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

Bated Breath

So it happens.  You max out a credit card to go to a once-in-a-lifetime show.  Your ten-year-old self once vowed that “if this ever happened, I’d sell my soul to go see it,” and now it’s happening.  But it’s bittersweet, because you just found out there is a possibility it won’t be everything you hoped it would be.

When I was ten and fell in love with Pearl Jam, I, of course, discovered Temple of the Dog and Mother Love Bone.  For a 25th anniversary (yes, now I do feel old, thank you) the group, comprised of members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, are hosting a ten-date U.S. tour.  Only I heard, after spending an OBTUSE amount of money for a pair of tickets from a ticket scalper (see my thoughts on that in the previous blog), that Eddie might not be there.

(Record scratches.)  How?  Why?  What the hell?  Eddie was invited into this tribute band to honor the life of former Mother Love Bone frontman, Andrew Wood, who passed from a heroin overdose, after remaining “clean” for sometime.  The members of Mother Love Bone disbanded, and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament met Mike McCready and discovered Eddie Vedder and wham!  Pearl Jam.  At the time, Matt Cameron was Soundgarden’s drummer, but now makes a perfect puzzle piece place in the group.

I bought said tickets (that I’m now paying interest on) with the full intention of bringing my ukulele to get signed, should that happen.  (Please God and Universe, align just right.)  Now, I hear that he may or may not be at certain shows.  Listen, Eddie, I have never spoken an ill word against you, nor will I ever, but I have to know…please, will you be at the Tower Theatre show on Saturday, November 5th? Please will you sign my ukulele, my arm, my soul?  May I get a picture of you, as chubby as I’ve become, to commemorate my life’s BIGGEST dream coming true?

Did you know that when I was ten I had a stained glass music note inscribed with Andy’s name on it, and another one, a heart with roses, that read: Eddie and Rachael Forever?  Come on, I was ten, cut me a break.  But please be there.  I don’t see how you could NOT be.  You sing on three of the songs, at least!  You are an integral part of that project!  And now there’s talk of a second release?!  Why would you not take part, 25 years later?  Plus, it’s only ten shows.  Ten shows upon which millons of fans were disappointed, because, once again, Ticketmaster sucks, and we waited, with breath bated, only to find out that no, we never had a chance.  Before the page could even open, all tickets were sold out.  We wasted a sick day from work to be horribly dissappointed.  Down-trodden, we turned to eBay and, instead of paying our student loans, we racked up “cashback bonuses” on our credit cards because of the ticket scalpers.

So, please.  Please be there.  Everyone who waited, breath bated, counted on this.  We can’t find a better man.

Respectfully in debt,

Rachael

Siren Song. Siren vs. Song

The goosebumps rose on my flesh.  It was the glorious “centerpiece” of U.S. Royalty’s “Equestrian” blaring for the second time in my Toyota as I sailed to work on this hot July afternoon.  It’s the part where you find yourself almost shouting, “I come down from the mountain!  I come down from the moun-t-aaaain!  Oooh, ooh, ooooooh.”  It was then that I realized, being a normal non-music-blarer, that I wouldn’t, in fact, hear a siren wailing anywhere near me over the heavy guitar and vocals. 

“Oh well,” I thought.  “I’ll turn it down after this is over.”  I hit “RANDOM” and the song happened to play again.  “Just one more time…” I thought before shout-singing along with the vocals that cause semi-permanent gooseflesh. 

So, what I would like to know is:

1)  If you haven’t checked out U.S. Royalty, WHY NOT?!!!!

2)  Is there a song that makes you behave like I did today?  Do share.

And I won’t leave you hangin’ on “the mountain.”  Enjoy:

http://youtu.be/WQr_qgEBNLY

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

It’s Tool time (mature language and content involved)

And no, I am not making a reference to the early 90s sitcom, Home Improvement.  For whatever reason, when there is a phenomenal band, it seems there is a season for them, though not limited to a particularly good part of the year.  Recently, Tool season crept in.

I have always been hesitant to write a blog post about such an amazing band, fearing that I will not do them justice.  For those of you Tool fans who are kindly reading this (thank you), you know that often, all someone has to do is utter the word “Tool.”  This utterance is like a very bold period at the end of a sentence.  It is the be-all, end-all, comprehensive synonym for COMPLETELY FREAKIN’ AMAZING. 

Tool is one of the top five bands that make going to the gym (more of) a pleasure.  “Sweating and thinking…seems like I’ve been here before, seems so familiar…seems like I’m…” on the treadmill with a serene smile on my face?  For all those SAT questions I never got right, let me try this:

Tool : Music

Intensity : Sex

Perhaps I didn’t do that correctly because, wordsmith that I am, I was never able to even get a high score on the verbal part of the standardized tests (boo, hiss, test anxiety, boo and hiss.)  Simply put, as I was sweating on the elliptical, with a blissed out Richard Simmons smile on my face, Maynard crooned away in my ear with “Jambi” and “Forty-Six and Two.”  These two tracks, though it is impossible to choose, are some of my most favorite.  It occurred to me that people must have been wondering, if they cared at all, why I had such a huge grin on my face.  Tool is the sex of music, I think.  Tool is something more than just a band.  Tool is an experience, a way of life even.  Tool is a thinker’s band. 

They are so intense that they require moderate listening, I think.  It’s like a good wine.  You appreciate it more in smaller and less frequent doses.  I really could go on and on but I won’t.  I will simply say that if you like Tool, raise your hand so I can give you a virtual high five. 

You could also post your favorite tracks in the comments below, but not before you appreciate this:

Spiral out, keep going…

Rachael

Just Like the Cure (for everything.)

