Friday, November 13, 2009

This Is Not Only A Test

      Today I am reminded of the famous Herman Melville quote:  "To produce a mighty blog, you must choose a mighty theme."  Done and done.  I didn't get on the bus until it was down the road a ways, but I'm enjoying the ride.  Thanks, boys.
Part One
     Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let's get down to brass
tacks.  Every so often I like to perform a test on myself (no, not that kind, silly!).  It's quite simple:  I listen to the Billy Joel song "Uptown Girl", and try to register my reactions in a brutally honest fashion.  I did this a year or so ago--well, I should say that I attempted to, but I just couldn't bear it for more than, I dunno, 45 seconds or so.  Last night I tried again, and lo and behold, I was able to listen to it all the way through.  Granted, I periodically burst out laughing every few bars, but the fact remains that I listened to the whole song.  You may be wondering (and well you should): Why would someone do such a thing?  And what does it all mean?  Well, I've been wondering that myself.  I admit that I've crossed many a line in the last few years:  the Huey Lewis line, the REO Speedwagon line, the Foreigner line.  (You get the picture).  And when you realize that you no longer have any shame (or at least possess very little), naturally your thoughts turn to Billy Joel.  "But wait!"  I can hear you saying.  "This is madness!  Is there no limit?  Is there not a line that shall never be crossed?!?"   Okay, whoa--calm down... I believe there is, or at least I hope so.  I do this in the spirit of fearless research into the deepest recesses of human consciousness.  Future generations will benefit, I assure you.  [An aside:  I just reread Lefty's post on BJ (still can't get over that ankle watch), and recommend his take on the issue].  Okay, I admit that I also listened to "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)", without many feelings of revulsion.  It made me realize something:  The only Billy Joel album that ever crossed the threshold of the family home (if memory serves) was one that one of my older sisters borrowed from a friend, and I'm pretty sure I heard that song being played a few times when I was a wee lad.  (I've been blessed--and I use that term unironically--with four older siblings who all had positive influences on the formation of my musical tastes).  So I'm thinking there must by some sort of subconscious--oops, not anymore!--deep-rooted Billy Joel aversion dating back years, simply because none of my siblings ever bought one of his albums.  Quite the revelation, I know.  So where does this leave me, or any of us?  It's hard to say.  I still don't really understand why I now enjoy listening to certain songs that I used to sneer at when I was a high schooler.  Maybe it's just the fact that the shame/cool factor has slowly whithered away.  Some might say I'm the better for it.  I'm not sure.  Anyway, go ahead and do the "Uptown Girl" test--it's fun, and the results are always interesting!  (And hey, "Movin' Out" isn't so bad, really...)  (Uh-oh...)...  (I almost forgot--check this clip out--it still cracks me up every time...)
Part Two
     We decided to take a different route, and ended up driving through a small town called Graniteville.  We passed some old factories that looked like they had been dormant for a while, and rows of small, tidy houses that were probably built for the no-longer-working factory workers.  We crossed a canal and some railroad tracks, and saw a few nice old houses.  We found out later that there had been a terrible accident there a few years ago, something involving railroad cars and chlorine.  That didn't stop us from driving back through a few days later, though.  After a few miles we happened upon an old junk store.  It was really a classic, straight out of central casting.  Old black guy sitting in a chair on the side, staring.  A ton of mostly useless stuff.  I asked the lady who ran the place if there were any records, and she pointed me in the right direction.  Like a junkie desperate for another fix, I started pawing though the musty, dusty stacks of vinyl, and soon that old familiar feeling started to set in.  It's sort of like nausea, or maybe nausea is just one component of the over-all feeling.  You could say it's existential, I suppose.  (But who would want to?)  It's partly due to the physical sensations--the dimness, the dust.  But there's also that feeling of pointlessness, and the thought "Am I really that much of a loser?" never fails to creep into the brain.  Sometimes, there's really nothing, not even a funny album cover, and that's pretty depressing.  But then sometimes, like this time, you find a record like the Raspberries' first one, and all those thoughts of loserdom vanish.  I had known about the Raspberries for a while, Eric Carmen, etc., but I never listened to them before.  More importantly, I never knew that this album had a scratch 'n sniff sticker on the front.  You heard me right.  How cool is that?  Yes, I scratched, and I sniffed, and there it was--I could still smell the scent of raspberries (or at least, manufactured raspberry aroma).  Sometimes the album jacket is more interesting than the music inside.  It reminds me of the Hargus "Pig" Robbins album I found one time--it's got Braille on it.  Him being a blind pianist and all.
     I also found this Ambrosia album, which I hadn't even realized I wanted.  I love the lame high-school-art-class-psychedelia cover.
It was 1975, but they didn't care!  Perhaps psychedelic art never goes out of style, for some people.  Apparently these guys all played on an Alan Parsons record.  So there you go.  The one hit is "Holdin' On To Yesterday", which I believe is the perfect tune for this here blog.  For isn't that what we're all doing?  Holding on to the music of yesterday,  in a vain attempt to [fill in the blank]?
(Come to think of it, I can't believe that no-one's ever written about the Raspberries or Ambrosia on this blog.  Strange).  Besides those two albums, I also found a Hall & Oates record--the one with "Kiss On My List" and "You Make My Dreams" (a must-have, in other words); The Best of Freddy Fender (which features a picture of him with a huge fake cactus between his legs); and something called Les Baxter's Jungle Jazz.  The beat goes on.


Lefty said...

Fab post, my frond.

Billy Joel remains the infuriating conundrum that keeps on ... conundrumming. See Ron Rosenbaum's takedown on Slate a while back and the ensuing melee in the comments section.

As for the Raspberries, we did touch on them once before:

Would be interested to hear what the Jungle Jazz sounds like.

Frankie Lee said...

Indeed. The conundrumming continues. Funny, I searched the blog for Raspberries before I wrote that but your fine post didn't come up. Come to think of it, I probably just didn't scroll down far enough. My bad. Gotta check that Slate article out. Thanks for the kind words!

Lefty said...

Woo boy that Ambrosia is smooooove sailing, in't? Good one, a serious oversight by P&L, for sure.

Young Ian said...

"Go All the Way" was in heavy rotation for a few weeks on KCBQ when I was probably fifteen. I heard it plenty but never listened to it. I didn't hear it again for twenty years, at which time I experienced one of those delicious moments where you hear a perfect tune that you completely forgot, and it's like a brand new memory. Then it hit me--"Go all the way?! They're talking about FUCKING!" I mean, I was familiar with the idiom--it just didn't register. All the inane arguments about lyrics I used to have with my fellow AM radio audience members, and that went right by me.