The Big Ten

No, I’m not talking about sports when I say The Big Ten. The Big Ten always changes, but there is always some consistency. On this rainy Northeastern day I decided that the following songs will always be my favorite, somewhere in my Top 100 songs of all-time, and frequently on “THE BIG TEN” list. These songs are songs that say something about me. They are tracks that speak to me, no matter what I’m going through. They are sometimes my refuge, sometimes my sing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-out-the-car-window.

They are, as it would be impossible, NOT in any order of most-preferred:

“Learnin’ to Fly” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
‘A Murder of One” The Counting Crows
‘Light Years” Pearl Jam
“Plush” The Stone Temple Pilots
“Mayonaise” The Smashing Pumpkins (yes, with only one n in the track name)
“Lateralus” Tool
“Near Wild Heaven” R.E.M.
“World Swirl” The Recipe
“Wonder” Natalie Merchant
“Tangerine” Led Zeppelin

What are some of your top songs?

Give one a listen today.

Be well and rock on,
Rachael

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Musical Jukebox Head

My friend Steph and I were recently talking about how our brains are autopiloted musical jukeboxes. I found this especially true this morning. For example, while making my bed I was singing Modest Mouses’ “City of Ashes.” By the time I hopped in the shower it was Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” Putting on my new Avon “Twilight Shimmer” eyeliner, a voice from the far-away (20 years ago!) past crept into my gray matter: Ugly Kid Joe’s “Busy Bee.”

My psyche has been craving Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy (and I gave it a brief spin yesterday, key tracks “Not For You” and “Whipping”) and today I wanted Radiohead. But there’s a problem with dreary January and Radiohead. I don’t know if the darkness would be too dark. So this morning I chose Ugly Kid Joe instead.

As I drove to work, I thought, “If I had a ten-year-old daughter, would I let her listen to this?!” Maybe not, was my answer. But I’m glad that Mom did not censor our music. A lifelong fan of Harry Chapin, I do appreciate UKJ’s rendition of “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” It’s a sad song, but they somehow make it seem a bit more haunting.

Other good tracks? The light and snarky “Mr. Record Man” (great bass line, by the way!) and, of course, “Busy Bee” where he sings, “Everybody’s all right with me…cuz that’s the way I choose to be, yeah.”

The CD itself is of that old school quality, much like my original copy, my first CD ever, Def Leppard’s Adrenalize. Looking at the date I felt time, heavily. 1991/1992. Polygram/Stardog Records. Of course I can’t see Stardog without thinking of Mother Love Bone’s “Stardog Champion” which was also released from the same record label. The CD insert had all the lyrics, of course. It made me smile. Suddenly, I was ten again, really grateful for all the lyrics. I used to sit on my bed and listen to a CD over and over, reading the lyrics.

What are they doing now? I’m not sure. But somewhere between the City of Ashes and Heartbreak, Ugly Kid Joe made me smile and I even caught myself singing all the way into work.

I’m not sure what kind of physiological response causes this musical jukebox syndrome but I appreciate it. In the same way, Mom and I can turn two words in a conversation into an impromptu sing-a-long. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s just the awesome power of music.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Made for Music

Oh music, you are my truest love. Why is it that I have not let you dominate my whole world lately? I owe you more than just a commute listen or dance with the vacuum cleaner.

You know what I’ve wanted to do for my whole entire life?

Perform music.
Write about music.
Interview musicians.
Write rock ‘n roll biographies.
Write for Rolling Stone.
Write and sing my songs.
Play my bass in a band.

In fact, my most ideal life wouldn’t have to include world tours or record-breaking album sales. I would be perfectly content if my life would be like The Beatles’ “Oh Bla Dee, Oh Bla Dah.”

I’ve considered naming my future daughter Molly because of that song. But I want to be the singer in the band.

Also, I still want to open my own music cafe. I think it’s important every now and again to restate these things. Sometimes, as you age, your dreams change. Sometimes life just happens to change them for you. But it’s important to hold yourself accountable for the things that you love.

I started this blog so that I might connect with other music lovers and also to continuously write about music. I had also hoped that these musical musings might lead to my music writing career.

That being said, go listen to your favorite album today. Sing like no one can hear you. Sing louder if they can.

Be well and have a great day.

Rachael

P.S. I also want, very badly, to meet Pearl Jam and thank them for everything good they’ve done for me.

I’m down about it, too, Evan Dando…

Y’ever have one of those weeks where you want to cry and throw things and escape the hum-drum life filled with financial worries (I did just complete my MFA, after all…yikes), a living room filled with the aftermath of your stressed out explosion (poetry books, to-do lists, the immobile Electrolux)?

There’s a cure for that chaos and its name is: The Lemonheads. I know that I have written a blog about the Lemonheads before, however, it cannot be repeated enough how excellent they are.

I love the album It’s a Shame About Ray, but Come On, Feel the Lemonheads is an album that will dance out of your sorrows. I traded a bad hair day for headphones this morning and was grateful for the renewed bond I felt with Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield.

