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{October 2, 2018}   Mourning Petty

Tom PettyI was writing in my 10-yr journal this morning; each page contains an entry for the same day for ten different years. I saw that one year ago we got the news of the Las Vegas shooting and the death of Tom Petty. It affected me deeply. I cried at work; the woman in the cube across from me played Tom Petty songs all afternoon. It motivated me to search for this drawing I had done in my younger years. Also, it motivated me to write this poem.

MOURNING PETTY

It was already a tumultuous time:

floods and hurricanes washing away

cars, homes, and lives.

The morning of that day

brought news of a horrifying mass murder;

a sniper in sin city,

mowing down music lovers.

Then came the unbearable

cherry on top:

Petty found lifeless,

plugged in/unplugged.

The news was confused

yet clear.

He was gone.

My brother told my mother

I lost “my man,”

referring to the sketch I drew

when I was young,

and so was Petty.

For a few years his image smirked

on my bedroom wall

as I rebelled against a “normal life,”

following music from club to club,

thirsty for meaning.

His nasal voice held emotion like cupped hands;

Wildflower, listen,

there’s no need to be thirsty

when you can drink from the spring

of creativity and life.

Forty years’ worth of his music

and it felt as if he told the story

of all our lives through song.

American girl, he reminds me,

keep searching.

Copyright 2017 Susan Merrifield Desrocher



{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!



{April 7, 2014}   Daily Prompt: Make Me Smile

This daily prompt could be answered by some of the same things that I listed in the Singing the Blues post. But because it is spring, and I love to hear the birds sing…here’s a cheery song for today that makes me smile:

In case that doesn’t work,  how could I NOT smile looking at my relaxed and trusting kitty??

cat sleeping

Relaxed and Content Cat




 

The cats know when I need them...

The cats know when I need them…

This prompt is timely. I am having one of those days today when I feel like a cartoon character hanging off the cliff by that one skinny little branch…

I usually have to do a LOT of different things to get out of it. A combination of activities usually does the trick.

My number one tactic is to pet and play with my cats. They always know when I need them.

Another tool is to read uplifting materials…and yet sometimes the opposite helps: singing the “blues” as the title says. I listen to sad music, cry and get it out of my system. A couple of songs that are guaranteed to make me cry: “Sparrow” by Simon & Garfunkel or Lyle Lovett singing “Texas Trilogy.” (Below is the original version…couldn’t find a YouTube video of Lyle Lovett performing it. The last song in the trilogy, Bosque County Romance, is the one that sets me off.) A sad movie can do the trick as well.

Walking is always good or yoga, or meditation using a positive message like “God loves me” or “Serenity” or “Abundance” can help.

Writing about it: blogging and knowing that others feel the same makes me feel less alone. Writing/reading a gratitude list. I still haven’t completed the whole alphabet but I work on it periodically.

Sometimes looking at old pictures of happier times can make me smile. Taking new pictures is sure to get my attention off of myself and my life and onto an activity I enjoy.

Finally, just going about my day and being present during simple tasks can sweep the blues away and allow me to toss them in the bucket and look forward to tomorrow.

It IS Friday after all. 🙂



{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.”




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?



et cetera
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