Tomorrow will bring Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) # 1000. Today, my 999th blog post is a countdown of my 25 favorite Bops to date. This list only reflects material I've written since January of 2016, when I got the odd notion that I should start writing a daily blog; it doesn't count anything I wrote previously and then exhumed for Boppin', so no Goldmine, liner notes gigs, book contributions, nor anything else older'n the dawn of this blog. It's my hope that, when I look back at a later date, tomorrow's 1000th post will be high up on the list.
I would be remiss if I didn't make note of my first blog post: David Bowie: Dear David. This was written in the immediate aftermath of David Bowie's sudden passing. I was surprised by how much I was affected by Bowie's death, and I poured all of that emotion into this open letter to ol' Ziggy Stardust. My daughter was in England, spending a semester in London; in retrospect, I wonder if the ocean between us factored into my melancholy. I wrote the piece as commentary for the January 17th, 2016 edition of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. I decided I also wanted to use it to start a brand new blog--a daily blog--which commenced on 1/18/16.
Bubbling just under my Top 25, the last three out were A Letter To My 17-Year Old Self and the statements of intent I'm In Love With A Sound and Where I Think I Am.
MY TOP 25
25. Five Songs I've Loved (Nearly) My Entire Life
A big difference between freelancing and blogging is that freelancers carry out assignments and, as a blogger, I write whatever I happen to feel like writing. I blur the line a lot. I had a lot of freedom as a Goldmine freelancer, and I try to bring some level of professionalism to what I create here. This piece was written to order for the blog Love Letters 2 Rock N Roll, and it's a satisfying look back at the roots of my music obsessions.
24. Comic Book Retroview: DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars
My first freelance writing sales were to comics prozines, beginning with Amazing Heroes in 1984. I stopped writing about comics around...1989? Something like that, maybe earlier, maybe later. I still love comics, especially superhero comics, and Boppin' has given me an opportunity to write about 'em again. This history and reminiscence of DC Comics' 100-Page Super Spectaculars in the '70s was originally posted in nine chapters, and subsequently collected as one post.
23. Farewell, My Four-Wheeled Friend
It's funny how much emotion we attach to things. I had my 2006 Ford Focus for 11 years, and that's a lot of time to build up some memories.
22. TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Complete Supplemental Liner Notes
Promoting an independently-released pop compilation CD is no easy task, especially given the decline in CD sales overall. My TIRnRR co-host Dana Bonn and I are very, very proud of our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, and I was trying to think of ways to generate a buzz about it without spending any more of the money I didn't have. I hit upon the cockamamie notion of supplementing the disc's liner notes with a 30-part (!!) track-by-track discussion. Yeah, that's nuts. But I did it! And it's pretty good, I say, a nice examination of our relationship with each of the acts on the CD. Almost a year later, we're nearing the break-even point. (And, by the way, BUY THE CD!)
21. Movies In My Mind: Jukebox Express (1958)
My fondness of this piece is matched only by Google's disdain for it; the post is continually flagged as "empty content." Man, everybody's a freakin' critic. Jukebox Express was born from a random thought that occurred to me as I was watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a wonderful TV series about a fictional late '50s female stand-up comic. The series mixes its make-believe characters with real-life figures like Lenny Bruce, but seeing Jane Lynch's portrayal of the fictional comedy star Sophie Lennon sparked my imagination to ask: what if Sophie Lennon worked on a project alongside Troy Chesterfield, the likewise-fictional thespian played by Peter Scolari in That Thing You Do! (the greatest movie ever made)? My mind percolated with this idea of a film--specifically, a late '50s rock 'n' roll jukebox flick--created by people who never really existed. Hijinks ensued! I conjured this magic piece of pure fluff, a make-believe movie produced, written, directed, and made by make-believe characters we've seen in real movies, TV shows, comic books, et al. It was enormous fun to do, and a guide to the fictional players can be seen here.
20. Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: My First Flashcubes Show
Music can mean so much to us, more even than our enjoyment of the songs themselves. Blog series like Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery provide a platform for me to explore some of the live rock 'n' roll shows I've seen, to discuss the attendant emotions, and (as always) to document where I thought I was and what that place looked like on that day. The Flashcubes remain one of my all-time top groups; my story with them started here.
19. Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: The Beatles Live 1976
The only fictional Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery so far, and the only one where your friendly blogger isn't a character. When I was a teenager, I read a couple of issues of a magazine called Welcome Back, Beatles, which imagined Beatles reunion scenarios. I'll put my "Beatles Get Back!" story against any of those any day.
18. The Monkees: Welcome To The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
The Monkees' 2016 album Good Times! was so good, and so well-received, that many of us fooled ourselves into thinking The Monkees would finally achieve the long-overdue recognition of being inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. We were kidding ourselves. Before that euphoric illusion faded away, I wrote this fantasy of a speech inducting Micky, Davy, Peter, and Michael into the RnRHOF. (I also came out of reviewer retirement long enough to write about the album: The Monkees' Good Times Review)
17. BRIGHT LIGHTS! 2016
In 2014, Dana and I hosted the first edition of Bright Lights!, a live club show reuniting a few of our many favorite acts from the late '70s/early '80s Syracuse punk/power pop/new wave scene. We returned for another go two years later, and I chronicled the events surrounding the 2016 show in a five-part report. I remain particularly pleased with the first part, which was an attempt to create an idealized summary of that scene with a story of an imaginary boy and girl who met at a Flashcubes show in 1978. Here's to bright lights that never fade.
