Posts Tagged Entertainment

A Boy And His Guitar – Tony Lucca – Music Monday

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing quite like seeing music live. Well, last Saturday I got to attend the Tony Lucca show at The Prophet Bar down in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. I brought along my dear friend Kelly and had one of the best nights I’ve had in recent memory.

There were three acts slated for that night: Griffin Schmucker, Zach Balch, and the headliner Tony Lucca.

Griffin was…okay. The drummer was awesome, actually. Everyone else seemed to be going through the motions. They didn’t feel connected to the music. I blame this on Schmucker himself. He was a little too high on the smell of his own “glory” to care about servicing the audience or the music. He was serving his own ego. From what I have seen, that never works out well. Now, he may have just been nervous. However, when you mention you’re doing a charity show, you should know all about the charity instead of being dismissive about it. How can you get people to care enough to come out and spend their money on a cause if you don’t care? Further, he made some snotty comment about the audience not being able to spell his name so of course Kelly and I took out our phones and spelled it exactly right in order to Google him. Don’t talk down to me. Don’t assume your audience can’t do something. Don’t be rude to people there just because they may have come to see someone else. This is how you lose potential fans! Plus, he introduced only himself and his BFF the guitarist. Um, now you’re rude to the band? Wow. No, thank you.

Zach and his band were great, thankfully. Every one of them, especially Balch himself, was engaged in the music. They LOVED what they were doing and it showed. Sitting ten feet from the stage I could feel the drums in my chest. Especially, I enjoyed the two songs that were just Balch, his back-up singer, and a violinist.  The banter was great as well. He engaged with the audience, he engaged with his band, heck, he introduced them all and gave them credit equal to himself. He played to us, with us, and that is priceless.

That being said, Tony blew them both out of the water.

I knew he would, but I was not prepared for how MUCH he would. It was just him and his guitar up on the stage and yet he filled the room. He wove pictures and emotions that were touchable and filled up little corners in my heart. His banter was real and inclusive, reaching out to share his experience with us and make it ours. My favorite song was Anchored, a love song for Los Angeles. I also really enjoyed Fight Song, Long Love Letter, Starting Over, Foxy Jane, and Death of Me. If I don’t stop there I’ll just start listing every song off the three albums Kelly and I bought after the show.

At one point during the encore, when he was singing a song called Always, I felt tears filling my eyes and beginning to roll down my cheeks. Looking over at Kelly I saw that she was right there too. Now that, right there, is the mark of a master to me. He didn’t just fill our ears with joy, he touched our souls.

If that weren’t impressive enough, he didn’t just stand there playing his guitar and singing. He used his voice and the microphone as instruments in and of themselves. I’ve said that music is my drug and my religion. Well, some of the things he did with his voice made me feel like I was flying high and in church all at the same time. I wanted to yell “amen” and “hallelujah” after certain of the vocal acrobatics he performed.

After his performance, Kelly and I nearly tripped over ourselves to buy the three available CDs. As we stood there, clutching our treasure, Tony came out to mingle. I made a couple aborted attempts to speak to him, but was stymied by people wanting photos. Kelly told me to stop being shy and I smiled. When the young ladies wanting their photos were done, I touched Tony’s arm and he turned to face us, smiling.

Now, you all know I am a goof. I say embarrassing things to people who have awed me. So this was the portion of the evening where I babbled my thanks for his performance and that listening to him was like being in church, and how he was part of Kelly’s live show education. He took all of this in with grace and charm, thanking us for coming and for our kind words. He shook our hands, and we floated away, blissful. In the car, I realized that we had neither asked for him to sign the CDs, nor asked for pictures to be taken with our phones. Duh.

That being said, we had a fanTAStic time with just a boy and his guitar.

 

Who have you seen live recently? How was it?

