Tag Archives: music

A Warm January Day

The weather cooperated with us this year. More often than not, when we leave for Florida in December, the weather here is cold and nasty. By the time we cross the St. Mary’s River from George in to Florida, the skies are clear, and the temperatures are warm. I open the windows to soak it in. The reserve is usually true on the way home. We leave Florida’s sunny, warm January weather and arrive home in sleet and cold.

This time was different. We did, indeed, leave Florida with blue skies and warm weather. But we arrived home with almost equally warm weather. It was 72 degrees here in Arlington, Virginia yesterday!

Our house backs up to the local park, and when I took a walk through the park yesterday afternoon, it was flooded with people; more people than I think I have ever seen at one time. Each of them had dragged out their New Year’s Resolutions and were making their way around the park, walking, jogging, biking, skating. Dogs owners obediently followed their charges. My ducks were out in enjoying the warm air. Squirrels were everywhere. I saw one petrified squirrel trapped in the middle of a playground full of children. It ran one way, and halted, its path blocked by a toddler. It ran another way and found another toddler blocking its way. It hid under a slide, until identifying a clear path and making its way to a tree.

According to this morning’s paper, yesterday’s warm weather did not set a record for this day in January. The record was 75 F and we only reached San Diego weather of 72 F. Still, for us thick-blooded Mid-Atlantians, it felt like an early summer day.

It was so warm that Nature was fooled, and I saw buds in the trees.

Buds in the trees in January.

It rained overnight. I woke up around 2 am and it sounded like an ocean crashing down on our roof. But when the sun came up, the sky was clear and blue and the temperatures were still in the mid-60s. It made for a pleasant morning walk.

We spent 3 weeks in Florida between December and January. We swam in pools, in the Gulf and in the Atlantic. It sort of spoils you for the cold weather when you spend that much time in winter in warm weather. So it was nice to come back to weather that helps to ease the transition.

It will cool off over the next few days, but it will by no means be cold. 56 F tomorrow, 53 on Tuesday, 60 on Wednesday, 54 on Thursday. Next weekend it looks like it will return to normal around here.

When I lived in New England as a kid, I remember an occasional warm period during winter and it was always a treat. I’m grateful that the Internet didn’t exist back then, and that HBO (in its very early days) played Star Wars over and over again. I’d seen it 20 times. It meant that when the weather was unseasonably warm, we were outdoor, playing in the woods, or in the frames of the unfinished houses being built in our neighborhood. Only reluctantly would we return indoors, drowning our sorrows in MTV videos of Duran Duran’s “Rio”, Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” and the Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

I shudder to think that was nearly 40 years ago.

Stalking the Music

Now and then, I see one of those memes asking parents to name something from their youth that their kids wouldn’t recognize or understand. There are plenty of obvious answers to this, but one occurred to me recently as I listened to my kids ask Alexa to play various songs for them (many of them from the Descendants franchise).

The ability to ask for and instantly hear any of several million songs is something that I couldn’t do at my kids’ age. Indeed, to listen to music, I listened (mostly) to the radio. If there was a song that I really liked, waiting and waiting, hoping with each fade out that the next song (after the inevitable commercial break) would be the one that I was waiting for was my only real tool. I can remember daydreaming about the ability to listen to any song I wanted to, any time. The closest I came, as a kid, was by stalking the music like some game hunter sitting patiently in a blind, finger poised over the trigger of the “record” button on the radio/tape player I had, waiting for the desired song to play.

Even that was imperfect. Often, I was surprised and caught off-guard, and I’d cut off the first few bars of the song. Or, the D.J. would jabber into the first part of the song and so the recording would be corrupted by his banter. Even when I did manage to catch the song perfectly, it was often buried in the middle of a tape, and I’d have to hunt around for minutes trying to find it. So much better was record album in which I could simply drop a needle in the appropriate groove.

Now, none of that matters. It is not even quaint; it is an extinct activity. If I want to hear a song, I have only to ask for it to be played. I get a perfect digital version, far better quality that what the radio played, or what I managed to capture on tape. To my kids, the thought of stalking the music is inconceivable.

And yet, there is something of a letdown to the ability to hear a song whenever you want. Perhaps it is the spontaneity of the radio, or eager anticipation, but asking Alexa (or Siri) to play a song for me diminishes the experience in some small, intangible way. The exceptions prove the rule. Occasionally, there is a song that is not available from Apple Music, and when that happens, it seems, my need to hear the songs grows desperate. It is a rare throwback to the days I spent stalking the music with a radio and tape player.

