I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

“You wanna come in and sing some blues?”
“No thanks, Taj. There’s something about those songs. They depress me.”

Unlike Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk), I have recently discovered that I actually like the blues. This comes as a big surprise, because I am unapologetically a rock ‘n roll guy. We pass around Billboard Magazine at work, and a quick glance at the weekly charts invariably leads to a groan from my cubicle. Taylor Swift. Maroon 5. Carly Rae Jepsen. The lack of rock acts hitting #1 is distressing. Throw in a wildly successful piece of crap like “Gangnam Style” and it’s enough to drive one to drink. Except I already drink. PSY’s novelty hit is the “Macarena” of 2012, which is to say, it has no redeeming musical value whatsoever but managed to spawn an inane dance craze.

See? Total snob.

However, there’s hope for me yet. My company distributes quite a few jazz and blues records, and after reading lots of positive press about two of our artists – Savoy Brown and Joanne Shaw Taylor – I decided to check out their latest releases. One of the big perks of my job is free music, so I’m much more willing to at least try and broaden my musical horizons. If I don’t like something, I’m not out any money.

Lately I’m diggin’ the blues, cats.

And I like both of these records. A lot. Joanne Shaw Taylor has attitude and flair, and Savoy Brown has longevity (they’ve been around since before I was born) and a sound that is electric and vibrant. Both of these albums straddle the line between blues and rock, and maybe that’s the secret. The music is a lot easier to digest. My previous experience with the blues consisted primarily of that scene in Adventures In Babysitting where the kids are stranded at a nightclub and the proprietor declares, “Nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues.”  Elisabeth Shue then launches into an improvisational 12-bar blues number that’s all “woe is me.” Which, of course, is why the music is called the blues in the first place. Navin Johnson was right about that. The lyrics tend to be depressing.

But it’s the music that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. I dig it, man.

You know who else dug it? The Yardbirds. The Rolling Stones. Eric Clapton. Led Zeppelin. All of those acts were influenced by early blues recordings, and you can hear it in their songs. Just listen to Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me” off their first album. It’s clear as day.

You know who didn’t have the blues yesterday? Yours truly. Even though Halloween is far more low-key these days than it was, say, ten years ago when my kids were little and we used to have the best-decorated and scariest house in the neighborhood, complete with a graveyard and flying ghost and acres of cobwebs and a fog machine we refilled by the gallon, it remains one of my favorite holidays. I awoke in good spirits and decided, on the spur of the moment, to dress up for work. We were having a costume contest, and I’d debated over participating, but didn’t have a costume to wear. Several of my ideas (a Viagra-toting priest; Mitt Romney with props like binders full of women and a Big Bird doll with a noose around its neck) I wisely deemed inappropriate for the office. Tara was dressing up as a Denver Broncos fan, and I figured I’d do the same, but it wasn’t enough of a stretch seeing as how I’m already a Denver Broncos fan.

So I stepped into the closet, and emerged as a hippie. I’d first put together this costume 9 or 10 years ago, and the funny thing is, it’s not even technically a “costume” at all, just some hideous-looking clothes nabbed from Goodwill. Adding John Lennon-style tinted glasses, a peace symbol necklace, and sandals, I looked the part. I even brought along some patchouli incense to burn at my desk, but never got around to lighting it because I feared the wrath of a humorless management.

Good enough for 3rd place!

And ended up winning third place in the costume contest anyway! This was completely unexpected, as we had a very good turnout and some pretty creative costumes. But I humbly accepted my prize and afterwards, we had a little party at work that included wine, beer, cheese and crackers. I’ve never worked for a company that actually served alcohol on their premises during work hours, and this was way cool! You’d be amazed at the wonders having a little buzz does for morale. Man, I am going to have to start bringing in a flask full o’ liquor!

I kid, I kid.

When I came home, Tara was cooking a fantastic meal of beer-simmered bratwursts and macaroni ‘n cheese. We watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and waited for trick-or-treaters. Not a single one showed up. Apparently, condominium complexes aren’t popular with kids trolling for candy. It’s too bad – had one little ghost or goblin rang the doorbell, they would have gotten essentially three bags full of candy. And it’s the good stuff, too. No stupid Tootsie Rolls here. I guess we’ll just have to finish it ourselves.

All in all, it was a pretty fun Halloween. Now it’s time to set our sights on Thanksgiving! Bring on the turkey. I’m ready.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

19 thoughts on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

  1. Aw, glad you had a great Halloween! Love your costume!

    We hardly ever get trick or treaters here anymore. Mostly because I live on a main road (although there is a neighborhood right behind us, plus there’s sidewalks) and mostly because a lot of the kids have grown up. Sadly now, most of the kids go trick or treating at the malls because its supposedly safer. :/

    And I may or may not have a soft spot for bad pop music (I hate Call Me Maybe, but I’ve always loved Maroon 5) 😉 And as much as I want to hate T. Swift’s music, I can’t.


    1. Maroon 5 used to be somewhat decent, but they’ve sold out lately. Traded in their old kinda-okay sound for a newer, less improved one. In my humble opinion, anyway.

      We need a new “Tubthumping,” that’s what I think! Wherefore art though, Chumbawumba?


  2. I’m excited for our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’m just hoping that there are no surgeries (planned or non-planned). At any rate…it’s going to be great!! And to make it better, I’m not going to work that day so there won’t be any mad rush to get it done! Yay!!

    Years ago, I used to buy candy in which there was alot in the bag…you know like dum-dums or smarties and whatnot. I soon learned that it totally sucked to have a bunch left over. Now…I buy what I like…it’s a win-win. Especially if the kiddo’s don’t even show up!

    Yay for winning 3rd and yay for getting a buzz at work! You rock dude!!


    1. Oh yeah…I guess I should add that I don’t mind the blues…but I’m not a huge jazz fan. I think I would rather listen to opera than jazz.


      1. Trust me, the “S” word (surgery) has been on my mind. As has the “G” word (gallstones) and the “P” word (pancreatitis). Let’s just say I’m going to be really nervous the day after Thanksgiving this year!

        Looking forward to dinner with you guys, though. 2 Thanksgiving meals in one week? Score!


  3. Love that your costume came from the Goodwill! That’s the best kind, in my mind. I’m not much of a blues fan myself, I’m afraid, so your recent conversion will make Sara hopeful for me, perhaps. Glad Halloween was great for you all!


    1. I agree. Those store bought costumes are just so fake. I’d much rather go out and cobble together my own. Fortunately, I have a passion for thrift stores. I’ll have to come up with something even groovier for next year!


  4. Mark, I adore the blues. And I like the blues going waaaaaaaay back to Billie Holiday. I also adore jazz! I like the sound of a saxophone, so jazz is right up my alley!

    So glad to hear you and Tara had enjoyable Halloween. Congrats on winning third price. You’re costume was faaaaaabulous!

    Enjoyed watching the video clip!


  5. And I thought your costume was Elton John! Please send me some Halloween candy, we had no trick or treaters & hubby didn’t even buy any candy. I’m dying for some chocolate – did you have any chocolate? Elvis Presley was also very influenced by the Blues, I believe.


    1. Funny, a coworker also thought I was Elton John. I told her the glasses weren’t big enough, but maybe next year. I’ll have to brush up on the lyrics to “Rocket Man.” Or, for that matter, “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues.”


  6. Oh, those kids. They didn’t come to our house to get candy either. I’ve been standing over a bowl full of Snickers asking Tom in between bites “When is someone gonna take this away from me????”.


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