My oldest brother and I had one goal on our trip to Chicago: See Howlin’ Wolf’s grave.
He had thought of it a few summers back on a drive-through trip with his wife on their way to visit friends in Indiana, but it had never fallen into place for them to stop. This time, with me backing him up and our mom surprisingly also on board, it came as a three-against-two vote against our significant others, and our trip home found us taking a twenty-minute detour due west to Oakridge Cemetery.
Google Maps has us completely passing the entrance to the place, which happens to be about fifteen times larger than any of us anticipated. “Where exactly is his grave?” My brother asks, turning onto the main road and driving slow.
“Fantastic question,” I reply. Continue reading
It has been three months since I have been able to go to channel 4 on my presets for SiriusXM and hear big band and swing pulse through my car’s speakers. Three long, painful months where the replacement for the soothing orchestral sounds and crooners from the “golden era” has been Billy Joel.
40s on 4 returned at 3am Thursday, June 26, 2014. I have never been happier for a drive into work in my life.
Maybe that sounds weird coming from a 24-year-old. Maybe you anticipated me being well into my fifties or sixties (I get that quite often).
I love Johnny Mercer to death. My favorite song of all time (which I have on an LP) is “Yes Indeed” by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra from 1941. I listen to the 40s on my way home from work because it keeps me calm in rush hour traffic. And it’s awesome, let’s be honest.
So when SiriusXM announced a week beforehand in March that Channel 4 would become the “Billy Joel Channel” until June 25, I was livid and then heartbroken. I wanted to write complaint letters. I wanted to scream from the tops of buildings how unjust this was. I went through a phase of wanting to take a picture of my radio display every time I heard a Billy Joel song on a different channel and email them all to SiriusXM’s support email.
Scroll through the channels and you will hear Billy Joel on 70s on 7, 80s on 8, Classic Vinyl, Classic Rewind, and The Bridge, and that’s just on my personal presets. Scroll through the channels and you’ll hear big band and swing on… Siriusly Sinatra on channel 71, but it’s the more polished sounding songs and not the instrumental big band songs. And it’s not on my presets.
Look, I understand that there are people out there who love Billy Joel (my sister-in-law among them). I understand that SiriusXM has to do little things like this to spice up their lineup. But when they’ve done it in the past, they’ve picked an empty channel up in the 100s and done it for a weekend (Pink Floyd Channel at first, now that’s Sunday nights on Deep Tracks), several weeks (Tom Petty Channel), or a month (Led Zeppelin). But they never took away another channel for that long. I think that’s what’s infuriating about it.
And I won’t lie, if they had replaced 40s on 4 with something like the Led Zeppelin channel (which I still want back), I probably wouldn’t have been so adamant in my anger. Billy Joel to me is just okay. He has five or six good songs, but they are overplayed everywhere else.
I’m not a complainer. I’m that customer that tries to be agreeable with everything. Everyone has their own battles in life and heck if I want to make someone’s life harder for the few minutes I’m in their life over something that doesn’t even matter ten minutes from now. It’s not worth it. So I never wrote an angry letter, though I may have made a few angry tweets.
So instead of writing a complaint letter about losing my favorite channel for a quarter of the year on a radio I pay a fair amount of money to subscribe to, I just sent off a “thank you” email to 40s on 4 for returning and making my day a little bit brighter:
This is just a quick email to tell you guys how happy I am that 40s on 4 is back on my radio. I refused to go to channel 4 for the last three months and I can’t tell you how happy I was this morning when I could scroll down to it on my presets and hear Glenn Miller first thing in the morning.
I’m afraid to change the radio away because I feel like it will disappear.
So thank you for returning. And if you wanted to play “Yes Indeed” by Tommy Dorsey on loop for several hours, I would have no problem with that.
Let’s be honest with each other from the start: I’m not one for buying into New Year’s resolutions. Everyone always asks me what mine is and I tend to shrug. When I was asked at the end of 2012, I told someone I wanted to read more.
And I did.
2013 was a year where I actually sort of made resolutions. I created a Goodreads profile and took part in their reading challenge. I wanted to read 40 books in the span of a year. Well, I read 41 (potentially 42, depending on how fast I get through Wolves of the Calla. I’m on another Stephen King kick).
I also told myself I wanted to write 250,000 words. Thanks to NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo (on two different occasions!), I accomplished this, and I’m about 3000 words away from hitting 300k for the year.
So what do I want to do for my 2014 resolutions?
For my birthday in May, my brother and sister-in-law gave me Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer by Philip Furia, a biography of Johnny Mercer, one of my favorite songwriters/artists. I finally got around to reading it earlier today.
