Category Archives: Music

Human Kindness

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It’s strange the way we hear things differently over the years. The first time I heard this song I hated it. Probably because it was in ‘Beaches’, which has been tainted by how much Suzie despises it. But as I sat waiting for Andy to pick me up one day it came over the sound system and I was struck with an incredible wave of melancholy. It wasn’t about to rain, but it was crazy windy, and there is sadness in such blustery conditions. I listened as if for the first time and the plaintive melody almost brought me to tears. Human kindness does that. So unexpectedly. Sad that it should be so surprising, perhaps.

It’s a good song for the season, when rain and wind will take away all remaining vestiges of the sun, when the world turns into winter, when we hunker down and hibernate because everything is too much to bear.

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A Pair of Hunks Sounds Beautiful

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When two gay gentlemen previously chosen as Hunks of the Day unite for a musical duet, it’s something to be seen (and heard). In this instance, it’s Eli Lieb and Steve Grand. “Look Away” is basically how I feel about the current state of American politics, but also a melancholy treatise on a relationship that’s come to an end. In my younger years this would have floored me. Now, I’m happy to still feel a little something as the poignant piano ballad elicits memories old and new.

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Catwalk

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Fashion! Yes, that kind of fashion.

Looking good and feeling fine…

 

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Hunk of the Day: Sean Smith

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Sean Smith aims to ‘Turn You On‘ with his debut song and video, and that alone would merit a Hunk of the Day honor. Luckily for Mr. Smith, he’s got much more than that to earn today’s post. He came into prominence with his X Factor effort as one part of pop-duo Same Difference. Now he’s charging into the dance-pop world on his own, and if ‘Turn You On’ is any indication, he’s poised on the precipice of something special.

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #132 – ‘Devil Pray’ – Winter/Spring 2015

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

A stand-out track from Madonna’s most recent ‘Rebel Heart’ album, ‘Devil Pray’ intertwines drugs, booze, religion, and faith into one folksy sing-along, somewhat reminiscent of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and unlike anything she’s done before. Surprisingly spiritual, melodically accessible, and as fun to sing as it is rich to ruminate upon, this is classic Madonna, over three decades into her reign.

TAKE MY SINS AND WASH THEM AWAY

TEACH ME HOW TO PRAY

I’VE BEEN STRANDED HERE IN THE DARK

TAKE THESE WALLS AWAY

 

I’VE BEEN SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN

‘TIL I’M ALMOST DROWNED

GIVE ME SOMETHING I CAN BELIEVE IN

TEACH ME HOW TO PRAY 

At the end of the winter of 2015, I drive along the Massachusetts turnpike. Dirty snow, but not a lot of it, winds along the edge of the road, and gritty salt and mud spray coats the front of the Ice Blue Show Queen. We are both a little tattered at the end of the winter, both in need of escape. She longs for a sunny day in the driveway with Andy, I long for a similar day behind the house and beside the pool. Each of us pines for something just beyond our grasp, but at the tail end of the forlorn season neither expects much.

AND WE CAN DO DRUGS AND WE CAN SMOKE WEED AND WE CAN DRINK WHISKEY

YEAH, WE CAN GET HIGH AND WE CAN GET STONED

AND WE CAN SNIFF GLUE AND WE CAN DO E AND WE CAN DROP ACID

FOREVER BE LOST WITH NO WAY HOME

 

YEAH, WE CAN RUN AND WE CAN HIDE

BUT WE WON’T FIND THE ANSWERS

IF YOU GO DOWN THEN YOU’LL GET HELP ALONG THE WAY

BUT IF YOU WANT TO SAVE YOUR SOUL

THEN WE COULD TRAVEL ALTOGETHER

AND MAKE THE DEVIL PRAY

In Boston, candles flicker in the condo, their reflection mingling with the patches of snow seen beyond the window on Braddock Park. One reaches the end of its life, quietly expiring in a thin wisp of smoke. It smells like winter; spring is not yet in the air. Hunkering down with a cup of hot green tea, I sit on the couch and open a book, enjoying the simple luxury of the moment, waiting for the winter to go.

MOTHER MARY CAN’T YOU HELP ME

‘CAUSE I’VE GONE ASTRAY

ALL THE ANGELS THAT WERE AROUND ME

HAVE ALL FLOWN AWAY

 

THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET’S GETTING WARMER

LUCIFER IS NEAR

HOLDING ON, BUT I’M GETTING WEAKER

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR

My mind wanders back to Brandeis, to a small pool of water in the midst of three houses of worship. Founded on the principles of diversity and freedom of religion, Brandeis ensured that each sanctuary offered a suitable space for its disciples. As a Catholic, I stepped into the church and sat in the last pew, kneeling down as I made the sign of the cross. In a state of loneliness tinged with some slight homesickness, it was a way of reconnecting to my life at home.

