Friday, December 08, 2017

2017 - December 8 - A World Without Heroes (Fallen Heroes edition)

So as I return following the Heroes week, it's time to consider some fallen heroes...

December 8, 1980, was the day I experienced the first loss of a hero of mine. Mark David Chapman was waiting for John Lennon outside the Dakota building in New York and shot him. Back then, he was more a hero because he had been a member of The Beatles - but I still remember it well. As I grew older, I was drawn to his idealism. Often written off as naïve, but everything I read and see about him makes me believe he was genuine. Of course, he was a complex individual with flaws that often were masked - or maybe simply overlooked - by those of us who were unadulterated fans; for instance, it is easy to give him credit for retreating from music to be a father to Sean Ono Lennon, while at the same time forgetting that he had a very complex (to put it mildly) relationship to his first wife, Cynthia, and his son from that marriage, Julian.

And today, this sentiment of flawed heroes is getting incredibly relevant again. It was easy for me to condemn Donald Trump and Roy Moore based on allegations of sexual misconduct, but it was very difficult for me to do the same for Al Franken, who is someone I have followed for a long time after finding him on SNL reruns. As a matter of fact, on the day my oldest daughter, Emma, was born, I was reading Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Fat, Idiot by Al Franken. So when Franken was elected senator from Minnesota in 2008, the same year Barack Obama was elected president, I was excited - but not as excited as I have been following his career in the Senate. I have found him to be a most excellent voice for more progressive values, values that I share with him. Except that he now has a tail of women accusing him of inappropriate behavior. And I cannot overlook it.

Of course, I could hide behind the fact that all he is accused of while in the Senate are simply allegations, the number of women telling similar stories is too big to ignore - it does point to a trend. I do believe in the tenet of "trust, but verify" - and to me, the volume of complaints along with an acknowledgment on his behalf of what he did prior to becoming a senator, serves as a verification of a core of veracity in their allegations. And finally, I cannot separate between what he did prior to becoming a senator and after becoming a senator, simply because I don't apply that standard to others (the aforementioned Trump and Moore). And I try to avoid double standards as much as I can.

So I was relieved to hear that Al Franken is resigning from the Senate. I will miss the Al Franken I had grown incredibly fond of as a Senator and political voice. The one who in public stood up for us all. But I am glad that he is resigning. Integrity is to me the most important asset of an elected representative, and Al Franken has lost the sheen of integrity with me. I could say the same about another political hero of mine, John Conyers, who also is stepping down for similar reasons. And so I understand how difficult it is to give up on someone you otherwise believe in because of what can be considered a moral flaw. But I am doing it.

I do agree with Al Franken, though, that it is ironic that he is stepping down while an admitted sexual predator is occupying the White House and an alleged pedophile is supported by his party to ascend to the Senate. It does seem like sexual misconduct is a prerequisite for office representing the Republican Party these days - and it really sickens me. To me it is pretty simple: If you cannot respect the people you work with or women in general (never mind laws like age of consent - or even the simple principle of consent), how can we expect you to respect the people you represent?

And then we have Kiss. Talk about fallen heroes. From 1980 to about 1984, the only band I listened to was Kiss. And the first LP I ever got that I picked out myself (I wish I could say that I bought it myself as well, but I asked my parents to buy it for me), was (Music From) The Elder by Kiss. I found it in a discount bin at KBS, a grocery/department store with a formidable deli right across the street from my elementary school. I worshipped Kiss. My walls were covered by pictures and posters, all of Kiss, and I had build a stage with a drum set and drum riser in Lego for Playmobil figures serving as the members of Kiss. But it was always about the music for me. My first real big concert was seeing Kiss in Skedsmohallen in 1988 on the Crazy Nights tour. I loved it. They put on a great show and played really well.

