Raised on the Radio

Because growing up on 70s television didn't kill me. It just made me who I am today.


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Gordon Lightfoot

 

I’ve been listening to Gordon Lightfoot for 44 of my 44 years. It’s a gimme, isn’t it? If you were alive in the 70’s, you listened to Gordo.

That doesn’t mean I knew the ins and outs of the man. Actually…..I heard from a reliable source that his life took some serious wrong turns, and there may have been some unfortunate drinking involved. It was the 70’s, why am I surprised?

For most of us, it’s easy to brush Gordon Lightfoot off as some musician with a ton of songs on the Easy Listening radio station. Oh wait, I like that station. Okay, some guy who makes the easy listening station easier to listen to.

How many times have you heard Sundown, or If You Could Read My Mind on Lite FM?  I admit to being stuck in the land of 70’s pop music. Heck, I’m a child of 70’s radio, and frankly, feel lucky to have been so.

I often credit Gordon Lightfoot with my inspiration to be a writer.

Just like a paperback novel. The kind that drugstores sell.
-If You Could Read My Mind

But if you leave your knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot there. You would be missing so much. I was missing it too. It took my 8yo’s obsession with The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and then later The Canadian Railway Trilogy, for me to see it.

I Bet You Didn’t Know

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Gordon Lightfoot has a lot to be flattered about. In 1964 he wrote “The Early Morning Rain”, and because he was a nobody, he wasn’t even the first to record it. A couple of friends who “discovered” him offered to record his song on their album. It was a good move. For both of them.

He did record the song in 1966… and after that 74 other bands and artists recorded it too. Not the least of which were Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, The Grateful Dead, George Hamilton IV (who took it to #9 on the country charts), Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Peter Paul and Mary (the most well-known pop version).

At 13-years-old Gordon Lightfoot was already making a name for himself, he loved to sing and his parents encouraged him to do so. Between the ages of 13-17 he won multiple awards for singing. That recognition helped him find his path so he attended West Lake College of Music in Los Angeles. This decision would prove to be invaluable to him.

The 60’s started a fire in Gordon, by 1964 he had already written 75 songs. However, he felt none of them really had a “sound” he could call his own. And then – he met Bob Dylan. Through Dylan, and many friends that came along with that sound, he found his sound and that sound would take him all over the world.

Bob Dylan had something to say about Gordon Lightfoot as well. In an article written when Dylan inducted Gordon Lightfoot into the Canadian hall of fame he said, “He (Lightfoot) became a mentor (of Dylan’s) for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.” Obviously the feeling was mutual. And from an article in The Huffington Post:

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.

BF: You and Lightfoot go way back.

BD: Oh yeah. Gordo’s been around as long as me.

BF: What are your favorite songs of his?

BD: “Shadows,” “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind.” I can’t think of any I don’t like.

Bob Dylan often covered the song “Shadows” when playing live.

As I sat down to write this, I began listening to some Gordon Lightfoot songs I have very little memory of hearing, it could be I never heard them. I was inspired to track them down when I happened upon a list of all of his songs that have been covered by other artists. This one piqued my interest – after all it was covered by Eric Clapton. I found Clapton’s version of it on YouTube, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. But that irked me, there had to be a reason that Eric Clapton would want to play that song. Right? There was. The problem is, you cannot improve upon perfection.

The 1970’s would be when Gordon Lightfoot would truly see fame. Finally being recognized by listeners outside of the folk music scene, yet continuing to create using his own unique sound, his songs began to top the charts. Being a child of the 70’s, it was only natural that my experience with Gordon Lightfoot would be: If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown and of course The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. But being a lover of music, that is never enough. When a songwriter sings and plays with so much raw emotion I naturally want to know, what more?

Exploring Gordon Lightfoot was something I did many years ago, to connect with my father, who was very influenced by folk music. And now again I am finding it as a way to connect with my son, to expand his knowledge of music, as I capitalize on his fascination with The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald*. Every minute is a learning moment with music. With Gordon, it could be a lifetime.

I will not leave you without Sundown:

Some trivia:

Aside from his success in writing, singing and performing his own songs, Lightfoot has found fortune in having his songs recorded and performed by other great artists including:  Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr., Marty Robbins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Judy Collins, Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Sarah McLachlan, Barbra Streisand, Peter Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte, Jane’s Addiction, Richie Havens, Glen Campbell, Toby Keith, George Hamilton IV and Eric Clapton.

