Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summertime in the City

"Young boys playing stick ball in the street, fire hydrants help to beat the heat, old man feeding pigeons in the square, night time finds young lovers walking there, cause it's summer, summertime is here, yes it's summer, my time of year." Summer War
(c)BetmanCorbis 1984
I didn't' really know what summer was until I moved to New York City. Summer to me was always like a Richard Marx song - like Endless Summer Nights - smooth, cool, and kind of enjoyable. The middle of the day might have been hot, but there were always cool breezes at night and chilly mornings that deceived you into thinking fall was around the corner.
Summer in New York City is like taking Black 47, Simon and Garfunkel, Gogol Bordello and Tito Puente, tossing it all up in the air and letting it hit you at once.
New York City heat is like nothing else. New York City heat comes from everywhere: the pavement, the subway, the buildings, the people, even the squirrels. I always think of Washington Square Park and the West 4th Street Station when I think of summer. It's probably because I spent those summers across from the NYU Library in the park, reading assignments for my classes on East 10th Street, eating pizza from John's and listening to Fun Lovin' Criminals, The Ramones and Jamiroquai, praying they would fix the fountain once and for all. The men playing chess in the corner across from the pot smokers never seemed to move from their tables. The grimy, green, dirty white and rust colors of the West 4th Street Station (aka, my portal to home on John Street) no matter what time of year, a cauldron of smells, sounds, heat and people.
At night, when it seemed to get hotter, even though that doesn't seem possible, the saxophone player that I thought was only a TV stereotype would appear, playing Stevie Wonder or John Coltrane. They always managed to find the perfect spot, their notes echoing off a wall and lasting forever in the thick air that also carried some smells I never imagined could exist.
I began to understand the song Summer by War. The rhythm of the song is slow, but not languid slow. Sexy slow.  Summer in the City has rhythm, it has style and it has attitude. Think about all of those summer scenes in music videos shot in NYC: You Belong to the City - Glenn Frey; What's Love Got to Do With It - Tina Turner; Cruel Summer - Bananarama; So Real - Jeff Buckley... it is really like that.
People sit on their stoops, they open fire hydrants to cool off, they wear short shorts and walk in front of fire houses (hey, I married him, so it's ok).
Cause it's summer! I love it. I love New York City.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jeff Buckley - It's You I've Searched So Hard For

He played a version of Indifference for me. Man, I tell you, I'll never forget the way he  did it...I was just fuckin' of the most memorable moments of my life. ~Eddie Vedder  

It isn't a surprise to anyone that I am slightly obsessed with singer Jeff Buckley. I was left breathless when my friend asked essentially, what's the big fucking deal with Jeff Buckley? (Completely paraphrased with my exaggeration after three glasses of red wine of course). I would have appreciated some sensitivity but nonetheless...So what is the big deal about Jeff Buckley?

From the second I heard Jeff in Australia, he had my soul. There is something both romantically and tragically mysterious about Jeff. And yet there is something so pure about him.

Let's break down the elements of Jeff Buckley.

He is the son of a musician with a tragic ending.
Irony and rock and roll coincidence that Jeff not only looked and sounded like his father, folk legend, Tim Buckley (who walked about from both Jeff and his mother, Mary) but he also died suddenly, at the height of stardom. Also ironically, he was "discovered" at a musical memorial for his father at St. Anne's Church in Brooklyn.

His octave range and musical abilities impressed Bono, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and Paul McCartney.
I started to play Grace constantly.  constantly and the more, the more I listened to the album, the more, the more I heard — the more I appreciated of Jeff and Jeff’s talents and Jeff’s total ability to which he was just a wizard and it was close to being my favorite album of the decade. We actually made a point of going to hear him play and seeing and it was absolutely scary. One of the things is a little frightening was that I was convinced that he probably did things in tunings and he didn’t. He was doing things in standard tuning. I thought, oh gee he really is clever isn’t he ? He quite clearly had his feet on the ground and he said his imagination was flying, flying way, way out there, beyond, beyond. Jeff Buckley was one of the greatest losses of all. ~Jimmy Page

He was handsome
(No words necessary).

He only released one album Grace was the only album that Jeff blessed to Sony. While he was working on Sketches For (My Sweetheart the Drunk), it was not in the stages of even being ready to be released, with Jeff reportedly unsatisfied with the recordings. We've been blessed with many previously un-released tracks and live performances. But many wonder - what would Sweetheart have truly been if Jeff had done waded into the Wolf River.

He was enigmatic yet simple.

When Jeff loved people, he loved them unconditionally. Whether others thought that someone was a big freak or the best person in the world, it didn't make any difference to him. He loved people for what they were, unconditionally. However, he wasn't the kind of person that someone could pursue any sort of friendship with; it usually had to be on his terms. He said that he was like a cat. When I come around - it's going to be often, but it's going to be when I want. ~Leah Reid

He was schizophrenic in a good way. I mean, he was always an actor. The last week he was here I was going to get lunch and he was coming out of this Mexican restaurant and he saw me walking down the street so he started prancing like a fairy. And I said "Jeff, someone's going to pull you over in a pickup truck and kill you, just like in the end of Easy Rider they're gonna shoot you off your bike." He thought that was hilarious. I felt really awful because I warned him about everything except the river. ~Andria Lisle

He died at the pinnacle of his career.
Jeff had everything in front of him...and it terrified him I think. Many times he would play under pseudonyms or false band names just to be able to play a club. He didn't want to be heckled, swooned over, or lied to. Jeff just wanted to play music. Grace might have been the purist Jeff Buckley album we could have ever been gifted had he lived.  

