Various waves of mutilation

Listen, I can’t profess to being a huge fan of The Pixies (oh sure, I’ve got “Doolittle” of course, a greatest hits disc and, I believe, “Trompe le Monde”), but that’s only because I’m not. I AM, however, a huge Christian Slater fan – or at least I was – and it was partially because of this fandom that I ran out, all willy-nilly-girly like to see “Pump Up The Volume,” almost the very minute it was released in theaters, some 800 million years ago – better known as “the eighties.”

As a result, it was the very first time I was able to hear The Pixies perform “Wave of Mutilation.” I loved it. And let me be perfectly clear on that last part – I. LOVED. IT! It was the almost-perfect little ditty for a lad like me. One who was very much feeling not like anyone else, and hoping to run away. One who was rather mopey about all these feelings, and wishing he had a mopey little theme song to travel along with him. This song, along with Concrete Blond’s “Everybody Knows” (from the same soundtrack, and a story for a different time) were the ones that almost worked perfectly as the theme I was so desperately in need of. Well, OK, I wasn’t too sure about all the seafaring imagery, but other than that, I had found my “T,” and it fit me quite nicely. This song, in fact was the reason I bought “Doolittle” in the first place. Noting it as one of the tracks, I madly skipped to the counter, all willy-nilly-girly like (what? I did a lot of that back then), to make my purchase.

But, the “Wave of Mutilation” I expected to hear, was not the one that I did.

No sir, not at all.

Those jerks. Jerks, jerks, jerks. How could they do that? I was looking forward to my mopey anthem, my theme. But I received a grueling, badass, punkish rock number instead. Fat with sound, heavy with Frank Black’s anger. I didn’t want anger, I wanted mopey! Suffice to say, I got over my anger, and “Doolittle” has become one of those albums that has never left my side. When the tape died, a CD replacement was procured in its stead. It really is an awesome album, head to toe, even if the nagging point about the use of the alternate “Wave” took me quite awhile to get over.

As I was getting over it, however, it dawned on me. Both versions were the same exact song in construct and lyric. Both songs were also performed by the same band. However, both songs seem wholly different. Each provided me with a different story, a different feeling, a different – well – outlook. That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me. True, the first will always be the version closest to my heart. My mopey heart. But the second’s no slouch either. Now, I’m pretty sure that The Pixies are not the only band imbued with this talent. This ability to produce the same song twice with two totally and utterly different emotional end results, but they were the first to ever get my notice while doing so. And if nothing else, Mr. Black can go to his final reward someday knowing that he impressed one weird mopey kid from Buffalo who used to go about all willy-nilly-girly like.

And for those of you wondering, yes, I shortly thereafter purchased the “Pump Up The Volume” soundtrack as well, to obtain my “Wave” of choice. Even though some of the best songs from the movie were not included (really, coming in at only twenty nine seconds, you couldn’t have made space for The Descendants “Weiner Schnitzel?”), and some of the worst ones are (sorry Sonic Youth, I just can’t abide by ya). It’s all good though, as I will forever more have a picture of a cute young Christian from the record sleeve, to keep me company. And my theme song? Well, as it turns out, both versions of “Wave” made it onto my musical life story in the final cut. Each on a different volume, and both for different reasons. So I suppose in the end, the mopey me did get his theme song after all.

Now, do we end the post with the mopey or the mad? The “wave,” or the “WAVE?” Why with both, of course! Please give them a listen, and tell me if you think I’m off my nut. And if you do, please just don’t go about it all willy-nilly-girly like, OK?

Firstly, the version I heard first…

And then, the more well known take.

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What Could Have Been…

Was the title of the mix listened to on my most recent solitary sojourn.

You see, somewhere along the “for me” series creation cycle, I had discovered something. I discovered that I seemed to always have a theme for each mix. This then led me to discover a second something. I discovered that I had a whole grab bag’s worth of earworm gems that I wanted to share. But a great number of them were of the type that I would ever never ever be able to create an entire mix for. So I created an alternate mix. A mix about all the themes I would never ever never be able to mix.

What? It made sense at the time.

As a result, this mix is most likely the one that would have the smallest number of fans. And if the disc were to be viewed as a city, it would be one in which you firmly rolled up the windows until such time as you had escaped its outermost limits. You see, in this “ville,” Matisyhu lives side-by-side with Devo (both representative of the “cover songs that were better than the originals” mix, that was never to be produced). Both Greg Kihn and The Kinks share space with the likes of The Sisters Of Mercy and Mission Of Burma. That’s right, I did say Greg Kihn just now. I told ya, this one gets scary.

