I have known quite a few girls, and many of them did rock*. Here are five, though, who effected my music tastes more than the others. In their honor, I gave them a song that reminds me of their influence, and I asked them to give a guest editorial of the tune. Not on the list? Maybe I think you’re not a girl, but a lady. . . also, I pick five. That’s my thing. Even my porno website does “Gimme Five Or Less”.
Anyway, say “hello” to. . .
1. Becky Bowen Whiteley(“Cross Town Traffic”, Jimi Hendrix)
My first venture into a scholastic group that didn’t involve music was the school Forensics team(speech, drama, and debate, not CSI:West Fork). I played baseball, but I was mainly with people my own age, and, importantly, only guys. In Forensics there were girls. Older girls.
I don’t know why I thought older girls were so fascinating, but I did. It was the same way in band(The winner? Daisy Moore, by a long shot.). But unlike band, Forensics was very social oriented, and full of more intriguing people. Some of them were “crossover” people that I knew from band also, and I gravitated toward them, mainly because I have the social skills of a shy used Kleenex.
There was a girl, whose name I can’t remember, who wore an Army jacket and was listening to It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on my first tournament trip, which might as well have been something Venusian. There was Beth DeCrescenzo, whose blissed-out face when she listened to “Cross Town Traffic” I will never forget(also, when she shared with me how the vocals phased across the stereo headphones I felt totally special).
But I also has a third “in” with Becky: her brother, Ben, was my best friend at the time. He and I had our own musical memories(made a homemade record player and TOTALLY FUCKED UP HIS DAD’S COPY OF CHUNGA’S REVENGE), but this one goes to his sister. She was my Improv Duet partner, and I owe her a debt to introducing me to the world of social dorkdom.
I gave Becky “Cross Town Traffic” as a token of her power over, and her acceptance of, a geeky kid like me.
(Becky didn’t send me a responce, perhaps because she has been traveling to and fro from Canada. Say “hi” to Born Ruffians for me!)
2: Laura Phillips(“Heartbreaker/Livin Lovin Maid”, Led Zeppelin)
I take some comfort in the realization that, as weird of a guy as I am, and as difficult of an adolescence I might have had, some parts of it were beautifully typical. I rode bikes around town with the neighbors. I went to slumber parties where we watched Friday The 13th movies. And I had a girlfriend in high school.
Ok, that part maybe doesn’t seem that typical if you know me now. But it is surprisingly typical for gay guys to have girlfriends in high school, and even though our relationship was ultimately doomed, Laura and I did love each other, and after a messy breakup and years of absence and growing up, we are good friends. It’s comforting to know that you can make some mistakes and still recapture a friendship. It’s also good to know that even though we have grown up a lot, we are still atypical weirdos.
Now, this isn’t a knock on Laura(I mean, she did have a copy of Arc when we were in college), but Led Zeppelin is the one band that high school guys and gals can share, Laura and I included. The Grand Red Snapper Equalizer. Some of the songs are terribly girly and some are totally rockin. I gave Laura “Heartbreaker” and “Livin Lovin Maid”, which are usually played one after another on your classic rock venues. One totally rockin, one totally girlie(I’m not sure why the girls never got into Sabbath or Slayer, but they could all sing along to “Baby Got Back”. Beyond me.).
I am not a writer. I have friends who are, my partner is, but I am not. So bare with me. At least it wasn’t “bear” with me, right?
When I met Kent and started hanging out with him, I had never heard of Led Zeppelin much less listened to any of their music. Slowly, I learned, like a good Meerkin teenager with angst, that they made good music that had a beat and that I could dance to. Or fall in love to. Or break up to. My first boyfriend made me a mix tape that featured alot of Led Zeppelin, including what I thought of as Our Song[ed. note: it was “Thank You”, if you really want to know. . .].
I have been asked to write about “Heartbreaker/Livin Lovin Maid” off of Led Zeppelin II. The tracks usually are played together since they flow together on the album. Its kind of a bitchy song. All the “the way you call me by another guy’s name when I try to make love to you” and the “heartbreaker , your time has come, cant take your evil away” talk. I mean, if the gentleman had something to say to the lady, perhaps he could just tell her instead of asking her to go away so rudely. Now for “Livin Lovin Maid”…Oh dear, where to start…Wikipedia, bastion of all knowledge, says that this song is about an annoying groupie who wouldnt leave the band alone. They obviously have issues. “Tellin’ tall tales of how it used to be,
Livin’, lovin’, she’s just a woman.” Now, if I were one to read things into lyrics, I would say that these men are bitter about failed relationships, but thats just not my style.
Since I am not a music dork like King Dorkus, I will just say that both are rockin songs that I usually hear played in a pool hall, stinking of cigarette smoke and stale beer and desperation. Both bring to mind the early ’90s in my mind. My 11 year old son has recently discovered Led Zeppelin and sings along off tune but passionately. Its nice to see another generation listening but perhaps my son wont have painful memories associated with their music for 16 or so years of his life.
3. Sarah Gofoth Heitz(Paradise City”, Guns N’ Roses)
I could talk about how I consider Sarah my twin sister, a twin sister that got more smarts, better social skills, and most of the other good stuff and left me, along with a lifelong kinship, a better appetite and a thicker, fuller beard.
