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Songs of the Times

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  1. Mick Mouse
    Well, my day started out the same as always. Get up, get the house awake and moving, everybody off to school and work, etc. Let the dog out, feed the stupid cat, and open up my bird cage. I have a pair of parakeets and they are crazier than a van full of hippies on Owlsley's Old Original. Now, I know that the title of this post is about songs, but these birds play a large part in that!

    The back-story: Me and The Dog were at PetSmart the other day, just because she (The Dog) wanted to shop for a new toy and maybe a few treats. Anyway, as we were walking up and down the isles drooling over the fish and laughing at the cats in jail (OK, I know they are up for adoption and not really in jail, but The Dog doesn't), we came across the bird section. Now, The Dog actually likes the birds (she likes the cat too, but there is no accounting for taste), so when we got to this area, we stopped and looked. I have these vague, unformed tweaker-style plans for building a bigger birdcage and I'm always looking for ideas, but that's another story. As we are standing there looking, I happen to glance up and see the "fact sheet" for the various kinds of birds, so of course I look for mine.

    Small birds. Check.
    Messy birds. Check
    Lives about 20-25 years. Check.
    Likes company. Check.
    Tamed easily. Check.
    Can be taught to mimic words. Check.
    Needs about an hour or two of verbal socialization a day and likes to listen to music. Che...huh?

    Never heard about that one before! All of a sudden, I discovered that my (previously) happy birds are in fact deprived! After a quick discussion with The Dog, we agree that there is only one logical course of action. Accordingly, we set out to Burger King and grab a couple of plain cheesburgers, then head out to the local music store.

    The Dog, true to her protective nature, offers to sit guard over the cheeseburgers while I run in to the store, so off I go. After picking out 4 or 5 new CD's, I realize that I have about a hundred of the damn things somewhere at home so, not wanting to look like some kind of weirdo who wanders around a store for 30 minutes picking things out only to set them down and leave, I go ahead and pay for what I have and head out to the car.


    Well, so far, not only has there been no mention of songs, but we have gone from birds to The Dog! Bear with me though, I'm getting there.

    Once I get back home (notice that I carefully stay away from any subject involving cheeseburgers? The Dog "suggested" that it is a subject best forgotten about), I start to dig through all of the crap that I haven't put away yet (we just moved into a new house a month or so ago) looking for all these stupid CD's. I find the box marked "CD's" and take it into my computer room, thinking I'll just download a few to my new laptop and start it running for the birds to listen to. Easy, right?

    Naturally, the box marked "CD's" had my wife's socks in it. I actually found the CD's in a box marked "kitchen spices-throw out". Makes me wonder if the wife doesn't have some small part to play in this, but that too is a topic for another thread. Anyway, I found that there was a considerably larger number of CD's than I remembered, but that's a good thing, right? I, however, see this as a headache, so I load a substantial bowl of my MMJ and get to work.

    First of all, everything gets sorted into piles by type. then I start ripping these to my Library.

    The hours pass by as I steadily rediscover memory after memory in this collection I have put together over the years. The new stuff lays forgotten (for now!) in a pile on the floor. The Dog has long ago curled up at my feet and went to sleep, while the birds are rocking out!.

    All told, a little over 1300 hours of music.

    My birds are very happy now, we listen to at least two hours of music every day, they chatter like crazy, bounce their heads up and down, and fly around a lot more. I'm happy, because two of the lives that I am responsible for have just been made a little better. Plus, I can finally get rid of all these CD's now and put different stuff in their place!

    But (No, I haven't forgotten!) this isn't about the birds or The Dog, or even me, for that matter.

    It's about the songs that have made up and defined my life. The first time I stole a kiss from my (now) wife-just bought Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy. Now, Warren was an acquired taste, much like coffee or beer, but who doesn't remember rocking out to Werewolves of London? Or Lawyers, Guns, and Money?

    Then there was Little Feat and Those Feat done steered you wrong this time-got my first DUI to that one. There are so many memories and they are all tied to a song, in some way or another. from as far back as I can remember.

    My first album, which I bought without the parents knowledge OR permission and which was also the first time I heard the term "devils music"-led Zep's Houses of the Holy. Boy, were they surprised when it turned out NOT to be a spiritual record! The first time my parents said "turn that garbage down!"-Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.


    First time I got laid-back set of my car in the parking lot of Keil Auditorium in St.Louis, MO. after seeing Styx World Tour #1. There was an excess of Sloe Gin involved, it was awkward and a little scary and "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath started to play. I shit you not! It gave me the confidence to get the deed done, that's for sure. I ended up marrying that bitch too (thank all the Gods that particular song came to an end!), but that is a topic that will never see a thread!

    I guess my point, if this mad ramble can be said to even have a point, is that -does it seem to anyone else that music has shaped and defined our lives in ways that are fundamental to who we are and how we relate to the world around us? And all while, for the most part, remaining below the conscious level. I mean, we hear music every day, and maybe at times we even pay a significant amount of attention to it, but how often to you really think of how it permeates your life and has been a part of your formative existence? Or am I merely retouching on a subject that has been done to death already?

