Pay me my U.S. Royalty

For real. Just before it really began, it’s over. U.S. Royalty broke up, but not before they put out a sophomore album of brilliance. When I heard their debut album, Mirrors, I thought, “There’s got to be more where this came from!” About two days before I was presented with Blue Sunshine, I discovered it on Spotify Premium (the only way to go, and very much worth the small cost). Mind you, my music-loving husband also understands these things—and pays attention—and has free two-day shipping with AmazonPrime.

You’ll want to get it. You’ll want to listen to it on a thoughtful car ride. Both Mirrors and Blue Sunshine are good for this. The album begins with “Into the Thicket” which has a glorious, uplifting ending. “Blue Sunshine” is melancholy meets a hard rock guitar. It is a love song, not like the Cure’s, but doused in a refrain about having to “go on alone” after the verses hail the trying and trying and trying one does in a relationship, and yet they are still turned away. Again, like I mentioned in my previous blog about Mirrors, the track “Breathless” pulses with a Fleetwood Mac vibe. A perfect mix of celebratory riffs and melancholy movements, this unique album is a must-have. It is an album upon its end, I always let circle back for another round or two.

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In My Time of Dying…

This post might upset some of you…or it might give you hope.  When I read that Chris Cornell closed his final show with Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying,” I was a bit blown away.  It was too much to process.  I thought it would be a long time until I could listen to the song without being overcome with emotion.  

I listened to it about a week later, and really heard the lyrics.  Upon a second listen, I tried to imagine, even in a state of addiction and depression, what that must have been like for him.  When I hear Robert Plant’s enigmatic voice imbibe,

“Jesus, going to make up my dying bed

Meet me, Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord

Please meet me with another pair

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]” (Google Music)

I get chills.  Plant’s voice, like Cornell’s, is soulful and charged with emotion.  I have to take a moment here to say that these musical gods are my incensed religious prophets that hand out my salvation regularly from the pulpit.  They are the voices that redeem me.  He went out on a prayer.

I am not glorifying suicide, or death, please don’t mistake my words here; but I am saying that I found peace in knowing that Chris’s final call in this world was a beautifully artistic one.  My brother said, “Yes, I mourn for his passing; but he’s finally found peace.  Yes, it sucks that he left behind so many loved ones, but he no longer suffers.”  Well, well, well, so he can die easy.  These elements came together in my time of mourning this musical sage, this wonderful counselor in a world of pain and grievances…

Like the great J. Michael Lennon often says of fall, “It is a beautiful death.”  I can apply that to this scenario.  

I cried.  I pushed out anger listening to Badmotorfinger at the gym.  I wept when I heard his sweet voice mourning the passing of his friend and roommate Andy Wood in Temple of the Dog’s “Say Hello to Heaven.”

But what we are left with is a legacy; just about 30 years of artistic brilliance that we can repeat on our turntables, our cassettes, our CDs, our guitars, among our friends, in our cars when we sing/shout along to “Rusty Cage” or “Outshined.”  We can be grateful for that.  We can look and admire that, though he left us, he did it as beautifully as a soul rising up and greeting the gates of Heaven.

Say hello to all of it for us, Chris

Rest in Peace.

Blessings and rock on,
Rachael

See below for video of the last song, and for lyrics, and for ways to help the crushing silence of depression:

https://twloha.com/

https://youtu.be/-yTC6hM3nYw

Lyrics

In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]

Jesus, going to make up

Jesus, going to make up my dying bed

Meet me, Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord

Please meet me with another pair

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]

Jesus, going to make up

Somebody, somebody

Jesus going to make up

Jesus going to make you my dying bed

Well, well, well, so I can die easy

Jesus, going to make up

Somebody, somebody

Jesus going to make up

Jesus going to make you my dying bed

Oh, Saint Peter, at the gates of heaven

Won’t you let me in

I never did no harm

I never did no wrong

Oh, Gabriel, let me blow your horn, let me blow your horn

Oh, I never did, did no harm

I’ve only been this young once

I never thought I’d do anybody no wrong

No, not once

Oh, I did somebody some good

Somebody some good

Oh, did somebody some good

I must have did somebody some good

Oh, I believe I did

I see the smiling faces

I know I must have left some traces

And I see them in the streets

And I see them in the field

And I hear them shouting under my feet

And I know it’s got to be real

Oh, Lord, deliver me

All the wrong I’ve done

You can deliver me, Lord

I only wanted to have some fun

Hear the angels marching, hear them marching, hear them marching

Hear them marching, the’ marching

Oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus [x3]

Oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus

It’s pretty good up here

Oh Georgina, oh Georgina, oh Georgina, oh Georgina

Oh I’ll see you again

Oh, don’t you make it my dying, dying, dying

Cough!

