Archive for January, 2011

Fangirl Friday – Stalking vs. Strategic Loitering: What Is Appropriate And When

 We all want to meet our favorite musician, right? Wanting them to acknowledge us, recognize us, is part and parcel of the whole fandom gig. When someone goes too far, we call that stalking. What is stalking? What exactly is going too far? Maybe we should start with what is acceptable and work our way up.

Here’s the thing some people don’t understand. They owe us nothing. Sure, we give them money, in exchange for their albums, merchandise, or concerts. It’s a straightforward transaction. No, seriously. We may mention the time we’ve put in as fans, but they put in the time as well in the studio, rehearsing, whatever. Of course we like it better if they’re nice to us, it makes us more inclined to continue purchasing their product. What may trip us up is the feelings we get from those products.

So, because they give us joy, fill our souls, we want that connection to go both ways. To that end, we want to meet our idols.

A good way to do that is strategic loitering. This is best accomplished in groups of two or more, but probably should not exceed eight depending on the venue one chooses. Remember, if we know where to go, odds are others will as well.

Basically what we do is very simple. We go somewhere our idol is likely to be and hang out. For example, the radio station adventure I talked about last week. Other acceptable places are, in no particular order: concert/show venues, signings, hotel bars, and other public places. One location one should NEVER go uninvited is a private residence. This lands you firmly in stalking territory, and should be avoided at all costs.

Now, okay, we have the places, but what should we do when we get there? First, and most important, be polite…to the person you wish to meet, fellow loiterers, and most especially to any staff who might be working your chosen venue.

Let’s say we’ve chosen the hotel bar as our hang-out spot. Order a drink. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic, we just have to keep in mind that the bartender and servers are there to make a living. If we’re taking up their tables and bar space without ordering, we are impeding their ability to do so. That’s rude. What’s more, they’ll be less inclined to pass on any potentially helpful information, such as when Mr. or Ms. Rock Star tends to come down for a drink!

So, the bartender has given us the skinny that our idol will be down within the hour. What do we do when they appear? No! We don’t mob them or hover in the doorway! Bad fan, no autograph! We wait for them to come in, get comfy, and gauge their mood. If they look like they want to be left alone, we LEAVE THEM ALONE. Regroup, come back at another time or try a different venue.

If, however, they’re being approachable, do so. We don’t mob them, we send one or two of our group over to politely ask for autographs. If the water’s fine, they discreetly beckon the others to join. If, on the other hand, what we took for a welcoming smile was just gas, we back off post-haste.

“But Gigi!” I hear your dulcet tones clamor, “That means we don’t get to meet them!”

True enough, but it also ensures we don’t piss them off and make a bad impression. It gives us a chance to try again later at a more opportune moment. And maybe, just maybe naughty girls need love too they’ll remember how polite we were at the hotel and be extra nice at the backstage door!

Okay, so let’s say our venue is at the back of the House of Blues or another small setting. There’s maybe ten people total, and two of them are with us. Where do we stand? Near the big black car/SUV/limo idling at the curb! Now we wait. We see the first band member exit. He’s the one our two friends are there to see so we take the camera, ready to play a combination of shutter-bug and wing-man(woman). Oh no! The crazy stalker fan has launched herself onto him like a monkey, arms around his neck, legs around his waist! For shame!

Here’s where playing to Mr. Rock Star’s tastes really comes in. God (yes, I mean Nick Rhodes) really likes the unique. Happily, one of our friends is in boots that make her over six feet tall, sporting fire-engine-red hair, and wearing a bindi. Though shaken by the scary limpet fan, he sees her and his face lights up like a kid on Christmas morning. When politely asked for a picture, he readily agrees, puts his arm around her, and the picture gets snapped. We thank him, he slips into his limo, and drives off. Now we have a memory that will last forever and our idol is reassured that not all his fans are insane.

There have been a few examples peppered throughout of inappropriate behavior. Other things no good fan should ever do: dig through their garbage, abduct their pets for ransom, steal their clothes to sell on eBay, follow them into the bathroom, interrupt conversations, grope them without express permission/invitation or do anything we wouldn’t want a stranger to do to us.

What examples of strategic loitering have I missed? What about stalking? Share your tales of band encounters here!

