Darren Hayes special delivery

This blog is back from the dead.

Today I got a package from my friend Carolyn who lives in L.A. She had messaged me a couple weeks back and asked me if I had various Darren Hayes vinyl, and if not, would I be interested in having it? I answered that I absolutely didn’t have them and absolutely would take them.

The package that arrived was full of Darren Hayes goodies. The first of these was the 7″ gold vinyl single of “Stupid Mistake.” There are only 500 copies of this single in the whole world and now one of them is mine.  As is the case with most dark colored vinyl, you kind of have to hold it up to the light to see the true color.

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The next item was the super deluxe limited edition of Darren’s 2011 album Secret Codes & Battleships. It contains so many things I have yet to scratch the surface of everything included. First off, the CD version of the album is included as is a second disc of bonus tracks and demos. The vinyl version of the album is also there, this time pressed on a gorgeous purple vinyl. There’s also a 32 page book in full color, and a limited edition lithograph – one of four included in this set.  All of this is housed in a hard slip case.

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But wait! There’s more!

She also threw in two signed tour books. I’ve never had a chance to see Darren Hayes live, and I don’t think it will ever happen now that he’s pretty much retired from music (Secret Codes & Battleships, now 7 years old, was his most recent album), but these are cool and the fact that they are signed makes them just that much cooler.

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And because she somehow knew that I had never seen Darren live, she included the DVD of The Time Machine Tour.

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I am so grateful that Carolyn thought of me when she was looking for a new home for these items – and I thought I was “just” getting the records. It’s good to have friends. I promise I will treat them well because they are worth a pretty penny on the secondary market – not that I would ever sell them.

So tonight I’ve been listening to them, because you know me, records are meant to be played, not just placed on a shelf or left in their shrink wrap forever. Maybe someday, if I’m lucky, I can get Darren Hayes to sign my Secret Codes & Battleships deluxe box set, but that would require me getting myself to L.A.! (well, and many other pieces would have to fall into place as well, none of which are very likely.)

 

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Is this blog dead?

graveyard.jpgMy friend Steve posted his favorite songs of 2017 on his blog which he admitted, is pretty much defunct despite being a huge part of his life for the better part of 10 years. It got me to thinking about the future of this blog. I haven’t posted my Top 20 songs of the year and at this point, I doubt that I will. My last post was in October, for crying out loud! Honestly, I don’t know what the future of this blog is. Maybe it doesn’t have one. Maybe blogging really is dead and I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I have less time to do it than ever.

Much like Steve, my blog has allowed me to make some incredible in-real-life friends as well as giving already in-real-life friends a place to get to know me better – for better or for worse. I’m proud of the stuff I have written here, and every now and then I go back and read posts that I wrote 10 years ago and marvel at them. That was when blogging was easy because it was the only place to share things. Now we have social media and, let’s face it, that’s so much easier and so much more immediate.

I’m not sure I’m ready to hang it up here yet, but the future isn’t so bright that I gotta wear shades.

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Nanas envy

As most people don’t know, Bananarama is coming to North America with their original line-up. Actually, that’s not true. They are coming to the coasts + Toronto.

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To say that I am disappointed is putting it mildly. But the emotion that is even more pronounced is jealousy – jealousy of those that are actually able to go. I mean, I am more than capable of getting on a plane and heading to one of these cities (although I think my passport is expired so going to Toronto would take slightly more doing.) But going to any of these places for the day of the concert and the one day afterward, even if it’s just traveling, is easily a $1000 trip between airfare, concert tickets, hotel, and food. So no, that’s not happening. And plus I’m sure all the tickets are sold out.

I said to a friend yesterday that had they done a Chicago show, I would have argued for going. But really, driving to Chicago in February is a dicey proposal because you just never know what the weather will do. So even if they had played Chicago, I STILL probably would have had to pass. The tragedies of living in a rural Midwestern state.

But I was thinking on the way to work this morning that it’s not like I have gone without. I have seen Madonna 7 times on 6 different tours. I saw 10 concerts in 2016. And of those, probably the most important one that I saw was Barbra Streisand. Barbra probably had a bigger effect on my college years than most men my age, but seeing her live was like paying tribute to that young man and giving him something that he always wanted but never thought he would have.

To be honest, I only consumed Bananarama for 2-3 years in the 80s and then for a couple more years in the early 00s – hardly a big influence on me.

