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Reelin’ in the Years – 2009

Mandisa, finalist on American Idol.

Mandisa, finalist on American Idol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 2009 and I’m 47 years old. For those of you just joining my journey through the past, Reelin’ in the Years is an autobiography of sorts thru pop music. When I was a kid music was paramount. Its importance has always been there but my focus has shifted over the years. It’s not always easy to pick a favorite pop tune for a given year when almost none of it speaks to you.

I guess pop is about youth. And when you get a little older you have to branch out. Well, yes and no. These days I’m enjoying pop more than ever. So things have come full circle. But rarely do I feel the magic of the 70s and my AM radio.

In 2009 I’ve pretty much hit a brick wall with Top 40 pop. Lady Gaga didn’t grab me, except for maybe her sociological importance back then. And Taylor Swift hadn’t really hit my radar. No, I had to find something else.

Luckily I did. My girlfriend at the time, Ginger (not her real name), lived in a small city that had its own Christian radio station. She was quite well versed in Christian pop while I was a newbie. One day while visiting Ginger I walked down to the dollar store and bought a Christian pop CD – actually a double CD – for a mere dollar or two.

Turns out I really liked some of it. The songs were older Christian songs but I realized there was something there.

The Christian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn once said that if the music is no good, the Christian message doesn’t get out. I guess Cockburn’s comment stuck with me and I’d just assumed that all Christian pop was bland crap (musically speaking).

But that’s not true. There is some good stuff. WOW Hits is a good place to start for anyone interested. The artist Toby Mac appears quite often on WOW Hits. And rightly so.

This tune is especially dear to me because it reminds me of a pawn shop down by St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. Until recently, the pawn shop and church were in a downtrodden end of town (now undergoing gentrification).

The other reason I like this tune is the backup vocalists, Kirk Franklin and Mandisa. When Ginger and I broke up, a song by Mandisa helped me get thru some of the rough times.

So for 2009, my favorite tune is by Toby Mac (with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa). I dedicate this to all the beautiful souls down at St. Michael’s Cathedral who “don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose their soul.”

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Taylor Swift voices support for March For Our Lives in rare political statement (thefader.com)

 Elton John: I’m Still Standing – A GRAMMY Salute To Air On Tuesday, Apr. 10 On CBS (denver.cbslocal.com)

 K-Pop Stars Red Velvet Set To Perform In Pyongyang This Weekend (gpbnews.org)

 What Is METALLICA Teasing For Monday? (metalinjection.net)

 Red Velvet, other South Korean musicians leave for Pyongyang performance (rappler.com)

 Without a hit song every musician is a rookie- Oshine (vanguardngr.com)

 Author Marcus J. Moore Is Turning Kendrick Lamar’s Impact On Black America Into A Book (bossip.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 2008

It’s 2008 and I’m 46 years old. I remember some difficult years after my father’s passing. Things were unraveling a bit until I got into a new relationship with Ginger (not her real name).

Looking back through my life I see just how much different women have helped to keep me going in the right direction. In my bio, I talk about God and how important that is to me. And yes it is. But God also works through people. And Ginger came into my life at the right time.

Ginger and I went our separate ways but I appreciate the good times and how the relationship helped to get me where I am now.

I’ve never married and don’t have kids. Being a contemplative person can put one a bit out of touch with the latest trends, memes, etc. It didn’t help with my writing much. Trying to connect with an audience when you spend a good deal of time in contemplation isn’t easy.

It’s getting better as I’m older and probably more integrated than before. My conversion was no small or superficial matter. So it took a while to pick up some of the ol’ routines that seemed so worldly and superficial immediately after.

Around this time my niece introduced me to Coldplay. She gave me a CD that I thought was pretty good.

Listening to this song again, I’m thinking a lot of vintage bands lose their spark and a new generation takes their place. We need new generations to keep things fresh. Not just in music but in life itself.