In June of 2012 Lightfoot’s legacy was further enhanced when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  Lightfoot was honored for his role in defining the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and ’70s.  There are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame including Barry Mann, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Isaac Hayes, Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Diane Warren, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen.

* Shameless plug alert. This is a YouTube video of my son singing every single word of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald 3 years ago. He still sings that song almost everyday.

Gordon Lightfoot Graphic.png


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What Are Your First Musical Memories?

vinyl on player

What are the first songs you remember in your life?

Of course, the answer may have something to do with when you were born.  It may also have something to do with the type of music your parents listened to.  And, believe it or not, it may also have to do with what your mother used to put you to sleep when you were a baby.

C’mon, don’t tell me you don’t remember:

Rockabye Baby

Being born way, way back in 1954, I have the benefit of seeing Rock ‘n Roll grow up with me.  Of course, one of the very first artists that really hit me as someone to emulate was known as the King.  Oh, you might even have heard of him, too.  Yep, the one and only Elvis Presley!

Elvis Presley “Hound Dog”

I think there were many songs that I heard as a youngster that really didn’t stick with me.  What I do remember is a time when I was 4 years old.  My mother and I were on vacation visiting my grandmother in Cranston, R.I.   We’d gone shopping to pass the afternoon, and to get out of the heat of the apartment building (which had no air conditioning back then), and stepped into a Dime Store. (Once known as department stores … now known as having been devoured by Wal-Mart stores.)  At the end of an aisle, I remember piles and piles of printed T-Shirts, stuffed animals, and an old 45 rpm record player cranked up to full volume playing Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater!”

Sheb Wooley  “Purple People Eater”

After that, I started paying attention to music.  It wasn’t long before I had my own record player and wasn’t shy about throwing a fit to get more and more records.  (It’s a trick I still use today with my wife!)  Thanks to a loving grandmother, I soon received my own copy of “Purple People Eater”, and the Three Stooges doing their version of this hit for kids.

The Three Stooges  “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”

I must admit, I didn’t really know much about Rock ‘n Roll at that time.  Oh, Ed Sullivan’s Show and other variety shows we’d watch on a 19″ black and white television always had some singers of sorts, but I found that Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” and Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” were favorites of mine.

Tennessee Ernie Ford  “16 Tons”

Jimmy Dean  “Big Bad John”

And, as much as I hate to admit it, three more novelty songs are next on my list of early memories.

Hollywood Argyles  “Alley Oop”

Brian Hyland  “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

Larry Verne  “Please, Mr. Custer”

And then, before you knew it, the Beatles came to America.  Then the Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits, and The Kinks, and … well, the story can only continue with the British Invasion and how it changed music in the states.

But, that’s another story!

(How about you?  What was the first music you remember?  Be sure to leave it in the comments below!)

Ciao!

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues. Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


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A Letter to Carole King Concerning Tapestry

Dear Carole,

In 1971 you released an album called “Tapestry”.  This is an album in which you either wrote all the songs either by yourself, or with a little help from your friends, with the exception of “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”  I say this not to tell you something you already know, but to simply state facts since so many artists in today’s world have absolutely no idea how to write a decent song.  So sad, but so true!

I was in the midst of a great love with a young lady I imagined would be my mate the rest of my life when I heard the first single, “I Feel The Earth Move”.  Indeed, she did make the Earth move under my feet, and everything else for that matter.  I’d lost my mother when I was only thirteen, and she had become the sole female in my life.  We’d walk together, hand in hand, through all of life’s trials and tribulations regardless of the odds.  And, you were there with us.

(“I Feel The Earth Move”)

How fragile young love is.  It wasn’t long before your second single, “It’s Too Late” was telling our story.  I know, your were telling the story from your own experiences and from a female point of view, but believe me, your words never fit a situation better.  She’d grown tired of walking the halls at high school alone and had found another.  Yes, she’d returned my engagement ring, only to ask for it the following week.  That was when I found it wasn’t I that she’d desired, but the status of wearing a diamond to high school.  I should have known better.

