condescending twatbags, fake news, music, politics, poor judgment, stupid people

A profane downloading frenzy I engaged in after reading about Mike Lindell, the My Pillow Guy…

Today’s post is full of profanity. Proceed with caution. Also, it’s true that yesterday was National Kool-Aid Day. Go figure!

I have a very strange sense of humor sometimes. I find the oddest things funny. Or, I will laugh uproariously for hours over something dumb. Sometimes dumb shit will make me do things that are kind of odd. Such was the case yesterday.

Several years ago, when I was still living in the house from hell, I made an iTunes list I call “Fuck you”. It basically consists of songs in my library that are profane. Not all of the songs in that playlist have the word “fuck” in the title, but an awful lot of them do. I probably felt compelled to make the playlist after being yelled at and blamed, once again, by our ex landlady. By the way, I see in my Facebook memories that it was seven years ago today that we decided to move into her hovel. This was what I had to say about that…

Notice how I put “delightful” in quotes. Even then, I had a feeling. This is a lesson to the wise– to listen to your gut. I knew it was an act even then– in spite of her efforts to put her best face forward.

Anyway, as I was reading about Mike Lindell’s legal problems, thanks to his decision to meddle in the elections, I was inspired to re-visit that playlist. I went on an iTunes downloading binge, buying songs entitled “Fuck that guy.” Because that’s what I had to say about Mike Lindell. Seriously? Fuck that guy. Fuck him!

Fuck that guy!

Mike Lindell is probably about to be sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion has accused Mr. Lindell of spreading ridiculous lies and reckless untruths about the company and its voting machines. This week, a judge has agreed that Mr. Lindell has “made his claims knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.

Lindell also promised that by yesterday, Joe Biden would voluntarily step aside and allow Trump to be reinstated after he proved that China interfered in the 2020 Presidential Election. Of course, not only did that not happen, but it wasn’t fucking true. Moreover, what Lindell was proposing, and stirring up the MAGA folks about, was a literal impossibility in the way our government is run. Even if Joe Biden stepped aside, that wouldn’t have necessarily meant Trump would be reinstated.

Mike Lindell isn’t a particularly good student of history, is he? He’s not the first person to predict “end times” by setting a specific date and time for the world to end or some other catastrophic and earth shattering event to occur. It’s never worked out that way for any other group or individual. They say something big will happen on such and such a date, and it never does. And then the person or group looks like an even bigger asshole than they already are. As you can see, Lindell’s predictions did NOT come to pass. How many people are shocked? I’m sure not.

I might be able to laugh about all of this, except that idiots like Mike Lindell stir up all the crackpots in America… the conspiracy theorists and conservative whackjobs who aren’t afraid to be violent to try to stir up trouble. And so, the people who have to deal with the masses, who get wound up over the absurd idea that Trump could be reinstated, spend the whole summer on edge, waiting for the shoe to drop. So seriously? Fuck that guy.

I ended up downloading five different songs called “Fuck That Guy”. They range in quality. I’m currently listening to an album called Wreckless Abandon by a band called The Dirty Knobs— turns out it’s Mike Campbell’s band. I had never heard of them before yesterday, and in fact, didn’t even listen to a sample of their music before I bought their album. So far, of all the “Fuck That Guy” songs I downloaded yesterday, I like theirs the best. I also like their album. It’s pretty good…

Where have they been all my life? Heh heh… well, actually, since this is Mike Campbell’s band, they’ve been around. Mike Campbell is best known as Tom Petty’s right hand man in the Heartbreakers. No wonder I like them!

The above song is pretty good, too… because it’s basically about COVID-19 deniers and fucking inconsiderate dickheads who have no regard for other people. Mike Lindell is definitely on the list of guys who need to go get fucked. And I find listening to this song very satisfying.

This is another one I downloaded. It’s not bad, but it kind of pales with Mike Campbell’s song.