Don’t get me wrong, if I had a chance to go, I would jump at it, but I think I just have to be happy for those that are going and realize that this time, much like the time Kylie Minogue came to Chicago on her first U.S. tour, is just not the time.

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Cost comparisons

jftr.jpgKind of as a follow-up to my previous post about R.E.M.’s  overpriced Automatic For The People 4-CD set, I was thinking about how this isn’t exactly without precedent. Back in 1991, I was a poor college sophomore and in what can only be described as a fit of insanity, I picked up the 4-CD Barbra Streisand box set Just For the Record… for $60 at the Ames Target. I can still remember that my friend Jeff was with me and I was just dipping my toe in to the river Streisand and decided why not just jump in? I remember feeling like I had just spent a zillion dollars. I will never forget standing there, hemming and hawing, bargaining with myself saying that if I sold my textbooks back like I was planning to, that would easily cover the cost of the box set. Even though I always thought the packaging made it look like a feminine hygiene product, I’m very glad that I bought it because it really was what pushed me into Streisand fandom which culminated last year when I finally saw her live.

So $60 in 1991 dollars is surely at least $90 in 2017 dollars, right? I plugged it into the inflation app on my phone and, sure enough, $60 in 1991 is equivalent to roughly $107 in 2017 dollars. Maybe my complaining was unjustified. Perhaps $90 for the Automatic For The People deluxe edition isn’t so bad after all.

I was talking to my friend Steve and he found the flaw in my theory. Just For The Record… was a huge career retrospective with many unreleased gems from the Streisand vault, whereas Automatic For The People is a single album. Granted, there’s a concert and demos but no B-sides or anything to the extent that Streisand provided on Just For The Record… Still, for all my talk about not buying it, I probably still will end up with it.

Back in the day, I made a mix tape of my favorite tracks on the set. Miraculously, the track list of that mix tape has survived 26 years and I recreated it tonight as a Spotify playlist. I am sure I was the only man on the Iowa State campus that was listening to Barbra Streisand on his Walkman back then, but that’s me all over.

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Automatic purchase no longer

To say I was excited about the release of the deluxe 4-CD version of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People was definitely an understatement. It’s my favorite R.E.M. album, and tied to so many college memories I can barely count them all. Seeing that it was getting the deluxe remaster treatment was definitely exciting.

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I mean, what’s not to love? A remastered original album, a CD featuring 13 tracks from R.E.M.’s Greenpeace benefit concert, a third disc full of 20 demos from the recording of Automatic for the People, some of which made the album, the vast majority of which did not. The final disc is a Blu-ray containing an even highly remastered version of the album and the videos for the album. And as an added bonus a SIXTY page book to go along with it. A pretty perfect deluxe edition of a pretty much perfect album.

Then I saw the price.

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Um, wow. I suppose if you think about it, it’s not THAT outrageous, considering there’s a Blu-ray DVD in there, but still. I think this has been priced outside the range of what most people are willing to pay.  I think a more reasonable asking price is more like $60. If they had thrown a vinyl LP in there, then maybe the $90 asking price would be more reasonable. There is a remastered vinyl being released alongside this package, but it’s stand alone and not included with the CDs.

There is a 2-CD version being released, but it includes none of the demos which is what I’m really after. Truth be told, I don’t really need a live concert, but the demos intrigue me.  I did see that there is a digital only release on Amazon that includes the content of the 3 CDs and it’s $24, so that will probably be the route I end up going, except with these reissues, I really like getting the physical product.  Who knows. Maybe I’ll ask for it for Christmas and family members can go in together and get it.

So this deluxe rerelease won’t be an automatic purchase unless I become independently wealthy between now and November. Which is too bad because I was really looking forward to this.

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Woolly

woolly.jpgA few posts back, I lamented about my lack of ability to read anything – or at least stay interested in anything. Well, I’m happy to report that I’m actually kind of on a roll with books right now, much like I am with blogging, even though I unintentionally took a week off from blogging. The 300+ hits that Mary Chapin Carpenter post got left me reeling, I guess. 🙂

At any rate, I just finished a book that I felt kind of deserved its own blog post. It is Ben Mezrich’s Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures. As you might imagine, it is about bringing Woolly Mammoths back to life via genetic engineering and splicing their genes into their closest living relatives, the elephant. I find de-extinction fascinating, although I do realize that it resides mostly in the realm of the fantastic. Things like Jurassic Park are just not ever likely to happen, because DNA from prehistoric creatures like that just doesn’t exist.

