If you stick around long enough, you’ll realize just how much I adore the Motown girl groups of the early ‘60s. Yet, Be My Baby by the Ronettes is perhaps my favorite. There is something downright haunting about the song and Ronnie Spector’s voice. In fact, some of my favorite Christmas songs are versions sung by the Ronettes as well.
Be My Baby demonstrates Phil Spector’s wall of sound so well. In fact, I can’t imagine the Ronettes sound without it. Yet, here I am probably the only person on the planet under the age of 50 to know what Phil Spector’s wall of sound is or who Phil Spector was. The funny thing is that it didn’t always work so well. I normally love it in the girl group music he helped produce, and yet, The Long and Winding Road and most of the Let It Be (1970) album is overproduced. I actually understood why the Beatles, led by Paul McCartney, released a stripped down version called Let It Be… Naked (2003) decades later, reimagining the entire album without Spector’s wall of sound. I actually prefer Naked.
Sadly, Ronnie, who happened to have befriended the Beatles at the height of their (and her) fame, passed away in January 2022. Her legacy lives on, and frankly, I can’t imagine a time when Be My Baby won’t be considered an absolute pop gem.
Some songs just immediately take you back to a certain time and place. Sometimes, you have to dig to learn the actual name of the song, artist, or band, especially when it is included in a soundtrack. Such as the case with Change by the Lightning Seeds.
First, a little history. My little sister Erica spent much of her early adolescence obsessed with the movie Clueless (1995). She wanted to be Cher. I have a feeling she can still recite large sections of dialog from the movie. Yes, she adored everything about Clueless.
I vaguely remember seeing it in the theater with her, and I loved it too, but it wouldn’t inspire me as Evita (1996) would a year later. Still, there was much to love in Clueless if you were a young teenage girl in the midwest – or anywhere for that matter. In addition to Cher and friends, there was Josh (the incomparable Paul Rudd) and Cher’s incredible closet. I bought the soundtrack.
The entire soundtrack fit the movie perfectly – early alternative rock smack dab in the middle of the 90s. Change always stuck out in the soundtrack, but when I sought out the song with the lyric “stuck on drive” for a piece I planned to write on learning how to drive (I have yet to write that post, and frankly, it is quite the story), I didn’t come across it right away. I finally discovered the right song, Change, and its incredible video. Seriously. Check out the official video and lyrics. It is definitely worth it.
I’ve never come across a song that summed up the high school experience in the 90s quite as well. It resonates with me in a way that makes me wish I had discovered The Lightning Seeds back catalog decades ago. It is a perfect introduction to the pop/rock perfection that was 90s “alternative.”
The Personal Librarianby Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is one of the more memorable books I’ve read lately. As historical fiction, it hits all of the right notes. A tribute to its authors – one Caucasian, one African-American – I personally love how race and all the issues surrounding Belle, a mixed woman from a prominent African American family from Washington, DC “passing” as white in the Gilded Age, are treated in the book. Nothing is held back.
It is clear what Belle “da Costa” Greene is forced to give up as she becomes personal librarian to JP Morgan. By permanently passing as white, she is forced to sever ties to her extended family in Washington, DC, eventually loses hope of ever marrying or having children, and lives in constant fear of her secret being discovered. The family decision to “pass” tears it apart.
In return, Belle is hired as JP Morgan’s personal librarian. She secures a financial future not only for herself, but members of her family as well. She also becomes witness to history. By becoming JP Morgan’s personal librarian, she enters the rarified world of high-end manuscript and art actions – a realm dominated by men at the time. Working together for decades, Belle and JP Morgan build one of the finest personal libraries and art collections in the world. It is her perseverance that eventually helps to open the JP Morgan library to the public.
There are a few things that I adore about this book. First, Belle is a likable protagonist. One can’t help but wish her the best. That said, she is not perfect. We are treated to all of the tricks and coping mechanisms Belle uses to cause a sensation in a world of men. We are privy to all of her hopes and dreams, wins and losses. For me, this is what makes the book. We all have secrets, and we get to know Belle’s intimately.
Then there is just plain envy. Can you imagine being charged with securing some of the most rare manuscripts and artwork in the world for JP Morgan, helping him create a first-class institution from the ground up? That is exactly what Belle accomplished. I am in awe that Belle is a real historical figure. Her story deserves to be told in full. While certain details are fictionalized, The Personal Librarian is rooted in many historical truths. I cannot recommend it enough, particularly if you are a lover of books and history.
Good ol’ Night Court. I have to admit: I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Growing up in the ‘80s rocked and that included TV. My favorites were The Cosby Show, The Wonder Years, Cheers, and of course, Night Court. Something essentially slapstick quirky just resonated with kids. I largely tuned in for all the zany characters and the craziness that befell the cast. Keep in mind I was all of 11 when it went off the air.
