Tag Archives: music

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (1991)

W.M. and I – Puebla, Mexico – March 2004

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (1991) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written February 2, 2023)

Ah, Michigan State and all of my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) memories in Mexico.  Some of my best ASB memories involve W.M., and one in particular, November Rain by Guns N’ Roses.  It takes me back to nothing less than the most romantic evening of my life.

I met him at the airport as we headed to Merida, Mexico for a week of working hard doing volunteer work and playing even harder.  I was listening to Here Comes the Sun, ready to relax in the Yucatecan sun in the middle of a busy, crazy spring semester, and here was this guy – our site leader for the week – chatting me up.  He flashed me this great smile and asked me what I was listening to at the moment.  We bonded over George Harrison.

Lunch break with friends – Merida, Mexico – March 2001
The week W.M. and I met.

It didn’t take us long to become friends.  By the end of our first day of volunteer work, we were hanging out eating pizza and drinking Mexican beer, getting lost in deep, meaningful conversations.  I had lost my grandfather almost exactly a year before – at age 20, the first real loss of someone so close to me – and I was happy to find someone who understood.  That was the thing – W.M. and I should have had everything in common.

A year ahead of me, he studied marketing and Spanish to my supply chain management and Spanish.  No wonder we had found one another.  Later, the only time I actually met up with him on campus in East Lansing – or the United States for that matter, and for lunch no less – he told me all about his semester in Quito, Ecuador.  I don’t remember if I had already decided on a semester in Ecuador, but after hearing about W.M.’s experiences there, it was a forgone conclusion.

I’d love to say that this story is a college romance that ended well, but that simply wasn’t the case.  Instead, it is a story of friendship spanning years, countries, cultures, and continents that didn’t end so well.  It is also a story of unrequited love on my part.  I fell. Hard.

The thing is that I was never going to change my plans for anyone, muchless a man who hadn’t shown the least bit interest in anything more than friendship.  We left it as friends and that was it.  We were both driven with much to do.  That is, until Spain.

Fast forward nearly two years, and I was in the middle of my semester abroad in Caceres, Spain.  I’d resigned to myself that W.M., unfortunately, wanted to remain friends, nothing more.  Then I received the email.  The week before Valentine’s Day, I receive an email from him stating that he had landed an internship in Madrid – an easy train ride away – did I want to meet up?  Did I!

In the end, we spent a fun weekend in Madrid hanging out.  He booked me a hostel near wherever he was living.  We spent Saturday hanging out, eventually ending up at the Hard Rock Cafe and a beautiful park nearby.  We talked for hours.  Too good to be true, right?  Right.  When he walked me back to the hostel and didn’t even so much as kiss me goodnight, I wept.

In 2004, I returned to Mexico and ASB as a site leader myself.  Now a senior, I juggled interviewing for full-time positions in Texas with classwork along with all of my extracurricular responsibilities, including ASB.  As a result, I had to fly into Mexico City on my own and take a bus to Puebla to meet up with the rest of the group.  I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but W.M. got ahold of me once again.  Would I like to meet up for dinner in Puebla one evening?  He happened to be working in Mexico City at the time.

Beyond confused, I, of course, said yes.  I had no idea what to expect.  Why would this man take a bus at least two hours each way just to spend the evening with me?  He knew no one else in the group and the plan was just for the two of us to meet up.  We were friends, but seriously, what else was going on here?

I met him in the zocalo, or town square, and we quickly found an outdoor table at a local restaurant.  In my mind, the only thing better than Mexican food is authentic Mexican food.  The cuisine in Puebla tops them all.  Pollo en salsa mole anyone?

After watching the sunset over an incredible authentic Mexican dinner, a little red wine, and the ever present great conversation, W.M. and I somehow found our way into the Mexican equivalent of a dive bar.  Now, I am not much of a drinker, but I love the atmosphere in dive bars from time to time.  This one happened to be perfect.

I never really did see any sign advertising the place, but I could not have had more fun.  W.M. and I ended up holding court with a group of Mexican young men roughly our age.  We, two gringos who spoke Spanish who happened to end up in this cool unadvertised bar, stood out.  In fact, they thought we were married.  So, in this ambiance, we all start singing along to November Rain – very poorly.  It is still among the most romantic nights of my life – and he never even so much as kissed me.  Yet, there was at least enough chemistry between us for people to think we were married.

That was the last time I ever saw W.M.  In 2008, I looked him up on Facebook, and unfortunately, it ended up in a political argument that ended our friendship.  I still have no idea how he could have attended the same business school as me, and yet not understand the impact government can have on business, good or bad – small business in particular.  Time had not treated him well.  In fact, Diego Rivera comes to mind.  I recently watched Frida and it all came flooding back, much to my amusement.  The passion between Frida and Diego gets me every time.

Over the years, I’ve tried and tried to capture our friendship in writing, and I’ve never been able to do it well.  I once even brought an effort for critique, and the reaction of the men in my writing group still cracks me up.  Every last man in our group believed him to be gay.  All I have to say is this:  If he is indeed gay, he didn’t know it himself at the time.  The last I knew, he had a Mexican girlfriend and lived in California.

I can’t help but think of him every time I watch Casablanca, particularly the line “We’ll always have Paris.”  Indeed.  We’ll always have Merida, Madrid, and Puebla.

Be My Baby – The Ronettes (1963)

Be My Baby – The Ronettes (1963) (Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 23, 2023)

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.

The Lightning Seeds – Change (1994)

The Lightning Seeds – Change (1994) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 22, 2023)

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.”

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 14, 2023)

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.

The Mixtapes – The History

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 McBeal with 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.

Madonna – Material Girl (1984)

Madonna – Material Girl (1984) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 12, 2023)

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!

2023: The Year Ahead – Music and Books

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.

Here’s to a productive – and FUN! – 2023!

This is quite possibly the most 1999 thing I’ve ever come across.
It immediately takes me back to the summer of 1999. You can listen to it here.

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.