Monthly Archives: September 2017

Everything You Will Know or Ever Know is Just a Pale Blue Dot

This photo was taken years ago by the Voyager Spacecraft as it was approaching outer space and leaving our solar system. It would be the last photo taken by Voyager. Voyager was launched in the mid-1970s as a space craft designed to get us up close and personal to our many solar system neighbors. It has sent us amazing photos of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. Voyager’s payload includes a golden record of the sounds of earth so perhaps an interplanetary archaeologist may one day find this record and understand there is a civilization in all of that darkness. The record is designed to last over a billion years and will exist long after we are gone. Voyager one day will likely be the only evidence that we ever existed. As we all know, in time, the sun will begin its process of dying and will at some point super heat and eviscerate all life on our planet and there is nothing we can do to stop it. But this is not supposed to be a sad post, more hopeful. Continue reading

When YOUR idols begin to pass.

I am pretty sure it was 1986 when I discovered Husker Du. I was on summer break and my dad took the family on a road trip. Part of the trip was a swing by my Uncle Steve’s house in Atlanta. We did not get there often but it was always the best. my Uncle Steve was the cool uncle to me. He went to Harvard, had this cool house, did things like have cheese plates on the counter. It was also awesome because I got to hang with my cousins; Tad and Ben. Tad and Ben have always been cooler than me and I always loved hanging out with them. That summer was a little different though. Continue reading

Day Seven – #SeptVinylChallenge – Seven Inches of Heaven

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Depeche Mode. They are one of my favorite bands. I think so highly of their music and how much their lyrics speak to me. And often they are just damn fun to watch. As part of their Music For The Masses album promotion the band put out a seven inch remix of the song Behind The Wheel. It is really great and played an important part of the movie documentary 101. But it was the B-Side to that seven inch single that really worked.

On the other side was a seven inch remake of the song Route 66 originally written by Bobby Troup and sung by Nat King Cole. This version was a great techo-pop version and was amazing. it quickly became one of their most common encore songs to sing and is just perfect. I love this song and put it on so many mix tapes that I did in the 1990s. I think it is one of their best ideas.

Day Six – #SeptVinylChallenge – Album you Often Don’t Remember Buying

When I was a Sophomore in high school I went to the Campbell Square Six movie theater in Homestead, Florida and saw the documentary Imagine on the life and times of John Lennon. I was already a huge fan of The Beatles and John Lennon but this movie gave me a new perspective. I appreciated how amazing his talent was, how he developed, and how he lived other parts of his life. I also was introduced to so many new songs by John Lennon and got to see him as separate from his Beatles persona. It was such a liberating movie.

I immediately went to the record store in the Campbell Square shopping center and got the album. I must have listened to it for a month straight. Learned so many song from his albums like Double Fantasy. I loved the collaborations with Yoko Ono and I really began to appreciate the members of the Beatles outside of their band. I started buying Paul McCartney and Wings, George Harrison albums, and went to see Ringo Staff with a friend. It reminded me that the whole is the sum of it’s parts. I often forgot I had this album because I could get so many of the songs in other ways but I remembered how important this was at the time. Formative.

Day Five – #SeptVinylChallenge – Back to School Album

In the fall of 1990 I began my senior year at Homestead Senior High. At that point I was already a huge music fan and always on the look out for amazing new discoveries. I was most interested in how the artists I loved as a child began to mature and grow. George Michael was a teen pop idol, George Michael was an MTV star, George Michael was an artist who I always believed was so much more that his sex appeal and fame. He showed that in 1990 with one of the great albums of the 90s. Listen Without Prejudice was an album that few critics saw coming. It featured iconic pop songs like Freedom 90′ and ballads like Waiting For Time.

The album was mature, personal, and showed his deep commitment to his songwriting. He was looking to move past his teen idol days and become an icon. And that he did. I believe that his album, along with I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got by Sinead O’Connor are the true harbingers of the shift from Hair Metal and Bubble Gum Pop of the late 80s to the real sound of Gen X that will be defined by NWA, Nirvana, and others. I must have listened to this album 100 times. I chose it because the album came out just as I was returning to school that year. It was the defining album of my senior year.