“Into Your Arms” is probably about their relationship–after all, underneath the title track it proclaims “Written for Juliana Hatfield.” Dando sings, “I know a place where I can go, when I’m alone…into your arm, oo-whoa-ooo, into your arms, I can go.”

Well, it appears that my new hobby is being wretchedly single but a song like this transcends earthly love and devotion. My rock has always been music, and this morning as I drew blue eyeliner crescents underneath my eyes, I dedicated this song to music.

The greatest love affair of my life thus far has been with music. There is no more forgiving, welcoming, healing partner in the world than that. I’ve always been self-conscious of singing aloud while I have headphones on but today I let it fly, pretending that I could be Juliana Hatfield, collaborating with a talented male musician on an album fans will appreciate almost 20 years later.

I want to be to someone what Juliana Hatfield’s voice is to Evan Dando’s. Better still, I want to meet someone that gets as excited about music as I do. In every day, in every conversation, music is present, for me. The timbre of a voice, the piped-in radio at Rite-Aid, the few words that will have me singing a song, much like my mom does, in the middle of a conversation…

I was thinking about a recent rejection of my work (it seems that as much as I love to write, the right people haven’t tuned into me yet) and dove to the CD rack to hear “The Great Big No.” Somehow, I knew hearing the wit and honey of Dando’s voice and Juliana’s harmonies would set my path straight again.

“Patience is like bread I say, I ran of out that yesterday.” But I’ve still got sunshine. It’s about time.

Be well, have a great day, and come on, feel the Lemonheads why don’t you?

Rachael

http://youtu.be/Wz2qNwDiXRo

TwoEarsNotBlind (2ENB)

I come to you, writing this begrudgingly. In part because I can usually find the good in everything. The trip to see Third Eye Blind in Philly was unforgettable, and I think I became closer to a new friend I’ve made. The show…was unforgettable, but not in a good way.

Let me start by saying that I had high expectations for this show. My friend Lindsey and I had seen them in 1998 and they were fantastic. They were a band of my first love, their self-titled album the soundtrack of my first boyfriend and me and our first experiences with young love. But that is not why they were incredible. The Third Eye Blind I knew in 1998 was high-energy, dynamic, creative, and wild. They never missed a beat, had a good report with the crowd and hit all the notes.

After standing outside the Electric Factory on a windy night for nearly two hours, we were finally let in. The venue itself gets a good report, except that it is in a sketchy part of town. It is a very cozy little place.

The opening band gets high remarks from me, and nothing but. The opener was called U.S. Royalty and, in their four-song set, rocked us out. The lead singer was reminiscent of a young Robert Plant, the music and energy like-wise, though, in their softer set, reminded me a bit of early Fleetwood Mac. You can learn more about them here: http://www.usroyaltymusic.com/

The only thing wrong with their performance was that it was not long enough, and that, of course, is determined by the tour manager! The entire show was worth it just to see these guys play. Enjoy this tidbit: http://youtu.be/1A3uHitdTwg

I wish I could say the same for my beloved Third Eye Blind. I own every single studio album, love every track, and can sing each one by heart. The memory of that 1998 show had me pumped up even as I stood with my friend Sara in the freezing December wind. The sound check even sounded promising.

Once inside, we secured pretty decent balcony seats, albeit, the only downfall was me getting pawed by a drunk married man who, during the show, took it upon his six-foot-seven ass to kneel on the five-foot bar stool so that he became 12 feet tall. This caused him to: a) obstruct the view of other concert-goers. b) come dangerously close to elbowing me in the face.

Also, take note: one does not mosh to Third Eye Blind. Jump up and down excitedly, back in 1998? Sure. There was no need for moshing that night. That did not stop the aforementioned man from trying to mosh between me and his wife, however. There was a severe lack of energy, enthusiasm, and sadly, skill. For whatever reason (I’d like to blame drugs), Jenkins was unable to hit the high notes, sounded burned out, and even said, “We were told to hold back tonight but we’re not holding anything back.” An elderly woman using a walker in a wind storm could hold back less than they did.

The show was a complete letdown, except for the opener. It felt like an old, small town high school reunion gone wrong, actually. Lovers were pawing each other, people were texting, and after four songs, I made an important decision: I was going to leave. Sara was obliging, and probably surprised. I never give up on anything. After four songs, I decided I’d rather be in a warm car, laughing with Sara about our hilarious and scary experiences in the city that day. By the time the bassist bombed his solo, we agreed to leave. As we turned to go, the drummer had a weird techno-breakdown set where some mechanical recording would, in hip-hop rhythm, spout, “Bass. High-hat. Tom. Tom.” The performance was so bad it was as if the techno voice was instructing them on how to play and what to play next. It was supposed to be his drum solo.

I wanted to cry, really. $100 tickets in the can and WAY more than that being haggled by some parking lot junkie who tried to high-jack my keys (I only wish I was kidding).

I will always love the recorded music of the albums I own, but I will never see them again live. “You can put the past away. I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend. You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been livin’ in. And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand.”

I hope that you do, old rock friends of mine.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

P.S. I’d love to hear your sentiments about bad shows you’ve attended. Or absolutely phenomenal ones.