OK, t, so what’s the deal with this mix then? Did it make you all weepy, teach you some grand lesson, or bring some sort of spiritual elephant into to full view? Well, no, no, and no. And I’m not including an easy-to-read track list this time either (but for those of you dying to know, the Mission Of Burma song was “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver”). No, very much like the Gay-ties mix, this one really only served to provide me with a nice soundtrack, on an easy yet overly sweaty, evening solitary stroll. A soundtrack that is as weird as it was soothing.

You see we start the mix with Fred Rogers, singing his beloved theme song. Asking the question that I still – after all these years – wish I could answer in the affirmative. Yes Fred, yes! Yes I will be glad to be your neighbor Fred! Even if I’m far too big to fit on the trolley to the neighborhood of Make-Believe, I would be honored to be your neighbor! From there we jump right into “Tenderness” by General Public. Seems right, right? Happy meets happy. Nice. This is followed up by The Housemartins smelling winter, and then it dips pretty dramatically. For you see, it’s immediately after the stink of winter being acknowledged, that Mission Of Burma goes reaching for their revolver, followed by The London Suede prattling off about Animal Nitrate. Now, if you know the London Suede, you know that following them, the mix can go anywhere but up. Definitely not up. So that is of course right when Mr. Kihn makes his appearance.

Now don’t worry, I won’t verbally bully you through the entire track list in this fashion. I just wanted you to hopefully get an idea as to this mix’s schizophrenia. It’s unwillingness to stick to one thing for any length of time.

I suppose if I had to declare a life lesson to this particular mix – for those of you who wish that this post would hurry up and result in one already – it would be this: on the whole, when you look at it, you wouldn’t think that you were looking at much. Again, I can’t imagine that there’d be too many fans of this mix, based solely on the diverse amount of artists and styles represented. To my knowledge, even K-Tel never pulled a stunt like this. I mean, beside myself, who else here enjoys both The Scorpions and The Timelords? (Go ahead, click on the link – you’ll be forever glad you did!) Who else could get down to both “Yakety Sax” (yes, the Benny Hill theme song) and “Native Love” (yes, the song by Divine)? As a totality, it’s one big hot mess. See? A lot like life sometimes. That being said, when you look at the pieces of the whole, each individual song, you can see that you’re holding in your hands something that’s pretty damned awesome. You can hear that you’ve got within this mix, joy and anger, love and hate, tears and laughter. You’ve got life. Not as a package deal, but in each and every track. It’s beauty can’t necessarily be seen when looking at it as a whole, but rather, only when looking at each element individually. Only when focusing on each moment. So, if you put a gun to my head demanding the life lesson, my immediate response might be “now why’d you go and do that???” But my stating that I could see the connection between the mix and life in this fashion, would quickly follow that. It’s the moments that count, not the overall package. It’s the quality of the time you have, versus the length, that’s the thing.

My life, much like this mix, is a grab bag of moments. A cornucopia of memories and events, of all different makes and types. If I look at them as a whole, I could be tempted to say that there was more bad than good – especially considering I was proof-reading this while being stuck in an airport for twelve hours, for a flight was eventually cancelled any way. If I look at them as a whole, I might even be tempted to say that it’s simply a jumbled up mess of things (ideas, stuff, songs, whatever) that is somewhat of a wreck – however – when looked at individually, each is quite beautiful unto itself. Unique even. Good.

My life is good. That’s the moral for this story kids. It’s up, down, all over the place and sometimes even requires a bit of Greg Kihn, but overall it is good. The “What Could Have Been…” mix didn’t teach me that, but it does represent the idea nicely.

So, what track from the mix will we end this post with? I was sorely tempted to make use of Pat Boone’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” (representative of the “cover songs that should have NEVER been made” mix that was never to be produced), and I was also toying with using the “Wonder Woman” theme song as well (season two, of course). But as I’m assuming most of you have heard the second, and none of you would enjoy the first, I’m instead ending this with the one track that can simply NOT be played without me and the two younger of my three children performing an impromptu air-band rock concert.

A song by The New York Dolls of course, which immediately follows Pink’s “U & Ur Hand,” and is the second to last track on the mix (here’s the last). And, much like it can be with our jumbled up mess of a life, I hope you enjoy it!

