Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Relationship Injustice Part 7 - Fidelity

It's a damn shame that so much deception, strategy, and maneuvering is prevelant in stale relationships, be they marital or otherwise. The world of the big city, bars, meeting places, adult playgrounds, and the like, are always monstrous pillars of temptation for those that might sense disquietude in their current relationship. There are always those married couples that hide away in the remote suburbs, avoid contact with anyone that isn't family, and play things safe. Good for them, and for many, this is a satisfactory existence. I find it a bit too codependent, insecure, and over-protective, but it isn't for myself or anyone else to judge. My company line has always been, regarding commitment, "Don't buy the car if you can't make the payments". Some people want it both ways - the security of a spouse, but also the impetuosity of pursuing urges, recognizing them, and caring little for any subsequent ramifications.

Then, there are those that go out without the significant other, hit the bar, drink, maybe cheat, and no single step or moment singularly defines a problem with the relationship. Clearly being out on one's own, without the other person in tow, is a sign of some type of distress. Social environments like bars are so brutal as "adult playgrounds" with the bevy of stripped inhibitions, partially dissatisfied couples, solo artists, and leeches.

With the steadily growing divorce rate, people have less and less (here's a funny) faith in fidelity, as there had been so many divorces and broken homes in the previous generation. Everything seems like a pyramid scheme; as one couple divorces, then the generation below them seems inclined to divorce or cheat, and so on, and so on, etc. It's exponential. It truly seems that one day in our lives, marriage will be an anachronistic rite, preserved within isolated sects and regions that seek the old ways. Why marry someone if there's still a chance you'll carry a torch for someone else, take the spouse for granted, or otherwise taint yourself with thoughts of another person?

The very definition of marriage has long since been bastardized by the very nature of people's zest for personal gratification. Forget the vitamins, I want the candy bar. Forget the long term plans, I want the quick fix. I have no idea how the upcoming generations will turn out, given the broken homes and split households that pepper modern society. Odds are good that in a few years, the institution of marriage will be a distant memory, and couples will merely mate, part ways, and leave the offspring to the ills of unconventional wisdom, thus only to replicate their parentless upbringings in their own adulthood.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Songs That Trigger Memories

So many of us know that certain songs instantly conjure up a distant time and place, just from hearing a passage from a song or similar melody. I figured I'd be selfish and share my own little favorites:

The Who - "Shakin' All Over" (live, from Live at Leeds)
As I drove down to my college graduation ceremony in 1993, I remember constantly playing the little section after the second chorus, when they broke down into their own little improvisation, and it was so powerful to me, and I have no idea why. To this day I love that little section because it reminds me of driving down the expressway toward IIT and feeling validated, empowered, and arguably at the top of my game.
I had a steady job I loved, had no girlfriend, wanted no girlfriend, didn't drink, go out, or care. Just was happy.

The Doors - "Love Her Madly"
Takes me back to when my insane brother was playing this album on his "hi-fi" and I was a mere victim of his wildness. I couldn't have been 5 years old when I knew most of The Doors' catalog. It distinctly reminds me of my brother playing records in his room and otherwise torturing me. Not necessarily a bad memory, just a distinct one.

Styx - "Lady"
I remember this from the local am station W.I.N.D. back when I was like 3 years old. This was debuted on WLS in 1972 and I swear I heard it there too. Part one of the throwback to innocent days...

Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love"
Oy - I was soooo young when I fell in love with this song - I believe I was singing the riff at my brother's orientation for high school, which puts the date around 1973! But I distinctly remember, as a toddler, making a little divey sort of motion with my hand as to emulate the descending chord after each chorus of "wanna whole lotta love" (neeeeaaah). Yeah that was probably my first song that I fell in love with.

Wings - "Band On The Run"
Wow, in the day, one of those additional song memories that take me back to that innocent time of early childhood, hearing the song on the radio (WIND, AM 560 with Clark Webber) back around 1974 or so. I distinctly remember the acoustic guitar break before "well the..." lyrics. I reflect on that innocent time of childhood fondly, and miss it. I still actually sometimes cry when I hear that acoustic guitar break, just from the memories of being a kid and otherwise unencumbered.

Simon And Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Another childhood reflection. As my mom would tatter about the house on her day off, she'd play the "Greatest Hits" on an 8 track player made by Lloyds. Most of those songs take me back, again, to that innocent time of being 4 years old, free to play with my little toy trucks, and devoid of all the complications that growing up would eventually deliver.

Van Halen - "Unchained"
I heard it while I tuned in the LOOP (fm 98, Chicago station) in 1981, while hanging with my friends in our shed on a hot summer day. Being almost 10 years old, I stopped and remarked "who is this?" and nobody knew. Once I found out, I was hooked. Takes me back to that summer day - and summer always, for kids, is usually a great time.

Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"
Similar to the above, was a youngster in 1981, goofing around in my basement with a friend. The song came on while myself and a friend were building a fort (who didn't at that age?). After moving to Los Angeles in 1982, I bought the single (it always skipped during "South Detroit") and was prominent because during a birthday party, we all played capture the flag. There we all were, running in the streets at 11pm, and I couldn't stop hearing that song, with the passage "shadows, searching...". Pretty cool.

