10 Albums

As a quick footnote to my last post, I have recently been pondering at what point I should become concerned and/or seek medical attention (NOT from Dr. Julia Hoffman, of course) when I find myself resonating with sentiments expressed by David Collins? (He only tried to kill his father…twice? Has been possessed a handful of times, made friends with ghosts, been accused of being an insane liar…totally respectable!)

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(That point has passed. You went past go, Brittany, but you did not collect $200. )

Moving on…

I was recently “tagged” on social media to post about ten albums that have had an impact on me. This task was particular difficult for me because it’s easier for me to think of individual bands and musicians who had an impact on me, as I have this obsessive personality that requires me to listen to everything they ever recorded and consequently makes it hard to narrow down which album has had the most impact. But hey, let’s give it a whirl…

10. Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (1971) 

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I am a simple man
And I play a simple tune
Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

I’ve said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again: Graham Nash is undoubtedly my favorite member of CSN. Compare Nash’s first solo effort to those of the other members (which aren’t too shabby, don’t get me wrong–I love CSN), and you’ll hear why. The album is full of raw, emotional songs about Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell and fervent cries for political activism, but each song is so carefully crafted to pop/singer-songwriter perfection. I listened to this album a lot as a teenager–no regrets.

9. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

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Remember when you were young? 
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond 
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky 
Shine on you crazy diamond 

As a teenager, I had a vague notion of Pink Floyd but didn’t really become interested (translation: obsessed! I can’t have interests like normal people, remember?) in the band until I discovered Syd Barrett and his music. “I’ve got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It’s got a basket, a bell that rings and/Things to make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.” Ughh, love that stuff. Everything about that era of the band is so unique–the sounds, the lyrics, even the delivery of the lyrics…nothing like it in the world, methinks. Ice creeeeeam, tastes good in the afternoon! Ice creeeeeam, tastes good if you eat it soon!

But the fact of the matter is that the band endured and made more music without Syd Barrett than they did with him. The band could not have happened without Syd Barrett, but it also could not have lasted with him at the helm. Still, the band found ways to acknowledge his importance and pay tribute to him in some of their most famous works, Wish You Were Here included. (Even though Roger Waters has stated, in his usual stubborn way, that only one song off the album is really about Syd, but I find his influence permeates so much of the album, albeit if not always so forthrightly as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”) During the recording of the album, a shaven, overweight Syd Barrett visited the studio, shocking his former bandmates and reducing them to tears. The emotional weight this album carries is palpable in its lyrics and music.

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How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

When I bought the album on CD (that used to be a thing, you know), I specifically ordered a version that also included the early Pink Floyd singles–“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “Apples and Oranges”–as bonus tracks, making it the perfect CD for me, as it melded my favorite non-Syd Barrett Floyd album with some of my most favorite Syd Barrett songs.

8. Pulp, Different Class (1995) 

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You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

(Now I’m wondering why I didn’t re-create this album cover at my wedding? Uhh, because those are some ugly flowers, that’s why, the second voice in my head says.)

Oh, Jarvis.

What can I say? I spent a good portion of my life obsessed with and worshipping that guy. And for good reason.

Pulp spent a long time (what, fifteen years or something) in the music business without much to show for it. (And that would be because some of the early Pulp music is really, really not very good. Just trust me on this one.) With Different Class, Pulp’s recognition and success reached a whole new level. They had top ten hits, nationwide fame, and Jarvis Cocker–the guy who once fell out of a window trying to impress a girl with his Spider-man impression and spent months in a wheelchair as a consequence–was suddenly a sex symbol at 32.

Different Class is full of some of his best songwriting, dealing with themes of sex (Jarv’s fave), the class system, drugs…yet all set to a flagrantly POP beat. There’s the scathing, vengeful “I Spy” (in which Jarvis advises that you should take him “seriously, very seriously indeed ‘cos I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks”), anthemic call to arms for all the mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, the depressing come-down at “Bar Italia” “where other broken people go”, the infectious sing-a-long “Disco 2000” about the one that got away, and the ultimate ATTACK on the clash of the social classes “Common People” (really a shame how the video/single omits the final, most biting verse). And then there’s “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.”, “Live Bed Show,” “Underwear,” “Monday Morning,” “Pencil Skirt”….

It’s impossible to choose a best or even favorite track. This is the album that catapulted a mild interest in Jarvis Cocker to a full-blown obsession, kicking the door open for all the rest of “Britpop.” It would be years before any other musical genres would be allowed to enter the fortress.

7. Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) 

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I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E-DOUBLE L-S 
I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 

If you’re surprised that there’s a Christmas album on this list, then you CLEARLY haven’t listened to this Christmas album. I listen to this album year-round. A song from this album made its way to my wedding reception playlist. It’s Sinatra. It’s perfect.

I first got into Sinatra after being assigned to read Gay Talese’s magnificent profile of Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” during my next-to-final quarter of college (the first time around), and I thought, “Wow, he has to be the coolest guy, ever.” And guess what? He is. I just don’t wanna live in a world where there is no Frank Sinatra. In the words of Dean Martin, “This is Frank’s world, and we’re just living it.” Amen, brother.

6. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) 

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I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular

It was difficult to choose one Smiths album; truthfully, any of their albums could be inserted here. But I may or may not still be wearing an oversized, pit-stained Smiths t-shirt, an heirloom passed down from an older sister, with this album cover on it, so I’d say its impact is pretty obvious.

Morrissey has a lyric for every situation in my life:

Struggling with the state of yourself and your life? “Every day you must say, how do I feel about my shoes?”

Feel like your work is not meaningful or productive? “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” 

When someone finally asks your honest opinion of them? “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask: you are a flatulent pain in the arse!”

Have to deal with the consequences of telling someone your honest opinion of them? “Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”

Feeling under the weather and someone asks you how you’re feeling? “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

Just something I may or may not say every day: “Oh, I’m too tired/I’m so sick and tired/And I’m feeling very sick and ill today.” (I am a “delicate flower”!!!!)

Someone says “I love you”? “So…scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen. This means you really love me.”

Moving onto a new obsession and your previous obsession starts to feel left out? “I still love you, oh, I still love you/Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.”

PMSing and carrying around some extra “water” weight? “You’re the one for me, fatty/ You’re the one I really, really love/And I will stay/Promise you’ll say/If I’m ever in your way/A-hey!”

