Anyway, the world is a shitshow right now and this has been my soundtrack for the past couple of months.
One week from tomorrow, we’ll own a house. Well, our fruit-based financial provider will but you get the idea.
This morning, I dropped a fairly substantial amount of money in the form of a down payment, notary fees, and taxes at the notary’s office before heading to work. The next meeting is May 1st when we get the keys.
This morning, as I left the office, my nervousness over this milestone in our lives together turned to elation. As I often do during life’s milestones, I looked for a song to connect to this moment so that I would remember it forever.
I tuned into Mike-FM, and this is what I got.
Songza’s 80s Dance Party in Canada is my favourite playlist so I’m not exactly adverse to a little Luba in my life. It reminded me, however, of that scene in Jerry Maguire. I guess you can’t pick your life’s soundtrack all the time.
I turned up the radio and sang along.
It’s been more than twenty-four hours since we got the news that Lou Reed died and there already have been enough words written to fill a book or twelve. But let’s not let that stop us from chiming in with our own two cents.
It’s been said here and there that your musical preferences are formed between the ages of twelve and eighteen. I don’t know that it’s completely true for everyone but it was largely true for me.
My first exposure to Lou Reed came in the form of a birthday present from my brother. It was a “best of” compilation. Eventually, at a high school talent show, in a borrowed leather jacket, I would sing “Walk on the Side” with my friend in our two man band (I played harmonica). Somewhere in my old school, there may be a VHS tape of that performance. If there is a merciful God, it has been erased.
I spent much of high school listening to the Velvet Underground and nodding in agreement with my friends’ assertion that his solo material in the 80s was somehow lacking. In secret, the science fiction nerd in me really dug the Terminator-style “No Money Down” for the bit where Android Lou Reed tears his latex face off.
I’d say the high point of his solo stuff was New York. I was still in high school when it came out and, having spent all of three days in the city when I was in Grade 10 on a class trip, thought I was a worldly-wise little shit who really got what Lou was on about, man. It remains to this day one of my favourite albums.
I never wanted to meet Lou Reed. From the interviews I’ve read with the guy, he came off as highly cantankerous. They always say “don’t meet your heroes.” But then, it’s not like his persona was that of some kind of warm, jolly guy. Seriously, I don’t know what that guy was expecting.
When you grow up working class in the Maritimes, music can take you somewhere else. Lou Reed was from New York but he may as well been from the moon for all his talk of sugar plum fairies and last great American whales.
But I’ll always been grateful to a guy who showed that music could be about something you wouldn’t expect.
The thing I like about digging through old Christmas specials on YouTube is seeing how they’re really like miniature time capsules. While guys like Tony Bennett have been famous for decades, most famous people tend to get famous for a short while but it never lasts. It’s the fleeting nature of fame, of course. So, as often as not, Christmas specials, in the tradition of all variety shows, are a reflection of the time in which they were produced.
I put this video, again, from a Dean Martin special, on my Facebook page a while back just to show how quickly things can date. A friend didn’t know who any of them were.
For those born after 1980, they were, from the left, Andy Gibb of the Bee Gees, once a massively popular pop group, Erik Estrada, who played a motorcycle cop best known for his tight fitting uniform and his dazzling white teeth (in those days a novelty), and Mel Tillis, a Country and Western singer known for his humourous songs and a stutter, which he played for laughs. For about 15 minutes in 1980, all of these men were superstars.
Then there was the appearance of Andy Kaufman at the Johnny Cash Christmas special, a comedian whose humour could best be described as “conceptual.”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the other clip from that broadcast in which Andy proposes marriage to Anne Murray.
And I’m just going to leave this one here:
Grace Jones, on the Pee Wee Herman Christmas special, wearing a molded plastic breast plate and singing “Little Drummer Boy”. The oddest thing? The joke in the show that she was supposed to delivered to the White House where, presumably, she would do this song for then President Ronald Reagan.
There was a time in 1985 when I’d do just about anything to keep Phil Collins off the radio. No Jacket Required was this monster album that spawned several hits, giving him seemingly unlimited airplay. And I hated it. It was safe, boring middle-of-the-road music by the same old baby boomers who were hogging the airwaves with their bland mid-life crisis albums.
Today, I read that, due to health problems from years of banging on drums and playing load concerts, not to mention his inability to get airplay on mainstream radio, he’s retiring. If your hearing is gone and it hurts you to play music, I’d say there’s no shame in retirement.
I feel kind of badly for him. It’s true that music has changed, as it always does, and today it’s next to impossible for someone over the age of 40, let alone 60, to get in the top ten. The oldest person on the current Billboard Top Ten has to be Dr. Dre.
There’s little that’s unusual in this. In 1985, artists who were massive in the 1955 weren’t selling like they once were and in 2011, as popular as Collins, or his former Genesis partner Peter Gabriel, may have been, you can’t convince a large mass of people to buy your records. It’s easier to sell Katy Perry than Carole King.
Of course, now that I’m older than Phil Collins was when he was at the peak of his success, I do find it a bit sad that older artists are pushed aside in favour of younger ones. I do try to keep up with the latest music and there’s much to recommend it. I have Dizzee Rascal as well as The Rolling Stones and The Decemberist on my iPod. I do find a lot of today’s popular music to be coarse and shallow and it seems that in an age of iTunes singles, there isn’t much room for thoughtful, serious albums, although Arcade Fire’s surprise Grammy win this year does offer hope. And I haven’t yet gone the way of former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, decrying the music of "Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg" and "the enema man".
So is now a good a time as any to admit that I always really kind of loved In the Air Tonight?