My first music video

The Little Man has been very much into watching Elmo videos on YouTube, as well as videos of things like Wheels on the Bus and after about 100 times, they can drive you absolutely nuts. So the other evening while Kelly was out at her girls night, I did a quick search for what I seem to recall was my first  ever music video. I had no idea who sang the song, but I seem to remember it was part of Sesame Street when I was growing up. About all I could say was that the name of the song that accompanied the video was probably “I’m a Train”. Well, I searched YouTube and found the song and video on the second hit. It is by Albert Hammond and it is just about exactly as I remember it. And you know what: the Little Man liked it too. Here it is:

The Little Man’s first rock song

I have recently discovered a great way to entertain the little Z-man. In the early evening, when he’s getting ready to start climbing the walls, we go out to the new Kia. I put the Z-man in the drivers seat, I climb into the passenger seat. We put on the radio and we just hang out. He pretends to drive (he can barely reach the steering wheel). He stands on the seat and turns on various lights. He has also discovered the radio volume. We have Sirius satellite radio in the car and I generally have it tuned to the 80s on 8 station. Z-man has discovered he can crank up the volume by turning the dial on the radio, or but pushing the switch on the steering wheel. As soon as the volume goes up, he starts his bouncing dance.

So we were out there yesterday evening, and The Police’s farce on simple songs, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” came on the radio. I turned to the Z-man and said, “Buddy, I’m going to teach you the words to your first rock song.”

He gave me a confused look, but when the chorus came, I sung the lines, enunciating carefully, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da da, is all I want to say to you.”

It took two tries and for the rest of the song, the little fellow would shout out “Do-Do-Do, Da-Da-Daddy!” each time the chorus came on. It was great, hysterical, we were both laughing, and were having a blast.

Once each hour, 80s on 8 plays a “lost-80s hit”. The very next song was that hour’s lost hit and it turned out to be Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head”.

quiet riot.jpeg

I didn’t teach him the lyrics on that one. They’re a little too complex for him still. Instead, I taught him what the chorus meant. We cranked up the volume and on the first chorus, when they sing “Bang Your Head!”, I started a metal head-bang. “Like this, Buddy,” I said.

And would you believe the Z-man imitated me perfectly, banging his head up and down right in time with me.

What a fun time we had! For the rest of the evening, when he saw me, he’d say, “Daddy: Do Do Do!” You gotta love it.

She’s Like the Wind

I’m listening to my "autobiography" playlist this morning, and Patrick Swayze’s song, "She’s Like the Wind" came on.  It was a little more poignant, knowing he’s dead now.  Now, some people may wonder why this song would be on the play list in the first place.  First, let me state here (as I have stated elsewhere) that the songs on the list are not necessarily songs I like or would choose–but they are songs that for some reason, cling to my memory and remind me of a certain time or place or event.

In the case of this song, it is definitely an event.  You ever know you were right about something only to have people insist that you were wrong?  Well!

I won’t use names, in order to protect the guilty, but they know who they are.  Back in my senior year in high school, I’d heard the song "She’s Like the Wind" and I also heard that it was performed by Patrick Swayze, which surprised me.  I didn’t think much of the song, other than the fact that Swayze sang it.  I mentioned this fact to some friends, and those friends proceeded to deny the fact.  No way, they said.  Patrick Swayze does not sing the song.  You’repulling my leg, etc., etc.  Nothing I could do would convince them of this plain truth.  (This was 1989, remember, before iPhones, Google, and the Internets.)

Well, one day, driving into work, the song came on the radio.  I insisted we listen to it and once again insisted it was Patrick Swayze.  Can’t be, they said.  I was foaming at the mouth, my face was blue, I was becoming apoplectic.

And just then, the song ended, and I will never forget the delight with which I listened to the DJ say, "That was ‘She’s Like the Wind’ by Patrick Swayze."

For some reason, neither of these two rascals said another word for the entire drive into work.

Life on Mars

I’ve been enjoying Life on Mars on ABC.  I may have mentioned somewhere that I was puzzled by a few things–like why Sam doesn’t "prove" he’s from the future by making a specific prediction.  But it seems that, for now, the writers are avoiding the issue.  Nevertheless, I enjoy the show.  One thing I really like about the show is the music.  Unlike most shows these days, Life on Mars is not making use of the latest hits by Dido or The Fray (or any other CW-like music).  Instead, because the events take place in 1973, they are using some good classic rock from that time period.  In other words, the music has been great!

