Covid19 Shutdown – Teacher’s Perspective

Friday, March 13th, 1:45 p.m, Trinity School. 70-something 5th graders gather in the hall to have a dance party, but dammit, the speaker won’t work. The speaker won’t work. You can’t have a dance party without a speaker! Try telling that to a group of 5th grade boys so connected that they come up with almost identical writing topics when given a surprise free write assignment.

“Play ‘Single Ladies’! Play ‘Single Ladies’!!!!”

‘Single Ladies’ plays and the boys sing and dance, dance and sing.

The girls roll their eyes.

“It is now time for 2:00 o’clock carpool. Teachers, please log onto School Pass.”

And just like that everything we knew about school was over.

Flashback March 4th The faculty meeting where we hear the Head of School tell us that we might be looking at some days away from school. Nothing solid, nothing definite, but it’s a possibility.

Flash forward March 9th. Morning Meeting with our students.

“It’s possible that we’re going to have to stay home for a few days. Maybe a little longer, two weeks tops.”

We tell the kids, “This is something you’re going to always remember. This is the thing that when you’re an adult people will ask you where you were when the Corona Shutdown happened, and you’ll say that you were a 5th Grader at Trinity School.”

Flashback March 11th. 8 teachers sit together putting together a week’s worth of assignments. Laughing, but taking it seriously. We are putting together assignments for our students that they can do at home that will be similar to what we’d be doing at school. ‘A week, two weeks tops.’ floats through our minds, but there are some quiet, sinister voices that say different.

Monday, March 16th Distance Learning begins. Our Google Drives are in use as they never have been before. Students use this to do turn in the work they’re doing that we assigned. Checking over each assignment, making comments, checking off on Google Spreadsheets which students have completed what.

I meet with Jill Gough and Bridget Billups on Google Meet, a new-to-us platform on Monday, March 16th. Isn’t it fun! Look! There they are! It’s the future the Jetsons promised us, minus the flying cars. This is what we will be using to see our students because we are staying home two weeks, and the second week we will start seeing our students in our virtual classrooms.

We Meet and make plans. We Meet more and plan more. We fill in schedules on Google Docs. We make hyperlinks to Google Docs and Loom video presentations (another new platform!) We meet more. Nervous laughter. Frustrated grumbles over Internet blips; frozen screens, echoey voices, connections that don’t connect.

Week 2 we see our students for the first time on screen. We laugh, we talk, we tell them they’re doing great and assure them that we’ll be back together soon. Little do we know.

Weeks 3, 4, 5, 6. Meeting, planning, emailing, texting, Face Timing holding onto the thinning thread of hope that we will go back and we will be with our students and EACH OTHER again. We spend hours and hours with each other 5 days a week. We are a support system for each other.

We hear we will not be coming back.

We will not be coming back.

Not coming back.

Weeks 7 and 8 continue as the others have, and here’s the thing. Here’s the thing:

Our students are doing awesome work, and they have been this whole time! All the foundations laid before the Corona Shutdown are fully evident. We are proud. We are amazed. These digital natives have taken this new format and said, “Okay, yeah. We got this.” And they do!

Don’t get me wrong. They want to come back. Videos shared with us showing a 5th grader wailing/whining, “I WANT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOOOOOL!” But they are doing great work. Not busy work. Not just reviewing what they’ve learned already this year. New material. New skills and strategies.

These teachers I work with. Holy cow, these teachers! These co-workers. These friends of mine. I can’t sing their praises enough. Mothers of young children also in school and too young for school. Single adults at home by themselves with just their sweet pup for company. Wives of husbands whose jobs are as uncertain as the time we’re living in. Wives and moms away from home to be with family while other family members are away from them. Wives and moms with high schoolers in their homes who are surly and bored and snarky and even sweet at times. These teachers I work with!

Day after day, week after week we bring our all to this task – Teach our students. At various times we crack. Tears of frustration, fear, disappointment, exhaustion, anger. But we laugh and we make each other laugh. These teachers I work with!

Week 9, it’s our last week with our students. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We’ve missed so much. They’ve missed so much. 30 minute video meetings in the morning where the seams are starting to show a little. A little less interest. A little less participation. Can we blame them for this? No! We are as exhausted by this as they are.

