Monday, December 20, 2010

Annual Holiday (Bad) Music Post: Old Girl Singer Special

I received my college alumni magazine in the mail today, a quarterly reminder of my neverending failure to live up to the college ideal, with regard to seriousness of any kind especially, but also in the total failure to absorb any of the life skills you are evidently supposed to learn there, which all of the successful alumni put to work in the realms of high-level business, scholarship and international relations every day. I had already started this frivolous post when this low-gloss rebuke (black and white photography only) arrived, so I anticipate I will continue on in a chastened tone.

I won't be able to set a new posting record this year, nor even get to 100 posts. Perhaps the blog is beginning to gradually wind down, and within two to three years might be expected even to finally die altogether. When you study the lives of successful people in arts and letters one of the most striking patterns in many instances is how quickly they move on not merely from particular projects and organs but from entire major phases of their careers in order to be constantly tackling new ground. No blog should last longer than 18 months probably, let alone five years.

I am only in love with about half the singers featured here. It was the atmosphere--of slightly melancholy or slightly embittered sweetness--that I sought.

The Poni-Tails "Born Too Late".

I heard this on the radio about two weeks ago pulling away from the drive through window at Dunkin' Donuts and thought it had a poignancy on several levels that transcended its simple message and orchestration. Clearly I was influenced by the uninspired nature of the setting. I couldn't find any movie footage of the girls. I put in the video of the record cover because they all look relatively adorable, especially the one on the bottom, who I think qualifies as dreamy.

Contrary to what appearances may suggest, I do not wish that the 50s had continued on forever. That would have been intolerable even to me, though I probably would have been willing to cling to it a little longer than most others. I do believe a lot of things would have been more enjoyable to do in that era that perhaps they are now--playing organized sports and living in Paris are two that come immediately to mind--and that many of the new directions that society chose to go in were obviously not great improvements on what had been before--but I do not wish that time had stopped, rather that its changes had been managed and implemented in a different and perhaps less wholly destructive and more deeply vivifying spirit .

Shelley Fabares--"Johnny Angel".

Glancing over the comment sections of Youtube music videos one cannot help noticing the varying characters of the commenting bodies which congregate around different artists. Opera and jazz are especially fertile ground for the snobs, many of whom I find enviable in their ferocity and contempt. Notable performers and interpreters of others' works, or in the case of many rock guitar legends, their own largely obscure catalogues, naturally provoke heated arguments about technique. International pop superstars inspire thousands of inane comments, largely from people in countries where English is not widely understood. A few groups like The Who seem to have hit the sweet spot of fandom; their commenters are funny, positive, apparently freed from the burden of snobbery. Smiths/Morrissey commenters try to take after this school, but most are unfortunately incapable of keeping the pitiful memories of their lonely, unloved youths to themselves.

Shelley Fabares is a figure not of artistic interest so much as romantic projection. All the males want to marry her, and a significant number of the females sound as if they would like to see her eyes clawed out. This indicates that she possesses some quality that touches a tender spot in the general masculine breast, and a sore one in its feminine counterpart. One may observe in these fora that is acceptable for men to declare the perfection of other feminine celebrities such Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, presumably as any ordinary man is unlikely to have much contact with anyone remotely like them, let alone marry such a person. They are harmless in that instance, and besides embody many qualities that contemporary women either see themselves as either already possessing to some extent or that are at least acceptable to aspire to. None of this applies to Shelley Fabares, a sweet-natured cutie pie teenager who is the kind of girlfriend the average long term virginal middle class boy dreams of having from age 15 until he achieves some sense of full initiation as a sexual being, which in some instances can last forever, and whose type, presumably, continues to symbolize an active and real as opposed to theoretical ideal in the unenlightened male mind. This must be criticized and exposed to shame and approbation, and the disapproval of it expressed, I suppose, though it will do no good.

I occasionally used to watch the reruns of the Donna Reed show myself for a short period when I was in 8th/ 9th/10th grade, during some idle period between sports seasons or during the summer, wasting time that could have been employed to many better purposes. I was exceedingly weak emotionally however and had, if not an insatiable, a least a need every day or two, for a dose of romance, meaning at that time a vision of pretty girls. Sometimes television would be the only way to get it.

Lesley Gore--"You Don't Own Me"

The onetime "Cutie-Pie From Tenafly"--not too surprising really when you look at this video--came out as a lesbian in 2005. This is nothing to the point, other than to note that if I gone to school with somebody like this, kind of sad and not glamorously pretty, though not aggressively unfeminine either, I would have assumed the cause was her inability to get the kind of boyfriend she wanted. This is how I interpreted the world at that time. I suppose I know better now, if only tangentially. I like the naturalism of this clip. Is it me, or do people in documentary footage from the 1960s and 70s look more like actual human beings than people ever seem to now?

Brenda Lee--"I Want to Be Wanted"

"Little Miss Dynamite". Maybe they haven't stopped giving singers catchy nicknames. Maybe I'm just not keeping up.

This is one of my favorite songs of the 60s.

Dianne Lennon--"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

In which the equal parts lovely and quietly severe Dianne gets stood up by her date for the big night only to be rescued from a night wallowing in self-pity at home by the smartly-uniformed Western Union boy. The thought that this might ever have been even a remotely plausible fantasy demonstrates how dramatically social life has changed in the last 40 years or so.

I never had much fun on New Year's Eve. It's a badly conceived evening, in that its focus is around a point of time which seems to distract everyone from the usual progression of a festive evening. I wonder if there oughn't to be a new tradition, make it a night to go on a date, preferably with someone you've never been on a date with before but always wanted to go out with. That would be a lot more fun for most people than what happens now anyway. Maybe they could bring back old-fashioned dances too. The cultural shift from well-organized dances with dance cards and at least somewhat less worry that all the girls you like are in danger of being carried off by some studly rival for a session of ravishing at any time to the current scene where dancing with a girl means having to gyrate around in her general area and hope that she doesn't immediately leave the floor, while perhaps more efficient, was especially brutal for people like me in their formative years.

Madonna--"True Blue"

Best Madonna song ever.

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