Soundtrack of my life – the Esther edition

With this post I’m following in the footsteps of Michele (who did this back in June) and Sue (who did this recently and I’m looking forward to her part two). They answered the same questions that Richard Armitage answered in his NME interview in June about music accompanying life and I’m going to do that here as well. So, here goes…

The song I wish I’d written

Richard says: The Beatles – ‘Yesterday’. Pretty song, always reminds me of my older sister who sometimes used to sing the word “Yesterday” to me when calling me (my name Esther is hidden in that word). My own answer to this question is David Bowie’s Rock ‘n Roll Suicide.

I love the slow build up of the song and the weird ass lyrics. The song meant a lot to me at a certain time in my life (more about that below).

The first song I remember hearing

Richard says: Grease – ‘Summer Nights. Yeah, no. I mean the song is fine but I never loved it, it was never really a part of my life either and I was never very fond of Grease when it later did reach my consciousness. For this one I think I’ll say Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens (as he was called at the time). I remember my mom loving that song and that it was sung at the christening of my baby brother when I was around 4 (one of my earliest memories).

The first album I owned

Richard says: The Magic Roundabout – ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’. This show wasn’t part of my youth at all, so I can’t really say anything about that. My first album that I adored was an album of English language nursery rhymes that I loved to listen to and I remembered it drove my family crazy when I wanted it to be played over and over again (we only had the one record player in the house). I just did a quick image search on google with the words: “nursery rhymes album panda” (I remembered a panda on the cover) and sure enough I found pictures!

I can distinctly remember the man on the record saying “Hello boys and girls” and then talking and singing those nursery rhymes. I think I may even still have the LP if I look through the records we still have tucked away in the attic.

The first album I think I ever purchased for myself was the album Felicita by the Italian duo Al Bano & Romina Power (on cassette!) when I was about 12 or 13. Even then it was not cool for youngsters to like them but I just loved Romina (who is the daughter of Hollywood actor Tryone Power) and I loved them in secret for quite a while. My taste developed into quite a different direction after that.

The first gig I went to

Richard says: Tina Turner in Vienna, 2009. Really? 2009? When he was 38 and based in London? I’m sure he must have been to other gigs as well before that. Now, I may be a late starter myself going to big concerts like that but never as late as that. I never had the funds as a teen to go to bigger concerts, so it wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I started going to a few concerts. I know I saw The Clash and Bruce Springsteen (my sister was a fan) around that time but the first one that really stuck with me was seeing David Bowie in the summer of 1990 in Nijmegen during his Sound and Vision tour. We weren’t too far from the stage and I was in heaven.

The song that reminds me of home

Richard says: ABBA – ‘Happy New Year’. Ah, ABBA – I think they were my first favourite band when I was around 10 years old (I used to tape their songs from the radio on my cassette recorder), so those songs can also take me back. What really reminds me of home, however, is every time I hear some well known Israeli song, like Hava Nagila or Hevenu Shalom Aleichem or Siman Tov! Mazel Tov! For my answer to this question I’ll pick the 1979 Israeli Eurovision winning song Hallelujah by Milk and Honey (lyrics and what they mean can be found here).

The song was huge in Israel and I remember singing an English version in school several times. This song can always bring me back to my childhood home and watching Eurovision together with my family.

The song I can no longer listen to

Richard says: Lonnie Donegan – ‘Nobody’s Child’. I didn’t know that song, so it’s new to me and I don’t really have an opinion on that one. For me the first song that comes to mind is I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. I adored that song when it came out in 2010, listened to it all the time, danced around the house to it (with the kids, who were about 9 and 6 at the time, and without the kids). I also loved the Oprah flash mob to that song and then at some point I just over-listened and suddenly completely had enough of it. Here’s the Oprah flash mob video that I just this evening watched again for the first time in eons. I still like the flash mob part but I think I’m still overdosed on the song…

The song that changed my life

Richard says: The Eurythmics – ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’. I always liked that song but it didn’t have that great of an impact on me. For me, I’ll pick the same song I answered to the first question here, David Bowie’s Rock ‘n Roll Suicide. It really pulled me through some dark times when I had no clue what to do with my life when I was around 20 and Bowie yelling “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” really gave me hope and helped me reach out to others to find a way. When I saw a handwritten transcript of the lyrics of that song in the “David Bowie Is” exhibition back in 2016 (just 11 days before Bowie died!), I took a quick clandestine picture of it and actually wiped away a tear. This song just means a lot to me.

