Sunday, May 13, 2012

750 choice words about my feelings for the Beatles

I do not like them in a car. I do not like them in a bar. I do not like them in my yard, in a singing card, in a concert hall—or on my Facebook wall.

I do not like the Beatles.  I do not like them.

If you are alive and American or English, you probably know this band—a.k.a. The Fab Four. You may have credited them with the invention of pop music, of four-part harmony, of heavy metal, of MTV, and of, well, everything!

The Beatles are the best band ever, and here’s why: They are popular. They have sold over a billion records and have the most top albums and singles and number one hits and successful songs, and they wrote their own songs and used all kinds of crazy instruments (dude, a sitar! a mellotron!) and were on the Ed Sullivan Show. They were fucking popular, damn it!

And 42 years after they disbanded, they’re still fucking popular, damn it. From 1962 to 1970, they released about 24 albums and about 213 songs. Prolific popular motherfuckers. With all that going for them, why don’t I like them?

1. Their lyrics, for the most part, suck.
“Because the wind is high / it blows my mind” “And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain” “She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh” “Here comes the sun / and I say / It’s all right” “Baby, you can drive my car / yes I’m gonna be a star”
In general, I want more from my lyrics, though I don’t always need more. Bands like Led Zeppelin, who overflow in a bunch of categories, can be forgiven for things like “The Lemon Song.” Of course, there are exceptions, like "Let it Be."

2. They have no tasty guitar solos.

The only Beatles song that has one of those (and it ain’t all that) is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and non-Beatle Eric Clapton played it. Fans will argue that guitar solos are not what the Beatles were about. Yes. And I don’t like that about them.

3. There’s no edge, no emotional conflict, no real passion.

The Beatles are suits. They had some longish hair, and that’s swell. But they are buttoned up and sound buttoned up. Again, not what the Beatles are about—and another reason I just don’t like them—in a car, in a bar, or in my room while I groom. Of course, there are exceptions, like “I Want You/She’s So Heavy.”

4. They’re not my cup of tea.

I like coffee, not tea. And it really comes down to taste and preference. Do tea drinkers dress better, think better, love better? It’s not about better. I like George Clooney, but I don’t like Brad Pitt. I take the cake but leave the pie. I like gerber daisies but don’t care for roses. It’s really as simple as that.

I have never, ever said, “I’m in the mood to hear some Beatles right now.” I’ve never put on an album. I have, however, turned them off. Some of the best Beatles songs I’ve ever heard are covers of Beatles songs, and I still don’t like them all that much.

My husband doesn’t care for the Beatles. My best friend doesn’t care for the Beatles.

I do love your passion. It might rival my passion for a hoppy, snappy IPA. What I don’t love, though, is your righteous indignation. What’s it to you? I hold no stock in Brewer’s Art or Rogue or Flying Dog, so if you’re drinking wine instead or, worse, Coors Lite, what’s it to me? Will I look at you funny? Maybe. Will it keep me from being your friend? Nope. I’m sure we can agree on a few other things. (Everybody loves Bruce Springsteen, right? WHAT?!?!?)

If you dislike my favorite bands (Chuck Prophet, Marah, the Black Keys, the Kills, Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd) or my kind of beer (Resurrection, Dead Guy), you won’t find me posting links to them on your Facebook wall or heatedly extolling their virtues. As I like to say: more for me. I won’t have to worry about fighting you for the last concert ticket or six pack.

I hate the Beatles. I do not like them in my ears. Or even after several beers.  And my last thoughts on this matter are whispered words of wisdom: "Let it be."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the new "about me" section

I have always liked to break things and put them back together in a random, yet tasteful, order.  You can apply that to art—mosaics, poetry, music—and life.  I rearrange the physical and metaphorical furniture of my life not just whenever necessary but  whenever possible.

It’s never been more true than now.  Every inhalation I take these days is a subconscious meditation on having cancer and turning fifty, and every exhalation is a breathy profession of my goals.  They are so simplistic that they can be summed up with a trite Bob Schneider lyric from "Captain Kirk":  “I just wanna feel good / I don’t wanna hurt nobody / I just wanna get a good time / out of my life.”

To that end:

·      I am funny, and I laugh all the time—even at my own crude jokes.

·      I keep your secrets.  I used to have no secrets of my own but am now working on generating a few.  Please return the favor and keep them.

