Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Some Guys Have All the Luck

So previously I had declared this here perhaps The Most 80s Video Ever. Then a very unkind pal sent me this Rod Stewart video and I may have to reassess.

The animated effects, the deliberately herky-jerky framerate, the neon juxtaposed against the Patrick Nagel-like black and white, the drum machine, the chiming synths, the cheesy humor at the very beginning, the Miami Vice outfits...and of course, Rod the Mod at his Jaggerian pranciest. And if there's an artist in the world who has less standing to sing this nice guy anthem, I don't know who.

Needless to say, I love every second of this.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

After the Fire

DT and I were talking a while back about post-Keith Moon Who LPs, as well as subsequent solo albums from various Who members. And I recalled that the Pete Townshend-written Roger Daltrey track "After the Fire" was really good.

But what I didn't recall was that the video itself gives Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" a serious run for its money when it comes to Most 80s Video Ever.

Sure, that's some earnest damn emoting at the beginning there, but then, Roger's always been a heart-on-the-sleeve singer. (And, if biographies are to be believe, guy.) And, yeah, you might think that one dramatic whiparound was enough, never mind seven. That's right, seven; I slowed the video down to half-speed, just to make sure my tally was right—although, admittedly, on the last one, he does a 270, rather than a 180, so I'm not positive if it counts. But what makes the opening work for me is how much drama he gets out a match. Yeah, he later uses that match to spark a genuine conflagration, but that's in the future. At the moment the match is lit, it's just a surprise Spanish Inquisition-like appearance of...a match. And not even one of them really big mamajamas, neither; it's just a simple bog standard match, like used to be on the counter for the taking in restaurants and hotels and convenience stores. And yet the gravitas, the drama—it is simply glorious.

And I remembered right: pretty sweet tune.

Monday, June 12, 2017

You Upset Me Baby

Some givens: yes, B.B. King sings great. Of course he does—he's B.B. damn King. And, yes, he plays magnificently. Of course he does—as mentioned, he's B.B. damn King.

But the thing that about this gem that makes me laugh every damn time is how the vocals convey just how much he takes it in stride.

Like getting hit by a falling tree? He sounds about as put out as if an errant leaf blown on a breeze stuck to his leg.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Angel Eyes — For My Wife, 25 Years Later

It all began with a small smile. And the bluest eyes I'd ever seen.

It's a cliche, of course, to talk about love at first sight, to say you knew from the moment you saw your  husband/wife that he/she was the one for you. And in my case it wouldn't necessarily be accurate. I can't confess to reading my fortune with such letter perfect precision the moment I saw her 27 years ago. But I can say this: the blonde hair, that little smile in my direction, those eyes. They made me not want to look away. Maybe I couldn't see the future, but I could see that smile, those eyes.

Today, 25 years to the day we were married, I still can't read the future, but I can say this much; the present still looks mighty fine with her in my life. And if the future brings us as far as tomorrow, that looks pretty fine too.

"So tonight I'll ask the stars above,
How did I ever win your love?"

That's from John Hiatt's "Angel Eyes," also made popular-ish in 1990 by Jeff Healey with his aching and passionate rendition. Funny thing about songs that become "your song" with the one you love, you don't exactly know it's "your song" the first time you ever hear it. Or even the 20th. Well, maybe if you're extremely lucky, or if you're Marty McFly's parents, you know the very moment you hear a song it was meant to be the song that connected two hearts together inseparably for all time. It just doesn't usually work that way.

In the summer of 1990 I was 21 years old and a very recent college graduate. I was barely shaving every other day, let alone every day like I sadly must do now. I was clean-shaven and skinny, barely 160 pounds on my 6'1 frame. I had just been hired at my first ever real bona fide job as a reporter at a mid-sized daily newspaper outside of Hartford, CT. I was making a little money (not much, but a little) and was living with friends in a crowded but adequate little apartment. And I was single, unhitched. I thought at the time I had everything I needed; a job, a place of my own, a few bucks in my pocket and no attachments.

I spent that summer carefree and pretty much carelessly blissful, or so I thought. My last "girlfriend" had come months earlier at the end of my senior year and I told myself it was my time to have some adult fun. I thought myself funny, charming and somewhat (I guess) attractive. So I spent those summer months playing the proverbial field, dating and goofing around. My time, and everything else, was my own, and for a short while it felt like I had all I needed.

Only yeah, no. I learned something pretty stark after those few months. I wanted more than this. I was young and a little naive and idealistic. I wanted to be a writer and a poet and to cash in on my romantic's heart. No, I wasn't dreaming of falling in love, but I was smitten with the idea of being hit by that thunderbolt and having someone else with me who was hit by it just as hard. Look, I was 21 and had no clue what I wanted, truth be told. But I knew I wanted something and I wanted it to be amazing.

I would frequently go out with friends that summer to bars and to parties, even the occasional road trip, and "Angel Eyes," that song, was without a question part of the soundtrack of that summer. I loved the song, and what's more, I noticed when it was on. I listened intently to the longing and the beauty of that underdog's tale of found love. I heard something of myself in it for whatever reason. And I couldn't get it out of my head.

Now I'm the guy who never learned to dance
Who never even got one second glance
Across the crowded room was close enough
I could look but I could never touch

So tonight I'll ask the stars above
How did I ever win your love?
What did I do? What did I say?
To turn your angel eyes my way?

When I met Doreen it was in the heart of that summer, late July to be exact. It was in the newsroom. She was one of the first people I met that day and she was given the (unenviable) task of showing me around that day, giving me the five-cent tour and, it seems, making sure I didn't break anything. That's when I first saw that smile, those blue eyes. I thought she was exactly what she was, beautiful and funny and warm. I had no idea what was to come.

She was a little older than I was but we hit it off right away, the same sense of humor and a lot in common. Not only could I count on her counsel and advice now and again as I was getting my start, but I found we shared common interests. Funny, one of the first things I recall was we both loved legendary northeast band NRBQ and talked lightly of going to see them sometime. But it was a work friendship and not much more. Or so I thought.

And then suddenly it wasn't that anymore. I was thinking about Doreen all the time, her face and hair and those eyes and the way she seemed to make me feel a little better when she talked to me. When I heard "Angel Eyes" play on the radio I began to think about her (y'see, kids, back in the day we actually listened to music on the broadcast radio, but I guess that's another story for another time).

One night I got drunk with one of my closest friends and told him about her. He told me to make my move, so to speak. To go for it, the way friends do. But that wasn't my style, at least not right away. Instead I stumbled home that night, stone drunk, and wrote a poem about her. A lot of it was gibberish, but the final line was pretty clear, "I am ready."

Our first date happened largely by accident on of all things a Monday night. October 29, 1990 to be exact. Three days past my 22nd birthday. Neither one of us planned it; we just happened to be working late and decided to go out for a drink. Over drinks we talked about getting a bite to eat and she invited me to her apartment for a quick-fix pasta dinner. Perfect; I had to go out later that night to cover a story anyway, so a nice quick meal and some great conversation with a friend was ideal. Yes, at this time I knew how interested I was in her, but despite the recent drunken poetic declarations I'd put to paper, I was nowhere near ready to tell her that, I didn't think.

And then there we were, sitting and talking and suddenly her hand was in mine. I remarked at how small her hands were and we had a laugh about that; it was honestly something I hadn't noticed before. It probably took us a good few seconds to realize we were holding hands, but then at once we both seemed acutely aware of it.

That's when I threw all caution to hell, swallowed up every ounce of courage I had, leaned over and kissed her. And she kissed me back. It likely lasted five seconds but seemed to last for hours. Probably because I wanted it to.

That's when we looked at each other, that warm smile of hers suddenly warmer than anything I'd ever seen or known, and I had to think of something to say. "You're a writer, jackass," my mind told me as it sprinted 10 miles ahead of my body. "Say something a writer would say!"

But all I could come up with was this:

"God, I've been wanting to do that for a long time."

She responded in kind, "I've been wanting to do that for a long time too."

That was our love story. So much followed and continues to follow, amazing days and nights together, our engagement seven months later, our wedding 13 months after that, our life together. Sickness and health, great times and hard times, the birth of an amazing son, changing careers and traversing all of those paths life puts before you. All of it followed that first kiss, and it all has meant so much 25 years and beyond, moving down the road together.

But our love story was told in that kiss, in that moment. It shone like moonlight through her smile and danced through my soul as it reflected in those beautiful blue eyes of hers. It was our first moment and remains the window to every moment that has followed.

So tonight I'll ask the stars above
How did I ever win your love?
What did I do? What did I say?
To turn your angel eyes my way?

It wasn't too long after that first moment, maybe a few weeks, that we were together and "Angel Eyes" came on the stereo. My song, the song that sounded exactly like the thing I was looking for even though I had no idea what that thing was. Before I could point out how much I loved this song she spoke.

"Oh my God! I love this song!" she exclaimed.

Yes, it was meant to be. We danced to it for our first dance at our wedding on June 6, 1992. That's 25 years ago today. We don't need any song to remind us what we mean to each other, how happy we are, but whenever we hear it we both are transported back to those early days together. And we are both so grateful for what we found in each other.

We've been together 27 years, married for 25, and are both signed on for at least twice of that to come. At least. And it all started with a smile that has never left me, and those eyes that remain as blue and perfect as the day I met her.

Happy anniversary to the love of my life. As the man sang, "What did I do? What did I say? To turn your angel eyes my way?"

The original version, throaty and raw and wondrous.

And the version we both first fell in love with, in all its ethereal beauty.