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Morrissey’s “The Ordinary Boys”

Welcome to the second Wordsmith Wednesday. Today we’re going to look at the lyrics of Morrissey‘s The Ordinary Boys. I was having trouble deciding on something from my own collection. Spoiled for choice, you could say. So I jumped on Twitter and put out a call for help. Semibold responded almost immediately, asking if I liked Morrissey and The Smiths. I told her like wasn’t an issue so much as interesting was. She then pointed me to the song we will be discussing today. Here are the lyrics:

The Ordinary Boys by Morrissey and Stephen Street

Ordinary boys, happy knowing nothing

Happy being no-one but themselves

Ordinary girls, supermarket clothes

Who think it’s very clever to be cruel to you

For you were so different

You stood all alone

And you knew

That it had to be so

Avoiding ordinary boys

Happy going nowhere, just around here

In their rattling cars

Ordinary girls

Never seeing further

Than the old, small streets

That trap them

But you were so different

You had to say no

When those empty fools

Tried to change you, and claim you

For the lair of their ordinary world

Where they feel so lucky

So lucky, so lucky

With their lives laid out before them

They are lucky

So lucky, so lucky

 

True confessions time. That is a lot of how I felt in high school…the isolation of being unique, feeling like the “normal” kids had it easy, that they were out to get me. When I read those words, I was instantly transported back to that time in my life.

By turns, the lyrics are hurt (“think it’s very clever to be cruel to you”), condescending (“those empty fools”), and jealous (“they are lucky”). It sounds as though a bitter teenager is venting his spleen. I looked up the dates and found out that Morrissey was nearly thirty in 1988 when Viva Hate, the album on which the song appears, was released. Seriously? You get to almost thirty and still can’t get over the mean kids in high school? Still, the lyrics made me think.

When I was in high school, everything felt so difficult, bewildering, and hurtful. There were kids that I thought were “so lucky”. The rich kids, the popular kids, the pretty kids, all of them had to have had it easier than me! Gradually, I learned how wrong I was. Nobody has it easy in high school. Nobody has it easy EVER.

Life is difficult. Some days it goes well, others go horribly wrong. Money, popularity, and looks only change the types of problems one has. I didn’t like these lyrics, they brought me back to a time of petty meanness and sadness. However, they got my brain whirling, and for that I kinda love them too. What about you? What do these lyrics say to you?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s “All You Need Is Now” (the single)

We’re going to do a little something different for this, the second edition of Music Review Monday. I’m going to review a single, rather than the whole album. That single is called All You Need Is Now. Why? Several reasons. It’s off a brand-new iTunes album that’s only nine songs long, and the full fourteen song CD won’t be available until late March. I want to wait for the additional five songs to do a full album review.  Also? I’ve been dreading this review so much that I broke out into a flop sweat every time I sat down at my computer this past week.

You see, I am what is referred to as a Duranie. I’ve been one since the spring of 1985. I was ten years old. It’s fair to say that listening to Duran Duran is one of the major reasons I am who I am today, why I think the way I think. I’m freaking terrified of this review. You can imagine my excitement at the announcement of their thirteenth studio album. I’ve always been able to count on them to create something I at least like (Pop Trash), if not something I adore (Arena).

I guess, by the law of averages, it couldn’t last. Okay, enough stalling. On to the review.

It starts off with a highly annoying techno keyboard sequence from Nick Rhodes. You remember me talking about him in last Friday’s post? Where I called him God? Yeah. There’s a steady if uninspired rhythm provided by Roger Taylor, our heroic drummer. Then Simon Le Bon begins to sing, sounding more bored than I’ve ever heard him and muffled and distorted by some “nifty” effect. John Taylor (also known to Duranies as the Almighty Bass God) then fills things out a teensy bit with his bass guitar. They all sound pretty much like they’re phoning in their performances. The song drifts out of techno-land into a semi-lovely chorus that almost gives me hope. It’s soft and sweet, tasting of reminiscences and longing. Everyone’s at least bringing their B game. Rinse and repeat. I’ll admit the extended dream sequence after the second time around that segued into and out of the chorus again was beautiful and ethereal, but then it dragged back into that incessant techno-twaddle to fade out on… crowd noise?

Admittedly, I don’t like techno music as a general rule, although some people can do it brilliantly. This was not done brilliantly. It sounded hollow and dry, devoid of emotion, boring. When I played this song for my mother (whose favorite Duran song is Taste The Summer) she wrinkled up her nose and asked, “What happened to them? They used to be so full of life.” Guys, you are doing something wrong when a 67-year-old thinks your song is a big yawn.

