Friday Evening Videos: “Feel Like Makin’ Love”

I’m a bit late posting this, and the selection I’ve got for you this week isn’t exactly a music video, but I’ve been mildly obsessed with it since I stumbled across it a few days ago and I want to share.

I’ve posted videos before from The Bangles, the all-girl group that had several big hits back in the Awesome ’80s, including “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and “Eternal Flame,” their number-one smash from 1989 and their last charting single. I liked them a lot back in the day. I still like them. As a band, they were a near-perfect combination of tight musical skills, killer pop sensibilities, and — hey, I’m not gonna lie — physical good looks, which made them pretty much irresistible to a red-blooded, music-loving teenage male like myself.

Well, the video clip I unearthed this week is a live performance by lead singer Susanna Hoffs from 1991, a couple years after The Bangles went their separate ways. Her entire set from this concert is good, but this particular song — a cover of Bad Company’s 1975 hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love” — really stands out. Everything about it, from her shy and halting introductory banter to the guitar work to the way she sways her hips and tosses her hair, is sheer calculated sex appeal. And let’s not forget her distinctive, unforgettable voice, which shifts from a little-girl whisper to a wanton growl in the space of a heartbeat.

Yeah, in case you couldn’t guess, this performance really presses my buttons. It’s the perfect thing for a balmy springtime night like this, when your thoughts drift so easily and naturally to those nights when you were young and the rhythm of a certain song, the tone of a girl’s voice, a glint in her eye, could set off electrical discharges in nerve endings you didn’t realize were even there. So open your windows, take a deep breath of that blooming lilac and a sip of that smoky whiskey, and then turn up the speakers and just let it happen. Rock and roll in its purest form is all about sex, and baby, this one rocks.

(Technical note: the video quality isn’t so hot, but it’s not terrible; the sound at least is good. Enjoy!)

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Come In, Echo Base…

Just a little housekeeping note to let my three Loyal Readers know that, starting today, I am a contributing writer for a group blog called Echo Base. The short version is that a friend and colleague from my day job is one of the chief editors there; he recently read something I wrote here on Simple Tricks and was impressed enough to ask me if I’d like to contribute. And just like that, my sphere of influence has expanded! Soon, the entire Internet will be mine! Mine, I say!  Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Seriously, this could be a fun opportunity, or at least a kick in the pants to get me back to blogging more frequently. The plan, at least at first, is just to syndicate (i.e., repost) some of the content from this blog — my first piece for them is a slightly tweaked version of my Prince obituary from a couple weeks back — but I may also produce some original work for them as time and inspiration allows. We’ll see how that works out.

But even though you won’t be seeing anything new from me at Echo Base that you haven’t already read here, at least not right away, you should definitely check out the other stuff on the site. Its focus is the entertainment industry — “Movies, Music, Games, and More,” as the masthead reads — and it features a wide range of voices discussing (arguing) about all sorts of geeky things. It’s a lively place run by a lot of passionate people. Good times…

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Speak Up

I keep thinking I should’ve been the one to speak up…

I was immersed in my book, an eighteenth-century world of pirates and slaves and ladies in need of rescuing (if they don’t figure out how to rescue themselves first), savoring my last few minutes of escapism before the train reached my stop and another day of mundane labors began. I’d just been interrupted by a friendly guy across the aisle, who’d simply had to say he’d read those books too and how did I like them and wasn’t there supposed to be a TV miniseries (actually a regular ongoing cable series) made from them? We’d shared a moment of small talk, but now he’d returned to his own thoughts and I was sinking back into the seductive textures of that richly imagined other place —

“Towelhead.”

The word struck my ears like a knitting needle shoved into my auditory canal, and I realized that the atmosphere in the train car was changing. People were sneaking furtive glances over books and phones, cocking their heads to listen, shifting in their seats as if trying to gain whatever distance they could between themselves and the ugly word.

“Towelhead bitch is killing us, you know…”

I took a quick glance around. There was a man one row behind me, on the opposite side. He wore a bright blue blanket wrapped around himself like a cloak, his face had a raw, weatherburned appearance, and his hair stood up in windblown twists. Homeless, I immediately assessed, but not harmless like my friend David, who panhandles near my office and always has a friendly grin and a fist-bump ready when he spots me. This guy was the other kind of homeless person, the one who radiates unfocused, unpredictable hostility and makes you think about crossing the street in mid-block before you reach his corner. Another refrain boiled out of him, erupting as if he just couldn’t contain it. His voice was louder this time, not quite a shout yet, but definitely raised above a normal speaking level. Too loud to ignore.

