Saturday, December 19, 2015

Everybody Wins! (repost)

(Because I am lame, I'm re-posting some posts of Christmas past. Enjoy! Again.)

If you are my friend on Facebook (and if you’re not, send me a friend request!) you know that I have been posting a YouTube video of a Christmas song every day since December 1. I love traditional Christmas carols and sappy seasonal songs like Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, and There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays, though I admit that this is the only time of year that I would listen to this kind of music. But even more, I like when MY kind of music takes a Yuletide turn.

I have no problem at all finding songs to post - lots of my fave artists have gone Yule: XTC, U2, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn, The Pogues, The Pretenders... There’s one record, though, that I tend to keep in my car throughout the season, and I’ve had to practice quite a bit of what Oswald Chambers calls, “sheer determination of the will” to keep myself from posting every single song off it: A Very Special Christmas 3. As its number indicates, it’s the third in a series of compilations of festive tunes recorded by current pop stars and sold to benefit Special Olympics. This edition is loaded with great tunes by 90s standouts, and nearly every song is AWESOME. 

It’s got Sting, who Saw Three Ships, Steve Winwood, who sings a gorgeous, albeit slightly judgmental Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand, Blues Traveler having an existential crisis, Rev Run & the Christmas All Stars featuring Mase, Puff Daddy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt N’ Pepa, Onyx & Keith Murray giving us a taste of Christmas in the ghetto, and Natalie Merchant or 10,000 Maniacs, doing Children Go Where I Send Thee (which I can’t listen to without thinking about how a friend of mine was at a party once where Natalie Merchant took off her top and danced around.) Also, Patti Smith sings an eerie, exotic version of We Three Kings. My son says she sounds like me – I’m not sure whether to be flattered or insulted! And the guy from Soundgarden does a stunning rendition of Ave Maria – not quite grungy, not quite sweet, but a little of both.

No Doubt
But this year, the song that has been on endless “repeat” in my car for Bill – and for me, is No Doubt’s cover of the Vandals’ Oi to the World. This song has EVERYTHING. A searing bass intro, a groovy ska beat, great trumpet riffs on traditinal Christmas songs, a great story, and a happy ending. It goes pretty fast, but if you can concentrate on the lyrics, it’s about a “punk” named Haji, and a “skin” named Trevor. See, Haji starts an “Oi!” band. 

Here’a a little background (according to Wikkipedia): “Oi! is a working class subgenre of punk rock that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The music and its associated subculture had the goal of bringing together punks, skinheads and other working-class youths (sometimes called herberts).” Britain’s recent history is full of periods of unrest between gangs of its disenfranchised young people. Ever seen Quadrophenia? It’s the Who’s awesome film (featuring Sting!) about riots in the 60s between Mods and Rockers. There were riots in the early 80s and again this past summer. The sharks and jets change, but it’s something that is always just simmering under the surface. Oi! was a shortlived movement that urged young people to "just get along."

So in the song, Haji’s band is playing in a pub on Christmas Eve, which makes Trevor and his friends super mad. You see, they like the music, but not the implication that everyone should get along... A rooftop rumble ensues in which both gangs beat each other to a pulp with nunchucks and “a sword like the guy in Indiana Jones.” Most of the guys flee, leaving our principals suffering on the roof in their injuries. Here’s the best part... While laid out flat on his back, Haji spies a star – ostensibly the Christmas Star, gets up and wraps Trevor’s wounded head with his own turban. Happy Christmas ending: they climb down and buy each other a drink.

See? Perfect. And VERY Christmassy... with the Christmas Star as the herald of a new world order, where racial conflict is disintegrated, and harmony is achieved. The first Christmas star attracted dudes from “the east,” most likely not Jews. See, up until then, the Jews were all about keeping “clean” from Gentiles. But Christ came to bring PEACE ON EARTH and GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN. Not just Jews... His salvation is available to ALL men (or humans, to be politically correct). So, in the words of the Vandals (or Gwen Stefani): If God came down on Christmas Day / I know exactly what He’d say / He’d say “Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins / and Oi to the world and everybody wins!”

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Yeah, I'm going ape-ity ape...!

