Category: guilty pleasure monday!

guilty pleasure monday: if you love somebody set them free (sting)

guilty pleasure monday: if you love somebody set them free (sting)

if you love something, set it free.

if it comes back to you, it is yours.

if it doesn’t, it never was.

yeah, yeah. you can start laughing at me now. but when this song came out in 1985, i was completely hooked. it’s rock, it’s jazzy, there’s a marsalis in it. how can you not start tapping your toes when it comes on?

lots of my friends felt betrayed when der stingleheimer started on a different musical path post-police. stingerino seemed to start down a path away from the reggae/ska/punk-lite path and explore new stuff, ultimately destined for lite rock stations everywhere. and yet i love this stuff, at least up through the mid-1990s.

and if you’ve ever carefully watched the video for this song, you’ll notice some cool things happening. one person is slowed down. one is speeded up. one is filmed in black and white.  and beloved branford? he’s a transparent ghost of himself.  i just love it.

and as for the hackneyed cliché that graces the song’s title? it has probably seen it’s way onto many greeting cards and needlepoint samplers. there’s a load of jokes surrounding it including these. but me, i’m a purist. whoever said this said it best:

if you love something, set it free.

if it comes back to you, it is yours.

if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

second verse, same as the first.

henry the VIII is one of those random songs that gets stuck in your head once and then pops up at the darndest times. for me, it pops up during those blank and dreary moments where you need something to make people smile and get re-energized.  there have been countless times when i’ll start singing it and the kids join in.  (yes, we’re that family.)

the song was one of the hits for the band herman’s hermits (including, as BS would imitate from the TV, peter noone from my generation!), a british band that became huge in the heydey of the beatles. in fact, they apparently were the top selling pop act in the US in 1965, toppling the beatles from that post.  all this, in part, thanks to famed producer mickie most, who would select their songs and often wouldn’t let them play, using session musicians like john paul jones and jimmy page instead. they had hit after hit for several years, but of course one day, they broke up and tried their own stuff which was never quite successful. (peter noone had one minor hit covering what ultimately became a bowie classic oh! you pretty things.)

but i’ll keep it simple so that no one chops my head off. henry the VIII is bouncier and a lot more fun than it’s subject matter would imply. and it’s actually kid-safe, unlike plenty of my musical fodder.  but yeah, i would get laughed out of a lot of places for this one.

guilty pleasure monday: trouble (ray lamontagne)

guilty pleasure monday: trouble (ray lamontagne)

…and it all started because of a little dog.

ray lamontagne is a singer-songwriter from new england whose raspy voice has graced grammy-winning music. i had no idea of any of this until i saw the travelers insurance commercial featuring an adorably-scruffy but neurotic benji dog who feared for the safety of his favorite bone. i know radio in DC is limited, but i can only wonder how many other artists i have been missing since we lost any station that plays anything new.

but enough of that rant. what i have since learned about the reclusive mr. ray: he apparently grew up in a less-than-stellar situation and initially rejected music because it is something his father did (and apparently, his relationship with his father was, you guessed it, troubled.) but, as legend has it, he was working in a shoe factory when he heard a song. this song:

and suddenly, his life changed.

what little i can read about him makes it sound like he lives a pretty private life with his family. it doesn’t sound like he likes to tour much. pity. what truly brought him to my attention was a song from his latest album, g-d willin’ & the creek don’t rise.

one of those random internet radio stations played it, and i had to find out who was singing that song. (yeah, i know — it’s a little countrified, but i like it. it has a bit of that neil young harvest vibe to it, methinks.) and then, i heard that voice and thought, hmm, isn’t that the voice from the commercial with the cute dog that has that song i like?

so yeah, it’s a little bit country AND it’s a little bit rock. and if you’ve never listened to this guy’s stuff, you really ought to give it a try.

wish he toured more. maybe touring is more trouble than he can handle, though.

guilty pleasure monday: you make your own heaven and hell right here on earth (the temptations)

guilty pleasure monday: you make your own heaven and hell right here on earth (the temptations)

be forewarned: i am probably going to accidentally trounce on beliefs without meaning to and without any malice. apologies in advance. i’m thinking aloud here.

all this talk about raptures is puzzling to me at best. and that’s at best.

i had to do a little reading about the concept of rapture, as it is a christian concept and thus obviously nothing i was taught as part of my time with mrs. hannah felder, the torah-ettes, and our stunning hebrew school curriculum. there’s a piece of the christian bible called thessalonians (which i had to practice saying, i would add — that word is a tongue twister and made me feel like i had a lisping challenge) where paul writes one of his epistles.  (i remember reading a bit about him in college through the confessions of st. augustine. that paul was pretty prolific.)

