Tags Posts tagged with "Music"


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Ludwig Sticks

Tre CoolI remember once watching Green Day perform at some festival on television, probably around 1995, and my dad remarked, “That guy is terrible” in reference to Tre Cool, the drummer in the band.

I mean, I could tell that Billie Joe Armstrong was terrible at his instrument but didn’t notice how “off” Tre Cool was — and still is in every single performance I’ve ever seen since by Green Day.

My dad was spot-on. The guy can’t play.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s the same type of deal where Blink 182 (essentially a Green Day ripoff) is playing live at some awards show or something on television and my dad utters, “Hmm, maybe he’s not so bad…” assuming it’s the same guy.

Travis Barker

Through all of the noise, all my dad would listen for is the snare — and apparently Travis Barker had “it”.

I’m not totally certain what ‘it’ was — my guess is that his rudiments are spot on unlike Tre Cool who, while fast, is actually about as (un) talented as Animal is playing with Electric Mayhem.

Either way, it was quite a sight to see a guy in his late fifties drumming away on the steering wheel to a Blink-182’s “Rock Show“.

Dennis & Randy

My dad played snare for Preston Scout House and later the Flying Dutchman, following his older brothers’ footsteps, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

It was kind of a big deal… and not, like, just locally. It was renowned. World famous, even…which back then simply meant “famous in North America.”

Still, keep in mind that this was way before marching bands, aside from DCI, turned into what they are now — social outcasts that often turn out to be the folks that own cats by the dozen later in life. These kids were cool.

From what I can gather, he was pretty good at it too as I’ve been told by a number of people who wouldn’t just say it cause I was his son or because he’d died — I’m pretty certain he *was* really good at it.

When it came time for me to play an instrument, my dad laid down a few rules.

Absolutely no reed instruments – clarinet, oboe, or that god awful instrument called a saxophone.

No flute.

And never, ever, drums.

Didn’t leave me with a lot to choose from — and I think that was his plan all along…

I ended up on a trumpet in third grade, getting a jump on most of my classmates who took up instruments in 5th grade and beyond.

I believe my dad steered me away from drums mostly because he knew that, even if I’d managed to get really, really, really good at it, for the most part, the “talent” would always go completely unrecognized.

To be just awesome at something but have most people see it as, eh, yeah, that’s pretty good.

“Have you heard the new Beatles’ song? That Ringo is to die for…”

AnimalTalk about unfulfilling.

And now, when listening to live music, I totally get it.

Most of these guys are hacks just smashing away behind a wall of drums semi-randomly most of the time — and most people think they’re gifted musicians.

They’re not.

Kind of explains why nearly every song you hear on the radio was actually performed by studio musicians and not the “talent” on the cover of the CD or in the music video.

Anyway, while I was the best trumpet player in our school through 7th grade, it was never really my passion…and other kids were quickly catching up.

tubaI soon switched over to tuba. Yeah, the tuba.

No joke, our band teacher had a poster in his office of all of the brass instruments. I went in for my trumpet lesson one day and said, “I want to play that one” while pointing to the tuba.

I’d picked it cause it was the biggest and once the school system actually secured one for me to play it was so big, in fact, that I had to sit on a couple telephone books to reach the mouthpiece.

Played tuba through high school — getting a trip to Germany in the process — and then left it in my past the day I graduated.

While I was never very good, no one ever forgets the tuba player.

That is pretty fulfilling.

– – – – – – – –

PIAC Addendum

Total lie up above.

I actually was pretty good at the tuba.

I mean, I didn’t have a lot of competition as there were never more than two tuba players in our band at any given time so it wasn’t much of a challenge to be the best or anything, but, yeah, I was a pretty good tuba player.

– – – – – – – –

Tangent from the Deep End

Glory DaysFurther, I sometimes think about how people “peak” at a certain point in their lives before starting a steady decline.

For me, I’m not certain if my own peak came in high school (like it does for so many people) at the height of my track accomplishments or if it was in my 20’s when it almost seemed there was nothing that I couldn’t accomplish on the computer and money, honestly, came easily and from so many sources. (I bought a freakin’ plane?!)

Perhaps I haven’t peaked yet?

Who knows…

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my dad peaked while he was still marching and playing snare and it was a pretty important time for him.

It’s the only reason I can think of that he had about a dozen pairs of drum sticks from the 1950’s always somewhat accessible (though almost never used) in our basement for all those years — the ONLY thing I can think of in our house from his youth.

Kinda like my track trophy that I received when I ran a 4:18 mile in 1993 — it’s not on display at my house or anything but I know EXACTLY where it is and don’t plan on ever misplacing it.

The sticks were his trophy.

