“See You at Tha Crossroads”

“So you won’t be lonely.” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

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“Stirring Souls”

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for reminding me of your absolute beauty and power particularly over these last few days.  Sometimes it takes death to make us feel alive.  You knew Kobe Bryant.  We all did, but you knew him better than anyone.  Most of us just knew that he was a world-beloved basketball icon.  Number four on the all-time scoring list, five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and an 18-time all-star.  Was he perfect?  We know he wasn’t.  You surely know he wasn’t.  Did he have struggles?  Of course.  He was merely flesh.

We know that Kobe was idolized not only by many in our country, but all over Europe, and Asia, and South America.  What we haven’t heard a lot about is that Kobe was worshipping You just two hours before his earthly body was taken.  He was a faithful attendee at the Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach and was also known to attend weekday mass.  The members all knew that Kobe and his family would arrive just a few minutes late, sit in the back pews, and leave a few minutes early so as not to disturb those around him.

Jesus, I feel like You just gave us a small glimpse of what You can do with gifts.  You gave us a reminder at the brevity of life, but Your gifts were on full artistic display for nearly 20 years within a mortal man referred to as “The Black Mamba.”  It was those gifts that made people smile, laugh, hug, high-five, and shake their collective heads over the course of a career.

Sure, we know that your presence, your Spirit, can function like the wind to a sailboat filling sails and leading us to unimaginable places.  But You can also give wings to a basketball player to soar like an eagle.  And in turn You brought people together in love and commonality with a common purpose regardless of race, color, sex, religious and political views, and socioeconomic status.  When You were on full display in the Staples Center in L.A, You brought love.  You brought joy.  You brought kindness and goodness. You brought awe and wonder.

People that say “I don’t think Jesus cares about basketball” – well, I think You see 20,000 souls sitting and standing together in unison.  I think You see an opportunity to bring beautiful, indescribable artistry through Your Spirit into peoples’ lives, and people don’t even realize it.  The scenes You paint with Your brilliant unseen hand can only be admired with a longing – a longing to possess a small piece of whatever this is that we’re witnessing.  I think You see 20,000 people cheering for Your creation.  I think You see thousands of others throughout the world cheering for the gifts that give us live art, that give us pause to reflect and admire.  I think You see 20,000 people that need You, and if for two hours You can show off a brilliant creation that brings them closer to You, it’s then You can begin to work in those hearts and minds.  Hearts become open to receiving when they’re lost in awe and amazement.  They receive Your beauty sometimes unknowingly.  Those hearts are washed in a flood of emotions much like everyday life – with joy, sadness, disappointment, triumph, and ultimately a beginning and an ending.

Kobe Bryant wore 2 different numbers while playing in the NBA.  He wore the number 8 when he first arrived in the league.  His first choice was 24, (which was the number he wore in high school), but an older player was wearing that jersey number so he wore 8 for ten years and when he switched back to 24, he said it was symbolic of his growth and maturation as a person.  He was having a broader perspective on life by that time, and realizing what was most important.  It was still basketball, but I like to believe that his walk with You was growing closer.

Kobe Bryant spent seven years living as a youngster in Italy (ages 6-13) where he visited and spent time in Rome, so if we open up the good book, and go to the Book of Romans, Chapter 8 and verse 24, Paul writes “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Like those that hoped for another last second win by Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, or those that hoped Kobe would score one more point or create one more highlight reel dunk, let us continue in hope for things unseen.  Hope for Your beauty in tragedies we don’t understand.  Hope for words of comfort to come out of confusion and pain.  And for a hope in a higher calling that fills thousands of stirring souls… including mine.

sincerely,

the 80’s

“God bless you working on a plan to heaven
Follow the lord all twenty-four-seven days, God is who we praise
Even though the devil’s all up in my face”

This is probably my favorite 90’s rap song.  The song was released the same year that Kobe Bryant was drafted into the NBA at 17 years of age with the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets – 1996 (he was traded to the Lakers before the season started).  This song went all the way to another number Kobe probably appreciated as much as any – the number one.  A #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  It’s Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with “Tha Crossroads”

 

Also, if you’ve never seen his Academy Award-winning (yes, Kobe won an Oscar) short film entitled “Dear Basketball,” then take a few minutes to watch it.

R.I.P. Mamba.

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“Now Tell Me…”

“How’s life in the big city?  I hear the competition’s tough, baby that’s a pity” – Rick Springfield

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I moved to the “big city” in the summer of 1984.  The city was Norman, Oklahoma.  That same summer before my first school year in Norman (8th grade; shout out Whittier Middle School), I attended my first concert.  The concert was held at the local basketball venue for the University of Oklahoma Sooners – the Lloyd Noble Center, and the concert featured Australian Richard Springthorpe, better known as Rick Springfield.

“Now who’s this, don juan I’ve been hearing of?”

If we want to be technical, my first real concert was Wayne Newton only because my parents dragged me there.  But on Sunday, August 19, 1984, I was there of my own volition, because I loved Rick Springfield, and his career was blowing up.  I realize that maybe it wasn’t cool if you were a guy to love Rick Springfield.  Arguably, there were probably way more girls that loved Rick, but I didn’t care.  I thought he was cool as hell (still do), and he has some wonderfully catchy choruses.

“And every man’s an actor, every girl is pretty”

He had been a star on television (“General Hospital,” and guest appearances on “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and “The Rockford Files” (with Norman native and star James Garner).  Springfield had already charted numerous times on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Love Somebody would be his 10th top 40 hit in the U.S. in the 80’s), had won a Grammy for “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981, and was just coming off of a big screen starring role in “Hard to Hold.”

