Tuesday Tune Twofer: Songs for my Mother

Remembering the early 1970s, and two songs my mother liked to sing when I was a kid.

My friend Chris just commented that his daughter liked a song I’d included in a post, which made me wonder if this blog might be a bad influence on children, which made me think of the songs I remember liking when I was little. I loved ABBA, but the first song I clearly remember loving was “Top of the World” by The Carpenters.

Really, I remember a medley of songs, including “Close to You” and “Sing.” But “On Top of the World” was my favorite, and I still can’t think about it — even the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes version — without thinking of my mother singing it.

She also liked to tell a story over and over — that I don’t remember at all — of my getting out a portable microphone and sitting on a stool and singing “Sing” while crossing my leg and turning to face a non-existent camera, like I’d probably seen somebody do on the Mike Douglas show. In retrospect, I realize that that story, plus my love of ABBA, make it seem like I should’ve recognized some things about myself before I turned 33, but I’ll just say the 70s were a simpler time.

My mother also loved Neil Diamond, and eight times out of ten, you could find her either playing or singing “Sweet Caroline,” “I’m a Believer,” “America,” “Song Sung Blue,” or the one I remember her singing the most often: “Cracklin Rosie.Everybody knows the “Bom! Bom! Bom” from “Sweet Caroline,” but only the true fans could be found walking through the kitchen, seemingly at random, singing “Say it now! Say it now! Say it now!”

Also: that version of “Sing” I linked to above is one I’d never seen before, with Karen Carpenter and a small chorus of children singing the song in Japanese. Which is so rad that I’m going to include it as a unprecedented third song for Tuesday Twofer.

Tuesday Tune Two-fer: Music to Feel Bad To

Today’s theme is feeling gross and going back to bed

I woke up around five am feeling lousy, fitfully slept for a couple more hours and felt even worse, and then over the course of the afternoon felt it turn into a massive headache. I’ve gone back to bed, but I still can’t let an early attempt at blog continuity die so soon.

Thankfully I’ve been having much fewer headaches in 2020 than I did in 20191Turns out allergy medicine does work after all, as long as I take it daily, so I’ve been hearing a lot less of Frank Black’s song in my head. I’ve liked the song ever since I first heard it, and I especially love the video which I somehow don’t remember ever seeing before, but it’s not a great one to have going on a constant loop in your brain when it feels like it’s swollen up and trying to burst through cracks in your skull.

Another video I’d never seen before today is the alternate video to Bruno Mars’s “The Lazy Song.” Bruno Mars songs already seem catchy but completely empty; I feel like he’s a genius pop musician who could be making incredibly memorable songs (but likely incredibly less money) if he’d team up with a lyricist who aimed for more weight. “The Lazy Song” has always felt twee to the point of being insufferable, probably because I can’t hear it without seeing that stupid video with all the monkey masks. It’s so much better paired with this alternate version, where the meaningless catchiness of the song is paired with Leonard Nimoy just no longer giving a shit.

Speaking of not giving a shit: I’ll try to come up with some better songs next week.

Tuesday Tune Twofer: What a Wonderful Time to Be Alive

Two tenuously and tangentially related tunes every Tuesday, with a hopeful Election Day reminder that we’re living in the best time

For this pair of videos, the basic idea is that each of them made me gasp the first time I saw them, and think “What a wonderful time to be alive.” The first is “Like Sugar” by Chaka Khan, which undeniably calls back to Soul Train dance lines, but probably wouldn’t exist without modern editing suites. It’s a marvel every time I see it, just a pure celebration of music and dance and polyester.

Second is “Because I’m Me” by The Avalanches, which could’ve been overlooked as just a sample-heavy stab at nostalgia if it weren’t for the cinematic video about a boy and his crush. The way it keeps building still manages to make me gasp.

The other thing that both these songs have in common is that they could only exist in the time they were made. Not just because of video editing software, or a music industry and streaming platform structured to make cinematic videos possible, but because they call back to the past.

