Thursday, November 5, 2009

GMVW # 96: "Musical Mojo (the 00's)"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 96:  Musical Mojo (the 00’s)
Song:  Fix You by Coldplay
(Songwriter: Chris Martin)
November 5, 2009

I’m sitting in a hotel in Grand Forks, North Dakota at the moment, where I will be giving a presentation at a regional GIS conference down in the lobby later in the week.  Not long after arriving, I took a short 1-hour drive up to Manitoba (home of the original Royal Canadian Mounted Police) along the north-flowing Red River (part of a watershed system that ultimately drains into Hudson Bay). It was cold out. The vast stretches of grass in the grasslands have a permanent tilt, as if the winter swales never end.  The colors were all reminders of the frigid months ahead: The soil was dark black, the fields yellow and the leaves brown.  The only thing with any color was the immense blue sky, but the birds in it tended to fly close to the ground, perhaps in fear of getting slammed by the wind if they soared too high.  The trees were huddled together in clumps.

North Dakota:  How did I get here?  I’m not talking about the flight out earlier….I’m talking about in general.  Of the roughly five decades I’ve been around (sorry, Mom), this 00’ one has gone by the fastest.  Time tends to fly when there is a lot happening, and there was plenty of it for me this decade. It’s been hard to stop and smell the roses at times, as there have been long stretches of just going day to day.  Work and fatherhood will do that to you. What’s on the calendar tomorrow?  Oh, this that and the other thing.  And everything else will just have to wait. And wait. And wait again.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily mind the hectic schedule.  But I’ve learned the past few years that you do have to watch it. Busy schedules can add up:  Days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years.  Before you know it, you are quite a ways past the reevaluation stage.  Priorities can get skewed.  Connections with friends, family, and the great outdoors can slip.

And so can connections with music.

Back about 3 or 4 years ago, I came to the realization that I was forgetting my bond with music.  This may be hard to believe after reading all these posts the past few years.  But one of the big reasons for my doing this has been an attempt at a self restoration of sorts.  I was losing it: Mojo, groove, moxie, whatever you want to call it.  It was slipping away:  Too much work and other activities; too many hours listening to sports and NPR; too much time sitting in the house on weekend evenings watching the boob tube.  Not enough time enjoying the music. I came to the conclusion that by losing connection with the music, I was losing ‘it’.  Certainly there are other factors.  But for me music was a big one.

And so, to wrap up this five-week decade-by-decade account, I fittingly thought I would focus on the musicians who take the music passionately. Rock and roll has had its share of innovators, but it’s a short list of musicians that is both very good and truly passionate about celebrating the music for music’s sake: Those musicians who look at music as a guiding light.  Those who, in concert, don’t so much say ‘here we are, listen to what we have to say’ as much as ‘celebrate this moment with us’.  Each of the five decades I have covered have an award winner in this regard.  There is plenty of overlap, as all of them continue to maintain this ardent belief system. Following is each decades champ, concluding with the 00’ winner and Gem video.

The first rock band to have a music-first focus was the Who, with the Grateful Dead coming in at a close second (though I believe Buddy Holly would have beaten both of them to the punch if given longevity).  Some time in the late 60’s, during the making of the album ‘Tommy’, Pete Townshend convinced the rest of the band that there was something bigger than them at stake.  Their live shows took on an added resonance and urgency about them, which continues to this day.  Townshend took the music so seriously, that he had a nervous breakdown trying to get ‘Lifehouse’, a follow up concept to ‘Tommy’, across to the band and their audience.  He never succeeded (at least with the Who, although songs from Lifehouse have come out in albums like ‘Who’s Next’ and ‘Odds and Sods’).  The concept, which I will not even attempt to explain, had a core theme of music and ‘a note in us all’.  He would follow this aborted album with other albums over the years, with many songs centered on a music theme.

The 70’s award goes to Neil Young (with the Grateful Dead again as a runner up).  It was during this period that Young and his band Crazy Horse began to master their trade.  Of the award winners listed here, this one flies most under the radar.  I personally was not aware of how passionate and able Neil and his hand picked jam band were until I saw them live.  During their ‘Garage’ tour in the early 80’s, a video montage would be playing behind the band of many-a rock musician that had already passed on by then.  An attempt was being made to connect the dots.  In the process, Neil Young and Crazy Horse played their hearts out.  By the end of their shows, they had nothing more to give.