And I thought they were in it for the money as well. But then MTV Unplugged happened. The Unplugged show was great, showing six former and current members playing together, but Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started to see dollar signs reappearing after commercial decline. A reunion tour with full makeup and Ace Frehley and Peter Criss back in the fold  was planned, while Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick, who had kept Kiss alive were discarded. My illusions started shattering, then they were completely shattered by the autobiographies of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Their narcissism shows no end, and their stories shows how much Kiss always was a business venture more than anything for them. Now, don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong in seeing business in your music, but I believe in music as art first and commodity second - and not just a commodity. And if you want to tie sexual misconduct and misogyny to Kiss, seek out a written transcript of Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR (she is by far the best interviewer on the planet) interviewing Gene Simmons. Talk about your fallen heroes. Yet we do need them - and so, bridging my first Kiss album with MTV Unplugged, which is where it started going south for me, here is A World Without Heroes, originally found on (Music From) The Elder, as it was performed on MTV Unplugged.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2017 - November 29 - Heroes (500th Post Edition)

It started as an idea. Really a pretty bare experiment. September 28, 2005, I decided to start a blog and came up with this little place to call my own. And then silence. Until May 22, 2006. And then silence again. I had 7 posts in 2008, 1 in 2009, and whopping 10 in 2010. And for almost six years, the blog was dormant until I decided to post at least once a day in 2016. And I did it = and I was pretty exhausted at the end, and didn't do what I needed to this year - until July. And since then, it's been pretty steady. Sure, it's been a hole here or there, but it's really been steady.

So, Tore, what have you learned about yourself since you started? Great question. I have learned a few things. First and foremost, I have learned that if I set my mind to something, I can actually follow through on it, and 2016 was a great example of that. I have always been much better at starting projects than finishing them, so that is no small feat. I have also started finding my voice in writing again. I used to have a voice in more creative writing way back in high school, but that was a long time ago - and in Norwegian. Finding it again in English has been an interesting process, and it was ultimately very rewarding about one year ago, when I laid the finishing touches on my first novel (/memoir - it was a hybrid of sorts).

Writing a full novel was an interesting process, as I thought I was writing a completely different book than I ended up with. I was thinking more mystery than memoir, but the book really did take on a life of its own and took me in directions I never anticipated. This year I did not have the drive to go after another novel during National Novel Writing Month - there wasn't an idea that was as burning as last years' - but there may be more things on the horizon for me.

So when I started a blog 12 years ago, I had no idea what eventually would come of it. And today I am publishing my 500th post. I don't have a massive readership, but I average about 40 per day, and that is good enough for me to keep me going. You who bear with me through all my meanderings and remembrances are the true heroes of this blog. And I saved the original for you. David Bowie from Berlin 40 years ago resonates as well with me today as it ever did. And there may be more heroes still to come, as there are more versions out there. But nothing - NOTHING - surpasses what the master himself produced.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2017 - November 28 - Heroes

Today we are heading to Peter Gabriel and his take on Heroes.  We have visited his album Scratch My Back before, and I am happy to return to it - although this apparently also was found on Stranger Things, a Netflix show I still have to watch (yes, I know, I am behind...). Peter Gabriel did take it in a very different direction - his orchestral arrangement makes it much more eerie than any of the other versions, and I believe that this is my absolute favorite cover version of this masterpiece.

Monday, November 27, 2017

2017 - November 27 - Heroes

Yes, it is Heroes Week here at Exiled Expressions, and today's version finds Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister rumbling through both with his regularly distorted bass guitar and a voice that sounds like it is run through a concrete mixer filled with rocks and gravel. It isn't pretty - but then again Motorhead never was... However, it is still an effective version in my book. Once again we are talking about a version where they simply took the song and played it straight through the Motorhead machine - and the result is as expected.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 - November 26 - Heroes

I almost think I could spend a week with just playing cover versions of David Bowie’s signature song Heroes - and maybe I will do just that. But today I just start with one of them - a version I just stumbled across right now.

I still remember how I really heard Depeche Mode for the first time... Believe it or not, but I was at farmor’s (my grandmother) place - she had cable, and I would sometimes turn on the music channel - not sure if it was MTV or Sky Channel. And I saw one song from the 101 concert movie. It was Everything Counts. And I don’t know if it was because I realized they really were a band and not a producer constellation or the fact that Everything Counts is a great song, but I really liked it. And then they released songs that were so much closer to my sonic sphere with Personal Jesus from Violator and I Feel You from Songs of Faith and Devotion, and I relented. I have great respect for the work they have done and for their sonic landscape.

