Music and Me Through the Ages

I am NOT a music nerd.  I have music nerd friends. My wifesy is a music nerd. My brother is a music nerd and a music teacher.  I like music, but I’m very sad to say that I’ve become a bit of music-tardo.  I hear something and I like it, but I can’t name the group or the song title, most of the time.  Wifesy and I have a running joke and it is – sometimes I don’t know the difference between Led Zeppelin and Def Leppard.  Of course, I know now because Wifesy has found this eccentricity of mine appalling and I have thus been schooled.  Led Zeppelin is the groundbreaking British band with one of the best guitarists in the world and Def Leppard is a hair band with a drummer with one arm.  See, I do know. I don’t know why I confuse the two in the first place.  I think it’s because their names sound similar to me.

It’s become hilarious around our household.  I just called up to Wifesy, just now.  She’s getting ready in the loft area of our lodge and I said:

“Led Zeppelin is the ground breaking British band and Def Leppard is the hair band with a couple of hits.”

“Oh, my god,” said Wifesy. “This is tragic. Tragic. I can’t believe I’m still explaining this. Tragic.”

I laugh.  (I think there’s part of me that enjoys this.)  “Well, I want to make sure I say it right in my post.”

“Yes,” she said. “That’s correct. It’s like this:  Led Zeppelin is George Carlin and Def Leppard is Howie Mandel.”

Oh, okay.  Now she’s speaking in a language I can understand.

This is LEZ Zeppelin – an all female rock group that does Led Zeppelin covers. I’m not kidding, their website is below. Image: Wikipedia.

We’re very different in this way.  Wifesy has always loved music.  It surges through her body like an electrical source.  I dig music, but when someone tells me a good story – in particular a good story that is funny – I practically levitate.

I’m drinking out of a coffee mug right now.  It has Stevie Nicks lyrics on it.  It’s hand painted by Wifesy’s best childhood friend and I love it because it holds the perfect quantity of my morning joe.  This hand crafted Stevie Nicks mug is of no surprise to me because I’m pretty sure Wifesy thought she was Stevie Nicks as a child.  She was religious in her pursuit of the Nicks.  Wifesy was a singer and went on to run a recording studio before becoming a vet.  As a child, I thought I was Harriet the Spy.  I carried around a small notebook and wrote down everything that everyone said.  I’m still writing things down. So, watch out if you talk to me.

I call up to Wifesy a second time, “What was the name of Stevie Nick’s band again?”

Wifesy practically throws herself off the balcony.  (Honestly, she sounded like she’d been hit.)  “FLEETWOOD MAC. FLEETWOOD MAC!” She yells.

And I know that, but somehow it doesn’t always stick.  Band names.  Song names.  I can’t recall it quickly like I can recall every good story I’ve ever heard and every good comedian I’ve ever liked.  I can even do this thing where I put on Sirius satellite radio – tuned to the comedy channel – I cover the display and I can guess 9 out of 10 comedians by the voice and the bit.  It’s just how we are wired, I suppose.

Now, I played some music as a kid.  Truth be told, I played the cello.  I kind of hated the cello.  My parents were not well off when we started living on Long Island after moving from Queens.  I had to play the cello because my parents couldn’t afford to rent a band instrument and I wanted to play in the band.  Seriously.  I think the band instrument was like a $50 rental FOR THE YEAR.  And yet, it was still too steep. So, I had to play an orchestra instrument, which I think rented for like $25.  I tried to go for the violin or the viola, but they were all taken.  I was left with my cello.  When I went to pick it up we looked at each other like a chubby girl and an awkward boy with a skin disorder would. We were forced to dance together because everyone else had already been paired off.

