Tag Archives: music

This time, we’ll get it right

Bob Seger Roll Me Away quotePretty much every Bob Seger song is him reminiscing about his youth.

That’s not to knock Bob Seger. I’m a huge fan. But if you listen to his lyrics, you start to notice a pattern.

“Night Moves.” “Like a Rock.” “Main Street.” “Against the Wind.” Each song is about an older man looking back on his youthful self.

Seger’s all about nostalgia. That’s his thing.

And I suppose I’m a fan because nostalgia is my thing, too.

I think all of us reminisce about the past to some degree. We think back to bygone days – to roads not taken, missed opportunities, relationships never pursued.

It’s only natural to daydream about what could have been – to ponder what never was.

In a lifetime composed of divergent paths, we can’t help but muse about routes not traveled.

But at what point does nostalgia transform to living in the past? When does innocent remembrance turn into wistful reminiscence?

If I’m honest with myself, my glory days weren’t that glorious. That’s not to say they were unpleasant, but I don’t look back on them with sepia-colored lenses and bask in my youthful exuberance.

They were a time in my life that’s passed. They helped forge me into who I am, but I can’t go back to relive them.

Nor would I want to. I don’t want to be like Napoleon Dynamite’s uncle, buying a mail-order time machine to get back to 1982. (Quick aside: If you ever do buy a time machine, make sure it has at least a two-year warranty. And make sure you don’t travel more than two years into the future, because that will void the warranty. Trust me; I’ve thought this one through.)

Yet I have a definite penchant for the past. I love looking at photos and home movies. I often think back to 10 years before, wishing I could relive certain moments and do-over others.

But reminiscence can quickly take over your life. And every moment you spend reflecting on the past is a moment you’re missing in the present.

Now more than ever, I’m dedicated to embracing the present.

Instead of lamenting missed opportunities, I’m looking forward to new ones.

Rather than pondering what could have been, I’m dreaming more about what could be.

Instead of gazing backward, I’ll set my focus on the horizon.

It’s easier to grieve for the past than it is to live for the moment. Grieving for what never was gives you an excuse not to change what is.

Embracing the here and now means taking responsibility for your life – and that’s scary. There are so many options and innumerable ways to fail.

But the past isn’t coming back. And that’s OK. We don’t need to go back in time to turn it all around. Second chances aren’t exclusive to 1982.

We have this moment, today, to make our lives what we want. We can choose our own destinies. We can blaze our own trails.

Interestingly, my favorite Bob Seger song is “Roll Me Away.”

And unlike his other tunes, it has nothing to do with reminiscing about the past.

Instead, it’s all about embracing the now.

It’s about a guy who climbs on his motorcycle one day and takes off for adventures unknown.

He cherishes the moment. He savors life.

I can’t think of a better anthem to embody my newfound penchant for the present.

And like Seger says in the song: “This time, we’ll get it right.”


Church-Lady meets Lars Ulrich

Music Review: “25 Organ Favorites”


Author’s Note: My great-grandmother bought me this album when I was in high school. I imagine she ventured to Tower Records and asked the clerk what kind of music a teenage boy would like. Snickering, he probably handed her the CD and said, “Try this, lady. I’m sure he’ll love it! Huh huh!”

I was delighted to find this album is now on iTunes, and to show my appreciation, I decided to pen the below review. The album is a compilation of songs played on the organ … with an inexplicably aggressive drummer providing the backbeat. Yeah.

“Thanks, Grandma!” I said, biting my lip as I examined the CD. “This is exactly the kind of music my friends and I listen to!” 