I’ve been working on putting together a playlist of the songs that they’ve used so far.  Here’s my list:

  • Everything I Own (Bread)
  • Reeling in the Years (Steely Dan)
  • Life on Mars (David Bowie)
  • Spaceman (Harry Nilsson)
  • Sweet Lucy (The Propositions)
  • We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad)
  • Going to Make a Time Machine (The Majestic Arrows)
  • Tuesday’s Dead (Cat Stevens)
  • Wild in the Streets (Garland Jefferys)
  • I’m Gonna Keep on Loving You (Kool Blues)
  • He Keeps You (Boscoe)
  • Anywhere In Glory (The Mighty Indiana Travelers)
  • Everybody is a Star (Sly & the Family Stone)
  • Black and White (Three Dog Night)
  • Mother and Child Reunion (Paul Simon)
  • Rock and Roll (The Velvet Underground)
  • Bang a Gong (T. Rex)
  • Lucky Lady (Jones Brothers)
  • 20th Century Man (The Kinks)
  • Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (The Hollies)
  • Long Promised Road (Beach Boys)
  • Sweet Cherry Wine (Tommy James and the Shondells)
  • I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (The Turtles)
  • Just a Little Lovin’ (Dusty Springfield) 
  • Reflections of My Life (Marmalade)
  • All the Way to Memphis (Mott the Hoopie)
  • Get Down (Gilbert O’Sullivan)
  • I am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)
  • Ground Zero (Chris Cornell)
  • Signs (Five Man Electric Band)
  • Baba O’Reily (The Who)
  • Little Willy (The Sweet)
  • Out of Time (The Rolling Stones)

There you have it.  Now isn’t that a cool play list?

Death Magnetic

I just finished listening to Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic (thanks to strausmouse  to pointing it out to me), and I have to say that I was rather pleased with it.  It’s no Master of Puppets, but it’s the best thing to come from Metallica since the Black Album (way back in 1991).  It definitely has the old Metallica sound to it, and some of their old energy as well.  I think I need to listen to it a few more times to form a more solid opinion, but I was nervous going in, and I feel good about the album having listened to it once.

How to get ejected from Yankee Stadium

Did anyone else see this story?  This fellow got ejected from Yankee Stadium the other day for trying to use the bathroom during the playing of "God Bless America".  Apparently, the stadium has a little known rule that says that people must stay at their seats while the song is playing.  NYPD claims the guy was drunk and belligerent, but witnesses say he wasn’t.  The ACLU is involved.

I’m a lifelong Yankee fan but that rule is not only ridiculous, it’s moronic.  Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards seem to be the only two baseball stadiums that play "God Bless America" at the 7th inning stretch, instead of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame".  I hate the song.  Set aside the fact that it’s designed to instill one’s heart with patriotic fervor; the writing is terrible.  The entire song is one big cliche.  At Camden Yards, the announcer comes on and says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and help us honor our nation by singing God Bless America."

Honor our nation with a god-awful song?

I don’t think that most people realize that "God Bless America" is not our national anthem, it’s merely a (bad) song that someone wrote.  The fact that a guy wanted to get up and use the bathroom while the song was playing doesn’t represent unpatriotic behavior.  To treat God Bless America as if it were the Star-Spangled Banner is to dishonor the latter.  And as far as patriotism goes, I’d like to ask those self-righteous NYPD officers:  How many of you know all four verses of the Star Spangled Banner?

This was simply a dumb-ass move and I don’t see how the Yankees will get anything other than bad publicity from this.

Gonzo’s Nose

Yesterday, after work, Kelly and I headed over to Pentagon Row (right behind the office) to see the 80s cover band Gonzo’s Nose. The band didn’t start until 7 PM, so we first went to Sine, where we sat outside and had a light dinner as the crowd gathered. Then we made our way across the concourse to Lebanese Taverna and met up with a bunch of other friends, including Carmen and John. We sat outside once again and were very close to the stage, perfect seats for the concert.

It was a lot of fun. The band started off with some 90s songs, but eventually played a bunch of 80s songs, and took requests, too. We sat there for the whole concert, listening, singing, drinking and chatting with friends. Pentagon Row was full, but not packed, with lots of families, kids, and people out having a good time. The weather was perfect, too. It was a lot of fun for a Thursday evening–it even felt more like a Friday, except here I am, back at work the next morning.

