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My inner music snob was murdered today

11 Nov

Have you heard of Zumba? If you haven’t been sleepless at 2am and seen the infomercials about the latest “fitness craze” that is sweeping the nation, well, it’s a fitness craze that’s sweeping the nation. In fact, you don’t even have to buy a Zumba instruction system to do at home, you can assuredly find a class somewhere in your neighborhood. I did. The Zumba people tout it as “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™” A party? At 8:30 in the morning? I am so totally in.

There was no sangria nor ceviche and chips at this party. What there was in high supply was old white women in Lycra pants and reinforced sports bras that were all ready to shake it. And shake it they did. The class was taught by a young black fella, whom I am guessing is sassy as hell. That, btw, is code for gay. He’s a hoot, and he’s kind and patient, but he is still a fitness instructor and that means he is secretly trying to break me so he can talk about it later. I would absolutely love to hear his recap to his friends at Blake’s this weekend about all of the crazy white housewives with no choreography.

A little background is that I have no rhythm and no coordination. None. I tried to get in on the aerobics craze in the 1980s. It seemed so fun in movies like Perfect, starring a pre-Scientology John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Or what about Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” video? How great did she look with that headband and spandex get-up? I started by getting Jane Fonda’s Workout, which I did in the basement during a summer. My dad came home for lunch one day and came downstairs to let me know he was there. He took a quizzical look at me all sweaty and red, then glanced at what I was looking at on the TV. Then he completely popped a gasket, lost any couth he had and started yelling about “that GD-Hanoi Jane-Communist-bleep-bleep-NOT IN MY HOUSE-bleep-bleep-Damnit to Hell!” Tom had been in Vietnam. He wasn’t fonda Jane. And that was that. The next time I tried aerobics was five years later in a class at a health club. During the warm up, I fell and sprained my ankle. I quit. Why bother?

But this Zumba thing is a fitness p-a-r-t-y and I do like parties. In my head, I was picturing Jazzercise for the 21st Century, but while listening to Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Sergio Mendes. There would be confetti cannons and a lot of spontaneous trilling of tongues. Those Latin countries are known for bringing the fun! Um, no. This was NOT my mother’s Brazil. What happened in place of a little slice of Carnivale? My inner music snob was murdered today and replaced with an out of shape middle-aged mom who doesn’t have it goin’ on half as much as I thought I did. I was put to shame by “mature women”, some twice my age, who could hip flick, shimmy, bootie-shake, plus do arm movements all while jumping up and down to Gloria Estefan, Rihanna, and Maroon 5. The final blow to my self-esteem came when I was limply shaking my flacid groove thang to the Backstreet Boys. This was happening in public. Heck, I couldn’t have tongue trilled if I wanted to…I could hardly breathe! I drank all of my water bottle and smelled like the boy’s middle school locker room when it was all over.

But, I think that I’ll go back…at least I didn’t break anything! That, and I just can’t bear the thought of going to Curves yet.

Scenesters get old-school, or just get old

5 Jul

When Hot Damn was in high school, we didn’t have hipsters.  There were dweebs, jocks, nerds, hoods, mallrats, punks, new-wavers, skaters, pot-heads, juvies, rivet-heads, brown-nosers, homos, band-dorks, theater people, scenesters, campers, girls that took The Cure way too seriously and so on.  But, no hipsters.  They hadn’t been born yet.  I’m not exactly sure where I fit on the scale of labels and teenage coolness.  It’s not that I consider myself without definition; more likely it is that I kind of embraced bits and pieces of them all, floating in a social abyss.

One thing I was into was the “music scene” and so I knew a lot of scenesters.  I listened to low-dial college stations, hung out in record stores, made themed mixed tapes, read Maximum Rock n’ Roll and snuck into clubs to see bands.  A lot.  I don’t think I ever copped a beer; I just wanted to hear the music.  My parents thought that I saw Top Gun like every weekend; they were not so okay with me slinking around downtown at night.  Can’t imagine why.  Growing up in Atlanta, there was no shortage of music venues that looked the other way when it came to minor patronage.  The Metroplex, White Dot, 688, Royal Peacock, Dugout, Atlantan Hotel, Margaritaville, The Point, and Celebrity Club all had slack doormen and great music every weekend.  I saw a bunch of great shows at Georgia Tech, Emory and Piedmont Park, too.  Last Husker Du show?  Saw it.  Ditto for The Replacements.  Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ at a burrito shack?  REM at Piedmont Park?  The early version of The Black Crowes in a basement?  Sitting on stage with the Smithereens?  Check them all and then some.  It was good times.

