The Letter

This post is all about songs that involve the mention of something near and dear to me, in this time of rampant technology. Please note: the author of this post is aware of the irony of using technology to rave about old-fashioned communication.

Who doesn’t love getting personal “snail mail?” Handwritten expressions carry more weight because they mean that you took the time to sit down, relax and invest thought in someone you care about.

My friend, Cathy, writes at least seven of her friends one and sometimes two cards each every week, even when she is under the weather. We’ve decided to celebrate National Letter Writing Day (Monday, November 28, 2011) with a program about postal mail at our work place.

Thinking of mail, of course, I’ve been singing the Box Tops “The Letter” for a matter of days now, when it occurred to me to ask for feedback from my readers. I will leave a few examples here but please feel free to post your own. It is my hope that, before the program, Cathy and I will create a mixed CD of songs relating to the value of postal communication.

Here are a few of my favorites, followed by a list of suggestions. I’d like to see yours.

And off we go:

The Box Tops “The Letter.” This was Alex Chilton’s (God rest his spirit) first debut with his rough and rich vocals.

“Please Read the Letter” Robert Plant and Alison Kraus,

“Letter to Elise” The Cure

“The Letter” Natalie Merchant

Take a Letter Maria R. B. Greaves

Love Letters in the Sand (Patsy Cline or Pat Boone or Gene Austin.)

Sealed with a Kiss The Four Voices

Just a Song Before I Go Crosby Still and Nash

Rock and write on!

“Postally” yours,

Rachael

P.S. By the way, I really, really love The Cure.

An album to “Fall” for…

There are many great fall albums. This time of year is one of my absolute delights. Cool, crisp mornings (where I don’t have to scrape the car windows, of course)…the anticipation of wearing my 20 eyelet Docs in either black or brown, depending on my outfit…and my playlist. Playlist, to me, means the jumble of actual compact discs that line my office or my car. Yes, I do listen to Pandora and Spotify…and, more importantly, the record player my grandfather gave me. I could upgrade. I do want one of those lovely record your vinyl to CD and cassette-dealies, too. But there is a beauty in listening to my vinyl on the same record player my grandpa listened to his Beethoven or Daniel O’ Donnell or the Irish Tenors.
Currently, as I planned for one of my four college courses that I’m teaching this term (along with a part-time library job) I needed music. Here was a little self-conversation I had, as I picked up my Mumford & Sons Sigh No More vinyl I got from my husband last Christmas. “Yes, I like you, Mumford, but…not this morning. Fall. Hmm…aha!” I plucked Pearl Jam’s Vs. on vinyl…(go ahead, say it, it’s a fun alliteration. All unusually lettered alliterations are fun to say: versus on vinyl)…and put it on the turntable.
Why this album? Well, you know I’m an ENORMOUS FAN of the band. But this particular album reminds me of the Halloween where I realized I was too old for trick-or-treating and too young to take any little kid down quiet streets of the calm little neighborhood where I grew up. Mom was working two jobs to support us and Jeremy was always getting into some madness. But that night, he was there with me. I wanted to pass out candy to the little kids so I kept the porch light on, but didn’t dress up. I was a little depressed because I was not quite 12 years old and feeling the weight of young adulthood staring at me with zombie eyes.
Pearl Jam’s Vs. had been out approximately 11 days, so I brought my boombox to the living room and Jeremy and turned it on. At the beginning of the evening, a nearby neighborhood prankster came by—Aaron—and Jeremy gave him all the candy in the bowl and slammed the door and turned the porch light off. We kept the living room light off and sat in the corner listening to Vs.
I think I cried. Aaron was intimidating but had so many problems. He ended up imprisoned (I think it was drugs) and hung himself in his cell. That was half a decade after that night. I couldn’t tell if Jeremy was his friend or was afraid of him, but you never did know with Aaron. He was the type of kid who hocked “luggies” on the bus floor and then (sorry) inhaled them back up just to gross out the kids on the bus (it worked.)
I’m quite sure I cried, come to think of it. How was Aaron, age 14, trick-or-treating, if I couldn’t? I’m sure I could’ve but it didn’t seem fair with all the other little kids out there. And now Aaron made off with all our candy. Jeremy comforted me by sitting next to me (even though I was pissed off at him) and listening to Vs. “W.M.A.” creeped me out that night—it would have been the last song on side A—but by the time “Indifference” came on I knew, without knowing, that I was depressed. My absent father had once said to me, “I feel no love for her, no hate for her—only indifference.” He was referring to his 3rd wife (the one after my Mom) who was certifiably insane and had made threats to his—and our lives.
Hearing my fab five roll out “Daughter” and “Indifference” made a big difference to me. “Daughter” for one, helped me cope with an absent father. “Don’t call me daughter—not fit to—the picture kept will remind me…” and “how much difference does it make?” All this beautiful rhetoric with a fall backdrop of genius musical accompaniment soothed my angst. When I felt angsty, I could always just belt, “Drop the Leash! DROP THE LEASH!!! Get outta my (lucky) FUCKIN’ FACE!” I always thought he said the latter, or maybe I just wanted him to. So that’s what I sang along with him.
But this album isn’t all melancholy. The band delivers a message about gun control with “Glorified G” and makes the listener smile through the pain with “Dissident” because who can resist Eddie’s crooning to happy guitars, “he couldn’t hold on…he folded…a dissident is here…”
If you don’t own it, get it. My other recommendations are:
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
Radiohead’s Pablo Honey
Stone Temple Pilot’s Core
Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine
Hole’s Live Through This
And, if you are a fan or can tolerate Oasis, What’s the Story, Morning Glory? (I say that only because people either love or hate them. I like some of their music, but hi, you’re not the Beatles, okay?)
Until next time, I’ll see you in my “Rearviewmirror.”  http://youtu.be/U6lCVgE6xnM
Blessed be and rock on,
Rachael
P.S. Thanks for listening.

