Dean Martin died twenty years ago today, Christmas, 1995.
I love a zillion of his songs, from every decade and style in which he sang. So first up, here are three of a kind...and if you've never heard the third one, do give it a listen.
Next, a straight of Dean Martin quotations. An important thing to remember is that a lot of the jokes attributed to these guys came first from Joe E. Lewis and also Joey Bishop. They stole from each other like mad, and made a joke of that, too. So I picked some that only he said.
"When Frank Sinatra dies, they're giving his zipper to the Smithsonian."
"Motivation is a lot of crap."
"I once shook hands with Pat Boone and my whole right side sobered up."
"You wanna hear it straight, buy the album."
"Shirley (MacLaine) I love her, but her oars aren't touching the water these days."
Finally, a full house with two videos and three photos.
Here's a low quality but watchable video of the Dean Martin Christmas Show featuring the Sinatra family. It's worth looking at if you're interested in them. And yes, the truth is, Sinatra drank a whole lot, while with Martin it was mainly an act. Dean liked to go to bed early and hit the golf course in the morning when Frank was probably just hitting the sack.
And here's the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Dean Martin. It's a gasser.
I turned 15 in 1980. Thus, my perspective on the entire decade is based on music and fashion. But my music and fashion never had anything to do with fluffy kitty Tiffany mall girls trends people remember now at all, and so I'm sometimes confused by looks back. But maybe everyone looking back was a little girl just then.
I'm not saying many of the videos were very good; they were super dumb most of the time. Nevertheless...they did sound cool
Early in the decade I did a modified menswear look, but then went in for a lot of black and white; miniskirts with backless blouses and fisherman's sandals, and I also did the Fame thing, plus there were printed pants made of seersucker which were baggy at the hips, but tapered to hug the ankle, which (at the time) I thought looked cool with Danskin jazz oxfords. Then there was a late 40s thing going on; linen shifts and pumps and a snood, and in 1985 I bobbed my hair in a tapered line down my jaw, wearing very high-waisted acetate trousers with a Victorian-influenced blouse or a sleeveless turtleneck with a back drape.
I never went in for the tough girl thing, sartorially. I went from lazy and boyish to...you know how Molly Ringwald's characters were always a little more dressed up than everyone else?
Later in the decade, life intruded for me, but I do remember people dressing more like TV sitcom characters, so I guess that's why that is what they remember. I think it was a mad conglomeration of everything from the past 7 or 8 years, all thrown into a blender and set to a commercial jingle. But it was not "the 80s."
The dancing in this is hilarious to see. But it was, in large part, the 80s I remember.
Let's have some encore time. Better version of "Vienna Calling," too, arrangement-wise.
PS: I gotta be honest. I was also never even sure what a "hair band" was until about ten years later when ads for hits collections of them appeared on late night TV. We all had our own things going.
Oh, you darling. You snap to life the moment my sole touches your pedal. You accelerate like you're bound for heaven and you're still so smooth around the curves. How I missed you for the past six days. That new loaner car smelled nice and had a flashy display, but it was all surface glimmer, no real bottom at all. It rode lightly along a path, but you, Ava, you drive.
Naturally, when I got my old badass momcar back from the Jeff Wyler Mazda service department, all I wanted to do was drive her. I took the scenic path into town to the new gimongous Kroger, and played music like we were both still young girls, going places just for the sake of going. Except in middle age, and today, that really just meant passing 16 other Krogers to get to the new posh one.
But with the sun shining, the windows down, hair flying, it's easy to imagine I could take over the road; time shifts into reverse, collagen reappears, waistline flattens and narrows, and the odometer rolls back a million miles as we head to the city or the sea or anywhere we like.
We visit the places we'd always meant to see...
If we travel back too far, I might find myself alone in front of a green screen, telling myself I'm not self-conscious, repeating it over and over again until it's true. Which, of course, is exactly what I did, once upon a time.
Nearing home again after spending all the grocery money, reality takes a bite out of my brief fantasy. She's just a car. It's a car. It's old, and maybe the water pump will go soon, or a belt, or some seals. Other people are learning to drive this car, and I'll have to let her go with them, wherever they go, and hope for their safe return. I will have to share her.