I am so tired of obstructionists. I wish people would just cooperate. I’m tired of greedy, selfish, inconsiderate, and rude people who try to get over and are more interested in money and power than making things better for everybody. Mike Lindell is at the top of the list of people who need to get fucked. I don’t know anything about his pillows. I’ve heard they suck… but even if they were the greatest pillows available, I wouldn’t buy one. Because the man who makes them is someone who needs to fuck off and quit interfering with U.S. politics. He’s like a “dry drunk”… maybe he’s not using substances anymore, but he acts like he still is. Lindell’s symposium event was bizarre and stupid, and it seems to be more about selling products than proving election fraud. I’m confident that Dominion is going to clean Mike Lindell’s proverbial clock in court. And I look forward to watching it.

I don’t usually advertise albums, but this one is a good one. Should you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon link, I will get a small commission from Amazon. Let’s hear it for drunken downloads, especially when they’re profane.

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love, music, songs

… and cool, fresh, gender roles… My man is no knuckle dragger…

The other day, I was putting together my most recent jigsaw puzzle, listening to whatever Siri will play on the HomePod. For some reason, Siri won’t play specific albums or artists right now. Instead, I get a hodge-podged shuffle of my entire, very eclectic music library. One minute, I’m listening to opera or classic English hymns. The next minute, I hear Led Zeppelin or Rhonda Vincent. I have extremely BROAD musical tastes, and you’ll find a sample of just about everything on my iPod.

A lot of the music I have is classic stuff I grew up with, but I also have a lot of other stuff I download on a whim. Quite a lot of my downloads are what I refer to as “drunken downloads”… meaning I’m a bit lit when I decide to make a purchase. Consequently, I have a LOT of music from obscure artists. I’ll hear something I like and impulse buy. Such was the case on the day I discovered singer-songwriter Dar Williams. Fortunately, Bill doesn’t mind that I do this. In fact, he often appreciates my drunken downloads.

Such a pretty song. This is a live, solo version.

I don’t remember what day it was that I first heard her warm, comforting vocals. What I do remember was that she was singing with Alison Krauss, another singer I admire. I downloaded the song and it would occasionally come up on my shuffle. I’d think about how beautiful the melody was and how she and Alison were blending together.

Then one day, I got lit and downloaded another one of her albums, 2010’s Many Great Companions. I don’t remember why I downloaded it, and in fact, I don’t think I’ve even heard the whole thing. But there I was, a couple of days ago, listening to my HomePod and furiously finishing the 1000 piece puzzle I’d been working on for a couple of months (I had quit working on it for a few weeks). Dar Williams came on Siri, and I heard the incredibly moving song “When I Was a Boy” for the first time. It made me stop in my tracks.

I love this song… it’s deep on so many levels.

This song’s lyrics are incredibly profound to me. I went on YouTube to find a video so I could share it with friends. I noticed a lot of transgendered people had left comments on this video. The song really spoke to them, too, probably in ways I can never fathom. Of course, I am not transgendered myself, but I still really related to this. I was a tomboy as a kid, but later became more girly. I have never wanted to accept strict gender roles, though. I wasn’t one to fall into a specific role simply because I’m a woman, and I don’t necessarily expect that of other people, either.

Two or three days passed. My post got maybe two likes, both by people who like everything regardless. I was delighted this morning to find a comment from Lisa, a wonderful musician friend, who was once my accompanist when I was studying voice and is now herself a piano professor at the university that granted me my bachelor’s degree. She posted that she loves this song, too. It’s funny, because back in the early 90s, we didn’t know each other that well. I always suspected that back in those days, she thought I was obnoxious and weird. Her husband is also a music professor. He plays saxophone brilliantly and taught me sight singing. They are very cool, talented people, but when I saw them on a daily basis, I didn’t get to know them that well. Now that we’re on Facebook, she and I have discovered that we love a lot of the same music. Sometimes, it’s uncanny how close our tastes run.

Anyway, I got so excited that someone else liked Dar Williams that I shared Dar’s video with Bill. By the time the song was over, we were both in tears, profoundly moved by the lyrics, the music, and Dar’s voice. It struck me as pretty awesome that I could sit there at the breakfast table with my husband, play him some music, and share the emotions that came from hearing it. There was something really special about relating to that song with Bill– a sense of solidarity, closeness, and mutual understanding.