When you combine a little-old-lady organist with a heavy-metal drummer, the result is this explosive album featuring some of the most head-banging licks ever pounded out by a blue-haired virtuoso. From the opening track of “Shine on, Harvest Moon,” thundering backbeats bludgeon the listener’s sensibilities while the organist’s gnarled, arthritic fingers tickle the Hammond’s ivories in a geriatric gusto. Not since “Toccata and Fugue” has the organ mourned with such a melodramatic flair. With pulse-pounding drum flourishes reminiscent of Metallica, the rumbling percussion crashes and reverberates, providing an epic, frenzied accompaniment to the churchgoing organist. The monumental standout is “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which swells with uncontrollable insanity as the organ’s tenacious tonewheels deliver a powerful, melodious sermon worthy of the grandest cathedral. This ain’t your Bingo-playing grandmother, here; this organist is blasting out Herculean hits like a modern-day Goliath. So loosen up your cardigan and slip off your orthopedic shoes, because with this heavy-metal hitter, the organ bellows with Bach-esque grandiosity.

Sweet serenade in the moonlight

If you’re looking to serenade a special someone in the moonlight, it’s never advisable to bring a synthesizer. Trust me on this one. Even if it’s portable and uses four D batteries instead of an electrical cord, the hassle is sure to undermine your amorous intentions.

Man serenades woman in dark alleyFirst of all, you have the lug the oversized thing four blocks to your lover’s downtown apartment. And being an underpaid artist with starry-eyed aspirations, she of course lives in a sketchy neighborhood. Tromping along the sidewalk with the keyboard hoisted upon your shoulder — like a lone pallbearer at a Yamaha funeral — you’re always afraid some hoodlum’s going to approach you, pull out a switchblade, and demand you play the distinctive riff from “Low Rider.” (Which would be terrifying, because you’ve never practiced any War songs.)

Then you have to set the thing up on the sidewalk beneath her third-story window, and the latch on the flimsy plastic stand breaks when you pry it open. And there are no streetlights near this deteriorating, forlorn structure, so you can’t see what you’re doing. You end up setting the keyboard off-center, and it slips off the stand and onto the sidewalk, chipping one of the keys — with your luck, probably a C.

And then the wretched thing won’t turn on because when it fell, one of the batteries came loose. So now you got to flip the keyboard over to find the hatch. And when you step backward, you end up kicking an alley cat that was rubbing against your shoe, because it has a thing for slip-on Vans with checkerboard patterns.

So the miserable feline screeches and belts for a nearby Dumpster, knocking the metal lid off a trashcan, which echoes like a sonic boom in the otherwise silent night. It almost sounds as if you’re jamming with Stomp.

When you finally get the keyboard on, you stare up at your beloved’s window and launch into a soul-wrenching rendition of “Broken Wings.” The bass notes thud in time to your hammering heart, and your soul pours out in a quixotic display of melody and harmony … even though you tend to sing off-key.

And lights flicker on throughout the apartment building, like individual stars blinking to life in the twilight sky. And a blue-haired old bag in a ratty bathrobe sticks her head out the window and screams “Shut the hell up, you whiny bastard! You sound like Justin Bieber with his testicles caught in a blender!” (You decide to take that as a compliment.)

And other tenants start yelling, too. An empty bottle of Early Times whizzes past your ear and shatters in the alley behind you. And now that cat is screeching too, perched on the Dumpster and clawing on the lid, almost as if it were a DJ scratching a metal turntable.

“Shut up!” the neighbors scream.

“You suck!”

“Play ‘Freebird!’”

And yet the window of your beloved’s apartment remains dark. Perhaps she’s a deep sleeper, or maybe she’s pulling a late-night shift at the animal shelter, where she volunteers her time comforting abandoned alligators rescued from the sewer. She once said she’d like to adopt one for a pet, to give it a nice home.

“You could learn to stick your head in its mouth,” she once said. “You could perform on the street corner, and the crowds would love it. You’d probably make more money than you do now playing your stupid synthesizer in the subway.”

Now, as you launch into an elegant rendition of “Nights in White Satin,” every window except your lover’s is lit up. And as your voice cracks during the long, wailing refrain, you remember suddenly that Tuesday is her night to dance downtown at Trixie’s Gentleman’s Club. It dawns on you that she’s not even home tonight. (It also dawns on you that in addition to “Nights in White Satin,” the Moody Blues sang “Tuesday Afternoon,” which is either an eerie coincidence or a completely unrelated tangent to this rambling narrative.)

