personal, r.i.p.

The past harmonizes

Oh, hello. Apparently it’s almost 2017.

November and December sped by so fast that I wound up at home in Vista the week before New Years, feeling like the holidays never even happened. While I’m here attempting to soak up some Southern California sunshine, here’s a quick(ish) update.


It has been a strange year, hasn’t it? If you follow me on Twitter, I already mentioned it there, but I just finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a novel about JFK’s assassination and the consequences of time travel. In the book, the main character goes back in time to try and prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, but because the past doesn’t want to change, horrible things keep happening to keep him from doing it. And now I’m convinced that a bad guy has come back in time to 2016 to change history and make Trump president (what other explanation could there be??), and as punishment, 2016 is taking away all of our favorite people.

David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey, George Martin, Maurice White, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali, John Glenn…

The list, sadly, goes on.

Some of these deaths could be predicted, others were an unexpected punch to the gut. Especially David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who each released incredible albums this year, and Prince, who was still performing up until his last days. What a simultaneously great and depressing year in music.

But let’s also remember that in 2016, the Cubs won the World Series, Leo won an Oscar, and my overcrowded, underfunded high school won a $10 million grant. This, plus the list above and the presidential election, goes to show that just about anything—no matter how unbelievable—is capable of happening. Hopefully 2017 gives us more of the good stuff and less of the awful.


On a personal note, 2016 was pretty surreal (in a mostly good way). I quit my comfy career in recruiting operations to become a full-time writer, which has always been my dream. I also started volunteering for the drum corps I was a member of in ’07-’08. Alex and I moved to the Outer Richmond, and as part of my work for Hoodline, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful people in my neighborhood and throughout San Francisco. Instead of going to NYC in October as planned, we ended up spending 4 days in the hospital (don’t worry, all is fine now). And over Thanksgiving break, we adopted a 6-month-old kitty named Cooper (as with any modern cat, you can follow his adventures on Instagram). So it’s been a rewarding but extremely busy year! I have some personal projects I want to work on in 2017, and I can’t tell yet if that’ll mean more or less blog posts. Either way, this will always be where I go when I have a new obsession or want to fangirl over the Monkees, so you can at least count on a few new posts.

Byeeeeee 2016, we won’t miss you.

beatles, george martin, r.i.p.

A few personal thoughts on George Martin

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Listen, I know Sir George was 90 years old and I know 2016 has already proved to be a year of crushing losses, but this still hit me right in the gut. I literally gasped when I saw the news on Tuesday night.

Ever since watching the Beatles Anthology as a teenager and listening to George Martin explain the studio techniques of my favorite band, I’ve held a deep respect for the man behind the Beatles’ sound. In everything I’ve seen/heard, he always seemed so professional, humble, and kind. Not only did he give the Beatles their first recording contract and produce nearly their entire catalog, he contributed some key piano solos (“In My Life,” “Lovely Rita”) and arranged the orchestral parts for some of their most brilliant songs (“Eleanor Rigby,” “All You Need is Love,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”). He was the perfect bridge between the classical music world and the Beatles’ revolutionary experimentalism.

I can remember the first time I heard “A Day in the Life”: I was 12 years old, sitting at my parents’ dinky old computer with headphones on, listening with the eagerness of a budding music nerd who’d just spent 45 minutes downloading a queue of Beatles songs on Kazaa*. I had no knowledge of music production and couldn’t have explained why, when I heard John’s echo of a voice dissolve into that insane 24-bar orchestral buildup, I very nearly lost my sh!t. At the end of the song, after that colossal last chord, I might’ve actually flung the headphones off and rolled backwards in my swively chair in shock (I know for sure that I immediately ran to my spiral notebook journal and scribbled in it furiously about how FREAKY it was and Is this what doing drugs feels like?). It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

That musical experience—a song on a pop album creating a profound physical reaction that I still remember 15 years later—that is George Martin’s legacy. He was the man responsible for channeling the Beatles’ increasingly ambitious musical visions, and he did it more effectively than any other producer ever could.

Thank you, sir. Because of you I’ll always listen to music with a keener ear.

george martin 3

Recommended listening: 
The progression of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with commentary by GM. His brass and strings arrangement for this song (2:25-4:55) is killer.
George + Brian Wilson in the studio. Too much genius for one room! Cool breakdown of “God Only Knows.”
Love – the album. (Pretty sure this will be taken down soon…honestly, just do yourself a favor and buy it.) A collaboration between George Martin and his son, Giles. Originally conceived by George Harrison. Listening to this makes me fall in love with the Beatles all over again.
A Day in the Life.” Relive the madness.


*In case you had any doubt, I’ve abandoned my pirating days and have since purchased all of the Beatles albums on CD and record.

 

david bowie, r.i.p.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

If this seems late, it’s only because I’ve desperately been avoiding pressing “publish” on a post that requires me to choose both the David Bowie and RIP tags. It still doesn’t quite compute. [And since then, Alan Rickman too?? WTF.]

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I’ve been listening to Blackstar on repeat this week. It’s a fitting last album: defiant, haunting, and strangely beautiful. I’d seen the video for the title track about a month ago, and my first impression was that it was extremely unsettling. Although, now that we all know he was aware of his illness while making the album, it starts to make a little more sense. Death, too, is unsettling, and an artist can approach it in so many different ways. George Harrison’s last album was painted with spirituality, Johnny Cash’s was intimate and nostalgic, and David Bowie’s was simply out of this world.

It was really only in the last two years that I really started to appreciate Bowie’s vast, eclectic catalog. His music got me through my first NaNoWriMo (and also helped my main character through some pretty tough times), so I can’t help but carve a special place for him in my heart. To paraphrase that one tweet (paraphrasing a tweet, really?), how lucky we are to have occupied the earth at the same time as such an incredible artist. He was a musical icon, a cultural revolutionary, and probably the only person in history who ever made a mullet look fabulous.

There are so many ways to commemorate David Bowie in a humble digital corner such as this: a playlist, a pictorial tribute, a compilation of his best collabs, and on and on. But I’ll end with a single video. I read that this song became his most played on Spotify following news of his death, and welp, I’m no exception. I love the song, obviously, but I’m posting this because the video is so simple and lovely it makes me cry.

Farewell, David. We love you.

r.i.p.

The King of the Blues

Six years ago, I was lucky enough to see B.B. King in New York, on the same bill as Simon & Garfunkel, CSN, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen (still one of the most magical nights I’ve ever experienced). I remember taking a recording on my dinky flip phone to share it with my dad later, because he’s the person who got me listening to blues in the first place. Not to mention, the music that B.B. King played directly influenced so many of my favorite artists, which in turn changed rock music for the better.

He was a powerhouse on the road (it doesn’t seem like he ever stopped touring, from the 1950’s up until his death), and even with upwards of 300 shows in a year, injected emotion into every single note he played. Most definitely deserving of the title “King of the Blues”:

The performance we saw in 2009 was just as awesome. B.B. King could fill the room with one guitar, even when the “room” was Madison Square Garden. I’m glad I got to witness it, and sad to see such a legend go.

leonard nimoy, r.i.p., star trek

LLAP

This post is overdue. It still feels unreal because I heard about Leonard Nimoy while on vacation, and by the time I got back, all the news stories and tributes had already quieted down. So I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that he’s actually gone. :( Maybe it’s like a Wrath of Khan/Search for Spock situation where he’s just resting in a capsule on another planet and we’ll bring him back in a while? Maybe?

Bye for now, Leonard. I will miss your adorable tweets and your big heart.

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twokhd1139

books, buster keaton, movies, ok go, queen, r.i.p.

Happy Festivus! (one day late)

I was planning to post this on actual Festivus, but I got distracted in the best way possible (getting together with old friends and playing Super Smash Bros.). In any case, it’s less of a holiday post and more of an end-of-the-year-lollapalooza sort of thing. I started out with just the odds & ends but somehow this turned into an actual project that involved me reviewing all my blog posts from this year, because it’s Christmas Festivus break and there is time for these things.

So without further ado, here’s my Favorites of 2014 post, i.e. a rambly recap of stuff I blogged about in 2014, with probably too many links.

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Nikki’s Favorites of 2014

Favorite Concert: It was an *excellent* year for shows. I got to see three of my very favorites: Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty, plus was introduced to Deerhoof, Mac DeMarco, and awesome local band James Rabbit. I saw OK Go for a 7th and 8th time, the Mountain Goats for a second, and The Spencer Owen Timeshare for an umpteenth (I added some photos!). But I think my favorite show, even with the obnoxious drunk couple next to us, was Kishi Bashi. It was so much fun and I’m super stoked he’s coming back to play at the Palace of Fine Arts next month!

Favorite New Album: My favorite for purely personal reasons (plus the fact that “I Won’t Let You Down” is my jam) was Hungry Ghosts. OK Go foreverrrrrrrr.

Favorite Rockstar Tweet: Probably Ringo and his gratuitous use of emojis.

Favorite Book: So like everything on here, I’m subject to extreme bias, and also I didn’t read that many books that actually came out in 2014. I did really love I’ll Give You the Sun (YA), but Wolf In White Van was both my most anticipated and most enjoyed.

Favorite Movie: Boyhood. For a disgustingly sentimental person like me, there’s no other choice.

Favorite Obsession: Queeeeeeen! Music videos in drag, songs about space, Roger Taylor’s face, etc. It was bound to happen. (I wonder if I’ll ever stop being such a fangirl…I sure hope not.)

Oh yeah, and those resolutions? I like to think they were pretty successful. The big accomplishment was redoing this blog and moving it over to WordPress, which I’m still very happy about. And I definitely listened to more records, thanks to spurts of record-hunting with Alex and the addition of biweekly game nights at our apartment (listening to Vangelis while playing Wiz War is super legit). The last resolution was to read more, which I have been (I joined a book club at work!). But I have to admit, I’m only still halfway through that Beatles biography, hahah. For 2015: finish that Beatles biography!!

A few more odds & ends:

  • Joe Cocker: we lost a great voice in rock and blues the other day. :( If watching a waterfront performance with my dad from a kayak in the San Diego Bay counts, Joe Cocker was my first concert. I used to listen to his Beatles covers on record and imitate his spastic way of singing. Mandatory video link: “Con un poco de ayuda de mis amigos” :)
  • I get weirdly into watching chick flicks when I’m at home for the holidays (probably in the same way Alex always watches classic action movies while I’m away). This week I’ve already watched Love Actually and You’ve Got Mail, and next on the list is Hannah and her Sisters…although you probably wouldn’t classify that one as a chick flick.
  • I also tend to rekindle my silent movie love when I have lots of spare time alone. This year, it’s Buster all the way. I’ve been watching YouTube videos like a fiend. I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed how much of a dreamboat I think Buster Keaton is, so I will leave you with this, a montage of The Great Stone Face set to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer:
keith richards, r.i.p., rolling stones

The Pillars of Rock & Roll

This past week I was sad to learn that two Rolling Stones sidemen, Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan, had passed away within one day of each other. Mostly what I knew about Bobby was his rip-roaring sax solos and the excerpts from Keith Richards’ book about throwing TVs out of windows, etc. Honestly, some of the stories about Bobby make Keith’s lifestyle sound tame, haha.

I didn’t know as much about Ian McLagan but was happy to learn that he played piano on one of my very favorite songs: “Ooh La La” (The Faces) as well as the Stones album Some Girls. I also read an NPR interview that included this interesting tidbit:

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Wow. Good Guy Pete. What crazy lives these guys led.

Anyway, an article I read recently included this depressing sentence: “The double blow is another reminder that the classic era of rock culture is drawing to a close.” SAY IT AIN’T SO! Sometimes I wonder if classic rock will die out once all its forerunners are gone, like doo wop and swing. I find it hard to believe and very sincerely hope it doesn’t. The good news is that, according to our dearly departed Robin Williams, Keith Richards will outlive us all, in which case ROCK & ROLL WILL NEVER DIE.

R.I.P. 141202-bobby-keys-1709_5ebcae8f252a960c7307c9db99ca1606