Sued51's Blog











{August 13, 2015}   Of Buttons and Badges

buttons, badges

Button collection

The sorting, selling, and throwing out continues as I attempt to downsize.

I found this last week: my button collection (or badge collection as my British friend Brian would say). I made this guitar-shaped “pillow” to hang on the wall and display them back in my music-is-life days. I made one for my friend Jane too. (You can read about our favorite bands back in the 80s here.)

My first job out of college was as a receptionist at a law firm. It was a take-whatever-job-you-can-get time (just like the present). I dressed up in skirts and blazers for my job, but my “rebellion” of sorts (or personal life spillage) was that I always wore a music button. Conservative dress would just be Elvis Costello’s face in black and white rather than the more colorful ones. Our law firm wasn’t one with visitors coming in and out; we represented mostly companies and businesses. The office was one big room with rows of desks where lawyers and secretaries sat together like schoolchildren.

No one there commented about my buttons…except the secretary who sat behind me. She dressed in the latest fashions, wore lots of makeup and dripped with jewelry…and sarcasm. One day I wore a turquoise velour v-necked shirt and wore my hair up. The lawyer she worked for came in and said, “Well look at you…you look almost beautiful today!” To which she replied, “I wouldn’t go THAT far!”  When I left that job she said, “Let me give you a piece of advice…grow up and stop wearing those buttons!” Naturally I just laughed…I was only 22 after all.

I didn’t heed her advice and continued to wear them. I continued to call them buttons until the fateful day when wearing them led to my meeting my British friend Brian. And I met him thanks to a button, a Lloyd Cole and the Commotions button to be exact. My friend Julie and I went on a tour group trip to London; Brian worked for the tour company. As we went to ask him a question, it took only a moment for him to spy my button…er, badge, as I soon learned. We started talking about music and found that we liked a lot of the same bands. Julie and I ended up going out to some clubs with him during that trip and met some friends of his that played in British bands. Over the years he sent me tapes and continued to introduce me to new bands, and became a friend.

All because of a badge. So glad I didn’t listen to Ms. Fashionable’s advice!



{September 30, 2014}   A Walk in the Country

Wompatuck State Park

Wompatuck picnic table

Every Sunday I try to head out for a picture-taking excursion and nature walk. Sometimes I encounter lovely little surprises I don’t expect — animals or interesting plants — that I document on my other blog. Often I have what I call “adventures”  — a right place/right time moment — meet some people and chat briefly. But mostly I soak up the peace and relaxation I need to get myself through my busy week. This Sunday I didn’t have a lot of time so I decided to go to a local park called Wompatuck.

I pulled into the entrance and…stopped. In front of me there was a line of cars…hmmm. I hadn’t been there in years, but I didn’t remember there being a fee to get in. I could see someone stopping cars at the entrance, but I didn’t see any money being exchanged. The line was moving…my turn…”Are you here for the event?” I was asked. I replied, “No,” and was told to “drive on through.”  Oh-oh, this might not be the peaceful walk I had envisioned…but there’s over 3000 acres here, I should be alright.

I squeezed through an area of cars parked on both sides of the road: state policemen with vests and park rangers. Then I drove by a field with a stage set-up, a bouncy house, and various other tents. No time to stare — I had to pay attention to my driving as there were many people milling about and I didn’t want to hit anyone. I was beginning to regret my decision to come there, but I didn’t have time to turn around and figure out somewhere else to go. I told myself to make the best of it and drove on. Anxious to get away for my quiet walk, I drove about 3/4 mile down the road and found a place to pull over and park my car. I figured I would walk for 1/2 hour and then turn around and walk back.

It was a warm and sunny fall day and many bicyclists passed me as I snapped pictures of the woodsy setting and the first bit of color of the season. I began to relax and enjoy myself. Thinking about future excursions, I picked up a map at the camp ground office located there then turned around to walk back to my car.

fall road

Early fall

Just over halfway back  I heard a woman singing. Her beautiful voice urged me on and I walked a little faster toward it. There was a picnic table in a clearing so I thought I would sit down and listen for a bit. As I approached the table I could see the woman standing with a man seated on a stool playing a guitar by a trail. There were people running by. Ahh…I thought, it’s a road race. [turns out it was an event sponsored by a local country radio station to benefit a local hospital…click here if you want to find out more]

picnic table

Peaceful Picnic Table

As I walked over to get a closer look, I saw another photographer taking pictures of the runners. We passed each other and she smiled and said “hello.” I recognized it was going to be one of my “adventure” days and decided to embrace whatever was going on. Today was not the day for just a quiet walk; it was a time to be sociable. I decided to walk over to take some shots and told the woman I thought she had a wonderful voice. She thanked me and gave me her card; her name was Erin Ollis. Check out some of her songs on her web site!

