Rockstar Christmas (Complete with Pyrotechnics)

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[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the mangerplus what candy I got that day… You should check it out.  In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping.]

In the past few days, people have begun posting all sorts of Christmas music on to the Facebook.  I hide them from my feed.  Not that I don’t like Christmas music; I just don’t like other people’s Christmas music.  Christmas songs hit me right in the lizard part of my brain stem.  They are tied to some of my earliest memories, so it’s really hard for me to accept anything new into there.

A lot of the ones in my feed seem to fit a Venn Diagram mapping the overlap between “gay-ish icon” and “carol.”  I’m sure that YouTube clip of Klaus Nomi doing something to “Silent Night” is neat, but it pollutes “Silent Night” to me.  “Silent Night” is the sound of my music box bell; it is the sound of my brother-in-law, the Rev. Larry, asking the congregation if “we might hum a verse.”  I do not want Klaus Nomi in my brain stem.

One song that is forever lodged in my brain stem.  It’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” not just any version.  It has to be the version found on the 8-Track of Vol. 6 of WT Grant’s “A Very Merry Christmas.”  (This was one of 4 8 Tracks we had —the others are a Ray Coniff Singers compilation, “Tapesty,” and “Catch Bull at Four.”)  To me, it wasn’t Christmas until I saw that chubby girl on the front look longingly at the shiny bell.  It strikes me now as foolish to let a toddler play with glass ornaments, but, hey, nothing bad ever happens at Christmas.  The 8 Track format was perfect for my small hands; put the peg in the hole, and you have music…

And when “Twelve” came on, my sisters and I would go into action.  We danced about, re-enacting each of the days.  By day 12, it was a cross between The Supremes, Fosse, and The Chicken Dance.  I was a transcendent Lord-a-Leaping.  Day #1 was the best because we all got to be Partidges.  Not the fat bird —real honest-a-goodness Partridges.  We all would stand there and shred air guitars like The Partridge Family was Sabbath.  Added bonus:  I was not forced to “play” drums like my namesake on the show.  We all got to share in the Yuletide joy of being rockstars.

One time, our parents were out at bowling, so it must’ve been a Monday.  My dad, who worked in the restaurant business for WT Grant, where we got the tape, would sometimes receive “experimental” kitchen appliances.  One such contraption was an avocado green vertical broiler/toaster.  We slapped some bread in there, hit the button, and the bread started to broil.  But our song was coming on, and as everyone knows, it’s a pain in the ass to “rewind” an 8 Track.  So we HAD TO DANCE.  We were on Day 11.  I had just executed the complex transition from leaping to milking when we smelled smoke.  We ran into the kitchen to see flames shooting out of the experimental vertical broiler/toaster and licking the cabinets above.  I took charge of the situation and continued running through the kitchen, into the dining room, then past the tree in the living room, and out the front door to the opening strains of “Joy to the World.”  I did not stop running in my bare feet —and screaming —until I got to the hydrant.  Then it was just screaming.

But even that cannot dampen my enthusiasm for that song.  The order of the days may be non-standard (our Lords are at #9), but it’s my Christmas song.

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The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

The white cassette tape with no writing came from that particularly messy corner of my bedroom. I knew exactly what was on it without playing it: Me singing Paper Lace’s #1 hit from 1974, “The Night Chicago Died” in a karaoke bar. In Burbank. With seven vodka tonics in me.

It’s not perfect.  It starts late and drops out once or twice.  Also, I suck.  Come, discover why my brother-in-law wouldn’t allow me to sing the “Please don’t eat all the morsels” song to my future-niece in utero:

 

But, you have to admit, those voddys sure gave me some stage presence. Continue reading

Nine “inspirational” album covers. [“Inspirational” is a euphemism.]

