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Living the dream, indeed!
Since I was a kid–whether it was the influence of TV shows like “CHiP’s” and Saved By The Bell, Silicon Valley’s tech scene, or bands like The Beach Boys and nearly every 3rd-wave ska group from Orange County–I’ve had a romantic infatuation with the Golden State. Apparently, I’m not alone. In fact, since the 1850s, Americans (and foreigners, alike) have looked at the West Coast with a pioneer spirit. After visiting Los Angeles for the first time in 2008, I made it my mission to eventually move here. For me, “Go west, young man, and seek your fortune” was more than a historical metaphor, it was an imperative–a directive. This classic by The Mamas and The Papas (and covered innumerable times since its original recording) serves as a metaphor for my own young adult life: The literal grey skies and the brown leaves of a Georgia winter or the more metaphorical condition of my life in my mid-20s.
The de facto theme song of one of the most influential films of my childhood.
I think every member of the VHS generation has that one video that they watched over and over. For my sister, it was Forrest Gump (yes, I could probably recite the entire film from memory, thanks, Sis!). For me, though, it was Zemeckis’s 1985 masterpiece, Back To The Future with Huey Lewis’s synthesizer-charged soundtrack that defined my idea of what rock and roll should be!
I don’t care what you say about them being a relic from the late 90s/early 2000s, Amy Lee has got some pipes!
All this track really needs is a full orchestra backing.
Life is short. Childhood is shorter. Spend it well.
My early childhood, like so many of my contemporaries, was one spent often in the care of grandparents while my parents both worked to maintain the household. My dad, especially, often worked 2-3 factory-type jobs to help make ends meet. His grueling work schedule, mostly overnights, meant that I really only saw him awake on weekends–those precious couple of days where we would drive into Marietta to pick up his paycheque and have lunch at Taco Bell still stand out as defining moments of my young life at the time.
This song is difficult to listen to for me even today as I find so much of my own life in the lyrics. While my dad wasn’t a traveling musician with “planes to catch”, there were many “bills to pay” and working overnights in a plastics factory was one of the best unskilled occupations in the Atlanta area in the 80s. In the 90s, it was fueling diesel trucks supplementing 24-hour shifts on an ambulance supplementing 24-hour shifts at the fire department. Sometimes I wouldn’t see my dad for days at a time while he worked consecutive jobs. I don’t blame him for this work; our lives–like so many others during that era–were financed through debt. I made the most of it, though, and my friends will oft remember so many afternoons and overnights at “The Yellow House”. When my domestic family fell apart in the 90s (brought on by many factors, but mostly by financial disputes, I’m certain), my friends were there to fill in the gaps. My dad and I had many falling-outs in my later teen years, and just before moving to college, I quietly moved out of the house and didn’t talk to him for months.
We have since, of course, reconciled. Today, those days are long passed and we enjoy a healthy relationship. Dad is nearing retirement (something I’m not sure how he’ll deal with, honestly, as he still manages to work 2 jobs, though he does take more holidays), and I live on the other side of the continent, but we do manage to keep in touch and visit about once a year. That bittersweet ending to the song punctuating a story that continues to this day.
More 80s cheese, please.
If that R&B groove of Daryl Hall and John Oates doesn’t make you want to VHS and make out, I don’t know what would.
Bonus, the “definitive” music video version:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called “life”….
Every lyric reads like an instruction manual. Dig it deep, you hoopy froods!
Heart times soul equals rock and roll.
It’s probably a bit of a cop-out considering Polaris didn’t “really” exist. The band, formed by Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy, Dave McCaffrery, and Scott Boutier, only existed in the context of Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Polaris finally stepped out of the TV set and onto the stage in 2012, leading up to a 2014-15 US tour and a couple of new records. As of this writing, the band has once again separated to concentrate on their own solo careers, but one can hope that–eventually–we’ll get a moment to catch another glimpse into that rock and roll world of Wellsville, USA in our favorite club venue.
A classic from “the greatest tearoom orchestra in the world”.
I shouldn’t have to justify this one. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and listen. You’ll be singing along by the end.
I might be the only person that actually enjoyed the entirety of this album.
This viral hit by UK anarcho-socialist pop punkers Chumbawamba came out during a seminal time of my life. All hell was breaking loose with me personally: I was transitioning to high school, trying to figure out my place in the social hierarchy of teenage politics while attempting to keep my idea of life together as my family fell apart due to divorce. This was the time in my life that I dedicated myself to exploring computers and the burgeoning World Wide Web–fancying myself another “Zero Cool” or “Cereal Killer” from Hackers (The Matrix wouldn’t be released for another two years). This was one of the anthems of my rebellious phase, which might explain why I enjoyed the whole of the album when most folks (at least, around me) were repulsed by the underlying messages of anti-authoritarian, radical progressiveism, and social liberation.
My mother took my sister and me to see Chumbawamba during Atlanta’s inaugural “On The Bricks” concert series. I had only heard the song on the radio at that point, but her fellow “mid-life crisis” mom friends were going and thought it would be a good way for her to “spend time with the kids”. They played a few tracks that I had not heard before, and I was getting into their odd brand of musical anarchy when Alice Nutter, who had disappeared during a set change, came back to the stage dressed in full habit and swigging from a freshly-opened bottle of Jack Daniels for their performance of “Mary, Mary”. It was at that moment that I “got” them. My mother was confused, her friends flustered, my sister blissfully ignorant (she was only 5 at the time), but I was enthralled. I was forbidden to listen to their “trash”, a demand at which I scoffed before turning them up to 11. They weren’t just musicians, they were artists making a statement–a surrealist, absurdist, antiestablishmentarianist statement–and I ate it up!
“Tubthumper”, besides being a super-catchy pub song, embodied the spirit of rebellion and the attitude of irreverence that helped define my personality. This was the song that played loudly when things would come crashing down around me, and when you’re an angsty teenager, even “trivial” inconveniences could seem like world-ending cataclysms. This was also early into my “British Phase” where–in an attempt to flesh out my identity–I embraced all things UK, especially comedies (Monty Python and Red Dwarf among others, thanks to the local PBS affiliate), James Bond, The Beatles, and punk rock. This is when I developed the characteristic “mid-Atlantic” affectation that I still often display, leading to so many people exasperatedly asking “Where are you from, exactly?” and scoffing in disbelief when I answer (I may write further about that in a later number, but it’s probably beyond the scope of this article).
More to the point, this was a song that punctuated some weirdly dark times in my life. This was the song that reminded me that, no matter the odds against you, you can get up again.
You’re never gonna keep me down.