The band is not at all pretentious and does a good job with their covers. They are clearly out there to have a good time and to see that everyone else does too.

Review: Ear to the Wire

Todd McCombs is a tall, lankly fellow who typically stands a head taller than those around him. He, along with his brother Scott, make up the eclectic rock band, The Shimshaws, who recently released their sophomore album, Ear to the Wire. Just as Todd stands taller than most of his peers, Ear to the Wire stands tall in an otherwise relentless stream of mediocre music that seems to want to do nothing more than imitate the latest trends on American Idol.

Before I go any further, I should probably mention that I’ve know Todd for more than 10 years, and have always been a fan of his music. By day, we both work in the same department at the same company, our offices right next to each other. Outside of work, Todd and his brother Scott’s musical talent and artistry are injected into all of their projects, be it their excellent debut album, Subcutaneous, or the music for a finalist in the 48-hour film festival project. The Shimshaws have a mastery of the pop/rock genre that comes across in each of the dozen tracks on their latest album.

Such mastery is no surprise once you know something about Todd’s musical background. From broad influences from the Beatles and R.E.M. to more recent bands like The Shins, there is a fun, high-energy feel to The Shimshaws music. And while songs from Ear to the Wire and Subcutaneous have had more limited radio play, it has always been my opinion that their work is good enough to earn them a Billboard hit if only The Shimshaws were willing to tour. It is not an unfamiliar scene to Todd, who has performed at D.C.’s famous 930 Club, and at New York’s way station for punk, CBGB‘s. Touring and a little more promotion could turn this excellent local band into something even bigger.

Ear to the Wire contains a stimulating mix of the genre. There is “Ocean CIty”, perhaps the signature song of the album (and the only one for which Todd and Scott produced a music video, which they have made available on YouTube). “Ocean City” is a local song (the title refers to Ocean City, Maryland, a popular summer vacation spot in the metro D.C. area), but at the same time appeals to the broadest possible audience. It’s a song about youth and fun and the beginning of summer. This is all captured in the outstanding and intelligent song-writing, and also in The Shimshaws’ signature guitar bridge just about 2 minutes into the song. With proper marketing and management, it would not surprise me to see “Ocean City” adopted by Ocean City, Maryland for use in promotional tourism commercials.

Perhaps my favorite song of the album is a more mellow, yet more sophisticated song called “Once Again”. The music in this track clearly evokes The Beatles’ influence on the band, while the subject matter, imagery and lyrics are the most mature of the album, reminding me of the intelligent sophistication of songwriters such as Elvis Costello.

If you just like to rock, then “Another Life” is the song for you. Just as their song “I’m On My Way” was the fun-loving, pop/rock song off of their debut album, “Another Life” fits that bill on Ear to the Wire, yet with added maturity. While the Shimshaws are already good at placing aptly timed bridges in their music, this song demonstrates not only the keenness of their musical acumen, but also what good performers they are. It has what I consider to be the best guitar work on the entire album. I can listen to this song over and over again without tiring of it.

Other songs on the album demonstrate the range of Todd and Scott’s talents: the impressive vocals on “Ordinary Days”; the soft, acoustic sounds of “Acadia”; the montage-like feel of “Closer”. All of these songs combine to give Ear to the Wire the feel of a solid pop/rock album produced by a band who knows what they are doing, and can do it very well. The production quality is profession from the music and lyrics to the cover art and liner notes of the album. When I listen to Ear to the Wire, I can’t help but think that this would be the perfect set of songs to perform live, and it is to my great dismay that The Shimshaws simply no longer have the time for live performances. (Though I am doing my best to encourage Todd to get back on the road.)

Ear to the Wire is an outstanding album, put out by a talented set of siblings. I would strongly urge you to go out and get a copy. And if you like it, pick up their debut album, Subcutaneous. Both albums are available on iTunes and CD Baby. Or see The Shimshaws’ website for more information:


Def Leppard morning

I’m listening to all of Def Leppard’s albums up through Hysteria this morning. I haven’t done that in a while.


The new R.E.M. album, Accelerate was released today and I had pre-ordered it through iTunes. I downloaded it this morning and have listened to the album through once so far. It’s definitely got more energy than their last 4 or 5 albums and there are several songs that are real standouts, but I was not totally blown away by it and I think I need to listen to it a few more times before I can give my full opinion of the record.