Are you Out of Time?

Day Four of the Ten All-Time Favorites Challenge:

R.E.M.’s Out of Time

This was an album that my brother asked for on cassette the year it came out; neither of us were even ten years old.  I wanted a copy, too, and so it was.  From the time it begins to the time it ends, this album is a pleasurable joyride for the ear drums–starting with the raucous “Radio Song,” and flowing into the big radio hit, “Losing My Religion.”  But consider this:  there are tracks on here, as with most albums, that are complete gems gleaming out of time and sync with the music of it’s era.  “Near Wild Heaven” never got airplay, unless some totally amazing college kid played it on his or her radio DJ slot on public radio somewhere.

Sandwiched between that fourth track of musical jubilance is “End Game,” a mellow tune, perfectly placed between the seemingly happy break-up song, “Near Wild Heaven” and the very well-known “Shiny Happy People.”  Though an overplayed radio hit–this song, much like Chinese leftovers–never gets old.  It was once deemed a song that can inspire happiness on any worst day.  I believe it.  I always close my eyes as I twirl around the living room, imagining I’m in a sunny field of flowers–a field akin to the scenery of the “No Rain” video by Blind Melon.

There is too much to say about the entirety of this album, dark and driving tunes like “Texarkana” and introspective/spoken poetry pieces like “Belong,” keep the record riveting your soul to the very end–and to the rewind you know you’ll partake in.

R.E.M. is still on my “must-see” bucket list of concerts, despite their retirement.  I still have hope that I’m not out of time.

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S.  If you’re wondering, yes, R.E.M. stands for “rapid-eye movement,” that deep state of sleep where one dreams.  The band allegedly chose this blindly by pointing at a random dictionary page!

 

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In the…Flesh (and Blood)

Day Three of the Challenge:  Poison’s Flesh and Blood

All-Time/ DAY THREE

Day three of the challenge: Poison’s Flesh and Blood. No, not literally. That would be creepy. It’s hard to define the ten most “favorite,” so sometimes this list verges on “most memorable.” I was 12. Yes, 12, when Mom took me for yet another CD purchase with explicit lyrics. Well, maybe there wasn’t a warning sticker yet, but there certainly was “adult” content. And yet, “Unskinny Bop” was a radio cut, fraught with sexual innuendos, so whatever. I had this adorable African-American friend named Nakesha (does anyone know what happened to her? I miss her laugh), and she was crushing hard on Bret Michaels. Me? Not so much. While I LOVED hair rock, my crushes were all Seattle—brooding, dark and hairy. We were listening to this album in my room, and I remember her loud and hysterical laughter at my analysis of “Unskinny Bop.”

Me: What the hell does that mean, anyway? If you were unskinny, that would mean you were fat, and to bop is to jiggle, and so, does that mean he likes full-figured women?

Nakesha: (Squeal, hand around abdomen, collapsing in theatrical laughter)

Me: (Pretending to jiggle around the room in an awkward, pseudo-sexy dance)

But really. That whole album. I used to put it in my CD Walkman. The opening track always felt like a supernatural night, like you could see UFOs or something. I was heavy into The X-Files and my friend, Susan, and I swore we saw UFOs from time to time.

There’s an untamed badassness to Bret and the Boys that just brings even the nicest of girls to a puddle of purgatory. There’s something about powdered faces and power chords that awakens the soul; and yet, so many people count this “hair-rock” as a “guilty pleasure.” Well, what an appropriate phrase. Men, almost in drag, yet effacing any negative sexual stereotype as the testosterone tickles the synapses.

This is the kind of music your soul just jumps up and down to. It’s no wonder that women sacrifice sweaty tees, spiraling them overhead at overcrowded concert venues…

But I digress. Sometime in my teenhood, I got my wish. I always said it would be amazing to wake up to “Let it Play,” waking to the chorus of a capella voices proclaiming that music must have its place, and entreating those in control of it to “let it play.” Mom got me a stereo with a wake timer that could be programmed to any track of any of the three discs loaded in the dock. I know, it seems archaic now, and I still miss that stereo that my moldy, college basement apartment murdered—but it was a luxury then, for music lovers like me.

But, as the Beatles proclaimed decades before, “Life Goes On.” This is a track that makes you feel just like you’re sitting next to a broken Bret on a colorful Ferris wheel, untouched by the lights and sounds below. Anyone with an aching heart can agree.

