The River's Badge

Saturday, November 18, 2017

That Year My Dad Forgot About Me


I've always liked bars. Not sterile hotel "bars", which are essentially lobbies with bottles of booze, but real honky tonks. An observer of life could do no better than to grab a corner table in a tavern, order up a Miller on tap, and sit back and watch.

When I resided on South Fourteenth Street, I one night found a little nook a couple blocks up the cracked sidewalk. It had a juke box and a dart board and a bunch of people who'd somehow staggered their way in. The establishment was tucked inside a skinny crevice between two white-brick factories, one skip past the Burlington Northern railroad tracks. That's why I liked it. It was out of the way; a private spot that only the absolute best alcoholics knew about. That's how a bar should be, if it was to call itself a respectable bar.

I've had a couple of bars in my life. There was my Uncle Howard's bar, Triple Service, where I lived when I was nine years old, and where I was introduced to the ways of life. Then there was The Gaiety, my dad's place. The Gaiety was a bit too fancy for me -- its outside sign had a cocktail glass with an olive bouncing out of it. The Gaiety, though, had all the accouterments of a proper bar. It was dark and musty. It was off the beaten path. Only the best drinkers could find it. And thus it was exclusive.

As a kid, I could make myself at home inside The Gaiety anytime I wanted. I was thirteen, so I didn't make myself at home there too much; only when I was bored with riding my bike around the big circle that surrounded Mom and Dad's motel. I had recently learned how to play guitar, and I knew that The Gaiety had a little stage with a microphone, and I was kinda bored one day, so I decided to stop in and give the regulars a show; demonstrate my prowess with forming C and E chords. It was summer and the July sun had already baked my skin and nobody fun was around to hang with.

And that day I just needed to spill and to give a big FU to my dad.

See, my dad was never around. We'd almost forgotten about him. Honestly. We were bewildered the couple of times he staggered through the kitchen door. I'd once known my dad, but now I had no idea who he was. And he sure didn't know me. He actually didn't even know I was in the room. The Gaiety was only twenty steps away from our little apartment, but for Dad, it was like being banished from heaven and thrust into Purgatory to have to deign to step inside our little family dwelling. He only did it out of a woozy sense of obligation. Mom no longer cared if he showed up at all, my little brother and sister treated him like a visiting stranger, and I chose to ignore him. I was damn sure not going to show him how much it hurt me. Not that he would have noticed. Unlike the little kids, I'd known Dad as a hero; the man who'd taught me about music because he loved it so much.

And now he'd betrayed me. Everything that came before was a lie. You couldn't trust anyone, because people flat-out lied. They portrayed themselves as one thing, but they weren't that. And they didn't care.

I'd been carrying around a giant suitcase of resentment for two years. Granted, I now had a best friend, but friendship and guitars didn't wipe out the hell Mom and Dad had put me, a kid, through. Snubbing my parents was only a band-aid. It would take me about thirty years to rip the band-aid off. Lucky I didn't know that at the time.

Clad in a sage blouse with tied straps and corduroy shorts; barefoot, I walked in the back door of the Gaiety, nonchalant; carrying a big beige acoustic guitar with steel strings. Somebody had left it in a motel room (people were always leaving stuff behind and I was always confiscating that stuff). I hadn't yet saved up enough dollars to buy that red Stella I'd been salivating over in Dahner's Music's window. That cream-colored behemoth stung my fingers, but I'd long ago learned to strum through the pain.

I turned the knob on the amp that powered the microphone, pulled up a backless stool, sat down, bent the mic stand toward me, flipped the pick out from between the frets of my guitar and began my show:


Granted, I hated that song, but it was a crowd-pleaser.

This song wasn't from 1968, but it was an old standby, and I figured the drunks would like it:


An impromptu lounge performance would not be complete without this next song. As an added bonus, I knew all the chords:


Merle really knew how to reel the hard-core drinkers in. I knew this one would be gold:


It wasn't easy to sing all the parts of this song, but I plunged on ahead:


I didn't sing any "women" songs, because I knew I wasn't a good singer. I understood my limitations. Nevertheless, I put on a really fine show. Trouble was, all the sports-shirt wearing patrons kindly ignored me, including the guy behind the bar who was fizzing up drinks -- my dad. I didn't even get a smattering of applause. I got NO applause. Granted, the after-work guzzlers were no doubt puzzled about why some random pre-teen had shown up to give a performance, but the polite thing would have been to clap, at least half-heartedly. 

