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.

Steeple guide me to my heart and home…

SP radio

When I was 14, I got the “Zero” tee to tell all the world that I loved the Smashing Pumpkins.  It helped me befriend a fellow “Pumpkin Head” as we called ourselves.  I remember when “Thirty-Three” came out.  I remember thinking, “Gee, Billy, I wonder what 33 feels like.  Will I understand this song even more then?  Will it ring true with me moreso then than now?”  The other night, I felt melancholy (reference intended) and I just couldn’t shake it.  As I folded laundry feeling listless, I plugged in the Smashing Pumpkins 1991-2000 video collection (I did finally get the DVD version).

Suddenly, I was 14 again, taking the bus with my best friend to the used record store in Blacksburg and saving up for electric guitars.  I watched Billy with long, curly hair and decided, though I like long hair on men, he was more attractive with a short cut, and even more handsome bald.  That aside, I watched as D’arcy inspired me to play the bass, James made me discover an attraction to Asian men, and mourned as Jimmy was temporarily gone due to drug addiction.  I laughed at them painting an ice cream truck, singing a song that sounds happy but was, in fact, written at a time where Billy was very suicidal.

I thought of an old friend who met Billy with me.  I wondered how she was doing and why people who share such an immense bond lose touch.  I sat, with unfolded socks in my lap as I watched Thirty-three in its entirety…and I cried.  Here I am, the age I always said was a “Smashing Pumpkins age” reflecting on my youth.  “Misspent youth, fakin’ up a rampage…” and I realized that life goes on.  Thanks, Lennon-McCartney.  Maybe it was something about the lingering winter in the Northeast this year.  Maybe it was the fact that it snowed heavily on the first day of spring, after a terribly abusive winter.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m clinically depressed, or that that certain old friend’s birthday was on hand.

Either way, I watched the gorgeous, artfully-done video (all done with camera film in still frames) with a sort of undescribable melancholy.  I know that those days are a product of my insanely good long-term memory.  I know that I certainly wouldn’t want to be a lamenting Rachael, waiting for the true love of her life…wading through her own demon rivers of self-denial and emotional hardship…

It made me want to reach out and hug all those I’ve ever known.  Except for that wicked girl I’ve forgiven, of course, who not only hurt me, but worse, hurt my friends, with her words.  But enough of that.

There was a time in life where Pumpkin fans would just look at one another and say, “You like them too?” and it was as though you’d reunited with a friend you’d had from long ago.  Perhaps that is what made me melancholy.  Maybe I’ve been disconnected from a fan base that helps me thrive.  I miss Julie’s laugh, this hearty “hah hah hah” when she’s delighted.  It made me miss the way Amy would emit, “FUCK MY LIFE!” but with laughter when something silly happened.  I remember running for the Two Town Trolley with Lindsey decades before she became a half-marathon runner (I’m proud of you, lady).

I remember cherishing the “Just Say Maybe” SP shirt with the red star on it that I stole from my brother.  (Thanks, Jeremy.)

Just say maybe.  Maybe it’s time to reunite with my musical mon amies.  In case you’d like to pontificate on this beautiful sentiment from my past, here it is:

Blessings and rock on,

Rachael

10 Best Albums for the Gym

1. Soundgarden’s BadMotorFinger

2. Mother Love Bone’s Apple

3. Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood

4. Poison’s Flesh & Blood

5. A live album of your favorite band (I suggest anything by Pearl Jam, of course)

6. Metallica’s Ride the Lightning or Garage Days

7. Devin Townsend (anything from a heavy era)

8. 80s mix.  Simple Minds.  A-ha! Men at Work.  Devo.  David Bowie

9. Heavy tracks from Smashing Pumpkins

10.Dave Matthews Band or Stone Temple Pilot’s Core, whichever way you swing :)

My favorite of these is Soundgarden’s BadMotorFinger.  I’ve been known to burn over 500 calories, with eyes closed, on the elliptical.  Also, this album weighs in at over 45 minutes, so it’s the perfect motivator to go the distance.

Now, get moving!

Rock on and roll out,

Rachael

Slice me off a piece of that…Blind Melon!

Though short-lived, due to Shannon Hoon’s tragic meeting with a heroin-induced death, Blind Melon’s first formation was a celebratory and introspective early 90s band.  Popular for their “No Rain” single with the Bee Girl in the video, Blind Melon’s albums contrast that hit at times with blue-sy, gutsy rock and roll.  Some reflections of this can be seen in their self-titled (1992) debut album in tracks such as “Tones of Home” and “Holy Man.”

In later years, the band reformed and I cannot speak of that because I wasn’t aware of the reunion until I sat to write this very post.  I can, however, say that Blind Melon was one of my all-time favorite albums in the 90s, and yes, I do still have my original copy of the CD.  So, if you are only familiar with the “No Rain” track, I suggest you slice off a bigger piece of Melon and enjoy the tasty bits of blues and soul, with a side of harmonica.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

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