So you decide to pack in the operation as bottles and beer cans pelt the asphalt around you. But when the apartment’s lobby door flies open, and the overweight landlord starts charging toward you in his bathrobe, you can’t help setting the synthesizer to “tuba” mode and providing a rapid succession of bass notes to accompany his huffing, heavy-footed gait.

“Shut up!” he screams. “I’m big-boned!”

Just before he reaches you, you grab the keyboard and stand and start running. The alley cat prances alongside you. The landlord collapses on the pavement in a massive coughing fit.

Music is the pulse that surges through the night, like a saxophone on a street corner or a synthesizer in a subway. And because you brought the damn thing all this way (and also because is your lover is busy collecting dollar bills in her G-string), you decide to lug it down the stairs to the grimy station to entertain the late-night commuters.

And if someone requests “Broken Wings” or “Freebird,” then so much the better.

Saturday Afternoon with the Rolling Stones

a large crowd at a concertLate Saturday afternoon, I called my friend, Anita.

Come on over, I said. I’m cooking dinner.

“Sounds good,” she said. “Does that mean you’re ordering pizza or Chinese?”

Pizza, I said. The place down the street is having a $9.99 special. Speaking of which, I need to borrow 10 bucks.

“Ten bucks?” Anita said. “I don’t know. Your borrowing money might strain our relationship.”

Why should it? I asked. Relationships are built upon trust. For example, I trust you’ll give me money whenever I need it. Besides, you should be proud. Between the two of us, you’re the breadwinner. You bring home the bacon.

“True,” Anita said. “But I don’t bring home the bacon so I can feed it all to the pig.”

What a mean thing to say, I said. Especially when I’m here cooking you dinner.


I knew Anita would want something healthy, so I ordered an extra-large vegetarian pizza.

She frowned when I opened the box. “How come it’s got sausage, pepperoni and salami?”

I ordered those extra, I said. You’ll have to pick them off. But underneath, it’s a vegetarian. See the peppers and mushrooms?

“You’re always so considerate,” Anita said. “Speaking of which, I got you something when I was shopping today.” She handed me a plastic bag. “I didn’t wrap it — I know you hate wasting paper.”

Exactly, I said. That’s the main reason I oppose inflation.

“Open it up,” she said. “I can’t wait for you to see what it is.”

You didn’t have to get me anything, I told her. It’s not my birthday.

She shrugged. “I wanted to. Can’t I do something nice for the sweetest guy I know?”

The sweetest guy you know? I frowned. Hi, I’m Allen. Have we met?

“Just open the bag,” she said, glaring.

I reached in and pulled out a four-disc DVD set.

Hey! I exclaimed. This is what I’m talking about: “The Rolling Stones: The Biggest Bang”! It’s concert footage from their 2006 worldwide tour!

“I figured it’d be the next-best thing to seeing them live,” Anita said. “With the crappy economy, they may not tour again for a while.”

Yeah, you’re probably right, I said. And besides, have you seen the crowds those Stones concerts generate? Who’d want to thrash through a million-plus people to find a good seat? With my luck, I’d be trapped behind that unavoidable guy who’s hoisted his girlfriend atop his shoulders. Instead of seeing the band, I’d be stuck staring at a wedgie. If I wanted to watch an ass all night, I’d stay home and turn on the news.

“Never say ‘never,’” Anita said. “And who knows — they may even visit Reno. If they do, we’ll get the best seats possible, and you can hoist me atop your shoulders.”

Are you kidding? I asked. My shoulders can’t support two asses. The weight of my head is enough.

But I agree, I said. We shouldn’t give up hope. We may see the Stones someday. But if it’s not in the cards and we never see them in our lifetime, I hope at least our grandkids do.