I don't remember ever being embarrassed by my kids. They were never brazen like I was, admittedly. But even if they had been, I would have offered an "attaboy". Courage deserves its own reward. My dad pretended like he didn't know me. 

I, for one, was satisfied with my one-woman show. In the moment, I chose to ignore my complete lack of acknowledgment. I hefted my freakish guitar out the back door I'd come in, carried it back to my room, and lay down to take a nap. 

I'd like to ask Dad what it was about that day that dismayed him. Maybe it was that I infringed on his lair. Maybe he sauntered off to The Gaiety to get away from troublesome burdens, like his family. Maybe I was wrong to infiltrate, but I was thirteen and full of piss, and I needed to do this.

Dad, you may be interested to know that I took my three chords and eventually wrote some songs of my own -- one, in particular, about you. 


You never know what a kid might turn out to be.








Friday, November 10, 2017

That Time My Mom Was On The News


I was thirteen in 1968 and living large in my very own room. By then I'd resided in the outskirts of Mandan, North Dakota for one and a half very long years. Life had not been good. We moved to Mandan and to the "business" in December of 1966, smack-dab in the middle of the school year. What could be better than stepping through the doorway of an alien sixth-grade classroom and seeing twenty strangers eyeing you suspiciously? It took me a couple of months to find a friend. I made some missteps along the way. A hard girl in the school yard deigned to speak to me. I can't even remember her name; I think she dropped out sometime around ninth grade and was never seen again. Another new girl started sixth grade the same day as me. Anne Nelson was a supercilious dweeb, and I would never have been friends with her, regardless of our coinciding start dates. Nevertheless, she seemed to find a friend right away. At least when I finally found one, I really found one. Alice and I would trip through the next six years together; always together.

By the end of junior high, I was musically confused. I still listened to Top Forty radio, but I was dipping a toe into the world of country, thanks to Alice; a world that still didn't seem natural. The musical world, too, was confused; schizophrenic. Country hits were hitting the top forty -- not the good hits, but essentially the absolute worst singles of all time. In my first very own room, I listened to songs like this on my transistor:


And one of the worst songs ever:


Of course, if you name your band the Lemon Pipers, you deserve all the scorn that is heaped upon you.

My dad liked this song. He was always a sucker for instrumentals:


"News" was what showed up on my TV screen. I wasn't overly invested in "news". The Viet Nam War had been going on for so long that nobody paid attention to it anymore (sadly). Around April, this song became popular:


And sometime in April, Walter Cronkite announced on the CBS Evening News that Martin Luther King had been shot. To be frank, I knew little about the man. I was thirteen. I surmised, however, from Cronkite's somber tone that MLK was somebody important. They were searching for a guy, James Earl Ray, who had fled the scene.

In 1968 everybody wanted to be a good citizen. A random traveler who had checked into Mom and Dad's motel thought he spotted a guy (traveling with a blonde) who he was sure was the absconded shooter, and the traveler called in a tip. Thus, a local news crew showed up in our office to interview Mom. It was one of those news stories that wasn't an actual story. Yet, they they were, sticking a camera in Mom's face, asking her questions as she fidgeted behind the check-in desk. I sat in the background, entranced and amused by the spectacle. They should have interviewed the guy; the moron who saw spooks around every corner, instead of putting Mom on the spot. Yet, that was Mom's only claim to fame -- being interviewed on KXMB for a tale about an innocent tourist who just happened to look kind of, sort of, like a notorious killer. I don't remember what Mom said, but if it had been me, I would have been flummoxed. "Uh, yea, the guy checked in and I gave him a room key. That's about it, really."

Needless to say, the man who'd been fingered wasn't James Earl Ray. Plus, he drove a Cadillac, and what self-respecting assassin owns a Cadillac? Come on. A Dodge Dart, maybe.

