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Bring out the dead

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

I have this joke I thought of yesterday that has no home. I’m not working on anything and even then I don’t know how I’d fit it in. It goes like this:

Man: Dad passed away last weekend.

Woman: Oh no I’m sorry.

Man: It was time. He was in a lot of pain at the end.

Woman: That’s tough. Was it cancer?

Man: No he was hit by a train. I hear that hurts like hell.

So you see my Dilemma- it’s a very specific joke and it needs to live in a certain sort of thing. It’s too big for twitter and too specific to be handed off to someone else who’s writing something else.

So I have it and it’s sitting here..

It started with the combo fact that I was on the train this morning and it seems that Facebook is either dead people or babies these days. I was telling a coworker that she had reached the age when you go to a lot of weddings. Which seems to happen in your late 20’s if I recall correctly. I guess I have reached the age when people have babies or die.

Which brings us to Prince, who did not have a baby.

Much has been said about the sadness around the death of the purple one, so I don’t need to re-explain what everyone’s already talked about.  Prince was an innovator, and while I wasn’t always a fan- I was always able to see that he was doing something completely different than anyone else in a way that was completely new. There are, of course, songs that I love- not especially the hits, but that’s not to say I live under a rock and therefore don’t know all the words the the whole of purple rain…

However I’d like to back out and discuss the whole way that social media has change the way we experience death. Especially celebrity death, but even deaths on a personal level.

Celebrity deaths, I have heard, seem to be happening more “often” than before. I’ve seen meme cursing 2016 as the stealer of legends- because of Bowie, Glenn Frey*, and now Prince. Yes, this is tragic, but no, it’s not unusual. People die all the time, however, in today’s modern age we knew that Prince was dead with in hours of his body being discovered, we could instantly launch into talking about it and we have a public forum for each of us to do so.

2016 is not a “year of disaster”, it’s just a year. Let me give you an example: I thought back to deaths that I registered from growing up, a celebrity death that I remember distinctly. I thought of two right off the top of my head: Elvis Presley and John Lennon. I remember that I heard about both rather rapidly although, since I was a kid, I don’t know how rapidly. Let’s pick one: Lennon (1980). I can’t tell you a thing about anyone else that died that year, however a quick search of the internet tells me that in addition to Lennon there were Bon Scott, John Bonham, Steve McQueen, Mae West, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Durante, Ian Curtis and Peter Sellers. Those are just the ones that came up on the first website I grabbed off of google. So I doubt that list is even comprehensive.

Which makes me think about 1980- did people curse that year? I don’t recall. Somehow I doubt it- but you can’t argue that these people are legendary. I don’t remember any adults around me even commenting.

That doesn’t mean that having a year when Bowie and Prince died isn’t sad- it just means that people are going to keep dying. I mean, we only have one Ramone and half the Clash and those guys were kids compared to Bowie. So before you curse this year, remember that you’re going to curse every year from here on out, especially if you only face backwards. I also wonder about all of the hub bub on facebook. There are some people I expect to express sadness- people who I know love that artist and have forever. They need to use the support group that is social media to discuss. However I also saw, just this morning, someone who had posted “Here’s the obligatory post about Prince”, you know what? You don’t need to join the conversation. Just let it lie.

But further, the way we see any death these days seems to be via facebook. People you know, people who are famous, even people posting about friends, parents, whomever… who are long dead.  I think part of it is a public rending of cloth, a chance to say “I feel bad about this”. Some of it is also a coming together of grief, especially the public figures.  And some if it is, I guess, keeping the memory alive. However, even while I’ve been occasionally guilty of the public rending of cloth, I tend to think that grief of any kind is better expressed in person.

I’ve also always wondered about celebrating “death days”… well not celebrating- more like recognizing. Isn’t it better to talk about them in your regular life (IRL), tell stories, remember moments than it is to say something to the effect of “it’s been x years since you died and that’s stinky” on the Internet? Maybe that’s just me.

Which brings us to the conceit of the blog, which is if the only music that’s good was made 20 years ago**

Old Song: In deference to Prince let’s dig into the catalog. I’ve heard Chuck Prophet cover Controversy from the Prince world recently and it’s a Prince song that I forgot how much I liked. I found a version online of Prince doing it– it says “official” so this might be one of the few times Prince allowed music onto Youtube. Anyway, it does all the things that made Prince great. It’s got about a 100 hooks, but it’s also got a groove that’s hard to get out of your head. It’s funk, but it’s pop, but it’s soul. It’s the quintessential Prince song from exactly one Prince era. Prince wasn’t completely like Bowie in that respect but you have to appreciate the fact that he never stood still as a artist. He was always thinking of the next thing. Well, now we’ll just have to go into the catalog and appreciate all of the things we may have overlooked.

