Category Archives: Music

Charcoal Grill

I’ve joked for years that if I ever need dentures or implants that I’m getting BLACK teeth. It’ll be awesome and perhaps scary. Now that I’m dabbling in the infamous rap genre and will have a suitable dark grill to highlight my talent, I’m considering using an artist/stage name I devised several years ago: Charcoal Grill. ..

PS I’ve pretty much got the 50+ rap market cornered here. .

A Follow-Up on Miley

Yesterday, I posted on my blog about the Miley Cyrus cover of “Heart Of Glass.” I hadn’t seen the live video until then. Several people commented, and all who did so loved the song. Regardless, such things are subjective as hell. That’s okay. There are times when I can’t explain why some songs earworm their way into my head and others don’t.

I also mentioned that Miley’s performance was sensual. It was.

More importantly, it reminds me that people will always bring their own filters to anything shared, voiced, or written.

Even if they are wrongly stretching words to mean things they don’t.

Take the word ‘sensual,’ for instance; it is NOT a congruent synonym for ‘sexual.’ It CAN be used similarly. But when someone deliberately uses ‘sensual’ in context, it doesn’t signal that the reader should infer whatever meaning they wish to, especially with the intent to change the intended spirit of what’s said or written.

In the spirit of honesty, this performance is very provocative. But it is her voice that is the focal point of the song for me. The internet is full of much more revealing content, if that’s what I’m after. Her song, “Midnight Sky,” among others, is certainly more focused on sexuality. I love that song, too.

We see a lot more skin at swimming pools and beaches. And tv shows, in catalogs, at Walmart, in commercials, sporting events, and just about everywhere else.

While I’m not one to brazenly advocate provocative behavior, it’s none of my business when an artist chooses to do so. I can click away. But don’t fault me for saying that a particular song is sensual. Or sexual, either, if I had been making that argument.

My sexual proclivities aren’t something that I expound on in public, but I could. We are all humans with similar desires and behavior. There is no shame in saying someone is sensual, sexual, or beautiful. It’s an acknowledgment of our senses. Being 54 doesn’t detract from my human response.

The whole point of my previous post was to say that the song resonates with me powerfully.

Love, X

And Miley Sings…

I’ve long been a fan of Miley Cyrus, even when she became controversial. I didn’t know her until after her Disney run. Her cover of “Jolene” opened my ears to her ability to sing.

Hannah Montana aside, I find her voice to somehow echo something in my head when I listen to her sing. Her voice certainly isn’t angelic or pure.

And along came her single “Heart of Glass,” a cover of Blondie’s hit.

The first time I heard this, I felt like it was the way the song should have been recorded in the first place. Whether everyone else agrees with me or not, but somehow I understood the lyrics with her version.

It’s raucous, a little uncontrolled, and 100% one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Broken voices always add an extra measure of something that I find compelling.

And then I saw the video of her singing live. I’ve honestly never thought of her as anything other as interesting and a singer with an amazing voice, one who constantly defies genres. Whether I’m supposed to say so or not, everything about her in this video is distilled sensuality. It’s hard to look away. I’m 54, but not dead.

I loved “Midnight Sky,” as well as “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” and “Younger Now,” too. If you want a treat, get on YouTube and give the Miley Cyrus – Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix) with Stevie Nicks a listen. She does a few other covers that are worth a listen.

I know Miley isn’t for everyone.

I hope she does a lot more covers, especially rock covers. Her voice bangs a gong in my head when I hear her wail.

The Dream Song

In another life, one I almost lived, I was a musician.

A few nights ago, I found myself inside a dream so real that it was impossible to move my head, even in the dream.

The song began, wrapped in gauze, growing in intensity, like a delayed crescendo.

Even when I awoke, the song intensified in my head.

I sat up on the side of the bed, repeating the reverb chorus of it over and over.

I’m not convinced I was dreaming.

The melodic voice on top of this track eludes me, although I can remember most of the lyrics, which in itself is unusual for me.

The protagonist in my dream danced and moved in accompaniment to the unsettling music, eyes locked in on mine. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but whether fortuitous or calamitous, I didn’t care. The movements were like an unending crescendo.

Though I haven’t used it much in several months, I opened several iterations of my music software and began compiling the components of the song from my dream. Although one’s dreams always convey a couple of levels that honestly aren’t experiential, the result is reasonably close.

And even now, as I listen with headphones, I feel like I might be sitting in two places simultaneously, so powerful was the feeling of being in two places at once while I dreamed. It’s a good thing I haven’t used drugs.

A Stolen Memory

It was barely noon on an unassuming Tuesday, under a bright January sky, one warring with both sapphire and translucent clouds, in front of a store where passersby failed to notice that a moment was within their reach if they’d only pause, appreciate, and listen.