The movie was released in April of 1984 and the album came out in July.  The movie was not critically acclaimed and garnered just over $11 million at the box office, but the soundtrack did spin off the top five hit (and my personal favorite of his) “Love Somebody.”  It’s said that when Springfield initially read the script, that he threw it across the room calling it a “piece of crap,” but when they gave him a lot of money, he changed his mind and said “I can make this work!”  A moment that he now recalls where he let his ego lead the way.

MTV promo…

Nineteen eighty-four was a transitional year for me.  After spending the previous four years in Seminole, Oklahoma, my dad was hired as an assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Oklahoma.  We were moving to the big time, but it was scary for an insecure, introverted 13 year-old.

At Seminole, the Trojans had won four straight state of Oklahoma junior college championships (every year we lived there), and during this time I had built a core group of friends that I still connect with today mostly via Facebook.  Brandon, Tim, Bill, Nate, and Darby were my Northwood Elementary school buds during those pre-teen years and we spent many an hour together on the playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields, and basketball courts.  We spent time over at each others’ houses playing video games, trading baseball and football cards and celebrating birthdays.  They were going to be my classmates and friends forever so it seemed.

“Love hurts when only one’s in love.”

But then on April 27, 1984, everything changed.  My dad was hired away from the comfort of small town Seminole, Oklahoma, and we were moving to Norman.  Times were changing.  My old crew would be left behind.  New friends, new schools, new teammates, and new adventures awaited me in Norman, but my Seminole crew and I had one last fling before going our separate ways in August of 1984 – Rick Springfield.

I wish I had a cool picture or a t-shirt from the concert, but the fact was that most of us  never paid the $13.75 to see Rick Springfield on that Sunday evening.  Apparently, Nate tells me that he and Darby did end up with tickets somewhere on or close to the floor and Darby actually bought a Corey Hart t-shirt (Hart, whose most well known song is “Sunglasses at Night” opened up for Springfield on many of the near 100 shows Rick performed from August through November in 1984).

So with temperatures hovering around 100 outside that day, my mom took the rest of us and we sat in the video production booth at the top of the arena because we had my dad’s key to enter into the stairway that led up to the basketball coaches’ offices.  It also connected to the video production booth so we could slip in there without anyone paying and watch whatever show was going on below.  Pretty sure we also had a pair of binoculars to help with the viewing that evening since we sat so far away.

“Don’t talk to strange men, don’t be a fool.”

I saw Rick in concert that August evening in 1984.  He entered on some sort of futuristic vehicle with fog machines fogging.  Wearing a headset microphone (that was very futuristic looking at the time), he produced to whip the sold out crowd into a frenzy playing his hits that night.   I would see Rick again playing some 15 years later outside in a parking lot in downtown Oklahoma City where my wife and I would take our niece Destinee to her first rock concert.  I would catch Rick again with my wife and a friend of hers in the Fayetteville (AR) mall parking lot at the temporary Arkansas Music Pavillion (the AMP) in 2011.  My wife and her friend Cheryl even barged their way next to Rick as he performed “Human Touch” while walking through the crowd on top of the plastic chairs.  I think they got to touch his bare arms that night (gasp!) while he walked on top of those flimsy chairs.  I even bought and read his book “Late, Late at Night,” which discusses Rick’s story, and all of his successes but also doesn’t shy away from Rick’s problems with depression and suicidal thoughts that he’s battled through the years.

Image result for rick springfield strumming flowers on his guitar  (One of his memorable stage tricks was to take a bouquet of flowers and strum his guitar with them making for some visual fun.)

Rick Springfield is now 70 years old, which means he was almost 35 that August night so many years ago.  Seventy!  But if you’ve seen any recent footage or caught a performance of his in the last 3-5 years then you know he stays in excellent shape and continues to show off those arms of his wherever he performs, and he also continues to take acting gigs as well.

I looked for a live 1984 performance, and came across this one from around that time.  It is Rick’s #2 hit from his 1982 album “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet” album.  This song is a staple of his in every setlist, and always a crowd favorite.  Here is a live performance of Rick, his bare arms, his cool hair, a nasty cartwheel at the 4:17 mark, and his song with an important message for the youth, and one of those catchy choruses – “Don’t Talk to Strangers”…

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

My Rick Springfield Seminole crew doing something ridiculous (except Nate) circa 1983 or 84…

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“If You’re Lost, You Can Look and You Will Find Me…”

“Time after time.” – Cyndi Lauper

Image result for cyndi lauper 1984 time after time

Damn you “This is Us.”  You got me again.

If you don’t watch the NBC hit family drama “This is Us,” then I encourage you to never ever watch it.  Ever.  Of course, I’m only kidding (slightly).  I won’t spoil anything about the show if you’ve never seen it, but if you’re one that doesn’t mind riding an emotional roller-coaster for an hour at a time then you’ll love it.  The writing.  The acting.  It’s a brilliant show.  Once again if you don’t mind having a fictional story that will make you laugh, think, reflect, and at times, pull your heart strings, and painfully twist them into constrictor knots, then this is worth your television entertainment time.  This is a warning from a person that’s not even into season three yet, so I’m not even completely up to date on the show yet.  But I will be soon (thank you Hulu).

Sometimes I watch the character “Jack” on the show and wonder have I done enough?  Jack is this inspirational, lovable character who’s always playing the romantic and saying the right things and leaving words of wisdom to his wife and to his children (whom he affectionately calls “The Big Three”).  And his character does it all while being funny, fallible, relatable, and humanly authentic.  I think that’s why my eyes swell up with water every now and then while watching this show.  Jack seems like a real person, and in a way, he is.

