Showing posts with label beatles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beatles. Show all posts

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Glad All Over

It's impossible to convey the awe of discovering new music in the sixties to anyone who wasn't there. It was a singular time that will never again happen. There was probably a reason for it, but I don't know what it is. "Experts" ponder that it was an optimism borne out of the Kennedy era, but I don't think so. First of all, most of the fresh music emanated from the British Isles. Perhaps it was a post-war release, a baby leaf sprouting out of bombed-out soil. The Beatles came first, but there were, oh, so many others.

Everyone hypes the so-called rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but I was there, and The Beatles' competition was not The Stones--it was The Dave Clark Five.

It wasn't long after The Beatles debuted in America (on The Ed Sullivan Show) that The Dave Clark Five showed up. Long forgotten is the fact that The Beatles began their career by featuring tons of cover songs. Yes, they had She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand, but they also covered Chuck Berry and Motown. The Five also copied previous hits, like Do You Love Me and You've Got What It Takes, but they also had originals:  Glad All Over and Can't You See That She's Mine.

My wondrous discovery of The Beatles in 1964 only made me salivate for more. And I didn't have to wait. It seemed like a confetti bomb burst and suddenly I was showered with more music than I could absorb into my tiny brain. And they were all British Invasion artists. Bam, bam, bam -- they exploded out of my transistor speaker. There were so many, I could afford to be picky. Gerry and The Pacemakers -- kinda boring. Freddy and The Dreamers and Herman's Hermits -- novelties.

But, ahhh, The Dave Clark Five. When one is nine, they ponder mundane realities like, why is the band named after the drummer? Nobody does that. It's not called "The Ringos", after all. At first I assumed the lead singer was Dave Clark, but I was oh so wrong. The soul of The Dave Clark Five was the astounding Mike Smith.

Mike Smith was hands-down the heart of the band.

At age nine, I didn't know what the tiny piano/organ was; some kind of jet-age invention. But the primary appeal of the band, aside from the drums, was Mike Smith's cuteness. Cuteness was a primary factor in a nine-year-old girl's assessment of...well, everything.

I didn't appreciate this song at the time, but boy:

Surprisingly, I can't find a live performance of this song, but c'mon:

Speaking of "c'mon":


In actual years, The Dave Clark Five had a short run, but it's not the calendar that signifies greatness. The Beatles had kind of a short run, too, but it seems that people keep listening to their songs.

Let's not forget The Five -- or if you're younger than me (as most people are), let's discover them. To a giddy nine-year-old, this band was out'a sight!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Telework - Week Two

Like me, you are probably now ensconced in your home, trying to get used to working remotely. I just completed my second week and to be frank, I'm not enamored with it.

Every year around mid-January, especially when a heavy dumping of snow is in the forecast, I fantasize about being able to stay home and not be compelled to brave the treacherous roads. "I wouldn't even need to get dressed! I could just stay in my warm jammies, flip on my computer and voila!" Granted, that would be ideal...for a day.

The reality is, yep, I don't set my alarm. I do get dressed. I stumble to the kitchen and start the coffeemaker; I eat; anything and everything I shouldn't be eating.Then I start work. The first couple of hours go fast. I'm absorbed in my every-morning tasks. Around the third hour, things begin to drag. I start to feel that now familiar twinge in my back so I shift positions, pull my foot stool out a bit farther, stretch out my legs until they start hurting, too; crank my sagging chair back up to its original height; count the minutes until morning break. Working solo is not what my job is supposed to be -- I'm a trainer, so I work with people. I solve problems; I teach. Now I do busy work. I pitch in with whatever claim needs to be processed -- competencies that thirty-one other people in my department are well qualified to do.

At nine o'clock, I don my coat and head outside to stretch my legs and my back and to breathe in nicotine-free air. I see one or two other people -- one walking her dog; another jogging past me (I wonder if I should hold my breath or just act naturally). Then I come back inside and dig into my snack stash. Over the past twelve months, I lost thirty pounds, and it was a lot of work and drudgery. Now I'm going to gain it all back in a month.

Eleven is lunch time. A half hour to stuff my face and find a different place to sit for a few minutes. One o'clock is afternoon break -- another outdoor sojourn and more snacks. 

I miss human interaction. Email does not supply instant gratification. I miss shooting the breeze. I miss toddling down to the cafeteria with Lori and making jokes about the food choices. I miss having people around me, as exasperating as they can be at times. I miss running into people from other departments in the hall and commiserating with them about our jobs.

After two weeks, though, the picture has become clearer, and I am determined to shake things up a bit. Our CEO has informed us that this whole telework thing will extend through May 4. I think it will be longer. It's time to pull myself together.