We understand each other, though. We are just like this. We've been a lot of places in the past eight and a half years, and I hope we see lots more.
PS: those dealerships really know how to engender loyalty, don't they? I'm no good at resisting the charm of it all, and there's little question where I'll head to if needs arise or change...but for now, Ava and I are all in all. I'm going out now to give her a nice facial and massage.
I can play nearly anything on command through my phone or Kindle Fire HD. But they don't mean as much to me as my carefully organized iPod collection. They never could.
This one is only a few months old, actually. The older one was starting, just starting, to not hold a charge for as long when Apple discontinued it. I emptied my piggy bank for another one.
I can plug it into many devices in or outside our house, because I like my music everywhere; that is, I like the option of it everywhere. I also take great pleasure in silence, of course. But there's a stereo system I put together from thrift store purchases—except for the speakers. There's a dock in the kitchen, a portable unit with an mp3 cord for gardening or hanging out on the porch, two sound bars, and of course, the car stereo.
It never needs wifi, and it doesn't even need electricity, except to charge every few days. Currently, it has about 6000 songs on it, about half of which have very high bit rates, and it will hold 9000 more if I want it to. It also serves as a backup hard drive for photos and other files.
Every device we buy these days has more and more functionality. But this device does only one thing, and it does that thing very, very well. It just works. As I grow older, this becomes more important to me than ever. I'm surrounded by a lifetime of possessions already; what do I need with a media player that also toasts bread and takes my temperature?
The Kindle is super because even though I love my books, there is only room for so many of those along the walls of a house, but many times that amount accessible to me online. Recently, I bought all seven Outlander volumes for $2.99. They take up no space, and if the Kindle died, I could still read them online some other way. A few years ago, many people I know were railing about the Amazon Cloud and lack of ownership. But in a very short period of time, all those same people have watched movies online, listened to music online, and have swiftly given up the notion of physical ownership of media, because they are always seeking more and more of it, like children looking out over fields and fields of candy.
I do those things, too, and am able, like others, to broaden my horizons because of it, but if life online ended, I wouldn't miss it much. I'd watch and listen to and read what I already own, having made an effort over the years to collect only what matters to me most. The best candy, rather than the biggest bag of it.
I'm changing the playlist names today. I do that every eight or nine months or so, but the basic themes of them remain mostly the same. I can then choose a mood or a genre or an album and just let it play; no ads, no interruptions, no fuss.
(edited to reflect an updated lyric.) Could you write this song now instead of the 40s (50s, 60s, 70s?) No, not with the same cheeky sense of fun. (Which is why, I suppose, people like me cling so fervently to the nice parts of the past.) And of course that might not be a bad thing in our world in which people must be suspicious of each other at all times, but it doesn’t make the meaning of it as it was created in the past no good now. Judging the hundreds of people who've recorded this song as if they've got no sense until you come along and straighten them out is just foolish.
This has upset me so much because it means much more than just getting it technically wrong. It means all of our recent past is subject to revision, to the point where everything I knew growing up is now “for all intensive purposes” to someone who doesn't see it in perspective.
We are better at a lot of stuff than they were 80 years ago when this song was written, yet that doesn’t mean they didn’t know how life worked. We can do Earth and universal goodwill and women getting great jobs in a way they didn’t do just then. But to take what they made and enjoyed and interpret it as something different now is doing them a disservice. You can never understand any history if you look at it only through your own current view. History revisionists are all on the wrong sides of things; don’t be one of them.
People who have no solid view of history, perspective, context, or songwriting style are interpreting this song as he says/she says, and also don’t even know how people used to talk before the 90s. But it isn’t like that. Each pair of lines works together.
(I really can't stay) But, baby, it's cold outside (I've got to go away) But, baby, it's cold outside (This evening has been) Been hoping that you'd drop in (So very nice) I'll hold your hands they're just like ice
This verse means she went to the man’s apartment and has been having a good time. Now it’s both a little late and getting on toward clutch time. You probably don’t remember life before Britney and Justin were briefly a couple, but back when our parents (your grandparents) were young, and he’d just gotten back from his tour in Germany or Korea, they were celebrating the free world like you didn’t know they knew how.
