The fourteen-year-old forty-something finally lives her teenage dream.

Today is the day.  Thirty years ago, I wouldn’t even have dared to wish it, the prospect was so fantastic.  But it is actually happening this evening.  I will meet John Taylor of Duran Duran.

And I have to say that the sensation is not the elation and thrill that I would have had thirty years ago.  It’s actually quite odd.  It’s the feeling that I am taking my daughter to meet Justin Bieber… only the mother and the child both reside in me.

Two friends and I are attending a book signing event for John’s just-released autobiography In The Pleasure Groove.  I finished the book yesterday and definitely recommend it to Duranies and fans of 80s music.  It’s also a good read if you like biographies of musicians.  The book is more honest and intimate than many in its recollection of the rise and fall of fame and addiction.

My expectation, since he’ll be signing books, is that each of us will have our 30 seconds (or less) to exchange conversation.  And I have no idea what I am going to say.

The preparations for this were all about giddiness, recapturing that feeling of 14 so that I could maximize this opportunity, because it never would have happened thirty years ago.  The heady excitement suits the occasion. But, the thing is, I am more the mom now than the girl.  And the mom has spent this day with a very bad cold, schlepping through Costco for Halloween preparations, loading and unloading washers and dryers, and still needs to figure out something to say that won’t embarrass her or the 14-year-old she used to be.  That girl, though hidden under layers of midlife wrinkles, etc., is still present on some level, and she would be mortified enough for both of us if I said something trite, stupid or obvious.

My husband says I should make him laugh, relieve the banality of signing book after book to a bunch of midlife female fans.  The specifics of his suggestion are a little odd, as they have to do with an unusual comment one of our male friends made about him a few years back.  I’m not sure I’m that brave.

I’ve thought about commenting on the book or asking how Nick Rhodes is doing (as I was a ticket-holder for one of the cancelled tour dates in August).  I’m probably going to wing it, my two friends in within earshot and the 14-year-old me peaking out from my eyes hoping that I don’t completely embarrass her.  It will be interesting to see what I come up with.

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Sometimes you’ve gotta go home

My midlife crisis is in full swing.  It wouldn’t take more than three minutes for my husband to convince me to pack up what I could in an hour, hit the road and leave everything behind (aside from the kids, who’d come with us).

But, I’m unlikely to find myself in that situation.  I’m not a flight risk as long as he and the kids are here with me.  But, I imagine the wheels rolling down Lake Shore Drive, the four of us taking off in the pursuit of the ultimate freedom.  Better yet, because I don’t like long car rides, we’d be on Amtrak, pulling out of Union Station on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

When I get in these moods, I find myself reaching back instead of forward.  The future is an unknown.  And for a person who doesn’t feel the need to be rooted (an Aquarian trait, I suppose), it’s ironic that what soothes me are songs that have no other place in my life than in my youth.  I picture my childhood bedroom or riding in my electric blue Dodge Colt.  I can only return to these places in my mind.  My parents sold the house years ago, and the Colt’s metal probably has been recycled 20 times by now.  So it’s inside those songs that I go to relive where I’ve been before.

Thanks to SongPop, the greatest thing to happen to Facebook ever, tonight it’s this one… (click on the photo to hear the song).

Treasure lies in wait in my basement

Remember this?  It’s a 45… a single… a record.  I found a pile of them in my basement shoved in a milk crate packed too full with my father-in-law’s albums.  I was thrilled to be reunited with my old friends.

The time I spend in my basement is a disproportionate pie chart with very large slices being served for laundry, sweeping up sawdust and sighing about the number of unused “items” that create a continually narrowing path past the treadmill on which we park our bikes through to the storage room where 40 gallons of the previous owner’s paint waits for the trip to the recycling bin.  There are mini morsels for being the singer in our basement band and finding cool stuff that I had forgotten about.

Like my 45 collection that used to reside in a vessel that looked like this…


And there were loads of them.  They were the fruits of my labor, purchased with allowance money or birthday funds.  Sometimes I received them as gifts.  I can’t remember all that I had.  Now, the pile includes about 10 or so, all from 1979 through 1983, including “My Sharona” from The Knack and “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club.  These songs are on my iTunes now, but I love that I still have them on 45s.

I wish I could remember my first 45, but it was likely some well-crafted pop masterpiece by The Partridge Family (I started young) or the Jackson 5.  Whatever it was, it is long gone.  I probably sold it for ten cents at a garage sale ages ago.  Perhaps it’s in some record bin in an antique store right now.  Apparently, when I was 11, I had no idea that finding these bits of treasure would make my night in my 40s.