The song I want played at my funeral

Richard says: Kool & the Gang – ‘Celebration’. That feels like a bit of a cop-out answer to me somehow. I am all for celebrating life but I also think it’s important to allow contemplation and some pain in when you lose someone. (Modified to add that on re-reading this the term ‘cop-out’ may have been too strong a word and reaction to this song choice of Richard’s. It’s just that somehow this choice doesn’t seem as genuine to me as the other choices mentioned, but then that’s probably all in my head and has nothing to do with Richard.) For my own funeral, I really wouldn’t know which song I’d like! I was going to pick a poem instead by W.H. Auden, as so brilliantly performed in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but that’s a cop-out too. And then I remembered one of the very, very few Dutch songs that I like. This one was played quite a lot around the time my father was deteriorating and I have this image of me driving away from my dad’s nursing home in his final days while it played on the radio. It’s a very sweet song and I think I wouldn’t mind having that played at my funeral. It’s called Mag Ik Dan Bij Jou (literally translates to “Can I then with you”) by a Dutch singer and comedian called Claudia de Breij. It’s about finding shelter with a loved one and the song completely captures my heart…

The song I listen to before performing

Richard says: Imogen Heap – ‘Hide and Seek’. Yeah, not really my music. I’m not a performer, so not sure what would be a good one for me. But if it’s about getting keyed up, then maybe a Muse song? These lines from Knights of Cydonia (at around 4 minutes into the video below) feel very apt for the time we live in now.

Come ride with me, Through the veins of history,
I’ll show you a God, Falls asleep on the job
.
And how can we win, When fools can be kings?
Don’t waste your time, Or time will waste you
.”

The song I do at karaoke

Richard says: Queen – ‘Radio Gaga. Sounds fun enough. As for me, I don’t do karaoke. Ever. If I really had to, I could maybe do an ABBA song or something else really easy. The lower range of Chris de Burgh’s voice suits mine quite well, so I could maybe do Patricia The Stripper but then maybe some stripping action would be required with that as well, so better not. Somehow You Are My Sunshine springs to mind. Not that I particularly love it but it’s easy and nice enough. Here it is in the Johnny Cash version, his voice makes the song more interesting.

The song I discovered during lockdown

Richard says: Daði Freyr – ‘Think About Things’. That really is a fun one, especially that video! I haven’t really had any big music discoveries while in lockdown (I don’t think) until recently. The Lucifer tv show has some really great music that is completely new to me. I was looking for something different to listen to the other week, decided to search for some of those songs and I found a whole Lucifer themed playlist on Spotify. Some of these songs are a real revelation and I love that I am discovering a whole lot of great new music this way. Let me share a few of my discoveries…

I could go on but these are already five songs instead of one. So, here is the Spotify playlist I used, should anyone else be interested as well. I’ve only been listening to these for the past week or two, so I am still traveling on my road to discovery.

That’s it, my answers to the NME questions. Thanks for the inspiration NME, Richard, Michele and Sue. Anyone else interested in playing along?

Tomorrow’s World

Matt Bellamy, lead singer of my fave band Muse, released a new song last week written during the Covid 19 lockdown. I knew it was coming but had missed that it was out already. Listened to it this morning and I wasn’t disappointed!

Tomorrow’s World is a ballad with piano and strings in the background. Matt wrote and performed it without the band, but it still has a distinct Muse sound to it. It’s a mesmerzing and eerie song and yet there’s a feeling of hope in it as well.

The title of the song is taken from a BBC tv show that used to air, talking about future developments and technology. What I love about Muse / Bellamy songs is that they are different, that melody and words fit and yet don’t quite fit as in this case with hopeful lyrics but a bit of an eerie sound. Play this song on repeat and I’m sure it can send you into a trance.

