"I've Got The World On A String" – Michael Bublé
From the album Call Me Irresponsible
In my 33 years of life I've learned a couple of things, maybe. One of them is that no matter how incredible it seems, not everyone likes the same music I do. Its understandable that some people don't like a 33-minute improvisational jam on "Dark Star," or that others might cringe at the ultra twang of Hayseed Dixie's bluegrass versions of AC/DC songs. I get that. I've always gotten that. But it took me some years to realize that not everybody loves hearing Katrina & the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" played at loud volumes on a warm summer's day. Some people even don't like the Beatles, which ought to be a sin, if you ask me.
During my teenage years I used to blast my favorite songs at major decibels whenever I could. On road trips I'd bring a stack of tapes and get really annoyed if the group didn't want to listen to them for the entire ride. There's no accounting for taste, or something. I've since realized my folly and now I keep my music down, and plugged into my ears.
In our three month educational jaunt through Europe this past fall we lived in a nice, but relatively small housing facility. There was one fairly large dormitory and two small ones, a dining area, a small kitchen, a mid-sized classroom (with couches and a TV that made for a play room in its off hours) and a couple of bedrooms for the adults. It was a reasonable amount of space for a temporary residence, but packed with 31 students and six adults over three months it often got cramped.
I had dreams of spending a lot of time hanging out with the students, sharing music, schooling them on movies (I brought a stack of DVDs which included everything from Casablanca to Wild Strawberries) to playing games. I dedicated a good chunk of suitcase space to a few board games that I imagined everybody playing all the time. Reality, as it so often is, was entirely different than my imagination. I watched maybe two movies with them during the entire stay, and the one time I brought out my games I only got indifferent shrugs. The students were very busy with their studies but when they did have down time they were attached to their MacBooks (the university has some program where essentially every students gets a MacBook.)
They Facebooked, blogged and Skyped their friends and family back home. It was an odd thing coming into the dining area and seeing gobs of students gathered around the table not to eat, or socialize but sitting quietly staring into their individual screens. If they weren't Skyping then inevitably they had their earbuds plugged in listening to their own songs. Except Andrew. Andrew hadn't learned that lesson about how not everybody enjoys the same music. He kept his earbuds out and the volume turned up. On the few occasions when he didn't have his music queued up and playing loud (or as loud as a MacBook will play) he was singing. It was like our very own American Idol every night.
He adored Michael Bublé and played him on heavy rotation. I used to like to rile him up and complain that Bublé was just a poor man's Harry Connick, Jr. We'd argue and argue over it and eventually I'd retreat to my room and play music I liked. At first it irritated me to hear him play his music all the time. And once we got into it a bit because the boy had brought his MacBook on a train and was playing it there for goodness sake, but the students didn't seem to mind and so eventually I learned to let it go.
Secretly I learned to like Michael Bublé. He's energetic, sings the classics and isn't too obnoxious. He's really not bad at all. Though, it must be said, he sure ain't Sinatra.
"I'm Forrest…Forrest Gump" – Alan Silvestri
From the soundtrack to the film Forrest Gump
In high school I had a wonderful friend named Bryce who could do all sorts of marvelous things. Periodically he'd give me a call and invite me to the movies. Not the regular movies, but a special, mystery movie. He would now and again get free tickets in the mail to see a show before it got its official release. We'd show up at the theatre, bypassing the purchasing counter all together, and walk over to the ticket taker. He'd show his passes and we'd be personally ushered to a dark theatre at the back of the building. It wouldn't have any titles above the door, nor movie posters so as not to confuse the regular, paying patrons. We would walk in and take a seat amongst the other lucky winners, all with faces of excitement and mystery. Then the film would start and our experience complete.
I'm not really sure why Bryce got those tickets. We weren't asked any questions after the showing or sent any questionnaires. We just got to watch movies for free, a few days before it saw an official opening. Maybe it was to get word of mouth going. I don't know.
The two films I remember seeing were Forrest Gump and Braveheart. Both pictures won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Bryce never did tell me how he got the tickets or how often. I still wonder if the that tradition of seeing the Oscar winner through that service continued after I went to college. Man, we should have started placing bets every time he got a free pass. I could retire by now.
"I'm On Fire" – Johnny Cash
From the album Badlands A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska
I've always been an admirer or Bruce Springsteen, but up until a couple of years ago I was only a casual fan. What did it take to bring me from casual adoration to full-blown fanatic? A live concert, of course. We caught Springsteen in Nashville in 2008 on a whim. Fellow Blogcritics Mark Saleski and Josh Hathaway and been raving about Springsteen for ages, and especially how amazing he was in concert. One night I got an e-mail from Ticketmaster or Live Nation or whatever noting Springsteen's concert that weekend. After a quick chat with the wife, I bought tickets and we packed our bags.
I'll never regret it. We had terrible seats (upper level, behind the stage) but the show was spectacular. Springsteen knows how to work an audience like nobody I've ever seen. He's not only a great musician, but an incredible showman. He moved like a dancer. He spoke like a carnival barker and a preacher. He played like thunder. He was constantly reaching out to the audience, to touch his fans in the most literal of senses. Sometimes during a guitar solo he'd fall into them so that they were literally lifting him up. At one point, during "I'm On Fire" he grabbed a lady from the audience and danced with her.
From that moment on I was converted. I was part of the faithful. A true believer.
I love that power. There is truly nothing in this world like a great rock and roll concert.
That night, because we were in Nashville, I guess, he played a verse of Cash's "Walk the Line" which killed. This is a pretty good version of Cash doing "I'm on Fire" too.