“Love and Marriage” – Frank Sinatra
From Sinatra Reprise: The Very Good Years
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Am I the only one who thinks of the old TV show Married…With Children, when I hear this song? That show, trashy as it was, became my introduction to Sinatra. I suspect I'm not the only one who found old blue eyes through it. For that alone, you've got to give it some props.
I'm old enough to remember how Fox went from being a small, almost independent television station to being one of the largest networks around. They started as a weekend network running on Saturday and Sunday nights on my local station KOKI channel 23 in Oklahoma. Me and my brother loved both the New Adventures of Beans Baxter and the scandalous Women in Prison. Then there was the Tracy Ullman show (birthing the hugely successful Simpsons cartoon) and Married…With Children. Mom never let us watch that one what with the bad moral values, ugly language, and all the sex jokes. Me and my brother though would often sneak off into the bedroom and watch it.
I knew it was a rather dumb show even back then, but there was a certain dumb charm to it, and it starred Christina Applegate in a selection of tight, tiny skirts and that was more then enough to keep me watching each week. It was kind of thrilling to slip into the bedroom and turn on the Bundy's while mom was oblivious in the living room. Seems pretty tame now, and I suppose it is, but at the time it was illicit and exciting.
“R.O.C.K. in the USA” – John Mellencamp
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For a time I lived in Montgomery Alabama. That's nearly 800 miles from where I grew up in Oklahoma and that makes for a very long drive. I'd usually make it home about twice a year, once for Christmas and usually another time during the summer. I always made it in a day, and prided myself on best times. Once I made the trip making only one stop – just outside Memphis where I got gas, took a long leak, and bought some chicken from the gas station attendant. It took me a few years to realize that extending the trip just a little bit with rest stops every couple of hours actually made the trips seem shorter. The follies of youth I guess.
Periodically on those trips I'd find a riding mate. There was a strange amount of folks living in Montgomery that I knew who happened to have some connection to Oklahoma, and who happened to not have adequate transportation to get them there and were willing to ride along. I was always ready for the company.
There was this one girl, Carrie, who was as sweet as apple pie and just as pretty and also happened to be dating my soon to be roommate. We talked about them and she told me how she was schooling him on a successful relationship (and as it turned out broke up with him not long after). She liked the Garth Brook's song “Wolves” and laughed for the longest time over the near Conway Arkansas town unfortunately named “Toad Suck.”
Then there was Shannon who was a little butch and a lot of fun. She was from nowhere really, but maybe Inola, Oklahoma which was very near where I lived. I recall that because the exit off the main highway to my home also was the exit to Inola and underneath “Inola” someone had written “sucks.” I never went to that town except to pick up Shanon so I couldn't say whether or not that was accurate.
That was my very first time to drive the distance from Oklahoma to Alabama and the trip was miserable. It was made even longer by some construction in Arkansas and a detour to a small town that didn't know how to handle us. What was usually a 12 hour drive turned to about 16 and I thought I would die.
The best ride was with a girl whose name I can't ever remember (Sandy? Stephanie? dang, it sucks to get old). She was sweet and a good talker but who knew when to shut up. She looked punk rock but loved John Mellencamp. We became good friends my freshman year and hung out all the time. She was just the slightest bit strange, but in the best of ways. She had this tattoo on her arm that was part Yin Yang and part random symbols. The symbols actually stood for all her best friends and were of those friends choosing. I only remember one now and that was the moon from my then girlfriend.
By the end of that ride she told me that she wanted me to choose a symbol for her arm. I was incredibly touched and spent a great many days thinking about what could best represent who I am, and what would best look seared into a persons flesh.
I never did decide and soon we drifted apart. I can't help but wish we had stayed friends just a little longer so that I could have been a part of her, permanent like, even after our friendship died. Maybe then she might sometimes look at her arm and think of me. And smile.
I know I do of her.
“Layla” – Eric Clapton
It is hard to believe this album came out some 16 years ago. Geezum, I was that old when it came out. I've lived half my life since that album first hit the streets. That's a mind trip, that there is.
It was one of the first CDs I ever bought, and it remained a favorite for many years. I can't ever remember the last time I listened to it in full, and that's a shame.
I still remember being in Wal-Mart one day with my brother and mom and hearing my brother excitedly tells us about the CD revolution. It's gonna change the way we listen to music he said. It will last forever. You won't have to rewind! He was excited. Mom wasn't impressed. She said there would always be something new coming along and it was stupid to keep buying.
Neal wasn't having any of that and eventually bought a 5 disk changer. I inherited that changer when he went and joined the Navy. I loved that thing. I was just a teenager and a poor one at that, so it took me a while to fill it up. I remember the day I finally purchased my fifth CD and how happy I was that I had now filled the changer up. The sixth CD was even more precious because now I had to make a choice as to which music I wanted to listen too.
That seems funny and quaint now. With iPods that hold 160 gigs of information, and computer hard drives that hold more music than anyone can possibly imagine, being excited over six CDs seems positively old fashioned.
Here in Shanghai I have some 110 gigs of music on my hard drive. That's 25,000 songs and countless albums. That's 74 straight days of listening pleasure. Choosing a song or an album is just the click of the mouse. It has been nearly a year since I had to look though an actual CD collection and try to pick out what to listen too.
I don't mind really. I'm part of the revolution. I download more music than I purchase the old way. I now have more digital files than I do real CDs. I love my iPod and my iTunes. I adore being able to count the number of listens, and calculate which band I listen to more than any others.
I love it, but I still can't help but think that music gets cheapened with it. I remember saving up money to buy a CD. I remember the weight of it in my pocket, and the anticipation and excitement of going to the record store not knowing what treasures you'd find. Sometimes I'd go in knowing exactly what I wanted, but more times than not I'd just go in and see what caught my eye.
Going home, tearing the plastic off the disk, looking at the liner notes and waiting for those first notes to play was nothing short of magic. Sometimes the music soared, sometimes it stank. That was the game. The price you paid. It was always worth it.
Now without thinking I can download a song or an album or a discography. The cost is low and I make a lot more money. Buying or downloading an album just isn't the same anymore. I have dozens of albums on my hard drive that I haven't even listened too.
I don't know what any of this means. I don't have an answer. I love that I now have access to more music than ever. The Internet is a great place to find new music and to get it cheap. Yet I can't help but feel nostalgic for a time when I had to save up and make the hard decision over which album I wanted to take home.
“Shake it Off” – Wilco
From a concert in Indianapolis – 6/15/2007
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I attended this concert right before me and the missus left for China. It was a show full of emotion. Wilco is one of my favorite bands and they never fail to please in a live setting. They brought cheers of joy and excitement, but mixed in was the sadness of leaving home, the trepidation of the unknown, and the hurt of things too personal to write.
We had lousy seats. We were in the last row of the balcony, off to the corner with only a partial view. Still though the band brought it, and all those mixed emotions rolled off when they were playing. I stood with my hands up, pounding out the beat on one of the ceiling beams even while my wife was telling me to put them down due to pit stink.
For whatever reason a few of the folks in the audience decided to add their own quirks to the song by shouting “woo” in the off beat to the chorus of “Shake it off.” It caught on, and that quick so that before the song ended the entire audience was singing along. It was a joyous moment, and a reminder to the power of music. Here was a group of thousands gathered together to share with one group of musicians their songs. Here was a bounty of strangers singing the same improvised lyrics, grooving to one beat. That's magic man. It was enough to make me forget all my troubles, if only for a moment.