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

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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

Under the Bridge downtown…

…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:

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Are you under pressure? I have The Cure.

You might be thinking that this is a blog about the phenomenal 80s group The Cure. I have written blogs on their amazing-ness. It just so happens that while I was writing today, I was listening to The Cure radio station on my Pandora radio station when Queen feat. David Bowie “Under Pressure” came on. In the middle of my other writing tasks, I jumped up, looked for a cat to dance with (found neither) and did a soul dance that may have included a variation of the–um, I think some refer to it as “the corkscrew.”

There’s something about a song that grabs you and makes you completely subserviant to it; this is one such song for me. If you are a music fanatic like me, you might be interested to know what song was number one on the week of your birthday. Back before the Internet was as common as Charmin, my mom and I called in to find ours out. My American #1 was Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.” Dissappointed sigh. But my U.K. #1 was David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Yay for the U.K.! Interestingly enough, as an infant, I had hydrocephalus which literally translates to “water on the brain.” So I really was under pressure.

Another survey study claimed that the song that was #1 on your 18th birthday was your life’s theme. Mine was Rob Thomas featuring Santana on “Smooth.” This would be the song that got Mom into Rob Thomas and subsequently, Matchbox 20. I had resistance to it at first…but the lyrics seem to ring true to my monogamy and belief in lasting love with no b.s.: “give me your heart, make it real or else forget about.” I could groove to that. Mom’s was The Beatles’ “Get Back.” Mom also graduated on her 18th birthday that year the song was breaking radio waves across the nation. The Beatles had been enormous for about five years to that time. Yet, it is interesting because Mom has spent her whole life chasing family, trying to “get back to where (she) once belonged.” She even moved back to where she was born. I hope that she finds her true home where happiness lies. I think that she is still searching.

As for me? Well, I did finally find someone who gave me his heart, made it real and we don’t have to forget about it. As for Queen and Bowie? I knew that I would belong in his world when his two sons simultaneously requested “Queen Jazz!” on a Sunday morning car ride. It’s funny how we can get so under pressure that we forget what makes our soul sing. I recommend that the next time you hear this tune you get a headstart on dumping all that pressure and stress out…be it at the grocery store or in your own kitchen…I say, put on your red shoes and dance the blues…

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S. Here are some links you may like if you were interested in this post:
http://www.thisdayinmusic.com/birthdayno1

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

“Every pop song on the radio is suddenly speaking to me…”

This won’t be a post about Ani DiFranco. (Sorry, Ani. Maybe next time, because you are so rad.) But I had to use her lead in. You know how when you’re down and out or just busy that you don’t really tune in to the music around you? Or, when you’re lonely or heartbroken, the sappy love songs make you audibly gag? You say to yourself, “God, no, Michael Bolton, please stop!” (Of course, if it was me, I’d say that no matter how I felt, even if I did own his music on cassette as a lovesick little girl.) Or, “Yeeeeeeeah right, Broadway musical. Almost like being in love. The whole human race doesn’t want your smile.” Sad, right?

If you happen to be blessed with love, then everything becomes clearer. You might actually turn to that sappy song in the supermarket and smile, thinking of your newfound happiness. It’s like when you emerge from a foggy mountain and see the sun burst over the horizon. Sometimes, these songs are like that. Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective.

I went on a date a few weeks ago and as we approached the ice cream counter, Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” was playing. Awkward. It was an okay date but somehow, hearing Def Leppard was weird. I used to write my romantic bits to that album when I was a young girl. I always listened to tracks including “Love Bites” “Love and Affection” and “Hysteria.” Hysteria was the first CD I ever receieved, for Christmas, along with my very first ever CD boombox in 1992. Suddenly, The Cure, Def Leppard, and even syrupy Shania Twain songs have snatched my attention. These songs seems to bubble up to fit the occasion. When someone totally gets you, especially through music, then music becomes even more amazing.

Guilty as charged. Do you think music will mind if I have an affair? I could never be disloyal to that sweet, wonderful magic that is music. What’s even better is when you can share that music magic with someone else.

Are there songs that you hated but the affections of someone else changed your tune? I’d like to know what they are, please!

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

P.S. It goes without saying that the Beatles are louder now than ever. I’ll say it anyway.

I used to dance around my room singing into the vacuum attachment with this one, far, far from any prospect of love, as I was a young girl.

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