Sometimes eleven-year-old straight boys like listening to Doris Day.

The year is 1996.  I am a fifth-grade student at Fountaindale Elementary School.  Fifth grade was the last year before the jump up to middle school, so I was pretty hot shit as one of the senior elite.

I was on the television in every classroom every single morning with the morning announcements.  The Vice-Principal himself drove to my house to pick me up one snowy morning so I could make it on the air in time.  I was a big deal.

So when Mrs. Music Teacher (whose name I have long since forgotten) told the fifth-graders that we would be able to vote on the song we sing at elementary school graduation, I was ecstatic.  I’m Artie Sievers, I said to myself.  I’m le grand fromage.  I’ll pick out something and, of course, everyone will think it’s golden.

I began the search.

My taste in music as an eleven-year-old was not much different that it is today.  That is to say, I was a sixty-year-old man.  My cassette tape collection ranged from Elvis Presley to The Beach Boys to Tchaikovsky to Ray Stevens (yes, the comedian) to some choice musical soundtracks.  One of my most prized possessions, however, was a tape that, if memory serves, was simply titled “Hits of the 50’s.”  An auspicious album, to say the least.  On it were my rock-out jams: El Paso by Marty Robbins, The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Mambo Italiano sung by Rosemary Clooney, and other gems.

One piece from that album, though, stuck out as a prime candidate for our fifth-grade graduation song: Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera (Whatever will be, will be).  This, I thought, is a masterpiece of tone.  This is what we want to communicate to the world: we leave elementary school behind to venture into the unknown.  We are scared and unsure, but whatever happens, happens.  We can’t control it, so let us not try.

My eleven-year-old mind exploded with genius.  I was so proud of myself for identifying this.  And – I remember thinking – the parents in the audience will love it!  It’s an old song, and all old people love old songs, right?  Oh, I was going to score some big points with this choice.

We were instructed to cue up our cassette tapes and bring them in to Music Class.  When the big day came, children filed into the room depositing their cassette tapes onto the table by the stereo in the front of the room.  I hadn’t bragged about my choice beforehand to anyone.  I thought I’d let it be a surprise.  I placed my tape with the others and took my seat in the brown vomit-colored risers.

Mrs. Music Teacher (whose only feature I can remember is a mop of purple hair on top of a teardrop face) played each cassette, one by one.  Some were good choices, I recall.  Some were ridiculous, heavy metal anthems that I’m not sure you could even find a choral arrangement for.  And some were flat-out bad.  I remember one kid brought in a recording of an instrumental piece.  All were contemporary music, though.  These children basically just brought in their favorite songs.  Anyway, finally the moment came when Mrs. MT placed my tape in the stereo.  I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable unanimous approval.

As the song started, however, I heard sniggers.  I heard mockery.  I heard all-out guffaws.  I heard “What the heck is this song?!”  I heard “This sounds like something my grandpa listens to!”  I heard “Turn it off!”  I heard “Who brought that in?  Who did it?  Huh?  Come one, who brought it?”

I opened my mouth to identify myself, but instead of doing so, I started laughing as well.  “Yeah, this is horrible,” I said to the kid next to me.  “Did you bring it in?”  The kid shook his head no.

Mrs. MT politely shushed us all and allowed the song to finish.  She betrayed no opinion on the material, but continued on with the next prospective selection.

When it was time to vote, nobody raised their hand for Que Sera Sera, including me.  In fact, a couple of kids still laughed when Mrs. MT held it up.

At the end of class, everyone went up and took back their cassettes.  I left the room without picking mine up.  A few days later I was able to snag it back when nobody was looking.

I don’t have it anymore, but I’d love to find the album again.  Still love those songs.  🙂

PS – The song we sang at our graduation was The Greatest Love of All.  Gag.

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Sometimes you hear things about people in the pursuit of art.

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My gal and I have an etsy shop.  It started off as a really cool idea for her – making these adorable little baking mixes in mason jars.  She does all the rest, you just add love.  (That’s the name of our shop, by the way: JustAddLoveNYC)

Anyway, as I am also a musician, we thought we’d put up an ad on the shop site for personalized songs.  The concept – Ya need a song?  I’ll write it.

Thus far, I’ve done a few that have all been received quite well.  I just received an order for a personalized Christmas song and it struck me – these people send me a good bit of information about themselves.

I mean, the first song was for a company.  Yes, I wrote the theme song to the UK children’s play group Jelly Roles (www.jellyroles.co.uk).  So that wasn’t as personal.

Another one was an order from a nanny here in NYC.  She was leaving the country soon and wanted to leave a song for the two little girls she had been watching for years and years.  I got a lot of information about her, her two little kids, and the fun stuff they do together all the time.  

The Christmas song order is from a wife to her husband of 20+ years.  She was very helpful when she emailed me the information I ask for and gave me A TON of stuff to work with: hobbies, nicknames, habits, work info, moods, their relationship.

I find it’s a bit odd, knowing so much about people that I don’t actually know.  There’s that little squirmy feeling in my gut when I think too hard about it, like I have this almost-power over them.  Really, let’s be honest – I don’t.  I don’t think I can steal anybody’s identity with a hobby and a nickname.  And I really don’t think I can blackmail anyone by knowing how they take their coffee and how many Christmas songs they have in their iTunes.

