No One Sings Like You Anymore

screenshot/YouTube: Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden

Do you ever get tired of growing up? I do. Mostly because I’m tired of waking up to find out that someone I admire has died. Or that our government isn’t a bad dream … but I digress.

There are levels to how we appreciate music — at least, in my mind there are. There’s the music that we like because it’s what our parents listened to when we were young and it reminds us of that time. There’s music that we liked in high school, music that we liked in college and music we like as adults. But there’s a special place for the music that we discovered in the years when we were first cultivating our own tastes apart from the stuff our parents listened to.

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Artists You Know Who Have Sampled David Bowie Songs

via giphy

via giphy

I was kind of surprised last week at the number of people who told me that they couldn’t name a single David Bowie song. As I mentioned in my post about Bowie’s influence, I wouldn’t consider myself a HUGE fan in that I didn’t follow everything he did very closely, but I would consider myself a fan with more than a passing interest. My point there was that David Bowie’s influence extended so far that even if it wasn’t your thing or you didn’t know anything by him, he probably influenced artists you do know.

So with a few searches on whosampled.com, I thought I’d do a follow-up post of artists you know sampling David Bowie as an example of how far his reach extended. Continue reading

Why Bowie’s Death is Important Even If You Don’t Know Anything He’s Done

By iluvrhinestones from seattle, oceania (bowie) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By iluvrhinestones from seattle, oceania (bowie) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Two of last week’s many unpleasant surprises landed with a boom on Monday morning.

  1. David Bowie has cancer.
  2. David Bowie has died of cancer.

A third surprise, just for me, at least, was how much this news upset me. I have been listening to David Bowie since high school. I know lots of his songs and I like them, but I don’t own any complete albums. I was aware of his innovation and influence, and I’ve seen the Jim Henson film Labyrinth once or twice (in which he plays Jareth, the Goblin King), but never followed his career with the closeness and fervor that a hardcore fan might. Still, the news was upsetting to me. I kept finding myself getting a little teary-eyed about it. [Author’s note: about halfway through writing this post, which took me several days, news broke of a 4th unpleasant surprise: Alan Rickman has also died. It would seem it’s a bad week to be a 69 year old British male performer with cancer that no one knows about.]

After ruminating on it for a bit, I think it’s the enormity of Bowie’s 50 year career — his accomplishments and his ability to transform himself again and again, thus allowing him to remain relevant — that I feel at his loss. Continue reading

Why Billy Joel is the Best Storyteller [With Book Recommendations!]

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A few months back, I had the rare occasion to be channel surfing (I hardly ever do this, as I usually only turn my TV on when there’s something specific that I want to watch). Showtime was airing a documentary called A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia and it was all about Billy Joel’s tour of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Far from being merely a “tour diary” though, the documentary examined the difficulties involved in taking the tour to the USSR and what it meant that Billy Joel was willing to take his then-wife, Christie Brinkley, and young daughter Alexa along with him amid all the tensions between the US and USSR. Brinkley was interviewed, as well as the band members who accompanied Billy Joel, and they talked about the tour and its place in history in the context of the Cold War. It was fascinating to a pop culture junkie with a music problem (like me).

Listening to Billy Joel tell the story of what inspired the song “Leningrad” got me thinking about why it is that basically everyone likes Billy Joel (especially people from New York, who rabidly adore him). There really aren’t a whole lot of singer-songwriters who have been able to bridge generations the way Billy Joel has, after all. The answer was one that seemed so simple, but was (at least for me) overlooked:

Billy Joel is an amazing storyteller.

And I don’t just mean in documentaries or during concerts. I mean that his music actually tells stories. He writes about subject matter that resonates with real people instead of just lots and lots of love songs (to be fair, he has a number of those as well, but I find his more tolerable than others).

The reader and writer in me is particularly drawn to some of those songs that tell stories that you just don’t hear on the radio. They’re working class stories. Regional stories. Life stories. Some writers can only write what they know. Billy Joel is one of those writers who is good at telling stories beyond his own experience, as well. This is very difficult to do (think about books you’ve read where the writer just couldn’t pull off the different perspective and it seemed contrived).

Of course, then I started thinking, “Well, if you like this Billy Joel song, you might like this book….” So I want to talk a little about some of the storytelling that makes Billy Joel’s music so appealing and relatable. Please note that there aren’t book recommendations for all of these, and of the recs given, I haven’t read all of them. Some of them are just based on my understanding of the book, which could certainly be incorrect. Feel free to leave kind rebuttals in the comments. Continue reading

Frank Jams: Top 5 Favorite Albums of 2013

Image

Author’s Photo: Sara Bareilles at the Electric Factory in Philly (Oct. 2013).

