Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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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.
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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 4

Adam and the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

There are lots of links in here. I hope you go to all of them because they’re a lot of fun!

I don’t remember when or where I got introduced to Adam Ant, probably Atlanta’s Video Music Channel, but wherever it was I took to his music, his artistic flair, and his persona pretty much immediately. Well, actually, I do remember seeing the Prince Charming album cover in Turtles, probably when it came out and thinking it was really weird. Who knew that within a few years I’d be trying to draw that same cover and making my dad concerned over this album cover being in his house and his son listening to this heavily made up Prince Charming.

The album of his that had the most influence on me was Kings of the Wild Frontier. The drums. The drum beats. I came to find out later that it was the Burundi beat. I found a great article on the recording of Kings as well as Prince Charming and Adam’s first solo album today when I was looking up info about the Burundi beat. Anytime I hear drums like that, Adam and the Ants immediately come to mind. Most recently it has been, White Rabbits, “Percussion Gun”.

So, I got into Adam and the Ants in 7th grade, and I got totally into it. I dressed as white face stripe Adam for Halloween and convinced several of my friends to dress up as him, or as the Ants, too. I would include British words in notes that I’d pass to my friends. This was pre-internet, I looked wherever I could.  I found a concert that showed on MTV of Adam and the Ants in Japan. I found some books on the band. I should say also that when I was getting into the band, the band broke up. Adam went solo. That’s all good and fine and I kept up with him through Manners and Physique in 1990. It wasn’t really my gig, it had some bright spots, but I was moving on by that point.

My love of awesome music videos comes partly from Adam and the Ants videos. Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming are awesome. They are little movies and they are just fun.  

Looking back at the songs from the Kings album, there are a few standouts and there are few stinkers. That’s hindsight talking though. At the time, the album fit on one side of a 90 minute TDK cassette and I listened to them all and loved them all. My favorite from the album is probably “Antmusic” and “Dog Eat Dog”. I’m excited because “Ants Invasion” has been remixed and probably remade by someone for the new Ant-Man & Wasp movie

Good stuff.

10 Influential Albums – Day 2

The B-52’s Self Titled First Album

This would be another stone in my musical foundation. I’ve written about my exposure to the B-52’s before, so I’ll skip that. What I’ll do is talk about the amount of time I’ve spent dancing to Rock Lobster, the full 6:48 of it, not the shortened version. “Down! Down!!” The time I’ve spent trying name all 52 Girls. The time Glitter Queen and I had “Dance This Mess Around” played at our wedding reception because it’s just so good. How their version of “Downtown” is so different than Petula Clark’s version, and I totally want to go to THAT downtown instead of Petula Clark’s

I’ll talk about my memories of the seeing teens dance to this album and DEVO and thinking, “OH! I get it.” At the age of 9 or 10, when I saw them, and heard that music, I can’t tell you how pivotal a moment it was for me. On a podcast this morning, I heard journalist and Jann Wenner biographer, Joe Hagan say something that totally relates to this album, “just a fantastic expression or joy. If you listen to this record it’s fun and it’s funny.” He was talking about the Specials first album, but seriously, these songs on the B-52’s, that’s it.

I’ll tell you how over the years I’ve seen the B-52’s many, many times and how they always impress me, even when Cindy’s voice is failing because she has a cold, but she still is there doing the show.

I’ll tell you how I know I have an instant connection with someone when I see that they have this album, CD, digital file in their music collection.

I’ll tell you how Ramona’s doctor, the dearly departed, Dr. Yoder, had “Rock Lobster” as his ringtone and how that spoke volumes.

I’ll tell you how mustachioed Fred Schneider banging that cowbell in the song means more to me than the cowbell in “Honky Tonk Women”.

I’ll tell you how when I’m driving around listening to music I almost always think to myself, “How would this sound if it was a B-52’s song?” “Shut Up and Dance With Me” – totally could be one of theirs, Fred – “Come on, GIRL!!” Cindy & Kate harmonizing in their amazing way, “Don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me”. Then the 3 of them together, “SHUT UP and DANCE with me!” It’s a logical connection to “Dance This Mess Around”.

If you have this album and you haven’t listened to it recently, go and do it. If you only know the B-52’s because of “Roam” or “Love Shack”, I’m not sure what you’ll think of this, but I hope you go listen and I hope you love it like I do. So, don’t forget, “Planet Claire has pink air, all the trees are red. No one ever dies there. No one has a head…”

What it could have been

DEVO, New Traditionalists. Man, oh, man. Those teens listened to DEVO, too and again, it just spoke to me. So weird and so awesome. I think I’ve said this before, but I tried to get a group of my friends in 7th grade to dress up in matching white shirts and white pants and be DEVO for the day. I’m pretty sure an older brother of one of the guys convinced us that it was a bad idea.