New Song: Fraser A Gorman. He has a bunch of quality songs, however, because you haven’t heard of him let’s start with the “hit”. Shiny Gun is what amounts to a hit for this Australian kid with a folk rocky sound. It’s a great song, but you should use it as the appetizer for digging into the rest of his stuff. He’s got two records out now and both are full of gems. However, this one was the song that put him on the map. It’s the first song of his that I heard. It easily puts him the the same breath as Wilco, which is a feat in itself. It also makes me want to pay attention to him as he continues to develop. Remember that he’s only 23. Also it shouldn’t shock you that he’s being championed by another Australian who deserves your attention- 2015 Grammy nominee & wonder kind, Courtney Barnett.

 

*I’m not going to argue that he wasn’t a legend even if I hated the eagles like it was a full time job

** News Flash- you’ve got bad news on the horizon from this point forward.

How many Oaklanders does it take to change a light bulb? Hella.

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Yesterday, Nicole and I finished the Oakland half-Marathon it’s one of the best of these events we do and we’ve done quite a few. I mean everyone has their merits, but only one has Lake Merritt.

It started with a little pain because the night before we went to see the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the SF Jazz. They were amazing but I was dancing on the same feet that were gonna run 13.1 the next day so I started the day with a creaky ankle. On an interesting side note- the date that was three dates behind SF Jazz was of all places “Bethany College” – props to you Alma Mater- you’re cooler now when I was there and we slogged through Beatles tribute bands and The Georgia Satellites.

Our experience with the SF Marathon vs The Oakland Running Festival is not night and day but it’s a little bit of a dichotomy. The SF expects the course & scenery to shine and the Oakland wants the people & the event to shine. To put that another way SF is like “F^@k you, here’s a bridge” and Oakland is more “Hey, how’s everything going. Would you like some more bananas? How about some snacks? You seem nice. Wanna hang out?”.

Oakland gives away not one but two beers, there were three places on the course giving away orange slices and one place giving away power muffins & orange slices (much love to Brown Sugar Kitchen– which we hear from new friend Britta is also an awesome place to eat)

Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, who kicked off the race, announced “I bet you’re going to run into hella people who love Oakland. So have fun!” Which makes me love Oakland even more when you put her against Ed Lee who seems even stuffier (and possibly slightly more corrupt) when pitted against that.

Along the course we saw tons of people with signs, a couple bands and 1 super awesome Asian drum team. There a number of churches emptying out as we ran, we were greeted by a number of Pastors, a few congregations and woman who was wearing her church best on a corner dancing and shouting encouragement.

This race’s hands down winner from the sign category was “If Brittney Spears can make it through 2007 you can make it through this race” barely beating out last years favorite “Run like you stole something because let’s face it- this is Oakland so you probably did”. Signs repeat lots, for example we see “Worst Parade Ever” lots but that doesn’t make it less funny, but there’s always one or two that are new and clever.

This year during the race we heard from another runner about the Santa Rosa half which comes with a bottle of wine- which is pretty good swag unless you drink it immediately following the race (freight train to sh!tfaced town!). Also folks that join the Deloach wine club get free entry. I don’t know the first thing about that winery or we might think about it.

And now to the conceit- I thought about trying to dig up some “running” songs but that seemed forced so here you go- one from the stove and one from the vault:

Old Song: Mr Greeves by the Pixies. This came out in 1989 (The number. Sound of the funky drummer- but more on that later). It got a ton of play when I was in college (see above) but it still sounds like a good song despite it’s age. I’m not saying I want to listen to it all the time but it stands up and doesn’t sound like you’re on a memory trip.

New Song : Corrine by Black Honey. These guys are a punk, psych rock sixties sounding something else. I’d love to think that they might get some kind of larger fame but I fear that they are such a niche sound that they just won’t have enough to break bigger. I bet, though, that based on everything I’ve heard of their recorded stuff that they probably kill it in concert and I’ll be keeping an eye out for tour dates that aren’t in UK or France.

