Europeanizing the 60 Blog

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How is it that we put a man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Forty years ago this month, after graduating college in June, I went to Europe along with two other college friends.  Jody, Robin and I spent a month in Europe, sightseeing in England, France, Italy and Switzerland.

To take you back in time, this was before luggage had wheels.  (FYI:  Rolling luggage started in the late 80s as a back-saving means to get your luggage through the airport.)  Before 9/11.  Before cell phones.  We packed air-mail stamps so we could send postcards back home.

It was the first time I would be away from home for a long period of time.  I remember being so excited to plan this trip with my friends.  We had all the Arthur Frommer travel guides, we knew we wanted to leave coins in the Trevi Fountain (to ensure that we would return someday), and we hoped we could buy some leather in Venice, Italy.  We were 20-year olds with some graduation money in our pockets and we were ready to be international travelers!

All these years later, I find myself wanting to rifle through my old photos to find our memories.  Only bits and pieces are easily remembered.  (Robin and Jody probably remember much more than me!)  Robin was sick for a few days in Italy.  We were exhausted carrying our luggage everywhere.  I do remember attempting to carry my blue and yellow soft-sided suitcase (the 70s!) on my back like a backpack.  The handles were on my back and the suitcase stuck out two feet when I walked.  Not flat like a backpack, but like a suitcase.  I also carried the ubiquitous Samsonite makeup case.

Throughout most of the trip, we stayed in youth hostels.  We would spend our graduation money on frivolous, crazy things…not sleeping accommodations.  We were young and willing to share a bathroom with an entire floor of other students.  We didn’t know any better!  We didn’t care!

We saw all the tourist attractions, museums and churches.  We ate pizza in Italy and fish and chips in England, and we saw Anne Frank’s house in Switzerland.  The most prominent memory, however, is sitting on the floor of a train station in Switzerland and hearing that Elvis Presley had died (forty years ago today).  8/16.  I was not the biggest Elvis fan (although he shared my mother’s birthday) but that news was shocking to us.  He gave his last concert on June 26, 1977, and a short time after returning home from Europe, I heard about my friend Marcy having tickets to see Elvis a few weeks after his death.  Holy cow.

And remember, this was pre-internet.  Pre-instant news.  We didn’t hear about Elvis as it happened.  We probably saw it in the afternoon newspaper at the train station, or someone heard it on the radio.  The news might have been hours old, but at the time, it was almost as important as hearing about JFK being shot.  (I was seven when that happened, and my memories consist mostly of still photos of the television.)

All in all, we had a great time on this month-long adventure.  The whole trip, from start-to-finish, cost us each a thousand dollars.  At the time, I told myself I’d visit Europe again, and I’m still trying to fulfill that promise.



Listening the 60 Blog

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Dire Straits:  That ain’t working; that’s the way ya do it.  Money for nothin’ and my chicks for free.….

Where were you on 8/1/81?  That’s the day that MTV was launched in the U.S. and music on television has never been the same.

MTV, originally an acronym meaning Music Television, launched 36 years ago today.  The channel started airing music videos and were introduced on-air by VJs (video jockeys).  In its early years, MTV’s main target demographic was young adults, but today it is primarily towards teenagers, particularly high school and college students. MTV has toned down its music video programming significantly in recent years, and its programming now consists mainly of original reality programs, comedy and drama programming, and some off-network syndicated programs and films, with limited music video programming in off-peak time periods. It has received criticism towards this change of focus, both by certain segments of its audience and musicians. MTV’s influence on its audience, including issues involving censorship and social activism, has also been a subject of debate for several years.

In recent years, MTV has struggled with ratings, as younger viewers increasingly shift towards digital media, with yearly ratings drops as high as 29%; thus there was doubt of the lasting relevance of MTV towards young audiences.  In April 2016, MTV announced it would start to return to its original music roots with the reintroduction of the classic MTV series MTV Unplugged. It was also reported that the series MTV Cribs would be making a return, and after nine years off the air, TRL (once called Total Recall Live) will be returning in October 2017.

On Saturday, August 1 at 12:00 a.m. Eastern time, MTV launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, playing over the American flag changed to show MTV’s logo changing into various textures and designs. MTV producers used this public domain footage as a concept; they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote, but lawyers said that Armstrong owned his name and likeness and that he had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound. A shortened version of the shuttle launch ID ran at the top of every hour in various forms, from MTV’s first day until it was pulled in early 1986 in the wake of the Challenger disaster.

The first music video shown on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles and programming was originally only available to homes in New Jersey.  This was followed by the video for “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar.  Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR.  Sounds pretty primitive now, doesn’t it?

Did you watch MTV or any of its sister channels back in the day?  VH-1 was more of our speed.  Leslie and I fondly recall a short period in the mid-90s when there was a VH-1 Country channel that would air on Saturday mornings.  Now, of course, we can get our music anywhere at any time.  Was 1981 a better time?  Can you believe all that has happened in 36 years?


Convicting the 60 Blog

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Al Gore called this the “unofficial anthem of the environmental movement” when Loggins performed it on Earth Day in 1995 at The National Mall in Washington, D.C. The song has become one of Kenny Loggins’ signature tunes.