And ad infinitum.

I mean, these lyrics just roll off the tongue. So good.

(I recently saw a headline about a study that concluded that “Smiths fans were neurotic.” Was such a study necessary? I mean, really????????)

If you want to have a fun game of charades sometime, try using Morrissey lyrics. “Punctured bicycle, on a hillside, desolate.” Ahhh, fun times.

5. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994) 

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You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass
But you don’t care, because you’re living fast
You’re the uninvited guest who stays ’till the end
I know you’ve got a problem that the devil sends
You think they’re talking ’bout you but you don’t know who
I’ll be scraping your life from the sole of my shoe tonight

As a young child, my brother and I would go upstairs to my older sister’s lair and deface the posters of her musical heroes with sticky-tack: Morrissey’s nipple magically grew one very long hair and the Gallagher brothers’ noses always had dangling boogers. I had a strong aversion to the Gallaghers in particular because I knew one of them (who also thought he was John Lennon) had called George Harrison a “nipple” (“NIP-PLE”) and I got tricked into watching one of their concerts instead of getting to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the nth time because I was told John Lennon was in it. (He was–in photographic form at the conclusion of “Live Forever.”) So it was a long time before I sold my soul to this rock ‘n’ roll band.

But oh boy, when I did, there weren’t no turnin’ back. Noel Gallagher’s latest solo effort asks, “Who built the moon?” Uhhhh, you? Would follow that dude to the moon and back, no questions asked.

What a debut album–it kicks in with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and never, ever lets up. Soul sold.

4. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

I cycled through many musical obsessions as a teenager, but I think perhaps my obsession with Bob Dylan lasted the longest and had the greatest impact, which is odd considering I probably listen him to the least out of any artist that appears on this list. I devoured all his albums, watched Dont Look Back more than was healthy, and wore sunglasses a lot. Yeah, not healthy behavior, but having a thorough knowledge of Dylan’s catalogue is something I consider worthy of being mentioned on my resume. Once, I had to explain to a dense individual how important Bob Dylan was to music. Like, they legitimately didn’t get it. It was sad. Don’t be that person.

Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite Dylan album, as it blends both acoustic and electric Dylan and contains some of my favorite Dylan tracks (which I did NOT play at my wedding reception!)–and Rick Nelson’s, too. I know, I have great taste.

3. The Jam, The Gift (1982) 

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Why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away an’ keep it out of sight
Oh don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show

Paul Weller is the man who knocked down the walls built by Jarvis Cocker.

My first exposure to The Jam was the video for “Going Underground.” I thought, “Good song, lead singer is a bit odd-looking.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I feel like with each of my obsessions, it just got worse. Like, I spent A LOT of time obsessing about Paul Weller. Way more time than I spent obsessing about Jarvis Cocker, even. The only reason I don’t spend so much time doing it anymore is because…well, I found more fulfillment in my work and life, I guess. And I also sought medical attention. Only kidding, ha. Maybe I should have.

Anyway.

The Gift may not be my favorite Jam album (but it includes my favorite Jam song, bar none), yet it is their most musically diverse and adventurous. And it has so, so, so many good songs.

And it’s their last. Weller, at age 24, announced the dissolution of the band at the height of their fame. Guts, man.

Bring on The Style Council!

(Never forget the time I threatened to turn this blog into an analysis/discussion of Style Council videos.)

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966) 

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Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I don’t even know what to say about this album. I love it so much. It is absolute perfection from start to finish. It’s a spiritual kind of thing, don’t you think? Yes, yes, it is. Yet there are still people who don’t “get” this album. Don’t be that person. Make the world a better place. Listen to Pet Sounds, preferably at least once a day. You just have to listen…listen.

1. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965) 

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Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

Any Beatles album could hold the top spot on this list. As many musical obsessions have come and gone, The Beatles were the first and remain the most intense and innate part of my existence. The Beatles are the sound of my beating heart.

It’s odd (to me, anyway) to think of how this is the album that so influenced Brian Wilson to write Pet Sounds, yet he and I listened primarily to different versions. Brian was listening to the Capitol version, with a different track listing (including the false-start version of “I’m Looking Through You”), and I have always listened to the original UK version. (Capitol may have been onto something, actually: omitting “What Goes On” is downright inspired and inserting the folksy “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” blend in well with the musical landscape of the album.) Yet we both have the same intense love affair with the album. Revolver may have opened the doors for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Sgt. Pepper is certainly more advanced technology-wise, but neither has the heart of Rubber Soul. In fact, as much as I love each of their albums, I might go as far to argue that no other Beatles album has the heart that Rubber Soul does. The empathetic drumming Ringo lends to John in “In My Life”? Just…my heart.

I’ll stop now. I find it hard to express my feelings about this band of brothers for, like Cordelia, my love’s more richer than my tongue…

I know everyone stays up REALLY late at Collinwood, but it’s way past my bedtime…

P.S.

Because no one has found out that he’s a vampire from another century.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. HELP!

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Songs I Did Not Play at My Wedding Reception

If I were to blame my lack of updating this blog on one thing, it would not be the death of my beloved Macbook Pro (RIP) or lack of time or some silly nonsense, it would just have to be the fact that I am now a married Countess–Mistress of Collinwood, if you will–and I have responsibilities, people! (Nothing like poor Judith helping her dear Gregory– Reverend Trask’s great-grandson–rebuild his sadistic school or keeping herself out of the insane asylum, but responsibilities nonetheless!) But, beloved readers, I have not forgotten you.

My wedding day was perfect. Or at least I think it was. There was a lot of planning and stress, of course, but it was a fairly simple affair. (I think?!) One of the final things I worked out was the music playlist. I wasn’t too worried about the music because: 1) I have the best taste B) If all else failed, I would have just played Pet Sounds from start to finish ad infinitum and, D) I don’t think 99.9% of attendees paid any attention, anyway. And when I finally did create a dump playlist (you know, like a first draft–just get it down, man), it ran 3-4 hours for a 90-minute event. Oops. And so that is when the really hard work began: cutting songs. Should “Layla” be unplugged or not? How much Beatles is too much? (No such thing, I decided. Approximately 28.9% of the eventual playlist was by The Beatles, collectively or solo. Not that anyone was counting, except the one guest who dared to jest, “Too much Beatles!” To which I replied, “Off with your head, Alice!”)

