ALMOST A ONE-WOMAN BAND – Marilyn Armstrong

I bought another tin whistle. I bought one in the key of C yesterday and bought one in the key of D today, probably because all the “learner’s” books are written for key of D whistles. I also bought a very small electric piano designed for a child because I can’t tune anything electronically.

I need to hear the sound.

Electronic tuners are silent. They find the right pitch, but they don’t make the entire instrument come together as a whole. That requires an ear. Preferably two. The chords have to sound right.

I often forget how many years I spent studying music because it was a long time ago and my hands can’t do what they used to do which was play the piano. Yes I still want music. Not just to listen to it but to make music. I can’t help it.

I thought I might “conquer” the ukulele, but there’s really nothing to conquer and honestly, if you don’t sing, there’s not a lot of fun in a uke. It’s all strumming. It wants people sitting around and singing — in or out of key — about wild mountains in Scotland or Ireland. Or West Virginia.

I’ve never seriously played a woodwind of any kind, except for a couple of years of flute in college. I wasn’t very good at it, but I wasn’t trying very hard either. I didn’t know how to play without a keyboard or maybe I didn’t want to play without a keyboard. Maybe both. It’s why I now spend so much time staring lovingly at Xylophones and Marimbas. Searching for the lost Vibraphone that should have been there. The only instruments I could afford I didn’t want. I wanted the $4000 Marimba. What a magnificent instrument that was.

If you can play a piano, you can ultimately also play a glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, or vibraphone. The keyboard is the same. You have to do a little adapting, but you don’t have to strain your arthritic hands the same way.

The little tiny ones had YouTube footage and the treble clanging gave me an instant migraine. I do not think there is a real, wooden (the one I loved was made of rosewood) xylophone in my future and certainly not a marimba. Aside from being around the price of a small grand piano, where would I put it? Nonetheless, I can yearn.

This is all because I studied music as a child and as a young adult and even as Owen was growing up. He can still hum most of Chopin’s Mazurkas and a lot of Scott Joplin which was what I was playing when he was a little one. I thought he was sleeping, but it turned out, he was also listening.

Right now, he is having an instrument made for me by a friend of his who makes instruments. He is making me a cigar-box three-string non-electric guitar. I have no idea how one plays a three-string cigar-box guitar, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

There are books to study cigar-box guitars

I had to buy the cigar box and since I knew it was going to become the body of a guitar, I carefully picked one that was made of spruce — one of the woods that has a good ring to it. Just so you know, real cigar boxes are all made of cardboard these days.

So I bought a cigar-sized box and when it arrived, I pinged it and it sounded good. Soon, it will be an instrument. With frets and strings and tuning machines (not pegs — never got good at tuning with pegs). I have no idea what mine will look like. It’s a secret, but I’m ready.

If nothing else, isolation is making me creative in some very strange ways.

By the time I get my guitar, I may already be an expert playing a tin whistle. I could be the whole band if only I had a few more hands.

CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #76


And so on we go to Fandango’s provocative question of the week which, I must admit, isn’t as provocative as usual.

To answer this properly, I need to describe yesterday. It was the day after taking Bonnie to the vet and i wasn’t feeling like feeling. I had to get up very early because a valve was leaking in the bathroom and the plumber was coming. So it was 7 in the morning, I didn’t want to be awake at all, but I was. I didn’t feel like feeling anything because I was pretty sure whatever I felt wouldn’t feel good.

So after the plumber left and the bill was small enough to pay without going into debt — we have a really GREAT plumber — I turned on the television and started watching year two of Boston Legal. James Spader before he found his inner darkness.

Garry eventually got up and joined me and together, we watched an entire year of Boston Legal, front to back. Somewhere in there, I managed to cook dinner.

I had been smart enough to set up most of the posts for today because I kind of knew I was not going to want to do anything. I was right. Today, though, I had to get my act together. The Duke is sitting in corners staring at walls and Garry was watching a movie about the Klan killing black people in southern prisons which I finally insisted he turn off or go somewhere else to watch it.

