It should not have taken you no longer being on this earth for me to think about writing to you. But, now you are gone and your passing brings up so many feelings and memories for me. You were one of my first rock n’ roll loves. I adored you.
Even though women musicians and performers sort of had a bit of a feminist renaissance in the 1990s where it actually seemed like they might just be on the same level as men and they actually might not have to show more of their flesh in order to be considered a valid entertainer, you stood out.
You wrote all of the lyrics for “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” That’s impressive in and of itself, not to mention the fact that everyone loved that album. High school girls, high school boys, Moms, Dads, siblings, teachers, anyone who worked in an office and listened to the radio, dentist hygienists, we all loved that album. It was beautiful, unique, and palatable. Not everyone can write an album that has strong lyrical content, sounds beautiful, and is accessible to so many different people at so many different points in their lives. You did that.
The December of my 9th grade year my (soon to be) closest high school friend gifted me a green stone/marble pendant necklace, a peppermint flavored Lip Smacker (great because it made your lips feel tingly) and EEIDISWCW on CD. My parents who were/are fundamentalist Christians were highly suspicious of, and controlling about, the pop culture content that made its way into our house. I could not listen to the majority of the music I was beginning to love (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Bouncing Souls, etc.) out in the open at home. I was closeted. Due to the accessible and non threatening nature of EEIDISWCW I was able to actually listen to that album, out loud, in my room. I could even sing along. Thank you Jesus!
God, I loved your voice. You had the most amazing voice.
In 1995 when given the choice to attend one outdoor summer concert I chose to go and see you and your band over going to Lollapalooza. I chose you over Hole and in hindsight this choice makes more sense than ever. We traveled 2 hours to New Jersey to see you. It was worth it.
I thought you were so very beautiful. I desperately wanted to have short hair but I was “scared” to cut mine off. Afraid I would look ugly. I already felt ugly. I didn’t need any further confirmation from anyone. You had short hair and you were beautiful. You were not afraid. You were my hero and eventually by the time I reached 12th grade I mustered up the courage to get my hair cut short. It was your picture I took into the hairstylist to provide an example of what I wanted. Thank you for being my role model.
You were sexy. It didn’t seem to be contrived or purposeful. You could play the guitar and sing and dance. From where I sat you looked like you were just being you and you just happened to also be sexy. We needed and continue to need women like you. Women who are not products. Women who have talents and show these talents. Women who are sexy who also do not have perfect teeth, hair, boobs, etc.
Your teeth were crooked. You were still sexy.
We need women who are sexy because they are showing themselves to the world and their showing involves a myriad of talents. A fully dimensional human. That was you.
I have not yet read all of the details of why you are gone. I saw a tweet from Chuck Prophet on twitter and I did a Google search and saw the words “bipolar” and the number 46 and then I started writing.
I could go on and talk about other albums you created, other songs that I loved which were written by you. I could elaborate on how you were a lifeline for me throughout my high school years and into college. But, none of that is going to change the fact that you are gone.
I’m sorry I didn’t write to you sooner.
I miss you already. Thanks for everything. You were a life changer.
Back in December LL2RNR asked folks who have written for us to start thinking about 5 songs that they have loved “their entire life.” If this seems like a strange or unusual request to you, then you should probably just stop reading this blog now.
Good ‘ol Carl was the first to come through on this request and so his list goes up first. We apologize greatly for the lack of posts lately. It ain’t easy keeping up with a blog.
P.S. Happy New Year! Happy Birth Month Carl!
I will be 58 in January, so I figure anything I loved prior to turning a world-weary six years old in 1966 is fair game, provided I still love it now as I did then.
And there is indeed quite a lot I loved a lot, and never stopped loving. I mean, 1966 through 1968 encompasses a wonder world of pop music. The ensuing years and decades brought me even more. But for me, it all started before that. It was a decent time to be an apprentice pop fan, eagerly learning whatever the radio, the TV, and the family record player could teach me. 1966 would bring a whole new cascade of personal discoveries: Batman, The Monkees, Marvel Comics, Lesley Gore, my first plane trip, my first surgery, and my first broken heart (courtesy of six-year-old Suzette Mauro). Before I turned six in ’66? Here are but five among many that have never left me.
CAST OF WEST SIDE STORY: “America”
My earliest memories stretch back to 1963, when I was three years old. I have no conscious memory of a time before I loved music. It’s likely there never was any time when I didn’t love music. As a little, little kid, I used to pick up 45s and spin them on my fingers, pretending I was a record player, warbling the single aloud as it “played” in my hand.. The fact that I could match the 45 with the correct song convinced many that I could read at the age of three or four, but I’d memorized which label went with which catchy tune. I also loved my parents’ Broadway show LPs; I was known to blurt out lyrics at inopportune moments in public, like the time I was in a department store and loudly and proudly sang out the line “Here’s to the son of a B, tra la!” from Carnival (which is still one of my favorite plays). Yeah, I was a joy to be around. My favorite show album was actually the movie soundtrack from West Side Story. I didn’t understand its urban milieu, social commentary, and Romeo & Juliet storyline until many years later; I dug the tunes immediately. “Gee, Officer Krupke” was my favorite, but I loved the song “America” nearly as much, and it has stayed with me ever since.