Day Four – #SeptVinylChallenge – Four Album Titles that Describe Me

This was a tough assignment. While finding four albums that describe you can be an easy task (fine four albums your love and Viola! You have the post) but in this case it was four album titles that best describe you. That is a bit harder. So I dug deep, did some real thinking, and went back into the recesses of my mind to remember which albums were actually in my collection to find four albums that describe me.

1. Strange Ways Here We Come – The Smiths

This album is one of my favorite albums of all time but also describes my life. I have lived in 8 states, lost my father to drug addiction, earned my doctorate, traveled to 49 states, been a pizza guy, fell in love, become a father, seen Depeche Mode 12 times, – I have lived a strange life. It has been wonderful and I look forward to the decades to come. This album typifies what my life has been like. Songs like Girlfriend in a Coma and Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before create a story of how strange life is and the melancholy changes they bring.

2. The Lost Boys Movie Soundtrack

I consider myself a Lost Boy. I grew up moving all over the country, I often feel alone and disoriented. I have to be a bit of a chameleon to fit in and I don’t feel comfortable with the mainstream. This album and movie by the same name is about isolation and the vulnerability of not fitting in. While kind of about vampires it is metaphor for the kind of people who interrupt a person’s life when they are alone and vulnerable. So many times I was tempted by fitting in and I resisted. The music is also part of that equation — even if they were not sure at the time it meant anything. Echo and the Bunnymen doing a version of People are Strange, Though Shall Not Fall (Cry Little Sister) by Gerald McMann, and Good Times by INXS are all in reference to band leaders or singers who were painfully introverted but acted extroverted for their art. This lead to two of their deaths. This album shows my painfully shy and lost side.

3. Document – R.E.M.

I love R.E.M. For far more reasons than I have time for in this post. But I can tell you that this album does 100% reflect my personality. This album and it’s title is a celebration of historical context in political, social, and emotional context. Finest Worksong, The One I Love, Exhuming McCarthy, and King of Birds are all blue collar songs of memory and lesson that is mean to serve witness to those who cannot represent themselves. I believe that history is more important than the future and this album is an antebellum relic of that. R.E.M. Are southerners who have a real sense of who they are what their heritage represents. I hope I do too.

4. The Immaculate Collection – Madonna

In 1990 Madonna released a “Greatest Hits” album that was more than that. It had new songs like Justify My Love and also featured remastered versions of songs that spanned her early career. The reason I selected this album was because like her songs I am a collector of things that spark memory. Sports cards, record collections, playlists, AFI Movie lists, you name it I love to collect things. I am not a hoarder, quite the contrary. I am actually a person who lives a minimalist lifestyle. But what I do collect I do with completion and purpose. I think Madonna did that with this album. It was intentional on how it was ordered, the music selected, I have listened to this album perhaps 100 times. It’s amazing.

So these are the four albums that describe me.

Day Three – #SeptVinylChallenge – An Album Given to me because I collect

I was born in 1973. The day I was born the biggest album in the United States and the world was Carol King's Tapestry. It was a singer songwriter album of sorts and is still considered one of the great folk/singer-songwriter album of all-time. The album is anchored by such mega-hits as I Feel the Earth Move, It's Too Late, and Tapestry but essentially the whole album is a hits collection. The album speaks to the complexity of love and commitment during the early, turbulent 70s and the power and pain of womanhood. It is a beautiful album of emotional depth and intellectual peaks. Carol King's voice is angelic and she sings with authority and wit.

I was given this album because my mother felt I should have her copy to keep in my collection. My mother loved this album and she felt it was important I have the album that was number one when I was born. Luckily for me that album was not a Tony Orlando album or something. I got lucky that the album that kicked off my life is as timeless as we hope out existence is. My father really introduced me to and cultivated my appreciation of music. But my mother understands how music affects me and its nostalgic qualities it has. So Carol King and I will forever be linked and that is pretty cool.

