You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

11 Jul

I sit home alone tonight. The hubby is off doing his film reporting duty at the annual orgy of pop culture geekdom, Comic-Con. Ever since Mr. Seibold became a full-fledged film critic a few years ago, we’ve slowly sacrificed more of our Paul-and-Linda level of desired togetherness to the altar of cinema. If he’s not attending a critics’ screening, he’s likely watching DVD screeners, or writing or podcasting about the movies he’s watched, or working his second job…at a movie theater. Some women are football widows or video game widows. I’m a movie widow. But hey, he’s doing what really constitutes his dream job. It’d be like if I woke up one morning and had somehow inherited Cameron Crowe powers.

What does this have to do with my usual ravings about music? Possibly not much, until you realize my husband could just as easily claim to be a live music widow, were he free on more evenings. For instance, I saw the same band in concert three days in a row last week – hooray for Minibar gigs. At practically every show I attend, I explain away Witney’s absence and insist that my wedding band isn’t a decoy meant to drive away creepy drunk guys. Continue reading

I’m The Only One

26 Apr

With a free evening, a jones to be creative, and about 8 different blog ideas floating in my head, I sat down tonight to write. Looking for music to scrawl by, I idly flipped through my iPod. I was suddenly shocked by how many artists are represented by just one song on the Pod, and in several cases, the only song I like – or even own – by the given artist. I’m not necessarily talking one hit wonders here, though I suppose there are a few of those. (Take a bow, “Under the Milky Way”, “Whoever You Are”, and “Flagpole Sitta”!) Download culture perhaps makes this more and more of a phenomenon for us all; why take a chance on a whole album when you can just go get the one song you dig? In my case, though, I tend to jump in feet first – see a band live, buy their CD practically unheard, etc. They may be represented by just one song, but I’ve surely heard many other songs of theirs. So, I’d like to take a brief moment to pay tribute to five of my favorites from the bands and singers who rocked my world…that one time…with that one song. All of the following songs still live on my iPod. Continue reading

It’s Got a Good Beat and It’s Easy To Dance To

18 Apr

CNN has been, for at least two hours straight now, honoring the life of Dick Clark, who passed away today of a heart attack at age 82.  I could wax rhapsodic about the man’s history on this blog, too, but the story’s pretty well-known, isn’t it?  American Bandstand host and producer.  Game show host, of programs like The $100,000 Pyramid.  New Year’s Rockin’ Eve emcee.  Instead (much like when Davy Jones passed even more unexpectedly), I’m compelled to offer some brief thoughts on three ways I’ll remember Dick Clark.

1.  He brought music into my living room.  Specifically, through American Bandstand he brought all sorts of modern music – pop, rock, R&B, dance, famously breaking down color barriers for artists on TV – into my grandmother’s living room.  When I was really young and living in a small town and my family was poor.  Some of my earliest memories are of being spread out on the cold cement floor, watching any and all music programs on that tiny television.  Saturdays seemed to be full of them, though my fuzzy memories could be mashing them all into one time frame: Soul Train, Dance Fever, Solid Gold, Puttin’ on the Hits.  (I couldn’t stay up late enough for the really cool stuff like The Midnight Special.)  My first glimpses of icons like Stevie Wonder (playing “Superstition”!), Tina Turner, and Elton John were on these programs.  I’m pretty certain the first time I saw the childhood dreamboats in Wham! and Duran Duran was on Bandstand, too.  And even if I didn’t catch those artists on Bandstand, that show obviously laid the foundation for the other shows to exist, and for artists to be seen as well as heard long before MTV blew those doors open. 

2.  That Barry Manilow “Bandstand” theme song.  The “Bandstand Boogie” tune was always American Bandstand‘s theme song, but appeared in instrumental form until 1977, when it was replaced by Barry Manilow’s version with lyrics about appearing on the show.  When you think about American Bandstand, this is likely the first thing that comes to mind – soon followed by Dick Clark sitting in the audience with the young dancers when introducing the week’s musical guest.  Or maybe you thought about the Rate-A-Record segment, when the kids ranked new singles on a scale from 0-100.  (“It’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to.  I’d give it a 75.”)  The theme song jumps to mind for me because it was catchy as hell, and because in high school, I had to dance a routine to this song.  Let me remind you all that I cannot dance.  I rarely even ever feel compelled to dance.  (Unless this is playing live in front of me.)  But I attempted to go along with choreography, along with about a dozen of my female classmates, in the service of trying to win the local level of the 1993 “Young Woman of the Year” pageant (formerly known as Junior Miss) and getting some college scholarship dough.  Unshockingly, I didn’t win, or even rank.  It’s more shocking that I even entered the pageant.  I really needed that money.