They’re still doing great work. They’re still trying their best. They’re asking questions, they’re sharing thoughts and insights, but they’re done and nobody blames them. We’re close ourselves, but then it hits me.

When this is over I have summer ahead of me. Usually that fills me with excitement. Summer! I’ve said before that any teacher that claims the time off in summer has nothing to do with why they teach, even just a little, is a liar. This summer is full of uncertainty and lack of structure for me. Summer means I don’t see my students’ smiling little faces on my screen every morning. Summer means I don’t see my co-workers in our now weekly Meet. We did get it down to once a week after a couple of weeks. I was going to coach swim team again this summer and I love that, but it’s been snatched away like so many other things.

I’ve told my students that I will see them again. I wish it would be in room 2261 getting ready for a regular day of 5th grade, but that’s not possible. That regularity seems to be out of reach. That doesn’t matter though. I have poured 7 1/2 months into them. I have learned about them. I have learned from them. I hope they have learned from me. They are part of Team Benefield, and that’s a lifetime membership. I will see them again. Whether individually, a partial group, or the whole 18 of them together in one place, I will see their smiles face-to-face. If we get to a place where we can high-five or give hugs I will do that. If we aren’t at that place yet I will do like I’ve been doing with friends I’ve seen from 6 feet away; smile, give ourselves a hug and acknowledge that it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.

This school year is nothing at all like anyone thought it would be. It is one that I hope no one ever, ever has to go through again because it has been hard. Hard, but not impossible. Hard, but not without hope and joy and expectation and success. If we have to do this again, we can. We’ve learned new skills. We pivoted. We took this situation and did the best we could, and we can do it again if we have to. We don’t want to. At all. Ever again. But we can because this is what we do; we teach our students.

 

IMG_1796

Constitution Lakes Park

Mother’s Day for some families means an outing with the whole family. For the Benefield family, this Benefield family in particular, it means let Mom have a few hours to herself at home. You see, since March 13th, Glitter Queen has been putting up with three more people than usual for 8+ hours a day due to the Covid19 Shutdown.

Normally, the Girls and I would be at school during the day, but since that cold mid-March day, our school is at home. We are here. All the time. GQ pointed out to me the other day that everyone has had some time at home by themselves. Everyone but her. That’s something that I can fix.

After a Mother’s Day brunch of gluten free pancakes, bacon, and fruit, the Girls and I head out down Moreland Avenue to Constitution Lakes Park (not the official site). The Girls had been once before with GQ, and I’ve been wanting to go. I think we picked a better time of year because it is a wet, wet area and the mosquitos are not quite buzzing yet.

Walking into the park you would not expect the creepiness that awaits you. A nice, 8′ wide sidewalk takes you down a winding path for a while and the there’s Patrick spray painted on a tree, followed closely by Spongebob. A little further and you see, “DOLLS HEAD TRAIL” with an arrow to the left.

We follow the boardwalk in the direction other hand-scrawled directions give. We see some tiny turtles sunning themselves on some logs. It’s a pretty lake that the boardwalk borders. A few fishermen are casting their lines as we continue on. During some recent storms an enormous oak tree has fallen across the path. It’s almost the perfect gateway to what lies ahead.

I’ll let these photos speak for me. It’s creepy and it’s fascinating, and it’s just about 30 minutes outside of Decatur. We got there around 12:30 and only encountered one other family on the trail. We stayed about an hour and a half and on our way out passed at least 12 families, so the trick is the earlier, the better.

In addition to Dolls Head Trail, the boardwalk apparently goes all the way around the lakes. Something Ramona tried to tell me, but I was too enthralled with the dollheads and taking pictures. Oh well, I guess that just means that I’ll have to go back another day.

 

Planting the Seeds of Service

IMG_4518

One of the many attributes that drew me to Trinity was the commitment to instilling in the students a sense of community service. Each grade level has a project that assists different community service, mostly local..

