Monthly Archives: October 2013

Today is Halloween, so how about something “Spooky”? Better yet, one version of the song supposedly comes from the Zombies.

The song began as an instrumental jazz piece. A gender-switched version came from Dusty Springfield, but the best-known version comes from a group called the Classics IV.

I enjoy singing the key lines of “Spooky” to Joanna when the song comes on the radio, though she’s never been one to play the kind of games referred to in the song. But all women keep men guessing at times, right? I also like the sax solo.

Lyrics here, with video below.


(Note: Another Van Morrison song, “Brown Eyed Girl,” is at #119.)

After a day and two nights of wind, one would never know by looking at our yard that I had raked leaves over the weekend (though the scene is nothing compared to when we lived in “the City of Oaks” in North Carolina). Indeed, “all the leaves on the trees are falling to the sound of the breezes that blow” — to quote “Moondance,” a favorite Van Morrison song that brings together this month of October, dancing and dreams come true.

The album of the same name, according to one review, is “fixated on the power of nature, but rather than merely sitting in awe, it finds spirituality and redemption in the most basic of things.” Joanna and I try to do the same. Fall has always been our favorite time of year, and we’ve been blessed with a dandy Autumn this year. But then, since we met just over 33 years ago, there have been no bad ones.

Lyrics here, with video from a live performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1980 — the same month as Joanna’s and my first real date (or if you’d prefer a later version, with a dandy sax solo by Candy Dulfer, you can find that here).

Heart — founded in our now-home state of Washington — has been successful for even longer than our marriage. One of their albums, “Dreamboat Annie,” became a staple in the weight room when I played college football — which meant that a bunch of big tough guys regularly sang along with what was sometimes called a “girl group” in between sets on the Nautilus machines.

“Crazy on You” was one of Heart’s first hits, and still fits any couple (especially with children) dealing with the madness of the modern world: “With the bombs and the devils. And the kids keep coming.” (Now, of course, for us the “kids” are usually my college students.)  Joanna and I also enjoy singing along with another early Heart hit, “Magic Man.”

The band has enjoyed a recent resurgence, blowing away a Kennedy Center audience with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” That song has now become part of their regular act.

“Crazy on You” lyrics here, with video of a 1977 live performance below.

Joanna was born in Natchez, Mississippi. She left there as a baby, and never returned — until we spent a couple of days there as part of a recent 5,700-mile road trip.

Natchez is a beautiful city, with antebellum homes and a fascinating and often troubling history. And while there, we found the lot that once held the little shotgun house that Joanna’s parents lived in when she was born. We even saw her house, in a sense. Someone bought it and the neighboring shotgun house, moved both next door and incorporated them into a large southern-style house that still stands.

The visit was interesting, but Joanna was raised in California and feels no real affinity for the South even after we lived there for a couple of years. One thing that always amazed us was the religious tenor of the region — as exemplified by the number of people who heard our northern accents in restaurants or other public settings and approached us to ask us where (not if) we went to church before making a pitch for their own congregations.

And frequently it was their own congregations; you can’t swing a dead cat in the South without hitting a preacher. We had a running joke that if we found ourselves heading in the wrong direction (a not-uncommon occurrence) we’d just turn around in the parking lot of the Baptist church around the next corner. Because there’s always a Baptist church around the next corner.

Considering our experience there, it seemed highly appropriate — if not ordained by God — that we would hear “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” by Ray Stevens (better known for “The Streak“) on the radio on the day that we left her birthplace.

Lyrics here, with video below.

I mentioned in my previous post that Joanna and I once ran a motel. We actually managed a couple of motels, for a total of about three years, though most of that time we spent at the Ketchum Korral Motor Lodge, a former Earnest Hemingway haunt in the KetchumSun Valley resort area of Idaho. I also worked for the Wood River Journal and then as a freelancer for several publications during that time; like the motel, the Journal has since closed.

We loved our time in the Wood River Valley — hiking, fishing and cross-country skiing in the Sawtooths and the White Clouds, ignoring celebrities in the supermarket (OK, so maybe I peeked from behind a plant in a restaurant at Diana Ross), and meeting people from all over the world. Blaine County is one of two politically liberal places in the state, the other being Moscow. It’s also an expensive place to live, which is why I worked two jobs while we were there.

The song “I Know Why (And So Do You)” was part of the 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade.” It’s a beautiful song by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In the film, Lynn Bari lip-syncs to Pat Friday’s voice. The song was later part of the soundtrack for another film, 1990’s “Memphis Belle.”

Lyrics here, with video below.

When I was in high school, our marching band took part in a parade held as part of Spokane’s annual Lilac Festival. I distinctly remember telling my then-girlfriend that I couldn’t imagine many things worse than having to live in Spokane. Years later, I penned a piece for a now-defunct magazine in which I wrote something like, “Despite a multitude of trees and a river running through town, Spokane has managed to become one of the ugliest cities in the West.”

