Nobody's Fool

I was driving home yesterday when Billy Joel's "Always a Woman" came on the radio.  That's one you don't hear too often these days.  What we might call a deep cut.  She'll carelessly cut you, then laugh while you're bleedin'.

Oh - he takes care of himself....

I like Billy.  Several of his songs evoke strong memories.  Some better than others...

"My Life":  I love this song.  I loved Bosom Buddies.  Whither Peter Scolari?   A few years ago, Paul Rudd and Adam Scott shot a completely faithful redux of the opening.  Gotta love that.  I remember being with my mother on the way home from visiting my grandmother when that song came on the radio.  We were going to stop at the Fulton County Farmers Market.

"Movin' Out", "Only The Good Die Young" and "Still Rock 'n' Roll": 
These are all songs that will get me to crank up the radio.  Don't have a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack.  I love the line: 'Should I try to be a straight-A student? If you are then you think too much.' The lyrics are clever and the songs are upbeat, if not a little depressing.

"You May Be Right":  I have never walked through Bedford-Stuy alone.  The Stuy is short for Stuyvesant - and Bed-Stuy, as it is known, is the rough NY neighborhood where Chris Rock grew up.  He mentioned in the SNL book (which I referenced last month) that he and Chris Farley share a birthday, and that it's surprising that the Chris from Bed-Stuy outlived the one from Minnesota.  The lyrics are just tight.

"Uptown Girl":  For a brief era, I took piano lessons with a mean-ass biddy named Mrs. Delcuze.  I was intimidated by her, and I was not a good student, mostly because I wanted to play by ear, and she wanted me to learn fundamentals. Over summer break, she gave me a songbook of pop music to practice.  "Uptown Girl" was in the book, as was "I Just Called to Say I Love You".  That should set the era for you nicely.  It was a very simple melody only score.  I plunked it out for awhile, and eventually quit piano.  I wish I had kept with it.  I had two classmates who were great at piano.  One of them hasn't kept it up - no idea about the other.  I like this one because it reminds me of Christie Brinkley, who was so pretty and perfect.  She still is.

"The Longest Time" and "The River of Dreams":  In college, one of the fraternities held a fund raiser - The Beta Theta Pi Choral Cup.  All the sororities choral groups (typically called Washboard) would sing a few a capella songs and a local celebrity judge would award a loving cup to the winning sorority.  The fraternity would also ply the singers with inexpensive champagne in their parlor after we performed.  My sophomore year, we got matching black dresses made and sang a parody of the Brady Bunch theme song.  I wrote the new lyrics:

Here's the story, of the Sigma Kappas
Who are a very lovely bunch of girls.
Some have hair of gold,
And it is natural.
And some of them have curls...

Here's the story, of the men of Beta
Who are the coolest guys on Milledge Street
They have a Choral Cup, and the cutest brothers
They are the guys to meet.

Then the one day when the Sigmas met the Betas
And they knew that it was more than having fun
That the girls would come home with a trophy
And the Beta Choral Cup they will have won!

The Beta Cup!  The Beta Cup!  That's the way we will win the Beta Cup!

This song was cute, fun and suck-uppy.  It was good. You had to have one "Beta" song.  Can we take a minute and appreciate the fact that I recalled those lyrics from the recesses of my brain 20 years after I wrote them.  Can I get a woot, woot?  Thanks.

Our big number that year was "Longest Time".   The soloist was a girl named Suzanne whose pitch wandered.  But she was older, and well-liked - our chapter president - and nobody was going to say a bad word about her.  If she could get the pitch, she was fine... anyway - there were plenty of us who were better singers.  It's uncharitable of me to even bring this up, because Suzanne died from breast cancer a few years ago.  She and I were friends, she was a lovely person, but at the time, I was annoyed because I thought I could have managed it better.  But, as a second Alto, my job was to wrangle and maintain a bass line.  If you listen to the Joel recording, the first three notes are a very deep baritone "Dum Dum Dum" before the Whoa-oh-oh-oh.