(speaking of prolific paul, i always love being at weddings with BS when they get to the part of paul writing to the corinthians. my husband always makes me laugh:  dear corinthians, he’ll whisper, STOP. how’s the leather business? STOP. etc.)

so that thinker named paul, he took on the thessalonians as well, only this time, he was talking about christians being taken up to G-d. and i’m no theologian (so i will defer to my friends who are), but it sounds like depending on which sort of christian you are delineates how the whole rapture scenario plays out. but ultimately, my understanding is that as long as you are christian and have declared Jesus as your savior, you are good to go toward that heavenly reward.

see, here’s where i get a bit perplexed and i’m hoping someone out there can help me out. in judaism, i think we earn our place in heaven by good works.  i don’t think the concept is limited to jews, either — i think anyone who does good on earth can enter heaven (if it’s a concept he or she believes in, obviously. not everyone does.)  you don’t have to belong to any particular religion; you just have to be a decent human being. now obviously, behaving as Jesus would want you to would put you in this category, methinks, as Jesus had some pretty critical ideas that i can appreciate. but in our non-christian worldview, i don’t think you have to be christian to earn your place with The Big Entity Upstairs.

so is it enough to surrender yourself to Jesus or G-d? i’m thinking about all those poor people who stopped their lives in their tracks last week because they believed that rapture was imminent. they handed out pamphlets; they paid for billboards; and they did everything they could to spread the word. i respect their right to share their ideas. however, is that all there is to it? just believe and you’re done?

you need to understand that i am somewhat skeptical about organized religion, including my own. but a worldview i do embrace is all about your behavior here on earth. how you treat people in the here and now is everything to me. and frankly, i am not doing this because i am hoping that i end up in G-d’s good books (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s, for that matter.) i do that simply because i want to be part of a world where people treat each other kindly and fairly. i’m far from perfect on this front, of course; but it’s something i strive for every day. it’s something i try to share with my kids every day. and all these people who are eager to die and be lifted up to heaven — have they completely given up on improving life on here in our world? i find people like that to be the scariest people of all.

i know that life for some people is very, very hard. i know that i count my blessings all the time — i have a healthy family, i have access to lifesaving medicine, i have people i love and who seem to like me, etc. — so it may seem pretty easy for me to talk about good works and good deeds. but when you look at history and see persecuted peoples, people under the greatest of stresses, there are countless stories of grace and courage and, as my tribe would put it, mitzvot. i think, for example, about the righteous among the nations, non-jews who risked their very lives saving jews during the holocaust.

isn’t that sort of deed enough to earn your place in heaven?

but is that really a good reason to do the right thing? no one really knows what happens to you after you die. maybe heaven. maybe worm food central. who really knows? and i don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs, but you can’t really control what happens to you after you die. you can, however,  control how you behave in the here and now. you can create heaven… or hell… right here on earth, as the temps sing.

and shouldn’t that be the focus?

guilty pleasure monday: at seventeen (janis ian)

guilty pleasure monday: at seventeen (janis ian)

i learned the truth at 10, thanks to this song.

an indictment of the world of high school that could be considered the great grandma of mean girls, janis ian’s at seventeen must have hit a chord with a lot of others as well, as it was a huge hit that year. it’s a commentary on the importance of popularity, cliques, and being judged on your appearance: your clothes, your face, basically everything about “ugly duckling girls.” at 10, i knew i’d never be a cheerleader, a beauty queen, or one of those girls who seemed to walk out of a shampoo commercial. for starters, my hair was brown (and we all knew back then that blondes had more fun.) all the girls in my class were thin as sticks; i somehow was curvy, which wasn’t too cool when you’re in 5th grade. (and that continued on into high school, when finally most of the girls caught up.) and worst of all, i was a smart girl.

i knew it would be a long time, if ever, that anyone would want to date a smart girl like me. at 10, i was reading mother jones and newsweek and all sorts of classic books; i adored joining my folks as they watched PBS shows on history and politics. most of my peers at the time were not there; many still aren’t. and yet, i also loved it when my friend jeanne and i would borrow her older sister’s seventeen magazine. somehow, my entire existence was supposed to be centered on finding the right lip gloss and taking quizzes that would surely determine the path of my life going forward.  it was all so confusing to me; it was like i was supposed to be several different people, all without actually turning into sybil.

and then janis ian cleared it all up for me. don’t worry kid, she seemed to be saying. the really pretty and popular ones were going to lead boring, traditional lives. but you, my friend, are an ugly ducking girl like me.

and what i took from that? well, you know what eventually happened to the ugly duckling, right?

guilty pleasure monday: pride (in the name of love) – U2

guilty pleasure monday: pride (in the name of love) – U2

in memory of a great and inspirational man.

today is the anniversary of the assassination of the reverend martin luther king, jr, MLK. i prefer to reflect on his life rather than his sad demise; but thanks to this classic u2 song, i will never, ever forget what happened early morning, april 4.

like any human being, MLK had his flaws, but i wonder why our society fixated on his misdeeds. when you think of all the good MLK did in his brief life, who really cares whether he had affairs? i’m beginning to think that so many people in power think that to be an option; i don’t agree, obviously. i think we expect our heroes to be made of something out of a storybook: but these leaders are, inevitably, flesh and blood. i suspect that if any of us were judged under a microscope, we would all be found wanting in some way.

the bigger question i think people ought to ask themselves, though, is what have i done for the world? i struggle with this question daily. one day, i was actually upset about my answer. people like MLK inspired me as a child to do something important for humanity. MLK helped african-americans and other people of color make important gains toward achieving their proper, equal place in american society. i do not believe i have ever done anything as critical.

some people just try to make it through the day. others are looking toward the weekend, the future, the promised time when they can achieve a measure of happiness. me, i want to do something good for the world. and i just wasn’t seeing how i was getting there as a stay-at-home mom. BC came up to me as i sat, slumped. what’s wrong, mom? she asked. i no longer hide my moods from my daughter; she knows me as a whole person as well as her mom.

well honey, i replied, when i was your age, i thought i was going to do something important to help people in the world. and i just don’t see how i’m accomplishing that at all right now.

BC, thoughtful 40-year-old-in-a-12-year-old-suit, breathed in for a second. then, she replied: you’re raising julian and me to be good people. isn’t that enough? i smiled and hugged her hard.  perhaps it is, i mused to myself.

so i now have a dream. maybe it isn’t as lofty as MLK’s. maybe it will be far-reaching, maybe not. it is certainly inspired by the man.

and hopefully, it will be fulfilled through my children.

guilty pleasure monday: captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy (elton john)

guilty pleasure monday: captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy (elton john)

from the end of the world to your town!

i remember when elton john’s captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy album came out. i was 10 years old, and i was completely enthralled by this pudgy, bespectacled spectacle. BTD had bought this one (apparently, a lot of people did — it debuted at number one on the billboard pop albums chart, the first album ever to do that.), along with a few others, and i somehow glommed onto this one. the album cover seemed to me to be as complex as sgt pepper‘s; and there were not one, but two inserts, one with lyrics and the other with all sorts of photos and pictures and minutae. i must have looked at those things for hours, as if i would somehow find some clues to the missing holy grail.

(lest the pinball fan in me forget that there also was the captain fantastic pinball machine:)

but the best part for me, of course, was the album itself.  my favorite elton john album, of course, remains tumbleweed connection; but captain fantastic follows, a close second. it’s the last time you hear the original elton john band together (playing at their peak) until the too low for zero album in 1983. the album is a sort of untintentional concept piece: an early history of the struggle of john and taupin to find their way into music business success. they struggle with love, loss, hunger, and the choices they must make to be successful. they even struggle with writing and rejection, something i always have found endearing. someone saved my life tonight, the story of john’s escape from near-marriage in 1969, was the only single and is, unquestionably, the jewel in the crown of the work.

but i have always adored the first track. i’d listen to captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy,  imagining the young john and taupin, like two guys in a western, as they start to forge a path toward fame and fortune. while recognizing that they’re both wet behind the ears, they are excited by the promise of their future.  they are anxious about the troubles ahead.   should they stay where they are? should they pursue their heartfelt destiny? it’s a tough call, and it won’t be easy: from here on, sonny sonny sonny, it’s a long, lonely climb.

knowing the path the john’s career and life have taken makes this song, 35 years later, that much more poignant. and yet now, many years on, with the realization that john made it through so much adversity, this song becomes ever sweeter, as we know all the angst of these two young lads pays off ultimately in a sweet, happy, and creative life.

guilty pleasure monday: sufferin’ ’til suffrage (schoolhouse rock)

guilty pleasure monday: sufferin’ ’til suffrage (schoolhouse rock)

since 1920, sistahs unite! vote on!

is it just me, or does it seem like america has become even more openly hostile to women these days? between all the anti-choice legislative nightmares brewing and even oddly-misogynistic attitudes in journalistic pieces, it’s apparently becoming more acceptable to knock down women. (and gays. and jews. and minorities. and basically anyone out there who isn’t one of the wildly-oppressed, white male species. oh, boo effing hoo, boys.  ) methinks for that years, people were shamed into trying to be less racist, and unfortunately, shaming doesn’t work. (of course, with some of these folks, i wonder whether education will work, either.)

so it is with some trepidation that i ponder our current state of affairs.  i fear that neither diversity of population or of thought is appreciated in the policy circles of the current powers that be. the damage that may occur in our society as a result is stunning.  for somehow, it is becoming more acceptable to force a woman to complete an unplanned pregnancy. and when that baby is born, will these same people be there to raise it, shelter it, pay for it? of course not. somehow, pregnancy has become a punishment of sorts — and it doesn’t matter whether the woman became pregnant simply because she was sexually active or because she was raped. her life is worth less than the burgeoning life inside of her.  the policy decisions surrounding abortion rights are being made by people who not only do not care about the rights of women, but who feel that society must use certain tools to punish them, even in cases when the pregnancy is not the woman’s fault.

and where the hell are the men in these situations? women do not conceive immaculately.

roe versus wade is the law. and now that plenty of states, including my own, are making it absurdly difficult to provide safe, legal abortions to those who choose to have them, i fear for a lot of female citizens, women who may die because of someone else’s misogynistic belief system. hey — don’t want an abortion? don’t have one!

so i’m hoping a lot of people out there — men and women alike — see the writing on the wall… i’m hoping they get involved in policy discussions. i’m hoping they get active in the issues.

and i’m really hoping that they vote.

guilty pleasure monday: strength (the alarm)

guilty pleasure monday: strength (the alarm)

i need it now.

in two days, i have another birthday coming. and as the years go by, one thing becomes increasingly apparent: above all, i need strength. i need muscle strength to support my bionic bones. i need mental strength to tackle the new math that my kids continue to share with me. and above all, i need emotional strength for all the weird spitballs and curveballs that life throws me. we red sea pedestrians pray for strength each week; and while it didn’t make any sense to me when i was young (and bored, as i have never been a huge organized religion fan), i get it now. i need to be tough for the (hopefully) long haul.

i’m a little chagrined to point out that, in the very early ’80s,  i didn’t have the strength of mind to know the difference between the alarm and U2 for a year or two (the unforgettable fire changed all that, though, have no fear.) the alarm burst onto the scene with their huge single the stand; as a stupid american, i could not tell the difference between a seemingly-political welsh band and a seemingly-political irish band. u2 went the distance and continues to produce sometimes derivative and sometimes amazing stuff. sadly, the alarm only lasted for about a decade, first as a mod group and then ultimately as the incarnation we all knew and loved.

i remember the alarm playing on the patio at the university of miami somewhere in the 1983 or ’84 corridor. it was a little surreal — there i was with my best pal murph and a handful of people. and right in front of me — the alarm! i was wondering why the place wasn’t packed. i didn’t realize at that time that miami was not exactly the epicenter of alternative music fandom, at least not 1980s alternative.  but it was a little odd to be that close to a band who had hit records. they were certainly a fun live band.

anyway, years went by; and after one last gasp of a hit, they were done.

i guess one needs a special, superhuman level of strength to survive in the music industry.  if i can get at least half of that sort of resilience in me, i think i’ll make it through algebra the second time around.

guilty pleasure monday: call to your heart (giuffria)

guilty pleasure monday: call to your heart (giuffria)

it’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a HAIR BAND!

yeah, i know. i usually loathe these sorts of things. i am not exactly a fan of ’80s hair bands or The Power Ballads That Made Them Famous. but i loved this song back in the day, and i was thrilled to see it on youtube. at the time, i didn’t know much about the band giuffria, but i have since learned they were actually a DC-based outfit. all i knew was that the guy in the video played two keyboards, side-by-side, without looking; and i thought that was cool. i also thought the lead singer, david glen eisley, had an amazing set of pipes.  and it probably helped that, at the time, i felt very isolated from all my friends who were hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from me, cooling my heels in miami.

check out the video. ah, the days when all you needed in a video was a wind machine and the hair to blow through it… and men comfortable enough to wear white polka-dotted spandex. (for the record, i have never been courageous enough to wear polka-dotted spandex.) you’ll see loads of big-haired women — none with boob jobs. if this were made nowadays, i don’t think you’d see a natural pair in the bunch. but here, the only thing big was the hair.

anyway, february is american heart month. don’t let your heart call you back with bad news. start doing those things you ought to be doing with diet and exercise. i know i’m trying. cos now that i’ve found call to your heart after losing it for about 25 years, there’s no way i’m going anywhere if i can help it.

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