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Fangirl Friday – Captain America (Beware Spoilers)

The First Avenger

Last week I saw Captain America in the theater. It did one of my very favorite things a period film can do. It remained true to the mind-set of the time in which it was set. I get really frustrated with period pieces that feature anachronistic sexuality **cough**Titanic**cough**. Heck, Cap didn’t even get to first base in this movie! Which, I must say, was a breath of fresh air. He was sexy (even as a 90 pound weakling, Chris Evans is gorgeous, but I might have a thing for skinny guys) and brave and honorable. I loved that the only kiss was actually stolen by a woman.

Respect meant something real and tangible once upon a time, as did honor and loyalty. Of course, that’s what Captain America as a character is all about, right? So it would have been extremely out of character to have him shag the woman he loved before they had even had a first date. Sorta like Superman getting drunk in a bar. Ahem.

The whole film was beautifully done from the beginning to the sneak peek at the end of the credits. The colors were lush and vivid. The acting was solid, consistent, and elegant. The script was tight, and flowed well. What? Superhero movies aren’t allowed to be great cinema? Look, critics can moan and bluster all they want about their elitist view of what makes for a good film. Nine times out of ten, I won’t want to see what they see as “great art” because it doesn’t entertain me. If I want stories of unrequited love, emotional abuse, or people muddling through a series of horrible life choices then I have my own memories to look at, okay?

To me, good movies help me escape, give me hope that better is out there. They affirm that good guys DO win and bad guys are obliterated. This film did that. Not because Cap was the paragon, but because there was someone out there who believes his virtues and morals are valid and showed that on the screen. Real life is crappy enough without being force-fed “realistic” films. Plus, the fight scenes and explosions were really cool.

So, what about y’all? What do you want in your entertainment? What movies get your motor revved? Is there a movie you think I should review?

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Fangirl Friday – Harry Potter – I Open At The Close

Coat of arms of Hogwarts, the fictional school...

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I blame Nick Rhodes. Honestly, almost all my fandoms can be blamed on a member of Duran Duran. I started reading the books when Mr. Rhodes made a (seemingly) offhand remark about Muggles.

Now, with the series at a close, I look back at one of the most influential series of our time. Reading had been on the wane until J.K. Rowling made it fun again. Make no mistake, there are lessons to be learned in the series. Things like friendship, loyalty, hope, and a score or more other virtues were woven into the seven books chronicling a young wizard’s growth.

Each book was darker than the last, which some folk complained about. I agreed with it. Our world gets darker as we grow older and accept more responsibility. Things get harder. We have to make more and more sacrifices. Even so, Rowling handed us Pandora’s box, with hope still fluttering around inside it. Hope that good will triumph over evil, that there are still honorable, kind people in the world.

I love those books for many reasons. First, they are an escape. Even if we don’t pay mind to the broader meanings, dragons and goblins and magic transport us out of our mundane existences to a more exciting place. Second, as stated before, they bring hope, a desperately needed commodity in this world. Third, they brought reading back. Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back, which is all well and good, but bringing reading back in this age of instant gratification was nothing short of a miracle, yes?

People learned patience as they waited for each new book or film in the series. And even though there were those jerks who bootlegged things and put them up on the internet days before release, we still had to wait while they were being created. No matter what else she does in the future, J.K. Rowling has gifted the world with wonder, inspired new generations, and for that I will always admire her.

 

How did you all feel about the Harry Potter series? What did you learn (or just enjoy) while reading? If you’ve never read them, then why? Please share your thoughts here!

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story

Ghost Story (Butcher novel)

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I love reading. I mean, I’d rather read than do almost anything else. When my friend Laura handed me the book-on-CD of Storm Front, the first in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, I was very excited. Mostly because it was being read by James Marsters. Halfway in, I was hooked. I now own all the books and several of the books on CD.

Ghost Story is the thirteenth book in the series, and was just released. My mom and I both squealed with joy when it arrived from Amazon. Yes, you read that right. My 67-year-old mother squealed like a 13-year-old in anticipation of this book. I’ve read it through once already (in one day), and after I read it again for comprehension there might just be a spoilery review headed your way. Because, like Joss Whedon before him and George Lucas before him, Jim Butcher is my master now. If only I could figure out how to do that in the Star Wars font. Sigh.

