Monthly Archives: August 2014

Spotlight on the Rock and Roll Supermom: Marissa Bergen

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I’m extremely fortunate to have a few loyal friends and supporters of my little blog, especially considering that I have no particular background or expertise in music, about which I am ostensibly writing. All I really have is a burning passion for music and a strange desire to spill my guts to the world, no matter how painfully humiliating that may be. But the same can’t be said for the queen of all my blog buddies, rocker chick extraordinaire, Marissa Bergen. I mean, she obviously has the burning passion thing and the spill her guts thing too, but she also actually has some experience in the music biz that doesn’t involve playing the flute in band and taking piano lessons from the beehived Mrs. Sullivan. But enough cheap, sneaky plugs for my blog, let’s talk to Marvelous Marissa…

1. Tell us the story of how you started your band, Sisters Grimm – did you and your sister take music lessons, what motivated you, did your parents help and support you, etc.

Whenever someone asks me a question about what motivated me in music, I often recall a quote made by, I believe Nancy Wilson (although it could have been Ann) who said something like “All the girls wanted to marry the Beatles, we wanted to be the Beatles.”

My father was in the music industry and had a lot of successful accomplishments as a musician and producer. He actually had a brief stint with Wings. I guess growing up with that influence helped put my sister and I in a rock n’ roll direction, but my father began pulling away from our family when we were very young, until he eventually had no connection at all. So it was up to my poor mother to carry our guitars around and deal with our off key singing. She also gave us all of her vintage Beatles albums when we were in preschool and, yes, she was very supportive.

2. What were some of the best gigs you played and best experiences you had with the band?

Since we took our music career from New York to Los Angeles, I could list many music clubs in both cities that are awesome to play, but nothing compares to going on tour to a city where you don’t know anyone, and you’re being asked to sign CDs, T-shirts, various body parts… Probably the best of these experiences was in Savannah, GA. I remember when we got there someone had written ‘Sisters Grimm rocks’ on one of the paper towel dispensers in the bathroom. How awesome is that?

3. Tell us the story of how you moved to California – did you have a plan in place, did you have any connections in the music business, etc.

At the time we moved, Giuliani had just come into office and he had a huge campaign to clean up New York which meant closing many of the local rock clubs. A lot of New York musicians saw ‘an end’ coming and Los Angeles was a logical move, so we knew plenty of other musicians who also migrated from New York and it wasn’t hard to make connections. We didn’t really have a hard and fast plan as to where exactly we would live, work or gig, but we had people to stay with while we were looking for an apartment and the rest came together rather quickly.

4. How and why did you start blogging and writing poetry? Also, were you always into writing, or was this an interest that developed later?

Yes, I have always written. Obviously, the most notable outlet for my poetry was my songwriting, which was very ‘lyrics’ oriented. When I became a mom and we decided not to do the band anymore, I didn’t write for years. My husband was the one who suggested I start a blog and I guess I’m lucky that all those ideas and words were still there waiting for me.

5. You are a very prolific writer, maintaining a steady output of high quality work, sustained over a long period of time. Very impressive! How do you accomplish this?

I guess that is how my work appears to you and other readers, which I suppose is an intended effect. When I think of myself, I think I am like a miser who is creating ‘gems’ (or not) which I dole out very slowly and very stingily. I write every day, but if I published every day, it would probably be a bunch of crap. Also, I try to do the Word Press Weekly Challenges and Yeah Write Challenges every week. The writing prompts help.

6. You also cover a wide range of topics in your poetry, from family life, to the rocker chick life, to the unexpectedly profound and poignant. You draw deeply from the creative well, so to speak. How do you come up with such diverse and creative material?

Just my latent schizophrenic tendencies coming out I guess! But seriously, I’m just hard on myself that way. I think about what I want to write about, but I will abandon a topic if it is too similar to one I wrote about in the past. If I write a poem that is sad, I will try to make the next few poems funny ones to offset that. Most of my writing comes from real life experience.

7. It’s great to see that you are involved in your kids’ musical development through the School of Rock. Can you tell us more about this program and your involvement with it?

Yes, all part of a dastardly plan to have my children vicariously live out my rock n’ roll dreams! No, actually since my husband and I were both involved in the music industry, we were of a similar mind to get our children playing music as well. Currently our son attends the School of Rock, one of the many rock schools that seem to be getting more and more prevalent. The school includes lessons and performance. Along with my not so gentle prodding, he’s turning into a little rock star!