Oh, who am I kidding?

I can’t leave like this. Sorry Pink. Here, here’s “U & Ur Hand” to boot…

Pretty Boys & Pretty Girls

Another walk, another mix tape.

Several years back Kelly, Kevin and I were having a conversation. Now right up front, I’ll let you know that those are their actual names. I had originally thought of using aliases, but quickly realized, that as none but one of you knows who I truly am, then none would know who they are either. Besides, the aliases I had chosen were just going to be “Kerry” and “Ken” at any rate. And if you knew me, you would then know that it was really them that I was speaking of. That, and I’m pretty sure Kevin would punch me if I ever called him Ken, aliasdentally or not. And speaking of Ken – errr – Kevin, he was with Kelly and I, clustered around a warm dinner and cold beers, chatting about 80’s music. Of course.

During the chat, both Kevin and myself were explaining how, back in the day, we had always felt a stronger pull towards “gay” music than that of the “straight” variety. When Kelly asked us to elaborate, she was surprised to hear that the gay culture had such a strong presence in music. Now, I’m not quite sure why she would be so shocked by this fact, but then again she IS from Missouri.

Moving on.

As I’m sure you guessed by now, in an effort to “educate” her, I was only too happy to take the opportunity to create yet another of my beloved “mix tape” CD’s. And if you’ve been reading along these past several weeks, you already know that the title of this one was “for me: The Gay-ties.” The rules of the mix were quite simple: each song had to be either written, sung or “taken in” by the gay community. In addition, each artist and track had to be devoid (well, as much as possible) of gay stereotypes (sorry B-52’s, that took you out of the running). And finally, the mix overall just had to be damned good. It starts off with a no-nonsense one-two knockout punch of Queen’s “Flash Gordon” and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Two Tribes.” Chosen not so much because these were two gay icons of the eighties, but rather, because each song could almost be seen as a flag bearer to the generation.

These opening shots are followed by such powerhouse hits as – well, hell – I might as well just give up the track listing. Because, yeah, the mix is THAT damned good:

1. Flash – Queen

2. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

3. You Spin Me Right Round – Dead Or Alive

4. Suburbia – Pet Shop Boys

5. Pretty Boy & Pretty Girls – Book Of Love

6. I Feel Love/Johnny Remember Me – Bronski Beat  with Marc Almond

7. Oh l’Amour – Erasure

8. Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode

9. Don’t Go – Yaz

10. The Great Commandment – Camouflage

11. We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart

12. Church Of The Poison Mind – Culture Club

13. Freedom – Wham!

14. Take Me Home – Cher

15. Lay All Your Love On Me – ABBA

16. Love To Hate You – Erasure

17. Comment Te Dire Adieu – Jimmy Somerville

18. Crucified – Army Of Lovers (OK, technically a 90’s track. Whatever. We’re talking “generational 80’s” here, not “Calendar 80’s”, OK?)

19. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls (WHAT??? Can you name a better one to end it with?)

If you happen to have access to all these tracks, I suggest you make yourself a copy. If you don’t happen to, then drop me a line. We’ll get you hooked up. And yeah, to those of you in the know, I DID include Jermaine Stewart, AND he actually works pretty well in the mix. Even IF he never does get around to taking his clothes off.

Sadly, the gay icon that loomed largest in my young life (BESIDES Liberace) doesn’t appear here. And that’s only because – while I love me some Judas Priest – there simply wasn’t one square inch of audio space that I could squeak Mr. Halford and friends into the remainder of the mix. Now, when I first created this, my daughter was young enough as to still think that I was simply the living end of musical knowledge, and a dance talent. As such, we spent many a day twirling around the living room gleefully to the final track. So much so in fact, that she swore that this would be the very song she’d use for the “father/daughter” dance at her wedding (my choice of Bobby Darin’s “18 Yellow Roses” being forcibly dismissed). This is sadly no longer the case however. And last time I checked, I believe we’re slated to stand toe to toe over some artist I’ve never heard of, who requires a voice modulator to sing, and in general is far less “raining menish” then I’d normally care for.

This mix has provided me with many more such plusses as well. For instance, it is the only “for me” in the series to give shout outs to three others for it’s creation (in addition to Kelly and Kevin, T-Bone – also a real name – is credited, as he came up with the title for the mix). However, possibly the coolest thing resulting from the Gay-ties disc (besides the kick assicles mix itself, of course) is that it was through its mention that I started the relationship with my Best Friend That I’ve Never Met; when we inadvertently “took over” a mutual friend’s facebook status for a spell. So even if the mix was total rot (and it is so NOT), then my efforts would still have been more than worthwhile.

