Archive for May 2010
is all I have to say.
The other night we went out to dinner at a new restaurant in our neighborhood called the Thistle Hill Tavern. It was medium-crowded and there was a twenty-minute wait for a table, so we walked a block back toward home to a sliver of a music store that we like. The shop really does feel like the last of a dying breed, and we always wonder how it stays afloat. It’s located on a busy commercial street, and on a Friday evening, when people were walking home from work or to meet friends for dinner, we were the only ones in there. The owner always looks a little nervous and hangdog, and I felt bad that we weren’t going to buy anything but were just killing time. We browsed the wall of CDs, and I remembered how part of the pleasure of music shopping was seeing the entire history of popular music laid out before you, and having your memory jogged— seeing things you were always meaning to buy or that you had forgot even existed. Even seeing something you already had a home but hadn’t played in a while could make you a little bit happier. “Whatever happened to the Go! Team?” Caleb asked.
One last love song for this week, and simply one of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard.
I’m very happy that Tracey Thorn is so much in the news with the release of her new album, Love and Its Opposite. I follow her on Twitter, and if I could go back to 1986 and tell this to my 18-year-old self, the younger Peter would say … well, I’m not sure what he would say. Would he be astonished to be able to read on a daily basis the 180-character thoughts of one of his favorite musicians? Or would he not be able to get beyond the Twitter part? A few weeks ago Tracey hosted a little contest in which she asked her followers to each name something he or she hadn’t done that it seemed everyone else had. I nearly won (though there was no actual prize): I Tweeted back that I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. (Though I did have a few sips of hazelnut coffee back in the late ’80s, which may explain the resistance.) But it turned out there was another “coffee virgin,” as she described us.
This song is about what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone for a long time. Tracey’s husband and former bandmate, Ben Watt, accompanies, which makes it a little bit of an Everything But the Girl reunion.
Love Song Week, continued. I guess it’s only appropriate that a song with this title would be accompanied by a video that doesn’t do anything.
Caleb had to explain to me that the first line of this song—”The wheel of fortune stops at six o’clock”—is not merely metaphoric, but alludes to the Pat Sajak- and Vanna White-hosted syndicated television game show, which probably, in some markets, really does stop at 6:00.
In view of my recent marriage, and at the risk of being a little schmaltzy, I’m going to spend this week posting some of my favorite, erm, love songs. Not much commentary, though—that would be getting too personal!
I had some records as a little kid, mostly on the Disneyland and Peter Pan labels, but those records were more like toys than music. The Captain and Tennille’s Song of Joy was the first pop record I ever owned. I remember walking into the living room one evening after dinner and seeing their show on our television console—it was probably the first or second episode—and being absolutely transfixed. Not long after, my dad and I were at Kmart and I asked him to buy me their second album, Song of Joy, which contained “Muskrat Love” and “Shop Around,” songs I had seen them perform on the show. Late on the second side was a version of “The Wedding Song (There is Love),” written by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, and I thought it was incredibly beautiful. The lyrics were somewhat more dense than most popular songs of the time—I’m sure I didn’t know what a troubadour was—but I knew the song was meant to be performed at a wedding. I had never been to a wedding before. Still, I had a fantasy that someone in my family would get married, that I would be asked to sing this song and everyone would be touched by the beauty of the words and by my voice. And a child shall lead them.
Maybe most children, even straight ones, don’t fantasize about their own weddings. But as early as the age of seven, I think I had some sense that I was going to be on the outside of marriage, that at best I would play an auxiliary part. Years later, the idea of marrying my boyfriend didn’t really cross my mind—why spend a lot of time wishing for something I couldn’t have? Things seemed fine as they were. Even when it became legally possible for people of the same sex to marry in certain states, it didn’t seem quite real. But at some point Caleb and I started talking about it. One night I ran into my friend Rob at the bar at Frankie’s Spuntino, and told him we were thinking about getting married. You should do it, he said; it changes things. It makes things deeper. That convinced me.
And so yesterday we did.
I learned about this band during my senior year of high school, and I was quite pleased with myself to like such punky music—hitherto I had listened to softer things, the Police and such. The Buzzcocks was punk I could embrace; their version of punk really just seemed like pop love songs played very fast.
Back then, in the mid-’80s, you could find the Buzzcocks’ later albums, including their classic compilation Singles Going Steady, in any chain record store. Their earlier albums, Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites, hadn’t been released on an American label, and I wondered how on earth I would ever get to hear them. After months of searching I was lucky enough to find them in the import bins of a Record Town a few malls away, one copy of each—not in tight shrink wrap, but in these kind of weird loose clear plastic bags. They were each priced at $10.99, which seemed exorbitant for a single record. At the time an album cost around seven dollars. I felt guilty spending any amount of money as it was, and there was no way I was going to part with those few extra bucks, no matter how much I wanted the records. (By the way, this was slightly after that period when record stores, or the record sections of department stores, used a letter chart for pricing albums. Each album was stickered with a letter, and you would reference it against a chart on the wall. I think “AA” equaled $1.99, for a 7” single, and maybe “J” or “K” equaled $7.99, a full-length album. Caleb points out that this made sense, what with inflation the way it was back then; the staff wouldn’t have to keep restickering the stock as prices jumped.)
Not long after I found and didn’t buy the two early Buzzcocks albums, my dad and I went to Germany to visit family friends, for what was my first international trip. I was in a state of high teendom and bored out of my gourd, and entertained myself by visiting record stores, which were interestingly different from American ones. (There was a lot more Nena going around, for one.) I found Love Bites in a record store in Ludwigsburg and Another Music in a funky underground shop in Heidelberg—and finding them wasn’t any problem; they clearly knew what was good over there. Each cost about the equivalent of six American dollars, and I was gratified that I had bested Record Town. Of course, a year later I was in college, and I was routinely paying $11 or $12 for imports—by then I all but looked down my nose at American releases.
I’m not sure how it escaped me back then that there was something fairly gayish about the Buzzcocks. If I had seen their videos, it might have been clearer.