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“After my picture fades and darkness has turned to gray.  Watching through windows, you’re wondering if I’m okay.”

I think about my own family and if I wasn’t here tomorrow, did I leave a legacy worthy of them?  Did I say enough?  Did I do enough?  Am I making my time on earth count for something?

The mind is a wonderful, confusing, frustrating, funny thing capable of processing and telling you many things all at once.  It also has a dangerous tendency to continuously compare oneself to others – fictional or otherwise.  Still, if we can glean some attributes that might improve oneself, then I don’t see any harm in trying to capture just a little bit.  Also, any of you that have read this little blog regularly know that I lean into the Word as well, and that’s where I find my best solutions:  “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” – Romans 8:6

More than anything though, I just want to set a better example.  I want to be a better husband and a better friend.  I want to be a better father.  I want to be more consistent in these efforts.  It rarely seems that consistency is rewarded, but I love consistency… time after time.

“If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting – Time after time.”

Today’s featured song was played during season one of “This is Us,” and just seems apropos for this post.

Image result for lou albano 80's

Cyndi Lauper was never a personal favorite of mine.  The “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” singer released this song in January of 1984, and I’ll admit – it is my favorite song of hers though it wasn’t at the time of its’ release.  It’s grown on me through the years.

I just never understood the mass appeal, and it’s probably because I wasn’t a teenage female in 1984.  I thought it was cool that she was friends with the late Captain Lou Albano, and featured him in a few of her videos, but that was about the extent of my appreciation for her at the time.  Looking back now, I can appreciate her talent and what she brought to the 80’s.  The wardrobe.  The hair.  The look.  The uniqueness.  And that distinctive voice.  Lauper became the first female to have four top five singles from the same album (“She’s So Unusual”) on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The video features a final scene that has Lauper reflecting about an episode of “This is Us” as she stares out the window, tears rolling down her cheeks.  Just kidding, the tears probably had something more to do with the real-life situation she was going through at the time with then boyfriend David Wolff (who co-stars in the video).  But I will say that if “This is Us” had been on the air in 1984 I think she’d be watching it at the beginning of the video instead of the 1936 movie “The Garden of Allah.”

Here is the Grammy-nominated song and video for “Time After Time.”

 

“Flashback, warm nights, almost left behind.  Suitcase of memories, time after”

Thanks for reading,

This is sincerely the 80’s

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“We Drank a Toast to Innocence”

“We drank a toast to time.” – Dan Fogelberg

Image result for Dan Fogelberg 1981 Same Old Lang Syne

Farewell 2019!  Adios!  Ciao!  For some of you, 2019 was a year of wonder and a year of growth and discovery and will be fondly remembered.  For others, it was a painful, trying, rough 365 days that produced more heartache and frustration than anything.  For many, the year will fall somewhere in between.

For this little blog of mine, this will only be post #14 for the year.  The effort waned.  The daunting thought of banging out another post quelled me.  The motivation diminished.  I guess it’s natural in some ways.  Life events interrupt, and somehow things like this blog drop way down on the priority ladder.  Then, before you know it, a year has passed and you’re barely squeezing in post #14 for the year.  I won’t beat myself up about it though.  Maybe I just didn’t have that much to say in 2019.  Maybe I’ll just try to do better in 2020.

“We took her groceries to the check out stand.  The food was totaled up and bagged.”

Dan Fogelberg had a hit with those lyrics!  Somewhere, deep down inside you have to appreciate that fact that he had a hit song with lyrics about totaling and bagging groceries.  It just goes to show you that if you have talent and you can sing, that you can sing anything and potentially make it into a hit record!  It also shows me that I don’t have to be clever or try to write a Pulitzer with every post.  I can ramble.  I can write about nothing.  I can be nonsensical.  I can write fragments and misspell wurds and put punctuation; in the wrong – places!

Today’s song and video brings to mind times of New Year’s eve past (particularly the beautiful sax solo at the end of the song).  But as I age, I find it harder and harder to recollect New Year’s eves of years gone by.  I recall last year’s spent with good friends and a hilarious game of “Cards Against Humanity.”  I can recall a few random parties while I was single – one with an old high school buddy named Scott somewhere in Oklahoma City.  I can recall spending a few with Dick Clark on the television and mom and dad and grandma in their respective chairs while I was in my teens.  I recall a silly 1984 or 1985 New Year’s eve at my best friend Barry’s house in Norman, Oklahoma drinking sparkling grape juice but acting drunk like silly teenagers might do.  I can recall 1999 (and Prince) in Lexington, Oklahoma at my in-laws’ house hoping the end of the world was not near and computers would not shut down all over the world at the strike of midnight.  I can also recall a few spent snuggled up next to my beautiful wife in bed with heavy eyes struggling to make the midnight hour.

I like to be awake when one year rolls into the next… always have.

“She said she saw me in the record stores, and that I must be doing well.”

Dan Fogelberg was doing well when this song came out, and he was a staple on the adult contemporary charts for many years particularly from about 1979 to 1990.  He also had a few U.S. Billboard top 10 hits in the early 80’s.  From Peoria, Illinois, Fogelberg passed away much too young from prostate cancer in 2007.

Today’s song is actually autobiographical which I had no idea about until I was researching it for this post.  It was not until after Fogelberg’s death that the woman in the song came forward to corroborate this chance encounter while the two were back in Peoria visiting family for Christmas around 1975.

