After the tumultuous year of 2001, we slowly began the act of getting back to normal, whatever that meant. 2002 was significant in that the last half of the year was the beginning of my older son’s last year of high school. By the end of 2002, we had received word that he would be going to Butler University on an academic scholarship. Personally, I was disappointed that he would become the first one in our family since my maternal grandmother not to go to Ball State. And guess where she went? Butler, of course.
Coaching wise, 2001 was the year in which I was coerced to get back into track. After that one year of coaching basketball on the greatest staff, the boys track coach no longer wanted to be in charge of the whole team. He simply wanted to coach the distance runners. So, he approached me first about taking his position with him becoming one of my assistants. After that, the full court press was put on by the boys and girls Athletic Directors, the principal, one of the assistant principals and the girls team coaches. It was nice to feel so wanted, but basketball was still my first love. So, it was Coach Bull who helped me the most with this decision. He said that he did not want to lose me, but he did not want to hold me back either. He said that I had the chance to put my stamp on a program that was in as bad of shape as Alexandria’s had been. The only problem was Hamilton Southeastern was quickly becoming one of the largest schools in the state, so we would be taking a beating the first couple of years.
So, in 2001, I had a group of freshmen who had some talent and loved the sport, so I made the “no-brainer” decision to develop those kids and fill in the rest of the spots with older kids until the talent improved. Needless to say, 2001 was brutal. But, we did get better in 2002, even winning an invitational toward the end of the season due to our improvement and our budding team depth. Let’s just say that we were gaining confidence as a team as I weeded out the older kids who had problematic attitudes.
Probably the highlight of 2002 was not coaching or teaching, but being a parent. When your child is a junior, the parents organize what is known as The Post Prom, an event of games and entertainment for the high school kids that takes place at the high school after the Prom is over. Every year, the parents transform the school into a themed wonderland of fun entertainment. And, each year, a group of parents are in charge of a show. Over the years, the parents have played movies, performed SNL-themed variety shows, talent shows and the like. This time, I was on that committee and my wife nominated me to write this show when I wasn’t at the meeting. Great!
Well, I did remember at the Winter Talent Show that a group of teachers had formed a band and played a song to the delight of the students. Afterwards, the group never performed again. My idea was to due a send up of VH-1’s Behind the Music about this group the guys called Flying Squirrel. So, my wife proceeded to tape them answering questions in the manner of This Is Spinal Tap and The Rutles. Everyone understood what I was doing, so these knuckleheads ran with it. It goes without saying that these guys were brilliantly funny. And, since I had a student teacher, I was able to do some video editing to create the show, complete with the school’s principal doing a Lorne Michaels-like bit begging the band to come back together for a free dessert from the school cafeteria to reunite, to their sleazy manager (another hilarious teacher), to a roadie talking about the band’s groupies (a parent that everyone knows), to the groupies (some hot moms) saying they inspired the music (my nod to Almost Famous), to a band member leaving the band for a solo career (he did a rap number and the Worm), to a band member never realizing the other guy left the band, to a dream-like origin story of the band’s name, and capped off with a new performance by the reunited band. And the kids loved it. The other teachers all said that was the best one. Personally, I don’t know if that is true, but it was fun, even though two of the moms never understood what we were doing and tried to sabotage it every step of the way. I kept telling them to watch one episode of VH-1’s Behind the Music, but they never would. Fortunately, the others on the committee had my back and supported this throughout.
Unfortunately, I never got to do the show for my younger son’s Post Prom because of my stupid back. That will be a regret I will take to my grave since he had helped with the whole Flying Squirrel show. Anyway, let’s take a look at the music of 2002 that inspired me.
Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2002). One day, my older son came home from work with a new CD saying that he had something that would remind me of everything that was great about Eighties music. I quickly had learned to be skeptical whenever he came in saying that because the music would be his punchline. Instead, what I heard was the best of metal, punk and pop being rolled up into one relentless headbanging album. For once, he was paying homage to my music and not making fun. At least, that’s how I choose to remember it.
Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002). Just when you were beginning to think we were remain in a post-9/11 funk came word that The Boss had summoned the E Street Band to the studio for a reunion. And, the resulting album was all about healing, specifically the healing of relationships, like the families of the victims of 9/11, the people of the United States and the band members themselves. What a beautiful album about healing! And, it had to be Springsteen and the E Street Band to do this.