That might sound funny after my 2007 rant about ageism. But I know there’s something wonderful about youth. Talented and creative youth, that is. Conventional, narrow-minded youths bore me like anyone else. And yes, some older people bore me too. Countering ageism isn’t about chronological age. It’s about maintaining our sense of wonder, curiosity, and openness—at any age.

Luke and Rey – Luke is amazed at Rey’s quick grasp of the Jedi fundamentals and her immense potential – via Pinterest

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 IBM’s ageism scandal: 5 ways the company reportedly screwed older workers (fastcompany.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2002

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 2002 and I’m 40 years old. I’m adjusting to Toronto life nicely, after spending almost a decade away.

The city has changed a lot since I was a kid. Not only bigger but a much better cultural and religious mix. Toronto is emerging as a multicultural powerhouse. Traffic is getting more congested, not just at rush hour but earlier and earlier in the day.

One of my favorite pastimes is to browse Dollarama, a Canadian biz success story for the new millennium. As prices soar everywhere else, more and more people are shopping at the dollar store and having a great time doing so. Back in those days, everything was just one dollar. And it was amazing what you could find.

I remember shopping at one of the earliest Dollaramas and hearing this song come over the store speakers. It was perfect. Looking around me, it seemed the shop was full of people from just about every nation and religion on Earth. I was full of goodwill and love for all mankind. A great time to be Canadian. A great song.

Carlos Santana has been around for many years. Our family owned his classic vinyl albums from the late 60s and 70s. He’s always had a tasty playing style but in this tune, the licks are not just tasty but happy.

I think he is one of the great guitarists. Not because he plays a million notes a minute but because he chooses his notes so carefully. And his instrument has such a delicious tone.

English: Carlos Santana Live in Hamburg, Novem...

Carlos Santana Live in Hamburg, November 1973 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle Branch – Wikipedia

In this song, I’d say the vocal performance and lead guitar are about 50/50 in importance. Just like the game of love should be.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Daughtry brings cadre of hits to Palace Theatre (triblive.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1999

Sonny & Cher during a rehearsal break at ABC T...

Sonny & Cher during a rehearsal break at ABC Television’s Wembley studios on 26 May 1966. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 1999 and I’m having the same problem I had with 1998. I don’t connect with most of the pop charts this year. But I respect Cher for coming back with “I believe.”

She was big in the 70s TV show Sonny and Cher. To resurface with the foresight of where pop would be going… dance, dance, dance… is impressive. But I’m not inspired by the song.

With David Bowie, I respect the artist and happen to like the song “Somebody Up There Likes Me” on the album Young Americans.

Young Americans? Isn’t that another 70s relic?

Well, yes but it was r-e-m-a-s-t-e-r-e-d-i-n-1-9-9-9. Sorry folks, I have to do this remastered trick because maybe I am getting old and just not digging the charts like I used to. 37 years old, moving back to Toronto this year. I bought Bowie’s 1999 CD Hours and was mildly disappointed. But this old hit remains a fav.

Come to think of it, I don’t think my not liking tunes released in ’99 was an age thing as much as an out-of-sync thing. I’ve enjoyed a lot of pop since the EDM explosion. So either I’ve changed, the times have changed or maybe both.

1970s UK Sci-Fi TV show depicting an imaginary 1999 where an explosion breaks the moon free of its orbit – Image http://projectswordtoys.blogspot.ca/2013/08/

Technology is marching forward in ’99. People are burning CD-R/RWs and checking out digital photography. I was a bit slow to shell out for these tech advances so was still pretty old skool in ’99. Film camera. Tapes, CDs and Vinyl.

Earthpages is getting search engine recognition and I’m learning what I’m still learning today. How to get out there and be noticed on the web. Transitioning from an academic to a popular writing style has not been easy. In ’99 I’m either coming off too serious or too glib.

Striking that balance when you’re primarily a religious person who goes to Mass several times a week is not as straightforward as one might think. Ironically, I find that going to Mass enhances rather than squashes my creativity.