Under the Bridge downtown…

I see a small resemblance to the younger Anthony Keidis...

…is where I first realized what hormones were. What? The song is about heroin, Rachael. Right, but it premiered as young Rachael (she was 9 years, 10 months old) discovered her ideal physically attractive man. Flea. No, I’m just kidding, really. Flea is an awesome dude, but young Rachael, even before Eddie Vedder stole her heart, found her heart in other parts of her body when she saw Anthony Kiedis in that slow running scene in the video where he’s wailing, “gave my life awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay–ayeee-yeah….”

Everyone pause and take a deep breath. That’s better. Now I think I can coherently write again. In all honesty, yes, I realize at age 32 years, 9 months and 17 days today (but who’s counting?) what that was all about for me. I remember sitting under a shady grove of pine trees outside my old apartment in Blacksburg. In fact, I laid back onto a bed of pine needles to enjoy the sound of the song floating from a neighbor’s kitchen window. I went back to that spot to write sometimes, but this particular day I was melancholy. We were moving from my hometown to the town just next door. But when you’re almost ten and still in elementary school that is approximately equal to 1,005,342 miles away.

I suppose I felt the despondency and lament of the song. At the same time, when I watched the video and saw Anthony Keidis running to an amazing accompaniment, I realized what kind of man my young self (and all my older selves) was(were/still am) attracted to. Long, flowing brown hair. Nice arms, not too big. Deep and thoughtful eyes.

It is no surprise that I’d fall for Eddie and eventually, my husband, Tom.

I remember, too, from the video, his giant tattoo on that muscular back. When my best friend, Lindsey and I went to see them in concert in 1999 with the Foo Fighters (an incredible show except that the crowd was lame and Dave Grohl had to stop his show to tell them to behave—boo and hiss) how much I wanted to see his back tattoo. My wish was granted.

Eventually, I realized the move to Christiansburg was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It would take a while, but whenever I felt angst, I’d meet Anthony and Co. under the bridge across town. Soon, they introduced me to Eddie, Kurt, Dave Pirner, Adam Duritz and his gang…and suddenly, the city of angels was my friend.