(“It’s Too Late”)

After her, I found another.  Yet, Vietnam was on the horizon reminding me how unsure the future could be.  I was having fun with my new partner, doing things that I’d never imagined doing, as she was an entirely different person than the first.  Much more daring and one to seek out the fun things life had to offer, I left the land of the narrow-minded and experienced my own “Smackwater Jack” person.  From concerts to going ice fishing (and accidentally toasting crickets along the way with the rear heater vent in the VW), she taught me that it wasn’t only material goods that brought a smile, but the small things that could be shared together in a very special moment.

(“Smackwater Jack”)

“Tapestry” continued to follow me in my life.  The military caught up with me and I couldn’t escape its  grasp.  After a trip home for leave, I’d started the eighteen hour drive back to the base in Virginia when “So Far Away” hit the radio.

Yes, we’d visited and shared not only some good times, but also our physical love for each other.  There were no promises made to be broken in the future.  We’d acted as how we’d expected adults to act.  It wasn’t the most loving goodbye, but it was sufficient, or so we’d thought.

(“So Far Away”)

Would you believe I turned the car around after listening to your song and drove an hour and a half back to do it all over again?  I did!  But this time, with love and affection.  I asked her to gather her things and go with me.  Of course, she didn’t as her college obligations and such kept her cemented to her surroundings.  But, at least your song made our goodbye one in which we knew we might have a chance to get back together in the future.

Your 8-track accompanied me in my journeys for many years, later becoming a cassette and then a cd.  Every song has a personal story that I could relate, but restrain myself for respect for your time.  I will say that “Home Again” was there when I returned to her and my home after the military, as well as “You’ve Got A Friend” every time I tried to cheer up someone over the years that needed a smile.

(“Home Again”)

I really don’t know if you knew how deep “Tapestry” would affect a person over the years when you released it.  I can only tell you that to this soon to be 60-year-old, it has created a musical bond between you and millions like me, whose lives have been much better places to be with “Tapestry” a part of them.

Now, you and I and millions of others are getting older by the second.  One by one, we tend to leave this Earth and head off into another existence … or, so we hope.  It’s been a long and interesting journey, and the next one promises nothing different.

I have to say “Thank You” for providing us with “Tapestry”.  It enlightened, nurtured, consoled, and entertained us for many a decade.

I’m just wondering, will “Home Again” be played as an encore when we reach our final destination?

With Love,

Rich

To Download Carole King Tapestry, click this link: Tapestry – Carole King

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues. Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


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New Releases by Some Classic Rockers and Singer Songwriters

new releases.jpg

Are you as burnt out as I am?

I’m ready for something new … something different … something that I can get into and forget everything that’s been going on.

tommy castro

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers just put out a new blues album. If you’re a fan of the blues, you’ll be happy to know that some of the guest artists on this release include Joe Bonamassa, Tasha Taylor, Tab Benoit, Marcia Ball, Magic Dick and The Holmes Brothers. Here’s a sample for you:

“The Devil You Know”

David Crosby  Croz

David Crosby (yeah, of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame) just released one last week, too! It’s called “Croz”, and is one of the best collections of songs he’s put out in years. Close your eyes and mellow out a bit and you’ll be able to imagine being around in the late sixties and early seventies when he was in his prime.

“What’s Broken”

bruce springsteen   98797879

And, the Boss is back. New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen has just released “High Hopes”, an album of great songs that remind you who really is the boss to this day. True, Clarence is up in the sky serenading Rock Angels with his haunting saxophone. However, the Boss and is still accompanied by Nils Lofgren, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Patti Scialfa and others that have been with him for decades, in addition to a new relationship brewing with lead guitarist Tom Morello.

“High Hopes”

Neil Young  Live At The Cellar Door 1974

Who doesn’t like Neil Young? Okay, I saw a hand or two out there. Yes, there’s times when he goes too far with his music. But, wouldn’t you rather have that than someone who bores you to death time after time sounding the same as the previous twenty albums? No? Well, just for you, Neil released an archived performance from 1970 at the Cellar Door. Here’s a cut I know you’ll remember.

