Most of my music tastes in high school ran to hair metal bands, but Concrete Blonde was the one group I listened to that could be considered “college radio material.”* I have a lot of memories of Concrete Blonde, but for some reason, I associate this song with two girls whose names have been lost to time. They were a year older than me. Both of them were drama chicks, so I found them somewhat annoying in that hyper drama chick way. But they also seemed incredibly sophisticated, girls who drank coffee in coffee shops, who had read Gurtrude Stein and possibly understood her, who had figured out how to drink at parties without getting drunk. As seniors, they edited the high school’s literary magazine and probably went to colleges like Oberlin, or Brown. At least they seemed as if they did. One was somewhat tall and willowy, with long brown hair. Once she wore a dancer’s leotard to school with a long broomstick skirt. The leotard exposed her long, thin back almost to her waist and had me wondering if I could pull off such a style. The other one was a similar height, with curly hair and small eyes that seemed to be narrowed as if she was constantly processing the happenings around her. I think she must have sung this song at a talent show. I wonder what’s become of them both?
*College radio. It was a phrase used a lot when I was in high school, but I never hear it now. Why is that?
Welcome to a new feature. Here I will feature a song from my past and the specific memory or person I associate with it. My goal is to be descriptive and brief, summing things up in one, and only one, paragraph. My goal also might be to torture you with songs from my past. We shall see.
I hate this song for a variety of reasons: it was overplayed, it’s schmaltzy, the title begins with a parenthetical statement, it’s an example of Bryan Adams at the end of his fame, not the lean, hungry rocker he was in the 80s. But I didn’t always hate this song. When it first came out, I liked it for its subservient, romantic lyrics and I think the piano chords at the beginning suckered me in. But I spent too much time with it–there was no escaping it for a good six months, both on MTV and the radio–and by the time they finally stopped playing it I absolutely loathed it. I associate it with my first boyfriend, probably because it was the love song for the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, that lackluster Kevin Costner effort I loved because I was sixteen and didn’t know any better. We must have seen it together on a date . But it occurs to me now that my trajectory with the song mirrors our relationship trajectory: I liked him, there was infatuation, too much time together, and when it was all over I hated him.
In case you hadn’t heard, albums are back, as evidenced by their appearance in my local not-hip-at-all Fred Meyer store. Now you youth who grew up with the tiny pictures on the CD covers, or the mp3 files with no picture at all can put the needle to the record and gaze at the cover art and record sleeves as you listen, just as your parents and grandparents did before you. But, what’s this? $16.99 for a record that is older than me? Don’t do it. Find it used in the record stores, but don’t let the record companies rip you off. Albums used to be $9.99, tops. The promise of “new technology” let CDs be sold for double the price (when they cost less to make than an album or cassette). Don’t pay CD prices for a record album, even if it is brand new.
The music at church this week was burbling with joy. There was a huge turnout, even on a gray day in November for the 9:15 service. You could feel the happiness and relief and the joy that the election was over and we had turned a corner.
You too can listen along thanks to the magic of YouTube: Prelude: “The Entertainer” Scott Joplin
Introit: “Walk Together Children” Spiritual Arranged by Moses Hogan, sung by the Chamber Choir (our “A” choir)
Hymn #203 “All Creatures of the Earth and Sky”
Doxology #123 “Spirit of Life.” We sing this every week. There is no good choral version of this online, so you can listen to this solo.
Offertory: Prelude #2 by George Gershwin
Anthem “The Promise of Living” from Tender Land by Aaron Copland, sung by the Chamber Choir
Hymn #149 “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (One of my top five favorites in our Hymnal.) Sheesh it is hard to find an equivalent of how we sing this on You Tube. We sing it fast and straight through. I’m not so thrilled with this arrangement, but it was the best I could find.
Postlude: Hoe-down from Rodeo by Aaron Copland. But played on an organ.
I found myself wondering if they chose such joyous music long ago, because if the election came out the way we wanted we would celebrate and if it did not, we could be cheered by it. But for all I know they came in Wednesday morning and said, “Let’s go with the happy stuff.”
However it was chosen, it was a joy to experience, and we did sing out.
Back in high school, I used to really love music. I spent a lot of time buying records and tapes (never Cd’s) listening to the radio, and I loved going to concerts.
Music is much more removed from my life today. So many things have changed. Clear Channel bought all the stations, concert tickets are about three times what I used to pay, I don’t drive a car anymore, and the car was where I listened to a lot of music. I haven’t seen MTV in years, but last time I watched, four hours went by before I saw a video. I listen to NPR to catch up on news and get Cd’s from the library instead of buying them. But I did love a band called Concrete Blonde and when I saw the former lead singer, Johnette Napolitano was playing at the Noon Tunes this August, I made sure to get myself there.
It was just Johnette and her guitar, but she was great. Her voice is still incredibly powerful. Often she would step back from the mike when she really belted out a note. This woman brought Johnette a present and kept wanting her to open it. She danced by herself off to the side for the entire concert. I mostly found her a distraction.
Johnette wore those gold heels out to the stage, promptly took them off and played her whole set barefoot. Then she put on her shoes and walked back off stage. The majority of people at the concert were probably like myself, older and plumper then they were when we first heard those songs. Some people had their kids there, like this woman, who still managed to look hip while taking care of her three. Johnette played some of her own songs, some Concrete Blonde songs, some Coldplay and even the old standard “Smile Though Your Heart is Aching.” The guy next to me was a true fan and sang along with every song she sang, even songs that weren’t hers. She ended with “Joey” and came back for an encore of her own version of “Mercedes Benz” which started, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a biodiesal Mercedes Benz”