Thursday, February 7, 2008


That probably doesn’t sound too good to western ears – we don’t think too much of rats. But in Chinese astrology, rats are way cool. In fact, Chinese astrology features a number of animals that have different cultural connotations over here. Snakes, pigs (sometimes called boars), and sheep, all have a place of importance in the Chinese wheel of the year. There are 12 animals in all, which means that they repeat every 12 years as a birth year sign. So, any one born this year will be a Rat person, and so will anyone born in preceding years counting back by twelves. Me, I’m a Boar. I somehow like that better than saying “Pig”- although with “boar” I’m still open to a lot of kidding. Anyhoo, people born in the Year of the Rat have, like people in all the signs, some good attributes and some not-so-good attributes. Probably that whole yin/yang thing. Rat people can be practical hardworking charismatic charmers, or obstinate manipulative quick-tempered control freaks. Well, don’t feel bad, Boars can either be honest, patient, reliable types (ahem…anyone you know?) or painfully shy introverts who have absolutely no sense of adventure (heck, even I’ll say it…boar-ring!).

Moving on, here’s a list of music to go with the Rat Year in each decade; a little something rattish for everyone, starting with…

’50 –Those original bad boys, the inimitable The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Joey, Peter and Sammy.

‘60s – Hot Rats, Frank Zappa
Hot Rats is actually an album title only; no song by the same name. Zappa is a taste I never quite acquired, but hey, we’re celebrating a Rat year, it’s all good. Since there's no song, here's a PSA from FZ instead.

‘70s – Ben, Michael Jackson
Album and title song about…a pet killer rat. It was one of MJ’s earliest solo recordings, done when he was a mere laddie of 14. Do you ever wonder how things might be today if only someone could time-travel back to that sweet little pubescent kid with the adorable button nose and the baby 'fro, show him a photo of MJ today, and warn him?

‘80s –The Boomtown Rats
An entire Rat group; these guy were the original funky punkers, featuring Bob Geldof (before he toned it down for his KBE award)

‘90s – Rats, Pearl Jam
I have to admit, even though I’m more of a golden oldies than grunge gal, I really like Eddie Vedder’s voice. Maybe not this particular song…but I’m just sayin.’ Check him out solo on the “I Am Sam” soundtrack, covering The Beatles hit, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” You might never go back to the Rats… Rats, and Beatles cover, you decide:

‘00s – I Think I Smell a Rat, The White Stripes
This song isn’t much for riveting lyrics, but then, I grew up singing along with Shirley Shirley bo-Birley Bo-nana Fana Fo Firley, so maybe I’m not in a position to be critical.

Okay, that's our celebration for today, and kind of a bite-sized evolution of the last half-Century of popular music. Happy Chinese New Year to all you Rats out there. Zai jian!

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