Today’s playlist celebrates the February 27 birthdays of TLC’s Chilli, the Incredible Bongo Band’s Michael Viner, and Bobby V.; the February 28 birthdays of The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, The B-52’s’ Cindy Wilson, Sam the Sham, Joe South, The Records’ John Wicks, Jake Bugg, Barbara Acklin, The Jaggerz’s Donnie Iris, Zero Mostel, The Critters’ Don Ciccone, and Hunx and His Punx’s Seth Bogart; and the February 29 birthdays of Foster the People’s Mark Foster, The Fleetwoods’ Gretchen Christopher, and Ja Rule.
Today’s playlist celebrates the February 24 birthdays of Earl Sweatshirt, N*E*R*D’s Chad Hugo, Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones, Plastic Bertrand, George Thorogood, M People’s Mike Pickering, Rupert Holmes, 16 Horsepower’s David Eugene Edwards, Joanie Sommers, and Barry Bostwick; the February 25 birthdays of George Harrison, X’s John Doe, Faron Young, The Dø’s Olivia Merilahti, Foster Sylvers, Afro B, and Kaskade; and the February 26 birthdays of Johnny Cash, Erykah Badu, Fats Domino, Sharon Van Etten, Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, Mitch Ryder, Sandie Shaw, The Embassy’s Fredrik Lindson, fun.’s Nate Ruess, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ Ebbot Lundberg, and Priscilla Lopez.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number eighty-nine.
I get it. You hate Kanye West. You’re not alone. My 100 favorite albums list includes records by a convicted murderer, a man prone to making racist remarks, a performer with multiple child molestation accusations, and a handful of men who we know physically abused their wives and/or girlfriends, but the most hated person on the list is probably Kanye West. Did I say probably? It’s definitely Kanye West.
Though I understand, I’m going to go the Marvin Gaye route. “Only love can conquer hate.” Try not to hate on Ye. And try not to hate on me, for I swear to you, my role in his success is significant yet pretty small.
Don’t hate Ye for saying “You may be talented, but you’re not Kanye West.” Be grateful you’re not Kanye West, for he is so hated.
Don’t hate Ye for saying “My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.” Instead, relieve his pain. Introduce him to YouTube.
Don’t hate Ye for saying “I’m the closest that hip hop is getting to God.”
Don’t hate Ye for saying he is “the number one human being in music” and “the most impactful artist of our generation.”
Don’t hate Ye for responding to Entertainment Weekly’s B+ review of one of his releases with “It’s either pass or fail! A+ or F-! You know what, fuck you and the whole fucking staff.”
Don’t hate Ye for his comments about Black people voting for Democrats because they’ve been brainwashed. Take it from the man who said that slavery was a choice. You don’t agree with that comment either? You’ve been brainwashed.
Don’t hate Ye because you see hypocrisy when he complained about hip hop culture’s focus on buying fancy things. That reminds me of the time I, on behalf of Warner Music, where I worked, had to chase him down for an advance he owed us and was told by his office “Kanye’s having a cash flow problem at the moment.” That very day, Ye was tweeting photos of the fancy furniture he just purchased. The man has his priorities.
Don’t hate Ye for his idiotic promotional stunts, such as the fanfare he drummed up for releasing a new album every Friday for a month, rather than just focusing on making one good album. Or the fact that his new album, which may be out today though I’m not sure as I’ve long since stopped caring about his new releases, will not be made available for streaming. Per Ye, streaming services pay a pitifully low royalty to songwriters. Fair enough, but there’s been no announcement of the album coming out on CD or vinyl, nor has Ye removed the rest of his catalogue from streaming services. The only way his remaining fans can get Donda 2 (I think that’s the name of the new one) is via something called a Stem Player. The Stem Player costs $200. It’s like he’s trying hard for people to not be able to hear his new music, and for that you hate him?
Don’t hate Ye because he pretended to run for president of the United States. Let’s not judge until we know if that was another of his egomaniacal exploits or an attempt to subvert democracy by siphoning enough brainwashed Black votes away from Joe Biden so the other candidate who had a shot would win.
Don’t hate Ye because he said “I liberate minds with my music. That’s more important than liberating a few people from apartheid or whatever.”