Erin Ollis

Erin Ollis on the Trail

 

 

When I got back to my car I decided to drive down the road a bit to see what I would see. The map I had picked up showed a boat ramp on a pond. I thought I could drive there to take some pictures, but it turned out I couldn’t, however… there was another singer! My adventure was continuing…so out of the car I went to check him out.

 

 

Alec MacGillivray

Alec MacGillivray

 

I didn’t talk to him, but I took his picture and listened a bit. He was at the top of a long gradual hill, and as I watched the runners and walkers struggling toward me I decided to do my part to cheer them on. I began to walk in the opposite direction (downhill) and offer encouragment. Once I started walking, I just kept going. Someone said, “You’re going the wrong way!”

runners

Runners Struggling up the Long Hill

As I went farther along I saw some volunteers handing out water to the participants. They were happy to pose for a picture for me!

Volunteers

Volunteers

I looked at my watch and saw it was time to head back to my car; I had someplace to go. I smiled the whole way back though. I had gone out for a quiet walk in the country. I got some country alright! In a very small way I shared in the goodwill and caring of a lot of people on a gorgeous fall day; I felt part of humanity instead of running away from it, and it helped me forget some of the negative stories in the news lately.

 Country Heals. In more ways than one.

Country Heals

Country Heals

 

NOTE: IF YOUR PICTURE APPEARS HERE AND YOU WANT ME TO TAKE IT DOWN, LET ME KNOW.



{March 14, 2014}   Time after Time

Last week one of the Daily Prompt topics was “Time after Time.” It was meant to be about rituals, but when I read it, I immediately heard the words to Cyndi Lauper’s song in my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to sit down and write that day. But the song has been in my head since then, so I decided to write a post about it.

Cyndi Lauper at The Metro, Boston in the 1980s

Cyndi Lauper at The Metro, Boston in the 1980s

I went to see Cyndi at the Metro in Boston back in the 80’s. As you can tell by the photo, I managed to watch the show from close to the stage. The song “Time after Time” was an extremely popular one; it was nominated for a Grammy award as Song of the Year in 1985. In case you haven’t heard it in a while, you can listen below:

This lead me to “All Through the Night,” another of Cyndi’s hits, that was actually written by one of my favorite songwriters, Jules Shear.  As I prepared this post, I rediscovered Jules and decided to take you along on my little journey.

Below you will find Cindi’s version of the song and the original version recorded by Jules (and produced by Todd Rundgren!). The discussion following Jules’ version on YouTube is an interesting one. Some people HATE it, they compare it to a polka, and call it smaltzy. What do you think? Before you respond, play the final live version of Jules singing the song just last year in someone’s living room at the bottom of the post. Shows you the work done by a producer, don’t you think?

The other day I had a conversation with an acquaintance who LOVES country music; she goes to festivals and knows every up-and-coming star before they hit the big-time. We talked about songwriters vs performers (this posts shows you can add producers to that list as well). I have always loved and respected great songwriters. If they can perform as well as write…THEN, they get my hero-worship.

As a baby boomer, I think some of the most amazing musician/songwriters were in my generation: from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, to Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen…the list goes on and on for me. But everyone knows those people. When I was following music in the 80s and 90s (the way my friend follows music now), I delighted in finding brilliant but less famous songwriters: Difford and Tilbrook from Squeeze, the Finn Brothers from Crowded House, Andy Partridge from XTC, Robert Smith from The Cure, and Robert Forster and Grant McLennan from the Go-Betweens are just a few of my favorites. Jules Shear is in that category for me. His voice is an acquired taste to be sure, but I think he can pull it off.

Somewhere I have his autograph on a slip of paper; here’s my story. Back when I was working at the Orpheum, Elvis Costello (speaking of brilliant songwriters!) was doing a tour with a “spin-the-wheel” element. His songs were listed on a giant game show wheel on the stage, and the song list was different every night based on people spinning the wheel. On this particular night, special guests were performing that function. It so happened Aimee Mann and Jules Shear were a couple at that time and they were in the house to spin the wheel. My later-to-be-husband spied them sitting in the audience, and knowing my admiration for Jules, bothered him for an autograph for me. I’m actually a big fan of Mann’s now too, but he didn’t ask her at that time. It certainly was a nice surprise when he gave it to me. It would be more precious to me now if I had actually spoken to him and gotten it myself.

