Briefly…

Listen, it’s my fault.

I mean, I chose the damned song, now didn’t I?

Regardless, I stand by my choice. There are about a bazillion and one different directions you could take, what with The Clash’s “Car Jamming” as your song prompt. It’s a beat-full, lyrically rich track to play off of, but I still found myself totally surprised that I ended up where I eventually did on this one.

Below is this week’s 100 Word Song. Hope you enjoy, and please, play along!

robot-badge

He realized that any signs of kindness would be merely accidental.

Wondering why they were so constantly and brutally mean, he carefully dabbed a stubborn tear away, smudging smoky eyeliner in the process. Rifling the tissue to the desktop, he muttered “Dammit!” while inspecting the mishap.

It wasn’t enough that he was abused for being true to himself, he now looked like a weepy rank amateur to boot.

Lauren Bacall wouldn’t have let them get her down. Nana said he resembled her when he was dressed “that way,” maybe it was time that he started acting like her as well.

•••

This week’s song was chosen by Lance’s brother from another mother: “Car Jamming” by The Only Band That Matters.

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Briefly… The December the 22nd, 2002 edition

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not. There is nothing more common then unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world if full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are Omnipotent.”
~ Joe Strummer

RIP Joe.

Picture 1August 21st, 1952 – December 22nd, 2002

•••

12/21 “punk rock warlord, with ‘warlord’ being one word…”*

While not a Christmas tradition per say, tomorrow will see me performing one more ritual for the holiday season. This one is relatively new, a scant nine years old, and it is a tradition that i would be much happier without. You see, tomorrow, i will place all my Christmas music to the side and spend the day listening solely to decidedly non-seasonal tunes laid down by The Clash, The 101ers and The Mescalero’s instead. Why you ask? Especially this close to the blessed babe’s birth? Well, it’s because all three of the bands noted above were at one time led by a certain Joe Strummer, and tomorrow just happens to mark the ninth anniversary of his death.

“So? Big Whoop – it’s not like you knew the guy or anything, right?” Right. i didn’t know him, but i could swear that he knew me. At least it seemed that way, since he so often spoke almost directly to my concerns, my fears and my outrage. Across space and time he – along with his band mates – helped me to understand at a tender age not only the world around me, but my place in it as well. As i mentioned previously, Joe and the boys defended my right to be me, only after first helping me understand who i was in the first place. Prior to their introduction, i was lost – well, more lost than afterwards – in a sea of confusion, with my floundering about wondering who i was exactly, and why i couldn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Joe helped me to see that we’re all in the same boat. That no one truly ever “fits in” anywhere, so you just have a find a somewhere to your liking. And if none exist that you’re partial too, then just go out and make your own. Sooner or later others will join you, and in the end, you’ll either find your “fit”, or it will find you.

Musically speaking, years before Darin would solidify the thought, Strummer planted the seed in me that it was OK – cool even – to dig all kinds of music, instead of simply keeping to one narrow tunnel or another. Through him, i was introduced not only to punk of the intelligent variety, but also reggae, dub, garage, rap and the groundwork for what would many years later would be called “revival swing”. I could almost make a case for his dabbling in gothic music as well, but my argument just doesn’t have enough teeth to pull it off. Regardless, as a result of his example, i can now enjoy both my punk and my broadway, my metal and my bossa nova. Heck, i could even like country if it wanted to. i just don’t want to.

Regardless of the musical style used to best get his point across at any given time, Joe also helped me to understand that it’s quite all right to announce your disgust over injustices that you see. It’s fine and/or dandy to stand one up against a hundred, as long as you know that the hundred are wrong, and that the One is right. He helped me to recognize that my voice was important, just by it’s mere existence. However, he also let me know that my voice shouldn’t be heard until it was informed, committed, and capable of having a positive effect over a negative one.