In the interest of full disclosure, all my Duranie friends LOVE this song. Some even find it uplifting. Desperately worried that I’d lost the plot somewhere, I played it for friends outside that circle. All of them asked me to turn it off, like yesterday. I even played it for one of my sisters. She and I don’t usually agree on much of anything. After listening to the single she looked at me, eyes filled with confusion, and asked why they didn’t just do mash-ups of their old songs instead of re-hashing and re-packaging them in new and uninteresting ways.

I was so worried about this review. I didn’t want to do it. Then someone said a brilliant thing to me. “Someone needs to put the mirror up so they can see the egg on their faces,” they said. “Who better than you, someone who loves and respects them?” I stammered something about owing it to them to give them a glowing review since they had given me so much joy in the past, so that they go on selling and making music. They countered with, “Gigi, do you want them to continue making songs like this?”

No, I don’t.

 What do you think?

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Fangirl Friday – When Fandoms Collide

Welcome to Fangirl Friday, episode one. Today is a sort of hodge-podge, pot-luck day, with fandom taking the reins. Anything I’m a fan of, I’ll talk about here. Now, to be honest, I had a whole other blog planned for today. It was descriptive, funny, and had  nothing whatsoever to do with music. Oops! So on my best friend’s good advice, I put it away in the “maybe later” pile.

“Well pooh!” I grumbled. “Now I have to pull a new rabbit out of the proverbial hat.” Before I could get a good pout going, her chuckle sounded over the phone.

“You have a ton of music-related fan stories. In fact, why don’t you talk about the first fandom event we shared?” Laura murmured, her smirk so loud my eye twitched. Then I thought about what she said.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I started to grin. She was SO right. The weekend she and I first met was full of wonderful fandom moments, like accompanying her to her first Duran Duran show. The very first, though, was our adventures outside a Chicago radio station.

It was the afternoon of Friday, August sixth, 1999. Dark days for Durans and Duranies alike, even though it was the time when Laura was just entering the fandom. I was twenty-five, she was twenty-two, three months and eleven days shy of her twenty-third birthday. We had met on the internet and it was the first time we’d seen each other face to face.

Only two members of the original five, Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, were in the line-up of the band. Or, as many of us like to affectionately call them, Ego and God. They were playing the House of Blues, and we had also heard that they would be visiting a local radio station. Because the show was general admission, we knew we’d have to stand in line most of the day to get a decent spot. Even so, we couldn’t pass up the chance to maybe meet the band.

Like good little Duranies, we got dressed up in our concert gear that included (for me) black velvet, white feathers, and glitter. We were a bit confused when we got to the radio station, thinking we might have gotten the wrong building. Sure there were several other females in concert gear, but none of them looked to be out of high school. Some of them didn’t even look like they were old enough to be in high school. What the everlovin’ heck?

The doors opened and five guys emerged. The teeny-boppers went nuts and mobbed them. Four of them were unfamiliar to me. But when I caught a glimpse of the fifth, I froze with the shock of recognition…of the back of his neck.

“That’s…that’s JC Chasez from the Mickey Mouse Club,” I stammered. At the same time, Laura said, “Oh my God, it’s NSYNC!” My heart was pounding and I just stood there, trying to remember how to breathe. I dimly heard Laura snapping pictures with her camera. None of those were more than the backs of their heads, sadly.

Once the limo had driven off, Laura and I stared at each other and giggled. The dust settled, bringing a handful of women our age and older as the younger girls dispersed. We were still giddy and chatting about it when a very tall, familiar-looking man emerged and nearly trod on me. To be fair, I’m only 5’4″ and he’s over six feet tall. It’s amazing he was able to swerve around me at the last minute.

Laura and I grumbled until he got about ten feet away and turned. We both nearly dropped on the spot. It was Simon Le Bon! One of the very men we’d come to see! I was writhing in shame as she took pictures. I’d been a Duranie for fifteen years at that point and hadn’t recognized him, yet I recognized the back of the neck of someone I’d been a fan of six years before for only a short time!

Granted, I’d actually met JC in person once, when the MMC did a Target tour, and had never seen Simon so close. It was too early in our friendship for Laura to tease me back then. By the time we were close enough for her to do so, I had redeemed myself as a Duranie, but that’s a story for another time.

So what about you? Has a minor fandom ever intruded on a major one? Do you have any tales of missed opportunities? I want to hear your stories, please!