I experienced the commitment to service as soon as I started working at Trinity. Fifth Grade partnered with Trees Atlanta and a local elementary school in the Atlanta Public School system. Three times during the year we had activities with Trees Atlanta. They came to Trinity and taught us about urban forests and how lucky we are to live in one of the larger ones in the region. They also met us at Perkerson E.S. where we planted trees along the street in front of their school and down one of the local streets. I learned digging big holes in hard ground with 10-11 year olds was not an easy task! Finally, we hosted the students and teachers from Perkerson at Trinity, and we explored and cleaned up in Discovery Woods behind our school. It was a neat experience for everyone involved, and we carried on that relationship for a number of years. Unfortunately, our contact at Trees Atlanta moved on, the program we were operating under evolved into something else, and scheduling conflicts with Perkerson made us have to look for a new outlet for service.

For the past two years, Fifth Grade students have helped raise money to buy Uzima filters for the organization, Start With One – Kenya by holding a two week walk-a-thon and raising money through donations for total laps walked. The students raised additional funds through the annual Freshwater Fair held by our awesome science teacher, Becky Maas, where the Fifth Graders created games that both taught other Trinity students about freshwater animals and entertained/challenged them with different skills. I’ll reveal the total dollar amount and number of filters the grade was able to supply at the end of this post. For our Valentine’s Day party this year, each student also assembled a breakfast bag to be given to the guests of the Central Night Shelter. Each bag had a reusable water bottle, a new pair of socks, snacks, a piece of fruit, and a piece of candy. 

Below are some pictures of different grade levels participating in their community service projects.

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 9.34.08 AM

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 9.50.57 AM

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 9.38.35 AM

From the pictures, you can see our school is busy all year long finding different ways to help those in our community and around the world. Each year the students come together to see and hear about their collective services they provide. The cheers for each grade level is fantastic, as is the pride that can be seen on the faces of the students when they see their achievements on the overhead screen.

Now, for the big reveal! The Fifth Grade students raised the amazing sum of $16,000! This money will be enough to purchase 400 water filters that will be distributed this summer to families in a village in Kenya. Each filter will last for 10 years! This year, Mrs. Maas will be accompanying Start With One – Kenya representatives on their annual trip to Africa. She will get to meet the families who will receive the filters and see firsthand the difference these make in the lives of these people.

If you know me or know about my Go Do Good philosophy then you can clearly see how I am thrilled beyond belief to be a part of this school where 680+ students are having the seeds of service planted, tended, and grown into caring, serving girls and boys.

Christmas Music

I love Christmas music. It’s a little point of contention with my family that as soon as Thanksgiving is over my Pandora or Spotify stations and playlists are pretty much dedicated to Christmas music. As the Girls have gotten older, they are not as into as they were as little ones. That’s okay, it’s to be expected. Surly teen years and all.

My tastes in Christmas music are pretty broad. If you know me this isn’t surprising. I love the classics. I think I still have my Gene Autry Sings, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” album that I listed to as a little boy. My parents had a few Time-Life Christmas Collections that Dad would pull out every year for the turntable. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the different orchestras that recorded standards, Burl Ives. Then there was The New Christy Minstrels (I’m still not even sure about this enormous group of very happy looking sweater-wearing, sleigh-riding folks. I honestly don’t think that album ever got played in our house. It looks like it’d be a fun album, but again, I have no memory of ever actually hearing it to make a judgment on the music.

As I was entering my teen years in the early 80’s, I was introduced to some new classics. The world before the Internet was not an easy time to hear new, interesting Christmas music. Maybe 96 Rock would play The Kinks, “Father Christmas” every once in awhile, and that was pretty exciting. Of course, one of the greatest musical moments in my life, and so many other people a certain age now, happened the magical year of 1984. Band Aid’s, “Do They Know it’s Christmas?“. I could not get enough of this. So many of my favorite bands and singers were on this. The video made me so happy! Seeing all those stars together having such a good time, playing and singing together. That they raised money to try to send relief to Ethiopia was fantastic. Sadly, there’s speculation on where the money actually ended up.

I’ve heard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” countless times. Great song. For my ears, it’s hard to beat Andy Williams’ version. I am a bit confused though by a line in the song: “There’ll be scary ghost stories…” Why? Why are we telling ghost stories at Christmastime? Is that an allusion to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? I’ve always wondered how that line ended up in there.