I was that deep baritone.  Yep.  Anyway.  We won the choral cup.  The celebrity judge that year was a man named Weaver D.  He owned a soul food joint in my college town of Athens, GA.  The place was called Weaver D's, and his slogan was "Automatic for the People".  This little band named REM used that as the name of one of their albums.  No big deal, or anything.  We thanked Weaver D after the competition, and he smiled at us and said, "Automatic".  It was a good day, and I was giddy from crappy champripple.

The next year, in an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, we did "River of Dreams", and it was not great.  I had also outgrown my black dress to the point where I had to take the hem out of it so it would cover my ass.  Our fun "Beta" song was a rework of "Iko-Iko" which was tricky, given that a fraternity house (on another campus) caught fire and burned down a few days before our competition, so we had to rework the lyrics to avoid setting houses on fire.  Awwwwwkward.  We placed, but didn't win.

My senior year, I graduated before the Choral Cup took place.  Nowadays, the Delta Tau Deltas do a similar fundraiser called The Sound of Milledge - most of the Greek houses are on South Milledge Avenue.  Anyway...  Billy Joel, sorority girls, Asti-Spewmante...happy times.

"Just the Way You Are":  This song makes me cringe every time I hear it.  And here's why.  When I was in 6th grade, things started coming together for me.  I was in Chorus, and I had gotten the attention of the two choral directors.  I can remember her name was Ellen Draper and his was Ken... something.  Jesus - why can I not remember that?  Hang tight - I will have to look that up in my old year book and get back to you.  I had also been pretty involved in the school musical, "Oliver!"  I think I was in the top 5 finalists for playing the Artful Dodger. They cast an 8th grader, who I remained friends with into High School - she was the right choice.  Even then I was a little beefy and ruddy to be convincing. I'm still friends, and/or friendly with a lot of the people from that show.  We all ended up in Drama club together.  But as a 6th grader, I was low on the food chain, so it was neat to befriend people in 7th and 8th grade.   This came at something of a price.

Let me go back for a minute, though.  In fourth grade, my BFF moved away, and I was adrift for the remainder of that year.  I was not awash in friends, and honestly, the ones I had were because of her.  She was a lovely person who drew people to her.  I was... not.  I tell people that I had the same personality at age ten as I do now, and that's a fact.  I grew into this sense of humor.  But in Elementary School, my blunt sarcasm was off-putting.   I remained kind of a loner til the end of that year, when I became friends with three other girls  - we'll call them Jo, Amy and Margaret, just because we can.  Margaret was always on the outskirts.  She spent weekends at her father's so her social life was limited by that.  Amy and I lived in the same neighborhood, and Jo lived nearish as well.

At the end of 6th grade, Amy's family announced they were moving away.  I was sad, of course, because it was like 4th all over.  Not as severe, just a recurring pattern.  But I was also busy and happy, and had new friends.  This chafed at Amy, I think.  The thing is, I think she was happiest when I was dependent on her.  She needed some kind of power over me.  Her parents had the big house, a computer, a pool table.   She liked feeling superior.

One day before class she handed me a note with the lyrics to "Just The Way You Are", and expressing regret that I was drifting away.  It was basically trying to make me feel bad for growing up and expanding my horizons.  I feel like I probably apologized, but I remember feeling annoyed, embarrassed, angry.  I wish I had been articulate enough to defend myself, but alas... this song still dredges up some chagrin.

Williams!  I just remembered.  Ken Williams and Ellen Draper.  They were great teachers.  We were lucky.  I really liked them, and they were good to me.  Whew - that's the kind of shit that plagues me.


Obviously, there are plenty of songs I didn't cover, but those are the ones that evoke a strong memory or feeling.

Don't ask me why (see what I did there?).

Nowadays, you can't be too sentimental.



Christopher said…
Whither Peter Scolari indeed. That seems like a strange thing to focus on but a lot of the same Billy Joel songs raise uncomfortable memories and feelings for me. He really was the soundtrack of a generation, wasn't he? Or at least a large part of it.
Anyway I loved Bosom Buddies and remember thinking, we're gonna see a lot more of that Peter Scolari, and maybe that other guy will do some stuff too.
Well, based on Wikipedia he seems to be doing okay.