Homeschooling, Day XIII: History of the 20th Century

I think I’m going to make my children transcribe and research everything from “We Didn’t Start The Fire”:

When I was in high school, the last couple of days of the Honors Western Civilization class featured a video that covered the 20th century. For extra credit, we could turn in our notes from watching the film. I transcribed the lyrics to this song (because we did not have the Internet, gentle reader, and either had to go by ear or by the tiny liner notes in the cassette case).

Although I did not actually turn these notes in, a friend of mine took them and turned them in. The teacher, of course, had no idea.

Coronaschooling, Day Something: Wherein Jethro Tull Answers William Blake

Last night’s poem was “The Tyger” by William Blake.

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The poet asks:

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Jethro Tull responds:

He who made kittens put snakes in the grass

The youngest spontaneously burst out singing this song a week or so ago; it’s on my workout playlist, which I played sometimes in the car in the Great Before when we went places such as the gym in our car. So they know the song, and I got to connect the theme from William Blake to popular culture.

Well, culture that’s popular at Nogglestead, anyway, and probably wasn’t even that popular when it came out in 1974 (although, apparently, it hit the top 20).

A Big Part Of The Soundscape In Our Apartment in the Projects

Kenny Rogers has passed away.

I’ve seen him recently in the news as he played in Branson a couple years ago, and the review was a little harsh as he was older and couldn’t do what he’d done in better years.

The best of those years probably came in the early 1980s when he had great crossover success with songs like “Islands in the Stream”, “Lady”, and “Love Will Turn You Around” not to mention the country staples like “The Gambler”.

My favorite Kenny Rogers song was “Coward of the County”:

Mainly because I was a scrawny kid, and I hoped I would be able to lash out appropriately if needed. Apparently not, or perhaps I really never needed it.

Like “The Gambler”, this song was turned into a television movie that I probably saw back in the day. Before cable television and the Internet, gentle reader, you pretty much had to watch what was on, and we did.

I’m also a fan of the recent song “The Greatest”:

Although a little research indicates that this song is twenty-three years old. In my defense, I didn’t listen to country in the late 1990s, and I was exposed to the song as I started to mow the lawn at Nogglestead and could only pull in a “classic” country station. Which is also why I thought “Could Have Been Me” was also a recent Billy Ray Cyrus song.

At any rate, Kenny Rogers left his mark on the music, as he was part of the pop-ization wave of country in the late 1970s and early 1980s that spawned a reactionary, more country sound in the 1990s. And the cycle continues today.

Cue Up The Walter Murphy

I’ve created a couple extra Facebook accounts to use in my software testing for signing up or logging in via Facebook, which leads to a lot of suggestions that indicate that Facebook knows what I’m doing.

Or at least excuses to listen to the Walter Murphy Band.

As I have mentioned, I own A Fifth of Beethoven on both CD and vinyl. So clearly I do not need much excuse to cue it up.

In Their Defense, Boston’s “Long Time” Is Only 5:22 has a gallery of Longtime celebrity couples then and now, although the pictures are actually presented Now followed by Then. But I do not want to quibble with that.

What I quibble with is the “longtime” designation. Sure, some of the couples have been together since the 1980s or 1990s, which is qualifying as a long time these days (he asserted, limping after his most recent triathlon class). But so many of the longtime couples here only became a couple during the last part of the Bush 43 administration.

Maybe that counts as a long time in Hollywood or in San Francisco. However, I go to church, which regularly celebrates 50th, 60th, and 70th wedding anniversaries. So 13th anniversaries of couplehood is a good start.

Since I mentioned it, here’s “Foreplay/Longtime” by Boston. Which runs almost eight minutes, but the intro part (“Foreplay”) is almost two and a half.

You Got Chocolate In My Musical Peanut Butter!

You know, WSIE, the former jazz station and now smooth jazz “The Sound” from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, is not afraid to mix in some interesting musical choices. In addition to Sacha Boutros, Janet Evra, and Ashley Pezzotti (along with other favorites like Hiroshima, Keiko Matsui, Cindy Bradley, Al Jarreau, and so on).

Sometimes, they mix in a little Stevie Ray Vaughn and Steely Dan (and Donald Fagen solo). So they go a little towards blues rock. Today, they were all:

BTO, “Looking Out For Number One”.

You know, it’s bluesy enough to fit in with the sound. But some of us are old enough to consider BTO to be Album-Oriented Rock (later known as Classic Rock).

