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.

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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)

Influential Albums – Day 3

Neil Young – Decade

So, another compilation. Twice in this 10 day span I’ve done that, but again, this is how I was introduced to a very important musical figure in my life. My friend, Craig Pickel (yep) introduced me to Neil on many rides in her (yep) little Honda CRX. Decade on the tape deck, wings or chips and salsa from Jaggers in our bellies, and Life as the conversation topic.

Neil changed the way I played guitar. By the time I started listening to him, I guess I’d been playing for 3 years or so. So many of the people I listened to had lots of effects and weird chords and were technically much more advanced than I was. When I got Neil Young Complete Music Volume 2 I saw chords that I knew and could play with no problem. There were a bunch of songs I hadn’t heard yet in that book so I bought the Decade songbook and just went to town. Both acoustic and electric, Neil pretty much kept things pretty simple. Even the finger picking he did on “Sugar Mountain” and “The Needle and the Damage Done” were straight ahead enough that I could figure it out. I never learned to read music, but I remember sitting down and figuring out the guitar part of “Ohio” from CSNY. I had a little music reading knowledge and took what I had and wrote down the notes to learn it.

I played A LOT of Neil Young on guitar. I was up in Athens finishing school and like a lot of guys up there, I had thoughts, dreams, fantasies about playing guitar in Athens and then…the world. Well, everybody’s got to start somewhere and I tried to play out at a few places, pizza places, open mics, coffee houses. I’d play some Neil, some R.E.M., a Beatles song or two then inevitably somebody would call out, “Play ‘Margaritaville’.” I’d say I didn’t know it. “Well play ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ then.” I’d say I didn’t know that one either. “What do you know, then?” I know a lot of Neil Young. So, I didn’t play too many of those places. Also, I did know those songs, but that’s not what I was into, so I didn’t play them.

As time went on I delved into Neil’s catalog and starting getting more of his releases. Neil Young & the Blue Notes, This Note’s For You was one of the first records I bought when I started buying albums again. I thought it was pretty cool, I dug the horns (still do!) I had kept up with his struggles with Geffen Records and knew that he had gotten back on Reprise Records.

One of my favorite cassettes that I have of his is Comes a Time. It’s funny because I don’t think there are any of those songs on Decade. I’ll end this with one of my favorite lines from one of Neil’s Buffalo Springfield songs, “Mr Soul”, “She said you’re strange, but don’t change and I let her.”

What it could have been

The Allman Brothers Band – Beginnings

As much as I loved Neil Young, I would have totally been Duane Allman. Holy cow! I’ve put this down before, but if The Allman Brothers Band never made another album after their first one, they still would be regarded as pivotal musicmakers. The interplay between Duane and Dickey, the drumming of Butch and Jaimoe, the thumping bass of Barry, and Greg on the Hammond, well, there you go. This album, cassette, CD spent a lot of time on my different players during my hippie wanna be period, as did some other jam bands, but The Allmans are the ones that have kept their flavor the longest for me.

Influential Albums – Day 3

 

The Beatles – Meet the Beatles

The first Beatles album I heard was their 20 Greatest Hits. I remember hearing it when I was probably in 7th grade riding to a football game with a couple of friends and I was imitating the harmonica sound in “Love Me Do”. Sounds about right for a 7th grade boy. My favorite Beatles album is Revolver.

This album though, is influential because it’s the first one that I got for myself. Nowadays, I prefer the British versions to the American ones, but  back then I didn’t know any different and this was my exposure to any of their songs that weren’t greatest hits and any that I might have heard on Z-93 or 96 Rock growing up. I think my elementary school music teacher probably had us sing, “Yellow Submarine”, but that could be a shared memory of someone else.

The excitement of most of the songs on this album, to me, was electric. It has the hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and those are GREAT, but the deeper album cuts I really, really love. “Hold Me Tight” and “LIttle Child”. I can’t include music links because all the actual Beatles songs have been taken off YouTube. The slower songs on this album I don’t particularly love, but they fit. They are a snapshot of what the band was at the time – a group making their way through the world, trying to make it big. I’m sure they had NO idea; although, it was certainly starting at this time. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan show shortly after this was released in the US.

This album has LOTS and LOTS of “yeah”s. LOTS of them. There’s a whole lot of clapping too on these songs. It must have been pretty tiring to spend the time working out and recording  those claps.