Outside, the morning is pretty, filled with a low September sun that was just starting to burn away the fog. When I exit the church, my eyes need a moment to adjust to the light.

I will attend Sunday services only a few more times. My homesickness will soon abate, my loneliness will travel with me for life, and I will come to understand that God can be by my side at all times. That sanctuary opened up to me when I was a little kid, squirming around on the cool, cruel hardness of the dark-stained wooden pews of St. Mary’s church, and I realized that God didn’t require the ritual and the confinement, and certainly not when one was a child. I knew too, however, that my parents did need that tradition, out of superstition or blind faith, and even at that young age I knew that the way through, in the easiest way possible, was to pretend certain things. So I sat upright again, my feet dangling over the wood, my hands cupping a violet I’d picked from the back yard and brought now as an offering to Jesus. 

AND WE CAN DO DRUGS AND WE CAN SMOKE WEED AND WE CAN DRINK WHISKEY

YEAH, WE CAN GET HIGH AND WE CAN GET STONED

AND WE CAN SNIFF GLUE AND WE CAN DO E AND WE CAN DROP ACID

FOREVER BE LOST WITH NO WAY HOME

Shifting back to Boston, like walking to a different stained-glass tableaux, we revisit the end of winter. My book has been closed as my mind recalls those September Sundays at school. There is comfort in those memories, even as they are rife with tension and unresolved issues. One can’t return to certain moments with impunity and safety. Memories carry always the risk of forgotten agony and hidden heartache. Tonight, however, the risk has no unintended or ill consequences. Tonight, it is simply the return to a simpler time.

YEAH, WE CAN RUN AND WE CAN HIDE

BUT WE WON’T FIND THE ANSWERS

IF YOU GO DOWN THEN YOU’LL GET HELP ALONG THE WAY

BUT IF YOU WANT TO SAVE YOUR SOUL

THEN WE COULD TRAVEL ALTOGETHER

AND MAKE THE DEVIL PRAY

The next day, I return to the Massachusetts Turnpike, still bordered by brown snow, still dirty and dismal, and drive back to Albany. I sing along with Madonna as she tells her story. I think of all the places we’ve been together. I think about where we might go next.

OOOH SING HALLELUJAH

OOOH SAVE MY SOUL

OOOH THE DEVIL’S HERE TO FOOL YA

UNTIL MY STORY’S TOLD

SONG #132 – ‘Devil Pray’ – Winter/Spring 2015

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School Memories: Slipping Through My Fingers

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SCHOOL BAG IN HAND, SHE LEAVES HOME IN THE EARLY MORNING

WAVING GOOD-BYE, WITH AN ABSENT-MINDED SMILE

I WATCH HER GO WITH A SURGE OF THAT WELL-KNOWN SADNESS

AND I HAVE TO SIT DOWN FOR A WHILE…

I clenched my Trapper Keeper with arms folded across my chest, even if it would have fit nicely into my new backpack. It was the only armor I had, and I held it over my heart as if that might shield me from missing my Mom. We gathered at the neighbor’s house for the traditional ‘First Day of School’ photo, then made off in a loose pack to McNulty School. This was the day I’d been dreading since the first back-to-school commercials had begun airing a few weeks prior.

I’m not sure why. At the time, school had been an easy and relatively enjoyable thing. I was a straight-A student (gay-A student?) and I never struggled with schoolwork the way some of my class did. I also didn’t have any real social anxiety after the first day or two. This was back before we entered adolescence and puberty, when boys and girls got along and were easy friends without any sort of separation or teasing, back when it didn’t matter what you wore, where you lived, or where your parents worked. Childhood was the great equalizer – the innocence of childhood, that is. We aren’t born hating or categorizing or judging others – we learn that – and in those early grade-school days I hadn’t experienced the darker side of it. Still, I didn’t want to leave the safety and security of home, and I certainly didn’t want to leave my mother’s side.