The other classic that raises a question in my mind is from “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. There are lots of good versions of this one, pick your favorite. My question is what kind of disturbed individual includes the line, “Oh what a laugh it would have been, if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night!” Now, obviously, the sly wink and nod is that of course it’s Daddy in the first place that’s kissing Mommy. That’s all good and fine, but here’s the problem – this song is told from the perspective of a little kid. They are a little disturbed, maybe, that their mom is kissing some other guy, even if that guy is Santa, but beyond that they’re thinking how funny it’d be if their dad saw this kiss. In the Jackson 5’s version you hear young Michael trying to get his brothers to believe him. “I did! I did see Mommy kissing Santa and I’m gonna tell my daddy!” What do people think is going to happen when Daddy hears that Mommy’s been kissing another dude?  Cue up The Ramones, “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight

I’ll wrap this up with some of my more recent favorites. Obviously Mariah ends up here. You’d have to be a pretty serious Scrooge to not love this song. I’m not even going to put the title because it’s just so obvious. I will include this video though because it makes me pretty happy every time I see it. Also, the piano player on Mariah’s album is phenomenal. His playing absolutely takes the songs up at least 5 notches. Kelly Clarkson has gifted us with her fantastic, “Underneath the Tree” that I somehow just heard for the first time this year. The Shins covered another one of my favorites a few years ago and put a very Beach Boys’ spin to “Wonderful Christmastime.” Some people can’t stand Macca’s song and those people are wrong. The cover brings three things I love together, Paul McCartney, Beach Boys’ song structure/harmony, and The Shins. I’ll leave off with a song that I’m thankful I never had to relate to, but I look forward to hearing it every year, Dropkick Murphys “The Season’s Upon Us

Christmas songs are gifts bestowed upon us this time of year. Like all gifts, they illicit different responses from us. For the most part, they are given with love; although there are a few that I think were written, recorded, and released just to put a plant a horrible earworm. My gift to you is not including any of the ones of those that make my Naughty List, feel free to leave them in the comments if you want. Something to remember when you’re listening to these songs is that the majority of them were recorded in the summer or fall, a very un-Christmasy time of year. I read that Frank Sinatra had the recording studio decorated for Christmas and got them to crank up the AC so there’d be a bit of chill in the air.

I’ll leave you with a teen favorite, Billy Squier & the classic MTV crew reminding us that “Christmas is a time to say, ‘I Love You.'”  Merry Christmas to all and to all some great tunes

.oooooh

 

A Different Reason I Teach

I have spoken about some of the reasons I am a teacher before – here, here, and here, but a over the course of a recent weekend I was reminded of a couple of more reasons.

I attended a job fair with member of the Academic Leadership Team from Trinity to Milledgeville, GA, at Georgia College and State University. We were one of two, maybe three independent schools there for the day. By and large, the entire gym floor was filled with representatives from schools systems from all over Georgia, big and small.

It was an interesting day and we had the opportunity to speak to a few soon-to-be graduating seniors that are looking to go into teaching. As we were leaving, I heard someone calling me, “Mr. Benefield.”

I turned around to see a young man approaching me. He told me he was a former student at Fernbank Elementary. He saw me during the Job Fair while he was working out – the job fair was held in their gym and the workout room was above us – and he came down to talk to me. He introduced himself to me, reminded me of his younger brother’s name and then he said,

“I just wanted to tell you, ‘Thank you’.” He went on to tell me how much he appreciated all the work that I did and all the teachers at Fernbank did for him, and all the students. He said he noticed such a difference in the teachers at Fernbank than any of the other schools he attended. He said again, “I just wanted to tell you, ‘Thank you’.” He was so sincere and earnest. I found out that he is a senior and is majoring in business and is looking forward to graduating in the spring.

We shook hands, gave each other a quick hug, and then he was backing away, saying again, “Thank you.” I stood there for a few seconds and then turned to go.

My colleague said, “That was really moving. You’ve made a difference in someone’s life, Thomas.” I was really moved. This young man had not even been in my homeroom class, but I did remember him. That being said, I did go and look him up in the yearbook from the time he was in 5th grade! I could definitely see the young man that emerged through the face of that 10-year old on the page.

I occasionally run into former students in random places and it’s always fun, but that was the first time I  have been moved like that. It’s humbling and gratifying to know that students who we pour ourselves into every year really do reap the benefit of care, love, and time.

