Stuck in My Head

Did you ever have a song stuck in your head? It happens to me frequently, though rarely for very long. Today, for example, I had two songs fighting for headspace: The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”, and “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” as sung by Peggy Lee with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I can’t imagine two more different pieces of music, but the brain is a complex engine. I kept bouncing back and forth between the two, consciously thinking of the other as I got to the end of the first. Steely Dan became one of my favorites while in high school — the time when that band was as it’s peak.

I was never a big fan of The Who, but a couple of their songs stick with me. My brothers listened to The Who a lot when I was little; the Tommy album(s) got a LOT of play around our house: so did Neil Young, the Beatles, pre-Cetera Chicago, and the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack. I owe a lot of my appreciation for music to my family: my dad was a fan of the Big Band sound, and he was particularly fond of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I developed a taste for classical music after hearing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade Suite. My brothers even enjoyed early Heavy Metal bands like Steppenwolf and Black Sabbath, a fondness I’ve expanded to include Judas Priest, Metallica, and others.

My wife got me hooked on Middle Eastern music — mostly classics, but also some pop — thanks to her bellydance hobby. She also routinely links me to current pop songs she thinks I might like: she’s almost always right. That rekindled my interested in “World” music — a made-up category for music that doesn’t fit neatly into western musical groupings. It includes everything from Buddhist/Catholic monk’s devotional chants to Balinese Gamelan, Chilean pan pipes and Australian aboriginal didgeridoos, and everything in between. There’s a lot there to like.

I’m generally not a big fan of live music: the music itself is usually too loud for me to appreciate, the crowds are annoying and distract me by attempting to talk over the music on their cell phones during the concert, and frankly, concerts are just too damned expensive. I prefer the cleaner sound of studio music, and HATE it when artists see the need to include live tracks on albums. I was also reminded of a version of Baba O’Reilly performed by Tracy Bonham and Blue Man Group at a concert a few years back. It was a fantastic show, and I’m delighted we bought the CD at the show so I can re-experience that song and several others.

Music is such an amazing art form! It’s one of my major regrets in life that I haven’t yet learned to play a musical instrument. In junior high school, the band instructor insisted that one needed specifically shaped lips to be play a brass instrument successfully. It came up because my folks were given a used trumpet, ostensibly so I could learn to play it. I wasn’t really interested in that, so it was mostly a relief to discover that this twit was trying to steer people away from it. On the other hand, I was kind of interested in playing drums: when it became clear that to participate in band at all, my folks would need to cough up lots of cash — first for practice pads to learn, then a drum set, then uniforms and all the other stuff that goes with being in a high school band — I bowed out. We didn’t have much money, and taxing our limited resources on what I then considered to be frivolous expenses wasn’t a good idea to my way of thinking. So I ended up NOT participating in band (which I don’t regret) but also not learning to play anything. I’m even completely lame at air guitar.

But I still enjoy all kinds of music, and am grateful for the many influences in my life that exposed me to new and different kinds. Maybe someday I’ll buy a used instrument and noodle around with it, but for now, playing albums is a pleasant substitute.

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