Van Halen - "Panama"
Ah the days of puberty - this song was on during my first, well, make out session, and whatever else you might want to attach to that scenario. Ah to be 13...

Tommy Tutone - "867-5309"
Yes, I called the number. It was a time when I was listening to the local rock stations way too much and getting into the music of the time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Best And Worst Live Bands

First, the worst:

1. ZZ Top
They stand in one place for an entire show, fail to cater to the fact that they might be in a large arena, and have nothing visual to offer. The renditions of songs are unfortunately so faithful to the original studio recording, that nothing special comes through in the live performance. One could put a poster of them up on a wall and blast the stereo to replicate the live show.

2. Jefferson Airplane
Wow, constantly out of harmony, staring down at their guitars like they were teenagers in a garage somewhere. I'll never understand how they garnered a following in the late 1960s by performing live, as it was nothing to write home about. Sloppy, stoned, and impersonal.

3. Van Halen (1990s)
Wow, whatta disappointment. Eddie lost all his vigor and acrobatics due to his ever disintegrating hip, advanced age, and laurel resting. There was a time in the 1980s when, alcohol and related substances be damned, they were a beautiful train wreck in the making; Michael was drunk, Dave was drunk (at least when I saw them in 1984), and the brothers were just amped or wired or whatever. There was something special about seeing a live act be stupid on stage and still pull off fist pumping versions of "Everybody Wants Some". Once Sammy came along, everything became a Disneyworld attraction.

4. John Lee Hooker
Yeah yeah, God rest his soul, but come on; he sat down the whole time, was way too old to be still playing live shows, and just mumbling/phoning it in. You can't just put on the trademark hat, sit in a chair, and twang occasional minor chords and call it a performance - that it wasn't. I was rather annoyed by shelling out the 40 bucks just to see a museum piece.
Buddy Miles sat in on drums for that show, and he made so many oblique references to having known Jimi Hendrix, the name dropping alone made me sick.

5. Aerosmith
Speaking mostly of the 1970s, Tyler was a mess, hardly singing at all, falling over, keeping his back to the audience, and caring little of putting on a good show. As with the Van Halen reference, I mentioned a type of interesting train wreck, this was simply a sad train wreck.

And The Best:

1. The Who
Forget it - off the map. I saw many many concerts, featuring bands old and new, and in 2000, I saw the best ever. These people weren't kids anymore, but Pete was on fire, Roger was intimate with the crowd, and it felt like we were right next to them on the stage. Now I'm not even bothering to mention how they were between 1968 and 1973 - having seen the footage, absolutely the best live act ever during this period. The Who performed on a film called "Rock and Roll Circus" that was produced by the Rolling Stones and was meant to feature them as the headlining act. They literally kept that film in the can for years because the Who outplayed them beyond recognition. They are the only band that ever blew Led Zeppelin off the stage, as Zeppelin once opened for them in 1969. Everyone in Zep even admitted how they were outplayed that night, and they were used to crushing every other band in a particular bill.

2. Led Zeppelin
Well, of course they were bound to pop up on the list. Excepting 1977, they played great, long, unique shows, employed visuals, and otherwise tried to deliver something special to each crowd, each night. They were fined for playing too long at a particular venues, and didn't care - they truly loved the interaction and shared communication with the fans that they valued. Some cities (Seattle, Los Angeles) were treated to extra special shows with rare song performances and encores that sometimes lasted over an hour. Great stuff, and a band that truly saw the value of the live audience.

3. Guns n' Roses
In their day, fantastic stuff. Performances were unique, energetic, and forceful. After a while, surely it became annoying when they'd show up late, Axl would be an idiot, etc, but there was a punk ethos to those shows that made each one an event, rather than a mere show.

4. Motley Crue
Ranked as the loudest show I ever attended, and it was nasty loud. Loved it at the same time. They consistently poured everything out to the audience and occasionally did something special, at least when I was there. They filmed the video to "Same Old Situation" at a show I attended at Alpine Valley, and I am fairly certain my arm is in the video's final cut. Don't bother looking for it, but I had a black shirt (who didn't?) and my arm is outstretched. Fun stuff and just wacky rowdy.

5. AC/DC
Can't miss with these boys. Angus always works up a good sweat, they employ all types of visuals, and the set list is generally unplanned. That appeals to me - the uniqueness and specialness of any particular show. For a bunch of old farts, relatively speaking, they do a pure show and never disappoint.

Honorable Mention:
Jane's Addiction

I loved the desire and insanity of the shows I witnessed. One thing I'll never forget, when Perry Ferrell said "One thing I want you to all do some time soon - rage..." They were all rather messed up, but that was the beauty of it - the artistic element. The drumming was fantastic, the performance quality was oddly precise, and being a Dave Navarro fanatic, it was a moment to not be forgotten. They subsequently went a bit tame after 1991, but the original memories will always linger.