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30 April 2009 — Songburst: Playing to Win (0)

While we were in Sunriver, the group played a marathon session of Songburst, the “name that tune” game. Steph read song titles and lyrics to us, and we tried to guess the next words. This was the “70s and 80s” edition, so it hit the sweetspot of our childhood years.

We were all surprised at how skilled Kristin was at Songburst. She nailed even the most obscure songs. It’s as if she’s spent her entire life curled up, listening to K103 on a transistor radio.

Part of the fun was singing the cheesy songs of our youth, and discovering who loves which artists. Kris stunned us all with her Stevie Wonder impersonation. Jenn is a big fan of Olivia Newton-John. Kristin can sing “Brand New Key”. And I like the Little River Band.

Because I was a little tipsy (though not nearly as tipsy as Jeff, who was very happy), I downloaded three albums during the game: Toto’s Greatest Hits, Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits, and Little River Band’s Greatest Hits.

This morning as I was working around the house (trying to recover from this damn cold), I was playing Little River Band at full blast, bellering, “Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts every time?” Then a song came on that I cannot recall having heard before. It was rocking. And then it wasn’t. And then it was.

“Oh my goodness,” I thought. “The video for this has got to be awesome.” I meant that ironically, of course. And yes, yes the video is awesome. Ironically.

My friends, I give you “Playing to Win” by the Little River Band, circa 1985. Enjoy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go download Dan Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits…

Tags: Friends and Family · Music · YouTube  → No Comments

19 January 2009 — Bad (4)

One of Paul’s many virtues was that he pushed my comfort zone. Sometimes this was problematic, but mostly it was a good thing. In high school, I was very much a “play by the rules” kind of guy. (Mostly, I still am.) Paul sometimes liked to break the rules.

I did not skip a single class period up until my senior year, for example. But then Paul induced me to skip twice. On the first time, we joined a few other kids to watch music videos at somebody’s house. (Details are very hazy in my old-man brain: Tami and Kim J. perhaps? Amy F.? I’m not sure. All I remember is INXS.)

The second time, I remember clearly.

On the 09 March 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree. When Paul and I entered high school, we were unfamiliar with the band. I heard them during the first week of my freshman year. I’m not sure if I introduced them to Paul, but I believe it’s likely. In any event, by the end of our senior year, he and I were both hooked on them. We owned all their LPs and many of their rare singles.

So when the new album came out, it only seemed natural to skip school to buy it. After lunch, we hopped into my dirty old Datsun 310gx and drove to Tower Records. We each bought a copy of the LP, and I picked up my first “cassingle” — “With or Without You” on cassette tape. We were back to school before the final bell.

I’ve always treasured the memory of that day. It seems to typify the Paul and J.D. relationship.

Here are two songs from my favorite U2 album, The Unforgettable Fire. Both have been in my mind lately. First up, the best U2 song ever: “Bad”. This is the amazing Live Aid performance that I’ve shared here before: “If I could, through myself, set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away, see you break, break away, into the night and through the day.”

And then there’s this, which is doubly-apt since today is MLK day. I’ve been singing it to myself all morning: “Sleep, sleep tonight, and may your dreams be realized. If the thundercloud passes rain, so let it rain, let it rain, rain on me.”

I’ve held back the tears until now, but watching these videos…so cathartic.

There’s a memorial service for Paul in Eugene this Wednesday afternoon. If you’re interested in attending, please let me or Tom know. Paul’s parents are trying to pull something together for Portland this Saturday, too. I’ll post when I know more information.

Tags: Friends and Family · Music · Personal History · YouTube  → 4 Comments

11 November 2008 — How I Became the Bomb (0)


Was there ever a song and video more targeted at J.D. than this? I think not. My life is now complete.

