“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:

Image result for heartbeat city cover

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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“I Woke Up to the Sound of Pouring Rain”

“Washed away a dream of you.” – Skid Row

Image result for skid row 1989

It has been raining a lot lately, and maybe that’s why this song has been coming to the forefront of my mind more often lately.  But more likely it’s because this song is now 30 years old, and it’s been 30 years since I graduated high school.  Almost to the day.

I’m not sure where 30 years has gone.  I mean I know I’ve been through college, worked numerous jobs, taken a wife, moved a few times, and had a daughter.  My daughter is now graduating high school.

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We had a karaoke party for her the night before graduation, and one of the older people there mentioned how fast time has gone.  One of Caroline’s friends replied with something to the effect that time goes so slow.  Perspective, right?

So for now, I’ll try to enjoy the present.  I’ll remember the school days of my daughter.  They weren’t always easy.  There were teachers and principals and friends we loved along the way.  There were others we loved a little less.  There were times that we all struggled with feelings of inadequacies and frustration as parents, and times where we all lost our cool at one another.  Even though those tough times will exist somewhere in the recesses of our minds, I’m going to choose to mostly remember the good times.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat and child

I’ll remember the Miss Frankie pre-school days where they sang “I Am a Promise” at their pre-school graduation.  They all had “potentiality.”  I’ll remember the first day every year of elementary when we would walk our daughter down the street to T.G. Smith Elementary.  I’ll remember the Watch D.O.G.S. dad days at T.G. Smith where I was able to patrol the hallways, interact with the kids, and hang out in classrooms throughout the day while spending lunch and recess with my daughter.  There were “Donuts with dads,”  a guitar concert, school dress-up days, snow days, and our dance to Stephen Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” at the talent show.  I’ll remember her time at Hellstern Middle School and picking her up and taking her for lunches at local Chinese buffets.  Sometimes a friend or two would tag along.  I’ll remember the band concerts at Central Junior High.  I’ll remember the choir concerts at Har-Ber High School and the Friday night high school football and basketball games we would go to.  I’ll remember the car rides to and from school that would sometimes end with a word of encouragement or a simple “I love you.”

The memories touch my very core.  My eyes well up with emotions when I think about the past 13 years of school for her.  I wonder if my mom and dad felt the same way 30 years ago.  I see my elderly parents now struggling physically and mentally and I wonder if any of that awaits me in another 30 years.  And I now realize that 30 years doesn’t take near as long as it used to.

But most of all right now, I’m just proud of my daughter.  Proud of her perseverance.  I don’t think she’ll look back with a lot of fond memories of her school days.  Quite honestly there were a lot of struggles along the way, and times where we all wondered if we were going to make it to this finish line.  She struggled with feelings of inadequacies and self-doubt and self-loathing.  I think most parents traverse these issues raising children.  The struggles are real.  They are serious.  But they can be overcome.  It seems like forever sometimes, but when you watch them walk across the stage to get their diploma, forever is just the blink of an eye.

“I paint a picture of the days gone by.  When love went blind and you would make me see”

I think of 1989 as a transitional year in music and also a transitional year for me personally with my graduation from Norman High School.  Our large graduation ceremony (exceeded by my daughter’s class of 650) was held inside of the Lloyd Noble Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.  I’ve written about it before on this site, but I still still vividly remember walking out of the arena and up the ramp in my black cap and gown, and turning around and just staring for a minute at all of my fellow students walking behind me.  There was a sense of excitement and accomplishment and a sense of anticipation and even relief among us all.  We were walking up the ramp out of the arena, into the parking lot to our cars, and essentially driving off into our futures.

It never really hit me until right then that I wouldn’t see many of these people ever again.  Lest you forget, this was long before we knew what the internet even was, and what is was going to be and do for us in the future.  It was long before Facebook and Instagram practically made you best friends again.  Heck, I’d even argue that I’ve spoken more electronically to some of my former classmates than I ever did in my four or five years in school with some of them.

