Monday, 8 August 2016

Music That saved me--Letter H

H is a funny letter. I want to start with H is for Helen Hemingway--the best high school English teacher I had. I do not want to name and shame any other teacher that I had at ASH, but let's just say my 9th grade honours English experience was a little bit of a downer. When your English teacher says, "we have to read Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. It is really boring and you will hate it, but have up to page 40 read by tomorrow," then you know it isn't going to be the best year. Thankfully, I had Mrs Hemingway for 10th grade honours English and it was like being lit with industrial floodlights after a year in the dark. It probably helped that the topic was British literature. This was part of my beginnings as an Anglophile.

 Once, she was cleaning out her storage cupboard where all the English books and supplies were kept and she found a paperback copy of the book of the American tribal love Rock Musical Hair. What is was doing in her storage cupboard is anyone's guess. But she gave it to me. SHE GAVE IT TO ME! I felt so special. She said something offhand like, "You would probably enjoy this." I was a weird and eccentric kid. I did.

I carried that ragged paperback copy around with me all year and underlined passages of deep significance. Things like:
Berger: Watch me!
Dad: we've tried.
Berger: Channel 13.

Mom: Start facing reality.
Claude: Which one?

but most importantly:
Sheila Franklin
Second semester
And she's a protester. 
I really admired the character of Sheila who was out there righting wrongs by making posters and standing up for what she believed in by demonstrating. The character of Sheila was also one that formed who I am today. I am that lady with homemade signs out there protesting against animal cruelty.

I bought the two album set at  a garage sale and listened obsessively, reading along with the book given to me by Mrs Hemingway. So my first pick from Hair is Hair. This song also influenced me to be happy with my body hair and not remove it just because society says women should.
Listen to it here: 
 My other pick from Hair is Air. I had a real thing about pollution and this song really spoke to me. The revival seems to have added a verse I do not remember about being radioactive and since nuclear war/nuclear energy were also concerns of mine I am using the revival version of Air.
Listen to it here:
Thank you Helen Hemingway.

Hoodoo Gurus
I don't know how I stumbled on this Australian band. They had a couple of mainstream hits with songs like What's My Scene. I bought the cassette of Mars Needs Guitars from Camelot Records and because of Like Wow--Wipeout which got some MTV rotation.  Their lead singer had a cleft in his chin big enough to park a car in. I really loved it.
Watch it here:

Several of their songs had a bit of a country and western vibe to them. I fell in love with one called Hayride to Hell all about getting pregnant out of wedlock on an innocent hayride. It was a story song (and we all know by now how much I love a story song.)
Listen to it here:
Howard Jones (aka HoJo)
Image result for howard jones
He had cool 80's hair and now he's the lay version of a Buddhist monk. (and he still has cool hair, even though it is grey!) Read about it here:

I fell in love with HoJo and his synthesiser beat and thoughtful lyrics. He urged us to:
Take the challenge to [your] hearts
Challenging preconceived ideas
Saying goodbye to long standing fears

Don't crack up, bend your brain, see both sides
Throw off your mental chains
 Plus I really dug his hair.

My first HoJo pick is Things can Only Get Better. I was a weird and eccentric kid and did not fit in with the Jock culture of Louisiana and this song was a mantra for me .Every time someone called me a freak or a football player put his hand all over my body before tripping me and making my books fly everywhere I just repeated the words of HoJo.
Watch it here:
OK, he may have had cool hair, but that tang coloured satin suit has got to go! But watch the drummer--his drum set up is amazing. And what was up with the karate man?

My other HoJo pick--it was a toss up.  I almost picked No One Is to Blame. But I ended up choosing Everlasting Love as it came out in 1989 and it was one Spiderman and I bought on cassette single together. It was later in the 80's and his hair was less cool (no doubt damaged by all those years of hair spray) but I loved the words and felt it could have been written about us--as by this time we had discovered we were too weird for anyone else.
Watch it here:

My last H choice is Helen Arney. She is a pretty recent discovery. Helen Arney is the reason i play the ukulele. She's a scientist by day and a geek songstress by night. We saw her at one of the Full Frontal Nerdity gigs at the British Library and she played her ukulele. She sang songs about science and I fell in love. I had never seen a ukulele up close and was so in awe that I went out the very next day and bought Ruth. Several years later, I upgraded to a better quality uke named Tallulah but it all started because of Helen Arney. When we get to letter S you'll see her sister Kat in Sunday Driver. Here she is singing about having her husband cryogenically  frozen (we heard this the first night we saw her) called You and me and Walt Disney. 
This last one is the saddest love song I know. It is beautiful, tender, absurd, and funny with a heartbreaking ending about a man who tried several time to propose to his sweetheart. Each one is more  ridiculous than the last, but somehow you don't want to want to cry. This may be due to the inclusion of a singing saw. If you ever want to know what the sound of broken heart sounds like--it is the sound of a singing saw. I know how it ends and I always hold my breath at the long pause and then burst into tears. Every. Single. Time. Go to her bandcamp page and listen to Indecent Proposal.
Listen to them all, really. She's brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You picked 2 of my favorites of all times! I love the Hoodoo Gurus and Howard Jones!!!