Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love and Music

George Harrison...of course.
I watched the Grammy's the other night, and it crystalized for me how generally out of touch (Hall and Oates, 1984) I am with current music.

Sure I've heard of some of the names, and maybe even some of the songs, but overall, I'm lost. I'm not the target demo.

Quick side notes: Kanye West made an ass of himself, and in no way should Paul McCartney ever be a backup singer for Kanye or Rhianna.

Anyway, I found myself thinking about music. I still love it in the way that I love baseball. It's one of the passions of my life, whether I'm out of touch or not.

I'm often overwhelmed by my collection (numbering roughly 20,000 songs) so I sometimes don't know what to play, or play the same things occasionally. But I love the power of a song (and the Power of Love, 1985), and those who have read this blog (I hate that term, but it is what it is) know this.

Music takes me places. It reminds me of things. There's a song in my head every morning. It's the secret thing I would have done had I not screwed up my life by going into radio.*

* I didn't really screw up my life by going into radio. Well, maybe.

Of course, it can remind me of bad things also. Jon from R-Va gave me a Bruce Springsteen album in late 2007. I decided, given what was occurring in my life at that time, to give it one play and then shelve it until that era was over. For whatever reason, that's the only time I've ever played that album.

I go through phases. Since the late 2000's, I've largely not listened to U2, The Police, or the Eagles. I have my reasons, and they make sense. It's just the way it goes.

I mentioned love in the title of this post. I suppose I don't mean love in the traditional sense (so let's not overanalyze this). What I mean is loving to share music with people. When somebody tells me that they really don't know The Black Keys or George Harrison, I'm all about sharing that. I think that's exciting. Maybe it's the educator in me. I don't really know.

I love jumping into a spirited debate about music (or sports and so on). I recently had one regarding one mans list ranking every Billy Joel song. It's a fun exercise.

To his credit, Christopher Bonanos didn't select "Piano Man" as number one, though I'll let you read it for yourself. I thought he gave gems such as "She's Right on Time" no love, and that's the beauty of it. It's subjective.

Chris Kaelin detests Bruce Springsteen (yes, that's the proper spelling). To me, it's further proof that he's nuts, but opinions are valid. Some don't like The Beatles (blasphemy!) but that's their thing. By comparison, I'd be torn as to what I'd rather do: listen to "Shake it Off" on replay or anything by JC Mellancamp. Or just be water tortured.

I don't worship Michael Jackson or Lionel Richie. At the same time, I recognize talent. That's where I suppose the debate takes a turn. At least understand that there's talent. You might not get it, and that's fine. Just understand that some became popular for a reason. I'll never understand New Kids on the Block or Justin Bieber, for instance, but more power to them, I guess.

Yet as time goes by (you must remember this...) opinions change. Tastes change. Many songs in the 80s that I didn't like are remembered fondly now. Though some things never change ("shooting at the walls of heartache" lead me to want to shoot myself).

And there are great "guilty pleasures." You may go for Barry Manilow, while I cranked "Don't Pull Your Love" by Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds (1971) last night. We all have our thing. A verrrrrrry singable song for me.

On a different topic, I've begun to wonder if my concert-attending days are over. I don't have anyone to go with, for one thing, though that's not an end-all, be-all, but I've always believed that, as sacred as I hold music, it's something I want to share with a significant other. I love Paul Silverfarb, for instance. He's a great friend. But he's also happily married to Beth, and should go to shows with her. If I have someone, then OK, we can double date.

I want to share Huey Lewis, or Bruce, or McCartney, with someone. MY someone. Don't you want somebody to love? (Jefferson Airplane)

But there's more. Tickets have become overpriced (I just looked at attending a show by former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams: $69.50!). Parking is obnoxious. Or transportation in general. I guess what I'm saying is a lot of factors go into it.

Would I like to go see Billy Joel again? Sure. With whom, and will I need a mortgage?

Sometimes I also wonder if, as sad as it is, was my ONE Springsteen show enough? I can't afford the tickets (that's been established) and maybe it's just as well to walk away when I caught him in '99. I didn't deal with Patti Scialfa hatred (yes, it's real) or disgust that Gary US Bonds, Tom Morello, Bruce's political stuff or some other factor out of my control sullied a potentially great night.

Maybe I'm just happy at this point seeing the smaller venues, and supporting people who are just trying. It's nice to see the cover band who is doing their best in a dimly lit bar and the guy who is playing his original stuff trying to get noticed.

Plus so few shows are just about, you know, the music. There are too many examples to cite. I'm a big show up and play type of guy. You play. I'll sing, wobble (I can't dance - Genesis), and hold my love. It works.

I went to great shows. Bruce in '99. Huey in '87 at MSG. Macca in '09 at Citi Field. The Eagles in '94 at Giants Stadium. I didn't go to that many shows (for various reasons) and I'm left to feel I'm not a real fan because I wasn't willing to put myself into a deeper poor house, but I cherish those I went to.

Of course, when you say you're a Bruce fan, you're overall mocked if you dare to say you've seen less than 20. That's a cross for me to deal with. I have my 10 HLN shows and I'm just fine with that. Just see them once, folks. Nobody is every disappointed.

I also went to a few dogs: Sting at Jones Beach and U2 (yep) at MSG in '05. They both had their reasons for being blech, but so it goes.

None of this deters me from loving music. Maybe I'll get back to attending shows. Who knows?

But it won't change. There's magic in the night.

I still love making a mix tape (though now it's a playlist for your iPhone). I'm always reminded of the fabulous book, Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, and I will never be able to recommend that enough. Though I bought it for someone else at a different time in my life, I remember it hitting on so many pertinent things for me. It's basically the story of his time with someone he loved so dearly.

There are quotes from that book that have stayed with me. These are some good ones:
"It’s the same with people who say, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn’t kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you incredibly annoying."
"Unlike me, Renee was not shy; she was a real people-pleaser. She worried way too much what people thought of her, wore her heart on her sleeve, expected too much from people, and got hurt too easily. She kept other people's secrets like a champ, but told her own too fast. She expected the world not to cheat her and was always surprised when it did."
"I know people for whom music is just background noise. They don’t listen to it. They just consume it. These people have never made a mix-tape for anyone. These people are not my friends. These people have no soul.”
For me, this is probably the money quote:
“I realize that I will never fully understand the millions of bizarre ways that music brings people together.” 
So as we glance towards Valentine's Day, the much-loathed and overrated clusterbleep that it is, let us pause to remember the role that music plays in love, in life, in good, and bad times.

I leave you with Frank Sinatra, and arguably one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, as performed by the master of interpretation. These feelings are so known. So relevant. So real. We've probably all had them.
"I'd sacrifice anything, come what might, for the sake of having you near. In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night that repeats in my ear: Don't you know, you fool? You never can win. Use your mentality. Wake up to reality. But each time I do, just the thought of you, makes me stop before I begin. 'Cause I've got you under my skin."
Perfection, with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1965.

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