Remote work or not, I need to do the job I was hired to do. I can do something about that, and I will -- via email. I need to feel useful and not simply like someone putting in time. I can't do anything about the chair situation other than continue trying different configurations. I'm not ready to invest in a new office chair that I'll only need for two and a half months, tops.(I wonder if I'll even be back in the office in time to have a retirement party.)

Things I've managed to accomplish this week:

  • For the first time ever, I had groceries delivered. It went relatively well. Target is cheaper than the local supermarket. Just don't try to buy paper towels.
  • I ventured outside and experienced actual human contact by visiting my convenience store at five a.m. My husband and I scoped it out before going inside and managed to pick up our essentials (me: nicotine) without encountering any sickly people. My favorite store manager, Rebecca, seemed happy to see me.
  • I painted my nails.
  • MY ABSOLUTE BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:  I got my stereo speakers hooked up to my computer. I am currently listening to SiriusXM, and lord how I've missed music!  Music is manna from heaven.

Things I haven't accomplished:

  • Being able to sleep. There are a few reasons for that -- I am in mourning (something I'm not ready to write about right now) and I also don't do well with abrupt life changes.
  • Stopping eating things that are bad for me. I'm just going to go with it for now. These are desperate times.
  • Finding a purpose; but that's about to change.


  • Don't keep cable news on all day. Watch the first fifteen minutes or scan a local news site for Corona news. Then be done with it.
  • Do inhale a hot cup of java. That first cup of the day will spark your synapses. 
  • Do walk! I'm no exercise fanatic, but the cool, clean air breathes hope into your lungs.
  • DO find a hobby. Please don't lean on Netflix as a crutch, or if you do, keep your hands busy while viewing the paltry offerings. I'm a crafter, which alleviates the total Netflix boredom.

I'm a pretty adaptable person. Sometimes it just takes me a while to figure things out. This is my new normal. I'm ready for it. 

And it will get better.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


(Yes, I 64)

To be honest, I don't think about age much. Sometimes I forget how old I am and I have to mentally subtract the year I was born from the current year to arrive at the correct number. Oh, I know I'm sixty-something; it's just that I lose track. I'm keeping track better now because I'm a year away from the magic number. It's not exactly like the anticipation of turning eighteen ~ I get (now) that life has an expiration date. Still, I'm looking forward to finding out what life is like without my clock eep-eep-eeping at 4:30 each morning.

Old people always say they don't know where the time went. Guess what ~ it's true. I distinctly remember when I was giddy with excitement over my upcoming high school graduation. I had no plan, but I was pretty sure I'd have some kind of exciting career. Apparently by magic. My town held two institutes of higher learning, Mary College, which was private and out of the question financially; and Bismarck Junior College (which I'm sure is called something much more pretentious now). I got one of BJC's catalogs and perused it for about ten minutes. The journalism courses caught my eye, but then I thought, what the hell ~ that's never gonna happen ~ so I just looked for a job instead. No one in my family had gone to college and who was I to break the mold? Frankly, I depended on serendipity, which I learned was difficult to come by.

It's not that I was lazy (okay, I actually was). It was easier to surf through life and see what came of it. I assumed crappy jobs were a rite of passage. And in the recesses of my brain I was futilely chasing the dream of being a disc jockey, which would have been a stretch, considering my verbal skills were essentially non-existent. 

So, what did I do? What I knew how to do ~ type. State government jobs were handed out like candy, although one did have to take a merit exam to be considered. And I did have another skill in my back pocket ~ I knew shorthand. Strangely, no one ever asked me to "take a letter". Two years of instruction wasted. The whole time I worked at the Capitol building (a year) I was looking for a plausible means of escape. If one searches out the definition of "drudgery", it says "North Dakota State government". 

I was sadly a classic under-achiever. In my defense, nobody in the early seventies was looking for someone with my singular skills. After zipping down those eighteen floors for the final time, I returned to my other skill, operating a cash register. I didn't even realize how pitiful I actually was.
Then I got married, as all we seventies girls were expected to do; and then I became a mom, which was essentially the only thing I managed to do right. I stayed home until our bank account cried out in anguish, and subsequently returned to operating a cash register. I no longer needed a career; just a steady paycheck.
Around 1980 my working life became more interesting when I answered an ad for a ward clerk at our local hospital. I had no clue what a "ward clerk" was, but it did require typing skills, which I still possessed. I absorbed the inner workings of life on a nursing floor, and found it fascinating. I liked learning things that had some correlation to actual life. I functioned as a de facto nurse's aide when staffing was short, and liked doing it. I acquired something I'd never once possessed ~ self-confidence. When I took the job working second shift, it was for practical reasons; but honestly, that time of night fit me like a glove. Everything, however, is mercurial. After eight years, my impulsive mind told me it was time to move on.
For a couple of years, I drifted from one secretarial job to another and suffered the inherent indignities. Strangely, no one wanted me to leave when I gave notice ("I was going to give you a raise!" "Oh, we were ready to offer you a full-time position."), but had the powers-that-be acted like they wanted me to stay before I took matters into my own hands, I never would have resigned in the first place. I tucked that little fact in my pocket and never forgot it.