Fun story: I saw BTO in concert once. I have already mentioned it once, but I haven’t told you the whole story. BTO was the early afternoon act on one of the side stages at Summerfest in the early 1990s, and Weird Al was scheduled after them. So I stood on a bench amidst a bunch of aging bikers and didn’t think anything of it. I danced poorly, probably thrashed a bit, and had a great time. Then, after BTO finished, the bikers meandered off, and the Weird Al crowd of thirteen year olds mustered in, and many of them demonstrated Attitude brokered from being away from Mom for the first time, and they were getting a little restive. So I bailed out on Weird Al, the only chance I’ve had to see him live for nothing but the price of a Summerfest ticket, because I was either going to have to deal with abuse from thirteen-year-old tough guys or might end up in a scuffle with said tough guys, and even if I won (not a sure thing as I was a hundred and twenty gangly pounds at eighteen), I would have lost. You know, it probably wouldn’t have been like that, but I tend to extrapolate every conflict into physical violence as I lack the tact to defuse a situation.

Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, listening to WSIE. Which has returned to its more normal playlist of Diana Krall and Al Jarreau whilst I’ve been typing this and wondering exactly how bad I come off relating the BTO anecdote en toto. Not Toto. That’s another band entirely, and I’m sure WSIE could play some selections from them no problem.

Wherein My Beautiful Wife Mistakes A Flugelhorn For A Trumpet

Gentle reader, as you know, I like to spend my evenings in a recliner with a good book whilst a “fire” burns in the fireplace and smooth jazz plays (although not currently WSIE as the AirPort Express gave up the support ghost).

The other evening, a song came on as my beautiful wife entered the room, and she said, “Rise?”

“Chuck Mangione, ‘Feels So Good’,” I replied. And we repeated the exchange pretty much verbatim until I explained that it was not, in fact, Herb Alpert, and then she heard it.

I mean, I was able to authoritatively say Chuck Mangione even though this song, like “Hungry Heart” by Bruce Springsteen and “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, was one that I’d heard in my youth and hazily remembered. Unlike “Hearts” by Marty Balin, this instrumental (radio edit) did not have lyrics that I could have used to look it up on the Internet were I so inclined.

But I still stream WSIE on my computer, and I heard the song a couple of times, and I remembered it and thought, It’s that song. After a couple such instances, I thought, perhaps I should learn its name since I might not get the chance again. So I paid attention when it came on again and looked at the name/artist text on the live stream.

Which is why I could with certainty that I don’t often demonstrate say, “Chuck Mangione, ‘Feels So Good’.”

How good it feels to you, gentle reader, is up to you.

Did Somebody Say ‘Metal’?

High-tempo music may make exercise easier and more beneficial:

A new study in Frontiers in Psychology is the first to show that listening to music at a higher tempo reduces the perceived effort involved in exercise and increases its benefits. These effects were greater for endurance exercises, such as walking, than for high-intensity exercises, such as weightlifting. The researchers hope that the findings could help people to increase and improve their exercise habits.

Many people listen to music while exercising and previous studies have documented some of the benefits. For instance, music can distract from fatigue and discomfort and increase participation in exercise. However, “how” we experience music is highly subjective, with cultural factors and personal preferences influencing its effects on individuals. Music is multifaceted with various aspects such as rhythm, lyrics and melody contributing to the experience.

You know, I’ve been known to tell people that I don’t like exercise, but I do like loud music and that I don’t come to the gym to work out, I come to the gym to listen to the music.

I dispute that the music does not affect lifting weights; I do believe it distracts me from the voice in my head that says I cannot lift that.

Speaking of metal, here’s some piping hot new Semblant.

I just saw that on YouTube, and it’s already on my gym playlist. So I will have to go to the gym tomorrow so I can listen to it.

(Link via Neatorama.)

A Concert I Will Forever Miss (Maybe)

Huey Lewis May Never Perform Again. But He Refuses to Give Up:

Huey Lewis can pinpoint the exact moment his entire world fell apart. It was January 2018 and he was in Dallas to play a corporate gig with his longtime band the News. Opening act Pat Green was entertaining the audience and Lewis was “taking the Elvis route” to the stage through the kitchen.

“I heard this huge noise,” he says. “It sounded like warfare was going on in the other room. I yelled, ‘What is that?’ They said, ‘It’s just Pat, the opening act.’ I put in my in-ear [monitors] in and couldn’t hear anything.”

He hoped things would improve once he got onto the stage, but when the band kicked into the opening song, the sound only got worse. “I thought the bass amp had blown a speaker,” he says. “I just heard this horrible noise and I couldn’t find pitch or even hear myself. It was an absolute nightmare. The worst thing. Just horrible.”

He has a condition that makes it so his hearing is mostly or totally lost depending upon the day, which means he won’t tour again anytime soon.

