Monday, April 14, 2014

To Change This Lonely Life: A Constant Experience

Hi friends.

I'm here today to talk about men.


This may seem like a strange choice, given that I spent my weekend basking in the glory of Cher and Pat Benatar who just came through Detroit on Cher's Dressed to Kill tour. But when you see it in a certain way, the way in which I see it, this Cher/Pat Benatar experience was basically a worship at the altar of the modern feminine goddess. (I was thinking this even before Cher's final number, which saw her floating in a ball of white glitter over the audience and singing "I Hope You Find It".)

Much of my life is a study of the modern feminine. Simply because, that is what I am.

But clearly there is not one without the other and for as much as I love women I also love men, taken as a whole. Even though, taken as a whole, they make that hard on me.

Like any 26-year-old single girl, I've had my fair share of ups and downs in the dating world. But I don't think it's classy to talk about them in public detail, because I am a LADY DAMN IT. (I think I will ascend to a new level of ladyhood when I take Cher up on her recommendation of Saturday and start drinking Dr. Pepper mixed with Perrier. But, I might not quite be ready for that.)

In any case, this blog is about music.


Pat Benatar was amazing. She opened with "Shadows of the Night" and it was a truly transcendent rock and roll moment, I felt like Lester Bangs. And I gained a new appreciation for that song and for Pat Benatar generally and for super-dramatic eighties love-rock that drips tortured emotion with every guitar line. The power ballad.

It gets very hard to date sometimes, much of the time, because it has so many more downs than ups. On Saturday Cher prefaced a certain song by saying that real "dyed-in-the-wool Cher fans" tended to love it, and I was nervous that I wouldn't know it or love it. But it turned out to be "Heart of Stone" which yes, is one of the more earnestly ridiculous of her songs and is definitely a song for people who have wayyyyyyy too many feelings on a regular basis which is just another way of saying "dyed-in-the-wool Cher fans". Don't you sometimes wish your heart was made of stone?

I sure as heck do. I can have a somewhat reserved manner in person, and certainly in writing, so I don't always know if people know that I am an intensely feeling girl. (Intensely feeling and intensely thinking, it's a strange life.) This blog probably helps people know that, which is part of why I write it.

It's been a rough time for my feelings recently, now that I know I am leaving Ann Arbor and moving to New York City. They're getting a real workout. And they weren't exactly hanging in a dusty closet before, if you catch my meaning. But I have enough life perspective to know that the pain of failed things fades away.

My first love/heartbreak left me two things: my appreciation for the duets of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and a very soft spot for Foreigner. (It was also a good time for Cher in my life, the heartbreak part at least.)

So what I feel now when I listen to "Shadows of the Night" and remember Pat Benatar's thigh high plaid socks is actually not new, just the awakening of something a man gave me a long time ago.

Like I said, there's never one without the other.

The song: Foreigner, "I Want To Know What Love Is"; 1984


Sunday, April 6, 2014

To All of the Wildest Times: Full Speed Ahead

Obligatory introductory statement: I am in the process of quitting my current life and moving to New York City to follow my dreams. It might just go at the top of every post because it colors every day of my life.

If you're a follower of this blog you know that I love old pop music.

But I also love new pop music, particularly when it's really good. I'd say that discovering a new pop act I really love is one of the best things that ever happens to me and here's why: people who are making great new pop music ALSO love old pop music.

So it's like all things coming together for me. The sounds of the past I love plus the sound of the current day which I also try to love plus the sound of the future which I am really trying to figure out. (And about which I alternately wildly between "terrified" and "exhilarated".)

And this band is just a dream come true. It's three sexy Jewish girls who can dance AND play the guitar, and who sound like everything good that came out between 1975 and 1995. AND their last name, and the name of the band, literally means LIFE.

The more I become interested in Culture the more I see how much Culture is driven by what the boys like. That's largely cool with me but I also want -- and this is all -- for there to be a place for what the girls like.

I can't speak for all the girls but I can speak for myself, so I can say: I LOVE THIS BAND. I also love Lena Dunham, and Mindy Kaling, and Cecily Strong. And Duchess Kate Middleton. And Best Coast, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, Valerie June, Robyn, and Drake. I loved the movie Her and I love that the Muppets are coming back.

These are the things that look and sound like the future to me, and I just want to go toward the light.

The song: Haim, "If I Could Change Your Mind"; 2013


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

His Heart In Every Line: Think About It

I find myself introspecting a LOT these days, partially because it's the beginning of what seems like could be the most profound spring in a long time and partially because I am preparing for a major life transition.

And these things are combining in a strange way, kicked off by my recent urge (which I now understand to be seasonal) to binge on the music of Sam Cooke. I didn't address it in that entry of a year ago because I think I wanted to keep it light, but Sam Cooke is a tragic figure. So handsome, dashing, debonair, and talented; killed too young in uncertain circumstances; a great and soulful singer who wrote one of the best opening lines in pop and protest music -- "I was born by the river in a little tent/and just like the river I've been running ever since".

Given that it is also Marvin Gaye's birthday, and just past the 30th anniversary of his own tragic death, I thought of him too.

And I thought of Jackie Wilson in whom I became interested recently, perhaps the most troubled of all, a person who could never find his feet in life.

These troubled people, musicians and artists, leave behind a record of themselves. But unlike their counterparts in the world of rock and roll, the songs they left behind don't necessarily tell the story of their difficult personal lives. Sam Cooke is remembered for "Cupid" and "Twistin' The Night Away", Jackie Wilson for "Higher and Higher", Marvin Gaye for "Let's Get It On".

It's not a bad thing per se. This is the nature of pop music. But the more I get to know and love pop music, and it's such a big thing that I'll be getting to know it and love it for the rest of my life, the sadder I feel about the immeasurable distance that can exist between a happy song and a happy singer.

It's just one of the saddest things. And I see the connection to my own life as I continue to balance my own struggles with mental health with the pursuit of successful creativity and happiness, and as I continue to know and love people who are doing the same.

You can't get bogged down in these thoughts; 95% of the time you have to dance to the music instead of thinking about it. But today, I want to grieve a moment for all the people who made great pop music and suffered about it. Not for their music, but for their lives.

The song: The Commodores, "Nightshift"; 1984


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In My Lifetime I'm Still Not Right: Reinvention

I feel that this announcement can hardly follow the Conscious Uncoupling heard 'round the world, but I have one to make:

In just a few months, I'll be leaving my current job and location and moving to -- where else -- New York City. I'll be another 26-year-old half-Jewish girl from Oregon going to the big city to pursue her dream of becoming a cultural critic/pop music theorist . . . and I can't wait.

In Bed with Amy Wilson, this current project, will exist until roughly mid-summer at which point I will officially end it. (Officially!) In a very real way this blog is the outward expression of a particular time in my life, the time of living in Ann Arbor and figuring out what my ambitions are. As a person I have difficulty dealing with change which is why I am attracted toward clean endings rather than fizzle-outs. If things have to change, I want to stamp them with a big rubber stamp that says: "CHANGED".


Because I've been dealing with this major life change, deciding to make it and taking the steps to put it in motion, my taste in music has gone decidedly earnest. (Even more so than usual.)

I've also been exploring the field of what I would call "humanistic science", prompted largely by the re-boot of Cosmos which has been airing recently (and which will continue for many more weeks so you should watch it, no really, I'm not getting paid to say that or anything, just want to fly the flag for Science).

The genius of Carl Sagan, and of the whole group of people and projects he inspired, is to use the principles of science to bring people together in a quasi-spiritual fashion. To generate wonder about the natural world. To increase awareness of the central contradiction of human life -- which to my mind is that we are, at once, the smallest and least significant things imaginable, and also the most complex and beautiful.

(And to convince everyone that we should stop shooting at each other and start building spaceships!)

These two threads in my current mind come together in this song, which is nominally about reincarnation but I take more to be about the continuity of life more generally. In other words, that whether we are aware of it or not, we are all part of something larger than ourselves.

The song: Indigo Girls, "Galileo"; 1992


Although I know I am part of something much larger than myself, and made of star-stuff, and all that, one can only hold those thoughts in one's mind for so long and so my relationship to pop music and to this song is essentially self-centered. (Is that a bad word? It's just what I mean.)

Thus when I listen to it I can't help but think of this tiny reincarnation I am about to face, of shedding a few old layers and gaining some new ones in the tremendous and varied environment that is New York City.

When I end In Bed with Amy Wilson I plan to continue to document and share my life because that is something I enjoy doing, and my medium of choice will be Instagram. I have a tiny profile there already under the name showmehowever. I am attracted to Instagram for this purpose because it is such an elegant medium, a new form of communication, and I hope to do there with pictures what I have attempted to do here with songs.

But that's all in the future. There are a few songs left in this time!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Run Your Jive On Me: "Integrity"

This past Friday I, with the help of a few friends, put on a show called the "Zodiac Dance Party" which was an experience I will never forget.

Design by Rachel Auriemma.
I called it Zodiac Dance Party because a) I didn't want to obscure the fact that it would be a party, with dancing, and b) I wanted it to sound somewhat mystical and yet also somehow so dorky that no-one would believe it was really sincere. BUT IT WAS.

(Because this is who I am.)

The bulk of the music was provided by my friends, The Votaries (of Rock and Soul), a group of talented graduate students whose version of "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" is now located deep in my heart.

But some of the music was provided by me, in the form of a dance playlist to which I devoted way too much blood sweat and tears (because that's also who I am).

And this is a song from that list that didn't get played, so I'm going to play it here. I think it says what I want to be about.

The song: Aretha Franklin ft. Dizzy Gillespie, "Integrity"; 1985

Firstly, looking up the exact date this was released reminded me of a thought I had the other day which is that, I would like the chestnut that there was no good music released in the 1980s to be retired. There was SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC IN THE 1980s. It is maybe one of the most interesting decades for music (to me). So that's that rant.

But more specifically, I want to say that I love this song. Partly because this whole album, Who's Zoomin Who, is a testament to the force of nature that is the great Aretha Franklin, who was 43 when she recorded it. I feel that she sounds her age in the best way, in the way that Tina Turner sounds her age. In the way that has such confidence and a feeling that she has earned what she is telling you.

This song, which features jazz great Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, was written and produced by Aretha herself. I can't name another dance jam on the subject of integrity (but if you know of one I would like to hear). Like authenticity, "integrity" is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. It is comforting from me to hear from Aretha, who has really lived, on the topic.

I increasingly think that integrity is one of those things, those bright lines, that separate those truly make it in the world from those who don't. And I guess I should clarify what I mean by "make it in the world" which is not in this case a matter of material success, but more about the ability to stay in the present without being overwhelmed too often by the never-ending pain-in-the-ass-ness that is life.

I also think that integrity and authenticity are both not actual destinations but more the hills shimmering in the distance, that seem to get only a little bit closer as you continue walking.

But, as I have learned in the past few weeks listening to it, this song is a fantastic one to walk to. (If you turn it up.)


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Twenty Seconds to Comply: Oh, the Uncertainty

I really don't like not knowing what's going to happen to my life. If I had my way I would plan out every step for the next three years and then everything would go according to plan. (And it would probably be, I can admit, boring.)

But, without being too specific, I'll say that I'm in a period where not-knowing is more common than knowing.

AND I HATE IT. Really. I'm struggling with it mightily. I get scaly patches around my eyes like a sick puppy or something. My stomach hurts on a near-constant basis. I cut bangs and they are refusing to lie the way I want them to, like they know it will drive me crazy and they're doing it on purpose.

But like I said in a previous post about the quarter-life crisis, I also have the perspective to understand that this is just a passing moment -- and maybe, in hindsight, will seem (like other passing moments I've experienced) to be glamorous, exciting, maybe even fun.

That's a big maybe. It's also possible I'll always look back at this period in my life and think UGH.

THE POINT IS THOUGH, I have no idea how I'll look back at this period in my life because I have no idea how anything is going to turn out. And that's the crux of the problem, the thing that keeps my goat-y Capricorn self up at night. But what I am starting to see is, isn't this how it's supposed to feel all the time? Not this stressful all the time, I hope, but isn't this the goal, the thing I'm working toward, the thing I know intellectually is important to try to do: live in the present.

Now that I am forced to be here by circumstances beyond my control, I understand the beauty and excitement of the present in all its terrible glory. The vibrancy of it.

This song became famous ten years ago in the movie Garden State, which everyone loved when it came out and now would hardly admit to loving. Because it's self-indulgent, and pretentious, and not as innovative as it thinks it is. But we didn't know that at the time. Or at least I didn't.

Circumstances beyond my control -- scary. But necessary?

I watch The Bachelor religiously and this season have been captivated by a contestant named Sharleen, a beautiful 29-year-old opera singer with self-awareness, a natural sense of reserve, and a moody temperament. She's a real lady. And what she did this past week, which you may have heard if you run around on the internet, was leave the show because (for some strrrrrrange reason!) she didn't think she could get engaged to The Bachelor after knowing him only for nine weeks. She liked him but she knew it wasn't going to work out so SHE broke up with HIM. Which is a rarity on a show that is pretty much designed to throw a big fish hook into the cheeks of young women.

But Sharleen, an artist, understood something that I feel that I now understand better after watching her, which is that you have to be able to break your own heart. I shy away from typing things like that because I don't want to feel like a pithy statement on the inside of a Dove chocolate wrapper, but as I wrote a year ago I increasingly believe these things are cliche because they are true.

That was the first anniversary of this blog, and this is now the second. If I didn't think this blog would last a year when I started it, I certainly didn't think it would last two. But here I am, still chronicling in my own sideways way this period of my life that is defined more by not-knowing than by anything else.

In that entry about "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" I left a note to my future self. I said that I thought maturity was becoming comfortable with a mix of toughness and vulnerability. I allowed for the possibility that my future self would think that was ridiculous, but bet on the fact that my future self would still think "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" was an awesome song.

And, I do. And I look back at that past self (not so very long ago, but still) and I like that she liked that song, and chose it to mark an anniversary. I think it sums up very much of what I have learned, which is about the idea of not wallowing.

This year the song is not quite as sassy, but retains that same quality of authenticity and vulnerability. I want to say to my new future self, who will someday be my present self, who will someday be my past self: I still think you were right, but it's fine with me if you were wrong.

The song: Frou Frou, "Let Go"; 2002


Friday, February 7, 2014

Hopefully Learning: "More Than This"

Because I love this video.

Because this song reminds me of my dad. (A guy who has very interesting taste in music, as I plan to write about more soon.)

Because of Lost in Translation and Bill Murray.

Because it's beautiful.

Because when I crave this song, there's no other song that will do.

The song: Roxy Music, "More Than This"; 1982