Sunday, July 5, 2009

What’s Your Favorite Song? Mine’s Stardust.

You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite songs and music. I’ve always preferred minor chords. My first recollections of music appreciation at the onset of puberty were those hours spent singing along to Carol King’s ‘So Far Away’ and the Bee Gees ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’ while my other sixth grade classmates sang along with Three Dog Knight’s ‘Joy to the World’ and Melanie’s ’Brand New Key.’ Take the Billboard Magazine’s Hot Pop Songs of 1971 list and give it to anyone my age to figure out if they’re a glass is half empty or a glass is half full person by nature. Believe me, ignorance is bliss, and if I had my druthers, I’d much rather be Pollyanna than Holden Caulfield. It’s not a choice, no matter what all those damn counselors tell you, it’s just how you’re wired.

The summer of ‘71 a bunch of my family went to some hell forsaken place along the Colorado River for a dune buggy trip. At that particular camp ground there sat afloat a bar at the edge of the river where a pack of looser drunkards continuously fed quarters into the juke box choosing either ’Joy to the World’, ’One Bad Apple’, or ’Proud Mary’ more times than was possible to count, enough to make me contemplate homicide for the first time in my short life. We could drown them in the river, I thought. The silent death. A pack of us strong, sober teens could easily take their sodden asses. I retreated with my angst ridden cousins behind the hillock of sand away from the offending songs traveling on the infrequent breezes where we all laid around getting sunburned drinking Orange Crush and listening to Janis Joplin’s ‘Pearl’ and Carol King’s ‘Tapestry’ on my new cassette player.

But we got bored. It was hot. The river called. We longed to drift down river in our inner tubes or lay atop our anchored rafts, but couldn’t bear the 3 song repetition. We begged our parents for quarters and coaxed a friendly old curmudgeon into beating the drunken river rats to the juke box to play alternate selections such as ‘Theme from Shaft‘, ‘Brown Sugar’ or ‘Indian Reservation’ whereupon we would sing loudly to patrons from the deck at the bar’s perimeter where we were allowed along with accompanying theatrics. When Donny Osmond and Jackson 5 songs were chosen we sang as loudly and most saccharin as was humanly possible without getting us evicted from the camp. If Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ or Dawn’s ‘Knock Three Times’ played, we all made gagging sounds and pretended to be vomiting into the river. Pretty soon people began making other choices on the jukebox, looking forward to our interpretations of the songs. We relished the attention, our dramatic exploits flourishing. Favorites folks in the bar chose were ‘Go Away Little Girl’, where one of us gals would pretend to be Donny in the song, garnishing lots of yucks or when we’d enact ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ with the majority of kids participating for full impact.

Over 30 years later, I still find myself drawn to the minor chords. There are many days when I feel like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Dani California’ but when I listen to the news on the radio I end up feeling more like I’ve just listened to Beck’s ’Sea Change’ album. Like the hokey songs say, you have to “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between,” ‘Keep Your Sunny Side Up‘, ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street‘, and all that kinda stuff. Carpe diem. This is not a dress rehersal. Look for the good. Your thoughts and words are the pebble in the pond that causes that ripple effect. At the same time, don't be like that dumb ass frog that sits in the water and doesn't realize the heat's rising and before he knows it his legs are covered in butter on a platter for someone's eatin'. Look alive!

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