Some Thoughts About Money and Music

I hate money. Ironically, I work as a lawyer in the finance industry, and to say that it’s not a particularly good fit for me would be a huge understatement.

After being a hand-to-mouth freelancer for most of my adult life, when I had a child I realized that I needed to have a more secure (and lucrative) career. Thanks to a confluence of events, I was able to go to law school at age 40-ish, and a big law firm liked me enough during on-campus interviews to offer me a summer associate position (and eventually a permanent position) even at my advanced age. They also offered me more money than I could have ever imagined making as a freelancer. While I wasn’t sure Big Law was right for me even then, the big dollars gave it a certain inescapable appeal.

Despite the salary and the security, I have spent the decade-plus since my hiring dreaming of my escape. I’ve adopted a part-time schedule, I’ve taken leaves of absence, I’ve convinced my extremely kind boss to let me work from home. Yet the sad reality of my life is that I can’t leave this job because I can’t abandon the paycheck, no matter how unhappy I might be with the subject matter and spirit of my current career.

It’s all down to money, that thing that I hate, that thing that I need, especially with a mortgage and a kid in college and limited funds for my pending early retirement. So I will keep working in a career field that is utterly alien to my nature, with the sole intention of responsibly paying my bills, until I win the New York Lottery (which has, I might add, some of the best advertising slogans of all time, because they get in your head like earworms and fool you into thinking that it’s even possible to become an instant millionaire – I mean, “all it takes is a dollar and a dream”, and “you can’t win if you don’t play”. So I will continue to play! “You never know!”)

More realistically, in my limited spare time, I am trying to explore other options, some of which will likely be discussed in this blog in the coming weeks (including, unsurprisingly, blogging as a career, if I could somehow figure out a way to make money at it). But now, on to happier subjects – which, for today’s post, will be music.

The other day I was listening to T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, which I purchased on CD recently after losing my well-worn vinyl copy in 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, along with hundreds of other albums that I had collected over the decades – from my very first record, Meet the Beatles, that my dad brought home for me when I was four years old, to a complete set of Bowie albums with their gorgeous covers, to my ex-husband’s diverse punk collection, and many, many more. With my admittedly narrow singing range – neither alto nor tenor but somewhere in between – I can never properly sing along to what is probably my favorite song on an album full of favorite songs, “Monolith,” with its loping pace and waa-waa guitar that you can feel in your loins, not to mention its completely nonsensical, fantastical lyrics (“The throne of time is a kingly thing . . .”; “Shallow are the actions of the children of men . . .”) that somehow make sense if you keep singing them, over and over, switching octaves when I can’t hit the notes.

Music, like hockey, is one of my life’s great joys, so much so that it almost borders on an addiction. I must have NEW! I must have MORE!! I’m constantly accumulating music, and I try as often as possible to do it for free (but never illegally – musicians are artists who need to get paid, after all) by taking full advantage of “Free on iTunes” and Amazon samplers, and I redeem my credit card rewards points for iTunes and Amazon gift cards. Tuesdays are new free music days in the Apple iTunes Store, but a few weeks ago the “Free on iTunes” went away. I was all ready to write a whiny, entitled complaint (“Where are my free iTunes, dammit!”) when, much to my happy surprise, they not only reinstated “Free on iTunes” but they actually expanded it, offering eight to a dozen uniformly interesting and high quality new songs to be downloaded for absolutely free. Kudos to iTunes! (And while I’m on this topic, I’d like to say a word about the folks who were outraged about the new U2 album being downloaded for free to everyone on iTunes, whether they asked for it or not. Seriously, what kind of looney-tune complains about getting something FOR FREE? I’m not a U2 fan, but I actually liked the album, and I would never have purchased it had they not made it available for free. It was an almost “back to grassroots”, risk-free way for multimillionaire rock stars to get their new music to the multitudes.  And if those ungrateful folks didn’t want the album, they could just delete it from their respective music libraries. No harm, no foul! Their outrage made absolutely no sense to me.)

I wish I was able to access at will what must undoubtedly be an encyclopedic knowledge of artists and songs and lyrics that I’ve accrued over the years but my faculties fail me sometimes (perhaps age-related). I’m quite sure it’s all in my brain somewhere because little bits and pieces come out when I least expect it (for instance, I can sing most Beatle and early Bowie songs quite unconsciously because I have listened to them so many, many times).

I have always considered myself somewhat of a collector, in the sense of having to own my music. The advent of digital music has been a double-boon for me: Now I can immediately possess new music with a click of the mouse, and then I back everything up on CD anyway, which has led to some interesting and entirely random “mix” CDs. I also do something on my classic 16MB-iPod that some people find odd but it’s a source of great pride for me: Each song on my iPod is the sole representative entry of a single artist, or combination of artists (e.g., one song from Johnny Cash (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”), one song from Joe Strummer (“Johnny Appleseed”), and one song from Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer together (their gorgeous rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, featuring Tom Morello on guitar)). Duplicate songs by one artist are carefully culled out and saved elsewhere but no longer appear on the iPod. I’m currently up to 2,605 songs by 2,605 different artists. I imagine it as the playlist for the greatest radio station of all time.

I love to be the first to suggest and recommend music to my friends, so I hope to also feature in this blog from time to time my musical thoughts and recommendations. It makes me proud when I can say of a hit, “I told you about that song/artist AGES ago!”  My latest faves?  “All the Pretty Girls”, by Icelandic band Kaleo; “Electric Love” and also “10,000 Emerald Pools”, pop perfection from eclectic U.S. artist BORNS; “Ahead of the Light” by Japanese percussive guitarist MIYAVI (and first-time actor, who played the sadistic but gorgeous POW camp commandant “The Bird” in Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut Unbroken); the latest from one of my top-three guitarists of all time, Mark Knopfler, “Beryl”; and last but not least, a goofy throwback punk classic, Mojo Nixon’s “Elvis is Everywhere”.  Enjoy!!

With that, I’ll sign off this week’s post on a positive note with this hopeful quote from Gloria Vanderbilt (as originally quoted in an interview by T.J. Wilcox that appeared in the November 2014 edition of my favorite magazine, Interview), who has lived as charmed a life as anyone ever and continues to maintain a sunny attitude well into her eighties: “I think something wonderful is going to happen to me. Maybe tomorrow. The phone can ring and your whole life can change.”

Talk to you next week.

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