As April wore on, most likely the worst single of all time became (surprise!) a hit, and we settled back into our lives, as they were, and I contemplated how a song so putrid could hit Number One:



By the summer of that year, my big brother had enlisted in the National Guard so he wouldn't get shipped off to Viet Nam. He had a new wife and the two of them lived in a basement apartment in downtown Mandan. Rick's new wife, Kathy, asked me to spend the week with her while my brother was away at Guard camp at Fort Ripley. I'd never actually lived in a town, ever. I could actually walk places! Where I chose to walk was to St. Joseph's Catholic Church. I was steeped in mysticism then, most likely because I was searching for a lifeline (it didn't last). One Friday night, sharing the double bed with Kathy, snoring away contentedly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Shelly, they're saying on the radio that Kennedy was shot! At first I thought they were talking about John Kennedy, but..."

We got up and turned the radio dial louder.  The announcer was speaking in hushed tones, a rustle of shouts in the background, from far away in Los Angeles. 

Sometime around three a.m. I fell back to sleep, with dreams of this song snaking through my brain:


A benign song for an insane time.

The year ended for me, and ended my love affair with rock and roll, with this song. But I guess, all in all, this is 1968:




















Thursday, November 9, 2017

Awards And Things




I haven't watched the CMA Awards since roughly 2001. Honestly, I don't know Luke Bryan from Jake Owen (seriously, I don't). I only know who Blake Shelton is because he had some minor hits early in the 2000's, when I still listened to country nominally, and when Blake still had extra-long hair. 

The CMA's were a decades-long mainstay for me, from the time when, as a teenager, I purchased a money order and mailed it to the Country Music Association in Nashville in order to become a voting member. The CMA's vetting process was rather rudimentary in the late sixties. I think I told them I was a radio executive or something. I take credit for putting Merle Haggard over the top in 1970 (not really; it was Merle's year).

Ever since I stopped listening to country music, I've satisfied my fleeting curiosity by reading next-day recaps of the awards show. 

So, I hear that Garth Brooks won Entertainer of the Year award this year. Did I fall asleep and wake up in 1992? How pitiful does country music have to be to be forced to reach back in time and bestow its highest award on an artist who was relevant twenty-five years ago? I wonder if Garth still climbs ropes on stage, or does he now shuffle in grasping his walker? I hear next year Charley Pride will be in contention. This is no knock on Garth, but more so an indictment of today's country music. This is what happens when you clutch "relevance" and sacrifice "music". 

I used to think that country would cycle through its bad periods and become good again. It happened so many times in my life. Just when I thought country was done, it surprised me. The mid-seventies was a bad time; an approximately ten year period of bad times, but then some artists who hadn't forgotten country music showed up on the scene and breathed life into it again. Even back as far as the sixties, in the period of Chet Atkins' slickly-produced middle-of-the-road singles, with the Anita Kerr Singers oohing and ahhing in the background of every song, Merle showed up and put the Nashville sellouts in their place. 

Now I think country is gone for good. 

In the western town I called home for most of my life, pretty much everybody listened to country. If somebody asked a random person, what's your favorite song, they might answer, "In My Life" by Collin Raye. Now, in the oh-so-sophisticated metropolitan area in which I live, nobody listens to country music. Nobody actually listens to music at all. A co-worker the other day, however, outside on a break, said, "I think I'll go back to listening to my old-time stuff, like Harper Valley PTA." In the eighteen years I've worked for my company, that was the first time I ever heard anyone say anything about country music, and what she said was a reference to a 1960's throwback.

Which brings me to the 2017 CMA's. 

I understand that Brad Paisley (who also is a bit long in the tooth, to be honest) did one of his famous parodies, this one implicitly criticizing the President. Really, Brad? Know your market, Brad. I'm not that big a Paisley fan to begin with, but for sure I won't be purchasing any of his albums now. But if it makes you feel good, Brad, knock yourself out. I understand there was a bit of controversy this year when the CMA decreed that the awards would be a "politics-free zone". I guess Brad didn't like that, so Brad went his own way. I personally endeavor to not offend the person who is signing my paycheck, but whatever, Brad. The last "political" moment I remember from the CMA's was when Charlie Rich torched the card naming John Denver the Entertainer of the Year. At least Charlie's gesture had purpose; meaning. John Denver wasn't a country artist and was an interloper. Brad Paisley simply doesn't like the President's tweets. Here's a suggestion, Brad: Don't read them.

Some other people, too, won some awards, but since I don't know them, I don't actually care.

