Category Archives: Music

Partitioning

The weirdest thing, thus far, about this project I’ve embarked upon with the Real Life Rock book has been my desire to return to it every day. If only other habits I’ve tried to develop fared so well.

But…what better distraction from early February? What better misdirection from my middle-age frets and our unpredictable weather and Illinois’ budget impasse and that feeling of… spinning, like the beach ball, as we wait to find out which schools Lilly’s been accepted to, plus the decisions yet to come down from Mt. FAFSA?

None better. It’s the perfect casual late winter project for me; this revisiting my own unique experience – as a very impressionable and rather dumb young person – of music and cultural discovery has been an excellent time so far, if a little navel-gazey.

But – the music! Each morning I read the next list (the lists were published weekly, but in my current universe one 1986 week = one 2016 day), then search for the songs on that list; if I can find them in Spotify, I add them to a playlist. If Spotify searches bear no fruit, sometimes can I find songs on YouTube and listen. Here are some random thoughts I’ve had while performing this exercise:

Man, I remember those Sin Alley compilations when re-pressings came in to Cargo.

I’m amazed at how quickly I am returned to my freshman year at Macalester upon hearing any track from Elvis Costello’s Blood and Chocolate.

I did not know who the Mekons were until 1990.

It is completely obvious that Steve Perry (from Journey) taught himself how to sing by listening to Sam Cooke.

80s Bryan Ferry!

I should be done with 1986 in a week, give or take a day. Then the playlist breathes for another week or so while I try to watch a few of the films referenced in the lists, or maybe track down a couple of the books/articles/magazines Marcus talks about. I’m not going to bother looking for Godzilla (2/18/86), but I’m definitely on the hunt to borrow a copy of Forced Exposure #10 (9/9/86). Anyone?

******

Decisions have been made:

  1. I’m joining the local Audubon Society.
  2. No plants will be started indoors for the 2016 gardening season.
  3. Basic vegetable garden will still be planted, but…
  4. … there will be way (WAY!) more flowers…

513

******

It’s going to be cold again, we’re probably going to get snow again, and there is still plenty of winter left, but something happens when the sun gets back up to a certain height in the sky and daylight starts winning out.

It gives the house the scent of spring.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

The new Greil Marcus book arrived in the mail yesterday, and I love it.

Greil

 

I love its boldly-colored, comic book-style cover illustration of Marcus, its hefty 586 pages, its exhaustive, nerdalicious index, its endless lists.

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[It’s a compilation of Marcus’ “Real Life Top Ten” lists, which he began posting, as somewhat-but-not-entirely Zeitgeisty missives, in February 1986 in the Village Voice, which is where I first found it in college in the late 80sThe column continues to this day in the Barnes & Noble Review, but the book ends at September 2014. While much of his listy focus is on music (not necessarily current, either), Marcus’ RLRTTs also encompass film, books/articles, toys – whatever was bouncing around on Planet Greil at the time.]

Having a book such as this – so appealing to me! In so many ways! – arrive during the work day made for a confusing tug-of-war. It was in my mailbox when I arrived at my office in the morning. I tore open the box, flung the cardboard aside, held the book in both hands, and sighed. (I’m not kidding.) It was 8:30 AM. I had a lot to do. I put the book down.

Greil’s face stared me down from the cover. I decided to allow myself to savor one list: the first list in the book, dated February 18, 1986. By the time I got to #2, (Billy Ocean’s “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going”), I realized I could probably make a streaming playlist of at least the songs on the list (and additional playlists for all the subsequent lists) and listen to that while I worked. 6 of the 7 songs on the list were available; the other 3 items on the list included a toy (Godzilla), an article (about Little Richard), and a book (about Bascom Lamar Lunsford).

I went ahead and made the playlist (including the Billy Ocean song, because obviously each list must be “consumed” as fully as possible). I wondered if I should start looking up the article and the book (as well as track down the missing song, a Bette Midler cut from the Down & Out in Beverly Hills soundtrack), and it occurred to me that dealing with this book properly could be its own full-time job. I stashed it in my bag and grudgingly started answering email.

In February 1986, I was a high school senior in Minnesota; I was a princess, an athlete, a criminal, a brain, and a basket case. I’d applied to colleges, but hadn’t heard from them yet. I devoured my friend Laura’s treasured copies of Maximum Rocknroll whenever possible, listened to KFAI late at night, and knew, with absolute certainty, that there was way more out there than what I was reading/watching/hearing/doing, and that I was going to find it. All of it.

Meanwhile, Greil Marcus was starting his compilations – his written cultural mix tapes – which would eventually be compiled into its own giant compilation: this book, which I’m going to work my way through, playlist by playlist, library search by library search.

Why? Why not? There’s so much I’ve missed.

Flex

lone_leaf

2015 wanes. Has it really been three months since I’ve written? 3 full moons? A quarter of a calendar year? I just realized that I stopped writing at the Fall equinox and resumed just after the Winter Solstice. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m eyeing the exiting calendar year with an eyebrow raised. Our weather has been anything-but-wintry. The calendar and the culture tell me I should be packed snugly into my house, with tea and piles of books and candles everywhere, hygge-ing it up, but it feels incongruous. I’d rather prowl my garden and marvel at what’s still alive, so I do.

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Kale thriving.

 

winter_chard

Chard surviving.

 

I fell asleep last night to flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder (I found this comforting, even in its weirdness; what I dislike is the water in our basement from the 2″+ of rain we’ve received in the last couple of days). As far as I’m concerned, winter is over, not just the year. (I know. January and February. I know.)

2015 felt like the film Groundhog Day (or perhaps Edge of Tomorrow), facile as that sounds. Much happened, as it always does, but it felt like it was happening around me. I frequently felt powerless to stop the bad things from happening, and often felt like a spectator at the good things that were happening. It wasn’t a terrible year by any means, but something felt off. I haven’t felt this rudderless in a long time, so I’m going to hang out with myself at a cafe in the coming days and do something I haven’t done for years: Figure shit out. I have some ideas. I’m grateful for that.

 

What I’m reading:

Drawing Blood

Out on the Wire

Robert Kennedy and His Times

Listening to:

These Spotify playlists for Star Wars characters are fantastic

Joe Rogan’s podcast

She Does podcast (on hiatus for a few weeks)

You Must Remember This podcast (also on hiatus for a few weeks)

Root Simple podcast

The New Yorker Radio Hour

 

So. Hello. And not in the Adele way.

Satisfaction

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April = satisfaction. Leaves emerge. Birds sing. Severe weather threatens. We survived winter, friends. WE PREVAILED.

Some things:

– I’m doing some writing about music – very amateur! I’m rusty as hell! – at Innocent Words. This link will take you to a thing I did about Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart. Another piece about (well, sort of) Donita Sparks from L7 was just published yesterday (language, y’all). I’m pretty insecure about my music writing because I’m not a critic. I’m not an academic. I just write about how music makes me feel, or how I remember it made me feel at a certain point in time, and describe those feelings through the lens of now. I don’t think about music as much as I used to. I don’t even listen to music as much as I used to, although that’s changing as a result of this assignment. I think about how old I was (25) when my dad was the age I am now (46) and how he was not even trying to understand “grunge” or Britpop because it all sucked and the music HE had in his 20s was better. JEEZ, DAD. But… while I totally love a lot of the stuff I hear in passing today, I find myself writing about the days of yore. You cannot take the Hugo out of the girl.

– Speaking of the days of yore and writing, I read Viv Albertine‘s memoir while I was on vacation and I loved it so much. I read it in 8 hours. I wanted more. I wanted five hundred more pages. And the device she uses as a “bibliography” – is brilliant.

– Speaking of brilliant, my daughter is doing some fantastic writing for Rookie. She’s a deeply-feeling athlete who doesn’t speak in coachy/jocky platitudes about “gutting it out” or “finding a way to win” – she’s writing stuff like I pour myself so wholeheartedly into the game that when my voice is silenced and my strength sapped I don’t know what to do with myself, how to react, how to adapt. I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

– Tomorrow is video release day and I’m pretty damn excited about it. I’ll post the link when it’s live! Yes!

I’m kind of excited about… everything! All the things! I have a lot to learn about saying yes and saying no and standing up for myself and holding my ground and managing my time and doing the work and basically figuring out what it all means. There are days when I freak out that I’m still doing this at my age, trying to get my shit straight, but I’m starting to realize that it’s never too late, and everyone’s always working on something.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

How to disrupt public radio

Being Boss is my new podcast obsession

I used to work at this bakery in St. Paul and I think this might be the ever-elusive bran muffin recipe

I’m making this for Lilly’s soccer team next week because Smitten Kitchen knows what girls like

My friends Brett and Bonnie talk about art, ecology, Scandinavia

Who’s read Good to Great?

Jealous Curator

Early days of the B-52s

Lessons learned from writing a cookbook

Case made for wearing the same thing to work every day – do you do this?