Now, based on previous posts of this ilk, I’m sure you’re wondering what brand new window of knowledge was opened during my walk with the “Gay-ties” mix. What pray tell, did I learn this time whilst walking in a solitary fashion, to the beats of gay men and synthesizers? Not one damned thing. I just had me a nice brisk walk with some great tunes to push me along. I can tell you one thing though, of all the solitary walks I’ve taken as of late, this time I didn’t just hump along like a balding middle-aged schlep. This time, I walked Fabulous!

Today’s track was chosen over all the rest because it was one of the first-ever attempts by artists to bring awareness to the AID’s epidemic. Sadly, it was not heard by nearly enough, and ignored by even more. 

Sap…

I suppose I should start with my youngest, as for my children, it was he who ever first requested a “mix tape” from me.

“I want one just like that Heavy Metal one you did for your work friends, but with all different songs. OK?” OK??? I was only too glad to oblige, as buttons busted from my usually sunken chest. The mix, eventually entitled “Metal Haze” (partially in ode to the general character of my son, and partially because my original mix was entitled “Metal Daze”) turned out pretty well, and it still sees regular rotation on family road trips.

It wasn’t too long (figure about ten minutes after the youngest’ initial request) for my daughter to also request a mix tape all her own. One that you might have guessed from the title of this post, was eventually called “Sap…” And, as you may also be inclined to think, there is nary a tune on here that is even remotely heavy and/or metal in nature. In fact, the entire album consists of the weepiest stuff available. Well, the weepiest good stuff, at any rate. Every song is about love lost, love searched for, or love in vein. Every tune concerns itself with people passed, or people passed over. Almost every track is slow and mopey in nature, and at least eight out of every ten is fueled solely by a piano, played mournfully and low key. In fact, it’s not until the very end, when you hear Kermit softly plunking at the strings of his stringless banjo, that you get to see any sort of real Light introduced to the mixture.

My daughter loved it when it was first produced, and played it far too loud and often for C’s liking, but she has since moved on to skinny boys who need voice modulators and overly painted girls with far more tit than talent. I, however, have not. I, however, still enjoy hearing Regina’s call slide softly into Tori’s winter. I still like to dream with the Waterboys of the stolen child, but only until the time of Matisyahu’s song. I agree with Morrissey that everyday is like Sunday, when trapped under The Church’s milky way. I know that while the Style Council may only be a stone’s throw away, they’re farther still than the boy in Suzanne Vega’s belfry. The one that resides in Liverpool. And I know that unlike INXS and no matter how much I beg to go, I will never be allowed a ride on Johnson’s aeroplane anymore than I will ever truly be able to hear Marlene Dietrich’s favorite poem, spoken of so eloquently by Peter Murphy. I have found the somebody that Depeche Mode is in search of, even if at times I feel much like U2 about my not being able to live with, or without her.

In short, and if you know even half the songs mentioned above, you know that the mix is an outright lamentable tear jerker. And yeah, I even included “Total Eclipse of The Heart”. And I made that work as well.

“OK t. That was, ummm, interesting. Care to fill us in on what the whole point of telling us that was?” Well, I happened to be listening to this mix on yet another one of my solitary walks (no worries, it’s just that C works a lot of evenings), and it in turn brought to mind the “Old Punk” mix I had told you of last time, as they’re both part of the same series. Yes, I actually think of my mix tapes as a series. And yes, the series even has a title. “for me” in fact. So it works a little like this. For instance, “Old Punk” is actually “for me: Old Punk.” Likewise, “Metal Daze” was actually originally released (well, sent out in the mail) as “for me: Metal Daze.” The disc created for my youngest, in turn, became “for E: Metal Haze” and so on. In all, there’s a total of fifty such discs included in this series, sent out to well over twenty people each (spreading the disease, one listener at a time).

Hey, I believe I told you at some point that I’m pretty high maintenance. Don’t know why you’re sitting there now, looking so surprised.

Anywho, after what might have been my longest digression ever, let’s get this kid back on track, shall we? When comparing the two mixes, I realized that for all of my punk rock bravado, all of my muffled rage, “Sap…” is actually the mix that far better fits me to a “T” (no pun intended). For all of my anger and pissery – the moans, longings and bellyaches of “Sap…” are much closer to what feels comfortable escaping from my lips – all things being equal. I understand how this could lead some of you to make the giant leap of deductionary skills to the conclusion that it is actually I who am the Sap here instead of my daughter. And to those of you who did, all I can say is “spot on!”