“Old Man”

Passenger   All The Little Lights

There’s a new kid on the block that brings back memories only too well. Passenger is a singer that sounds like Cat Stevens so much, you’d swear he was his son. (Could be, but who’s telling?) Seriously, if you’re looking for modern mellow, Passenger is for you. Listen to this one and tell me I’m not right.

“Let Her Go”

London Grammar  If You Wait

What do you say about a group you only discovered because their album download was just $3.99 on Amazon.com? How about far freaking out! I can only relate to the 90’s group Portishead in comparing them with any recent band, and I personally feel they exceed them in quality. London Grammar doesn’t seem like they’re going to be a flash in the pan. If they keep putting out music like this, they’ll be around for years to come.

“Hey Now”

Jennifer Nettles   That Girl

Feel like a little Country music? Remember Sugarland? Well, Jennifer Nettles has decided to give a solo album a go. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll, and a little bit boring. But, if you’re looking to just sit back and lounge around for an hour, you couldn’t pick a more fitting album. “That Girl” came out a few weeks ago, and has been doing well on the charts. Give this song a chance and see if you don’t like it.

“That Girl”

So, sit back, shake the chill out of the system, and relax awhile with this Chill Out Playlist. You deserve it. Remember, soon the snow and ice will be gone and Springtime will be here! And, remember what April brings!

beatles rain

“Rain”

Ciao!

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues. Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


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I Thought Billy Joel and Billy Crystal Were the Same Person

I admit it, I watched a lot of TV as a kid in the 70’s. So much TV, that as a virtual latch-key kid, my sister and I often joked that TV was our mother. That same kid somehow managed to watch SOAP when no one was looking, which was basically always. Except on those rare occasions, when my dad would commandeer the television and we would get to watch SOAP without hiding out – if he forgot we were there.

In May of 1976 Billy Joel released the album Turnstiles. The first single (which means the song that they sent out to the radio stations) was New York State of Mind. That song meant a lot to us as a family because that album just happened to be released the same month my family moved from New York to Chicago. So whether it was my insistence, or my father’s love of music and all things New York, all we had to do was hear that song on the radio and that album was ours. This album is in my top ten albums of ALL TIME, so do yourself a favor and take the time to take a listen:

A few short months later, a new show hit the airwaves to an amazing amount of pre-protesting and talk of scandalous content. When the show aired, it actually warned the viewers that the content might not be suitable for all viewers, which was unheard of in the 70’s. However, the problem was the original line-up for Tuesday nights was Happy Days (I’m there), Laverne & Shirley (I am SO there) and Three’s Company (TV is my mother). Basically, I was already irrevocably glued to the TV by the time SOAP came along and although I can guarantee you I didn’t know what was going on, and some of it even seemed a little scary to me, enough of it was funny and weird that I was hooked.

Now here’s the rub. I spent most of my after school hours sitting next to the stereo, headphones on, staring at this album cover:

turnstiles

And then on Tuesday nights I sat glued, un-blinking to this guy:

photo credit: wikipedia

photo credit: wikipedia

You have to see my point. I’m almost 8-years-old, definitely too young to be watching SOAP, so the trauma (good and bad) forever etched the characters into my brain.

Back to the music – I could write a whole post on the genius that was Turnstiles. This album that could not reach the general pop culture because it was much to complex, it was more a jazz album with a pop bent. Each song was like a symphony. Each song IS a symphony, Billy Joel’s fingers move like the piano is just an extension of his arms. The complex arrangements of horns, the long solos… And if you have read my Steely Dan post you would know that the combination of amazing musicianship in the form of Jazz influence and pop is my sweet spot. And so, I would just listen to each song, so closely, memorizing each note and just stare at his picture, trying to imagine that guy making this amazing music. I knew (and still know) every word. But since I never actually got to see Billy Joel sing these songs, no MTV yet, and I did get to see Billy Crystal act every Tuesday night; that 8yo mind of mine did something I think was quite natural, it put two and two together and got one Billy. Because frankly the guy on the cover of that album looked a little mean, and the music was so amazing I thought he must really be a nice guy. I searched his face over and over for that. I found it in Billy Crystal.

So here’s the funny thing – that’s not where the similarities end. Billy Joel was born in The Bronx in 1949 and raised on Long Island. Billy Crystal was born in Manhattan in 1948 and raised in The Bronx. Both were born to Jewish immigrant families and both were raised under a very strong musical influence.