EYDIE GORME: “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”
Both of my parents worked. I often stayed with my Godparents the Klusyks, my Aunt Connie and Uncle Nick. I remember their house in Westvale, in Syracuse’s Western suburbs. I remember my first girlfriend, four- or five-year-old Mary Rose Tamborelli, who lived across the street from the Klusyks. I remember Mary Rose’s older brother playfully popping a toy percussion cap with his baseball bat in the Klusyk’s garage. I remember the neighborhood teens and/or pre-teens having a party one evening in the Klusyks’ basement, with li’l toddler me right down there with them, helping the big kids listen to their Four Seasons records; the music got too loud, and the adults killed the light as a warning to the kids to quiet down already. I was afraid of the dark, and this move freaked me out, prompting me to wail, upset and inconsolable. I remember the sight of my parents’ car pulling into the Klusyk’s driveway to take me home at the end of one of my Westvale stays. Good times.
But my most prominent memory of life at stately Klusyk Manor remains music with my Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna was Uncle Nick’s sister, and she lived with Uncle Nick and Aunt Connie. Every week day that I was there, I would greet Aunt Anna when she got home from work with one simple, urgent request: “Records, Aunt Anna!” Aunt Anna had 45s. I wanted to hear those 45s, again and again. I specifically remember Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” as a Fave Rave, and ditto for “Downtown” by Petula Clark. I’m sure she had some Beatles records, too. My favorite songs were “Who Stole The Keeshka?” by Frankie Yankovic and “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” by Eydie Gorme. I can’t even tell you for sure whether or not those were among Aunt Anna’s 7″ slabs o’ bliss, but the memories of all of this–all of this–dovetail together so pleasantly in my mind, a happy image of music and love, a heaven on Earth abruptly terminated when Aunt Connie died in 1965. I was devastated, and this early lesson in mortality haunted me throughout the rest of my childhood. Even today, though, hearing “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” brings a smile, and transports me back to a cherished time I recall with affection and surprising clarity.
THE BEATLES: “A Hard Day’s Night”
Even four-year-olds knew The Beatles in 1964. The Beatles were synonymous with pop music, with radio. “All My Loving” was an early favorite, sung by that guy I thought was named Paul MilkCartoney. But the whole giddy sense of Beatlemania is best represented by “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title tune from a movie I saw with my brother, sister, and cousins at The North Drive-In in Cicero in ’64. All the girls in all the cars were screaming at the images on screen. I’ve often pointed to that experience as one of my three prevailing pop music epiphanies (along with hearing “Sheena Is Punk Rocker” by The Ramones and seeing a live show by The Flashcubes). Aside from a few brief moments of doubt in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there has never really been a time when I didn’t regard The Beatles as the greatest group in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
THE ROLLING STONES: “Get Off Of My Cloud”
1965 was pop music’s best year ever. I didn’t truly start to appreciate the year’s bounty until more than a decade later, when I began to discover essential ’65 gems by The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Buck Owens, The Yardbirds, The Beau Brummels, The Byrds, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fontella Bass, The Small Faces, The Dixie Cups, The Vogues, The Who, The Zombies, The Miracles, The Hollies, George Jones, Stevie Wonder, and so, so many more. Whatta year! The best stuff was popular, and the popular stuff was the best.
Even if I had to wait until teendom to understand the splendor that was all around me when I was five, there was still much I knew as it happened. I certainly knew “Get Off Of My Cloud.” I may not have had reason to believe The Rolling Stones were substantively different from contemporary hitmeisters like The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Castaways, or Gary Lewis & the Playboys, but I remember that voice bellowing out of transistor radios: Don’t hang around boy, two’s a crowd! At five, I thought the twisting of the familiar “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” maxim was interesting. This record was probably my introduction to the idea of a song having swagger.
THE T-BONES: “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”
One of 1965’s final hit records was a cover of the music from an Alka Seltzer commercial. See? Best pop year ever! Granted, The T-Bones‘s “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” was really a 1966 hit–its Billboard chart peak at # 3 was in February of ’66–but it was released in December 1965, so…close enough, I say. I had the 45 on the Liberty Records label, and it was The Greatest Record Ever Made. I’d play that sucker on the family hi-fi, dancing around our little living room as the song created images in my daydreamin’ little head. I would close my eyes. I swear, I could see the music. I saw colors, shapes, figures, even a brightly-garbed clown a-boppin’ and a-swayin’ to the tune. I was a weird kid. Still am. Almost fifty-two years later, the music still means as much to me as it meant when I was five, and as when I was three, when I was twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six, forty, fifty, and on down the dark and twisting path ahead of me. It’s best played loud. No matter what shape.