It’s the end of the year, so I feel obligated to do some reflecting, recapping, and re…nee-ing.

2013 was a pretty big year for me. My nephew was born. I officially became employed full time for the first time since 2009. I finally got to move to the Philly area (which is something I’d been trying to do since I finished undergrad in 2005). I knitted my first full-size blanket. I took up running. I ran my first 5k. I joined Rotary.

I listened to a lot of music.

One of the things I love best about living so close to the city is that I can get to shows easily now (bad for my wallet, but good for my love of live music). I love that I can go to a show on a week night and be home 20-30 minutes after I exit the venue. I was fortunate enough in 2013 to see 3 of my 5 favorite albums of the year performed live.

I’m terrible at ranking. I spend too much time second guessing myself. So here are my desert island top 5 favorite albums of 2013.
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An Open Letter to Bob Seger, Re: “Old Time Rock and Roll” (cc: Every Wedding DJ Everywhere)

Hey there, Bob,

How’ve you been? I hope well. As for me, I’ve been very busy — moving, working, settling into a new place, and it’s summer, so we’re well into Wedding Season now. While 2008 was my biggest year by far for attending weddings, several of my friends are getting married this year, and I can’t help but to remember why I really kind of hate wedding receptions.

I’m going to be frank with you, Bob. It’s because of “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

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Frank Reads: Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker

Ermahgerd! I’m back again.

Life continues to have other plans for me as I try my best to make it back here each week and post something for you. I had a super productive day, though, and found myself pretty much done with work at 5 or 6 pm with only a few light tasks to do this evening, so, I thought… hey. You know who needs an update?

Oh, you know who needs an update.

It’s been a slow summer for me in terms of reading. I read a few books at the beach, but the last one that I started there (in mid-June) is the one that, sadly, two months later, I’m still reading. It’s not that it isn’t good, but more that I just haven’t had a lot of time to read.

So I gave Frank three options this time. He told me he was sick of vlogging about “all of that girly shit” and told me to give him something that didn’t cause tears or teen angst. There was really only one answer, and it’s one that I’ve been saving since late December/early January. In fact, the only surprise for anyone who knows me (or has ever read this blog) will be that it took me this long to get Frank’s shit together.

And so, without further ado, Frank’s newest video: a review of Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt by Butch Walker.

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Dino Jams: The ‘Wait, That’s Catchy!’ Edition

First off, Frank wanted me to tell you thanks for checking out his video book review in the last post.

(We’ll pretend that I am not speaking about myself in the third person, k?)

I think this is the best assessment of Frank’s accent at the time of this writing, and it comes from my friend Jim: “Your accent sounds like if Bjork did an impression of The Count.”

I also want to take this opportunity to tell you, oh loyal Frankophiles, that my ability to update this blog regularly over the next few weeks may or may not be impacted by another new career move. As I figure my schedule out, I will work hard to give you a weekly dose of something here. And don’t worry — it’ll probably continue to be weird. I’m going to start a [hopefully humorous] series, possibly called “Why Am I So Neurotic?!”  — you’ll just have to wait until you see it.

So anyway, Mondays are a bummer. I’ve got a bit of a #MusicMonday for you, but in the spirit of Frankasaurus, I’m calling it Dino Jams. These are my five picks, upbeat and current (though not all necessarily mainstream) and I think they’re rather catchy. They’ve been helping me get pumped and shake off any bad moods.

1-2-3-HIT IT!

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Frank Recommends: Top 10 Favorite Christmas Songs

I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline before the apocalypse ensues, but I’ve been working my behind off and I’ve been sick, so I haven’t blogged much recently. Fear not, Franklets. More substantial posts are on the way. For now, I wanted to help you celebrate Friday and help myself get into the Christmas spirit (it seems I’ve lost it… again) by doing one of the things I love most: recommending music.

(Also, “celebrate” is a term to use loosely.)

This is an actual top 10 list, too. As in… #1 is my most favorite Christmas song. However, that being said, everything from 6-10 is sort of about the same to me.

And one more note: there are literally (literally, I say!) 128 zuperillion* ways to do this list. Classic Christmas, original works, newer artists, older artists, religious themes, etc. I chose a little bit of everything (although you will see that original songs rank high for me).

*I don’t know what this means. I made it up. But it’s big. I’m sure of it.

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