Music To My Ears

18 06 2013

parabol-1I’ve been bouncing this idea around for a couple of weeks.

As I noted in a previous post, I delight in all types of music. I’ve set out to do a Top Ten List of my favorite albums, but whittling down to ten favorites has proven to be an insurmountable task. Hard decisions had to be made. When you love these records as much as I do, it’s like choosing your favorite child… then throwing a few of them an honorable mention.

My criteria is completely subjective. This is MY list. I only count albums that I owned at some point in my life… so while you may have enjoyed the hell out of “Sing Along With Mitch Miller”, it ain’t making the list! These records are special to me for “whatever” reasons. It could be significant memories associated with the songs, the artist or the time. It may have been my introduction to an artist or genre. The entire album is on my iPod. I must listen to the songs in order. These albums are just damn good, in my humble opinion.

I’d love to hear your comments, and I hope you like this list. If you don’t, go make your own!! And I reserve the right to make changes/additions at any time. So there!

My Top 10 (+3) Favorite Albums are:

  1. The BeatlesMeet The Beatles – The first record I ever owned, a gift from my cousin Mary on a trip here from Belfast. I still have it, and can still smell the old tubes heating up on my parents record player every time I hear “I Saw Her Standing There”.
  2. Sex PistolsNever Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols – Late 70’s popular music was a wasteland. Although conceived as a publicity stunt, and no one considers them musicians… the Sex Pistols changed my view of what music should and could be, and paved the way for a ton of artists. Like the next two on my list…
  3. The ClashLondon Calling – Beginning to end, an epic achievement by four punks who at that point weren’t on the American radar.
  4. Elvis Costello and The AttractionsGet Happy!! – My favorite record, by my all time favorite artist. Twenty high energy explosions, still smart and clever 30 years later.
  5. Bob DylanBlood On The Tracks – What can you say about a record that has “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Shelter From The Storm” and “Idiot Wind”? All classics!
  6. Bob Marley and the WailersLegend – The album title says it all.
  7. Warren ZevonExcitable Boy – Simultaneously the most brilliant and frightening collections of songs I’d ever heard. I used to worry about this guy, now I just miss him.
  8. Johnny CashAt Folsom Prison – My earliest memory of Cash was how cool he was on TV… dressed in black, guitar slung around his back like a rifle. And my friend who had “Boy Named Sue” on 45 and we used to play it over and over to hear the curse word. I got the Folsom Prison record after the movie… awesome.
  9. Bruce SpringsteenBorn To Run – I still think of these songs every time I get on the Garden State Parkway going to the shore. “…what else can we do now? Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.”
  10. Peter FramptonFrampton Comes Alive – THE record in high school, dominating the radio stations. Saw that tour.
  11. Elton JohnCaptain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Definitely NOT part of that 70’s wasteland. My first concert ever, right after this record came out. Classic, smart, beginning to end.
  12. Midnight OilBlue Sky Mining – Enough energy to power a train. Smart, fun, meaningful. Midnight Oil’s diamond, and they had many shining moments.
  13. SqueezeArgy Bargy – Can’t exclude these guys, and hard to pick just one Squeeze record. So many great songs, but this is when I discovered them.

My many honorable mentions, iPod alphabetical by artist…

10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe, The A’s – The A’s, Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare, The Beatles – Abbey Road, Billy Joel – The Stranger, Bob Dylan – Desire, Boomtown Rats – The Fine Art Of Surfacing, The Cars – The Cars, Counting Crows – August and Everything After, Elvis Costello – King of America, My Aim Is True, Graham Parker and The Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks, Joe Jackson – I’m The Man, Kiss – Alive, Louis Prima – The Wildest, Paul McArtney and Wings – Wings Over America, The Police – Outlandos D’Amour, Pretenders – Pretenders, Prince – 1999, Queen – A Day At The Races, A Night At The Opera, R.E.M – Murmur, Ray Charles – The Best of Ray Charles, The Atlantic Years, Rolling Stones – Some Girls, Simple Minds – Once Upon A Time, Squeeze – East Side Story, Steve Forbert – Jackrabbit Slim, Supertramp – Breakfast In America, Talking Heads – Talking Heads ’77, They Might Be Giants – Flood, Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless, Tom Petty and The Heatbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes, U2 – Boy, Rattle and Hum, The Wallflowers – Bringing Down The Horse





Daddy Day Care

15 06 2013

Father's DayI don’t remember Father’s Day much growing up.  I think because my Dad worked two jobs most of that time, and probably wasn’t home.  My Mom wasn’t given to sentimentality, so Mother’s Day is not very memorable either.  Those days were certainly simpler, different times.