There we were, discussing how complex and incredible “When I Was a Boy” is… and sharing tears because we were both so moved by it. It occurred to me how lucky I am on so many levels… to be able to share this with Bill and talk about this and anything else with him over breakfast that he made for me. And that I have so many incredible, wonderful, talented friends who share this joy with me too, even if I was weird and obnoxious… and still am. I often have a bad attitude about things. I get depressed and hopeless, and feel like I haven’t amounted to much… or I write about how some jackass was mean to me because he thinks I’m fat and ugly and my only redeeming quality is a pretty singing voice. But then I have experiences like the one Bill and I shared today, and I realize how fortunate I am.

I am so grateful I married a guy who is in touch with his feminine side and can relate to Dar Williams’ poignant lyrics about how she was “a boy” as a little girl who liked climbing trees, getting in fights, and running around topless. And how, at some point, gender roles are forced upon us. Suddenly, Dar wasn’t tough enough to walk home alone and needed help from a “nice man”, even though she’d cut her teeth on playing with boys and knew how to fight.

Conversely, Bill talked about how men are always expected to be “on”. They aren’t allowed to cry or be emotional, and how so many people think men can’t be abused simply because they are men. They are expected to fix things and solve problems, with no tears and a minimum of fuss. We’ve talked about all of this before, too. The truth is, I have a lot of “male” qualities… it mostly comes out in my language and humor. I’m probably “tougher” in some ways than Bill is, despite his Army officer history. Bill, by contrast, is more of a soft touch. He’s kind, loving, and nurturing in ways I’m not, despite my bleeding heart social work/public health/writer/musician history. I used to cry a lot more than I do now. I can’t do that anymore, for some reason. Bill, on the other hand, can cry with ease.

Life is so strange. I met Bill in a place where one is very unlikely to find a life partner. I certainly never thought I’d meet him offline, and if you’d have asked me if I would have married him back in 1999, I would have laughed incredulously. In fact, the first time he asked to meet me, I was very reluctant and scared. But then it turned out he was this wonderful guy… a wonderful, intelligent, kind, sensitive, ethical guy, who would never hesitate to support me. I thought about the type of men I was exposed to growing up. A lot of them were perfectly decent people, but they would not care about a song like “When I Was a Boy”. They wouldn’t want to discuss current events with me. And they would expect ME to cook the grits. Some of them would not appreciate my greying hair or ample figure. They wouldn’t care about my writing or my music. And they sure as HELL would not cry over a song with me, especially one about gender roles.

I remember when Bill and I were dating. My sisters warned me about marrying a military guy. More than I had, they experienced the military lifestyle as kids. They knew it meant moving a lot, and putting up with some of the obnoxious sexism that can run rampant in military communities. They figured Bill, as an Army officer from Arkansas/Texas/Tennessee (he moved more than I did, and he wasn’t a military brat), would be a “knuckle dragger”. I was warned that I shouldn’t consider marrying Bill because, I guess, they figured I couldn’t choose my own spouse. I am, after all, the youngest of four. It’s true that a lot of their fears about the military lifestyle came to pass.

My planned career, that I worked so hard to train for and spent so much time and money on, went down the toilet. I have also seen a lot of people who fit the description of military guys that they knew, and if I had married one of them, I would probably be divorced today. And marrying a divorced guy with kids, particularly one whose ex wife is as batshit crazy as Bill’s ex is, is certainly a risky endeavor. But looking back on all the years that have so quickly passed, I realize that I could not have custom ordered a better partner for myself. I did just fine in choosing Bill, and I am so very grateful I took the plunge and met him offline… and married him despite all of the well-meaning advice to the contrary that I shouldn’t.

So… I love that man, and I love that we can share Dar Williams, and the emotional tears that came from her incredibly poignant music. I don’t know how it is that I got so lucky finding Bill in a chat room back in 1999. But I’m so glad I did… and I’m so grateful to friends like Lisa, who share a love for the same music, too. I’m also grateful that I went to Longwood University, which was not my first choice school. It was there that I was encouraged to study music, and there that I met Lisa and her husband… and twenty-six years later, I’m still remembered. That is amazing! I must be doing something right.