Christina Aguilera – Stripped (2002). For the most part, Aguilera has wasted her pipes behind crappy music. And, for most of this album, she continues that route. Except on “Beautiful,” that song written by her producer and former 4 Non Blondes leader Linda Perry. No, Perry captured Aguilera at her most vulnerable while singing that song. And, that’s how Christina should be recorded ALL the time. At least on this album, she is more about her emotions that her technique. Her perfectionism is getting in the way of her becoming the voice of a generation. At least she came pretty close on this album.
Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002). Coldplay was obvious in who their biggest musical influence was, U2. While on their debut, they took a more sleepy approach, this album is the one in which they made their influences their own sound. Remember, U2 never had many piano-based hits. So, Coldplay was able to wrap that U2 influence around a piano to create the band’s first major singles “Clocks” and “The Scientist.” Coldplay was proving they were ready to ascend to the rock throne soon.
Eminem – The Eminem Show (2002). The question should be, “Will the real Eminem please stand up?” Em was in a creative battle with his Slim Shady persona, and Shady seemed to be winning at the time. While this album was not quite the world-stopping brilliance of The Marshall Mathers LP, this was still a stellar album that had the rapper questioning his own role in the world of hip hop. He proved he was an artist for the ages.
Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002). Just when, in your own mind, the collaboration between the Man in Black and producer Rick Rubin could no longer pay dividends, the duo releases this wonderful album of vulnerability on a world hungry for a statement like this. And, they saved the best song of their decade-long work together for what now resonates as a deathbed confession, Johnny’s version of the Nine Inch Nails classic “Hurt.” Cash discovered a whole new level of emotion and truth in that song, making the definitive version (sorry Trent!) of the song. Then throw in Cash’s stellar cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and you now have a wonderful one-two punch.
Justin Timberlake – Justified (2002). Of all the boy band members of those dominant bands from the late-Nineties, did anyone honestly have money on Timberlake having the breakout solo career? I sure never expected Justin to become something of a new Michael Jackson. Hell, this album reminds me so much of Off the Wall that it’s not a joke any longer. After listening it the album or the first time in my older son’s room, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.
Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane (2002). Well, it seemed like alternative music was becoming pop music. My older son kept telling me that this band was an alternative band, but I kept telling him there was little difference between Maroon 5 and the great Redbone of “Come and Get Your Love” fame. Oh well. Maroon 5 IS a pop band, and a damn good one at that. This was a pretty good start for the band.
Norah Jones – Come Away with Me (2002). Don’t get me wrong! I think Norah Jones is a great artist. But, I did get tired of this album when every middle-aged woman kept playing it everywhere I went. Personally, I love the light jazz/singer-songwriter vibe of the album, and Norah executes it with panache. But, when the soccer moms latch onto an album they sure can take the enjoyment out of it.
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002). Here is one of the heaviest bands of the new millennium. Plus, it’s always fantastic to hear Dave Grohl behind the drums. And the way the band solidifies around Grohl’s beats and Josh Homme’s guitar licks is a thing of beauty. I love this album!
The Roots – Phrenology (2002). America’s favorite rap band was back with a vengeance. The rhymes are insightful, the beats are slinky and the musicianship is impeccable. The Roots prove they are much more that a rap group, since they are talented and versatile musicians as well. This is post-modern band.
The Vines – Highly Evolved (2002). Of course, a band from Downunder will be ready to jump into the pop punk/new garage band sweepstakes. After all, it is a natural sound for bands from that continent. The newest entry was The Vines, who exploded from the speakers with this excellent album. Luckily, The Vines were playing a concert at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when we were there. So, my boys can be seen in the crowd on the taped show of the concert on MTV. Great band, great performance, but too bad they could not maintain the momentum.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002). Originally, Wilco lead Jeff Tweedy was a member of alt.country innovators Uncle Tupelo. Then that band splintered into Son Volt and Wilco. Many thought Son Volt would become the next big thing, but it was Wilco who persevered. Initially, Wilco continued down the country rock path blazed by the original band, but slowly the band evolved to include more Radiohead-like textures. So, when the band handed in this album to their label, the label rejected it. Undaunted, the band went seeking a new label. Eventually, they found one, and the album was released to a litany of critical praise. Once again, this proves the musicians know and the bean-counters don’t. This is a terrific transition album as you hear a band change into alternative rock darlings.
And, there you have it, 2002 in a nutshell. And, as always, until next time, peace.