We drank a toast to innocence.  We drank a toast to time.  Reliving, in our eloquence another “Auld Lang Syne.”

Of course, the phrase that today’s song is based off of – “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788.  The first two lines of that poem basically ask is it right that old times be forgotten?  So let’s continue to honor Mr. Burns and the late Mr. Fogelberg and not forget the old times, or this song, and let’s remember old friends and family as 2019 comes to a close.  But, let’s also look forward in anticipation to 2020 and all that it has in store (both good and bad) for us.

Image result for same auld lang syne it's a wonderful life

(Who doesn’t think of this scene whenever “Auld Lang Syne” is played?  If you have any affinity at all for this movie, then you (like myself) do.)

With a glimpse back to a chance encounter at a grocery store in Peoria, Illinois sometime around Christmas eve of 1975, let’s listen and remember Dan Fogelberg’s top 10 hit in 1981… “Same Old Lang Syne…”

A toast to you dear reader/friend/family member/random stranger, and a toast to 2019… and bring on 2020!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“The Time is Now, the Place is Here.”

“And the whole wide world is filled with cheer.” – Run DMC

Happy December!

Any of you that know me, or even frequent this site on occasion, know not only my love of 80’s music in general, but of my love for 80’s rap and the icons that raised rap/hip-hop into the American consciousness in those suburban middle class white neighborhoods of the 80’s.  In particular it was artists like LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Kool Moe Dee, and of course, the trio that started it all for me – Run DMC.  From the moment I heard “Rock Box,” I was hooked on this threesome that I had absolutely nothing in common with except a love of funky beats, cool kicks, and lyrical poetry.

Of course the group from Queens was responsible for implementing that rock sound into many of their early songs like “Rock Box,” “King of Rock,” and ultimately broke through into the mainstream when they collaborated with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way.”  But another reason why they stand out to me is the fact they are the only rap group with a timeless Christmas classic.

You hear it everywhere during December.  I’ve been at a local girls’ basketball tournament the past few days that our bank sponsors in Rogers, Arkansas (shoutout to the Great 8 Classic), and they’ve been blasting this song over the speaker system during timeouts and intermissions, and I’ve loved it.

I’ll also remember the song because it appears in a low production video some college buddies and I shot on my VHS movie camera late one cold 1989 December night (I’m sure infused by various alcoholic drinks) when I was a freshman in college.  One of my friends filmed about five or six of us dancing around in an empty parking lot while singing along with this song that was blasting from his vehicle’s speakers at that time.  The video is still in my possession.  Who knows when it might magically appear again one day.

“Rhymes so loud and prod you hear it.  It’s Christmas time and we got the spirit.”

Sure Kurtis Blow came out with the catchy “Christmas Rappin'” in 1979, but RUN DMC took it to a new level in 1987 coming up with “Christmas in Hollis.”  (Hollis, Queens referring to the NYC neighborhood where Run DMC grew up.)  It was the only original song on the Christmas Album “A Very Special Christmas,” and not something that Run DMC were particularly interested in doing initially (note: they also appeared with another Christmas original song and video called “Christmas Is” for the “A Very Special Christmas 2.”)  They were ultimately convinced to do “Christmas in Hollis,” and when Jam Master Jay heard Clarence Carter’s 1968 “Back Door Santa,” they knew they had the sample they wanted to use for the song.

A Very Special Christmas

To this day I believe that “A Very Special Christmas” is the only Christmas cd I’ve ever purchased.  The album was the first in a series of Christmas albums produced to benefit the Special Olympics.  It’s actually a pretty good album that features a couple of other holiday favorites of mine including U2’s cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas Baby,” and The Pretenders “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

“It’s Christmas time in Hollis queens.  Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens.”

But for me, the jewel on the album will always be this Run DMC original that even features its’ own music video with a strange elf that only mutters “naughty” or “nice” at various points throughout the video while utilizing a Simon Says machine to help facilitate Santa’s naughty or nice selection process.

“So open your eyes, lend us an ear.  We want to say Merry Christmas and happy new year!”

I still don’t know what collard greens taste like (I thought I would have by now), but featuring a dog as a reindeer, a Santa that carries some serious dough with him, and an appearance by Darryl McDaniel’s mother, here is Run-DMC with “Christmas in Hollis”

 

 

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season and take some time out to enjoy where you’re at, and what you’ve been entrusted with including friendships, family, and love.

sincerely,

the 80’s

KKOUsweatshirt

(Christmas time circa 1987 or 88.  I would have preferred some Adidas gear instead.)
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Bike Rack Records Volume 2

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No 80’s music or video in today’s post, but over the past six months I have been involved in a very cool music project in Northwest Arkansas.  I’m a banker by day so the community bank I work for (shout out FNBNWA) has partnered with a local brewery (shout out Bike Rack Brewing) to support Bike Rack Records Volume 2.  There was a Bike Rack Records Volume 1 before we were ever involved, but Volume 2 was just released and it featured 10 Arkansas artists performing original songs.  The album can be found streaming and was produced by Haxton Road Studios.

Because of my love of music and writing, I was asked to participate in the social media campaign to help promote each of these artists.  Over this time I have interviewed each act and used their words in a 200-300 post on social media to help promote the album and to help promote the artist.

A few weeks ago was the official album release party held at a local venue called The Meteor in downtown Bentonville.  All 10 artists were present and performed.  They all performed their song that’s on the album but also two or three other songs of their choice, and what an awesome event it was.

