There’s really no skill required in playing the ukulele. It’s four strings and takes very little time to learn. I’m a lefty and even learned it right handed.
But there are moments when I’m playing that I really wish I was a true musician. A rock star. A virtuoso. I think of sitting on my couch as sitting on a cold wooden stool in an arena of 5,000 people, playing the songs I’ve written and seeing love in strangers’ eyes.
So I thought I’d write a blog of my favorite albums.
I can’t really emphasize my love for Queen enough. By far my favorite band, I’ve had a beautiful relationship with their music since I was 5. My family and I would frequent a classy restaurant called The Buckingham every other Sunday night. A small but gorgeous bar nestled inside the restaurant, and after dinner, the owners (who knew my family quite well) would allow me to sing karaoke and be an adorable 5 year old. I learned Bohemian Rhapsody at this age, although I didn’t really know who Queen was or that my future idol, Freddie Mercury, died just two years before.
When I was 12 and going through one of the hardest periods in my life, I picked up Night at the Opera from my mom’s CD collection and took it into my bedroom to see if I could find that song I’d performed so long ago. I played the CD over and over again. I couldn’t believe the masterpiece coming out of my modest stereo.
Yeah, he wrote some of the greatest songs of the 20th century. What of it?
I started collecting all of Queen’s albums, savoring every single one. Queen marked important moments in my life. The day I got my driver’s license, I put on “I Want It All” and bolted down 275 in St. Pete. On my high school graduation, I slept through the ceremony with my mother’s blessing and woke up to “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy”. I shared my love affair with my boyfriend by playing “The Prophet’s Song” as long as my Rav4 stereo would let me.
Seriously, what a fucking song. Play “The Prophet’s Song” with your eyes closed and try not to be moved. I dare you.
On September 2 2011, I got my Queen tattoo. I picked this day specifically, because it’s my father’s birthday. I wanted to associate Sept 2 with something wonderful, not a birthday that I’d rather forget.
I chose to get a flower Freddie Mercury made in art college. He was an art student when he started hanging out with Brian May and Roger Taylor, and his art is actually pretty wonderful. No surprise really-he designed the band’s logo. I found his artwork on the internet years ago and said, “This is the tattoo. This is what I’m getting.” But I waited until I was sure.
The musical note was added, because the drawing wasn’t quite finished and didn’t have a long enough stem. I’ve since debated on getting other Queen tattoos, but we’ll see.
When I was 15, this was my ideal man. I think my friends were confused and a little worried.
How it is possible he’s still this beautiful?!
Like Queen, Bowie is a nearly lifelong relationship. On January 8 of this year, I was as shocked as the rest of the world when he announced his first album in 10 years. I cried and shook with anticipation. I got The Next Day the day it came out, of course, and have listened to it about 13 times through, and that’s not really enough.
I chose to write about his newest album, because so much has been said about his iconic work. I originally picked Hunky Dory, but I can’t say anything new. The Next Day is 17 tracks of memories. Memories of Bowie when he was an androgynous rock star in the 70s. Memories of Bowie’s experimental pop in the 80s. Memories of true hard rock in the 90s. It’s odd how an album I’ve only been listening to since the 12th of March has resonated so deeply; I feel I’ve heard it since I was 15 and in love with a blonde boy from 1970.
I am a lover of all of Bowie’s periods, unlike many. Robert Smith of The Cure once said Bowie should have died in 1977, after the release of Low, because everything after was just a disappointment. I hope he’s changed his mind, because this album is revolutionary. I hate the word “comeback”, because Bowie’s always been with me. This is just a glorious new addition.
This Russian beauty stumbled into my life when I was 16. I was in a theatre program at Steppenwolf with an impossibly gorgeous boy named Kevin (who introduced me to lots of music.) I was so teenage-in-love with him, because when we first met he was wearing a Bowie pin and I was wearing a Bowie shirt. He changed my high school life, because he was kind enough to become my friend and introduce me to his group of friends. A lovely throng of theatre kids who lived in the south suburbs near Chicago Heights, they smoked clove cigarettes and weed while they painted, held poetry nights called Garage Theatre, and blew bubbles that caught in rainbow mohawks and long beautiful dreads.
They were my dearest friends and many still are.
One of these fabulous people, I actually can’t remember who, gave me a mix CD with a song called “Braille”. I cried through the lyrics and simple piano, because I’d never heard writing like this. I went onto Rhapsody (old school computer technology) and found Regina’s albums up to that point, which were 11:11 and Soviet Kitsch (Songs wasn’t online.) Soviet Kitsch became my teenage anthem. I sang as loud as I could with Regina and felt everything she felt. I’ve seen her in concert six times and met her once. I gave her a bracelet with dolphins on it. She hugged me and put it on right away.
She is my youth.
The Dresden Dolls-The Dresden Dolls
My two lady heroes, Amanda Palmer and Regina.
This same group of kids introduced me to a vaudeville punk band out of Boston who also only had one album at the time. I listened to this album a skillion times and felt like I was going to wear the plastic art off the disc. They spoke to my theatre soul, they spoke to my angsty sad soul, they spoke to my hopeful soul. I felt like with Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione on my side, I could always be creative.
My dear friend Luke and I would dress like them and parade around our simple suburb, hopefully turning heads.
We didn’t have a fancy camera or adulthood on our side, but for 18 and 16 we were The Dresden Dolls of La Grange.
I still feel intensely connected to this type of performance. I often dress up and pretend I’m somebody else. Nowadays I do it to Amanda Palmer’s solo work, which is equally wonderful.
I got into The Smiths/Morrissey in college, when I was living alone and often bored as Hell. I probably first heard them at some liberal arts college party. I never drank at parties, and I was social, but I liked to sit near windows and listen to the music that was on. “How Soon is Now?” was this song that stuck with me, and I went home to listen to it again. I bought The Smiths from my local record store (which is now an insurance company…) and soon fell in love with Morrissey’s vocals and Marr’s guitar and songwriting. I saw Morrissey live in 2007 and felt like a groupie of The Beatles. I screamed a girly scream when he acknowledged the makeshift sign I’d made for him on the back of my printed ticket. I like Morrissey’s solo work too, but there’s something about the combination of all the band members that made those brilliant songs from Manchester.
I have skillions of other albums, but for now I’ll leave it here. ❤