Almost no one took notice. Each hurried past, taking sideways glances at the older busker with his guitar cradled in his hands, the case propped open on the ground adjacent to the bench on which he perched.

Entering the store with my attention diverted, I didn’t pause. The musician was silent upon my entrance. My mind swirled with the details of what might interest me.

As I exited the store with my cart, the air filled with chords and a broken voice singing simple words. It’s hard to mimic the simplicity of a simple melody, especially when the voice accompanying it has walked countless miles and endured unimaginable heartache. We all recognize such voices. While we might appreciate the songbirds who sing effortlessly, it is difficult to deafen our ears to a voice that adds gravel to what most of us find in our hearts.

I walked the long parking lot, almost to the outer perimeter abutting the access road. The busker’s voice receded to a whisper behind me. I threw my scant purchases into the car and walked back. Giving the musician time to finish his song, I handed him $20 and asked if he knew any Merle Haggard. He sheepishly said he didn’t, which surprised me. Merle’s voice accompanying his would have been akin to walking into an old country church to find the place filled to the rafters with song, the kind any voice could join without embarrassment.

I told him, “Surprise me.” And he did.

I walked around the column and wall behind him and leaned against it as he played. It wasn’t Merle. But it was more. As the song ended, he tentatively leaned around and said, here’s one I wrote called “Ball and Chain.”

As people entered and exited the storefront, as they drove by and looked in our direction, the older man sang his song. And then another, one probably chosen because of my initial request.

As he played “Horse With No Name,” I realized I never thought of the song that way before. As sometimes happens, I heard the song for the first time through the man’s voice. As the chords diminished and the strings went quiet, I walked over and handed him another $20. “God bless you,” he told me, making eye contact. I could tell he genuinely meant it. “God bless you, too,” I told him – and not reflexively, either.

Though you might not understand why, I confess that there were tears in my eyes as I pivoted and walked away.

A took a piece of the sapphire sky with me as I left, tucked away as a memory I know I will retain. I looked across the expanse of the parking lot and saw the man singing another song. He probably wondered who I am and what my story might be. I’m a man with no name – but a lot of moments and memories.

After this afternoon, I have another.

Potato-Peeled Heart

The title of this post popped into my head as I ran from work today. All of us have our struggles. I catch myself in surprise by the dusk in my head. Though I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, I’d walked across the parking lots and sidewalks in the rain, still wearing my mask. It was an absurd moment. “Lost in my thoughts” doesn’t begin to describe the floorless circumstance of my mind. If you’re lucky, you’ve had meditative moments of selflessness like that. In dense moments, they often save us from what streams in our heads.

Ricardo Arjona recently released another album. One of the songs, “El Amor Que Me Tenía,” among others, hit me like an anvil. I learned a lot of poetry and vocabulary from Arjona. He’s known for his turn of phrase. It fundamentally resonates with me. Musicians like him broke open the capacity in me to see beyond language. If Spanish were to become my primary language, I would devote myself to speaking like Ricardo Arjona writes his music, no matter how perplexed people become. I find myself wishing we spoke English the same way, too, but it is difficult to find anyone interested and willing to spend the day deconstructing the absurdity and content of what we say. (Yes, such a willingness is one of the things by which I evaluate a person. Those who demonstrate such an interest won’t ever be disappointed by circumstance.)

One of my co-workers from another department is an avid Arjona fan, too. He got excited when he realized that I had the new album. It amazes him that a gringo like me can appreciate such musicians’ subtle capture in his native language. I brought it, and though we don’t overlap many hours a week at work, I played it on the computer/jukebox I rebuilt at work. Today, my co-worker returned briefly to pick up something. He asked me to put “El Amor Que Me Tenía” on again. I did and increased the volume in the vast space to the point that the angels trembled. I left him there in the back of the room. As the song started, he sat and listened with the rapt attention of one enthralled. It’s rare to see another adult so rapturously engage with a song. When the song ended, he stayed seated for the next song. He emerged from the shadowy area in the back and looked reinvigorated. Whatever it is in that song, it found its way inside him. We now have a shorthand we can use to connect to that kind of music and message.

Whatever the moment with his immersion in the song was, it is a shame that we don’t have such moments several times a day. They ground us in our humanity, and in the parts of our lives we let slide from our grasp.
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P.S. “This amazing story was brought to you by me.”
(A line I felt obligated to steal from a winsome writer.)

