Posts from the ‘music’ Category

Little Girl Blue

These days, I make no secret of my affinity for the Carpenters’ music. However, I have never really spoken to anyone of my fascination with Karen Carpenter herself, and the precious few things I knew of her brief life.

There are several TV retrospectives and biographies– and of course, the 1989 biopic which started this whole thing for me. I’ve seen them all now (thanks to the magic of the internet) and at the end of each one, I always felt that there was something vital missing, like we weren’t getting the whole story. Things like that don’t just happen. There had to be a reason for her illness and struggle besides her being unhappy with her body, as many women are.

I would sit and listen to the songs, and prompted by the sadness in her voice, the curiosity would set in and I’d ask myself, why? Why was Karen Carpenter dead? Why did her marriage fail after such a short time? Above all, why was she so damn sad? I’d watch those biographies over again, hoping maybe I’d notice something I hadn’t before. There were hints of it in the TV movie, but they were only hints hidden under a lot of television gloss, and still I was left with far more questions than answers.

Until today.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, after having listened to Karen sing all day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to Amazon.com, intent on purchasing Carpenters: The Untold Story, the official biography written by Ray Coleman in 1994. Maybe there would be some answers hidden in its pages.

I read the reviews, as I always do before buying something, and I started to change my mind. One reviewer stated, “…unfortunately, Coleman fails to deliver the intimate personal details that help one to understand the tragic and bittersweet story that is the Carpenters.” This wouldn’t do at all. I knew it was just going to say the same stuff I’d already heard in all those other biographies and TV specials. This was whitewashed– not necessarily the fault of the author, but an inevitable result of collaborating with the Carpenter family, whom I’d long suspected of being a little too secretive on the whole matter. What were they trying to hide?

Then over in one of the side panels of the Amazon page, I spotted Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter. I had never seen or heard of this book before– that’s because it just came out a month ago today. This is an all-new, “unauthorized” biography of Karen Carpenter, created with the help of many of her trusted friends.

Again, I went to the reviews. “Finally, the truth,” they declared. Still skeptical, I looked at the preview of the book, and read the foreword by Dionne Warwick, and the author’s note, and the prologue, which told of the struggle of the writer hired to pen the TV movie, and how he was forced by the family to edit and edit until he gave up and quit the project. I said to myself, aha! This is the one.

So I ordered it, shelled out for the one-day shipping, and spent a good bit of today reading the thing from cover-to-cover. After I finished reading it, I felt like I had lost a dear friend. I laughed a couple of times, but mostly cried. This story is possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever read. My suspicions and those of many other fans were correct– in many of their songs, Karen had been singing her life. She had suffered so many hardships: being forced out from behind her beloved drum kit into the harsh spotlight, her practically non-existent personal life, her failed attempts at independence from her family, her shelved solo album, her utterly disastrous marriage. She really, truly was Little Girl Blue.

What really broke my heart was finally learning the details of her marriage and why it fell apart so quickly. The book also lays bare some of the hurtful, cruel things that her husband said to her, and I almost couldn’t believe it. How could a person bear so much pain with a smile? The answer is, they can’t. And that’s why she’s not with us today.

In spite of all these sad details, the book is lovingly told, not sensationalized, not slanderous. It’s a respectful account of her story, and I’m very, very glad for it. We, her fans, can now begin to understand and come to terms with her death instead of being left wondering why. Hopefully, all of those who read it can learn something from it, can learn that what we all need more than money, talent, fame, or anything else is love, acceptance, and support. And of course, I hope that it would also help shed some more light on anorexia nervosa and similar afflictions.

I Am Officially Obsessed.

I’ve only talked about it here once before, but I’m a huge, huge Carpenters fan. And I just took it to a higher level of fandom by ordering Twenty-Two Hits of the Carpenters 10th Anniversary Edition: a 2-disc compilation of Carpenters songs straight from Japan. At $50 (including shipping, gah), it is the most I’ve ever paid for a CD in my life.

Why plunk down 50 bucks for a compilation album full of songs I already have? Well, it’s not just any compilation album– the second disc consists entirely of karaoke tracks made from the original freaking masters. In other words, these are no pale imitation karaoke tracks like you usually get. These are the original recordings, only sans Karen’s lead vocal. I have been looking for this for ages and I’m glad to finally get my hands on it, even if it did cost me.

Here’s an example of what the songs will sound like:

I don’t have much of an outlet anymore, but I grew up singing. I still love to sing, even though I’m no Karen Carpenter (I wish). So I wanted to have these tracks around just to sing along to.

These instrumental versions have been released on CD before, only to go out of print after a short time. Needless to say, I wanted to snap up this re-issue while it’s still available. Who knows; this might turn out to be an investment purchase if it eventually goes out of print too. 😛

Anison of the Week #1!

As I said before, I’ve been trying to work on my story lately. Unfortunately, I have developed writer’s block, and I do not feel like smashing my head into it until the wall breaks, so I’m giving it a rest for at least a couple of days.

However, I did have an idea for a new feature for this here blog!

I watch a lot of anime and I like Japanese things in general. I also have a deep, undying love of music and few things get to me like a good song does. Therefore, it should go without saying that I LOVE anime songs, also known as and hereafter referred to as “anison”.

More specifically, I like mecha/giant robot anime and I have a pretty damn huge collection of mecha anison. Many of them are old, too– I have songs that date back to the 70s. So I’ve decided that in order to liven things up a bit around here, I’m gonna open my giant playlist, pick a random song, and then write a little bit about it and the anime it comes from, and probably the artist if it’s one of my particular favorites. I’m thinking of doing this roughly once a week. I know it’s kind of an obscure thing to write about, but I hope you guys enjoy it anyway.

Iku ze! Let’s go! Okay Winamp, let’s shuffle!

This week’s anison is:

*drumroll*

Fukkatsu no Ideon, by Taira Isao!

Ah, good one– one of my favorite anison (warning: you will hear me say that a lot). It’s the opening song to a mecha anime called Space Runaway Ideon, from the creator of Mobile Suit Gundam, Tomino Yoshiyuki. It aired in the 1980-1981 season, so it’s pretty old by now, and rather obscure even among some anime fans. However, I’ve seen all 39 episodes and the feature-length conclusion thanks to the magic of the internet!

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Despite it being a giant robot show, Ideon is not for the kiddies. In fact, it is one of the shows that led people to christen the director “Kill ‘Em All” Tomino. Given that, and if you’re an anime fan and have seen End of Evangelion, you can guess how Ideon ends. (In fact, Anno Hideaki more or less admitted that End of Eva was pretty much a total ripoff of the Ideon movie. But now I’m getting off-topic.)

It’s violent. It’s a mindfuck. The characters are frustrating with the way they constantly misunderstand each other. It was possibly the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, possibly because my husband and I watched the whole thing with a group of friends.

Anyway, I enjoy the opening song quite a bit. I’m not sure if I can adequately explain why. I don’t even know what genre of music this would fall into. It has such a different sound compared to most other anison, starting off quietly with some nice acoustic guitar and then kicking into a surprisingly upbeat song underscored by brass and strings and finishing off with a nice drum flourish.

The lyrics fit the series well too, with lines such as “the power of the legendary giant tears the galaxy apart”, which is very prophetic!

And on top of all that, it’s sung by one of my absolute favorite anison singers, Taira Isao. He’s not as prolific as some other singers of the time, but he did a great job with the songs he did perform, and this is certainly no exception. His voice is so unique and perfect for this song.

Now check it out!

They Just Weren’t That Great…Or Were They?

Anyone ever notice that VHS, Betamax, vinyl records, Laserdiscs, CEDs and even 8-tracks get lots of nostalgic love, but audio cassettes don’t? I mean, when was the last time you heard someone mention an audio cassette? Okay, so for me, the last time was today, but before that? Can’t even remember.

Why no love for cassettes? Well, I’ll tell you why I have no love for cassettes: they were very breakable, got mangled by car stereos very easily, they didn’t sound all that great in the first place, especially not after 18,000 plays– there’s nothing worse than trying to listen to a song when it sounds all warped and garbled. I understand that they were an important technological stepping stone, and they made music in the car much more practical, but compared to CDs or records they were pieces of shit. I had to put up with cassettes for a long time because I couldn’t afford a CD player and it made me sad, so I guess that’s why I don’t get very nostalgic for them.

That’s not to say that I don’t have any nostalgia for them, though. Cassettes were fun to play with. I used to use my dad’s equipment to record my own pretend radio show and other silly things like that. They also made piracy easy and fun– my dad knew how to use them to record audio from VHS tapes and we made my own bootleg Disney movie soundtracks.

Oh, don’t forget those read-along book-and-tape sets. I had plenty of those and I’m pretty sure they were part of the reason I knew how to read at four years old. I also had those Disney Children’s Favorites tapes– they had nursery rhymes and old-fashioned songs on them, classic stuff like This Old Man and Skip to My Lou. You know, those songs that kids these days don’t know anything about. I played them to death and knew every word because of the accompanying illustrated songbooks.

Also, one year, my dad bought me a Sony Walkman and I was in heaven– not because it was a portable cassette player per se, but because it was portable music. I’d ride my bike and listen to my Garth Brooks tapes and bootlegged Disney soundtracks all the live long day. (Yes, I said Garth Brooks. I was a stupid kid; leave me alone.)

I guess I had a little more nostalgia for cassettes than I thought I did.

A Few Thoughts on Thriller

I had a sheltered childhood. My mom didn’t like me to watch “evil” or “dirty” things, and forbade me to watch many things, even some innocent things like Scooby-Doo (not that I was missing much there). So it’s no surprise that my mom didn’t care for Michael Jackson. I grew up being pretty unfamiliar with his work, only hearing a few songs in the 90s such as Black or White and You Are Not Alone.

With that, you should know what I’m about to say. I’m about to tell you that until about twenty minutes ago, I had never heard the song Thriller, or seen the video. Ever. Not even the shortest clip. Oh sure, I had heard of it plenty of times, but never got around to watching it. But being the 80s fan that I am, and spurred by the recent passing of Michael Jackson, I realized I could not go without seeing it any longer. So I went to Youtube.

What do I think of it? Well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said 100 million times? There’s a reason why it is so monumentally popular and well-liked. It was genuinely creepy. As I was watching it, I tried to imagine that I was five years old again, and I realized that if I had seen this back then, I probably would have had nightmares for months.

Also, the song is a great dance tune. And Michael Jackson does a brilliantly choreographed routine. With zombies. Don’t forget Vincent Price. I mean, damn– do music videos get any better than that? I (and many others) say that they don’t. Or at least, they haven’t yet. At this rate, they probably never will.