“Don’t you people care that this bitch has killed hundreds of people in the time between stops? From Ninth South to Courthouse, how many of our countrymen have died?! Towelhead bitch!”

It isn’t unusual to encounter people like this on the train, people who’ve had way too much to drink or inhale or inject, or people who haven’t had enough. Often, their tirades aren’t aimed at anyone in particular, at least no one that anyone else can see. This guy, though, was glaring at someone across from him, never moving his gaze as he continued to rail in his almost-shout about Americans dying while people like this were coming here and taking jobs and getting ready to start their killing ways on our soil.

I craned my head around to see who had gotten him riled up. Given the nature of the slurs he was throwing around, I expected to see someone in hijab or perhaps the turbaned Sikh gentleman I occasionally share my commute with, about whom I’ve heard nasty (and ignorant, since Sikhs are not Muslim) comments. But it was neither. Directly behind me was a young woman dressed in jeans and a buttondown shirt, as anonymously Western-style as anyone else on the train. She had dark brown skin and thick black hair, and a tiny bit of gold flashed from the side of her nose. Rather pretty, I thought, although, if anything, she looked Indian to me, not Muslim. Mostly, though, she looked like she wanted to shrink herself into a dot and disappear like Lee Meriweather on the old Star Trek series. She visibly cringed as the loudmouth launched another “Towelheaded BITCH!” her way.

I shifted my attention back to the crazy guy and felt my own mouth opening to say something, anything, to try and make him shut the hell up, but I hesitated. How unhinged was he, exactly? What if he had a knife or a gun? I don’t like to think of myself as a coward, but I am cautious, and this guy was getting more agitated by the second. His knees were jumping with nervous energy, like someone who’s downed six espressos in a row. The air in the train car was static-charged and beginning to stink of adrenaline. Somebody had to do something before this guy hurled himself out of his seat like a boulder from a trebuchet.

He was just beginning to direct another volley of verbal abuse at the poor woman when the guy who’d asked me about my book shouted, “Hey, sir? Who are you talking to?”

The crazy guy’s snapped around and his black stare settled on a new target. “What business is it of yours, chief?”

“You’re kind of making it everybody’s business, as loudly as you’re speaking. What’s the problem?”

“The problem is that camel-fucking towelheaded bitch sitting over there plotting to KILL US ALL! The problem is my American brothers spilling their blood…”

“It looks to me like that woman is just on her way to work, sir. She’s not plotting anything or hurting anyone.”

And at that, as I’d feared, the crazy guy was on his feet and moving toward the man who shared my taste in reading. I don’t remember what he was shouting at this point; my own fight-or-flight reflex was taking over. I do recall setting my book down on the seat next to me and preparing to stand up myself. I might not have been the first to act, but I was ready to help my comrade across the aisle if the lunatic attacked him.

He was holding his ground pretty well on his own, though. In a calm voice, he informed the nut that he’d been in the Army and seen people die, too, but the woman two rows back didn’t have anything to do with it. The crazy guy wasn’t having any of that, though; he wanted to fight and was trying to egg the man on. The vulgar language escalated. The train was nearing the next station, and Crazy Dude wanted to “take it outside,” so to speak. But the heroic man remained in his seat, saying he didn’t need to prove anything and Crazy Dude just needed to chill. He made eye contact with me at one point and a nervous smile tugged at his lips. I knew then he wasn’t as cool as he appeared, but damn, he was putting on a good front.

Then the train stopped. The doors opened. And the belligerent, bigoted, crazy man, still spouting a steady stream of angry slurs, got off. The train started moving again, and just like that, it was all over. The collective exhale from those of us who remained sounded like the whoosh of air brakes.

I turned in my seat and asked the woman who’d innocently provoked all that ugliness if she was okay. She nodded, and smoothed her hair back with a trembling hand.

“The guy was off his meds or something,” I offered. She smiled and nodded. Then another man leaned down to her, holding his cellphone. “I called the cops,” he said. “They’ll be looking for him back there.” She nodded again. At the train’s next stop, she got up and went to the doors. Everyone who’d witnessed the incident was watching her, and she knew it. She looked around, gave a little wave, and said, “Thanks, everyone.” Then she was gone too.

