Monday, August 30, 2010


If you've read this blog for more than five minutes, you know this about me: I hate sports, and I love music. And I know every generation thinks their music is the best, but really--my generation's truly is the best. I have absolutely no idea what's playing today--I hear names thrown around, but I couldn't tell you anything about them. It's like that saying: I used to be with it, but now what I'm with isn't it and what is it somehow seems strange and scary to me.

My brother, Chuck, is a music aficionado and always has been. My mom had this lovely vision of us becoming classical musicians some day, so when we were in grade school she started Chuck on the cello and me on the violin. After seven years of violin lessons and basically all I could reasonably play was "Turkey in the Straw," I was able to let it go. Chuck repeatedly forgot to bring his cello to school for orchestra practice (my mom always wondered why?!) because by then he had discovered...the guitar. To give my mom credit, she and my dad scraped together and bought him a guitar and a few lessons, but after that he was pretty much self-taught. Our house was filled with music from the guitar greats: BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Phil Keaggy, etc. That cello was long-forgotten, until one day many years later, my mom happened to tell a group of Chuck's extra cool friends that he used to play, giving them the opportunity to mercilessly call him "Cello Boy" for some time thereafter.

When we were in high school, my dad bought us a car to share: a Datsun 210 (who's with me?). It had five speeds, plenty of rust, no power steering, power brakes, locks, anything. However, the first thing Chuck and I did was pool our money for a sweet stereo system for that car. Pri-or-i-ties, readers. We spent our high school years cruising around in that baby, playing our music at top volume.

A few weeks ago, a colleague of Darren's who happens to read this blog and knows I love music said to him, "Have Alice make a list of some of her favorite songs." So I did, and lo and behold, last Friday when Darren was in the office, Jeff gave him a CD of my song list. He made me a mix tape! I have been playing it non-stop ever since and have actually started locking my car doors--for fear someone will steal my CD.

What is on it?--I know you're asking. Only a sampling of the best music of my generation--most of these songs are from the UK (shocker, I know), but there are a few Americans, too. I'll give you a list and links if I can so you can listen if you're so inclined. I'll provide commentary for a few of them; if I provided commentary for all of them, this would be the longest blog post in history so I'll try to limit it. Some of them I'll just label "SAHABHSO" = "Song Alice Has Almost Blown Her Speakers On."

So, hop in my Datsun 210 with me and let's crank it.

1. Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp. Yeah, we've already been over this one and how I feel about it.

2. Der Kommissar by After the Fire.

3. Rock the Casbah by the Clash (SAHABHSO)

4. King of Pain by the Police. Let me just say about this one: I was obviously not an athlete in high school. Nor was I academic. Pep club, spirit rallies, whatever...I was far above all that. I was busy reading dark poetry, listening to my Sony Walkman, and thinking deep existential thoughts to be bothered with plebian high school pursuits. I was overwhelmed with the pain of the world and my existence (you know, in Wheaton with my nice, stable family). I know, there was a name for students like me: l-o-s-e-r. After school I worked at a printing company and would hang out in the back alley with all my smoking co-workers for smoke breaks. I didn't smoke because, hello, it's bad for you. Anyway, this song was manna to my angst-ridden soul. I will say, a couple months ago I told Chuck, "'King of Pain' is the greatest Police song ever," and he said, "Yup. That is a great song," which is one of the few things he's agreed with me on musically ever, so see? The song just keeps on giving.

5. Burning Down the House by Talking Heads (SAHABHSO) (Also, I got tired of looking up songs on youtube and linking to them. I'm gonna let you do it now.)

6. Only You by Yaz. Yaz and Erasure. Gotta love them both.

7. Karma Chameleon by Culture Club

8. Jump by Van Halen. OK, this was from 1984--both the album and the year. I was, oddly enough for a non-sports enthusiast, totally interested in the winter Olympics that year, especially figure skating. And I had this Walter Mitty-esque fantasy that I was an Olympic champion skater with my gold medal-winning routine done to "Jump." It was awesome and only slightly ironic, seeing as that I have a hard time not tripping over my own feet just walking around ordinarily, let alone not even being able to stand up on ice skates.

9. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham. When I first played this CD last week, Elaine heard this song and said, "I have to get up and dance now." Exactly.

10. Things Can Only Get Better by Howard Jones. When Darren heard this, he said, "Did you know this was the title or did you just think it was 'Whoa Whoa Whoa'?" Sigh. Sometimes it's like we're complete strangers living in the same house.

11. Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting.

12. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel (SAHABHSO)

13. Dancing on the Ceiling by Lionel Richie (Chuck's eyes would roll back in his head if he heard this choice. I don't care. I embrace Lionel.)

14. Tearing Us Apart by Eric Clapton and Tina Turner. A few months before she died, my mom was talking to me about my brother and she said, "I was so sad when Chuck moved out of the house. I mean, I knew it was time for him to have his own place. But he took all the music with him. I missed that Eric Clapton." It was hard to pick one Clapton song, but since I have some of his CDs, I picked this one because it's a double bonus since it's got Tina there, too.

15. Angel of Harlem by U2. Last fall when Jennie and I were doing one of our workshops, an IT guy was helping us set up. He said he was a DJ on his off hours and we asked, "So, do you play anything we would like?" He paused and considered us for a few moments, unsure what to say. (I was thinking, "If this bloke says Lynyrd Skynyrd, I'm going to have to belt him one.") But he said cautiously, "Um, U2?" Now I'm one of the few people who actually doesn't like U2, but I do love this one.

16. Top of the World by Van Halen. Really, your only question for this song should be: do I play air guitar or air drums with it? Growing up around all that guitar music, I always thought I'd marry a guitarist, when, surprise, I married a drummer. So I guess the answer is, whichever one you're married to. Oh, and sweet romantic story, Darren sold his drum kit to buy my engagement ring. And no, I didn't simultaneously sell my hair to buy him some drumsticks.

17. What's the Frequency, Kenneth? by R.E.M.

There you have it, my mix CD. We're getting ready for our annual road trip to Memphis, so this will come in very handy.

Thanks, Jeff!

And now, here's one last 80s memory. This is a picture of me, circa 1984. Remember--I am a deeply wounded being from the suburbs, tormented and world-weary, bearing all the sturm und drang of the universe. Call a guidance counselor, stat.

OK--so you're making a mix tape (I know, it's called an iPod--I actually have one! It's filled with James MacDonald sermons now...): what are you putting on it?


Chris said...

Is it okay if I use sports illustrations sometimes, so long as I work in an occasional music reference?

Remember - Paul was the one who brought up athletes.

Melanie said...

I love this post! Great memories that brought many of my own to mind & love the tunes! I need one of those i-thingys.
Have a great trip to MEMPHIS!

picturingme said...

Sting, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel...doesn't get any better! I love this post, too! I need to start listening to more 80s music, although I enjoy my classical station. -Seeing your picture from HS brought me back, were so '80s! (I'm thinking that I was, too ;-)

picturingme said...

Speaking of Van Halen & the 80s, the "Right Now" video was done by a guy from Glen Ellyn-Mark Fenske...his mother, Marlene Fenske, is the one in the video where she kisses the screen (about three minutes in)...they went to my church. Isn't that fascinating?! ;-)

Juliet said...

All I have to say...I Want to hear you play, Turkey in the Straw!! Can that be arranged and recorded for me. LOL