“You wanna come in and sing some blues?”
“No thanks, Taj. There’s something about those songs. They depress me.”
Unlike Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk), I have recently discovered that I actually like the blues. This comes as a big surprise, because I am unapologetically a rock ‘n roll guy. We pass around Billboard Magazine at work, and a quick glance at the weekly charts invariably leads to a groan from my cubicle. Taylor Swift. Maroon 5. Carly Rae Jepsen. The lack of rock acts hitting #1 is distressing. Throw in a wildly successful piece of crap like “Gangnam Style” and it’s enough to drive one to drink. Except I already drink. PSY’s novelty hit is the “Macarena” of 2012, which is to say, it has no redeeming musical value whatsoever but managed to spawn an inane dance craze.
See? Total snob.
However, there’s hope for me yet. My company distributes quite a few jazz and blues records, and after reading lots of positive press about two of our artists – Savoy Brown and Joanne Shaw Taylor – I decided to check out their latest releases. One of the big perks of my job is free music, so I’m much more willing to at least try and broaden my musical horizons. If I don’t like something, I’m not out any money.
And I like both of these records. A lot. Joanne Shaw Taylor has attitude and flair, and Savoy Brown has longevity (they’ve been around since before I was born) and a sound that is electric and vibrant. Both of these albums straddle the line between blues and rock, and maybe that’s the secret. The music is a lot easier to digest. My previous experience with the blues consisted primarily of that scene in Adventures In Babysitting where the kids are stranded at a nightclub and the proprietor declares, “Nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues.” Elisabeth Shue then launches into an improvisational 12-bar blues number that’s all “woe is me.” Which, of course, is why the music is called the blues in the first place. Navin Johnson was right about that. The lyrics tend to be depressing.
But it’s the music that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. I dig it, man.
You know who else dug it? The Yardbirds. The Rolling Stones. Eric Clapton. Led Zeppelin. All of those acts were influenced by early blues recordings, and you can hear it in their songs. Just listen to Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me” off their first album. It’s clear as day.
You know who didn’t have the blues yesterday? Yours truly. Even though Halloween is far more low-key these days than it was, say, ten years ago when my kids were little and we used to have the best-decorated and scariest house in the neighborhood, complete with a graveyard and flying ghost and acres of cobwebs and a fog machine we refilled by the gallon, it remains one of my favorite holidays. I awoke in good spirits and decided, on the spur of the moment, to dress up for work. We were having a costume contest, and I’d debated over participating, but didn’t have a costume to wear. Several of my ideas (a Viagra-toting priest; Mitt Romney with props like binders full of women and a Big Bird doll with a noose around its neck) I wisely deemed inappropriate for the office. Tara was dressing up as a Denver Broncos fan, and I figured I’d do the same, but it wasn’t enough of a stretch seeing as how I’m already a Denver Broncos fan.
So I stepped into the closet, and emerged as a hippie. I’d first put together this costume 9 or 10 years ago, and the funny thing is, it’s not even technically a “costume” at all, just some hideous-looking clothes nabbed from Goodwill. Adding John Lennon-style tinted glasses, a peace symbol necklace, and sandals, I looked the part. I even brought along some patchouli incense to burn at my desk, but never got around to lighting it because I feared the wrath of a humorless management.
And ended up winning third place in the costume contest anyway! This was completely unexpected, as we had a very good turnout and some pretty creative costumes. But I humbly accepted my prize and afterwards, we had a little party at work that included wine, beer, cheese and crackers. I’ve never worked for a company that actually served alcohol on their premises during work hours, and this was way cool! You’d be amazed at the wonders having a little buzz does for morale. Man, I am going to have to start bringing in a flask full o’ liquor!
I kid, I kid.
When I came home, Tara was cooking a fantastic meal of beer-simmered bratwursts and macaroni ‘n cheese. We watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and waited for trick-or-treaters. Not a single one showed up. Apparently, condominium complexes aren’t popular with kids trolling for candy. It’s too bad – had one little ghost or goblin rang the doorbell, they would have gotten essentially three bags full of candy. And it’s the good stuff, too. No stupid Tootsie Rolls here. I guess we’ll just have to finish it ourselves.
All in all, it was a pretty fun Halloween. Now it’s time to set our sights on Thanksgiving! Bring on the turkey. I’m ready.