After he died, I remember seeing a pair of them in the garage of my parents’ new gated community “retirement” house.

I left them there.

I’m not certain why. Maybe cause it was in the garage, literally feet away from where my dad had died just hours earlier.

But after the surreal funeral, just as I was getting ready to go to the airport to head back home, my dad’s older brother came over with a pair of fat Ludwig sticks in his hand to take home.

I’m not sure if they were the same pair that I’d seen in the garage a few days earlier, I assume they were.

He didn’t say much of anything — he didn’t have to.

Anyway, I tucked them into my backpack and hoped like crazy the overly aggressive TSA agents at the airport wouldn’t confiscate them as weapons of mass destruction or something.

For real, I’d have started walking the 1200 miles home if that had happened.

So, sitting right here in front of my keyboard are a couple of 60 year old Ludwig drum sticks.

Ludwig Sticks

They’re not on display or anything — actually mostly buried below mail and empty Capri Sun pouches most of the time — but I know exactly where they are.

Probably always will too.

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OJ Simpson 1994

While driving yesterday, I found it peculiar (and totally awesome) that the radio station I’d settled on played one song after another, after another, after another that I knew all of the words to.

Like, really, it was like my own personal playlist being broadcast on commercial radio.

In order, the last 6 songs I heard were Basketcase by Green Day, Runaround by Blues Traveler, Better Man by Pearl Jam, Because the Night by 10,000 Maniacs, Selling the Drama by Live, and Interstate Love Song by Stone Temple Pilots.

By this point, during my second car trip of the day with an awesome soundtrack, I finally noticed that each song was being intro’d with one of those cheezy male radio voices saying “1994”.

Must be some sort of flashback day or something…

Anyway, it was clear that 1994, when I turned 18, was my sweet spot for popular music and that got me thinking…

Am I torturing my kids by making them listen to this dated music?

Putting myself in their shoes, and reminiscing about what my parents made me and my sister listen to in the car, well, it kind of makes sense.

My parents turned 18 in 1965 which totally validates the style of music I was “forced” to listen to growing up, you know, lots of the Everly Brothers, Beatles, Neil Sedaka, Rolling Stones, Elvis, and that sort of thing. Lots of early British Invasion one hit wonder stuff.

Once the music got a little bit more psychedelic, political, and, frankly, weird, they kinda of punched out from the popular music scene much like I did when (crappy) bands like Staind, Tool, and Creed took over the airwaves.

But here’s the thing… in my opinion, my “old” music doesn’t sound dated.

No, it’s not over processed like Beyoncé or Katie Perry and they didn’t use sampling of “apparently” forgotten hit songs to rap on top of back in 1994 but it doesn’t sound old fashioned.

Or does it?

Oh crap, that’s probably exactly what my parents thought in 1994 about Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl”. That song is timeless… Ha!

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m really thankful that my popular music “sweet spot” occured when I was in high school from 1990 through 1994.

Really, I was the perfect age (just starting grade 10) when Nirvana came along and “changed” the trajectory of popular music.

Nirvana was never one of my favorites (though I’m pretty certain I own all of their albums besides Bleach) but songs from that era that I know all of words too still hold some weight.

The bands and the solo artists weren’t putting on costumes or makeup like the 80’s hair bands — just wearing and looking a lot like I still do when I go to the mall.

More music and less of a production during that time period, I guess. They didn’t have gimmicks, they just played the songs.

No matter, there isn’t much shame to be had for knowing the words to the songs I’ve listed above. I know I’m not embarrassed.

And that reminds me of a time I took my sister to a college hockey game back in 2009…

She found it downright hilarious when the sound system played Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” and all of the Ugg boot wearing university students sang along proudly.

For real, the students drowned out the sound system in the arena as if it was the oft-played chorus of “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi playing at any sporting event anywhere in the past 30 years.

Being older and wiser, my sister and I both knew that little Miley was a flash in the pan and that someday these kids would be horrified to be labelled as a “fan” and probably even pretend that this day and their actions at this specific hockey game never actually happened.

And as my sister continued to poke fun at the situation as though she lacked similar skeletons — she’s 5 years younger than me — I uttered the band name “N’Sync”.

Bye, bye, bye.

Conversation over.

For my age bracket, there just isn’t a comparison…and I’m really thankful for that.

And before anyone brings up my love for “The Sign” by Ace of Base (released at the end of 1993), well, that song is awesome


[The 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged album with the “Because the Night” cover was actually released in 1993 and not 1994 but that’s ancient history, right?]

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Michael Jackson

Michael JacksonI’m not certain how it came up but recently my two older children have become interested in what I thought was “cool” when I was their age.

