Sunday, May 30, 2010

Delicious Cherry Marmalade

I have a lot of music but not so many CDs. I never had a lot of LPs either, maybe 150 albums before I started tossing them. I made a quick inventory of my CDs the other day - only about 125. I have them all in rows in a media bookcase in my bedroom.
Only one CD is on display, on a shelf, opened like a V, so we can see the front and back. Cherry Marmalade by Kay Hanley.
Kay Hanley came into my life on April 13, 2001, while watching the movie Josie and the Pussycats. The movie, a fun little trifle, was about three musician friends, hence a lot of music in the movie. Josie was played by Minnesota-native Rachael Leigh Cook. Josie's singing voice was by Kay Hanley. I had never heard of Kay Hanley until I saw her name in the credits and I'm pretty sure I had never heard so much as one note of her music until the opening scene of Josie and the Pussycats.
I went home and downloaded the soundtrack to the movie (since upgraded to a purchased CD) and listened over and over. I soon craved more songs by that voice. I found out that in the 1990s, Kay was the lead singer of Letters to Cleo, a band I had never heard of, but whose CDs were in the collection of my buddy Joel. Who knew?
A little while later, I also used Kazaa, a now defunct file-sharing site, to search for more songs by Kay Hanley. I only found one and don't remember the name the file had when I downloaded it - it didn't seem to match the song - so I renamed it after a prominent phrase in the chorus, "Do You Miss Me, Too?" This song was recorded live, either at a bar or a sound check, and was over-driven - distorted - and contained some talking from Kay to the sound-board operator at the beginning and for about 30 seconds at the end. It was annoying to hear the non-music parts of the file, so I removed the song from my collection.
Still, I couldn't get the song out of my head. It was catchy and hooked me. A few years later, I had become proficient with soundwave editing software, which allows me to remove pops & clicks from vinyl recordings and delete extra silence from the beginnings and endings of songs as needed. I pulled "Do You Miss Me, Too?" from the archives - I never fully delete any song I possess, just throw them into a separate folder - and edited a few seconds from the front and half a minute from the back. I resaved the song and put it back into rotation.
Over the next three or four years, "Do You Miss Me, Too?" became one of my most listened to songs. The distortion bothered me a bit but Kay's powerful voice, a good beat and great lyrics kept me listening. That would be a happy-enough ending for this story but it's not THE ending.
In 2006 or 2007, I put the rest of Kay Hanley's discography that I didn't already have on my wishlist. I check the wishlist every day to see if something I desire drops to a reasonable price and then I buy. It's saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. One Kay album in particular, Cherry Marmalade, was rather expensive, bouncing around the $10-20 range for over a year. Too rich for my blood, I did nothing until March 3, 2008, when a used copy became available for $3.99. I pulled the trigger. On March 15, I had the CD in my hand. The case was a little dinged up but the disc and insert were mint.
I began to rip the CD into digital files so I could import the songs into iTunes and my iPod. While I was waiting for the rip to finish, the thrill of the hunt overpowered me. I figured that "Do You Miss Me, Too?" was probably more than a demo or club recording - it had to be from an album. I decided then and there to find the original version and to buy the album that day, whatever the cost. But how?
This being the Internet age, I used Google. I entered "do you miss me too" into the search engine. A plethora of lyrics-providing sites returned the same thing: the name of the song was apparently "Mean Streak." Odd. If so, the title didn't seem to match the song. Well, that would hardly be unique in the history of recorded music, so I moved on to the next logical
thing, and searched Kay Hanley's discography for an album that contained a song called "Mean Streak." Found it quickly. The song was on Kay's 2002 album...
Cherry Marmalade.
The same Cherry Marmalade I was holding in my left hand. Track 11. The same song that my software was ripping at that very moment. Fun coincidence.
When the album was loaded into iTunes, I cranked up what we will henceforth call Mean Streak (Do You Miss Me, Too?). It was different than the live/demo version, obviously. In addition to cleaner instrumentation, it was faster - maybe 10%, had a bit of synth in the background and a scorching guitar solo only hinted at in the garage version. I loved it. From that first listen in March, 2008, to when I built a new computer in June, 2009, it accumulated a play count of 41, far exceeding the rate at which I listened to any other song in my collection. It continues to accumulate playing time on the new computer - 17 plays since June 14, 2009.
Finding the studio version of Mean Streak (Do You Miss Me, Too?) would also be a happy ending for this story, but it's not THE ending.
When I moved into my house in 2008, I left my CD collection, meager as it is, unpacked in boxes in a closet. Earlier this year, I installed a new bookcase, mainly for my DVD collection, that had enough room for the CDs, so I removed all of them from their boxes and placed them on the new bookcase. When I picked up Cherry Marmalade, I noticed something for the first time. On the front of the case insert, right next to the picture of Kay, was a scribble from a Sharpie. K-something-y, H-a-something-y. Whoa.
I had a copy of a Kay Hanley CD signed by Kay Hanley! Very cool. It would be cooler if she had signed it in my presence FOR me, but close enough, man. I don't care that I acquired the CD through Amazon Marketplace, I just have a signed copy of a Kay Hanley CD. Period. Rather than hide the CD amidst the rest of my music, I gave it a place of honor on a separate shelf where anyone in the room can see it. It is the only CD in my collection so honored.
And THAT IS the happy ending of this long, but touching story.
If you're wondering what Kay Hanley is up to these days, well, even hard rockin', literate, indie musicians have to eat. For the last few years, she's been a back-up singer for Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. No kidding. If you know where to look, you can spot her on stage in both Hannah Montana movies.
Oh, the title Mean Streak comes from a line in the song,

"It’s not beneath me to appreciate
the mean streak that’s inside me
when it’s so hard to miss you the way that I do."

The singer seems to be conflicted by having dumped a boyfriend (or having been dumped) and is engaging in a little passive aggressive behavior. Rock 'n Roll romance, kids.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some People Need to be Supervised

My homeowner's association is sponsoring some maintenance this week.  On Tuesday, their contractor pressure washed the decks, stairs and landings.  Mondo improvement, at least to the unstained, unpainted wood.  Looks like it might even be cedar.  The painted surfaces lost a bit of paint, which is pretty much to be expected after a pressure-washing.

Today, I watched two young men dressed in painters garb go from house-to-house scraping and painting.  Since the pressure wash dislodged a lot of paint, that part makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that the washing brought into clear focus what each individual homeowner already knew: the painted parts of our decks and railings are rotting.  And not just a little.  Take a gander at my next-door neighbor's railing.

That's what parts of mine looked like this morning.  Now that some paint has been stripped and massive rot has been exposed, you'd think it would be time to repair and replace.  You'd be wrong.  Here's what it looks like now:

They painted over the rot!  Some people need to be supervised.

I don't know what's going on.  I asked one of the guys what they were doing about the rot.  He said a carpenter was going to come in and replace all the sections of railing that have rot.  Fine, but why paint over it?

I'm just going to sit back and see what happens.  Despite the observable inefficiency, I expect it will all work out but could be highly entertaining in the meantime.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Doctor

In 1989, the Doobie Brothers released a song proclaiming that "Music is the doctor."

Today, right about now, I get to say, "My nephew is the doctor."