I may be biased, but I would say the eventual playlist was perfect. There were, however, more than a handful of perfect songs that did not make the cut, and for no better reason than I have nothing better to blog about and have been stuck with the same playlists on my iPhone since my Macbook died, here’s me musing about why a few of them ended up on the cutting room floor…

“Cornerstone” – Arctic Monkeys

Tell me, where’s your hiding place
I’m worried I’ll forget your face
And I’ve asked everyone

I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along

This was actually in the playlist until, quite literally, the very last minute when I cut it – for time and because I had inserted another song that ended up to be that song. The lyrics really showcase how Alex Turner is heir to Jarvis Cocker’s throne of breathy, creepy, I’m-in-love-with-you-but I’m-not-stalking-you kind of thing. I mean, come on: I smelt your scent on the seat belt/And kept my shortcuts to myself. That’s killer. Oh, Jarvis, I used to think you were the real deal. I love this song. And the video. Arctic Monkeys are back this year, aren’t they? Hallelujah! 

“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – The Smiths

…except I wanted to play the instrumental soundcheck version, false starts and all. Even though Morrissey’s voice can be the most comforting sound in the world (I believe I once famously compared it to your mom cutting the crusts off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even though I’m an avid devourer of crusts – hey man, this figure doesn’t happen all on its own), I love this instrumental version — such beautiful music, the perfect juxtaposition to Morrissey whinging (I use this word in a loving way, mind) And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God, my chance has come at last…But then, I think this ultimately reminded me too much of relying so solely on the music of The Smiths and Morrissey and staring out of bus windows on long, cold, wintry days. Too solitary to be played on my wedding day.

“You Do Something to Me” – Paul Weller

Dancing through the fire, yeah
Just to catch a flame
Just to get close to
Just close enough 
To tell you that
You do something to me
Something deep inside

Or, actually, anything by Paul Weller. No Jam, no Style Council, no Paul Weller Movement, no nuthin’. Probably because I wanted to marry Paul Weller for the longest time before I met my husband, and part of me still believes that in a parallel time storyline, he and I would end up together. Not something you exactly want to evoke on your wedding day, right?

“Slide Away” – Oasis

Ugh, I love this song. So much. Back when the Gallaghers were still saying nice things about each other, I believe Noel once stated that this was Liam’s greatest vocal performance, and Liam called it the greatest rock ‘n’ roll love song. So many great lines in this song: “I dream of you and we talk of growing old, but you say please don’t”, “Let me be the one who shines with you/In the morning we don’t know what to do/We’re two of a kind”, “I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there…”

I spent a lot of time debating this one–and which version. The album version is, of course, amazing, but it  have you heard it live? Oh my heart. Ultimately, comparing the youthful arrogance, energy, and unity of the Gallagher brothers’ chant of “WHAT FOR?” at Knebworth in ’96 and the tired resignation of the band’s performance of the song at the iTunes Festival in ’09 broke my heart. This band, man. Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band and they just might throw it all away. (Even though they told you they wouldn’t.)

“Baby, I Love Your Way” – Peter Frampton

I am not yet prepared to declare to world exactly how many copies I own of Frampton Comes Alive! (but hey, like most people, I only own one copy of I’m In You), but hey, I love that album and this song. But no matter how many times I listen to it, I still have difficulty listening to it without being reminded of a greasy Ethan Hawke (is there any other kind of Ethan Hawke? Just sayin’…) mocking it.

“Simple Man” – Graham Nash

Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

What a song, man. (What an album! One of my favorite albums. Of. All. Time.) Graham Nash is the real deal for me, dude. He’s my favorite member of CSN(Y–what a loser, don’t get me started), with Stills a nose hair or two or heck, a mutton chop behind. This song, written about his breakup with Joni Mitchell, just tears the hearts to pieces, don’t it? I just want to hold you, I don’t want to hold you down. Duuuuuude. On a happier, note, I also wanted to play The Hollies’ version of “Just One Look.” I mean, Doris Troy is Doris Troy and all, but there’s just something about some scrawny white guys from Manchester singing Just one look and I felt so I-I-I’M IN LOVE! (If I could figure out a way to make the font get gradually bigger, I would.) Makes me happy just thinkin’ about it.

“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” – Carly Simon 

Ah, my girl Carly. The day my husband proposed, we went record shopping, and I found a good lump of Carly Simon records. The clerk commented, “A Carly Simon kind of day, huh?” As every day should be. Carly once introduced this song as “a kind of weird song about marriage.” (Pssst, what do you think Art and George were talking about? Doesn’t George look perturbed when he discovers the camera watching him? Heh, heh.)

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf
I’ll never learn to be just me first
By myself

A great song. But maybe not one to play at a wedding reception.

“Your Smiling Face” – James Taylor

The real JT, people. What a jam. Unashamed to admit I know the words to this song by heart. No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today whenever I see your smiling face my way…

And have you seen JT perform it on Sesame Street with Oscar the Grouch? No? Well, prepare yourself for a lil’ slice of divinity:

You know James, you’re so aggravating!

“Girl” – Davy Jones 

You know, it was a real turning point in our relationship when my husband admitted he had not seen every episode (or maybe even one episode) of The Brady Bunch. I think that stuff might just be in my DNA, and there’s a strong possibility that Mike Brady might just actually be my real father. So we watched my favorite episode of the series: “Getting Davy Jones.” And you know what? My husband-to-be didn’t exactly care for it. (His expression resembles the engineer’s in the studio.) YIKES! I had some real soul-searching to do that night. I mean, there are just some days when you feel like Marcia calling to tell her teacher that she couldn’t get Davy Jones and then–WHAM!–in walks Davy Jones…in the form of singing this song. See ya on the flip side, Davy.

“I Need You” – The Beatles

Please come on back to me.
I’m lonely as can be.
I need you.

Yep, there were a few Beatles songs that did not make the cut, and this one probably hurts the most. George never commented on this song, but it is one of his best early songs–so full of love and longing. The track features an effect called violining. George plugged a foot-controlled tone pedal into his trusty twelve-string Rickenbacker, allowing him to to quickly increase or lower the sound of the instrument. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Oh, I love this song. It is divinity. I have a vinyl record of The Very Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and it must have belonged to a radio station at one time–it’s marked WIDR all over, someone meticulously wrote the times of each song, and someone also lovingly inscribed the back cover: “All cuts are GREAT!” How true. But I wanted to play this song just because it reminds me of my husband — not because he is a Lovin’ Spoonful fan (“Who’s that?”, he would probably ask, bless him) or anything like that but just because he is the nicest guy. And he didn’t have to be so nice… I would have liked him anyway.