Musically, I could talk about how Sarah once sent me a letter describing some of her current listening favorites as Del The Funky Homosapien, Calexico, Neko Case, and Iron Maiden, and my heart almost burst with joy and assurance that we really are twins. Or that my geeky smarts were totally trumped by the fact that she could play the piano in elementary school.
But what I will write about is her bitchin’ Guns & Roses t-shirt.
When we were in seventh grade, in 1988, Guns & Roses owned all of us. Later it would be all about the G&R Lies tee that you had to turn inside out to wear at school, but in the beginning everyone that was cool had an Appetite For Destruction shirt.
I did not. Sarah did. She had the coolest unique one, with a pink spray-paint grafitti motif(are you allowed to use the word “motif” when describing a Guns & Roses t-shirt?). The truth is that she probably felt as uncool as me. Oh, but the shirt said otherwise. . . “Paradise City”, ma’am?
“I still turn up the volume when it comes on the radio, but I no longer wear the shirt.”
[ed. note: She had no idea I was going to bring up the shirt. It was that fucking awesome of a shirt.]
4. Jenny Savage(“A/B Machines”, Sleigh Bells)
Jenny is the only Hipster that exists. I’m sure of it.
Which is a good thing, because she is awesome, talented, and funny. But she is definately the only actual person I can have a “Hipster” music conversation with. Every other source for that kind of music for is either the radio or a handful of websites. I know some people who like some Hipster songs, or are familiar with the archetype of “Hipster”, but I’ve never met an actual “Hipster”.
Jenny probably qualifies, but she doesn’t really carry any of the negative weight that the term comes with. Yes, she loves pop culture, Japanese and Korean pop media, video games, and monochromatic deer. But she did introduce me to some real stars of the Hipster canon; Department Of Eagles is one of my favorite bands. I gave her “A/B Machines”, a song that makes me furiously, Hipsterishly, dance.
(Jenny has decided not to respond. I’m pretty sure it has to do with gay Pirate romance fan fiction, and I am one-hundred-percent not kidding.)
[UPDATE: JENNY SAVAGE SPEAKS!]
A/B Machines is my least favorite song on an otherwise bitching album. Maybe because it is about organization instead of riding dolphins and sunburns. It is also probably the most straight-forward song. ‘Straight-forward’ not being what I’d expect from a band that makes what I can only describe as Fuzzy Metal Twee.
Generally though, my least favorite song on any given album eventually becomes my favorite. But that is not going to happen to A/B Machines. A coworker (with consistently terrible taste) says they love A/B Machines, so I will probably always dislike it out of spite.
5. Jen Carney(“The White Ship”, HP Lovecraft)
Maybe I used a bit of hyperbole describing Hipsters. But this is no joke, and no exaggeration: girls don’t like music.
I mean, they don’t like like music. Not like any of my guy friends. I don’t know why. I have no clue. I know some girls that are into sports, hunting, but none into music.
Except Jen Carney. She is totally passionate about rock and roll, and articulate about it, and knowledgeable and scholarly and in love with it. She had a radio show. She’s seen The Who multiple times. SHE HAD A YES T-SHIRT. The whole reason I started bolstering my psychedelia catalog was because of her.
She started sitting in, along with me, during Tim Dodd’s “The Black Lodge” radio show and I got to know her. One night we were casually talking, and somehow my being gay popped up. She acted like she couldn’t believe it. I wanted to tell her I felt the same way about her being a girl.
I gave her “The White Ship”, which is obscure-ish and awesome, and she responded in kind.
This is what ‘Calypso’ would have sounded like if John Denver dropped acid, lived out in Marin County on a ranch and was involved in the doomsday cult of Cthulu.
“The White Ship” is a gorgeous psych rock march, certainly evocative of the “San Francisco sound” – which, to me, has always meant Jefferson Airplane and It’s a Beautiful Day, shaken, not stirred – but there are shades of complexity in this tune that aren’t typical to the genre. That someone in HP Lovecraft is a classically trained musician is plainly obvious, and you can hear “Dark Side of the Moon” lurking in the shadows.
The haunting proto-progginess and staggering harmonies must have sounded revelatory in the era just before everyone got so damned self-conscious about grandiose rock music – and before musicians got too self-important to notice that their fans noticed that they were getting too self-important.
I’m such a sucker for the slow build of this tune, and especially for the particular strummy electric guitar sound that was used all the time in the mid/late-60’s. You know what I mean; if not, listen to “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” or “Volunteers”. You never hear that anymore and I miss it in modern music the way that only someone who wasn’t “there” can.
Nor do you hear the sorts of organ flourishes and trills, nor the raga-inspired orchestral bits and guitar distortion. To many, these sounds are “dated”; I prefer to think of them as timeless.
Music like this song makes the current gentrified incarnation of Haight/Ashbury even more repulsively soulless. Yeah, we got a bunch of dirty hippies out of the whole mess, but wasn’t the music worth it?
Thanks again, girls. You totally rock.
*If you thought I was going to bring up Amy Patterson. . . let’s just keep that between us.