My daughter just made her walk up onto a makeshift stage at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR last weekend in her Har-Ber High blue graduation gown and cap.  What her future holds only God knows.  I would guess it’s exciting and a little scary at the same time.

She’s going to start working full-time immediately.  School just hasn’t been her jam, and that’s ok.  College is not for every 18 year old.  Some need to figure things out and follow different paths.  She has a good head on her shoulders.  She will figure it out, and she doesn’t have to figure it out tomorrow or next week or next month or next year.  She’ll get there in her own time.  Like any path, there will be forks in the road.  There will be dead ends.  There will be narrow roads and wide roads and roads that seemingly go on forever into the future.  

“Remember yesterday.  Walking hand in hand.”

Image result for skid row i remember you

A group that was really just coming onto the national scene and finding their way in 1989 was today’s group – Skid Row.  They broke onto the national scene with their self-title debut album in ’89.  I think about bands like this sometimes when I think about life after high school.  Most likely these guys were playing in various bands during their teenage years and though I don’t have any statistical data, I’d say a great majority of these guys didn’t go to college.  Music was their path, and some of them made it big if only for a short time.

If this wasn’t my favorite song from 1989, then it was top five easily.  The song wasn’t released until November as a single, but I had this cassette sometime shortly after its release in late January so I was well aware of this song by the time of its’ official release as a single.

It reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1990, but it was already number one in my ears by the summer of 1989.  This cassette made my rotation a lot especially outside in the Oklahoma heat while mowing the yard that summer.  Maybe it’s the video that adds to the melancholy of the song, but there’s just something inherently sad in the melody and lyrics.  There’s also something very nostalgic about it as well which reminds me of graduation in the spring of ’89.

I wonder now if the guys from Skid Row look back at pictures like the one at the beginning of this post and shake their collective heads at that particular moment captured in time.  A time where they were young and strong and confident, and ready to conquer the world.  A time when they were indestructible and ready to ride the wave of success forever with hard rocking metal jams and beautiful ballads like this one.

I’d often listen to this song and wish that I had a girlfriend at that time.  Ahh, the ecstasy of yearning for young love!  Even though there were no beaches in Oklahoma, I’m sure we could have written love letters in the mud or something along a river or a lake somewhere.  Nonetheless, turn up the volume a little bit, be still, soak in your own nostalgia whether 1989 was a particularly memorable year or not, and just enjoy the piercing vocals of 1989 Sebastian Bach as you remember a time gone by.  Here is “I Remember You…”

 

Remember yesterday.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor (photo creds to my wife for capturing this beautiful moment)

And congratulations you seniors.

capthrowing

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Woke up to Reality”

“And found the future not so bright.” – Johnny Hates Jazz

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Ah, that’s a downer, man.  Why would someone write such a depressing lyric?  Sounds like someone who is hating life right now.  You know what else he hates?  He is Johnny, and Johnny Hates Jazz. I like the song, but I think I like the group name more.  It’s not that I hate jazz, it’s just that I like the creative originality.  It’s too bad the group didn’t do much else, but at least they left us with a classic 80’s song.

I’ve actually been trying to write this post for years.  It’s been sitting as a draft since 2017, but a few months ago I literally woke up to reality and realized that my 30 year high school reunion was this summer.  Thirty years.  I quickly did the math in my head just to make sure… 30 + 18 = 48.  Yep, that’s right.  Former classmates are hard at work right now putting together itineraries and events and invitations.  The Norman High School Class of 1989 Facebook page is littered with recent activity!  It’s getting crazy!  It’s happening people!  And I, for one, am not the least bit excited (sorry if you’re one of my excited classmates reading this right now).

“So much for your promises.  They died the day you let me go.”

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One cool graduate in May of 1989

In a way, we were all let go in May of 1989.  We were let go of relationships and school necessities and rules and parents and a daily systematic way of life that had molded us through 12 years of schooling.  Each went his own way and forged his own path.  Long before Facebook and Instagram and Twitter reconnected us all, we didn’t know where others went and what their roads looked like.  We didn’t know if they had married, divorced, had children, travelled the world, stayed in one place, or were even alive at times.