That’s gotta be the one, ain’t it?

Come have a listen, then

Oh yes, thank you

 

Say Hello to Heaven…

“I never wanted to write these words down for you” (Chris Cornell, Temple of the Dog)

 

I know.  You’ve been patiently waiting my pontifications on this past week’s tragic loss of one of the best musicians from my (our) time.  Thank you.  I know you understand.

On Wednesday, May 24th, we lost the prophetic Chris Cornell to a sad suicide.  He finished his concert with a raucous version of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying,” returned to his hotel room, and ended his life by hanging himself in the bathroom.

On Friday evening, my husband and I solemnly inserted my original Temple of the Dog CD into his car CD player…and just listened…in homage, in honor, as a memorial.  I felt a terrible winding in my chest…a noose of sadness, squeezing the air from my already asthmatic lungs.

I’m sure I forgot that Chris wrote Temple of the Dog almost entirely by himself.  He was Andy Wood’s roommate.  He was a rock god; there was, and never will be again, anyone to take his place.  “Say Hello” in particular, brought on such emotion that I had to crack the car window and breathe in the early spring air deeply.

Earlier, I’d been driving by myself and I just opened the communication line between this world and the next thing…and I told Cornell how I felt.  I thanked him for everything.  I told him I’d miss him dreadfully.  I didn’t ask him why.  I understand clinical depression; I don’t understand, thankfully, addiction and alcoholism.  I imagined that great line in “In My Time of Dying” where Plant rasps, “OH MY JESUS!” and talks about Jesus meeting him in the sky to give him wings.  I knew, that while we mourn, Chris is, at last, at peace.

But this world will never be the same without him, his amazing voice, his plethora of talents.

Reach down, Chris.  Reach down and pick the crowd up.

We love you.

Respectfully rocking for you,

Rachael

Wanna Show You Somethin’ Like….joy inside my heart…

…Seems I (went to see) Temple of the Dog!!!”

It isn’t an accident that my blog got my husband for me.  The brilliant but deceased Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone put together a most amazing lyric to a song I once wrote about on my blog, and when my husband thoughtfully responded to it, that’s when I knew I had to meet him.

1) He took the time to read my blog

2) He carefully and eloquently responded to it

3) The song was “Man of Golden Words” by Mother Love Bone.  I got to hear it, in the fifth row, standing next to him, four and a half years after his fated message.  The subject is also lyrics from the song.

It may take me more than one blog to explain Saturday night.  When I was ten years old and Pearl Jam took my breath away, I discovered Mother Love Bone and the tribute act, Temple of the Dog, too.  In a matter of days, I could sing every word, intone every bass line, sway my head to every guitar riff and kick my foot to every bass drum hit.

Was Eddie at the show like I had wished with all my heart?  No.  Did that change the fact that it was absolutely amazing?  No.  Chris Cornell.  That should be all I have to say.  But it was truly Chris Cornell with Pearl Jam (excluding Eddie.)  And, though fans were surprised and probably dissappointed that Vedder didn’t show for this 10-date-only U.S. tour, Chris was more than amazing to us.  He had us back him on “Hunger Strike.”  He played “Man of Golden Words” by himself with an acoustic, then melodically transitioned into a brief mix of “Comfortably Numb.”  He opened the song up with heartfelt words about what Andy meant to him, and how Andy made him a better songwriter, and how he couldn’t even listen to this song for a very long time after his passing.