What about you guys? What books, or series, turn you into a kid on Christmas morning the instant the get into your hot little hands? What author enthralls and entrances you the most?

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Fangirl Friday – Fandom Midwife

Today is a very special day. We’re going to talk about a beautiful event: birthing someone into a fandom.

Coming into a new fandom is a lot like being born. Sometimes it’s fast, easy, and plop! We’re in a new world full of promise and hope. Sometimes, it’s excruciatingly slow, with long and painful labor, and we emerge into a new life kicking and screaming. I’ve had both happen to me, and everything in between. The best experience though, is being someone else’s midwife. Guiding them into the world, watching their face light up, hearing them express their joy and wonder and opinions for the first time is… well, it can be addictive.

Currently, I am inducting my dear friend Kelly into the Buffyverse. She missed it the first time around, though her sister watched both the Buffy and Angel tv series, mostly because of her age. However, at nearly 21, she’s ripe for the humor and pathos woven into this particular universe of Joss Whedon‘s making. Plus, she prefers her vampires to NOT sparkle.

We’ve already finished seasons one and two, and are about to start season three. It’s so difficult when she says she loves this or that character to keep my mouth shut about their future on the show. Sometimes I’m very good about not spoiling her, but I do often slip up and blurt something out. For example? Every time Spike comes on screen, I give commentary. I can’t help it. I say things like, “did you see how, given a perfect opportunity, she failed to kill him?” Or, “Oh just wait! You’ll see!” And then I cackle. I smirk and cackle, causing her to glare at me.

My mom, who is watching most of it with us, doesn’t help. She’s always asking for spoilery knowledge when the suspense gets to be too much. “Is Jenny (Calendar) in the whole series? Oh, she’s gonna die, isn’t she?” I bit my tongue almost hard enough to bruise when she asked THAT one. It was such a relief when that question was answered on the show.

It’s amazing to see the conclusions Kelly draws. After “getting to know” Angel, she gave me the side-eye and asked if Stephanie Meyer based Edward off of him. I chortled with glee. I thought that too. I mean, they even have the same hair. Who knows if she did or not, but it’s fun to think about.

I can’t wait to get through the rest of the shows with her and, possibly, the comics. Then we can really get down to spinning theories! It’s absolutely fantastic to revisit familiar territory with new eyes pointing out things from a different perspective. She catches things that I never did, and I see and hear foreshadowing that I missed before, like Xander saying, “once more, with tension.”

What about you? Down what primrose path have you led a friend? Or what have they taught you? Are you still friends?

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Music Monday – The Soundtrack of Your Life

The first music I remember, really and truly know, is the Imperial March from Star Wars. You know, the music that plays as Darth Vader enters Princess Leia’s ship? That’s because that is actually my first memory. I was three years old, in the movie theater with my mom and dad, in 1977. When that music plays, it’s a visceral thing for me. My muscles tighten and my nerves hum with anticipation. Every cell of my body knows that music.

I have a similar reaction to Hungry Like the Wolf, the first Duran Duran song I ever heard. I was ten, and the twelve-year-old boy I had a crush on played drums on it with his friends for the school talent show in the spring of 1985. Instead of anticipation, this song fills me with the imperative to move, dance, and sing along. It fills me with life and light.

We all have those songs, don’t we? Songs that, by us listening to and loving them, have become a part of us. They make up the soundtracks of our lives.

Why are those songs so important? Music is good for the soul. It can be cathartic, helping to leach out pain or anger so that we can continue through our lives. It can help us express our joy, or even show our love to someone. It binds us together on a level that can’t be reached through speech alone.

What happens when people hold candle-lit vigils? That’s right, they begin to sing. It’s usually something simple that one person starts and gradually others join in. Why? Because it brings them closer, chases away the darkness.