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Ex, musings

Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man…

Every once in awhile, when the weather is rainy and dark and Bill is at home, we like to have a leisurely breakfast while listening to music. This morning, it was a live album I bought by the late Allen Toussaint. Released in 2013, Songbook is just Allen on his piano, playing wonderful music. Although I’ve been exposed to Allen Toussaint’s music all of my life, I never bothered to listen to him just by himself. The closest I came was in 2007, when Bill gave me The River in Reverse, an album Toussaint made with Elvis Costello the year after Hurricane Katrina wiped out Toussaint’s home and recording studio in New Orleans.

I loved The River in Reverse. We were living in Germany the first time when Bill presented it to me. In those days, I had an elliptical machine that I used sometimes in a futile attempt to burn fat. We set it up in the mother-in-law suite in our house, along with a TV and an old school stereo with a cassette and CD player. I think it also had a USB portal, but in those days, I wasn’t USB savvy. Anyway, even though I loved The River in Reverse, I never explored Allen Toussaint further until recently.

I have Keb’ Mo’ to thank for re-introducing me to Allen Toussaint. I recently purchased a second copy of his wonderful live album, The Hot Pink Blues. I already had that album from iTunes, but thanks to upgrading to Catalina, my music library is a bit fucked right now. I have a Bose speaker that works well with Amazon Music, so I’ve found that it’s easier to just buy another copy from Amazon of the albums I really love. Allen Toussaint’s Songbook was a suggestive sell… and I’d probably been drinking (I’m really great at “drunken downloads”). So I downloaded Songbook and it was the musical backdrop for us this morning after I listened to Allen’s thirteen minute version of “Southern Nights”. By the time he’d finished, I was a bit weepy. I had to share it with Bill, who also got verklempt listening to Allen Toussaint describe his childhood in Louisiana. Bill and I both come from rural southern roots, so the story he told resonated with us.

No story telling in this version, but you can hear Toussaint’s evocative piano playing. I compare it to Pat Conroy’s vivid writing style. Allen Toussaint doesn’t even have to sing. The piano playing tells the story. Bill is distantly related to the late Glen Campbell, too. Glen Campbell made “Southern Nights” a huge hit.

I was also made emotional by Toussaint’s lovely piano playing. Playing piano was effortless to him and, I could tell, making beautiful music was a passion and a joy for him. I was thinking about what a privilege it must be to have the power to make total strangers misty at the beauty of music you’ve made. I have had a few people cry when I’ve sung, but they’re mostly people who love me anyway. I never met Allen Toussaint when he was alive; I never made it to a single one of his shows. But listening to his music this morning felt very intimate. I could relate to where he’d been. He made me cry.

Allen Toussaint was fortunate enough to die at a “good age”… and he didn’t spend weeks sick and dying in a hospital bed. Instead, he played his last concert in Madrid, Spain, then died of a heart attack in his hotel room. He left behind a treasure trove of wonderful music that still makes people feel things and sometimes get a little weepy.

Bill and I love to sit around, drink wine, and listen to great music, especially when the weather sucks. We’ve had some great conversations this way. Fortunately, we have compatible tastes in music and he’s very open minded to hearing new things. He’s often told me I greatly expanded his musical repertoire, which was not an experience he had with his ex wife. She liked Top 40 and pop country, and ridiculed Bill for liking alternative and grunge music. She claimed he was just trying to be “hip”. Instead of being a unifying thing, music was something to fight over in their relationship.

Ex would use music to belittle Bill. She’d play songs as a means of showing what kind of man he should be. He can’t stand listening to “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams or “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, because those were songs Ex ruined for him. Or she’d make up insulting lyrics to hit songs as a means of putting him down. It got to the point at which Bill would respond in kind. Like, when she’d sing “Never Gonna Get It” by EnVogue, he’d respond with “Really don’t want it.” Or he’d hum “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull when she was around.

I don’t think music should be used as a weapon. I love it too much to use it to hurt other people.