Which makes me sad; I am a Huey Lewis and the News fan from way back. Sport was the first album I got for a buck at a garage sale when I lived in the trailer park. (I still have it.) His is a music of grown ups.

I say maybe about not ever seeing him because I remain optimistic about the advance of medical science. Perhaps sometime soon it will come up with a treatment or cure for what ails Huey Lewis. I hope so.


And if he never gets his hearing back and therefore never plays live again, Lewis says he’ll be OK.

“I have a great life,” he says. “I’m a lucky guy. No matter what happens, I’m a lucky guy. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. But I am.”

Still a hero of mine.

Brian J. Was About To Bow To Lileks, Again

In yesterday’s Bleat, Lileks humblebrags about his music library:

I’m agonizing over the music. In the old days: you had a hundred albums or so, arranged on a particle-board shelf with concrete blocks on the end. If you were in college. Or you had them arranged in purloined milk crates. HEY if they didn’t want them stolen they shouldn’t have made them perfect for albums, man. Besides, Big Milk, like, gets money from the government.

Of the 100 albums, there were ten in rotation, and the rest were there to impress someone else, which they never did, or to bring back a mood, or to check if you still liked it. Quite possibly the ones in rotation weren’t even in the albums, just in the paper sleeves, like new friends hanging around the house in their underwear.

Now I have thousands of albums. I do not need them, but there is no cost to having them.

How many albums do I own? I don’t know for sure. I can only say that it looks as though I have ordered 10 100 packs of record covers and I’m almost through the 10th pack. And I have many, many nice record sets. As well as stacks of 78 and 45 rpm singles.

Holy cats, I was going to say that I’d ordered the 100 packs for or five times, but apparently, over the last seven years, I have bought a lot of records. But I guess my Good Album Hunting series is up to 20 or so entries, and I don’t just buy one or two records per.

At any rate, I was going to bow to Lileks, but I guess I have more records than he does. Although he was likely referring to electronic albums, of which I have “975” (I put it in quotes because some of the “albums” are single songs from the album).

As to the actual record rotation, I can say for sure that I have more than 10 in regular circulation, but I might not have 10% of my collection in rotation. I tend to play a lot of the Eydie and Herb and trumpet and sax, and I know that I don’t play some records often (many that I inherited with sixties and seventies pop, the vast Elvis collection), but I do play more than one hundred of them regularly.

Although I am not listening to the record player as often as I did in the past.

As to the electronic copies of the albums (as you know, gentle reader, I buy most of my newer music on CD and rip it to the computer rather than buying MP3 albums. I often listen to the last in most frequently, but I go through phases where I listen to different genres or different albums as a one off. Like listening to Die Trying’s self-titled album because I read a book with the same name.

So I can’t imagine removing anything from my library. Just in case.

So I was going to bow to Lileks, again, but.

Weird Musical Precognition

I forgot what got me onto the train of thought; perhaps I thought of my aunt, whose antique mall furniture refurbishing business might be called Wildfire Studios (not the video game producing company), but I remembered a song called “Wildfire” from my youth. I mean, you heard it a bunch in the middle seventies and into the 1980s on easy listening stations but which has fallen off of Jack (a dated radio format term) playlists which play the best of the 1980s, 1990s, and today, which means an entire catalog of 70s music has fallen into a hole unless you’re looking for it on YouTube. Or that’s what I would project based on my broadcast radio listening habits.

Then, yesterday, I heard it on the XMSirius Dentist Office station.

Which, I know, is a cognitive trick: I was just thinking about the song, and I heard it soon thereafter, so it sticks in my mind (and on my blog). I think of a lot of songs that I don’t hear soon thereafter unless I bring it up here for blogfodder (see also “Hearts” by Marty Balin).

When you leave YouTube’s autoplay on, it presents you another similar song. In this case, after “Wildfire”, it presented “Please Come To Boston”, another wistful ballad I remember from my innocent years. Ah, even more impactful than a wistful ballad is a wistful ballad from the past, wherein a lot of the stuff wisted is now wast.

(The third up on autoplay was “The Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg, which gave me the power to hit the stop button before we got to, as we certainly would, “The Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin, and I would have to trade the longing for my absent father from the then to the concern that I am too absent of a father now.

Fortunately, I have a new Crobot CD to listen to very loud to distract me.

The Conformist Society Produces No Individualist Iconoclasts

I was reading or hearing something about the difference between conformist societies like the ones you find in China and Japan with the individualist societies you find in the West. Strangely, I cannot remember where I read this. A book? An Internet article? An audio course?