I’m thinking that this is the very reason that “Sap…” is one my favorite mixes in the bunch (besides the notable exception of “for me: The Gayties,” but that’s a post for another time altogether). It’s not so much because I had an accidental stroke of mix-genius when I made it, but rather it’s because it came forth as a conversation natural to my regular mood. When Holly Brook asks where’d you go, I find myself singing along much more honestly than when Wattie is bellowing about being a mucky pup. When Blue October is begging to be hated, I am much more inclined to give in than when Motley Crue is telling me to shout at the devil. I may very well, at one point in time, have wanted to take on the world. But I’m sure if I had my druthers, I would much rather just give it a big old hug.

You may think that that’s quite alright. That that’s the way to be. But I fear that by being like that, it puts me in the very same belfry as that boy living in Suzanne Vega’s Liverpool. You see, in the song, he’s a little bit crazy. A lot crazy in fact. “He sounds like he’s missing something or someone that he knows he can’t have now.” I fear that I too am missing something. I fear that being sap-like, while natural to me, is not the way one is supposed to be. I suppose you might be able to insert here a little blurb about people being just people, but that song didn’t make the mix. And besides, I can’t be certain that my being more sap-prone than not is actually “who I am,” as opposed to just a temporary condition, a momentary phase. You know, assuming that “moments” can last forty two plus years. Am I missing something? I’m none to sure. Is it important if I am? Possibly. Possibly very. Do I want to know if I am? Pretty certain, not. Will I end this post on a high note and – like the mix tape – with a jolly frog singing of rainbows? Most decidedly not.

No, I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard that little ditty before. Instead I will leave you with Johnson and his aeroplane. Firstly because I feel it’s the best song that INXS ever did, and secondly, because it is a flight I so long to someday take. If for no other reason, just to make sure I’m not up in that belfry.

Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie

Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig joined me for my Sunday walk this past weekend.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

This resulted from my choosing for my “solitary Sunday walk” soundtrack, a mixed tape I’d previously made for my long distance friends entitled “Old Punk.” A mix that, it might surprise you to learn, is comprised solely of old punk tunes as sung by old punk bands. As such, the likes of Johnny Lydon, Sid Vicious, Iggy Pop and David Johansen were with me as well (shut up! David Johansen was so too punk!), all of them singing to me of some sort of rebellion or angst, and all while I traveled on my sunny suburbia way.

You see, at some point in time, the house that I bought, the house that I live in, had somehow snuck itself into the outskirts of suburbia. Not by much, but just enough. Enough to be within walking distance of the part “where the rich people live.” A land that is wholly unlike my little part of suburbia. A place where the houses that can be seen are larger than life, obnoxious, snooty and plunked onto parcels of land vast enough as to force for a new definition of the word “parcel”. The houses that can’t be seen are buried behind layers of mighty bushes, equally as snooty, though slightly less obnoxious. I walked past them briskly, keeping my heart rate up, as the denizens of early punk sang to me of how poisonous my chosen surroundings were.

Now the rich may happen to own the land I strode upon, but seeing as I was the only one outdoors, it was I who owned the sky. I who owned the day. The air was fresh, and Spring had finally arrived. After an almost non-existent winter, that was then followed by an intrusive and unexpected bit of summer in between. Why no one else (well, most no one else) was enjoying the fresh air was no longer a puzzlement to me, as this has been a noted and slowly increasing phenomenon for years now. This migration from the outdoors to the in. From the warm glow of the sun, the the cold harsh light of the screen. From the sweat of exercise to the bloat of inactivity. Of course, and in line with my normal digressionary standards, this little bitch session about the sloth-like nuance of modern suburbia has absolutely nothing at all to do with the larger bitch session at hand, so we’ll just sit it here for now, possibly picking it up again in a future post.

