S Through Z #AtoZ Challenge

S Through Z #AtoZ Challenge

I don’t think I’m going to make it, folks. I had every intention of finishing this challenge, but, you know, life.

First, Prince died and for a few days I didn’t feel like writing about music. I just wanted to listen to my Prince records.

Then, my husband’s brother announced he was getting married this weekend and we offered to hold the wedding in our backyard. Looks like my week is now pulling weeds and scrubbing bathrooms instead of writing.

I hate leaving loose ends, though. So, I’m going to attempt to wrap up this last leg of the alphabet with one-paragraph blurbs.

Ready? Let’s begin.

 

“So Much To Say” The Dave Matthews Band

When I was in college, I worked in a sub shop. I’m pretty sure “Only DMB Fans Need Apply” was on the help wanted sign. I got the job.

 

“Together Forever” Rick Astley

I love Rick Astley. Always have. Always will. Rick-roll me all you want. He’s adorable.

 

“Undone – The Sweater Song”

My 13-year-old daughter has few bands she truly likes – Weezer being one of them. One thing she does not like? Going to see Weezer for the first time at an outdoor festival for her 13th birthday, anticipating it all summer long, only to have frat boys bump into her and spill beer all over her throughout  the entire show ruining the entire experience. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

 

“Vogue” Madonna

In the beginning, my mom was cool with Madonna. She didn’t have a problem her – not with “Like A Virgin” or even during the whole “Like A Prayer” scandal. No. She drew the line at this performance of “Vogue.”  I think my mom’s face went purple the minute that guy puts his head under Madonna’s skirt. After the performance was over she banned Madonna from our house. For life. It’s still in effect. If I was at my parent’s house today, I wouldn’t be allowed to watch this.

 

“We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” Jermaine Stewart

I don’t know what my deal is with this song. I just really like it. I’m such a nerd for this song, I know that David Fincher – the guy who directed Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network and Gone Girl – directed this music video. It’s true. Look it up.

 

“Xanadu” Olivia Newton-John and ELO

Olivia Newton-John was my girl crush. After seeing Grease, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. But then put Olivia Newton-John on roller skates and you have the makings of a major obsession. Sure, the movie Xanadu is majorly weird. But…Olivia Newton-John…and roller skates.

 

“You Oughta Know” Alanis Morissette

Even though this is a break-up song, it only ever makes me think of my two best friends – Amy and Chassidy. If a friendship can have a theme song, then this was ours. Back when we were 19, we would sit on the floor in Amy’s apartment and listen to Jagged Little Pill over and over while we painted our fingernails blue and drank a god-awful mix of vodka and Kool-Aid. Who needs stupid boys when you’re 19 and have two amazing best friends and Alanis Morissette?

 

“Zoot Suit Riot” Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

When I first started hanging out with my husband, I thought he liked to dance. This might be because we went to Jokers together almost every weekend. (For those of you not familiar with the University of Northern Iowa’s active night club scene – Jokers was one of the three dance clubs in the “Barmuda Triangle”). My husband – who was just my friend then – would get out on the floor and shake his booty like the rest of us. And he seemed to be having a good time, too. We even came up with a swing routine to this song. (And, no, it looked nothing like those Gap ads.) Then we started dating and trips to Joker’s got less and less frequent. Turns out Jokers was the old bait-and-switch. He only went there because he had a crush on me. So, we don’t go out dancing as much as we used to. But if we do, and this song ever comes on, you can be sure we’re out on the floor doing our clumsy swing routine. And having a great time.

 

All right, folks, I’m out. You other bloggers have fun with the rest of the challenge. I’m back to scrubbing bathrooms. See you all in a week or two!

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“Purple Rain” As I Should Have Written It

“Purple Rain” As I Should Have Written It

I wrote a post about Prince and the other day. It wasn’t the post I should have written. I’m not sure why. My best explanation is that this A to Z Challenge has had me in my head quite a bit, and I think I needed a little distance from  all the memories swirling around in my brain .

Prince and Purple Rain have special meaning to me and my husband, but it wasn’t something I  put a lot of thought into. It’s just something that was. I was too tired a couple of days ago to find the words to describe it, so I just didn’t try. But I’m going to now.

“Before there was an us, there was you, me and Prince.”

That’s what my husband said to me tonight when I came home from work, put my head on his shoulder and said, “I feel so silly. I didn’t even know the man. Why am I so sad?”

Prince is part of our story. He has been since day one.

Shawn and I worked together in a sub shop in the town where we went to college. All I really knew about Shawn was that he was the guy who liked Nirvana and Pavement. I was the girl who like Mariah Carey and Alanis Morissette. Those seemed like two very different worlds to us.

Then, one night, I brought in my Prince CDs, and we just sat and talked about dancing to his songs in junior high: how they made us think of different crushes we had and who we were with when we first heard the Purple Rain soundtrack. A couple of nights later, we watched the movie together. It became the basis of our friendship. It was our thing before there was even an us.

I don’t know how many times we’ve watched the movie together since then.  Or how many times we quoted lyrics or lines to each other. Or slow danced to “Purple Rain” in our living room. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t listen to his music.

So tonight we sat and ate dinner and talked about Prince long after the kids got bored and left the table, Prince’s music in the background.

Now we’re going to open a bottle of wine and watch Purple Rain. And I will cry when it’s over. Because Prince is part of our story, and to have a piece of that gone is heartbreaking.

 

 

“Rhythm Nation,” Janet Jackson #AtoZChallenge

“Rhythm Nation,” Janet Jackson #AtoZChallenge

There must be something about big families and the need to perform. Maybe its the lack of attention growing up, but I have yet to meet a family of more than five children who didn’t have at least one – if not all –  of the children try their hand at stardom.

There’s the famous examples: The Osmonds, The Carters, The Jacksons, The Jets, The Pointer Sisters, The Brady Bunch.

Then you have my family. We’re sort of like the Jacksons, but white with less talent and less plastic surgery. We also never pooled our collective talents for singing and dancing to form a super group that would become one of the most influential pop groups on the planet. We could have! But we didn’t.

So, okay, bad analogy. I take it back. My family is nothing like the Jacksons. Not even in size. They had nine. We had seven. But one of my brother was in a band. And I have a sister who was a Janet Jackson impersonator. So, suck it!

Yes, yes, my sister was Janet – Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty – for one glorious night in high school back in the early 90s. It’s okay to be a little jealous of me.

Long before Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed the song on TBS’ Lip Sync Battle, my older sister Debbie and two of her friends took to the stage and made our tiny hometown the capital of “Rhythm Nation” for one night.

Like a lot of high schools, ours held a talent show every year during homecoming week. It was based on The Gong Show, which meant a group of merciless seniors sat up on the stage, a gigantic gong beside them, and not-so-silently judged your performance.

Every moment you were up there, you lived in fear that one of the judges – usually a burly football player – would stand up with that enormous mallet in his hand and encourage the crowd to “boo” you. It was not for the faint-hearted.

Which is why I think people were a little suprised when Debbie signed up to do it. “Debbie? Really? But she’s so quiet.”

You know what they say…the quiet ones always surprise you. Deep down, Deb is a bad-ass. A little like Janet herself.

The three of them practiced for weeks leading up to the competition. These weren’t a couple of kids up there half-assing it. Oh no, they were in it to win it. Their attitude was, “Fuck that gong!”

The best was when they practiced at our house. They would let me sit with them while they studied Janet’s videos and practiced her moves. They even let me run the tape recorder. So, yeah, I was basically in the group.

I’m not sure if our school’s Gong Show was always a lip sync contest, but it seemed like by the time me and my sister got to high school, they made up a majority of the acts. This really confused some of the older folks in town.

On the night of my sister’s performance, I heard some old guy behind me ask what was going on, like he had just been dragged in off the street.

“It’s some sort of lip sync concert, I think,” the woman beside him said.

“A lipstick contest? What on earth?”

“No, Harold. A LIP SYNC CONCERT!”

When it was their turn to take the stage, Deb and her friends looked amazing. We didn’t have an army surplus store nearby, so it was a little tough to nail down the look from the video. But Deb scored an awesome outfit from Maurice’s that had a jacket that buttoned up the front and had gigantic shoulder pads. She looked fairly militant

The music started and they slayed it. Debbie was used to kicking ass – my ass – but now she was kicking ass on stage.  The choreography was on point and if you squinted a little you would have thought it Janet herself up there. They were amazing! And I’m saying that as someone who has been to a fair number of crappy high school talent shows.

Nobody booed. Not even Harold. Nobody banged the gong ,either. In fact, they took home the first-place trophy! All that hard work paid off. Then she retired the Janet act. She hung up her hoop earrings and big black jacket and never performed “Rhythm Nation” again.

She sings now – for real – with a music group in our hometown. On the same stage she performed on that night. They donate money to the school’s music program and sponsor a scholarship. But mostly they get up there because they like to sing and perform, so my sister fits right in.  And, I like to think she brings a little of that old “Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty” sass to the act when she’s up there.

Bonus Track: Joseph Gordon-Levitt performing “Rhythm Nation” on Lip Sync Battle

You have to watch Anthony Mackie to “2 Legit 2 Quit” first, but the whole video is pretty darn funny.

“Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” Backstreet Boys #AtoZChallenge

“Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” Backstreet Boys #AtoZChallenge

My brother told me last week to quit apologizing for the music I like, and I think he’s right. I have spent a good portion of this challenge making fun of myself for listening to (and loving!) Amy Grant, Hootie and the Blowfish, Hanson, and Taylor Swift. I think it’s because I live with a music snob. I regularly apologize (but never turn the station) when one of my guilty pleasures comes on.

So, it’s a force of habit. Make fun of myself before they can make fun of me. But it ends now. I will apologize no more. Are you ready for this?

I LOVE BOY BANDS!

There. I said it. WOO! That felt good!

New Kids on the Block? Love ’em. *NSYNC? Love ’em. New Edition? Love ’em. One Direction? They’re ok.

And then there’s the Backstreet Boys. My heart truly belongs to *NSYNC, but B was taken up by Amy Grant so I couldn’t do “Bye, Bye, Bye.” It was a tough call, but I think I made the right choice.

And I really needed something for the letter “Q” and so Backstreet Boys it is. Take it away, boys!

Bonus Track: Bye, Bye, Bye
Because I had to work it into this challenge somehow.

“Purple Rain,” Prince #AtoZ Challenge

“Purple Rain,” Prince #AtoZ Challenge

Once again, I feel like I need to clear something up.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love Prince. Some might even call me a super fan. This might be because I scream like a maniac and run out to the dance floor the minute I hear Prince say the words “Dearly beloved…” when I’m at a wedding reception.

But I’m here to tell ya … I am not a Prince super fan.

I am a Prince fan, yes. But claiming to be a Prince fan means you live in a constant state of fear that some actual super fan will find out you like Prince and want to talk to you about his new project 3rdeyegirl or the song he wrote for the Minnesota Vikings. You’ll have to fumble your way through the conversation before admitting you don’t know anything about those things and hang your head in a purple cloud of shame. It would be very embarrassing.

So, I am here to state, for the record, that I am not Prince super fan. I am Purple Rain super fan. And that’s a pretty big distinction.

You, too, might actually be just a Purple Rain fan. How do you know? Think about all the Prince songs you know and love.  “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Baby I’m A Star,” “Darling Nikki,” “Purple Rain” – all of those are from the Purple Rain soundtrack.

I know, I know… there’s “Kiss” and “Little Red Corvette” and some of the dirty stuff like “Cream” and “Pussy Control” … but honestly, I think the Prince most of us think of is the Prince from Purple Rain. That was probably the pinnacle of his career. The soundtrack was huge and so was the movie. It grossed more than $80 million at the box office. And that was 1984 dollars.

So, I’m always a little surprised when one of my friends tells me they haven’t seen Purple Rain. I feel like if you grew up in the 80s (or even the early 90s) you would have had to come across it at some point. But I am almost always the only one in my peer group who has actually seen it.