But, we made the best of it.  The worst part was lugging him around.  In grade school, you only received one cello.  So, you had to lug it to school and lug it back home to practice.  I was 11ish, so the cello and I were the same size.  Imagine a date you’re not really fond of and now you have to carry the fecker to and from the dance floor, which is about a mile away.  We’re all lucky I didn’t smash it into a million pieces. But, I didn’t.  I ended up becoming sort of good at it.  I was either good at it or no one else was playing the cello.  It was one or the other.  I say that because at the first opportunity, I gave it up.  I played from around 3rd grade when you choose an instrument through until 9th.  In high school, I gave it up.  I almost continued because Fame had come out and that girl played the electric cello and almost made it seem cool.  That and the orchestra teacher approached me and told me he would give me an automatic A if I joined them.  For a millisecond, I felt like those boys who are good at sports, but like other things too and get stalked by the coaches.  “Play for me and I’ll get you a car and all the tail you can handle,” he seemed to be saying.  But, I gave it up anyway.  You have to like what you’re doing.  I learned that lesson early.

Lori Singer almost made me stay in a bad relationship.

My parents were strict and going to concerts was tough.  So, don’t judge me, but my first concert was Menudo.  My early association with Menudo is the reason both Ricky Martin and I are gay.  Not really, but I think it would be nice if the ultra-conservatives pointed their energies somewhere else and I think Menudo is a good target.  Let’s blame Menudo – for EVERYTHING.  The middle east crisis – Menudo’s fault.  The economic depression – Menudo danced all the money away.  The skinny jean trend?  Menudo caused it with their tight pants and moose knuckles.  In reality, Menudo was my first “chaperoned” concert.  My cousin was boy crazy and in love with all of them, so my aunt offered to take us.  I think I went just to get out of the house.  Plus, it was a trip to the city and that for me was always cool.  The first concert I went to, of my own volition, was Heart.  There, see, do I at least get some credit back for that one?  Heart was a very good first concert choice if you ask me and if they’re playing nearby, I’d still go and see them today.

That’s little Ricky in the front. My favorite was Charlie standing behind him.

I think you can guess which concert was Wifesy’s first.  It was Fleetwood Mac, of course.  She followed that up with both Prince and Berlin.  I was not as cool as Wifesy, but I can tell you, I was funnier.  At least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Apparently, music can help take certain people out of a catatonic state.  I watched this incredible video, below, and was blown away by the transformation in the elderly man.  Just yesterday, I heard a great piece on NPR about how they’re now using storytelling to help people with dementia.  Interesting, isn’t it?  It would seem that both music and storytelling are doing the same things to the brain, only through different mediums.  So, when Wifesy and I are in the old age home together…if we go loopy, play her some Fleetwood Mac and spin me a good yarn.  We’ll come back to the present, right away.




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Photo creds:  fame-cello, menudo, lezzeppelin-website


52 thoughts on “Music and Me Through the Ages

    1. so glad you liked it moms. it was my highest viewed since my fp’d. i suppose that’s what happens when you write about everyone else. lol. much love, sm

  1. OMG, Wifesy and I have much in common. Love the Stevie–LOVE HER. Am going to go see her in July. I too imagined myself as Stevie, with all her lace, long hair and twirling around with those platform boots. I think the cello is way cool and sexy — remember Susan Sarandon playing it in the movie, The Witches of Eastwick — AWESOME. I wrote a post about this (cheesy music and the ragin’ 80s) that I bet your lovely could relate to (apologize for the self-promotion here) but anyway, great, hilarious post as always, SM and you should drag that cello back out.

    Favorite George Carlin quote: Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff. :).

    1. she’s a stevie nicks diehard, though she’s calmed a lot now. i think our current favorite – like we’d fall to the ground for – is jack white. there was this great little film, i think on hbo with jack white, jimmy page, and the edge. it was phenom! i will totes check out the post. i always love reading your stuff. much love, mother

  2. Harriet the Spy! Believe it or not, I have brought this book up to several people lately. I loved that book. Read it to pieces. Which is why it’s no longer in my library. It was in tatters by the time I outgrew it.

    But this, I love:

    When I went to pick it up we looked at each other like a chubby girl and an awkward boy with a skin disorder would. We were forced to dance together because everyone else had already been paired off.