Don’t hate Ye because of the time he refused to continue with a concert, saying “I can’t do the rest of the show until everybody stands up,” finally proceeding when some audience members convinced him that the concertgoer he was addressing was in a wheelchair. On second thought, you can hate him for that.
Don’t hate Ye because he sells t-shirts for hundreds of dollars and sweaters for over a grand, and at his Sunday services he sells “church socks” for $50 a pair. There are many denominations in Christianity. He is part of the $50 socks sect.
Don’t hate Ye for interrupting Taylor Swift’s award acceptance speech at that awards show. And don’t hate him for then putting the line “I made that bitch famous” about her in one of his raps. Yes, she was winning an award on a televised program watched by millions, so she already was famous, bitch. The only people who should hate Ye for that are Taylor Swift, her fans, the people watching that show, the people who voted for Swift to win the award, and people who like women. The rest of you, leave it.
Don’t hate Ye for working with Marilyn Manson, DaBaby, Chris Brown, and other men with multiple accusations of assaulting women, while demonstrating no support for women who are victims of domestic violence. Similarly, don’t hate Ye for claiming that Bill Cosby is innocent. Don’t hate him for slut shaming his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose for years and years and years and years after their relationship ended. Don’t hate him for the perceived stalking of his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, about whom he once said “I have to dress Kim every day so she doesn’t embarrass me.” It’s not like Ye has ever done anything to embarrass himself, everything I’ve just written notwithstanding.
Back in the day it didn’t bother me that he said he was great. He used to make great music. He didn’t have to resort to publicity stunts to get people to pay attention to his albums. People listened to them because they were good. Let me correct that before he does. They were excellent, often better than a B+, and they didn’t cost $200 to hear. Late Registration was a commercial and critical success in part because it sounded like nothing else out at that time. Musically and thematically he was going places his colleagues weren’t, and with his first six albums he challenged himself to keep expanding his musical canvas, with each release a departure from the previous one. Late Registration received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. It should have won. Of course, it didn’t. As Ye said, “If I don’t win, the awards show loses credibility.” I would argue that the Grammy Awards lost credibility way before then, perhaps when the Record of the Year trophy went to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” over fellow nominees Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Or the time the nominees for Album of the Year included Beck’s Odelay and Fugees’ The Score and Smashing Pumpkin’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Celine Dion’s Whatever It’s Called and the winner wasn’t Beck, Fugees or Smashing Pumpkins. I’ll never forget 1984, when the Album of the Year nominees were four great albums that are coming up on my 100 favorite albums list plus Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down, and the winner was Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. Ay, jambo jumbo!
Was Ye always a raging misogynist? One may say that “Gold Digger,” the first hit single from Late Registration, paints a negative stereotype of a certain type of woman, though in a later verse in the song, once the Black man has money he leaves his Black girlfriend for a white woman.
Ye wrote “Gold Digger” a couple of years earlier and presented it to rapper Shawnna for her debut album. Shawnna, who appeared on Ludacris’s number one single “Stand Up,” passed on it. Ye changed the lyrics from first person (“I ain’t sayin’ I’m a gold digger”) to third person and added the aforementioned third verse. He decided to use the song on an album of his own.
Watching the movie Ray, Ye decided to have its star, Jamie Foxx, come into the studio to sing the Ray Charles hit “I Got a Woman,” which would be used throughout the “Gold Digger” recording. Though Foxx recorded several takes, Ye and his co-producer, Jon Brion, thought the original Ray Charles recording sounded better on the new track. They decided use of the Foxx version would be a backup plan should they not be able to license the sample of the Ray Charles original.
Enter me. I oversaw the department at Warner that licensed samples. I thought “Gold Digger” sounded great, so I gave the green light to a member of my team to move forward with making the deal. The single went to #1 in the US and was a smash around the world. Kanye would no longer be a broke broke.
My department also licensed the Curtis Mayfield sample on “Touch the Sky” and the Otis Redding sample on “Gone.” So, yeah, I had a hand in three of Late Registration’s four charted singles, all of which are great tracks.