The next stop was mine, and as it happened, the other guy’s as well, the one who’d asked about my book and then stood up to the crazy man. We stepped down to the platform together, and I said to him, “Thanks for saying something back there.”

He grinned and said, “Thanks for backing me up.” I nodded, even though I really hadn’t done anything. Then I walked to my office building and went to work hunting for errant commas.

All this happened Friday morning. I’m still thinking about it now, Sunday night. Thinking about the sickening sensation that always competes with relief after something like that is over, when the tide of unused adrenaline begins to subside and you can’t help but imagine all the ways the incident could have gone, just how bad it might’ve become. I am troubled by the things that man with the wild eyes and the blue blanket-cloak said, how they mirror a lot of the nasty memes, comments and “humor” I encounter almost daily on social media. Surely this guy was off his meds, or he needed to be on some to start with, but his cultural and racial hostility, his paranoia about people who look or believe differently than himself, is not uncommon. We may be living in the 21st century, surrounded by glittering technological wonders, but there is still a core of unevolved, brutish tribalism slithering around just beneath our veneer of sophistication. And it seems to me that it’s getting worse, not better, in this election year… and yeah, that bothers the hell out of me.

And I’m troubled as well by my own actions — or rather, inactions — during the whole incident. We all like to think that when we’re confronted with injustice or bigotry or just plain danger, we’d have the strength of character to stand up for what’s right. That we’d be the hero. I keep wondering what Jamie Fraser, the hero of that big fat historical adventure I’m reading, would have done in the same situation. But of course, he’s fictional and I’m not.

I keep thinking I should’ve been the one to speak up, instead of waiting for another man to do it. Because what might have happened if he hadn’t?

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May the Fourth!

Today is the unofficial nerd holiday known as Star Wars Day, owing to the unfortunate pun formed by a certain pronunciation of the date (“May the Fourth be with you!” Get it? Yeah, I know… it makes me groan as well.) Now, it’s not as if people need an excuse to chatter about Star Wars on social media any more than they already do on any other day of the year, but I must confess that I rather enjoy the whole silly thing. I’ve seen a lot of memes, artwork, and jokes today that have made me smile…  and with that swaggering blowhard Donald Trump all but claiming the Iron Throne last night, a few smiles have been absolutely vital to my psychological well-being.

Of all the Star Wars-related stuff I’ve seen today, my favorite piece has been a promo video produced by the British TV network Sky Movies to advertise their marathon of the first six SW movies (or, as I think they ought to be called, the Lucasian Sextet).  This one is just plain neato:

And then there’s the news that Greedo himself — or at least the actor who was inside the green-snouted costume, Paul Blake — has weighed in on the undying question of “Who shot first?” In an interview with the New York Daily News, Blake says the scene he remembers acting all those years ago ended with the words, “Han shoots the alien.” Period. In other words, not only did Greedo not shoot first, he didn’t shoot at all. Blake goes on: “It would be lovely to see them go back to the original version, I much preferred it, I must say.”

Amen, sir. There are a lot of, ahem, unofficial options these days for seeing the pre-1997 editions of the original trilogy, but I still hold out hope there will one day be a sanctioned, respectful, official BluRay release. I’d even buy a box set of all the variations that now exist, so long as the pre-97s are given a decent presentation. Hey, we all need our obsessions, right?

In the meantime, I think I’m going to watch that Sky Movies ad again. I really adore that…

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A Final Gift from David Bowie

Not to sound utterly narcissistic or anything, but I’ve found my reaction to the deaths of musical icons Prince and David Bowie… interesting. Neither man’s work was a favorite of mine while they were alive, but in death, I’ve somehow gained a much deeper appreciation for them as artists.

Consider Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. It’s well-understood at this point that the album was his exploration of his own mortality, and the eerie, melancholy song and video “Lazarus” his farewell to the world. But today there’s news going around that he may have left us one final gift from beyond:

…a curious (or irresponsible) Imgur user recently discovered yet another secret feature of the Blackstar gatefold. Expose the LP cover to sunlight (without the record inside, of course), and the matte black background within the star outline transforms into a starry night sky. The Reddit thread about this phenomenon goes into more detail about how long it takes—perhaps anywhere from one to three hours—and notes the cosmos appear only under direct sunlight. (In other words, it’s not a permanent thing.)