He turned it off.

Today i spent all day on line trying to find one of four items that I don’t need:

  1. A real wooden Xylophone
  2. Tuning forks
  3. Something that would make a noise so I can tune my ukulele by ear rather than electronically. Yes, i know the electronic thingies works, but I need to hear the sound. I can’t tune something without hearing the sound against the sound. Tuning isn’t just getting the right vibration. It has to mellow properly with the other strings.
  4. I wanted a marimba. Couldn’t even afford to look at them and where would I put one anyway and besides, that’s a LOT of money, so I looked at Xylophones. The good ones I couldn’t afford either and I realized that no one seemed to know the difference between a glockenspiel and a xylophone … and does anyone even sell a vibraphone?

Finally, I bought a Scottish tin whistle. I know of at least one guy who used to banish ghosts with a tin whistle. I also discovered, in the course of events, that the price of a few tuning forks is more than the price of several instruments. Oh, and I also spent $12 on a very small piano so I have something that makes a noise to which I can tune something.

I am looking forward to the tin whistle. If I can’t banish the ghosts of the dead, maybe I can banish hulks of some of the living. Is anyone really happy about life right now? This isn’t the year to feel satisfied with life. I’m hoping next year will be better. Actually, I’m hoping next year will be great.

THERE WAS A FIRE AT THE HEART AND IT WILL BURN FOREVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Sioux teepee

Sioux teepee

My teepee had a firepit. I lined it with fireplace tiles, then added a surround of old red brick. It was a big pit for a small teepee, but logs come in a lot of different shapes and it was easier to leave extra space to accommodate the bigger and odder-shaped pieces than try to figure out how to fit them into a smaller pit.

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It gets very cold in winter in New England. In the deepest part of the winter, with the temperature well below freezing and several feet of snow on the ground, I liked going out to my teepee to spend a few hours by a fire. It was the most peaceful, private place in the world, one of the few places I felt really relaxed and at peace.

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I learned to build a fire very fast. In fact, I got so I could get that fire going in less than a minute. Of course, that’s not counting however much time it took to bring in the logs and stack the fire properly so it would catch and burn properly.

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A teepee fire needs to be bright and hot so the smoke will go straight up the smoke hole. In essence, a teepee is a chimney with room for other stuff. If you build the pit and the fire correctly, there is very little smoke and a lot of heat.

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Once the fire was going, the teepee, which had a lining to help insulate it, got very warm. I often had to open the door and sit half in and half out because it was so warm inside. And no, despite crackling and sparks, the teepee doesn’t catch on fire. It looks like it will, but it doesn’t, though I wouldn’t leave a fire unattended. Then again, I won’t leave any fire unattended.

A fire in a teepee on a snowy night is magic and it keeps the fire burning.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”
Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye
💢
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

💢

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

💢

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho,” Belgians in the Congo

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

💢

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

💢
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire 

💢

No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it …

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

SO MANY FLOWERS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

When I started writing Serendipity eight years ago, I was enthusiastic and full of energy. Undisciplined. All over the place. Writing too much, leaping from subject to subject. Angry one day, mellow the next. Ranting about the wrongs of the world and how we needed to fix everything. I think I knew more when I was younger. I even ranted about philosophy. Imagine that.

Almost the end of this run of orchids

And then I just dropped everything and took pictures of birds and flowers and rivers and autumn leaves..

I was so passionate I probably contradicted myself a dozen time a week, but who was counting?

A hideous election that completely altered my world view — and massive heart surgery — and now, I am living in my nightmare world. I expect awful things and to no ones surprise, that’s what we get. Because somehow, through the perfect storm of politics, we elected the worst possible president and now we are living under his tweets.

The last of the orchids … except for 2 more buds

I remember 2012, when I was full-bore into the election and all the positive change I expected to see. The election ended. Gridlock began. The air went out of my bubble. Life got grim and rather ugly. I got sick. I didn’t want to get down in the trenches and duke it out with people with whom I disagreed. I didn’t feel like bothering to call out the crazies for being crazy. I wanted to hear music. Not new music. Old music.