Social media and technology changed everything, and I feel like I know many of my classmates better now than I did during the four or five years I spent with many of them on a daily basis.  And, ironically, that’s why I’m not excited about attending a reunion.  I like my life better now than I did in high school.  I see a lot of my classmates every summer at our fantasy football draft in Norman, and that’s enough for me.  I don’t really want to go back to that time, which may sound crazy considering this blog is an ode to a decade I love.  Alas, the cold irony that writing will expose you to at times!

“I dreamt the impossible, that maybe things could work out right.”

I’ve had a lot of dreams in those 30 years since my high school graduation.  We all have.  Dreams about marriage and children and vocations and travel.  Crazy dreams.  Sane dreams.  Lustful dreams.  Ridiculous dreams.  Dreams that have been realized.  Dreams that never materialized.  And maybe even shattered dreams.

Funny how dreams change over the years.  Dreams can somehow become less ambitious.  Less relevant.  When I was in high school, I dreamt about girls and sports and girls and school and girls and dreamt dreams I have long since forgotten about.  Mid-life is settling in for those of us that were “feelin’ fine, because we were the class of ’89.”  Many of us have slowly realized where life has led us and where it seems like it’s leading us.  That dream job in a big city never happened.  That perfect mate never showed up.  The band broke up.  The business failed.  That nice house with the sweet classic car in the garage?  Just a distant ridiculous memory.  Dreams have disappointed.  Dreams do disappoint.

But maybe.  Just maybe… as Steven Furtick said recently in a sermon I listened to, what if your dreams right now aren’t big enough?  I loved that question.  It made me think.  It made me re-evaluate, and I love things that make me re-evaluate.  Do we stop dreaming?  No.  Not until we stop breathing.  What if what you’re dreaming or I’m dreaming now or have dreamt is not even close to what the rest of life holds?  What if you haven’t even imagined what dreams lay ahead?  Scary?  Yes.  Still full of potential?  Sure.  Exciting?  Absolutely.  Dreams hold power and dreams can continue to fuel us no matter where we find ourselves even 30 years after high school.

“And now you’ve given me, given me, nothing but shattered dreams”

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Led by frontman Clark Datchler, Johnny Hates Jazz was apparently originated by the fact that Clark’s sister loved jazz music, but her husband Johnny, a British farmer at that time, hated jazz.  I love to imagine a scene where Clark’s sister is swaying around the house grooving to some smooth Miles Davis or John Coltrane when her husband walks in from a long day of tending to the livestock and the crops.  He kicks his boots off and in his thick British accent says “Not this bloody jazz music again?!  I hate jazz!  Play some Skynard!”  No, wait this is Britain… “put the bloody Beatles on the phonograph!”

The song was released in the U.S. in March of 1988 and made it all the way up to #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts.  They charted one other time on the U.S. Billboard Hot 40, but for the most part they are your quintessential “one-hit wonder,” which I’m sure is not a dream the band had as this single was climbing the charts 31 years ago.

Maybe Johnny Hates Jazz will still realize dreams of long ago or maybe they already have.  I don’t know.  Maybe my dreams will change.  Maybe I will dream about going to my 30 yr. class reunion.  Maybe the urge to continue to improve my writing skills will spur new dreams and desires.  And maybe, just maybe I’ll realize one of those dreams that’s so big I won’t even see it coming until it happens.  I like that thought.

In the meantime, stay strong, and let’s all think about, and enjoy a dream that came to fruition for a British band in the spring of 1988 when Johnny Hates Jazz smashed the airwaves in America with their hit “Shattered Dreams…”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  I wrote some version of the word “dream” 34 times in that post.  I was just curious.  You weren’t?

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“The Real Battle Just Begun”

“(Sunday, bloody, Sunday) to claim the victory Jesus won.” – U2

Image result for u2 1983 sunday bloody sunday

A happy Easter to you all!  And a happy Easter to my beloved sincerelythe80s.com site that I haven’t posted in much the past few months.  The yearly celebration in the Christian faith of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead seemed like a good time to come in with a post.  There aren’t many 80’s song with Jesus in the lyrics.  Let me re-phrase that – there aren’t many secular Billboard charting singles from the 80’s that mention Jesus in the lyrics, but this one from my Irish brethren fits the bill briefly near the end of this classic 1983 track.

“Wipe the tears from your eyes.  Wipe your tears away.”

Easter features less pageantry than its big brother Christmas, but it makes a more powerful statement than its’ December counterpart.  Yes, it’s one thing to celebrate a virgin birth but quite another to honor a day representing the resurrection of a man whose feet walked this earth some 2000 years ago and who laid down his life for you and me.  But this man, who was more than a man, didn’t stay in the grave or on the cross, and as I watch the sun rise on this beautiful morning I’m reminded of that fact, and I’m thankful.

“And the battle’s just begun.  There’s many lost, but tell me who has won.”

Easter has long been a favorite holiday of mine.  We all know that Christmas and Easter are the Super Bowl of Sundays for the Christian church, and it was always a big deal in our household growing up.  We colored eggs.  We hid eggs.  We found eggs.  We occasionally peeled and ate said eggs.  Easter Sunday morning resulted in Easter cards to my sister and I as well as baskets filled with chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans, and peeps and occasionally a gift or even money.  It usually meant new clothes for church as well (see the fancy duds just below).

Easter with the cousins                              (Easter probably 1984 with my sis, and cousins Kim and Kasey)

Our family spent many Easter’s at my grandma’s house, and I loved being there over Easter especially if my cousins were around.  Many times we would color our eggs at grandma’s house.  Sometimes we’d color them at our own house and bring them with us.  There’s no forgetting the vinegar-y smell that came along with the Paas coloring kits of dying those hard boiled eggs.

Image result for egg coloring kits 1980s                 (Paas – invented in the late 1800’s by a drug-store owner in Newark, NJ)

As the oldest cousin I would take all of our hard boiled colored eggs and all of our plastic ones as well and hide them for my sister and cousins.  There would always be one golden plastic egg that I would fill with money and hide really well.  Sometimes I would hide it so well that no one could find it without some hints or a round of “hot or cold.”  It was a major competition to find this golden egg while also finding more eggs than the rest of the cousins.  After the big hunt then the rest of the cousins would have their turn at hiding the eggs as well, because hiding them and watching everyone try to find them is half of the fun.  Those Easter afternoons would be spent hiding and finding eggs and eating lots of chocolate while all of the grown-ups sat around and watched tv, told stories, laughed, and took naps.

How long?  How long must we sing this song?  How long, how long?

Image result for 1983 U2

Well, to answer the question, U2 has now been singing this song some 35+ years in concerts and it’s still more relevant than ever.  This classic from their 1983 album “War” was the third single released off of the album and peaked at #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  The song generated plenty of discussion and controversy initially because of its overtly militaristic lyrics that mainly alluded to the Sunday in 1972 in Deery, Northern Ireland where British troops shot and killed many unarmed civil rights’ protestors.  Bono would ultimately introduce the song by uttering the phrase “It’s not a rebel song” because the song is really so much more than that.  It’s anti-violence and revenge.  It’s pro-peace and pro-love.  Two things Jesus himself would approve of.

I love that the video for the song was shot just outside of Denver at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  I wrote about my first visit to Red Rocks last summer when I caught Jackson Browne so it’s still a special memory and those sights and sounds come flooding back watching a young U2 perform.

In the summer of 1983 U2 was transitioning from college crowd favorites into bonafide superstardom, so that’s how they could play a smaller venue like Red Rocks back before they became one of the biggest bands on the planet.  Here is U2 on a rainy June 5th night waving the white flag of surrender and peace, but also the white flag of goodness, of light, and of holiness.  Listen carefully to the final words of the song and take some time to reflect.

