“That Look You Give That Guy” by Eels (2009)

25 01 2018

I’ve posted previously about Eels here. Mark Everett writes amazing, heartfelt, and deceptively simple songs that cut to the bone. He’s been through a lot, and it’s evident in his writing.

Unrequited love. When you really dig someone, really think they’re special and perhaps the perfect partner to share life with, but they don’t feel the same. Or worse, they’re with someone else, and you’ll never know.

“That look you give that guy
I wanna see
Looking right at me
If I could be that guy
Instead of me
I’d be all I can be”

Love is a sloppy, unfocused, uncontrollable emotion that can hurt as much as heal. Heartache can be as bad as any physical ache.

If you experience it, you’re not alone. It’s part of life. If your misery needs company, Mr. Everett’s songs might be the company you need.


“Dog and Butterfly” by Heart (1978)

6 11 2017

This was one of your grandmother’s favorite songs (and bands). The song was uncharacteristically subdued for Heart, which up to 1978 mostly made rock scorchers.

I remember your grandma sitting on the sofa and letting this track wash over her. It’s a song about yearning, about wanting more. At the time, your grandma was struggling, I think, being a stay-at-home-mom.

Sometime after this, she went back to school and completed her undergrad degree, then went on the get a Master’s degree (a “Master of Divinity”) to become a minister. One of the first female ministers, a pioneer.

She was a feminist way before it was “cool,” or even acceptable. She volunteered for a local “battered women’s shelter” for victims of domestic abuse when people barely acknowledged there was a problem.

She was the minister of a church up in Oregon, before deciding her calling was working directly with the terminally ill and the elderly. She even published a book on the subject (you can still get a copy of it at Amazon). It was well-received critically, but didn’t sell too well because–I think–of the fairly dark subject. I hope you still have a copy of the book that your grandma annotated for you, and I hope you will take a look at it.

Like HER mother, your grandma was smart, compassionate, and didn’t take any shite from anyone.

You should know that your grandma was an extraordinary person. And she would have been SO proud of the smart, conscientious young woman you have become.

She died almost 10 years ago now. I remember one of the saddest things she talked about when she knew her time was limited, was that she wouldn’t see you grow up. She loved you tremendously.

“She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer (1983)

4 12 2016

Some call Donna Summer the “Queen of Disco,” which I thought was unfair. She was a cut above and really stood out, bringing soulfulness and tenacity to the dance beats.

Summer wrote these lyrics after meeting the restroom attendant in a fancy restaurant. The attendant, a young, exhausted-looking woman, was a single mother working multiple jobs to support her kids and herself. It’s an anthem of respect:

“I met her there in the corner stand
And she wonders where she is and
It’s strange to her
Some people seem to have everything”

Your grandmother was a single mother for a few years when I was very young. I don’t know how she held it all together. I don’t know how any single mother holds it all together. I don’t think I could do it.

So please know that your old man thinks single mothers are the fiercest of the fierce in our society. I have mad respect for them. And nothing but contempt for deadbeat fathers.

“California” by Delta Spirit (2012)

30 10 2016

This is such a fantastic song. And Delta Spirit is one helluva good band.

Boy loses girl, boy’s heart is broken. But boy wishes girl happiness, even though he hurts like hell. Because he likes her, and he wants the best for her:

“All of the feelings that I know you’ve never felt
And all of the simple words you never said
I want you to keep them like a secret to yourself
They’re not for me”

That’s righteous. Evolved.

Unnnnfortunately, it’s also pretty rare. Especially among boys.

We boys are never really taught how to deal with our emotions. In fact, the opposite: “Walk it off,” “Big Boys Don’t Cry.” So without being able to deal with hurt, or rejection, we turn to our ready-to-fire default emotion, anger.

You will encounter this, if you haven’t already:

BOY: Do you want to dance/a drink/to go steady?

GIRL: No, but thank you very much

BOY: Stuck up B*TCH! I wouldn’t dance/drink/go steady with a slut like you anyway!

It’s just a shitty encounter all the way around. That you didn’t ask for. And there’s really nothing you can do to prevent it. No matter how nice and gracious you are (which, by the way, you shouldn’t even have to be), it’ll happen.

Well, it’s never on you. It’s “us.” Do the best you can to shake off any hate that comes as a result of our deficiencies.

Maybe songs like this can plant the seeds in some hearts and minds.

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (1988)

10 07 2010

I said I was going to concentrate on “pop” music for a bit, and I couldn’t do that without posting something from the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson created undeniably great music, smashed barriers, and touched millions of lives around the entire planet. That’s not a lie. He is revered all over the world.

Sadly, that’s been overshadowed by the parasitic press, the social vultures, and the countless, mindless idiots who value sensation over substance.

“Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t mean much in the public eye. And celebrities sometimes bear the brunt of that. Yeah, he was eccentric, but I believe he was merely misunderstood.

But aren’t we all? I mean, if the press was digging into your garbage for “dirt,” wouldn’t that piss you off? Or at least make you feel violated in some way?

Anyway, I can’t pick just one song to represent Mr. Jackson’s work. You should listen to it all. But I’ll pick one of my faves as a start: “Man in the Mirror.” Great song, great message, and great gratitude from me for the sonic tonic.

I think we should replace “Happy Birthday to You” with this song. If we all reflected on this message—at least once a year—maybe the world would be a better place.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself
And then make a change”

(thanks to jennifer95828 for the upload to YouTube with lyrics)

“Timeless Melody” by The La’s (1990)

19 06 2010

The La’s were a British band who made this one album, “The La’s,” released in 1990. The band broke up after this record, which is a shame, because this is one tight, glorious set of music. It had one big hit in the U.S., “There She Goes,” but all the tracks are terrific. I particularly like this one. Why? Well, it makes me feel good.

“If you look in your mind
Do you know what you will find?
Open your mind”

There’s so much to latch onto: the solid beat that sometimes surprises you, the multiple melodies and lush harmonies that beckon you to join in, the smart, upbeat vibe. What can I say? It makes me feel good!

I just realized that this and the last post of pop/escapist music are both from 1990. That’s about when I first heard them. That’s about the time of Desert Storm, when your lonely airman of a dad, armed with a portable CD player, was looking for some kind of escape.

If I could say anything to The La’s and the others behind this record, it would be simple and sincere: “Thank you!”

“Turn it on Salvador” by Toy Matinee (1990)

13 06 2010

It’s a crime that this record didn’t sell millions of copies when it came out in 1990. Every song on the album is a hit, and could still be today, as the tracks still sound fresh and timeless.

Toy Matinee was the project of two men, Patrick Leonard and Kevin Gilbert, and they only released this one self-titled album. Mr. Leonard is now legendary as a music producer with a magic touch who has worked with just about everyone. Mr. Gilbert, who, sadly, passed away at the age of 29, was an incredibly talented musician, singer, songwriter, and by all accounts an all-around good guy. I can only imagine the great music Toy Matinee would have continued making if not for Mr. Gilbert’s passing.

While all the tracks are wonderful, I particularly like this one. It’s catchy, bouncy, playful, and quite a bit surreal for a pop song. Very fitting considering it’s an ode to Salvador Dali, the great surrealist artist. Listen to the loving care and attention to detail on this track, like the vocal harmonies, the contrasting slinky and chunky guitar parts, and the elite clarinet platoon that conquers all at the end.

I could listen to this track a thousand times and still find it engaging. Like the whole album, this is truly a musical gem.

(Thanks to Ecram32 for uploading tracks from this great record!)