As we were talking over Allen Toussaint’s music this morning, the subject of conflict came up. Bill doesn’t like conflict, which has led him to a lot of trouble. Some of the problems he’s had come about due to not wanting to fight have been very serious. For instance, on the day he married his ex wife, he knew the marriage would fail. He had voices in his head telling him he shouldn’t marry her. They even fought on their wedding day. But instead of disappointing his ex wife by calling off the wedding, they married and spent almost ten rocky years together. It’s taken years to mostly undo the mess, which has affected a lot of innocent people.

As we were talking about how sometimes fighting is the right thing to do, I was suddenly reminded of a classic hit from 1979. Written by Roger Bowling and Billy Ed Wheeler, “Coward of the County” was made famous by Kenny Rogers, who sang as if he was the uncle of a young man named Tommy whose father died in prison when he was ten years old. Tommy’s father told him not to get into trouble. He didn’t want his boy to die in prison. He made Tommy promise to “turn the other cheek” and avoid fights, even when he really wanted to knock the hell out of someone. Tommy faithfully honored his promise to his dad, and let others walk all over him. Everyone in the county called him “Yellow”.

Then one day, the “Gatlin boys” came calling. They assaulted and gang raped Tommy’s girlfriend, Becky. When Tommy found his love battered, bruised, and shattered by the three brothers’ brutality, he was torn between wanting to avenge Becky and stop people from calling him “Yellow”, and honor his promise to his father that he would stay out of trouble. Tommy makes up his mind, goes into town, and puts all three Gatlin brothers out of commission. It’s not clear if he used his fists or a firearm, nor do we know if the boys were killed or just knocked out cold. Then Tommy says that he’s always tried to walk away from trouble when he can. But sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.

A classic song… even though one of the songwriters supposedly had a feud with the legendary singing group, the Gatlin Brothers. The legend goes that songwriter Roger Bowling said, “Fuck you, Gatlin.” to Larry Gatlin when he congratulated Bowling for winning an award for one of Kenny Rogers’ other hits, “Lucille”. Interesting story.

I couldn’t resist playing it for Bill, who smirked and said, “It’s kind of a cheesy song.”

I disagree. It’s 40 years old and still resonates. As Bill pointed out, they made a movie out of it. There’s a lot of truth in the lyrics, too. Sometimes you have to get in a minor conflict now to avoid a major one later. It would have been better if Tommy could have been more assertive when he was younger. Maybe those Gatlin boys wouldn’t have had their way with Becky. Maybe Tommy wouldn’t have had to dispatch them in such a dramatic way. We wouldn’t have been left with such a classic song or story, either.

After listening to the song, Bill agreed it wasn’t so cheesy after all. Especially as we face down another week here in Germany.

We finished our coffee and Bill took Arran for a walk. Now he’s at AAFES looking for board games to play and a jigsaw puzzle for us to do today while he cooks a rib roast for dinner. I think it’s going to be one of those “easy like Sunday morning” days… even though “Easy” isn’t really a happy song, is it?

So glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s, even if it does mean I’m getting old.

It’s amazing how music can help you solve your problems. It relieves stress, lubricates conversation, makes you move, and even helps you cry when you need it. What a gift it is to have wonderful music to listen to on a rainy Sunday. I bought a bunch of stuff last night and this morning, so we’ll probably have some great conversations today.

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nostalgia

Bruce Springsteen always reminds me of high school…

Last night, I decided to download a comprehensive album of Bruce Springsteen’s music. I had just listened to his latest album, Western Stars, and then one from the pinnacle of my youth, Born in the USA. I had a sudden urge to hear “Hungry Heart”, and rather than fetch my iPod or move up to my office, where my whole, vast musical collection is stored, I decided to just order another Springsteen compilation. Bill and I sat there and listened in our German Eckbank Gruppe (corner booth) and I was suddenly transported to my 14th year.

This NEVER gets old… even as I do. “Hungry Heart” was released when I was about 8 years old.

When I was fourteen, Springsteen was at the top of his game. I got my dad to buy me his Live 1975-1985 box set for Christmas. I had it on cassette tape and, along with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album, I used to wear out those cassettes, riding my bike to and from the barn where I boarded my horse, Rusty. It got to the point at which I had the whole box set memorized, right down to the stories Springsteen told about facing the Vietnam draft, and fights he had with his father over his rock n’ roll lifestyle. I was definitely a true fan.