Enjoy:

http://youtu.be/lwlogyj7nFE

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Awesome concert tees…

That I’ve loved, lost, worn out…

http://erelicadenim.blogspot.com/2010/07/erelica-denim-private-stock-pearl-jam.html  

I wore this shirt thin.  I wore it in my 6th grade picture.  With all the moving I’ve done, I don’t know where it got to. :(    They should really re-issue this one.  Or, they should do this again with Boom and Matt. :) 

Image

 

http://www.twofeetthick.com/style/images/artifactor2/artboundless.jpg

I always liked that my back said “boundless” and that the shirt itself showed the principles of Yin Yang.

This one I ordered from Metal Edge magazine.  I remember being so excited when I opened it.  I had to be super careful to wear my flannel shirt over the back, even when it was warm out, because I was at elementary school.  The back of the shirt was only innocently professing a track called “half-ass monkey boy.”  But, of course, you can’t be a ten-year-old girl who has the word “ass” on the back of her shirt.  That was one way I got to look at the band all day.  I was excited because, not having the online luxuries we have today, I had to send off for it and wait 6-8 weeks for processing and delivery!

http://thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/pict/201091922262_1.jpg 

This one I found not too many years ago at the Gallery of Sound in Edwardsville (which is now a restaurant.)  I want a new copy because I retired this one (worn with holes and stains. :( )  It went great with these multi-colored blue and brown corduroys I had…

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/132082201544586648/  Sigh.

So, tell me, what are some tees you adored that you wish you had again?

Blessed be and rock on,

 

Rachael

 

Sunny Day Diary Swept Away by a Rising Tide

For any of you who rely on public transit, I have this nugget of wisdom to share:  “Thank God for the almighty iPod!”  No, really.  It has blocked out the casino junkie ramblings about “fools” and “horses” and profanities that may emit from his lips.  Today, my life’s blood relied on Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary and The Rising Tide.  First, let me say:  Sunny Day Real Estate is a poet’s band.

Some of you are probably nodding.  Curious?  Buy the actual album with the actual lyrics in the jacket.  Even if you can sing every word by heart, do not hit play on your CD player (if it exists on vinyl and you own it–lucky you, and um, how did you pull that one off?!)  Merely take a moment (or twenty) make your favorite cup of _______, find a comfy chair and clear your throat.  Then, to your cat or dog or dad or son or the blank walls in your new apartment–I want you to read it aloud as if you were the featured poet at a reading in a big city. 

After you’ve completed this task, tell me what you think. 

As I listened to both albums on my cross-county, bus-hopping trek this morning I was inspired by a lot…the sun warming my skin, the fresh April air pushing out the smell of other’s unwashed hair and the kid that farted in the seat behind me…and I wrote an on-the-spot to do list which included seeing a friend of mine, Julie, who is in a band and lives in NYC.  For whatever reason, Sunny Day Real Estate always makes me think of her.  The list continued with small things to big dreams…

“These things are true….” 

Enjoy the Enigk and the sunshine.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Are you under pressure? I have The Cure.

You might be thinking that this is a blog about the phenomenal 80s group The Cure. I have written blogs on their amazing-ness. It just so happens that while I was writing today, I was listening to The Cure radio station on my Pandora radio station when Queen feat. David Bowie “Under Pressure” came on. In the middle of my other writing tasks, I jumped up, looked for a cat to dance with (found neither) and did a soul dance that may have included a variation of the–um, I think some refer to it as “the corkscrew.”

There’s something about a song that grabs you and makes you completely subserviant to it; this is one such song for me. If you are a music fanatic like me, you might be interested to know what song was number one on the week of your birthday. Back before the Internet was as common as Charmin, my mom and I called in to find ours out. My American #1 was Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.” Dissappointed sigh. But my U.K. #1 was David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Yay for the U.K.! Interestingly enough, as an infant, I had hydrocephalus which literally translates to “water on the brain.” So I really was under pressure.