Though it was a radio hit, the best track on here is “Something to Believe In.” There’s a beauty in the diversity of hair-rock. When all the power chords take a smoke break, the serious nature slips in. I still can’t hear this song without getting chills or tears, or both. I have always adored church-choir backgrounds—the power behind the front man/woman, especially in a genre that somehow is deliciously “unholy.”

The music is so uplifting, the lyrics so abysmal. They whack you with the truth of Vietnam, homelessness, the imbalance in America’s class system—all with a gorgeous, tinkling piano, and a rising, hair-rock guitar solo. (Shiver.)

I think I could probably talk about this album all day, but it would be better if you’d go and check it out.

Thanks, as always, for listening to my musical musings…after all,It gives me something to believe in…

Rock On,

Rachael

Crash (into a boy’s dream)

Crash into a boy’s dream…

Day Two of the Challenge:

Ah, first love. How appropriate that Dave Matthews Band’s Crash came out at the precipice of my first love. Even when I heard the title track, I was aware that it hinted at a more mature love, but no matter; teenagers grow up faster than time suspects. Initially, this was not on my list of the ten requested—it’s nearly impossible to pick ten, so I picked 12, and we’ll see who makes the “final” cut. Yet, as I listened to Spotify yesterday, “#41” came on, and I was drawn immediately into the swirling sound of an accelerating love in 1997. It was a summer of a trip to Virginia Beach, a car accident, with minimal supervision…it was a summer dreaming of what we’d do and where we’d live when we were married. In the dark morning hours of the Ohio living room, I remember sleepily saying the same thing at the same time to him, “with a white canopy-top bed.” This sent us reeling into euphoric giggles. What are the chances that we both wanted this idiosyncratic item in our future? It must have been meant to be.

Crash was the album we played ad nauseam the next year—yet neither of us was annoyed by it. We were so young, and yet pretending we had the liberties of adulthood. Lost on an Ohio road on a sweltering Friday night in July, we walked past a gas station, pondering the purchase of prophylactics…and, though young and impassioned, were mature enough to know that we couldn’t chance being young parents. Even though we later discovered my infertility. (dammit!).

Yet, it didn’t stop us from being reckless in flesh, in spirit, in mind. Love is reckless—consuming…much like an addiction. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming novel (no pun intended):

Love can make you feel like you’re climbing out of the most spaced out chapter in a William S. Burroughs novel. How did I get here? Did I put underwear on this morning? Do I even want to wear underwear anymore? Where is my wallet? Even the most focused people leave the door unlocked or forget to zip their pants. Infatuation can feel much the same as this, but real love has a consistency to it that lets you know even when you’re mad, it’ll pass. There’s no doubt that you will still feel the euphoria that surrounds your confusion as to where your undergarments slipped off to. Infatuation knows where your undergarments are, but may slip away as readily as your Fruit of the Looms.

But sometimes, when a strong emotion like love consumes you, you forget to nourish those idiosyncratic desires and dreams you once had.”

This is the fate of that first love. I forgot to nurture the very things that attracted him to me, and more importantly, the elements of my life that made me happy and free—and me.

We were goofy friends in 9th grade. I thought he was kind of immature and yet, there was something about his zany artwork and unusual ability to truly listen to me and my friend, Michelle, that caught my attention. In truth, I’d been distantly pursuing a crush I’d had since 7th grade. But he left that summer for Ohio, and had a dream about me that spun him out of the cyclone and into the firmament below—landing in my life in a new way. So, when I think of the follow-up line to the bold, “and I come into you…” followed by “in a boy’s dream,” it makes one wonder if “Crash” is merely a fantasy he had about something he willed into his life. I briefly wonder if Dave Matthews had the same result with is belle.

I recently discovered that my first love had been divorced, moved around, sold cars, and became a contractor (with big biceps, sigh.) What else do you do with an Art degree? But I wonder sometimes, with the frequency that you stub your toe—if he’s happy. If I truly broke his heart, changed his life forever…if he still has all my love letters—actually handwritten—as I do, his, beneath my record player in my office, in my Dr. Martens box—boots that he, for some reason, deplored.