As the years passed, I stopped listening to Springsteen so much, especially when his sound changed. I think it happened in the early 1990s. I was in college and had started discovering new music, thanks to my stint as a radio DJ and unofficial music studies. The faculty members of Longwood University’s music department kindly gave me the opportunity to study voice privately and join their auditioned choir, The Camerata Singers, even though I wasn’t a singer until I came to college. Being in a choir and studying voice introduced me to music I had never heard. I had limited time and even more limited funds, so old interests went by the wayside. Prince, another one of my obsessions during adolescence, suffered a similar fate. I stopped listening to him at around the same time I quit listening to Springsteen.

When I was a high school senior, this was probably my favorite song.

When I got older, I had more time and more money… and I started listening to and buying those old albums I missed. Last night, as I heard Springsteen’s familiar, evocative lyrics, and the familiar cadences of his best known songs. I was suddenly reminded of being fourteen, in the traumatic tempest of adolescence. I remember fourteen was a particularly stormy year for me. I was a bucket of emotions. One minute, I was cracking off-color jokes. The next minute, I was in tears for some reason. People literally thought I was crazy. The evidence is in the inscriptions left in my yearbooks.

As a teenager, I really related to Springsteen’s stories about his parents. He had a contentious relationship with his dad, just like I did. Bruce’s dad harassed him about his hair and his life choices. Mine harassed me about my weight and my outspoken personality. He would have preferred me to be more demure. It’s not me. But there was still a lot of love beneath those fights.

In those days, I remember people asking me if I was bipolar. In the 80s, they didn’t refer to bipolar disorder as such; it was called “manic depression”. No, I am not bipolar, but I was very moody in those days. In the midst of crying jags, temper tantrums, and hysterical laughing fits, I was riding my horse and my bike, struggling with school, writing short stories, and loving music. I loved more music than I could possibly purchase. It surprises and, frankly, kind of depresses me I never made an effort to study it seriously when I was growing up, although I’m pretty sure I was like that because my parents were/are musicians. I wanted to do my own thing, without pressure from my parents to do what they were doing. I’d rather ride my horse, who was the best company and never judged me for being who I am.

I have always had really eclectic musical tastes. I think it comes from having three much older sisters who introduced me to the stuff they liked. My oldest sister was mostly gone from our house by the time I was old enough to know what was going on, but I seem to remember she was a fan of Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, and… actually, I don’t know. I’ve never really gotten to know Betsy that well. She’s thirteen years older than I am and an extremely high achiever. When I was growing up, she lived in other countries: France, Morocco, Egypt, India, and she visited so many others because of her work.

My sister, Becky, was more of a hard rock/alternative fan. She introduced me to groups like The Who, Roxy Music, Dead Can Dance, and The Police, and singers like Eric Clapton, Dan Fogelberg, and Kate Bush. She also introduced me to James Taylor, who is probably my favorite of all of them, besides Kate Bush. I used to raid her record collection the most. We shared a room for awhile, even though she’s eleven years older than I am. I’m probably closest to her.

Sarah, who is eight years older, liked “urban” music. She liked funk, R&B, and white soul, like Hall & Oates. She introduced me to Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Commodores, and Rose Royce. I remember she also introduced me to Pat Benatar. The very first album I ever purchased was Benatar’s Crimes of Passion, which came out in 1982. I even remember how much it cost… $7.86. For a kid who got $2.50 a week as an allowance, that was a lot of money to save up. I remember walking from my house to Murphy’s Mart, which was a shitty discount store in a strip mall near my home in Gloucester, Virginia, and plunking that money down at the cash register. I wore that album out.

I used to buy a lot of 45s in those days, since they were much cheaper and I usually just wanted to hear one or two songs. I also used to tape music from the radio. Now I routinely download entire albums, sometimes without even having heard any songs on it. I often do that when I’ve been drinking. I have surprisingly good taste when I’m drunk, too. Bill and I often refer jokingly to my “drunken downloads”. They’re usually a pleasant surprise.

I switched to cassettes when I got a Walkman, because I liked listening to music while riding my bike. Also, cassettes never skipped, although they could be damaged in other ways. I remember one time, I left a copy of Zenyatta Mondata on the dashboard of my car, in direct sunlight. It was warped when I came back. Anyone who has ever listened to cassettes knows that sometimes the tape jams and makes a squiggly mess that requires a pen or pencil to correct. I had a few tapes break, too. I was glad when CDs were a thing… and even gladder when MP3s were a thing, even if I do miss the magic of opening a new album and looking at the artwork. Sometimes there would even be special gifts in those LP records. I got a Prince and the Revolution poster in my copy of the Purple Rain soundtrack. That doesn’t happen with downloads.

So anyway… there I was last night, listening to Springsteen and remembering being a teenager. My home economics teacher actually went to high school with Springsteen. She was from New Jersey and a few years younger than he is. She was a freshman in high school when he was a senior. I took her class when I was a freshman. I remember being kind of an anomaly in her class. Most of the people who took it with me weren’t bound for college. I took the class because I like to cook and it hadn’t occurred to me that I should have explored music. Ms. Kulnis, who had married a Gloucester local, told us that back during his high school days, Springsteen was kind of “gross”. In 1986, he was definitely not gross. He was a huge star in his prime. But as a teen, he was unkempt, greasy, had super long hair, and, she said, kind of skinny because he didn’t work out. She said he wasn’t appealing back then, musical talent notwithstanding. She had no idea he would someday be a megastar.

I’ve always loved the slower, live version of “Thunder Road” than the album version, which is more upbeat. I heard it for the first time when I was 14.
Above is a link to my favorite version of “Thunder Road”, which doesn’t have video footage.

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was fourteen. I have some good memories of that time of my life, though I sure as hell wouldn’t want to repeat it. I would not want to be an adolescent again for anything, although I might have made some different choices knowing what I know now. The nice thing about the passage of time is that it tends to smooth out the worst memories. I remember being chronically upset during my teen years. Mostly, I got yelled at by people. I had a short temper and a foul mouth. Sometimes, I was kind of impulsive, but never to the point at which I did anything that got me into serious trouble. Most people seemed to think of me as a “good kid”, although I probably wasn’t as good as some of my friends were… or appeared to be. On the other hand, some of my friends were being naughty behind closed doors. I never had a need to sneak around, because my parents mostly didn’t care what I did, as long as it didn’t embarrass or involve them.

Original version of The E Street Shuffle. He’s changed it significantly since then.

Springsteen’s older music is like a soundtrack to that time of my life. It takes me back every time. The 80s seemed so modern at the time, but now it seems like such a quaint time. One thing that remains constant is the staying power of certain artists. I can tell a truly gifted musician if their music stands the test of time. Springsteen’s definitely does, for the most part. Most artists have an off album or two. Springsteen is no different. I don’t think I cared much for his Human Touch or Lucky Town albums, for instance. Some people don’t like his 2009 album, Working on a Dream. I have only heard one song from that album… a freebie I got from Amazon. No one can bat 1ooo every time. But here I sit in 2019, listening to Springsteen’s 1973 album, The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle, released the year after I was born. It’s still very solid.

A more recent version of The E Street Shuffle.

By contrast, Western Stars, which is a brand new album, is very different than Springsteen’s early stuff is. I like it, but listening to Born in the USA (which I only JUST added to my collection) took me back to the 80s. I had to hear “Hungry Heart”. I ended up listening to a panoply of Springsteen’s hits from over the years. It was fascinating. I suddenly realized how far we’ve come. Springsteen doesn’t have Clarence Clemons anymore. He’s entered a new phase, just like all great musicians do at some point. I haven’t seen him in concert, nor have I seen Billy Joel… both are acts I’d brave the crowds and pay big bucks to see, just because I didn’t have the money or wisdom to see them when I was younger. I hope I can catch them before one of us dies.

I dare you not to dance to this one.

Thank God we still have the ability to take a carpet ride back to our youths through nostalgia. Maybe not everyone is whisked away by an old Springsteen song. I’m sure today’s young people have other artists that take them back.

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