We saw Kenny Loggins in concert last night, accompanied by the Pacific Symphony.  The first 30 minutes was the symphony itself, which was beautiful.  They played some jazz and some pop music (“The Lion Sings Tonight!”) and encouraged the audience to sing along.  Many of the concert-goers seemed to be there just for Kenny, so they didn’t get in the symphonic spirit; I thought it was terrific!

Kenny then came out with some band members, backed up by the symphony.  As Kenny explained, his music takes on a whole new sound and meaning when it’s backed by an orchestra and I was thrilled with the combination.

He started the night with a story about “Danny’s Song” and the new verse he wrote now that he’s a grandfather.  (You could truly hear the audience gasp!  Just yesterday, I asked Alexa how old Kenny was and I was surprised to learn he is 69.  When we followed him around 30 years ago, we were all in our late 20s/early 30s, and he was 40.)  Now Kenny’s son has a son and he wrote a new verse, which is so new that I couldn’t yet find it on Google!

He sang other classics, including his famous movie soundtracks, and “Conviction of the Heart,” a B side song from his 1991 Leap of Faith album.  The song is still extremely relevant:

One with the earth, with the sky
One with everything in life
I believe we’ll survive
If we only try…

How long must we wait to change
This world bound in chains that we live in
To know what it is to forgive,
And be forgiven?

It’s been too many years of taking now.
Isn’t it time to stop somehow?
Air that’s too angry to breathe, water our children can’t drink
You’ve heard it hundreds of times

You say you’re aware, believe, and you care, but…
Do you care enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart?

He ended the night with “Forever” and we were afraid he wasn’t going to hit the last high note.  He modified the key a bit from the early days (30 years ago) and he still sounded terrific!  Kenny Loggins, still going strong at the young age of 69.


Loving the 60 Blog

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John Lennon:  All you need is love, love is all you need.

Sunday, June 25 marked 50 years that All You Need Is Love was released as a non-album single in July 1967. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon-McCartney. The Beatles performed the song over a pre-recorded backing track as Britain’s contribution to Our World, the first live global television link.  Watched by over 400 million in 25 countries, the program was broadcast via satellite on June 25, and CBS Sunday Morning ran a colorized version of it this past weekend.  The song captured the sentiments of the Summer of Love era and topped singles charts in Britain, the United States and many other countries.

“All You Need Is Love” was later included on the U.S. version of the Magical Mystery Tour album.  It also appeared in a sequence in the Beatles’ 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine and the accompanying soundtrack.

For the Our World program, the Beatles were asked to provide a song with a message that could be easily understood by everyone.  The band undertook the assignment at a time when they were committed to two film projects and a television special.  In a statement to Melody Maker magazine, the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, said:  “It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message. The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything.” 

In the book The Beatles Anthology, Paul McCartney and George Harrison said they were unsure whether All You Need Is Love was written for Our World, while Ringo Starr and George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, assert that it was.  McCartney said: “It was certainly tailored to [the broadcast] once we had it.  But I’ve got a feeling it was just one of John’s songs that was coming anyway.”

To me, Beatles’ songs are classics.  Standards.  In another fifty years, those songs will be still be played on the Muzak system in elevators and grocery stores (provided we still have grocery stores in 2067) and I’m sure, if we’re still around, we’ll still hum along and remember all the lyrics.

What will today’s millennials and xennials (extra points if you know who “they” are) listen to in fifty years in their elevators?  Chandelier?  Bitch Better Have My Money?

That’s a discussion for another day.  Xennials, according to an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Melbourne, states there is a new micro generation born between 1977 and 1983.  They are a “mix between pessimists and optimists.”  Do you know anyone who fits that description?

Singing the 60 Blog

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Kenny Loggins:  And even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey. And everything will bring a chain of love.  And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes, And tell me everything is gonna be alright.

I took today off.  Lunch with some friends.  Dentist.  Shopping and preparation for hosting bunco tonight.  A four-day week this week.  Three days next week..  Four days the following week.  I’m attending a concert on a weeknight and I’m not 25 any more.  I scheduled the day off so I could relax during the day.  Take my time getting to the venue.  Park close.  Take my time getting to my seat.

Back in my 20s and 30s, a small group of us would attend concerts all the time.  Once or twice a month during the spring and summer months.  And this was before you could buy your tickets online, so we’d camp out in front of Tower Records waiting to spend our cash on tickets from the clerk, who probably didn’t know some of the artists appearing that season.

Now, Kenny Loggins is appearing at one of the concerts during the two weeks of the Orange County Fair.  We’ve probably seen him in concert two dozen times, including a trip to Laughlin and other points south and north.  In his Footloose heyday, Kenny was touring everywhere and we’d follow him everywhere we could.  He would recognize us if we sat close to the front rows, we’d sing “back up” during Danny’s Song.  We had our own way of letting Kenny know that we were in the audience when he sang this:

Love the girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up,
Love her and she’ll bring you luck.
And if you find she helps your mind, buddy, take her home,
Don’t you live alone, try to earn what lovers own.

Oh, it’s a secret, and I can’t tell you how we did it, but one time, Kenny stopped dead in the middle of the song.  He knew we were there and it was a moment we will never forget.  Maybe he’ll remember us again on the 12th.  We’ll see how brave we are 25 years later.  How many of you can say you interrupted a concert?