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME

I TRY TO CAPTURE EVERY MINUTE, THE FEELING IN IT

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME

DO I REALLY SEE WHAT’S IN HER MIND

EACH TIME I THINK I’M CLOSE TO KNOWING, SHE KEEPS ON GROWING

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME

It had been a few years since I’d hidden under the table, crying with the other boy who was afraid to leave his mom, but I still dreaded the arrival of school. Even now, I get a wave of heartsickness when those back-to-school commercials start. The familiar dread creeps into my stomach, the same way a recurring nightmare has one gasping for air, no matter how much you know it’s not real or actually happening.

SLEEP IN OUR EYES, HER AND ME AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE

BARELY AWAKE, I LET PRECIOUS TIME GO BY

THEN WHEN SHE’S GONE THERE’S THAT ODD MELANCHOLY FEELING

AND A SENSE OF GUILT I CAN’T DENY

Those early fall mornings, filled with fog, and so brisk before the sun broke through, were a tense time. The smell of toast and the warm glow of the kitchen lamp above the table were comforts, but only mild ones. The subdued rustling of a newspaper was the only whisper made as we all adjusted to the early hour. My brother and I finished our breakfast then walked across the street to meet the Mitchell girls for the walk to school. In their kitchen, we waited awkwardly for the three of them to get their stuff together. It was noisy and loud and chaotic – a different scene from our subdued home – and one that held its own allure and drawbacks. Every friend’s house we went to seemed strange and exotic, as I’m sure ours seemed to them. Some I envied, some I dreaded, and all were fascinating.

By that point, I’d almost outgrown the sadness I felt at leaving home every morning, but it would rear its head again as sickness and other manifestations of deeper problems added to my angst. I wasn’t quite there yet, and in that purgatorial fog I held on tight to the supposed ease of being a kid.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES

THE PLACES I HAVE PLANNED FOR US TO GO

WELL, SOME OF THEM WE DID, BUT MOST WE DIDN’T

AND WHY, I JUST DON’T KNOW.

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME

I TRY TO CAPTURE EVERY MINUTE, THE FEELING IN IT

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME

DO I REALLY SEE WHAT’S IN HER MIND

EACH TIME I THINK I’M CLOSE TO KNOWING, SHE KEEPS ON GROWING

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS ALL THE TIME…

I don’t know if my parents ever felt those pangs of not wanting us to grow up, not wanting to send us out on our own. Maybe that was their way of making sure that we could do it, and for that I’m retrospectively thankful. (I’ve seen far too many kids today get coddled and pampered, and I worry how they will deal with the reality of a world that’s not going to treat them so carefully.) Back then, from the child’s perspective, I’m sure I felt a little slighted, but I remember thinking (while on a summer vacation with my Mom and brother) that maybe we were all a little sad at how things had to change.

SOMETIMES I WISH THAT I COULD FREEZE THE PICTURE

AND SAVE IT FROM THE FUNNY TRICKS OF TIME…

SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS…

Whenever the first week of September rolls around, I feel the same dread and worry, even all these years later. It feels even more urgent of late, as many of my friends are sending their kids off to school. They’re on the other side of it now, and I don’t envy that either.

SCHOOL BAG IN HAND, SHE LEAVES HOME IN THE EARLY MORNING

WAVING GOOD-BYE, WITH AN ABSENT-MINDED SMILE

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Dancing with Summer Memories

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CLOCK STRIKES UPON THE HOUR

AND THE SUN BEGINS TO FADE

STILL ENOUGH TIME TO FIGURE OUT

HOW TO CHASE MY BLUES AWAY

I’VE DONE ALRIGHT UP ‘TIL NOW

IT’S THE LIGHT OF DAY THAT SHOWS ME HOW

AND WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS

LONELINESS CALLS…

Summer day, morning, mid-to-late 1980′s. School was out. What adventures of a summer day waited for us to conquer them? Slowly coming out of sleep, I felt the first tension of growing up, deciding what to do with the day and stressing out about it. Did I stay in bed, savoring the morning hours of rest that didn’t exist during the school year, or did I get up and make the most of each moment of freedom? Through the sunny haze, I hear the new Whitney Houston song come on the radio, and suddenly I perk up. Giddy at everything – the start of summer, the perfection of a cheesy pop song, the sun streaming into the bedroom – I get out of bed and dance my sleepiness away. The decision is made. I savor the moment and can’t wait to see where the day takes me.

 

OH! I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

I WANNA FEEL THE HEAT WITH SOMEBODY

YEAH! I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

WITH SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME

The big decisions then were where we would ride our bikes, how far we might go, what baseball cards we could find. Soon, I’d make my way downstairs to see whether my brother was already out and about, but for now I listened to Whitney, and that song would form the backdrop to a childhood summer that is all happiness and simple adventures.