My favorite song on Late Registration, after “Gold Digger,” is “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” which includes a Shirley Bassey sample that had nothing to do with me. “Diamonds…” is on the album twice. In one version, Ye displays his ego (“If you talkin’ about classics, do my name get brought up?”) while also acknowledging said ego “made him throw a tantrum like he is three years old,” referring to yet another awards show meltdown. The other version of “Diamonds…,” with Jay-Z, is better. In it, Ye talks about the bloody diamond trade and ties it to consumerism in the US and the desire to display bling that people of his race are mutilated for, while in his verse, Jay-Z out egos Ye by miles.
Elsewhere on the album Kanye critiques of the US health care system, raps about the impact of drugs in Black communities, meditates on unfairness in life, particularly with the everyday racism embedded in our society, pays tribute to his mother and the sacrifices she made for him (Donda West died two years after this album’s release), and provides an anthem about believing in one’s self. That’s the Yeezy I love.
There’s more Kanye West to come on this list. Don’t hate me for that.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety.
As a member of Barnes & Noble’s rewards program, I often get book recommendations from the chain emailed to me. One read “Because you purchased Robert Hilburn’s Paul Simon: The Life, we think you’d like The Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Alaska – Fifth Edition.” What one had to do with the other I haven’t the foggiest, but I took their word for it. After all, no bull is in their name, kind of. I bought myself a copy of The Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Alaska – Fifth Edition. Here are the Cliff Notes:
Did you know that in Alaska there is a type of duck called the northern shoveler? When I first saw Alaska and shoveler together, I thought of Sarah Palin, ‘cause she sure knows how to shovel it. But she’s not a duck. More of a dodo. (Just kidding, Sarah! Don’t sue me!)
The northern shoveler is recognized by its large rounded bill. The male duck, called a drake, has an iridescent dark green head, while the female duck, a hen, is described as being a drab brown. The male is very territorial during breeding season, chasing off any duck who tries to flirt with his tweetheart, but after breeding season, he’s out with the boys, leaving her in the nest with a brood to birth and feed. In essence, these male ducks are self-absorbed and disgusting. Shove it, shovelers! You need to change up your tune.
There is a town in Alaska called Unalaska that is overrun with bald eagles. The bald eagles are huge and have sharp beaks and claws which they won’t hesitate to use if they feel their food or offspring are being threatened. Bald eagles reach sexual maturity at around four or five years old, as do most residents of Alaska. And here’s a fun fact I learned reading The Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Alaska – Fifth Edition: bald eagles aren’t actually bald. What else are they lying about? Are they even eagles? I doubt it, as they don’t give me a peaceful, easy feeling. Up yours, bald eagles, you lying, long-haired Lolitas and low-lifes. With you as our national bird, it’s no wonder the United States of America has issues.
The wigeon is a kind of duck that is an expert at searching and obtaining food. How does the wigeon do it? They swim up to other water animals and just as those animals find food and bring it to the surface, the wigeon snatches it away, even though they are perfectly capable of finding their own food. Those who have studied this bird say they do this simply because they enjoy it. In other words, wigeons are assholes. Thieving assholes. I hate them.
Have you ever dated someone because that person was persistent in pursuing you and you finally said “Fine. I’m tired of waiting around for Mr. or Ms. Right?” Then you have something in common with a Swainson’s Thrush. The male thrush stakes his territory and lets the female thrushes try to get his attention while he just plays it cool, like Danny Zuko when Sandy Olson showed up at Rydell High after a change of plans kept her family from moving back to Australia. You know how it is – rockin’ and rollin’ and whatnot. Finally, the male thrush will let a persistent female be a dirty bird with him and they stay with each other mating season after mating season. The male thrush thinks he’s a godsend. He ain’t no godsend. Lady thrushes, don’t sell yourself short. There are plenty of birds in the sky. Don’t hitch your wagon to one who doesn’t believe that relationships involve reciprocity. You need a man who’ll support you as you spread your wings, not a disrespectful, egotistical chowderhead. Yeah, I said it.
There is a type of Alaskan bird called the Greater Yellowlegs, and a type called the lesser yellowlegs. Lesser? Don’t be all full of yourself, greater yellowlegs. You hang out in a mosquito-infested marsh, breed in the bogs, and eat insects and worms, so don’t think you’re all that. You ain’t all that. Not even half of that. Th. They remind me of the rich, snobby kids in the private school I attended for eleventh and twelfth grades. Once, when I pulled into the parking lot, one of those kids, Chester Hamilton, looked at my car and said “A Pinto? Your parents must really like you.” Up yours, Chester Hamilton! And up yours, greater yellowlegs! You’re no greater than any other yellowbirds; you were merely born into privilege, so get over yourselves. You’re an absurd bird who acts like a turd. Word!