Not so with Woolly Mammoths. Since many unfossilized specimens have been found, the genome has a prayer of actually being sequenced although even that will be incomplete. Turns out DNA is a fragile bitch (who knew?) and hundreds of thousands of years of exposure to even ambient radiation will degrade it. And then there’s the difficulty in working with elephant stem cells and the TWENTY TWO MONTH elephant gestation time. Making a Mammoth is going to be harder than even Mr. DNA himself would have thought.

The book is written in what the author calls “creative non fiction” which resulted in a lot of 3 star reviews on Goodreads. Said reviews claimed the book was “hard to read” and that they “couldn’t tell if they were reading fiction or non-fiction.” I did not have this experience. To me, it read a lot like Mary Roach’s books, only the author did not insert himself into the narrative. The story jumps around a lot, and two chapters take place in the nebulous “3 years from today” time frame when Mammoths have been successfully recreated. I’m not going to give away the “why” behind resurrecting Woolly Mammoths because I thought it was kind of ingenious and really, I do highly recommend this book.

Woolly also has the distinction of getting me back into paper books. I’ll admit that most of the impetus for reading this in hardcover was because the library had it and the Kindle version was obscenely priced at $13.99.  This is not a book I’ll re-read but I was very glad that I read it.

So if you’re looking for a good read about efforts to bring extinct animals back to life, Woolly is your book. Honestly though, I was far more intrigued by the possibility that they could bring passenger pigeons back.

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Come On Come On at 25

Yesterday on Facebook, there was a discussion about Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992. Andrew crossed the Florida peninsula my first week back in college that year, but that year I was at a new school, making new friends, and finally in pharmacy school. My brother-in-law mentioned that it was 25 years ago and damn if he wasn’t right. But then I got to thinking, if it’s been 25 years since Hurricane Andrew, then it’s been 25 year since the release of one of the most influential albums in my life, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On Come On.

Released at the end of June in 1992, it didn’t slip on to my radar until right around the time that Hurricane Andrew was making landfall in Florida. It was then that I first saw the video for the album’s lead single “I Feel Lucky.” I had a vague idea of who she was because I had seen her perform “Down at the Twist and Shout” on some awards show (maybe the Grammys?) and liked it quite a bit, but never enough to actually buy any of her albums. Even “I Feel Lucky” didn’t prompt me to go buy the album. At least not then.

I did eventually purchase Shooting Straight In The Dark during the Christmas season of 1993, and within a few months, I had purchased all her albums, including Come On Come On. I’m pretty sure I sold my body to buy the album – you could make $35 a pop at the university hospital by donating platelets so I would do that every 3-4 weeks or so and then go treat myself to CDs with the money I made. This was the beginning of my love affair with Chapin’s music, which has continued to this day. By then, I knew a few more songs off the album, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and the ubiquitous “Passionate Kisses” which managed to crack into the pop charts as well.

I remember the lyric “Do I want too much?/Am I going overboard to want that touch?/Shout it out to the night/Give me what I deserve, ‘cuz it’s my right!” particularly resonating with 21 year old Dan. Chapin was a perfect foil to my mindset at the time, and I can’t think about college without thinking about her. Every time I listen to this album, I will always think of studying at the Iowa Memorial Union, feeling like at least someone understood me. She sang how I was feeling at the time and as a result, Come On Come On is in my top 5 albums of all time. I simply never tire of it. Even the songs I didn’t care for much when I first heard it (“Rhythm of the Blues”, “Not Too Much To Ask”) have aged much better than I ever thought they would.

Come On Come On would eventually spin off something like seven singles, causing me to refer to it as the Janet Jackson’s Rhythm  Nation: 1814 of country albums (I probably stole that from somewhere.) But two of my favorite songs never made the cut as singles. Probably deemed too melancholy, the tracks “Only A Dream” which tells the story of two sisters growing up and, as Chapin says “trying to hold real hard to memories and not being able to sometimes” and “I Am A Town,” which uses fantastic imagery to describe rural Southern small towns, are highlights on the album for me. Chapin went on to rerecord both of those songs with a full orchestra for her Songs from the Movie album.

It will always be one of my all-time favorite albums, and I really wish it would get reissued on vinyl. It would be a fitting tribute to an album that helped shape me into who I am today.

Happy 25th, Come On Come On. And here’s to 25 more years of listening.

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