I heard Dishwalla’s “Counting Blue Cars” while doing dishes last night.  Every so often, you will hear a song from a long time ago that they played time and again when it first hit the airwaves.  But songs like this one, when heard a decade and a half later, well, they’re just brilliant, brilliant still.  Even more so, if I might conjecture.  Speaking of great songs, when I went to the gym I heard my FAVORITE Cure (or Cure, The or The Cure) song.  “Just Like Heaven.”  When I hear that song I feel like the bouncy ball on the sing-along shows from long ago.  It’s just the way it moves.  I want to do silly dances with theatric arm motions, calling out to strangers on the street (or, as it were, the treadmill) in his voice.  His accusing, “Yooooooou, just like heaven.”  And then there’s the tinkling guitar refrain which, incidentally, is just like heaven.  It is also a great song to work out to.  In fact, The Cure’s Greatest Hits is a really good selection if you’re looking to get some exercise.  The energy carries throughout, even through the slow songs. 

 

I stand accused of dancing my hand out the window, sailing down the interstate with “Friday, I’m in Love” a bit too loud in my car.  But “Just Like Heaven” is so great it’s hard to tell you.  Imagine that I’m sitting across from you and telling you this.  My eyes are lit up, and I’ll tug at your elbow and attention, urging you until you almost have to agree because I’m so passionate about the greatness of this song.  It doesn’t have to be said that The Cure was incredible.  It doesn’t hurt to talk about it, though. 

 

Be well and rock on,

 

Rachael

 

P.S.  You didn’t think I’d blabber on without giving you the link, did you?

 

 http://youtu.be/RS_ux2H473I

 

Ceremony

You know you have them.  You wear a certain concert tee on a certain day.  You have (at least) one song for each friend that you have that will always remind you of them.  Sharing music with friends is imperative, even if they grow tired of your incessant documenting and ululating about the subject.  The saying goes that a good friend will sing the words (of your life) back to you when you’ve forgotten them.  

I’d like to dedicate this post to my childhood best friend, Susan Brown.  Pearl Jam celebrated their 20th anniversary last year.  It’s hard to believe that was two of my three decades ago, and I’ve been a fan since the start.  A local (to Blacksburgians, that is) brewery, The Cellar, had a few limited edition Pearl Jam Twenty golden Belgian ale bottles up for grabs.  Susan scored one for me, and it came in the mail just in time.  I’d been going through a difficult spell lately, once again questioning everything, esp. my creative future.

The brew was called “Faithfull” in honor of the band’s anniversary and also a reference to the song “Faithfull” (Track 2, from Yield, 1998.)  Naturally, I procured this album, turned it on, opened the ale and raised my glass.

I toasted Susan, thinking of the anecdote she put in my card about “and the first mix tape you made me had ‘Better Man’  on it.”  I don’t even remember how long ago that was except for that a) it really was a cassette tape mix b) it had to be somewhere abouts 1994 because that’s when Vitalogy broke.  But it got me thinking that there are things that will forever remind us what the core of our soul is.  One of them is the friends you shared those things and songs with.  Another is the songs that will always be a reflection, a reminder, of who you will always be, no matter how you change.

For me, you already know, that is music.  More specifically, Pearl Jam.  I was hesitant to commit this to public view (it was a decent sized ale bottle after all) but I will say it here:  I’ve been compiling a collection of Eddie and Pearl Jam writings from my memoir that I intend to send to the band.  I also have a great idea (which I will not disclose in public view) that I plan to propose to Pearl Jam. I’ve been meaning to complete this project and now I’m more motivated to see it through. 

Are these dreams big?  Yes.  But you know, just yesterday, a friend of mine inquired, “Is life worth living if you’re not dreaming big?”  

As I raised my glass in an empty kitchen, the sun burned the horizon a London Broil pink.  We lose touch with friends for…stupid reasons, sometimes for no reason at all.  I suggest you raise your tea, coffee, that vinyl record you were on your way to play, in homage to that best friend that shared music with you.

Thank you, Susan.

Be well, rock on, and cherish music,

 

Rachael

 

P.S. Because Susan is to blame for my love of Led Zeppelin, “Over the Hills and Far Away” will always remind me of her, among thousands of other songs.

 

Musicaholism

There are some people who love music. There are music fanatics. There are (shudder) people who DON’T listen to music.

Then, there are people like me, who live their lives as if it were their own personal musical. There probably is, or should be, some kind of psychological classification for us. I’m hoping it can’t just be me. By musical, I mean life IS a musical for us. A few words in harmless conversation can be triggers to sing a chorus or two before the conversation proceeds. If we’re lucky enough (and haven’t scared off or offended the other person) they will join in with us. A few tones here and there or a few keystrokes on the computer have us reeling in someone’s drum solo or even some lilting voice amidst a symphonic piece.

The last four digits of a phone number my friend had while growing up were 0941. On the key pad it sounded like the refrain in a Sousa piece, I believe. “Duh, nun, nun nun nuh-nuh-nuh, nunt nuh!” You know the one—it’s a famous number usually used in any racing scene in a movie or commericial. Anyway, you are, doubtlessly, trying it on your phone even as I type this to you.

One of my old passwords on the computer when finished with the ENTER key was the main bit in the Nutcracker Suite.

We are the people who sing when there is no music, who drum on the steering wheel and find every excuse to include music in our conversations.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a perfectly normal response to life, and a very healthy one. Now, those people who don’t like or listen to music, that’s a cause for concern!!!

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

A self-professed and some day renowned music write