Don’t think I’m going to move on without mentioning the winter wren. The female wrens move stones – STONES – to form a patio around their nests, patios that may include up to 300 rocks. What is the male wren doing while his old lady is building a beautiful home? He’s building other nests where he breeds with women birds who are not his shorty. Can you believe that? The missus is working hard, carrying stones, and he’s with Becky with the good plumage, getting beak. I have a message for you male winter wrens – #TimesUp! Stop thinking with your cloacae and help move those stones, you dicks!
I’m working myself into a lather, so I’m going to stop now. The Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Alaska – Fifth Edition taught me that the birds of Alaska are sexist, classist, thieving douchebags.
That brings us to Beyoncé.
On Lemonade, Beyoncé has a message for all winter wrens, and Swainson’s Thrushes, and wigeons, bald eagles, northern shovelers, and yellowlegs, the so-called “greater” ones and the so-called “lesser” ones: Don’t let the way your gender or species has been treated historically hold you back. The Queen Bey has also struggled. She’s experienced pain. Her advice is to take your dark history and let it become an inspiration for transformation. As she said when accepting a Grammy Award for Lemonade, and I misquote, “It’s vital that the Swainson’s Thrush learns from the past and recognizes its tendencies to repeat its mistakes.”
Though Beyoncé made the album specifically to uplift Alaskan birds, its message can apply to other species as well. Every group of living things has a history that affects its relationships in the modern era. We can change those relationships for the better. The first step is awareness.
Just as there is a variety of birds in Alaska, there is a variety of music genres that informs Lemonade: r&b, hip hop, pop, country, rock, blues, gospel, reggae, Americana, electronica, and funk among them.
And just as there’s a place in Alaska called Snowbird Glacier, on Lemonade, Beyoncé samples a song by Andy Williams, who recorded a version of the Anne Murray hit “Snowbird,” and somehow, sampling Andy Williams is the coolest thing one can do. The song she samples isn’t “Snowbird;” that’s just me stretching really far for a related tie-in.
And just as you can find a drake in Alaska, you can also find a drake on this album. Not a drake, as in a male duck with iridescent feathers on his back, but Drake, the Canadian rapper/singer/actor with iridescent feathers on his back. Stretch, Glenn, stretch! [NOTE: Upon completing this essay it hit me that while Drake the Canadian was a guest on Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album, he is not on Lemonade. Ignore this whole paragraph, please.]
Lemonade is an ambitious album that marked a high point in Beyoncé’s career nearly 20 years after her debut album with Destiny’s Child, an album I helped market. (You can read about that in my forthcoming book.) A male wren may not support women. Glenn does.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-one.
It was a Friday night in 199something. I was in my studio apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, flipping through the latest issue of a magazine called Homo Xtra (seriously, that was its name), which could be found in gay bars throughout New York.
I was browsing the personals in the back when a half-page ad caught my attention: “Dating Techniques For Shy Gay Men Workshop.” Are you kidding me? A workshop to learn how to date? That’s pathetic. Let’s be real – if you need to pay $30 to attend a workshop that teaches you how to go on a date, you’re a loser. You must be extremely desperate and extraordinarily needy to attend a dating techniques workshop.
Before I tell you what I was taught there, let me say that in theory a dating workshop is a good place to meet someone, because everybody there is single and looking. I’d been single for a few years and was looking for some romance in my life. About 40 guys showed up, and as we silently took our seats, I performed a quick scan of the room. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I will tell you that the people there looked like the type of guys who would attend a dating techniques workshop. One could tell they lacked the very basic social skills to meet someone. That’s not who I’m looking for in a partner. I prefer guys who are sure of themselves, who aren’t challenged by the simple acts of saying “hello.” I can’t stomach a wallflower who won’t put forth a minimal effort. That’s my role.
In addition, I wasn’t sensing any physical attraction to anyone. There was one guy who was moderately cute, but his facial expression made it apparent he didn’t want to be there but he had to be there because he’s the biggest of the losers. As I continued to look in the mirror, I told myself that over the next three hours I will be transformed from a lonely and introverted personal ad scourer to a dating superstar who’ll have to fight men off using a metaphor for a giant fly swatter that isn’t coming to me at the moment.