Remembering The Midnight Special

Last night, my husband was flipping through the channels and happened upon one of those infomercials I love — the kind that feature someone like Jack Wagner and some other soap-star-turned-crooner talking about the great love songs from the 70s or something like that for a full half an hour.  I generally only see these on a Friday or Saturday after midnight when I wander from House Hunters, so I was excited to sit down to one on a Thursday night.  And I was even more stoked when I saw that it was for a DVD collection commemorating The Midnight SpecialThe Midnight Special!!

Talk about an itch that hasn’t been scratched in a long time!  This was just what I needed to get back on track with my blog, because I absolutely loved The Midnight Special. This show isn’t necessarily one that people would associate with the GenX experience, but somewhere along the line I got a glimpse of this late-night smogsbord of the top acts of the day.  And after that it became the Holy Grail of staying up late.  If I was quiet enough to slip under my parents’ radar, I could sneak down to the basement and enjoy it for a half an hour or so.  I used the check the TV Guide each week to find out who would be on, and if it was someone that I absolutely couldn’t live without seeing (Blondie, for instance), my mom would kindly let me stay up, as long as the act appeared during the first part of the show.

The Midnight Special was so much better than American Bandstand, with all due respect to Dick Clark.  The acts were more diverse, less freshly scrubbed and even at that young age I could tell that the performances were live (though in the later years, there apparently was more lip-syncing).  Last night’s infomercial confirms this, as some of clips of the artists’ performances sound not much different than they would if they were singing karaoke in my basement.  I would, of course, be honored to host any of these folks in our jam room.  I also noted that several had that glazed over look that probably wouldn’t go over well on American Bandstand, but I was more naive about those things as a preteen.  It was late at night… perhaps they were just tired.

If you haven’t seen The Midnight Special or need something to jog your memory, check out this clip of Heart (completely underrated band, IMHO).  Still don’t remember it?  Maybe you remember Wolfman Jack, the show’s frequent host and commentator?  Maybe you are too young?  Age aside, there are tons of videos on YouTube from The Midnight Special, so you don’t need to order the DVD set unless you are staging a Midnight Special Viewing Party — in which case, don’t leave me off the evite list.

Unfortunately, the infomercial never really identifies how many DVDs come in the set.  Another flashback — the purchase is done in a very “old school” way.  You buy your first DVD and then get a new DVD each month which you can return at any time or keep to enjoy all the great memories of this landmark program featuring the greatest artists of the decade.  When it comes to buying things like this, I want it all at once, and I want to know exactly what I am getting.  Perhaps the full collection is online somewhere, but my fervent desire to own it has worn off in the last 24 hours.

One more from The Midnight Special.  It’s Blondie, and she has something important to tell us.  Enjoy!

Record Store Day — Something I Can Get Behind

How many of you feel sorry for the younger generations — and even the youngest of GenX — because they did not partake in the pleasure of purchasing their music on vinyl?  …I thought so.  I know there are still some very cool record stores around, but it’s not the pastime that it once was for pre-digital generations.  Record stores evoke a different experience now, I think, though I continue to enjoy a good browse through them.

In my current town, Laurie’s Planet of Sound exists today.  In my hometown, the Wooden Nickel comes to mind.  These places existed all over the country.  These places were the destination point where fans connected with their favorite artists, discovered new music, and flipped through the albums, posters, rock magazines and other assorted record store goods for sometimes hours.  The dudes behind the counter (almost always dudes) were either totally into almost any artist you came in to find, or they completely minded their own business and kept their nose out of yours.  Either way, I didn’t mind.

Recently I found a website for Record Store Day.  I had heard about this last year, but after the fact because I am completely middle age and don’t hear about cool stuff like this before it happens anymore.  (Renewing our subscription to Rolling Stone has helped only slightly.  I retain more from the political/social/cultural features than anything else.)  I stumbled across it again this year, and although I do not anticipate recognizing any of the artists slated for the new releases, I do know their ambassador (Iggy Pop), so I feel relatively welcome to engage.

The thing is, I spent hours upon hours in my town’s local record stores.  I was a record store snob.  I rarely visited the chain stores in the mall, and when I did, I often made comments about their poor (or non-existent) selection of Gang of Four or early-career Depeche Mode.  (I often hear my teen self laughing at my midlife self when I download music from iTunes now.)

Kids these days — there, I said it — have no idea how indulgent it is to commune among the album bins with a BFF or boyfriend on a Saturday afternoon under the somewhat watchful eye of a record store employee.  Recently, a friend of mine talked about a record store her mom owned, recalling the massive cardboard ham and eggs that dangled from the ceiling during the release of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America.  I totally remembered those promos!  I can see them hanging in my favorite record store.  I could probably even give you the dimensions if I thought hard enough.  When I think about it, the hilarity brings forth a chuckle — giant ham and eggs to sell an album?  It was all so innocent.

