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Try To See It My Way

Alex is always singing. I wish it were socially acceptable for me to go around singing snippets of songs whenever and wherever I wanted. His go-to song lately has been, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe.”

If you haven’t heard that yet this summer, you’re living under a rock. Even though it’s permeated the airwaves, it’s one of the songs I find less annoying than some others (ahem, Some Nights). That’s a goldmine of controversy, though, so I’ll stop there. At any rate, it’s cute when he sings it.

My ears lit up this morning, though, when I heard him singing, “We can work it out, we can work it out…life is very short…”

I play The Beatles all the time, but usually on my iPod. Did he pick up on some of it by osmosis, or by hearing me play it?

“Alex, I’ve never heard you sing that song. Where did you hear it?”

“Oh. On Big Time Rush.

*Sigh*

Big Time Rush. Of course. The hyper-annoying Nickelodeon boy-band who covered (and butchered) the Help! album to the point where I thought I never wanted to listen to those songs again. Of course, the episode is in extended re-runs, and watched over and over by my kids constantly. (A side note, thanks to DirecTV and Viacom. Your feud has resected Spongebob, Dora, Big Time Rush, AND Yo Gabba Gabba from my life. I’d kind of like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart back, though.)

Oh well. Keep on singing, Alex.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Songs Of Summer

It’s hot today. Not that I’m complaining. It’s hard for me to be in a bad mood during the summertime. If I could spend every day in my flip-flops I’d be happy. Of course, that said, maybe the best part of summer is that it is fleeting, so you have to savor it while it’s here. So without those hazy shades of winter, maybe summers past wouldn’t be remembered with so much longing and nostalgia.

Music and smells can always instantly transport me back to a specific moment in time. This was particularly true before the days of iTunes and digital downloads where any song is at your fingertips at any given moment. Maybe only once a year you’d hear that old song that used to play in constant rotation when you were a teenager in July, and it would evoke memories of spending time with friends at the lake, or cruising in your first car, flirting with boys at a Legion baseball game, or sunbathing at the pool.

There is always a particular song that makes its mark on your summer. It might not be a good song, or a number one song, and you might have hated it had it come out any other time of year, but the association with everything carefree, sunny, and warm makes it epic.

1980 – It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Billy Joel. Yeah, I said not everything on my list will be considered a classic, but this reminds me of spending summer vacation in Colorado. Pikes Peak, the Rocky Mountains, blue spruce trees, chipmunks.

 

1981 – Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes. Again, bad 80s music, but it’s better than the second runner-up for that summer, which was Queen of Hearts, by Juice Newton, which played on the AM radio of our family station wagon about a thousand times on the road trip from Kansas to Lake Superior and back.

 

1982 – Eye Of The Tiger, Survivor. I have to say I don’t recall seeing the video of this song until today. Maybe a clip on Solid Gold. Watching it was fun, even though I kept looking over my shoulder at the coffee shop to make sure no one saw me. This has it all. It’s cheesy trying to be badass. Horrific production values. Unimaginative location shots. And what’s up with the fat keyboard player in the Members Only jacket, frizzy mullet, and Coke bottle glasses? I guess everyone looked like a pedophile in the early 80s.

 

1983 – Every Breath You Take, The Police. Inevitably this song would be on when my brother, sister, and I would take my transistor radio outside on the patio and make forts out of lawn chairs and blankets and listen to music on the one or two “good” stations in Colby, Kansas. Unless a Royals game was on. The soothing sounds of Fred White and Denny Matthews doing the play-by-play of our boys of summer, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Fred White, and Dan Quisenberry, always trumped music.

 

1984 – Eyes Without A Face, Billy Idol. I so wanted The Reflex by Duran Duran to be representative of 1984, because the hair alone in that video is purely awesome, not to mention the liberal use of the cowbell in the song. But that summer was all about Friday Night Videos, which my brother, sister and I would settle in to watch late at night after an evening of fighting with each other while my parents played golf on couples’ night, and then hung out at the country club, presumably to avoid us. And Eyes Without A Face was ALWAYS on Friday Night Videos, and I think it both delighted and disturbed us.

 

1985 – Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears. Still one of my favorite songs of all time. Though I despise Shout, which was the next, and biggest, hit for Tears For Fears. This just reminds me of everything that was 1985. Tennis lessons, early morning golf, biking everywhere, swimming in the afternoon. Truly my last summer of being a “kid.”