The workshop was led by a therapist named Dr. Aaron Kreshman, a man around six-feet tall with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, wearing chinos and an untucked faded blue button-down dress shirt. I’m terrible with ages, but I’d peg him to be between 40 and 70, certainly no older than 75.
“Who here would like to tell us why they chose to attend the workshop?,” he asked. No hands went up. I wanted to tell him “Nobody here is going to answer you. We’re all shy,” but I was too shy.
“Today all of you will learn how to find your soulmate, your life partner, your one true love. The techniques I’m about to impart I’ve been using for years.” He’s been using them for years? So, he hasn’t yet found his soulmate, his life partner, his one true love. That didn’t offer me much hope. Still, I wasn’t pessimistic. Merely negative, fatalistic and despairing.
“Open a conversation with a stranger by offering a compliment, but keep it above the waist.” As the guy sitting on my right, who looked around 25 or 40, took notes, the doctor continued. “You can say ‘I like your shirt’ or ‘You have pretty eyes’ but don’t say anything about what’s below his waist.” Excuse me? I’m not crass! I’m shy! I’m not going to approach a stranger and say “Hey, person I’ve never met, you have an alluring swimsuit area,” though I’m open to dating someone who says that to me.
A student whose nametag read Jerome had a question. “What do you say to a guy if you’re at a bathhouse?” I snickered to myself, and by to myself, I mean I let out a very loud laugh. I appreciated Jerome’s sarcasm, though the glares I got from him and Dr. Kreshman made me realize that Jerome is unaware of his most attractive quality.
Dr. Kreshman responded “You need to be honest with yourself. You’re not at a bathhouse to find a date. You’re not going to find a man to spend the rest of your life with leaning against the wall of the shower room. Your future husband probably isn’t reclining naked in a hot tub with seven other guys. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with going to a bathhouse. I go a few times a month.”
The note-taker next to me wrote that down.
Dr. Kreshman then covered how to make an entrance. Avenging my chuckle at Jerome’s question must have been on his mind, as he pointed to me. “You, get up and show everybody how you enter a bar.” I stood up and walked across the floor.
Dr. Kreshman addressed the class. “Did that walk make a favorable impression on any of you?” Several men shook their heads. “Would you want to date someone who walks into a bar like that?” Jerome snickered and said “No.” “Anybody else?” Everyone responded “No.” “Would anybody even notice someone who entered a bar like that?” In unison they replied “No!”, coupled with laughter.
“That walk says ‘Ignore me – I have no self-esteem.’ You need to enter a bar like a mighty lion – strong, powerful, fierce. Try it again.”
I started to strut across the room. “Lion!” yelled Dr. Kreshman. I exaggerated my strut. “Lion!” he yelled again. You may think that as a shy person I’d be mortified, but by this point, I already decided that there was nobody there I wanted to meet and so I had nothing riding on this. Fornicate these people. I don’t care about them or what they think about me. They want a lion? I’ll give them a lion. This is what I did, and I ain’t lyin’. I got on all fours and strode across the room, wiggling my butt like I was wagging my tail, and when I got to the opposite end I let out a roar.
“Now that’s an entrance!” Dr. Kreshman patted me on the back as I went back to my seat. “That’s how one enters a bar if one wants to make an impression.” Maybe if I want to meet someone at the circus.
“You make your entrance. You meet someone using your opening line – above the waist. All goes well. You chat for no more than five minutes. Then you give them a card with your name and phone number on it. On the back of the card write something referencing the conversation you just had.”
We practiced this as a group. Each attendee chatted with another attendee and then wrote something on an index card and gave it to the other person. Someone gave me a card on which he wrote “You could be the next Jerry Steinfeld.” Steinfeld. Steinfeld, with a t. Jerry Steinfeld. Either I said something very funny to him during our conversation and he felt I was as funny as Jerry Seinfeld, or I wasn’t remotely amusing, like someone he knew named Jerry Steinfeld.
The workshop ended and I was armed with several new dating techniques.