Now even Father’s Day is a little lost in the shuffle.  Someone pointed out to me yesterday that it was “National Strawberry Shortcake Day”!  That is so awesome, I love that stuff!!  But yesterday was also “Flag Day”, commemorating the 1777 adoption of our national flag.  It’s a “real” holiday, made official by an Act of Congress in August 1949.  So when I look at my calendar on June 14th, I’m celebrating the yumminess of Old Glory.  Maybe I’ll have some dessert after dinner.

I must rage against all of these made up holidays that have clogged my calendar.  For example, today is simultaneously “Smile Power Day”, “National Jugglers Day”, and – my personal favorite – “National Hollerin’ Contest Day”.  I better run to the store and get a Hallmark card for all of my smiling, juggling, hollerin’ buddies.  You know who you are!

Hasn’t this gotten a little out of hand?  And it’s not just days we recognize.  Just so you know, June is Aquarium, Candy, Dairy, Adopt a Cat, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Rose, Turkey Lovers Month… and another fave –  National Accordion Awareness Month!

Before I start getting hollered at by cat lovers, I understand the need to recognize important people and events.  I’m all for Nurses Week, Teachers Month, Hug A Policeman Day, etc.  In work, Customer Service Week is awesome!  But of all of these recognition days and calendar cloggers, I’m going to throw my considerable weight behind Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Tomorrow is my 23rd official Father’s Day… “official” because I did get some special treatment before my oldest was born in 1990.  And I deserved that living with a women in her third trimester, and working with a boss going through same.   So I will unabashedly say that I like this weekend.  Not because of any one memory that sticks out, but because of a few little things the day or weekend brings.

I love the cards from my boys, the phone calls from my sisters, and now all of the fun social media stuff.  I always get to choose my meals and whatever I want to do.  I get control of the TV remote – hilarious because I always have that!!  It’s just a good day!

A few years, Johnny had soccer tournaments on this weekend – that was great fun!  Our sports club, Academy Sabres, holds an excellent event this weekend… Father’s Day Tent City – a campout on the soccer fields!  And of course, Father’s Day for me is watching the final day of the US Open.

I think about my Dad this weekend too, and I miss him.  Once I became a Dad myself, Father’s Days with him were always so much better.  Better, because he was retired and we had more time together.  He would be here a lot for whatever I was doing with my sons.  Three generations… cool shit.

Tomorrow will be unexpectedly great because Colin is coming home from the shore tonight to be with me for Father’s Day.  He’s heading back early Monday morning for work… I’ll take it!  Johnny is working tomorrow night, so I’m looking forward to a great morning and afternoon with my sons.  They are both adults now, and the days of climbing all over me like the photo above are gone.  So I’ll take all the conversation and laughs they have for me now.  Later I’ll fire up the grill, and my ass will be planted firmly on the couch watching Tiger, Rory and Phil, with my beverage of choice!  It’s shaping up to be a great day – this Dad doesn’t need anything else.

Because of a few things that happened this week, I now realize that nothing in our lives is guaranteed.  While this might be the first Father’s Day for some guys out there, it may be the last for others.  So enjoy the hell out of it, my friends!  That is my plan!  Tomorrow and every day, the only thing that is guaranteed is that I will love my boys for the rest of their lives… not just mine.

That said… Happy Father’s Day!  Have fun and some great food!  Because Monday is “Eat Your Vegetables” Day.





Isle Full Of Noises

7 06 2013

mummers-2“Be not afeard.  The isle is full of noises.” – from The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

My first rule of marketing… If you have something great to say, don’t just say it.  Shout it from the rooftops!

Those rooftops must include every platform you have at your disposal… website, email, social media, print ads, signage… everything!  Whatever the message is – new product announcements, events, etc.  If it’s big you’ve got to hit em’ hard, loud and proud!

Creating good content is tough, and so many marketers miss opportunities to make their lives easier.  Big news can provide enough content carry you through several marketing cycles.  A store Grand Opening is not just a point in time, but an opportunity to bring great, positive information to an audience over a long period.  Simply sketched out…

One Week To Our Grand Opening!!Counting Down… Two More Days!! GRAND OPENING TODAY!!!  We Have The Mummers Here!!We’re Having So Much Fun, Let’s Make It A Party Weekend!!All Those Grand Opening Special Discounts?  Yeah, We’re Honoring Them All Month Long!!

(I make no apologies for my reckless use of the exclamation marks.  I’m excited… and they are free.)

The digital world is prime for a celebration.  Email, web and social require the same amount of planning as print ads and signage, but can and should be adjusted on the fly.  If things are going better than expected, let everyone know.  If it rains, let them know that too… but be positive.  “Sorry about the weather, folks, but the party is still going on!!!”

So get yourself together, and make a splash…

  • Website first… always!  This is where you want everyone to go, so start here!  Make a landing page with all of the important information about this great thing.  Update the page as information changes.  This landing page is your audience’s headquarters for this happening!
  • Have a blast with email!  Start getting the word out with a finely worded, visual email – with action items that send them to that website landing page for more information.
  • Wet whistles with Social!  Use Facebook ads, not just posts.  Tease with Twitter, and “Live Tweet” from an event.  Use all the platforms where your audience resides.  If promoting an event, set up a Foursquare location and reward check-ins.  Of course… lead everyone back to that awesome landing page!
  • Listen and Chat!  Keep tabs on the buzz you create, and don’t be afraid to join the party and dialogue with your audience.
  • Rinse, Lather, Repeat!  Update frequently on all fronts, until the news isn’t really news anymore.  And be aware of that fine line… the one between relevance and being a pain in the tuchas!

Granted, good content makes it all so easy.  But you have to recognize and seize these opportunities when they present themselves, and don’t be afeard to make some noise.

*** “Mummers” photo courtesy of fellow blogger – ohwhataworld… check her out!  I also make no apologies for being a Philly guy!





Makin’ A Mix Tape

2 06 2013

tumblr_m897iomgrl1ry1h5go1_500_large“Hope I die before I get old.” – The Who… 1965

I don’t understand that lyric now, and didn’t then. In all fairness I was a cute, little 5-year-old. So what did I know?

I delight in all types of music. My iPod carries a huge range of genres, from classical to punk rock. As I start to write this at the end of a long work day, I’m listening to Steve Forbert. But throughout the day I was visited (via shuffle) by ELO, The Black Keys, Billie Holiday, Counting Crows, Queen, Louis Prima and, of course Elvis Costello. I’m amazed at the power of music… that when a song comes on that I haven’t heard in decades, I remember the words and sing along. Stunning to me, as most days I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast!

Back to that cute, little 5-year-old…

In 65 I was already in possession of my first record album, “Meet The Beatles”… and awesome present from my cousin Mary on a visit from Ireland. I still have that record. She officially started my love for music. Much later I recognized “My Generation” as a great song but always got stuck on that famous line. According the rock legend, that verse from was written by Pete Townshend on his 20th birthday. “My Generation’ was very much about trying to find a place in society,” Townsend told Rolling Stone in 1987. “I was very, very lost. The band was young then. It was believed that its career would be incredibly brief.” Blissfully ignorant of the irony… the song is still played today by the two remaining members of The Who.

I have fond memories of Jersey shore cover bands baiting the sweaty crowds with songs like this, and the required fists punching the air to the beat of each catchphrase. “Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!” or “… and this bird you’ll never chaaaange!” Great, great stuff for that point in time. Later into the 80’s, my musical tastes became more sophisticated, but no less rebellious. The songs I liked were more intense, less opus… more poetic, less anthemic.

At some point in everyone’s life they stop gobbling up new music and begin to rely on the stuff that got them this far. It happened to me in the mid to late 90’s. My kids would call it Dad’s music – I did. And I’m fine with that. Once in a while a new band or singer gets my ear, and I still love that feeling of discovery and sharing.

So I wonder what Pete Townsend thinks of that verse today. Given his long career and list of accomplishments, I’m betting he thinks it is a bit silly. Most of the things I thought about in my twenties were exactly that. Maybe he should issue a retraction!!

As for the cute little 53-year-old… after hundreds of concerts, thousands of albums and songs, I have no plans to die before I get old. Not necessarily a bold statement as I stand near that precipice. I “joked” with my son once that I was planning to be a burden to my children. He quickly assured me that I already was…

I’m reluctant to give up on discoveries I will make… musical and life. Not while there is some space left on my iPod. Maybe Jethro Tull has provided me with the epitaph I was looking for in my previous post…

“He was too old to rock ‘n’ roll. And he was too young to die.”

Let’s see those fists pumping. Wave your hands in the aaaair, like you just don’t caaaare…