When I left Telltale Games the first time,1Yes, I was foolish enough to go back for more. it was part way through production of the season of Sam & Max games that I’d put the most of myself into. I’d thought of the season as pulling together many of the things from entertainment that I loved: Night Gallery,2For me, all of the Lovecraftian stuff came from a single episode of Night Gallery, since I was never a big fan of the original material. Battle of the Planets, Space: 1999, Zardoz, The Beast Must Die!, the Richard Donner Superman movies, Portal, film noir, Murder on the Orient Express and The Last Express, Hammer horror movies, the Haunted Mansion, and of course, the Sam & Max and Toybox comics by Steve Purcell. When I was talking about the season outline with the director of one of the episodes, he pushed back on that idea, saying he didn’t want his episode to be just a pastiche of references.

It was a little jarring at the time, and obviously it’s stuck with me, because it’s such an alien concept to me. Obviously, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way, and there’s not much value in simply regurgitating stuff that everyone’s seen before. That doesn’t result in “Like Sugar,” but “I Love the 70s.” But taking disparate sources and making something new means that you’re taking all your enthusiasm about a new idea, and combining it with your love for the source material. I believe that that much excitement inevitably comes through in the final result.

And by that measure, right now is always the best time to be alive, because it’s the time when we have the most to draw from.

This post is scheduled to go up on Election Day, but I’m writing it a couple weeks ahead, before the thought flies out of my mind. I don’t even know what things are going to look like two weeks from now, but I want to stay optimistic and hopeful. We’re always drawing from the past, building on what we have, always improving, and appreciating everything that we have right now.

Tuesday Tune Twofer: Road Trip Repeat Plays

Two tenuously, tangentially related tunes every Tuesday. This week: songs from road trips with my fiancé

I’ve heard that being able to go to IKEA together and remain civil is a good indicator of a strong relationship, but going to IKEA is such a miserable experience that I think it’s too high a bar to set. Better, I think, is being able to go on a long road trip with someone, including listening to their music, and still wanting to spend time together afterwards.

My fiancé and I kind of raise the bar on that, since we both tend to get a little fixated on certain songs and want to hear them over and over and over again. These two songs are ones that he tends to pick and that I ended up liking a lot. Hearing them not only reminds me of road trips we’ve taken in the past, but actually makes me want to go on another one.

First up is “Came Out of a Lady” by Rubblebucket, or as I’ve known it for years, “that ska-sounding song that reminds me of Jerry Lewis.” We listened to it a few times on a drive from South Carolina back to Atlanta, and once the hook gets into you, it’s difficult to forget.1Also, the lead singer looks uncannily like my friend Michelle.

The second is “Yes, Maria, Yes” by David Wax Museum. I most associate this with a trip we took down to Los Angeles in which we — and this still seems impossible to believe — didn’t visit Disneyland. We were driving from Echo Park, up through the Hollywood Hills towards the Griffith Observatory, and it played at least four or five times on loop, and I never got tired of it.

And I should probably save it for Thursday Theme Threesomes,2This does not, and will not, actually exist. but a road trip song from my own library that I could listen to on endless repeat is “Rolling” by Soul Coughing. I love Soul Coughing, but listening to that song in particular, while driving fast down a freeway on a dark night, just makes you feel like such a bad-ass.

Tuesday Tune Twofer: Cookies and Milk with The Go! Team

Two tenuously and tangentially related tunes every Tuesday, starting off with an easy combo from The Go! Team

How about another weekly blog series as an excuse to share music I like? Every Tuesday I’ll choose two songs with some kind of connection — either tenuous or obvious — that I think more people should hear.

I’ll choose an easy one to start with: two from The Go! Team, “Cookie Scene” released in 2020 and “Milk Crisis” (one of my favorites) released in 2007. My fiancé introduced me to The Go! Team — I’d heard “Get it Together” in promotions for the video game Little Big Planet, but never knew who the band was — not long after we started dating, and I was quickly hooked. We’ve seen them perform live a few times in San Francisco since then. They’re so unabashedly joyful, and despite being led by a British man I’d reckon to be at least 10 years younger than me, they’ve somehow managed to plug directly into my nostalgia of being a child in the US in the 1970s, when my only knowledge of a world outside my neighborhood was via Disney movies and educational programming.