 

1986 – Live To Tell, Madonna. Back in the day, when all you had was a Walkman, listening to your preferred music was a challenge. That’s why I’d lay out to tan in my front yard and switch back and forth between two albums on cassette tape, Madonna’s True Blueand Janet Jackson’s Control. I still know every song by heart.

 

1987 – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston. I actually have a vivid memory of a day spent at the lake with Brett, Whitney and Stuart. It was one of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had, just lying in the sun on the dock, drinking beer, swimming in the lake, floating on a raft. I don’t know why we weren’t listening to better music, but I still remember some of the songs that played on the radio that day. In addition to Whitney, stuff like Luka by Suzanne Vega, Lady In Red by Chris DeBurgh, Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House, and Songbird by Kenny G. Maybe I was so chilled that only the softer music sticks with me. Also, what’s up with Whitney’s hair extensions in that video?

 

1988 – New Sensation, INXS. I really wish Michael Hutchence hadn’t gone and killed himself. I would love to hear new INXS music with him as the front man. Honorable mentions for 1988: Tall Cool One by Robert Plant, Sign Your Name by Terence Trent D’Arby, Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard, and I Hate Myself For Loving You by Joan Jett. Good stuff. Tennis, street dances, great friends.

 

1989 – Once Bitten Twice Shy, Great White. My friend Terri and I listened to this over and over on road trips to Kansas City in her little red Dodge Daytona. I still play air piano and drums when I hear it. One of the last great hair band songs.

 

It occurs to me I’m not going to cover everything in one blog post, so we’ll dedicate this one to the eighties and turn it into a series. Go make yourself a mojito and enjoy the hot weather!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Musical Armageddon

I think if asked about their favorite music, most people would choose either songs or artists who were popular when they were about 12 to 25 years old. I have no empirical, or even anecdotal evidence to back this up, it’s just a hunch. It would actually make a good hypothesis for someone studying sociology, if it hasn’t been done already.

My sister sent an e-mail today saying that in an attempt to get “with it” in terms of popular music, she was listening to a Pandora “Top Hits” station while working. She went on to lament the sad state of affairs in pop music after hearing Kanye West and Jay-Z’s eloquently titled song, Niggas In Paris. Her husband responded by saying that people said the same thing about Elvis back in the day. I told her to lighten up, Grandma, the kids like it.

Then she responded, and called herself “very old,” which in turn made me feel prehistoric since she’s my younger sister. To make matters worse, a short while after that exchange, when driving Justin to a friend’s house, I was flipping through radio stations (I am completely ADD when listening to the car radio.), the “cool hits” (i.e. “oldies”) station was playing Armageddon It by Def Leppard. That album came out when I was high school! Def Leppard was practically edgy back then. Hair bands on KOOL-108. God help us all. In what twisted, fucked up world, is that an oldie? Oh yeah, in the one where you’re OLD.

Then the news came out that Davy Jones passed away. And I realized that when I was in high school, The Monkees were the oldies. Even though barely two decades had passed since they were a big deal. And probably my parents felt the same way I felt today when The Monkees TV show turned up on Nickelodeon in the late 80s, and we kids laughed at how silly they looked. Of course before that, I only knew Davy Jones from his dreamy turn on The Brady Bunch, which was on every day after school. Marcia was president of his fan club and showed up at the recording studio wearing a groovy yellow poncho, but got hustled out by his goons. Davy overheard, felt bad and showed up at her house later.

And then the fourth musical travesty of the day. I subscribe to the Facebook page for the Hennepin Theatre Trust. They throw out updates about upcoming shows, occasionally they’ll have ticket giveaways. Today they were giving away a pair of tickets to see RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. Leave your favorite Beatles song in the comments to enter in the drawing. Hard to choose, but I threw down Day Tripper. I scrolled back through the earlier comments to see what others had picked. Very diverse selection. Let It Be, Norwegian Wood, Dear Prudence, A Hard Day’s Night, In My Life, Hey Jude, Revolution, Blackbird, Yesterday, Paperback Writer, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Strawberry Fields…

…and one particularly enthusiastic response. “MRS. ROBINSON!!!”

Face palm.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Didn’t She Almost Have It All?

I grew up listening to Whitney Houston. I adored her, tried (and didn’t even come close) to sing like her, listened to her music through high school crushes and break-ups. She had it all. She was beautiful, wealthy, sweet, and was given just a simply amazing, matchless talent. It’s been difficult and sad to watch her make a spectacle of herself over the last decade. When tonight I heard that she’d passed away at the much too young age of 48, I wasn’t especially shocked, but feel extremely sorry that she was unable to pull herself out of the abyss. Prayers for her family and friends.