When we weren’t burning rubber through the neighborhood, we were playing hide and seek or splashing about in the pool. We slowed down only for dinner and maybe lunch, and a bedtime so early there was still light in the sky. On the cusp of adolescence, I didn’t realize the waning days of carefree innocence. I didn’t know that summer would not always be this way. Part of me suspected, however, that this was good, and since all the adults around us had been telling us for years that childhood was the best and easiest part of life, I believed it and reveled in mine as much as I could.

That wasn’t always much, and I was far too serious far too much of the time, but on sunny summer mornings when Whitney Houston was extolling the virtues of love and dance, I moved to the music and made a memory of the moment that I hold to this day.

I’VE BEEN IN LOVE AND LOST MY SENSES

SPINNING THROUGH THE TOWN

SOONER OR LATER THE FEVER ENDS

AND I WIND UP FEELING DOWN

I NEED A MAN WHO’LL TAKE A CHANCE

ON A LOVE THAT BURNS HOT ENOUGH TO LAST

SO WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS

MY LONELY HEART CALLS

Three decades later, I find myself at the end of summer, on a weekend in which I’ve made a trip to Washington, DC based on a whim (and an incredible deal on Expedia). I tend to avoid DC in August, but my weather app revealed a weekend that looked to be in the low 80’s with reasonable humidity, so I took a chance, booked a room at the Topaz Hotel, and told my friend Chris I’d be down if he was available to hang out. The Delusional Grandeur Tour was back on the road, and there was still some summer to be had.

On the eve of Labor Day, we are finishing up dinner at Hazel. After catching up and contemplating our Big Chill touchpoints, we walked around a bit before stumbling upon a DC gay hotspot, Nellie’s, where music and laughter were blasting out of its multiple floors. After a bit of cajoling, I got Chris to go in, and we made our way upstairs, where a sea of people danced to a throbbing mix of new songs and classic ones, seamlessly melded together by a genius DJ. It was hot, but as we cut through the mass of bodies, we found a nice perch near a wall of open windows that turned the whole floor into a balcony overlooking the street below. With a wrought iron railing, and a view to another second-floor restaurant scene, it was reminiscent of New Orleans. This was a different time though, and Chris and I were older than most of the denizens breaking sweats on the dance floor. I watched with wonder and happy amusement. It was a good crowd, and everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves. It was, in many respects, the perfect antidote to a summer that began in such alarming fashion. I felt at peace and took in the moment.

SOMEONE WHO, SOMEONE WHO…. SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME,

SOMEONE WHO, SOMEONE WHO… TO HOLD ME IN HIS ARMS.

I NEED A MAN WHO’LL TAKE A CHANCE,

ON A LOVE THAT BURNS HOT ENOUGH TO LAST.

SO WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS, MY LONELY HEART CALLS…

Chris went to grab us a beer (when in Rome…) and I sat there for a bit, still watching.

If you’ve lived your entire adult life as a gay man, you get used to feeling out of place, so when you walk into a gay bar there’s a huge feeling of relief and calm that most straight people will never experience. I felt that familiar peace, and more: it came galvanized by a sense of community and belonging. I looked around on this late summer night, and all the happy people there reminded me of what glory and honor there was in being where we were right then. Across the room, a slice of America in our Capitol city: gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, transgender, young, mature, tall, short, thin, voluptuous – a veritable patchwork quilt of breathtaking and gorgeous variety.

Then, I recognized the beginning of an old song, tonight born from the last notes of a Beyonce track: I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me.

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BABY?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BOY?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BABY?

WITH SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME

People who hadn’t even been born when this song came out raised their hands and joined in the chorus, everyone belting it out in thunderous unison. It was one of those crests of music and movement that makes a night out worthwhile.

I thought back to that summer almost thirty years ago, when I tumbled out of bed and moved to the beat of a brand new morning. So much had happened since then, but instead of feeling tired or weary I felt a renewed energy. Moving slowly away from the edge, I entered the crowd, dancing like I danced on that summer morning so long ago. Surrounded by strangers, I didn’t feel alone, and I let myself go as we all sang along to Whitney. It only lasted a minute or two before Chris returned, but a new memory was made that is going to last a lifetime.

 

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE?

SAY YOU WANNA DANCE?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE?