 

Billy Joel’s father was an accomplished classical pianist and his half-brother became an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe who is currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig. Billy Joel began supporting his mother while still in high school by playing piano at piano bars. His past was fairly checkered after that, but once he found his passion, well the rest is what musical theory classes are made of.

I am sure his past was the muse for this song:

Ironically Billy Joel and Billy Crystal still kind of look a like, which vindicates my 8-year-old brain

And… I’m not the only one who thinks so.

billy or billy

I highly recommend checking the album Billy Joel Turnstiles out. Click this link to go to iTunes:

Turnstiles – Billy Joel


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The Magical Mystery of Music

If there was no such thing as the magical mystery that is music, I wonder what humans would do to pass the time? If I couldn’t hum to myself or learn to produce tonal incantations from odd and diverse objects, then how would I express myself beyond the fragmentary thoughts that bind my mind and yet escape before I ever once catch them?

I am a child of the 70s. Technically I was conceived in the spring of ’69, which I’m told was a pretty darn good year. My mother used to tell of having morning sickness while watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Now that’s a prenatal story if I’ve ever heard one.

And as a child of the wild and woolly 70s, I was epically, perhaps even defiantly, Raised on the Radio. My father came from the time of the Stones and the Beatles, and my mother loved Elvis. There was rock, country, rockabilly, Motown, blues, and everything in-between.

Home on Deranged Top of the World

One of my most vivid memories from when I was probably 3 or 4 was standing on the stool at my parents’ bathroom sink, my dad’s trusty transistor radio blaring in the early morning hours as he dressed for work, my mom still snoozing in bed. Karen Carpenter’s heart-achingly beautiful voice was telling me she was “On top of the world /looking down on creation /and the only explanation I can find /is the love that I’ve found /ever since you’ve been around /Your love’s put me on the top of the world.”

Do you know I can still sing along perfectly to that song? That’s how much I loved it, and that’s how much it moved me, even if I didn’t understand it, and even if I had no idea what was waging in the newspapers that very day.

I can remember John Denver (one of the first concerts my parents took me to), and Peter, Paul & Mary, as they told me about “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and I knew that the song had a sad ending, even if I couldn’t tell you why. But then they would play “If I Had a Hammer,” and I would revive my hope for the world.

There was Johnny Cash, telling me about some kind of “Ring of Fire,” but why in the world would he walk it? Then Conway Twitty would step in, usually with Loretta Lynn, and remind me that true love won’t let any obstacle stand in the way.

My parents introduced me to Ray Charles and Mac Davis, Charlie Pride and Herb AlpertHome on Deranged Herb Alpert

(the lady with the shaving cream on the album cover was delightfully naughty to a 5 year old), along with Bill Cosby and his humor albums and Ricky Nelson, who I loved to watch on “Ozzie & Harriett.” Garden Party, anyone?

As for myself, I found Shaun Cassidy and the glory of “Da Doo Ron Ron,” because I just knew he invented that song. The first 45 I ever bought with my own money was Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” and nearly played it til the grooves wore off the thing.

There was Kenny Rogers, and I can still sing along to “The Gambler,” “Lady,” and “Ruby,” as the soldier begged, “Oh girl, don’t take your love to town/for God’s sake, turn around.” The Vietnam War echoed all around the land, even in music, because I’ve heard Marvin Gaye and Buffalo Springfield telling us all to ask what’s that sound.

Some of my best radio memories are trips to my grandparents’ house, where I would lie in the back seat (it was the 70s, people) and listen to the “oldies” station for the two hour drive. As the Four Tops and the Temptations and The Supremes told me all about love, Jim Croce, Carole King and James Taylor smoothed out the rough edges to lull me into sleep.

I saw “The Graduate” when I was probably younger than appropriate, but Simon & Garfunkel colored my world for years. Then the raw storytelling of Harry Chapin, Don McLean and Marty Robbins…stories that you don’t really hear anymore.

Sure, I’m an 80s baby, too. I love me some Duran Duran and U2, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, REO Speedwagon and ABBA, but the Eagles will always be one of the most defining bands for me, because they are ingrained indelibly on my memory as powerfully as mind pictures of my mom and dad.

