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Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Image by the extinction blues via Flickr

Every once in a while some woodland creature (or drunken neighbor) wakes me up at night. I try not to look at the clock because then I get to thinking about how much time I have left to sleep but there are certain hours that always bring up a song in my head…and then I start laughing. Just like when I get angry, up comes Hendrix..

Last night I woke up at a quarter to 3 in the morning, do you hear where this is going? Yes, suddenly Frank Sinatra was singing One For My Baby.  My favorite is when I wake up at 4 in the morning. With me yet? Good old Lenny (Leonard Cohen) begins to whisper: “It’s 4 in the morning, the end of December…” The song is Famous Blue Raincoat.

When I finally got back to sleep last night it didn’t last long because I’m naturally a morning person, so I dragged myself out of bed and then this popped into my head: Up All Night, by The Boomtown Rat’s. I know, I know it’s literal and the songs generally have nothing to do with my state of mind, they are just lyrics,but sometimes the lyrics really do hit the mark.  This happens to me a lot though.  I have a friend it happens to as well so I know I’m not the only one. Only 2 days ago we sat laughing hysterically in her car repeating one lyric from a B 52’s song over and over…we were in tears laughing because it related to something that had happened to me.

So after I got The Boomtown Rats out of my head I started to think about my earliest memory of music. There is no way I can remember what years and will probably mix them up but I think my earliest memory was Teresa Brewer singing Music, Music, Music. I wasn’t alive in 1950 so it must have been on the radio.

My dad forced classical music down our gullet’s daily, and I mean daily so although I’m not a huge fan of Rachmaninoff, there must have been a reason I ditched school sometimes as a teenager to go home and listen to Chopin.  Later when I was in college he took me to hear Wagner’s Der Meistersinger. Anybody? Yes, this is a 5 HOUR OPERA. The man in front of me fell asleep, and even my dad said it was torture. That taught him a lesson. But I sat through it and didn’t complain. It was music.

In grade school it was Bobby Sherman, The Monkee’s, Andy Gibb, The Commodore’s, etc. Once the teen years came, well let’s just say we should apologize to my mother profusely for what we made her listen to.  Dad was gone by then, living somewhere in Europe but before he was gone he was still a holy terror, and the only joy in mudville was when he was out of the house.  Mom would go grab her 78’s and teach me to dance.  She has always loved Afro-Cuban Jazz and to this day adores Reggae. Music let us exit the reality of our awful lives, and so the day dear old dad hit the road, the music got louder and louder and far more diverse.

We still have a stack of 78’s (I think they are glass?) but can’t play them. It just feels good to see them sitting in a corner collecting dust. Every once in a while I pick one up just to feel it’s weight.

Then there were the days you could cut a 45 off of a cereal box and play it on your record player. (if you are in your 20’s just go look it up). Bobby Sherman off the box and onto the record player was very cool.  In those days you could go to a record store and buy a single of whatever you liked and they were called 45’s, we hoarded them like squirrels. It is convenient but not the same buying one song off Itunes.

As the teen years progressed it was all Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent (I have my brother to thank for that), Boston, etc.  I noticed that as we got older, my sister and brother began to have very different tastes in music than I. Back tracking a bit I do remember we all loved The Yellow Submarine and played it so often my dad hid the record.  Our good Mom brought it back out when he wasn’t around. But later on when my sister got into The Carpenter’s, my brother ripped the 8 Track out of the system, and threw it into the middle of the street where it was promptly run over by a car.  It had to be done. Truly, he was doing her a favor.

High school (as I’ve said before) was a mixture of Zep, Hendrix, Coltrane, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, The Police, Madness, The English Beat, etc. What my friends didn’t know about me was that I was a closet fan of music from the 30’s and 40’s. I couldn’t get enough of Glenn Miller, adored Dick Haymes, Johnny Mercer and wanted to sing like Dorothy Lamour (?) and The Andrew Sister’s. I’m sorry I never saw The Clash play but even sorrier I missed Bobby Short at The Carlyle. Yes, I am a hopeless musical romantic for the war year’s.

With college came more Jazz. I was addicted to Chet Baker, Cyrus Chestnut (thank you Yves, and sorry I walked out on Bob Mould), Albert King, Leonard Cohen, Pavement, Nick Drake (pre-requisite for art students), The American Music Club (beloved local SF band), The Reverend Horton Heat, and lucky for me my friends were in a band called Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (20’s and 30’s Jazz). They still tour and are fantastic musicians.

My mother and sister hated Leonard Cohen but I hated Natalie Cole, so we were even. I still love Dinah Washington but I can’t be driven to tears that often,  so I keep her to a minimum. And I’m sorry, really sorry, but I never got into Billie Holliday. My love of classical music has not waned and I’d say from time to time I still listen to every single musician I’ve listed. I will not go into my obsession for Ska, and Reggae, the list is too long…really long. A real obsession. I will also avoid discussing the club music from the 80’s, it’s just too weird.

I’ve discovered a lot of great music over the years on my own, through friends or just by accident. It’s never through the movies because I don’t go to the movies. As a yogi I love listening to Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, as an artist I can still throw on Jane’s Addiction (Perry I didn’t give up on you), or The Clash. Late to the party I just discovered Jack Johnson and publically admitted to loving (not liking) one John Mayer song.

My last musical purchase was Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (can’t get enough). Did I mention I cry when someone plays the accordion? Turkish, French, Brazilian, Italian, Greek, Russian, American…I like all of it. Traveling helps open the eyes, and the music of other countries can open your heart.

There are times I can’t listen to music because it is too distracting. Some music brings up different emotions that I don’t want in a painting, and only my best friend in the world knows what I listen to then; it was advice from a famous dead painter who shall go nameless.

I don’t know what playlist will be on today’s agenda, it will come naturally as it always does. I just know that music has saved me on more than one occasion and I thank God tortured artists exist. Actually, I can’t listen to today’s music so I can only hope people use the time machine as I do.

One last thing, has anyone else noticed Danny Elfman’s blatant use of Wagner? It’s okay, I didn’t like Oingo Boingo either…