The 80’s and 90’s winners are Bruce Springsteen and U2 respectively (with the Grateful Dead coming in second in both cases), I have never seen either of them live, however, I’ve seen enough footage of both to know where their emphasis lies.  Springsteen plays marathon shows and runs around the stage as if his life depends on it.  His band, E-Street, feeds off his emotions.  Same goes for Bono and U2.  The way they are able to include the audience in their celebration of music is astounding.  In other words, the audience is not off the hook by any means.  Talking to fans of both over the years, they have often stated that by the end of the shows, they are as drained as the musicians. 

Finally there is this decade’s winner, Coldplay, a Nancy favorite.  This fact comes through loud and clear in the attached Gem video ‘Fix You’.  It’s pretty creative, and watching it, I’ve been wondering if what plays out in video form is real.  Chris Martin, lead singer, walks the streets of what appears to be a major European city, while singing the beginning of ‘Fix You’, before running into the concert hall to carry on the remainder of the song with the band.  Was he appearing on the big screens in the concert hall while outside (ala Dave Letterman)?  Regardless, it’s very well done.

For me, Nancy and the kids, the core of this decade witnessed our move to a new home in Pepperell, Massachusetts.  We left a lot of memories behind in our old digs, but have been busy shaping new ones the past 5 years.  I’m thankful for what we have been able to build together anew.

I’ve told several friends that one day at the end of this hectic period in our lives, we will all be sitting around a campfire.  Suddenly, someone will snap us all out of our coma and someone else will say “Whoa, what was that all about?!?” (‘that’ referring to the prior 30 years).  Was it a dream?  Sitting here in a hotel room in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I’m already trying to figure that out.  If it is a dream it’s been a good one so far.  I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

As for that mojo, I’m still working on it.  The music is back inside my head though, crowding out other thoughts when the time permits.  So much so, that at times I don’t even need to turn on the radio. I do realize that I’ll have to continue probing to keep it that way.  Next step: Roger Daltrey at the House of Blues this Sunday, with Mac (and a few extra tickets currently burning a hole in Mac’s wallet if any one is interested). 

After all, The Who, Neil Young, and the others seem to be convinced that music is a source of strength.  I tend to believe them.

Immediately below is a list of ‘Great Lyric One Liners’.  Below that is the Gem video and several other videos from the 00’s.  Below these are the lyrics to ‘Fix You’.

Nuff Said (on the march of the decades)

- Pete

Great Lyric One Liners
1. “There once was a note, pure and easy, playing so free like a breath rippling
by” (I could have extracted any line from this song, but this one tops the others)
2. “They never did like Mommas homemade dress, Papas banquet wasn’t big enough” (Same with this one)
3.  “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make” (The future McCartney epitaph?)
4. “You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave” (Scarier thought than the head popping out of the boat in ‘Jaws’)
5.  “I want to be Bob Dylan, Mr. Jones wishes he was someone a little more funky” (One man and his alter ego)
6. “The sea refuses no river, remember that when the beggar buys a round” (Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Townshend thought up that one)
7. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls” (Contrary to the popular belief that they are written in bathroom stalls)
8. “Meet me at the wrecking ball, wrecking ball, where something pretty and white and we’ll go dancing tonight” (An entire screenplay could be written around that line)
9. “One hasn’t got time for the waiting game” (A Dad contribution, and a great one at that)
10. “Four Dead in Ohio” (A Jeff Strause contribution. Also great)
11 “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose” (Amy sang this song for me on Cape Cod this summer.  The line stuck.
12.  “How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man” (When it comes to Dylan, you can just pick them out of a hat)
13. “Coming Tuesday, I feel better. Even my old man looks good” (Not you Dad, you’re always dapper)
14. “I staggered through your shitty dining room” (I had to throw in some classic Davies cynicism)

Gem Music Video of the Week: ‘Fix You’

The Kaiser Chiefs ‘Never Miss a Beat’ (Wow!  Thanks again, Tom)

Snow Patrol ‘Run’ (Since the Grateful Dead didn’t quite make it to the 00’s, these guys are runner up to Coldplay)

Green Day ‘Holiday’ (The most powerful song since ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’)

Cheryl Crow ‘If It Makes You Happy’ (There’s that Canadian Mountie again)

Monsters of Folk ‘Say Please’ (Only a still shot video, but worth the listen)

Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams ‘Moondog House’ (Jeff Strause highly recommends these guys)

Lyrics to ‘Fix You’

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above earth or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream, down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face and I...

Tears stream, down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face and I...

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

About the Video: Made for MTV-like video

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: Fred


Thanks again for the Friday trip.

And: Sue

Pete - very cool - you are spot on - mostly time just seems to fly by with day to day motions - it is important to slow down and remember/take time for our priorities! Take care, sd

And: Mac

Does losing your MOJO coincide with your CIDER phase?

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