So here’s a recent version of Jules’ singing “All Through the Night.” A good song is just a good song, right?



{February 25, 2014}   Daily Prompt: We Got the Beat

Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends. If you’ve never been in a band, imagine you’re forming a band with some good friends. What instrument do you play in the band and why? What sort of music will you play?

Great topic for the daily prompt today! I guess it is a story I have been intending to write for a while. There’s definitely more than one post here for me, but I’m off to work now and time is short.

I had a songwriting phase for sure, and I think I was actually good at it. When I was young and constantly in the throes of unrequited love, the lyrics came easily. I usually had a tune in my head when I wrote them, but I was not truly a musician. I was a writer who liked music. Thus when it came to the band part, I was doomed to fail.

When my friend Jane and I started singing together it was a blast; the two of us sitting on the bed or the floor with her guitar and a tape recorder. The hours would race by. Each time I wrote something, I would appear at Jane’s house with my scribbled ballads begging her to write music from my pitiful singing. Jane was a true musical talent; she sang and played her guitar on the local talent show “Community Auditions” when she was 6 years old. It always amazed me that she could listen to a song and then just play it on her guitar; she had an ear. When I got to be a nuisance with my lyrics, she said, “Why don’t you learn how to play the guitar and write your own music!” She was half-joking, but I took her seriously. I went out and signed up for guitar lessons. I did well with my lessons…intellectually I understood keys and I could read music. My teacher said I learned the music theory faster than any student he ever had…But being able to do that, does not a musician make.

Jane and I sang at a friend’s wedding, and performed at a small get-together at her house. Our friend Chris, who played bass guitar, wanted to play with us. We got my roommate and friend Julie involved; she didn’t play an instrument, but had a strong voice and personality, so she became the lead singer. I couldn’t sing and try to play the guitar at the same time…that was the first thing that bummed me out. Then when we tried to play together I found out how NOT FUN it was for me. Jane and Chris would jam, while I would be saying, “What key are you in???” I couldn’t hear it…I just did not have the ear. I soon quit with my tail between my legs, while they went on to play together for several years, under several different band names and with the addition of Julie’s husband and a few different drummers. But I soon gave up the guitar and song lyrics for photography and poetry, much more my style.




Cat in bookcase

My favorite things…

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
― Maya Angelou

What a great topic. Music played a huge part in my life when I was between 20 and 40 (pun intended). The picture above summarizes my life at that time: books, backstage passes (in the frame), and my beloved cat, Simone. (Excuse the quality…I had to take it out of the frame and scan it.)

I have written a lot about my club-hopping days and only begun to write about the 15 years I worked at concert venues. While I was working concerts I was also working full-time. During 5 years of that time, I was also going to college at night getting my MA. The concerts were my social life, and the music helped me keep my sanity. Although when I finally stopped working concerts to concentrate on “real life,” it took years for music to stop playing constantly in my head, even when I was asleep. The feeling of having a constant soundtrack inspired me to write this poem:

When all was dark

a catchy chorus sometimes woke me

urgently with pounding heart,

“go away” I almost said aloud,

“allow me peaceful sleep”

tomorrow I must work.

Now days of silent boredom my reward

for pushing the music away, pressing down,

imprisoning someone else’s song inside myself,

or so I thought.

One day it will come no more;

then my voice will hoarsely whisper,

“how desperate are the droning days,

how pathetically peaceful the empty nights:

how deaf is my life.”



{March 15, 2013}   My First Poetry Slam

microphoneThe Brockton Arts hosted their first poetry slam last night at a college near me. I decided to check it out. They were having an open mike before the slam for poets to get up and read or recite a poem. I wanted to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.

Boy, was I glad I went. I discovered a new form of entertainment, a lot of talent, and a welcoming community — and some things I’d forgotten about myself.

