Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer Mix

I love listening to music in my car. There's something truly wonderful about driving around listening to songs I love, singing along and car dancing. Music sounds better and certain songs sound absolutely magical in my car. I'm sure some of this is a holdover from my childhood when we drove everywhere (like between states when we moved or from Louisiana to Michigan to visit family). My parents were teens/young adults when Motown and muscle car music ruled the airwaves so we listened to a little bit of everything on those car trips. My brother and I are similar; we like a lot of music that spans all sorts of genres and artists although we both have our favorites. I can't go on a road trip without spending a considerable amount of time thinking about and planning my music. When I went to Ocracoke in April, I spent more time deciding which CDs to bring than I did deciding what I wanted to pack clothing-wise. If I didn't plan my road trip music, it would be like not picking up Twizzlers and Doritos for the road...unacceptable.

Three songs are particular favorites of mine to listen to in the car: "More Than a Feeling" by Boston, "Low Rider" by War (complete with my Matthew McConaughey impression), and "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass. These songs came out in the 1970s (1974, 1976, and 1972 respectively) and seem designed for peak enjoyment while sitting in your car. Of the three, "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" is my favorite. When I was little I had this image of what I thought Brandy looked like. She was a 70s folk singer type with long red hair who wore peasant blouses and her braided chain made from the finest silver from the North of Spain. I loved the story of the song; it's romantic but not overly sentimental. It doesn't gut me the way so many of the sad songs I love do. It's a perfect summer song.

I haven't listened to "Brandy" in a long time so to say I was pleasantly surprised by its inclusion on the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is an understatement. It's one of my favorite parts of a movie in a movie where I loved many, many things (y'all, Groot is a baby). James Gunn, like Quentin Tarantino, is skilled at using music in his films. The first Guardians movie and its soundtrack were absolutely delightful. They worked together perfectly; I can't imagine the first Guardians without the songs. I loved the idea that Peter's mother would make him mix tapes of songs she loved so he would be able to share them with her even after she's gone. I like Meredith Quill's taste in music a lot. She and I would be music friends given the variety of music she liked. Gunn has described her as an oddball and a music lover in recent interviews about the music. We'd totally be pals.

Anyway, the second Guardians movie opens with a flashback of Meredith as a young woman riding in a convertible with a man we come to find out is Peter's father, Ego. They're listening to "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" exactly in the manner the song's writer, Elliot Lurie, intended it; driving around on a beautiful day with the top down with your best girl/guy, having a great time. That's it. The song never had any heavy meaning as Lurie has shared since the movie's release. There is no story behind it: he wrote some chords, then some lyrics, and used an ex-girlfriend's name as inspiration for Brandy's name. It was the band's one hit and has been featured in a ton of movies and tv shows. It also served as inspiration for the KISS song "Hard Luck Woman."

What's cool about the use of the song in the film is the importance it's given in the plot. Since I don't want to spoil everything for those of you who haven't seen it yet (Seriously? What have you been doing for the last month?), I'll keep it brief. Ego uses the song to explain his relationship with Meredith when he and Peter finally meet. The song becomes this grander metaphor for the choices Ego has made and the ones he wants Peter to help him realize. Peter can opt for the girl (his mother or maybe his Guardians family) or he can opt for the sea (helping his father realize a rather insane plan). Listening to the song, it is the exact same story but without the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. AND the sailor in the song is not nearly as terrible as Ego ends up being (for reasons I can't tell you without spoiling everything).

This is what I love about movies and music. I've written about this before, particularly about the music of David Bowie. When a person writes a song, he or she has a reason for doing so or an inspiration for the story told in the song (usually). When the song gets released into the world and people start to listen to it, they begin to ascribe their own meaning to songs whether the writer likes it or not. Songs take on the personal very quickly. A song fills in when you can't find the words yourself. That's why the soundtracks for the two Guardians movies are so perfect. These song are more than fun to fill in around fight sequences and explosions or background; the soundtracks are a character too. Don't get me started on the use of "Father and Son" (my second favorite Cat Stevens song) in Vol. 2; I'd rather not starting weeping again.

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" is an oddly beautiful song about love but the kind of love that's never realized in the way that we want it to be. Adult me is happy that the sailor in the story was up front with Brandy about the fact that his life, his lover, and his lady is the sea because not everyone would be that truthful (like Ego). Adult me also wants to shake Brandy and tell her to move on with her life especially since this dude assumes Brandy only wants to be a wife (you know that lyric in the chorus). Maybe Brandy didn't want to be a wife, she only wanted her man to be present and not just bring her fancy gifts from Spain. Hopeless romantic me (she makes an appearance every now and then) totally gets why Brandy continues the life she's living. Adding the Ego/Meredith/Peter story on top of my own feelings about this song makes it even better.

As my birthday is next weekend, I've begun work on my annual birthday mix tape to be listened to for the remainder of the summer. "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" is definitely on there as it should be. If anyone has a convertible I can borrow, let me know.

Next week: We'll talk Wonder Woman and how the men of the world will still be fine even though I'm going to see a women's only screening.

Groot GIF
Mix tape image

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