And just as a reminder of what a weird and wonderful world the 1960s were, here is–contain your excitement, ladies–Peter Noone introducing the Lovin’ Spoonful on an episode of Hullabaloo!:


“Without You” – Harry Nilsson 

I’m not really sure why I even put this in the running in the first place. The Badfinger version is probably superior (I debate this a lot in my head, but I’m 100% sane, I swear), but dang, if that band doesn’t break your heart. I think I like the Harry Nilsson version because 1) I instantly think of the cover of Nilsson Schmilsson (A+++ album & cover) and well, that’s like my life goal right there and 2) I’m 1000% convinced that if the note at 1:24 won’t grow hairs on your chest (just like any good ol’ jalapeno pepper), nothing will. I CAN’T LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE, I CAN’T GIVE ANYMORE! How could anyone even remember that Mariah Carey sang this song after hearing Nilsson and Badfinger do it? I was more than a little shocked. And disturbed. And instantly signed up for another session with my therapist, Judd Hirsch. (Are you guys watching me for the changes and keeping up OK?)

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd 

Reflecting on this playlist now, this is one of the songs that initially makes me scratch my head and wonder, Why did I want to play this song? But, you see, the answer is quite simple. The theme of the wedding reception was It’s A Wonderful Life (yes, the Christmas movie AKA the most perfect movie of all-time). Each table and its decorations centered on a quote from the film. My personal favorite? “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” I decorated the table with old family photos — of my grandparents, their parents, etc. People I wished were there but of course couldn’t be. It was my favorite table. But nobody really ever sat there all night — maybe because there were already others sitting there.

And well, I love this song, and it is a love song–like the entire album–for Syd. And oh, how I love Syd.

“All or Nothing At All” – Frank Sinatra

All or nothin’ at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, it never could yield to me
Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all

After the Beatles, Sinatra was star of the night. Or the playlist–whatever. The best version of this song (Sinatra recorded several, y’know) is, without contest, found on Sinatra and Strings. There, Sinatra’s vocal really captures all the incredible turmoil and pain of the lyrics. He’s not messin’ around, boy. The first Mrs. Frank Sinatra once commented that she never married again because well, how do you re-marry after being married to Frank Sinatra? That’s how I feel about Frank Sinatra’s voice. How can you listen to anyone else sing something he’s sung? There’s no getting over that voice, man. And he could sing it all.

“Annie’s Song” – John Denver

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

If  you think you’re too cool to listen to John Denver, you’re not cool. At all. This is a beautiful, beautiful song. Not playing this song probably hurts the most. I should have cut something else in its favor.

Well, that’s all folks.

Much love & best regards (BLECH) FROM The Countess

Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band…

Oasis: Supersonic has it all: writing a certain song in the amount of time it takes six men to eat Chinese take-out, a speechless Liam Gallagher, ambushing a certain member of the band with a fire extinguisher because of his football preferences,a kiss for the camera, smashing a certain individual in the head with a cricket bat, the story of Abel and Cable, whispers of sausages, and much, much more. But how much do you want it?

The documentary, which played in US theaters for one night only (and that night was this past Wednesday, so sorry if you missed it, but no fear–it’s On Demand and iTunes and My Christmas List), focuses on the rise and early, insane success (covering, roughly, 1991-1996) of rock ‘n’ roll band (remember those?) Oasis, culminating in their historic performances at Knebworth Park. Combining audio interviews (no talking heads here) with Noel and Liam Gallagher as well as other band members, friends, family, and crew with live footage, never-before-been-seen-by-fans’-eyes home footage, and delightful animations, the story of this rock ‘n’ roll band and its two battling brothers is endlessly entertaining,  insightful, and surprisingly moving–just as advertised.

At the heart of Oasis, of course, has always been the combative, true love-hate relationship between Noel and Liam Gallagher. Their tension and explosive dynamic drove the band, while also ultimately killing it. In the film, the brothers offer differing explanations for their difficult relationship. According to Liam, Noel still holds a grudge against Liam for drunkenly urinating all over his new stereo; Noel rebuts that Liam has always resented Noel for his songwriting talent and being naturally assumed as the leader and decision-maker of the band. Noel offers perhaps the best explanation about the differences in their personalities: Noel is a cat, moody and valuing independence, while Liam is a dog, attention-driven and requiring constant attention (“play with me, play with me, play with me, throw this ball for me”).

Home video confirms this: in one of my favorite moments, Noel is intently focused at the mixing board in the studio during the recording of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, and Liam pokes his head through the door, eventually dancing his way through the room, attracting all the attention. Yet, despite all their differences and jealousy, they each acknowledge the other’s strengths (often telepathically, according to Liam)–Liam praising Noel’s talent as a songwriter, Noel declaring Liam “cooler than me” (“There’s not a day go by that I don’t wish I could rock a parka like that man,” he states) and the greatest singer and frontman of his time. And even amidst all the tension and arguments, you can still see the inexplicable love and affection the two have for one another.

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“If this ever goes on video, I would apologize, but I’m not gonna ’cause he’s a PRICK!” Noel Gallagher

Aside from the basic differences in their personalities, however, the film highlights another dissimilarity between the Gallagher brothers: what exactly constitutes a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Noel believes in the power of the music and its fans, while Liam firmly believes that no rock ‘n’ roll band is truly great without the antics–being arrested (or, even better, deported–while en route via a ferry, no less), tearing up hotel rooms (“that’s a lot of work,” notes Noel), taking loads of drugs, and, of course, sex. (Never mind that The Beatles did just fine without this kind of lewd behavior–at least in excess or in public.)

During the group’s first visit to the United States, they appeared at the famous Whiskey A Go Go. Reeling from the effects of crystal meth (also known as ninja speed in some circles), the performance was a shambles: the group members weren’t always playing the same song (Noel apparently had a different set list from everyone else), and Liam may or may not have thrown a tambourine at his older brother. Disgusted by the band’s performance and behavior, Noel briefly left the band, retreating to San Francisco to meet up with a girl he’d met at an Oasis gig. When Noel told her he was leaving the band, she responded, “Well, what else are you going to do?” Lacking an answer, Noel wrote “Talk Tonight” and returned to the group. The dynamic between Noel and the rest of the band, however, had irrevocably changed: it was no longer a sense of “us,” it was now a sense of “me [Noel] and them.”