Going to see local bands when I was in my early 20s was an energizing experience and stimulating for both my mind and my creativity. I had forgotten what it felt like to feel so alive and so…young. I felt twinges of that last night. The poets/performers had so much passion, energy, and talent. The atmosphere was intimate and warm, and the time flew by for me. Watching them felt like a combination of watching a play and watching live music. It has been way too long since I have done either of those things, mostly because of the money involved. I had no excuse here…this was free and fabulous.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it because I don’t like rap music. The repetitious bass beat for some reason makes me feel like I want to slug somebody. But I really enjoyed this…the word play was great and I could actually hear it because I wasn’t distracted by the music. Many of them were extremely polished in their voices and stage presence; others were nervous and at times forgot the words. But their nervousness just made me like them and admire them all the more. A door to my nurturing self opened inside me as I watched them: I was face to face with an old dream to be a teacher. They made me want to be INVOLVED in  the world, instead of hiding from it.

The winner of the slam and several other performers recited religious poems, filled with belief and passion. I was reminded of the energy of a southern Baptist church. Not what I expected at all. What a wonderful surprise!




concert memorabilia, ticket stubs, backstage passes

“Boy Band” memorabilia

There’s been a lot of One Direction stuff in the news lately because of the very public split between Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, and it got me thinking. They are the latest in a long line of “boy bands.” It seems like every generation has this type of performer or performers: the ones that girls and women swoon over. They range from charismatic solitary performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Tom Jones; to the king of them all, The Beatles; to New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees, to today’s One Direction. During my concert days I worked some of these shows, and they were amazing to experience.

Wham played at the Orpheum when I worked there. I found their likable pop pleasant enough so I wasn’t dreading the concert,but I was unprepared for the piercing screaming and stuffed animals flying through the air. You couldn’t even hear the music over the ten to twelve-year old girls screaming non-stop. Of course, the ultimate irony was finding out years later that George Michael was gay. A lot of young girls must have been VERY disappointed!

The most memorable “boy band” show I ever worked was New Kids on the Block at Sullivan Stadium in 1990. Twenty-eight hundred screaming girls at the Orpheum was one thing; over sixty thousand was another. And they didn’t start on time (one of them was in NH and had to be helicoptered in), so the natives were especially restless. The anticipation built them to a frenzy. I did a lot of walking around that show and hanging off my belt was a big bag full of earplugs…I walked around giving them to the mothers and grandmothers. I’ll bet there was a lot of aspirin sold that day in the Foxborough area.

Even older women scream (though not so loud and ear-piercing). I’ve seen Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Julio Iglesias get showered with bras and panties by women over 50. My own grandmother asked me to bring her to see Julio as a guest. Flying underwear aside, those shows tended to be simply punctuated with occasional screams, rather than be one long piercing scream…




I have collected a lot of music souvenirs over the years: posters, guitar picks (Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick was known for tossing them into the audience — you could put a hole in them and wear them in a chain around your neck), ticket stubs, passes, and song lists. Song lists were among the first things I collected — a perfect addition to the scrapbook I ambitiously attempted for the bands I went to see. (That didn’t last long…I went to too many shows!)

A long-standing habit was established during the early clubbing days with Eric and Jane: we would get there early to get a spot at the stage (that’s how I got some of the pictures I have posted in my Fan’s History series). Sometimes we would be standing there for over an hour before the show, taking turns going to get drinks or making a bathroom run. If we weren’t early enough, or if the show was popular, we would push our way through the crowd and would end up pressed against the speakers (trust me, my ears paid the price for those nights). Often one of the last things the stage crew did before the show began was to tape set lists to the speakers. We would eagerly await this to get a peek at the songs; sometimes ripping them off to examine them, and then taping them back on before the band came out. They could be like a puzzle: the shorthand names for the songs cryptic, and we tested our knowledge of the artists by trying to figure them out. The other thing that fascinated me was that these lists were often written on whatever paper product was handy: paper towels, newspaper pages or phone book pages (most notably this was true for the local bands). After the show was over, you had to have quick hands to get the song lists, so there was the competitive element. This made them an attractive memento: a well-earned souvenir of the night.

When I started collecting them I liked to imagine that they were written by the artists themselves: maybe it was their handwriting? Naw…likely a stage crew member. Maybe one of them was the original and the others were copies? Maybe I scored THE one? Probably not.

Even without the imaginative factor, I’m glad I collected them because my memory certainly isn’t as good as it used to be. Most of my really old ones are packed away in a plastic tub so I didn’t pull them out for this post. I found this in a drawer because it was “fairly” recent (translation: from the last decade): Aimee Mann at the South Shore Music Circus in 2003.

Aimee Mann Song List from South Shore Music Circus, 2003

Aimee Mann Song List from South Shore Music Circus, 2003

Notice the folded-back duct tape that once held it to the speaker. Also, notice the pencil marks; these are my writing. I felt the need to make it accurate for memory’s sake. The songs listed below the horizontal line were the encore; apparently what the band actually played was different from what was originally planned.