The following Friday night I strolled over to a bar two blocks from my apartment. I walked in the way I normally walked, grabbed a copy of the latest issue of Homo Xtra, and headed back toward home to peruse the personal ads. I’m not the king of the forest. I’m not a dating superstar without a metaphor. I’m Jerry Steinfeld. Shy Jerry Steinfeld.
I’m too shy to say “hello” to a stranger. In his song “Too Shy to Say,” one of the superb numbers on his Fulfillingness’ First Finale album, Stevie Wonder is too shy to say “I love you.” Either way, we’re both left pining for romance. Stevie captures that feeling so well, lyrically and melodically, in this song and on “Creepin’,” another of the album’s highlights.
Elsewhere on Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Stevie advocates for optimism for the future (“Smile Please”), looks forward to an afterlife away from the greedy and dishonest (“They Won’t Go When I Go”), advises us that God lives within him (“Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away”), and counsels a reggae woman to “boogie on,” something I say to the reggae women in my life on an almost daily basis (“Boogie On Reggae Woman”). He also calls out then President Nixon for being all talk and no action on “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” Two days after that song was released on a single, Nixon resigned. Stevie, where were you between 2017 and 2020?
There’s more from Stevie Wonder to come on this list.
Today’s playlist celebrates the February 21 birthdays of Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison, Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield, Nina Simone, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Bobby Charles, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Joe Bennett; the February 22 birthdays of Ernie K-Doe, The Drifters’ Bobby Hendricks, Sublime’s Brad Nowell, Guy Mitchell, Oliver, Hurricane Smith, and Marni Nixon; and the February 23 birthdays of Japan’s David Sylvian, Little Simz, King Sun, Aziz Ansari, and Josh Gad.
Today’s playlist celebrates the February 19 birthdays of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Dr. Dre, Smokey Robinson, The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling, Gossip’s Beth Ditto, Falco, Lou Christie, Fat Boys’ Prince Markie Dee, and Carlin Glynn, and the February 20 birthdays of Rihanna, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Spirit’s Randy California, Seal, Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, J. Geils, David Ackles, t.A.T.u.’s Julia Volkova, Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, and Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull.
Today’s playlist celebrates the February 17 birthday of Tommy Edwards, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Röyksopp’s Svein Berge, Gene Pitney, John Leyton, Bobby Lewis, Paris Hilton, Dodie Stevens, and Jon Randall; and the February 18 birthdays of Yoko Ono, Irma Thomas, John Travolta, Regina Spektor, Mocedades’ Amaya Uranga, Styx’s Dennis DeYoung, The Crusaders’ guest vocalist Randy Crawford, Space’s Tommy Scott, Juelz Santana, and Juice Newton.
Today’s playlist commemorates the February 14 birthday of Tim Buckley, Panjabi MC, Rob Thomas, Cait Brennan, Cola Boyy, Jonathan Adams, and Dwele; the February 15 birthday of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, UB40’s Ali Campbell, Megan Thee Stallion, Birdman, Felix, Zager & Evans’ Denny Zager, Incubus’ Brandon Boyd, Melissa Manchester, Harold Arlen, and Olivia; and the February 16 birthday of The Weeknd, HAIM’s Danielle Haim, 808 State’s Gerald Simpson, Ice-T, Sonny Bono, Armand Van Helden, Lindstrøm, Bill Doggett, Lupe Fiasco, the Kalin Twins, Tower of Power’s Lenny Williams, and Conway the Machine.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-two.
The year: 1994. The location: New York City. Manhattan, to be specific. My therapist, one of many subpar ones I’ve seen over the years, assigned me homework – go to a bar and say hi to someone. The thing is I’m shy, terribly shy back then, and sensing that my shyness was keeping me from fully enjoying my life and finding a romantic relationship, I sought therapy to figure out strategies and coping mechanisms. “Go to a bar and say hi to someone.” Essentially my therapist was telling a shy person to not be shy. “You’re shy? Your homework is to talk to a stranger.” “You’re sad because you’re favorite aunt died of cancer? Your homework is to cure cancer and reanimate your Aunt Dotty.” WT actual F? Anyway, never let it be said I’m not one to try, eating vegetables notwithstanding. I went to Uncle Charlie’s in Greenwich Village, solo. I sat on a stool, nursed a bottle of water (teetotaler here), and flipped through a free magazine that was on the bar. I read my horoscope. “Keep your eyes open this week for you may be presented with the opportunity to meet someone who knows how to play pinochle. While your heart is telling you one thing, your brain is telling you the opposite, which is one reason you’re such a mess. This may be a good time to launch a new business. Then again, maybe it isn’t. Your lucky number is yellow.” My memory of what it said may be a little fuzzy. Whatever. I don’t believe in astrology, no disrespect to those of you who buy into that horseshit.