My mom remembers that my favorite character was Dan, which rightfully left her a little concerned. That is not how I remember it at all. Yes, I loved to laugh when Dan quite rightfully got himself into trouble every episode, but my favorite characters were Christine and Harry. Just like everyone else, I wanted them to end up together. The bailiffs – and I mean all of them going back to Selma – were great too. I suppose that is what bothers me most: Night Court never seemed to get the proper sendoff or recognition it rightfully deserved. What endears me most about Night Court is the fact that it never tried to be something it was not. We just loved it for the campy, quirky, crazy show that it was. Anything could, and often did, happen.
This is precisely what gives me hope for the reboot. Going by what I saw in the first two episodes, Night Court isn’t trying too hard. Is it perfect? No. I want to know what happened to Christine, Max, Roz, and Bull. Christine especially deserves a mention considering the “ending” of the original series included both Harry and Dan professing their love for her. While Harry decided to remain a judge and turndown several incredible job offers, he and Christine acknowledged their feelings for one another. At the end of what should have been the last episode (altogether another story that only highlights issues with the ending), Dan decides to resign as assistant DA and follow Christine to Washington, DC. Harry is told this, and immediately exclaims “My Christine!”
In the first episode of the reboot, Harry’s daughter Abby moves to New York to become the new night court judge, taking over a position her father held 30 years ago. She is just as idealistic as her father. She also happens to look as though she could be Harry and Christine’s daughter. Almost immediately, the public defender in her court quits and she looks up Dan. Given the “ending” to the original series, Dan most assuredly would have asked after her mother if indeed Christine was her mom. We only know that Harry is her dad. Sadly, much of the original cast has since passed on, including Harry Anderson (Harry Stone), Markie Post (Christine Sullivan), and Charles Robinson (Mac Robinson). If I have one hope for the new reboot, it is that they find subtle ways to allude to the earlier show/cast. They do a wonderful job of doing so in the case of Harry and Dan. As of yet, no one else is mentioned.
I admit, I wavered as to whether or not I was even going to watch. Then I learned that John Larroquette (Dan Fielding) was instrumental in getting it made, and the new cast consists of fans who grew up with the show much as I had. The first two episodes are off to a solid start. We will see if it will find its own niche. I will say that the creators of the reboot did an incredible job of keeping the vibe of the old show (the dingy old courthouse in particular) while “updating” things a bit. The new bailiff, Donna Gurgs, somehow channels both Roz and Bull at different times throughout the show. There are tons of nods to the ‘80s in new show, my favorite being the mural of the Golden Girls – a stupid silly plot point that could only take place in Night Court.
I recently watched some of the earliest episodes of the original Night Court from season 1. It is clear that it took a while for the show to hit its stride – a few years, in fact. The reboot definitely has potential, and I am reassured that it is in the hands of fans of the original. Do not be afraid to check it out. It is currently streaming on Peacock.
Ah, My Girl! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know or love the song. I think it comes with being a girl who grew up in Michigan. As much as I love the song, it is the movie My Girl (1991) that holds the most memories. Per usual, Grandma Reid took my sister Erica and me to see it in the theater.
At that point in 1991, I was 10 years old and could relate to Vada. I happen to be roughly the same age as the protagonists (Vada and Thomas J.), and frankly, I could see myself becoming fast friends with Vada. She loved to write, had a great sense of fashion, and seemed like a lot of fun. I could imagine us dishing about our crushes as only preteen girls can. I felt for her when Thomas J. died.
After the movie, we headed over to KMart where my sister and I purchased a Temptations/Four Tops CD to share. The fact that we “shared” a CD highlights just how young we were. For the record, my sister and I have never had the exact same taste in music. I can think of only one other CD that we both purchased later on in our teen years. It wasn’t so much that our musical taste varied that much, it is just that we were very different teenage girls. Some of our best arguments were over what music to play in the car on that all-important 10 minute drive to school.
My Girl is timeless. It represents my love of Motown and will always remind me of the movie and a simpler time in my life.
The King of Pop. It is difficult to explain to younger generations just how big Michael Jackson was in the early 1980s. He was everywhere. The Beatles, of course, were bigger in the 1960s, but I fail to think of anyone (or any band) bigger than Michael Jackson in the years since – with, of course, the exception of Madonna, who was just as big as the Queen of Pop during the same time period.
Similar to Madonna, Michael Jackson’s hits immediately take me back to my earliest childhood memories. My love of MJ’s music, once again, has much to do with the influence of my older cousins. I distinctly remember my mom giving my cousin Nicole a Michael Jackson doll for her birthday. As a preschooler, I was envious! There is even an adorable picture of Nicole and I sitting on Grandma’s lap, Nicole proudly hugging her new Thriller album.
