Category Archives: music

Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band

When not singing Beatles or solo tunes, Ringo is behind the drums.

All-Starr-Band-in-Paris Ringo-Starr drums” by Jean Fortunet is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

This past Friday night, I had the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band in concert in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  As far as I am concerned, when it comes to music, there are the Beatles and then there is everyone else.  The music I grew up with and loved, all of the 90s “alternative” and the 60s-80s pop rock, simply would not exist without the Beatles – at least not in the same way.  In other words, even though seeing Ringo in person wasn’t on my bucket list, it should have been.  It definitely should have been.

The concert itself left me pleasantly surprised.  There was “Yellow Submarine,” “Photograoph,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “WIth A Little Help from My Friends,” of course.  Ringo didn’t even announce “With A Little Help from My Friends.”  He quipped that “if you don’t know this next one, you’re at the wrong concert!”  What a great way to end a concert.  All to be expected.

Instead, it was the strength of his All-Star Band that blew me away.  As a child of the 80s and 90s that grew up with 70s and 80s hits, hearing “Africa” and “Rosanna” by Toto, “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group, “Who Can It Be Now“ and “Down Under” by Men at Work, among so many others, was just as much fun.  The sound quality and overall musicianship was far and away the best I have ever seen in a concert.  Then I realized that I was watching men in their 70s and 80s playing, not to prove anything, but to just have fun, truly in love with the music.  They were playing songs that have been around for decades, that they’ve been playing for decades.

The experience became so much more than the concert, though.  After the concert, we walked around a bit looking for the Legends diner.  As we wandered around, suddenly the back doors of entertainment hall opened and the tribal police escorted out the band immediately in front of us.  Everyone froze for a second and then gave them a resounding round of applause.  Even after they were gone, I waited a bit, hoping that Ringo would be following them.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Just as we were going to start our search for the diner once again, I did a double-take.  A Ringo look-alike – as in this man looked exactly like Ringo – was holding court and taking photographs with all who wished them.  Unfortunately, the line was too long, and I am nothing if not impatient.

While the experience wasn’t perfect – namely our seats weren’t quite what we were expecting – it is a weekend that I will never forget.  Saturday, I woke up to the news that Ringo canceled several appearances in his tour due to COVID.  I can only wish Ringo the best as he recovers.

2022 Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band Set List

Ringo Starr” by PVBroadz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Across the Universe (2007)

Liverpool Docks
Liverpool Docks” by wwarby is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I’ve wanted to write about Across the Universe (2007) ever since I first watched it several months ago.  It is one of those movies that grabs you, not letting you go.  Just when you think you have it figured out, you start back at the beginning.  I’m afraid I won’t do it justice.

Let’s start with the facts.  First, it was a given that I would enjoy Across the Universe (2007) for the music and subject matter alone.  A musical using new renditions of Beatles’ songs that encompasses many of the major themes of the 1960s?  What isn’t there to like?  Never mind the actual film.  It was either going to be wonderful or something never to speak of again.

Next, the music itself is exceptional.  When it comes to Beatles’ music, I am normally skeptical when it comes to covers (with the exception of Joe Cocker, of course).  In this case, Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), Jim Sturgess (Jude), and Dana Fuchs (Sadie) forced me to look at some of the Beatles catalog in a new way.  Not an easy feat.  There are several examples of this, but some of the ones that come to mind immediately are “It Won’t Be Long” (Evan Rachel Wood), “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (Jim Sturgess), and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (Dana Fuchs).  That is just for starters. The use of “Let It Be” (Carol Woods & Timothy T. Mitchum) as a hymn fits the scene(s) perfectly.

My feelings on the song “Across the Universe” have evolved as result.  While I’ve always liked “Across the Universe,” I would be hard pressed to even rank it among my top 25 or possibly 50 Beatles’ songs.  No joke.  The movie made me reevaluate.  While I enjoy the movie version of “Across the Universe,” the cover by the band Evanescence is now one of favorite songs.  It is haunting in the best possible way, not easily replicated.