While sitting alone at the bar reading and breaking into my discomfort zone a guy approached me and started chatting me up.
“Ooh, you’re reading your horoscopes. Let me guess your sign. I’m really good at it. Sagittarius?”
“Of course, you’re a Capricorn.”
“No. I’m a Scorpio.”
“That was my next guess! I swear! I’m an Aquarius. An aging Aquarius.” That’s kinda funny. He was also a very inebriated Aquarius, in whom I was not interested, as I don’t drink and the only reason shy alcohol-abstaining me was at a bar was because my therapist considered a bar a marvelous place for a sober introvert to meet someone. And I’m the one who needs help! Also, his sign is Aquarius, meaning he is stubborn, neglectful and negative, if you buy into that horseshit. Aquarians are also known to not seek help when they need it. That wasn’t true of Drunky P. Waterbearer. Like me, he was in therapy. Perhaps his therapist assigned him homework: Go to a bar, drink like a Pisces, and pester a lonelyheart. He told me he spoke to this therapist thrice weekly. Thrice! His therapist was based in Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills! He would call him for their sessions. Call! This was 1994. No Zoom meetings. No cell phones. Younger people don’t know this, but we actually paid extra for long distance calls back then. They cost around 20ȼ/minute. This tippler made three 50-minute long distance calls to his therapist each week. That’s $30 for a week of therapy calls, which is around $64 in 2022 numbers, plus the cost of the actual therapy. What did that say about him? He had lots of issues and lots of money.
Dr. Souse asked me out, despite my being aloof. “Will you go see Pret-A-Porter with me?,” he asked referring to the Robert Altman movie that changed its title to Ready To Wear sometime between that night and its release a week or so later.
“I already have plans to see that with someone else.”
“Will you see another movie with me?”
I didn’t want to be mean and say “Buzz off, boozehound.” I’m not a mean person. You can ask any of my friends who buy into zodiac horseshit. I’ve never mocked them to their faces. In retrospect I probably could have responded to him with something more delicate, more cordial, more kindly than I did, for at the time the nicest response I could think of on my feet to “Will you see another movie with me?” was “I already have plans to see every movie that will ever be made with other people,” which, if you think about it, is true.
He pouted for a second, then said “I still think you’re cute.”
At this time I’d like to publicly apologize to this man, for he didn’t deserve that response simply because he was being friendly and sociable and appreciated my outer beauty. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with my own issues and being a Scorpio. If you’re reading this, Aquarian Altman fan, I sincerely hope you are happy and have things under control and I don’t begrudge you paying long distance rates to speak with your therapist because it’s so difficult to find a mental health professional who truly understands you and by you I mean the general you and not you in particular and with whom you jibe.
For the rest of you reading this, have any of you seen Pret-A-Porter/Ready To Wear? Is it good?
You know what movie is good? Hair. (Oooh, smooth segue, Glenn!) I’ve never seen the musical on stage, though I understand what the great director Milos Forman did is add a storyline to what was merely a loosely connected group of songs.
Those songs, though! Everyone knows “Aquarius.” And “Good Morning, Starshine.” And “Let the Sunshine In.” I’ve been known to sing “Where Do I Go” in the shower. I perform the title song at karaoke (sometimes the version by the Cowsills, which is missing the verse about going gaga at the gogo). Should you be at the gym on the next treadmill you may hear me chant “Hare Krishna” when I’m listening to the Hair soundtrack through my headphones. And yes, Los Angeles, that was me, cruising in my convertible Beamer, playing the Hair CD and belting out “Black boys are delicious.” Cheryl Barnes’ performance of “Easy To Be Hard” is stellar and “The Flesh Failures” brings me to tears EVERY SINGLE TIME. Listening to the entire album brings out of me a range of emotions more than any therapy session I’ve had. The original soundtrack of Hair is my #92 album.