People shagging* to beach 
music in 60s Myrtle Beach
Remember my last post? It referred to the veritable smorgasbord of tunage featured on Triangle radio stations and to that classic of tower of funkitude Brick House… Well, it appears that I'm not quite done with that topic... You see, the other night as I was following my husband to the European Motors place to drop off his 27-year-old Volvo, I discovered in my channel-flipping that one of the stations (preset 6) offers WHOLE show of Beach Music. 

If you're not from around here, you may have no handle to hang that moniker on, so I'll tell you right off the bat "beach music" has nothing to do with the Beach Boys or Dick Dale. Wikipedia defines beach music this way: 
Beach music, also known as Carolina beach music, and to a lesser extent, Beach pop, is a regional genre which developed from various rock/R&B/pop music of the 1950s and 1960s. Beach music is most closely associated with the style of swing dance known as the shag, or the Carolina shag, which is also the official state dance of both North Carolina and South Carolina. Recordings with a 4/4 "blues shuffle" rhythmic structure and moderate-to-fast tempo are the most popular music for the shag, and the vast majority of the music in this genre fits that description.
Mods called it Northern Soul –
and who is cooler than them?
And if you ARE familiar with it and are starting to question my hipness quotient... The Mods in England called such music "Northern Soul"** and who is cooler than them? The music snob in me will also say that I prefer the original R&B songs to the pale copycat stuff that came later.

And like the station's 24-7 approach to music mixing, Big John’s Beach Party played a variety - the good, the bad and the silly. Anyway, all of this is to say: it was on my way home that night that I heard one of my shagalicious favorites, The Showmen's 39-21-46.*** (Listen here.) And I sang that bad boy at top of my lungs.... Bobbing in the car seat, shagging with the steering wheel... I felt positively giddy with the Spirit... And then I realized it:

39-21-46 and Brick House are the THE SAME SONG!!! You can read the lyrics to Brick House on my previous post, and the lyrics to 39-21-46 here:

You are so beautiful
You're such a sight to see
You're the girl for me
You you you you you you you you

You set my soul afire
filling my heart with one desire
Wanting to be with you

You could make a blind man see
You could make a crippled man walk
You could make the quietest man in the world talk
Uh huh huh nobody else will do

Every little boy in town
Wants to get his arms around
You you you you you you you you you you you you

For no one else will do
But you with your 39 21 40 shape
Yes you got me going ape-ity ape over you
You you you you you you you you
Ah ah ah ah you

You could make a blind man see
You could make a crippled man walk
You could make the quietest man in the world talk
Yes nobody else will do

Every little boy in town
Wants to get his arms around
You you you you you you you you you you you you
For no one else will do but
You, with your 39 21 40 shape,
Yes you got me going ape-ity ape over you
You you you you you you you you
Yeah yeah yeah Oh oh oh oh

The Showmen
As a lo divinos (or secular songs sung with a sacred intent), they describe a singular God of perfect proportions... The Object of worship and complete delight... See what I mean?! The same song. Remember in that movie about Ray Charles where he plays his unique style of gospel-turned-R&B for his girlfriend and she's kind of appalled because it seems sacrilegious... Well, I'm flipping that over like a half-done steak!

Because these two songs also remind me that people tend to “worship” things that are only half-baked (or half-grilled, if we're gonna do right by the metaphor): a perfect partner, a well-endowed bank account, a fancy job title, a stellar reputation, a matchless experience, an inspiring artist or work of art, our own agenda... Not that those things are bad, but really – it’s just stuff, you know? 

He could – and did! – make 
a blind man see.
I think it's their hyperbole that makes these songs so easy to convert to praise songs – they reflect the kind of devotion that belongs only to God – you know, the One who actually CAN make the blind see, the crippled walk, and the quiet talk. I myself used to be quiet, doncha know...!

Anyway... in John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman when she's drawing him some water, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

And that’s the water I want. No One else will do!

*I don't recommend doing a Google image search of "people shagging." Just... don't.

**At Crazy Zack's on Hillsborough Street in the early 80s, I once met a British guy who had come to NC to buy beach music records to take back to sell in England as Northern Soul. 

***There seems to be some dispute over whether this song is called 39-21-46 or 39-21-40 Shape...? It says the former on images of the 45, but the song lyrics say the latter.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shake it down, shake it down now!

The Commodores
In my last post, I revealed two things: 1. I station-surf in the car and 2. Nearly anything can be a lo divino-ed. (a lo divino: a Spanish phrase meaning “to the divine” or “in a sacred manner” – frequently used to describe a secular work, rewritten with a religious overtone, or a secular topic recast in religious terms using metaphors and symbolism.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hey, Everybody - Biscuits!

You may or may not have noticed that my logorrhea has been somewhat constipated lately... Whether that is for good or ill is a matter of opinion, but in MY opinion, it's, well... ill. I mean, the cause is good, but the effect is ill. 

Mmmm... drop biscuits...
And the cause? I've started a "real job!"* That's right, a 9 to 5. Okay, it's a 9-2:30, four days a week, but still... so I've been learning the processes, and also trying to keep up with my one other freelance client, AND dealing with the start of another school year - Bill's in middle school! Ack!** 

Anyway, the effect has been, as I was saying, that I have no time to write... And the effect of THAT is that I am bursting with crap to say. And the effect of THAT is that I'm not going to go into any one thought in a huge amount of detail. Instead, I'm just going to drop'em out a blob at a time like drop-biscuit dough... And you can just leave'em on the pan, or stick it in the oven, bake'em and eat'em with butter. So... Here goes...

Kristen Wiig in Welcome to Me
Movies I saw: Welcome to Me with Kristen Wiig. If you have Netflix, you can stream this - it's kind of a painful but entertaining story about a mentally ill woman who wins the lottery and pays a production company to produce and air a show called Welcome to Me in which she comes in on a swan boat then talks about herself and her interests, airs old grievances, stages dramatic reenactments of occasions when people wronged her, and does a whole lot of other cringe-inducing stuff. Of course I watched it like I was watching a train wreck - it's easy to watch stuff like that because it makes us feel so sane! But at the same time I realized that I too want people to pay attention to me. To know who I am. To be on my side. Don't most people? Isn't this blog kinda like a "welcome to me" show? Well, it is, but it isn't. I mean, my intention in talking about myself is to show the reader how an ordinary person wrestles with God and His Word and His will in everyday life. So, ideally, it's a "welcome to God" show.

Movies I saw: The film Danny Collins presents Al Pacino as an aging rock star receives a 30-year-old, previously undelivered letter written to him by John Lennon. In it, Lennon tells the struggling young musician that he is there to help him deal with impending fame, gives him his phone number, and ends with "What do you think about that, Danny Collins?" Danny then sets his course to reform his dissipated, artistically bereft lifestyle. And I thought - God has written just such a letter, given us His phone number, calls us by name and begs constantly for our response... And this should be life-changing. Is it? Only if we let it be. And honestly, I don't always. Also, in the movie, Danny reaches out to a son he had never met and starts working on his own music as opposed to the pop drivel he has become famous for. These are both good things, but in the end he must choose one over the other, and while people like me place a high value on artistic integrity, I think it's maybe family and people who get God's vote. That's my guess anyway.

Will Forte as The Last Man on Earth
TV series I saw: On The Last Man on Earth show, Will Forte plays one of a tiny settlement of folks in Tuscon after a horrible plague wipes out everyone else... It's like watching mankind struggle with the beginning of things, as if in a tiny garden of Eden. And Will Forte is there showing you all the fallen traits of mankind...  Always pushing for his own interests – the prettiest woman, the best stuff... Yea, he's pretty despicable. But he is also me. He's just acting on all stuff I'm thinking all the time. Who will free us from this body of sin?*** And speaking of which...

Sermons I heard: The best thing I heard in a sermon all summer was this concept: in the Old Testament, there were a lot of laws about what was clean and unclean. New clay pots? Clean. Carcasses of unclean animals? Unclean. And if the carcass touches the pot? Both unclean. But with the coming of Jesus, the cleanness of Christ cleanses everything it touches! So... Yay! 

BTO, baby - yeah!
Songs I a lo divino-ed: Despite the barren wasteland that is commercial radio these days, I still flip around on it while I'm driving because I love the random surprise of hearing a great song when I least expect it. So one day on my way to work I was feeling kind of like I'd never get the hang of all my new duties... and I heard the classic rock masterpiece by Msrs. Bachman and Turner, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet. And call me crazy, but I kinda felt like God was saying that to me... That the best is yet to come, you know. So just now I looked up the lyrics and had to laugh - I wonder if anyone has ever a lo divino-ed a song with the word devil in it. Now that I read it, it seems to be about a guy who went off with someone who wasn't good for him because he was taking what he could get, love-wise. And we do this, don't we? But really, we ain't seen nothin' yet, have we? We live on earth and we take what we can get – or enjoy what we have, but ... there's so much more... in terms of what God's working on for us both down the road in the great hereafter, can I get an amen?