Rejection is awesome

All Rise

It’s been about 30 years since I saw Naked Raygun. I was a … junior?… in high school and they played a show at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. It was my first (and only) time seeing them. It was also my first time at the Entry; I had no idea that place would become a second home for me in just a few years. Anyway. For a suburban wannabe-punk teenager (and likely for all the dudes in the pit as well), the show was magical and life-changing, though I went home with an EP from one of the opening bands. Sorry, NR.

That was 30 years ago?

IMG_0569This is not Naked Raygun.

Anyway. Here in Urbana-Champaign we have a yearly event called The Great Cover Up. In short: Local bands get 20 minutes to be someone else onstage, people attend in droves, and money is raised for a good cause. Braid were REM one year. Poster Children were the Cars in another. Hum were Led Zeppelin sometime in the mid-90s. And Jim’s band, Sixteen Tons, went out with a literal bang at their second-to-last Cover-Up performance in 1993 when they were Big Black.

[Jim and I began working together a few months after that performance. I had been shocked to find out during the course of our getting to know one another (the way you sort of get to know the people you work with) that he was the drummer for Sixteen Tons (OMHYGODNOWAY) and that they had had this legendary performance as Big Black that everyone in our office was STILL talking about with utter reverence (we worked for an independent music distributor at the time and everyone went to several shows a week, so this was par for the course). I had been a bit of a fan of Sixteen Tons when I’d been living in Minneapolis, and was a HUGE Big Black fan, so hearing about all this, plus Jim’s being such a friendly, cool guy – and handsome to boot – was quite the combo.]

[Sixteen Tons reunited last year for the first time since 1994 (?) and played a bonkers show that our daughter (and Ed’s son) attended. Can you imagine being L & T in that situation? Here are two guys you’ve known your whole life. They’ve read The Giving Tree to you at bedtime, they’ve taught you how to swear properly on the soccer field without getting caught, they’ve made your dinner and driven you places and coached you and given you a good talking-to and hugged you at the right times and sometimes at the awkward times… and then there’s Ed onstage yelling curse words through a bullhorn and there’s Jim beating the living crap out of a drum set, along with three other guys making a most holy racket. I’m sure it was weird.]

Anyway. The upshot of this entire blog entry is this: I just loved it when Sixteen Tons were asked to play this year’s Cover-Up – their absence from playing it is now of legal drinking age –  and they agreed, as long as they could pretend to be Naked f*cking Raygun for 20 minutes. And that’s what they did. It was thrilling and noisy and Darin lit an illegal cigarette onstage and Jim tore up his hands hitting the drums and Tony made jokes from his spot and Todd looked serious and Ed had all the NR moves down… but really what it was, at its core, was 5 guys of a certain age just enjoying playing music together again for a room full of people, many of whom were that same certain age, who just wanted to enjoy being there while it happened.

Should have worn earplugs.

That One Stones Song

Snow Globe

A long time ago, back when I lived in MPLS and leaving town for CHGO wasn’t on my radar (in retrospect, it’s amazing how quickly that got ON my radar, but that’s a story for another time), so it must have been early 1991, Golden Smog got together and played one of their then-rare shows at the Cabooze. GS at that time was a total novelty act made up of local musicians (somewhat-original lineup featured 2 Jayhawks, 2 Soul Asylums, a Replacement, and a Run Westy); they had put out one small EP of covers and if someone had suggested anything more than that to them, at that moment in time, they would have thought that person was crazy; the whole idea behind GS was for these guys to get together and play covers for their friends and some fans and to get  intoxicated and be silly about it. Some of their memorable attempts: Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug” (sung by Marc Perlman, bass player for the Jayhawks and not a frontman by trade), Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night” (my suggestion and guest-vocaled by someone named Heather whose last name I’ve forgotten), The Stones’ “She’s A Rainbow” (with toy piano)… there were so many more, and maybe people out there reading with better memories than I will post others from that time period.

But one cover from the early 1991 date I reference above was of a Stones song I’d never heard before, even as a record store employee, and every time I get depressed about the winter landscape and  the snow and the fact that it’s January, TWENTY-THREE YEARS LATER, I default to “Winter” and fuzzily recall how their version of that song (quite true to the original, as I remember it, and sung by Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run) really struck me and was a bit of a turning point in my musical education, one of many during that time. Five months later, I left the town I thought I’d live in forever and moved to CHGO, where I eventually learned so much more about music, but few songs have had the long-term impact on me in terms of inner soundtracking that “Winter” has.

In other news, we start shooting Backyard Industry in a week, I cut my hair, and I’m looking for fun, whimsical, food-related T-shirts I can wear while we film. Hit me with your best shot.