Thoughts on Christmas Music

I love Christmas music. I look forward to it all year. Not as much as some of my friends who start listening to it when October changes to November, but I jump in once Thanksgiving has come and gone.

My first Christmas music memory is listening to Gene Autry’s Christmas record, “The Original Gene Autry: Sings Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” as a kid. I still have that record and it always brings back good memories of Christmases filled with GI Joes, Wrangler sleeping bags, and new Big Wheels.

As a teenager, I was excited to find out that the alternative bands I had started listening to also had Christmas songs to offer. Of course, the biggest one was the superstar collaboration, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. All those new wave bands, some classic artists (Bowie throwing in his horrible poem and McCartney with a silly, Beatles-esque spoken word on the remix version), and current stars of the day, Phil Collins and strangely Kool and the Gang. I’m not sure if they’re actually British or just happened to be in England when it was being recorded and were able to join in.

It was not easy to find this music though. I remember staying up one Christmas Eve listening to the local college radio station, WRAS 88.5 as they played a 2-hour set list of alternative Christmas music. I recorded it on my boombox and listened to it for years afterward. One radio station was the self-appointed, Atlanta’s Christmas Station for some years in my early adult years, but now it’s just the Christian radio station that plays exclusive Christmas music during the season. That’s all good and fine, and usually, it’s a good mix, but I can do without the cheesy banter of their DJs; although I do enjoy the Christmas wishes they give to some of their listeners; warms the old heart.

Eclectic is probably the easiest way to describe my tastes, and that definitely describes my tastes in Christmas music.

Classic Christmas songs, regular rock acts doing their Christmas covers, Eagles, Elton John, Springsteen, U2 and the like, and the alternative bands and their songs. It seemed the alternative bands more often than not had original songs. The one that stands out as the first one I heard is The Waitresses, “Christmas Wrapping”.  I even named a Pandora station after it with the idea of having an entire station of alternative Christmas music, but however the Pandora algorithms work, it’s now just a crazy mishmash of all the things I love about Christmas music. More recently, I’ve loved Weezer’s take on traditional Christmas songs and songs put out by The Killers’. I definitely recommend searching those out.

While this is about my love of Christmas music, the thing that I keep thinking about is how easy it is for people to find good Christmas music to listen to now. With Spotify and Pandora, you can find whatever you want within a few seconds. Sirius XM offers a few different stations, but the other two give you that download option.

Finding music, new and interesting or old favorites has never been easier, and I’m not sure, but I think that it makes it easy to take it for granted. I remember finding songs at record stores or at the college radio station and being so excited. Or even just going a year without thinking about a certain song and then hearing it on the radio and being excited.

I love Pandora and I’m starting to see the benefit of Spotify. They both have reintroduced me to songs, bands, and albums that I’d forgotten about. Pandora, specifically, has introduced me to several bands that are among my favorite now. I can’t use the word “unfortunately” here because there’s nothing unfortunate about kids being exposed to and discovering music, but it’s definitely different than when I was a kid. I’m sure that’s similar to how my dad felt about me discovering music. Back when he was a teen and young adult, the only way to discover music was by what the radio was playing and what the department store had, and that was definitely limited for him in LaGrange, Georgia.

I’m glad my daughters can find new and old music so quickly. I love hearing one of them ask, “Is this Nirvana?” when one of their songs comes on the radio. However, it was a little bit of a slap in the face when I offered her the CDs to listen to if she was interested in hearing more only to be met with a blank look and this reply, “Dad, I can get them on Spotify”. I suppose I should just be happy that they’re finding music that is something different than just what’s played on the radio, but I feel like they’re missing out of some of the adventure and excitement my generation (and previous ones) had when searching out and finding music.

So, if you’re a lover of Christmas music, I hope you’ve been enjoying and digging the songs of the season. If you’re not that much of a fan, I hope you’re being tolerant of your family and friends that do partake. Don’t worry, in less than 2 days’ time, it will go away again until next year. Merry Christmas and here’s hoping you have a very Happy New Year!

 

Nostalgia is Funny

In social studies right now my students are working through the 50s and 60s. Three of the things invented during the 50s and 60s were Barbie dolls,  calculators, and cassette players. For a homework assignment, I had my students talk to their parents about these things. I included G.I. Joe for the dads. I told them they could write down their answers if they wanted, but did not have to. Two of them are pure gold and two are just kind of amusing.Barbie-Wallpapers-Cartoons-Disney-e1405610118291

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Claire B’s mom, Laura, said, “My biggest memories of the Barbie doll are that I played with them in my pool. I had the inflatable pool and slide. We had the Barbies in their bathing suits and we would swim with them all day. I had maybe 5 dolls. I played with them with my friends in the neighborhood, I think.”