Unlike the cloud that hangs over Madonna’s legacy, there is little question that Michael Jackson’s music holds up. I noticed it the summer of 2009 right after his death. All of a sudden it was cool to rediscover MJ’s hits, his questionable legacy suddenly forgotten. I can’t help but wonder if the same will happen with Madonna upon her death.
Then there is Thriller itself. The album, the song, and music video itself – in reality, almost a short film – are still fun to revisit. As a child who loved the macabre and everything to do with Halloween, I adored the video. Learning as an adult that VIncent Price lent his incredible voice to the video: Priceless. In my opinion, Thriller is one of the best music videos ever made.
In designing The Mixtapes, several things inspired me. First up, JamsBio, which I’ve discussed a little here. Back in 2006/2007, I had the opportunity to write a series of articles for JamsBio, an online magazine celebrating the love of music, outlining my favorite songs/artists and what music meant to me. I only wrote ten articles and JamsBio didn’t last, but it was the most fun I have ever had working, not to mention the easiest money I’ve ever made. While I still wish I had thought to save those original articles, with The Mixtapes, I have the opportunity to start anew and build it correctly this time.
JamsBio isn’t the only inspiration. As a teenager, I religiously watched Ali McBealwith my mom. The show began each episode with Vonda Shephard playing a song that highlighted something on Ali’s mind. It popularized the idea of a soundtrack to one’s life, and frankly, that idea never really left me. Consider this that soundtrack.
Then there is Paul McCartney. It is no secret that I am a huge Beatles, Wings, and Paul McCartney fan. Do I love everything the man has ever done? Not exactly. Yet, he (and all of the Beatles) will always be in a category of their own. Anyway, Paul McCartney published The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present in 2022. While I have yet to read it (I know, I know …), the idea is incredible to me. Essentially, Paul McCartney wrote a memoir that consists of the stories behind 154 of the songs he wrote. It covers songs from all parts of his career – Beatles, Wings, solo, etc. I can’t imagine a better gift to fans. Even better, there is a Spotify playlist that covers all of the songs in The Lyrics in the order they appear in the book (alphabetically by song title). When I finally do read it, I will be able to listen along as well.
So there you have it, the inspiration behind The Mixtapes. Enjoy and feel free to share your own memories.
Almost any early Madonna song immediately takes me back to my early childhood, thanks to several older female cousins who adored her. I fell in love right along with them and every other girl on the planet. The Queen of Pop rightfully deserves several entries here, and it is only right that I start with Material Girl.
It is easy to dismiss Material Girl as an ode to greed, a quintessentially ‘80s throwaway pop song. Personally, I think that is a bit harsh, and frankly unfair, even if I believe Madonna’s music hasn’t aged particularly well.
Yet, I keep coming back to the video. Yes, there are diamonds and countless references to Marilyn Monroe. There is also something timeless that introduced an entire younger generation to the glamor of old school Hollywood. In the music video, there are even sequences at the beginning and end of the song that make the video just a bit less outrageously materialistic. As a young girl obsessed with Disney princesses and Barbie, Madonna seemed to have it all: style, grace, and she could sing too.
As I grew older, remaining a Madonna fan became harder and harder to defend. I distinctly remember being embarrassed for her when she was photographed everywhere in a cone bra and released the book Sex. I was all of 11.
As Madonna appears to be struggling with aging gracefully (that is another topic entirely), I can only hope that we as a society don’t write off her music entirely as time goes on. For me at least, her earliest work – what made her a star, the Queen of Pop – will always be a cherished part of my childhood. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the video!
Over the last several months, I’ve given plenty of thought of where I’d like to take Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. For years, I’ve wanted to incorporate my love of music into my writing. The issue is that quoting song lyrics, even with proper attribution, can be seen as copyright infringement. Yet, I want to share some of my favorite songs and the memories they represent.
Early childhood and dolls aside, my favorite Christmas and birthday gifts all related to music – everything from my earliest Fisher Price record player and tape player to various albums/tapes/CDs, to my last Sony Discman. They were all used and abused. In fact, there were times I had to repurchase CDs due to overuse and sand. I replaced several Sony Discman due to the same issue.
Enter the mixtape. See, I am just old enough to remember how fun it was to listen to the radio long after my parents went to bed in order to record my favorite songs. I’m thinking of creating a category here that will serve as a mix tape of sorts. On a separate Mixtape page, I will outline and categorize my favorite songs and albums. Each link to to song or album title will include a passage about that particular song/album, along with links to lyrics and official music videos. I am beyond excited about this, and I am looking forward to seeing this project take off. It will take time.
In addition, my reading life has really taken off. I’ve read so many wonderful books lately. I’ve been thinking about how to best share it all with you. I plan to start sharing book reviews again as well. Stay tuned! Right now, I am working on how best to do this. I’ve researched the tools. Now it is a matter of figuring out what works out best for me – and you, the readers.