Desperate to get away from my icy boss, a classic 1920's stern school marm, at the farm tax planning/prep business, I scoured the classified ads, all three or four of them (it was a small town). A large health insurance company headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania had the novel idea of expanding into a relatively rural area, where people had a work ethic and would be happy with paltry pay ~ right up my alley! I knew absolutely nothing about health insurance and frankly it sounded boring as hell, but I did possess a knowledge of medical terminology, so I hoped, hoped. I actually practiced interviewing at home in my garage ~ practiced selling myself and answering any question I could conceive. Interview day turned out to be a cacophonous assembly line ~ move to the next queue, answer a question, move along, answer another. My carefully rehearsed talking points never had the chance to escape my lips.

I went back to work and waited. And waited. After two weeks of hearing nothing, I knew I'd blown it. I was despondent. And my chilly boss was there every morning, offering a peeved "good morning" through pursed lips.

Three weeks on, I got a call and an offer. The woman on the phone didn't tell me I was a second choice and that an original hiree had dropped out. I learned that later. I truly despised Mrs. Frostbite, but when the opportunity arose to tell her exactly why I was leaving, I lied and said my new position paid twenty-five cents more per hour (it paid exactly the same). She seemed genuinely disappointed and apologized for not being able to offer me more money. (What??)

I began my new insurance training in a rented office with twenty-nine other women, some of whom actually knew what a "claim" was. The corporation didn't want to over-tax our faculties, so they taught us how to process eye exams. Eventually we all graduated and moved into our brand-spankin' new building.

Fast forward....I earned a promotion to assistant supervisor after less than a year, and then, when the company realized it hadn't been folly to open for business on the God-forsaken prairie, they expanded and I was promoted again, this time to supervisor. Only then did I become fully acquainted with The Devil Herself ~ my new manager. She rarely spoke to me, so I went on my merry way, chalking up success after success (thanks to my people and to that thing I'd tucked inside my pocket a couple of years before ~ tell people you value them before it's too late). Thus I was confident heading into my yearly performance review. My team had outperformed everyone. I was going to receive so many kudos, I worried that my head may not fit through the door on my way out of her office.

I don't know if it was the shock of realizing I'd entered bizzaro world or the cruel slash of her words, but I was gobsmacked. "You're making the other supervisors look bad. You brought donuts for your people last Saturday." "You never stop by and say goodnight to me when you leave for the day." "If you can't be part of my team, I'll replace the team."

What I'd assumed would be well-earned acclaim turned out to be the threat of being fired. Tears started flowing ~ and The Devil Herself wouldn't even offer me a Kleenex. I couldn't afford to be unemployed. I went home and sobbed through the night...and then I swallowed my pride and kowtowed to Satan. Eventually she began including me in group conversations (her soliloquies) and even started kidding me in front of the other supervisors. I was happy and relieved and I loved her...she was awesome...she took us out on her boat one evening and we all laughed and laughed...

I'm not sure what The Devil Herself did that displeased management back east, but apparently she did something. One day a couple of big honchos showed up unexpectedly and commandeered an empty office and asked the supervisors, one by one, to stop by for a talk. Gosh, what could I possibly say about this amazing woman? Everything. I told them EVERYTHING. At five o'clock that afternoon, I headed out to my car in the lot and turned the key in the ignition. Before I backed out of my space, something unusual caught my eye. The blonde-headed demon was exiting the building with a couple of large paper grocery bags. I came back to work the next morning, but she didn't.

All you have to do is treat people right. And guess what? If you don't, we never forget.

Life went on smoothly. We got a new boss eventually who was a moron, but harmless. He seemed like a complete dolt, but one day he offered me a new position. I don't think it was his idea. The big honchos back east maybe admired my pluck. Maybe they wanted somebody who wouldn't take any shit. I didn't want the job ~ it seemed like a demotion. He said, "Sure, you can think about it overnight and then come back and say 'yes'." I did.