 The day I discovered Jeff, the truth that I would never hear that angelic voice live was thrust upon me by the checkout girl at the record store. Yes, I went out and bought every CD released with his name. He haunted me in my dreams...seriously. He lived under my bed but would chase me around the apartment, laughing. Ever since that first day, the very same day I heard Jeff, he has been a part of me. Ask people, I give them Grace as a gift. I tell them to listen to him. Turn down the lights, turn up the sound, and experience Jeff the way he wanted us to.

Jeff's song Mojo Pin, as he said, was a song about a dream. Mojo Pin, could be a reference to a drug, a needing of something or someone to be desired. The song paints a picture of a tortured lover who asks for their return otherwise seeking solace in Mojo Pin. When you ask anyone who gets Jeff, who understands the need to hear the voice, feel the soul, this song suffices. Jeff describes the torture he lays upon us ... Well it's you I've waited my life to see ... It's you I've searched so hard for...

**Quotes taken from the book Jeff Buckley A Wish For Song by Merri Cyr. **

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This Next Song Is Only Dedicated To Beautiful People Here Tonight...It Means All of You

Inspired by the famine in Africa, it began with the Do They Know it's Christmas? a single that blossomed into a humanitarian effort reminiscent of George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh.  It was the who's who of 80's (mainly British) pop music scene. Bob Geldof was inspired to do something - to make a difference. And people caught on to the idea. Festivals were not huge yet and they were all mainly political - Greenpeace, world peace, and fighting against nuclear proliferation.

Billed as the Rock Concert of the Decade, Live Aid took place on two separate continents on July 13, 1985. That concert cemented my love of live music. The lineup alone is a time capsule of the 80's: Simple Minds, Madonna, Adam Ant, Sting, Dire Straits, Queen, Elton John, Hall and Oates,  Pretenders, U2, Spandau Ballet, Run DMC, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, REO Speedwagon, The Powerstation, Eric Clapton, and many many many more performers and presenters. Now we are used to TV studio fundraisers - and they do raise a lot of money. But this was different. This was getting all of those people and all of those bands to play - to be heard.

Of course there were the naysayers (queue Bill O'Reilly) who said that the money raised would do no good, or would be given to warlords who would just pilfer the money away on weapons.

 Tim Russert, in an interview on Meet the Press shortly after O'Reilly's comments, addressed these concerns to Bono. Bono responded that corruption, not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to Africa, agreeing with the belief that foreign relief organizations should decide how the money is spent. On the other hand, Bono said that it was better to spill some funds into nefarious quarters for the sake of those who needed it, than to stifle aid because of possible theft.

But for many, they paid their ticket or donated their money and just wanted to see some music. Not all of the big bands of the 80's were present (ahem, Boy George).

But there were so many performers that no one would have ever imagined they would see in one day on a stage. Sting sang with Dire Straits, Tina Turner sang with Mick Jagger, and these two lovelies sang a duet. This was also the performance that I broke up with Boy George and wanted to marry George Michael. I had very understanding parents.

Two performances that echo to this very moment in my music soul: U2 and Queen. These two bands captured not only the crowd, but the world. Freddie Mercury hands down had the best performance and commanded Wembley Stadium. Bono took all those people and gave them a big Irish hug.  

U2's performance was very telling of the future of the band. This was pre-Joshua Tree Bono. This was Bono the child pied piper, mulletted, and making women swoon already. I truly believe the Bono we know today was born at Live Aid with Bob Geldof and 70,000 fans as witness.

And who doesn't think of Freddie Mercury's commanding presence and performance at Wembley that summer of 1985. Not knowing we would only have him grace us with his exuberant presence for a short six more years, I would love to be able to go back to that moment. To see him perform Hammer to Fall, rouse the crowd with We Are the Champions, and lead the Radio GaGa chorus is a glorious moment of our rock and humanitarian history.
We are extremely lucky to have what we do of the ten hours of music. Bob Geldof never wanted something like this to be done again - and most tapes, ABC, MTV, and so on, were destroyed or erased. Some artists such as Led Zeppelin, who performed so poorly that day, were enthusiastically pleased, I am sure. However, there is one irony, that because so many people watched from home, many captured those moments on their new VCR's. You have to admit, hearing Do They Know It's Christmas performed in July in London is a priceless moment. The bad camera angles and missed moments are so glaringly 80's
Twenty three performers sang to us from Wembley, and thirty five from JFK Stadium in Philadelphia (Phil Collins is counted twice with his Concorde flight). The goal was to raise £1 million. The final tally was over £150 million or $280 million.
We will never have another Live Aid. Not that we do not need it. It was a special moment in time that will never be re-lived. The energy and over the top, care free attitude of the 80's is gone. The irony of Madonna singing Holiday at a fundraiser for Ethiopia famine relief would be lost on many. It was a time of need and fear: Famine and the Cold War. Music was and still is going to solve all the problems in the world. If only it were that easy.

Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid