Author: Hope Silverman

Come (Arena) Rock with me…

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
‘Til I see Marianne walk away

Ah yes, who can forget Boston’s 1976 (until forever) megahit “More Than A Feeling”, the patron saint-song of the sound known as ARENA ROCK (or if you are a nerd like me, AOR). 

I wrote a very unhinged essay you can now check out at Cover Me about the ludicrous, heart-on-the-sleeve magnificence of Arena Rock and why it is an emotional time machine like no other (uh, this statement will make sense once you read it, swear). Turn off your mind, abandon your cynicism & I will not only try to explain its wonders but also treat you to some blisteringly fabulous covers of Arena Rock classics that may shock you with their unbelievable goodness. Hey, at least come hear Kelly Clarkson sing “More Than A Feeling” because holy jeezus, it’s a monster.

Click below to check it out!

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #9 of 2022

I draw a lot of birds and sheep. They are my default creatures and I love them. I just drew the ballpoint peacock bird up top for a friend’s forthcoming album art. He’d said the album was inspired by late, fabled novelist Flannery O’Connor and then told me about her obsession with birds, something I had no awareness of.

I did a little research and came upon this amazing magazine essay O’Connor wrote in 1964 where she explained the roots of her bird-love and why she raised peacocks in particular.

Here is a completely awesome quote from it:

“The peacock does most of his serious strutting in the spring and summer when he has a full tail to do it with. Usually he begins shortly after break­fast, struts for several hours, desists in the heat of the day, and begins again in the late afternoon. Each cock has a favorite station where he performs every day in the hope of attracting some passing hen; but if I have found anyone in­different to the peacock’s display, besides the telephone lineman, it is the peahen. She seldom casts an eye at it. The cock, his tail raised in a shimmering arch around him, will turn this way and that, and with his clay-colored wing feathers touching the ground, will dance forward and backward, his neck curved, his beak parted, his eyes glittering. Meanwhile, the hen goes about her business, diligently searching the ground as if any bug in the grass were of more importance than the un­furled map of the universe which floats nearby.”

Amazingly, hilariously perfect.

On that note, it is now time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs from this week’s travels. There are many beauties, for real, for real. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. Bird on…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #8 of 2022

A couple of weeks ago, Robyn released a really cool cover of Neneh Cherry’s 1988 classic “Buffalo Stance” (listen here). And unsurprisingly, it inspired me to revisit and fall down the rabbit hole of reminiscing, like every damn pop song from the ’80s does.

But “Buffalo Stance’ was special. It’s hard to explain how out there and amazing it sounded in comparison to everything else in late ’88. I’m not exaggerating when I say hearing it for the first time was revelatory, and a genuine “what the fuck?!” musical moment.

I was instantly, endlessly smitten with the sound and Neneh herself. I had the picture at the top of this piece hanging on my wall for years ( that is the actual artifact, complete with pinholes).  

In the early ’90s, one of my best pals, Angel Ugarte, a tall, lanky, and debonair DJ, got invited to a party in NYC where she was the guest of honor. I could have gone but for reasons I cannot recall, didn’t (absolute idiot move). Neneh made a big entrance at the event, doing a dramatic descent down a long staircase as everyone gasped and cheered. Angel was standing along the staircase railing and as she was coming down, she stopped and kissed him. She freakin’ kissed him. Just him. When he told me about it the next day I was both overcome with jealousy because I wished it had been me, and ridiculously thrilled that she had chosen him above all others. And I get why she did it because he really was the coolest. 

Angel passed away from AIDS in 1996 and I still miss him a ton. I know he would find it ridiculously funny that whenever I hear “Buffalo Stance” I think of him and that legendary kiss. I am also 100% sure he would rather have been making out with Peter Gabriel but hey, Neneh is a pretty damn good runner-up pal 😉

And now it is time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have come down the pike over recent days. They are melodic, anthemic, jittery, weird, and beautiful to the last. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

It’s sweetness that I’m thinking of…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #7 of 2022

That’s a pic by Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger whose photos of unspeakably cool teenagers in the late ’50s & ’60s have to be seen to be believed ( this pic is actually pretty tame, there’s a lot of homoerotic rock ‘n’ roll rebel boy action to be had and all of it is awesome). Weinberger’s photos are among the myriad of crazy, amazing art that is being shown at the annual Outsider Art Fair which is happening in NYC this week. I can confirm that it is full of all sorts of treasures.

The first time I attended this event was around 1990 and I was very much blown away by, well, everything. Both Peter Gabriel and David Byrne were there, walking around like regular humans and buying art right off the wall (uh, this very much excited me). It’s where I first became acquainted with perhaps the best- known outsider artist in history, Henry Darger, whose work unsettled and impressed me so much I wrote about it in my freakin’ diary which up until then had only featured angsty personal adventures and mishaps. But what I loved most about the show was that it was full of artists I could relate to, who just made stuff because they couldn’t help it and looked to please and sate no one other than their own weird selves. It made me feel so validated and alive regarding my own demented, oddball ballpoint pen art. And it still does. I’d always been jealous of painters, the attention and glory they got and at times wished I could express myself that way…but all I wanted to do was to draw bizarro shit on small pieces of paper with cheap BIC pens.

That was all brought home at the show yesterday while looking at a display of 2 inch(!) paintings(!) of landscapes by a guy named M Winston who is currently incarcerated in Wisconsin. Looking at them, you can’t help but think, what is so great about “big”? Their power is in their tininess. You had to get right up next to the wall to meet them. They weren’t sucking all the air out of the room demanding to be stared at. Anyway, Outsider Art Fair is cool and moving and I just wanted to share that with y’all and encourage you to check out Weinberger’s incredible photos if you are doing any online rabbithole-ing today.

Hey, it’s time for the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music that has crossed our path over recent days. There is some seriously lustrous and melodic magic happening in this week’s small but perfectly formed playlist. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below. Embrace the weirdness…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #6 of 2022

I usually write a ridiculous intro before offering up the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST (featuring the most brilliant songs that have surfaced over the past seven days) but I’m gonna give everyone a break this week and go lo-fi acoustic bedroom demo with the opening remarks. Basically, we’ve been toiling away on another over-indulgent album breakdown essay for PuR (coming next week!), and have been focusing solely on that mad monster. And so I now quietly offer to you this slate of genuinely wonderful new songs. They are beautiful. Just breathe…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #5 of 2022

Like a lot of people in the pre-cell phone era, I used to keep the ticket stubs from all the shows I went to. They were flimsy yet genuinely priceless souvenirs, and for me, were as precious as any of the pictures of Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding day in the family photo album (sad, but true). I kept them stored in an old Doc Martens shoebox which is so on the nose ’90s, that even I am cringing right now as I write this.

I recently rumbled through my stub collection, still located in the Doc box. And I was disturbed at the number of shows I had no recollection of attending. As in no memory of whatsoever. Zero.

I worked at record stores through the ’90s and 2000’s and we got a fair amount of free tickets to stuff ( awesome perk for tiny-paychecked nerds). And I do remember certain shows vividly. There was crazy shiz like Jeff Buckley opening for Juliana Hatfield and Radiohead opening for Belly. There were lots of wondrous Britpop shows (Pulp, Elastica, Oasis etc.). A score of mind-blowing Sinead O’Connor performances. There was a Lemonheads show in ’94 where Courtney Love came out and played “Doll Parts” and then tried to quell the rumor that she and Evan Dando were having an affair by shouting into the mike “Evan was Kurt’s friend!” ( this was only 3 months after Kurt Cobain had died). I remember that stuff…But apparently I also saw Henry Rollins Band in ’94. And Morrissey in 2000. And Coldplay in 2002 all the way out at freakin’ Jones Beach which beggars belief. And The Fray at Hammerstein Ballroom in 2006 (?). And Fastball (??). And a production of A Chorus Line in Queens in 1997 (???). And Glasvegas. And Suzanne Vega. And freakin’ Sheryl Crow…TWICE. I do not remember a single moment from any of these shows yet the physical evidence indicates that I was there. And this is just a partial list of forgotten shows; there were literally dozens more.

It’s different nowadays of course. We live in an era where literally every breath a band takes is documented for eternity. Forgetting is no longer an option. Know what though, I don’t feel too bad about my lack of recall. I figure it was down to a now technologically obsolete but clever mental cleansing system located in my brain’s server room. One that actively evaporated the less meaningful shows from my mind to save room for details about the important ones. And I’ve gotta say, it was pretty on point as far as what it chose to keep and what it decided to shred. Sinead wailing “Troy” does destroy Coldplay yellowing and clocking. Courtney Love being Courtney Love definitely crushes A Chorus Line. And so here’s to you Hippocampus, you clearly had better taste than physical me; thanks for the(best)memories.

And now it is time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the most wondrous songs that we’ve met over the last seven days. This week’s playlist is 87.5% gentle,12.5% booming stadium epic, and all beautiful. You can listen below on Soundcloud (or Spotify for now). Go on then…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #4 of 2022

That’s Joe Strummer belting it out in the street because it’s never a bad time for some Joe. Back in 2001, Joe and his band the Mescaleros did an in-store performance at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square where I was working. One of the items requested in the band’s rider was towels, to of course sop up the sweat after the guaranteed to be heated, impassioned, bite-sized performance they were scheduled to give. The towels we bought for them had a giant dollar bill design on them, no cheekiness intended, they were just cool looking.

The band played, sweat was sopped and Joe and crew no longer had need of the towels after the performance…which of course meant I got to keep an actual sweaty towel used by the legendary Joe Strummer ( I only wanted Joe’s not anyone else’s, duh). I took home this treasure which I’d unimaginatively christened my “Joe Strummer Towel” and kept it neatly folded intact for several years…until I didn’t. I cannot remember why but one day I decided to put it into my regular shower-towel rotation where it stayed for at least a decade until it became too threadbare to use. And every time I would use it, I would literally think of Joe Strummer. Not in a salacious way, just in a weird, fan-ish way ( “Joe wiped his face on this towel and so am I”). My Joe Strummer Towel® is now officially retired and living a peaceful life in a dresser drawer but as it is imbued with official Joe-mojo, which is spiritual and doesn’t wash away, it remains a sacred object that I suspect I will have with me until the very end.