Still, it’s an interesting feeling.  I’ve decided to take it as a gift.  I get to glance into others’ lives – if only briefly – and discover more about my fellow humans.  And that’s pretty fun.

(Coincidentally, if any of you are looking for pre-made baking mixes or personalized songs for the holidays, do visit us: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/JustAddLoveNYC.)

🙂

 

 

 

Sometimes things are never as they seem. Or, why Eureeka’s Castle was actually a Steampunk Horror Nightmare

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Eureeka’s Castle (yes, there are two ‘E’s in Eureeka – more on that later) was a children’s television show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1995.  I remember it fondly – the anticipation as I heard the plinking music come out of my family’s wooden console tv set, the joy of watching the Jim Henson puppets sing and dance, the satisfaction of quality Nickelodeon programming.

Looking back on it, however, I realize it was a dangerous, horrifying Steampunk nightmare show.

Let’s take the opening:

We start with a giant.  This giant is walking through the countryside, which in itself is a frightening thought to any sane bucolic denizen.  But the camera pulls back even more to show that this giant has his nose stuck in a book!
What?!  So not only is he traipsing through these rollings fields and hills, but he’s not even watching where he’s going??  How many innocent farmers and shepherds died in the wake of this giant’s carelessness?  How much blood covers the bottom of those ginormous shoes?

Moving on – the giant notices a castle nestled in these hills and puts down his book (I’m not even going to talk about how he apparently just tosses the book aside, no doubt crushing several loyal serfs of the castle into jelly).

The castle has a huge hand-crank on the side.  What kind of castle has a huge hand-crank on the side, you ask??  A Steampunk castle has a huge hand-crank on the side!  As the giant proceeds to engage the device, we are shown flashes of what lurks inside the walls:
With one turn of the crank, we see algae-covered gears rotating, their teeth interlocking with vicious force.  With another, we’re shown various figures that come to life – monsters covered in fur, talking mice, dragons, bats, fish made out of stone, and a couple of humanoids who don’t look quite human enough to me.

Now, if the entire castle is mechanical, and needs to be “turned on” with the turn of a crank, then we can assume that these creatures that spring to life are also subject to the turning of the crank as well.  So these beasts are really not alive at all, but some sort of automaton army with artificial intelligence!  That’s beyond frightening!

Why does this giant have this castle filled with AI automatons?  Well, he was reading a book when we first saw him and he said it was “very interesting reading.”  Might it have been Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR?  Is this giant planning a full-scale war against humanity using his mechanical army of creatures?  Are there other castles strategically placed throughout the world, ready and waiting for him simply to come over and turn the key?  Might this be the end of human-kind, leaving the world to be run by this maniacal giant and his army of mechanical creatures??  This does not bode well…

The creatures themselves are – of course – terrifying:
– There’s the kamikaze bat who could easily be outfitted with a bomb and sent out to a major metropolis.  He’d find a building to crash into in no time, taking hundreds or thousands of lives with him.  He also has a pet spider, who could also be outfitted with a bomb set to blow as soon as he’s scurried into a small space that only a spider can get to.
– There’s the dragon whose tail does not obey him.  Even if you could get the dragon to change sides in the great war against humanity, his tail would still act of its own accord.  Also, the dragon’s sneezes are big enough to shake the entire castle.  All the giant would have to do is to plant the guy in the middle of Grand Central Station, give him a sniff of pepper, and the whole place would come tumbling down!
– The talking fish fountain has to be spitting out acid.  No normal fountain that spits out water could talk and sing in harmony.
– The two monsters who live in the sewers of the castle will forever haunt my dreams.  The giant could set them loose in the water lines and they could enter your homes!  Their crazy long limbs would grab you before you ever knew they were there.
– The guy named Mr. Knack is interesting.  He seems to be a handyman of sorts, and he pushes around the cart filled with seemingly useless junk.  Perhaps this is the automaton programmed for internal repairs.  It’s genius – if the giant has multitudes of castles around the world, he would not be able to service them all in a timely fashion should one of the parts go out of whack.  So what he has done is to install a mechanical repairman to wander around with his little tinker cart, taking care of anything that needs his attention.  Genius.  Super evil genius.
– Finally, Eureeka.  What exactly IS Eureeka?  First off, let’s take her name:  There are two “E”s, creating “reek” in the middle of what was once a normal word used for illumination and creation.  So obviously something has gone awry here.  We know she can’t be exactly human because she has those horns coming out of her head.  Some sort of mechanical troll, then.  And she claims to be a wizard-in-training.  Like Harry Potter?  But who is teaching her?  The giant?
Perhaps we will never fully understand the reasoning behind Eureeka’s presence in the giant’s diabolical Army of Death castle, but let us be wary of her anyway.  I trust nothing that outwardly perky that has horns and is probably an automaton.

The mechanical creatures are terrifying, yes, and their predilection for human bodily harm is evident in the examination above, but I would like to add one more layer of horror on top of the already steaming pile of nightmares:

These automatons are trained in psychological warfare, as well.  They have been programmed by the evil giant to confuse and confound the human race, thereby making it easier for them to attack us.
Just look at the words to their marching death-chant:

You, Me, You, Who?
You we you see you we who?
Who me?
No, you!
Don’t you see?
You!
Me?
Me!
Gee.
Gee what a wonderful place to be
Castle, pastle, hassle, tassle!
You, us, they, we,
You we you me one two three!

If that’s not enough to singe off your brain stem then I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, what may seem at first like an innocent, enjoyable children’s television program is actually a blood-curdling, terrifying, Steampunk nightmare from which you can never awaken, because it will end with the annihilation of all humanity, leaving the world to be run by the evil giant and his army of automatons.
And that’s just the opening…  What other horrors lie in store in Eureeka’s Castle?  And when will Wes Craven make a film version?

Sometimes you’re going to be a part-time millionaire when you grow up.

This weblog post is a confluence of many different things and thoughts and dibbles and dots, all of which seem to be swimming about my grey matter today.  So stick with me through the end – I’m covering a lot of ground here.

First, let me start by saying – today is Father’s Day.  My father has had a profound influence on my life from the beginning.  A multi-talented percussionist now, he was not always so.  When he was a young buck, he was more of what you’d call a drummer.  Not so much with the marimbas and guiros, he was a set man through and through.  When I first met my father, he still had the same blue Pearl trap set that he acquired as a teenager.

He was in a band (as all cool dads are) and they would practice in the garage (as all cool bands do).  I would sit in the living room and listen to them belt out everything from Buddy Holly to Garth Brooks.  I’m not certain what their set really was with such a wide range – perhaps he was actually in a few bands and I’ve melded them together.

But either way, I decided there and then that I was going to be a songwriter.
I found, no doubt tucked away in the darkness of my father’s office, a small black notebook with a yellow pad inside.  Here – I decided with great romance – was where I would write the world’s best songs.  (I’d like to point out I was seven or eight at the time.)

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The first song I ever wrote was “I Can Drive You,” shown above.  It was, without a doubt, the wittiest ditty a normal eight-year-old boy can produce in Middle America while still remaining a normal eight-year-old boy.  It had everything – a catchy tune, brilliant wordplay, an intoxicating hook, and it was even written in rural American vernacular.  (Please note the apostrophes after such words as “ridin’” and “goin’.”  This, no doubt, paved the way for my later musings in character dialect.)

I followed this obvious A-Side tune with so many others:

“The Bear,” a folk ballad about the bear who went over the mountain and his internal monologue during the aforementioned event.

“The Night My Toys Came To Life,” which might as well have been optioned to Pixar.  I’m still waiting for my royalty check.

“I Wish It Never Happened Anymore,” a foray into rockabilly with astoundingly adult lyrics: “Went to the store and I met this girl; We went on a date; The next day I met up with her; And she had another man.”

And the list goes on and on.

I even had an “Unfinished” sleeve on the left side of the book, where I have the first verse of a profound love song: “All I want is your love, darling; All I want is your golden hair.”  I just can’t remember knowing an eight-year-old girl with golden hair, so the subject of the song will remain a mystery for a few more years, at least.

Armed with these dynamic tools of auditory splendor, I decided I was going to be just like Dad, and I was going to be in a band (though why I never offered my father’s band this treasure trove of music I do not know – it seems I could have started my career right there and then).  I would make so much money that I’d be a millioinaire.

BUT.

I only wanted to be a part-time millionaire, because I also wanted to be a part-time policeman.  (This was the civic duty in me coming out.)  When I wasn’t out catching bad guys, though, I’d live in a mansion.  Not wanting to be far away from my parents, I told them they could live there with me: Mom could be my maid, and Dad could be my chauffer.  It all worked out for everyone.

Well, I’m still not a part-time millionaire.
I am an artist, though, which is something.  I’ve written a good many things and have even started to sell some.  I actually just started writing custom songs on my girlfriend’s etsy website: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JustAddLoveNYC.
(By the way, her baking mixes on the site are TO DIE FOR.  I eat them.  All.  All the time.)

Anyway, my latest sale was a song written for a young childrens’ acting class in the UK called “Jelly Roles.”  In the class, the children act out different stories every day.  They sing this song at the beginning of each session, which ends with the teacher opening up the Magic Book to show them the story they will be performing.  Adorable.
Hear it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heUix6jZYKs&be

But anyway, back to Father’s Day – if it weren’t for Dad and his weird bandmates and Mom and her classical musicianship, I may not have written those silly songs when I was eight.  Which means I wouldn’t have gone into music.  Which means I wouldn’t have gone into musical theatre.  Which means I wouldn’t have started to write musicals and plays.  Which means I wouldn’t have started to write anything else.  Which means this post wouldn’t exist.

So, thanks Mom and Dad.  (But I guess especially Dad since, after all, it’s Father’s Day and everything.)

And that’s the end of my rant for today.  We covered some ground, but it all came together in the end, right?

What did you want to be when you grow up?  Do you have a secret notebook filled with brilliant pop songs tucked away somewhere?  Do you know my dad?  Isn’t he great?