The other thing that happened was at two different locations, one at the Trinity Spotlight on Art and the Druid Hills High School Auction. At both locations I ran into parents of former students. From as recent as last year to all the way far back as 17 years ago!

I really enjoy getting to know the parents of my students. It does not happen with all the parents and that’s fine. I have had the privilege to become friends with parents of some of my students and former students. It does not usually happen the year I am teaching their child; although, I do have a few of those. Usually, over the school year we find there is something that we have in common. Whether it is music, movies, comic books, or something else, there’s a spark of a relationship beyond teacher/parent.

The weekend I ran into those parents, it was so exciting to hear about what these boys and girls (sometimes it is hard to not see them as eternally the 10-11 year olds they were when they were with me) young men and women are up to. From middle school sports and academic teams to high school and college to graduate school to full-time careers as adults, I heard fascinating and uplifting stories.

I have been in the classroom since 1992, I wish I knew what some of my first students from the 1990s were up to. I know there’s a possibility that one day I will have a student come in my room and I’ll find out that I taught their mom or dad. Maybe that’s a dream, I don’t know, but the possibility brings me a great deal of happiness.

As teachers, we take a risk getting to know our students’ parents on a personal level. There are some things that could go wrong, certainly. At the same time, I find there has been so much to gain and I have no regrets in extending that relationship outside of the classroom. I am looking forward to many more years of being in the classroom and many more stories from the parents of those students.

Processing

It’s been three years since Dad died. I wrote this piece immediately after his funeral. I couldn’t post it. It was too close. Three years on, I have come into a different place of grief than what I talk about in the original post. I have more times when there is the pain of loss, the anger at him missing out on accomplishments of my family, the sadness of things I want to share with him. Grief is a strange burden that changes and hides and comes at unexpected times.  This is a long post and it’s certainly more personal than most posts, but if you’re interested, please read on.

I’ve put off writing this post for three weeks. Has it been more? Three and a half? This has nothing to do with education and everything to do with me as a person. Me as a learning, growing and changing person.

So, I’m going to start where I stopped. I’m pretty sure this is going to fall into the category of TLDR (too long, didn’t read) for some of you, and that’s okay. Like I said, this is for me, and it’s something that I need to get out…

…This morning I buried my dad. I say I buried him, but my mom, my brother, and our families buried my dad, my mom’s husband of 52 years, and 5 girls Grandpa/PopPop.

It was a cold, beautiful sunny morning.  The minister met us there and read from his Book of Worship, he said a brief prayer, and then it was over. The whole thing was less than 15 minutes. This is what Dad wanted. He laid out some very specific plans with our preacher. This summer when he was in the hospital he told the family, “Whether I get out of here or not, call the preacher and make an appointment with him. I have some things I need to tell him.”

Later in the afternoon, we held a memorial for him. It was a celebration of his life. It wasn’t a funeral because there wasn’t a casket. It was a memorial service. It was the memorial service that my dad wanted. The service played out as Dad planned it.

The family received family and friends for over an hour. It was incredibly moving. I was very touched by the amount of people that came to pay respects to my dad. I was beyond touched by the number of my friends that showed up to support me.

When it happened, Dad passing, I was with my students as they were rehearsing for the annual Trinity School Christmas Program.  I knew it was coming, my whole family did. We had moved Dad from the hospital to home hospice, but still when I got word it was a sudden slamming on the brakes.

I’ve been making it through as the time has passed. I never thought I wouldn’t, but I’ve been oddly okay with the whole thing. My dad died, though, and I feel like there’s some way that I should be feeling. Obviously, I’m sad. I miss him. I miss him calling me to tell me about an Eagles concert on PBS or calling when he’s at the farm asking if there’s anything I need when he literally couldn’t do it b/c he was 65 miles away.

But I haven’t been so sad that I can’t function. And I feel like I’m not doing it right.

I know there’s not a prescribed way to grieve. I know that, but still…

A couple of weeks after he had died I was in my Man/Boy Room. One of the cats had knocked junk over, as cats are known to do. When I went to clean it up I found the notes that my students had made for me the day Dad died.