Another survey study claimed that the song that was #1 on your 18th birthday was your life’s theme. Mine was Rob Thomas featuring Santana on “Smooth.” This would be the song that got Mom into Rob Thomas and subsequently, Matchbox 20. I had resistance to it at first…but the lyrics seem to ring true to my monogamy and belief in lasting love with no b.s.: “give me your heart, make it real or else forget about.” I could groove to that. Mom’s was The Beatles’ “Get Back.” Mom also graduated on her 18th birthday that year the song was breaking radio waves across the nation. The Beatles had been enormous for about five years to that time. Yet, it is interesting because Mom has spent her whole life chasing family, trying to “get back to where (she) once belonged.” She even moved back to where she was born. I hope that she finds her true home where happiness lies. I think that she is still searching.

As for me? Well, I did finally find someone who gave me his heart, made it real and we don’t have to forget about it. As for Queen and Bowie? I knew that I would belong in his world when his two sons simultaneously requested “Queen Jazz!” on a Sunday morning car ride. It’s funny how we can get so under pressure that we forget what makes our soul sing. I recommend that the next time you hear this tune you get a headstart on dumping all that pressure and stress out…be it at the grocery store or in your own kitchen…I say, put on your red shoes and dance the blues…

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S. Here are some links you may like if you were interested in this post:

http://www.thisdayinmusic.com/birthdayno1

Magic of a Mix Tape

I may be old-fashioned. I understand the benefits of technology. Sure, I love having the entire Pearl Jam catalog at the touch of a button. But I will always love physical music media. There is something in the tangibility of a mix tape or CD mix that technology will never replace.

Allow me to give you an example:

Each year, my friend, Adam, keeps a running collection of his new favorite songs for the year. At the end of the year, he creates a double-disc CD mix complete with customized and professional CD sleeve. Each year, each of those CDs have two separate themes that intertwine. For example, this year, disc one was “Luvin'” and disc two was “Fightin'” Consequently, the songs on the first disc were love songs–I don’t mean sappy ballads you hear on the radio. Each track was carefully selected from his eclectic tastes which range from old school (good) country, to great new alternative rock, with a few good Christian rock songs peppered throughout. Likewise, the second disc follows the same pattern related to the theme of fighting, hurt, and heartbreaks.

Usually, throughout the year, I will hear a new great alternative number on the rare occasion that I tune in to radio land and say to myself, “Hmm. I should buy that.” After some contemplation, I might purchase it but I like to hear at least three good songs from a new band before investing in a (real, hard copy!) album, be it vinyl or CD. Yes, I did say vinyl. For there is a beauty in vinyl that will never be replaced by its more “practical” counterparts. For example, you have to really sit and listen to a record. This means that you will give it your utmost attention. Hopefully, you will silence your phone, blowing up from text message alerts from your friends at work or afar, and cherish the sounds. Taking time to be still and only absorb music is so essential to the inner peace we crave in this “Me-Mine-Fast-Now” culture we’ve been shoe-horned into.

But I digress. A thought follows my quest to obtain the new song: I bet it will be on Adam’s year-end super mix. If not, I’ll reconsider purchasing it. Usually, I am pleasantly rewarded by discovering that my favorite songs during the year have found their way to his ultimate music-sharing list, and thus, into my hands.

Mix CDs are personal. Sure, Adam creates these for a multitude of his friends, but the each one is done with care to contribute to the rewarding community that music is. Mixes, in general, are very personal, though. They are far superior to a greeting card and that says a lot since–you guessed it–I still adore writing by hand and receiving REAL mail. Mixes bulldoze over a youtube video share on Facebook. They are, in ways, the ultimate consideration. Someone in your life has sat down and really taken time and effort to make a mix especially for you, for whatever reason.

I challenge you to make a mix this week for a friend, maybe even someone you’re not terribly well-acquainted with. Perhaps it might help you get to know them better. Whatever the case, they will most likely appreciate your time and effort, even if they weren’t too crazy about that new Cage the Elephant track.

Be well and keep on rockin’ in the free world,

Rachael

P.S. If you would like some inspiration, do yourself a favor and read Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Love is a Mix Tape