Tags: Geekiness · Music · Rants and Raves · YouTube  → No Comments

23 July 2008 — Stevie Nicks Day (4)

All afternoon, I’ve been listening to the same song: “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks. This was a modest hit when I was a freshman in high school. I had the LP and loved it. Some genius (and I mean this in literally) recently thought to remix the song into a nearly-twelve minute version called the “Tracy Takes You Home Mix”. I have no idea where I got it (iTunes?), but it’s awesome. I’ve been listening to it all day, over and over and over again.

“Stand back, stand back, in the middle of my room, I did not hear from you…”

The Wild Heart is a great album, by the way. Several of the songs are just awesome: “Stand Back”, “If Anyone Falls”, “Wild Heart”, “I Will Run to You”, and “Beauty and the Beast” — the latter of which is the perfect love song for geeky young men and women from the mid-eighties.

Tags: Music  → 4 Comments

10 June 2008 — Age of Consent (2)

Sometimes when I was a boy, my father would hear a song on the radio and go all crazy on me. “I remember this song,” he’d say. “I used to love it.” When the movie Stand By Me came out in 1985, the soundtrack threw him into a nostalgic reverie. It never really made much sense to me.

As I’ve grown older, it’s made more sense, of course. I understand now what might have made him misty over the songs of his youth. But until today I never fully understood.

Just now “Age of Consent” by New Order came on XM44. This is a song that I used to love when I was in high school. But it may actually have been 20 years since I heard it. Listening to it (it’s still playing) gives me a visceral reaction — it feels like 1985 again, and I can feel the emotions I felt then. Mentally, I’ve been transported in time. I can feel myself working out in the box factory, sulking, listening to this song. (I had two New Order LPs that I would play over and over again while making boxes.)

I wonder if that’s what happened to Dad. Remember: back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, music was not so ubiquitous. It wasn’t as easy to hear the songs you used to love. I’ve spent my adult life with Tears for Fears and U2 and Duran Duran. But my father didn’t have that luxury. When the radio stopped playing the Del Vikings and the Chordettes, he was forced to move on.

Me? I can go to YouTube and watch “Age of Consent” over and over and over again. (No official video exists that I can find.)

Bonus trivia: I’m the same age now, listening to “Age of Consent”, as my father was in 1985 when he heard the Stand by Me soundtrack.

Tags: Music · Personal History  → 2 Comments

24 March 2008 — Goodbye My Lover (2)

Last fall on our trip to Lincoln City with Mac and Pam, I witnessed one of those small perfect moments that linger in memory.

After clam chowder at Mo’s, we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery for dessert. It was about 7:30 on a Friday night, and the place was dead. We were the only customers.

We placed our orders with the young woman at the counter, While she scooped and folded our ice cream, I noticed her co-worker in the back room. This other young woman was making an ice cream cake, shaping it with a long spatula-like tool. As she worked, she sang to the music on the loudspeaker. She was completely absorbed in the moment: building the cake, singing with passion. She was unaware of our presence.

The song was a plaintive story of love and loss. The male vocalist had a thin, high voice perfectly matched to the subject matter.

“Who’s singing this?” I asked.

“I think it’s James Blunt,” Mac said. I had never heard of him. “Pam likes another one of his songs — ‘You’re Beautiful’.”

I continued to watch the young woman as she sang and built her cake. When the song was over, she set down the spatula, pulled off her gloves, walked to the stereo, and played the song again. She walked back to her work area, pulled on her gloves, and picked up her spatula. And she sang: “Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend. You have been the one, you have been the one for me.”

This little scene occurred five months ago, yet I think of it at least once a week. What was the story there? Had the young woman recently suffered some sort of heartbreak? Or did she just love the song? Either way, the moment is burned on my brain.

Tags: Daily Life · Music · Stories  → 2 Comments

5 March 2008 — Hey Jude! (3)

I don’t blog for weeks, but when I do it’s to share pure solid gold:

Yes, I know this has been making its way around the internet, and I’m probably the last one to see it. I don’t care. I love it.

Tags: Kids · Music · YouTube  → 3 Comments

28 February 2008 — I *Heart* Mexican Music (3)

For the past month, I’ve been training our new salesman at the box factory, David Gingerich. He’s not a Roth, but he’s darn close. His father and my father grew up together (though Dad was closer to David’s uncle, John). David went to school with my brother, Tony.