Home on Deranged music memories

I still listen to the radio. There’s a station here that plays a mix of 70s, 80s, 90s and now. I even listen to the top 40 and adult contemporary. But I hope I raise our girls on the radio, too, because you never forget the music that binds you across the years and generations and forever holds you, grounded, and yet, on top of the world.

About the author:

After a career as a newspaper reporter and editor, Melissa Swedoski thought she was well informed on the chaos of everyday life. Then she married a man 13 years her junior and became a SAHM to two toddler girls. Now, she’s mumbling through the mayhem of marriage and motherhood in a small Texas town, turning her investigative eye on the mishaps and misadventures of parenting and the marathon that is marriage, always with the emphasis on humor and love. You can find her living her big little life at Home on Deranged.


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How On Demand Is Cheating Our Kids

In an age when it’s too easy to become a Ninja Netflix addict, stealthily clicking “next episode” on the iPad at 2am, knowing that you’ll regret it, and not being able to resist doing so, because it’s RIGHT THERE, right NOW, on demand, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when life was so completely not on demand.

There was a time when television and radio controlled what and when you watched, and listened to.

When On Demand didn’t exist.

Let me take you back. To pre-1981, and before MTV even existed.

In 1979, music had become an important part of my life. Big important. I’d hear a song on the radio, love it, and then have to wait for the next time they’d play it to find out the name of the band, if they didn’t announce it afterwards.

And, they usually didn’t announce it afterwards, as the practice was to introduce it beforehand, play it, and then fade out the music while the DJ said what he thought about it while immediately going into the next introduction. The next new song.

Back then, the radio made or broke bands. Enough airtime meant that we – the public – would have a shot at hearing it, before, or after, school hours.

Enough airtime meant that we’d have a shot at knowing what the band’s name was. It meant bicycling to the local Walgreens after babysitting for 8 hours to afford a purchase of the next coveted LP. It meant bicycling home, LP mostly-safely tucked into a backpack, finally gotten home, and then, it meant a dedication to listening to the entire record. Back, and front. Over and over again.

Ah. Can you even remember listening to the entire record? Front and back? I think we’re missing out, a bit, now….

We put up holiday lights, on our ceilings, because we didn’t have You Tube, or anything else, and our holiday lights were beyond festive. We made magic. Before You Tube and MTV magic existed, even. We saved up to see bands, live. To buy their records.

Teenage girl lying on floor 80s floyd_edited-3

I miss those days.

Back then, it meant that liking a record was an investment. That when you “LOVED” a band, that it mattered.

Years later, when tapes came out, and you could drive, it meant that liking a song meant rewinding that tape in the car, to the song that you needed to hear again. And again, and again.

It meant that when your parents told you that your stereo – that took up half of the wall because you had speakers and an amp and a tape thing and a record player on top – was too loud, that you could put on hubcap-sized earphones. Shut them out.

And just listen.

It meant that when you found out how much you loved U2 and Billy Idol, that you’d spend hours in front of the radio, waiting to record your new favorite song, and that, often times, the DJ spoke over the beginning and the ending of it.

Which meant that your favorite songs, before you could bicycle to Walgreens and purchase the record, were listened to with a DJ’s voice wrecking the beginning and end. It meant HOURS, sitting in front of your too-large stereo, waiting to tape your favorite song.

It meant laser light shows. If you’ve never seen one, I highly recommend it.

Mostly though, being raised on the radio means that we were, actually, raised on the radio.

Being raised on the radio was special, in a way that being raised On Demand, is not. It means that I want to teach my son the art of patience, and practice, and practicing patience.

It means that I will never let go of how it felt, waiting with anticipation for a station to play A Song. It means that although we live in a life of On Demand, that I’ll do my very best to teach my son that the best things in life are not clicked with a button.

That they’re worth waiting for.

That they’re not on demand.

Kristi and Tucker November 2009_edited-1Kristi Campbell is a semi-lapsed career woman with about 18 years of marketing experience in a variety of national and global technology companies.  More recently, she was a co-host on a hilarious (and under funded) weekly radio show.  Once her son was born, she became the mom who almost always leaves the house in either flip-flops or Uggs, depending on the weather.

