and that nothing was as good or exciting as it was in the 1960s. Baby Boomers adopted a superior attitude of “you weren’t there, you have NO IDEA how boring it is now!” Note, “the 60s” = 1967-1974.
I loved 80s music and was totally into punk and New Wave. In 1986, when this video came out (see below), I was heavily into U2, Big Country, Simple Minds, and other bands which my parents deemed “crap.” In their minds, in order to be cool, I had to listen to 60s music. They sat me down and made me listen to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen (RIP), whom I have an appreciation for now, but to the ears of a 13 year old obsessed with British New Wave, it just sounded like dreary noise.
60s music was played as background music in every store in my neck of the woods. New Wave was spectacularly un-cool. In my time-forgotten corner of Upstate NY, all my peers were into Pink Floyd and The Who. The Beatles were omnipresent, but they were so cliché at that point; I had heard every song a million times, and their music had become shorthand for “what follows is supposed to appeal to old people.”
Out of all the 60s music I was forced to listen to, the Jefferson Airplane was the only one I could relate to. I liked “White Rabbit” a lot, and I discovered that when a group of Baby Boomers were together and reminiscing, I could name drop the Jefferson Airplane (after many caveats that no, I did not equate it with Starship, the band’s incarnation at the time), and Boomers would think I was “cool” and that I “get it” and didn’t have to give me the lectures on how everything we did was boring and pointless and how they engaged in Real Activism Back In The Day, unlike whatever crap passes for whatever now.
Which brings me to the song “America” by the KBC Band (a band comprised of Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady from the Jefferson Airplane). This is the first song I had heard that actually celebrated the youth of America that was released in my lifetime. It was optimistic!
Streets of gold
Streets of wonder
Streets of people growing stronger
Revolution and voices of thunder
It’s a New world, new people
New dreams for all of the children
Young country, new love
New dreams of freedom
The part that really resonated with me was this:
don’t be afraid of anything
don’t be afraid of anyone
young men are dreaming and
young girls believing
and asking questions like
where are the frontiers?
how do i get there?
I was inspired. I was uplifted. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it, but it made me resent my parents’ generation slightly less. I thought, hey, if the members of the Jefferson Airplane can maintain optimism about my generation, anyone can! Throughout all my Babyy Boomer dominated childhood, I had internalized that my entire generation was doomed because we were lazy slackers who listened to shitty music. Maybe we don’t suck so much after all! I mean, even Paul Kantner sang:
something’s happening in america
can you feel it? can you feel it comin’?
it’s like the green party in Germany
young people with visions and dreams
in Nicaragua n’ Chile, Poland and South Africa
freedom brewing, it’s an uphill dream
At this point in my life, I was harboring secret desires to be a revolutionary (I wanted to join the IRA), and this song made it seem like maybe I wasn’t the only one. Of course, the closest thing I ever got to revolution was writing a lot of letters to my Congress people and on behalf of Amnesty International, but still. This song had a giant impact on my early adolescent life. My generation (it didn’t really have a name yet; I don’t think Generation X was yet coined as a term for my peers) wasn’t just a cheap imitation of the one before it, we could make our mark for ourselves!
Jefferson Airplane was awesome, but they belonged to my parents’ generation. The KBC Band was something that belonged to my generation. Even though it was made up of Baby Boomer icons, the music was still new, and mine. It wasn’t me discovering something from the old days, that I could bring to my elders and they would condescendingly talk about how great it was and what’s wrong with me that I was just discovering it now? I heard the KBC Band first. My parents would not hear it unless I played it for them, because they were too busy wallowing in the music of the past to ever bother with anything new. I felt that unlike with Starship, the Jefferson Airplane made finally itself into a version for me.
OK, it may be a long shot to attribute the stalling of my rapidly snowballing cynicism of an entire generation to one pop song, but that one pop song forever cemented in my head that Paul Kantner was awesome (along with Balin and Casady). Rest in Peace.
Being the Holiday Season, and working retail, I’ve had to hear a lot of Christmas music. Now I’m not against Christmas music per se, it’s just that I get sick of the bland stuff that everyone puts out this time of year. When I had to pick the Christmas CD at the store I chose the newly re-released Joan Baez’s Noel. We had this album when I was a kid and I remember being obsessed with it. Well there go my fond memories because, well, it’s painful to listen to. For one thing, JB sings the songs kind of operatically, but she’s not an opera singer, so it just doesn’t work. Plus, you can’t understand any of the words. Plus, it goes on FOR FREAKING EVER.
So dear Santa, here’s my wishlist for the Perfect Christmas Album:
I’d like one where
- you can understand the lyrics
- It have no guitar solos
- it have no slow jams, though those are kind of funny, especially when Mariah Carey is involved.
- it have a minimal amount of original songs unless they are sufficiently funny as to be entertaining.
- There are no children’s choirs present
- “Santa Baby” is not included
- there is a minimal amount of bells, chimes, glockenspiels and music box noises.
- If you’re going to sing in a foreign language, please make an attempt to pronounce it correctly. If you don’t know French, just don’t sing “Un Flambeau, Jeannette Isabelle!” It’s simple as that! “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella” may not sound as good, but it will be less painful than you mangling French.
- Avoid the token Hannukah song. Let’s face it, good Hannukah songs may exist, but the average non-Hannukah celebrater only knows “I have a Little Dreydl” which kind of blows unless you are 5 years old.