I think it has a reputation for being pretty risqué, but it’s not all that different than Footloose or Dirty Dancing. Sure, there’s the scene where Appollonia takes off her top and jumps into a lake. Then there’s the scene where Prince humps his piano while singing “Darling Nikki.” Well, there’s “Darling Nikki” … okay, okay, I see why this might not have been a hit at slumber parties.

But I remember watching it with my family once it came out on video. Sure, I was only nine and it was rated R, but the 80s were a different time. Movie nights were pretty loosey-goosey in our house. My parents seemed to have an utter disregard for the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system. Sex, violence, drug use – no biggies. My mom or dad would just throw a hand up over our eyes if someone started to unbutton a top. That was the most censoring that went on in our household. Sometimes they weren’t fast enough and one of us would get exposed to a stray nipple, but oh well.

It also has a reputation for being a pretty terrible movie. There’s a fair amount of misogyny and some pretty awful acting. But it’s also pretty funny. Let me break it down for you: the movie is 80 percent music performances, 5 percent misogyny, 5 percent shots of Prince’s motorcycle and 10 percent straight-up comedy.  If you like Prince’s music, motorcycles, and can handle a scene where Morris Day throws a woman in a dumpster, you’ll probably have an okay time.

Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons to give it a shot:

Prince has a puppet.  It only makes a brief appearance, but it leaves a lasting impression. And Prince has some mad ventriloquist skills. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t.

Billy, the club owner. Billy is the fictional owner of the very real, very famous Minneapolis club First Avenue. He gets to deliver one of the best lines in the film, or at least the line my husband and I quote to each other the most often. Prince, playing The Kid, has just finished performing “Darling Nikki” to a shocked crowd. The Kid storms down to his dressing room. Billy follows him, points a finger and says, “Nobody digs your music…but yourself.” Then later, while The Kid is performing “Purple Rain,” Billy is nodding his head in approval…digging it. Looks like the tables have turned, Billy.

Apollonia’s cape.  It’s winter. It’s Minnesota. Of course you have to wear a cape over your lingerie.

Prince is just like us! You might think that Prince seems less like a mortal human being and more like an alien sent to earth on a lavender-scented cloud, but personal touches in this semi-autobiographical movie tell a different story. For instance, he eats Doritos; he lives in his parent’s basement; and in this basement are rows and rows of home-canned green beans.  There’s even a baby bathtub hanging on the wall indicating he was possibly an infant at one time. I have a hard time picturing Prince in any type of normal domestic scene, but this movie drives home that he was, at one time, just like you and me.

Ruffles. Prince has three outfits in the movie – tank top, bare chest and flouncy pirate blouse, reminding us all that he had the puffy shirt look bagged up long before Seinfeld.

Minneapolis is a pretty cool place. When I saw this movie as a kid, I thought it was set in New York. It blew my mind that such a place existed a mere four hours from the cornfield I lived in. Watch Purple Rain and then watch Fargo and then remind yourself that these movies are set in the same state. It will blow your mind.

Morris Day.  He has all the good lines. He also has Jerome, a man whose only job is to follow him around with a big mirror.

The Music.  Duh.

So, if you haven’t seen the movie, here’s what you need to do. You need to make yourself a big plate of spaghetti because that’s Prince’s favorite meal (okay, maybe I am a minor league super fan); mix up a batch of Purple Rain cocktails – vodka, blue curacoa, cranberry juice and grenadine – because it helps to be just a wee bit drunk; and let in rain, my friend, let it rain!

Note about the video: Prince is famously fussy about the licensing of his music, so it was tough to find a good clip. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, I was able to find an 8-minute video of Prince during his Super Bowl halftime show where he plays the song in the rain. There’s also a pretty grainy clip of him playing it on a TV show. The sound is good, though.

There’s also this awesome clip of Kelly Clarkson singing it in St. Paul. She always does an amazing job with her covers, so it’s worth the watch.

 

 

 

 

 

“One More Try,” Timmy T., #AtoZChallenge

“One More Try,” Timmy T., #AtoZChallenge

I’m a sucker for romance.

Movies, soap operas, songs. I rarely read a book that doesn’t have someone falling in love by the end of it.

Back when I was in high school, nothing was more romantic than the “Goodnight Line” on 105.7 KOKZ. It was a ten minute window where teenagers could call in profess their love for each other on the radio. Sometimes they were straight up –  “Hi, this is Darcy, and I want to say goodnight to Jake. You are the love of my life. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow in study hall.” Other times, they were a bit more coy – “This is Troy, and I would like to say goodnight to my special girl S. You know who you are.”

Never once was there a call that said, “This is Crush A (or Crush B)and I want to say goodnight to Jean, the most beautiful girl in the world. I love you so much it hurts. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow in study hall.” I’m pretty sure the entire purpose of the program was to make me feel the sharp sting of rejection on a daily basis.

After the last call, they would play “One More Try,” a song that was so tender it made me want a boyfriend just so I could dump him and then have him beg me for a second chance. As Timmy T. sang, I would lie there and think that maybe tomorrow night would be the night Crush A or Crush B would call. If I tight-rolled my frosted jeans extra tight and put on another spritz of Exclamation! it would all fall into place.

Every once in a while, though, instead of thinking about Crush A or Crush B, I would lie there and imagine that the boy I would one day marry wasn’t either one of them, but a different boy altogether. And he was out there listening, too, like the song from An American Tail. What did he look like? What kinds of clothes did he wear? What were his hobbies?

It turns out he was tall and skinny with ears that stick out just enough to be adorable.

He was really into sports. He wore a Twins shirt and baseball cap almost every day and had a subscription to Sport magazine.

He didn’t have a girlfriend, either, but he listened to the “Goodnight Line,” too, hoping to hear his name.

He was out there. My husband of 15 years was a little over an hour away listening to the same sappy Timmy T. song I was. Just like Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram said he would be. My 14-year-old self would have been very happy to know that.

 

Bonus Track: “Somewhere Out There”

For all you lovers out there

 

“Nothing Compares 2 U” Sinead O’Connor #AtoZChallenge

“Nothing Compares 2 U” Sinead O’Connor #AtoZChallenge

One of the sweetest gifts my husband has ever given me was Sinead O’Connor’s album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

It was the first Christmas after we started dating. We had only been dating for a month, so I wasn’t  expecting a lot. But a couple of days before I went home to celebrate the the holidays with my family, he handed me a CD-shaped package. When I opened it up, it was like he had given me a time machine.

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was one of the first albums I bought as a teenager. Like 7 million other people in the early 90s, I bought it because of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” U couldn’t escape that song back then, and I’m not sure U really wanted 2. It was 2 beautiful and heartbreaking 2 ignore.

Sinead herself was a little hard to ignore – her politics, her bald head, those intense eyes. Once she started singing, though, all that melted away. And she was much more than that one song. The whole album was amazing – “Feel So Different,” “Black Boys on Mopeds,” “Three Babies,” “Emperor’s New Clothes” – these were some of the most brooding and gripping songs I had ever heard.

If Amy Grant was my bubbly BFF, then Sinead was the girl in study hall who sat by herself, scribbling furiously in her notebooks. I wanted to get to know that girl. She was … interesting. I would sit on my bedroom floor and just absorb her music. I thought maybe I would become interesting through osmosis.

Within a year, I wore that cassette out. Literally. I listened to it so much, I wore the tape thin.

I’m not sure why I didn’t replace it. I guess other music came along and there were new albums to buy, so I moved on. But there was part of me that still missed it.

And that was it. Nearly eight years had gone by. I told Shawn that story back before we were dating, back when we were just friends. I think “Nothing Compares 2 U” was playing somewhere, probably a bar, and I must have told him all about how I wore my tape out. I probably had that half-drunk, half-wistful look on my face as I sang along. And he remembered.

Now it was Christmas. And there I sat with an 8-year-old album I had loved so much as a teenager and a boy who was sweet enough to remember something so small and so big at the same time. It was perfect.