The Picking Up Rocks musical blog is a genuine labor of love and as long as I am able, I intend to keep serving up as much self-indulgent pop mayhem here as I possibly can. It ain’t easy, you see how long-winded I am even when writing about a long-forgotten deep cut or household item, but it’s worth it, getting to share and connect with passionate musical nerds like YOU ( hell yes it is). I want to keep hyperbole-ing, hot-taking, and over-indulging about songs and their creators for as long as I can. And so, just wanted to let y’all know that after 4 years I’ve finally set up a Tip Jar where you can leave donations to help support Picking Up Rocks and keep it going. Any coins in the tip jar are appreciated! I am truly grateful to all of you who have come here to read or listen or write me; you all are amazing. I wave my Joe Strummer towel in your honor.

The Tip Jar is located at the top of the home page, on the right-hand side (just under the bird).

And now after that infomercial, I offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. They are all starlit and wonderful in every way. Listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #3 0f 2022

Cold, snowy blizzard-like conditions and Kate Bush’s immaculate 50 Words For Snow album just go together. It is kooky, tear-jerking, and epic. It is the ideal soundtrack for stomping through the powdered sugar to your destination (and home to the legendary “Misty”, literally the best song ever about a one-night stand with a snowman). Next to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, there is nothing wintry-better.

Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. Amongst them, you’ll find gorgeous neon ’80s flavored anthems, a bit of supreme post-punk guitar-ing, and a wintry-magnificent future classic. They are all tied for #1 in our hearts. You can listen below on either Soundcloud or Spotify(for now).

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #2 of 2022

I wouldn’t normally talk about sports here on the blog but I wanted to pay tribute to a particular athlete who died yesterday, Clark Gillies of the NY Islanders ( that’s an NHL hockey team in case you don’t follow this stuff). He was the first professional athlete I ever met as a child. In 1975, he came to our elementary school for a special Q & A. I got my picture taken with him and we had a chat. Well, after that, I thought he was the absolute freakin’ coolest (even in his Quiana shirt and navy blue polyester suit, but hey, it was the ’70s). From that night on my obsessive loyalty was sealed. When my Mom got me my first ever Islander jersey, I specifically requested-demanded that it be emblazoned with Clark’s number (9). Though I’d already been a fan, after meeting him my Islander fandom grew more and more unhinged. I kept fat scrapbooks with every Islander-related article for years. I went to as many personal appearances at whatever mall or car dealership an Islander was doing a signing at as I could (oh my poor Mom aka my grudging but loving chauffeur). I joined a fan club and went to away games by bus with other fanatics ( Boston! Hartford! DC!). I regularly went to watch the team practice at an especially cold and grungy skating rink an hour-long car ride away. And once there, I was hellbent on securing as many souvenirs as possible, specifically, the pucks and broken sticks that came over the glass. The second I saw anything land on “my side”, I would haul ass to grab it (I wasn’t messing around). After practice, I would wait outside to get autographs no matter how many times I’d already gotten a particular player’s signature before ( seriously, my poor, inexplicably patient Mom, jeezus). I watched or listened to every single Islander game for years and got to see them win the second of their 4 Stanley Cups in person. I was this nerdy kid-teen with hardly any friends and apart from music, the Islanders were the only thing in my life back then that brought me a modicum of joy.

I met Clark Gillies a bunch of times after that initial encounter and even gifted him with a tee-shirt with his nickname ”Jethro” on the front when he was doing a personal appearance at, yup, Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island ( when you are a kid, the gifts you get for other people tend to be things YOU yourself like, recipient be damned), which he seemed to dig. Another time Clark was eating a hot dog at a meet and greet and got mustard all over my Islander yearbook as he was signing it and holy hell, I could not have been more thrilled (I now had a genuine Clark Gillies mustard stain in my possession aka a treasure). Anyway, he was always so cool, gracious, and funny with me, this shy, loser girl and I’ll never forget it. RIP Clark Gillies and just THANK YOU,THANK YOU, you were the best.

Right, music. It is now time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path this week. They are all gorgeous. Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

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Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #1 of 2022

That is a demented ballpoint self-portrait of me in my toddler days, rocking my bottle in my Mom’s old room. I changed her bed to a dragon guardian angel, like you do. I just figured it’s best to start the year with something uh, “optimistic”. With that in mind, it is time for the first WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2022, starring the finest songs that have crossed our path in recent days! I should note that this list features some gorgeous stragglers from the end of 2021 as well. As such it is Double Stuf™ size! Anyway, the world is still a mess but, hyperbolic sentimentality coming, there is still magnificent music to commiserate with, soundtrack our confusion, and rope us in when things feel nuts (and they do). Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. Rock on as best you can.

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