A MAKESH!T PRODUCTION written and directed by Jade Mac Townsend. My “Sleazy Bill Nye” schtick was impromptu, though deeply felt. Starring JoJo as herself. NSFW.
ONE UNDENIABLE JOY of having kids is seeing them discover the things you love. Johanna has found her way to drawing, word games, Vietnamese food and tacos with only gentle nudges from her father. There may be more Nurture than Nature at play here, but it’s not like everything takes. She shows no inclination toward long walks or PBS Frontline.
In the case of music, my own most persistent passion, Jo’s ardor has been slower to form. There was a Michael Jackson phase, an Abba dalliance (Sarah’s doing) and a handful of tunes that get her dancing. But true fanaticism—that intense yearning to collect, listen, decipher and crank the volume—has eluded her.
Until she discovered the Beatles. It started in Johanna’s 2nd grade classroom with a unit called “Beatle Mania!” (one of so many reasons her school rocks). She was coming home full of Fab Four trivia (You know how Ringo got his name? Did you know they had Mop Tops before they got into uniforms?) and inquiring who we thought was cutest.
Things went quickly from Teeny Bopper curiosity to full-blown obsession. By the time of her class performance this month—100 seven year olds talk-singing Yellow Submarine and Let It Be with a live band—she was collecting MP3s, dissecting lyrics, tracing record covers and making Paul paper dolls. More than one morning we’ve awakened to “Back in the USSR” or “Come Together” blaring through her wall. “The White Album is probably my favorite. Except for Wild Honey Pie.” “Is this a John song?” “Why are there so many songs about Sun and Sunshine?” Our budding Beatlologist.
I went to New York for a (unrelated) conference during the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in America, remembered for their performance on Ed Sullivan, even booking the same hotel they stayed at by coincidence. Last week on George’s 71st birthday we gathered for an hour of Harrison deep cuts on Bop Street. Jo’s friend Rey got a homemade Yellow Submarine cake for his 8th birthday. Beatlemania enfolds us utterly. When hand-claps are called for in “8 Days a Week,” none of us can resist.
Any other wall-to-wall cultural phenomenon would make my eyes roll back in no time. But—and I’m only the hundred-millionth person to say this—the Beatles are different. Their catalog is so vast, their style so varied. Four months into Jo’s crazy love affair, I’m hearing it as if with virgin ears, finding new shading in familiar songs, even discovering stuff I overlooked. With the possible exception of “Hey Jude” or “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” it all feels strikingly fresh. I’m fan-boying out on the ultimate rock-and-roll cliché. For the sake of intergenerational harmony, I can’t stop.
For your (re)consideration:
… and a charming novelty track:
IS IT TOO EARLY TO LIVE IN THE PAST? When do new experiences start taking a back seat to commemorations? For me that point might be age 38. Around here nostalgia rules especially in years that end in “3.”
Not that this year’s new and notable column isn’t ample: MakeSh!t Mini Golf, Johanna learning to ride bike (over her strenuous objections), the departure of Grandpa Chuck and arrival of his namesake Charley, professional zigs, personal zags—death, birth and rebirth basically, with experiential inventory left to fill.
But it’s all processed in light of history, each little milestone an excuse to look back. 10 years ago Sarah and I got married, an event we still talk about like it just happened and that we believe, secretly, earned us the All-Time-Fun-Party award (the marriage has been nice too). Is this our Linoleum Anniversary? Naugahyde?
This summer I let my 20th high school reunion pass without fanfare (just peeking at the event on Facebook aged me a little). But Sarah’s 40th birthday got its due, sans black balloons or anything to do with a hill. We threw a party in the yard with bahn mi, this gin we like (almost too much), records, and a BYO-home movie screening.
People brought the silly, shaky-handed footage we hoped for, plus standouts like Craig’s “Airbags for Men.” It was the world premier of Sarah’s “walking” vids, a series she’s shot over many years but that mesh surprisingly well. The locales are diverse but the subject is always her feet.
Also featured: a tribute vid I made to a YouTube I was fleetingly obsessed with in 2009: back-to-back intro sequences from Faerie Tale Theatre, a program hosted by Shelley Duvall from 1982-87. Having missed my window for meme relevance, I never posted it. But the paean played well to our friendly crowd.
And the tribute:
My birthday gift to Sarah, in part, is to nudge her toward her true calling. I scoped her out a new startup that I’m calling LMDTFY. She already has a steady practice of non-paying customers, that being pretty much everyone she meets.
I AM IRRESISTIBLY ATTUNED to music played in public, for better or worse. Out of car windows and radios, in bookstores, cafés and record shops, rocking minigolf DJ sets and sweaty karaoke boxes. Often this entails suffering (Eagles, Wham, Christmas tunes, Wham Christmas tunes). Sometimes surprise—an old frat rock anthem shout-sung by a dude chorus: joyous moment (ya probably had to be there).
With the dam of pent-up spring vibes finally breaking, this crow-sourced concert has been all For Better.
The Au Pairs
Paul Revere & the Raiders
Joe South – Games People Play
“FRONT LOAD THE PAIN.”
“The dudes you remember are now coaches.”
“Every zoo is a petting zoo as long as you’re not a wuss.”
“Two trees French kissing for eternity.”
“Does it rain in space?”
“Parents are supposed to hate their kids’ music. It’s the circle of life.”
“AM pop as Arch Deviance” (noted stageside at Ariel Pink).
Mission of Burma live in 2012 (per one YouTube commenter: “old people kicking your ass.”)
Archers of Loaf showed and proved to a roomful of almost-40-year-old once-punks. I bought tickets for the wrong night but the 400 Bar let me in; I’ll hold off trash-talking that club for a while.
The Heavy Cali Boogie of DAM-FUNK.
“Talent is cheap.”
“Deliberately contrarian ardor for the worst of the past.”
“Competence is sexy.”
RADICAL COVERS have me craving karaoke. Who’s with me? Totally over my Robert Palmer and Rick Astley rut, promise.
Original by John Lennon
Original by Sir Mix-A-Lot
Original by The Beatles
Original by Les McCann and Eddie Harris
Original by The Smiths (obvs)