While she does work part-time, her passion is writing and drawing really stupid-looking pictures for her blog http://www.findingninee.com.  Finding Ninee (pron. nine-ee for her son’s pronunciation of the word airplane) started due to a memoir, abandoned when Kristi read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir.  Its primary focus is humor and support in a “Middle World,” one where the autism spectrum exists but a diagnosis does not.


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Lessons Learned From a Cheap Trick Concert

ravinia fest

It’s the end of the summer; we try and make it to as many concerts at our local Ravinia Festival during their short season. It’s a completely unique venue, sprawling lawn lot’s of giant trees shading the area, planted in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It was originally built in the 1940’s as the summer home for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The sound is simply amazing for a place so big. This year, we saw 7 concerts, and for our last concert of the season – we planned to see Cheap Trick.

I’m not going to lie, I was burnt-out. My sister and I leave the house at 1:00 to wait in line to be the first in the park to run our butts off to get what we think is the best possible spot on the lawn. It’s like the running of the bulls. And by concert #7 I was wondering if we even wanted to go.

Amazingly, the husbands stepped up. They didn’t want us to blow off the show, and they were willing to wait in line for 3 hours and then sit in our perfect spot for another 3 until the show started. (now don’t get me wrong, we do it up. Wine, cheese, beer, salted caramel chocolates…. you name it, we have it. Books and card games too)

Still, I wasn’t expecting much.

During sound check – the beauty of early arrival, my husband called me and tried to hold the phone up. All I heard was a lot of noise, I was not impressed. Although I am a lover of all things music, I only have a few favorite Cheap Trick songs. And since they haven’t been on my radar, I was not aware of the surprise to come.

Cheap Trick was performing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety.

cheap trick sgt pepper

Actually, our husband’s told us this, but we figured they were full of it. Imagine our surprise when Rick Nielsen came out and announced they would be doing Sgt. Peppers, some Cheap Trick and then more Beatles! Well now they had my attention! And with a full orchestra? That called for a shelving of outside entertainment.

The show was amazing, the talent of the band was still strong, the Chicago Philharmonic was flawless and Gingger Shankar on the double violin was breath-taking!

The magic of this concert brought up these thoughts:

  • I am of a generation that never got to see The Beatles live and never will (duh). (btw I’m 43, so there’s that)
  • It must have been a mind-blowing experience to hear these songs performed live if hearing Cheap Trick perform them was borderline mind-blowing.

The most important thought:

  • No one listens to albums anymore. It occurred to me that ever since the iPod became a regular part of my life in 2002 I haven’t listened to an album from first song to last. (OK maybe a few in the beginning, but certainly not in the last 5 years)

The age of album rock and concept albums is basically dead. Sure you can create one, and you can even hope to have some people care enough to buy it. But really? When you can have the instant gratification of downloading that one song you just love without buying the whole album, what’s your motivation?

And by “providing” this service we are encouraging mediocrity. While once upon a Beatles time, an album was conceptualized from first song to last. Now all you need is a few hits and the rest is “filler”, because really, whose going to buy the whole album anyway? Our children will never understand, or even think about the choices a band made in the order of songs. They will never know what a b-side is. They will never need to buy a whole album just to own their favorite song.

I left the concert feeling energized and frustrated. Frustrated by the fact that as I attempt to raise my son with a deep appreciation of music, I have been going about it all wrong. Energized by the fact that it’s never too late. I never tossed all of those CD’s I uploaded into iTunes. The day after Cheap Trick, I popped in the first disc that’s been in my car’s CD player ever. The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s is in rotation. All my son will hear for the next few weeks in the car is that same album over and over, that’s how we did it (but on a record player in the living room). I am thinking the next CD in rotation will be some Jazz. He already loves the jazz mixes I’ve made, but I can guarantee you that every Jazz album I own was meant to be listened to from beginning to end. I am making a promise to myself to seek out new musicians that are making music for the music and not for the highest number downloaded.

Just to give you an idea of the caliber of musicianship that was part of this amazing concert here is a video of Gingger Shankar playing the double violin. She is an amazing artist and composer. She has played with The Smashing Pumpkins and she wrote the score for The Passion of the Christ, she has done so much more, and continues to be a prolific composer and artist. Go click on that link up there and check her out.