After polishing off the rest of our pizza (Score: Anita, 1 slice; Allen, the rest), Anita and I sat down in the living room to watch my new Rolling Stones DVD.

I slipped one of the discs into the player and plugged the stereo into the TV. The speakers thundered to life with a pulsating roar.

“I hope your neighbor doesn’t get mad,” Anita said.

Forget him, I said. This is payback for him annoying me all the time. He’s up at dawn each day with his shower running and his toilet flushing. Then I hear him thrashing around in his kitchen and opening and slamming his closet door.

“That’s because he’s getting ready for work,” Anita said. “He has a job, Allen. That’s why he gets up at dawn.”

So? I said. I have a job, too. Right now, I’m reviewing a Rolling Stones DVD for my blog. My contribution to the economy is my intellectual insight.

“But no one reads your blog,” Anita said. “And if all you’re contributing to the economy is your intellectual insight, then it’s no wonder it still seems like a recession.”

I don’t follow you, I said, frowning.

The TV flashed with brilliant, vibrant colors as the Stones swept onto the stage. With a riff-exploding wrist-flick from Keith Richards and a foot-sliding stage-prance from Mick Jagger, the band launched into a soulful, body-sashaying rendition of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

Anita pointed at the screen. “Look at Mick Jagger’s pants. He must have a size-30 waist.”

Hey, I said. Keep your eyes off his pants. I could look like that if I wanted to. It’s just that I prefer the sedentary lifestyle. There’s a lot less work involved.

And besides, I added, just because someone’s skinny doesn’t mean they’re great.

“Well, no,” Anita said. “But in addition to being skinny, Mick Jagger’s also wealthy, talented, world-traveled and famous. I can see why women like him.” She looked at me. “You should get in shape. You have no excuse. Mick Jagger’s in his seventies. You’re less than half his age, and yet I bet you couldn’t swivel your hips without losing your breath.”

Forget my breath, I said. I’d be more concerned with losing my lunch.

“Then you agree that you need to get into shape,” Anita said.

Whoa, I said. Let’s not go that far. I’ve always thought exercise is overrated and unnecessary. Take Keith Richards, for example. He’s not exactly a wellness zealot. He and Ronnie Wood chain-smoke throughout their concerts. And I think there were some drug-related arrests in the past. Keith’s not exactly a poster child for temperance.

Yet if you listen closely, you’ll notice he never misses a note. The guy’s spot-on. He’s an amazing guitarist and a gifted songwriter. Plus, he can sing. How many of today’s musicians can do all that?

I think Keith achieved longevity by living life on his own terms and by having fun. You can tell those guys love performing — otherwise, why would they do it? Money? Women? Fame? (Well, come to think of it, that would be enough for me.)

The Rolling Stones represent much more than rock ’n’ roll, I said. They represent a philosophical approach on how to live. They’ve pursued their passions and flexed their creative muscles. They’ve traveled the globe and touched millions of people (most of them groupies). Their work breaks through cultural, linguistic and political barriers. They’ve not only endured through the decades — they’ve flourished. Their songs have become stitched into our societal quilt. The Rolling Stones epitomize the profound, soul-caressing life force of American music — an amazing accomplishment, considering they’re from England.

“I think we’re cutting you off,” Anita said, taking away my Heineken.

Oh, c’mon, I said. You know I’m right. Their music resonates because it touches your soul.

“Actually, it resonates because it’s too damn loud,” Anita said. “My ears are ringing. Turn it down.”

When I’m in my seventies, I said, I hope I have at least half the passion, talent and energy that Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie seem to have.

“What are you talking about?” Anita asked, frowning. “You don’t have half of their passion, talent or energy now. You just sit on the couch and blog. That’s why I want you to get in shape.”

OK, I said. Maybe I’ll start by walking to the fridge and fetching another Heineken, since you took mine away.

“Take just one step toward that fridge,” Anita said, “and you’ll be belting out a soulful rendition of ‘It’s All Over Now.’”