Summer night concert
Delightfully weird redhead
And atomic blonde
Summer night concert
Delightfully weird redhead
And atomic blonde
But in a good way…
July 14, 2016
Found on Spotify:
One hundred twenty minutes
playlist. Angst flashback!
I worry about kids these days. I worry that parents are too lenient and indulgent and have cultivated a huge sense of entitlement in their children. I worry that the kids of today will have to deal with messes left behind by previous generations, like crippling national debt, climate change, and “islands” of trash in the oceans.
But mostly, I worry that today’s children will never know the joy of making a mix tape.
I know, I know. There’s iTunes. There’s Spotify and all of that. Making playlists is as easy as clicking a few buttons. I don’t deny that can be fun too, but it’s not the same. Even if you burn the songs to a CD and present it to someone, it just doesn’t stack up to the beloved mix tape.
Choosing songs was a painstaking process. Unless you timed the songs and performed the necessarily calculations (and really, who did?), you simply had to use your best guess as to what would fit on one side of a tape. Heaven forbid you’d be almost done with one side when the tape would run out part way through a song! You had to start all over again. You weren’t just making a mix tape, you were cultivating life skills: planning, patience, and persistence.
Then there was the recording process. You didn’t drag and drop songs into a list and press a button to create your mix tape. You had to put a blank tape and each in the series of tapes you were recording in your dual tape deck, cue up the songs, and play them all the way through to record them. You listened to your mix tape as you were creating it. It wasn’t just in your head. You experienced it as it came into being. You sat back and listened, and you made changes on the fly because it suddenly occurred to you that “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. was the perfect follow-up song to “True Faith” by New Order. It was poetic really. You may not have composed the songs themselves, but there was beauty in the way you put them together.
Then were the times when you didn’t own a copy of a song you wanted to include on the tape. You had to listen to the radio, tape cued up and ready to pounce on the record button. If you were extremely lucky, you got the intro and the fade out without any overlap of the DJ’s voice.
When you were done and you presented your mix tape, lovingly, laboriously made, to your friend, boyfriend, or person you hoped would be your boyfriend (or even if you just kept it to enjoy yourself and maybe bring out at parties to impress your friends with your musical mixing prowess), it was a thing of beauty. It told a story.
When I was in school, my friends and I would get together at the end of the year and make a mix tape, Songs From Freshman Year, Songs From Sophomore Year, etc. Before we headed into summer, we bonded one last time over the shared memories, reliving the good times, the annoyances, and the heartaches as we put together our own soundtrack for that year.
My first serious boyfriend made me a mix tape over winter break from school and gave it to me when we were reunited. He had decorated the tape insert with elaborate drawings of flowers. Although the boyfriend is long gone, I think I still have the tape in a box somewhere (even though I don’t own a working cassette player), along with the Recovery mix a friend made to cheer me up after the boyfriend and I split.
Whether the mix tape was mirthful, bitter, inspirational, maudlin, joyful, schmaltzy, whimsical, or some combination thereof, it meant something. The arc of songs was a snapshot of life. It was something that just couldn’t and can’t be accomplished by hitting shuffle.
I don’t recall exactly when my mother’s preoccupation with Billy Idol began. I can’t say I remember her having much of an opinion about him either way at the height of his popularity in the 1980s. Nevertheless, some time within the last decade or so, my mom has become a huge fan of Billy Idol, has seen him in concert numerous times, and has an autographed picture of him (although the authenticity of the autograph is questionable as the picture was purchased at a flea market).
Create a picture in your mind of what a stereotypical Billy Idol fan might look like. At this point, I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I’m fairly certain that it would look nothing like my mother. Although she looks quite a bit younger than her 60-something years, she is distinctly lacking in that punk sensibility one might expect from Billy idolizer. Her strawberry blonde hair is short and curly, and she favors capri pants and cute but sensible shoes. She does have a tattoo on the back of one shoulder, but that remains hidden most of the time. Also, it’s a dolphin, as opposed to, say, a skull or a snake.
Anyway, logically, I know that your age and appearance do not dictate what music you love and vice versa. What I find odd about my mom’s love for Billy Idol is the seeming suddenness and intensity with which it hit. I remember her casually remarking that she liked “Dancing With Myself,” and the next thing I knew, she was requesting BIlly Idol at every wedding she attended, going to concerts, and buying autographed pictures. Now, I’m not talking about full-blown obsession or anything. She never considered abandoning her life to follow him on tour. It’s just that her adoration for Mr. Idol seemed to come, with great fervor, out of nowhere.