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what's your hurry (My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar (So really I'd better scurry) Beautiful, please don't hurry (Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour
Look at what’s been going on. They’ve been sitting here talking in front of the fireplace. You might not remember that, either, unless you live in a cool old building, but apartments had fireplaces if they were big enough and in the north. She sat and watched while he made one, or maybe she made the first round of drinks, only her round was a little weak, because it’s maybe 1949, and she’s a girl like that. Why would she sit and watch him build a fire? Is she stupid and doesn’t know he’s setting a comfortable scene? No, people born before you knew the score. They just liked to pretend they didn’t. So now he’s freshened her drink, and she has put on a record. It was probably a ten inch long-playing record; twelve-inchers ended up taking over, but not just yet. Know how I can say that? Because I know stuff about before now that I didn’t get from a CBS crime procedural marathon or a Tumblr page. All these details add up to a more complete picture than the one you've got in your head.
(The neighbors might think) Baby, it's bad out there (Say what's in this drink) No cabs to be had out there (I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now (To break this spell) I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Are you thinking she’s been sitting there in front of the fire with her second drink but has a woolen toque on her head like she’s about to fight with the storm? No. It’s a cute hat perched on her head to match her outfit. Her coat might have had a big hood that fit over it, or it might have been super impractical in order to look nice. (You might have wondered why hoods on women’s coats were and sometimes are still gigantic. It was to accommodate hairstyles and hats.) And all she notices about the drink is that the bourbon to soda ratio is narrower than hers was. It was a running joke before it got ruined by a few creepers. Not just women to men, but any old body takes a drink and says, “Wow, what’d you put in here? Everything?” That kind of thing. Maybe she set it down, maybe she kept sipping. We don’t know, but we also know the next line wasn’t “Shh, I demand you toss it back.” But did you think she never had a drink before? That’s no good, either. This isn’t the watered-wine and rataffia era, after all.
(I ought to say no, no, no, sir) Mind if I move in closer (At least I'm gonna say that I tried) What's the sense of hurting my pride (I really can't stay) Baby, don't hold out [Both] Baby, it's cold outside
Her hat is now off. Know how I know? Because she isn’t saying no. She’s saying “she ought to.” People say ought to about things they really don’t want to do. “I really ought to get on that, clean that up, make that call, get to bed.” They’re trying to talk themselves into doing something when they would rather not just now, thanks. It’s a way of appearing diligent without having to be so, like if you see your neighbor is coming over and you haven’t cleaned yet, so you set the vacuum cleaner in the hallway. At the same time, she’s feeling him out. Will he give her a good reason to not have to say no?
Know how I know that? Because it’s basic human nature, and I’ve lived long enough and seen enough to know that. She’s going to say she tried? Not really, but if she did, nobody would be screaming at her that he took advantage of her. They’re gonna shake their heads a little, grinning, and saying things like, “Sister, what are you up to?”
And then both of them sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” together, because they are in this together. She doesn’t want to go out there yet, but is keeping up a pretense because she’s supposed to, and so he’ll know they can carry on, but maybe not all the way. It’s code, which people have always used, only it’s a little different in each era.
(I simply must go) Baby, it's cold outside (The answer is no) Baby, it's cold outside (The welcome has been) How lucky that you dropped in (So nice and warm) Look out the window at the storm
Now here she says no, but it’s the kind of no he understands, not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s set a boundary. He was going too fast. But does she get up? No. She’s pressed up against him, that’s why, still performing her ought tos. She doesn’t stand up so he’ll stop kissing her, and he hasn’t pinned her down so she can’t move, because they are singing this thing together. Remember, this was written by a married couple, who performed it at a party for their friends. Their friends laughed because they understood it like you don’t. They knew the score.
(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious (My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore (My maiden aunt's mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious (But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before
This is the verse that tells you the truth you don’t wish to know. He moves in for a kiss. She’s murmuring at this point, as their faces meet, and then when they do kiss, she decides maybe she can hang around a little longer, timing it with however long it takes to smoke an unfiltered cigarette. The cigarette was important, even though it seems really grosstastic now. She can sit up and he’ll light one, but at the same time, she can let him know that kiss was so good, she’ll be around for a few more. It’s another piece of cultural code. And the sister, the brother, the aunt? Now she’s just making up stuff. It isn’t a firmer defense, it’s a weaker one, but she is required to make it in this game.