If I’m at a party of intellectuals, artists and music lovers, there are certain rules I must follow in order to have my opinions on music taken seriously. I must have cursory knowledge of obscure indie pop bands, a forcefully acknowledged passion for diverse and worldly musical offerings and, most importantly, I can never, under no circumstances, admit to loving post-Beatles Paul McCartney. Everyone loves John, of course, but Paul? Wings? Are you serious?
Yes, Paul. Believe me. I’ve had these conversations. Many times. Despite your decades worth of hits minus the Fab Four, too many people need to assert the fact that they think your solo music blows. And that anyone who admits to loving your solo work cannot ever be taken seriously as a lover of arts and culture of any kind.
I’m sure you’re aware of this. And I’m also sure you really don’t give a fuck. I mean, you’re Paul McCartney for God’s sake. Why would you care what some pretentious, scrubby faced, hipster with skinny jeans thinks of your music? Or anyone, for that matter.
You were never going to be able to match what the Beatles did. But then again, neither were other Fab three. That’s what made you so special as a band. When The Beatles broke up in 1970, someone asked you how you were going to follow them and I thought your response was spot on: you just follow it. Seriously, what else could you have done?
But you’re a genius. And you know what? As a solo artist, you’re still a genius. You remained a vibrant and relevant creative artist for decades and continue to produce great music even today. You created Wings, which ultimately was just as commercially successful as the Beatles, which is amazing to consider. You collaborated with Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. You wrote the best James Bond theme song ever.
You ventured into the new wave scene with the underrated “Back to the Egg” album. And even though the album suffered from a White Album type schizophrenia- with elements of punk to new wave to soft rock to chamber pop to vaudeville mixed with some random “Abbey Road” style medleys and various song fragments for good measure- it’s still shows off your endless creative curiosity.
You recorded 24 albums since the Beatles broke up, as a solo artist or with Wings, plus five classical music albums, and collaborated on another seven albums. Where do you get your energy from and does it come in a pill form or something I can drink? Whatever it is, I need some. Just email me.
I do, however, feel a little like the odd man out as I find myself constantly having to defend you against the McCartney haters of the world, but it’s the least I can do after everything your music has given me.
As a painfully shy, introverted kid growing up, I often felt displaced and alien to just about everyone else in the world. Yet your music was always there to comfort me.
When my friends were off swimming at the town pool without me because I couldn’t swim, I’d be home by myself, sitting in front of the A/C listening to “Wings at the Speed of Sound.” When I needed to escape my crowded and noisy household, I would pop in the “Venus and Mars” cassette into my Sony Walkman, hop on my bike and disappear. “McCartney” and “Ram” provided a warm soundtrack to my family vacations on Cape Cod and “Band on the Run” was always blasting from my radio in the depressing and, sometimes violent, central New Jersey flea market I worked at as a teenager.
So we have history together, you and I. Listening to your music now instantly transports me back to a time when I needed your songs the most. And the next time I’m stuck in a room crowded with stuffy, music snobs, I will wear my McCartney love like a badge of honor and I will tell them, how can you hate someone who has brought so much joy to so many people? I’m living proof of that.
Rock ‘n’ roll as we know it might not even exist if not for the movies. That may be an overstatement, but it’s certainly true that rock’s first crossover success came via Hollywood. When the film The Blackboard Jungle appeared in 1955, its opening credits sequence propelled a novelty fox trot called “Rock Around The Clock” to the top of the pops, making the seemingly unlikely figures of Bill Haley and his Comets the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll stars. The ongoing sheet-shakin’ between rock and film has been consummated again and again over the ensuing decades, from Jailhouse Rock through A Hard Day’s Night, The Monkees in Head, The Ramones in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and the fictional Oneders in That Thing You Do!, plus whatever more recent iterations have occurred since I grew too old to keep up with what you crazy kids are up to. Just stay off of my lawn already.
The sheer abundance of great rock ‘n’ pop tracks that have appeared in movies makes the prospect of selecting my all-time Top 5 movie songs too daunting to consider. Honestly, I doubt I could even narrow down a list of my five favorite Beatles movie songs, and I’d still need room for at least two tracks from The Dave Clark Five‘s Having A Wild Weekend, The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song (Theme From ‘Head’),” Little Richard‘s title tune from The Girl Can’t Help It, the museum outings montage version of Lulu‘s “To Sir, With Love,” and Paul McCartney and Wings‘ license to thrill “Live And Let Die.” Among others. Among a lot of others! “Light Of Day” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, fercryinoutloud!
So, as an alternative, I figured I’d list five great movie songs from films I either didn’t really like or have never actually seen. That narrows things down to a more manageable field. By arbitrarily discarding any song used as a film’s title tune–buh-bye “Don’t Make Waves” by The Byrds and “They Ran For Their Lives” by The Knickerbockers–I came up with a quintet of popcorn-ready tracks that mean more to me than the films that delivered ’em. Dim the room. Kill your phones. And keep your trap shut until the closing credits roll. Lights! Camera! GUITARS!!