3.  He was immortal, and then he was too mortal.  The joke I always heard when I was a kid was about how Dick Clark never appeared to age.  He did look incredibly good for his age over the years, an eternal teenager.  Maybe being around all that youthful energy for decades kept him young?  Then came the debilitating stroke of a few years ago.  Everyone thought Clark was down for the count, but he lived to make public appearances again, most notably alongside heir apparent Ryan Seacrest on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve specials in recent years.  After his return, Clark was pretty much universally mocked by the press for his slurred speech and decreased mobility.  After all those years of being the closest thing pop culture had to a real-life Dorian Gray, it was like someone destroyed the painting in Dick Clark’s attic.  And it was startling.  He went from eternally young to incontrovertibly old in the blink of an eye.  I commend him for attempting to return to the stage, though; he wouldn’t have tried if the passion still wasn’t within him.

We may not have a musical innovator the likes of Dick Clark again in our lifetimes.  I’m grateful for the diversity, accessiblity, and sheer joy of music he spread across the nation.  I’d give him a 100.

Killing Me Softly With His Song

15 Apr

Will Knox, the current object of my musical affection.

You know that feeling you get when you’ve just met someone special, when you’re trying to be cool on the outside but on the inside, you’re doing cartwheels? That pervasive hope that, whatever this is, please oh please let it work out? I’ve realized over the past week that I get that way when I “discover” a new musician that I enjoy. They take over my ears, my brain, and the chunk of my heart reserved for such matters. Speaking with a new friend last night, I repeatedly used the word “obsessed” to describe my fandom over the years for four different artists. Yeah, that’s about right.

The musician-fan relationship can be very much like your typical romantic one. And I’m not even saying you have to have designs ON the musician to feel this way. (Though, Lord knows that’s happened; for example, I cultivated the hugest crush on Dave Gahan for roughly a month after seeing Depeche Mode live for the first time a few years back. The hubby probably was not a fan of our computer desktop’s wallpaper during that time.) This week’s obsession is a charming Brit-transplanted-to-NYC troubadour by the name of Will Knox. I saw Mr. Knox at Hotel Cafe last Saturday with a friend of mine from out of town, who’d seen and met him before and recommended him highly. Since then, that first flush of fandom has followed the beats of a rom-com. All that’s missing is Kate Hudson. Continue reading

I Don’t Wanna Rock, DJ, But You’re Making Me Feel So Nice

17 Mar download

Music fans like to pretend like we’re way fuckin’ cool. Each of us believes our tastes are unassailable, our collections immaculate. To quote LCD Soundsystem, “I’ve never been wrong – I used to work in a record store”. And really, I’ve never been WRONG. Even when I was way into Dave Matthews Band in the 90s. Even when I tried to make Antony and the Johnsons happen with my Shreveport friends and was promptly shut down. Even when someone gave me a free Milli Vanilli CD a few years ago, and I accepted it. Though I do worry about its adjacency to Rhett Miller, Minibar and the Minus 5 on my shelf. As if somehow, the scandal will ooze onto the more talented musicians’ records. I’d like to think that the Ministry CD will kick Rob and Fab’s asses if they get out of line. (I have a vivid imagination.)
I’ve never been wrong because, as I’ve stated many a time here in the pages of The Essential Noise, Music Is Subjective. I might hate AC/DC, but maybe AC/DC saved your life. You may rather poke your eardrums out with a grapefruit spoon than hear one note of R.E.M., which means we may not have much to talk about, but that’s your prerogative. And because I believe that Music Is Subjective, I have a rather hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of the musical “guilty pleasure”. Isn’t listening to any music that you enjoy a pleasure? Whether it made you laugh, cry, or pogo in your living room, you still most likely felt something good. It’s possible that the only true guilty pleasures in life come from cheating on your lover or your diet. Continue reading

Cheer Up, Sleepy Jean

1 Mar

Davy Jones, 1945-2012

Nope. I’m not going to do it. This is all hitting too close to home.

By this point, if you read this blog you have likely already heard that Davy Jones of the Monkees passed away, felled by a massive heart attack at the relatively young age of 66. Also, if you read this blog you likely know me, so you know how much I positively adore the Monkees. (The uninitiated can read about my quest to see them in concert last summer here.) Davy being the youngest of the Monkees, I never for a minute thought that he’d be the first one to go. I sat at the computer tonight with every intention of writing a tidy “In Memoriam” post…but it ain’t happening. Right now, there is simply too much love.

Continue reading

It Was Good Living With You

27 Feb

Past and present collide on a practically hourly basis at the Essential Noise home base. I may have an iPhone, a Twitter handle, and this here blog, but I also share space with LPs, DVDs, over 1,000 CDs and not one but two VCRs. This seems to be the case with my musical consumption as well; I’m just as likely to be listening to an artist I discovered last week as one that I discovered before I was old enough to vote. This was evident one recent Saturday, when I used live music streaming website StageIt – shameless plug: – to watch a Better Than Ezra concert. Continue reading