Summer of Sound

August 5, 2012

Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411? (1992) CD cover, August 5, 2012. (Donald Earl Collins).

One of the few great things for me about being back in Mount Vernon and New York City the summer of ’92 was that I was ahead of the slow pop cultural curve that was Pittsburgh two decades ago (although it’s still slow — just not as slow as it used to be). For one last summer, despite the turmoil of kids and my mother treating me like I was one (see my post “The Last 616 Summer” from June ’12) and the constant chaos at my job (see my “Working With Wackos, Part I” post from July ’12), I had access to all the immediate in music, movies and other forms of culture, pop or otherwise.

This was truly the summer that my tastes turned from randomly weird to eclectic. To think that just five years earlier, early Whitney Houston, Thompson Twins, Glass Tiger and ABC were all part of my regular cassette rotation for my Walkman! My tastes had grown up to the point where music had to have a mood or rhythm to it. It no longer needed to be quirky or silly in order to put me in a quirky or silly mood.

But those weren’t the only emotions available to me by the summer of ’92. I could actually feel sexy, romantic, generous, loving, caring, and not just angry, depressed and goofy in my normal life. A half-decade away from the crushing life of strife at 616 and in Mount Vernon, high school, Humanities and in general, had something to do with that. Dating off and on had brought others into my life, which meant that Crush #1 and Crush #2 had become somewhat repressed memories. The bottom line was, I no longer needed music or pop culture to block out the daily emotional pain that had been my life in the ’80s.

And that opened me up to new and more eclectic (if still occasionally goofy experiences) music experiences that year and summer. I became a big Jon Secada fan that summer (see my “Otro Dia Mas Sin Verte” post from August ’09), both in English and en Espanol. I was so glad he branched off from Gloria Estefan, as I’d had it with the Miami Sound Machine’s sound years ago.

I also became enthralled a bit with jazz and what we now call smooth jazz that summer, between Grover Washington, Jr., Ronny Jordan’s “After Hours”, John Coltrane, even some Miles Davis (who I did appreciate, but never quite understood). I had friend at Pitt who had exposed me to jazz over the previous five years, but it took graduate school for me to finally fully appreciate it. It also took working in an office with a woman who played all kinds of music all the time for me to actually go out and buy their stuff on CDs.

Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road” (1992) singles cover, May 19, 2009. (Undermedveten via Wikipedia). Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws (low resolution picture).

The expansion of hip-hop and rap twenty summers ago to include new and fresh sounds ended up having an impact on my own music collection as well. Mary J. Blige’s What’s The 411? hit the stores and her songs the NYC-area airwaves that July and August, so raw and so new that even I the late-bloomer noticed. And who could forget Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road.” I heard that song at least eight times a day nearly every day between the end of June and the middle of August, especially at my Mount Vernon Clinic job. I guess if I’d been divorced or in a bad relationship, I would’ve appreciated it more. As it was, any thought of buying Boyz II Men’s second album disappeared by the beginning of August. The same was true for me regarding Jodeci, the hip-hop screechers and beggars from the Upper South. They were like nails on chalkboard to me then.

Still, I incorporated music more typical of my earlier tastes into my collection that summer as well. Mariah Carey’s “I Don’t Wanna Cry” became the song I went to every time my sister Sarai started whining about me telling her to do chores at 616. Sounds of Blackness’ “Optimistic,” I discovered that summer (one summer after its release). U2’s Achtung Baby, Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” and Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” rounded out my catching up to the current that summer, while Annie Lennox’s “Walking On Broken Glass” was, new, silly and serious at the same time.

There have been other times, other summer in which my tastes have taken leaps forward. I must admit, this has usually occurred after great pain or after having recovered from a major trial in my life. The summer of ’92, though, was a transition summer for me, from having to act like an adult due to stressful circumstances to just being an adult because I actually was.