    So lovely. So evocative. You are a wordsmithing genius. xo CCL

    1. cristy, that is my favorite sentence too. we are kindred spirits, you and i. if i am EVER in your hood, we’re getting drinks for sure. so glad you liked it. so glad. and i loved that harriet the spy, loved. my dad said i carried a notebook around for months and i was very young. so funny. xo, sm

      1. i SO wish i still had them. i have every comedy notebook since i started like 16 yrs ago tho. but, the funniest stuff in a ‘what the hell was going on’ sort of way, i wrote as a kid. i have one note that i wrote to my parents about gymnastics. it was about me going to the olympics. it was cray-cray and hilarious. oxoxo

  3. How dare she insult that awesome Def Leppard like that! They are my all time favorite band ever. Bar. None. Saw them last year and totally felt like I was 17 again. Ahhhh.

    On another note, you might not know this, but I actually have an album for sale on iTunes and Amazon. Search for my name and you’ll find it.

    Lastly, while Im whoring myself here, I am officially running a contest for a $100 target gift card or a signed copy of The Bloggess’ book.

  4. First, I am not a music nerd, I am a music aficionado 😉 Second, I don’t even want to tell you what my first concert was because you might mock me forever. Third, there are really interesting studies on the power of music and it’s ability to help people do different things – there are even people with degrees in music psychology!

      1. the latin justin bieber — yes. ricky martin is just adorable. he was adorable then. he’s adorable now. love him. i know he’s a cheeseball, but i still love him like i love matt dillon and c thomas howel. fascinating, the music/ brain stuff, huh? i love reading about it. there’s some great stuff in the oliver sacks book too – “the man who mistook his wife for a hat”. xo, sm

  5. As a teen, my favorite band was The Stones. Since then, I seem to gravitate to whatever is popular at the time. I hate listening to the “classics” because…well, I just don’t like them anymore and they remind me about my age. 😛

    1. the stones also makes you way cooler than me. 😉 i’m with you. i listen to whatever’s got ‘soul’ – you know what i mean? could be motown, could be gospel, a lot of times it’s latin music, whatever is moving me at the moment. i like this song from gotye ‘somebody i used to know’ right now too. xoxo

  6. I too got sucked into the orchestra cycle (I was one of the lucky violinists). My stand partner was a music genius who also got private lessons, while like you, I was lucky that my parents could afford the instrument rental. So I spent years of orchestra pretending to play the violin. I got very good at this. My chin positioning was great, my fingers moved convincingly on the strings, but my bow never touched the strings.

    Music is still amazing to me. I still wish that they taught us something practical in school, like the guitar or bass. Something that we would have heard in the music we all listened to. Like the keytar.

    My mom’s got a form of dementia and can’t talk much anymore. And she was quite the storyteller before it hit. But, when we put on music she knows, her face lights up and we can’t keep her from dancing. Most of the time, she even sings along, getting all the words right. While she can’t find the words to say what she wants, she can sing all the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac.

    The healing power of Stevie Nicks!

    1. lauren, i had no idea about that with your mom. that’s really hard. i assumed she must be way younger than our parents. is she not? it seems like she’d be too young for dementia, but maybe they are our parents age or older. that’s really hard. i think you should hear this and maybe try it with her: – it seems amazing. they start with a picture and have the person create a story from there. it seems to really work and to help families communicate. anyway, i’m sorry you have to deal with that so young. but, seriously, the healing power of stevie nicks.

      and i’m loving getting to know you on here, gurl. i’m telling you, sometimes i wish we lived in the same city. (i thought i was the only one that poverty led to the orchestra!!) ohhhh, the collaborations we’d come up with. i can sense that for sure.

      much love, sm

      1. Grr. I wrote a whole reply to you and clicked the wrong thing and it vanished.

        Yes, she’s young. 63. She has a condition called PPA, which hits people in their late 50s and early 60s.

        It sucks and not just cuz it has me spending more time on Long Island than I’d otherwise!

        Thanks for the video. She can’t find the words she needs (the “A” is for aphasia) so storytelling is out, but it’s inspiring to see so many people finding ways to help folks live their lives the best they can be lived. We are keeping her happy as we can. My two brothers still live at home so there’s a lot of love and support there.

        If you lived here, I’d be a terrible influence, enticing you to do/eat/drink all the time. I’ll sleep when I’m dead…and until then just catch up by sleeping in on Sundays!