For roughly three years, say from ages 12 thru 15, certain album covers provided inspiration for that most necessary of activities.  Album covers were the perfect inspirational device:  They were naturally strewn all over my room and were question-free.  My mom never asked, “Why are those records on your bed?”  But she would ask, “Why is the Readers Digest Home Medical Guide and Encyclopedia on your bed?” [Don’t laugh; it had some sexy, sexy cross-sections and line drawings.]  And it’s not like I had that poster of Cheryl Tiegs, y’know that one, hanging over my bed.  I had a poster of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

Moreover, album covers could be easily taken into bathroom in the form of the Columbia House catalog that came every month as part of the ongoing scam I was running on them.  It was full of tiny covers that I had to squint to see, but I was squinting anyways.  The bathroom was also full of copies of my sisters’ Cosmopolitans, but they were heavy with ads and often required two hands. If I wanted to read in the bathroom, I’d read The World Almanac, thank you.

Candy-O by The Cars

the-cars-candy-oThis cover was designed by Alberto Vargas, who did a lot illustrations for Playboy. This is closest I could ever come to an actual issue without digging in a dumpster. Continue reading

Scooby Doo and a Mummy, Too… They’ve stolen Casey Kasem’s corpse. I am upset.

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Three excerpts from CNN.com this morning:

  • Candace Corkum at the Gaffney Funeral Home in Tacoma, Washington, confirmed that the facility had been in possession of Casey Kasem’s body, but said that it was no longer in their care.
  • “We are not surprised,” Kerri Kasem[daughter] told to CNN. “We expected something like this to happen.”
  • Meanwhile, Jean Kasem [stepmother, the former Loretta Tortelli] denies that her late husband’s body is missing. “It’s not,” she told CNN.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my living room with a couple of friends drinking cheap pink champagne –like one does –and listening to a Dutch 12” of Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” Greg and Jill were appropriately horrified by all the rap breakdowns that had been added. “This is from that time when everybody can rap,” remarked Greg, saying the last three words like one says “everybody gets a trophy!” There were also snack chips. As we were going to see the Municipal Fireworks For No Apparent Reason down at Coney later on, Jill brought up the rooftop party on the Fourth where we watched the NYC fireworks. There was NO MUSIC at this party. We all agreed that that was horrifying beyond anything Wang Chung could do to pad a song.

But there are people that don’t need music. Across the BQE from the party was this completely, no discussion, kick-ass, albeit misspelled, piece of graffiti:

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“We think it has something to do with WMD’s,” said another guest, approximately my age, as she dug into her couscous salad. “There it is!” I hip-hopped with horribly-appropriated arm movements. Nothing. No recognition whatsoever. I wanted to scream, “It was the #2 song of 1993!”

“I’m not a music person.”

I just don’t understand how people cannot enjoy music on the same level as I do. This is not like how I don’t get how some people don’t enjoy Diet Coke or my cat; this is like someone saying they’re not a “weather person.” I would hazard I spend much more time with music than I do with weather. If there’s not music on, I gotta listen to my thoughts, and no one wants those rap breakdowns. Greg took a sip of his champagne and said, “We’re just music geeks.” I thought for a second. “Y’know, I wouldn’t say I’m a music ‘geek;’ I would say I’m more of a ‘chart nerd.’” Continue reading

Love and Utopia over a 3-compartment sink at Sister’s Chicken and Biscuits

People remark how scent is the most powerful tool for recovering memories. However, for me it’s stupid three-minute pop songs.

My friend Martin Joseph Quinn remarked today that listening to Todd Rundgren early in the morning gets Todd Rundgren stuck in one’s head all day.  I, being the wit I am, made a quip about it just made me want to bang on a drum all day.  Because that’s the title of a Todd Rundgren song.  An especially irritating late-period Todd Rundgren song, so it’s cute that I did that. I could go to bed because, face it, I don’t really listen much to Todd Rundgren, much less contemplate my place in the Rundgren-verse. My every-day working knowledge of Rundgren consists of the aforementioned song, another one called “Hello, It’s Me,” and the party trivia nugget that, until the age of eight, Liv Tyler thought he was her father.

Then I remembered that I first asked a girl out as the result of a Todd Rundgren song, “Hammer in My Heart.” Now I have to think about Todd Rundgren. Continue reading