7 Things I’m Totally Obsessed with This Month (October 2017 Edition)

These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.      

1. The Rock and Roll Medley That I've Slowly Been Understanding for 15 Years: “A Quick One While He's Away” by The Who

Fifteen years ago, I discovered “You are Forgiven” by the Who on a mixtape. 

Twelve years ago, I learned the song belonged to more expansive, nine-minute multi-song suite called “A Quick One While He's Away” 

Nine years ago, I read that the medley came about when there was ten minutes left on side B of The Who's second album, and the producer encouraged Pete Townshend to fill it up with a single song. Unable to escape the idea that a rock song must be 2:50 minutes long, the producer said “if you can't write one song, then at least write several short songs about the same thing.” This process became the forebearer to The Who's revolutionizing idea, the “rock opera,” reflected in Tommy and Quadrophenia. 

Eight years ago, I found out the version I actually love is a live recording, from the The Rolling Stone's Rock and Roll Circus concert

Five years ago, I listened super closely, read the lyrics, and realized what the work is about:

  • a newlywed woman moves to a town with her husband, who immediately disappears and leaves her all alone (to war? to work?)
  • Eventually, she becomes so lonely that her friends convince her they “have a remedy” – she should be intimate with Ivor the Engine Driver
  • She finally succumbs to the pressure, and spends the night with Ivor. He's super creepy. 
  • Her husband finally returns to town, and they are reunited. She admits to him that she was unfaithful, but all he can tell her, over and over again, is that she is forgiven. 

Two years ago, I found out that what I thought was a high nonsense lyric at the beginning is actually John Entwhistle singing “cello, cello, cello, cello,” in falsetto, because the band had wanted a string section for the recording but couldn't afford one. 

This month, I learned the personal impetus for the suite. It was born from Pete Townshend's experience of being sexually molested as a child. His parents had left him to live with his grandmother, who allowed men to come into her house to abuse him. 

The “You are Forgiven” part is the only song that Pete Townshend sings lead vocals on the record, and during live performances, it is repeated ad infinitum while the band goes into one of their signature frenzied states.

I find this whole thing immensely touching. It obvious the song is not a record of abuse, and it goes into a weird hippy cult spiritual revival like thing at the end that has replaced the original metaphor. But it gives a whole new meaning to a rock star screaming “you are forgiven” over and over at millions of people. 

Good story. 

2. The TV Show: Big Mouth

I was prepared to just watch the first episode of this so I could cross it off my list as something that wasn't really for me, but the truth is: I totally love it. Yes, it's a bunch of boner jokes, but it's so charming and bursting with friendship that it's a seriously compelling watch. Not everything works, but the warmth and tone is awesome. I have never been so disappointed to not have more episodes to consume immediately. I hope they make 100 more. 

3. The Op-Doc: “I Have a Message for You” by Matan Rochlitz

This one can speak for itself. 

4. The Thing I Want to Put in My Mouth All the Time: Grill Smoked Winter Squash

I could eat winter squash every day during the fall. And, for the last week, I have. I discovered it's even better if you roast it on the grill with a chunk of hardwood. The sweetness becomes something else entirely when perfumed with wood smoke, and it becomes center-of-the-plate satisfying. 

Here's how I do it: I cut the squash into chunks, take out the seeds, and leave the peels on for now. I toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then place on a medium hot grill over indirect heat (about 400°). The grill has a nicely toasting chunk of cherry or pecan wood to produce smoke. I cook over indirect heat to drive off the moisture and soften the flesh and pick up flavor. Then, I move it to direct heat to carmelize. Or, I let it cool and remove the peel, then I sear it off in a cast iron skillet to reheat for the next few days.

God bless you, fall.

5. The Album: “Go Farther in Lightness” by Gang of Youths

I once heard a band describe itself as “everyone running around high fiving each other all the time.” I think that perfectly describes this sub-genre of driving, straightforward, Springsteen meets punk rock with synths group of bands that I always seem to like. (See also Japandroids, Titus Andronicus, Ringo Deathstarr, and Fang Island).

This fits firmly in that category, with a bit of post-Avett stomp and even some emo wailing…but in a good way.

Listen to it. You'll like it. 

6. The Photo Series: People Matching Artworks by Stefand Raschan

It might seem staged at first, but apparently, it's completely legit. Photographer Stefand Raschan patiently waits in museums for just the right visitor to come along.

Taken as a series, it's pretty intense.

7. The Playlist and Accompanying Thinkpiece: “Why Questlove's 201-Song Playlist For Keith Olbermann Is Bigger Than Hip-Hop” by Rodney Carmichael (and Questlove)

Keith Olbermann has been ignoring hip-hop. This is not okay. So Questlove decided to do something about it. 

Read the whole story, with awesomely thoughtful commentary by Carmichael, at NPR's music blog, the Record.