Song & Emotion

The Dig Me Out Podcast guys recently recorded an episode about Karate‘s 1997 album, In Place of Real Insight. The mention of Karate brought back all sorts of memories that, in a different time, would be happy ones that put a smile on my face.

I’ve learned, in dealing with grief, that writing things down allows me to exorcise some of the thoughts swirling around in my head rather than holding them in and allowing them to sink me into deep(er) despair. In 2018, I lost my daughter, Liv, to a blood clot on the brain. I don’t know that I’ve written that statement very often and even now it chills me to the bone. It’s a never-ending nightmare that I know I can’t wake up from. Though we were blessed with 17-and-a-half years with her and all the fun and wonderful and, heck, even mundane experiences and stories, all of those stories turn sour with how the story ends. So, that’s why this story about Karate is one that I’d always enjoyed telling but haven’t told in a number of years and, honestly, never thought I would tell again.

I actually still have the email I sent to Geoff Farina, Karate’s lead singer, on January 12, 2001.

Hi Geoff –

Don’t know if your publicist passed along this message to you. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. I have a 2 month old daughter named Olivia. The week that we brought her home from the hospital was a somewhat tough one. She wasn’t real wild about sleeping through the night. My wife and I took shifts staying up with her. During one of my shifts (around 3 am), I jumped on the computer to check my e-mail. Olivia was upset and crying for no reason (she wasn’t hungry and didn’t need her diaper changed). I logged onto WOXY (Oxford, Ohio radio station) and listened to their webcast. The first song we heard was Karate’s “Sever.” Olivia stopped crying and became very interested in the music coming from the computer. Her mood changed from upset to complacent. Shortly thereafter (during a K.D. Lang song), Olivia fell asleep in my arms. For that, I will forever be grateful. It was then that I determined that Olivia must have found the music soothing and interesting. Your publicist just sent me the CD and I’ve been playing it for Olivia when I rock her to sleep at night (it’s replaced “Tranquil Sounds — Ocean Waves” as the disc of choice).

Thanks for making music that both my daughter and I enjoy.

With the email, I sent a photo of Olivia in her crib with the Karate CD next to her. Much to my surprise, Geoff responded a few hours later.

Yeah, my publicist did forward this to me and I thought it was great, but thanks for the pix…they’re great! What a great story. It’s true that our audience seems to get younger each year, but I didn’t expect this.

Interestingly enough, shortly after this email exchange, I was going through a stack of press releases I had gotten in the mail and found one from Karate’s publicist with tour dates. What was super coincidental is that on the night that I became a first-time father (November 4, 2000), Karate was playing a show at Bernie’s Bagels in Columbus. The fact that, two months later, Karate helped put Liv to sleep made so much more sense, it felt like one of those weird universal bonds that just happen and that we’re powerless to control.

I always dreamed that, as Liv got older, she’d randomly pick up a Karate CD or album and become a fan. I’d share with her the story about how she heard “Sever” when she was just a few months old and how it lulled her to sleep. Unfortunately, I tried to play the song for her at different times in her life but she was more into indie-pop and she didn’t really care for Karate’s indie-jazz sound.

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to “Sever” and while it brings back good memories, the darkness is winning the battle and I know if I listen to the song now it’ll trigger the bad memories so I’ll put it off for another day.

I miss you, Liv. I wish we could listen to “Sever” together tonight to see if you could feel some connection to the song.

Soundtrack of My Life – The Kinks – “Come Dancing”

You either get it or you don’t. There are songs that, when you hear, will instantly bring up memories. One of those songs for me is The Kinks’ 1983 single “Come Dancing.” As a pre-teen, I don’t know that I had any idea who The Kinks were although I suspect that I may have known that at some point in that general era that Van Halen covered “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” on ‘Diver Down’. And, as I write this, I’m sure I was familiar with “Lola” and “Destroyer” (listening to this song now, memories come flooding back of thinking that this had to have been performed by a heavy metal band).

But, back to “Come Dancing.” We didn’t have cable in 1983 which meant no MTV. I imagine that I probably heard “Come Dancing” on the radio – my parents certainly weren’t fans of The Kinks, I had no older siblings to turn me onto music, and I don’t remember listening to The Kinks with my best friend who was definitely into music (thanks, in part, to having a sister in college and access to her albums) but I can’t imagine The Kinks slipped in among the many listens to Van Halen, Rush, Ozzy, and REO Speedwagon.

