The Perfect Break Up Song

A couple of Sundays ago, I was on my way to pick up a friend when a story on NPR caught my attention.  It was a piece about a girl trying to write the perfect break up song, after being dumped by the guy she loved so much.  Not able to find just the right song to make her own, she thought she would write one.  She’d never written a song before, so she needed some help.  Through some loose connections, she was able to enlist the help of one of the finest writers of not-cheesy love songs, Phil Collins.  Phil very openly shared his own story of love lost. Talk about a classy, classy guy to indulge this girl in such a pure, open-hearted way.

I ended up sitting in my car, in front of my friend’s place, listening to about 45 minutes of the show, nearly coming to tears a few times.  I know I can be an emotional black hole at times, but I still feel.

The entire segment is available to listen to here.

In Defense of Kanye West

I take a fair amount of heat for liking Kanye.  I have no issues with his ranting.  His all caps.  Or his impromptu award show stage visits.  As a matter of fact, I wish there were more Kanye Wests and I have a theory as to why he is such a problem for so many people here in the nice round year of 2010.   Let’s look at the environment that Kanye inhabits vs the environment some of his predecessors inhabited.  Please indulge me and read on 🙂

First, let’s look at the history books.  John Lennon, one of the most revered musicians ever.   ‘Bigger than Jesus’ was his famous larger-than-life quote that demonstrated total disregard for a billion or so Christians.   He may as well have said the Beatles are bigger, more important and certainly more relevant than an entire religion.   Yeah, so people freaked, took it out of context, got highly pissed, likely talked shit about him over dinner and yet look how the world regards him today.  He acted out, had strong opinions, and is pretty much still bigger than Jesus.

Led Zeppelin.  These guys thought so much of themselves, how could they ‘just order room service’?   With blatant disregard for authority and appropriateness, they destroyed hotel rooms, fucked groupies with mud sharks in those hotel rooms, and showed large degrees of disrespect for the rules we common people had to play by.  They were above the rules and defined debauchery.   And now, Jimmy Page is considered one of the best guitar players of all time, the band routinely tops lists of best rock bands of all time, Robert Plant still sounds pretty amazing, and Stairway to Heaven is… enough said.

So why are things different for Kanye?  I am going to cross my fingers and pray to John Lennon that it has nothing to do with race.    Here is what I am thinking…

  1. Reality TV Nation. We live in a world where somewhere along the way, likely coinciding with the rise of The Real World, Survivor, American Idol and The Bachelor, the playing field was leveled.  Famous people no longer required talent, which put most famous people  about one-good-audition-at-the-mall above the regular people.  Celebrities became far more accessible.  These days, I could name 20 friends that have been to some party that Jay-Z was at.   If it was 1984, could I say the same thing about Michael Jackson?  Hell no!   Now we live in a world where we think famous people are just like us, or we are just like them.    It is totally feasible that you could walk into a bar and MGMT will be sitting there having a drink just like you.   This changes the whole dynamic.  Now our rockstars are not allowed to be the rockstars of old.  We cannot trash hotel rooms, so why can they?    We cannot be bigger than Jesus, so why can they?   Three weeks ago, the celebrity may have lived in a trailer park.  Shit, we are better than they are! Kanye and his extreme personality is forced to suffer in the post Reality TV world.
  2. Brand Intervention. This one is definitely close to home for me.   When you can no longer make money making music, you have to resort to endorsements, brand partnerships, or simply some sort of brand involvement.  This requires a nice polished image that looks absolutely nothing like Led Zeppelin or even John Lennon.  Impressively (in 2010), it does not look like Kanye either.   Unlike many musicians of a certain stature, he makes the majority of his money from the act of making music.  And like John Lennon and Led Zeppelin who also made money from music not brands, that gives him the ability, and perhaps even the right, to be a douche bag, to talk shit, and to be a real rock star.  Since most of his peers require brand dollars to maintain their lifestyles, Kanye also suffers in a world full of well-behaved musicians.
  3. Age Discrimination. I will keep this one short.   I would imagine there is a distinct division in the Kanye / Anti-Kanye camps.   Young vs. Old.   People my age harbor the cynicism of Gen X and what rubbed off on Gen Y.  We are older and more established and have spent the last 10 years watching the real superstars of our youth replaced by completely disposable talent generated by reality television.   The only problem… Kanye is not a product of reality television, yet we are guilty of looking at him through that lens.  We are the problem.

If Kanye decided to build his own theme park, everyone on the planet over 28 years old would collectively vomit and ask for an apology from him.  But 30 years ago, it was cute when Michael Jackson did it.  He was a god and did god-like things.  He was on another monkey-having level than all of us, and we were cool with that.  If Michael Jackson said ‘George Bush hates black people’, the nation would have asked for impeachment and congress would have moonwalked.   Back then, you had to earn your stripes.  You had to earn the trust of the people to be a superstar and act like a rockstar.   Now we live in a world where we are all stars (or think we should be) and we reject those that act out because most of us cannot.

See the forest through the trees.  What if John Lennon acted a little more normal or grounded?   Or Led Zeppelin went back to the hotel and slept every night after reading a few verses of the Bible?    Or if Kurt Cobain lightened up?   That is what a huge portion of the population thinks Kanye should do.   Personally, I think he should keep being Kanye, and if anything, dial it up a bit.  Maybe he’ll inspire others to do the same.  If not, what are we left with?

Song Lyrics as an Education


Yesterday would have been my Dad’s 61st birthday.  I wanted to share something on my blog to recognize his birthday.  But as the day came to an end, I had yet to post anything.   I found myself channel surfing late last night.  And there it was – a video for a song from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on VH1 Classic.  It was my reminder.  The trippy video instantly took me back to a pretty hilarious evening one night at the Wells house.

Some friends and I had been out skating.  When we got to my house, my Mom, a few neighbors and my skater friends hung outside in the front yard to chat.  My parents and friends were cool that way. In somewhat normal fashion, you could hear exceptionally loud music rattling the front windows of my house.  Rattling them! But it was really nothing new.  My dad could rock a Fox & Jacobs suburban home like it was a concert ampitheater.   It was Dad and my Uncle Chip rocking out on my Dad’s beloved home stereo.   I walked in to get something to drink.

Upon entering, I found my Dad and Chip jamming.  Loud. I grabbed a drink and sat on the fireplace to catch up.   They switched CDs, and ended up with Dark Side of the Moon.    The song Time, starts off with insanely loud bells, ringing, loud enough to make you squint your eyes.   As the song starts to build, my Dad advises with 100% seriousness…  “Robby, listen to the words.  Just listen to the words.”

My uncle, with his eyes closed, shaking his head left to right – also with 100% seriousness – says “So true.  So true.”   And the song begins:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to nought
Or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
The time is gone
The song is over
Thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells

I feel I should let the lyrics speak at this point.  Click to play the video above, then read along with the lyrics.   I think in some way, somewhat subconsciously, I took my Dad’s advice.  I listened. Roughly 7-minutes of music coupled with short and simple piece of advice and endorsement from my much-loved uncle. To this day, I cannot crank up a stereo without thinking of my Dad. What a fuckin’ awesome way to be remembered. Fatherhood at its best.

This is not about the amazing people inv…

Bryan Newman and Lady Gaga

This is not about the amazing people involved, or even the incredible cool-ness of what happened.  It is just about following your instincts when you suspect something special is going to happen.    Lesson learned. Pictured above: An impromptu performance by Lady Gaga for a room of 20 people at my favorite Friday night spot in NYC. A few nights after selling out Madison Square Garden indefinitely.

See also:  Friday Nights at Duane Park in Tribeca

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