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Rehoboth Miscellany

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Random scenes from Rehoboth Beach, backed by a Beach Boys soundtrack, and dedicated to Cormac because he absolutely abhors the Beach Boys. (That’s just the kind of kind of guy I am.)

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF WE WERE OLDER

THEN WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG

AND WOULDN’T IT BE NICE TO LIVE TOGETHER

IN THE KIND OF WORLD WHERE WE BELONG

YOU KNOW ITS GONNA MAKE IT THAT MUCH BETTER

WHEN WE CAN SAY GOODNIGHT AND STAY TOGETHER

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF WE COULD WAKE UP

IN THE MORNING WHEN THE DAY IS NEW

AND AFTER HAVING SPENT THE DAY TOGETHER

HOLD EACH OTHER CLOSE THE WHOLE NIGHT THROUGH

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Song of the Forlorn Stalker

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EASE YOUR LIPS INTO A VELVET KISS WHILE I ENFOLD YOU

MOVE YOUR HANDS ACROSS THIS PROMISED LAND

THE SEEKERS GUIDED BY THE POLE STAR

SAY THE WORDS

WHY DON’T YOU SAY THE WORDS

I HAVE BEEN WAITING LONG TO HEAR

PLEASE FALL IN LOVE WITH ME…

Here, then, find the missing piece of a heart that completes a dim portrait of a young man’s life in the mid 90′s.

Hear, then, listen to the missing song that fills the empty space of a faded memory.

I can’t yet tell if it’s a memory from the past, or a memory yet to be made.

DRIFT WITH ME UPON AN ENDLESS SEA

WE ARE DIVINE IN THE REALM OF THESE SENSES

EVERY MOVE HAS BEEN A SUBTERFUGE

WHILE WE PRETEND THAT WE REALLY DON’T CARE

This is the song I would have put on every mix tape I made for every boy and girl who couldn’t muster the madness to fall in love with me. From that guy in my abnormal psychology class whose dog almost attacked me on a stake-out to the real estate broker who brought us to Braddock Park, from the boy whose Structure sweater unraveled beneath the dappled fall shade of a maple tree to the guy who wiped the snow off my car after a January storm- the line of gentlemen in my short life was populated by those who were mostly unaffected by my existence, and a few that I like to think I changed as much as they changed me.

MOVED BY FEAR WE MIGHT BE STRANGERS HERE

BUT I CAN FEEL WE MIGHT BE ONE

PLEASE FALL IN LOVE WITH ME…

Tim Booth, lead singer of my favorite band James, backed by that oh-so-dreamy music of the brilliant Angelo Badalamenti, caressed the sad, longing melody of a song that brings me back to a time I only revisit on certain September days – when the sun burns fine cracks into the rusty oak leaves. We are in September again, a tricky month to be sure, but a wonderful month. It seers the soul in the best and worst ways. It leaves marks on the hardest heart.

I HEAR THE SOUND OF MOONS FALLING

SURRENDER TO THIS CHARM

I BREEZE ACROSS YOUR SOUL DARLING

DEEP ETERNITY

From the 1996 album ‘Booth and the Bad Angel’, this is a piece that I somehow missed the first time around, back when it might have wrenched open a hole in my primitive heart. It would have made a wonderful companion piece to one of my favorite albums, ‘A Secret Life’ by Marianne Faithfull. Funny, the way that music reminds, and opens old wounds, even if they are but scars.

LOST YOUR MIND

WELL DON’T YOU THINK IT’S TIME

TO SWIM AWAY FROM THE SAFETY OF THESE BEACHES

TRUST THE TIDES, THEY KNOW WHICH WAY TO FLOW

AND DON’T YOU LONG TO FLOW SO FAR

Summer lingers into the month it ends. The nights offer relief as much as they offer torment. Is the other side of the sun a rainy day or a moon-filled night? When the breeze brushes my hand by the open window, and the soft light of a fringed lampshade pools on the mottled wood of the floor, I return to the past, discovered in a new old song.

The sea calls then, backed by the lonely clanging of a flagpole in the wind.

MOVED BY WAVES WE’VE NEVER FELT BEFORE

TILL WE ARE FLOATING WAY OUT DEEP

PLEASE FALL IN LOVE WITH ME…

 

PLEASE…

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #131 – ‘Freedom’ – Spring 2004

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

Created during the ‘Bedtime Stories’ sessions, this song was not included in that final funkified R&B slow-swing album, probably for its rather demo-like feel and lack of focus. It was officially released as part of Madonna’s ‘American Life’ follow-up remix EP (the most eclectic and puzzling release ever). It actually would have worked fine as a filler fodder on the original 1994 release, which found Madonna at one of her most casual and carefree musical moments, because it sounds out of place next to almost everything else she’s done (especially the remixed versions of the ‘American Life’ tracks). But no one says no to Madonna, so she had it on.