Fortunately for us, the music is only the beginning.  All the principals not only can act and sing, but dance as well.  The choreography in Across the Universe (2007) is second to none and, along with superb costume and set design, make the movie.  It enhances the music in a way that is unforgettable.  The bowling scene that takes place during “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is so much fun and over the top.  While the first part of the movie is just that – fun and over the top – the choreography and music work together to tell a much darker story as the movie progresses.

While I won’t give away the plot, it is the plot itself that keeps me guessing, keeps me coming back to the movie.  When I finished watching Across the Universe (2007) for the first time, my first thought was:

What the heck just happened?  What did I just watch?

Frankly, its plot, or lack thereof, is both its strength and weakness.  While it isn’t as though it doesn’t have a plot at all, there are large swaths of the movie that leave you asking so many questions.  Much can explained away by implied drug use.  Now might be a good time to mention that Across the Universe (2007) earned every bit of its PG-13 rating.  Personally, I believe it should be more in the R category considering the violence, implied drug use, and sexual references/implications.

Implied drug use can explain away much of the plot issues in the movie, but it doesn’t explain everything.  For example, there are certain characters (namely Prudence, Sadie, and Jo-Jo) that I want to know more about.  They are that interesting, considering what we know of them.  However, I have yet to figure out the purpose of Prudence’s character.  She seems to just show up.

While it is easy to see all of these things as “flaws” with the plot, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intentional.  I’m not quite sure how the movie could have captured as much of the history of the ‘60s as it did without leaving so much to the viewer’s imagination.
As a Beatles fan, that is what is so fun about this movie.  There are so many references for fans.  My personal favorite is the Brigitte Bardot poster.  Supposedly all the Beatles had a huge crush on her.  Then, there are the characters themselves.  Jude, played by Jim Sturgess, looks an awful lot like a young Paul McCartney.  His character is even from Liverpool.  With some characters, it is obvious:  Jo-Jo is somehow a stand-in for Jimi Hendrix.  Others, it isn’t so clear.  For example, I want to peg Sadie as Janis Joplin, and yet, it doesn’t feel quite right.  In the end, the music, the choreography, the confusing plot, and the Easter eggs geared towards Beatles fans will keep me coming back.  If you like the Beatles at all, it is a must-see.  If I ever have the opportunity to see it on the big screen, I am there.  I’m not sure how I missed Across the Universe (2007) when it was first released.

Rosanne Cash – The List

Fresh Air’s summer music interviews: Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash

The List (2009) is an older album, but the story behind it is compelling.  I admit, I’m not much of a country music fan.  That said, I love Johnny Cash’s music.  He is one of the few musicians/groups that belong in their own category, others include Elvis, the Beatles, and a handful of others.  Frankly, I don’t listen to Johnny Cash’s music much.  My ex adored his music almost as much as I adore the Beatles – almost.  At this point, I’d just rather not.  Now that that is all out of the way, you are probably wondering why I am bringing Johnny Cash into this discussion at all.  I’m here to talk about his daughter’s album, not his.  Well, The List (2009) wouldn’t exist without him.  It is that story that fascinates me.

Supposedly when Rosanne turned 18, her father gave her a list of what he thought were the 100 most influential country and American songs to help expand her knowledge of music.  Can you imagine?  It would be as if I grew up the daughter of a world famous American author and he or she gave me a list of what he or she perceived to be the most important works in American literature.  Unimaginable.  Rosanne Cash, much to her credit, actually kept the list and turned it into a wonderful album, even if she only included 12 songs.

The interview is interesting enough.  It is the reason why I checked out the album at all.  The album itself, with all of its country roots, isn’t exclusively classified as country.  It belongs to the folk and world genres as well.  There are so many elements of folk music all throughout the album.  It is timeless, which is precisely why you should check it out.

The Day the Music Died

Every so often there comes along a rock documentary that I can recommend to just about everyone.  That is the case with The Day the Music Died, which is currently streaming on, and exclusive to, Paramount +.  If you care about Don McLean’s American Pie at all, or the stories behind it, it is a must-watch.  I adore everything about the song, and clearly, after watching the documentary, I am in great company.