Here’s what it looks like:

View post on imgur.com

The star pattern is evidently artwork from a vinyl booklet found inside the gatefold, so it might be just an accident of chemistry resulting from exposure to light, and nothing that anyone, least of all Bowie himself, planned. But somehow — and maybe this is just my romantic nature talking — I don’t think so. I like to think that somewhere, a very long way from here in no particular direction, a thin, handsome man just smiled because somebody finally found his message…

Bowie, man… you truly did rock.

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Friday Evening Videos: “Kyrie”

I had been thinking I’d do something related to Prince for this week’s Friday video — since his untimely death, a lot of interesting clips have been surfacing of him performing with other artists, or in unexpected venues — but this morning I had an inspiration to go with something a little different.

I was driving to the train station, headed directly toward the Wasatch Mountains that brace up the east side of the Salt Lake Valley like a fortress wall. The tattered remnants of last night’s rain clouds were snagged on the jagged peaks and flowing through the canyons and contours of the mountains like a thick, steel-gray liquid, and as I grew nearer to this ominous, beautiful sight, a song lyric leaped into my mind: “Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel…”

Don’t look so surprised. For a time in the mid ’80s, there was a middle space between the electric-guitar-based rock that I loved and the synth-based New Wave stuff that I loathed, and the pop band Mr. Mister fell squarely into that sweet spot. “Kyrie” was the second of two number-one hits that emerged from the band’s sophomore album, Welcome to the Real World (the first being the more ballad-like “Broken Wings”). While the refrain was a mystery to me for years — I eventually learned that Kyrie eleison is Greek for “Lord, have mercy,” a phrase found in many Christian liturgies — I always liked the throbbing synthesizer rhythm that underpins the song (yes, there are synth songs I like!) and the overall uplifting tone of the lyrics, which manage to be wistful and optimistic at the same time. And even though I’ve never been a religious person, who hasn’t hoped for a bit of grace as we travel roads both metaphorical and literal?

“Kyrie” was released late in the year 1985 and eventually peaked in March 1986, occupying the Billboard Hot 100‘s top spot for two weeks. That was my junior year of high school. I had my driver’s license by then, and was starting to venture out on my own, usually in a brown 1970 Thunderbird that was probably three times the size of the car I drive today. I remember more than once putting my window down and singing along to this song with the wind in my hair.

The video isn’t especially memorable, I’m afraid, falling squarely into the cliche’d “shots of the band performing in a vast, darkened space juxtaposed with candid backstage shenanigans” category. But the song is good — interestingly, for a synth-based pop song from that era, it doesn’t sound especially dated to me — and the band was reasonably nice to look at. I still trend to dress more or less in the same style as the lead singer, Richard Page, for whatever that’s worth:

Sadly, Mr. Mister didn’t find much success after “Kyrie.” Their third album, Go On…, crashed and burned, despite generally good reviews, and the band broke up in 1990. A fourth album, which had been mostly completed at the time of the breakup, disappeared into the studio vaults for 20 years and was finally released in 2010.

And on that note, have a fine weekend everyone!

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Tributes to His Purpleness

Not surprisingly, the Internet has been awash in comments about the late musician Prince over the past several days. If you’re at all active on social media, you will have seen a lot of them, everything ranging from humorous memes that play off the recent rash of celebrity deaths (“Has anybody checked on Ozzy lately?” and “Every time a musician dies, Keith Richards receives the Quickening“) to heartfelt reminiscences, to just-plain-weird shit. (Evidently, there’s a conspiracy theory taking root that claims Prince faked his own death… no doubt so he could spend more time hanging out in truck stops with MJ, Elvis, and Eddie Wilson, or something. Ooooookay.) I’d like to single out three tributes that I thought were particularly classy.

First up is Bob Staake’s cover art for this week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine, which I found striking in its wordless simplicity:

prince_newyorker-cover

Then there’s the image that Chevrolet shared on Facebook and Twitter; it also ran as a full-page ad in six major newspapers. Personally, I think this is the best that anyone has done, drawing on Prince’s own words (the lyrics to “Little Red Corvette,” if you don’t get it) and a sexy image of a 1963 Stingray to say everything that really needs to be said on an occasion like this. Notice that this isn’t a promotional ad for the brand. Chevy isn’t cashing in on the man’s passing by pushing a commercial message to buy cars. They’re just acknowledging the connection that existed between an iconic song and their iconic flagship sportscar. It’s understated, tasteful, and poignant, and when I first saw it, it honestly brought a tear to my eye. I really love this:

prince_chevrolet-tribute

And finally, a tribute of a different sort, a video clip from Bruce Springsteen’s April 23rd performance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which he opened with a rendition of “Purple Rain.” I’ve always been a casual fan of Bruce’s music, but his in-concert responses to the passing of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and now Prince has made me a big fan of Springsteen as a human being, too.