It is to this sonic landscape they took Heroes. We are not talking earth shattering or mind bending, but it is rock solid. Dave Gahan’s voice really fits the song, Martin Gore’s treatment of the guitar riff makes it interesting - and it’s all played up against Andy Fletcher’s synthesized backdrop. I like this version a lot!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

2017 - November 23 - Lost In The Supermarket

This is what Thanksgiving is all about: Shopping! The Clash got it right back in 1979 on their masterpiece London Calling. I feel Lost in the Supermarket. Luckily all I need to do is close my eyes and listen to a song playing in my head, grounding me as I seek out the different instruments and layers... But The Clash really knew what the holiday season is all about...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 - November 21 - Castle On The Hill (1917 Edition)

One hundred years. That’s how long it is since the world met a fantastic woman: Eldbjørg Gabrielsdatter Sletvold. She met and married the love of her life, and they had six children - the second youngest turned out to be my mother (five girls and one boy in the span of 9 years). I was not fortunate enough to spend much time with my grandfather, but his spirit lived on through bestemor.  And today she would have turned 100. I learned a lot from her, but it was never taught, it was simply lived. And I miss her. I miss her a lot.

Most of my memories from childhood and well into my teenage years revolve around family, so a song about those kinds of memories suits today well. Bestemor’s house was indeed a castle on the hill. It might not have looked like a castle, but it was to me - and I know it was to her. She once won a vacation for refusing to sell the house for far more than it was worth. It turned out the world calling her were doing a radio show or something like that - my memory is a little shaky - but the bottom line was that she really didn’t want to move. It was her home through good times and bad, and the memories contained between those four walls were worth more than any amount of money.

So I’ll let Ed Sheehan sing about the country lanes winding by and all those great memories of growing up. His memories are different than mine, but we have a Castle On The Hill in common.

Monday, November 20, 2017

2017 - November 20 - Ride On (for Malcolm Young)

I wouldn't call it unexpected. AC/DC's vastly underappreciated rhythm guitarist Malcom Young passed away Saturday after a long time's illness that already had him retiring from the band in 2014. My road to discovering him parallels what so many have talked about in his memorials and testimonials. It first was Bon Scott and Angus Young (even though I really only discovered them after  Brian Johnson had taken over the mic), the singer and the crazy schoolboy guitarist, who drew me in. Then, years later, I realized the minimalist genious of the rhythm section - a rhythm section that really  included the rhythm guitarist and riff factory Malcolm Young.

It was interesting watching him on stage. His stance is wider than Larry Craig's in the Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, always in the background, and never flashy. He always seemed content - but may even have been excited - to lay the foundation for brother Angus' antics and flashiness. Not to mention the two larger than life singers he backed up.

While I may have discovered the joy and excitement of being part of the musical backdrop because I never developed the skills to be a good lead guitarist and dropped to bass as a result, I am still greatly appreciative of all the unsung heroes in bands. John Paul Jones in Led Zeppelin, Bill Ward in Black Sabbath. And Malcolm Young in AC/DC. Ride On, Malcolm...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017 - November 19 - Creep

Ahhh... Radiohead. Creep. This song was my anthem in 1993 (although it was first released in 1992, 25 years ago). I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. The lyrics spoke to me, and the ugly guitar coming in just before the chorus simply underlined it further. I don't feel the need to say much more. This is masterfully done.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

2017 - November 18 - Loser

I have a trio of self-deprecating songs in mind. I started yesterday with Amazing, which is really is an amazing song about feeling inadequate. Today, the follow-up is a lot more free-flow. It is Beck, with a song from 1993 - his first hit. This is the song that had just about everybody singing in Portuguese: Soy un perdedor then continuing in English: I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me.

While the chorus is not a happy one, the beat and melody is very uplifting. I loved this song when it was released, but of the three self-deprecating songs, it is probably the weakest one. But here is Beck, with his 1993 single that ended up on 1994's Mellow Gold: Loser