My daughter just did her first term of rock summer camp and it seems she has now been vaccinated by the victrola needle and is hooked on rock n’ roll! What have I done?!

Actually I should mention here that there is a nonprofit organization called the Rock School Scholarship Fund which helps lower and middle class families with the funding of rock school tuition. My husband and I have been very active with this organization for years and it has helped us become even more involved in the rock school community and it’s wonderful teachers and parents. You can learn more about the organization here: http://rockschoolfund.org/.

Thank you, Marissa!

One of the many things I admire about Marissa is her raw, cut-the-crap honesty. I like to see that, especially from a woman, because it’s kinda rare. And it’s powerful.  Reading Marissa’s poetry inspires me, because this kind of uncompromising artistic integrity is something that I want to accomplish in my own writing. In this little interview clip, you will see the stunningly beautiful Sisters Grimm – Marissa and her sister Victoria – talking about being in a girl band. And grrl power. 😉

Be sure to visit Marissa’s blog, “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth” (great title, Marissa)!

And one more thing – why do we need girl bands and grrl power, as young Marissa called it? I think a great man said it best…

Support Girl Bands!

Questions? Comments? Please Share!

 

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Filed under Art and Literature, Blogging, Music, Poetry, Uncategorized, Women

Rocker Prof.

As you may know, I taught at a local college for many years. I actually still teach for them, but I do it online from my living room, so it’s different now. I teach from the comfort of my recliner. But in those days, the classroom I used was way across campus from my office, and I was always running late because students were continually stopping me as I made my way to class. Well, I say it’s because of that, but I’m sure my overall ditziness contributed to my tardiness too. But don’t tell anybody that. Anyway, I had to get to class within fifteen minutes of the start of the period, because students were allowed to leave if I didn’t show up within that time. If that happened, I was in big trouble with the Chair, so it was a stressful situation for me.

Picture, if you will, me running across campus, butt swaying dangerously atop my customary spikes, carrying messy stacks of papers and an old beat up leather satchel, students jogging alongside me, frantically asking me questions about their grades or trying to make small talk and be a teacher’s pet. I finally make it to the lecture hall with only seconds to spare, and running down the corridor, in order to prevent students from leaving, I start loudly singing “Here I am, rock you like a hurricane” to the accompaniment of the good-natured moans and groans of students that thought they were about to get a free pass from class that day. I did it every semester, multiple times. Countless times. It was kind of my theme song. Every semester, students would respond with stunned silence the first time it happened, then the next time they would smile a little, then the next time they would laugh, and by the end of the term, they considered me their rockinest BFF, I think. lol.

On my last day of on-campus teaching, as I walked down the corridor toward my classroom, I heard the familiar tune, growing louder and louder the closer I got.  Yes, someone had brought in a boom box, and they played my theme song as a going away gift for me. The sweeties. That rocked me like a hurricane. The memory of it rocks me still.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Memoir, Music, Teaching

The G-L-O-R-I-A Contest.

A couple days ago, I read a post about Van Morrison’s beautiful rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Don’t Look Back” on Thom Hickey’s “The Immortal Jukebox” blog, and I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop ever since. But late last night, in the midst of a morass of Morrisony, Hookery blues here in the purple room, with the heavily framed Beatles picture hanging precariously above my head, which is probably gonna be the ever-s0-apropos cause of my long-expected rock and roll demise, something inside me belligerently revolted against too much bluesiness with six little letters…G…L…O…R…I…A.

A garage band standard due to the fact that it’s easy to play and easy to sing and ad-lib and can be stretched out indefinitely, it was written by Mr. Morrison in 1964. It was just a toss off, a B side, and it’s turned out to be one of Van’s most enduring songs, covered by a long, long list of well known bands. But this is not just because it’s easy to play. It’s also dramatic as hell and can be as sexy and bizarre as the singer has the nerve to make it. I guess I probably listened to the majority of “Gloria” covers on YouTube in the wee hours last night, and I now feel qualified to act as a “Gloria” judge. So ya ready? Let’s have a contest. She comes around here, just around midnight…

The prize for most uniquely mellow “Gloria” goes to the Dead. Got of bunch of Glorias in this clip too, lol…

Most bad ass version goes to the master. Just fantastic…

The Doors get the prize for dirtiest version, natch. My favorite part is the way Jim does the feigned interest in conversation with Gloria when she comes up to his room. That kills me every time, lol. This is not the uncensored, dirty version, though. I chickened out. The Spinster Cousins would listen to it and then tell my mother I have a dirty blog, which may have already happened, actually. But you can find it easily on YouTube. Heh heh.