I grew up loving the song, which is a story in and of itself.  Very few songs from the time period steal from so many genres.  Stop and think about it for a minute:  Exactly which genre does it belong to?  It isn’t exactly a folk song, it isn’t entirely a rock song, nor is it a pure pop song.  American Pie is all that and more.  It has been covered by country artists and even Madonna, whose version I’ve had mixed feelings about ever since she released it during the summer of 1999 (it was definitely in heavy rotation the summer before I headed to Michigan State).  In the documentary, Garth Brooks discusses in depth the influence the song had on him and his career.  Yet, I feel it is SO much more.  It is timeless.

Several years ago now, during one of my subbing experiences in a high school Spanish class, I was instructed to show the movie La Bamba, which was, quite frankly, an unforgettable experience in all the best ways.  First, if you know the movie at all, you will easily recognize why showing it to high school students required some careful editing (fastforwarding).  Fortunately, that went well.  What pleasantly surprised me is how much those students loved the story behind La Bamba and the music.  As we had a few minutes left after the end of the movie – thanks to the inappropriate parts I had to skip – I had a moment to explain the term the day the music died and Don McLean’s song.  Most students knew the song American Pie, of course, but I don’t think that most realized that it referenced an actual event.  I loved watching them make the connection!

The documentary itself covers so much.  It dives deep into exactly how Don McLean wrote the song and came up with the lyrics, as well as his childhood.  Of course, one of the best aspects of the song and lyrics is trying to figure out all of those cryptic references – ie the king with his thorny crown, jack flash, etc.  According to McLean, the only one that is truly “correct” is the double reference ”Lenin/Lennon read a book on Marx.”  Yet, I am not entirely convinced.  That is what makes the lyrics great.  Just as with the best poetry, there are layers upon layers.  Definitely a must-watch.

By the way Michiganders, watch for an interesting reference to Grand Rapids.

THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED” by akahawkeyefan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Memories: The Impact 89 FM @ 30


I may have only ever broadcast on The Fix, but my short stint as a DJ during my senior year at Michigan State left a lasting impression.  My only regret:  I didn’t get involved earlier (as in as soon as I hit MSU’s campus as a freshman).  I came across this video created for The Impact’s 30th anniversary, and it brought back all kinds of wonderful memories.

The Fix is the online training radio station for The Impact 89 FM:  MSU’s student radio station.

As soon as I watched the video, I thought of how much fun I had playing Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes, My Chemical Romance, the White Stripes – among so many others.  I thought of all the late nights and early mornings I put in just for pure fun.  Count me among the many misfits that just loved music.  They give us a shout out in the video.  How did I forget how much I love alternative?  This list sums up some of my favorites from high school and college.

 

The Day I Became a Teacher

At this point, I’ve logged hundreds of hours in the classroom due to fieldwork, student teaching, and substitute teaching. As a sub, there isn’t much I haven’t done K-12. Yes, I’ve even subbed kindergarten, although I now avoid if I can. It isn’t that I don’t like young students. I do, and some of the best days I’ve spent subbing have been in 1st grade. I can understand why my great-aunt loved teaching 1st grade so much. The problem is that many kindergartners don’t quite get school yet. The whole idea of a substitute teacher throws them off, and it can become a nightmare if you don’t do things in exactly the same way as their regular classroom teacher. One would think that by now I would feel like a teacher, especially after completing student teaching. Well, I didn’t fully realize that I didn’t until Friday, March 10th, 2017 – the day I became a teacher.

There is some background I can’t get into, but it is enough to know that on that particular Friday, I headed to Oscoda High School to support a student performing with the Pinconning High School Band. They were competing against several other local high school bands. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of some of my former students (from my experience student teaching at Pinconning Middle School/High School). As most of the classes I had during student teaching involved 8th graders, I hadn’t expected to see many of my former students that day. I was wrong. I saw several of my former students, and one look on their faces made me realize how much they appreciated the fact that I came to watch them perform. One student even caught up with me in the parking lot as I was leaving. He just wanted to thank me for coming out to support them. The funny thing is that I hadn’t even thought about that when I had decided to go. I am glad that I had the opportunity to support them though. They certainly deserve it.