Seriously kids, don’t do drugs.

For those of you too young to have followed her career, here’s an old eighties video. Is she not just the cutest thing ever? Just a sad, sad ending to a troubled life.

 

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Finally I Have A Handel On Things

Amazing what one nice day can do for your spirits. I’ve almost crawled out of my holidaytime funk. Here’s how.

  • Grounded David from his phone, which resulted in a tenfold improvement in attitude.
  • After fighting over who should get more dominoes, Cameron, Justin and Alex settled down for a quiet and pleasant game of HeadBanz game in Justin and Alex’s room.
  • Cameron challenged me to a drawing contest while we waited for pizza.
  • Justin spent the afternoon at his best friend, Karlie’s house, and by the time he came home he was too exhausted to be difficult.
  • Since everyone was behaving, Barry got to take a nap, which made him much easier to live with.
  • And to cleanse my palate after writing yesterday’s post about atrocious seasonal music, I attended my friend’s choral concert and listened to angelic voices singing about the real meaning of Christmas through classical hymns and carols. Handel, Britten, Biebl.
  • One glass of pinot grigio. Amazing what a nice effect that has.
  • Time out with good friends, no phone calls from home the entire duration.
  • Lying in bed with Alex, touching his face as he fell asleep while we listened to The Coventry Carol and Still, Still, Still on my iPhone.

I think the music made the biggest difference. Tomorrow may be an all classical day. For the first time in weeks I feel relaxed. Quick plug for Exultate Chamber Choir & Orchestra. Best kept secret in the Twin Cities. As talented and polished as a professional group in an intimate setting for half the price and half the hassle. Pick up one of their CDs for Christmas, you won’t be disappointed.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011

Christmas Music Conspiracy Theory

Continuing with the “Bah Humbug” spirit I seem to be in this week (I swear I’ll snap out of it eventually, maybe), I would like to share with you the holiday songs that make me want to puncture my eardrums with snowman-topped swizzle sticks. Maybe some of these songs you hate too. Or maybe you like some of them. That’s all right, everyone has diverse musical tastes. Just because I despise a song that you like doesn’t mean that you are wrong, it simply means that you are an idiot.

Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand. The musical equivalent of someone who swallowed a set of novelty chattering teeth who is trying to dry heave them back up. Take your Ritalin, man.

All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey. I don't want a lot for Christmas, just for the chance to go back in time and call in a bomb threat to the studio the day this song was recorded to prevent this abomination from being played in an endless loop on every department store PA, radio station, and television commercial from the day after Halloween through the end of the year.

The Little Drummer Boy by everyone. I'm no Biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure none of the Gospels mentioned a drummer boy being present on the eve of Christ's birth. Annoying tune. Stupid lyrics. "Mary nodded," um, yeah, right, a woman who just traveled three days from Nazareth ON AN ASS, gave birth in a stable, and she's agreed to let you play your drum near her newborn infant. More likely that she'd tell the little drummer boy to take his fucking drum and stuff it. Of course not in those exact words, because she's the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and all, but she wouldn't be all, "Yeah, kid, come bang out a tune like you're Keith Moon, we're not getting any sleep anyway what with the shepherds and heavenly hosts and kings and shit. Just add to the clamor, it's all good."

The Christmas Shoes or any other tragic, depressing, make-you-want-to-hang-yourself-from-the-top-of-the-tree song. If this woman is really about to meet Jesus, what good are new shoes going to do her? Note to my sons, if I'm lying at home dying on Christmas Eve, shoes are probably the last thing on my list. Really all I need is for you guys to not be fighting. That's my dying Christmas wish. Act like you're not a bunch of wild animals, and let me die in peace. Skip the shoes. If anything, pick up some Chipotle. Also it's probably better you're with me saying goodbye than out fighting traffic looking for shoes if I'm on my deathbed and all.

Do They Know It's Christmas? by the 80's British super poverty-fighting group Band Aid. A noble cause, and not a song that makes me reach for the radio tuner like I'm going after a loose ball on a basketball court, but this makes the list for one reason: the lyric, "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time." We're talking about starving children in sub-Saharan Africa. When has there EVER been snow in Ethiopia?