I still receive the Eucharist several times a week, something I’ll probably talk about more in years not yet reeled in.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Billy Bragg’s Bratty Brother (ask.metafilter.com)

 Cher Concert Tickets for Lubbock, Austin, Corpus Christi, Bossier City… (prweb.com)

 Technology shaping the future of music but its soul remains the same (triblive.com)

 Dressing David Bowie As ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (thecut.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1998

Time Magazine – Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale

So it’s 1998 and I’m 36 years old. I’m still living in Ottawa, in a slightly rundown apartment beside the Union Mission. I’m getting pretty used to hearing street people making noise because, well, I live right beside them.

One night I had to call the cops because a big guy was pounding on my door screaming “Mother… Mother!” He was pounding so hard I felt it was only a matter of time before he’d break in.

After calling 911 I scrambled out the window onto the roof of the first-floor extension below me. I was pretty scared but kept cool.

When the cops arrived I had a choice… press charges or let it drop. I let it drop but told the guy – now subdued – to his face that he really scared me. He looked like a nice guy. Just drunk and upset. Or maybe stoned.

Whatever. I don’t think he understood too much at that moment.

People did practically everything near the Mission. The basement of our house was broken into with needles left behind. My bike was stolen from that basement. Another inglorious moment.

This place (cars in front) redefined the meaning of “student digs!”

I was sad and upset about my bike because I worked hard to buy it and a friend’s brother, who owned a bike shop, had customized it. Many summers of getting up early and working hard as a city gardener probably went toward a case of beer.

But I figured the theft was a form of global welfare so let it go.

Having graduated, I no longer had access to the university computer room, so migrated over to the Ottawa Public Library. The library had computers, internet, and email through National Capital Freenet. NCF also had free web space. This is where Earthpages began. I talk about that here, so won’t elaborate.

The library has changed a bit since I was there in ’98

In my last entry, 4FUN HITS, I mentioned having a hard time finding anything I liked in 1998.  Since then I realized that Frank Sinatra’s work was remastered in ’98.

Ha! This was the year I first discovered Frank—oddly enough, the same year he died.

I recall making a post-student dinner of noodles and stuff, stirring away and listening to a Sinatra album I’d picked up from the Ottawa Public Library.

Hey, this guy is really good, I thought to myself. What incredible timing.

It would be almost another two decades before I’d go full bore into Sinatra. But I’ll get to that. For now, I’ll just share some of my favorite Sinatra tunes.

Now this is music. I wonder how many pop tunes churned out in ’98 will be remastered 40 years after their release?

“I’ve Got the World on a String” was released in ’56, Come Fly With Me in ’58. And yes they reflect the times. But are we immune to reflecting our own cultural landscape?

It’s now 2018… 60 plus years after the release of these tunes. 60 to 70 years from now I imagine our cultural biases will be just as awkward. Maybe we’ll be scandalized. Maybe we’ll just look back and smile.

I tend to smile with Frank Sinatra.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Breaking: Conductor is suspended in Canada (slippedisc.com)

 Graceland marks Elvis’ Army stint with free day for military vets, active duty (triblive.com)

 Who Is Eva Marie Saint? Reintroducing the 1955 Oscar Winner (time.com)

 Drake’s Degrassi-era notebook is being auctioned for $54k (thefader.com)

 THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Officially Announce Reunion Tour (Without D’arcy Wretzky) (metalinjection.net)

 


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4FUN HITS – Who Are You by The Who

4Fun_Hits-crop

Going through the charts for 1998 I’m having a tough time finding a song for Reelin’ in the Years. I do not think any of the songs are all that great.

I’m considering posting one as my most respected for that year but it never was a fav. More like something you’d hear while shopping in the dollar store. Nothing wrong with that… just sayin’.

So I’m going to have to dig deeper, look thru through my collection and see what I was listening to that year. Something tells me I was drifting toward jazz and sacred music. But there must be a pop tune that stirred my soul in ’98.