I almost never go to shows anymore; it’s no longer in my budget. Certainly after working shows for so many years, and being fortunate enough to see all the wonderful musicians I once saw for free, I would have to want to see a band really bad to shell out the money for a ticket. And certainly, I wouldn’t be within song-list swiping distance. So this Aimee Mann list is a special one; maybe I should frame it?



{December 14, 2012}   “Tis the Season: Favorite Music!

Time to pull out the old holiday favorites: music, books, and films. Everybody has them. The Christmas music CDs that we love to hear, once a year, no matter how old they are; the movies we’ve seen a bazillion times, but it won’t seem like Christmas if we don’t watch them one more time.

My family has a 25-disc CD changer in our living room, which I usually load up with the Christmas CDs that I have acquired over the years. This year I had to break from tradition; unfortunately the receiver broke a while ago and we haven’t replaced it. My husband tends to be content with just turning to a music station on the TV, but I want to hear my favorite songs, so I decided I would load a few of my holiday CDs into my car, which  forced me to choose my favorites. Without further ado, here’s what I chose.

AmyGrantAmy Grant’s first Christmas Album satisfies my spiritual needs with a little bit of country; she combines gospel songs with some traditional, more commercial Christmas songs, into a very enjoyable collection.

JohnDenverAnother favorite oldy but goody for me is John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas Album. I think his voice and singing style are perfect for Christmas hymn-type songs, and I get the “western” feel.

ChristmasWishesI had to throw in a “various” CD with some really old carols. It’s not Christmas to me without hearing Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole, the songs my parents played, reminding me of my childhood.

80'sMy guilty pleasure: The Big 80’s Christmas compilation because some of the songs and versions are pretty obscure (like the Squeeze song, , and I discovered and enjoyed them at a memorable time in my life.

BareNakedLadiesFinally, something more recent, the Bare Naked Ladies Christmas CD, mostly because I absolutely LOVE their version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” recorded live with Sarah McLachlan. A little wacky, like going to  your cousin’s Christmas party.

Obviously there are many other holiday CDs that I like (more than enough for me to fill the whole 25-CD changer — my honorable mention: Loreena McKennitt and Aimee Mann), and there are new Christmas CDs coming out all the time, but favorites are favorites. What are yours?



{November 28, 2012}   The Orpheum Theater, Boston

Orpheum Theater, Boston

Orpheum Theater, Boston

Deciding to become a volunteer usher at the Orpheum Theater after my first season at Concerts on the Common was one of the best decisions I ever made. Julie and I decided when we started there to branch out and make other friends (we spent so much time together). We picked different aisles to work so we could meet new people; it was healthy and exciting. (Little did I know that working there would be my ONLY social life at times.)

If you read its history, the theater is quite old. Some performers liked that aspect…I overheard some call it a dump. If you take a look on the Orpheum official web site, there’s a list of the shows scrolling on the right-hand side by date. I love that they have this so I can remember it all. I saw so many bands over the years, and also some comedians and oddball events: even a wedding! (Two of the ushers who met there, got married there.)

Orpheum wedding

Orpheum wedding

My husband used to say that we saw “bands on the way up and bands on the way down.”  This was because of the size of the venue: not a club, but a small theater seating approximately 2800 (this is a generous estimate). It seemed like there were always broken seats. They were pretty difficult to repair after a time…too many holes drilled over and over in the wooden backs of the same ancient velvet seats; I always pitied the maintenance guy working with all those old bits and pieces.

But the Orpheum has great acoustics. Many live shows were recorded there during my time including James Taylor and the Allman Brothers (we called them the “house band” because they played there so often).

Allman Brothers Live at the Orpheum

Allman Brothers Live at the Orpheum

As volunteer ushers, we finished working officially not too long after the headline band began to play. Once we were “released” everyone would scramble to find a seat on the aisle steps in the mezzanine — the best place to see the show. You were close to the stage, but with an unobstructed view from above. And structurally it was designed to “give” or move, which made it an adventure sitting there for some shows. You could “feel” the music. When the B52’s played there and everyone was dancing, some people were frightened because you could actually see the mezzanine moving up and down. You could barely walk from one side to the other in a straight line; it was like trying to walk on a wave-tossed boat.

And it had that old smell — like mustiness, sweat, and old beer. But I’ll always have a soft spot for the old place.



et cetera
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