Mavis Staples'll take you there.
Shows I saw: I just saw Mavis Staples, like an hour ago, and what a beautiful woman. She was part of the civil rights movement, we told Bill... And I was reminded again about how my problems are primarily what they call First World problems. Have I been refused service or accused of a crime just because of the color of my skin? Am I a refugee fleeing a despotic regime? Am I in danger of being sold as a sex slave? Absolutely not. Although I have been indirectly dissed because I am a woman, and a small, kind of girlish woman at that. Which is absolutely NOT the same thing. But even though what I consider my problems may be like a feather bed to some, every one of us longs for that place Mavis sings about in I'll Take You There - where ain't nobody cryin'... Which is another reference to that thing that's coming that's we ain't seen yet. 

Tailfeathers I shook: At the Mavis Staples show, my son Bill kept trying to clamp my arms down to keep me from dancing, but I. Just. Can't. Not. Dance. As evidenced by this video my husband posted of me dancing on stage at a recent Southern Culture on the Skids show. Yes, I'm 53 years old, and I HAVE to shake my ass. I have to. It's nothing personal against the teenager I'm embarrassing - it just has to happen. 

And that's all the drop biscuits I have for now - an even half-dozen. Bake'em. Eat'em. Wash'em down with a big glass of buttermilk. 

I work at Wallace Wade's house now!
*I'm working at Duke University as the Creative Director of their student newspaper - so far, I love working with the students, and the grown ups that work there are also, really kind and helpful. Plus, (for now) it's in a cool old house - Famous Duke coach Wallace Wade used to live in it!

**Last night I dreamed that I lost Bill. I couldn't find him anywhere! It was a real nightmare... I thought at first that it was because I was worrying that With all this new stuff going on, I'm worried I'm being somehow negligent. But I thought later that I'm worried about losing him to adolescence. Wahhhh......!

***Romans 7:24

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

RIP Elisabeth Elliot, Rock and Roll Christian

Dave Grohl rhymes with rock and roll!
I’m not much for short posts, which may or may not be why my readership is low... and I completely understand. I mean, who has the time to tread all those meandering thought paths, click on all those song links, admire all those handsome men I post pics of…? Not many people, apparently. (If you’re reading this, then you do, and I love you for it!) But time is running out on the timeliness of this one, so I’m going to make this a short, sharp shot.*

First of all, if you were anywhere near the internet last month, then you saw this awesome story about how Dave Grohl broke his leg during a show in Sweden, went to the hospital to have it set, then came back to finish the show, seated in a wheelchair with his guitar in his lap and his bum leg in a cast. 

Johnny (still) Rotten
Anyhow, when I heard about this awesome feat, I thought, “How very rock and roll!” ‘Cos it is, isn’t it?  It’s like Keith Richards and David Bowie turning down the Queen’s offer of knighthood… Like John Lennon returning his knighthood medal “in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.” It’s like refusing to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as Axl Rose, Ozzy Osborne and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols did. “Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” Rotten posted to the group’s website.

THAT is rock and roll. (As an aside, I saw Rotten on The Late Late Show in 2007 and after the band was ripping through Pretty Vacant, he patted his middle-aged gut and yelled out “FAT! FAT! FAT! is this year’s slim!” While Sex Pistols-esque antics may not be as “cute” coming from a 51-year-old man, I thought this particular monkeyshine to be exquisitely “rock and roll.”)

Give it the
Full Monty, luv!
Anyway, after learning about Dave Grohl’s little shavie over in Sweden, I started to think about what it would look like to be a “rock and roll” Christian. And I don’t mean a Christian who enjoys a good headbang to the sound of a blazing guitar riff or blistering drum solo… I actually am not sure how to SAY what I mean… maybe a Christian who goes whole hog – living outside of any kind of societal expectation. My friend Grace and I used to call it giving the Christian life “the full monty.”

And so, I’m thinking about this for a couple of days and the news comes over the wire that Elisabeth Elliot has gone to meet her Maker. In case you don’t know who this was, then … well, she was a Christian writer, speaker, missionary, etc. who had been doing her thing for many years. I used to hear her on the radio in my saturation** days, and honestly, she always sounded like she had a stick up her you-know-what. She seemed like one of those “just do it” kind of Christians who never struggled with temptation or anything. 

It's not a great movie, but
you'll get the gist of it.
That said, she tirelessly taught the gospel for years and years, and each of her “Gateway to Joy” broadcast included these words: “You are loved with an everlasting love – that’s what the Bible says – and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Now I don’t care who you are, that’s comforting. 

Anyway, she may not have sounded or looked all that “rock and roll,” but she was the real deal... It’s all recorded in a film called “End the Spear.” What happened was this: She was married to a missionary named Jim Elliot who, in the 1950s, made contact with an unreached tribal group in eastern Ecuador – called the Huaorani (or sometimes the Waorani or the Waodani.) Contact was initially friendly, but for some reason he and the missionaries he was with ended up getting speared to death… and Elisabeth Elliot never saw her husband alive in his body again.

Elisabeth Elliot
And this is when it got real for our Betty… and as the click-baiters say, “You won’t believe what happened next!” And that is, she went down to the Huaorani village and mowed the whole lot of them down with a machine gun … OH WAIT! That’s not what happened! No... she... forgave them in her heart and mentioned them in her prayers every night. No... that's not it either! For real, here's what she did – she (along with her daughter and the wife of one of the other speared guys) went down to the village and forgave those people – both in her heart and in everything she did – learning their language, sharing God's love with them and living with them FOR YEARS!!!

Now I ask you… how rock and roll is THAT?! 

*Believe it or not, this is kind of a short post for me...!

**when, as a new Christian, I immersed myself in all manner of Christian media.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's the least we can do.

I hardly ever address politics or current events – the last time was maybe in 2011? But I want to talk* about the whole Charleston/Confederate flag thing, and since no one's here to stop me, here goes... 

I definitely think taking the Confederate flag down at the South Carolina state house and any other public property it adorns is a good and necessary action. I mean, it’s the least we can do. But… really, it is exactly that… the very LEAST thing we can do. I mean… it’s like putting a Ninja Turtles bandaid on a long, deep, infected abdominal wound with oozing innards spilling out of it. Or maybe it's like putting merthiolate on a debilitating psychosis. 

That is to say, the evil of racism is very old and soul deep. It’s one of the world systems that the “prince of this world” wields like a deadly weapon… waves like a flag, if you will. That said, we can certainly perform this simple, tiny symbolic gesture… just to show that we’re at least willing to say that racism is a still a brobdingnagian**, festering problem, and we’re willing to begin addressing it.

Because it has to just be a beginning. Because how much is taking down a flag actually going to do...? Although… maybe a good portion of the population will no longer feel mocked every time they pass by the government building of their own state.

Of course, I say it’s the beginning, so there ought to be more steps, right? I just don’t know what they are. Prayers. Lots of prayers. Jesus was the most un-racist cat who ever lived, so we really should be embodying that part of His gospel… 

How? Again, I haven’t really worked that out yet – I’m more of a why and what person than a how person. I bet there are plenty of people who could come up with much better ideas than I ever could. So let’s start thinking about it… Let me know what you come up with – I’m all ears.

If someone has already said this - and if it’s worth anything I’m sure they have – then sorry for the repeat sentiments.

**That's a real word! It means "giant."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bill Mallonee / Lands and Peoples, a review

Bill Mallonee
I’m supposed to write about this album, Lands and Peoples by Bill Mallonee, but I’ve got a lot of stuff swirling around in my head right now and I made the mistake of reading a couple of other reviews… which makes it kind of daunting… because I start to think, “That writer just said what I was going to say… and better than I can say it!”

Like the review that ran in No Depression where the guy pretty much rants that Bill Mallonee periodically offers his beloved axes and amps for sale just to stay afloat, when he should be basking in the glow of the world’s enjoyment and admiration. His tunes should be sung from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters because he can write the hell out of a song and has his guitar-pickin’ fingers on the pulse of REAL American music made for REAL American people in REAL America! (So it’s not an accident that I make reference to a Woody Guthrie lyric.)

