Tag Archives: music

Science Fiction, Double Feature

If you’re anything like me (and a lot of other people on this wonderful planet), the moment after reading the title of this post, a very particular melody popped into your head.

Doctor X will build a creature…

You may currently be envisioning a pair of giant red lips.

See androids fighting Brad and Janet…

Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve jumped straight to picturing Tim Curry in suspenders.

Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet…

And any moment now, you’re going to feel an almost unstoppable compulsion to stand up and jump to the left. And then step to the righ-igh-igh-igh-ight.

Oh-oh, at the late night, double feature, picture show.

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show at some point. Very possibly at multiple points. I know I have. But last week I had my first opportunity to go and see the show performed live on stage, with Craig McLachlan starring as Frank-N-Furter. It was, in a word, AMAZING.

Rocky Horror

It was everything Rocky Horror should be, and time seemed to disappear into a vortex and fly by at the speed of a super-sonic mansion-shaped alien spaceship.

When we came out of the theatre, I was grinning and glowing. The world was a different place — slightly less predictable, and an awful lot more exciting. Around me, 1999 other people (the show was sold out) were exiting the theatre with the same loopy grin on their faces. When people made eye contact with each other, no one looked away in awkward embarrassment at being caught staring. Instead, they shared a secret grin. People jostled each other, not in their rush to leave, but in that casual way that friends and intimates make occasional body contact, as if assuring themselves that they’re in good company.

And the thing that stood out to me, even more than all of that, was the variety of dress and age of the patrons.

Costumes; wigs; diamond jewelry; suits and ties; after-five gowns; fisher stockings; bright red lips; pale pink nails; sensible shoes; 3-inch heels; pearls; cuff-links.

Eighteen year old kids, and seventy year old couples who clung to the handrails for support as they walked, and everything in between.

And all of them, all of them, grinning and laughing and smirking and walking with just a little bit more hip-swivel than usual.

My friend and I left the theatre, and wandered down the strip looking for a place to sit and have coffee and cake. And as we walked, we talked about Story.

Rocky Horror Picture Show is almost forty years old. Those frail-looking septuagenarians? They were younger than me when the movie came out. They probably saw it at the picture theatre. And here they are, still moved by the story of innocent young lovers, and the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. As for the 19 year olds? They weren’t even a gleam in their parents’ eyes when the movie came out. But they’ve paid a small fortune to go to the theatre and see it performed live on stage.

But, why?

What is it about Rocky Horror that makes it so enduring?

What is it about the story that keeps us coming back for more? Is it the sexual liberation? The costumes? The catchy songs and dance numbers? Or just the overall antici–*

There have been so many other movies and stage shows over the last forty years that take the theme of sexual liberation even further. Seeing a man in suspenders is no longer quite as risqué as it used to be. And while the songs and dances are great, if that’s all it was about, we’d just buy the music. Or see a performance of the songs, rather than the whole show. But, no. We don’t do that. We don’t put the movie in the DVD player and skip through the boring bits to the songs.

Well, I don’t.

So what is it about the Story of Rocky Horror Picture Show that continues to draw the crowds?

“It’s timeless,” my friend suggested. “People can still relate to it.”

But… can they? I mean, obviously they can, or the show wouldn’t be playing to a sold-out audience every eight times a week for five weeks. In Brisbane. But what about it is timeless? Brad and Janet certainly don’t represent modern teenagers. And the whole “we have to go to the the spooky castle and ask if we can use their phone” is quaint and possibly completely unbelievable to the 19-year-olds in the audience.

So what is it that makes the story so timeless?

“You’re over-thinking it. It’s just a great show.”

That wasn’t my friend. That was a random lady who just happened to be walking in front of us, also having come from the theatre, and also in search of refreshments.

“Yes, it is,” I said. “But we’re writers. We like to try to work out what makes the story so great.”

She and her friend slowed and joined us. “It’s just great,” she said flippantly. “I remember sneaking into the cinema when the movie came out — because we weren’t old enough to get in and see it, but things were more relaxed back then. So we snuck in and watched it, with no idea what it was going to be about. And it was just… It’s the story of Brad and Janet who are so innocent, and they’re exposed to this world… It’s like they go through this whole experience, and then… Oh… The hug at the end. Where they run into each other’s arms…”

The two women looked at each, and one fanned herself with her hand. “It’s like… After everything they’ve been through, they realise they still love each other, and their love is even greater than it was to start with, because they’ve experienced so much more. And they’ve both done it, and they’re still there for each other, and…” She trails off, her voice full of emotion.

The other woman adds, “It’s like a fairytale.”

And that’s what it is.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a fairytale.

It’s the tale of a young couple, separated by a wicked (and yet incredibly sweet and high-heeled) witch, forced to undergo emotional trials and come face to face with themselves. But in the end, despite everything that’s happened, they run into each other’s arms.

Safe.

Loved.

Forever.