As we head into elections in 2020, we need to be a whole lot smarter. Less passionate, more intelligent. Anyone who still thinks voting has nothing to do with them is beyond help. Let’s find people we can help. Let’s give up on all those people who live in a state of blind hate. They aren’t going to change and we will never convince them of anything. More than half the people I hear from are irrational, stupid, and fascist. We aren’t going to bring them to our side. They don’t have a side. They simply hate.

How do you talk to people who are completely irrational? Who don’t care whether what they believe is true or not? People who think their personal feelings are more important than truth? Any truth?

Meanwhile, there’s music.John Prine is one of our lost flowers.

The current future looks rather bleak. I want it to get better, but it’s hard to see past the mess we are in.

I want to move back to the United States. I’m pretty sure — this ain’t it. Are you hearing Phil Ochs singing “I ain’t marching anymore …” Are you wondering where have all the flowers gone?

This last one was originally sung by THIS group in a tiny coffee house run by my first husband, right near my college. It’s how I got to know the man. The Incredible String Band were … well … incredible.

THE SUMMER WIND

SONGS THAT CAME BLOWIN’ IN, by Rich Paschall


If you visited this space last Sunday, you saw the top Summer Songs as given by the musical genius, Brian Wilson.  Those may have been songs that evoked thoughts of summer for Brian, but some were a real stretch of the imagination to me.  I promised you songs that are really about summer.

Summertime by George Gershwin is arguably the most beloved summertime song ever. Great singers from Billie Holiday through Janis Joplin recorded hit versions of the song. Originally written by Gershwin for the 1935 modern opera, Porgy and Bess, rock and opera stars alike have recorded it. Guinness World Records claimed it to be the most recorded song ever. I’m sure you’ve heard it and probably have a favorite version.

When the Beach Boys put out a new album for their 50th anniversary, they served up a perfect piece of nostalgia with Summer’s Gone, written by Brian Wilson. He took lead on the record and in performance.  Unfortunately, they did not do it throughout the anniversary tour and there’s only one fan video from the last stop I can find.  Therefore, this tribute through old and new pictures will have to serve:

Now, the countdown.

10. Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, Nat King Cole, 1963.  If I heard it once, I heard it a million times (as the saying goes) while growing up.  I guess we must really have liked it. Cole was alive then and would turn up on variety shows to perform this.  Unfortunately, variety shows have disappeared.
9.  A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy, 1964. They were part of the “British Invasion” and this was their biggest hit.
8.  Summer Nights, from the play and movie, Grease.  It was “the word” for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  If you can look past all the people who killed this song in karaoke, it might still be a favorite.
7.  In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry, 1970  The song filled with odd sounds and rhythms was a mega-hit for the British group.
6.  Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone  This one was at the top of the Brian Wilson list.

5.  Surfer Girl, the Beach Boys  This early Beach Boys hit remained a fan favorite through the years.  Almost 50 years after first recording it, they could still perform the harmonies with ease.  Well, if not with ease, then at least with a lot of coaching by Brian:

4.  Summer Rain, Johnny Rivers, 1968  It didn’t make it to the top of the charts, but it is one of those songs that keeps getting played.  Now in his 70s, Rivers is still performing his many hits.

3.  Summer Wind, Frank Sinatra, 1966  Wayne Newton first recorded the song in 1965, but it is Sinatra who had a hit the following year.

2.  Summer Breeze, Seals & Crofts, 1972  Written and performed by Jim Seals and Dash Crofts.

1.  Summer in the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966  Released in July 1966, by August it was number 1.  The overplayed summer anthem included a car horn and jackhammer sounds to let you know you were in the city.

What are your summer favorites?

CALLIOPE MUSIC – Marilyn Armstrong

I added some calliope music for the calliope enthusiasts (I am one!) and those who have never had the pleasure of hearing a real, old-fashioned steam calliope. Enjoy!