I always joke that music is my drug of choice, but it’s true. Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries can get me emotionally high for hours, as can Walkin’ on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. Eclectic, moi?

Skeptical? Go to a concert, a really good one where the band (or singer) engages the crowd. Ride the wave of hundreds or thousands of people singing and dancing and chanting along.

Let me know, what songs get you high? What’s the first music you remember? What gives you that visceral, gut-and-soul reaction? What is the soundtrack of your life?

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Fangirl Friday – All You Need Is Live

Welcome to a new edition of Fangirl Friday! Snowbound in the frozen north (of Texas) mostly because I’m afraid of the loony toons on the road who have no idea how to navigate in weather that we normally don’t get, I’m pretty cozy. It’s all Duran Duran‘s fault.

Last night, I got to see them play live with two of my best friends and one of my sisters. Y’all, I’ve got a confession to make. I am now in love with All You Need Is Now. All the problems I had with it were absent in a live performance. It was a short set because they shared the evening with two other acts, but it was a lovely way to induct my friend Kelly to the wonders of Duran Duran live. Laura and I had spent the morning and afternoon “schooling” her in the ways of Duranies, playing songs they were likely to play, teaching her some of the audience participation stuff they like, and so on.

We braved the icy roads and idiot drivers to get to the Verizon Theater for the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam and ran into my sister, Alia, who had scored a free semi-VIP ticket thanks to one of her friends. After they had been ushered away, our threesome went to find our seats… in the far right corner where we could barely see the stage. While that seems bad, that was a pittance compared to how badly VH-1 managed the evening. But I get ahead of myself.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic time. That, however, was due to the excellent performances despite the poor management of the event. In a three-performer show that started at seven at night, Duran was billed second. That usually means they play second,or at least they would at any other such event. What that means is that Duranies who had no desire to see the first act has no way of knowing that Duran would actually go on first, their bits being recorded to air in the middle of the televised event. Thanks to Twitter, some knew that Duran would be up first. Thanks to my personal paranoia of being late to anything, our group arrived just after the doors opened at six. We saw the Twitter notice after Duran had played.

 As soon as it was announced that Duran was taking the stage, the three of us jumped up, manning our far out post like good soldiers, cheering, hollering, and dancing to save the world. Admittedly, it had been a few years since I’d last seen them, and hearing them again, even at our far away station was happy. They opened with a classic: A View to a Kill. In the proverbial fan groove, when they announced  they were playing a song from the new album, I was admittedly apprehensive. My friend Laura said that my face and posture actually fell at the prospect. However, midway through the first verse, I finally felt what other fans have been saying this far. I was caught up in the brilliance of Being Followed to which my friend next to me was going crazy.  After the next song, Hungry Like the Wolf, VH-1 stopped the show and made my band wait on stage. SOMEONE MADE DURAN DURAN WAIT. I started ducking for fear of flying pigs.

We waited, mostly impatiently, and then a miracle happened. Laura thwapped my arm, pointing. “There’s your sister.” Sure enough, there she was. She leaned over the railing with a half-smile and gestured. I couldn’t believe it. She was inviting me to come with her. Eyes wide, I said, “Can they come with me?” She nodded and the three of us chased her across the venue until she turned into the pit, and they let us down into the pit! And we SCREAMED. The difference was amazing. The band chatted on stage, and my fangirl heart was imagining all the ways they were thrilled to see us get to move closer. Surely we’d made enough ruckus from way out in proverbial left field to get us noticed. And surely we made their evening by cheering like mad women from where we stood a few dozen rows back. I’m almost certain our little group caught at least Simon’s eye once or twice. I mean, Duran knows who belongs to them, you know?