Thanks for reading and once again a happy Easter to you!

sincerely,

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some creepy Easter Bunny

No, just kidding… it’s me!

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Sincerely,

the 80’s (circa early 70’s)

 

 

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“May the Good Lord Be With You…”

“Down every road you roam” – Rod Stewart

This is my new buddy Alex.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes, child and outdoor

I wish I had thought to take a better picture, but I was too caught up in our conversation the other day to think about that.  He’s my cousin’s third grade son, so I think that makes him my nephew or first cousin removed or something along those lines.

Anyway, I woke up at 4 am this morning thinking about our conversation, and I got up just so I could record what was rolling through my mind, so feel free to skip this post if you don’t like to read. Alex likes to read among many other things, and we covered quite a few topics in our time together yesterday.

“For all the wisdom of a lifetime, no one can ever tell.”

Here’s a summary of my intriguing conversation with Mr. Alex:

The fact that he’s probably the smartest 3rd grader I’ve ever been around. He will tell you the same.

He has a girlfriend. Just one. She calls a lot. She doesn’t have her own phone, but he does. He sheepishly admits that he doesn’t know his phone number, but he knows his dad’s and so he has her call that phone.

We talked about permafrost tunnels. Don’t worry, it’s a real thing. I had to Google it later.

We talked about baseball, and basketball, and his favorite sport wrestling. I told him he had to have a cool nickname if he was going to be a pro wrestler. He’s leaning towards going by “John Cena Jr.” Not sure how that’s going to work, but he’s got a few years to figure it out.

We talked about dirt bikes and four-wheelers and trucks and the difficulties of shifting gears.

We talked about showing pigs, and how hard that is, and about his pig, who’s apparently getting really big by the way. We talked about pork chops. Big pork chops.

We talked about decaf Caramel Macchiatos and how they put him to sleep. He told me it takes him two hours every night to go to sleep, and that sometimes he falls asleep in class. I told him he might need to hit the regular instead of the decaf, but that since he’s the smartest kid in class he can probably afford a few weekly siestas during class and still keep up.

We talked about sitting on fences and the difficulties of climbing fences in boots.

We talked about Youtube channels (he watches Youtube a lot). Apparently, there’s a 10 year old girl who’s a power-lifter and she’s fascinating to watch.
We talked about his desire for a Nintendo Switch and also a Nintendo Labo (I had to Google that one later as well).

We talked about books and his birthday and about money and about his large bank account. I guessed he had a million dollars, but he told me it was closer to $500. I told him you’re probably the richest third grader in town as well as the smartest. That’s a good combination. I understand why that girlfriend is calling so much.

Thanks for the time Alex and keep being you my friend. It’s now 5:45 and I could really go for a decaf Caramel Macchiato right about now… nah, better give me the caffeine.

“And may you grow to be proud.  Dignified and true.”

Image result for rod stewart 1988

This Rod Stewart song only hit #12 in the U.S. and only made it to #57 in his native UK.  I’m surprised because I’ve always loved this 1988 hit of his.  It’s just heartfelt and sincere and maybe just seeing him love on some random child in the video made it a little more special.  Actually, knowing that the video is a random child makes it a little more strange for me to watch.  Ironically though, the name of the child featured in the video is actually Alex.

One more note about the video – for God’s sake Rod, you don’t stand up in the back of a moving truck holding a child (3:06 mark).  C’mon man!  That’s the kind of things you could do in the 70’s.  By 1988, you should have known better.

Nonetheless, it’s a bright and cheery song that will make you want to go hug your child and encourage them, because they will be grown and out that front door in no time.  And one other thing, I’ve written a lot of posts on this site, and didn’t realize I’d actually featured this video once before about two years ago in a post about graduation.

Anyway, here is Rod Stewart again in sincerely the 80’s with “Forever Young”

Whatever road you choose, Alex.  I’ll be right behind you.  Win or lose.

sincerely,

the80’s

 

 

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