I eventually became a manager of a 150-person staff. "Manager" in name only. I got a corner office. My new young manager was off-site, far away in Pennsylvania, just the way I liked it. I cherished my people and they hit it out of the park. We took an idea that existed only in somebody's head and turned it into a high-performance part of the operation. We became so good that....they eventually out-sourced us.

The morning after the big-wigs took my supervisors and me out for a fancy dinner and sprang it on us, I showed up for work red-eyed from a sleepless night. My young manager, who I'd assumed was on my side, dropped by my office and asked why I hadn't attended the management meeting that morning. "What's the point?" I asked. My time at the company was done; that much I'd decided somewhere around two o'clock in the morning. And it stuck like a burr that he'd never pulled the trigger and promoted me to manager, even though that's exactly what I'd been for the past three years. The next day, after he'd jetted home to PA, he sent out an email naming a simpleton in Allentown who'd I'd torn my hair out trying to train, as a manager. Just a nice little parting gift to me.

The lasting lesson from all my working years is, no good performance goes unpunished.

I will celebrate twenty years at my current job in December. I've lowered my expectations. I have no delusions. I like where I am; it's comfortable. I will drift off into retirement in a year having accomplished little that I can flout, but I've done my job. Career accomplishments don't amount to a hill of beans anyway.

My parting advice is not to do your best ~ do your best ~ but don't expect rewards. And prepare to be blindsided. Always be prepared.

I have to do this. Everyone who turns sixty-four does it.

Don't get me wrong ~ my life is not defined by work.

There's music.

More to come...

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Shelly Awards

(Trophies Always Have To Be Supremely Ugly)

There was a time when I watched award shows religiously. I'm not sure why ~ perhaps to confirm that my favorites had the proper cachet and to bitch about the wrong choices the so-called judges made. Of course, that was long before I understood that awards are bought and paid for and perpetually political (I actually prefer the naive me.) 

I generally was lost with the Oscars, since I'd managed to see approximately one of the nominated films, and the flick I caught never won anything. The Grammys were kind of a high-brow joke (even to the naive me) because inevitably the winners would be the industry-coronated choices (as opposed to anything any sane person would actually listen to.) "The Girl From Ipanema" beat out "I Want To Hold Your Hand" for record of the year; and you know how often we hum the melody of "Girl From Ipanema".

The Emmys were more my speed because I definitely knew how to watch TV and I was familiar with most of the nominees. The CMA Awards, however, was my show of choice. I did know my country music and frankly, my taste was eminently superior to most. Plus I was a Country Music Association member and thus got to pencil in my choices on the paper ballot. 

I like to flip on the TV at night before bedtime because the hypnotic rays tend to lull me to sleep, so I tuned into the first five minutes of the Grammys last Sunday night. I will admit, I was confused. Some gal was inhabiting different rooms of a home and brushing her hair and bouncing on the bed with a stuffed bunny; and then someone I thought was Justin Timberlake (who I later learned was Ricky Martin ~ I wasn't wearing my glasses) joined her in the number and someone I was supposed to know played the trumpet. And then some other guy piped in. 

Nevertheless I kept watching. The evening's host, Alicia Keys, soon showed up with four gals, only one of whom I recognized (granted, Jennifer Lopez was hidden behind a humongous broad-brimmed hat). The one I knew was Michelle Obama, and I thought, okay ~ she's a music icon. I did see Dolly Parton in the audience; the only person I actually recognized. And then I flipped the TV off.

So I can now say I watched the 2019 Grammys.

I've now decided to create my own awards, The Shellys. The categories are completely capricious, based on whatever the hell I feel like bestowing.


Best Roots Recording


Buddy Holly ~ Rave On
Jerry Lee Lewis ~ Breathless
Eddie Cochran ~ Summertime Blues
Chuck Berry ~ Roll Over Beethoven
The Everly Brothers ~ Bye Bye Love

The Winner:

Best Rock Song From the Year I Graduated High School:

Drift Away ~ Dobie Gray
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ~ Elton John
Stuck In The Middle With You ~ Stealers Wheel
Loves Me Like A Rock ~ Paul Simon
Reelin' In The Years ~ Steely Dan

The Winner:

Best Song My Big Brother Told Me I Should Like:


The Rain, The Park, and Other Things ~ Cowsills
Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35 ~ Bob Dylan
Another Saturday Night ~ Sam Cooke
Telstar ~ The Tornados
Where Have All The Flowers Gone ~ Johnny Rivers

And the award goes to:

 Best Beatles Song:

The Nominees:

I'm Only Sleeping
You Won't See Me
You're Gonna Lose That Girl
Good Day Sunshine 
We Can Work It Out

There is no live video to be found of the winner. However, the first runner-up (Ringo) will accept the award (I have a sneaking suspicion all the Beatles videos have been removed from YouTube. Thanks. Paul.):

Best Hit From 1965:


California Girls ~ The Beach Boys
I Can't Help Myself ~ The Four Tops
Ticket To Ride ~ The Beatles
Baby, The Rain Must Fall ~ Glenn Yarbrough
My Girl ~ The Temptations

The winner (not even close):

Best Music Video of the '80's:


Raspberry Beret ~ Prince
Take On Me ~ a-ha
Sledgehammer ~ Peter Gabriel
Money For Nothing ~ Dire Straits
Nothing Compares 2U  ~ Sinead O'Connor

The Shelly goes to:

My Favorite '80's Act:

Hall and Oates
Huey Lewis and The News
Phil Collins
Elton John

This was so close:

Best Upbeat Song:

Walkin' On Sunshine ~ Katrina and The Waves
Morning Train ~ Sheena Easton
Happy Together ~ The Turtles
Beautiful Day ~ U2
I Wanna Dance With Somebody ~ Whitney Houston

Of course, the winner is this:

Song That Scared The Crap Out Of Me (or at least befuddled me) As A Kid:
They're Coming To Take Me Away ~ Napoleon XIV
Fire ~ The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Running Bear ~ Johnny Preston
Last Kiss ~ J Frank Wilson
Devil Or Angel ~ Bobby Vee 

Hands down:

Best Dion and The Belmonts Song:

The Wanderer
Ruby Baby
I Wonder Why
Lovers Who Wander
Runaround Sue

Again, a tight competition, but Dion DiMucci doesn't care, because he's a winner, regardless:

Best Hair Band:

Van Halen
Bon Jovi
Guns 'n Roses
Def Leppard

I'm not a big fan of hair, except for:

Cheesiest '70's Song:
Loving You ~ Minnie Riperton
Billy, Don't Be A Hero ~ Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods
Seasons In The Sun ~  Terry Jacks
Muskrat Love ~ The Captain and Tenille
Havin' My Baby ~ Paul Anka
You Light Up My Life ~ Debby Boone
Afternoon Delight ~ Starland Vocal Band 

Yes, there are seven nominees, because it's impossible to narrow this category down to five.

This one wins only because I can't bear to post any of the others:

Hey, look at the time! Well, the show has run far over its designated time, so tune in again next year for more Shelly Awards!

And all you forgotten acts, you're welcome! It's time you got your due!



Saturday, September 29, 2018

Old Hippies

I have a certain fascination with the hippie era. Not as in, I wish I had been there, but more as an entomological study. On the Midwestern prairie we had no Summer of Love. We had a summer of working, a summer of riding bicycles and pressing transistor radios to our ears; a summer of stretching the coiled cord of the kitchen wall phone all the way around the corner into the hall so we could have private conversations.

The war was, of course, on everyone's mind, but more urgently than college kids who had deferments and spent their lunch periods carrying signs. To my big brother the war wasn't abstract -- he had to worry if his number was going to be pulled out of the big bingo jar and if he was going to die in a rice paddy. Working class boys didn't have a lot of options. They could flee to Canada or they could join the National Guard, which is what my brother did. My brother was hardly the military type, but he ultimately did his civic duty...and he stayed alive. Meanwhile, boys with wispy goatees in San Francisco twirled around in tie-dyed tee shirts.

I was twelve that summer. On TV I saw mystified CBS News reporters chronicling the Haight-Ashbury scene. All the characters looked like dizzy dorks. I especially loved the dance of the scarves, which was a classic. One could not flip the television dial without glimpsing some barefoot bra-less chick whirling on a hillside with a multi-hued scarf. So profound!

Old hippies probably don't grasp this, but we didn't envy them. We thought they were imbeciles.

Fifty-odd years later, I wonder how many of them have managed to maneuver life with all their brain cells intact. They'd be -- well, past retirement age. Do they entertain their grandkids with tales of past acid trips? Did some get elected to congress? (yes) Did they at some point learn to appreciate the joy of bar soap and penicillin?

Sage Midwesterners always knew that life was life, and there was no escaping it. My brother didn't "drop out", and I didn't, either. We didn't have that luxury.

Marty Balin died this week. He was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, a band that encapsulated the summer of love. Reading about him, I learned that he was a pretty good guy, but that band epitomized everything I hated about the times.

Marty solo:

In my town we weren't listening to Jefferson Airplane. This is what we were tuning in to on our local radio station:

And especially this:

See? We were hip, too.

And we still possess all our brain cells.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

One Song

Everybody has one song.