Silent Night by Neil Diamond. To those of us with a strong German heritage, this is the mother of all carols. Legend goes that the song, Stille Nacht, written by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr, was to be debuted on a snowy Christmas Eve in Austria, but the church organ didn't work, so it was arranged for guitar. And then Neil Diamond brought his own unique brand of gravel-voiced, off-key, sing-talking to it, causing Gruber and Mohr to roll over in their graves. Diamond is Jewish, though, maybe it was payback for centuries of Germanic anti-Semitism. Well played.

Winter Wonderland by Eurythmics. There's a chance this might have been bearable the first time it was played, but once you've been Christmas shopping and hear it in four consecutive stores, you start to wish you had a bit of whatever hallucinogenic delight caused this song to morph into something with a time signature that sounds like Annie Lennox is walking slow motion through a field of melted marshmallows wearing moon boots.

Last Christmas by Wham! When was Wham! last relevant? 1985? So why is their Christmas monstrosity still a staple in venues who subject their customers to the standard seasonal repertoire? It would be easier to break an inmate out of a federal supermax prison than getting this song out of your head once it's lodged in there.

Amy Grant. Her entire catalog. Make it stop.

Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes. Dinga-linga-linga ding dong POW. I've never shot a firearm in my life, but this makes me long to train the sight of a high-powered rifle directly at whatever speaker is blasting this insipid nonsense. Actually it's a toss-up between this and their version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

So here you have it. What I’m hating at the moment. Props though to Pier 1 Imports. They were playing a fabulous set the other day, replete with Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and a fun tune called We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo that made you want to grab a lamp and start dancing.

The good stuff is out there, the question is, what evil forces are at play to instead shovel the same overplayed garbage at us year after year? Did Mannheim Steamroller and José Feliciano make some sort of pact with the devil to get their 15 minutes of fame back once a year? I smell conspiracy. And cinnamon pine cones.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011

Birthday Number Ones

My birthday is awesome. It’s May 12, the middle of spring, nearing the end of the school year, baseball season kicking into gear, mild weather. I think everyone should celebrate it.

Wait, I'm confused. "Dawn" was *two* people?

In that spirit, I give you the number-one singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for every birthday I’ve had. Some are spectacularly awful, which is also awesome. And they’re bad on completely different levels. Like you can even compare the cheese of Reunited to something that has end-of-civilization-because-we-collectively-chose-this-to-receive-the-most-airplay overtones like Jump. And also I can’t stand that cue ball, Sinéad O’Connor. Nothing compares indeed.

Gotta love Joy to the World, Call Me, Beat It, and Like a Prayer, though.

1971 – Joy to the World, Three Dog Night
1972 – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack
1973 – Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, Dawn featuring Tony Orlando
1974 – The Loco-Motion, Grand Funk
1975 – He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You), Tony Orlando and Dawn
1976 – Welcome Back, John Sebastian
1977 – Hotel California, Eagles
1978 – Night Fever, Bee Gees
1979 – Reunited, Peaches and Herb
1980 – Call Me, Blondie
1981 – Morning Train (Nine to Five), Sheena Easton
1982 – Chariots of Fire, Vangelis
1983 – Beat It, Michael Jackson
1984 – Hello, Lionel Richie
1985 – Crazy for You, Madonna
1986 – West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys
1987 – (I Just) Died in Your Arms, Cutting Crew
1988 – Wishing Well, Terence Trent D’Arby
1989 – Like a Prayer, Madonna
1990 – Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinéad O’Connor
1991 – Joyride, Roxette
1992 – Jump, Kris Kross
1993 – Freak Me, Silk
1994 – The Sign, Ace of Base
1995 – This Is How We Do It, Montell Jordan
1996 – Always Be My Baby, Mariah Carey
1997 – Hypnotize, The Notorious B.I.G.
1998 – Too Close, Next
1999 – Livin’ la Vida Loca, Ricky Martin
2000 – Maria Maria, Santana featuring The Product G&B
2001 – All for You, Janet Jackson
2002 – Foolish, Ashanti
2003 – Get Busy, Sean Paul
2004 – Yeah!, Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris
2005 – Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani
2006 – Bad Day, Daniel Powter
2007 – Makes Me Wonder, Maroon 5
2008 – Bleeding Love, Leona Lewis
2009 – Boom Boom Pow, The Black Eyed Peas
2010 – Nothin’ on You, B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars
2011 – E.T., Katy Perry featuring Kanye West

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011