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There is no music that makes me as nostalgic as a steam calliope. There are so few working calliopes remaining anywhere … if you get a chance to spend some time with one, don’t miss it! And if you play a keyboard, playing a calliope is just something else!

SUMMER SONGS – RICHARD PASCHALL

The Top 10 of a Musical Genius

From the time the Beach Boys hit the surf and the top of the charts in the 1960s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific songwriting propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains popular to this day.

Wilson was not just trying to crank out rock and rolls songs for public consumption. He was trying to create a new sound, the “California” sound of blended harmonies and instruments. His obsessive work in the studio while seeking a certain type of perfection was both his strength and ultimately his weakness.

Brian Wilson

Today Brian is again touring, writing and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by songwriters everywhere.  Many, including Paul McCartney, Bono, James Webb (American songwriter), and Rolling Stone Magazine, consider Wilson’s “God Only Knows” among the best songs of all time.

So when Brian offers an opinion regarding rock and roll music, it usually garners some attention.  A few years ago he gave us a top ten list of his favorite songs of summer.  To no one’s surprise, a couple of Beach Boys’ songs made the list, but there are also a few interesting choices:

1. Hot Fun In The Summertime: Sly and the Family Stone.
2. In The Summer Time: Mungo Jerry.
3. I Get Around: The Beach Boys.
4. Be My Baby: The Ronettes.
5. California Girls: The Beach Boys.
6. Give Me Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group.
7. Hey Jude: The Beatles.
8. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones.
9. My Obsession: The Rolling Stones.
10. Mony Mony: Tommy James and the Shondells.

I don’t know how some of these songs were chosen for a summertime list, but it is Brian’s list so he can do as he pleases.  I am happy to modify it a bit. You can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to look up because I never heard of it needs to go.

“My Obsession” by the Rolling Stones is an early hit that really offers little in the way of music and lyrics.  It is certainly forgettable in every way and a surprise on any list provided by Wilson.  Of course, we all have early rock favorites that will probably sound weird to anyone else.  So, I am kicking that one off the list and replacing it with one of the Beach Boys’ top hits of all time, Little Surfer Girl.

Next, I have to replace the overdone Hey Jude. While McCartney still uses this epic to kill 10 minutes of every concert, I think it is time to retire it. Seriously, have you seen any performance of McCartney, live or on television, that did not contain an overblown version of this hit?  I can not associate it with summer anyway, so I am replacing it with “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Every oldies station will indeed play the heck out of this song from now until Labor Day, but I never tire of it. That’s my standard.

I like “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Mony, Mony” but let’s replace them with Summer hits.  Add Jan and Dean’s number one hit from 1963, “Surf City.”  With a similar sound to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean successfully rode the airwaves on their musical surfboards for many years, cashing in on the California style rock.  Another song I’m adding is “Saturday in the Park.” by Chicago — if for no other reason than to include a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, but will it make my Top Ten?

When I discovered Billboard’s list of the Top 30 Summer Songs I see there are a few more that could go on my list by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

Yes, next week you will get my top ten summer songs that are really about summer. I know you can’t wait. Just sing Hot Fun In The Summertime until then.

‘CAUSE EVERYTHING’S FINE RIGHT NOW – Marilyn Armstrong

We all know that everything isn’t fine right now but this song reminds me of times when everything was fine. I hope I’m still around when they are fine again.

Music triggers memory for me as nothing else can, transporting me backward like a time traveler to a world and a “me” I sometimes forget existed. I love this song. I like the words and melody, but mostly, I love it because it’s the song I sang to my son in the wee hours while I nursed him. Night and day lost any real meaning; sleep was catch-as-catch-can.

I was nursing, so my baby was hungry. He needed feeding every couple of hours. Sleep could wait, my baby couldn’t.

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For the first few months, I almost never went to bed. My son lived on my hip, in my lap, next to me on the sofa … wedged just slightly between the cushions so he wouldn’t fall if I drifted off watching old movies, but ready to wake when he next needed feeding.