And the wicked witch, a man so desperate to be loved that he would do whatever it took to create the perfect man — and discard the “failures” on a whim — is bested not by an outside source, but by his own excesses and hubris.

It’s a modern fairytale. A coming of age story that is timeless, because as we start to navigate the adult world, one of the most terrifying things we have to face is our own secret desires and appetites.

Also, there’s killer music, costumes, characters, and a whole lot of antici–

“When we were fifteen and we saw the movie for the first time,” my mystery friend said, “we came out of the cinema, and it was like we had been changed. It didn’t feel like we’d watched a movie. It felt like we’d been to another planet ourselves, and we were entirely different people. Like we suddenly saw the world the way it really was. And now…” She trails off and a little smile plays at the corners of her mouth. “Now, every time I watch it, I feel exactly the same way I felt when I was fifteen.”

And that, my friends, that is what makes a story timeless.

Did I over-think it? Under-think it? Why do you think The Rocky Horror Picture Show has such timeless appeal?

*pation.

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Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek, Writing

The Music of Youth

When it comes to music, I’m pretty eclectic. My playlist is just as likely to include Metallica as Lily Allen, Wolfmother as Kate Miller-Heidke, and The Killers as Manowar. I love music. Like many people, I can define whole swathes of my life by the music I was listening to at the time.

Moving across the country when I was 16?

Terrible, ugly, angry break-up?

I could go on, but I’m sure you know what I mean, and you’ve got your own songs-as-memories to fall back on.

One of the things I’ve struggled within since having kids is the need to play music that’s “age-appropriate” for them. For quite a while, that meant I just didn’t play music while they were awake. Then I went through a phase of playing “Kids music”.

(Do you have any idea how soul-destroying The Wiggles are after you’ve heard the same song for the thirty-seventh time in one day? Yes? You’re clearly a parent.)

Then one day I had an epiphany.

My parents didn’t play “age appropriate” music when we were kids.

They played the music they liked, and we either “got it” or we didn’t. Either way, we turned out just fine. In fact, I still remember how incredibly excited I was when I was about five or six years old, and my Mum decided to make me a tape of all my favourite songs. Both my brother and I got to choose the songs that would go on our own special cassettes, that we could then take it in turns to play throughout the day.

I don’t remember every song that was on my very first mix-tape, but I remember some.  The selection included:

And:

And even:

I know. I was clearly a melancholy kid. But oh, I loved that mix-tape! I had no idea what the songs were really about, I just knew that they touched me deeply, and I wanted to fall into the music and live there forever and ever.

But it wasn’t all tragic. Just to break it up, I also included this:

(And for the record, my brother’s tape included The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) and Wake Up Little Susie.)

I started thinking about my childhood mix-tape this afternoon when I posted this status update on Facebook:

“Shot through the heart, and you’re too late. You give gloves… a bad name.” — My 5yo songmaster.

It actually makes me incredibly happy to know that if five-year-old Big Brother made his own mix-tape, there would barely be a “kids song” to be found. It would be more likely to include a bit of the Who:

“Talkin’ bout my gena-a-tion”

And a bit of Queen:

“He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, Spending his life with this one sausagey”

A bit of The Doors:

“Hello, hello, what is your name?”

Maybe some Vanilla Ice:

“Ice, Ice Baby. Too cold, Too cold.”

And, of course, the aforementioned Bon Jovi:

“Shot through the heart and you’re too late. You give gloves a bad name.”

What were your favourite songs as a kid? Do your kids like the same music as you?

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Filed under Life With Kids, Random Stuff

My Militantly Indie Dessert

During our date night on Saturday, my husband and I had dessert at Brisbane’s iconic dessert bar: Freestyle Tout.

It’s one of our favourite places to eat. Back in the days when we were young and child-free, we lived in an apartment directly above the restaurant and would head down there whenever we wanted a sweet treat. But it had been a while.

“What are you going to have?” my husband asked me.

I considered for a moment. “I haven’t decided. I’m weighing up between the Spanish Churros with Hot Caramel Dipping Sauce and the White Chocolate Raspberry Brioche Dumplings. What about you?”

“I’m having the Berry Deluxe Sundae.”

I froze, then looked at him. “Wait. What?”

“The Berry Sundae.”

I stared at him a minute. “So… We’re at a dessert bar and I’m trying to choose between having warm spanish churros served with hot caramel dipping sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, or three brioche dumplings served with fresh raspberries, warm white chocolate dipping sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, and you’re having a sundae?”

“A deluxe sundae,” he said proudly.

“Don’t you want something a little more… I don’t know… interesting?”

“It is interesting,” he insisted. “Look, it’s got two flavours of ice cream! And berries! And cream! And a chocolate sail!”

“It’s a sundae.”

He looked at me a minute. “You’re one of those militantly indie chicks, aren’t you?”

“What? What does that even mean?”

“It means you only listen to the indie/alternative music radio station or nothing at all. You won’t ever listen to mainstream radio, even though you secretly like some of the Top 40 stuff, because it’s not indie enough for you.”