Anyway, that reviewer laid down a true word. Of course he tells you right off the bat that he's biased, and so am I. I don’t mind telling you that that one of Bill Mallonee’s thousands of songs – Double Cure – is one of my most favorite songs in the songosphere. This is the link to the only version I can find on the world wide web, so it’ll have to do, but i’m telling you, this song is pure gold. The recorded version just … glistens. It’s got this great soaring guitar riff intro that echoes one of the sweeping lines from that hymn, All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

But this isn’t about that song, as awesome as it is. Of course it’s about his latest release, as I mentioned, Lands and Peoples. It’s kind of like a songbook of stories about… yeah, lands and peoples. You know, America. It’s evocative… Mournful. Joyful. Wrenching. Shining. Hopeless. Hopeful. Self-effacing. Full of grace. Mallonee’s plaintive voice is all of those things too. 

Because of the record’s quiet beauty, it works well in the background, and it's got lyrical depth that makes it one of those oeuvres you can just lie on your bed and let it wash over you, sink into you… Like I used to do with R.E.M.’s records when they came out. It’s also not a coincidence that I bring up R.E.M., because 1. this record has a bit of that Byrds/R.E.M.-esque chiming guitar sound, and 2. Mallonee also played in an Athens, GA, band – Vigilantes of Love. 
Mr. M used to be in this Athens, GA band.

I wish I could say I knew more about that band, but I just don’t… although I became aware of that song Double Cure because it was on a compilation of V.O.L. songs that I bought through a Christian record club. (Remember record clubs? :-P) ’Cos Mallonee does love him some Jesus. Which is another thing I love about his stuff… that he loves Jesus. And it comes through, and not in a rusty hammer to the head way… but in a beautiful, sideways way that you can feel in your bones… that makes you feel like, “I’ll have what he’s having.” Even though his songs and his voice can be kinda sad… 

Because sadness can be sort of a doorway to actual Narnia, in a way – just like we learned from watching Inside Out. It’s the rare artist who can find and express the beauty in the sadness of ordinary life… grace amid the fallenness of this world. I guess it comes from being deeply familiar with these words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Not that it’s all beautiful sadness. Some of it’s just beautiful… like the song that says: “Ever since my eyes beheld your beauty and your grace, I’ll swing with everything that I’ve got.” And that there’s a baseball reference, if you're looking for Americana. There’s more where that came from, but like his Christianity, his American-ness isn’t forced nor are his songs in any way like those God-and-country songs that came out after 9/11. It's all just part of him. It reminds me of the time a pastor told me that my ministry was to be myself. Bill’s just being himself. And who “himself” is, among other things, is a beautiful soul, a dang good musician, and an evocative songwriter who deserves a lot more attention than he gets. 

You can (and should!) behold/purchase this stunning work of beauty and grace here:

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional rock critic, although I always wanted to be (thank you, internet!) You may find that my reviews are informed less by objective analysis than by feelings and personal interpretation... but don’t people often choose music based on such things?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I spit out like a sewer hole, yet still receive Your kiss

If you keep up with me on Facebook you know that my 11-year-old son and I are huuuuuuuge fans of The Who. In fact, Bill recently drew this awesome pic of himself as an homage to the cover of the Who by Numbers album. Anyway, when we drive around town, just the two of us, we play every Who album we own on a systematic rotation for our in-car listening pleasure. 

And as I remarked earlier, hearing the songs repeatedly causes me to give them more than the passing thought I usually give to classic rock songs – the arrangements, the words and their possible meanings... these songs I've heard a thousand or more times... I may already even THINK I know what they mean, but... There's always some new flower of knowing that might bloom in this loamy brain of mine.

For instance, Pete’s hard rock rant, Who Are You... I’ve heard this song a GAZILLION times…  but I JUST realized that it’s a song that ANSWERS ITS OWN QUESTION!! Go ahead, click here and listen to it again… and listen to the WHOLE THING. In the first two verses, you’ll hear Roger Daltrey pretty much spitting out this tale of a night in the life of an angry, lost man….

I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said "You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away"

I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin' punches around
And preachin' from my chair

followed by the completely singable chorus which asks the song’s primary question:

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

Then our angry, lost man goes home and takes a moment to reflect…

I took the tube back out of town
Back to the Rollin' Pin
I felt a little like a dying clown
With a streak of Rin Tin Tin

I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day
Eleven hours in the Tin Pan
God, there's got to be another way

and asks himself again: 

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

First of all, what a great description of a drunken, raging night! I should know – I’ve had one or two…(not lately of course!) I mean, can’t you just see lanky late-seventies Pete going through this ordeal in lurid, dimly-lit London locales. (SO MUCH ALLITERATION!!!) And knowing that these lines refer to a specific night in Pete Townsend’s life makes me feel like I have important esoteric knowledge. 