That opened up the tear ducts. They had written me personal messages, they had included Bible verses. It makes me tear up a little right now as I’m writing this. They are so touching, and it means so much to me that my seventeen 10-11-year-olds reached out to me in this way.

It was one of those moments that solidifies my choice in careers. I never doubt being a teacher. Well, maybe every once in a while when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and the lesson I thought would take an entire period crumbles after a few minutes.

Where’s this even going? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s like the title says, I’m processing. And part of that processing is being back in the swing of my normal routine. Being surrounded by seventeen 5th Graders that I can share my world with. I give to them and they give to me. Sometimes it’s an even swap and sometimes it’s more one way than the other. And that’s what it’s about, right? Give and take?

One of the things I said in Dad’s service was about something he gave me, and that is  to always help someone out when you can. Always make that choice to help someone out because you never know when you might need some help. And that goes along with the process of give and take.

I miss you, Dad, and I’m sad that you’re not with us anymore, but you left us with so much. I hope to be able to do the same.

 

 

An Amazing Perk of Teaching – Outdoor Ed!

This past week, several teachers from Trinity School took 68 Fifth Graders up to Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA for the first our yearly overnight trips.

IMG_3472

We call these Outdoor Ed – outdoor education. The Fifth Grade takes two trips each year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Sixth Grade also takes two trips, but they take on a different tone. This post is not about Sixth Grade though. Outdoor Ed is pretty much exactly what its name indicates – education classes that take place outdoors. The students rotated in groups through six different classes; the climbing wall, canoeing, two low ropes challenge courses, ceramics, and horseback riding. It is a time for team building and coming together as a grade level. Coach Brian is the trip coordinator and he instructs the students to think in terms of, “We, not me. What is going to be best for the group rather than what will be best for me.”

Continue reading

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

mr rogers.jpg

Saw ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ tonight. It was as good as I was hoping it would be. GQ and I both agreed that we weren’t the biggest Mr. Rogers fan growing up. I remember thinking the King was creepy. I definitely have memories of watching the show, but as a kid, Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street have more of a lasting impact on me than Mr. Rogers.
 
That being said, Mr. Rogers’ message of you are fine just the way you are was and is a message worth putting out there. I’ve read a lot of reviews where people said they ugly cried the whole way through the movie. I think people that are going to do that are either people that don’t work with kids or those who have forgotten their inner child.
 
There were parts that made me smile, parts that tugged at my heart, and parts that surprised me.
 
One of the biggest takeaways I have from this movie is how radical Mr. Rogers was when he started, and honestly throughout his entire broadcast history. While almost every other show was doing physical comedy and showing characters embarrassing themselves in all kinds of ways, he consistently kept his message the same.
 
I highly recommend this movie to anyone. Obviously, people familiar with Mr. Rogers will like it best, but I would think kids who have never experienced him or his show would get some good out of it, too.

Influential Albums – Day 6

The Clash – S/T (US version)

I wish I knew where I heard The Clash for the first time. I got this on cassette – that was the format I used pretty much exclusively at the time – in California, I think at Tower Records in San Francisco. I was in 9th grade and my family was in SF for a conference my dad was involved in. I guess I heard something off London Calling, maybe had even gotten it at that point? Anyway, I love The Clash and this one totally struck a chord with me. Loud, raw, catchy. I know the lyrics are a very important part of the band, but to be perfectly honest, I’m a melody man. A song’s got to have a great hook and music to pull me in. I’ll incorrectly sing the words to songs for years. I am a serial lyric mishearer. So, again, I know the lyrics to The Clash are super important to whole thing of The Clash, but at the same time, so were their looks. They were calculatedly put together by the band. That has nothing to do with anything other than make me feel like less lame for not fully committing myself to the lyrics.

My dad did not understand or like my punk rock inclinations. I did not understand his disdain for it. To me, there were a lot of comparisons between the early, original rock ‘n roll he turned me on to and bands like The Clash. They even covered, “I Fought the Law”, not on this album, but nonetheless. Three chords, catchy songs, brazen attitude. It seemed synonymous to me. I get it now. Punk rock was an affront to a lot he held near and dear and I’m sure had he heard, “I’m So Bored With the USA”, he would have been none too pleased.