This spring, when the lineup for Milwaukee’s Summerfest was announced, my mom asked me if I wanted to see Billy Idol with her. I’ve always enjoyed his music, perhaps not with the same intensity as she does, but I do like it. However, I’d never particularly thought of him as someone I would go out of my way to see. But what the heck, why not? You only live once, right? Why not make seeing Billy Idol with my mother a part of that?
Due in part to high demand and in part to some apparently misleading and inconsistent information on the Summerfest web site, we were unable to obtain advanced tickets online. However, that did not mean we were necessarily out of luck. One of the nice things about Summerfest is that there are almost always reserved seats released (for free, except the price of general entry to the festival) at the box office on the day of the show on a first come, first served basis. Failing that, bleacher seating and standing room were also options. When I explained these various possibilities to my husband, who had decided to come along, he shook his head and remarked that it was all kind of surreal that we were driving up to Milwaukee and coordinating all of this so my mother could see Billy Idol.
When we arrived at the Summerfest gates, my mom simply had to show her ID because it was senior day, and those 60 years or older got free admission before 4:00 pm. “I bet Billy will be a big draw for the senior crowd,” my mom remarked, and I instantly experienced some cognitive disharmony. Billy Idol reminds me of my youth, which does not seem that long ago, so hearing his name in the same breath as “senior crowd” (not referring to seniors in high school) seemed wrong. Of course, I know that Mr. Idol is 57 years old, perhaps not technically a senior citizen, but enough to join the AARP (never mind the fact that he’s British).
Alas, the advanced tickets were gone by the time we arrived at the box office. My mother was instantly anxious about not being able to get bleacher seats, but I tried to calm her down and convinced her that our best plan of attack would be to get to the amphitheater on the early side, at least half an hour before the opening act began, to secure our bleacher seats and save on for my Dad, who would be joining us after he was done herding cats (no, really, he was looking after some feral cats for a vacationing friend and had to herd them into a shed each evening for protection from coyotes). We enjoyed some other bands, food, and beer, (mostly) avoided the rain, and got to the amphitheater about 40 minutes before Billy’s opening band was scheduled to start and were shocked at the size of the crowd. At first, the prospect of finding seats did not seem promising, but we managed to find some in the back. As we settled in, I suggested that my mom text my father as to where are seats were located because, once the band began playing, hearing phone calls would be difficult.
“Oh, he doesn’t text.” my mom said. “I showed him how once, but I don’t know if he remembers.”
This thought had not occurred to me. “Well, he could read a text, though, right?” I said, taking for granted that texts pop up on the screen of my phone automatically.
“Probably,” she said, sounding decidedly unsure, and began to compose a text. It couldn’t hurt.
When my dad called me some time later, it was impossible to hear on my phone, so I wended my way outside the amphitheater until I could hear him. The problem was, he still could not hear me. He told me he would try to find a better location and call me back, but when he did so, it was no better. No matter how loudly, slowly, or deliberately I repeated our location, he could not make head or tale of what I was saying. “Did you get the text?” I said repeatedly, hoping he would at least pick up the word text and fiddle with his phone long enough to come across the message from my mom.
“What?” he said again. “Put your mom on. Maybe I’ll understand her.”
My dad didn’t realize that I was now nowhere near my mother. “I’ll have her call you back,” I said with the vague hope that he might have heard and returned to the bleachers to tell my mom what had happened. She left to try where I had failed. I waited and did my best to enjoy the 80s hair band cover band that served as the opener. An update from my mom let me know that she couldn’t get in touch with my father. Calls to his phone were going straight to voice mail.
The fact that my dad, whom I had never known to be a big concert-goer, had not only voluntarily agreed to come see Billy Idol but also had agreed to this knowing that he would be arriving later than everyone else ant that we would have to coordinate our meeting via cell phone amidst lots of noise had perplexed me and added to the already surreal quality of the evening. Now, it seemed there was a good possibility that we wouldn’t even be able to find each other!
Twenty or so minutes later, my mom arrived back at our seats with my father, whom she’d found wandering amongst the crowd. “I was channeling him!” she told me. In any case, I was happy we were finally all together.
The concert was fun. Billy played all his hits with the energy of a much younger man. My mother elbowed my enthusiastically when Billy took his shirt off (as if I hadn’t noticed and wasn’t already marveling at his abs). Despite all of the snafus we encountered, a good time was had by all.
As we were leaving the park after the concert, my dad remarked to me, “I must have made 300 cat posts* while listening to Billy Idol. That was my go-to CD. It made the time go so fast.”
It was a surreal evening, indeed, but one that kind of made me want to cry, “More! More! More!”
Of course, with a rebel yell.
*To avoid confusion, I should note that my dad used to construct cat scratching posts to be sold at fundraisers for the humane society. He was not, in fact, tweeting about kittens during the concert.
A few nights ago, some friends and I were conversing about the strengths and shortcomings of music today, when one of them mentioned, “Call Me Maybe.”
“What?” I asked. The title did not ring a bell. “I don’t think I know that one.”
I got incredulous looks as my friends proceeded to describe and even sing parts of the song while not even a flicker of recognition showed on my face. “It is not possible that you have not heard this song!” one of them insisted and then sang some more. I actually started to become concerned. Was my memory failing? Was I terribly old, unhip, and out of the loop? Was it possible that I was just listening to too much NPR?
A few days later, I looked up the song on YouTube and confirmed that I had not heard it before. Now that I have heard it, my reaction is a resounding, “meh.” It’s catchy. It’s not good, but it’s not awful. However, it is the type of song I would probably get annoyed with pretty quickly, so I felt thankful that, while this song has been doggedly assaulting the ears of Americans from coast to coast, I had somehow escaped unscathed for so long.
How did I manage this? Have I been living under a rock? No, it was much simpler than that. I had recently cut off my main line to the more bubble-gum aspects of pop culture. You see, for a long time, I faithfully listened to a popular Chicago radio morning show. This was, by no means, high-culture entertainment, but it was just the kind of relatively mindless amusement I like in the morning as I gear up for my day. The music was repetitive and sometimes not the best, but the show was mostly talk and not a lot of music, so I tolerated what I didn’t care for. Gradually, though, the music they played became worse and worse. The (in my humble opinion) more tolerable members of their music library (P!nk, The Killers) increasingly made way for Ke$ha, Usher, and similar artists who sing what I refer to as “The Soundtrack of Suck.” I found myself changing the station to get away from it so often that, one day, I just never went back.
And so I avoided “Call Me Maybe” until just recently.
Sure, you might call me an out-of-it weirdo geezer, but come on–there’s a little part of you that envies me, right? 😉 There’s room under the rock if you want to join me.
Today, a local radio station had Pink Floyd as their “Friday Feature,” and as I listed I recalled the first time I ever saw, The Wall. I was in high school and, perhaps remarkably considering what you typically associate with Pink Floyd, I was completely sober. I let the music wash over me as I watched Pink descend into madness as the metaphorical worms ate away at his brain, but there was one thing that kept nagging at my mind. That guy playing Pink–he looked a lot like Bob Geldof. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that he didn’t just look like Bob Geldof but, in fact, was Bob Geldof. Apparently I didn’t need booze or pot–I could be air-head just fine without any chemical enhancement!
When the movie was over (and I had neglected to look at the credits), my thoughts became unruly and wanted to be expressed verbally. “Man, that guy looks just like Bob Geldof,” I said to no one in particular, undoubtedly with a bit of that space cadet glow.
One of my friends turned her head slowly toward me and raised an eyebrow. “It is Bob Geldof.”
“Oh,” I said, my face reddening. “That explains it.”
Another friend looked at me quizzically. Clearly, this wasn’t the end of the conversation. “Wait a minute,” she said. “Who the heck is Bob Geldof other than that guy in The Wall?”
I scoffed. “The Boomtown Rats?”
The looks on my friends’ faces told me they were grasping onto something vaguely familiar in this name as they combed their memories.
“He co-wrote ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas.’ He organized Live Aid.”
Ha! I may have been air-headed and sober, but clearly, I was not alone in that.
I’ve seen The Wall several times since then, including once on Christmas morning. I had gotten the movie for my Dad for Christmas, and really, what’s a better way to share holiday cheer with your family than gathering around the TV to watch school children being ground into hamburger? Anyhow, each time I see it, I chuckle to myself as I think of how much Bob Geldof resembles himself.