This revelation is one of the most moving and honest in the film. The Gallagher brothers have always been unabashedly honest, but their honesty throughout Supersonic is often startling. For example, the band’s first drummer, Tony McCarroll, has repeatedly been portrayed as incompetent and dim-witted in the band’s history. The Gallaghers (and others as well) concede their cruel treatment of McCarroll in Supersonic. “Whatever he [McCaroll] says is probably true,” Noel admits.

Noel similarly crushes the myth that the band suddenly became cohesive, successful, and talented once he became part of the picture. The band struggled to be noticed–until fate stepped in and the band tagged along to play at a gig in Glasglow with the band of Alan McGee’s ex-girlfriend. “There were seven people in the room, and he was two of them,” Noel later explained. McGee fell in love with the group on the spot and asked if they wanted a record deal. Wa-hey!  

Except there was no celebratory mood of “we’ve made it!” on the ride back home that evening, and the band struggled to record their first album (recorded on two separate occasions and finally successfully mixed by Owen Morris as a seemingly last-ditch effort–“Do whatever you want [with the tapes],” Mark Coyle instructed him). Yet, when fans sang along to the nonsensical lyrics of “Supersonic” on the day of its release at a gig, Noel began to realize the power of the band and its fans.

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Witnessing Noel’s haircut during his days as an Inspiral Carpets roadie on the big screen alone was worth the price of admission. More of this, please.

Despite the band’s arrogance, Noel, in one of the film’s most touching moments, attributes the dominance of Oasis to the group’s fans. Just as he did not realize he wanted to be in a band until he heard his songs being played back to him by his bandmates (his aspiration, up until that point, had been to simply keep his job as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets–and, hopefully, get a new haircut), he similarly did not realize the power of his songwriting until hearing countless fans singing “I know a girl called Elsa/She’s into Alka-Seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train” (…seriously, what?) along with his cocky younger brother. Oasis played to a record-breaking crowd of 250,000 during their two-night performance at Knebworth Park; however, Noel declares, that was not because of anything the band had ever done. It was because of the 2.6 million people who applied for tickets; it was the fans.

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Oasis, 1994: Tony McCarroll, Bonehead, Noel, Liam, and Guigsy (who is stoned through 98% of the film, suffering from nervous exhaustion the other 2%).

Yet Oasis is a truly unique phenomenon that will likely never be repeated. Cocksure and controversial, the Gallagher brothers were the most forceful rock ‘n’ roll stars the music world had seen for quite some time (maybe ever)–and hasn’t seen since. They were a group of homely (except for Noel and Liam, who was truly beautiful–and knew it), average musicians (no virtuosos ’round here) from a council estate who gained a record deal by fate, destiny, foreordination, whatever you want to call it. They produced the fastest-selling debut album (up to that point) and the second-fastest-selling album in U.K. history back-to-back, and their incredible songs, as Noel predicted, have (thusfar) lived forever.

Yet, the scale of their success is somewhat lost to our culture, partly because we have nothing to compare it to. When is the last time an individual (never mind, two of them) said exactly what s/he thought (even if it was as unfortunate as “Taking drugs is like getting up and having a cup of tea in the morning”)? When is the last time hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear a single group perform–and they were actually focused on being a part of the experience instead of being apart from the experience by seeing it through their cell phone camera? No, as Noel states in the film, we live in a celebrity-driven, social media-crazed, self-absorbed culture. The internet is our global village, not the park of an English village with a population not even totaling 5,000. We take images of ourselves, not the world around us. And, Noel ponders in the documentary’s final moments,what does that mean for our history?

Supersonic reminds us of how much Oasis meant (and means) to so many people and what a cultural loss we are currently suffering through. Its only downfall is that it concludes with the historic concerts at Knebworth. Oasis should have disappeared into a puff of smoke at that point, Noel affirms, and Bonehead agrees. (The band instead continued, with various lineups, for 13 more years.) Liam disagrees, arguing that just because you’ve reached a peak and are likely to not go any higher doesn’t mean you just stop and give up. I’m not sure who has the stronger argument, but I do know I still miss this group of arrogant, disruptive, not-the-best-looking group where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, exemplified by thousands of fans, not the lead singer, singing the chorus of one of their best-loved songs. So maybe Liam was right–you shouldn’t just stop and give up. At least not today.

Without Precedent

I often wonder about my love for The Beatles–why it is so inexplicable and embedded in my DNA and how millions of people, different from me in innumerable ways, feel precisely the same. Maybe this ingrained, intense feeling is why fans are so incredibly protective of the band’s legacy and equally critical of anything pertaining to The Fab Four, even if it is a feature-length documentary directed by an Academy Award winner named Ron Howard.

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John Lennon, with son Julian, visits Ron Howard and company on the set of Happy Days in 1974.

The producer of the film, Nigel Sinclair, who also produced Martin Scorsese’s documentary about George Harrison Living in the Material World, explained fans’ dual reaction to the announcement of the film: “Ron had people come up to him in the street and [they would] say ‘Mr. Howard, I’m so glad you’re doing the Beatles film.’ Ron said, ‘Of course the subtext is “And don’t screw it up.”’

From me to you (hey, I’m trying my zest here), he does not mess it up.

(My criticisms are few and minute, so let’s get them out of the way. I find the commentary from individuals not part of the Beatles’ circle superfluous, unnecessary, and rarely insightful. Do I care what Sigourney Weaver wore to see The Beatles at Shea Stadium? Not really. Do I care that Jon Savage’s parents wouldn’t let him go to a Beatles concert? Not really. What makes them different from the thousands of other ordinary people who loved The Beatles just as fervently? Oh, right, they are of some renown. Whatever. Get out. Secondly, the film’s tagline boasts that this film is about the band you know but the story you don’t…well, not really. I didn’t really learn anything new, but I did see lots of new photos and footage, and I got to see The Beatles on the big screen, replete with the entire Shea Stadium concert. Horrid snobby portion of this post over.)

Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years tells the story of The Beatles, using their live performances as its focus, which, on the surface, may seem odd, since The Beatles were never exactly synonymous with extraordinary live performances. They didn’t have pigs or light their instruments on fire or create auto-destructive art. Their audiences were not rapt in hearing the words of a lyrical poet, as Dylan’s fans were (a fact he was proud of in his early career, especially when The Beatles’ phenomenon surfaced). For much of their performing career, the music was secondary to the spectacle of seeing The Beatles. By choosing this least-regarded facet of the band, however, Howard is able to more fully reveal how the Beatles progressed and evolved by contrasting it with the circus-like atmosphere of their increasingly stagnant live performances.

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Foreshadowing in Hamburg, 1960: “Their name liveth for evermore.”

The Beatles’ stage performances weren’t always so stagnant, though, and their success was not an accident that happened overnight. Ringo states in the film that playing was the most important thing for the band, and their stints in Hamburg, Germany, allowed them the opportunity to perfect their craft while playing for eight or more hours every night—to unruly, difficult-to-please crowds or to an empty club (empty except for a bearded drummer from another Liverpool group, Ringo Starr). This was their apprenticeship, this is where they learned how to play in front of people–how to mach schau, and when they returned to England, they broke the jazz-only rule at Liverpool’s The Cavern Club, performing a total of nearly 300 times. Having dominated The Cavern Club and garnered a local following, the group was still looking to improve and to move the next step up the ladder.

That next step up the ladder was not what any of The Beatles expected: Beatlemania. Opening with color footage of the band playing in Manchester in November 1963, the film shows the excitement and the burgeoning mania: girls screaming, fainting, and the sheer joy John, Paul, George, and Ringo exude. The film illustrates this joy and excitement perfectly with its abundance of unseen (or, at least, under-seen) concert and interview footage. Fans debate the sexiness of the members (“Ringo’s got a sexy nose.” “George’s eyelashes are sexy.”) and declare their undying love for them: “Paul McCartney, if you’re out there listening, Adrian from Brooklyn loves you.” Fans’ adoration for the Beatles ignites laughter but is genuine—and contagious. Just as contagious and laughter-inducing is The Beatles’ humor—then and now. Just a few favorites: John introduces himself to a reporter as Eric, George uses John’s mop top as an ashtray, George thanks Ringo for his contribution to a fan club record and remarks “We’ll phone you,” and Ringo recalls his inability to hear the band’s music at their concerts, “I couldn’t hear anything. All I could see was Paul’s arse, John’s arse…” Ringo had the best seat, am I right?     

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After conquering Europe, the Beatles arrived in the United States, where the madness escalated to a whole new level. While the Beatles complied with the larger venues (and greater profits) and increasingly manic American crowds, they refused to accommodate the demands of segregated venues. In this regard, they were pioneers, standing for what they believed to be right. As journalist Larry Kane, who accompanied The Beatles on their 1964 North American tour, remarked, he was touched by The Beatles’ kindness, their genuineness, and their intelligence.

After 1964, though, The Beatles’ pioneering in the live arena stalled, except by breaking attendance records by playing in larger venues. The opposite was true of their recording career, where they continued to flourish. With each record, they progressed, wrote better songs, and experimented with new sounds and ideas, culminating with the release of Revolver in May 1966. Tellingly, the Beatles never performed any songs from Revolver live, demonstrating how the sophistication of their recording career had overtaken the circus that was their live show.

By 1966, the group’s rosy relationship with the public was fraying. Not only were their performances inaudible but touring had become a life-threatening situation, which escalated with John Lennon’s remark that The Beatles were, in fact, more popular than Jesus Christ. (Real talk hurts.) Even their relationship with the press, who had adored their wit and cheekiness, was verging on hostile. In a clip, one journalists asks The Beatles why they are so “horrid snobby.” Paul, irrefutably the most diplomatic Beatle, answers that they are not snobby but the journalists and their questions are not particularly nice and get what they deserve. (Again, real talk hurts.) Death threats, Beatle burnings, and exploding firecrackers at concerts became the new norm for The Fab Four. They arrived to their final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966, in an armored truck. They decided they’d had enough–of touring, at least. Still, in these tense moments, you can still see their camaraderie and the joy their music brings.

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Paul McCartney and George Harrison at The Beatles’ final concert in 1966.

Despite all the obstacles this band faced — touring was a money-making venture not an artistic one, their concerts lasted no more than thirty minutes and offered little variation in terms of set lists, and oh yeah, the screaming which made it impossible for them to hear one another — the film shows what a good live band The Beatles were. They could have easily not put any effort into their live shows at all, but they were often in tune and played as a cohesive unit. That unity is a testament to their closeness as individuals and their faith in one another, my favorite aspect of the film.

“I was an only child, and I suddenly felt as if I had three brothers,” Ringo states in the film. Paul gets emotional recalling the first moment Ringo played with the group, and George expresses how he was always glad that they had one another to lean on and share the experience, unlike an isolated Elvis or Sinatra, declaring, “We were very, very close to one another.” This is the band that went from staying in a single cramped room in the back of a theater in Hamburg to occupying the entire floor of the New York Plaza Hotel, where they found themselves gathering together in one room to get away from the pressure of being Beatles and just be with each other.

They loved one another and had faith in each other, just as many individuals around them had faith in them — notably George Martin having faith in their artistic vision to not touch the unorthodox structure and sound of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Brian Epstein sacrificing so much for them and maintaining his faith in them despite no measurable success for so long (John Lennon once said there was a period where the only people who had faith in the band were Brian Epstein and George Harrison). And by having faith in each other, they inspired others to have faith in one another — so that it didn’t matter if you were black or white, weird or popular, young or old; The Beatles were a uniting force, beautifully encapsulated by the chorus of grown men singing “She Loves You” to celebrate their football club’s victory season. And there it is — that inexplicable feeling of love swelling inside me. I love The Beatles like no other. They are, quite simply, without precedent.

