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 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.

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 24 (Day 23 Prompt) – My Favorite Relative Outside of My Immediate Family

So, because I am giving my students the option of doing the weekend prompts, I’m choosing to do Day 23’s prompt on Day 24. To paraphrase Mel Brooke’s, it’s good to be the teacher.

My favorite relative outside of my immediate family is my mom’s sister, Mary Alice Wood. She is my mom’s older sister and she has always done a great job of being a part of my life and now my family’s life.

When I was younger she would take me to Turtle’s Records & Tapes for my birthday and let me buy myself a record, tape or CD. She would often question my selections and look at (and read [aloud!]) the lyrics, which my parents never did, and that was embarrassing sometimes. Especially when I was really digging Adam & the Ants, “Prince Charming“. I don’t know why the official video isn’t there on You Tube, but it’s not. Anyway, she always gave me the choice to get whatever I wanted.

When I was getting ready to go to college she gave me this advice: Make sure you talk to friends, especially older friends, to find out which professors are really good and which are really the ones you to stay away from. That’s some advice that I should have taken when it came to my Southern Lit class at UGA. That class resulted in the lowest grade I ever received in writing a paper, along with the comments,”This is barely legible.” and “I don’t know how you ever made it this far writing like this.” Up until that point, I had made really good grades on all of my papers. After that, it completely knocked me for a loop and took several classes to get my writing mojo back.

As I got older, got married and had kids, Mary Alice continued (and continues) to be interested and involved with what is going on with me. As GQ developed herself into the author, Angel Lawson, Mary Alice has kept up with her releases, asking her questions, recommending her books to friends of hers, and buying copies to share with friends. She shows the same level of interest with the Girls.

I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, but whenever I do it’s always entertaining and there’s always interesting conversation. I’m very thankful for Aunt Mary Alice.

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!

Don’t Box Me In

The Family recently spent time with someone that made me think about the boxes we find ourselves in. Different people want us to fit into different size, shape, or types of boxes, but really we are in charge of  that , or at least, we should be.
When I was a kid I know that an empty cardboard box was about one of the best things I could have to play with. I’m pretty sure this holds true for kids today, too.  I know it does with The Girls. The possibilities are endless as to what that box is and what it can be.  Calvin and Hobbes 
I have gone out of my way to bring boxes home for the Girls to play with and the reaction has always been similar: excitement. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of what they can do in the box, what they can put in the box, where they can put the box, and so on. Crayons, markers, tape, scissors, glue and more change those boxes to ANYTHING they want them to be, and I love it.
When we grow up though the box changes. It becomes a metaphor. It changes from what can’t it be to what YOU are supposed to be.  Think about it, you probably have a job description. That’s a box that you are in. Unfortunately the possibilities are more limited with it than they were when you were a kid. Not always, I know, but a lot of the times they are.

Our lives and how we live them are also Boxes, and most of the time we have complete say as to the size, shape, and type of Box we have. 
Most people respect your Box. You make your choices and you live with them. Everything’s all good until someone tries to make you fit into the type of Box they think you should be in, or vice versa.
As I said, we recently spent time with someone who has a very rigid Box. EVERYTHING is where it should be at all times, and if it isn’t it get puts there or it Becomes An Issue. He likes to impose his Box on others with little regard to what others’ Boxes may be like.  In his mind all Boxes should be the same; there’s no need for other sizes, shapes, or types of Boxes. In his mind there are a finite number of Types of Boxes.
We heard several times how someone has a “problem” because he or she didn’t fit in a certain Box. This person feels so strongly about this that he gets MAD and cannot discuss why it might be okay for their Box to be different. It’s not really up for discussion.   “That’s ridiculous.” or “That’s just sad.” were two of the phrases we heard to describe someone else’s Box. These weren’t people that were trying to force him to accept something else. These people don’t know, or care what he does, or what his Box is like, but that’s not the way it is with him. This, of course, is wrong, but getting him to see this is futile.
Me, I try to keep my Box as open as the cardboard boxes from my childhood. I don’t always succeed. It’s flexible so if I push against a wall it bends out. With a really good Box there’s a really sturdy foundation that will hold it together even with some pushing.  My Box has gotten broken a few times from pushing on a wall too hard. It has a bunch of tape on it keeping it together, but it’s good. I like it.
How about your Box? Do you like yours? Do you think others should have a Box like yours, or are you okay with everybody’s Box being different?
The Girls often have different ideas of what the cardboard boxes I bring home will be, and sometimes those ideas change rapidly over the course of a couple of days. A lot of times they’re different from what I think the boxes could be, but that’s what’s great about cardboard boxes. 
What their Box will be like as they get older is similar; it is a limitless possibility and it may not always be what I think it could, or should be. My job is to try to make sure that their foundation is strong enough to allow the walls to bend out far enough without breaking.  Or at least provide them with a good roll of tape.