The Beatles’ harmonies has always been one of my favorite parts of the group and they fascinated me when I heard this album. I love to sing and I am much more of a melody person than a harmony person, but I wish I could come up with harmony lines. I’m sure I could with practice or teaching or whatever. I guess with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen the harmonies were big here in America. I’ve always thought that Paul Anka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” had to be influential to The Beatles’ early work. I know The Everly Brothers definitely were, but the line, “I beg of you…” and all the intro lines to the verses are very Beatlesque, even though their originals were just starting to be developed at the time.

I listened to this album on my way to school this morning and there were parts I’d forgotten, but by and large it was as exciting and exhilarating today as it was more than 30 years ago. Good Lord, more than 30 years ago. I had a great time singing along and trying to hit the harmony parts right. When I was younger I used to play with the balance a lot and listen to just the vocal track in one speaker and then just the instrumental track at different times. Whether it was the instruments bleeding through the vocals side or the chorus coming in on the instruments side, I just dug it.

I’ll end with two songs, George’s, “Don’t Bother Me” and the closing song, “Not a Second Time”. I like George’s songs. He was kind of thrown a bone on the records. At first it was, ‘Here, George, sing this cover or sing this song John wrote”, but then he started writing his own. Imagine the courage it took to bring a song to Lennon and McCartney! “Don’t Bother Me” is a great first original for George to bring to the group. “I’ve got no time for you right now, don’t bother me.” I loved that line as a teenager and still love it today. “Not a Second Time” is such a great song because you can tell the character still really wants to be with the girl he’s singing about, but he knows he can’t. He was hurt too badly the first time, and he’s not going to do it, not a second time.

What it could have been

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

Harmonies? Check. Clever lyrics? Check. Pure pop awesomeness? Double check. I found Jellyfish when I worked at the UGA radio station, WUOG. I totally fell in love with them. After listening to them I basically decided they were a continuation of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was just a continuation of Paul’s experimental/baroque Beatles genius. I have Jellyfish Pandora station and as soon as I figure out how to work Spotify correctly, I will have one on that, too.

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.

10 Influential Albums – Day One

Oldies But Goodies Volume 1

A high school friend nominated me for this look at 10 influential albums in my life. I’m super excited and hope you’ll enjoy it. Each day I’ll look at an album that has been a big part of my life at one point or another. I tried to pick ones that have had a lasting impact on me. It hasn’t been easy and for every one I feature, I have one that I could have included, but then, it’s not 20 influential albums…

First up is a compilation. Some people say those don’t count, but I disagree, especially if it is one that first introduced me to several artists and songs that I love dearly to this day. This way my gateway to 50’s rock.

As a kid going on car trips with my family always meant listening to Dad’s music and that is what formed my foundation. Early rock ‘n roll, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly made up these collections. I loved playing them on the turntable! It was good, heavy vinyl, not any of the flimsy stuff that my current records were made of.  This particular album has so many great songs on it. Seems like Side 2 has more of my favorites on there. “Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)”, “Stranded in the Jungle”, and “Let the Good Times Roll” are definitely my favorite. These songs bring back so many memories, all good. I remember several years back Dad was able to burn this onto a CD for me. I honestly don’t know how because to the best of my knowledge he never hooked up his turntable capable of digital transferring, but he knew how much I loved these songs and somehow made it happen. 

It Could’ve Been

Chuck Berry – The Great 28

I know. Another compilation. However, it’s Chuck Berry. I’m not including this one because I have never gone and dug deep into Chuck’s catalog, therefore, as influential as he has been to my musical life, it doesn’t count the way today’s entry does. It does count in that it was an important part of my life when Glitter Queen and I got our second tattoo and this was the soundtrack. Full disclosure – we skipped past “Havana Moon”. That’s my least favorite Chuck Berry song.

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!

 

Current Favorites (fka Top 10 List)

The Cheeps

These chickens. They’re known as The Cheeps here at the Benefield Homestead. Each year Trinity School kindergarten students hatch chicks. Lots and lots of chicks. Since our last chicken experiment didn’t end up like we had planned we decided to start from scratch. I brought 5 chicks home so they could be with us and get used to us (and all the other animals) and hopefully stick around with us instead of flying the coop. Literally. We spend time with The Cheeps every day so as they get older they will not run away from us like crazy chickens, even though that’s what they are. The two white ones and Tina, the caramel colored one seem to get that idea. The two black/gray ones, not so much. It has been fascinating watching them grow. We think that one of them is developing into a rooster – the black/gray one with the growing comb on its head – that we will give to a rooster-friendly home before he starts to crow.  As summer goes on look for updates and pictures.