I'm not saying they only have one song, but there's one that seers their heart. They probably don't even know what song it is until they hear it on the radio.

It's the rare artist who has many songs that live up to the lofty promise of a weighty career. For me, I can only name a few -- the Beatles, George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Roy Orbison -- these are the artists who trip off my tongue.

An age-old question is, "If you were stranded on a desert island and could only possess one album (and apparently something to play it on), what would it be?" I always think, well, I'd get tired of it really fast. But if I had to choose only one album to take with me to that castaway experience, I'd most likely pick an artist whose voice soothed me (because being stranded, with no hope, on an isolated mound of terra firma could, I imagine, rapidly plunge me into a deep depression). I'd rather take a mix-tape of songs I like best, although that's not a panacea, either. Hearing the same songs ten thousand times will quickly devolve into utter hatred.

I was thinking about artists who had just one good song. If an artist has one good song, that's quite enough. That's more than the other quadrillion artists out there have ever accomplished. It's not that they were necessarily one-hit wonders -- they most likely had other songs -- but maybe they just had that one good one.

I can't possibly list all my favorite one good songs, but here are a few:

These are some of my "ones". Kind of a lot, as I peruse them, but that's how music goes. I could write a completely separate post with my "ones". I like ones, though. I like songs -- good songs. 

I need a long-playing tape for my desert island playlist.

Friday, July 27, 2018

There's No Such Thing As "Good Musical Taste"

Those who claim to have good musical taste are, frankly, delusional. Who decides what good musical taste is? Music is exquisitely subjective. That's the beauty of it.

Generally, people who drape the "good taste" sash across their shoulder are either obnoxious snobs or audiophiles more interested in showing off their expensive audio gear than their actual record collection. We've all met them. They either want to "explain" music to us or drag us into their den, drop the needle on an obscure Brian Eno LP and stare into our faces, searching for a rapturous reaction.

My dad loved any music sung in a foreign language. He didn't understand the words, but it didn't matter. He particularly loved Spanish, because it sounded "pretty" (which it does, by the way).

I'm a sucker for falsetto. Essentially any song in which the singer slides into falsetto voice hooks me every time. I have no clue why; it just does.

My husband is actually one person who does have good musical taste, by which I mean, yes, I like a lot of the songs he's introduced me to. My sister is another. But I think they have good musical taste because I agree with their choices. That doesn't mean they and I are right. Because there is no "right".

I don't always agree with my husband's opinions, however, He claims that good music died in the seventies. I love eighties pop. Looovvve eighties pop, Casio keyboards and all. He reveres Bob Dylan. And while I agree that Dylan is a singular American poet, most of his songs are not good.

If you really listen to the lyrics of this song, he's just throwing words together. No, there is no deeper meaning that we peasants just don't "get". And even if, according to Bob, there is some deeper meaning, I don't want my music to be a study program. 

I, on the other hand, like this:

Too, I maintain that music is a reflection of memory. Or memories. The life we were experiencing when a particular song was popular is almost as important as the song itself. My sons hear Beatles songs objectively. I feel Beatles songs in my gut. They were my life. 

Objectively, this is not that great of a song. Subjectively? It was everything:

I can't even try to explain how everything changed in '64, because those who didn't live it will never understand. It's as if there was sort-of music before; then suddenly actual music exploded the planet. 

I guess you had to be there.

The snobs will tell you that "Yesterday" is the greatest Beatles song. No Beatles fan will ever tell you that. The Beatles weren't about ballads. They were about splitting the earth wide open. 

Music, though, is not all conscious memory. I love Glenn Miller, whose band recordings were barely a ping on the radar when my parents became married. 

And I love rockabilly, which was my older sisters' music. 

I love doo-wop. Even I'm not old enough to recall the doo-wop heyday.

In some regard, music must be cellular. Sometimes there is no conscious memory; there is only a "feeling". 

So, Mozart? Okay. I can climb on board. That doesn't mean Mozart lovers have better musical taste than Hall and Oates aficionados. Maybe musical snobs are simply closed-minded.

Me? Well, you can see for yourself. 

That, that, is the glory of music.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Music's Worth

If I'd been a rich little kid, I would have owned the world's greatest collection of 45 RPM singles.

As it was, ninety-nine cents was damn hard to come by. My mom refused to pay me for housework, of which I actually did none, but nevertheless. I had to depend on the generosity of my Uncle Arnold, who would flip me a nickel or dime once in a while when he was helping my dad repair machinery on the farm. It was hard to save these coins, however, because the creamery truck showed up once a week to deliver milk and butter, and those fudgsicles the deliveryman carried in the back were almost impossible to resist.

