This is a simple column by a complex woman.  
Dumb-asses need not apply.
If you flatter yourself to be
a bright spot in the universe
and aren't offended by "psychotic breaks,"
If you're a little frightened, well, all the better.
We kinda like you like that... with hot sauce.

“$17.87 ...”

...for a CD?! I’d have better luck relying on my telepathic powers to conjure up Maroon-Five’s hit song (and my current favorite) on the radio – two for two, baby. 

And this was at one of those supposed cheap We still sell vinyl! record stores, the complete antithesis to Tower’s conglomeration, too, in the heart of lower Queen Anne (okay, not the cheapest of Seattle neighborhoods, but hey there’s a pierced nose ring on the clerk). 

Besides, I only wanted the one single, not nine other Side B leftovers in expensive packaging a rocket scientist couldn’t remove – a common dilemma amongst Top 40 listeners like me. In the 1970s, when I couldn’t pick my nose with a ploughshare, I used to daydream about a futuristic time when I could put all of my current Top 40 favorites from easy-pop-listening radio and word-of-mouth, post-sitcom banter on one album, hit a replay button on the stereo system I’d have hooked up on amps throughout my house, and just spend endless summers traipsing around in my cotton underwear and oversized silver and black Vegas shirt pretending to be the desired “Pretty Lady” in all those lyrics. 

Hello, ipod and mp3s. Er, sorry, is there an erase button on those downloads? 

Eddie’s co-worker friend gave him a used ipod – the second, new and improved version, with 10 gigs of memory – with every alternative, rap, reggae, rock and pop band known throughout the ‘80s to the post-millennium, from Avril, 50 Cent and Tears for Fears, to OutKast, the Police and Bananarama. The co-worker wanted to buy the third, new and improved version, capable of containing 10,000 CDs, or thereabouts in one pocket-sized bit of machinery. 

I wanted to transfer some of my favorite hits from Eddie’s hand-me-down onto my Windows Media Player. “Uh...” Eddie began,” you can’t do that. Macintosh doesn’t allow people to download music from its ipods...” 

If I had the latest, multi-thousand-dollar equipment and several days and nights to spare, I could do it myself, from the CDs I owned, CDs I borrowed and the legal kind of downloading online. But frankly, I’d rather click on and hope for the best. I don’t mind paying extra, waiting extra for a piece of my history to arrive (as long as I could reach back far enough in time to remember the actual titles with which to order—what’s that song called from the Old Navy commercial?) and recreate the magic moments of my youth or, in the case of this Maroon Five band, create news ones. (I’m also eyeing Five for Fighting’s “100 Years,” sniff, sniff, where my family be at?) 

This talk of music ideals and childhood soundtracks leads me to this century’s unfortunate version, “American Idol.” Like most of the mainstream world, I watched this year’s FOX-TV series, culminating in a no-brainer win for Fantasia. I shouted with glee when Jasmine hit the high notes of a Natalie Cole love song (but singing “Mr. Melody” was the height of ill-advised, Paula, nobody but a jazzer can sing that song, much less a 17-year-old idiot courant from Millilani of all places). I shouted with incredulity and outrage when that red-headed fartknocker John Stevens (who bears a striking resemblance to my childhood crush and my husband, except for the fact that they both were musical in ways Mr. Stevens could only hope for in his wet dreams) beat out Jennifer. 

I went along with the teeny-bopper crush of novelty fanaticism, a crazed, albeit subconscious, reaction to the genuine articles of the ‘50s (Sinatra), ‘60s (Elvis, the Beatles), and the ‘70s (Donny Osmond, Bay City Rollers), a recreation – if you will – of the magic that happens every time an underdog nobody steps up on the stage, takes the mike and surprises the bejeesus out of the crowd of cynical detractors and lonely nymphos. 

It’s the wet dream of us all, sitting around naked after a shower in the bathroom with our air guitars, pretending we’re Frankie Valley or David Gates singing to that one special girl, her eyes widening with surprise, pleasure and a surefire hit in the bedroom. Replace the boys with a) Karen Carpenter, b) Blondie, c) Alanis and d) Christina, and you’ve got me in a nutshell. Yoo hoo, Damian! 

But we all have to grow up sometime, and give the professionals the props they rightly deserve, for slaving day and night, holidays and vacations, (while the rest of us are sitting around the Norman Rockwell-inspired dinner tables feeding our bloated faces with another helping of turkey and pumpkin pie), going out there in the rain, sleet, snow and hurricane, braving stomach flu, pregnancy symptoms, depression from a break-up or a parent’s death, to perform for the thankless minions who’d rather be home watching “American Idol” instead of at another cousin’s wedding, a convention at the boss’s request, slumming it in a non-descript mall, or passing the time with a borrowed book and a latte, wishing for quiet instead of this Barbie chick’s originals set to a quartet. 

I’m talking about the real singers and musicians, a mere flavor of what LaToya offered that most of you tone-deaf ingrates wouldn’t appreciate if she sang at YOUR wedding. She represented, for me and the performers I knew through my working jazz musician husband Eddie, a little authenticity, an Oleta Adams style street cred, the everyday much-overlooked much-maligned chops taken for granted by the kind of people who wait for the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo (or the Michael Jordan slam-dunk, for the athletic set), instead of listening to the entire impromptu track and how each musician riffs off the other, originality intact and in balance, toying with harmonies while returning steadfast and silent to melodious homebase, how the bass and drums do a sensual dance around and through each other in order to provide the backbone for the rest of the instruments to slide into, and how sometimes, the groove is so magical and effortless, the players almost reach orgasmic bliss before their very eyes, a wordless sound-filled psychic connection if there ever existed. 

[There’s a reason why Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder look like that when they’re playing.] 

But the audience members’ eyes are closed, because they’re either drunk on another pale lager or they’re waiting for the flashy solo that never comes. 

The other weekend, I had the pleasure of watching my husband, other musicians and singer Becca, making up Soul Inspiration, laying it down at a casino resort’s lounge, tucked in back behind the slot machines and across from the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. At first, there were only a handful of half-drunken women ignoring the band (from a dance convention earlier), occasionally giving the singer a hostile, suspicious glare; had Becca been a Britney look-alike (she’s more Renoir-esque Charlize Theron), that glare would’ve gone bi-polar, had Becca been a handsome young man with a bulge in his shorts, well, phone numbers would’ve been exchanged on cocktail napkins and Eeeeee!... THAT kind of glare. 

But when the band began to play, blues standards, ‘70s soul renditions, Michael-freakin’-McDonald, even a tune from “Porgy & Bess,” the same “Summertime” Fantasia mangled superficially in comparison, the small dance floor literally jam-packed. 

Sure dancers are fine-tuned, if not vague, distracted, self-interested appreciators of good music – most musicians would rather you sat, leaned forward and really paid attention, but the band (and I) took what we could get. More people filed in, the inevitable birthday requests, a gyrating plastered groupie, and it was almost another Steely Dan concert under the stars at the Gorge, but with secondhand-smoke, fried appetizers and calls for Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” (At least “Achy Breaky Heart” wasn’t mentioned, thank heavens for small favors.) 

Me, I loved sitting at the front, hearing my ears whoosh as the rhythm guitar blared loudly, clapping whenever Eddie played, stupid, proud wife stuff like that. 

It felt good to get away from the housefrau/mom duties for one night, relax with a glass of cranberry juice and enjoy rocking music, interpreted and performed by people who know the difference between a passable single and the real thing, over 20 songs, in three sets... 

...not a B side – or an outrageous charge – among ‘em.


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