“NO” IS JUST A WORD
THAT PEOPLE SAY WHEN THEY’RE AFRAID
AND IF YOU SAY “NO” TO ME
THEN I WILL FIGHT YOU TILL I’M FREE

SAY FREEDOM, BROTHERHOOD
JUSTICE, JUST SAY “YES”
SAY FREEDOM, BROTHERHOOD
JUSTICE, JUST SAY “YES”

It’s mostly a rough musical riff or two, stripped down to a couple of guitars and Madonna’s lofty platitudes broken down into simplified cries of ‘freedom’ and ‘brotherhood’ and ‘justice’ – and all of it boils down into a not-so-promising and completely-unfulfilling musical doodle. Bogged down by the whole ‘justice’ angle, this is not one of my favorites.

‘CAUSE “NO” IS JUST A WORD
THAT PEOPLE SAY WHEN THEY CAN’T COPE
AND IF YOU SAY “NO” TO ME
THEN I WILL FIGHT YOU TILL I’M FREE

SONG #131 – ‘Freedom’ – Spring 2004

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THE MADONNA TIMELINE: SONG #130 – ‘BEST NIGHT’ – SPRING 2015

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

Why this plotting thud wasn’t excised and replaced with something like ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ on the otherwise mostly brilliant ‘Rebel Heart‘ album is beyond me, but here it is. A filler track at best, ‘Best Night’ is Madonna at her laziest, both musically and lyrically.

There’s really nothing more to say, but this is far from her ‘Best.’

YOU CAN CALL ME ‘M’ TONIGHT

YOU CAN BE MY MAN TONIGHT

SONG #130 – ‘Best Night’ – Spring 2015

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #129 – ‘Pray For Spanish Eyes’ – Fall 1991

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

Smoke hung in the air, gray like everything at that time of the year. Somewhere, someone was burning leaves. It was already November, and fire would inform everything for the next few months. In summer we smolder; in winter we burn. Though the ‘Like A Prayer’ album had been out for two years, I was just getting into the deep cuts, and ‘Pray For Spanish Eyes’ came on the walk-man as I raked up the oak leaves in our endless backyard.

I KNOW FOR SURE HIS HEART IS HERE WITH ME

THOUGH I WISH HIM BACK I KNOW HE CANNOT SEE

MY HAND’S TREMBLING, I KNOW HE HEARS ME SING.

The earth was dry, which was best for raking and bagging, and all life had died back in the frosts and frigid nights of the weeks before. From my hands, decayed and desiccated leaves sifted through my fingers, as if I was Father Time sprinkling the sands of history over a barren land. Beneath the leaves was the brown ground, still scorched from the end of summer.

I LIGHT THIS CANDLE AND WATCH IT THROW TEARS ON MY PILLOW

AND IF THERE IS A CHRIST, HE’LL COME TONIGHT, TO PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES

AND IF I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO SHOW BUT TEARS ON MY PILLOW

WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THIS? IF GOD EXISTS, THEN HELP ME PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES. 

Looking up, I peer through bare branches and pine boughs, one running into the other, weaving a tapestry of limbs and needles. A cold wind moves overhead. Soon, snow will appear, but not on this day. We teeter on the edge, not quite ready to plummet into winter. It is dreary weather. It ebbs away at the soul with its overriding monotony, the dull way a barren landscape blunts the viewer’s gaze.

HE HAD TO FIGHT LIKE ALL THE REST

IN THE BARRIO ALL THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH FEAR

I DON’T UNDERSTAND; AT LEAST HE WAS A MAN.

It is a difficult time in my life. The scent of fallen oak leaves will remind me of it in the years to come. A mournful, earthy scent fronted by the tomb-like mineral mist rising from the soil. I look around. A line of black garbage bags stands closer to the house, a conflux of short, abstract watchers, mute and faceless against the white house. The cleared expanse around me looks neat and clean. A small sliver of pride surfaces, but I tuck it away. No one extols the virtues of a spoiled teenager.