The rest of the concert passed in an overheated blur including two new songs, All You Need is Now and Girl Panic, as well as such classics as Notorious, Come Undone, (Reach Up for the) Sunrise,  and Girls on Film. My sister even took video of me dancing without me being in any way aware of her doing so. I do remember, however, that the two men in front of us just standing there like lumps actually started to clap and dance after a song or two of us singing along and screaming behind them. The big surprise of the evening was that we didn’t hear Rio! Don’t get me wrong–I’ll never turn down Rio if someone happens to play it. However, for the last ten years, the band has closed EVERY show with this song, and I do mean every. When I hear Rio I start mentally preparing to leave wherever I am. To not hear it was lovely.

The joy of the evening, however, was introducing Kelly to one of the loves of my life. Kelly’s a bit younger than me, but she’s been incredibly gracious to indulge my hobby. I was far more excited about taking her to the show than myself even. I wanted to witness that joy I remember feeling when I first saw them live. And as I mentioned before, Kelly didn’t have the history with them that I did. Her main frame of reference for the band was having played along with their music on “Band Hero.” Bless it for existing. So when they concert started, she knew almost none of the songs, despite her brief introduction to the band. She cheered and danced and clapped along with us, and I figured at that point it was mainly due to being swept away with the crowd. All that changed when Girls on Film played. I looked to my left and there she was, screaming loudly enough to be heard above the others, twenty-year old hands in the air waving, and cheeks pointed so far skyward I thought she might float away! She bounced and danced along finally really feeling like one of us. The energy rolling off her was restorative for me, knowing that my well-aging band could capture an entirely new generation who weren’t born until after their fame had withered away. In that way, the band definitely has a point: all I needed was now. Right that moment when we were all surrounded by pure joy and magic. My ego forced my chest out a bit because for all time I will be part of Kelly’s first memory of Duran Duran. In that way, my legacy lives on with theirs.

When we got home, we stayed up to watch the re-airing on VH-1. If I hadn’t been there, and had to rely solely on their representation of the concert, I would’ve been incredibly disappointed in and for my boys. Their set looked short (only 2 songs aired), boring, and the fans look disinterested when they were shown at all. Which brings me back to the subject of my post. Live shows. Nothing beats live. Don’t ever think that seeing a concert aired on “live tv” is the same as watching my band live. If you can go: GO. Always. Every time. No exceptions. No matter how tired, no matter how complicated, no matter WHAT–make the effort. I’ve yet to regret it.

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Duran Duran’s “What Happens Tomorrow”

What Happens Tomorrow

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Welcome to Wordsmith Wednesday, Duran Duran week edition! I chose What Happens Tomorrow off their 2004 album, Astronaut for our discussion pleasure today because, honestly,  I thought we could use a little dose of hope after all the world events that have been unfolding of late. So, without further ado, the lyrics:

What Happens Tomorrow by Duran Duran

Child, don’t you worry

It’s enough you’re growin’ up in such a hurry

Brings you down, the news they sell ya

To put in your mind that all mankind is a failure

But nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

We’ll try not to show how frightened we are

If you’ll let me, I’ll protect you however I can

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright again

Fighting because we’re so close

There are times we punish those who we need the most

No we can’t wait for a saviour

Only got ourselves to blame for this behavior

But nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

We’ll try not to show how frightened we are

It would seem lonely

If you were the only

Star in the night

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright again

And nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

So don’t let go

Now we’ve come this far

Hold my hand please

Understand we’re never alone

We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

(Nobody knows)

We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright my friend

(So don’t let go)

And yes we believe it’ll be alright again

(So don’t let it go)

Ooooh ooooh ooh oooooh

Ooooh ooooh ooh oooooh

 

So, we can see that the song starts out reassuring someone else. As it progresses, we can tell by the switch from “you” to “we” that the lyricist is reassuring himself as well as his audience. The fear has spread, but by reaching out to one another, we can make it through. It’s also, I think, a commentary on the band’s history itself. It was a big leap of faith for John, Simon, Nick, and Roger to work with Andy again. After he had left the first time he, for several years, was nicknamed Mr. Lawsuit Of The Week because he literally kept throwing lawsuits at them over and over. They even mentioned it in the song Notorious, “who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit.” Oh! And look! He flakes out on them AGAIN and they have to scrap almost an entire album to keep him from pulling the same shenanigans.