Mothering was less structured in 1969. I didn’t know there were rules I should follow, so I made it up as I went along. I was only 22, not much more than a child myself. Being a young mother was natural and unlike other things in my life, I didn’t over-think it. I was playful, young enough to enjoy playing patty cake with a giggling infant.

This was a good lullaby in 1969. It’s still a good lullaby, performed by John Kirkpatrick.


Everything’s Fine Right Now

Who’s that knocking on my door?
Can’t see no-one right now.
Got my baby here by me,
can’t stop, no, no, not now.

Oh, come a little closer to my breast,
I’ll tell you that you’re the one I really love the best,
and you don’t have to worry about any of the rest,
cause everything’s fine right now.

And you don’t have to talk and you don’t have to sing,
You don’t have to do nothing at all;
Just lie around and do as you please,
you don’t have far to fall.

Oh, come a little closer to my breast,
I’ll tell you that you’re the one I really love the best,
and you don’t have to worry about any of the rest,
’cause everything’s fine right now.

Oh, my, my, it looks kind of dark.
Looks like the night’s rolled on.
Best thing you do is just lie here by me,
of course only just until the dawn.

Oh, come a little closer to my breast,
I’ll tell you that you’re the one I really love the best,
and you don’t have to worry about any of the rest,
’cause everything’s fine right now.

 

THIS LAND – HOPE FOR OUR FUTURE – Marilyn Armstrong

This Land Is Your Land

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

That ribbon of highway ...

That ribbon of highway …

I saw above me, that endless skyway ...

I saw above me, that endless skyway …

I saw below me that golden valley ...

I saw below me that golden valley …

Navajo Big Sky

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps, to the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts …

This land was made for you and me ...

This land was made for you and me …

THE JOY OF HANGING OUT — MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Hanging out is a concept lost to modern youth, but the most fun times of my young years were spent hanging out. Too bad modern kids have lost it.

I was a teenager in college. Madly in love with my first boyfriend who was seriously into the “Village scene.” He brought me there for my first taste of cold chocolate at a MacDougal Street coffee shop. I took to the Village like the proverbial duck to water.

From the old Italian coffee houses that sold coffee along with a few other non-alcoholic drinks, to the tiny, dingy coffee houses where folk music was born, this was the Heart of Hip. Everything was a 15 cent subway ride from home.

The world was mine.

It wasn’t only the Village, either. A lot of New York was free back then.

Museums were free. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a magical experience. For that matter, the huge New York Public Library behind the stone lions had basements full of original, ancient documents into which you could freely delve. You couldn’t take them out of the library, but they were free for you to absorb. (I have no idea if that’s true anymore.)

You could spend an afternoon at the Hayden Planetarium watching the stars. If you had just a little bit of money, afternoon plays on Broadway could be very cheap, especially if you could live with “standing room only.” In the afternoon, there were always seats available. A lot of things you pay big money, for now, weren’t expensive back when. This wasn’t just a matter of the change of the value of money through the years. It was a huge change in culture.

If you were a teenager, New York on your doorstep was heaven, but Greenwich Village in the 1960s on your doorstep? That was the stuff from which dreams came true.

From Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton to Pete Seeger and Judy Collins … they were all there. The famous, soon to be famous and a few infamous people. All young, making music and passing the basket.

Caffe Reggio — the place where cappuccino (in America) was born.

I’d take the subway and get off at Bleecker Street, alone or in the company of friends. It didn’t matter whether you brought company or went by yourself. There were always people to meet. You didn’t need much money — good because none of us had any. We were kids, mostly without jobs and in school. Those of us not still living with parents lived in apartments shared with other people so we could make the rent and maybe afford food too.

All I needed was subway fare — 30 cents round trip — and a few more cents for a hot (or cold) chocolate at the Reggio. For this pittance, I could spend an entire day and evening in the Village. Hanging out.

“What do you mean “hanging out?” asks my granddaughter.

“You bought a coffee or a hot chocolate and just sat around waiting to see what might happen. You could read or watch people coming and going. Hoping you’d see someone you knew — or maybe wanted to know.”

