Tag Archives: Talking Heads

School of Rock

7 Aug

“The Boston gig has been canceled … I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.”

My teenage daughter is going to be a senior in high school come September. Next week, I will accompany her up and down the East Coast for her first college tour … or as she sees it, the Bataan Death March of the Soul. As much as she wants to flee parental control, she is leery of jumping into the arms of the academic establishment due to the cost, the pressure, and the likelihood that she’ll have to do her own laundry.

I told her that going to college means one thing for certain: great music. Even dinky campuses get any number of bands traipsing through town to build up their rabid following, one underclassman at a time.  Occasionally, they spring up from the students themselves: Talking Heads at RISD, MGMT at Wesleyan, Vampire Weekend at Columbia.

To prove my point, and perhaps to make it worth her while to set foot in Providence, I looked up the concerts in the New York and Boston areas when we’ve got free nights. And there is NOTHING. No thing. Nada. (There is a Marina and the Diamonds concert in but it’s 18 and over. As her mother, I can’t exactly help her get a fake ID so we can catch a concert.)

Of course,  Bruce Springsteen is playing Fenway Park while we’re in Boston. Call me un-American, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing the Boss in concert.  I wish him no ill. I’m glad he’s in the world, and he is nothing if not sincere. If someone offered me tickets to his show, I’d go. But otherwise, it would be like me going to a Latin mass when I’m only a diffident Protestant: I might recognize some of the melodies and get the gist of what all the fuss is about. Not being a true believer, though, the fervor of the faithful would be dumbfounding. (Maybe if I had gone to Rutgers …)

I was looking forward to catching a show. I saw all of three concerts in the Boston area during the eight years I lived there:

  1. Elvis Costello and his ill-conceived “Spectacular Spinning Songbook”, where he spun a wheel to choose the next song, making the show seem like it went on for days. When 10 p.m. came around and he hadn’t landed on “Alison,” he gave up and just shoved the ticker over.
  2. David Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour at Foxboro Stadium (speaking of ill-conceived).
  3. The Fine Young Cannibals’ only appearance at Great Woods; they performed their three songs respectably then promptly broke up.

Of course, I want to see a show with her for reasons beyond just redeeming my Boston-based concert roster. With the advent of her senior year, it’s hitting me that there aren’t that many more opportunities for my daughter and me to share music together here at home. I’ll start feeling the emotional impact as we head to the airport and I hand her my iPod to select what she wants to hear in the car. It’ll rear up again when we’re packing her turntable in bubble wrap so it’ll arrive on campus safely. And it’ll knock me flat when Airborne Toxic Event comes through Detroit and she’ll be seeing them on another stop on the tour.

There are still Marina and the Diamonds tickets left. Anyone know where in New York I can get my daughter a fake ID?

See you on the flip side …

Stop Making It Make Sense

10 Feb

For years I have been schooling up my older girl in the finer points of rock-and-roll. I’ve done my job so well, she took great pains to learn how to pronounce the word “pedagogy.” (In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced “pet-uh-GO-gee” … and the fact that I am sharing that information here proves her point, I suppose.)

Since I’ve made so much progress on that front, I have decided to expand my efforts to include a new pupil: my nine-year old. It may be long while before I’ll take her to a concert, so I’m introducing her to the magic of live performance via great rock documentaries. We began with, what else? Woodstock.

My first viewing of the classic was a midnight showing in Richmond when I was in high school. My suburban mind was successfully blown about 2:00 a.m. when Joe Cocker came on and, due to the late hour as much as his volcanic performance, he and the falsetto-singing Grease Band became the most smoking hot bunch of longhairs ever.  My daughter had to settle for a small screen screening on our upstairs TV.

When the naked hippies went flitting by and she got age-appropriately grossed out, it occurred to me that parental guidance was going to really be needed if we watched any of the other interviews.  I skipped ahead to key performances, starting with Santana’s barn-burning “Soul Sacrifice”:

Given that most of the gossipy trivia I knew about Woodstock involved drugs, drugs and more drugs, I couldn’t say much about the performers (other than assure her that yes, the Grease Band singers were guys).

Of course, rock and roll movies aren’t all brown acid and Wavy Gravy. For our next Rock and Roll movie night, we watched Stop Making Sense.

Made sense at the time …

When I watched this in Cambridge when it came out in 1984, the Talking Heads and David Byrne’s shark-eyed stare were cool, no explanation necessary. Watching it nearly 30 years later with my youngest, though, I was barraged by questions:

“Why is he using a tape recorder?”

“Why is he jerking around?”

“Why is the stage all red?”

“Why are those words on the screens?”

(It was as if she had read the taglines for the marketing campaign.)

I tried to get her revved up by sharing tidbits about my favorite numbers. “Those back-up singers had to be in great shape,” I pointed out when “Life During Wartime” began. “They’ll be jogging through the entire song.”

“Spoiler alert,” my nine-year old muttered. I think I heard her eyes roll. Once again, I had to shut up. I had to allow her to absorb the musical experience on her own terms.

She fell asleep before David Byrne toddled in wearing the Big Suit. Clearly not her cup of chai tea, this movie. Oh well, at least she tried it once … like avocados.

Over time, we’ll find our musical groove – watching rockumentaries, sharing playlists, going to concerts. I’ll just have to get used to the fact that I won’t need to narrate the tour forever.

See you on the flip side …

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