Monday, July 14, 2014

Twist and Shout: Leaving

Hello there --

I'm writing this sitting in the sun and drinking an expensive but VERY healthful designer juice. It's great! It's 4:30 on a Monday.

I'm here because I quit my job to pursue writing.

As I've mentioned a few times recently, this decision and ALL the rigmarole surrounding it have encouraged me to try to reduce my non-essential thoughts. . .that's the only way I can think of to say it, in my way. In others' ways I might say "managing my anxious tendencies" or "personal growth" or "Zen".

Actually I was talking to a friend of mine about Zen recently and he made an interesting point, which is that people who are into Zen things are so because they themselves are very un-. It's the same argument that another friend of mine posed when he mentioned William James and his theory that saints and sinners are closer together than either is to the middle. . .because saints and sinners have at least both thought about it, usually. It's also what I believe to be contained in the Italian term "sprezzatura".

This is the last blog post on In Bed with Amy Wilson, so what I am trying to do is to turn the camera briefly on myself. Of course this is a blog all about myself (I know) so it's probably not too necessary. If you want to know who I am, you could find out.

Or at least, if you want to know who I've been.


I'm very excited and happy about my decision to move to New York City. I write it like that because that's how I say it in my head, and every time I do it's a little shout in that way: new york CITY!

What can I say? I watched too many classic musicals as a child and too many Nora Ephron movies as an impressionable youth. And too many Woody Allen movies, except that that's not really possible.

When I am in New York I want to really follow one of my dreams, which is (semi-facetiously) to be a professional writer of emails about nothing in particular. In particular. But also of course, about EVERYTHING!

You may not know how seriously to take me when you read this blog, that is full of questions like "what is art?" and "the meaning of life?", and also full of semi-schlocky pop songs. That's a hard thing to explain. Let me say that I am very serious about finding meaning, even in small things.

If you're interested in keeping in touch with me, you can subscribe to my newsletter and I will send you e-mails.


Here's one last song, by the artists that have unintentionally become a defining point for this blog. I am pleased to leave you on such a hopeful note.

The song: Daryl Hall and John Oates, "You Make My Dreams"; 1981


Monday, June 30, 2014

An Experienced Girl: Keep Moving

As you know, I'm in the process of completely quitting everything that I've been doing for the past few years and moving to New York City to follow my dreams.

This is one of those things, where, if I had any sense of how difficult it was actually going to be when I decided to do it, I probably wouldn't have done it. Which is why I'm, deep down, glad I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

It will not surprise you to hear that this is hard. It's not really surprising to me either. What has been unexpected have been the ways in which it has been hard. 

The move to NYC is just the (hopefully close to) final stage of what I understand to be a quarter-life crisis. A few months ago, a few stages ago, I wrote about the difficult nature of uncertainty and about the flip side of that which I had newly discovered and about which I'll just go ahead and quote myself: 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.

And that's it. For a long time I've known about myself that I tend to dwell either on the past (depression) or on the future (anxiety) and that I spend most of my time swinging wildly between these extremes (it's called 'cyclothymia'). It's only because I'm so profoundly worn down by the insane stress of a move like this that I'm able to be that upfront about it on a public and permanent forum like this one. But it's also because I'm so profoundly worn down by the insane stress of a move like this that I'm able to say, what of it?


The interesting thing about slowly disconnecting all the cords of my life has been that I've really had to realize what I am not. Clearly I'm not my radio show, because that's over. I'm not my job, because that's over. I'm not my blog, because that's going to be over too. I'm not my apartment, because I'm leaving. You see what I'm saying.

The song: Aretha Franklin, "Who's Zoomin Who"; 1985

It's another one from Aretha Franklin's 1985 album Who's Zoomin Who?, which she has said she made because she wanted to do something that sounded young. It does indeed sound young to me, even with the glaze of time, but also wonderfully world-weary in a way that Aretha Franklin sells so well. It also has that great classically-80s cheese in its sound and that's something I'm into right now. I enjoy walking down the street listening to this song and planning how I will zoom New York City, and these plans mostly involve actually zooming (roller disco, which is definitely coming back if I have anything to say about it).

I've said a few times on this blog so far that I've come to believe that maturity is constituted from a mix of toughness and vulnerability. Or more precisely, that's how my maturity will be constituted. I find myself often in the middle of these things: toughness and vulnerability, past and future, anxiety and ability, etc and etc. (Peppermint vs. Spearmint, Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits, Dog People vs. Cat People) There is a bi-polarity in my nature that leads me to create these theories and to see the world in these terms.

That being the case, here's the other side.

The song: Whitney Houston, "How Will I Know"; 1985

These songs are similar, released in the same year and produced by the same person, the legendary Narada Michael Walden (who is responsible for many of my favorite gloriously cheesy songs of the 1980s and 90s). But where Aretha's "Who's Zoomin Who" is confident, Whitney brings her trademark poignancy to "How Will I Know". How will she know? Well, most would say "she just will".

In my experience, it's not that simple. Self-knowledge is a harder thing to master than most people give it credit for. Give themselves credit for, I should say. I do think it often takes a major life event to move it along.

In that way, I could consider myself lucky. It's an opportunity. Although I'm losing my sense of who I am, as defined by external things, I know that I'm gaining something ultimately more important. Which is, the strength to be right in the middle of things and to know nothing more than that I exist here.


Monday, June 16, 2014

The River's So Pretty, The Air Is So Fine: Traveling

This was an unreleased demo version of Paul Simon's song "Something So Right", which is a song I posted when I was preparing to travel to Singapore around a year and a half ago. In that entry I described the dawning realization I was having that "happiness" is something more than the lack of unhappiness. I don't exactly remember the state of mind I was in when I wrote that, but I think it most likely had something to do with the values and beliefs I've been turning over for quite a long time now: things like self-determination.

Now I'm preparing to go to New York City and look into the eyes of random strangers and convince them (and myself) that me living in their apartment is a great idea. "Apartment hunting". But really more like "life hunting" or "future hunting". But also just "current moment hunting" -- looking for a place to land. At the same time it means a lot and it means nothing at all. This is a common contradiction I find.

In my current job, which I am leaving in a few weeks, I plan and deliver fundraising events. In learning how to do this, in using the skills I already had, I've figured out how to wind up and swing. When you plan a fundraising event you plan and plan, you prepare, you think through everything that might possibly happen -- but then a moment comes and you have to just execute. Make it happen.

I can't help but feel that this might be that moment for my own life. The wind up has taken a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time. Probably it started when I was given Slouching Towards Bethlehem to read in high school and decided that I wanted to be an essayist, a career path for which there is no clear course. And as you do when you have an ambition like that, I've just tried to always take the next logical step.

On that rope bridge of happiness right now I am very much in the middle. The next step, the next step, the next step.

The song: Paul Simon, "Let Me Live In Your City"; recorded 1973


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Night's Gonna Be Just Fine: So Good

I sort of glossed over it in my last entry (I was feeling sad and thus not inclined to share when I wrote it), but I posted the song "Changes" by David Bowie because there are a LOT of changes happening in my life right now. Many of my closest friends are moving away, which is a complicated sadness because I am also moving away, and many of the things I have occupied my life with (like my work and my radio show and my apartment and even this, my blog) are ending.

It's like graduation all over again, which leads me to believe even more strongly in the circular nature of life and time.

AND in the circular nature of music, as I continue to be rocked and rolled by the resurgence of the disco sound.

Which is why I am so pleased to hear this song, by the ghost of Michael Jackson, on the radio.


The song: Michael Jackson, "Love Never Felt So Good"; 2014

I've written before about my interest in Michael Jackson and what he represents about talent and the nature of childhood. I think there's much more to say about him, culturally speaking, and about the strong reactions he inspires in people. It's been fascinating (if that's the right word to use) to watch the arc of Michael Jackson's public image change so much even in my lifetime as an observer, from his trials in the 1990s to various delicate comebacks to his death and the re-imagining of his life that happened after.

It would be easy to forget in all the discussion of the man himself that he was a brilliant musician. And brilliant often in a seemingly natural way -- from the way his voice stutters and glides like a heartbeat or a breath to his dance moves, like water. But we truly know that his brilliance did not come easily. To say the very, very least.

I love "Love Never Felt So Good" because it feels like the past, the present, and the future AT THE SAME TIME. (Circular nature of time. Also, there's nothing like a great piano groove.) And my favorite thing about Michael Jackson is that, even with everything else he was, he was someone who truly understood how good it feels to just DANCE. To dance in a way that feels inevitable, like there's really nothing else to do.

And that is true in my experience, that sometimes there really is nothing else. So to that end I'd like to share a few more of my favorite Jackson tunes, just in case you happen to need them too.

"When the world is on your shoulder/gotta straighten up your act and boogie down": "Off the Wall", 1979

"Where did you come from, baby/And oooh won't you take me there": "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"; 1983

And BONUS JANET: "Come On Get Up"; 2001

Come on, get up!


Monday, June 2, 2014

It Seemed The Taste Was Not So Sweet: Ch-Ch-Ch-

As are many people, I am fascinated with David Bowie.

Something that fascinates me about him is his aura of untouchable cool (which nobody can deny). It's interesting to consider rationally, particularly when you factor in all the many insane (and theatrical) things he's tried over the years. Many risks. Which seem to have a higher-than-normal rate of payoff. I would bet it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I'm just throwing that out there.


I'm interested in the places where David Bowie, bastion of untouchable cool, shades into the un-cool. I already kind of went there once with "Young Americans", Bowie's self-admitted attempt at "plastic soul".

Even though I've apparently made part of my life's work into an informal course of study in soft-rock apologism, I'm certainly not immune to the threat of "uncool". When I remembered this song and felt that I should post it here, my first self-reflexive thought was something like, "oh not THAT Bowie song. . ."

Because why? Because I worry about not showing the serious thought behind the soft-rock apologism, and also about showing it too much. Because I don't want to come across as a dilettante who only knows the greatest hits.

This worry has been slightly at the back of my mind for around ten years now, since I was buying "skuf" CDs at Everyday Music on Burnside Rd in Portland Oregon and first faced the ineffable fear of . . . something . . . when I brought my music choices to the counter clerk. (Music choices often being along the line of old Squeeze albums and ABBA Gold.)

Let's not pretend it doesn't exist, that fear.

I used to think that fear and worry were an essential part of the Amy Wilson engine, and even wrote about something to that effect. I chalk this up to a basic confusion in my soul between the feeling of running away from something and the feeling of running toward something.

I am going to tell you I like this song, and you're free to think I'm a dilettante who only knows the greatest hits. I don't like that thought, but I don't like this thought any better: that I could tell you my favorite Bowie song is the bizarre disco epic "Station to Station", or that I know exactly where to put the "wham bam thank you ma'am" in "Suffragette City", or I could just say something about Low, and you might think I DO know anything about anything.

What I know and what you know and what you know I know -- actually I feel none of that matters. It might be nihilism, or maybe it's pop.

The song: David Bowie, "Changes"; 1971


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just Turn On The Music: Good Endings

Today was my last Turn it Up with Amy Wilson on WCBN and this is the song I played to end it and this is what I said about it.

"It's been really great being on the radio. I've had this show in varying timeslots for two years and in this timeslot for one year. I think next year probably would have been the one-year anniversary of being in this timeslot.

And I was so, so very excited to get this timeslot and very happy to keep it for such a relatively long time, because I had been doing the late night -- the 3am-6am when I started out, and then the late night, which is a much different vibe. I remember the first time I came in to do a morning show I realized that the type of music I would want to play, and the type of music that people would want to hear, would be much different. Because it's sort of, it's Wednesday, hump day, you're trying to get through the day, trying to wake up and all this stuff. It's been really really cool to have this time, two hours a week, to share the music that I like and am exploring with all the listeners of WCBN.

And I'll take this opportunity to say: thank you so much to everybody who's ever called, or IMed, or e-mailed me, or in any way gotten in touch to say that the songs that I've played or the things that I've said have touched them or helped them see music in a different way. That is so meaningful to me -- it's really, I can't put it into words, but I'm so appreciative of everybody who has listened and I'm very very much -- I'm grateful to everybody who has reached out to let me know that my show has. . .made an impact on them. That's what anybody wants to hear! So, thank you very much -- thank you very much for listening to Turn it Up with Amy Wilson.

I've got one more song left to play! I usually don't plan out my shows very strictly in advance, but this song I knew I was going to play as my last song on this show. I still remember the first song that I ever played on WCBN -- this won't be the LAST song that I ever play on WCBN so I shouldn't get TOO tearful about it. . .I'm actually doing What It Is on Friday so you can hear me this Friday at 8pm, so. . .I'm not gonna get too, too far down the rabbit hole of emotion but -- I remember that the very first song I ever played on WCBN when I was doing my training was the song 'That's How People Grow Up' by Morrissey. The more I think about that, the more layers of meaning it seems to have. . .

I'm not sure that this one will have that same sort of resonance but who knows.

It's the song 'Give Life Back To Music' by Daft Punk from their album Random Access Memories which came out last year. It was notable to me because it was very interesting watching the album be successful in both WCBN/the alternative/non-commercial radio scene and on Top 40 with that single 'Get Lucky'. It was the first time I've ever seen that happen, and I don't think that I'll see it happen again for a while. It really, uh, showed me the -- what it means to be a true crossover, what it means to make things that are meaningful to a wide variety of people.

And I think that the way Daft Punk got there is by making the music that they wanted to make and, nothing else, and doing it exactly in the way that they wanted to do it. So I'd like to play this song for a few reasons.

One of which is that sort of sentiment, of doing what you want to do with authenticity and courage -- something that I try to do in my own life, on an ongoing basis. It's so much easier said than done.

And also because of the element of fun. This song is the opening track on the album Random Access Memories, and as you'll hear (if you're not familiar with it) it's a very fun song. And it's about the fact that music is about fun -- and entertainment. Life should be fun, most of the time. And music can help you get there.

It's kind of what I wanted to say all along with my show, Turn it Up with Amy Wilson. That's what I've been saying for the past two years. Thank you SO much for giving me the opportunity to say that to all of you.

So, with that said, I'll go ahead and play the song. This is 'Give Life Back to Music' by Daft Punk. I'm Amy Wilson. You're listening to Turn it Up with Amy Wilson on WCBN."

The song: Daft Punk, "Give Life Back To Music"; 2013


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