The prize for overall weirdest version goes, of course, to Patti Smith. The song as done by a woman takes on a whole different vibe and underlying girl-power meaning…

And while we’re at it, let’s do my favorite Patti song. Maybe this could be Gloria’s story. Yes, I think it could be. We seldom get to hear the story from Gloria’s viewpoint. So…C’mon, now, try and understand, the way I feel under your command…

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Filed under Music, Uncategorized, Women

A Summer of Pilgrimage, Part I: The Hodge Podge Shop

My kid started back to school this morning, so I’m in a reflective mood today, thinking back over the summer, which flew by at record speed, I think. It’s been a pretty significant summer, full of positive changes, like the fierce exercise program I talked about here. And, by the way, the fierce exercise is paying off in a big way – I had my yearly physical last week, and the doctor walked in the exam room holding my report with a big smile on his face and said, “this is what health looks like”. Yep, all my numbers have improved greatly, so I highly recommend fierce exercise if you’re of a mind to improve your health. But anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about me.

As a kid and young teen, I spent a lot of time riding around my neighborhood on my bike, especially in the summer. I would spend hours just riding around, going up to the Tote-Sum store for Now or Laters, riding by my crushes’ houses, visiting various dogs that I had made friends with, etc. But around age fourteen or so, my favorite thing to do was to ride up to the junk store.

Hodge Podge

It appears to be called the “Short Stop” now, but back in the seventies, it was called “The Hodge Podge Shop” and it was run by a nice old lady who would give me peppermints and let me rummage all day through the junk, although she knew I wasn’t going to buy anything. The place was musty and dusty and marvelous, chock full of odds and ends that would probably be worth a fortune now – collectibles and memorabilia dating back to the early years of the century, I now realize. There was an old trunk full of letters, cards, postcards, and ancient photos in one corner, and I would sit for hours, sucking on my peppermint, reading the letters, looking at the pictures, and making up stories in my head about the people in them.

But to get to The Hodge Podge Shop, I had to ride my bike a couple miles down a road that cut through the fields – there were no houses around and it wasn’t heavily traveled, so this was a forbidden activity. Naturally, I thought that was a ridiculous rule, so I paid no attention to it, but this meant that I couldn’t tell my mother where I was going on my Hodge Podging days. This is the road…

Road pic

So one day I was riding my bike down the road on the way to the Hodge Podge Shop when a carload of older teenage boys began messing with me. At first, it was done jokingly, nothing too bad or scary, just slowing down and catcalling, no big deal. I just kept my eyes straight ahead and kept on going. They eventually drove off and I thought it was over, but they came back. This time, there was a different vibe about them. I think one of the boys in the back seat was the main instigator and evil influence, because the whole time they were harassing me, while the other boys were cutting up and laughing and making crude comments, he was just repeatedly saying, in a low voice, “get her”.

As things got scarier, I frantically tried to figure out what to do. My first instinct was to jump off of my bike and run off across the fields, and I almost did it, which would have been a serious mistake, I think. Fortunately, something stopped me from doing that and I stayed on my bike and kept my head down, thinking it was best to avoid eye contact, but at one point, I turned my head slightly and looked straight into the eyes of the guy in the front passenger seat. I think he saw the terror and misery in my eyes, and I think I saw that he had a soul.

That’s when the epic battle between good and evil started. The guy with the soul started shouting, “just go; leave her alone”. The car pulled up ahead and I thought they were leaving, but then they stopped. A car door opened in the back. Then a car door opened in the front – on the passenger side. I’m pretty sure my fate hung in the balance. Since they were stopped ahead of me, I turned around and I rode as fast as I could in the other direction without looking back. But behind me I heard an eruption of angry profanity and the sound of someone being thrown hard up against the side of a car.

The fight must have turned out right and good must have prevailed, because no one came after me and I made it back home safely. I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened to me, because I wasn’t supposed to be on that road in the first place, and I never again went down that road or re-visited the Hodge Podge Shop. Until this summer.

Dan Fogelburg. I say that name and I think most people, if they know who he is, instantly have this connotation of cheesy, overly sentimental pop music. If so, that’s probably because they are thinking about his later albums, because he did kind of lose his touch a little, in my opinion, and drifted too far into saccharin sentimentality. But his first two albums, Home Free and Souvenirs,  were deeply emotional masterpieces. Souvenirs had back-up vocals by Don Henley, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, and Joe Walsh.  Mr. Walsh produced the album as well. The whole album, which is so aptly named for a pilgrimage, is great, and I recommend you listen to it if you’re of a mind to, but this is my favorite song from it, hands down.