I heard “Come Dancing” this morning on iHeart Radio’s “I Love the 80s” channel and … bam … transported to a little league bench, after practice, talking to a teammate named Garrett. I remember two Garretts from my childhood and I think I played on teams with both of them at some point – when this memory strikes, I don’t remember which Garrett it was. Where we talking about the song? Was somebody singing it? Was I thinking about it after practice? Those are memories I can’t dial up but sitting on the bench, in my little league uniform, that’s as clear as day (it was a sunny day).

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Back in those days, when shopping at a big box department store like Caldors or Bradlees, I’m sure I convinced my mom to buy me The Kinks ‘State of Confusion’ cassette just so I could listen to “Come Dancing” over and over and over again. As I look at the tracklist now, it’s safe to say that I likely never flipped the cassette over to side B and, honestly, none of the songs on side A other than “Come Dancing” even sound familiar so safe to say that my mom bought me the cassette for the sole purpose of listening to one song.

Bee Gees Covers (Part 1)

(This will likely be a continuing series as I’m always on the lookout for Bee Gees Covers)

Been meaning to check out Dirty Streets due to comparisons to bands like Grand Funk Railroad and when I pulled them up on Spotify, discovered they released a cover of “Stayin’ Alive” in October. Love how this takes the original and spins it in a bluesy twist – the lyrics are recognizable, the melody still there but it’s not a note-for-note cover.

At 2.6 million views, this isn’t a secret but, wow, how did I not know about this?

I don’t want fully-fleshed out covers with a full compliment of instruments. I want stripped down covers where the songwriting shines through.

Absolutely wonderful!

Simple, simple, simple. Showcase the power of the song.

Monday Roundup: George Lynch, Greg Puciato, Killer Be Killed, Gone is Gone

Surprising twists on recognizable covers

Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch has lived by the “quantity over quality” mantra the last 5 or so years – seems like every other month there is an announcement of a new project. Some are good, some are okay, many are forgettable. The tracklisting of a recently-released covers album, Heavy Hitters, with Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson didn’t inspire confidence – “One of Us” (Joan Osbourne), “Music” (Madonna), and “KISS” (Prince) were among the songs that I wasn’t sure I wanted (or needed) to hear. But, much to my surprise, outside of the nearly note-for-note covers of “Ordinary World” (Duran Duran) and “Apologize” (OneRepublic) (thumbs up for the D2 cover, love the original, love the cover; thumbs down for the sappy pop radio hit “Apologize”), the hard rock spin on these tracks make them sort of fun to listen to.

The album kicks off with “One of Us” and had it been true to the original, I don’t know that I would have even explored the rest of the tracks but Lynch & Pilson put a dark twist on song.

And, come on, I didn’t expect Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” to rip the way this version does.

This won’t be in heavy rotation but it earned a few spins this past weekend.

Venn Diagram

Mastodon’s Troy Sanders is the shared band member between Killer or Be Killed and Gone is Gone, both hard rock super groups in their own rights. My 2020 tastes seem to have been leaning heavily towards Americana so as the year comes to an end, I knew I needed something heavier to balance it out. I started with the new solo album by ex-Dillinger Escape Plan Greg Puciato (Child Soldier: Creator of God), which brings to mind everybody from Nine Inch Nails to Faith No More to the Deftones.

It was a pretty consistent listen the first half of October and though I certainly am not done with Puciato’s solo album, I gravitated to the Killer Be Killed album, Reluctant Hero, which came out at the end of November. Killer Be Killed features Puciato, Sanders, Sepultura/Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and Converge’s Ben Koller. Good, old-fashioned, aggressive hard rock that, were we not in the midst of a pandemic, would be fun to see in a packed club with a bunch of other sweaty, middle-aged dudes in black t-shirts.

BUT, wait, there’s more. Sanders also is part of Gone is Gone which features Queens of the Stone Age/Failure’s Troy Van Leeuwen, At the Drive-In/Sparta’s Tony Hajjar and Mike Zarin. Their new album, If Everything Happens for a Reason… Then Nothing Really Matters at All, came out in early December  and Van Leeuwen’s influence can’t be understated – there’s some industrial/space rock vibes though it’s got this subdued heaviness that sneaks up on you. Three killer hard rock albums that – if I get around to a “Favorites of 2020” list – will likely earn a few spots.