A favorite band from that era, Guadalcanal Diary, had a pearl anniversary reunion show this past weekend.  (They played that cannibal song!)  Going to the show I expected to see a bunch of throwbacks and familiar faces from way back when.  Well, it turns out that aging scenesters…age.  They are virtually unrecognizable.  Their hair turns grey (if they still have it), their clothes get all practical and store-bought, and they have traded in pointy boots for a comfy pair of Merrells.  It’s also mainly old dudes, not old chicks, who turn out for reunion shows.  But if the music still rocks and the beer is cold, it’s all good.  And it was.  Except that it was hot, and we were sore from yard-work and had stuff to do the next morning.  As we were leaving a tad early, a guy looks at Big Daddy and says, “Hey, don’t I know you…from Cub Scouts?”  Cover blown.

You know, Big Daddy and I actually still go out and see our fair share of bands.  We are usually the older people toe-tapping in the middle, surrounded by young hipsters.  Aside from the skinny jeans, 1970s women’s sunglasses and ironic t-shirts, the hipsters aren’t all that different from the aging scenesters.  Well, except that the hipsters all have tattoos and piercings; the pearly scenesters have nicotine patches and wedding bands.

How I got atmosphere induced narcolepsy, or why I hate musicals

18 May


I hate musicals, but why?  When I was a kid I loved My Fair Lady, GiGi, Mary Poppins and even The Wizard of Oz.  On Saturday mornings I am usually belting out “Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain.  But, at some point, after seeing Tommy, I began to writhe in my seat whenever an actor would break into song.  And if so much of a scintilla of choreography is present in anything, I practically get apoplectic.  It’s not like my parents beat me with rolled up Playbills or practiced aversion therapy while screening the film adaptation of Oklahoma.  I can listen to the Cole Porter songbook all day long, and I know most of the words to the Rogers & Hammerstein catalog, too.  Still, I can not watch a musical!  So what gives?

After a lot of soul searching and careful consideration I can hone in on exactly two experiences with musicals that have shaped my disability to sit through any production with singing and not squirm then fall fast asleep so that I can detach from what is happening in front of me.

Can you find the crashed car

I loved The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album so good that it is rumored to be the catalyst of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s most significant nervous breakdown.  Who couldn’t lose themselves staring at the cover art?  It was like a Who’s Who of popular personalities, many of whom were recognizable to me at the time, like the Hardy Brothers, Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley and others who I wouldn’t recognize until I was older.  Furthering my fascination with the cover were the hidden clues as to whether or not Paul McCartney was really dead.

But the album’s jacket was just a window dressing for what was inside.  The music hit me in a way that was really powerful for a little kid.  I didn’t know what made “Within You, Without You” or “A Day in the Life” so good, but they were.  Songs like “Getting Better” or “With a Little Help From My Friends” seemed like they were written especially for me.

Horror movie

You cannot imagine what a shit bomb hit my life during the summer I turned eight.  At the Franklin Road Theater in Marietta, I was taken to see the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.  It was like watching a puppy being tortured.  Everything that I loved about the album had been perverted.  There was a feminine Peter Frampton in painter overalls cavorting with the BeeGees acting as the Beatles, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Steve Martin, George Burns and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Oh, the humanity!  I can only guess that the Beatles green-lighted this mess while they were camped out in India sucking on the hooka pipe and gobbling mushrooms with Ravi Shankar and any two-bit guru with a sitar.

How could this have happened?

So that was number one.  Number two is this:

Simply awful

The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Holding my sides.  Ugh.  Groan.  Eyes are rolling.  Okay, so what I think happened here is that I have older brothers.  Growing up, they would get to “stay out late” when they were going to see the midnight showing of this crapgasm.  They all allegedly loved this movie.  There was the soundtrack album in our house, maybe a poster and lots of quoting at the breakfast table.  At least that’s how I remember it.   I hope to God this was just an act that was played out for the benefit of my mother, who would allow them to break curfew only if they were at the theater.

I guess I was fifteen when I was finally allowed to go see the movie.  Not only was it the Holy Grail…the midnight show, but it was also going to be my first time seeing it.  The palpable excitement that I felt in the car quickly turned to “What the hell?” as we walked up to the ticket booth.  Where did all of those dorks in costumes come from?  It only got worse as people pelted stuff at the screen, shouted out the dialogue, brandished squirt guns and then got up to dance along with the film’s action.  The crowd participation was more animated than seeing a slasher flick at an all black theater.