I love local music and I love to help support it however I can.  I’ve attended shows, I’ve donated cash, I’ve bought merch, and I’ve streamed their songs on Spotify and Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and watched their videos on YouTube.  I want to help this music ecosystem grow.  I love the potential of the area and I want to continue to be part of it.  You can see all of my posts on the artists either on my Instagram page or on Bike Rack Brewery’s Instagram page.  Also, check out the following acts on Insta, FB, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. for some great local sounds:

Christian rap artist Lawrence Jamal

Fellow Fayetteville-based rapper “Baang” aka Jeremiah Pickett

Little Rock R&B and rap artist Sean Fresh

Little Rock R&B artist Bijoux

Little Rock Rock & Soul artists Dazz & Brie

Indie rock band Willowack

Fayetteville native and soulful Randall Shreve

Joplin-based indie rock band Me Like Bees

Singer/songwriter/KC-ballcap-wearing Cameron Johnson

And the always clever, talented much more than a party-band Goose

Some photos and videos from the event can be found on my Facebook page

 

As always, thanks for reading, and go support your local music scene.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“I Was Listening to the Radio”

“I heard a song that reminded me of long ago.” – Eddie Money

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Part two of my Ocasek-Money retrospective shifts its’ focus to Edward Joseph Mahoney today.  Like Ocasek, Money was not a young man when MTV started taking musical acts to new heights with music videos.  Money had already charted with success in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but was 28 when his first album debuted in 1977, and in his early to mid 30’s when his popularity peaked with the platinum-selling “Can’t Hold Back” album in 1986 that saw him nominated for a Grammy for the hit song “Take Me Home Tonight” with Ronnie Spector.

No one will ever confuse Eddie Money with some sort of brilliant lyricist or musician (though he did play a decent sax), but for me, Eddie always represented blue-collar success.  Just an average guy with a nice voice that had enough guts and confidence to leave his east coast Irish family where his dad and brother were police officers (Eddie himself had been a police officer as well for two years), and try to make it in music on the west coast.  And make it he did.  A string of hits followed from the late 70’s through the early 90’s, and it seemed to me like Eddie lived the rock star’s life to the fullest.

I saw Eddie Money perform in a makeshift music venue in the parking lot of a local mall in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the summer of 2008.  It was the beginning days of The Walmart Amp, which was nothing more than a giant tent and folding chairs in the middle of a mall parking lot.  Since that time, The Amp now has a permanent location just off the interstate in Rogers, AR, and continues to attract very good artists, especially those on the Kansas City to Dallas route that have time for a quick stop at a high quality outdoor venue.

The things I remember most about the Eddie Money concert 11 years ago was that he was still doing his signature spin on stage at the age of 59 or 60.  His then 20 year old daughter Jesse provided back-up vocals and co-lead vocals on “Take Me Home Tonight”as she has done for many years on tour since then.  And I remember that Eddie was performing like it was a sold-out arena, not just some mall parking lot… and I appreciated that commitment.  The fact is Edward Mahoney seemed like the type of person you’d want to sit and have a few drinks with… a relatable, unpretentious rock star with a sense of humor and a catalog of music for us to enjoy on classic rock stations for years.

“Back then I thought that things were never gonna change.  It used to be that I never had to feel the pain.”

Though I took a narrower approach with Ric Ocasek’s music in my previous post, I can narrow down my favorite Eddie Money songs pretty easily.  They were all commercially successful, and songs I still enjoy.

Honorable mention: “Think I’m in Love” –   The biggest hit off of Eddie’s “No Control” album, this song reached #16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  Favorite lyric:  “It surrounds me, ooh, like a sea of madness.”

#5 “Take Me Home Tonight” Like so many 80’s kids, I was introduced to a classic – Ronnie Spector when this song and video came out.  I had no idea about Ronnie or her 60’s girl group The Ronettes.  They had a handful of hits in the 60’s and then largely disappeared until Eddie recruited Ronnie to sing the hook from her classic 1963 hit “Be My Baby” to this now 80’s classic.  Favorite lyric:  “With all the power you’re releasing, it isn’t safe to walk the city streets alone.”

#4 “Endless Nights” – The mid-tempo song served Eddie well on this 1986 album, because the song that precedes this one on the album, ironically, is my third-favorite Money song.  Favorite lyric: “Here I am, just standing in circles, and the logic is turning me round.”

#3 “I Wanna Go Back”  See more on this song and video below.  Favorite lyric:  “I recall hanging out on Friday night.  The first slow dance – hoping that I’ll get it right.”

#2 “Baby Hold On” – Simple, catchy, and upbeat.  Eddie’s debut song and one that peaked at #11.  Favorite lyric:  “Hey baby.  You know the future’s lookin’ brighter every mornin’ when I get up.”

#1 “Shakin'”  One of the early MTV videos that features Eddie and his fictional “Rosanna.”  The video cracks me up because Eddie is half baked out of his mind through most of it.  And then there’s all of the car dancing during and at the end of the video.  You should check it out just to see Eddie’s stoned look and to watch Eddie try and dance inside a car.  There’s also the sophomoric humor that pops up almost totally unnoticed at the 1:05 mark of the song, and if the female lead looks familiar, it’s because she should for any of you “Purple Rain” fans.  The female in Eddie’s video is non other than Apollonia, Prince’s co-star in the movie.  Favorite lyric:  “It takes a lonely night with nowhere to go.  Just call Rosanna, it’s a hell of a show.”

“I want to go back and do it all over again.  But I can’t go back I know.”