(I got to get home) But, baby, you'd freeze out there (Say lend me a comb) It's up to your knees out there (You've really been grand) I thrill when you touch my hand (But don't you see) How can you do this thing to me
Do you borrow a comb* from a man who creeps you out? And she put her hand on his when she asked. Why is she touching him and asking to put something in her hair that he has had in his hair? Because she likes him, that’s why, not because rohypnol is taking over.
*It isn't coat, it's comb. Her hair got messy while they were "necking," which they were totally doing.
She knows he knows she’s into him, and he also knows she’s not taking him too seriously, and so he’ll ask again, because she’s not offended, she’s just going by the rules she’s set for herself, which are more about pacing than anything else. She’s indicating to him that she’s got people looking out for her, but at the same time, is making her own choice about what position she is taking with him on the couch.
(There's bound to be talk tomorrow) Think of my life long sorrow (At least there will be plenty implied) If you caught pneumonia and died (I really can't stay) Get over that old doubt [Both] Baby, it's cold [Both] Baby, it's cold outside (Sung together again)
That was the truth about 1949 or so, and is sometimes still the truth now. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You draw your own line, but everyone else reads it according to their own, though sometimes they’re hypocrites about it, making their own decisions while judging others for making the same one.
You know how “they” say everyone thinks they’re an above-average driver? It is a truth not universally acknowledged that people think everyone else but them is dumber and needs life explained to them. The internet has made this worse. You Google a thing and learn a few talking points, and it never crosses your mind that the person you’re explaining it all to has maybe actually read whole books on the subject or has first-hand experience at it. Your insular confirmation bias bubble leads you to believe you’re the one who uncovered the truth, only actually, not only has it been there a lot longer than you knew, you have only a few pieces of the picture in the frame, and not the whole thing. Sometimes you don't even understand the frame, like when I first saw Impressionist paintings in a museum, and wondered why they were in big ornate gilded things, until someone explained to me that those frames were correct for the period, even though they didn't match the new painting style. That taught me something.
People take old texts like the Bible, and they translate them into modern languages. But they can’t make direct one-to-one translations without knowing what the writers meant by certain words (and phrases, since a word could mean something different when used with another,) because they aren’t what they mean now. Shakespeare is the same way. People who study the language of Shakespeare must decode it according to how he used words and how they’d be taken then, not how they wish for them to be taken now. We put on a play with Shakespeare’s intent, by understanding the context in which he wrote. We don't say, "Sorry, Hamlet doesn't get to mean that anymore; we changed what his words meant."
We can play with it a little, though, without ruining it.
I had what I thought was a great idea to share at Google Plus, posting a song each day that matches the characteristics on this list. But it was pretty much a bust, though a friend who did it got some neat responses from a couple of her friends. Still, I had fun doing it and thought I'd post the whole thing here, for archival purposes or something. With about half the posts, I wrote some reflections on the song, but I won't share much of that here; it'll be long enough as it is. It gave me inspiration for this year's NaNoWriMo effort, though. I've put in YouTube links in case someone wants to hear any of the songs.
