If all music did was bring the past alive, that would be fine. You can hide away in music and let it recapture memories of things that used to be. But music is greedy and it wants more of your heart than that. It demands the future, your future. Music wants the rest of your life. So you can't rest easy. At any moment, a song can come out of nowhere to shake you up, jump-start your emotions, ruin your life.
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Back home, my favorite part of Mass was during communion, when I'd stand at the rail and hold a little gold platter under people's chins. The pretty girls would line up for communion (I confess to Almighty God). They'd kneel (and to you my brothers and sisters), cast their eyes demurely down (I have sinned through my own fault), and stick out their tongues (in my thoughts and in my words). Their tongues would shine, reflected in the gold platter, and since the wafer was dry, the girls would maybe lick their lips (and I ask Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters) before they swallowed (to pray for me to the Lord our God). It was all I could do not to pass out.
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At Camp Don Bosco, there were Bibles all over the place, mostly 1970s hippie versions like Good News for Modern Man. They had groovy titles like The Word or The Way, and translated the Bible into 'contemporary English, ' which meant Saul yelling at Jonathan, 'You son of a bitch!' (I Samuel 20:30). Awesome! The King James version gave this verse as 'Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, ' which was bogus in comparison. Maybe these translations went a bit far. I recall one of the Bibles translating the inscription over the cross, 'INRI' (Iesus Nazaremus Rex Iudaeorum), as 'SSDD' (Same Shit Different Day), and another describing the Last Supper - the night before Jesus' death, a death he freely accepted - where Jesus breaks the bread, gives it to his disciples, and says, 'It's better to burn out than fade away, ' but these memories could be deceptive.
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The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with - nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.
On the way we talked about the road sign Bridge Ices Before Road. I always wondered, If that's a problem, why don't they just build the bridge out of the same stuff they use to build the road? Drema explained that the bridge isn't made out of different material than the road, but that the bridge ices quicker because it's alone, hanging there without the land under it to keep it warm.
When I was a junior, my school introduced badminton, which was clearly a P.E. department ploy to get me away from the wrestling room, and it worked, since the first time I played badminton was like the first time I tasted sushi or heard the Beatles or read Wordsworth. This was a sport? This counted for gym requirements?
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It's the same with people who say, 'Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn't kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you incredibly annoying.
I was helpless in trying to return people's kindness, but also helpless to resist it. Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that's for sure. Cruelty isn't that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That's the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn't make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid. Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don't live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous. We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don't burn each other, not always. We are kind people in an unkind world, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. How do you pretend you don't know about it, after you see it? How do you go back to acting like you don't need it? How do you even the score and walk off a free man? You can't. I found myself forced to let go of all sorts of independence I thought I had, independence I had spent years trying to cultivate. That world was all gone, and now I was a supplicant, dependent on the mercy of other people's psychic hearts.
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The way I pictured it, all this grief would be like a winter night when you're standing outside. You'll warm up once you get used to the cold. Except after you've been out there for awhile, you feel the warmth draining out of you and you realize the opposite is happening; you're getting colder and colder, as the body heat you brought outside with you seeps out of your skin. Instead of getting used to it, you get weaker the longer you endure it.
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Irish people marry late, as a rule. We have that potato-famine DNA from the old country, that mentality where you don't give birth to anything until you have the potatoes all stored up to feed it. My ancestors were all shepherds who got married in their thirties and then stayed together for life, who had long and happy marriages, no doubt because they were already deaf. My grandparents courted for nine years before they married in 1933.
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bitch power is the juice, the sweat, the blood that keeps pop music going. Rick James helped me understand the lesson of the eighth-grade dance: Bitch power rules the world. If the girls don't like the music, they sit down and stop the show. You gotta have a crowd if you wanna have a show. And the girls are the show. We're talking absolute monarchy, with no rules of succession. Bitch power. She must be obeyed. She must be feared.
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We couldn't believe how exciting it was to be together, a pair of young Americruisers on a roll. We'd lived for just twenty-five years; we weren't planning to die for fifty more. We danced and drank and went to rock shows. Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were unwritten.
I've never heard of anybody getting rid of their prized Exile postcards, much less actually writing on them and sending them through the mail to a girl. I watched these two, laughing over this story at the same kitchen table they've shared for thirty years. I realize that I will never fully understand the millions of bizarre ways that music brings people together.
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For instance, I hated Pearl Jam at the time. I thought they were pompous blowhards. Now, whenever a Pearl Jam song comes on the car radio, I find myself pounding my fist on the dashboard, screaming, 'Pearl JAM! Pearl JAM! Now this is rock and roll! Jeremy's SPO-ken! But he's still al-LIIIIIVE!
That Jim Morrison song gets it all wrong. People are strange when you're a stranger, but it's not because they ignore you-it's when they notice you and smile, that's when you realize you're alone out here. Their kindness is what makes you notice how weak you are. That's when you know it's not the city's fault, it's yours. These people are in the same strange town, but they're not letting the strangeness eat them up and turn them into robots. That's just you.
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Like many other touchstones of twenty-first-century pop culture, 'The Sopranos' was hatched in the late Nineties, predicting a future that never arrived. It was designed for a decade that would be just like the Nineties, except more so, in an America that enjoyed seeing itself as smarter and braver and freer than ever before.
Sending Paris Hilton to jail for being the most loathed celeprosy lesion in the history of the species seems like a happening idea at first - forty-five days at Century Regional Detention Center is so the new thirty days at Promises Malibu! But it sets a dangerous precedent to jail celebs just because someone hates them.
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She was the first person on either side of her family to go to college, and she held herself to insanely high standards. She worried a lot about whether she was good enough. It was surprising to see how relieved she seemed whenever I told her how amazing she was. I wanted her to feel strong and free. She was beautiful when she was free.
At an incredibly divisive point in pop history, Donna Summer managed to create an undeniable across-the-board experience of mass pleasure - after 'Bad Girls,' nobody ever tried claiming disco sucked again. It set the template for what Michael Jackson would do a few months later with 'Off The Wall.'
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God bless America - what other civilization would give Patrick Dempsey another shot to rule as a sex symbol, twenty years after 'Meatballs III: Summer Job?' His reign as Dr. McDreamy on 'Grey's Anatomy' is proof that there's nothing we love more than giving Eighties celebs a heartwarming second stab at life.
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When I started out as a music journalist, at the end of the 1980s, it was generally assumed that we were living through the lamest music era the world would ever see. But those were also the years when hip-hop exploded, beatbox disco soared, indie rock took off, and new wave invented a language of teen angst.
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Not being able to protect her from things was the most frightening thing I'd ever felt, and it kicked in as soon as we got together. With every year we spent together, I became more conscious that I now had an infinitely expanding number of reasons to be afraid. I had something to lose.
The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with "" nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.
The sax solo as we know it today would not exist without Gerry Rafferty. His 1978 soft-rock classic 'Baker Street' has to be the 'Ulysses' of rock & roll saxophone, giving the entire chorus over to Raphael Ravenscroft's sax solo, creating one of the Seventies' most enduringly creepy sounds.
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In their heyday, the Pet Shop Boys were the Interpol of the Eighties, dressing up to sing really weird pop songs about lust and loneliness in the big city. They're low-pro now, not retro-worshipped in the manner of Depeche Mode, New Order, or The Cure, but you can hear the reason why - these guys are too sad.
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The Word 'Repulse': I hate this word. I believe 'repel' is a perfectly good word, and 'repulsion' is the noun, as well as the title of an excellent Dinosaur Jr. song. A compulsion compels you; an impulse impels you. Nobody ever says 'compulse' or 'impulse' as a verb. So why would you ever say 'repulse'? This word haunts me in my sleep, like a silver dagger dancing before my eyes. Renee looked it up and I was wrong. But I still kind of think I'm right.
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Unlike me, Renee was not shy; she was a real people-pleaser. She worried way too much what people thought of her, wore her heart on her sleeve, expected too much from people, and got hurt too easily. She kept other people's secrets like a champ, but told her own too fast. She expected the world not to cheat her and was always surprised when it did.
'The Sopranos' gets praised as novelistic, but it follows the most banal of life patterns, showing the sheer tedium of being a mobster. It has dead spots, boring plotlines, weak episodes. Characters develop slowly, or don't. Like viewers, a gangster might get bored, fade out of the action, then come back to find none of his debts forgotten.
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When Ke$ha tries to rap like L'Trimm, she sounds like any ordinary lonely teenage girl stuck in a nowhere town, singing along to her radio and dreaming of a party where she's the star. Ke$ha's greatness is that in her voice, you can hear both the loser girl and the star. All hail the Queen of Noi$e!
Davy Jones was the grooviest of the Monkees, which makes him one of the grooviest pop stars who ever existed. He was the best dancer in the Monkees, the Cute One, the one with the coy English accent, the bowl-cut boy-child who shook those cherry-red maracas and always got the girl. He was also the guy who stole David Bowie's original name.
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Seeing Taylor Swift live in 2013 is seeing a maestro at the top of her or anyone's game. No other pop auteur can touch her right now for emotional excess or musical reach - her punk is so punk, her disco is so disco. The red sequins on her guitar match the ones on her microphone, her shoes and 80 percent of the crowd.
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One of the things that make Liars so fascinating after five albums, each one so completely different from the others, is that even though they play around with all the classic tropes of art-damaged angst-noise perv-rock, they exude a totally cheery and boyish enthusiasm onstage, goofing around with their keyboards and beatboxes.
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That's the rub about 'Community' - for all the high-concept cleverness, it really comes down to vulgar humanism, the dumbest kind of sentimental identification. We watch it because we like these people and we miss them when they don't show up. They become part of the stories we tell ourselves.