I like Eddie’s sincerity in today’s music video.  I like his scarf.  I like his sax solo.  And I like the sentimentality of the song.  How many of us have never thought to ourselves that we’d like to go back to a certain point in life and take a mulligan?  I would venture the answer would be most of us.  Things happen for a reason though, so if you go back and change that moment, those words, that action, then who knows how it affects where you are today.  Sliding doors right?

Nevertheless, it’s an age old wish – one that will probably never cease to exist as long as we’re on this Earth and as long as we make mistakes or have regrets.  Here is Eddie Money with “I Wanna Go Back…”

Thanks for reading, and R.I.P. Eddie.  I hope “Take Me Home Tonight” was playing somewhere as you quietly slipped out of this life and into another.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“I See You Under the Midnight”

“All shackles and bows.” – The Cars

Rick Ocasek at The Cape Cod Coliseum August 22 1980. (photo by Ron Pownall/Getty Images)

While I was in Italy, two 80’s musical icons passed away.  Edward Joseph Mahoney passed away on September 13th and then Richard Theodore Otcasek passed away two days later.  Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek gave us a lot to love about music in the late 70’s and 80’s, and I’ll be forever thankful for what they left behind.  This is the first of two posts dedicated to the legendary rockers.

Between the two of them, Eddie had 16 top 40 hits across the Billboard Hot 100, Rock charts, and adult contemporary while The Cars had 18 top 40 hits between the Billboard Hot 100 and the Rock charts.  Ric had another four as a solo artist.

“The high shoes with the cleats a-clickin’.  A temperamental glow.”

In my younger days, I had a friend or two that would call me Ric Ocasek because of my similar dark-haired slender features.  I stood a gangly 6’3, 155 pounds with dark, curly hair by the time I graduated high school in 1989.  I always found the comparison odd, because Ric wasn’t exactly a looker in my mind.  Was this an insult I thought when I heard the comparison?  I wasn’t sure, but when Ric started dating and eventually married supermodel Paulina Poriskova, I was like “good for you!”  It gave tall, skinny, dark-haired, geeky-looking insecure guys everywhere hope!

Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova in New York City.

Ocasek was listed at 6’4″ and was 34 when The Cars released their debut album in 1978, so he was almost ancient by rock standards back then by the time the MTV generation started forming in 1981.

I wasn’t a huge Cars fan, but I always enjoyed their quirky videos and keyboard driven songs.  The only Cars album I owned was a cassette tape of the “Heartbeat City” album.  The album was released shortly before my 13th birthday in 1984, and what a beautiful album it is.  I haven’t listened to this whole album probably since 1984, but in preparation for this post I decided to listen to the whole thing a few times again.  Produced by 80’s super-producer “Mutt” Lange, the album spun off five top 40 singles and videos that received heavy rotation play on the newly launched MTV, but there is plenty more to enjoy on this album than just those five songs.

I specifically remembering carrying this cassette and my walkman with me to visit family in Orange County, California on a trip to Disneyland that spring.   So, instead of counting down my favorite Cars/Ric Ocasek songs over a large catalog, I decided to narrow my scope and just feature this wonderful album some 35 years after I had last listened to it.  I care not that Rolling Stone thought Ric’s lyrics lacked “depth or content.”  I only care how the music sounds and makes me feel, and so here are my top five favorite tracks from the album:

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Honorable mention:  “Hello Again” – the lead track from the album, I used to occasionally use this song on my answering machine through the late 80’s and early 90’s.  You remember answering machines don’t you?  It will always hold a nostalgic memory in my mind when I think about old school answering machines.  Plus the strange Andy Warhol directed the music video which is kind of interesting I think anyway.  Favorite lyric:  “Hello, my friend, hello.”

Image result for early 90's answering machines

#5 “It’s Not the Night” –  I love the synthesizer sound at the beginning of the song that (to me) is reminiscent of Wayne and Garth’s dissolve sounds they make when they are coming in and out of dreams or visions.  I love when the lead guitar kicks in, and I love this song.  Favorite lyrics “It’s not the night for crazy eyes.”

#4 “Magic” – see below for more on this song  Favorite lyric:  “I see you under the midnight all shackles and bows.”

#3 “Drive” – Cars’ co-founder Benjamin Orr takes over lead singing duties on this track which was The Cars’ biggest commercial hit peaking at #3 in the U.S.  The dark video featuring Paulina Porizkova was directed by actor Timothy Hutton.  Favorite lyric:  “Who’s gonna hold you down when you shake?  Who’s gonna come around when you break?” 

#2 “Looking for Love”  –  To me this song and the title track “Heartbeat City” can almost fully encompass the synth-pop feel of the 80’s by themselves.  This is a much under-appreciated tune and should have been a top 40 hit.  Favorite lyric:  “Keep the faith and kill the light.”

#1 “Heartbeat City”  An unreleased single in the U.S. (and labeled “Jacki” on the cassette sleeve), “Heartbeat City” is both musically interesting and lyrically confusing.  Who is Jacki?  Is it a love, an actual person?  Is it a drug (heroin)?  I don’t care.  The song is cool and strange and laid back and upbeat and total Cars all at the same time.  Favorite lyric:  “And there’s a place for everyone under Heartbeat City’s golden sun”

IMG_9301 (My slightly aged, but still in very good condition “Heartbeat City” cassette)

“Just a little bit of magic pulls me through.”

It would be seemingly apropos to feature the hauntingly beautiful “Drive” song and video in remembrance of Ric on this post.  But one, he wasn’t the lead singer on that song (co-founder, the late Benjamin Orr was), secondly, it features Paulina Porizkova and sadly they separated over three years ago after a lengthy 28 year marriage run (and I don’t necessarily like to think about that), and thirdly, I prefer the much more upbeat and fun Cars when remembering Ric.

