Microblog: The Albums That Shaped Me Part 2. Albums 7-10

New Order: Low Life. Purchased September 1985

Album 7 of the Albums that Shaped Me review. I bought New Order’s Low Life in September 1985, just a few months after its release. I was drawn to the backstory of the band, the disaffected vocals, the pulsating bass and the analog synths. While many would point to the dance song mega hits this album spawned, it’s the darker, atmospheric moments that make this record for me, with This Time of Night and Sooner than You Think a sort of sound track of my introspection as a young adult. Manchester’s New Order.

The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow. Purchased June 1985

Manchester. A city of comparable size to Buffalo, grey and gloomy as well in England’s industrial north. 35 miles to the due East of Liverpool. Who would guess that this area of the world would produce such an incredible music scene.

This is the 8th Album that Shaped Me entry, and I present, from Manchester, The Smiths and their 1984 compilation album, Hatful of Hollow.

Johnny Marr was the first guitar hero of the new wave generation. His combination of arpeggios, open tunes, capos and multi tracked guitar layering shimmers over the music. Bass Player Andy Rourke and Drummer Mike Joyce groove out a beat with the bass pushed up in the mix driving the melody.

Stephen Patrick Morrissey: Could there have been a more unusual character, ahead of his time, flamboyant, intelligent, sexual and asexual all at once. Like him or hate him, you couldn’t ignore him.

The album simply rocks. The Smiths wrote over 75 songs in their brief five year career. Prolific, with lots to say and an unstoppable force until they stopped themselves in 1987. It’s hard to keep a candle burning that bright for that long.

My personal favorites are William It was Really Nothing, This Charming Man, Hand in Glove and Still Ill.

It’s hard to overstate how important a band this was to me and my friends from 1985-1987. Generational talent.

Talk Talk: The Colour of Spring. Purchased June 1986

Album 9 of the Albums that Shaped Me review.

I first was introduced to Talk Talk through a TV Show on Canadien TV in 1984. The show, the name of which now escapes me, was a 30 minute review of current music and snippets of the accompanying videos. The song of course was It’s My Life, a mega hit which became a mega hit again when No Doubt recorded it in 2003.

At the time, Talk Talk was considered a ‘Duran Duran’ clone, with catchy pop sensibilities and dance hits. The band, however, had different ideas. Using the money they made making records that didn’t satisfy them and only further pigeonholed their music in the dance genre, they bought Hammond Organs, Fretless Basses, and invested in studio time and studio musicians to change their sound radically. With their hair grown long, an utter hatred of the music press and the business of selling themselves, they created a masterpiece of music, soulful, deep and a hauntingly beautiful. Intelligent without peers.

Just as quickly as they ascended to a higher and more prominent position in the music scene they threw it all away in the name of integrity and art. Two albums would follow, radical departures in form and function. It’s hard to describe the brilliance they displayed over their last three albums, but in my opinion, the last three albums were as perfect in their demonstration of studio genius as Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds LP.

Lead singer Mark Hollis was an uncompromising man. He lost his older brother (and also rock star) Ed to drugs in 1988. Mark spoke of his brother in songs. Mark walked away from music after one solo album in 1998. In one of his last interviews before dropping completely out of the public view he said he could be a rock star and he could be a husband and father, but he couldn’t be both. Integrity as a musician and a man.

Mark died tragically and suddenly at aged 64 in early 2019. His music lives on. The picture on the back of album says it all: None of them looking, Mark turning his face away.

REM: Fables of the Reconstruction. Purchased June 1985

Album 10 of the Albums that Shaped Me micro blog.

REM Fables of the Reconstruction was recorded in London with obscure record producer Joe Boyd whose only credits in the years prior were with Fairport Convention folk rockers Richard and Linda Thompson. Released in June 1985, it coincidentally was the first album I ever purchased with money I earned myself. I bought it at a record store in beautiful downtown Waukegan, Illinois on the day that would have been my Senior Class Day.

This is what I think of when I think of REM. To me, REM stopped being interesting by the mid 90’s. Competent, yes, but just not that interesting. The albums before this, specifically 1983’s Murmur and 1984’s Reckoning were very similar, with jangling Rickenbacker tones, impenetrable lyrics and danceable. Fables was a departure, dark, less jangle, more sparse, muted tones. The album draws you in, whispers to you, and reveals an audible blanket of deep fog covering the hillside in which to get lost in.