“Cassette tapes were how we listened to music. You would put your cassette in your boom box and turn on Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown. As soon as your favorite songs came on you would press the Record button really fast so you could replay the song later.” Claire also said, “My parents used cassette tapes to record our voices in conversations we had to send in the mail to our grandparents! And our grandparents would do the same thing and send them back to us.” Laura emailed me later to tell me more, “I got my first boom box for Christmas when I was 10. I spent hours on that thing recording songs from the radio and replaying them. I still have a somewhat large cassette collection bc I can’t bring myself to get rid of them!! Mix tapes – remember those? I had a few boyfriends who were big into music and would make the best mix tapes for me. Totally still have a few – ha ha ha!!!”

“I don’t have too many memories about my calculators. But I do have a funny story. Once in college, I took my remote control to my exam instead of my calculator.”

Katrina R’s mom, Judith, said, “I played with Barbies when I was younger. I played with them with my friends about once a week or so. I had the Barbie Dreamhouse. My brother had G.I. Joes.”

“My mom had an 8-track player in 2nd-3rd grade. Then she got a Steed [sic] Miller band for Christmas in 4th-5th grade. she then got a Sony Walkman in 6th-7th grade. My mom used her tapes almost daily from 2nd grade to college plus. She would sometimes make tapes for her friends as gifts.”

“My mom used calculators throughout school. In high school she used a graphing calculator about once a week. She got a calculator watch in late elementary school (she had to earn it).

Some of the other responses, “Record off radio on cassette tapes. Bring in car to listen to music. Had to buy tapes in a store if you wanted to listen to music.” “My dad had 600 cassette tapes. He used it twice a day.” “My dad had 1 calculator. He used it twice a week.” Fascinating recollection right there!

Two parents sent in some of their old cassette tapes to the classroom and I was SO EXCITED! Luckily, I have a boom box with dual cassette deck to play them on!  I played Duran Duran’s Rio cassette for the students that morning. I told my students about making mixed tapes for friends myself and my girlfriend (now wife – GQ was the recipient of many, many mixed tapes from me).  It’s not exactly the one in the picture, but it’s close.

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I had a great time reliving some of these memories. As stated in a previous post, G.I. Joe was my favorite toy

Anytime I can be a part of students and parents sharing like this is always fun. What about you?  What were your experiences with Barbies, cassettes, and calculators?

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 20 – First 3 Songs on iPod & Thoughts on Those Songs

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I love music things like this. I also kind of hate music things like this. I have VERY eclectic music tastes. When I got my first iPod I made a decision that it was a purely selfish purchase, so that I would always keep some music of all the family on there. Mostly music for the Girls. They were much younger then so that means there was a lot of The Wiggles on there. I still have a very soft spot in my heart for Them Wiggles.

The idea here is that I list the three first songs on my iPod and write the thoughts that come to mind  about them. I’m always a little nervous about what will come up. This shuffle is pretty interesting.

Walking on the Moon” The Police – I love The Police. Absolutely love them. They are an amazing band. The chemistry between the three of them apparently is quite toxic when they aren’t balanced exactly the right way, and from what I have read was pretty often. I had the first four albums on cassettes that an early crush of mine made for me. I, well, my brother, bought Synchronicity on cassette. Listening to them always makes me think of being 16 and listening to The Police in my car on a bad tape player.

Tongue” – R.E.M. Interesting one here. I like when singers take on the role of the opposite gender which I think Michael Stipe does in this song. I don’t go into the meanings of songs very often. I listen to a song as a whole, or as parts. I don’t analyze them. There are a couple of different theories on this one. I’m not going to talk about either of them. I love R.E.M. more than I love The Police. They’re from Georgia, they were outsiders that made it super huge without ever sacrificing what they wanted to do.

Kiss” – Prince. Prince doesn’t let his official stuff live Online for very long, therefore, “Kiss”, the official video isn’t there on those InterWebz, and that’s too bad because it’s a great video. The best part is when Wendy rolls her eyes at Prince at one of his lines. What’s not to love about Prince? Well, the fact that he doesn’t let his stuff live Online for very long, but hey man, that’s his prerogative, right? (that’s how you spell ‘prerogative’? Weird).

What are the first 3 songs on YOUR music player, hmmm? Let’s see ’em!

Old Man Rant – Radio Today

I find it extremely disturbing that oftentimes when I am trying to find a song that came out before 2005 I have to go to 98.5 to hear it.  I find it more disturbing that on the weekends almost every radio station in Atlanta decides to have an 80s-90s Weekend.

The state of today’s radio is ridiculous.