“… So… What’s your point?”

The waiter arrived and we ordered.

I had the Churros.

My husband had the Sundae. (Sorry — the Deluxe Sundae.)

And then we went to a bar where I loudly declaimed the mainstream music (even though I knew all the words) and sang exuberantly when the band played something retro-chic or alternative.

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Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek

Sing a Song of… What?

Big Brother fancies himself a bit of a rock star. He was given this guitar/amp/microphone set by his grandparents last Christmas, and has been practicing* ever since. He’s recently started writing his own songs to go with his mad guitar skillz.

Dear <Baby>
I really love you
I love you so much
I really do
I really love to dance with you
But I can’t
Because you’re too little
But that’s okay
Because I like dinosaurs and racing cars
Yeah!

As you can see, his song-writing is almost at the same standard as many world-famous singer/songwriters.

Last week he came up with a gem. If you’ve ever wondered how little boys think… this won’t help at all. But I definitely think there’s something in this for everyone.

Dear Henry the Horse
I really love you
I love you so much
But my farmer’s wife doesn’t like horses
But that’s okay
I locked my wife in the shed I built for the cows
Now you can stay here for a hundred days
Yeah!

* Practicing (v): The act of strumming an out-of-tune toy guitar as hard and fast as possible, with the volume turned up to maximum.

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Filed under Life With Kids

We also have Electricity and Running Water

In 1984 my family moved from Melbourne, Australia to St. Louis, Missouri in the good old U.S. of A. I was 8 years old, and “moving to America” sounded like the greatest adventure a kid could have. We flew with Qantas from Melbourne to Honolulu, and then transferred to American Airlines. The very first thing a real American ever said to me was, “Would you like some Sprite?”

We settled into St. Louis, and worked on learning the new lingo. I vividly remember the blank look on the teacher’s face in the cafeteria when I asked for a serviette instead of a napkin, and I remember the righteous frustration I felt when my little brother was marked down in english class because he wrote “bucket” instead of “pail” under a picture of a… well, a bucket as far as I’m concerned. (To this day, the only time I’ve ever used the word ‘pail’ is when reciting ‘Jack and Jill’.)

But the thing that really floored me and my family was the way that the average American seemed to be completely ignorant about the world outside the States. We  had people say:

  • “Australia? That’s just south of Texas, right?”
  • “Is that in Canada somewhere?”
  • “Do you folks have roads where you come from? What about cars?”
  • “I suppose you had to leave your pet kangaroos back home.”
  • “Do you have shops in Australia?”

Those weren’t questions asked by kids. They were all questions my parents were asked by other adults. But things changed in ’86, when Crocodile Dundee was released. Australia was suddenly interesting. Now,  I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne. I’d never even seen a croc or kangaroo anywhere except in a zoo . But all of a sudden I could get away with anything just by pulling out the line, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

Crocodile Dundee was just the beginning. Although we moved back to Australia a year later, I was confident that with TV and the internet, ignorance had been replaced with understanding. 

A couple of years ago, I found myself in Seoul, South Korea for a few days. We’d did all the traditionally Korean things, including going to a Korean club, so on our last night our guide suggested we check out a “G.I. Bar”.

The Bar was at the top of a badly lit staircase. A Korean man indicated that entry was $5 each, and women got free drinks all night. It sounded like a pretty sweet deal. We paid and went inside.

Other than the two men behind the bar, everyone was either from America or Canada. Apparently this was the go-to place for teachers and army guys. And with free drinks for all the women, it was probably the best pick-up joint around.

My companions and I proceeded to enjoy the free drinks and dodgy 80’s tunes, and it wasn’t long before we’d attracted the attention of some of the American guys. I soon found myself talking to a very handsome and muscular young man from Florida. We exchanged names, home towns, and so forth. Then he said, “I don’t normally listen to this kind of music.”

“Me either,” I said, yelling to be heard over Madonna singing Like a Virgin. “What kind of music are you into?”

“Hip-hop,” he said. Then he looked concerned. “Have you heard of hip-hop? Do you get that kind of music in Australia?”

“Uh, Yeah,” I said. “I love hip-hop. I’m really into Australian hip-hop right now.”

The guy looked at me like I was crazy and then started to laugh. “Australian hip-hop?” he said incredulously. “How could you have Australian hip-hop? That’s ridiculous.” Then he started to laugh again.

I don’t remember what happened next, but I didn’t see him again for the rest of the night.

Anyway, in case you were wondering:

Yes, we have hip-hop in Australia. We also have electricity, running water, cars, trucks, telephones, politicians, crime, Simpsons reruns, racism, and all the other modern conveniences.

And if you’ve never heard Aussie hip-hop before, here’s some samples to get you started. Even if you don’t like American hip-hop, give it a listen and let me know what you think.

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Filed under Random Stuff, The Inner Geek