I thought I understood “Spokane Motel Blues,” even though I’d never stayed in a Spokane motel. In retrospect, I wish I could say that I was acting like those Oregon folks who “complain” about the rain as a way of trying to discourage others from moving to the area. In truth, I was simply ignorant.

Now I can’t imagine a much better place to live than the city where we’ve now spent more than a dozen years. Sure, downtown parking can be a pain, and the conservative political nature of the region means that streets, schools and conversations often aren’t as good as they could be. There are too many homeless folks. We will be stuck with perhaps the worst Congresswoman in America until she retires or dies, and what was once a great small-city newspaper has become a flimsy and embarrassing shadow of its former self.

On the other hand, Spokane has more per-capita park space than Seattle; there are three good-sized parks within a few blocks of our home.  Traffic is rarely a problem. I can drive downtown, to my office, to a state park, to any of several golf courses, or to the airport within 20 minutes. We can camp or fish in numerous lakes or rivers within a couple of hours. Two universities, a couple of community colleges, local theater groups, a symphony, a good regional museum, and great downtown concert venues offer educational and entertainment options virtually every night of the week. You can get the same quality coffee as in Seattle or Portland, with less snobbery from hipsters and Yuppies. As much as we might make fun of the city’s motto, “Near nature, near perfect,” it nearly fits.

I’ve long been a Tom T. Hall fan, and “Spokane Motel Blues” mentions some of my favorite performers and cities. And Joanna and I definitely understand that it’s no fun to be stuck in a motel. Considering that we ran one for a few years — meaning that we could almost never leave it at the same time — we may understand the feeling of being trapped in one better than most. But “T” should have got out more when he was in Spokane.

Lyrics here, with video below.

This Simon & Garfunkel song is great for close friends or anyone in a relationship, of course, but for us it might also allude to something else. As much as we like to explore by car, I dislike highways. Paved roadways are functional and necessary in the modern world, but ugly. I also tend not to be a big fan of most man-made structures.

But bridges often are things of beauty, and Joanna has long chuckled at my appreciation of them. I remember being fascinated as a boy by the Dent Bridge, a mini-Golden Gate Bridge over the North Fork of the Clearwater River in the middle of nowhere. I’ve enjoyed walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and marveled at the force of the wind as we walked onto the Deception Pass Bridge. One of the best features of the city in which we now live is its many bridges.

For me, bridges represent a marvelous sort of transport from one world to another. Of course, our marriage provided the same sort of transition for me.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” lyrics here, with video below.

One of the best things about music festivals and concerts is, of course, the opportunity to hear artists whose music you know you love. But perhaps equally great are the surprises — the performances by people you’ve never heard of, or may have heard and forgotten.

During one of our first experiences at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, we (and everyone else) were blown away by Japanese pianist Keiko Matsui. Joanna is a big piano fan, and Matsui’s songs often reflect a love of nature that we share.

Matsui’s song titles include “Under Northern Lights,” “Deep Blue,” “Gentle Sands,”  “Tears of the Ocean,” “Rainy Season,” “Flowers of the Sea” and many others with similar themes. (Those linked videos offer beautiful scenery, by the way and each is worth checking out.)

Her music brings together Eastern and Western influences in a beautiful and often dramatic way. We bought one of her albums soon after hearing her live, and have been fans ever since.

Considering the theme of this blog, Matsui’s song “Forever Forever” seems appropriate. You can see that video below, or see an entire Matsui concert here.

A Bruno Mars song may be timely because he has been chosen to perform at Super Bowl XLVIII. Maybe I should call this “Love Song LX.”

The always-overhyped Super Bowl (which often we don’t bother to watch, especially now that the commercials can all be found on line) may be a perfect match for the catchy overblown songs that come from Mars, a man once referred to in Rolling Stone as “a drama king.”

More importantly for this site, “Grenade” is here because it makes us laugh every time we hear it, even though that probably wasn’t Mars’ intent with his Grammy-nominated “trophy song.” (Others apparently have much the same feelings that we do about the song, though “Grenade” draws a better response than the even stupider “Gorilla,” which makes me quickly change the station.)

Don’t get me wrong; I actually like the tune. And yeah, I like to think I’d catch a grenade for Joanna (even if I wouldn’t put a sticker of one on my car or choose it as a brand, especially during wartime). And I hope I’d jump in front of a train — or at least a New York City taxi — to save her. But in our case, I know that she would do the same for me.

Lyrics here, with video below:

The second Shania Twain song on this blog, “Love Gets Me Every Time” is here because of a confession made by Joanna after we were married. Apparently after we had begun dating, her son saw her crying (perhaps before I had ever seen her shed tears, let alone been the cause, and maybe before I had met two of her three kids).

The resulting conversation went something like this:

Gary: “Mom, why are you crying?”

Joanna: “Because I’m in love.”

Gary: “So what’s wrong with that?”

Joanna: “I don’t want to be!”

I didn’t want to be in love at the time, either. But 33 years ago, “our hearts changed our minds” and we “gol’ darned gone and done it.”

Lyrics here, with video below: