A Potpourri and Another Top Ten List

In the nine months that I’ve been writing this blog (!!), I’ve tried to follow up “heavier” posts with something a little more light and fluffy.  So this week, consider yourselves lightened and fluffed!

Some thoughts I’ve had recently that I’d like to share with the kind readers I’ve picked up along the way (and thanks to all of you for giving me the time of day – literally!):

My daughter is home from college this week.  While I love seeing her beautiful face, and I always enjoy her company, I’ve realized that I have really become set in my ways as a loner.  I have no sense of the loudness of the TV or my music; I eat what I want when I want; I keep the house as clean or as dirty as I find tolerable (although my cleanliness has increased by a factor of five since the ringworm infestation as I try to keep up with the unending furballs).  This will always be her home, but I think we are in the initial phase of our parent-child separation.  She will go off on her adventures, eventually setting up a home of her own once she figures out what she needs to be doing and where she needs to be doing it.  And this will be home for me and the creatures perhaps for the rest of my life, especially if I’m going to elevate the house, which is a whole new set of stresses and anxieties for me to deal with over the coming months.  By this time next year, we will hopefully have to go up and down a staircase to get into the house, but my long parking nightmare will finally be over and I can have some semblance of a social life in the summer.  Watch this space for venting sessions about finding short-term housing, dealing with contractors and watching the expenses escalate out of control.

* * *

I’ve kept a hand-written journal since my sophomore year in college, with very few gaps of longer than a few days.  My thoughts did dry up temporarily in conjunction with the dissolution of my marriage, but that’s another blog post for another time.  What I’m getting at here, though, is that I have been extraordinarily lax with my journal entries recently, which I suspect is a direct result of my blogging.  Yes, I definitely scribble the seeds of ideas for blog posts in longhand, in color-coordinated ink to match the color of the notebook (except when my pen runs out of ink before the end of the notebook and I have to (*shudder*) use non-matching color – clear evidence of OCD), but lately I can sometimes go days without writing, and that feels weird to me.

Why have I saved my journals for so many years, schlepping them from home to home?  In my fantasies, I imagine reading through my continuous journals from cover to cover, from Day 1 (September 5, 1978) to the present day.  I’ve even got journals from younger days, like my Chile notebooks [see “Viajes”, 7/14/15] and, stored away in a plastic drawstring bag that hasn’t been opened for decades, some of my earliest attempts at fiction writing.  I am CERTAIN that I will find nuggets for future blog posts in all those writings, with my handwriting changing (and yet staying somehow the same) through the years.  But when will this fantasy ever come true?  When I win the lottery, of course, but what if that DOESN’T happen?  Maybe it will have to wait until I retire.

* * *

My daily rhythms are becoming predictable, which probably means they’re natural, but unfortunately they don’t gibe with real life.  I stay up until 2:30 or 3 a.m., I wake up at 9:30 or 10 a.m.  That’s just how I seem to function best when left to my own devices.  I’ve always been – and likely always will be – a night owl.  My mother was before me, and her mother before her.  I have to believe it’s genetic.  I was happiest with my work schedule when I was a bartender, arriving at 8 p.m., closing up shop at 4 a.m., going out to breakfast, and then sleeping till 12.

* * *

I’ve been taking a pill called Belviq that my doctor recommended to help with weight loss.  Evidently, it’s supposed to make you feel fuller faster, so ostensibly you eat less.  But my problem is not overeating at meals, per se.  I’ve learned a thing or two about portion control over my yo-yo dieting lifetime.  My affliction is my sweet tooth, my addiction is dessert, and late-night, couch-potato snacking is my downfall.  Even with a discount the Belviq prescription costs $75 a month, plus a $30 co-pay at the doctor’s office for a weigh-in.  So it has turned out to be way too expensive for me to continue taking medication that has demonstrated no desired results in three months.  In order to lose some weight (for health purposes as well as fitting and looking better in my clothes), I guess I’ll have to go back to a system that actually worked for me:  writing down everything I eat and keeping track of calories.  This time I’ll add an accounting of carbohydrates (less than 30 a day) and protein (as much as possible).  But with Thanksgiving this week, and the inevitable overeating that goes along with it, I’ll just have to start on Monday!

* * *

I’ve been hearing a great song recently on my favorite terrestrial radio station WFUV that features a trio of singers:  two men – one of whom is Elvis Costello and the other of whom has a gravelly and slightly atonal voice – and one country-tinged woman.  After some consideration, I guessed that the gravelly voiced guy might be Kris Kristofferson, and I was right.  Even though I hadn’t heard Kris Kristofferson for years, he has such a distinctive signature sound.  The woman turned out to be Roseanne Cash, and the song is called “April 5th”.  It evidently was written by the three of them (plus Cash’s husband, prolific songwriter and producer John Leventhal) and will be included on an album being released in conjunction with Costello’s memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.  Interestingly, Costello, Cash and Kristofferson couldn’t figure out what to call themselves:  CCK looked too much like a former Soviet republic; KCC looked like it could compete with a certain fried chicken franchise.  CKC seems like a keeper, but that might get them in trouble with Calvin Klein.  Even if they can’t figure out what order to put their initials in, the three of them (four, including Levanthal) are unquestionably talented and enduring songwriters.  Unfortunately, none of them made this week’s Top Ten List of Nan’s Favorite Songwriters.