1. A song that seems written about you: "Windy," by The Association 2. A song that felt like your theme during senior year in high school: "Fascination" by Human League 3. A good song from the year you were born: "I Want Candy" by The Strangeloves *4. An album or song you own in at least three formats: Songs for Swingin' Lovers by Frank Sinatra: "Old Devil Moon" 5. A song that scared you as a child: "I'm Not in Love" by 10CC 6. A good theme from a TV show you watched as a child: "The Jeffersons" 7. The band that reminds you most of one or both of your parents: Steely Dan: "Peg" *8. Your victory song: "I'm Free" by Soup Dragons 9. A lovemaking song: "Corcovado" by Cannonball Adderley 10. A great song for driving on the highway: "Planetary (GO!)" by My Chemical Romance 11. A good song to listen to first thing in the morning: "I Believe in You" by Frank Sinatra 12. A song that reminds you of your first crush: "Are Friends Electric?" by Gary Numan *13. A song that reminds you of your first boyfriend or girlfriend: "Lost in Love" by Air Supply 14. A song you love by a band you don't like: "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette 15. A song that can remain stuck in your head for hours or days at a time: "Burning Pile" by Mother Mother 16. A favorite song of one of your parents: "Heaven Must Have Sent You" by Bonnie Pointer 17. A song you would sing if you were lead singer in a band: "Miss Halfway" by Anya Marina 18. A song you loved when you were 13 (do you still?): "Took the Last Train" by David Gates 19. A song you love in a genre you don't usually like: "Toxic" by Brittany Spears 20. A movie soundtrack you love: The World's End: "The Only One I Know" by The Charlatans *21. A song they'd play at your funeral: "That Certain Party" by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis 22. A song you dislike by a band you love: "Clean" by Depeche Mode 23. The song that depresses you most: "The Winner Takes it All" by Abba 24. A song that makes you nostalgic for childhood: "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells 25. A song you once loved that now irritates you: "Lady" by Little River Band 26. A song you disliked as a child that you now enjoy: "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra 27. A song with great music and bad lyrics: "The Reflex" by Duran Duran 28. The last song you sang along to: "Don't Rain on My Parade" by Bobby Darin 29. A novelty song you love: "Eh Cumpari" by Julius LaRosa 30. A foreign language song you love: "Águas de Março" by Elis Regina and Tom Jobim 31. Your walk-up song: "Why Can't I Be You?" by The Cure
*4: Songs for Swingin' Lovers by Frank Sinatra, from 1956. Some people say it's his second best album after In the Wee Small Hours. Others agree with me that not only is it his best album, it is probably the best or one of the best albums ever made.
*8: There was this slice of time when music looked like it might be infinitely cool, even if we only ever saw it late at night on Letterman and 120 Minutes. This is a very cool live performance.
*13: Prior to husband with musical taste which perfectly synthesizes with my own, I had a habit of boyfriends and other husband-having of young men with shockingly prosaic musical taste. I'm not saying bad, I'm just calling it prosaic. This was a favorite of my first boyfriend, who turned 15 shortly after we met. He was a romantical sap, and I bet he either still is, or is reminiscing his way back there right now in middle age.
*21: I was all set to name "All the Same to Me" by Anya Marina, but that's from my end of things. Hopefully, they'd come up with something in a sense of lighthearted memory, instead, like this.
For my #31musicfest project. You can see the first 11 if you are in my Extended Circles at Google Plus.
But for this, I have a little tale, and thus have added it to my blog. Contrary to what a few lofty little boys thought earlier on, I didn't have my first real crush on a boy until 9th grade. Before that, it was all singers, classic movie stars, and baseball players.
I was still so awkward. But trying. Many things began to change the summer I turned 15, things that would affect me for the rest of my life, but while I was still 14, I was the girl in the movie before the one special boy notices her, out of their usual setting, and they hit it off and all is magic. Except maybe he's shallow at first, and pretends at school that they don't know each other, that they never held hands while watching crawdads scutter around the creek under the railroad bridge. Ugh. But what could you expect from him? He was all symmetrical, and had that to live up to. Her teeth stuck out a mile, and she probably had a pimple on her big nose, which had grown in advance of the rest of her face.
Where was I? Yes, 9th grade. Lee's Summit High School, 1979-80. French class. A boy called Bob. We talked a lot, sometimes when we weren't supposed to. He seemed supremely confident to me, smart, funny, and a little goofy. He did not look like the boys girls were supposed to have crushes on, at least according to those boys themselves. Hah. Anyway. Our school was enormous, and the French class was in the upper class section, so it was a long walk to and from it every day. I remember for a time we walked together, and I remember how that felt, like something new I didn't have a name for. There probably isn't a good name for that.
In June, after school was out, I went to Montreal and spent five weeks with my brother, often wandering the city all day on my own while he and his then-wife were at their jobs. When I came back home, I was a different person, rather more myself than I'd been in awhile. Mom and I ran into his sister working at Winstead's on the Plaza, and Mom asked about her brother, and it turned out he'd moved away with his parents, to Arizona or something. So that was that.