THE CRAWLING KINGSNAKES: “Philadelphia Baby” (from Porky’s Revenge)
The only Porky’s film I ever saw in its entirety was the first one, and I did not care for it. I mean, c’mon–it’s not like it was The Hollywood Knights or something. But one of its sequels, 1985’s Porky’s Revenge, had a killer soundtrack, consisting mostly of oldies covered by acts like Jeff Beck, Willie Nelson, Clarence Clemons, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Dave Edmunds, plus Carl Perkins performing a new version of his own “Blue Suede Shoes” with two out of three Stray Cats. The soundtrack also includes George Harrison‘s otherwise-unavailable take on Bob Dylan‘s “I Don’t Want To Do It,” and Edmunds (who was in charge of the soundtrack) turns in an incredible original called “High School Nights.” But the highlight is this cover of Charlie Rich‘s “Philadelphia Baby” by The Crawling Kingsnakes. Who da Kingsnakes? None other than Robert Plant, with Edmunds, Paul Martinez, and Phil Collins. That’s a pretty impressive line-up for a no-account flick like Porky’s Revenge.
THE FOUR TOPS: “Are You Man Enough” (from Shaft In Africa)
Another sequel. I don’t remember whether or not I’ve ever seen the original Shaft, but I certainly knew Isaac Hayes‘ title theme song. I did see some episodes of the TV series that eventually followed. And everybody knew that Richard Roundtree was badass in the role of the man that would risk his neck for his brother, man. 1973’s Shaft In Africa brought “Are You Man Enough” to AM radio, and it was my de facto introduction to The Four Tops. I retroactively discovered the group’s fantastic ’60s catalog, but it all started for me with this song from Shaft In Africa. Can you dig it?
HERMAN’S HERMITS: “A Must To Avoid” (from Hold On!)
When I think of rock ‘n’ roll movies, I don’t think of concert films or documentaries. I think of scripted flicks with some excuse for a plot (however slight), and pop idols singin’ their songs. I primarily think of star vehicles, like Sonny & Cher in Good Times or Bloodstone in Train Ride To Hollywood. As a kid growing up in the ’60s, I only saw two such films: the magnificent A Hard Day’s Night and the significantly less-great Hold On!, the latter starring Herman’s Hermits. I’m sure I liked Hold On! just fine when I was six or whatever; I tried to watch it as an adult, but could not get through it. On the other hand, the soundtrack LP has its moments, particularly this rousing pop put-down, a song spirited enough that my power pop Fave Raves The Flashcubes used to include it in their live sets circa ’78 or so.
DAVID JOHANSEN & ROBIN JOHNSON: “Flowers In The City” (from Times Square)
1980’s Robert Stigwood-produced Times Square was supposed to do for new wave music what Stigwood’s earlier success with Saturday Night Fever did for dat ole debbil disco: sell records, inspire pop culture, and generate a free flow of cold, hard cash. It did not do that. The few minutes of the film I’ve managed to catch in passing on TV support the prevailing opinion that Times Square was stuffy and overly serious in its tone. I think I’d still like to see it some day, and see what I think of it. The 2-LP soundtrack album is very good, comprised mostly of familiar gems by The Ramones,
Suzi Quatro, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, XTC, et al., all of which were available elsewhere, but which made an attractive purchase when bundled together in one pretty package. “Flowers In The City,” a duet between former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen and Times Square co-star Robin Johnson, is unique to the film’s soundtrack, and it’s terrific. It was released at the peak of my interest in Johansen, and it’s as great as nearly anything on his first two solo albums, and better than anything he did after that.
PAUL McCARTNEY: “Not Such A Bad Boy” (from Give My Regards To Broad Street)
Paul McCartney‘s Give My Regards To Broad Street may get a worse rap than it really deserves. It’s not bad, but it’s not in any way special, either. Well, let’s amend that a bit–even by itself, the presence of McCartney does make it sorta special. I should add this to the list of movies I oughtta watch again and re-assess. The soundtrack is mostly very nice, including a remake of “Ballroom Dancing” and the hit single “No More Lonely Nights.” The album approaches the transcendental with two of McCartney’s best tracks of the ’80s–“No Values” and “Not Such A Bad Boy”–which are not on any other album. Both tracks feature McCartney playing with an ace combo of Ringo Starr, Chris Spedding, and Porky’s Revenge wunderkind Dave Edmunds, and they’re just as solid as anything Sir Paul ever did after leaving the act you’ve known for all these years. In particular, “Not Such A Bad Boy” is such a confident rockin’ pop number, oozing with swagger and amiable panache. It’s aching for rediscovery as one of McCartney’s best.
Okay, the house lights are on. Clean up your concession-stand debris and head for the parking lot. And let’s pop in a rock ‘n’ roll movie soundtrack to accompany our drive home.
If you wanna read some half-baked notions of how I would have (in theory) slapped together a rock ‘n’ roll movie when I was younger, check out my proposed Bay City Rollers movie, or my quarter-baked fantasy of an ’80s update of The Girl Can’t Help It starring Bo Derek (the latter also featuring bonus discussion of a Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart TV series and a star vehicle for Ireland’s phenomenal pop combo The Undertones. I could rule the world if I had money. And ambition. And talent.
I have no difficulty recalling the first time I heard “I Killed Myself But I Didn’t Die.” I was seeing Ezra Furman and the Harpoons live for the second time. I had devoured and continually revisited “Inside the Human Body” the year before and now “Mysterious Power” had recently been released and in the weeks leading up to the show I had religiously listened to (and was in love with) it as well. The crowd was small, my friend and I were at the front, and Ezra was sloppy drunk.
As the band launched into “IKMBIDD” I was floored (1) because it was instantly delicious to my ears and (2) because despite having “MP” I was unfamiliar with the song. You see, I had downloaded “MP” (from possibly….no very likely, less than legitimate sources online) and for some reason “IKMBIDD” had been omitted. As a result, the song was unknown to me, until that moment.
As the lyrics to this song fell out of Ezra’s drunken mouth I felt simultaneously thrilled and sickened. The arrangement, lyrics, and instrumentation were just right. So catchy! Punk/pop cleverness! A bassline fit for Kim Deal. But “IKMBIDD” is not a subtle song. In the midst of my enjoyment I simultaneously felt sourness in my stomach. Here was a song about someone trying to end their life (albeit unsuccessfully) which covered both the reasons leading up to the decision, as well as the ramifications afterwards. In that moment I felt strongly that this song was not fictional. I was scared.
At that time I did not know Ezra but I already believed them to be extremely talented. It had been a very very long time since I had fallen so hard for an album or a band (especially something so current). Only two albums in, and already I knew that this was someone who (even if they didn’t know it, or acted like they didn’t know it, or knew it, but were afraid to know it) had the capacity to offer valuable contributions to music (and/or any other realm of their choosing). The idea that a person like this would take the option of opting out of life in order to avoid suffering resulted in immediate physical distress for me and a clench of the heart.
My brother-in-law is a person who can be described as charismatic, funny, clever, frustrating, smart, seemingly selfish, and continuously struggling (among other things). He also happens to live with bipolar disorder. From his mid-twenties to present he has oscillated daily/weekly/monthly/yearly between living and wanting not to live in order to avoid suffering. It is painful to watch, and I suspect a million more times painful to live it.
“IKMBIDD” is seriously one amazing pop song because it tells the story of a life experience that most of us would agree is up there as far as human trauma/suffering is concerned and yet arrives in your earholes with the most palatable of presentations. If/when Brian Wilson hears it I like to think he will be proud as he is another master of this technique.
I simultaneously adore and fear “IKMIDD”. It scared me the night I first heard it and I sometimes can’t listen to it present day. I’m so glad that my brother-in-law and Ezra are both alive. Although my contact with both of them is less frequent (for different/various reasons) than I would prefer I am lucky to know them both. Suicide is scary and it causes a ripple effect of pain and trauma. If you’re feeling like it is an option, please talk to someone and/or get help.
2. Taylor Swift song lyrics
I don’t have kids. But if I did and one of them idolized Taylor Swift I think I might feel some shivers of terror. Please, don’t get me wrong. I have the album “1989.” I listen to the songs and sing along. I turn the volume up. I’ve been known to wag my finger along sassily in the direction of no one in particular during “Bad Blood.” It’s also safe to say that I laugh out loud out with joy when her new song “Look What You Made Me Do” reveals itself suddenly from the speakers in my car.
But, HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE LYRICS?!?!
From “Blank Check”:
Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month
Wait the worst is yet to come, oh no
Screaming, crying, perfect storm
I can make all the tables turn
Rose gardens filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like
“Oh my God, who is she?”
I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
‘Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream
Because I write content for this blog for fun and because I don’t have a spare bajillion dollars laying around I’m sort of unable to fulfill one of my recent fantasies that involves me (1) going back to school where I (2) work on a Ph.D and (3) write a dissertation that extrapolates on the ways in which Taylor’s Swift’s lyrics match up with the diagnostic criteria for (pick one, pick any) personality disorder while (4) simultaneously working in some feminist theory and a splash of the history of how pop music lyrics are mirrors of societal sentiment in any given time period. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t tell you dear reader that the lyrics for “Blank Check” are essentially a checklist for Borderline Personality Disorder!!! This scares me.
Taylor’s newest song “Look What You Made Me Do” is equally as terrifying for it’s catchy as fuck chorus that vapidly (and earwormingly) repeats the title of the song over and over again. Any Intro to Psych student can tell you, this is projection. You can also call it by another name; cognitive distortion. These lenses, well I think we can generally agree that they cause a bit of suffering for all parties involved.
Pop music and mixed/concerning messages have forever held close hands. So I’m not sure why Taylor’s content is more concerning to me than say “Johnny Get Angry,” or “Sea of Love” or “One More Night,” or any given blues song that includes messages about violence directed towards women. It might be that I give older music a pass and think things like “Well in the 50s misogyny was rampant,” or “Yes, sometimes it seems like Phil Collins might have had some PFA worthy thoughts or actions but….” etc.
I guess what scares me about these Taylor Swift lyrics is that they seem to carry the same old twisted up themes but are being presented in what feels like a very deliberate (this is our marketing strategy and we are marketing personality disorder) way. Also, is this what young people are going to think feminism sounds like? Is a tenet of feminism the right to manipulate, control, and degrade our partners? Is it wrong to hope for more than the next generation thinking being a “nightmare dressed like a daydream” is something to aspire to? Is the goal of being intimate with someone really to get “drunk on jealousy” and keep them “second guessing”?
There is no doubt, love is tricky, difficult, confusing etc. Relationships even more so. But when I imagine the little people who are playing “Blank Check” on repeat and possibly mixing those messages into their own preadolescent or adolescent fantasies/realities I feel scared. I’m generally opposed to the type of logic which presupposes that artists or athletes should be held to a certain set of expectations due to being possible role models for children. Yet at the same I guess I just wish that we might be evolving in a different direction by this point in time.
Taylor, I don’t mean to scapegoat you. It feels like overall things are quite scary in our country these days and maybe it’s just easy for me to focus on you. Additionally I recognize my predilection to seek solace through music, so you’re sort of getting caught up in the crossfires of that need here. Your lawsuit against that guy who groped you was heroic. But, can you do me a favor and try to make your next hit song a little less scary?
3. “Mad Lucas” by The Breeders
In the spring of 1993 I have a very distinct memory of going to Camelot music with a person who at that time was a fairly new friend, but who is now a long-time friend, in search of new music. We had traveled about 30 minutes away from the cornfields that surrounded our neighborhoods and towards our local mall which was located in “the city” (as everyone liked, and I suppose still likes) to call it.
This was 9th grade. We were devoid of driver’s licenses and cars. Whichever parent (likely my Mom) transported us has been erased from my memory. What is still clear as day are the display racks at Camelot. Racks and racks of glossy, sealed, hot(ish) off the presses compact discs. We stood in front them, serious, studying, considering. We had money, but not much. Enough for each of us to buy an album. That meant dropping close to, if not more than, $20 each.
I chose the album “Live Through This” by Hole. She went with “Last Splash” by The Breeders. We knew that each of these albums contained at least one or two good tracks thanks to MTV, “Alternative” radio, and that bald headed music nerd turned everyone’s hero Matt Pinfield.
Here’s where (we thought) things moved from 90s and mundane to scary. Back at her house we followed our typical routine. Go immediately downstairs to her room in the basement, light some incense, listen to our newly purchased albums, lay on her waterbed, and talk about 120 Minutes, boys, and make up strange nuanced inside jokes that we (and only we) thought were genius! Hilarious! Hysterical!
Time passes so quickly when you’re talking about absolutely nothing but everything you’re talking about means absolutely everything. We had just finished enjoying the repetitively catchy “I Just Wanna Get Along” when suddenly there were strange noises coming out of her speakers. Spooky, fuzzy, buzzy, what the? sounds. Like someone was, in your room hiding in your closet or under your bed and they planned on murdering you, while singing, sounds. We stopped talking. I think I shouted “Skip it! Skip it!” She bolted upright, stood wide eyed, and immediately skipped the track. From that point on we had a rule. Never, ever, listen to “Mad Lucas.” It was too scary.
I listened to “Mad Lucas” multiple times recently as part of prepping to write this piece. Certainly the song is unusual. But scary? In hindsight, I’m not so sure why we got so freaked out. Except that, when you’re in 9th grade and you finally find a friend who is an equal match when it comes to levels of silliness and music obsession sometimes it is fun to have inside jokes. Lots of them. Even really nuanced jokes about “having” to skip a particular track on “Last Splash.” It felt good to share clothing, music, notes in class, knowing looks across a room, and also fear. The bright side to this story is that luckily (for us) we got into “Last Splash” before this same friend moved that thrift store chair, which we were convinced someone had died in, into her room. “Mad Lucas” and a haunted thrift store chair would have been simply too much for us. Boo!
The band FEAR. Where to start?
Do they confuse me? Yes!
Do I have anxieties about openly confessing my enjoyment of their music? Yes!
Do they scare me? Yes!
I got into FEAR after watching the Dave Grohl after school special “Sound City.” “The Record” may actually be one of the few punk albums that was produced and produced well (IMO).
Here’s what I want to believe. I want to believe that the homophobic and sexist lyrics on “The Record” are high level satire. I also want to believe that the FEAR performances featured in “The Decline of Western Civilization” are satirical. If this is the case, if FEAR was poking fun at some of the short sighted, adolescent, angry, and limited thinking which existed (and I’m sure still exists somewhere) in the punk community then they are the most amazing band ever to exist. I want to believe that their provocations and violence towards people in the crowd as featured in TDOWC is all tongue in cheek. Because, well, if it’s not, then I’m not exactly sure how I feel about FEAR.
“The Record” was re-released in 2012 and content and lyrics were edited in an attempt to erase the distasteful stuff. No one liked it. I haven’t even given it a try. The original album is just so nasty and good. Why would you mess with such a good thing?
In short, when it comes to FEAR I am in a never ending slam dance with myself. I lean into the satire idea because it comforts me from believing that I gain enjoyment listening to Lee Ving shout “I just wanna cum in your face! I don’t care if you’re dead” (shuddering as I type up those lyrics).
It has to be satire. Please, please let it be. Because otherwise, it really scares me.
5. Metallica + Driving
Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person from my small town who remembers the Metallica death legend. Occasionally, when I mention it to others I start to get a nagging feeling that I might be making it up. I suppose I should probably have talked to some other people from back home and fact checked this story, but since only a small handful of people will probably end up reading it I feel pretty much in the clear.
When you live in the country people tend to love their cars. They also tend to love to drive their cars fast. At night. On windy backroads. This results in accidents. When I was in middle and high school it seemed that they happened annually. Often they were minor but occasionally they were serious, and sadly, at times, fatal.
And so this brings us to the legend of Metallica. After several bad accidents that took place from the late 80s to early 90s rumors began to spread. Remember that time when Ozzy showed up at so and so’s door with blood dripping down his face in the middle of the night and asked her to call 911? They were listening Metallica that night….just before the crash. See that broken and bent telephone poll? That’s where so and so totaled their car. I heard they were listening to Metallica…..just before they crashed.
I never learned if there might be a specific album or song by Metallica that should be avoided at all costs if you are either driving, or being transported in, a vehicle. Hindsight is 20/20 and something tells me that teenagers+cars+loud music+being out late at night+a strong possibility of alcohol or other substances possibly being in the mix will inevitably result in car accidents. But logic does not always prevail. Only within recent years have I felt that it actually might be safe to listen to Metallica while driving. It isn’t easy to shake a legend.
We waited (with bated breath) during the first two years of starting this blog for followers. Now we’ve got some, and we’re feeling so guilty that we don’t have any letters to post at this present time.
Please be patient. We hope to have some new content for you in the coming year.
Thanks for your follow! In the meantime, please enjoy this:
I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about introspection – yours and mine, if that’s alright. Your album Blonde came out last year, in the hazy summer of 2016. There was a flurry of media coverage and hype that it would have been hard to miss, especially for someone with a twitter account as desperate to try and vaguely follow trends as I was. A lot has happened for me in the year since, and it looks like the same goes for you.
Amongst the press, countless youtube channel op-eds and recommendations from anyone, a conversation started during August or September. I gave it a listen. It was likely at around 6:45 on a saturday morning. I heard the album, listened a little, said ‘meh’ and moved on. My interest outside the folk and rock I’d grown up on was only just being born, and perhaps the percussion-less, airy atmosphere, and my unbearable high-minded derision of anything popular was just too much of a gap to jump when Blonde was first released. Now it would comfortably be placed in my top 2 albums of all time, and with a gun to my head, I think it would probably take top spot.
It’s clear the music didn’t change. Any album, but especially one as wholly tied-together as this, is a singular experience which does not change, regardless of who’s listening. But listeners do change, and the autumn and winter of 2016 were big months in my recent life. I prepared to leave school, and realised that soon my life would no longer be a graded performance. I left a relationship messily, and started going to parties more. These leave a young man with some questions. Undoubtedly ones many others have found the answers to before me, but ones that left me plenty to struggle over nonetheless. Frank, I’m sad to say it but your music is not the party kind. There’s little in the way of hi-hats, producer tags and basslines, and as poignant as they are, your lyrics will never bring a smile to my face as simply as ‘my new bitch yellow, she blow the dick like a cello’. But without those nights out, I would never have come to have the connection to your music I do now.
Being a teenager is an angsty mess, and being a teenager with important exams, going through a breakup and taking up drinking simultaneously? That’s about as disgustingly angsty as an angsty youth gets, and I’d like to take a moment to apologise, only partly jokingly, to the people who’ve gotten to know me in the past 9 months. There were several parties in a row left early. Several nights out cancelled, and more than a couple of nights polishing off a bottle of wine on my own and drunkenly stumbling home, regardless of the walk being 20 minutes or 3 hours. There was one lamppost hugged. On two occasions.