Of course, this list is subject to change, and I’d love to hear other people’s favorites.  But when I’m fighting boredom making inventories in my head of the song-meisters who have created more of my favorite music than anyone else, these are the ones I come up first:

  1. David Bowie: I may have mentioned that I finally got my Five Years Bowie collection, which consists of his first six albums, all of which I had lost (on vinyl) in the flood:  David Bowie (which features “Space Oddity” and some other folksy nuggets); The Man Who Sold the World (which introduced the world to the shimmering Mick Ronson); Hunky Dory (which contains one of Bowie’s most whimsical songs, “Kooks”, which he dedicates to his infant son Zowie, who later changed his name to Joe, then Duncan, and who is now a film director); Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (genius – my favorite of Bowie album of all time); Aladdin Sane (covering a range of sounds from hard-rocking “Panic in Detroit” to saccharine-sweet “The Prettiest Star”, the latter of which was allegedly written for his wife, the fame whore Angie Bowie); and Pin-Ups (an album of covers with a painted photo cover of Bowie in his red-headed rooster phase and human stalk and iconic Sixties model Twiggy; Bowie actually calls her “Twig the Wonder Kid” in “Drive-In Saturday” on Aladdin Sane).  The collection also features a couple of live albums and some alternate versions but, very disappointingly, did not include Diamond Dogs or a very early collection of his embryonic songs on a double-disc import album I once owned on vinyl but lost in the flood.  I LOVED that album (each song’s title was colorfully illustrated in a comic panel), but this Five Years collection doesn’t have a single one of the songs from that collection.  [See “Some Thoughts about David Bowie”, 4/7/15].  In any event, Bowie carries on, even approaching his seventies.  He’s releasing a brand new album in January called Blackstar, which, from what I’ve read, to be a little more jazzy and experimental.  But even if I don’t love the whole album (as I ALWAYS did back in Bowie’s early days), I’m sure there will be something memorable and singularly Bowie on it.
  2. Lennon-McCartney: Need I say more?  They are inextricably linked with each other (even though their writing styles later became very distinctive) and are the godfathers of all pop songwriting.
  3. Billie Joe Armstrong: I believe the Green Day front man is the modern day equivalent of Lennon and McCartney.  He is punk personified but can write anthemic show tunes with the best of them.  The majority of his songs are little pieces of perfection.  Fellow Green Day-ers Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool certainly make a contribution, but Billy Joe makes it all work.
  4. Jagger-Richards: In my mind, never the equal of Lennon-McCartney although they were contemporaries, but their sheer longevity and some of the most catchy hooks and lyrics EVER put these guys on my list.
  5. Nick Cave: Dark genius, and a true poet.  He’s also written some incredibly creepy fiction.  If you dare, check out And the Ass Saw the Angel.  It will stay with you (and not necessarily in a good way).
  6. Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow Puppets fame): With his command of language, he can turn a phrase like few others.  He’s a contemporary and lyrical compatriot of the other UK Alex . . .
  7. Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand fame): One of my clients is a huge Alex Kapranos fan.  He once quoted a Franz Ferdinand song when speaking at an aircraft industry conference, rightly assuming that it would complete go over the audience members’ heads, because of course people at aircraft industry conferences do not appreciate Alex Kapranos’ brand of pithy poetry.  But my client does, and I certainly do.
  8. Tobias Sammet: Little known outside of prog rock circles, introduced to me by a law school buddy, this incredible German singer and composer is a virtuosic talent, having written at least three metal operas under the “Avantasia” banner, as well as having a more accessible rock-band outlet called Edguy.  Check him out by all means.  You will not be sorry.
  9. Tilbrook-Difford: Not only did their voices – Tilbrook high, Difford extremely low – meld together in a unique way, their joint writing style was responsible for some of the catchiest, most expressive songs of the ‘80s.  (“Pulling Muscles from a Shell”?  “Tempted”?  Really??  Who doesn’t remember loving those songs?  Our favorite in college was “If I Didn’t Love You”, but we loved pretty much all of them.)  I am so looking forward to seeing Squeeze Acoustic at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on December 17 with my friend Sue (part of my birthday present)!  Sue and I went to see them back in the early ’80s at the Malibu nightclub right here in Long Beach, and we were at the venue so early that we actually saw (and spoke very briefly to) Glenn Tilbrook in a car in the parking lot!
  10. Marc Bolan: Yes, many of his songs sound alike, BUT THEY ALL SOUND AWESOME.  They are timeless ear worms of the first order and bring on involuntary boogying.

Honorable Mention:

Ray Davies:  From the raw “You Really Got Me” to the sublime album (also lost in the flood) Schoolboys in Disgrace to the impeccable “Rock and Roll Fantasy,” Ray Davies has a magic touch with words and music not many can match.

Neil Young:  I prefer his earlier stuff to his more “political” recent work, but his earlier stuff – from Buffalo Springfield days, through CSNY to his solo career – is without peer.  His Decades anthology features all of his best tunes in one place, although it leaves out my favorite Neil Young song, “Tell Me Why”, which is on After the Gold Rush, which was sadly also lost in the flood and must be replaced.

Finally, I must add a newbie to this list:  Adele.  Not only does the woman have an otherworldly instrument, she writes or co-writes most of those heart-wrenching songs herself.  It amazes me how much we enjoy this woman’s romantic suffering, but she makes it all so deeply felt and gorgeous, how could we resist?

Unfortunately, her most recent single, “Hello”, is going to be ruined by overplay, but the first time I heard it, it literally brought a lump to my throat.  I love when music does that, thanks to genius songwriters like those on my Top Ten List.

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