No, it’s not like they want to use my old Speak-n-Spell… Wait, actually, I should bust that thing out. They’d freakin’ love it…

Okay, a better example is how they’ve have little interest in the crappy Star Wars action figures I had back then or even playing COMBAT on the Atari 2600.

What they’ve been asking, though, are things like “Is this song from when you were a kid?” or “What did McDonald’s have before McNuggets?” and “What number were you when you played soccer?”

Yes, for the record, I’m old enough to remember a time before McNuggets. I’m pretty certain the term “Chicken Finger” had yet to debut.

You wanted chicken? Go to Kentucky Fried Chicken…and order chicken. There was no original recipe then. It was all just… chicken.

Anyway, while driving home one night, we caught the tail end of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean on the radio and I’d mentioned that it was my favorite song when I was their age…

I exaggerated slightly as I was 6 when it came out but…after 3 decades, that’s close enough, right?

They both seemed to show real interest in it, you know, being something that I really liked when I was little.

Truth be told, I can’t IMAGINE my parents as children.

I think part of that is due to the fact that I essentially know nothing about their childhood — as far as I’m concerned, they “started” when I was around four years old and they’ve never really shared any of the details of what occurred before then.

It might also be because the things that interested them never really interested me. I mean, I liked playing soccer in elementary school but I’m pretty sure neither of my parents ever played soccer, like, ever. Very little overlap, I guess.

So, I’m going to try my best to make sure my kids know that I really was a kid too — and share with them as much as they’re interested in.

So far, anyway, outside of SpongeBob, our interests are almost a 100% match.

Not sure if that’s a sign of good parenting or not…

So, listening to MJ in the car that night had me reminiscing of the night I first saw the moonwalk.

The next day, all of us at the bus stop were talking about it. Trying to imitate it. And eagerly awaiting the next time Michael Jackson would be on tv.

Mentioned this all to my kids and they asked…

“What’s a bus stop?” and “Why did you have to wait for it to be on TV?”

Yeah, I hate when we’re listening to the radio and they insist it play a certain song… Ahhhh… products of the “content whenever I want it” digital age…

Last night, on YouTube, I pulled up this MJ video with 13 minutes of moonwalking all compiled into one video.

I was a little disappointed it didn’t start with one of his early ones (I thought it was interesting how he slowed the beat down as he aged…) but even still, the kids were transfixed.

Crazy, the first moonwalk I ever saw (at the 12:20 mark of the video) was barely three steps. Some of them in this video are all the way across the stage with some sideways thrown in too.

So, less than four minutes in, both of my kids were laughing and giggling while trying to do it.

Just like I did 33 years ago at that place we used to wait for a bus to pick us up.

Vintage Youth Soccer ShirtPIAC Addendum:
For the record, my older son does ride the bus to school each morning but I suppose no one ever refers to it as a bus stop anymore…

Probably because it’s practically a door-to-door service now. Didn’t I blog about that, like, forever ago?

Oh, and my middle son Henrik, after just 15 minutes or so, practically has it. Even with shoes on, he does a better moonwalk than I ever could. Crazy how fast this species of ours is progressing!

Speaking of the soccer number (way up in the fourth paragraph), my older son thought he looked so cool in that 30+ year old youth soccer t-shirt he wore at soccer practice tonight. I mean, nothing but pride on his face.

Sure, call me a hoarder but I’m certainly glad I held on to it.

Err, all 20 of them.

2 3464

Okay, so this past Saturday morning on my way to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to renew my license — an unwieldy task in and of itself — the radio DJ had just finished up some overplayed (for 30+ years) Steely Dan song and said, “I’ll have another great driving tune in 30 minutes…” and then proceeded to play “The Sign” from Ace of Base.

30 minutes?

Try 3 seconds!

I belted out the entire tune like it was 1994 — nearly wearing my voice out. There are only a handful of songs that hold this status for me and as cheez-pop as it sounds now (and did even back then) — and it’s certainly not really in my preferred style of music — the song is timeless.

So how do I know all of the lyrics? Well, I’ll tell you…

I happened to be in high school in 1994 when the song came out.

At the time, my musical tastes leaned more towards Phish, Live, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and my beloved They Might Be Giants. I even had a soft spot for even bands like Megadeth. Hardly Euro-Pop.

Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I was distance runner on the track team. You know, one of the skinny guys that can run in circles endlessly.

Well, to the casual observer, it may have seemed like we were weaklings but truth be told, we were in the gym on a daily alongside the huckers and chuckers (the meathead discus and shot put throwers).

So, it was a pretty small weight room — a spot for squats, a couple of benches for free weights, and this giant Solo-Flex thing that had like 8 “stations” for all kinds of things. We distance runners basically rotated around this one universal machine before pounding the pavement.