And speaking of Harper Valley, PTA:

The inductees into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame were recently announced. In the "Non-Performing Songwriters" category, there is Bill Anderson. This was most likely news to Bill, since he's actually been performing since sometime in the early sixties. He has a band and everything. That's what happens when you don't do your research. 

Nevertheless, Bill Anderson has written some classic (classic!) country songs; such as:




You're welcome, Brad Paisley:


Proof that Bill Anderson was a "performing" songwriter:


In the "Performing Songwriters" category (in an upside-down world), we have Tom T. Hall. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Bill Anderson was more of a performing songwriter than Tom T. ever hoped to be, but let's not quibble.

Here's my beef with Tom T. Hall ~ he doesn't represent the epitome of songwriting. For one thing, he apparently disdains choruses. A chorus is the lifeblood of a song! Trust me. One can write the most inane dribble, but if they write a good chorus, all is forgiven. Tom went his own way, though. Every single song that Tom T. wrote is notable for its lack of a chorus. Such as:



Everybody hates this song, and with good reason:


I will admit that I purchased a Tom T. Hall album in the late sixties. Somebody told me to do so. I think it was called, "A Week In A County Jail". One of the tracks on the album was this one (note the absence of a chorus):


The only song I ever liked that Tom T. Hall wrote:



Then there's the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame says, you're somebody. You're really somebody. You've arrived. It's not easy to be a Hall of Fame inductee. You have to pay your dues. You have to slog through brittle bone-chilling December towns and put on a show for people who just want to see what you have to offer. They're not necessarily sold on you; you need to prove yourself. 

I saw Alan Jackson in concert. He was no Randy Travis, but he sure had the songs. I got as much out of an Alan Jackson concert as I would have by staying home and playing his CD's ~ he wasn't what one would call a dynamic performer. He didn't climb ropes. He was George Strait without the charisma. Don't care. He still had the songs.


If for nothing more than this song, he deserves his place in the Country Music Hall of Fame:


Thus ends my recap of awards and things. The good news ~ Bill Anderson. The bad news ~ Brad Paisley and his political biases. The retro news ~ Garth Brooks. 

The more things change, they really, seriously, don't.

I like the continuity.







Saturday, November 4, 2017

November 4, 1976

1976 was a fun year in pop culture, if fun means cringingly awful. In fashion, women wore patchwork denim ensembles -- pantsuits, vests with skirts (what I will call the Little House on the Prairie look) -- while polyester leisure suits were de rigueur for men, complete with heavy gold chains (or "necklaces") and slippery patterned shirts with deep v-necks; visible chest hair required.

The top movies of the year included Rocky, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, All The President's Men, and Taxi Driver; only two of which I've ever seen, and one I only managed to catch for the first time sometime in 2016 (I won't say which one, but are you talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?)

In TV, we were diligent about not missing M*A*S*H and the Bob Newhart Show. ABC had a hit comedy that featured a real cutie. His character's name was Vinnie Barbarino. I wonder whatever happened to that actor. Fonzie was still saying, "Aaaayyyy" and weren't weren't yet sick of it. Most of the so-called comedies had terrible writing, but what were we gonna do? Sit in the dark and listen to Captain and Tennille on the radio? At least Johnny Carson showcased some new comics once in a while. George Carlin, of course, was my favorite, but I also loved Robert Klein and David Steinberg. And there was no one bigger than David Brenner (oddly).

We were desperate for laughs in 1976, because, well....

On Tuesday, November 2, I waddled into the Jeannette Myhre gymnasium, nine months pregnant, to cast my very first vote for President of the United States. I wasn't in love with Gerald Ford -- he was kind of hapless, really; but shoot, that peanut farmer? That grinning sanctimonious schoolmaster? No thanks. I had a bad feeling about that guy, and I, of course, turned out to be right. I would have to endure four years of economic hell before somebody special came along and saved the country. I don't think I've yet fully recovered from the financial setback Mr. Peanut thrust upon me.

On the late morning of Thursday, November 4, I came home from work (yes, I started work early and got off early), made myself my usual tomato sandwich on toast, sliced a couple strips of Colby cheese and settled at the spindly kitchen table to enjoy my lunch. I'd eaten exactly the same lunch for nine months. Pregnant women get a free pass for weird food cravings. Today I have no excuse, but I really don't need one. I'd informed Mom and Dad that since I was pregnant, I would no longer be their room-cleaning mule, and I demanded a front office job. It was the very first (and only) time they were taken aback by a demand from me, but to be honest, I'd never before made any demands -- I was too conditioned and too frightened.