“That’s it? You just sat around?”

“Yup. Just sat around. And we didn’t sit around with our cell phones because there were no such things. We just sat around. Talking or thinking or reading. It was a quiet place until the music started. That was hanging out. No one told you to hurry — or told you to buy something or leave. It was cool to simply be there.”

Bleecker and MacDougalI often sat with a cup of coffee or chocolate for a whole day. No one pushed us out the door to make way for ‘the lunch crowd.’ No one bothered you unless you looked like you’d like some bothering.

When it got dark, you went to one of the places where people sang. There were usually no entry fees. Hopefully you had enough money to drop something in the basket for whoever was performing. It wasn’t particularly odd to have no money at all. A lot of us walked around with empty wallets. Without wallets, too. Rich was having exactly enough money to buy a coffee and subway tokens. It was okay in the 1960s. Poverty was cool.

Not only were there no cell phones. A lot of people had no phone. People rode bicycles with naked guitars strapped to their backs. Cars? I think most of us didn’t have driver’s licences. I know I didn’t. That was a decade in the future.

People were friendly, funny, and we were sure we were going to change the world. I think we did, though sometimes when I’m in a dour mood, I wonder if all we really did was make denim a fashion fabric.

Out near Hofstra in Hempstead, where I was occasionally attending school and getting far better grades than I deserved, I was a music major and one of the perks were free concert tickets to Carnegie Hall. There’s the “main room” — but there are also a number of “recital halls” where up and coming musicians perform. I’m hoping that’s still true.

Meanwhile, one of my soon-to-be husbands and his best friend decided to bring culture to Long Island. They opened the AbMaPHd (pronounced ab-ma-fid) coffee-house. It was a light-hearted reference to education — AB, MA, and Ph.D. Nobody got the joke.

They brought in the same people who were playing in the Village. Dave Van Ronk gave me my first good guitar strings. He even put them on the guitar for me.

Dave Van Ronk (back then)

What did I do there, in Hempstead? I hung out, of course. Sat around, meeting friends, drinking something, listening to music, meeting musicians. Hanging. I also played bridge upstairs in Memorial Hall instead of attending classes, but no one is perfect.

No one was texting, computing, or phoning. There was no electronic background noise (unless you count the squeal of feedback from the microphones). Nobody’s phone was beeping, dinging, or wailing. No one was going off into a corner to talk on the phone.

If you were going off into a corner, you were either making a date — remember dating? — or buying (or possibly selling) drugs.  All the noise was human. Talking, laughing, fighting, singing, discussing. Eating. Drinking.

It was an incredibly happy time for me, even though I thought I was deeply troubled, probably because I hadn’t really made the full breakaway from home to real life … and also because I’d read too many books about troubled youth and figured I must be one.

I know that whatever kids are doing today, they aren’t having nearly as much fun as we had. I feel sorry for them. We were adventurous, playful, willing to try anything at least once and most of us, more often. If I hadn’t been me during those years, I’d envy whoever had been the girl hanging out. If I miss anything of the “old days”? It’s hanging out. Just being there and doing nothing important.

Being there was enough.

CORRECTING A WRONG TURN – Marilyn Armstrong

Once upon a time, I had a job in Connecticut. My daily commute was 140 miles — each way. I only worked three days at the office and worked the other two at home. Even so, after a few months, I was exhausted. I could not continue.

I quit and found another job that didn’t require as much commuting. It didn’t pay nearly as well, but it wasn’t going to kill me. Two-hundred and eighty miles of driving three days a week was nuts. Not only did it wear me down, but it also wore out my car.

I never thought of giving up as “throwing in the towel.” I was not giving up. More like I was acknowledging I shouldn’t have taken the job (or married that guy) in the first place. What in the world made me believe I could spend five or six hours a day in the car and also spend 8 to 10 hours at work?

Whenever I’ve given something up whether it was a job, a relationship, a recipe, or whatever? The problem was never being defeated by a foe. The enemy was always me. I made a stupid choice. I should never have started whatever it was in the first place. And usually, I’d known it from the beginning but for some reason, I couldn’t say no.

