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.

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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!

 

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 4 – 10 Interesting Facts About Me

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  1. I am left-handed – No one else is in my family. No grandparents that I know of, neither of my parents, not my brother, and neither of my daughters are. I’ve always enjoyed that I’m the only one; although, in elementary school my teachers did not show me the correct way to hold my paper and pencil so my handwriting was pretty bad. Not to worry, though, because when you become a teacher you have to learn to write neatly on a board so students can read it!
  2. I am Very Particular about loading the dishwasher – There is a right way to do it. It’s logical, it’s orderly, and it’s the most efficient way to get the dishes clean. That’s funny because I am neither logical nor orderly. Efficient? Sometimes on Tuesdays. I think it might be an area that I can control, so I like it the right way. My mother; however, probably thinks my way is absolutely ridiculous. If we’re in the kitchen together I cede the dishwasher to her. I’ve been bodychecked by her before, and well, that’s not something I want to repeat.
  3. I have rewired and replumbed and entire house – The first house GQ and I lived in had been renovated for us, but to save money we decided to do the renovations ourselves on the second house. I met a man about my father’s age at a neighborhood association meeting and mentioned that I was going to call an electrician to come out the next day to see about rewiring. He said, “Don’t do that. I’ll show you how to do it.” I didn’t take him seriously, but at the end of the meeting, he got my phone number and gave me his and told me that he was serious. The next day I called him up and sure enough, he came over and he showed me how to rewire a house. Before that the most I had done with electricity was change a switchplate cover and get a slight shock from an exposed wire on an extension cord in high school drama class. I pulled out all the old, scary wires and replaced them with grounded wires and plugs throughout the house. Up in the attic, down in the basement, and in the creepy crawlspace. There wasn’t a part of that house that I hadn’t run wire. After finishing the wiring he looked at my plumbing and told me that he could show how to do that also. I jumped at the opportunity. I spent countless hours, both really hot and really cold down in our basement and crawlspace pulling out old pipes and putting in new ones. It’s crazy to think about now, but I did it 15 years back.
  4. I stop and pick things up from the side of the road – I have found all kinds of neat things. I have a hard time passing things by, and often when I do pass it by I regret not stopping. Sometimes, of course, it’s not practical to stop. I have had to refine my compulsion to do this some because there’s only so much stuff you can get. I am trying to get to a point where if I get something I give myself two weeks to do something with it or I have to put it back out on the road. Just between you and me, I haven’t gotten there yet. Currently, I’m constructing a whirlygig from a big rig wheel cover I found on a Spaghetti Junction overpass. I passed it three or four times, and I finally had to have it.  It’s so big and shiny. I’ll post a pic of it once I’m done. I am trying to figure out if it will be weather vane type whirlygig of just a basic spinning one.
  5. Currently, ska is my go-to music – It’s not reggae, it’s ska. It’s from the same place, though; Jamacia. It’s more lively than reggae. It has some of its roots in 50’s and 60’s soul and doo-wop music. It drives GQ a little crazy. Maybe more than a little crazy. I can’t really explain it, but it’s what moves me. I was introduced to it back in the early 80’s by a band named Madness. They were heavily influenced by an early ska pioneer, Prince Buster. Their music stuck with me through all the different styles that I have encountered, and more often than not, my Classic Ska station is what my Pandora is usually tuned to. This song, Swing Easy, is what I would be my theme music.
  6. I can write with my toes – I have strong, monkey toes. I can hold and manipulate markers and other things. I could open the doors of the car that I drove in high school and college. I performed this toe-writing feat for a Trinity TV, Culture Shock, segment last year.
  7. I used to write and perform original songs on guitar – I wanted to be a rock star in college. I was not willing to give up going to school or my girlfriend (now my wife) in order to fulfill the demands of that particular calling. I started writing songs my senior year of high school and continued for about six or seven years.  I found it pretty easy to do, so I’d just do it. I performed them by myself or with a friend in some places in Athens and Atlanta, but it never really went anywhere.
  8. I love comic book conventions – Dragon Con here in Atlanta, isn’t really a comic book convention, but there are many comic book elements there, and I LOVE it. I have been to San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) twice and New York Comic-Con once. I would definitely go back to New York, but I would not go back to SDCC unless I had some serious special passes to avoid the absolutely insane lines.
  9. I have a collection of Joker cards from over 40 decks of cards – Being a teacher, decks of cards are something that I sometimes ask for at the beginning of the year. If you’ve worked with children, or even if you have children, you know that decks of cards rarely stay together. So, one year I just started pulling all the Joker cards out of the incomplete deck. I now have enough to be the border around my teacher bulletin board in my classroom.
  10. I really, really want to surf – I have gotten to surf twice, both times in Hawaii. The first time, GQ bought us surf lessons for Christmas when we were in Maui with my whole family. The second time was when we were on Oahu visiting my brother, who was stationed there in the Army. Right? Before I actually had surfed I had always felt that I was meant to surf. Now that I have surfed I want to do it more. I love the ocean and I really just want to get out there and (pardon my surfer lingo) shred some waves.

Well, those are 10 things about me. I’m not sure how interesting you’ll find them, but hopefully, there are a few things that you didn’t know before.