I LIGHT THIS CANDLE AND WATCH IT THROW TEARS ON MY PILLOW

AND IF THERE IS A CHRIST, HE’LL COME TONIGHT, TO PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES

AND IF I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO SHOW BUT TEARS ON MY PILLOW

WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THIS? IF GOD EXISTS, THEN HELP ME PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES.

Seeking a savior of some sort, I search the sky for signs of impending change. Simultaneously, I wish to be rescued and to wreak vengeance. Punishment and forgiveness, banishment and rebirth. I suppose I was seeking God, if God is indeed Love. Where was He? Where was I meant to be? As evening descended, and the grays all around me grew darker, I walked out of the forest back to the house. There was darkness in both places.

In my bedroom, I play the penultimate track on ‘Like A Prayer’ and light a candle in my mind.

This was the album that brought us such emotional tracks as ‘Promise To Try’ and ‘Oh Father’ – and this song was in the same Catholic and confessional vein. The greatest Madonna songs tell a story – either in their lyrics or their video accompaniment. In this instance, a loose narrative of a savior – it could be Jesus, it could be a soldier, it could be a stranger, it could be a lover – carries through the guitar-laden flamenco-tinged ballad. This mysterious male phantom figure, perhaps a ghost of her then-recent divorce from Sean Penn, leaves Madonna questioning herself, her love, and the very existence of God.

HOW MANY LIVES WILL THEY HAVE TO TAKE? HOW MUCH HEARTACHE?

HOW MANY SUNS WILL THEY HAVE TO BURN? SPANISH EYES, WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

In Madonna, I found my savior. In her I found something more resonant than a God who sent his only son to die for others. How many suns will they have to burn? Those suns could be read as sons, and the first-born will always bear the brunt of the burn. 

YOU WERE NOT THE MARAVILLA IN OUR MIND

WE WERE PROUD TO FIGHT BUT WE CANNOT WIN THIS BLIND

STAND YOUR GUNS AGAINST THE WALL, WHO’S NEXT IN LINE TO FALL?

I LIGHT THIS CANDLE AND WATCH IT THROW TEARS ON MY PILLOW

AND IF THERE IS A CHRIST, HE’LL COME TONIGHT, TO PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES

AND IF I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO SHOW BUT TEARS ON MY PILLOW

WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THIS? IF GOD EXISTS, THEN HELP ME PRAY FOR SPANISH EYES.

My ghostly reflection looks back at me from the window, features smudged in the dirty glass, form abstract and ill-defined. In the darkness and haze, I hide my tears. Even if they ran as red as the blood of Christ, you would not see them. Though they burn my cheeks, I do not make a sound. Someone else will have to speak for me. Amid a flourish of trumpets, Madonna cries out in passion:

HOW MANY LIVES WILL THEY HAVE TO TAKE? HOW MUCH HEARTACHE?

HOW MANY SUNS WILL THEY HAVE TO BURN? SPANISH EYES, WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

There is nothing to do but sleep. That fall, it is the only place I find peace.

A guitar fades into oblivion.

A whispered prayer escapes my lips.

Tears betray my eyes.

TUS LAGRIMAS DE TRISTEZA

NO ME DEJAN OLVIDARTE

SONG #129 – ‘Pray For Spanish Eyes’ – Fall 1991

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #128 – ‘Messiah’ – Winter 2015

md messiah 101

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

 

Madonna doesn’t always get the credit she deserves for some of her lyrics. Yes, she has a tendency to go a bit banal at times – and I know no one wants another waiting/hesitating/anticipating couplet – but if you dig into her deep cuts there are some jewels of gorgeous poetry at work, such as in this installation of the Madonna Timeline – the miraculous ‘Messiah’ from the stunning ‘Rebel Heart’ opus. The majestic track, with its dramatic orchestral flourishes and impassioned delivery ranks among Madonna’s very best ballads – a blending of ‘The Power of Goodbye’ and ‘Falling Free’ with a little ‘Drowned World: Substitute for Love’ thrown in for good measure. In other words, a track that can cut you to tears – and I absolutely love it.

 

I AM THE PROMISE THAT YOU CANNOT KEEP.

REAP WHAT YOU SOW, FIND WHAT YOU SEEK.

I AM THE SORCERESS DOWN IN THE DEEP.

I AM THE EARTH UNDER YOUR FEET.

 

Winter.

The sky is dark gray, despite the early hour.

There is a brutality in the air, in the scent of smoke and snow.

An acrid metallic taste left on the tongue like blood.

An empty stretch of holidays, surrounded by family and friends, and feeling acute isolation.