  7. I laughed my way through this post as I usually do. Two things crossed my mind as I read it — first, that I am profoundly glad that I took voice instead of playing an instrument and second, that my very first concert was Wang Chung and Tina Turner (Meriweather Post Pavilion, 1987). Good times! — Kelly

    1. omg, kells! wang chung and tina turner!!!! that is seriously really awesome. i think i’d go see both of them now. looolll. really glad you liked the post. much love, sm

  8. I think I just developed a crush on Wifesy too! Music is my heart and soul but I sing like a dying cat, so I write instead 😉

  9. First, concert, Sly! Many funny stories around that one, but none are politically correct. First musical instrument, accordian. Yep! They were offering free lessons at the store with the hopes that you would first rent and then buy the accordian. I was awful and hated it! Definitely not cool. Also tried piano and then trumpet. Trumpet was cool, but I could not master the blowing. (No comments, please) Now I have hundreds of songs on my Iphone and I’m all over the place from Country, Soul, Jazz, Big Bands, 80’s, whatever mood, I’ve got something for it. All joy in enjoying music no matter the genre. HF

    1. ok, that’s still a really cool concert!!! and the accordian??!! i bet you do a mean polka. that’s awesome. seriously, hf, your comment made me laugh out loud. and i’m so with you – if anyone ever stole my ipod these days they’d think i was nuts…lol. much love, sm

  10. That’s the problem with school music programs–there’s a very large element of, “Well, play this because it’s cheap/”easy”/needed,” instead of, “What would you like to play?” Of course, everyone would answer drums, violin, flute, or trumpet, and that combination only works if you are Pink Martini. Google them. They do this amazing blend of styles and have awesome instrumentation. But if in the picking instruments stages they find all the cool things about the instruments instead of just a quick explanation, it might be easier to fill out the band/orchestra. The only instrument I can think of that doesn’t have anything remotely cool about it is bassoon, but I’m sure clever band directors could think of something.

    And I definitely appreciate your woes with how big the cello is. I played the french horn for many, many years, and the cases I had were just bulbous enough in the front that I hit everyone who had any body parts in the vicinity of the center aisle on the bus. I was too short and puny to carry it above the seats without actually taking the heads off of people, so it was a lose/lose situation.

    And if it makes you feel any better, my first concert was Backstreet Boys.

    Sorry for the long comment; I was a music major for my first several years of college.

    1. i loved this comment, fads. and no need to apologize about the length. i loved reading it. i’m with you…the schools should do a better job helping kids ‘pick’ so everyone doesn’t gravitate towards the drums. they could probably do this with great performances or something. but, who are we kidding in u.s. schools these music programs are the first to go… and backstreet boys! i was hoping that would be someone’s first. they are like the english-version menudo. so, that is AWESOME. lol. much love, sm

      1. Yeah, I definitely only picked french horn because my piano teacher also played horn, and I didn’t want an instrument that anyone in my family would try to “help” me with. My mother played bassoon, flute, and cello, my brother played trumpet, and my dad played guitar and bass. It wasn’t until probably late high school that I realized that the french horn is the hero instrument of the orchestra (see: Mahler symphonies and anything by Wagner).

        Yup. Backstreet Boys. It was awesome. They had some pre-filmed segment of them running around in the dressing room under the stage and had a raffle for who got a really shit digital camera full of pictures of them in said dressing room. I was devastated that I didn’t win. I may have also been eleven.

      2. this comment is AGAIN so awesome, fads. the digi camera and the contest…and the french horn being the hero of the orchestra!!! i had never heard that. but, i’m glad you left all of this here. it put a real smile on my face. xo, sm

    2. Hey, can I jump in your line real quick. Seeing BackStreet Boys and Menudo brought back memories of my daughter loving InSync. Posters, music, all that stuff. And, my school did give us a taste to see what instrument was best for us. They said I should play the Sax, but I say no! All the cool guys played the trumpet. However, they were so right. I love to listen to the sax, now. It is far and away my favorite instrument. I especially love a tenor sax. Oh, if only I had listened, you might have me on your Iphones and Ipods today! HF

      1. I definitely had a big ol’ poster after that concert. It held a place of honor for an appallingly long time.

        We had a pretty even split of cool guys playing trumpet and sax, but good sax is phenomenal. There’s a soul and personality to it that can’t quite be matched by any of the other jazz instruments.

  11. My teen years were spent listening to then’s rising boybands westlife, backstreet, Nsync and britney spears, savage garden, avril lavigne 😛
    I was a total pop genre kid…
    Sweet Mom my problem is that i cant remember lyrics..even if its my fav song i am just so bad with lyrics

  12. I grew up listening to everything! The Beatles, Van Halen, Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block… My first concert though was Foghat and Iron Butterfly. I was thirteen I think, and I went with my mom. The venue had a round stage in the center and it was hilarious watching women older than my mother rush the stage trying to grab the drummer from Foghat’s ass. 😀
    In third grade, I played the tenor sax. If you stood the case upright it was just about as tall as I was. One day, while attempting to board the bus with it, the kid in front of me stopped. My sax case bumped into the kid (because I couldn’t see around it) and then smacked me in the face. That was the end of that. I’m sure my dog wasn’t disappointed that I quit, since my practicing used to make him howl.

  13. I used to know music. Now I spend the majority of my time looking for the TV remote and then the majority of my brain power trying to operate it. And then when some band comes on the TV, I think it’s too loud and I don’t understand these kids nowadays and they should stay the hell off my lawn.

  14. I am just having a vision of a cello waddling down the street, the poor child (that would be you) lugging it around is completely invisible except for the feet at the bottom. 🙂 I did guitar when I was young and totally get you, I remember that the handles for its cover were just the perfect length to drag it on the ground when I was holding it. I had to develop a lop-sided walk to travel to and from school with it…

    My boys both play instruments, no1 the drums and has just started the guitar, and number 2 the keyboard. Evenings in our house are a very noisy thing. They clearly enjoy their lessons more than I did!

    I am going to pretend the whole ‘I can’t tell the difference between Led Zeppelin and Def Leppard’ thing didn’t happen, ok? 😉

    If you are loving that Gotye song at the moment (go Aussies!), have a look at this version of it. Beanie guy is my favourite member of this band, I think you will be able to guess why!

      1. The original version of the song is Aussie, I would like to lay Aussie claim to these guys but they are Canadians. It is a great version though isn’t it! Beanie guy looks like he wants to either crack up laughing or kill someone 🙂

    1. This video is great. Unfortunately, I am like Sweet Mother and will forget the name and who is singing it as soon as I leave the room 😉

  15. Apologies Mum if this becomes a bit of a downer but it meant a lot to me and ties in with the clip of music therapy for old people who have shut down.

    After the hospital told me that there was nothing more they could do for my Dad they took out all the tubes and made him as comfortable as possible. They asked if there was anything else they could do and I asked if there was some way they could play music in Dad’s room. Without batting an eyelid they brought in a boombox and tuned it to a station that played classical music all the time. Then they tip-toed out.

    By this stage Dad was semi-unconscious. I know he didn’t know I was there but I know that once the music began his breathing became easier.

    I sat and read Hungarian poetry to him for two days. I don’t know whether he was aware of that either but I know the music helped ease him out of this world. Why? Because he used to play the violin and music was always a part of his long life and some part of him remembered.

    Music doesn’t need conscious awareness. It speaks straight to the heart and can find the forgotten pathways to memories overlaid by the years. I wish more aged-care facilities recognized how therapeutic music can be.

  16. I have often felt that music is magical in its healing properties. It can change a mood or a situation. I can improve my state of mind by just belting out some tune enthusiastically. Of course, I will be out of tune, won’t know the words and haven’t got a clue what the song is, but I will have fun.

  17. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I almost had to stop reading as soon as you asked what Stevie Nicks’ band was called. That hurts my heart. Listening to Rumours is like wrapping myself in a biz, cozy, blanket.

  18. I date myself forever –

    First concert – Jimi (I was 9 years old and my babysitter took me)
    First voluntary – Santana 1971

    Heart use to play at parties in the Bellevue, WA area where I was living at the time. They weren’t very good back then, but they played for free!

    I have always loved Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, still have all the old stuff. With thousands of CD’s in my library, I guess I am a Music Nerd.

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