Day Two – #SeptVinylChallenge – Disappointing Follow-Up

During my senior year in high school Sinead O'Connor released her most influential and important album of her career. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was WAY more than Nothing Compares 2U. The entire album was the first Gen X soundtrack of the 90s and songs like The Emperor's New Clothes, I Am Stretched on Your Grave, and Black Boys on Mopeds were important and incredible songs. We all felt this was the start of an amazing career. She had other good albums including The Lion and the Cobra. So I was already a huge fan. But then came Am I Not Your Girl?

The 1992 album was essentially a collection of standards and covers and while the album was not terrible it was such a huge miss from her previous three albums. There was the decent Don't Cry for me Argentina and none of the album's songs were horrible. The standards were treated as a direct copy of their original which made that even more disappointing. Here is the deal. I was a huge fan and had so much hope for it. I remember going to the record store, buying the album, rushing back to my dorm, putting the needle down on the album and just being bewildered. Sure she had done a standard on the Red, Hot and Blue record but that did not need a whole album.

So this album was really disappointing and I hated that.

Day One – Bargain Find #SeptVinylChallenge

So in one of the many places I lived Spokane, Washington was one of them. This town of 250,000 located in eastern Washington was a great place to call home. It is also a spot where I purchased a lot of vinyl albums during my teen years. One place where I found a number of albums that were in my collection was at a second had shop called Value Village.  You could find anything there. Like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop the second hand industry was really important. So that is where I found the K-Tel Records Compilation Overlord for I would guess .50 cents.

the album was a wonderful collection of early New Wave and alternative music. While I cannot remember the exact date of purchase I can say the purchase was in 1986 or 1987. It was at a time I was learning which bands like Echo and Bunnymen and The Smiths I was going to love. This album introduced me to an array of other amazing bands. It was the first time that I heard many bands like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, or Simple Minds. It got me hooked on alternative pop music and I listened to the album over and over again.

The album was produced by K-Tel Records who was the Now That’s What I Call Music of their day. Their albums would be advertised on TV and on the radio and you had to send payment to get a record weeks later. This album’s track list is amazing.

Join me in taking the #SeptVinylChallenge

(a project created by Craig Bididman – educator, blogger, music fan)

During the month of September I am going to be taking a trip down music memory lane. Doing some remembering on a collection of music that has long since departed my ownership. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a massive love of music. And that love began a very long time ago with my father. My father, who would have been 64 this year had a massive Vinyl collection. Thousands of albums that he had collected as a child to adulthood. He had them thoughtfully arranged by genre, artist, and feeling so when he was in the mood for a certain artist, kind of sound, or memory he can easily access them. I often felt that was how his brain worked. I spent hundreds of hours looking at, sifting through, and listening to his massive collection. He has this great Pioneer turn table and these huge Sony speakers that made every album sound perfect.

His collection made me want to collect records and I did at places like 4,000 Holes Records in Spokane, Washington, Flea Markets in South Florida, and First Amendment Records in Greenville, North Carolina. While I never amassed his volume of Vinyl I did have somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 albums. Here is where it gets sad. When I enrolled in graduate school in 1995 I did not have room in my car to take my albums with me to grad school at Southern Illinois University. So I left them with my father at his home in Pinetops, NC. I stored them in our barn with all of the rest of my stuff. I think you can figure out the next issue. In 1997 as I was moving between grad school and my new job in Texas a tropical storm hit Eastern North Carolina and it collapsed the roof of the barn. All of my albums were ruined. By time I got to them they were covered in mold, warped, and gone. It was devastating. I never collected Vinyl again.

Fast forward 20 years later and Craig Bididman posts a photo on Instagram with a 30 day Vinyl challenge. I knew right away this was the time to reintroduce myself to my Vinyl collection from 20 years ago and to look into the confines of my memories to recollect those albums all over again. So, why you will not see any photos of me holding a vinyl album know that each album I will post and write about I did own at some time and I think I might try to find again. Music has been the core of my personal survival and it always will be. For the next 30 days, I get to revisit so many of those important albums. Thanks Craig and I hope you too will enjoy this walk down amnesia lane.

Here is a screenshot of Craig’s Instagram Post for those who want to join in.

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