P.S., Happy Belated Birthday

No, dear faithful followers of The Hand of Count Petofi, The Count did not desert you, although The Count probably has had more desserts than necessary these past few months. And where have those past few (well…maybe more than few) months gone?  I’ve mourned the loss of Bowie and George Martin and Paul Dano’s first Oscar nomination and win (in a word: un·be·liev·a·ble) and fought to keep my head above water. There were so many times when I felt like I was drowning, but here I am — gasping — dying — but somehow still alive…

On Monday, Pet Sounds (aka the greatest rock album ever made, Mar!) turned 50. Instead of posting about it yesterday when the internet was inundated with (justifiably) laudatory and celebratory articles, I’m posting today because I believe it’s an album that should be celebrated (and by celebrated, I mean LISTENED TO) every single day, I’m still kind of drowning and trying to get my life together, and when have I ever been a timely person? I mean, one of my favorite actors has been dead for fifty–fifty–years this July. I’m not exactly hip or now, you know.

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Maybe the album’s only imperfection: its bizarre-o album cover. Thanks, The Suits at Capital. Branding! (Not to be confused with Brand-o.)

Pet Sounds is perhaps the only true perfect album. From boo buh bom pa to do da do do da do do da BOOM (2,3,4) buh DOOM to the howls of Banana and Louie, there is not a false note. Every song is beautiful, purposeful, and connected. There are no fillers. There are no clunkers. There is no “What Goes On” (the song that ruins Rubber Soul–an album I love dearly, dearly, dearly–for me every time). (Speaking of Rubber Soul, it’s interesting to think that the album that so inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds wasn’t really Rubber Soul but instead Capital’s amalgamation of Rubber Soul and Help!, omitting the horrendous “What Goes On”, creating a distinctively folk feel. So maybe those Beatles weren’t so special after all. Yeah…maybe.) And every song is universal.

Pet Sounds is Brian Wilson’s creation, no doubt about it. He just had some other stuff inside of him besides surf and sun and surf and cars and surf and girls and surf that he just had to get out. The songs found on Pet Sounds are delicately beautiful and vulnerable, expressing the need for love and acceptance. Even the instrumental “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” evokes a wistfulness for escape into a haven of love and comfort–and not just because of the title but because of the meticulous arrangement of the instruments and their dynamics and interaction with each other. The group’s innovative cover of the folk song “Sloop John B” also recalls a similar desire with its plaintive refrain: “I feel so broke up, I wanna go home.” (And, perhaps, it nods to the counterculture: “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.” Talk about destroying your brain.)

It’s hard for me to separate Pet Sounds from the scenes focusing on its creation in Love and Mercy. It’s not that Paul Dano is so-gosh-darn-cute (which he is), it’s just that the movie did such an extraordinary job of re-creating Brian Wilson’s meticulous, relentless work ethic and the joy he felt being in the studio recording this album. It makes me a little teary-eyed every time I watch the scene as Brian Wilson (played to perfection by Paul Dano) listens to the musicians play “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”–with two bass players playing in two different keys–and it sounds just like it does in his head! He is so incandescently happy because he is at home in the recording studio, producing these introspective, sophisticated, and loving songs. I don’t think Brian Wilson worked harder or was ever happier than he was when working on Pet Sounds. He put his heart and soul into the album–and so is it any wonder that he was crushed when the world at large (and maybe a band member or two…okay, maybe just one) reacted lukewarmly to his magnum opus (not that he would ever call it a magnum opus or a masterpiece or anything like that because he is actually the most humble man in the world)?

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This is what The Beach Boys actually look like in my head. Love-less, peaceful, and in complete, perfect harmony. Who needs a little place like Kokomo? Not I, said the Count…

Brian Wilson said that with Pet Sounds, the group was trying to “bring love to the world through our harmonies.” There is so much love in this album. The world needs Pet Sounds now more than ever — if only people would listen, listen…

Which is exactly what you have to do with Pet Sounds. I’ve listened to this album so many times, and it never gets old. I never want to skip a track. I never want to turn it off after listening to “just the hits.” I love every song; I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. (Although Paul McCartney can. But what can’t Paul McCartney do?) They’re all just so gosh-darn-beautiful, I wanna cry

Merry Christmas and Thank You

Where has the time gone? There’s only 16 days until Christmas, only three days until Sinatra’s 100th birthday, and yesterday marked 35 years since John Lennon was assassinated. (It’s amazing how no matter how much time passes between hearing that man sing, there is always a comfort and a chill when I hear his voice–so real and so authentic and so very missed.) Things in my life have been very strange these past few months. A few months ago, I couldn’t wait to listen to A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, so I didn’t. Oh by gosh by golly, it was time for mistletoe and holly in October. Last night, I had no desire to watch any holiday-themed films; I just wanted to watch Love and Mercy–darn that Paul Dano if he doesn’t simply radiate the spirit of Brian Wilson so darn well, especially when he’s in the studio and so incandescently happy. It warms my heart and brings a little tear to my eye. Give that man an Oscar!

It is, however, time to indulge in the Christmas spirit and begin a series of (serious) posts about some of my favorite Christmas-related things. Up first: a critical analysis of one of the best Christmas songs and videos ever, Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”

Plot synopsis: Last Christmas, George Michael gave his heart to a girl. The very next day, she gave it away to be with…the other guy from Wham!. Yeah. Totally believable.

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So we’re off to a great start when a jeep pulls up to a snowy retreat in the mountains and out jumps a waving, smiling George Michael. We meet George Michael’s former flame (the one who threw his heart away)–for the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to her from this point forward as…Sally. Friends wave each other excitedly, and George Michael strategically places his arm around his new girlfriend–with whom he has ZERO chemistry and who has ZERO personality. Just look at how dully she greets George’s friends:

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“Hi, nice to meet you. I left my personality at home. Isn’t it weird how George greets a friend with more passion than he expresses toward me throughout the entire duration of this video?” 

Once everyone is inside the cozy haven, it’s time to set the table for dinner and decorate the Christmas tree. George is on tinsel duty, which is a natural choice since every time he smiles, his Colgate-white teeth light up the room. There is some tension in the air as Sally watches George decorate the tree (more like watches George’s butt), and the tension continues to build until…GASP! George drops the tinsel and makes eye contact with Sally. Remember in Titanic when Old Rose reminisced about posing for the naked portrait for Jack? “It was the most erotic moment of my life…” Yeah.

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Since things were getting a little too heated inside, the gang moves outside to play in the snow. George Michael, though, plays it cool and aloof, melting the snow with his smoldering stare…

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He’s apparently successful because next thing we know, the gang’s back inside, enjoying Christmas dinner. George Michael sits at one end of the table, sipping a glass of wine and attempting to engage in conversation with the people around him. (Is that his new squeeze sitting there? Hard to tell because THEY DO NOT INTERACT OR HAVE ANY CHEMISTRY!!) George and Sally’s eyes meet. Oh my gosh. What is this?