Better change before the sun goes down. Better raise your fortresses or tear them down…

 

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Filed under Fitness, Memoir, Music, Women

Sweet Accustomed Ways: Yes in Nashville

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Yes at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville was my second concert for the summer, the first being Jack White at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans. You may recall that my Jack White concert experience was not so great, and this is why:

  • We were informed by one of Jack’s henchmen upon arriving that we were at a rock concert, and as such, were expected to stay out of our seats and on our feet throughout the show.
  • We were then informed by this same Jack-like sycophant that we were not allowed to take pictures or videos and it was implied that those who tried to do so were crass and ill-mannered.
  • Being crass and ill-mannered, I then got yelled at by a cell phone-Nazi in official looking black polyester pants to put away my phone.
  • A lot of the audience members were obviously Jack-imitators whose primary motive was to look, act, and sound just like him, down to his mannerisms and vocal affectations.
  • I was nearly blinded by a floodlight on stage that was aimed directly at the audience, not that it mattered anyway, because I couldn’t see the stage as I stood there in my little pocket of extra-tall Jack-imitators for hours, listening to distorted, overly-loud music.
  • There was an overall vibe of coldness and negativity and rigid conformity, along the lines of Tommy’s Holiday Camp or the concert scene from The Wall, and it was apparent that the whole thing was as much, if not more, about fashion and fad as it was about music, which is unfortunate because Jack is a talented musician, in spite of everything.

So now that you have all that concert misery firmly in your mind’s eye, imagine the direct opposite of each point.  Friendly, helpful venue staff and an ancient elevator operator that tells you jokes on the way up. A non-pretentious looking audience of mainly middle-aged people, mostly wearing jeans and tees, and all sitting down comfortably. And using their cell phones to take the occasional video or pic. No big deal.  All sharing happily in the joy of sublimely beautiful, perfectly clear music, performed by a band that looks as relaxed, friendly, and non-pretentious as the crowd.

To put it succinctly, as I sat in the concert, experiencing all this, the thought popped in my mind, “these are my people, and this is my music”.  I’m sure I’ve conveyed my love for the music of Yes in my previous concert review and in my post about the Roundabout Fiasco of 1979, so I won’t belabor the point. However, I do need to compare this concert to the Yes concert I saw in Jackson last year.

The Nashville concert reinforced to me how very special the one in Jackson was. Not that this one wasn’t great, because it was, but the show in Jackson was extra special. The band had been delayed for two hours due to weather and had chartered a plane and flown through bad weather to get to us. Jackson waited; hardly anyone left.  I’m sure the band was tired and stressed, and I don’t think they expected the incredibly enthusiastic reception that they got from the audience. Perhaps they weren’t aware that Jackson, po-dunk town that it is, had one of the ass-kickinest album rock stations in the nation (WZZQ) during the 1970s; thus, we were all heavily exposed to Yes during their heyday and love them vehemently still, although they hadn’t played here all these years, what with us being po-dunk and all. So when Yes got extended, passionate, emotional ovations after each and every song they played, and I’m talking the best ovations I’ve ever heard in my life, you could see the surprise and gratitude in their faces. All of them were smiling ear to ear, including the normally stoic Steve Howe. Chris Squire, one of the nicest guys in rock, who lives and breathes Yes, was so emotional you could see the mist in his eyes. But he was not alone – half the audience was in tears.  An amazing concert and a profound experience for all who were there – band and audience alike.

So the Jackson concert gets an A+ and the Nashville concert gets an A-. They played Close to the Edge in reverse order, which kinda messed me up a little. They played two songs from their new album Heaven and Earth, and they were just okay. And they just didn’t seem quite as tight as they were in Jackson, but I think that’s because they were giving it all they got at that show, since we were definitely giving them all we had that night.

I feel so lucky that they are still touring and I got to see them again. They still speak to me in those old, sweet accustomed ways…

And uh…this is for you know who and his concert henchmen, because we’re not gonna take it. We know how it’s supposed to be. This was recorded at Woodstock. Where people sat, stood, rolled in the mud, or whatever they wanted to do…

And by the way, we’re still free…

Okay, one more, I can’t resist. So glad to be a part of the Yes generation. And The Who. It’s my generation, baby…

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Filed under Music, Uncategorized