Tuesday, November 15, 2016

on this day in 2004: excerpts from a journal, November edition.

15 November 2004

So I got up early this morning to go to the Touchdown Jesus church for oral interp regions. Our Readers' Theatre put on a good show, but there were too many others better than us. Oh well.

After Readers' Theatre, Bob and I went to eat (Mrs Wendland drove us). Everyone (but Bob) got Subway, and we took it back to the church. Mrs Holzer yanked Bob off to serious plays (editor's note: this is an oral interp category) before he could eat his food. He returned two hours later to two disgusting cold cheeseburgers. While waiting for Mrs Holzer, we were talked to Kristi Jensen, who I really enjoy. I mentioned that I would cry if Bob's and my duet didn't make it to State (which is in Pierre), and Bob said, "I'll cry for you." After they announced the qualifiers (Bob for serious plays, Kristi for humorous, Jessica for poetry), Mrs Holzer took Jessica, Kristi, and Darryl to eat since they hadn't had lunch. Bob and I just sort of came along, and Bob made me smuggle is one remaining cold cheeseburger into Subway.

Back at church, Bob and I practiced our duet because we had both added lots of stuff. We were sixth, so we had a long time to wait. The ones we heard before ours were decent; nothing spectacular. When it was our turn, I was terrified. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Oral interp isn't supposed to be like this! Anyway, we rocked. Lots and lots of ad-libbing, which is now our new best friend. The three judges all laughed a lot, as did the rest of the room. Finally, they announced the results: Bob and Calla for duet! We got our little medals and shook everyone's hands. Whew! So relieved! Bob and I requested a State Oral Interp pep rally and shirts that say "We're Going to the Dome! (in Pierre)". We're also going to wear our medals around school tomorrow and insist that people refer to us as "your majesties the State Qualifiers."

Back in Arlington, we went straight to play practice. Sarah congratulated us when she heard the news, and Tiff gave me a hug. LouAnn Jensen came in with a sign reading "AHS INTERP ROCKS!" and Rachel said, "I missed you so much!"

We just quickly ran through everything, and it was pretty painless (for Bob and me, that is... we got there at 530 while everyone else had been there since 315). Gayle is making a Wayne's World hat for me, and it will rock. 

Current music: "Across the Universe" by the Beatles

Sunday, November 13, 2016

top ten Clash songs.

In these few days following the election, I (like so many) have lots of feelings. ALL THE FEELINGS. And, whenever one is overwhelmed with powerful feelings of anger and sadness, music always makes things better.

In this case: shouty left-wing British punk. Specifically? THE CLASH.

I have loved the Clash since I was a wee teenager in rural South Dakota. While other angry early 2000s teenagers were listening to Green Day, I wound up in the 1970s, listening to the Clash – with a bit of the Ramones sprinkled in for taste. (I have my good friend Allison to thank for this: she lent me her copy of London Calling when we were fourteen, and it changed my life.)

Fast forward to today, and I would rank the Clash as one of my top five favorite bands of all time. I recently purchased London Calling on vinyl, and it is (no contest) the most-played LP in my collection. So today, I’d like to share (in no particular order, save for the London Calling grouping) my ten favorite Clash songs… because we could all use a little more British punk in our lives.

(DISCLAIMER: YouTube wouldn't let me embed normal versions of any of these songs, so please: just click on the bold song title to follow the links to YouTube. They will be the real deal, and you won't be sorry.)

After singing the praises of London Calling, I must tell you that half of my favorite Clash songs come from London Calling. So here’s what we’re going to do: the first five songs on my list are all London Calling songs, so we'll talk about all those right away. Then we'll move on to the rest of the catalog. "Train in Vain" originally appeared as a hidden track at the very end of London Calling - or, not precisely hidden, as it was a last-minute add after the album sleeve had been printed. I LOVE "Train in Vain" - it's sort of a love song, and I can't resist its bouncy tune, the harmonica, and the iconic voice of Mick Jones.

"Spanish Bombs" was one of my very early Clash favorites, and I still love it so dearly. One of the myriad reasons I love the Clash is that, besides being the amazing punk rockers they are, a lot of their songs are quite educational. "Spanish Bombs" references the Spanish Civil War and late 1970s tourism to Spain. You can also learn a bit of pidgin Spanish if you want to: Joe Strummer sings "Yo te quiera infinitoyo te quiera, oh mi coraz√≥n." And good luck getting that out of your head after you listen to it.

Another history lesson in song: "Rudie Can't Fail" is about the "rude boys" in 1960s Jamaica who challenged the status quo of the elders. True story: for years and years, I thought the song was about some guy named Rudy who... well, couldn't fail. Thank you, Wikipedia, for setting me straight.

 "Lost in the Supermarket" was written in 1979, but its message holds true today. It's about consumerism and the commercialization of the world - about alienation in the suburbs and the disillusionment of young people. Sound familiar?

"The Card Cheat" is the fifth and final song off London Calling on this list.  "The Card Cheat" wasn't all that high on my list until several years ago when it played on the Current while I was living in Minneapolis. I couldn't believe I'd been neglecting this song for all those years. Of the many things I love about the Clash, their instrumentation gets me every time - and this song is a prime example.

This is a cover, and while I do love the 1960s original version, this song was MEANT for the Clash. My absolute favorite part is where they sing the lyric "robbing people with a six gun," and in the background, you can hear six drum hits in an almost waltz-beat. SO GOOD. “I Fought the Law” is best listened to at top volume while speeding. (I mean, speeding? I never do that.)