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)”

Welcome to the very first Wordsmith Wednesday! I thought we’d take the way-back machine to 1928 and look at Cole Porter‘s Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love). Now, there are several versions of this song, first played in the musical Paris. However, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll be looking at the version from the 2004 soundtrack of De-Lovely, a film about Cole Porter’s life, as sung by Alanis Morissette. Why? Because that is the version I own and have transcribed.Yes, I sat down and listened to the song over and over again to write down the lyrics. Here they are:

Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) by Cole Porter

But that’s why birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it, Not to mention the Finns

Folks in Siam do it, think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines without means do it

People say in Boston even beans do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Romantic sponges they say do it

Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams ‘gainst their wish do it

Even lazy jellyfish do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it, though it shocks ’em I know

Why ask if shad do it, waiter bring me shad roe

In shallow shoals English soles do it

Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The dragonflies in the reeds do it

Sentimental centipedes do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Mosquitos heaven forbid do it

So does every katydid do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The most refined ladybugs do it, when a gentleman calls

Moths in your rugs do it, what’s the use of moth balls

The gusts in trees do it

Bees do it

Even over-educated fleas do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

 

Now, this song is quite obviously about mating, sex. However, since it was considered vulgar to talk about that sort of thing too blatantly when the song was originally written, you can see Porter ameliorated the bluntness by inserting the bit about falling in love for what “it” is. This also neatly equates sex with love which, in my humble opinion and experience, should be true, but often is not. Oh, and for those of you wondering, click this link for another set of lyrics I found on the internet.

There are quite a few clever turns of phrase, like the mention of electric eels being shocked and the moth balls. It’s light and frothy, winking at you and seeming to say that, as George Michael put it, “sex is natural, sex is good” and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. After all, what about those randy beans from Boston?

It occurs to me, so many people snipe and grumble about how vulgar today’s music is, how it focuses on sex and candy violence and all that jazz. Thing is, music has always been about those things, the composers were just more sneaky about how they expressed it. Or more…what’s the word I’m looking for? Classier? Euphemistic? ARTISTIC! Yes, that’s the answer!

No one listening to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries can say it’s about happy bunnies frolicking. Likewise The Star-Spangled Banner. They are both definitely about battle. Bombs are bursting in the air! Jerry Lee LewisGreat Balls of Fire and, of course, today’s selection are prime examples of songs about sex from so-called innocent times.

I think my favorite line in Let’s Do It is the opening one about the birds and the bees, a classic euphemism for what the song is all about. It simply and elegantly sets the stage, letting you know what the real score is. It doesn’t need to be excessive or slap you in the face to get the message across.

What do you think? What do these lyrics say to you? Can centipedes really be sentimental?

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Music Review Monday – Michael Jackson’s Thriller album

I thought I’d kick off the music reviews with the very first album I ever bought, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Music has always been a part of my life, from the scores in the movies I watched to the songs we sang in school to the music my family played at home. But the first record I ever bought (with my hard-earned chore allowance) was Thriller. Yes, I said record, and I meant it. Back in the dark ages, there was no such thing as digital media. Computers took up whole rooms, far too large to have a personal version. We used record players, cassette decks, and radio to get music. However, thanks to technology, I’ve linked each song to their Amazon.com page where you can listen to them, just in case you haven’t heard them or just want to listen along with me.

I listened to this particular album until the needle on our player went smooth…several times over. Play just about any song on it, and I can happily sing along. I have pulled out my own vinyl copy to check the track listing. We’ll start with side one.

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘ is, perhaps inevitably, the first song. When I hear it, my shoulders automatically begin moving left and right to the beat and if I’m standing, so do my hips. So what if it’s one of the most repetitive songs on the planet? It’s too high to get over, too low to get under. It infects you with the beat, the Almighty Beat, until you just can’t be still. Go ahead, try it, I double-dog dare you! Even if you do nothing more than nod in time, you’ll see. Interesting side note? There’s mention of that naughty Billie Jean and how she’s always tellin’ lies. Who says foreshadowing is just for novels?

 Second, we come to Baby Be Mine. The beat’s still there, still strong, and yet it’s unmistakably a ballad. You’ll come to see that the beat is the underlying commonality throughout the album, in fact. At any rate, this song has everything a ballad should have – expressions of devotion, confessions of desire, promises of fidelity and eternity. Yet it doesn’t feel insincere or facile. To me, it sounds honest, sweet.

Third is The Girl Is Mine, a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. Their voices don’t just provide a beautiful counterpoint when they’re going back and forth. They harmonize. Near the end, there’s a “conversation” that feels natural rather than contrived. Two of my friends and I lip-synced a little skit for this song for our school’s talent show when I was ten. I played Michael’s part, Julie was Paul, and Whitney was the girl we “fought” over. Good times, man.