    I'm sure it can all be explained by some psychobabble that I don't care about (and in all likelihood has a song attached to it somehow as well!) but right now the birds, The Dog, and I are rocking out to every album ever put out by the Grateful Dead that I have been able to get me hands on (and that is a 25 year project!), and the memories are flowing like water through my hands.

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  1. Mick Mouse
    Well, I as continue my trip down memory lane via music, I continue to stumble upon treasure after treasure! Yesterday was a day spent with Jimmy Buffet and, I have to say, was very enjoyable. Now, we all want to eat a Cheeseburger in Paradise while knowing that It's 5:00 Somewhere, most probably in Margueritaville., but I'm not talking about his better-known work. I absolutely love Son of a Son of a Sailor and A Pirate looks at 40 among others, but it is the littler-known songs I really enjoy.

    Songs like He Went to Paris. The quiet sadness of a life well spent, as seen by the man who lived it. The slide guitar and harmonica work there is just brilliant, in my opinion. Then you have offerings like Pencil Thin Mustache. Makes me want to break out the fedora and head over to Ricks American Cafe!

    From there, we headed over to the Blues. My collection of Blues is compact, but there are some good things in there. Plus, I found that the birds really like the different kinds of Blues, as well! We started out (of course!) with B.B. King, but we left the well-traveled path rather quickly. We journeyed with Albert King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and many of the Greats, but I have found-and for some reason I never thought about this until now-that I am constantly drawn back to some of the more "modern" stuff. Well, modern to an old fart like me, anyway.

    Stuff like Kenny Wayne Shepard. I first heard this guy when he was like 16 or so, on his second album, which was Ledbetter Heights. I thought at the time that he was pretty good, given his age and the genre he chose to play in, but when I heard his next album-Trouble is....- I was just blown away. Honestly, it just don't get any better! He now has I think 10 or 12 albums out and he is still in his early 30's! This "kid" played with Stevie Ray Vaughn when he was only 7, shared stages with Blues greats before he was 13, and Eric Clapton said in an interview shortly after the release of Trouble is...( in 1995) that Kenny Wayne Shepard plays better as a teenager than he did at the height of his career. When a Blues guitarist of that caliber hands out a complement of that gravity, you know he is something special. Another good youngster worth a listen is Johnny Lang.

    Then you have all of the Texas-based Ax murderers, like Johnny and Edgar Winter, Janis, the killers in Z.Z.Top, and many others. All in all, while the Baby gets all the press, the Parent is still alive and well. If you don't get the vague reference ( "The Blues had a Baby and they called it Rock and Roll, Mick Jagger, Muddy Waters, etc.) then you are probably too young for the Blues anyway! Well, maybe not.

    Anyway, while Blues legends like Elmore James, Big Mama Thorton, Taj Mahal, and those mentioned above make up the bedrock of my collection, it's these young guns that will take us to the future, in my opinion. And yes, the Blues does have a future! Many consider this genre to be closed, with all of the masters dead or dying off, but that's just not true.

    The roster of the Blues greats reads like a roll of honor-Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Pinetop Perkins, Robert Cray, Jimmy Rogers, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Elvin Bishop, Bob Margolin, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and so many more. If you add in those whose music was "influenced by" or "based in" the Blues, you have even more! Names like Eric Clapton, George Thorougood, Stevie Ray, the Stones. And I'm not even mentioning those U.K. Blues shredders!

    After a day like this, I am wondering what will come next! I think we will go Electronic and start out with Mr. Scruffy and Ninja Tuna. Should be interesting, to say the least!

    I find that every memory has a theme song, and our lives are ordered by what we hear. It affects our moods, our daily activities, and quite often, our entire life! Is that a good thing? Are we merely puppets whose strings are acoustic, rather than twine? Are there those out there who, after careful inspection, find that music does not or has not played a major part in their growing up? Obviously discounting those who are deaf or have a hearing impediment or some sort. I think that would be kind of sad, myself. To never experience the richness that comes from music. To never have that "This sounds exactly like what I feel/think/experience" moment.

    I was thinking that "Songs of the Times" would be a trip down memory lane, and it is to a certain extent, but I am finding that it is turning more and more into a reunion of old friends. It's one that I have missed, and is long overdue. Music has always been an important part of my life, almost like a soundtrack of sorts, but over the past few years, I have drifted further and further away from it.

    I woke up one day several years ago and realized that....there was nothing in my head! Now, many of you are no doubt thinking You are just NOW realizing that? We knew that a long time ago!, but that is not what I mean. I mean that I discovered that the soundtrack had stopped and that, for once, I was alone in my head. No music! Blissful silence! Yeah, that lasted for about 5 minutes before I started to panic. I realized then that, just as with anything, if you ignore it long enough, it will go away. That's what the music did-it went away. My life was changed, and I didn't think that I was going to like it much.

    I have been working to "re-connect" with music lately. I know it might sound kind of lame, but my life just doesn't seem complete without the soundtrack playing.

    Weird, huh?