Who is Johnny Mercer, you ask? Only one of America’s greatest lyricists and songwriters of all time. What songs and lyrics did he write? “Moon River,” “The Summer Wind,” “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” and “Hooray for Hollywood” are among the ones you’ve heard.
Johnny Mercer was also a co-founder of Capitol Records. You know, the record company who signed the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and most notably The Beatles.
I’ve been told by quite a few people in the last week or so that they enjoy reading books that teach them random facts or introduce them to new places.
While I know autobiographies are just chock full of this kind of information, I thought leaving you with a fun little tidbit about Johnny Mercer would be fun:
From the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, Mercer dominated the popular song charts. During that era, he had at least one song in the Top Ten for 221 weeks; for 55 weeks he had two songs in the Top Ten; for 6 weeks he had three songs in that circle; during 2 weeks in 1942, he had four songs there–virtually half the Hit Parade. In some years, he had a song in the Top Ten during every week of the year, the songwriter’s equivalent of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, and his songs were number one a record thirteen times. In the course of his career he would write the lyrics, and sometimes the music as well, for 1,088 songs; of these, 18 would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song, and four would win the Oscar.
For the past few years, I have wanted to write some sort of novel revolving around the glory days of music, roughly the 1930s until the mid to late 1970s. But every time I try to do it, it doesn’t work out. I did one NaNoWriMo around a fictional concert hall in the 1960s and 70s with the main protagonist being a high school girl.
Welcome to the second edition of “Musical Inspiration” posts for On The Border! Now that the book is out there and now that some of you may have picked it up and read it or started to read it, music posts make a little more sense!
The playlist on my iPod for On The Border is well over fifty songs, and it keeps growing. Sometimes it just hits me when I listen to a song. So without further ado…
The Eagles – “On The Border”
If you didn’t notice, the title of this song and the title of my book are the same. “On The Border” is also on my “Favorite Songs” playlist, and the lyrics just always reminded me of somebody on the run from the law, or being unfairly treated by the law while they’re just trying to do their own thing.
JD McPherson – “Signs and Signifiers”
Truth be told, I am madly in love with JD McPherson’s music. I stumbled upon him through CD Baby when their monthly newsletter said he sounds like James Brown. He sounds like he’s straight out of the 1950s (try the song “Scratching Circles”), and there is only one song on his album Signs & Signifiers that I sort of don’t like (hint: it’s “A Gentle Awakening”). Heck, I actually didn’t like the above song very much for a while, but it grew on me.
Fangirling aside, this is one of the slower songs on his album, and the lyrics just fit Cassidy’s predicament:
“I’ve got signs and signifiers, gossipers and liars
Twist me every way they want to go
What looks like a raging fire are your dreams and desires
Ending up like ashes on the ground.”
Gregg Allman – “Just Another Rider”
This song was actually the foundation for the sequel I wrote during last year’s National Novel Writing Month. But I hate how that turned out, and the lyrics fit for OTB anyway, so I added it to both playlists (oh yes, there’s a playlist for the terrible sequel that I will seriously edit before even considering putting it out there).
Eric Clapton & JJ Cale – “Missing Person”
Okay, so this one may work a little better for Jason’s side of the story, but since it’s about Cassidy, it works. Trust me, in the two months Cassidy and Jason are apart, Jason is trying incessantly to find Cassidy again, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.
“She up and she left/Now she’s gone/She didn’t even give me a clue/Didn’t write me no notes/Send me no letters/It’s true/She is a missing person/where are you?”
Fun. – “Some Nights”
This is the most recent addition to the playlist, and every time I listen to this song, I love it just a little bit more. It’s definitely the newest song, too. I mean, just look at the artists in this post and the others… you can tell I’m living in the past.
Anyway, I like the lyrics in “Some Nights” because they feel like they describe someone who doesn’t quite know where to go or what to do with their life despite how hard they’re trying.
Stay tuned for another edition of “Musical Inspiration!” My life revolves around music, hockey, and The Simpsons, so it’s only natural that music has a very profound effect on my writing.
Yesterday, April 4, was the day that in 1964, The Beatles held the top five spots on the Hot Billboard 100, and eleven of the top 100. Pretty darn impressive, and it’s music that still lasts.
Of course, being the music nerd I am, I set up a playlist of the top five songs yesterday and listened to it on the way home, windows down, sunroof open, songs blasting. Being able to do that made me feel inspired to write something lighthearted and carefree.
And it got me to thinking – I have yet to post anything musical on here! Music drives a lot of what I write. I hear a song and I immediately have a picture of a story in my head. I thought I might list a few songs that have helped inspire On The Border along the way, even though it isn’t published just yet.