Forlorn, forsaken, and forgotten – and from that we forge our fortitude.

Or we wait for another to rescue us.

A savior.

~… A messiah. …~

We seek him in the sky, on every distant horizon.

We wait in joyful hope, on every solemn occasion.

We think he will come, and change everything that’s wrong.

 

I AM THE MOON WITH NO LIGHT OF MY OWN

YOU ARE THE SUN GUARDING YOUR THRONE

I HEARD THE ANGELS WHISPER TO ME

LOOK FOR THE SIGNSHE IS THE ONE…

 

A son who never quite felt loved, who had to go out on his own to find unconditional acceptance.

A man who never quite felt loved, who had to be out on his own to realize his worth.

And I did that.
I went into the world to find what I could not get at home.

It was love – the love of another person who didn’t care that I was gay, who didn’t care what I looked like, who didn’t care that my jacket was Gaultier.

Yet it was elusive.

Hidden.

Unknown.

Fumbling in the darkness, I could not see where I was meant to be.

I could not find the one.

 

I’LL LIGHT A CANDLE HERE IN THE DARK

MAKING MY WAY TO YOUR HEART

I’LL CAST A SPELL THAT YOU CAN’T UNDO

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

By the light of a candle, late in the night, I chant my prayers.

The flame wavers, distorted by salty water, and multiplies in shards of kaleidoscopic light.

Shadows on the wall encroach on the single source of illumination.

They approach but they never quite reach it.

The light is untouchable.

 

I’LL BE THE BRIDE THAT IS MARRIED TO LIGHT

YOU ARE THE DAY, I AM THE NIGHT

WEAVE YOU A BLANKET OF SILVER AND GOLD

I’LL KEEP YOU WARM, DO AS I’M TOLD

 

Loneliness makes us do strange things.

Sick, sad, twisted, desperate things.

A lack of love does that too, until we reach a point where our desperation is written in everything we do.

Hurt begets hurt. Pain breeds more pain. A generous heart is doomed.

We put up with less than we deserve because we have been so beaten down.

For every queen, there is a dominant king.

Such power plays are deeply ingrained in our history. Their poisonous roots run deep, housed in darkness, buried in cold. They can be masked as protection, disguised as safety, but they rot you from the inside out. The sudden wilt betrays a lifetime of unhappiness.

 

I NEED YOUR STRENGTH, IT WILL KEEP ME FROM HARM

I’LL BE YOUR QUEEN, SAFE IN YOUR ARMS

DON’T WANT TO GET TO THE END OF MY DAYS

SAYING I WASN’T AMAZED

 

I’LL LIGHT A CANDLE HERE IN THE DARK

MAKING MY WAY TO YOUR HEART

I’LL CAST A SPELL THAT YOU CAN’T UNDO

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

Then, all of sudden, and just when you were about to give up on the whole thing altogether, the key: acceptance.

Resignation.

It takes a great many battles and wars before there is any sort of peace.

But there – here – it was, arrived at after numerous attempts at love – at the very moment you realized you didn’t need it. Maybe you didn’t even want it. There’s a victory in that too.

A sad victory.

Because not every victory means you won something.

Sometimes a victory is merely escaping certain death.

 

I’LL LIGHT A CANDLE HERE IN THE DARK

MAKING MY WAY TO YOUR HEART

I’LL CAST A SPELL THAT YOU CAN’T UNDO

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

Awakened, you rise and repeat the mantra…

 

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

You say it with bone-chilling conviction, with all the desires you ever spent or wasted now conjured like ghosts backing up your army of one.

 

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

And all those you’ve ever loved, all those you’ve ever wanted to love you, and all those who didn’t know the first thing about love suddenly dissipate into nothing. It was only ever about waking up to yourself. You have no control over anyone else.

You never did.

No one does.

Love – true love – only arises when you learn to let go.

 

‘TIL YOU WAKE UP AND YOU FIND THAT YOU LOVE ME TOO

 

At the end – and only at the end – they do.

 

SONG #128 – ‘Messiah’ – Winter 2015

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Hallelujah

hallelujah

A moment of peace in the middle of the day.

We all need one.

A powerful performance of a powerful song.

I always a cry a little at something like this.

A cold and broken hallelujah…

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Adam Lambert: The Sexy & Shirtless Show

adam lambert

Adam Lambert gets all shirtless and sexy, while simultaneously a little deep, in his new video and song, ‘Welcome to the Show.’ I can dig it, and would expect nothing less from this two-time Hunk of the Day.

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