When people try to make Christmas carols RAWK!, it usually fails miserably. This may be because most “traditional” carols (i.e. those written before 1900 or so) are written in 6/8 time. A lot of them, like “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger” are lullabies, and lullabies are often in 6/8 because it lends itself to more of a rocking motion. Ironically then, that it doesn’t RAWK!, since most rock music is in 4/4.
Anyway, that’s my wish list for listening to X-mas music this season. So far, She and Him’s christmas album is OK. That is, when it was playing I completely didn’t notice it was on which is a good sign!
My favorite Christmas albums:
Firestone presents Your Favorite Christmas Carols Volume 5 with Julie Andrews
I had this album when I was a kid and was completely obsessed with it. Yes, it’s cheesy and overblown, but I keep hearing tracks from it in various stores and Julie Andrews still holds up. The other volumes (I had a green one and a gold colored one and maybe a red one?) just weren’t as good.
Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors “Horny Holidays”
This is awesome, especially “Good King Wenceslaus” where Mojo admits nobody actually knows the words to this so everybody just sing “la la la”– a classic! They also sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.
Jim Jones, “A Dipset Christmas” — come on, who could resist a song called “Ballin’ on Christmas?”
2 Live Jews “Christmas Jews”– I used to have a collection of Jews with Christmas Albums (i.e., Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow), but I had to abandon it because I realized I would have to actually purchase Kenny G’s album, and even I have limits to my kitschy compulsions. Anyway, 2 Live Jews’ album was the crowning glory of this (or any holiday) collection. Anyway, sing “Bagels and bagels and bagels and lox” to “Jingle Bell Rock” and it’s just awesome times a million.
Bootsy Collins, “Christmas is 4 ever” – Bootsy is just awesome.
Various Artists: “A John Waters Christmas”– this one is almost cheating. It’s supposed to be awesome in that kitschy way, and it totally delivers.
I’m sure there are a couple more Christmas albums that don’t make me homicidal, but I can’t think of them right now…
Everything always works itself out. it really does. I’m not even a Buddhist or whatever people believe in this concept. I don’t think it’s divine intervention, either… stuff just kind of has a way of sorting itself out. Maybe it has to do with perception. Anyway, yes I’m working the week of X-mas, but at least I was able to switch the days I am working with the baby so I can take the same number of days off the week following X-mas. So, I’ll be gone for pretty much the same amount of time, just in a different order. Anyway, I’m back to normal again…
I had forgotten how rewarding working in retail can be. Yes, you read that correctly. The thing I really like is the instant results– you find something for someone, or help them remember a song title etc. and they thank you. The reward is instant, and that’s always nice. Plus, I also get to use my vast geeky knowledge of music. For example, one lady came in looking for calypso music. Hello? Harry Belafonte’s Calypso album! While my co-workers tried to find stuff in the world music section, I knew exactly where to find good ole Harry. Geekiness rules! Plus, I got to organize the housewares section so things would fit better and look nicer, and I freaking love doing that shit.
AND, if I hadn’t worked today I wouldn’t have found out that EDITORS have a new album out! Yay! Well, actually it apparently came out in October, but I never would have found out about it until much later I bet. It’s totally different from their previous albums, but I’m digging it, though it sounds kind of like the Thompson Twins with all the keyboards and stuff.
So there. Stuff works itself out.
Things worked out.
OK, Kate Bush isn’t actually dead, but she will be if I have to listen to this album anymore. I’m here feeding the cranky baby and finally got him to go to sleep on my lap. Every time I move a muscle, he wakes up and starts screaming again. Meanwhile, the CD player has switched to the next CD where someone was evidently listening to Kate Bush. Loudly. So here I am unable to move with this awful Washing Machine song blasting. Seriously. She’s singing about a washing machine. Seriously. This is how it goes:
I remember it was that Wednesday
Oh when it rained and it rained
They traipsed mud all over the house
It took hours and hours to scrub it out
All over the hall carpet
I took my mop and bucket
And I cleaned and I cleaned
The kitchen floor
Until it sparkled
Then I took my laundry basket
And put the linen all in it
And everything I could fit in it
And all our dirty clothes that hadn’t gone into the wash
And all your shirts and jeans and things
And put them in the new washing machine
I watched them go ‘round and ‘round
My blouse wrapping itself in your trousers
Oh the waves are going out
My skirt floating up around my waist
As I wade out into the surf
Oh and the waves are coming in
Oh and the waves are going out
Oh and you’re standing right behind me
Little fish swim between my legs
Oh and the waves are coming in
Oh and the waves are going out
Oh and the waves are coming in
Out of the corner of my eye
I think I see you standing outside
But it’s just your shirt
Hanging on the washing line
Waving its arm as the wind blows by
And it looks so alive
Nice and white
Just like its climbed right out
Of my washing machine
Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy
Get that dirty shirty clean
Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy
Make those cuffs and collars gleam
Everything clean and shiny
OH. MY. GOD. I have never been a huge Kate Bush fan, but this song is like 3 hours long, and it seriously was driving me crazy. Luckily, after a couple of false starts I finally got the baby to let me move him to his baby sleeping swing thing and turn off the stereo! These are the down sides to this job! Memo to self: check the CD player before you put anything in!