I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t think Blonde was an album built for the hype it received. After an insular few years hiding from a spotlight that begged you to return, what you gave was an hour of the most beautifully insular and introspective music a teen asking himself questions while drunk at 2 in the morning could ask for. I can’t tell you when exactly I picked the album back up, or why. I can’t tell you what drew me to it when walking through streetlights in suburban England. Your lyrics certainly weren’t what drew me in first. I’m a middle-class white boy from North London, and your stories of the fame and people changing as you grew offered me nothing to immediately hold on to – both fame and growing up were (are) distant possibilities. But sonically, I can find no better equivalent of a hug than the cushioned synths of ‘Nikes’, or the indescribably beautiful – I want to say whooshing sound? – marking the change halfway through ‘Nights’. In time I’d listen sober, listen while having emotional phone calls, listen while crying in my room – all your favourite cliches. I’d reach a point where the words you said became irrelevant, and the music served only as a background for my own episodes of self-questioning and reasoning. Then I’d circle back round and listen to the words you said with all the attentiveness I could, gleaning every possible scrap of information and constructing your world between my headphones, escaping from my own.
I never want to meet you, Frank. I’m not the greatest conversationalist, and we’re two people who could not have had less to talk about if we tried. You worked your way independently through an industry ready to block you at every turn, for any number of reasons. I have grown up with everything I need and am yet to know even what I want to do with my life, let alone apply myself to that path in any way. But in our secular worlds there’s a parallel, of late nights and a tendency to overthink and fantasise, and for expressing that emotion and atmosphere through music I cannot thank you enough.
I am sorry that I’ve never written to you before. I’m sorry that I never took pen to paper to scribble a fan letter, and I regret that I didn’t write about you at all during the decades I spent writing about pop music. I wrote about Gary Glitter. I wrote about Toni Basil. I wrote about Stars On 45, for cryin’ out loud. How silly does that seem now?
The thing is, I always considered myself just a casual David Bowie fan. I mean no offense when I say that you were never one of my very favorite artists. Because, casual or not, I was still a fan. I heard “Changes” on the radio, and had to own the 45. I delved a bit deeper when I got to college, starting (perhaps incongruously) with a used copy of PINUPS, and falling hard shortly thereafter for “Suffragette City” and your magnificent ZIGGY STARDUST album. I knew a couple of other disaffected teenagers who were big Bowie fans; one was a high school pal who adored the sense of alienation conveyed in the lyrics of “All The Madmen” on THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD, and the other was a college acquaintance into hard rock, metal, and David Bowie. The high school pal killed himself in 1979; the college acquaintance was a kleptomaniac with a heart of gold, and I betrayed his trust in a manner I still regret, almost 40 years later. Let me collect dust. Memories….
But if I was just a casual Bowie fan, why am I so sad that you’re gone? The news was a true shock, delivered to me in an email from my friend Gretta, under the subject heading “Bowie Departs.” I have even found my eyes stinging, watering–just a little–in memory of this artist, of whom I was just a casual fan.
And I think I’m starting to understand the reasons why.
More than any other artist, performer, or public figure I can think of, you made it okay to be different. You made it okay to be weird, or strange, or left-of-center. You made it okay to be gay, or straight, or neither, or both. You made it okay for anyone to be whomever his or her inner muse wanted to be. Sometimes it was a struggle, and sometimes our efforts would fail, but you made it okay for us to try our own way. Maybe you even made it okay to be a lonely, chubby teenager from the suburbs of Syracuse. Casual fan? I loved your music more than I even knew. I still have my copies of your ‘70s LPs; they have survived every drastic purge of my record collection, over a span of many, many years. Although I stopped buying your albums after 1979’s LODGER–casual fan, that’s me!–I had a chance to see you in concert in 1983, and you were terrific. I’ve been listening to your stuff again all week, including a few things I never really played much before. You influenced so many other artists I love, and you made wonderful, timeless music that will live on and on and on.
I took you for granted. I miss you now.
Many of us believe in forever. In your new digs, I’m sure you’ve already had a chance to re-connect with Mick Ronson, with old friends like John Lennon and Klaus Nomi, maybe Freddie Mercury, Lou Reed, or Andy Warhol, perhaps Bing Crosby…because, why not? I bet you’ve chatted with Salvador Dali and Arthur Rimbaud, and with Einstein, too. I hope you’ll have a chance to meet Buddy Holly, and James Jamerson, and Elvis, maybe play with all of them. You can play with Miles Davis, and Count Basie, and Hank Williams, and Bob Marley, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Caruso, and Leonard Bernstein–that would be really, really cool, and each would consider you a peer. Lemmy’s probably got it all set. Heaven must indeed have one hell of a music scene. We wish we could hear it down here.
But now, there’s a Starman waiting in the sky. Our minds have already been blown. And we mere mortals can only gaze upward, and note that the stars look very different today. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.
There is one thing you were wrong about. Unlike the spat-upon children you mention in “Changes,” I was not quite aware of what I was going through. I know better now. And I wanted to write you, just to say thanks. Thank you, David. Thank you for everything.
This letter originally appeared on this groovy/far out/outta sight blog (https://carlcafarelli.blogspot.com) after Mr. Bowie’s passing. But, Carl’s a cool guy and he writes cool letters so we’ve reblogged it (with his permission) for your reading pleasure.