Category Archives: Music

Sounds of the city pounding in my brain

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East Chicago Avenue at Michigan Avenue

Chicago, with 2.7 million people, pulses with activity every minute of the day. It breathes noise in and out — car and truck engines, horns, whistles, sirens, the mass undercurrent of outdoor cafe conversations, street corner musicians and herds of shoppers. Somewhere in the chaos, controlled by a grid of stops and starts, there’s a rhythm to the motion of people, autos and bikes you can’t quite identify.

Sitting in my car, at the light on Chicago Avenue crossing Michigan Avenue south of the Water Tower, men and women, mostly younger, a few with children in strollers, clutch their knapsacks and colorful shopping bags chatting non-stop as they flow across the intersection. Neiman-Marcus, Pottery Barn, Ralph Lauren, American Girl, the names stream by. My impatient vehicle partners rumble in their lanes, waiting for the light to change. At the curb, a man steadies the reins of his horse while riders wait for a ride in a red carriage.

With my radio on, I notice that all that is going on around me really does have a cadence, a tempo that makes sense. And it changes with a touch. Click. Sirius Pops. Verdi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons wraps a calm and beauty over the crowds. The cars are calmly waiting their assigned movement, and the crowds are cohesive, deliberate and moving toward a goal. I feel at peace. Click. Beach Boys. “I Get Around” reminds me this is summer and it’s a young world where cars are king and meant to go fast on city streets. The people are moving eagerly now, with a shove in their steps. Even the horse is skittish. I want to get going. Click to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There’s a pounding going on, on the pavement, in the air, in shouted voices, and on my steering wheel. What a wild and crazy town. The sounds of the city pounding in my brain.

Jeff says there’s a vibe in the city he can feel. He’s right. It can be loud, rough and raw. Or soulful and human. Gentle. Majestic. Personal. Like music. And it’s coming from your radio, or your iPod.

Word of Caution: Very tired with a long drive ahead of you? STOP. Turn off the Spa station and go to Hair Nation for a safer, more invigorating ride. 

 

 

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The Beatles. They held our hands and won our hearts.

Beatles records

Beatles records

I remember quite clearly, on a particular day in December 1963, hearing the muffled, unmistakable giggling coming from behind the postulants’ closed door. Something was going on, something new and exciting, perhaps forbidden, definitely appealing to these old girls who at 18 or 19 had already dedicated their lives to Christ.

But this day, the Beatles had won their hearts.

Behind that door, seemingly in secret, the postulants were listening to the Beatles’ new sensation, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” just as giddy and excited as millions of other girls across the nation. But this was Caroline Academy, and thoughts of boys and holding hands were off limits in lyrics as well as in daily life. Here, exposure to the latest contemporary music consisted of instrumentals like “Baby Elephant Walk” played while we roller-skated in the gym.

Closed doors couldn’t contain the new sound. The Beatles burst into our lives that day and their songs marked our journey for decades to come.

When I left the convent school to attend North High in Sheboygan, I used “Nowhere Man” as the hook for an editorial I wrote on school spirit. (Yes, I was a believer. Go Raiders!) I imagined myself a “Paperback Writer” in 1966. In 1968, Marquette University wasn’t immune to anti-war and open housing protests. Anthems like “Revolution” and 1969’s “Give Peace of Chance” had meaning. I remember walking down Wisconsin Avenue on Dec.1, 1969, hearing a recording of “You Say It’s Your Birthday” blaring from a window in McCormick Hall, mocking the first draft lottery held that day to determine which fellow students would be going off to fight in Vietnam.

The next year, when I was working in Indiana and my boyfriend John was in Milwaukee, “The Long and Winding Road” would be part of the soundtrack of our long-distance dating. “Instant Karma” was going to get us.

“I knew something had changed when I first heard the Beatles,” John says. On Sept, 4, 1964, he paid a reasonable $4.75 to hear them at the Milwaukee Arena. A year later, on Aug. 21, he saw them again at Comisky Park in Chicago. He bought a sleek Stratocaster® guitar, his hair grew past the required collar-length code of his high school, and he started a band whose members sang with British accents. He’s still writing and playing songs in that distinctive style.

Whether or not we knew something had changed when the Beatles came on the scene, our lives were changing in the ‘60s and ‘70s and we couldn’t “Help” it. You could hear the lyrics of their songs, you could immerse yourself in the beat, the fresh melody and harmony, and anticipate the bridge. The songs were new, some would become classic. And some would hold our hands and our hearts through our lives. I think you’ll understand.

More on this topic: Will we still need them in 2064?