I settled in to watch Days of Our Lives. Doug and Julie continued to be in love; and, of course, Dr. Marlena Evans was my very favorite.

Around 1:30 I felt a pinch in my tummy. I'd felt phantom twinges before; but then again, I was three days overdue...

By the time water gushed out of embarrassing places, I figured things were happening. I hesitated to call my doctor, because I really didn't want to trouble him for a false alarm, and frankly, I had no clue how this whole dance was supposed to go.

I didn't call anybody. I didn't call my husband. I sure didn't call my mom. Now, in 2017, I'm better about asking for help; but I was a balled-up mess in 1976; afraid to let people know what I didn't know. That came from no one ever wanting to help and everybody expecting me to just "handle things". It came from being the grownup to a couple of "parents" who forgot to grow up.

But I digress.

By the time my husband showed up around 5:00 p.m., I said "maybe we should think about going to the hospital"; hoping I wasn't about to inconvenience any of the hospital staff with a false alarm. Shoot, I could have had my baby at home, in my bed, if I hadn't summoned the courage to take a chance that maybe this was the real thing.

Baby Christopher was born at 10:19 that night. A seven-pound-six ounce baby boy with a full head of blonde hair.

And everything changed.

I don't know if my mom ever thought about the music on her radio in 1955. I doubt it. But I'm a music geek, so I was thinking today about the songs that came out of my home speakers and my car radio that year.

So, here you go, Chris:




(Sorry):


This band should have a coffeehouse named after them:


Randy Meisner, what the heck happened to you? I don't care. This is the most enduring song from 1976:


Sorry, you don't get away from your mom's country that easily:

Oh, look! Vinnie Barbarino has made another appearance! Chris, if you want to know anything about the seventies, you need to know about the Bee Gees:


And if you ever care to know what kind of music your mom liked in 1976, here's a representation:


I could go on, but you're forty-one now and your patience with kitschy music is probably waning.

I have to say, though, as your mom, I like reminiscing.  

Years are like a leaf in the breeze. Once I was a kid, much younger than you are now, and I knew exactly what I wanted my son to be.

I hope those things maybe contributed somehow to the man you are today. 

I think they did.



Friday, November 3, 2017

1980 In Country Music...and Super Kid


It's hard to remember a particular year until one is reminded of the cultural touchstones of the day. By June 1 of 1980, I'd begun my new "career" as a hospital worker. It doesn't sound fancy, but it was by far the best job I'd had in my whole nine years of working life. Once my youngest child was old enough for me to feel safe leaving him in the distracted hands of his father, I'd begun looking for second shift jobs.

Retail came first. Please be nice to retail workers -- they get shitty pay and have to park a mile away in order to leave the prime parking spots for actual customers. On moonless nights in North Dakota in January, it's a long cold walk at nine thirty p.m. Of course, January is the dead time for stores, once all the unwanted Christmas gifts have been returned for store credit, so although one might be scheduled for eighteen working hours for the week, she will most likely get a phone call from her department manager at the last minute, informing her that "things are slow" and therefore she won't be needed that night. There was no vacation pay and certainly no health insurance, so I mentally had to calculate which monthly bill would not get paid on time.

The hospital, on the other hand, offered actual benefits. And "customers" weren't surly. They appreciated every single little kindness offered. And face it, the job was interesting. I was able to learn more than simply how to punch numbers into a cash register.*

*I learned something from every job I ever had. Don't discount life experiences.

 I would begin my shift at 3:30 in the afternoon, which left plenty of "kid time" during the day. My sons were four and two. We had no exciting "outings". We were poor, so a trip to the mall was our farthest journey, and it rarely ended well. Attempting to corral a toddler and a pre-schooler while browsing Woolworth's aisles only resulted in disapproving glares from store personnel. If I was feeling flush with cash, I'd purchase a '45 single from the record department and hope to make it all the way home without a tussle ensuing in the back seat, crushing my precious purchase to shiny black shards.

