Grocery Smoke and Elevator Clash

I’m old enough to remember when elevator “canned music” first appeared;  I remember hearing it the time I got lost in the Hudson’ s Bay department store in downtown Vancouver. I don’t know how old I was – memories of crying, a woman in a grey skirt, and relentless music. For years afterwards, anytime I heard big band music, or instrumentals my stomach churned without mercy. Instrumental versions of big band classics, middle of the road pop hits from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s playing softly in the background of department stores and elevators, had a way of making me want to bolt for the nearest exit.

As with most things background music has evolved over the years; instrumentals giving way to soft pop, top 40 hits, and vocals rather than generic “muzak”. This wasn’t so bad – definitely an improvement – I could shop to Creedence Clearwater or Sheryl Crow. Occasionally a bizarre instrumental version of Elvis Costello’s Watching the Detectives or Talking Head’s Road to Nowhere assaulted me – annoyed that somewhere, somebody thought instrumental covers of these songs was a good idea. I wanted to scream “what focus group told you this would make me buy more avocados “. It had nothing to do with my pre-school trauma, more an indignity to music that had been part of my life.

Today I was in a grocery store where Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water blared. It struck me as absurd, ridiculous – a holy crap moment. All I could think was that a bunch of “guitar heroes” had left the basement and found jobs. A few hours later I entered an elevator to London Calling by the Clash. This is just plain wrong – a punk anthem about apocalyptic events all the way to the 18th floor. It may be that my reaction stems from middle age – who wants their youth flashing before their eyes as the ride in a box full of sour looking business suits. All I can say for certain is that grocery smoke and elevator clash are a really bad idea.

The Night Sinead O’Connor Made SNL History

Over twenty years ago Sinead O’Connor destroyed her career by ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II at the conclusion of her performance on Saturday Night Live. Booed off the stage a few weeks later at a Bob Dylan concert, O’Connor faded into troubled obscurity – deemed too controversial to book or promote.

I loved Sinead O’Connor; her beautiful shaved head and voice of perfection sent shivers up my spine. I remember that night in October of 1980. We sat transfixed as she sang Bob Marley’s War. My heart stopped when her defiance collided with conviction – she tore the photo on live TV, in front of millions viewing what was to become the most powerful message I’ve witnessed. A single act that blew my mind and made my heart soar.

Where ever you may be Sinead O’Connor –  you forever have my admiration and respect.

Little Bit of Love

Music is the one tool able to pull down barriers between apposing points of view. I’m not talking musical genres; Rap vs. country or top 40 hits. my ponder rests on something much harder to define.

Music is an integral part of our lives. Aside from Dr. Hook playing at the race track when I was 14, the first real concert I saw was Queen, Night at the Opera tour in 1976. I can still picture Freddy Mercury in all his glory. My early 20s are bookmarked by shows at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. The Commodore hailed from the 1930s, held 1000 people or so, and had a springy dance floor reportedly lined with horse hair. I danced to The Clash, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, John Cale, , the Ramones, Billy Idol.  Jonathan Richmon at The Fillmore in San Fransisco on my way getting married in Las Vegas. All stamped on my brain as if it were yesterday.

As memorable as my musical diary might be, it still isn’t the point of my musical ponder.

Music is primal.It can shred our hearts, move us to tears, or elevate us to the stars. It strikes when you least expect it. Finding the unexpected as a crowd gathers around a busker, or getting goosebumps when hearing Allison Krause for the first time. Music is that moment when an old man taps his foot, or you realize a silly grin is plastered on your face.

Music isn’t about the best musician or singer, it’s about how it makes you feel. That magical moment when out of the blue you laugh, cry, or dance your ass off.

At the moment I’m listening to this silly little song, and it makes me smile.