This song comes to mind when I think about these things. More accurately, when I hear this song, I start thinking about these things, that boy. I think he'd get it.
Last night on Google Plus, some people were discussing 80s love songs they like. Most of them were from the stations I didn't enjoy, but I was familiar with many. But one person said the love songs then were all cheesy power ballads.
I understand that was a thing. I was there. In fact, musically, I was there in a way only a person born right in the middle of a decade can be; at ages 15-24. Those formative "becoming independent and finding your own way" years were the entire decade of the 1980s for me.
However, I can name all the power ballads I'd have been familiar with back then on one hand and have a couple fingers leftover. If that's all you thought you could hear without slipping back into time, you were not trying at all. I barely tried to not hear them and had no trouble with it.
The point of this isn't whether you thought Whitesnake poorly defined love songs of that era, which they did not at all, because the 80s began before 1987, the point is that people won't give up working really hard at being narrow of thought and action. And smug about their narrowness, a lot of the time.
You miss so much good stuff that way! And you miss it if you too readily define it as something you are certain belongs in a group of things you disdain, and you miss it if you stay locked onto one channel because everyone around you is and you don't want them to judge you.
Music, listening to and loving music, should never ever be about what other people will say about you, and it is not best heard from a lofty position of superiority, or from the one channel they played in the shake shop after school. Or what MTV was during the Tiffany years. I knew that in 1980 when I was 15, and worked so hard to find more, but it was not until 1989 when I was 24, that some of my now-favorite artists of all time were fully revealed to me, by someone who had grown up with a better college radio station than me. It was a decade of searching, for me.
I still had plenty else to choose from besides the MTV rotation, largely because I didn't even have cable TV yet. When I did get it, I found the best videos were on BET. I told someone at work and she was all, "but isn't that the black TV station?"
Well, yes, however, you weren't required to submit a DNA test in order to watch it. And also, they didn't only play "black videos." I saw "Genius of Love" on there first. For one example. And also, what? It was the beginning of the Benetton era, if you were paying attention.
We have the internet now, and we get to look around so easily and see more stuff than we ever imagined existed. But plenty of it, most of it, was already there. If you sum up an entire era by what you remember during two or three years of it, you are, to me, like the person who just asks for 7s over and over again while playing "Go Fish." Be better. I'm certain you can be.
I went to the record store and book store and listened to what they were playing. I watched late night talk and entertainment shows that introduced new bands, and listened to what older people found to listen to. And because I grew up listening to old music, I knew there had to be more to new music. I was really worried classical music would go away, however, John Williams brought it back to the forefront and now I know that there are people who always have to be creating music in their heads and will always challenge themselves to incorporate sounds in new ways, try new and old things with instruments, and find other like-minded people to do this with. When people look back on this period of time, they'll have a dozen American composers to call the orchestral influences of the day, post-Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, and there are certainly more in other places, as well.
Back to love songs. I thought I didn't like love songs before I was a teenager, and thought I didn't like many then, but now I know that I'm just not really very fond of a few certain sounds that seem useful only for lament. And I like my lament prepared other ways.
When I named the 80s love songs I liked last night, mostly what I thought of were songs about making love. It makes sense, in a way, as 15-24 are visceral years for most human beings.
Looking back, this list defines my 1980s pretty much in a large nutshell, although as I said, I was always seeking out other channels of sound. Sorry that it's Buzzfeed. There are a few love songs on it I could have named last night instead of my R&B list. (And thus, here's a secondary faster-to-load list to more fully round out my personal 80s "pop" experience, though it leaves out "Wishing Well" and "Stay With Me Tonight.") But to name a favorite I'd be willing to claim now, I'd compare it to how I feel now when I hear Frank Sinatra sing "Witchcraft." Okay, such a thing is not possible. Still, back then, it'd have been "Ain't Nobody," by Chaka Khan. Tell me this isn't a great song.
But I also remember how I felt when I heard (the slightly cheesy now) "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins, and how I felt when the person I loved turned out not to like it at all. Which should have been a warning, however, let's not digress.
This. Years later, this is the one. For me, this is a love song.
Only, it was me. I saw the whole of the moon. At least, I always tried to.