They played the entirety of the Temple of the Dog album, and a generous number of tracks from Mother Love Bone’s Apple. They covered Green River and Black Sabbath…they did two encores.  They did not play “Captain Hi-Top” and I bring this up because it has become a hilarious favorite of my husband’s because Andy inquires in a raucous call, “Where’s that chicken gumbo, baby?”  I told him he should shout the question to Chris.

I can’t explain how I felt.  I should have been screaming.  I should have wanted to pass out like Beatlemania…and still, two days later, I feel like it was a dream I had, looking through glass.  I remember feeling a bit detached.  My eyes saw them.  They were five rows away from me.  My ears heard them.  My whole body contorted, gyrated, sang, screamed, pumped fists, “interpretive danced” to the lyrics…and yet, it still feels distant, though not in a bad way.

Do I have a balance on my credit card?  DO I EVER!  Did I buy a lot at the merch table?  Well, I bought a tee, a sticker and my very first ever rock n’ roll hoodie.  (I adore it.)  Did I spent a lot on a hotel, gas, food, etc.?  Yeah.  Do I regret any of it?  Hell no.  Though this meant more to me than to my husband, I am glad he was there.  I’m glad because he used the sentiments, “Words and music/my only tools […] let’s fall in love with music/the driving force of our living/the only international language/divine glory/the expression/the knees bow, the tongue confesses…the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings…” to snare me.  He said he agreed, and that we had how we FELT about music in common for sure.

We vary greatly in many ways, but this we will always share.

When I was ten, I said, “Holy shit, if Soundgarden and Pearl Jam ever went on tour, I’d sell my soul to see them.”  That was nearly 25 years ago.  My expenses are justified in that, my soul is in tact.  One of my life’s biggest dreams has come true.  Now, if only I could get to meet Eddie…

Be well and Rock ON!

Rachael

Visceral

Why the word choice?

vis·cer·al
ˈvis(ə)rəl/
adjective
  1. of or relating to the viscera.
    “the visceral nervous system”
    • relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.
      “the voters’ visceral fear of change”
      synonyms: instinctive, instinctual, gut, deep-down, deep-seated, deep-rooted, inward;

      Well, I was recently looking at a picture of Eddie Vedder at the Cubs game.  That word came to mind.  A friend of mine once said to me, “Hey, I like Pearl Jam, but for me it’s not visceral like it is for you and die-hard fans.”

      Love is visceral.  It really cannot be defined, but it can be expressed.  This visceral love of Eddie Vedder has been inside me for over 25 of my almost 35 years of life.  It’s in my blood, my bones, my memoir…it cannot be separated from my chemistry.  Why?

      Well, I said you really can’t define love.  When a young girl falls in love with a rock star, most people think it’s physical attraction.  I won’t lie–yes, at ten, I fell in love with the gyrating, long-haired, fair-eyed rock god on my old Magnovox.  But his poetic grace, his fierce activism (for the right causes), his passionate lyrics, his healing through music…the very power in his voice–his proof in all his causes through action…all attributes that made this man even more attractive to me.

      Can I explain why my chest wants to explode every time I see a picture of him?  No, and I don’t have to.  Am I a cancer patient with the Make-a-Wish foundation?  Thankfully, no, and blessings and peace to all those who suffer.  But does my heart have one lifelong wish?  Yes.  That wish is to meet him.

      What would I do?  Why am I so hell-bent on doing this before either of us leave the earth?  Because I need to thank him.  I need to connect with his energy. I’d like to have him sign my handmade ukulele (thank you, Lindsey, best friend)…I’d like to have him sign my left forearm with a simple “EV” that I would immediately get tattooed in.

      But sometimes gratitude doesn’t get its chance to shine.  So what do you do?   You pay it forward.  I often think about my own activism in social justice, kindness and appreciation to our veterans, and the way I am with people–even difficult people–are a result not only of my own beautiful soul, but also a result of Eddie who raised me.  The “fatherless” son to the “fatherless” daughter.  The world is interesting like that, isn’t it?

      So, I bought Temple of the Dog tickets in July (that yes, I’m still paying off, with interest now, because of some greedy-ass ticket scalpers).  There’s not even a guarantee that he will be there, though I’m baffled as to why not, if there are only ten shows, PERIOD.  Please, universe.  Let him be in Philly for me, even if I don’t get to meet him.