One last thought: I think it really speaks to Prince’s talent as a writer that such a well-known, signature song that is so strongly identified with a particular performer — Prince himself — is flexible enough to be performed by a man with such a different musical style and voice, and still work beautifully. A couple days ago, I took one of those silly Facebook quizzes that promised to reveal “Which Prince song was written for you.” My result was “Purple Rain.” I can live with that. For all sorts of reasons.

Incidentally, if you like this rendition of the song, you can download a free MP3 copy of it from Bruce’s official website here. That’s why they call him The Boss…

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In Memoriam: Prince

prince_1984

The first girl I ever seriously kissed was a major Prince fan. I didn’t see the appeal.

The appeal of Prince, I mean. The kiss was awesome. I can still remember it with almost shocking vividness. But Prince… really?

Sure, “Let’s Go Crazy” was as infectious a tune as any I’d ever heard. But this girl’s interest in him wasn’t confined to his musical ability, if you get my meaning. She wanted him bad, and she wasn’t shy about telling me either, and that made me kinda crazy. I just didn’t get it. Even on TV, where everybody looks taller, he was visibly tiny — scrawny even — and with all the lace and the purple velvet suits and the high-heeled boots and such, he looked… well, he didn’t look much like me, you know? I was sixteen years old and insecure as hell, desperate to unravel the mysteries of sex and masculinity and how exactly to get girls to like me. So naturally anyone who seemed to be making a bigger impression on them than I was, someone who had an entirely different style than my own denim-and-long-hair thing, was a tremendous threat to my ego. Even if that someone was an completely unattainable fantasy figure. I didn’t like Prince back in the day because, quite simply, I was jealous of the foppish little squirt. It was a classic case of “What’s he got that I haven’t got?!”

Everyone reading this has no doubt heard by now that Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, died yesterday morning at the age of 57. Preliminary reports said the cause was complications from the flu, but later I started seeing more troubling rumors about an overdose. There’s going to be an autopsy, of course. But whatever happened to him, his death — like Michael Jackson’s a few years ago — triggered a surprising stew of emotions in me, not only because his passing at a relatively young age was so unexpected, but because I hadn’t realized how much of a touchstone he and his music had become for me until he was taken away from us. I may not have liked him when I was sixteen (although truthfully, I think I probably did like him more than I was willing to admit, just as I secretly liked MJ too), but sixteen was a long time ago. Somewhere along the way, I grew up, and Prince won me over.

Maybe it was the funky beats he contributed to several key scenes in the 1989 Batman movie. (Sorry, Heath Ledger fans, Nicholson is my Joker.) Maybe it was the adorable vision of Julia Roberts singing “Kiss” to herself in a bathtub in Pretty Woman. Or the bright springtime mornings when I’ve heard “Raspberry Beret” on the radio and found myself feeling happy for no good reason. It could have been the way “1999” took on a whole new relevance for Generation X as the actual turn of the millennium approached. Or the times Anne and I have sung along to “Little Red Corvette” at the top of our lungs while driving with the top down.

But I think what really, finally brought me around on the Purple One was his 2004 performance at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, when he played George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and George’s son Dhani. Prince’s guitar solo during that performance was a thing of beauty, a display of virtuoso skill by an artist at the top of his game, who has nothing left to prove and simply plays for the sake of playing. You can’t help but admire someone who can make it look so effortless, and who very obviously derived so much joy from doing it. The man was having fun playing that song, on that stage, with those other performers. And that’s something about this performance that’s really striking too: as someone pointed out yesterday in a Facebook discussion I read, Prince wasn’t grandstanding or overshadowing the others. As flashy as his playing was, it was in support of the song and of the band. And even the moment when we lets himself fall backwards into the hands of an assistant who pushes him back upright… as ridiculous as that moment was, it was also charming. It was cool. Just look at the grin Dhani Harrison flashes at that moment; he gets it. He knows that that little bit of theater was pure rock and roll. It was James Brown’s business with the cape, Chuck Berry’s duckwalk, Elvis’ karate poses.