I couldn’t tell you what happens beyond the first fifteen minutes. The stress of seeing the aptly named Rocky Horror Picture Show and it’s fans marks the first time that I was able to invoke my atmosphere induced narcolepsy.  I have not stayed awake during a musical performance…film or stage produced, since.  I’ve slept through Cats in London, NYC and Atlanta.  Snoozed through Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.  Caught winks during Wicked, Grease, and every musical in the Fox series during 1993…when my mother gave me season tickets.  WTF?  And I even rested my eyes when Snakebite was involved in a play at school.

I told you that I am Mother of the Year.

5 Songs about cannibalism that will eat at your soul

28 Apr

By and large, I think that most pop and rock songs are about love, playing in a band, being misunderstood or excitement over a day of the week.  Rap songs are predominantly about prosecution, pimping, money, drugs or some combination of all of the above.  Funk and soul are about dancing and making the sweet, sweet love with a foxy lady. Of course, the topics for songwriting are endless and can lean to the silly, autobiographical, serious or mundane.  Melanie Safka wrote and sang the absurd “Brand New Key” in 1971, about her roller skates.  Madonna, Ben Folds, Squeeze, XTC and any band with working biology have waxed about unplanned pregnancies.  Jimmy Buffett crooned about cheeseburgers of all things.  Tommy Tutone, Squeeze and Mike Jones all have lyrically tackled phone numbers.  However, there is one song topic that only a brave few have really dissected.  Without further ado, in no order, I give you five songs about cannibalism:

1.  “Timothy” by The Buoys:  I single-handedly tried to get this song going again during the Chilean miner crisis and excavation of 2010, but…wait for it…no one was biting.  Timothy chronicles the fate of three trapped and hungry miners.  Guess which one doesn’t make it out alive.  Of note is that Rupert Holmes was a member of The Buoys and is responsible for “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”.   He should fry for that.

2.  “I Eat Cannibals, Part 1” by Toto Coelo:  It’s a new wave dance song about liking someone so much that you just want to eat them up.  My favorite line is “Healthy recipe, What you got is good for me”.  Forget the creepy insinuation of cooking someone in a stew pot, I am pretty sure that a restraining order could have been issued for the bad melody alone.  There was a Part 2, but it never got the airplay of Part 1.  People were full after the first one.  Really, it’s a disorder at this point.  I can’t seem to help myself with the bad puns.

3.  “I am a Cannibal” by Ke$ha” – Oh, Ke$ha…you try so hard, yet fail so miserably.  Busting a rhyme about Jeffrey Dahmer in auto-tune just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  This song was meant to be edgy and controversial.  Instead it smacks of something that bored middle-school girls would write during study hall to kill time.  When will Ke$ha write a song that really bares her soul and shows who she is as an artist, and call it “I’m a Talentless A-hole”?

4.  “Michael” by Guadalcanal Diary:  While “Michael” never explicitly addresses eating or being eaten, it is most certainly about the idealistic Michael Rockefeller.  Yes THAT Rockefeller, who disappeared in New Guinea in 1961 and was never found.  Reports from local peoples were that he fell victim to headhunters.  I don’t really have a funny quip about that.  It’s too disturbing.  Also, both band and song are a bit obscure, so I couldn’t locate a clip.  However, if the notion of this song whets your appetite for more information (okay, there…I slid one in), check this out, then this and finally this from the In Search Of series, narrated by Mr. Spock Leonard Nimoy.

5.  “Maneater” by Hall and Oates:  I always knew that there was something dark lurking behind Oates’ mustache!  While the song may present as being about an unscrupulous hooker, I choose to believe that it isn’t about a woman hungry for attention and money at all.  The song wasn’t called “Dollar Grabber” and John Hall must have warned that “she’ll chew you up” no less that a gazillion times in the song.  I think it is what it says it is.  She’s got the hungry for men…she’s a man eater.

An honorable mention goes to…

Before there was South Park, Trey Parker’s first feature film was Cannibal! The MusicalIt’s based on the events surrounding the conviction of Alferd Packer, who allegedly had a few friends for lunch during an 1874 expedition through Colorado.  Set to campy tunes and horrific special effects.  Atlanta’s own Dad’s Garage Theatre has even staged a production based on this cult film.  Personally, I thought it was unwatchable.  I lasted about twenty minutes before I cursed Netflix and threw in the towel.