Fourth, finishing off side one, is the reason I bought the album in the first place, the reason I can watch zombie movies even though my “ick” tolerance is way low. Thriller, the title track of the album, is definitely one of my top ten songs/videos of all time. The alien keyboard starts us off, nice and spooky, escalating as the beat asserts itself. Maybe because the video is so deeply entrenched in my psyche, the tension builds as Michael starts to sing, infusing the song with a more concrete story-telling feel. I don’t just see the video behind my eyelids every time I hear the song, my body fills with the tension and excitement I felt when I first encountered it. Somewhere, deep inside, music was forever changed for me. There’s something about his voice, at times trembling, at others pleading, warning, even mocking, that draws me in, makes me feel like an audience of one. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And then, Vincent Price, the master of creeptasticness, begins to speak. **shivers** This isn’t just a song, it’s an event. Lift the needle, carefully reposition it, listen again.

Thus ends side one. Flip the record to side two.

We open with Beat It. Bright, funky, and with mind-blowing (at least for me) guitar riffs all blended into an anthemic dance tune. “You have to show them that you’re really not scared. You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no Truth Or Dare. They’ll kick you then they’ll beat you then they’ll tell you it’s fair, so beat it. But you wanna be BAD.” And no, I haven’t stopped dancing around, why do you ask?

Now we come to Billie Jean, that girl doing all the lying from earlier. Only, this story seems to be leading us to believe that maybe she isn’t lying, at least not wholly. “She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one” falls flat next to “the lie becomes the truth” and “so take my strong advice: remember to always think twice.” Of course I didn’t think any of this when I first got the album as a very sheltered nine-year-old. I didn’t even know what a “lover” was.

Ah, Human Nature, the most ethereal cut on the album. Breathy and almost haunting, I fall in love each time I hear it. Even for all that, the beat is very present, an undercurrent that pulls you along so that you sway to the rhythm.

I always wanted to be someone’s P.Y.T., their tenderoni, in need of T.L.C. Now was the perfect time. It just sounded like so much fun! Sometimes though, I couldn’t wait for it to finish to get to the next and final song.

The Lady In My Life, the culmination of it all, the soothing balm after all the dancing, monsters, being bad, lying girls, and did I mention dancing?  I don’t know what I’d do if a man sang this to me. It makes all my cynicism and bitterness just melt away. Adult me knows he’s singing about sex… slow songs get you laid, after all. But kid me just wanted to snuggle in his (and later, others’) arms and make with the smoochies… go nowhere and stay with him, whatever that meant.

Each piece of this album has something to pull you in, keep you listening. Puzzle pieces that interlock, complementing each other and completing the whole. I’ll admit, I have NO objectivity where this album is concerned. Who does in regards to their first love, really? I’ll also confess that it took several hours to write this review. I had to stop after each song and take a break to keep from all-out weeping. The world is a poorer place without Michael Jackson in it making music.

So, what was your first love, musically speaking, and why? Let me know in the comments what record, album, CD, whatever, spins you right ’round.

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Greetings and salutations!

Like many others, music has made me who I am. It fills me, moves me, provides a soundtrack for my life. The music I love (and even some that I loathe) becomes an inextricable part of me. Just recently, I reconnected with a childhood friend who asked, “Why don’t you blog about that?” She’s a big fan of social media, is Kristen Lamb.  So much so that she wrote a book called We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I tried to tell her that I’m not really a blogger. Oh sure, I have my Livejournal, which is basically an online diary that some friends read, and my Facebook page where I play games, but tri-weekly blogging? Please.

“Well, you love to talk about music,” Kristen pointed out. “Why not talk about it with other like-minded people?”

“But I don’t know how I would come up with enough content!” I retorted, my eyes shifting from side to side as a wave of fear crashed over me. She gave me many good reasons as to why I was wrong, but the most eloquent persuasion was silent. Her hands planted on her hips, she just arched an eyebrow.

So here I am, out of excuses, starting a WordPress blog about music. There will be Music Review Mondays that can mean anything from a full album review to an artist or video review… possibly even a rockumentary review, if you guys are up for it. Wordsmith Wednesdays we’ll be taking a song and looking at just its lyrics, see what makes it so compelling (or not, as the case may be) from that angle. Fangirl Fridays will be devoted to those moments that make a fan – hearing a song in a store, meeting an idol, concerts, interviews… you get the drift.

So join me on this Magical Mystery Tour to expand our minds, and possibly our iTunes folders!

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