However, that little insight answers this question for you: Why Does China Have 1.4 Billion People and No Good Bands?:

Fans attribute the success of the Hu to the group’s blending of Western metal with local styles. But it’s only the most well-packaged instance of an ongoing phenomenon. Mongolia has a strong tradition of rock groups working to modernize traditional sounds. Altan Urag, a Mongolian folk rock group from the capital of Ulaanbaatar, first succeeded in electrifying traditional Mongolian instruments almost 15 years ago. And it gave heavy metal the distinctive growl of throat singing with its seminal 2006 album, Made In Altan Urag. Mongolian bands like Khusugtun, Altain Orgil, Jonon, and Mohanik have all tweaked folk music to modern ends.

That’s a stark contrast with Mongolia’s neighbor China. Despite having 1.4 billion people to Mongolia’s mere 3 million, there’s no such thing as a distinctive Chinese national sound that mixes tradition and modernity in the same way Mongolians do—at least none that has become a serious commercial player. Instead, China has been left churning out a stream of pale imitations of other countries’ genres. That raises a big question: Why does Mongolian music slap so hard and Chinese music (with a few exceptions) suck?

Because metal musicians would be a threat to the regime/social order and would be punished.

I would be remiss in not posting a sample of The Hu:

If you will excuse me, I’m off to study Mongolian so I can put that on my gym playlist.

Also, the over/under on Mongolia conquering China, again, is twelve years.

(Link via Instapundit.)

Wherein Brian J. Proves He’s Too With It For His Own Taste

Neatorama links to a Refinery29 (who?) listicle of The Best Albums of the 2010s, and I own, sort of, two.

Let’s do this quiz style, with the ones I own bolded.

  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • Billy Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  • Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  • Robyn, Body Talk
  • Lorde, Pure Heroine (which I bought in 2016
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
  • Adele, 21 (although, really, I only sort of own this since it actually belongs to my oldest son who went through an Adele phase a couple years ago).
  • Beyonce, Lemonade
  • Rihanna, ANTI

To be honest, I’m pleased I don’t know who several of these artists are, and others I only know of from reading newspaper Web sites.

But I will say this: Of the two I do own, I can only add that Leo improved upon them.

My Confusion, Circa 1988

When I was younger, I sometimes confused Patty Smyth:

With Patti Smith:

It could happen to anyone, right?

Although sometime in 1993 or 1994, I had written a novel that featured a dark haired and dark eyed young woman as a love interest, and when I saw a ten-year-old Patty Smyth music video, I thought, that’s her. Maybe I based Kym Russano on Patty Smyth, as I’m sure I had seen “The Warrior” (as I referred to it in a collegiate commentary).

All I know is that I have to keep typing their names so that perhaps when I can tell them apart I can spell their names correctly (unlike in 1992).

I Haven’t Mentioned Her Name In Almost 24 Hours

Marie Fredriksson, Roxette singer, dead of cancer at 61:

Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson, the Swedish star who achieved worldwide fame with such hits as “Joyride” and “It Must Have Been Love,” has died at age 61 after a 17-year battle with cancer.

“The Look” came on the radio when I took my boys to school yesterday, and I recounted the ‘fact’ that she could not speak English when this song was released.

I must have heard that on the radio at the time. I have no idea if it was ever true.

Fun fact: My friend Dave (of the Iron Maiden poster fame) and I argued against my brother about the staying power of Milli Vanilli (David and I posited) versus Roxette (my brother countered). In retrospect, it pretty much a wash in American music and its charts, and Roxette has only appeared on this blog as a punchline (Scientists Prove Rest of World Is Parallel Universe to United States in 2007, Free Trivia Answer in 2005).

Still, I am saddened to learn of her passing.

Losing the Mannheiming of Christmas

One of the radio presets in our vehicles switches to Christmas music in mid-November, so we get our share of Christmas music that does not come from our growing collection of LPs.

And you know what I haven’t heard on this station in the last couple of years or, to my recollection, on KEZK in St. Louis when I lived there and on recent trips back?

Mannheim Steamroller.

This band really broke through after a number of albums with its 1984 Christmas album. I remember seeing this video on MTV with my brother; we were lying on my grandmother’s floor, and when it finished, we both said, Whoa.

But you don’t hear it in the mix much these days. Of course, the radio Christmas playlists have suddenly (maybe not suddenly?) tilted to modern artists doing secular winter songs, so you get a lot of Taylor Swift and Michael Buble, but not a lot of Steve and Eydie and whatnot.

So I guess that’s where Mannheim Steamroller went. Into the past.

I have this album, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, and a later Christmas album, Christmas in the Aire on audio cassette. I should see about getting them on CD. Mannheim Steamroller Christmas was the first Christmas album I bought, werd.