Ultimately, I knew I’d screwed up and changed course. If you look at this kind of thing as a defeat, you will have a lot of trouble coping when the road gets bumpy. Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.

I’LL BE WHAT I AM – RICH PASCHALL

A Solitary Man, Rich Paschall

When the “stay at home” orders dragged on from March to April and then to May, it seemed like we needed some music to fit the situation. Some were creating playlists and posting them online. Others were writing and recording new songs. With all this creativity at hand, I decided to jump into the fray with our own Pandemic Playlist.

A lonely seagull

First up was a post entitled Splendid Isolation, named after the song by the late Warren Zevon. I sat down to compile a song list that would seem to fit our unique situations. This led to a variety of topics and a very long “shortlist” for my Top Ten.  It was hard work watching all those YouTube videos but I knew, “I Will Survive.”

With the SERENDIPITY Sequester Songlist finished, I knew we were off to a good start, but I still had a lot of tunes tempting me to go again. Many titles contained a variation of the word “Lone.” You know, Lonely, Alone, Lonesome and things like that. There were Lonely People in a Lonely Town who were all Alone or possibly Alone Together. From a Lonely Boy to Mr. Lonely they knew how Only The Lonely could feel. This Quarantine list was Just A Lonely Boy, from the opening line of the Paul Anka song.

As I looked over what was intended to be a shortlist for a Top Ten Quarantine songs, I realized there were at least twenty more. No, I will not give you another Top Ten, just the best of the rest. It was hard to rank these as they are all good songs. The order could change at any moment, so remember, this is just One Moment In Time.

Solitary man?

8. Solitaire, Neil Sedaka.  The song was written by Sedaka and frequent collaborator Phil Cody. The Carpenters had a hit with it, so did Andy Williams. Sedaka recently stated on his YouTube channel that at least 60 artists have recorded it.  Despite the hits by others, it seemed best to let Sedaka do the honors. If you liked the old Sedaka songs then you are in luck. The prolific singer, songwriter octogenarian gives mini-concerts every weekday on YouTube during the pandemic stay at home orders.

7. All By Myself, Eric Carmen. Another singer, songwriter, Eric Carmen started with the group The Raspberries in the early 1970s and went on a career all by himself.  Carmen is a classically trained pianist and based this hit tune on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The song made it to No. 2 on the US Billboard charts.

6. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Green Day. Some might consider this NSFW due to one of the words in the lyrics. The official video here has sort of garbled the word but you’ll get it. Radio play just took it out. Well, everything is screwed up. What else can I say? I am pretty sure that lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is not related to Garry and Marilyn, but I never really asked. Any way Armstrong declares, “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me, My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating.” He walks the boulevard alone.

5. Isolation, John Lennon. This one certainly has gotten popular since the stay at home orders. It appeared on Lennon’s first album following the breakup of The Beatles.  Recorded at Abbey Road studio, the album was released on the Apple label in 1970 to critical acclaim. Interestingly, Ringo Starr played drums on this track. Lennon is on the piano.

4. Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol. After that last one, I thought we should pick up the pace. If there is no one there to dance with, it is OK to dance with yourself. The song was originally released in the UK in 1980 by the band Gen-X with Billy Idol as the lead singer. The following year it was remixed and re-released in the US as a solo by Idol, who also co-wrote the song. Just remember:
“Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Dancing a-with myself”

3. Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. I don’t think there is anyone lonelier than Eleanor Rigby unless it is Father McKenzie of the same song. This 1966 release was quite a departure for the pop band. The song features eight string players, arranged by famed Beatles producer, George Martin. The song is about the elderly and the lonely. Only the Beatles could have had a hit with this one. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

2. One, Three Dog Night. Harry Nilsson wrote the song and released his version in 1968, but it was the Three Dog Night version the following year that became a hit. The repetition of the same note at the outset is meant to symbolize a busy single. If you make a call and get no one, then you are the only one. And as we all know, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”

1. Solitary Man, Neil Diamond. One of the best selling singer-songwriters in the world, Diamond had a big hit with this one, his first solo release in 1966. You are likely familiar with a radio version with background singers and big production. It was a powerful interpretation. There was also a version recorded alone without the background singers. It sounded more personal as he changed “then Sue came along” to “then you came along.”  The ultimate message is the same. Until he finds the right person, “I’ll be what I am, A solitary man.”