For me, this song represents hope in the face of fear, despair, and mistrust. Whether that hope is misplaced or not isn’t the point. We need hope more than just about anything, especially when things are at their most bleak. The first time I heard this song I cried, because it filled me with a hope I desperately needed. I felt safe, protected, for the first time in years. The point is that hope and solidarity makes us stronger, more able to face the unknown of tomorrow.

It shocked me, although it shouldn’t have, how relevant this song still feels after seven years. The simplicity of the lyrics belie the depth and breadth of their scope. “We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end.”

What do these lyrics say to you?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre (album)

No, your eyes do not deceive, I am posting Music Review Monday on a Tuesday. Fact is, my internet was down yesterday. Sorry about that, you guys!

Welcome to Duran Duran week on the blog! Why? Well, I’ll be going to see them perform live at the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam on Thursday. You know how it goes, you get so excited about who you’re gonna see that you can’t think of anything else, so I thought, why fight it?

Now, having thirteen studio albums, not to mention all the various side projects and whatnot, there’s a plethora of material from which to choose. In the end, because I’m also a gamer, I asked a friend to roll a twelve-sided die. I attributed a number to each of the first twelve studio albums since we’ll have a review of lucky number thirteen when it comes out on CD.

Left with a roll of twelve, we get to discuss Red Carpet Massacre. Duran Duran’s twelfth studio album was released in November of 2007. If asked to describe it in one word, I’d have to go with lush. The sound is just full and sensuous, beckoning you to enter their magical, musical world. A large number of Duranies would disagree with me. They didn’t like it, thought it contrived and/or lackluster.

It was the album I’d been waiting for my whole life.

 I’ll admit, I was as  leery as everyone else of them working with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Danja. Personally, I thought they should have worked with Timberlake’s former band mate, JC Chasez. I was never so happy to be wrong, let me tell you! The overall style of the album is tight, consistent, well-balanced among vocals and instruments, really a testament to what brilliant producers can do working with brilliant artists.

We start off with The Valley. Already I’m swaying in my seat to the beat, before Simon starts singing. The lyrics take me on a journey “through the cities and the towers, turning minutes into hours” as I sink into the instrumentation. When John’s bass solo comes up, it’s like being lifted into the storm clouds where the gods thunder. Sometimes my heart starts to beat in time to Roger’s beat, even as my veins sing along with Nick’s keyboards. Side note: everyone in the world should hear Simon Le Bon sing the word “mischievous” because it gets under your skin in all the best ways. Normally I don’t dig heavy breathing in a song, but the I’m-running-from-something feel really fits in here.

 Red Carpet Massacre opens with a dream-like interlude from Nick that alters to a pounding synth and drums tempo that wakes your senses with its brightness. Simon comes in with fast-paced lyrics that create a complementary rhythm all its own.  The chorus slams in with vocals and all instruments like a  wave of sound, carrying you away and giving the whole thing a sort of stylishly embattled feel. In interviews, Simon has said he was inspired by seeing the worst-dressed lists after an awards show, that the stars in question were being massacred by the reporter. “Enter the battle of the lenses” indeed! There’s even a warning to those who would brave the red carpet: “Ain’t the place to mess around when someone wants to take you down!” It’s fast, unrelenting, and an energizing shock to the system.

Nite Runner, one of the two songs in which Timberlake was involved, is a throbbing, pulsing club song about, as near as I can tell, falling for a  vampire. “You’re nocturnal, only come out at night,” the opening lines, definitely draw you into the concept, especially with Simon’s voice luring you on and Timbaland’s providing a deep counterpoint. From the liner notes I can see that Timberlake has also contributed backing vocals, but his voice blends so well that it’s indistinguishable unless you really hunker down and search for it. “Love is haunting,” and that’s just what this song does, deliciously haunts us into dancing.