What I call the public part of teaching always takes me by surprise. It really shouldn’t. My mom taught all throughout my childhood, and due to the fact that she knew so many people in our small town (not only did she spend most of her teaching career at the same elementary school, she had grown up in the same town as well), it always took us much longer to do the grocery shopping after school. I dreaded having to run errands with her as she always ended up talking with someone when all I wanted to do is go home. It didn’t take long for the same thing to happen to me. It took me by surprise then, and it takes me by surprise now. For whatever reason, that experience at Oscoda High School will stay with me. When I finished my student teaching, many of my students were sad to see me go. I reassured them that I would be back as a substitute teacher, and yet, this semester it hasn’t worked out (yet) for me to sub at Pinconning Middle School/High School. At least I had the opportunity to see a few of them that day. I will always consider March 10th, 2017 the day I truly became a teacher. It reminded me of why I decided to become a teacher after all these years:  The students.

“The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets” By Eva Rice

Book Review:  “The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets” By Eva Rice – Write Meg!

Lost Art

Even though I read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice several years ago now, it never really left the back of my mind.  On the surface, it is dishy and a guilty pleasure in the best sense of the term.  As easy as it is to write off as a beach read, there has to be something more there in order for it to stick with me for so long.  That is partly why it stuck with me:  I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is about this book that fascinates me.  I finally think I have it figured out.  The book itself is set in post-war, 1950s London.  While there are still vivid memories of World War II and the Blitz, there is a contagious sense of renewal, hope, and general optimism throughout the book.

That atmosphere, used effectively as a backdrop for an interesting group of teenage characters (Penelope and Inigo Wallace, Charlotte Ferris and her cousin Harry), allows them to shine and adds to the excitement of early rock and roll in London.  So much of the novel revolves around the music!  Inigo is obsessed with Elvis, while Penelope and Charlotte adore Johnnie Ray.  In fact, one of the pivotal events in the novel involves a Johnnie Ray concert at the London Palladium.  I can just imagine the excitement and what it meant to be a teenage girl waiting to see your rock and roll idol in concert.

I think that is why I love this novel so much.  It takes place during a period of time that influenced the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and countless others.  The music I know and love simply wouldn’t exist without the likes of Elvis, Little Richard, or Johnnie Ray.  Knowing the history of rock and roll and what takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s makes this book that much sweeter.  I definitely need to reread it.

London Palladium, 1950

London Palladium, 1950

Personal Heroes

Little Richard

We all have personal heroes, whether we want to admit it or not.  Personally, most of mine are people I know well in real life, but there are exceptions.  One huge exception for me is the Beatles, Paul McCartney in particular.  There are bands and musicians I like, and then there are the Beatles.  I bring this up because a friend of mine just lost one of hers on Monday:  David Bowie.  In fact, she wrote a moving piece on what his music, and more importantly, his persona, meant to her on Facebook.  I get it; I truly do.

The thing is, until he passed away, I never thought of David Bowie or his music that much, although my friend’s enthusiasm for his music is contagious.  Now that I have a better understanding of what his music represented and the risks he took with his career, not to mention the generations of artists he inspired, I can say that David Bowie belongs alongside people like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and yes, the Beatles, in a category all their own.  All of those artists broke barriers, created – or helped to create – new genres of music.  They also crossed genres and inspired new generations of musicians.

So why do we care so much about people we’ve never met?  I think that is part of the mystery of art, music in particular.  We feel as though we know the artists when we’ve spent decades listening, discussing, and analyzing their work.  We invest so much time and energy in the things we love – art, books, music, TV, films, etc. – that when their creator dies, a part of the magic is gone.  For example, in my life, there was never the possibility of a Beatles reunion.  John Lennon died ten days before I was born.  My generation will always wonder what Kurt Cobain would have accomplished musically with or without Nirvana had he lived.  Instead of wondering what an artist will do next, after his or her death, fans are left with a finite catalog of music, writing, films, paintings, etc.  There is nothing new to discover, only memories of what it felt like to await a new release.