For anyone interested, there’s also a small interview with Matt about this song…

I love when people talk about their creative process like that and hearing about the feeling that went into this song.

It’s been a lazy morning here, with sleeping in, reading some things on my phone and getting sucked into the Muse rabbit hole. Now it’s time to jump into the shower, get dressed and move on to all the Saturday chores I have planned for today. Before I do that, though, I’ll need to listen to this song a few times more…

Muse in Nijmegen

This past week the date of June 27th was boldly highlighted in my calendar: Muse was coming for an open air concert to the Goffertpark in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands and I would be there! The same park I saw Eminem in last year and David Bowie oh so many years ago in the early 1990s. Tickets had already been purchased last fall and I was going with my lovely friend Suzy from the Silverbluelining blog, we were meeting up there.

Fast forward to last Tuesday, two days before the Muse concert. I was leaving work late because I was meeting two friends of mine for the cinema to see Rocketman (I did end up seeing it, despite what happened next, and really liked it). As I tucked away my metrocard I missed the last step of the stairs and crashed to the ground, twisting my ankle quite badly, so badly that for a minute or so I couldn’t stand. First thought flashing through my head was, “NOOOO! What about Muse on Thursday??!!??”  Long story short, ice pack on my ankle when I got home later that evening didn’t help much, doctor said I needed to have x-rays the next day but in the end luckily nothing broken.  However the ankle was thick and painful enough to need extra support and I could barely stand on it.

So yes, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to the long awaited Muse concert! Only standing places for that concert and there was no way I could stand for two hours during the concert and all the time leading up to that. Then Mr. Esther came to the rescue. My hero! He wasn’t going to the concert but offered to take the afternoon off work to drive me there (a little over an hour away from where I live) and borrow my mother-in-law’s wheelchair (she only needs it occasionally). My older sister ended up coming to the concert with me as well (she’d also bought a ticket a while back and the person she was going with canceled at the last minute). Downside to these changed plans was that I couldn’t spend as much time with Suzy before the concert as I had wanted to.

The weather on Thursday was gorgeous: blue skies, mid 20 degrees Celsius, perfect weather for an open air concert. We finally arrived at the Kiss & Ride spot near the venue at just after 5.30 pm (drive had taken 2 hours due to traffic jams!) where Suzy was awaiting us. My sister and Suzy took turns pushing me in my wheelchair to the concert grounds. I’m forever grateful to them and to Mr Esther for bringing me there! I could stand and hobble about for short amounts of time, so that was something.

Muse

We had a nice bite to eat at the venue and then went in search of a spot to enjoy the concert from. As I was in my wheelchair for most of the time we figured in the end it would be pointless for me to watch from the field, I’d be too small to be able to see anything. So, we found the wheelchair platform and there was enough space left over for me to have a spot there as well. The down side was that only one other person was allowed to accompany me there. Suzy came with me first and later changed places with my sister as she preferred to watch the concert in the crowd, and rightly so. The park filled up with some 66.000 people (I was told by another guy there). This slideshow shows some crowd overviews before the concert started, taken from the spot I was at:

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Andy Burrows, the second opening act, was good. He used to be part of a band called Razorlight with which he had scored this hit called America. Then, at just before 9 pm, Muse finally took the stage. And yes, yet again, I loved the concert from its first beat! The music is always excellent, the singing is always excellent and the show they give is always great too. Here some pictures, mostly screenshots from some short videos I took (click on images to enlarge):

The great part of being on the wheelchair podium is that the view is good, the downside is that wheelchair people (at least at this concert) don’t sit-dance that much. This means that I, and also my sister, were probably the most active hands in the air, fist bumpers and clappers there. Also, lots of coming and going on that platform which was somewhat distracting. Next time, I think I’d prefer to be in the crowd. 🙂 Nonetheless, I enjoyed the concert immensely with neon lights and laser lights and dancers with lightsabers and silver plated suits. Here is one of their most famous songs that someone filmed, Uprising, at the beginning of the concert…

… and a video of when a huge creature emerged on stage near the end of the concert…

Anyway, when Knights of Cydonia started playing (traditionally always their last song at concerts), I was bummed it was almost over. The crowd went wild (yet again) with that last song, it’s always a total crowd pleaser, but alas, Muse really was done after it ended.

We met up with Suzy after the concert and I was glad to hear that she had enjoyed it immensely as well! It was her first Muse concert, and my 4th or 5th, but I have a feeling there will be more Muse concerts for Suzy and me in our future. 🙂 And we need to meet up again extra to catch up some more as we didn’t get around to enough of that this time around. Muse in September in Amsterdam, Suzy? Might be tough, though, with that concert already sold out and my finances a little depleted, but we’ll see…

Supermassive black hole

After doing some chores around the house today and before going out for groceries (I always have Wednesdays off work), I sat down for a little breather and switched on the TV news. Just starting was a press conference that was being held about the first ever black hole picture. Now, I am not scientifically minded at all and I know next to nothing about astronomy, but the excitement at this news conference was so palpable, I was sucked in. The world was presented with this image:

first black hole image.jpg

This is apparently a supermassive black hole surrounded by a ring of gas in a distant galaxy far far away.  From what I understand, this proves that Einstein’s black hole theory was correct. This BBC news item describes it all way better than I ever could. Science theory (and fiction in a way) has become science fact! How very cool is that? I wish we had a Captain Picard who could go and explore for us.

Apparently the black hole in our own galaxy is harder to discover but the existence of black holes now seems to be proven. This really is pretty exciting stuff! And what is extra beautiful to me is how this has been achieved with people and organizations all over the world working together. An organisation called Event Horizon Telescope was formed with this aim in mind, to work together internationally and study black holes together. With all the focus in the news nowadays on egomaniac policies and politicians, this news is such a breath of fresh air.

And now for the past few hours, I’ve had this Muse song ghosting around in my head…

I think my older scientist sister, who now works as a computer programmer, but who has also studied chemistry at uni, has always been fascinated by astronomy and actually understands all of what Einstein’s theory of relativity is about, will be over the moon excited by this news. Heck, even I am excited now. 🙂

Pressure… don’t push me…

It’s been a busy week in Esther-world: celebrating my mother’s 83rd birthday last weekend (she’s still in good health and able to care for herself, thank goodness), dealing with family stuff at home (all is well, but still needing attention) and trying to get myself not too riled up about my micro-managing boss. I feel a conversation coming up in the near future where I make it clear to him that the pleasure I have felt working at this organisation the past year and a half has evaporated ever since he started micro-managing… During the first job interview he had with us (I was one of the people interviewing him!) he had said he was good at managing where needed and letting go where needed. I had faith in him when he said that, that faith has evaporated quickly. I guess he interprets the ‘where needed’ differently from me…

The news world has also been very busy. Trump has been a bumbling fool on the international stage again, the whole Brexit mess has kept me watching BBC news in fascination and even Richard Armitage has been tweeting nonsense (seriously, turn the other cheek to bullies? When has that ever helped? Peaceful resistance, I am all for that, but just turning the other cheek only helps bullies, not the victims). Thankfully, I did enjoy this picture of him that turned up last week or so from Audible…

Oh, and there was this picture as well from the upcoming season 3 of  Berlin Station

These are little highlights as I still wait for something great to come from the Armitage that even I can enjoy other than just nice images (nope, no audiobooks for me, Castlevania is still on hold and I’m not that keen on the upcoming Berlin Station either…). I wish I had the energy to blog about my stage in Armitage-fangirling right now, like Herba, Servetus and Nell have been doing so eloquently recently on their bogs. And I still might, when I feel more space in my brain, but suffice it to say that I too feel the drought and I too am still hoping for other great things to come from Richard.

This means that I am stuck to other fangirling right now. Lately that has been all about listening to Muse’s new album which came out last week. I like this album better than the last one, some really good songs on there! I’m really liking this one right now…

I guess the whole “Pressure … don’t push me” message feels relevant. 😉  Luckily, last Tuesday I was able to purchase tickets to their world tour that starts next year! They’ll be in The Netherlands in June. Some friends of mine are going too and I got tickets for myself and Suzy from the Silverbluelining blog as she too has become a Muse fan. This band is absolutely awesome live and I find myself already wishing for June!