Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Jimmy, when true love is unrequited, the whole world is a load of crap… Dylan Thomas, 1987

Filed under : Music
On August 10, 2011
At 5:30 pm
Comments : 2

When I was growing up, I always liked to go to sleep to music, even from a very young age when I listened to WABC and WNBC AM pop radio on a little transistor. My parents always went to bed to TV, mostly sitcoms, but also movies. I once had this conversation with my Dad on a plane back in the day when the flight attendant (or was it stewardess back then?) used to come through distributing headphones.

Dad: Do you want headphones to watch the movie?
Me: No thanks, I’m going to go to sleep.
Dad: That’s why you watch the movie!

Nowadays I totally get that because somehow over the past ten years, I also started to go to bed to TV. And recently, TV on my iPad. It’s just easier to load things on that and stick it on my nightstand. The trouble is that lately I’ve been re-watching NewsRadio on Netflix and it literally makes me shake with laughter. This, my friends, is not conducive to falling asleep. Also, unlike Law & Order where I can follow along without actually looking at the screen, a lot of NewsRadio is physical comedy and facial expressions. Staring at a bright screen? Also not so relaxing.

So here’s how my evenings now go:
1. Tell myself I am going straight to sleep and that I should put on the news or Law & Order.
2. Watch NewsRadio anyway.
3. Swear I will just watch one more episode.
4. Feel super awake and put on a spoken word podcast to help me fall asleep.

This is not to say that NPR or This American Life are dull, but in that time honored “someone with a soothing voice telling you a story” way, they work for me. Except when they are utterly, utterly fascinating, in which case I will stay awake the whole hour of TAL with my mouth actually open. And not in that “I’m asleep and drooling” way. Sometimes, I fall asleep to the podcast and wake up in the middle of the night to a different podcast because my iPad sets them up as a playlist. This is weird and disconcerting, like the other night when I went to bed to a Planet Money story about how much it costs to have a hit song (a lot, trust me) and woke up in the middle of a TAL episode where a woman who did not seem to be anyone famous was writing a song with Phil Collins (?!). This was because Deas wrote on my Facebook wall in the middle of the night and that interrupted the podcast with a loud “dinggggggg!” That’s the cost of being in constant touch with people, including people with different circadian rhythms than you. Weirdly, this doesn’t bother me, whereas if my neighbor gets up in the middle of the night and bangs around in the room directly next to my bedroom, I lay awake fuming. Go figure.

But this was so interesting to me that I had to listen to the complete podcast the next night (only a third or so is devoted to this segment). The story is of this writer for public radio who has a bad break-up (is there any other kind?) and enjoys break-up songs so much, she is compelled to write one. Naturally, she goes to Phil Collins whose song, Against All Odds, has deeply affected her. Contrary to what I would have believed based on its schmaltziness, it turns out the song has stemmed from personal experience (his wife leaving him) and they have a great, seemingly honest, chat. The funny part to me is, break-up songs are so great because they express your feelings for you so that you can both figure things out (“oh, that was the issue!”) and feel like you are not the only person on the planet to ever have experienced this. Writing your own, to me, seems to defeat all this.

But no matter, it’s a great story, and if you are at all the kind of person who thinks a song is fabulous but aren’t sure why, the mechanics of songwriting aspect of the story is fascinating. What phrasing is best and how you develop that… just amazing. And strangely enough, the segue for me was from the Planet Money podcast, which was about the most generic and unemotional style of songwriting (producer brings beats to writer and the song is written in 12 minutes… and the singer comes in completely after the fact) to this completely artistic and meaningful way of writing. By the way, I thought the song turned out great.

In conclusion, yadda yadda yadda, I’m really tired today.

Planet Money podcast: Manufacturing The Song Of The Summer
This American Life podcast: Break-Up
NewsRadio on Hulu

Title comes from a Phil Hartman line on NewsRadio.

I had a hard time considering my favorite break-up song, and it doesn’t at all fall into the podcast’s rules for what makes a good one (I’m not even sure it really is about a break-up) but I think it’s this. Feel free to chime in with yours.
The Cure – Homesick


2 Comments for this post

Lisa aka Nutz says

Becca- I loved that segment of TAL. I was fascinated by her need to create that song.

Becca says

Me too! It was just very real.