Now, did Joe have the same impact on me as other arms-length luminaries such as Martin Luther King, Jr., C.S. Lewis or Jesus even? No. But he certainly let me know – with a very cool British accent by the way – that inspiration doesn’t only come from history books or the bible. It can come from your shoulder-slung boom box or scrawled across the back of a record sleeve as well. He let me know that intelligence is a right that must be exercised by every citizen regardless of their social standing, and complacency is not an option. In short, he – along with a long string of others – helped me to become the man i am today. And while he may be no more deserving of praise than anyone else in that long string, today just happens to be the anniversary of the day he died unexpectedly of heart failure, leaving the world a little poorer in the process. As such, i feel it’s right and proper to celebrate his life – and his impact on mine – by placing all my Christmas music to the side and spending the day with The Clash, The 101ers and The Mescalero’s instead.

i could go on in even mushier detail about the impact Joe has had on me, all while trying desperately to describe his ideology further (and my kinship towards it as a result), but i think he said it much better than i ever could, and as such, i’ll allow him to wrap up this post in words befitting:

And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanized. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.

― Joe Strummer, 1952 – 2002

* The title of this post is a comment made by Joe Strummer when being asked how he would like his name to appear during the introduction to the documentary about him called “The Future Is Unwritten.

is Thankful…

that all three of my children take after C instead of me.

that all three of them are smart enough to realize that this is a good thing.

that while money is tight, food is on the table… and the table is under a roof.

that of all the things that broke this year, the CD player wasn’t one of them.

that C is a much stronger person than most anyone else i know.

that all three of my children still believe in Santa. Or at least do a pretty decent job at pretending…

that i had the pleasure of knowing some people i’ll most likely have to say goodbye to very shortly.

that i got to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends, all while not pissing off too many of my current friends.

that my older brother introduced me to “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”.

that adversity can bring you closer together.

that even without ever meeting a person face-to-face, you can still build a solid and beautiful friendship with them.

that even in the digital age, you can still have pen pals.

that socks – if done correctly – can be so much more than mere footwear.

that two of my three children LOVE The Clash.

that, if asked, my third child will SAY she loves The Clash as well (even though she really doesn’t).

that you’re smart enough not to now ask me “who’s The Clash?”

that my eldest son joined his schools’ Gay Straight Alliance simply because “duh… it’s the right thing to do, daddy…!”

that adversity can make you stronger.

that while footy-pajamas are only made for children, the largest size available is still big enough for a small adult to fit in to.

that someone had the good sense to give the world Godzilla movies.

that the bulk of my problems are more imagined than real.

that someone invented a machine that – through the use of little red squiggly lines – tells us when we misspell something.

that at least SOME people realize that that is what those red lines are there for.

that i have JUST ENOUGH hair left that no matter what i do with it, it inevitably looks like a comb-over.

that the last time i lit candles, i actually had to go hunting around for a lighter instead of just reaching into my pocket.

that not ALL booze is “top shelf”.

that i no longer have to be burdened with being the tallest member of the family.

that someone had the good sense to stuff bread crumbs into the cavity of turkeys.

that it will be a very long time before computer-generated “customer care” phone answering services have the ability take over the world.

that Jesus gives me only what i need, instead of what i deserve.

that i had the good fortune of stumbling into this community, and that you are willing to share my somewhat disjointed and quite-oft poorly written world with me. The fact that you do means more to me than you’ll ever know – Thanks!

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.

9/19 why i like The Clash

i know, it should have been The Ramones. They seem to be the natural choice for so many others at any rate. But for me, it was The Clash. Always has been and most likely always will be. If you came up to me (after living for more than thirty and some odd years in a bomb shelter or cave of some sort i suppose) and asked, “what is punk?” i would most likely first shake my head slowly in disbelief. Then i would hand you a copy of “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” and tell you to start there.

best punk album ever?

Mind you, The Clash wasn’t my first experience with this thing called “punk rock”. And they weren’t my second either. In fact, had a high school friend not accidentally given me a mixed tape containing both the Sex Pistols and Generation X, instead of whatever heavy metal bands i had actually requested, i might have never “found” The Clash at all. Needless to say, i’m glad my friend screwed up.

The Sex Pistols were offensive, brash and loud, and unlike any heavy metal band i had previously heard in that they quite frankly didn’t give a damn. It came through with every lyric and every poorly played note. Honestly, i loved their bravado far more than their music, and it was only the unsettling twinge coming from deep in my gut – telling me that i might have had just stumbled upon what i would someday end up calling “tribe” – that kept me intrigued. That being said, it did end up taking me years to truly enjoy The Pistols, and other than the fact that they pretty much gave a “face” to punk, i still don’t have much use for them.

Side B of my mix tape had the somewhat more talented Generation X, fronted by a then unknown Billy Idol. While still punk in brashness and snotty attitude, these kids sounded much more put-together musically. Almost like they were trying hard to sound bad. You could also “hear” that they very much dressed the “Rock Star” part because, well, they very much wanted to be Rock Stars. Just in their own way. And of the four, at least one was successful for a spell. Another was just almost with his little project called Sigue Sigue Sputnik (if you’ve never heard of them, skip it – it’s way too late to check them out now since everything they originated has been re-originated by others at later dates, just more successfully). But i digress. In fact, if digression was an invoice-able service, i would be rather wealthy at this point of my blogging career. But again, i find myself digressing even in my digression. So, moving on. All said, Generation X was good – real good. But much like the Pistols, for me they were missing the mark. What the mark i was hoping they would hit was exactly, i had no idea, but miss it they did. As such, the search for “the band” that could really trip my newly found punk rock trigger continued.

Whoever first told me about the Clash, i’m not sure. No, wait, actually i am. It was well before i even received the eye-opening, ear-popping tape noted above. i first heard of them from both my classmates and advertisers when they opened for The Who on their infamous farewell tour. The first one. At the time i was listening to – well, i’m not sure as to what i actually was listening to at the time. Haven’t the faintest idea now. But i did know that The Clash was no band for me – for the obvious reason that they couldn’t be any sort of good if they didn’t play the type of music (and i really do wish i could figure out what that was now…) that i was involved with at the time. The second time i heard of them, i can’t remember who told me or why. But i do remember that the first disc (of the vinyl variety) i bought to test them out was “Combat Rock“. i won’t tell you i had any sort of “instant audio orgasm” upon first hearing it, because i didn’t. It was OK. Strong A side, but a weird B. Gladly, my impression of the first side won out, because my next purchase was to put the first and last nail in my Clash coffin. That’s right, next up i bought “Sandinista!“. No, no, no, my next purchase was “London Calling” of course. And like everyone else on the planet who has ever heard it (with open ears at any rate), my Clash fandom was solidified. So much so, that i eventually did go out and buy even “Sandinista!“, and after many listens grew to finally understand, and later enjoy, its musical depths as well.

And i believe that’s why i love the Clash so much – it’s because they were Solid. Good. Difficult. In short, i believe they respected their craft, their audience – and music in general – enough as to not make it easy to “get” the first time ’round. In addition, they refused to cut corners in their music or lyrics, and they used both to raise awareness instead of just press. They sang about things that mattered, things that needed changing. Just the other day i was explaining to my youngest what it meant when Joe sang “let me tell you ’bout your blood, bamboo kid – it ain’t Coca Cola, it’s rice…”. Genius in effectively comparing two totally different cultures that once, collided just long enough to start an entirely “new breed” to the human race. A breed that is shunned by both sides of its ancestry. A breed that found a champion in a little punk band from London, U.K. known as The Clash.

As i mentioned before, i know that it should have been the Ramones, but their 2 minute tracks of blister and volume simply serve to bore and annoy me after not too long. With The Clash, i can listen again and again. i know it should have been The Ramones in that without them, you wouldn’t even have The Clash. But in all honesty, without The Clash, we might not have punk rock music at all.

For while the Ramones may have given punk the sound and the fury – and The Pistols gave it the look and the attitude – it took The Clash to provide it with it’s intelligence and it’s Soul, and it has survived thirty and some odd years as a result.

And that is why i like The Clash. Now, why do you?