      Thank you for reading.  Thank you for supporting me and my dreams.

      Be well and rock on,

      Rachael

What do Madonna and Eddie Vedder have in common?

I’m sure they have more than I will discuss, actually.  But to me, they have this in common:  they were both my childhood heroes.  To ones that know me, that will not surprise them.  I was fortunate enough to have a mom who supported my inner performer long before I realized that this inner, artistic being was the driving force of me.

If you’ve read a long, or seen me on Facebook, you can probably say you know about why I am “obsessed” with Eddie Vedder, so I’ll start, instead, with Madonna.  The year was 1988.  I just got the patchouli-laden cassette tape, Like a Prayer, and was already wearing the tape threading down to shreds.  At age seven, I’d seen the video.  I was only aware that she was controversial in the media.  I may not have understood the weight of all the inferences in the video–what I cared about more was this was an amazing woman.  She inspired me.  I knew she was taking heat for doing something radical–and I loved it with every fiber in my being.

I created an interpretive dance to the song that I dragged my (Mormon!) friend, Samantha, into.  Mom patiently watched as I leapt from the coffee table, came down to one knee and twirled about our otherwise unused den.  I still listen to this album when I vacuum or clean the house…great calorie burner…

I also remember hearing the track that she shares with Prince.  It’s a slow, almost R&B-like duet.  I didn’t know Prince, I didn’t know of his infamy, but I knew that this was something quite special.  Prince radiated sexuality, and I picked up on that, yes, even at age 7.

Loving Madonna as a young girl shaped my feminism, my advocacy for women’s rights, and my own desire to be a female performer.  She inspired me–she told me through her music–to celebrate being female, to celebrate being artistic, and that if people didn’t like it, well, tough shit, frankly, because I have a right to do this.  I love her to this day.

As a teenager, Erotica, came out.  I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t buy it until much later in life, but I kept my peripheral vision on it.  It seemed that these bold and erotic expressions were okay.  That it was okay to be bold and female and sexual.  Society doesn’t really teach girls to be aware of themselves, or what’s okay and what’s not.  I knew, at 13, that this exploration of art and music and sexuality was okay–well, at least it was for Madonna.

I could go on and on…

I could also go on and on about Eddie.  But I loved him, surprisingly, for the same reasons, in ways.  For example, there was something about him climbing up on a stool during MTV’s Unplugged and scrawling “PROCHOICE” on his forearm that just ignited me.  A man fighting for women’s rights?  A man who would go to conferences to advocate for women’s rights?!  Wow, amazing.  (and sexy, but remember, I was going to marry him and all…)

Eddie shaped my political beliefs.  He may not have given me this rebellious, strong-willed “freedom for everyone” attitude, but he sure did spread it like wildfire. He was my childhood role model.  I didn’t have any male role models, really.  Yes, my beloved grandpa, but he was 1240 miles away.  So Eddie became the stand-in male role model…he shaped my taste in men, my political views, my musical preferences, my poetry…my world.

So, yes, now you know that Eddie and Madonna have at least this in common:  me.

Keep on rockin’ in the (supposedly) free country,

Rachael

The Beauty of Dreams…

There’s a Devin Townsend song called “Grace.”  For those of you unfamiliar with Devin Townsend or “The Devin Townsend Project” or “DTP”, please do yourself a favor and get acquainted!  You will thank me later.  Don’t be put off by the label “metal” or “progressive metal.”  What you will find is a beautifully (heavy) and melodic mix of songs, ranging from introspective quiet/experimental, to whack your steering wheel with your thumbs awesome.

I happen to be wearing a Devin Townsend Project tee in this picture that I’m including.  But what does they have to do with what’s coming next?  Well, my youngest stepson is named after Devin Townsend.  And we’ve had the blessing to meet him twice, both of which times he was so gracious to our family, and totally made our boys happy.