***

Then, I think on the first time I tried Ben & Jerry’s. A senior skip-day with my best friend, Susan. I chose “Chunky Monkey” because it had a DMB reference. Her flavor was way better. Banana ice cream? Not really my thing. We blared “Proudest Monkey” as we sat in my ‘86 Jetta, the color of a banana-flavored dessert, feeling rebellious that we had declared ourselves done with school, though it was only two months before graduation. I was lost and depressed; thinking I’d made a huge mistake dumping my first love.

***

And jump to the present. I didn’t know, yesterday, that I’d choose this album in my “Top Ten of All-Time” until I heard “#41.” Spotify on a Smartphone filtered through a giant “Block Rocker” Bluetooth speaker in the living room. I found myself leaping up from the kitchen table and running the short distance to my living room to sway and dance with my eyes closed, the way I used to do to Counting Crows in my tiny bedroom. The bedroom where I lost my virginity—a magical and mundane moment in the life of Rachael.

Do you love me?” I’d ask at the end of every cordless phone conversation in 10th grade. “Yes.” I had to ask him so that his rigid stepmom wouldn’t tease him. I knew he did. And I, him. Because those that you love, you never stop loving. They become the treasured tunes that stand at attention on your overflowing CD rack. They are the ones you take out and revisit, and smile.

Rock on,

Rachael

All-Time (1 of 10)

Recently, I was challenged via my awesome brother (in-law) via Facebook to post one of my all-time favorite albums each day for ten days. WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT IT. That was the harder caveat than actually choosing them. I made a couple of rules:

1) I’d blog about each one of them, because I cannot NOT talk about music.

2) I wouldn’t think too hard, just channel some of my very favorites of all-time. These are the ones I have probably played so much they have wear and tear on the booklets, the cases, the actual CDs.

3) I wouldn’t agonize over any I may have forgotten, or would have chosen “instead of.”

4) I’d write about each one and why it was prolific for me.

So, here goes:

Day One: Counting Crows August and Everything After

I happened to choose this one first. I put it in my car and found it very appropriate that it was a grey, cold and rainy day here in NEPA (Northeastern PA). Seems that Adam Duritz has recurring themes in that album, and others, of rain, grey, Maria, fog, mist, and melancholy. I found myself BLARING my own voice against the speakers in my car as I cruised down I-81 North.

But it all started when “’Round Here” came out. A first radio release in 1994. I ran to the mall (not literally, more like asked Mom to drive me because I was only 12), to purchase this the day it came out. I struggled with depression as an adolescent, not having proper treatment for it later, except for the very addiction that still keeps me alive today—music.

I still want to hire an artist to do a watercolor or oil painting of “Perfect Blue Buildings” highlighting the blue buildings beside the green apple sea…I wanna get me a little, oblivion, baby…try to keep myself away from myself and me.

It’s been said that Duritz suffers from manic-depressive disorder. Somehow, without realizing that back then, I just knew that he and the other Crows were helping me cope with mine. I remember floating in our above ground pool (the prized possession of my youth), listening to this as my brother listened and tapped out the drum beats perfectly. I floated by the tree that shadowed the pool and imagined I was in the green apple sea. Yeah, Adam, I want to get me a little oblivion, too. And I understand what you mean when you are trying to restrain yourself from yourself. That is a concept I think most artists and sufferers of depression (or both) totally get.

“Rain King” was another favorite. I used to dance around my small room until my legs hurt. And then there’s “A Murder of One.” Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….deep breath. If you don’t know, a group of crows is referred to as a “murder of crows.” Interesting how death seemed to hang on the wingspan of this animal that gets a bad rep, right? I always appreciated how that one title indicated loneliness. And even then I didn’t realize I was a great writer…

There’s a part in the middle where I would be dancing and do an interpretive dance which fanned out into a jubilant jump-and-twirl around the two feet wide and six-foot long space by my window, behind my bed. “CHAN-CHAN-CHANGE!!!” I would howl with Duritz as I undulated across my bedroom floor. That song itself felt like a rebirth, and still does, every time I hear it. It is the last track on the album, and a reward for solemn slots like, “Sullivan Street,” and “Raining in Baltimore.”

While it’s true that their first four albums strike my fancy way more than the latter ones, those earlier masterpieces will always help me, guide me, and be a raft on my green apple seas…

Thanks for reading.

Rock on,

Rachael