Their next few albums were very good, no doubt, and commercially the band grew much larger two albums later with 1987’s Document, but as the lyrics became clearer, as the jangle became less, as the social justice and politics became more focused, I lost interest.

On a side note, 10,000 Manics were recording The Wishing Chair at the same time in London with Joe Boyd. The bands were linked in the early days, especially by fans, with similar guitar sounds and eclectic singers. Are there any Mary Margaret O’Hara fans in the audience? Joe Boyd was the uncredited producer of that Canadien classic of the late 80’s.

Special thanks to Todd Nave. My Fables cassette died on a long trip at sea and Todd loaned me his. His copy was a bit wonky too but it was that trip to sea that made me love this album forever.

Todd and me. San Diego. Pacific Beach. Mannequin Nightclub Circa 1989.

Microblog: The Albums That Shaped Me Part 2. Albums 4-6

The Waterboys: The Fisherman Blues. Purchased June 1988

Day 4 of an 11 day (or longer) Albums that Shaped Me Challenge. Ireland’s The Waterboys entered my cassette deck in 1986, when 1985’s This is the Sea and 1983’s A Pagan Place went into high rotation while I lived in Orlando. In June of 1988, The Fisherman’s Blues changed the game, from what they called “The Big Music”, grandiose songs, to a rockabilly Irish Folk Music sound. The epic, We Will Not Be Lovers and the sublime Sweet Thing changed me in a good way.

Duran Duran: Rio. Purchased Spring 1983

Day 5 of an allegedly 11 Day challenge to present the albums that shaped me. Duran Duran, Rio. Released in 1982, I first heard “Hungry Like the Wolf” in the early part of 1983 while attending Drivers Education at NCCC. I sat in the lunchroom waiting to drive the Dodge Aries K car and the song just jumped out at me. It’s an insult to call them a “boy band”. They wrote and played every song, a slab of what the press called New Romantic, but the genie was out of the bottle for me and wouldn’t go back in. For this 10th grader, I was more able to relate to Duran Duran with their hair, clothes and youthful passion than I could to the classic rock bands I had been listening to previously. Onto New Wave…

Beach Boys: Pet Sounds. Purchased Spring 1988

Day 6 of the Albums that Shaped Me Challenge. Released in 1966, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds wasn’t something that interested me growing up. By the mid-80’s The Beach Boys were a nostalgia filled traveling carnival that couldn’t be any further removed from what I considered hip or cool. My friend Colin however had eclectic taste in music in high school and he was a Beach Boy fan and I respected that enough to listen. I bought Pet Sounds in 1988 and took it to sea with me on a several month cruise around the Western Pacific. Blown away. The album is a complete work, with no throw away tracks. Perfection in every detail possible. To this day I think that when I die, angels will sound like Carl Wilson. An incredible achievement and a reminder of what was lost when music stopped being made organically and auto tune and computers took over.

Microblog: The Albums that Shaped Me

On Facebook, I started a challenge. I typically don’t participate in these sort of things, but I couldn’t resist discussing a favorite subject of mine, music, and the music that shaped my outlook.

I’m going to migrate the work I’ve done Microblogging on Facebook to this, my personal (non Horse Racing/Handicapping Blog). It will allow me more real estate to share my thoughts and it will allow it to be more searchable, as I keep the security settings on my Facebook Account pretty locked down. By the way, you are welcome to check out my Horse Racing Blog. Started in 2007, it’s nearly 700 posts long, and you’ll find the link to my blog, The Turk: Horses, Handicapping and Hijinks here.

I’m 16 albums in. I started to write longer posts as time went by. I’ll be editing and adding here as I go.

The first three- These are not in any Order!

U2: The Unforgettable Fire. Purchased December 1984

Thank you Bryan Bernard for nominating me to share for the next 11 days the Albums that shaped Me. If you know me, you know it is not easy to curate my catalog to 11 albums but I’ll play along for now. These are in no particular order. The first album I have chosen I bought upon its release in October 1984. I had found U2 in 1983 as I transitioned from classic rock to new wave. Their War Album and the Live at Red Rocks albums were important in that shift in taste, but this is the one that defined U2 for me and not their commercial high water mark, 1987’s Joshua Tree. 1984’s Unforgettable Fire

Joy Division: Still. Purchased December 1986

Day 2 of the 11 Days of Albums that shaped me challenge. Released in October 1981, Manchester’s Joy Division Still, a Live Album and compilation of previously released and unreleased material was nothing short of a punch between the eyes. A sonic wall of passionate singing, introspective lyrics and a searing rhythm section. I bought this album in December 1986. I worked backwards from New Order, who I saw on their Brotherhood Tour that month at Shea’s. I knew that Joy Division existed, but it was a dark road I didn’t want to wander down. I wandered down it many times after that.

Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority. Purchased 1982

Day 3 of an 11 Day Albums that Shaped Me challenge. I may treat the 11 day suggestion like the quarantine and extend it as needed! Today’s nomination is from 1969, Chicago’s debut album, self titled, The Chicago Transit Authority. Forget the shlock of the 80’s. Chicago was a truly great band until the music died with Guitarist Terry Kath death in January 1978. The rest of the band was strung out on coke and booze and then sold their souls. Chicago isn’t about what most of my music collection represents, as it’s as far away from ’80’s new wave as you can get. That said, the combination of horns and rock, mixed with multiple songwriters and instrument virtuoso players make early Chicago an incredible witches brew. Thank You Corbin Family for giving me this musical love.

Taking Inventory (Part 1)

It’s important to know what you have before you go to the store. I think we have all been there, wandering the grocery store aisles wondering what else you might need. Taking inventory of your life and your motivations, desires, needs and dreams is just as important.

I wandered for many years, especially my mid 20’s, before I was a father, in the desert of the idle hands. Idle time was my bane. I had too much time. I squandered it. Then one day I became a father and I had no time. My free time became family time and my me time was spent sleeping. Aimless. Just as my son entered 1st grade I took on a new job, full of responsibility and travel. I now had no time for me, less for my family, and the personal side of my life was gone. Forget work-life balance, I was hoping not to stroke out before 50.

Satori. Capstone. Balance returned to me. My son, now in college, and I find time to enjoy each other’s company at the end of long days. I travel less, I let my staff help me more, and like a slider on an equalizer, I feel my life coming into harmonic balance.

I’m measuring my goals based around a one year period, Veterans Day to Veterans Day. I choose Veterans Day for several reasons: I’m a Vet primarily, but you can do a lot of damage to yourself between Thanksgiving and New Years and this is my way of starting resolutions before the damage. What kind of damage? To much indulgence: financial. To much eating: physical. Both will interfere with Capstone.

What is my Capstone? I wrote my first blog post here in July and the next post was today, late November. Where was I? Thinking, analyzing and taking inventory. I’ll summarize the results of that inventory in my next post, and the analytical method I used to assess myself.

How did I go from aimless wandering to detailed and driven? Perhaps it was the years I spent in purgatory, wishing I hadn’t squandered my early years and hoping that life, fate and circumstances would allow me another opportunity. Regardless, I’m on it now. 2,567 days until I’m 60. so much to do, each day is precious.

Thanks for reading

Father. Son. Grandson 2012

Day 1 of the Rest of My Life

Capstone and Satori, what do these words mean to me?

When I was a younger man, in my early twenties I read a book called Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac. Written in 1966, nine years after the seminal On the Road was published, and the year of my birth, it was a harrowing tale to me: A 44 year old Jack Kerouac, three years before his death, coming face to face with his family heritage and his own mortality.

1985

Satori is a Japanese word for sudden awakening, like that feeling of being struck by a bolt of lightning, a jolting force that tells you to wake up. Satori. The word has hung on me for many years since reading this book. I knew the time would come when one day I would enter the final phase of my life, no longer young but something different, evolved, at the peak of my skills and knowledge, the Everest of a life time before things begin to slow. At 52, I’ve found Everest’s summit and that leads me to the second word, capstone.

Capstone, the stone set at the top of the arch that applies downward pressure keeping everything else in place. Capstone, the culmination of all of your learning applied to one project. Capstone: What do I still have to accomplish before I work my way down and off the mountain?

I woke up not too long ago and took stock of my life. My dog had died on May 30, my companion for 14 years, and her death brought me face to face with the reality that two dogs from now I could be 80. While 80 isn’t necessarily the end of the path, I don’t think waiting until 80 to find my capstone project is a good idea. No, I want to start now, I need to start now.

Which brings me full circle: The Satori I had was that I was wasting time, that I needed to narrow my focus, hone in on the things that I want to accomplish, and have a plan.

This blog has one purpose: It will serve as document to my son, grandchildren (God Willing) and anyone else interested in reading how I defined myself and my life.

With the new puppy, Sammy (Samantha) July 2019