As to the larger bitch session at hand, what I was hoping to address was this. While I walked through all the finery and trappings of wealth, I was reminded steadily by bands such as Sham 69, The Dead Kennedys, Stiff Little Fingers and The Buzzcocks what a – well – what a sham the whole thing was. Is. OK, the Buzzcocks were actually singing about being orgasm addicts, but I thought it would be better if I didn’t share that little bit with you. A good song, but hardly one that could be seen as politically motivated. At any rate, while there was a time in my life when I would have been standing on the hoods of the fat cat SUV’s owned by these locals; shaking my weak fist mightily in the air in consolidation with these bands – and their rants – I found myself this time instead just walking happily along. Using the racing beat of each song to keep my speed up and my heart rate going. As I did, I realized that I had lost my bite. Or my fight. Or possibly a little bit of both. The rage that originally drew me to listen to, and enjoy, bands such as The Exploited and Charged G.B.H. had dissipated. The urge to change the world that I previously felt strongly enough as to align myself with bands like The Clash and The Jam had mellowed. Instead of seething in hatred at these houses of wealth – these false temples created in false praise to the (false) individual – I simply just walked on at a good clip, and enjoyed the brisk, free air instead. The air that belonged to almost only me.

So as Billy Bragg sang to me of which side I was on (shut up! Billy Bragg was so too punk!), I found myself answering him with a “neither.” As Fear screamed at me that we should start a war, I simply told them that I would much rather not. And when Burning Sensation once again informed me that “Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole,” I smiled the old smile that I’ve always smiled when I heard that song. But this time, it was much more out of a feeling of fond adieu than it was because I actually thought it was funny.

OK, it’s still kind of funny.

So have I given up? Have I given in? I don’t think it’s either, really. I’m hoping at least that it’s much more a case of I’ve grown up. The Anti-Nowhere League may hate people, but I can’t say that I do. Even IF there were far more dogs who looked me in the eye and introduced themselves, on my solitary Sunday journey, than there were dog owners who did the same. And The Circle Jerks may very well fear the day that the shit hits the fan. But not me. Not anymore at least. If it does, it will. Raging against it’s inevitability will do nothing more to stop it than ignoring it will. And Henry. Dear sweet Henry and the rest of the boys from Black Flag may jump up and down, demanding that we give them give them give them some more. But as for me, I’ve enough. Enough for now. I’ve me and mine, and we’re doing OK.

Now as the title implies, when I first started this post, I had thought that it would be Black Flag’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” that was going to end it. A proper ditty, especially when trying to show off your punk rock pedigree. But in the final analysis – and ironically enough – it is actually The Damned who will be having the last say today. You see, whether they were being tongue in cheek or not – and I’m quite sure that they were – by the time I had finished my walk, all that I really had to say about the experience was that the locals could keep their parcels, as long as I had the sky. It made me glad to say it really had been a lovely day, and it’s OK.

12/2 Christmas jammies

i’ll admit it. i own Rob Halford’s Christmas album. And when i say “own”, i don’t mean i borrowed it from the library and downloaded a copy – i mean i went out and used hard-earned cash to purchase it. Complete with booklet and jewel case even. All for the pleasure of hearing the mighty Halford, of Judas Priest fame, belting out “We Three Kings” while one of his band mates simply melts a guitar behind him. i mean, really, you just can’t get more Christmassy than that.

Metal Santa

Unless you happen to have Reverend Horton Heat’s version of the same song, that is. In his version, the intro is traditional enough, until you hear those quiet, yet ever-so urgent “1,2,3,4!” – being yelped out with rock-a-billy proficiency – in an effort to get the tune into proper gear. Sadly, with the exception of this little audio gem, the remainder of Heat’s version sounds very much (too much to be considered “genius”, in fact) like the composition that Jimmy Smith laid down years before for his trio, and his swingin’ Hammond B3. Overall, all three artists put out Christmas platters that are different enough from your “average” holiday showcase as to make for a very interesting season – musically at any rate.

Cookin!

Now, wait a minute, t!  What does this have to do with your dad’s impending doom, scheduled for some time mid 2012???” Absolutely nothing. That was Wednesday’s post dude – sheesh, stop living in the past, already. No, much like when i was child, the bloat of Thanksgiving hasn’t even delivered it’s final belch before my mind gets all wrapped up in snow and cocoa, in toys and treats (the kind that come in “candy cane” plastic tubes that look like m&m’s but aren’t), and – yes – music. Always me with the damned music.

i’m pretty sure i’ve noted before how music was my first best friend growing up, and as you can imagine, Christmas music in particular got my trigger fully tripped. With it, there wasn’t only sound – but sight, smell and season as well. Every year we had the privilege of dragging the painted-over aluminum step ladder from the basement, clunking merrily along as it hit each and every step, and then carefully climbing it to get into the place where Christmas lived all spring, summer and fall long – the attic. There was a vigorous kind of cold to the space that gave you an excuse to shake off your excitement about *you know who* coming – even years after you weren’t sure if *you know who* actually existed or not. The most sure-footed of us only experienced this chill halfway down, as they stood atop the ladder and held the flashlight, which had been momentarily relieved of it’s concert light show duties. The other two straddled carefully across the wooden braces of the ceiling behind our dad, to remove the dusty, musty boxes that contained all the decorations of the season – tree, ornaments and glassware included. For 18 years we never once slipped and put a hole through the ceiling, but for 18 years it never stopped mom from swearing we would.

Throughout the entire process – from basement, to attic, to decorating – she would have Christmas music blaring throughout the house via our little faux-wood Magnavox stereo counsel (the kind with the sliding top doors – which created it’s own holiday magic as a result of the musty smell that escaped when you first slid back the door to remove the LP from its sleeve). As a result, the tunes became intertwined with the smells and the sights of the day – or maybe it was the other way ’round. Regardless, i still expect to smell mildew, taste chocolate that just isn’t quite like what you thought it was going to taste like, and see little plastic elves and Santa’s all brightly painted and lit from within – each and every time i put a Christmas disc in and hit “play”.

The memories were so palpable, i spent several years hunting down my three all-time favorites from days gone by, as follows:

Chet Atkins  – Christmas With…

Bert Kaempfert – Christmas Wonderland

and of course, Al Hirt’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Hirt” (he could never get away with that kind of album title today! i couldn’t find an image of the original sleeve to share with you here…)

As you can imagine, it was a tough-go at times, and wasn’t until i was finally able to find all three on CD that i received my USB turntable. You know, the thing that i could’ve used to simply transfer the original vinyl over to mp3 format and make discs of my own. i’m not complaining though, because along the way, i was able to stumble upon little gems such as the three discs i started this post with, as well as a whole bevy of beautifully mixed compilations (might i recommend the Ultra-Lounge Christmas series? A delight for both the young and the old – well, until the young are just old enough to worry about “getting old”, at which point they disengage from the series altogether, and call you all sorts of bad “old person” names in the process.) Oh lookie, we’ve digressed again! Anywho. Although three little albums is all i really needed, i have (over the course of years, mind you) ended up with a 4″ binder stuffed with an excess of over one hundred discs. And that’s just Christmas music we’re talking about. Yeah, always me with the damned music.

As a result, if you ever come by my house – anytime from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Eve – you’ll most likely hear folks like Halford and Heat, singing side-by-side with Crosby, Martin and Sinatra. You’ll hear both the Carol, and the Techno, of The Bells. You be able to go to “Christmas Island” to enjoy a “Reggae Christmas” or travel to the city to experience either “Christmas in Hollis” or a “Fairy Tale of New York” (regardless of which place you aim, just make sure you use RuPaul’s “Christmas Train”). You might be driven to drink by the dour Christmas of Johnny Cash, or you may be brought to your feet in praise, when the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Bobby Darin hit the stage. You could spend New Years Eve with Wayne Newton, or you may decide to spend all 12 days of Christmas with the MacKenzie Brothers instead. Hell, it’s the one time of the year i even allow McCartney into the house for a song, and yes, Burl Ives stops in occasionally as well – the whole house falling to an expectant holiday hush with his arrival. In short, i suppose you could say that around this time of year, my house is just one big hot musical holiday mess.

i’m not sure how the family feels about it (even though i really am sure…), but for me, it’s almost the best part of Christmas.

Now, play me outta here Al…

9/30 my life. a 4 volume set.

The mix tape.

Possibly the best invention to ever come out of the 80’s. And one which i still make regular use of  – even if the tapes of old have now been replaced by shiny silver discs.

As a former D.J. (and by “D.J.”, i mean someone who basically got too drink for free while at work), i am well acquainted with the concept of “mixing” – just not of the beat variety. No, my mixes were what i liked to call “emotional” in nature, in that while they didn’t necessarily slide gracefully from one track to the next – so that the dancers on the floor never knew of the transition – they did serve to “set the mood”. What that mood was at any given moment was all up to me, but most often i tried to keep it pretty light and upbeat. You know, the kind of upbeat that allows for occasional slam dancing. And with my mix tapes, i like to operate in very much the same fashion. Now, could the repetition between my previous use of the “emotional” style while D.J.ing and my mix tapes of today be simply an elaborate excuse for me to avoid purchasing expensive mixing programs? More than likely. But i’m a solid believer that the free option (in this case iTunes) will work just fine – until such time as a nicer free option comes along.