Falling Down, the only other song on the album to which Timberlake contributes, and the only single is a danceable ballad. Inspired by Simon’s motorcycle accident, both vocals and keyboards undulate in a constant rise and fall, the rhythm section holding steady and strong. The effect is that of a body tumbling through space, the solid ground the only constant as you hit, bounce up, and fall again continuously. “Why do the cruel barbs fly? Now when disgrace can no longer hurt me?” reminds us that, even in their less popular times the press seemed to have taken joy in mocking Duran for the crime of refusing to fade into obscurity back in the eighties. Dom Brown provides a beautifully haunting guitar piece that melts into the piano outro.

Box Full o’ Honey starts out simply, just Simons voice and acoustic guitar. The other instruments come in one by one, building into a round, full sound that fills you up. The pipe sounds dimly echo, or at least recall Save A Prayer in some ways, a welcome familiarity. The centerpiece of this song is definitely Simon’s voice, the instruments lifting, supporting, highlighting him as we flow along.

Skin Divers, probably the first song they should have released, thumps in, demanding you be caught up in the beat. Simon croons in the lower regions of his range, beckoning you to move with him as the disco ball comes down, getting caught up, up against the wall… Ahem.  The song, for all it’s driving beat, flows through your veins, Timbaland’s voice a perfect, heartbeat-like counterpoint. It also contains my very favorite lyric of all time: “A blushing rose is torn from these sugar walls, I misplaced my future, could I please borrow yours?”

Tempted slides in, more airy and floaty than the rest of the album, but no less compelling. It’s poppy and peppy from top to bottom, carefree, tempting you once more out onto the dance floor. “Like you know it’s meant to, oh yeah.” It feathers along our nerves, through our veins, until we’re flying along, lost in the beat.

Tricked Out is an instrumental piece, a bit helter-skelter for my tastes. Even so, I like the way it sounds as though it’s what the aliens have playing on their spaceship as they check out the strange humans.

Zoom In is about Second Life, a virtual world where users can interact with one another through infinitely customizable avatars. In 2005, before Andy Taylor left Duran for the second time, there were plans in the works for the band to create their own islands and have an in-world concert. We’re still waiting. The song itself is just as surreal as SL itself can be, neatly capturing the spirit of the Linden Labs creation. It’s definitely a fun, danceable song that’s letting you in on a secret joke. “Now she arrives in a flaming crash like a falling star!”

She’s Too Much is a beautiful ballad that Simon has said was inspired by his middle daughter, Saffron. It’s reassuring, sweet, and full of love, letting her know that Daddy’s watching and will be there to catch her when she falls, be fighting in her corner.  All too often we hear of absentee fathers and deadbeat dads, that part of the beauty of the song is that it reminds us that there are fathers out there who love their children, want the best for them.

Dirty Great Monster is a great source of debate among certain Duranie factions. The band firmly states that it’s about an abusive home, the monster being the abuser. However, at first superficial blush, much to the glee of the fandom slashers, it sounds almost like the band are admitting something about their inter-relationships with one another. “Do you ever wonder about the days when we were straight?” The music is haunting and would be right at home in the soundtrack of a horror film about parental abuse. “We’re all afraid of each other, we’re the victims in this show.” It captures that hunted mistrust rife in such an atmosphere. So well in fact that, brilliant or no, it makes me uncomfortable listening to it sometimes, recalling my own episode of abuse at the hands of a roommate from years ago.

Last Man Standing is the final song on the album. It ties everything up together, just as a good finale should, pulling in the dance-ability, musicality, and themes of previous songs into a neat little package. Rather than having dessert at the end of the musical repast, it’s a cup of rich, dark coffee over which we gather and reflect about the meal just finished.

So what do you think? Is there an album that makes a full meal for you?

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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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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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