There is a lot to be said about the experience of listening to music on vinyl (another post, another time), but my memories of record stores also bring back that bittersweet feeling of desperation when a new album was on the verge of selling out.  Yes, albums could sell out.  The store could be out of stock with no hope of replenishment for a month.  Four weeks was way too long to wait for a beloved new release!  I remember hiding the last copy of John Lennon’s Double Fantasy at my local record store, hoping that the next potential purchasor would walk away without a thorough search in the artists nearby, but the record store dude must have watched me place it among the Ms.  Not ten feet from me as I pretended to peruse the A and B artists, he pulled it out and handed it to the man.  (Fortunately, my parents had already secured a copy for Christmas morning.)

I still have that album, along with hundreds of others comprised of my husband’s hefty collection, many of his dad’s old jazz records and a handful of albums I’ve bought at garage sales and antique stores.  Last year, a friend of ours put me to the test.  When I asked what he wanted to hear, he said, “Do you have any Adam & The Ants?”  Maybe he really wanted to hear them.  Maybe he thought I couldn’t deliver.  But I did — both in digital form and on vinyl.  I can picture that album, Prince Charming, sitting among the very few Ants albums our record store had… “Adam” with his war paint and pirate-inspired ensemble.  I can remember my thumb nail cutting into the shrink wrap that encased the cover when I got it home.

I don’t remember the specific occasion of every album I purchased, but I do recall more than I probably should.  How about you?

Madonna’s Legacy to GenX

I’ve never given the subject of Madonna’s legacy much thought.  Generally, I think of her influence going only as far as the fingerless gloves I donned for an after-prom outfit my sophomore year in high school.  But while cruising around the web the other day, I came upon this article from Salon posing one person’s point-of-view on the impact Madonna has had on American culture.  And she brings up some interesting points.

Read the article — it’s good.  But to summarize here, the author says that Madonna is responsible for our society’s change in perspective toward sexuality.  Certainly, she took a lot of risks in terms of what she said (“Like A Virgin” and “Papa Don’t Preach”) and what she did (“Like A Prayer” and her best-selling coffee table book “Sex”).  And she definitely got away with a lot more than anyone would expect of a pop artist.  I wish I was a sociologist, because I could have a lot more to say to support or counter this point, but I think it’s worth pondering if you’re into pop culture.

But as a grown woman who adored Madonna for a short while as a teenager, I can vouch for the innocence of this pursuit.  While she sexualized almost everything, she also sent a message that told us, “You can do it.”  Madonna was from the Midwest, not one of the coasts, but she was cool enough to fit in in New York City.  She launched her career with a marginally decent voice and relatively simple songs.  She was all the rage because she wore quirky fashions and looked like a teenager in the body of a twenty-something.  Her look was attainable, regardless of how pretty, tall or thin you were.  She was a model for the any-girl in an era when super models were on the rise.

Just because we liked Madonna didn’t mean that we were going emulate her sexual behavior.  And we felt that if we ever met Madonna, she’d be totally ok with that.  After all, she did tell us “don’t go for second best” and that we “deserve the best in life.”  What an incredible message for a young lady to hear.

No record contract for Morrissey? What is up with that?

I was driving around today listening to WXRT when I heard an unfamiliar song that I just knew had to be Morrissey.  Not only did I recognize his voice, but the lyrics about a broken back or something instilled a brief auditory flashback of the song, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.  At the end of the song, Terri Hemmert devulged that Morrissey is currently without a record contract.  What?  No label representing Morrissey?

When I got home, I did a little research.  I found out that this is old news, but it is still “news” because it is still going on!  (And, this also was re-affirmation that I am, in fact, midlife, because this information came to me months after it was initially revealed.  So much for my young-life self’s declaration that I would never lose touch with what is going on in the music business.)  Why would such a thing happen?  Apparently, Morrissey has an album ready to go.  Has he misbehaved in a way that offends record companies?  Morrissey himself has a few theories.

I can’t imagine that this will go on much longer.  Morrissey is still a relevant and influential artist, both a cult figure and accepted by the mainstream.  In my opinion, Morrissey belongs to GenX.  In our bedrooms, friends’ basements and dorm rooms across the country (and the world, for that matter), we indulged in Morrissey’s and The Smiths’ angst while forming our musical tastes for the lifetime ahead of us.  To a certain extent, we made him and he defined us.

The glimmer of hope is this…  With all the buzz generated by this story, perhaps some record company influential will realize the value of all this publicity (at the very least, putting Morrissey back on the radar of lifelong music consumers) and will get Morrissey a contract just in time for the release of his autobiography coming later this year.