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a parallel series called 4FUN HITS to fill in the gaps for some of the great songs overlooked in Reelin’ in the Years.

“Who Are You” was released in 1978. My girlfriend back then Jill (not her real name) had given me that album for my 16th birthday. The dear soul bought a special red vinyl edition that was just soooo cool. As I’ve said before, Jill was the ultimate teenage girlfriend. Sometimes I’ve regretted that we broke up but life is about movin’ on.

The Very Best of Steely Dan: Reelin' In the Years

The Very Best of Steely Dan: Reelin’ In the Years (just in case you didn’t get where I got the title of Reelin’ in the Years from) – Wikipedia

Anyhow, I’d just purchased my first stereo amp. A Yamaha with 60 watts of power. Back then that was respectable. The real serious audiophiles had 100 watts but 60 was good for me (and my bankbook)!

Our family had a pair of Genesis loudspeakers, bought off a friend who was indeed an audiophile. Add my Technics turntable and I was ready to rock.

And rock I did. When my parents were away I had small house parties where I’d blast those 60 watts and Genesis speakers to their extreme capacity without distorting. I’d been warned by our audiophile friend that loudness didn’t kill speakers. Distortion did.

I remember dancing with my pals, pretending we were performing this song, and generally having a gay ol’ time.

The Who were quite progressive for a rock band. Their use of analog synthesizers was advanced back in the day. I think they are one of the great classic bands. And Roger Daltry is probably my all-time favorite straight out rock and roll singer.

For me, he’s better than Robert Plant or Burton Cummings, who have similar styles when they roar.

Oh tell me who are you, you, you, ah you?

The Who were the very first band I saw live at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. I didn’t do a lot of rock concerts as a kid. But those I did go to are burned in memory.

In the 70s the audience held up cigarette lighters instead of cellphones. It was pretty magical. I can still see the calm bassist John Entwistle looking like a wise old Druid up there on stage. Even then, I could tell that music had a mystical component.

I came home and found myself hoarse the next day. I was a quiet kid but The Who got me screaming! 🙂

Image top right: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:4Fun_Hits.jpg

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 The Economics of Spotify – Local Band Version(ask.metafilter.com)

 Many popular young Nigerian musicians have sold their souls to Satan – Skid Ikemefuna(vanguardngr.com)

 Best Buy To Pull CDs From Its Stores, According To Report(gpbnews.org)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1997

OK Computer released by Radiohead in 1997. I like the album/band name but the music never grabbed me – Image via discogs.com

It’s 1997 and I’m 35 years old. U2 releases Pop which for me was a waste of money. One could actually discern the beginning of U2’s slide with Zooropa (1993), Achtung Baby (1991) being a tough act to follow.

Meantime David Bowie releases a strong album, Earthling. I almost chose the song “Little Wonder” from that CD as my fav for ’97 but it doesn’t resonate so much now. I mean, this was 21 years ago and people change.

’97 was the year I completed my doctorate. Hardly a light year. I remember standing in the hall awaiting my examiners’ response after being grilled on my thesis.

Also a TA that year, one of my undergraduate students showed up to cheer me on. He was a bit unconventional and, thinking it would help, started to massage my back while I was standing in the hall. It just made me tenser. I had bought a new suit for the occasion and was afraid he would wreck it while working on my back muscles…

Such is life. I guess I politely asked him to stop. I dunno. Can’t remember exactly.

For Christmas that year I got a greatest hits CD containing the single “Walkin’ On The Sun.”

I like this song’s retro style. 1950s or early 60s, for sure. The lead singer reminds me a bit of Chubby Checker or Bill Haley.

Most of the other pop from ’97 doesn’t age very well. This song harkens back to a classic time of surfboards and beach parties, so still works today. Sort of like that old song “I’m Your Venus” which has been reworked at least twice, I think, for ladies’ razor commercials!

And their kids were hippie chicks or hypocrites
Because fashion is smashin’ the true meaning of it

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

The Number Ones: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” (stereogum.com)