Cable TV was like manna from heaven, even though the fanciest channels available were WGN in Chicago and WTBS from Atlanta, which broadcast black and white reruns of James Garner's "Maverick" late at night. On June 1 something called a "news channel" debuted. Dave Walker and Lois Hart anchored its first newscast, which was memorable for Lois's hairdo. Imagine getting news anytime one wanted! What an alien concept! The channel called itself "CNN". Everyone said it wouldn't last; that it was a novelty. But we tuned in because it was new. 

Back home, my little brother had discovered something called a Rubik's Cube. It was a frustrating little box puzzle and thus "stupid". I hated that thing, but still I persisted in twisting it around, hoping a miracle would happen (it never did). 

Mom and Dad had bought a "VCR" and showed it off. I couldn't afford seven hundred dollars for an electronic gizmo, but I sure coveted theirs. My whole life I'd wanted the newest gadgets, because they would transform my life, and I scratched and clawed to get them. It wouldn't be too long before I bought a damn VCR, because I couldn't miss St. Elsewhere, which would be sacrilege, since I knew how hospitals worked!

I don't know why I attended movies with my mom. It's an alien concept to me, because Mom and I were never what you'd call bosom buddies; but we saw "Coal Miner's Daughter" together, which I've since seen approximately 10,000 times. (Did I mention we had HBO?)

Mom and I also saw "Urban Cowboy", which leads me (in a painfully roundabout way) to the top country songs of 1980.

Country music was dominated by Urban Cowboy. If one does not own the soundtrack album, they would not know.  Urban Cowboy and Kenny Rogers -- that basically sums up 1980. We country fans were on a quest to find something, anything, that would justify our faith in music. Country consisted of the old standbys and by those "new kids" who performed on the UC soundtrack...and by Eddie Rabbitt. 








And we actually tolerated songs like this:


Super Kid wanted badly to be a super-hero. He was four years old. He thus dived off an orange velvet La-Z-Boy rocker smack-dab onto the corner of the coffee table. And thus he broke his nose. I saw it happen in slow motion but was unable to stop it. A trip to the emergency room ensued. 

Thankfully, he was consoled by his all-time favorite TV show OF ALL TIME:


There were, of course, songs for us grown-ups, too.


And songs played on a PlaySkool record player, as rendered by the Chipmunks:







1980, to me, will be forever memorialized by Dolly Parton confronting Mister Hart; by Tommy Lee Jones; by a superkid breaking his nose, by Eddie Rabbitt and by Kenny Rogers and his white beard. By slender youth. By a chubby toddler mesmerized by a goofy LP recorded by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

By a faux-walnut paneled home and rooms separated by paper-thin walls. 

By a mother's heart-piercing love.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

1987 Was A Banner Year...Yes, In Music, Too


Fair-weather sports fans no doubt anger the die-hards. I was a fair-weather fan. I understood baseball (unlike football), because I'd been tutored. My dad was not a sports fan. My first husband taught me about baseball, although hearing it on the radio was not quite the same as watching a game. I learned what a double-play was, and an RBI. I learned that Rod Carew was the best player the Twins ever had (I now disagree).

Having sons who were baseball (or baseball card) aficionados helped nudge me in 1987. From buying pack-upon-pack of Topps Bubble Gum, I learned who the best players on each team were (or whose cards were the hottest, at least). I learned that rookie cards are great "gets". I began paying attention to the box scores in the newspaper. Amazingly, our hapless Twins were on a tear that year. So, I began watching. There was a Twins Channel on our cable system, so instead of tuning in to Cheers or Unsolved Mysteries, I sank into Minnesota Twins fanaticism. I was still working second shift, so I missed some games (I didn't quite resort to recording them on our VCR), but if the game was important, I switched shifts with another girl so I could have the night off to watch the game. Yes. I actually did. Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Kirby (of course), Dan Gladden; our star pitcher, Frank Viola. Our skinny shortstop, Greg Gagne, who never failed to pop up. Steve Lombardozzi was not the world's best second baseman, but second base is a rather second-tier position, so....Tim Laudner, our catcher.