By age ten I begrudgingly agreed to "help out" around the house in exchange for a weekly salary of twenty-five cents. Thus I whipped some dust around with a rag and possibly dried dishes, although my memory is unreliable on this. (In my defense, I don't recall my older sisters helping out, either. They probably remember it differently, but I am correct on this. Mom never enforced chores; I think because if you want something done right, well, you know...)

Eventually I managed to save up a dollar and promptly traipsed off to Poppler's Music to choose one lone single. My decision was not easy. I really liked The Lovin' Spoonful and The Dave Clark Five, but I almost always came home with a Beatles single. Like this:

There were, of course, other ways to consume music; most often my way was by borrowing my big brother's singles and albums when he was away. I needn't actually purchase music, because my brother had everything; but there is something about owning, holding, admiring one's own personal records. 

Then there were birthdays. I always asked for singles. I knew about albums, of course, but I really wanted the hits. My brother did buy me albums for my birthdays. He bought me The Mamas and Papas and The Yardbirds. Those two albums were the sum total of my LP collection for years to come.

This was a single I asked my best friend for, for my eleventh birthday:

When we moved in late 1966, I got myself a real job (albeit still working for my parents) and my wages increased to seventy-five cents per hour. Since my dad was constantly getting sloshed and embarking on rambling road trips, and since Mom felt an obligation to follow and track him down, I was regularly left in charge of their motel. I was eleven-going-on-twelve, but hey, the money was good!

If Mom forgot to pay me, I dinged open the cash register and withdrew the wages I was due. Dahmer's Music was my new local record store. A couple of records I purchased with my hard-fought money:

I did buy albums, too, once a year, every September, for my brother's birthday. I owed him, after all. I only purchased Beatles albums for him. In my mind, I wanted him to continue his collection. He was married by then and didn't actually care that much.  I bought Sgt. Peppers and asked him later how he liked it. He said, "It's okay", which kind of hurt my feelings. Shoot, I wasn't rich and I'd only tried to pad his repertoire. But people, and life, move on.

Once my new best friend, Alice, introduced me to country music, I dove into it headlong. Dahmer's wasn't flush with country singles (or albums) and our local country station was firmly ensconced in the Top Forty. I did buy albums, but I was limited to the offerings racked in JC Penney's basement. Thus I made some unfortunate purchases. I bought a duet album by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn that I listened to approximately two times. Penneys was into "old fashioned", which was not my taste, but they hardly cared. Who but a couple of thirteen-year-old geeks was browsing their bins anyway? Their basement was flush with matrons queuing up at the catalog counter to order damask draperies. Country albums were essentially worthless unless one zeroed in on greatest hits compilations, which I definitely did buy, when available.

Soon I took to listening to far-away country stations, WHO in Des Moines (which came in crystal-clearly after midnight) and sometimes WSM in Nashville on a cloudless night and WBAP in Fort Worth. Ralph Emery and Mike Hoyer and Bill Mack understood country music -- real country music -- and I heard wondrous songs that were never once spun on my local station. But I had nowhere to buy them.

The internet was still a woozy science fiction fantasy, and computers? You mean those gargantuan whirring, beeping cyclops they showed on Lost In Space? I had a manual typewriter.

In the wee hours of Saturday nights, when I was able to tune in to WSM, right after the Opry, there was a program broadcast from Ernest Tubb's Record Shop. I figured, well hell, that store surely must have every country record known to man. I found the address in an issue of Country Music Roundup magazine, and found my way to the post office to purchase a money order*.

*the way kids who had no checking account could buy things through the mail.

I wrote long letters to the shop, specifying exactly which singles I wanted -- "not the fifties version, but the current recording by Mel Tillis". I tucked my money order inside and crossed my fingers.

That's how I eventually and joyfully received this:

And this:

Also this:

When music was hard to get, it meant more. 

Today I have tons and tons of songs on my hard drive, plus racks of CD's; not to mention my cache of fifty-year-old albums. And I never listen to any of them. But I would still get an ache in my heart if I could drop the needle on those obscure singles I strived so hard to procure. 

It's a truism that the more hard-fought a victory, the more it matters. When I click my mouse on an Amazon mp3, okay, now I've got it. I've downloaded songs that I've never once listened to. On the other hand, I played "We Can Work It Out" on my monaural record player approximately five hundred and twenty-three times, until the phonograph needle dug trenches in the vinyl. 

There is really no discovery now. No "you've got to hear this". Everybody knows everything and music doesn't matter because it's easy.

I cherish the times when I was forced to seek out music. When it was a victory to secure it. 