“I’m melting! I’m melting!”

It’s time for a flashback. We see happier times–like Katie and Hubbell putting the books away in California. Sigh. George and Sally roll around in the snow…

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George has just told a REALLY funny joke. How could she ever give his heart away?

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We then see George, with an open shirt, give Sally THE GIFT…THE GIFT that she gives to…the other guy from Wham!? Really? Why? Are you delusional?

Cut to the gang heading up the ski lift and saying their goodbyes until they see each other again. It’s such an unhappy, unsatisfying ending. I really am struggling to grasp the fact that Sally would ditch George Michael for the other guy from Wham!–and why does George Michael have that other girl? He pays zero attention to her! It’s just like in The Way We Were. How could Hubbell leave Katie after she had the baby? She was the only one who really loved him, the only one who was going to push him to write his second novel, the only one to make him a better person, to give him a spine. George and Sally are Hubbell and Katie all over again. “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” Gag me! Oh, well–maybe…next year…

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Five Favorite Newly Discovered Rick Nelson Gems

After six months of listening to nothing but the Brothers Gibb, it regretfully reached a saturation point, and I forced myself to enter a new listening cycle. Chest hair, pearly white smiles, and tight white satin pants have been replaced by the laid-back, natural, gorgeous tones (and head and shoulders and knees and toes and eyes and ears and mouth and a nose – oh, a nose!) of Rick Nelson.

In case you’ve missed one of the recurring themes of this blog, I can’t just like something. I can’t just watch a movie. I can’t just read a book. I cannot — and I refuse to — just listen to a song or an album or an artist’s complete discography. I must completely immerse myself, devouring every last morsel of information and media available to me. I guess you could refer to it as an “obsession.” So right now, I’m obsessed with Rick Nelson…again. (I also tend to recycle my obsessions.) I’ve been tracking down episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet I haven’t seen (can’t wait for the ultimate box set to be released!), raiding the library of all their Rick Nelson materials (do you think they’ll notice if I don’t return them?), absent-mindedly drooling over my Rick Nelson records (I am going to have to start investing in those clear protective sleeves), and, of course, listening to all the Rick Nelson I can, all in my search for THE REAL RICK:

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(Yeah, I have totally been carrying this picture around with me and pulling it out, asking people if they know or have seen THE REAL RICK. No one’s signed me up for any medical attention…yet.)

And whatd’yaknow, the real Rick — I think — is not found in the wise cracks of an irrepressible kid or the idealistic portrayal of life found on his family’s television show (which I love dearly) or even his dreamy blue eyes and long, long, long — man, are they long! — eyelashes but in his music. And, thankfully, there is so much music. So much, in fact, that I am still wading through it, trying to find it all, digesting it and loving it.

While digging through all this music, I have enjoyed listening to old favorites and forgotten favorites, but I have most of all enjoyed discovering new songs I had never heard before — and here’s a list of a few, out of many, of my newly discovered favorites, most of which were never major hits (or minor hits or any kind of hit) and all, save one, were penned by Rick himself — yes, not only could this guy sing the phonebook, but he could write, too!

5. “Dream Lover”
Single, 1979

Rick’s cover of Bobby Darin’s 1959 hit is subtle, magical, and dreamier than the original (or any subsequent cover) ever even hinted was possible. His voice is older, maybe not quite as smooth as it once was, but still as beautiful and captivating as it ever was. I love that this song, which could have signaled yet another comeback for Rick, was released amidst the sea of Punk, New Wave, and Disco. Rick didn’t change his style to gel with current trends; he sang what he knew and loved.

4. “Gypsy Pilot”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

As understated and gentle as “Dream Lover” is, “Gypsy Pilot” is as loud and guitar-fueled — maybe even the loudest and rockiest song of his career. The autobiographical lyrics also offer a fitting epitaph, particularly the last verse: “When they claim my body/They won’t have much to say/Except that he lived a good life/He lived every day/And I know he saw the sunshine/And I know he felt the rain/And he loved everybody/And he hopes you’ll do the same.”    

3. “Easy to Be Free”
Single, 1970

I love that in the clip posted above, Rick is peacefully standing amidst the open country. He is calm and steady and completely at ease; the music, like his surroundings in the clip, is breathtakingly beautiful and lulling, perfectly mirroring the lyrics expressing freedom and the peace it brings. The ease and naturalness with which he sings this song reflects, I think, how he lived his life and directed his career. At times in his career, the music he created didn’t necessarily follow what was popular in the charts or reflect what many people perceived his (or, rather, their) “image” to be, but he did what he loved and believed in. He was genuine and heartfelt and free. But I doubt it was truly easy — nothing really is.

2. “Are You Really Real?”
Garden Party, 1972

Oh, I love this song so much. Hidden on the Garden Party album, this has to be one of the most beautiful songs Rick ever wrote (seriously, this dude could write songs — who knew? Not enough people!) or recorded. With the yearning lyrics and his voice doubled for effect, it envelopes the listener into a kind of a trance — the kind of trance where once the song ends, you have to listen to it again. And again. And again. And again…

1. “Life”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

The trance of listening to “Are You Really Real?” on repeat indefinitely can only be broken by listening to “Life” on repeat. Fact. This song is so simple, yet so poignant, and despite posing some of humanity’s common questions (“Tell me life, what are you here for?/Tell me life, I wanna know more/Tell me life, what are we here for?”), implying uncertainty and a desire to know more, the song exudes bliss. Still, when Rick asks, “Life, will you go on without me?”, in the song’s opening line, it’s sobering. Life has gone on without Rick, and it will go on one day without each of us. That last sentence looks so depressing in print, but I swear this song is not depressing. It’s beautiful, and I could listen to it all day. (Pssst, I already have.)

Oh, and check out this performance from 1972. I have no idea what the premise of this special (“Fol-de-Rol”, according to the description) was, but it features Rick as a kind of minstrel, replete with tights, so you know it’s totally worth your time.

Rick Nelson was a great artist, understated and under-appreciated. Miss him! Can’t wait to discover even more gems buried in his discography…