There’s a long blow-by-blow recount in Dave Marsh’s book, Before I Get Old; I’ll try to condense it here: So it’s the late seventies and punk rock is raging against the bloated excess of mainstream rock music machine and Pete and the boys are feeling the burn of it…  even though The Who may actually have invented punk rock with all their rebellion and instrument smashing, and telling the whole of the older generation to “f-f-f-fade away,” they took punk rock’s raging personally. 

Anyhoo, one night after a long day of business meetings – one of which involved the transfer of a sizable check, Pete goes into a pub and is none too sober when he spots a couple of actual Sex Pistols. He then rants and raves at them about the state of rock and roll – the stuff that’s bothering him about the whole life he’s living.

Actual Sex Pistols
But these guys, they love Pete and the Who and they tell him so. But he’s not having it. He knows he embodies a lot of what they think is wrong with the music business. Then he leaves and falls asleep slumped down in a doorway until a policeman wakes him up BY NAME and sends him home to his wife (aka - The Rollin’ Pin). 

So in the these verses he’s basically questioning the his own identity: “WHO ARE YOU??” he asks himself. “Everyone thinks I’m awesome, but aren’t I just a hack? Here’s the check to prove it!” and “The policeman knows my name, but do I know my own self?”

These are the familiar verses, but it’s the third verse that has just now sunk in. I was thinking how nice it sounded. I posted the lines on Facebook, because I love using song lyrics as status updates. Makes me feel all poetic, you know – without having to actually write anything. Anyway, it goes like this:

I know there's a place you walked
Where love falls from the trees
My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees

I spit out like a sewer hole
Yet still receive your kiss
How can I measure up to anyone now
After such a love as this?

This is so lovely I made it a meme! PLUS
the background is actually Myrtle Beach!
And this cool guy I knew in college, Artie Sparrow (That’s his real name! Isn’t it lovely?), left this comment: Fun fact: that lyric is about Myrtle Beach.” Of course it is. At first I thought Artie was joking because… well, you know… Myrtle Beach? The Redneck Riviera? But then I remembered that there is a Meher Baba center at Myrtle Beach, and Pete Townshend loves him some Meher Baba, and his bio Who I Am explains that this refers to a visit there.*

MB is his GURU... although I’m not sure what that means. I honestly can’t say I would equate Meher Baba with the Divine – but Pete does. So… when Pete says, “There’s got to be another way,” in verse 2, and then moves on to the beautiful, meaningful ponder that is verse 3 – that what he means, it is the love of the Divine that defines us – not whether we’ve invented punk rock, whether we’re are-nows or has-beens… (Jew or Greek, man or woman, slave or free…**) Who are you? Who am I? Who is GOD? Who does God say I am? If we ask these last two questions, we will know the answers to the first two questions.

It’s just like when Pete says in the gorgeous song Bargain – “I sit lookin’ ‘round, I look at my face in the mirror.*** I know I’m worth nothing without you. And like one and one don’t make two, one and one make one. And I’m lookin’ for that free ride to me - I’m looking for You!” (creative capitalization mine!)

Dang it! Fries are delicious!
And Pete wrote this one several years before he struggled with these issues in Who Are You. Which goes to show, that we KNOW things to be true, but that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with opposing FEELINGS. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you this. Like when you KNOW that finishing off your kid’s fries after you’ve had your own just might not be the best thing for you, but you really have to struggle with the truth of it because dang it FRIES ARE DELICIOUS!! Heck, even St. Paul struggled with the difference between knowing and feeling! Check out Romans 8:21-25!

Of course matters of identity are a bit more serious than consuming mass quantities of fries… But we see from the letters of Paul that his recipients need to be repeatedly reminded of the fundamental sweetness and glory of the gospel – that is, that God loves people so much He sent his own Son to save them.**** And that’s WHO WE ARE. People God loves and deems worth saving.

*I can talk more about this if you really want to know, but this post is already so long…!!

** Galations 3:28

***When we come to this line from Bargain in the car Bill and I both gaze wistfully into the rear view mirror. It cracks us up every time. If you want to read more of my crazy reflections about this song, you can read this post.

****John 3:16, of course!