Thursday, May 14, 2009

GMVW # 71: "A Gender Blunder"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 71:  A Gender Blunder
Song:  Come in from the Cold by Joni Mitchell
(Songwriter: Joni Mitchell)
May 14, 2009

Seeing as my birthday is during the summer, I’ve had the privilege of celebrating it while camping on numerous occasions.  One such occasion took place about 16 years ago at a campground on the northern end of Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island (the same island that Newport is on).  Joining Nancy and I were Jen, Dale, Mom, and Dad (along with a party-crashing skunk). 

As we sat around the campfire, Jen pulled out a wrapped gift and handed it to me.   The shape immediately gave it away as a cd, so we decided I would try to guess the album in a game of ‘Twenty Questions’ (yes/no).  I started off on the right foot, as the first question “Is this a band?” helped narrow things down significantly (although it got a ‘No’ response from Jen).

But it all went down hill from there.  The ensuing exchange went something like this:

Me: “Is he a guitar player?”
Jen (hesitating for a moment): “No”
Me: “Did he release any albums in the 60’s or 70’s?”
Jen (hesitating again): “No”
Me: “Does he write his own music?”
Jen (with a wry smile): “No”
Me (feeling a bit stymied): “Does he play piano?”
Jen (an intense stare): “No”
Me: (on the verge of giving up): “A cappella?”
Jen: “No”
Me: “Does he play the skin flute?”
Jen: “No”
Me “…..Is he a schmuck?” (I may have used a harsher word rhyming with ‘grass knoll’)
Jen: “No”

Alas, I was not going to make it to the 20th question; I was stumped, and flatly admitted it.  Defeated and very curious, I opened the present.  It was Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark’.  This was a surprising, yet ideal choice of Jen’s, as I had recently read a great article on Mitchell’s career which included high praise for this album. But at that moment, I realized the error in my ways:  All my questions were ‘HE’ questions.  I shrunk into my folding chair…..squeak.

Jen took it in good humor, but this moment was cause for reflection on my part.  The exchange had me thinking almost immediately on my musical interest in regards to guys vs. gals.  On the one hand, I felt defiant in the fact that many a moon in those days were spent listening to great albums by 10,000 Maniacs, The Cranberries, Iris Dement, Patty Larkin and Joan Baez .  But on the other hand, I recalled the 2-decade stretch of listing to WBCN. 

Not to take away from WBCN’s tremendous contributions to local culture in the 70’s and 80’s but the fact remains that the bulk of the music played on the station was from male artists.  When the occasional song from females was sprinkled in, these songs were played over and over again ad nausea.  For example, after years of repetition, I was no longer willing to put any more dimes into the juke box (baby).  Hits from Joan Jett, Heart, and Stevie Nicks were not connecting anymore (if ever).  It was not until The Pretenders came along that WBCN really started getting serious with female songwriters.  Before the Pretenders, the radio station was not digging deep enough.  Looking back, more emphasis could have been given to musicians Patti Smith, Marianne Faithful, Linda Thompson, or even the Velvet Underground drumming of Maureen Tucker.  Later (in the 80’s), the band ‘Shonen Knife’, a Mac favorite, could have been explored some.  Eventually, things got a lot better for female rockers on the radio, but it took a while.

This week’s Gem is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Come in From the Cold’.  Written in the 90’s, it is proof positive that Mitchell has plenty of longevity in her.  She has been described by many as the female Dylan.  In the spirit of this week’s theme, however, I will reverse this by referring to Dylan as the male Mitchell.  Since Cousin Tom anticipated this week’s Gem musician by sending me an email with a Joni Mitchell link last week, I’m including his recommended video (‘The Circle Game’) below mine.  In the email, Tom discussed a great story about being at the Dominican convent in Plainville (Aunt Ginger’s workplace and residence) many years ago and hearing this song played rather loudly in the main house on a record player.  The counter culture was connecting with the faithful.

In closing, a few opinions:
> The females on Saturday Night Live have been far and away carrying that show over the past few years
> Tina Fey is slowly elbowing out Mike Myers as top comedian on my all-time list
> Meryl Streep (not Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, or Tom Hanks) is the best actor of her era.
> I have voted for a woman in the presidential primaries (Hint: It was not Elizabeth Dole in Y2K)

Jen, I hope all is forgiven.

- Pete

Gem Video of the Week 'Come in From the Cold'

'The Circle Game'


About the video: Official made for MTV-type video.

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Paul

Pete (girly boy) - this is great like all of these however -- Tina Fey and Merril Streep??  holy cow batman - I hope you were smoking some significant weed tonight!!!! (notice I didnt even mention the Hilary Rodham Clinton thing - or did she drop the Rodman after adding it a few years ago? These democrats don't know who they want to be - until of course it is politically expedient).  Oops I shouldn't have said that.

And: Tina

 hi pete my manly cousin,

i think it was growing up with five sisters, but i noticed the problem with the direction of your questions immediately;-)
i loved the squeak,
tina (fey wanna be)

And: Jeff

this is too much entertainment pete.  That Paul friend of yours sent to everyone, encouraging you to be smokin significant, then apologized for makin a crack about dimmycrats (vs rePubelickins).  Is oaksterdam moved to Mass, or are your parents overly tolerant, or does this paul guy just not give a damned !!!

well it was interesting when you said you got the joni mitchell from Jen.  I was way into the Blue album then, and played it more than a little at work.  of course then again,  I have been way into the Blue album for over 35 years. Court and Spark was a big part of my last two years in college, around late 74 and 75.  although I tend to listen to live recordings more than anything now.  I have a great audio and video of her 98 Bethel show. I will have to make you guys a copy if you don't have it.


And: Jen

Hi Pete,

I really enjoyed your Gem this week. I was cringing at first, reading the prologue, hoping I wasn't going to look like a fool, answering each of your questions incorrectly. Of course, I knew you wouldn't humiliate me like that.  :)
I do remember giving you that, and I still enjoy so many songs from that CD. I've never heard "Come in from The Cold" before, and I really like it. It's mellow and catchy. The Pretenders have been re-surfacing in my life as well, mostly their old classics. I love their sound. By the way, your write up for Mother's Day was really great. I was surprised everyone participated! Mum totally loved it. Have a great weekend.

xo Jen


And: John

Tina Fey and Meryl Streep, the greatest of all time????


By the way, Sarah Silverman is much funnier than Tina Fey......



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