David and his wife recently returned from a two-year mission trip to Ecuador. I love to hear his stories of life and culture in South America. As we drive around Portland looking for people to buy boxes, we have many fine conversations about immigration politics, theology (though I’m atheist now, I’m proud of religious roots), and, of course, Latin music.

When I was young, I made fun of “beaner music”. (”Are kids still racist like that?” I asked David today. He didn’t know.) The oom-pa sound of the songs the Mexicans listened to while picking berries was easy to mock. When I went to work for Dad after college, I was dismayed to find our Mexican employees preferred this sort of music.

But you know what?

I actually grew to like certain songs. In fact, several years ago I made an entire CD devoted to my favorite oom-pa Mexican songs. (I borrowed CDs from Jose, Jesus, and Sabino.) Sometimes I’ll be driving along an sunny day and the mood will strike me to listen to my Mexican mix. I don’t understand a word they’re singing, but I love it.

This afternoon as I started cleaning the house, I wanted some upbeat background music. I wasn’t in the mood for classic rock, though, and the dance station on XM was just too chipper. What I really wanted was Mexican music. Did XM offer any? I looked at my channel card…

Sure enough! For the past hour now, I’ve been listening to XM 92, Aguila! (”Regional Mexcian” it says on the channel card.) I still don’t understand a word they’re singing, but somehow I don’t care. It’s the perfect music for my mood.

Tags: Music  → 3 Comments

1 February 2008 — Hidden Gems (7)

It’s humbling to realize I have gaps in my musical knowledge. I know that’s a strange thing to say, but nowadays it’s rare for me to find songs from the 1970s and 1980s with which I’m completely unfamiliar.

Here’s a song I heard recently on XM 49 (which plays rock hits from the 70s and 80s, and which is my “station of the moment”). What makes it remarkable is that it’s a song from REO Speedwagon that I’ve never heard before. I love REO Speedwagon!

REO Speedwagon - Time for Me to Fly

Not only have I not heard of this second song, but I haven’t even heard of the band: The Sweet. According to Wikipedia, this song reached #5 in the U.S. during 1975 and was “one of the year’s biggest hits”. I can’t help but feel this is an elaborate hoax. How come I haven’t heard of the band or the song?

The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz

Wow. Can that be any more camp? It reminds me of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

One of my favorite parts of XM so far is discovering hidden gems like these. You should see my list of newly discovered dance and chillout songs. I’m discovering whole new worlds of music.

Tags: Music · YouTube  → 7 Comments

As a reward to myself for paying off all my debt, I recently signed up for XM Satellite Radio. It’s awesome. I love the ability to listen to loads of music that matches my mood exactly.

My top channel is XM 44 — also known as “Fred” — which plays “alternative” music from 1978-1988. We didn’t call this alternative music back then. I don’t know what we called it. Some of it — Duran Duran and their New Wave kin — found wide airplay on the radio, but most of it — The Cure, New Order, early U2 — did not. The station is awesome.

I also like channel 84 — XM Chill — which plays chill-out music. (Chill-out music is basically mellow, light jazz (not “smooth” jazz) and electronic music.) The third station that sees heavy rotation is channel 4 — the 1940s station.

I still love early American popular music. Though my plans for a site devoted to the subject are on permanent vacation, I listen to recorded music from the 1890s to the 1940s all the time. XM Channel 4 plays mostly stuff from the 1940s, but sometimes squeezes in tunes from the 1930s or even the 1920s. It’s great.

Anyhow, the whole reason I’m telling you this is that they just played a 1949 song called “Happy New Year” by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. I’d never heard it before. According to some quick Googling, this was the B-side to the immensely popular “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”. The internet — this amazing series of tubes — actually yielded a version of the record being played on a 1956 Philco:

This song is hilarious. Enjoy!

Tags: Fun · Music · YouTube  → 1 Comment