Like all of my very favorite artists, I have a distinct memory of the first song of theirs that I heard and loved. With the Clash, it was "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" I feel like if you know one Clash song, it's this one. I love the spitting emotion in Mick Jones's voice - we've all felt this way at one time or another, be it about a relationship or a job or what have you. And we all need just the right song to get us through.

 One of the things I love most about writing these song posts is that I learn a whole lot about said songs - thanks mostly to Wikipedia, so it all has to be true. I never gave much thought to what "Hitsville UK" was about: I only knew that I loved the melody and the instrumentation. Turns out "Hitsville UK" is about the fledgling indie music scene in 1970s/1980s Britain, contrasting the commercialization of the major labels and artists selling out to them. See? More history education, thanks to the Clash.

 I am an absolute sucker for a waltz, and I'm a super sucker for a waltz in rock music (see also: "Waltz #2" by Elliott Smith). "Rebel Waltz," like "Hitsville UK" and "Police on My Back," is from the album Sandinista!, which is just about as wonderful as London Calling. Sandinista! is full of different music styles, including this waltz. The guitar intro is possibly my favorite introduction of all time.

 “Police on My Back” is also a cover – it was originally released in the late 1960s by some band I’ve never heard of (the Equals – their only hit was “Baby Come Back”). Like “I Fought the Law,” “Police on My Back” seems meant for the Clash. And also like “I Fought the Law,” “Police on My Back” sounds the best at high speeds. Throughout the song, the guitar part sounds like sirens. How appropriate/awesome.


Ok, so “Redemption Song” isn’t TECHNICALLY a Clash song: it was written by Bob Marley and covered by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros in 2002. The version I love most is a duet between Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash: iconic voices, to be sure. And the lyrics? "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds." True and powerful then, true and powerful now.


There you have it: my ten favorite songs by the Clash, plus one extra. (You should know that there are at least five other Clash songs that I love dearly - but not as dearly as these ten - so feel free to ask me about them!) I really do appreciate you taking the time to read through all this, and I can talk about the Clash until I'm blue in the face, but nothing at all compares to listening to them. So if you haven't yet, please go and listen to the Clash. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

five songs I'm listening to now, volume II.

A few months back, I shared a list of five songs to which I couldn't stop listening. (Sorry: attempting not to end sentences in prepositions results in pretentious sentences.)

I typically don't listen to a lot of music in the car: MPR is my go-to auto entertainment. However, when I wrote my last list of five song, I had taken an MPR break because it was the member drive. (Shudder.) This time, I'm taking a break because I am SO FREAKING TIRED of election coverage. Yes, it's so very very important, but couldn't we talk about something else for just a little bit? Please?

So I'm on a talk radio hiatus, and I've been more or less playing this five songs on repeat. If you need a break from nonstop political jabber, I recommend you give these a listen.

Dance Rascal Dance
Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters
Fact: this is a song by a fake band. It was part of the soundtrack to a movie called Hello, My Name is Doris - a totally adorable film about Sally Field falling in love with Schmidt from New Girl. It is SO CUTE and you have to watch it right now. However, be prepared to be obsessed with this song for months afterward. Or maybe that's just me.

Lovers Eyes
Mumford and Sons
James and I went to a Mumford and Sons concert in April, and I've been listening to them more or less nonstop ever since. Seeing a band live definitely gives you a whole new appreciation for their music - before we saw Mumford and Sons, I had (shamefully) only listened to about a third of their music. I have since expanded my Mumford and Sons horizons, and "Lovers Eyes" is my current favorite. It's from their second album (Babel), which is pretty easily my favorite of the three. Their first album was amazing, but they really seemed to come into their own on the second album before kind of selling out on the third. "Lovers Eyes" is kind of the epitome of what made people love Mumford and Sons: powerful lyrics, great and emotive harmonies, and totally badass banjo playing.

Twenty One Pilots
The Bjorklund-Jarvie household has a serious thing for Twenty One Pilots - we listen to them ALL THE TIME, have both albums on vinyl, and are going to their concert in February. (SO EXCITED.) They have so many great songs, but "Ride" is my absolute favorite. It's off their Blurryface album, and I listen to it at least twice a day. Remember how I've said that Twenty One Pilots have an uncanny ability to put into song exactly how you are thinking/feeling? "Ride" does that with the line "I've been thinking too much/help me." As a chronic overthinker, that struck a chord (HA MUSIC PUN) with me. Not to mention the reggae beat and the rap section (which I love oh so dearly). 

Ashes to Ashes
David Bowie
"Ashes to Ashes" is a song that I had more or less forgotten about until James and I went to see the South Dakota Symphony play a Prince/David Bowie concert at the end of October. "Ashes to Ashes" was one of the songs they performed, and I suddenly loved it. It's eerie (especially if you watch the music video), and since I had almost no memory of it, it was like getting to hear a brand new David Bowie song. I cannot stop listening to it - I listened to it four times in a row on the way to work yesterday, and I've listened to it three times since I've been home for work today. I think I have a problem.

Better Than Ezra
Speaking of songs whose existence I had forgotten, "Good" crossed my radar after years and years of absence - I don't know where or why I heard it, but it's been wedged in the 90s music part of my brain ever since. It's so catchy, and the guitar is so delightfully 90s that it gives me all sorts of nostalgic fuzzies. And I'm only a little bit ashamed with James catches me listening to it in the car.


There are the five songs! Stay tuned (HA! I'm on a roll with music puns!) for more, especially since Christmas music is just around the corner...