Anyway, this windowless former uniform storage closet was a pretty mundane place to “work out”. One guy had a boom box (a what?) to listen to tune except we were technically in an underground bunker where we couldn’t get any stations in — even with tin foil all over the antenna.

There was one very cool feature on this boom box though — it had a tape deck (a what?) that would auto-flip (huh?) automatically kinda like cassette players in your car (in your where?) would do.

Cassettes were still a hot commodity then since no one had a CD player in their car — cassettes or the radio were your only options — so no one was willing to sacrifice one for the weight room.

Until one day, a cass-single (seriously, what are you talking about?), still in it’s cardboard wrapper, magically appeared.

A sign.

I mean, “The Sign.”

With the high end technology of that boom box and that poor cass-single, I must’ve heard that song hundreds of times with a 45 pound weight hanging from a chain between my legs connected to a weight belt as I struggled through 3+ minutes of dips.

And that was the beauty of the song — it’s tempo was perfect for doing weights and clocking in at just over three minutes, it was also a perfect timer for when to change stations on the universal…

So, yeah, to most of the school, the weight room seemed like a scary place that only jocks hung out in after school and during study hall but, in reality, it was a meeting place for bunch of guys who pretended not to like Ace of Base.

Really, though, to this day, I’d bet everyone single member of the 1994 State Champion Track team still belts it out on the rare instance that it’s still played somewhere.

Speaking of Ace of Base, we’re about due for another double dating Swedish musical act to take the world by storm, no?

1 3573

Yeah, this is a little old now but it’s so catchy.

Actually, I’m just putting it up here so it’s easier to play for my kids — who both know all of the words — and so my mom will know what they’re talking about.

    1 1882

    Duncan's GuitarI can’t tell you how awesome it is that Duncan can now draw something totally recognizable.

    Sure, it might look a little like a leg of lamb or one of those giant turkey legs you see at Disney World but he called it a guitar and my wife labelled it as such.

    As proud as I am, though, and as truly excited I am to soon see those horrific family drawings in the near future (you know, where everyone has a huge head, crazy hair, and no legs), in an odd sort of way, I kinda wish he’d drawn an instrument, you know, that all the cool people in high school play(ed).

    Like a tuba or something.

    Maybe next time…

    – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    In other news, my total credit card debt balance is down to $7045.14.

    Not too shabby — that’s $1350 lower than it was at the start of the month.


    Oh, and yes, I played the tuba.

    And I was tres cool.

    I’m just sayin’… the tuba is really cool.

      1 2558

      PJ20 in Toronto -- September 2011Sure, I could look this up but my first thought was to ask frequent contributor DD (the inspiration for my spending reports)…

      So, when I started the car tonight on the way home from work, Even Flow by Pearl Jam was just starting on the radio.

      I nodded my head and uttered, “Good tune” even though I was alone in the car.
      Yeah, that’s how I roll.

      Even Flow came out on, like, the same day that I started grade 10. Everyone was all into the first single, Alive, because it had a music video but the song before it (Even Flow) on the cassette (yeah, I bought it on tape) was, in my opinion, far better.

      It totally rocked.

      And I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t think I’d even heard the most popular tune to come off of that album (or ever from the band), Jeremy, until it was released as a single like 6 months later.

      You know, back then, it took effort and time to fast forward. Jeremy was the last song on side A — not a great spot. Basically, I’d play Sega in my room while listening to the first four songs, hit rewind, and play again. If you’re under 30, this paragraph probably doesn’t make any sense.

      Anyway, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good ear when it comes to music.
      I hear everything. Even without headphones, I pick up on the small stuff like taps on an open hi-hat on the upbeat of every third bar — you know, stuff that you wouldn’t normally tap your foot to.

      So, tonight, as I’m rocking out to a Pearl Jam song that I “think” I know pretty well, I notice something different.

      More guitar, like tons more layering, and even the solos faded gently in and out instead of being layed on top like some ridiculous Eddie Van Halen “I think I’m so awesome, let me play 200 notes in 4 seconds with some help from a synthesizer” post-production afterthought.

      There were even extra Eddie grunts — so much so that I began to question my version of the lyrics and, um, grunt noises and I really began to listen more carefully.

      This *was* different.

      Not a live cut or some crappy bootleg with audible heavy breathing — still a studio recording but…less polished.

      Simply put — it was better than what I have at home here on iTunes. I did a test listen, with headphones. The “original” almost sounds cheesy in comparison.

      So, DD, is what I heard today the version that you paid like $1000 for a couple of years ago?

      If so…I take back what I may have said then.

      It was probably worth it.

      Can You Dig It?


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