These were the best ones that did not make my other Playlists. To hear any one of the above just click the title. If you want to hear all nine on the Solitaire Playlist, click here.  I added both versions of the Neil Diamond song, one performance from 1971 (above), one from 2012.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, April 26, 2020.
JUST A LONELY BOY, Lonely and Blue, May 6, 2020. (Lonesome Playlist)

A MOTHER’S WALTZ by Leslie Martel and Marilyn Armstrong

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 8, 2020


FROM swo8 (Leslie Martel): Today is Mother’s Day. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The couple in the video are my great-grandparents.

My great-grandmother died in childbirth, leaving 3 babies and a husband. When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised.

The aunt is the lady sitting by the fireplace. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavors to undertake in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity (Marilyn & Garry Armstrong): The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago, but of course, it is new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8, with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong (from both my family and from Garry’s family).

These are memories in music for all mothers.

JUST A LONELY BOY – Rich Paschall

Lonely And Blue, by Rich Paschall

Are you lonesome tonight? Alone again, unnaturally? Feeling like Mr. Lonely? Lonely Is The Night these days so we thought it was time for our Lonesome List top ten. You can make a Journey to Ask the Lonely, but you will just be a Lonesome Loser. Those Lonely People will not have the music to sequester by.

Lonely town, lonely street

I Think We’re Alone Now, so I will give a shout out to a Bill Withers tune. The Grammy-winning artist passed away recently at the age of 81.

We don’t want you to feel like a Solitary Man or that you are the only “One.” We can be Alone Together with these top hits.

10. Alone Together, Dan + Shay. The young Country stars scored well with this song and entertaining video, a 2018 release. I was going to put Alone Again, Naturally in this spot, but if you recall the 1972 hit, you know it was one of the most depressing songs ever written. I put it on the YouTube playlist if you must have it.

9. Lonesome Loser, Little River Band. Count this 1979 release as one among a string of hits by the Australian supergroup. It made it to number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank Williams.  This 1949 song by the Country Hall of Fame artist was one of his biggest hits. It is from an era before Country music started sounding more like rock or pop music. Plenty of “twang” here.

7. Lonely Is The Night, Billy Squier. Now let’s go 180 degrees in the other direction with this classic rock hit from 1981. Squier puts out some guitar solos for your all alone moments.

6. I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, The Young Rascals. This 1967 hit is an oldie, but a goodie. The Young Rascals were later known just as The Rascals. Yes, we all get older, if we stay away from deadly viruses.

5. Lonely People, America. “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup, And ride that highway in the sky.” This was written as sort of a response to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Interestingly, it was produced by long time Beatles’ producer, George Martin.

4. Alone, Heart. This 1987 “power balled” is Heart’s biggest hit. Co-author of the work, Tom Kelly, sang high harmony on the studio recording. Lead singers are sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.

3. Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison.  The 1960 recording was the first big hit for Orbison, who also co-wrote the song with Joe Melson. They had shopped the song around, offering it to Elvis and the Everley Brothers before deciding to record it themselves.

2. Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton. Recorded in 1962, the song did not become a hit until 1964. Vinton began writing while in the army. It is about a soldier waiting for letters from home.

1. Lonely Boy, Paul Anka. The prolific singer-songwriter recorded this when he was just 17 in 1958. He went on to write other big hits for himself and other stars. We knew you needed some early rock right about now. You Boomers should sing along. The rest of you can just enjoy this oldie.

Click on any song title to hear the song. For the entire Lonesome sequester playlist, click here.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, SERENDIPITY, April 26, 2020.