It’s Just a Song

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A couple of nights ago, I was scrolling YouTube on the FireTv app. I tend to discover a trove of songs in other languages. When I began to learn Spanish enough to discover nuance, music in Spanish opened my mind and heart to other styles I hadn’t appreciated. There are many words that I still associate with the first time I understood them through music. Artists with clear voices gave my dubious English-oriented mind the opportunity to understand them.

If I’ve heard it before, I don’t remember it. A song titled, “¿Quién Dice Que No?” by Oscar Cruz played. The video was overly dramatic but the song in its simplicity hit me in the face. Listening to the song again, I was struck by the simple majesty of Oscar’s voice.

As I do with all such songs, I listened to it several more times the next day.

Curiosity overtook me. I discovered that Oscar Cruz won the first season of the Mexican version of “The Voice.” And rightly so. The show and his judge/coach failed to return Oscar’s contribution by helping him afterward. After all, people like Oscar are what makes the judges million dollar salaries possible. While Oscar plays several instruments and has a booming voice, his advancing age make stardom an elusive goal for him.

While there is a lot of his music I’m not partial too, I will always remember the first time I heard this song. Oscar plays several instruments.

After reading about Oscar’s story, I realized I had seen his performance of Piano Man in Spanish on La Voz Mexico a few years ago.

I wonder what he thinks of his momentary fame a decade ago.

¿Quién Dice Que No?

Sketchy ________

sexy mf

NSFW warning: this story is true. It contains references that will make curse words materialize in your head. (Not that watching the news doesn’t cause the same reaction, regardless of which camp you root for.) If you know the song, there’s no use pretending you’re offended. This story, however, reminds people of the fact that I’m not one to be offended at profanity per se; the sentiment underlying the language is the only offending force at work when profanity makes its appearance.

For real, though? You’re still reading? Stop reading. You will get offended or be put in the position that obligates you to pretend you’re offended. (A common affliction we all seem to suffer from more and more.)
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Most of us have our profane “in-jokes,” ones which defy meticulous explanation.

One of mine is “Sketchy _____________.”

If someone passes by who looks like he just jumped out of bed after a long night in a beer-filled ditch, I laugh and sing a line from a Prince song. Its radio title was “Sexy M.F.” You can google it if you need to.

Likewise, if someone looks like a rejected extra from “Silence of The Lambs,” the dicey parts, I’ll croon the line in an even creepier falsetto. If they look like a failed professional bowler wearing stuff from his mom’s closet, he gets the “Sexy M.F.” Prince song. The only requirement is that I change “sexy” to “sketchy.”

Shortly after the new road bypassing Old Wire in North Springdale was finished, we were waiting at the light at 264. One of the weirdest people I’ve ever seen in my life was waiting on the opposite side of the intersection. He looked like Axe Body Spray had mated with Domino’s Pizza and produced a child. I suspect that even his birth certificate had been stamped “Suspicious.”

I sang the lyric wrong without thinking. Comedy gold was born.

If you’re ever around me and we see someone really wickedly strange, just nod and I’ll do the thing. There are few joys greater than hearing me sing in a falsetto, especially in regard to an obscure Prince song.

In closing, don’t be a “Sketchy ____________.”

Or I’ll sing at you as you pass by.

Top Gun, Otis Redding, And a Coincidence

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In the movie Top Gun, when Maverick (Tom Cruise) goes to Charlie’s House, most people remember the iconic song “Take My Breath Away.” For me, though, the song that stole the moment was Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay.” Toto originally was supposed to do the “Danger Zone” song, as well as another that would have been the song used instead of “Take My Breath Away.” Judas Priest was going to do a song for the soundtrack too but thought the movie would flop, as did many critics. Tom Cruise declined to do the movie repeatedly.

Most people with harsh criticisms of the movie tended to knock “the talking scenes” such as the one following the love scene at Charlie’s beach house. We all endured the testosterone-laden antics of our male friends in the late 80s as a result of this movie. For most of us who survived the 80s, each of us has at least one guilty pleasure in a song from the movie. I don’t think any of us miss the aviator sunglasses that seemed to be everywhere. None of us fully escaped the energy of Kenny Loggins as he sang “Danger Zone,” the fourth or fifth choice to sing the song.

What most people don’t consider is the unintentional coincidence of Otis’ biggest hit being in the scenes at the beach house. Maverick was about to go on the biggest mission of his life in one of the most modern airplanes in history, where death followed at every high-G spin.

Otis Redding recorded “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay” two times in 1967, with the second time being shortly before he died in December. The song was never officially finished. Otis is heard whistling in the song because he forgot the riffs he intended to fill in and started whistling to preserve the session. After Otis died, the beach sounds were added to this famous song by Steve Cropper, who helped Otis co-write the song.

I forgot to mention: Otis died in a plane crash.