My favorite tracks from this one are – again, no certain order – “Police and Thieves”, “Garageland” (Gehr-aj), “Hate and War”, and “Career Opportunities

A podcast I listen to – and you should too – “The Great Albums Podcast” did one on London Calling not long ago and it was great. I was unaware that Joe Strummer wrote most of the songs, whether it was he or Mick Jones that sung. The Clash always did great covers, too. They could have put out an album of just their covers and it would have been great. The hosts of The Great Albums talk about how The Clash always make the covers they do their own, and it’s totally true. As mentioned earlier, “I Fought the Law” (Bobby Fuller Four version) could totally come from the pen and paper of a young, British punk rocker.

Not seeing The Clash play live is something I am sad about. I don’t know if the band would have gotten back together had Joe Strummer not died. Their induction into the R ‘n R Hall of Fame – who are those sharped dressed, hair slicked down men? – was interesting to see. I don’t know if Joe would have been part of that or not. He had moved away from punk rock as he got older, but he was still revolutionary. Mick Jones moved away from punk too with Big Audio Dynamite. I read somewhere that Joe was up for playing, but he died shortly before their induction. Damn.

The documentary on The Clash (there are several, but I really liked this one) and Joe Strummer are both worth watching. Go get your punk rock on and listen to The Clash.

Influential Albums – Day 5

The Stone Roses – Stone Roses

These guys. Talk about burning bright and burning out. That is what The Stone Roses did. I guess I saw the video for Fools Gold (Full version) on 120 Minutes then read about them in one of GQ’s Sassy magazines, The article started off talking about the lead off song, “I Wanna Be Adored”. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

One of my college roommates, the elusive and not-heard-from-again-Tim Smith must have had the CD. It might have been a cassette, because that’s what I had it on. It was in my car and Panasonic Walkman knock off A LOT. The whole Madchester scene was big, but Stone Roses were the very, very top of the crop.

Their album cover art was inspired by Jackson Pollock and even name drop him on one of their b-sides. More on those next. “Going Down“. They are, in turn, name dropped by one of my favorite current bands, The Fratellis, on “For the Girl” – ‘she was into the Stones when I was into the Roses’

When I got to UGA and worked at WUOG I was amazed by all the b-sides I didn’t know about. B-sides in general, I think, are much more of a British band thing than American artists. I may be wrong about that, but it seems like all the best b-side songs I’ve heard are from British bands.

Anyway, The Stone Roses never took off like I think they deserved to and I think that has a lot to do with their self-destructive habits and behavior. The stories are all out there and you can read up on it if you’re interested. Needless to say, they needed to keep the ball rolling, but instead it was stopped and their career suffered for it.

Atmospheric, groove heavy, and transcendent. Those are the words/phrase I would use to describe this album. Anytime I can find something like this first album I dive in. It has not happened very often. It definitely did not happen with Second Coming. I’m not even putting a link to it.

I turned a few people onto Stone Roses, but not that many. Whatever. They must have fallen into that category of being too British. Some people can’t take that, but not me. That just makes me love them more.

They were hugely influential to other British bands as they documentary I watched on them made clear. Too bad they burned too brightly. I’m not sure they could have outdid this first album. They definitely fit into the category of “Debut Albums So Good the Band Did Not Ever Have To Release Anything Else and They Would Still Be Considered Pivotal”.

Stand out tracks for me, well, all of them. Top five from the album, in no order, “I Wanna Be Adored”, “I Am the Resurrection”, “Elephant Stone” “She Bangs the Drum”, and “This is the One”.

I got a Stone Roses collection and it’s great, but I recently went back and listened to this album, and besides “Don’t Stop” it’s an album that needs to be heard as a whole. I guess, if you’re so inclined, you could consider, “Don’t Stop” like “Within Without You” from Sgt. Peppers’. I am not a fan of it. I understand its importance and its place, but I’m not a fan.

Last thing, extended mixes. The Stone Roses had a thing of taking songs and going with them. Extended versions, not dance remixes, but just extended jams that were, I’m guessing, a BIG part of the Madchester thing. Extended dances to get your groove on with whatever was turning your groove up. I’m not sure what those kids were into. I just dug the jams. So, here’s “I Am the Resurrection” (Full version)