Though according to Porizkova he used to refer to himself as “the Master of Doom,” early in their relationship I prefer to remember Ric and The Cars as a bright light during my 1984 life.  Today’s song and video personifies that for me.  One of the brilliant things about The Cars is that they could be many things to many people – glooming-ly sullen and downcast pairing well with rainy, downcast days.  But they could also lean to the silly, almost ridiculous side and brighten an already bright sunny day for you.

This song is on my Spotify Summer Playlist and it remains one of my favorite Cars’ songs ever.  The video is confusingly quirky with an odd cast of characters worshipping Ric as he walks on water like a modern day miracle worker.  Interestingly to me, the video also features Ric sans his customary shades.  The song and the upbeat, cheery video usually brighten my day when I hear it, and I usually long for that first day of summer, because it turns me upside down.  Oh oh, it’s “Magic”…

My yearbook from 1985 and a few of my nicknames (including the Ric reference)…

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(Tall and skinny – check.  Dark hair – check.  Cool shades – check.)

Thanks for reading, and R.I.P. Ric.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Just Try to Understand”

“I’ve given all I can, ‘Cause you got the best of me” – Madonna

Image result for 1984 madonna lucky star

Bongiorno!  Wow it’s been a busy summer (which I know is officially over).  The past few months have flown by.  Since that time, I’ve completed my three-year continuing education at the Graduate School of Banking Colorado (GSBC) in Boulder.  I’m a real banker now!  And, more recently, my wife and I took a dream vacation in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary.  We spent two weeks in Italy.

I tell people being in Italy for two weeks was like being on a movie set for two weeks.  I just looked around in awe most of the time at the beautiful scenery that didn’t seem real.  I viewed art work and buildings that were older than our country.  I read and listened to numerous history lessons that seemed more fiction than fact.  Everywhere we turned seemed to be a photo op.  Ah, and the food, and the wine!  It was an amazing experience.

“Borderline.  Feels like I’m going to lose my mind.”

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We visited four places over two weeks – Venice (3 nights), Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre – 2 nights), Florence (4 nights), and Rome (5 nights).  We packed just one carry-on suitcase and a backpack knowing we would be staying in a few places that had a washer and dryer.

We travelled by airplane, by water taxi (Valporetto), gondola, train, car taxi, metro (Rome’s subway system), and of course, by foot.  My Apple Watch told me that I walked just over 92 miles during the 14 days we were in Italy for an average of just over 6.5 miles per day.  So, yes, if you’re planning a trip to Italy, bring your most comfortable walking shoes!  But, oh was it worth it.  The brief highlights of the trip:

Venice & Riomaggiore:

Venice:  St. Mark’s square and St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge that spanned the main canal, and the over-priced gondola ride (you just have to do it though).  And the views… oh, the views of Italy and particularly in Venice and Cinque Terre are breath-taking at times.

Riomaggiore – one of the five fishing villages referred to as Cinque Terre (or as I joked with my wife “Cinque Stairways”).  We took a boat ride while in Riomaggiore to Portovenere for a walk around the small but touristy town and a visit to St. Peter’s.  It was here that Rebekah nearly lost her phone in a disastrous drop from her hand that saw it hit multiple boulders before sliding to a stop at the base of a rock beach just short of the water.  There just happened to be a woman who was down there and brought it back to Rebekah, and miraculously it wasn’t damaged.  We visited one of the other villages – Monterroso, and on our final day went on the “easy” Riomaggiore loop hike, which took us to the top and a beautiful view of the area from the Santuario della Madonna di Montenero church.  It wasn’t that easy.

Florence & Rome:

Florence:  an Air BNB right downtown Florence was just steps from the Duomo.  We walked the numerous piazzas and visted Uffizi Gallery, Accademia (Michelangelo’s statue of David), crossed the Arno River and went on a day trip to the Tuscany countryside visiting two vineyards (one of which was also an operating organic farm).  At these two places we did wine-tasting and had lunch at our second one.  In between the two visits, we mad a side visit to the small town of San Gimignano for gelato tasting at a two-time gelato world champion shop (you can only win twice and then you become a judge).

Rome:  Vatican City (Sistine Chapel), Borghese Gallery, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum.  Our Air BNB was just steps from the Metro so we rode it everywhere we wanted to go and see during our stay there.  We mailed post cards from Vatican City, had 32 euro drinks at Harry’s Bar, and strolled the Rodeo Drive of Rome where all the high-end fashion stores reside.  We walked up and down the Spanish Steps and threw coins into the Trevi Fountain ensuring that we will return again one day.  We also perfected the art of “no, grazie” to all of the pushy street vendors trying to prey on all of the tourists every few steps.