It was a cold October evening when an actual miracle occurred. The Minnesota Twins won the world series! I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins, I barely slept that night. And yes, I had a Homer Hankie. 1987 began my odyssey of following the Twins for more or less six years. They won again in 1991, barely (but barely still counts), thanks to Jack Morris. Then things went downhill, and I moved on with my life. By then I'd begun what I didn't know at the time would be my life-long career. It does help to have a skill, I've learned. Now I spend my days teaching others how to have that skill. And to think I only got hired for that job because someone else dropped out. Thanks, Someone, I guess.

Musically, 1987 was the year I discovered country music again. I don't remember how I stumbled upon it. I think I was sitting in my car in front of my kids' elementary school and I didn't like the song playing on Y93, so I switched the channel out of irritation. I heard something I liked. I do believe it was this:


It's funny how an act that proved to be short-lasting is what drew me back into country music. I drove to Musicland and purchased two cassette tapes; one by the Sweethearts of the Rodeo and one by this act:


The O'Kanes also didn't last. 

As I cleaned my house on Saturdays, I clicked those cassettes into my boom box and carried them around with me. 

That's how I relearned country music.

The other artist who caught my attention was:




Here are the artists I'd never heard of:

George Strait
Randy Travis
Dwight Yoakam
Steve Wariner
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Judds
Ricky Van Shelton
Kathy Mattea
Highway 101
Foster and Lloyd
Earl Thomas Conley
Restless Heart

Once again, as country was wont to do, it blindsided me. 

I discovered there was a country bar only about six blocks from my house. And it featured live bands! I had been so immersed in MTV, I'd missed it. The new Friday night routine was to get dressed up in Levis and a spangled shirt (sometimes with a neckerchief) and a puff of perfume and cruise down to Dakota Lounge to...of all things, dance!

Thus began my country dance phase. 

Phases are interesting, in hindsight. I've had so many phases in my life -- things I couldn't get enough of -- until I could. I wouldn't give any of those phases back, because I learned something from all of them, and carried away valuable treasures. I loved observing the patrons of the Dakota Lounge and I learned a lot about human nature. I'd been so sheltered! I was a naive waif, but it wasn't my fault. Unfortunate family circumstances stopped me from venturing into the world...or at least they only allowed me to dip one toe into the waters of life. I was a late bloomer who'd only lived life inside my head.

I, sometime in late 1987, as I was celebrating the Twins' improbable victory, chanced upon things like this:

(Sadly, there is no live performance video to be found, but I loved this song, which was written by Rodney Crowell)




Apparently there exists a trend of not featuring live videos from 1987, but I wanted to include this song in all its glory:


 
At last - live!



I don't think I've ever featured a Ricky Van Shelton video in any of my posts. This is not my favorite (there are so many better RVS songs), but shoot:


Restless Heart (Larry Stewart was such a cutie):


The hardest song ever to dance to -- try to capture the beat -- it's impossible. Still a classic, however:


"The Man":

(Thanks, Mom and Dad for cluing in a neophyte who thought she was the country music expert)



I really miss Randy. I know he's still here, but he's not, really. I love Randy.


In 1987 I was thirty-two years old and learning. I learned about baseball and I re-learned country music. I was a mom. That was my Number One. My kids probably don't realize it because they've forgotten.  I still had my parents and I had my kids.

1987 was the sweet spot.
 


Friday, October 27, 2017

The Trouble With Naming Your Ten...or Twenty Best Songs






...is that, once you name them, you're automatically sick of them.

That's the thing with music. It's fickle.

I once, on a dare from my husband, came up with my "best" list. I stand by it (although I actually don't remember it in its entirety).  I know there was a Merle song, a George song, a Randy song, and some others. A Patsy song.

Coming up with a list like that is a solemn task. I couldn't do it with rock. I'm mired in a certain era of rock music, because I gave up on it sometime in the late sixties. And there was so much more music yet to come. And because rock music is so vast. Country is different, because classics are classics. They don't change. Country music ceased to exist sometime around 2001.

I hear songs on Sirius and think, "I love that song!" And yet it's not on my list. How could I love it if it's not on my list? Because a list is endless. And lists are rather sterile. Lists don't take "heart" into account. And let's face it: lists are comprised to impress other people.

Why this post?

Because I heard a song tonight that I don't know is on my list, but it ought'a be.


I haven't heard this song in years. And I love it. 

Don't bother even asking me why.

I just do. 

Thank you for letting me share.