·      I indulge my addictions.  All addicts say they can live without [objects of addiction]; they simply choose not to.  That’s the addiction talking, of course.  My addiction chooses to drink a beer (sometimes two) just about every day.  Until it interferes with work or life, 6:00 is Resurrection time.

fun at our last middle school PTA meeting
·      I am honest.  I ask for what I want, and I say what I mean.  I won’t waste another minute wondering what if.  If I want to know, I ask.

·      I am a poet.  There’s a beautiful and precise way to talk about anything. 

Lest you think this post is all about me, rest assured it’s all about you.  Even if you’re not turning 50, even if you don’t have a serious illness:

·      be funny; laugh all the time
·      keep people’s secrets, and generate some of your own to entrust with others
·      indulge an addiction that does no harm
·      ask for what you want; tell people how you feel
·      find poetry everywhere—a flower, a peach, an old salmon-colored Danelectro guitar with a moldy case, pickles, your friends.

And eat a salad and get some exercise, too, damn it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Senior Citizens Ball

“We all wanna be big stars / but we don’t know why / and we don’t know how” —Counting Crows, "Mr. Jones"
British Invasion, February 2009
Last night, I attended the Senior Citizens Ball. The place was full of rockers. It was a bittersweet celebration, because the honorees would soon be gone. This was the last seasonal performance of thirteen graduating seniors of the Baltimore School of Rock.

We joined SoR because I was working on a book proposal—something about how you can be a rockstar at any age. (Because who didn’t dream of being a star something at one time? And who doesn’t have a midlife crisis and a spare ten grand to attend a fantasy camp to address it?)

Serena was ten and learning how to play guitar, so I dragged her to the 8x10 for the SoR’s tribute to David Bowie. She was reluctant but, by the end of the night, convinced. She’d go for a season to help out her mom. 

Show Team, Jr. Hunt Cup, April 2012
Four years and nearly 20 shows later, Serena is on the School of Rock’s Show Team and is about to start her sax-ademic career at the Baltimore School for the Arts. She is a confident, well-adjusted, creative, smart, nice girl. She’s a leader and a team player. Of course, I can credit her ultra-hip, uber-great parents. I can credit her education. I can credit her community—friends, family, relationships, neighborhood. But a good chunk of it goes to the School of Rock, who influences her for upwards of ten hours a week.

Awesome Ted Merrill, Graduate
In the last four years, we’ve seen some pretty average kids come through SoR’s doors. But we have seen so many of them turn into remarkable kids with extraordinary talent. They work hard. They play harder. But you know what else? Most of them are nice. Really nice. They are kind to us. They are respectful. They are good to my daughter.

Nice doesn’t get nearly enough credit. But think about it: Are you rooting for the nasty brat to get a Grammy? Should The Voice belong to a bitch? Should the American Idol be a back stabber? We have enough of those.

My agent and a few of my friends have always been a little suspicious of this cult that is the School of Rock. How rock and roll is it, they want to know, to have your parents pay for lessons (as if there were another way to get them)? How cool is it to play a club in front of your family and friends?

Phenomenal Ian Viera, Graduate
Cooler than singing into a hairbrush. Cooler than playing air guitar in front of a mirror. Cooler than being good at Rock Band. Even cooler than teaching yourself to play electric guitar in your bedroom. 

Nothing’s perfect, but it’s hard to argue with these results. Last night, thirteen kids played 22 songs, tunes from bands as diverse as Incubus and Rhianna, My Morning Jacket and Stevie Wonder, Toto and the Black Keys. They were as good as any professional rock band you’ve ever seen. (One of the best of these kids deserves his own shoutout: Ian Viera, the only drummer graduating, played every song, and if he wasn’t perfect, only he knew.)

Brilliant Jack Averill, Graduate
Janet Decker, Mom and SoR Director 
Between songs, some of the kids spoke of their experiences at SoR. You can guess what they said: “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the School of Rock.” “Thanks to my parents for paying and for driving me to the School of Rock.” “Thanks to the School of Rock teachers for inspiring us to be our best.”

A friend asked Janet Decker, the school’s director, which kid was hers. “All of them,” she said. And she wasn’t exaggerating. They’re my kids, too. And I am proud of every single one of them.

So congratulations to my kids: Jack Averill, Lindsay Baer, Evan Cooper, Will Fedder, Jordan Lagana, Meghan Malenski, Ted Merrill, Imari Miller, Caroline Myers, Andrew Potthast, Ian Viera, Nick Vogt, and Max Yates. And while we tend toward the figurative use of this phrase, I can say it here literally: You all rock.

And thank you, not just for the entertainment but for being such good people. That puts you way ahead of the crowd.