Some random thoughts about the trip:

  • We never had bad pizza or pasta… anywhere.  Sometimes it felt like we were eating bread with a side of bread for our meal, but when in Italy you know?  But, one thing they don’t know how to do like we do in ‘Merica is steaks.  Basically you’re safe with Italian and seafood, but anything involving red meat can be a gamble.  We did have some really good t-bones one night, so it is possible!
  • Pastries and latte macchiatos were a staple in most of our breakfasts
  • We enjoyed getting acquainted with one of their famous pre-dinner / afternoon refreshing drinks – Spritz Aperol.  Also, I didn’t mind an occasional limoncello after our meal.  That was something else I’d never had.
  • Gelato is just a softer version of ice cream, but man there’s just something about eating gelato in Italy that makes it seem otherworldly.
  •  The waiters and waitresses speak good “restaurant English” but try to have a conversation with them… that doesn’t quite work
  • Their definition of air conditioning and ours isn’t quite the same.  Even though the weather was almost perfect, we had a few warm nights in our Air BNB’s.  Make sure they have fans if you stay in one.  Opening the windows is an option, but beware the dreaded mosquito if you do!
  • The art is overwhelming so do yourself a favor and have an idea of what the main pieces are in the galleries so that you make sure to take those in.  It’s easy to get distracted and sidetracked and overwhelmed with the amount of it… everywhere.
  • Speaking of art, there were about a billion paintings of some version of “Madonna & child” hanging in most every gallery.  I believe if you were an artist back in the day, it must have been mandatory for you to do at least one Mary and baby Jesus picture.
  • Michelangelo was a baller.  Sistine Chapel… statue of David… dude was talented.

“Stop driving me away, I just want to stay.  There’s something I just got to say

By the time today’s featured song and video were released in February of 1984, Madonna was a young artist with only one other top 40 hit in the U.S. prior, which was the dance club hit “Holiday.”  This particular video and the follow-up “Lucky Star” created a whole new fashion trend amongst young females that year.  I noticed it in 8th grade as some of the girls wore the iconic hair ribbons and their hair like the “Material Girl,” or they sported fingerless lace gloves with an endless amount of rubber bracelets.

I chose today’s artist because when I think of Italian artists of the 80’s she is obviously one of the first that comes to mind.  Her father’s parents were Italian immigrants and she was born Madonna Louise Ciccone in August of 1958.  Here is the one and only Madonna with a song that somehow only made it to #10 on the U.S. Billboard charts in June of 1984, but it’s always been one of my favorites – “Borderline”…

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Nearing the end of our hike on the “easy” loop at Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre.  Madonna was everywhere.

Ciao, grazie!

sincerely the 80’s

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“We Are Family”

“I got all my sisters with me.” – Sister Sledge

Image result for sister sledge 1979

“Family” is just one of those words.  It’s a word with a multitude of definitions.  It’s a fluid word for most people.  The dynamics and the definition of family are ever-changing.  Family can be described in so many ways that it’s useless to even try.  I don’t think there is any such thing as a dysfunctional family.  I don’t think there’s any such thing as a normal family.  Family is just family.  There are no clear cut labels or convenient definitions to accurately describe yours or mine.

“Everyone can see we’re together as we walk on by.  (And) and we fly just like birds of a feather.  I won’t tell no lie.”

June, of course, is the month of reunions and weddings and today my sister-in-law got married.  Robin has been a single mom as long as I’ve known my wife Rebekah (we’ve been married 20 years and dated for a couple of years before that).  Robin has one daughter named Lacy, who’s married and who now has three children of her own.  This week was the first time I’ve met those three children, and the first time I’ve seen Lacy in person in years.

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My wonderful niece Lacy

Just so you get the picture, my wife is one of six sisters so you can only imagine the dynamics that exist and have existed within her family.  I’ve watched them all at one time or another through different seasons of life – through children and grandchildren, through loss and sorrow, through financial difficulty and job loss and job promotion and just everyday life stresses.  Each sister is unique in their own way, and I love each of them for different reasons.

“Here’s what we call our golden rule.  Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no.  This is our family jewel.”

My wife and her sister Robin have had, let’s just say, an interesting relationship.  Separated by only 22 months, I’ve seen these two in a full-out shouting match at one another.  About what, I have no recollection of today.  I’ve also seen times where they’ve leaned and loved and supported each other like only sisters can do.  I’ve seen days and weeks and months go by without so much as a text between the two, while at other times they’ve spoken every day like best friends forever.  I imagine their relationship is not unlike a lot of family relationships.  Once again, it’s neither normal nor disfunctional.  They are just two different people with different ideas and thoughts and experiences who love each other, and will always be joined together forever by the same mother and father.

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My awesome wife and my cool sister-in-law Robin

Forever.  That’s the beauty and also the inherent sadness of family sometimes.  It’s not always perfect.  It’s not always pretty.  It’s difficult… and it should be.  How will you ever fully appreciate family if you don’t chase the highs and battle the lows.  Feelings get in the way all the time forming the baddest roller coaster of all-time.  And it’s not one that you really ever get off of.  Family will take you through peaks, valleys, and everywhere in between, and you’re not getting off.  Those seat belts lock you down for a reason.

In the end, however you choose to define it, you can’t change who your family is or what’s happened in the past as much as you can control anything that happens in the future.  All you can do is make the best of the present, and try to remember that this family, your family, is the only one you have while you’re inhaling and exhaling and your feet are on this big rock of ours.

“Just let me state for the record.  We’re giving love in a family dose.”

Today’s featured song takes us just slightly out of the 80’s with this late disco era hit by the sister group known as Sister Sledge.  The four siblings formed Sister Sledge in Philly in 1971, and the song reminds me of a simpler time when Rebekah and I were just married.

At our wedding reception in Norman, OK, she had all of her sisters out on the dance floor with her (I think) that evening as this song blared from the speakers.  For a time, there was no division or animosity or hurt feelings or words left unspoken.  It was just a group of sisters, differences set aside, enjoying themselves thanks to the power of music and the pull of family.

Here is Sister Sledge and their #3 US Billboard Hot 100 single (#1 R&B hit) from 1979, “We Are Family…”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the pre-80’s

 

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