Dreams do come true.  Can you imagine just doing the art you’re born with, and then find out that someone in another country named their son after you?  Pretty amazing, right?  Well, when I met my husband, he had not planned on anymore reproduction.  But he knew that I’ve had a dream since I was a little girl to have a little girl of my own.  So we went to the Penn U hospital fertility clinic about IVF.  We got all the expensive documents.  We chose not to do it.  Even with a vasectomy and my inadequately-sized uterus, they could offer us a surrogate.  But after much thought, I veered toward adoption, only to be horribly dissapointed.

“Why don’t you look into foster care?” I did, on several occasions, only to find out that the ultimate goal of this was to reunite the child with their birth families, no matter how shitty they were.  I could not risk having my heart broken again, and again.  Sadly, I chose to give up this (otherwise seeming) great option.

A time later, I created a gofundme account, and in two weeks, I got about $600.  I still have that, and I am putting away $10-20 of my own meager funding each pay check and as I can.  I realized I need to promote harder.  It will be expensive to adopt otherwise.  After those two weeks, nothing.  I kept going to meetings, researching options, etc.  Friends gave helpful advice.  No one wanted to let me borrow their uterus, alas.  (you can laugh, I’m only half-serious.)

Spending a year helping to raise an infant girl to toddlerhood made my yearning stronger.  I went to an adoption meeting in September that made me horribly jaded and disinfranchised with that system.  It seems that this has become a capitalist venture, indeed.  Some private adoption companies even have claim on “stork” babies–ones that are dropped in the baby bin at hospitals, and would have been, otherwise, free.

But my never-failing optimism sprouted up after a long bout of depression.  She’s out there.  Maybe she hasn’t been born yet.  Maybe she’s waiting for me already.  With 0ver $70K in student loan debt and a house to build, I still forge on in my hope.  What do we have, if not hope?

My husband had the opportunity to name both of his sons.  One got the family name, one got named after Devin Townsend.  He wanted to name her “Gretchen Nebraska” after a King’s X song/album.  “Um, no,” I said.  “You had the opportunity to name your children, one after music.  You can have Gretchen as the middle name.”

It only made sense that my whole life mom would call me “Princess Grace” or just “Grace” because as a clumsy, left-handed daydreamer, I can be anything but graceful at times.  I liken myself to a beautiful giraffe…so elegant, so awkward, so graceful, yet jarringly so.  When I met my in-laws, whom I love as though they were a wonderful, adoptive family (they are, indeed that), I discovered that my mother-in-law, Susan Pennington had multiple pseudonyms:  Sue, Susan, Penny, Grace.  Her husband starting calling her Grace because his favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.”

So Grace makes sense, if we indeed get a choice in her name at all.  So, after much thought, I updated my gofundme account, and decided that I would start again.  For someone who has battled clinical depression and infertility issues more than half her life, I have never been able to crush the unfailing optimism that was born into my soul.

Thank you for sharing this moment with me, just by reading this.  Please feel free to share it abundantly.  I can even mail or email or fax you flyers.  Thank you for reading my blog and sharing my thoughts on writing, music, and cats.

Below, see the link and share!  Also, note the lyrics and check out Devin Townsend…

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Graced by Adoption

We know that it’s only  human.  We know that it’s only love.  Enjoy these appropos lyrics, if you will:

We know that it’s only human
We know that it’s only love
We know that its far too close to home
To see it now

Love all we can before
We learn all we came for
Learn all we can before
The road leads to home

Grace, grace, grace, grace

High road warning
High road warning

Grace, grace, grace, grace (Say no more)

High road warning
High road warning

Laugh, love, live, learn
Laugh, love, live, learn

Eternal I, eternal I, eternal I, I, I

My child tells me
We are the fallen men
My child tells me
We are the fallen men

Laugh, love, live, learn
Laugh, love, live, learn

Oh my god

Grace, grace, grace, grace

Never fear love
(High)
Never fear love
(Road)
Never fear love
(Warning)

Never fear love
(High)
Never fear love
(Road)
Never fear love
(Warning)

We know that it’s only human
We know that it’s only love
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love
Love all we can

I know the way, and you know the way
We all fall down if we fear love

Never fear love
Never fear love
Never fear love
(Warning)

Never fear love
Never fear love
Never fear love
(Warning)

(Devin Townsend Project)