16. The JACK MYSTERY Story
I have never managed to sell any of my fiction, and I haven't even tried to sell any of it in decades. This three-part recollection of a superhero character I created as a kid in the '60s traces the evolution of an idea, from the hero who starred in my scribbled homemade comics when I was in grade school, through the newspaper strip serial I wrote and drew as an art class project in eighth grade, to the (I think) potentially interesting reboot and revamp I concocted as a twenty-something in the '80s.
15. Groove Gratitude (A Gift Of Music): The White Album
What I said above about our emotional tethers to live concerts applies equally to our relationships with specific records. My White Album story dovetails with events I recalled in a separate piece called The Monkees Bring The Summer: A Girl I Knew Somewhere.
14. Diamonds Are Forever
Baseball and me. See also: family, growing up, trying, falling short, victory, loss, and memories of my Dad. Batter up.
13. The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze
My Batman purple pulp prose story "The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze" grew out of a vague thought--just a title, really--that occurred to me when I was a teen-aged wannabe writer (as opposed to a middle-aged wannabe writer), given partial form as a DC Comics bulletin board post--don't judge--and finally realized in full on this blog. Forgive my sin of pride, but this tale could appear comfortably in a hypothetical anthology collection of Batman prose short stories, and it would stand with the best of them.
12. The Flashcubes: A Brighter Light In My Mind
The Flashcubes should have been stars. This alternate-world story imagines what could have happened if the 'Cubes had become famous in the '70s, and it was both easy and tremendously satisfying to write.
11. April's Fool
Mixed emotions. I think I told this story well, but the tale haunts me, bothers me. As it should.
10. Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: Brian Wilson, Herman's Hermits, And The Pet Sounds Of The Soul
I have battled with occasional depression my whole life. I am not unique in that respect. Here's a story about music trying to make a bad day better.
9. Love At First Spin: Rocket To Russia
Outside of The Beatles themselves, no band has been more important to me than The Ramones. (The Flashcubes, The Monkees, and The Kinks are right up there, too.) "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" knocked me out on first spin in late '77, and then I got to see The Ramones, The Runaways, And The Flashcubes live in the spring of '78. By the end of '78, I met a girl named Brenda. Shortly thereafter, I bought an album called Rocket To Russia. Love at first sight, then love at first spin.
8. Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: The Monkees
"The Monkees have been good to me." That's what my friend Rich Firestone says, and it's true for me, as well. It's possible that I've written more about The Monkees than I've pounded out about any other rock 'n' roll group, even The Flashcubes. The Best Of Everything: Monkeemania recounts much of my Monkees story, but this Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery puts it within a larger framework, detailing both my history as a Monkees fan and dreams of seeing The Monkees live alongside my personal miasma of 2011 into 2012, a period when I suffered one of the worst bouts of depression I've ever had to endure. Music alone couldn't provide salvation, but it helped.
7. Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: Paul McCartney
The realization of a life-long dream, detailed with all my loving.
This blog's oft-cited resource Rich Firestone (aka, "HIM again") has said that every boy's story of discovering The Kinks involves a girl. He's dead on in my case; her involvement was peripheral, but she was there, and that teen memory is inextricably linked in my mind with my own then-budding and blossoming fascination with The Kinks.
5. Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio: My Life In Pop Culture, The 1960s
After starting the blog with my David Bowie post, I relied on archival material to maintain a daily schedule. Other than TIRnRR playlists, I didn't post another original entry until Boppin' # 10 on 1/27/16. Previously-written pieces continued to vastly outnumber new material, but I started writing more and more. Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio was my first real attempt to take full advantage of the flexibility and sheer open possibilities of a daily blog. This chronicle of reading comic books and listening to records while trying to grow up in the '60s began with a first chapter published on 3/19/16, and eventually totaled nine chapters of reminiscences of my life in pop culture from around 1963 (when I was three) through preparing to enter middle school in the fall of 1970. Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) began to find its own distinct identity with this serial.
The Greatest Record Ever Made is my favorite series here: An infinite number of rockin' pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. (And they all take turns because they're, y'know, records.) I'm surprised GREM is only represented by a single entry in my Top 25, but if it's gonna be just one, it's gonna be "The Transylvania Twist." When I realized that Boppin' # 700 was going to fall on Halloween, I knew I needed to write about Syracuse's popular '60s TV vampire Baron Damone and his local hit 45. As one of the Baron's Bloody Buddies, I can't even tell you how much this post meant to me, how much I enjoyed writing it, how much it resonates with me from start to finish.
3. The Everlasting First: Buddy Holly
Noted rock journalist John Mendelssohn (Creem, Rolling Stone, and--YES!--the liner notes to The Kink Kronikles) liked my Buddy Holly story enough to pick it over my Greatest Record Ever Made piece on The Beatles' "Rain" for use in his on-line rock rag Reet (and thanks again to Devorah Ostrov for getting me involved with that, however briefly). Like much in music and pop culture, my introduction to Buddy Holly was entwined with an emotional back story. The day the music died? No, the music doesn't die, not ever. Would that the same could be said for us.
2. I've Got The Music In Me (And That's Where It's Gonna Stay)
My two favorite posts are a virtual dead heat. I love this story because it's pure, it's funny, and it's real. I will never be able to create music, but I can sure as hell write about it.
1. The Road To GOLDMINE
This is one of the best things I've ever written, an emotional trip through my misadventures in the '80s, leading up to my first freelance work for Goldmine. It was a difficult time for me. I survived my first-world problems, and kept on writing.
And those are my Top 25 highlights on the long, grinding path to Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) # 1000. Buckle in and turn up the music; that one's comin' up next.
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