That being said, i hadn’t made a mix tape in quite sometime (around 19 high-school 7ish) until a couple of years back, when some vendor/friends made the ultimate error of letting me know that they had no idea who The Clash was.

Really.

Now, in their defense, they are residents of Missouri, but honestly, i don’t see that as a valid excuse. Actually, i don’t see any excuse as being acceptable to explain away not knowing who The Clash is. So, to set them straight, i promised to send a “mix tape” highlighting new wave and punk rock music – if they enjoyed it, great. If not, then that would be alright as well – at least they would never again suffer the embarrassment of not knowing who The Clash was. I felt bad for them though, because when they said that that would be simply lovely, i’m pretty sure they were expecting a singular mix tape disc. What they ended up with, many years later, was a grand total of 45. Including art work and liner notes.

Really.

Obviously, i branched out from the original idea of focusing on new wave and punk, and “produced” a couple on Ska, one on swing, two on metal, a male and female “crooner” disc each, one of old songs stuck in my head many years later and two on really old (and deplorable) songs my mother used to force us to listen to as a result of a one story house and AM radio. Heck, i even threw in a Christmas disc or two, based on the idea that all the other “series” (as put out by actual labels) always make sure that they include at least one. My personal favorite however, was one titled “The Gayties” (think of bands like Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and Jimmy Somerville and you’ll figure out the disc’s focus). And while my two vendor/friends initiated the mix-plosion, by the end i had upwards of 20 “subscribers” who each received copies as they came out. As with all things however, time went on, my mix mojo slowly ebbed and – considering that i wasn’t getting paid for any of these anyway – i eventually called it quits.

Fast forward a couple of more years, and upon hearing that a friend of mine had decided to have what she called a “CD exchange party”, i found my mix mojo suddenly refilled! Especially since for every disc i put out, another’s mix tape is returned for my listening enjoyment. We’ve had (3) such parties so far (none of which i’ve actually been present at due to the fact that i live in a different state than the rest). And for each one i have tried – and failed – to engineer a mix tape that chronicles my life. i don’t know where the idea came from or why, but i thought it would be cool if i had the ability to tell “my story, in song”. As always with me, a couple of ground rules needed to apply – the songs had to be from the period i was “discussing” (or there about), they had to be related to something about my life, or about “me” (for instance, “Born In The USA” says nothing about me really, but Judas Priest’s “Heading Out To The Highway” does) and most importantly, they needed to mix well. As you can imagine, these three rules continually butted heads and my dream mix tape was never realized.

Until now.

Just recently, i was able to make it all squeak together (well, for the most part), out of a sense of sheer stubborn determination. And sadly, no one will ever be able to hear it. In part because the damned thing came in at four discs long – and i didn’t even start my “story” until the high school years! i also can’t share it because i was a bit surprised (although i shouldn’t have been) to see what the final tracks laid down for the story of me turned out to be. There are a lot more songs like that of Depeche Mode’s “Useless” and The Bolshoi’s “Looking For A Life” than there are those along the lines of Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout” or Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (that’s right, even Aguilera made the mix). The inclusion of “To Hell With Poverty” by Gang Of Four doesn’t shock me, and nor does the presence of “Redemption Song” (i chose the version Wyclef Jean sang at the 9/11 memorial concert, partially to acknowledge possibly the biggest event to ever take place in my children’s lifetime). In fact, i would assume that most people – those who know about music and didn’t come equipped with a silver spoon – would include these 2 ditties in their musical “biography” as well.

(i feel) There are a lot of good choices included, and they all say something about me – or maybe they speak more to me instead. As noted, they pretty much take you from my time in high school to the me of now. And – as any good drama queen knows – the set ends with a nod towards “The End.” Overall, not my best mix ever, but pretty damned good. And possibly a little too personal. If nothing else, i think that is why this mix will never see the light of day. Which seems a shame, considering how hard i worked on it. But then again, maybe much like my lil blog, this too can be something i created – not to impress or win others over – but rather solely for my own satisfaction. And maybe, if i keep it as a “work in progress” status instead of “releasing” it, i can someday remix it to include far more happy songs than not.

i just hope it doesn’t take 45 discs to do so.