The Elvis Year that never included the King

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Recently, my brother-in-law announced that no good music has been made in 15 years. This is a concept some people call your “Elvis-year” -meaning the moment when you felt like you had the whole life-thing wired and then you look back on it forever. You just sit in the warm bath of the music that was the sound track of the time you felt like you ruled the world and you watch those movies and you stay in touch with those friends…etc.So if you “Elvis-yeared” in 1984 you might never want to listen to anything but Van Halen, Cindi Lauper and Prince while watching Ghostbusters or Footloose. I’m pretty certain I’ve had a couple and I don’t know if that’s allowed (but I’m writing so I’m making the rules). There’s a couple times when I had a new lease on life – most recently when Nicole and I started dating 5 years ago.

There’s another concept around this idea I’ve also heard discussed called the “reminiscence bump” or looking back on a time when your parents were in their 20’s- which explains why these nostalgia booms seem to reflect a time just before the people leading it were born- 30 years previous e.g. in the 70’s shows like Happy Days looked back on the 50’s in the 80’s shows like The Wonder Years & China Beach looked back on the 60’s and now we’re treated to The Goldbergs to look back on the 80’s.

My Dad’s Elvis-year was probably 1959 or so. He would tell me that no good music had been made since then, but the same time  I was probably 12 or 13, just discovering music like The Clash, David Bowie and The Ramones. Which meant as my Dad was saying it I felt like I was *actively* proving him wrong. As this declaration was made, he was rejecting everything from Michael Jackson to The Velvet Underground in favor of Chuck Berry and The Four Freshman. Sure there were a few bands that sneaked through Dad’s standard wall… Billy Joel was okay (he was from Long Island) …Bruce Springsteen was okay (He was singing about something we wouldn’t have a word for until 2 years ago…’Murica) but those were few and far between.

Now even though I have some things that I still discuss with my therapist about Dad doesn’t mean that’s it’s wrong that as he made this declaration I saw that he was glaringly wrong. This fact cemented in my mind there was never going to be a need to make such a declaration. I was going to keep my mind and my ears open for whatever was next. It’s been good for my musical enlightenment but maybe bad for my wallet (this means you have to buy new stuff all the time). I am now about the age that my Dad was when he declared that music was dead and I can tell you that music is far from dead and there’s cool new stuff happening all the time.

So long story short… for as long as people are still around there will be great music being made all the time and the key is opening your mind to it. It’s going to be different than the music that was made when you were 22 and all fresh faced, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

As I move through life I find that there’s things I keep but there’s a lot I lose.The Clash sounds as good today as they did in 1982 but even though I loved Depeche mode when I was 19, now they sound dated. Husker Du sounds fresh, The Doors sound tired. Etc.

The list goes on.

This gave me an idea. When I first started this blog it was an email and the email was framed around a song that was stuck in my head. I would prattle on about something that was going on- and then I would share the song of the day. I think this whole new/old thing might have legs and more importantly it gives me something to frame my ideas around and force me to write a bit more.

So…in addition to prattling on, I’m going to include one song from the past that still sounds good and one song from now that is an excellent addition.

That said. Here they are:

Old Thing: Echo & The Bunnymen: Bring on the Dancing Horses. Recently this song came on Pandora and I was surprised how undated it sounded. It’s just a good rock song. There’s no weird trendy things going on, they’re just playing something. I’d say the way to tell if something is on the trend line is listen to it a bunch of times, for example, that now terrible Mumford and Sons song. Remember the first time you heard it? Didn’t suck. Then suddenly it sucked (and REALLY sucked). I don’t know how it went from not suck to suck but it did about two listens in and the moment it happened that song became unlistenable. So I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Bring on the Dancing Horses but….well alot…. it still doesn’t suck. Even …jesus…30 years later

New Thing: Thao & Get Down Stay Down: Nobody Dies. I’d be remiss if I didn’t drop her on the debut version of this new idiom.  For several reasons, (1) When Jason said “No good music has been made…etc” I had just gotten her record in the mail. It came out, like, yesterday (I preordered it) she was the first thing I thought of because- she’s awesome and also her record had quite literally just come out.- making the record younger than his kid. (2) She’s local (we already knew this but)- this video is filmed either in Marin or the east bay. I know I’ve been there but I can’t quite place it. (3) She’s one of my favorite new artists in the past couple years and also one hell of a show – so go see her live you will not regret it.

So there you go. Now I have a thing and that means that maybe I’ll get fingers on keys a bit more…maybe weekly?

Theoretically this works

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I have uploaded all sorts of new software and changed my web hosting from whatever the hell it was over to Linux, which I don’t fully understand. Hopefully at the end of all of this the Sporadic can move from 1996 email version to 2005 web based version. Fingers crossed.