GOP/TPers’ Theme Music for Election 2012

May 30, 2011

Huckabee with Ted Nugent on guitar, Huckabee Show, FOX News Channel, May 14, 2011. Source: http://dailymail.co.uk

Ever since Mike Huckabee announced that he wasn’t running for POTUS in the Election ’12 cycle (after playing chords with Ted Nugent), I’ve been thinking about an appropriately snarky and sarcastic way to understand the GOP/Tea Party candidacy process. It’s been a bit confusing. Between Trump and Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, Pawlenty and Romney, Palin and Bachmann, I’d have a hard time finding a candidate I’d vote for even if I were a true American conservative.

But I do know what would help. Theme music to get our juices flowin’, to rile us up about how excited we should be that among these candidates is a challenger worthy of President Barack Obama. Heck, it’s worked before. Ed Meese and Don Regan used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” and John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” as theme music in ’84. This despite the fact that these were protests songs of an America anti-common man and pro-war.

GOP/TPers can do the same in ’12. Here’s a list of songs to usurp — oops, I mean use — between now and November 6 of next year.

1. Genesis, “Illegal Alien” (1983), as in, “It’s no fun/being an illegal alien” — especially if the GOP/TPers take over in ’12.

2. James Blunt, “No Bravery” (2005), a truthful description of what it takes to run on the GOP/TP ticket, i.e., no independent thought.

3. ABC, “How To Be A Millionaire” (1985), which should be retitled, “How To Be A Billionaire,” since that’s the ultimate goal of the leaders of the GOP – “a million is not enough” could be the party’s new slogan.

4. U2, “Crumbs From Your Table,” (2004), which, if these folks are elected next year, will be all we’ll have to eat by the ’16 election cycle.

Crumbs on my table, courtesy of Noah's old elephant and a Lipton tea bag wrapped around trunk, May 30, 2011. Donald Earl Collins.

5. Chicago, “Hard Habit To Break,” (1984), especially in the refrain, “I’m addicted to you,” meaning easy money from top 1%, debt and low taxes, and oil, oh, sweet crude oil!

6. The Cranberries, “Zombie,” (1994), the sincerest hope of the GOP/TPers when it comes to what’s left of our voting populace.

Herman Cain, They Think You're Stupid Book Cover (more like We Think You're Stupid), 2009. Source: National Black Republican Association, http://nbra.info

7. Al Green, “One Of These Good Old Days,” (1972), a tribute to the way the Party of Corporations wants things to be for rich – it’s their climax song!

8. Prince, “1999,” (1983), except they would definitely change it to “1899,” the height of affluent largesse, corporate greed and monopoly-building (until the ’00s), and acceptable racism.

9. Creed, “My Own Prison,” (1997), one of the ultimate dreams of the GOP/TPers, that we’d build our own prisons and then put ourselves in them so they don’t have to worry about job creation.

10. Grover Washington, Jr., “Summer Chill,” (1992), what the party hopes their paid-off scientists can “prove” in a new study funded by the John M. Olin Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the Scaife Foundations, making “Drill, baby, drill” a reality in ANWR.

11. Public Enemy, “Welcome To The Terrordome,” (1989), most likely would be used by the GOP/TPers to promote gladiator-like games as a way to bring the unemployment rate down for those they can’t get to build their own prisons.

12. Sade, “The Sweetest Taboo,” (1985), a tribute to all of their in the closet and anti-gay party members willing to sacrifice the civil and human rights of LGBT Americans everywhere for a seat in Washington.

13. Maxwell, “…Til The Cops Come Knockin’,” (1996), the general plan for all elected GOP/TPers until they’re caught in illegal activities.

In addition, there’s Alexander O’Neal’s “When The Party’s Over” (1987), another example of what would happen to us, our country and our world if the GOP/TPers reclaimed and remained in charge. They’d suck the bottom ninety-nine percent of us dry until the good times are over, and then blame us for not letting them steal the plumbing, too. Please add to this list. I could’ve created an iPod list of a hundred appropriate songs, but fourteen’s just a start. Eat your heart out, Ted Nugent!


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