Keeping Kids in Motion

I have the great fortune to work at a school with some amazing PE teachers.One of them, Justin Cahill, blogs regularly about exactly what the blog is titled, Keeping Kids in Motion.
He also has a Facebook group under the same name. It currently has 921 members! People from all over submit articles, videos, and pictures of games, ideas, thoughts, questions and more dedicated to helping keep our kids, our students, ourselves active. I love his passion and dedication.

May 28 – August 7

It’s summer break, y’all! It’s awesome. I am so thankful to have this time off. I know there are some teachers that like to say that summer break has nothing to do with their decision to teach. I have no time for that. Of course, it’s not the main reason to get into teaching, but to deny that time off as an absolute reason to celebrate? Come on! This summer break I am trying something new – New Directions! I’ve made a two lists: Things I Need to Do and Things I Want to Do. Unlike years in the past when I’ve made lists of things to get done over summer, this time, I’ve included plans for getting them done. Now, I am sure that not all of them will get done, but this past school year with the help and advice of my department supervisor I started making lists of daily goals to accomplish, so I have somewhat of a habit going. To many of you this may seem like it’s common sense, well, to me it’s still a new thing. The whole planning thing has never been a strength of mine, so I’m trying to develop a new habit.

Summer Swim Season

Both of The Girls swim during summer league. Coco swims year around, but Ramona has several other sports going on, so we give her a break. I absolutely love summer swim season! I understand that it’s easy for me to love it because it’s not me going to practice and exerting all that energy, but I love it nonetheless. I have many, many great memories of my years of swim team summers. The first meet is tomorrow! TOMORROW! And sadly, Coco potentially has strep throat and Ramona is out of town on a choir tour with our church. That’s okay! We have the whole month of June for other meets. I love cheering on all of the swimmers, not just The Girls. Seeing young people with amazing strokes and skills is very exciting. I have seen some amazing swimmers over the past 8 years that The Girls have been swimming. We are at a new pool this year, so a whole new batch of swimmers to cheer on!

Good Music

The Avett Brothers, “Ain’t No Man”

JR JR, “Gone”

The 1975 – “Love Me”

Fitz and the Tantrums, “HandClap

The Lumineers, “Ophelia

Podcasts

I have spoken before about how I like to listen to music a lot. I still do, clearly. However, I have recently started listening to some podcasts on my way to work in the morning, and I have to say they have been very enlightening and entertaining. Glitter Queen requests me to put some on her Nano, so I have gotten some from her. Here are a few that I’ve been listening to:

  • This American Life
  • Nerdist
  • Freakonomics
  • The Way I Heard It
  • Nerdette

Freakonomics just recently had a whole month to learning to be more productive. I don’t know if there could have been a more opportune time for me to listen. (I think GQ might have requested those on purpose so I’d get hooked into them) I probably will go back and re-listen to one or two of them because sometimes it is a lot to take in at once.

Trinity School

I have just finished my second year at Trinity School. It was another phenomenal school year. It was a very challenging personal year, but my class, their parents, my teacher team, the administration, and everyone else at Trinity really helped me through a tough time. I continue to grow professionally and personally. I am excited about training opportunities coming up, and equally excited about the upcoming group of students that I will get to spend time with next school year. I am so fortunate to be part of a great school community.

So, there you go, that’s what I’m into now. It’s not 10 things this time. Maybe I’m narrowing my focus a little bit. It tends to be wide-ranging and makes it easy for me to get distracted. Hopefully, this shorter list will help me stay on task a little better this summer.

How about you? What’s good with you right now?

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

The Footsteps I Follow (and the Few I Avoid)

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Well, at probably every school except for the one where I work. We had ours back right before Spring Break. The Powers That Be decided that with it being so close to the end of school having Teacher Appreciation Week and End of Year gifts to think about was too much; so they moved it. 

A good friend posted on his Facebook account a list of 12 teachers by name and had nice things to say about them. This has prompted me to do something similar. Being that I am verbose I had to do it in this format, so David Slagle, thank you for the inspiration.

1st Grade – Mrs. Underwood. Yes, we called her Mrs. Underwear behind her back. She was mean. 1970s public school teacher mean, but she saw something in me and chose, for whatever reason, to not smack it down, but encourage it. We were making paper mache piggy banks and I decided to do mine all different colors instead of just one like everyone else. When she shouted out my name after looking at mine I thought my world was coming to an end. Instead she made everyone else do like I was doing.

2nd Grade – Mrs. Gartrell. Sweet, old southern lady that gave me a great line for my classroom, “Don’t blame your mother for not having your homework.”

3rd Grade – Ms. Rosen. She played “Disco Duck” on the record player for the class and one day when more than half of the class was out sick she took us on a walk around the neighborhood. I can’t even imagine that nowadays.

4th Grade – Mrs. Pullen – Beautiful woman. Very kind. She left for a large portion of the year due to breast cancer, I believe. Her substitute, not so beautiful, not so kind. Maybe I’m holding a grudge because she busted me forging my mom’s signature

5th Grade – Mr. Boyd. My first male teacher. Tall, salt  & peppered afro and goatee. Drove a silver Trans Am. He would leave the class for 15 – 20 minutes at a time. One time when he was gone I got up and was goofing around, looking out the door to see if he was coming. When I turned around to go back to my seat he was standing outside the building at the window of the classroom, just watching us/me.

6th Grade – Mrs. Rainey – Another kind, kind woman. I don’t remember much other than she was basically the antithesis of the other 6th grade teacher we had – Ms. Stallworth

7th Grade – Mrs. Thomas. I sold Mrs. Thomas a lottery ticket from the Briarcliff Community Sports raffle and she won $100. That’s what she wrote in my yearbook, “To my $100 friend.”

Growing up in DeKalb County in the early 80s we didn’t have middle school we went from elementary to high school. Starting in 8th grade I started a fairly consistent downward  slant in my academic career.

From 8th grade to the end of 10th grade nothing really stands out as positive. I know there are some moments there, but by and large it was a very negative experience for me academically. Unaddressed attentional issues, not understanding the importance of actually doing homework and knowing how to study guaranteed that these were not smooth years. I almost didn’t pass 8th grade ELA because for some reason I could not grasp the concept of diagramming sentences. To this day I cannot stand the idea, and will avoid it at all costs.  My 8th grade composition teacher told me that everything I wrote was absurd. Granted, it probably was, but would it have killed her to throw me a little encouragement, or to try to steer my writing to something less absurd? I failed Geometry at mid-term in 9th grade and was convinced I would fail it altogether. I had one of the vilest, most evil teachers that I have encountered. I was horrified to find out that she was still at my high school 20 years later and was still spreading malevolence and ill will at students. She is the teacher that would literally smile as she handed back test papers with grades of F.

In 10th grade I asked my mother to move me out of advanced classes to general ones, but at the encouragement of a neighbor who taught ELA classes at my school she kept me in,  and then something happened in 11th grade that made the last two years of high school not just bearable, but mostly enjoyable.

11th Grade – Mrs. Merkle & Mr. Glass – Mrs. Merkle was the school yearbook editor, junior and senior ELA teacher and the teacher of my favorite class ever, Humanities. For lack of better wording it was a class on appreciating all aspects of the arts; music, architecture, literature, art. Mrs. Merkle was probably the first teacher since primary years elementary school that I wanted to please. I had her my junior and senior year. She was, to my memory, the first teacher to not just assign a book to read, but to actually talk about the book. She was the first teacher to help me relate to the characters in the stories. She got me to see that novels and short stories are more than just words on a page.She was a significant influence on me as a teacher. Sadly when I saw her again at the unveiling of the new additions at Lakeside High School she looked at me with absolutely no recognition at all. I was more than a little hurt inside. 

Mr. Glass was the art teacher at Lakeside. He was a meticulously dressed and groomed gay man. I have no idea what he was doing surrounded by the stinky, unkempt hormone crazed high school students that clearly repulsed him in so many ways, but he was always there. It was well known that art classes were where most of the stoners, rockers and punks could be found. Being that I was none of those I’m not sure how I ended up there. I had several friends that took art and loved Mr. Glass, so probably by way of those folks. Mr. Glass was incredibly patient with me. As Glitter Queen can tell you, I am a painfully slow painter. He would offer encouragement and snarky critiques as I finished my pieces. He was entertainingly offensive and offensively entertaining. He did not suffer fools and spared no one. At the same time, you could tell that he really cared for some of his students. You could also tell that he couldn’t stand others of them.

12th Grade – Ms. Shelfer – Ms. Shelfer was the teacher that made me love to write. She was the first teacher since probably primary elementary school that I wanted to please. I loved that woman.

I was going to go into some vitriolic diatribe about the teachers that were so horrible, but it’s not Hate on Hateful Haters’ Week, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. So for all the teachers that have had a positive impact on me, THANK YOU! For all those other teachers that just had an impact on me and so many others, well,unwittingly you showed me how NOT to be a teacher, and because of that I will also say thank you.