Now? Ehh. It doesn't really matter.

Saturday, July 7, 2018


I'm a chronic non-sleeper.

When I was thirty, I had to work the day shift at the hospital on alternating weekends. My normal schedule was second shift, 3:30 p.m to 10:00 p.m. Invariably on Friday nights before that seven a.m. call, I remained excruciatingly conscious. I'm a guilt-ridden Catholic soul who has an aversion to calling in. However, for the majority of my first shift obligations, I staggered off the sofa sometime around four in the morning, dialed the automated mailbox number and declared that I was "sick". In retrospect, I could have sucked it up and just went to work (like I do now). At that time, though, I regarded sleeplessness as such a dire condition that at one point I actually considered killing myself.

I remember arising from my agonizing cocoon on the sofa, switching on the tiny kitchen nightlight and thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find the Suicide Hotline number. I was all ready to dial it, but then I imagined the conversation.

"Why do you want to kill yourself?"

"Well, I can't sleep."

Long pause.

"That's it?"

I didn't kill myself because I thought my reason wasn't good enough. That, plus I really had no means of accomplishing it. What was I going to use? Aspirin? How many tablets does one need to take to get the job done? There was no internet, so it would have been just a guess, and what if I guessed wrong?

Now here I am, thirty years later, and the scourge continues. The difference is, while it's still unbearable at three in the morning, I've accepted it as a fact of my life. And I buck up and plow through.

I used to think I was all alone, but I've since learned through offhand conversations that more people than not suffer right along with me. Selfishly, that makes me feel a little bit better. Nobody wants to feel alone.

I'll say right now that all the advice about how to sleep is utterly worthless. These "experts" a) never in their lives have had a sleeping problem; and b) are just spouting nonsense.

  • Don't consume caffeine after 12:00 noon.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleep.

  • Meditate or "journal" fifteen minutes prior to bedtime.
         I neither meditate nor jot thoughts down in a little notebook, and
         why would anyone do that? 

Here is the only advice that might work:  drugs. But good luck there. My doctor won't prescribe anything, such as Ambien, and I admit I'm not keen on that anyway. I don't want to find myself in the kitchen at 2:30 a.m., baking up a late-night entree of roasted boot. Or driving around aimlessly, firing up a cigarette and stubbing it out on my car's leather upholstery. Or even worse, posting nonsensical comments on social media, inadvertently starting a Twitter war over my professed hatred of Ariana Grande's shoes.

My doctor actually told me I'm going to bed too early. She said I should stay up until 11:30. I get up at 4:30 a.m. for work! Following her advice, assuming I fell asleep the minute my cranium alighted the pillow, I would get four complete hours of sleep.

The things I have tried:

Watching TV until my eyes flutter closed.
The way this works for me is, sure, I catch thirty seconds of snooze time; then a commercial jars me awake. I am then bleary-eyed for approximately three hours.

NOT watching TV. 
The whir of my bedroom fan, initially soothing, begins to grate on my nerves. The longer I lie awake, the more irritating it becomes. I get up and switch it off; but soon the room turns infuriatingly quiet.

Don ear plugs and a sleep mask.
Now I'm left alone with my thoughts. Plus my back hurts.  My mind WILL NOT SHUT OFF. I eventually begin to drift off, but the snort that wheezes through my nostrils jolts me awake and the cycle begins anew.

I only fall asleep after four or so hours once my body has acquiesced to utter exhaustion.

I believe I am genetically melatonin-deficient. And speaking of melatonin, ingest it at your peril. I tried it ONCE. I lay awake, bug-eyed, for an entire night.

My remedy is, there is no remedy.  Perhaps alcohol, but I can't function at my job while hungover. Thus, the real remedy is acceptance. Accept the things I cannot change.

I haven't tried these, and maybe they would work (but I doubt it):

These songs make sleep seem so romantic, wistful, enveloping; don't they? I wouldn't know.

The truth of the matter is, like John Lennon, who, from his songs I suspect was an inveterate non-sleeper like me, this is what it's really like at 3:00 a.m.:

I've decided I'm going to call it a "personality quirk"; one that I can regale strangers with for hours. If someone at work greets me brightly in the morning, instead of replying offhandedly, I will say, "Well, you know I only got two hours of sleep last night." Then I will sigh dejectedly. Granted, people will search for an excuse to slink away, but hey, spread the pain, I say. If I have to hear tales of your 2006 Alaskan cruise every freakin' day and how you spied a seal reposing on an ice floe, well, it's time to share MY world. And by the way, can you sit at my bedside and repeat those stories again? 

That just might work.