Other people have a deeper knowledge of Prince’s catalog than myself — I’m pretty much limited to an entry-level “greatest hits” discussion — and those folks are no doubt better qualified to write about the technicalities of what, exactly, he did as a musician, and why it was significant. But it’s clear even to me that Prince — like Bowie or Michael Jackson, or Tom Jones or Willie Nelson or Ray Charles or any of the other performers who become cultural institutions — transcended any one genre and was simply himself. He wasn’t a rock star, he was just a star… one that burned out while it still had light to give.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since the news broke yesterday morning, about how young 57 really is, how much time he might have had left, how many things he might’ve been able to do with that time. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that girl I knew who loved him so much. We only went out a couple times. Remember, I was sixteen and I was stupid. Maybe she could’ve loved me if I’d had more confidence; maybe not. Who knows, and after 30 years, it doesn’t matter anyhow. But I still remember that first kiss in the glare of a porch light. And the way the baby’s-breath she wore the night of the big school dance seemed to glow white against her dark hair.  And I remember dancing with her on her back lawn one chilly evening, dancing slow and close to “Purple Rain.”

If for no other reason, I mourn the death of Prince Rogers Nelson because he gave me that moment.

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Friday Evening Videos: “If We Make It Through December”

[Ed. note: I should have had this one up last Friday, for reasons that ought to be obvious, but it was one of those days — all of my Fridays have been those days recently, which really bums me out. Because Friday is a day to think about music videos, not 25-page white papers that leave you too mentally drained to bang out even a brief blog entry. Anyhow… ]

We’re mostly into rock music around this place — you may have noticed — but I confess to having a soft spot for a certain flavor of country music, too, primarily the stuff that was popular when I was a kid in the 1970s and early ’80s. That’s not as incongruous as it might sound, though. There was a lot of cross-pollination between the genres back then, and the line between country, pop, and rock was often pretty blurry, especially to an unsophisticated child who grew up listening to whatever Mom was playing in her pickup while she drove me around town as she ran her errands.

You’ve no doubt heard that one of the giants of that era, Merle Haggard, died a week ago Wednesday, on his 79th birthday. Haggard was practically the Aristotelian ideal of what we think a country musician is supposed to be: a populist poet who drew on his own difficult history — child of Dust Bowl refugees, incarcerated in San Quentin, married five times, the obligatory struggles with substance abuse — to evoke the lives and losses of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types. In a career that spanned half a century, he scored a mind-boggling 38 number-one hits and continued to record and tour up until mere weeks before his death. (He played one of the Nevada/Utah border casinos only a couple months ago; I wish now I’d made the drive out there to see him.)

His signature hit “Okie from Muskogee,” from 1969, is either an ode to or a spoof of a particular set of redneck attitudes, and I frankly despise that one no matter which he intended it to be. More often, though, I found relatable authenticity in his lyrics and his natural vocal stylings, which were so different from the phony twang that nearly everybody in the genre uses these days. Unlike all the modern-day Garth Brooks wanna-bes, Haggard didn’t need to demonstrate his country bona fides with any affectations; he just told stories of quietly brave people who’ve drawn bad hands but keep on striving. Case in point, this week’s video selection and my favorite Merle Haggard song, “If We Make It Through December.”

Initially released in October 1973, the song is frequently classified as a Christmas tune because of its references to the holiday season, and the fact that it came from a Christmas album. But in fact, it’s more a song about economic hardship and loneliness, and also about resilience and hope for a better future, as expressed in the lines about summertime and California. The song spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, from December ’73 through January 1974, and it also crossed over to reach number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Whenever I hear it, I think of the farm town I knew as a boy, and the blue-collar men and women I saw every day, the ones who raised alfalfa and worked at the nearby Bingham Canyon copper mine, and who lingered over coffee and cigarettes at Orton’s Cafe and went boating or horseback-riding on the weekends. This song sounds like home to me, a form of home I haven’t known in decades.

The video clip I found is a 1976 performance on The Donny & Marie Show, which is a whole other gift basket of nostalgia:

 

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Nostalgia’s a Bitch, Man, But She’s My Bitch

star-wars_anh_luke-on-tatooineSo, do you suppose that during all those years Luke Skywalker evidently spends standing on a rock in the ocean on Planet Ireland, brooding about how everything went to hell for him after his twenties, he ever got misty-eyed about the good old days of zooming around the desert in his landspeeder and hanging with Fixer and the gang at Toshi Station?

Just something that occurred to me this morning as I was remembering the little farm town I grew up in and the faceless suburb it’s become…

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