The US elections, APO news and Ngiii!

Some random thoughts on the US elections, and other observations:


-Americans are angry at the republicans and it is showing in the poll numbers. They blame Bush, and the GOP for the economic crisis they are experiencing. They are taking it out on McCain because wala na silang McCa-in!

-Meanwhile, Filipinos are mesmerized by Obama because as Danny Javier likes to point out, not only is he dynamic, promising, and all that but more importantly, kakulay niya ang maraming Pilipino. Danny calls himself ‘Balat’ Obama.

* * *

The best endorsement Barak Obama got, to my mind, was the one he recieved from Atlantic Monthly magazine. Aside from his other qualities, it pointed out that the very person of Barak would win people all over the world for America especially in the Muslim areas that lean towards radicalism. Imagine a young Pakistani looking at a a new US President who is black, with a Muslim name and background, and who was against the Iraq war from the very beginning. Barak could find it easier to sell America’s point of view in those parts of he world.

It will be a new, fresh way to present America to the everyone.

* * *

Just got my schedule from the APO office. It looks like the end of November and all of December will be a busy time for me. Wall to wall shows not just in Manila but also in different parts of the Philippines. Right now, I am taking advantage of the quiet and tranquility of my life in a Sydney suburb to get as much rest as I can before I go home for the Christmas rush. I am catching up with weeks of needed sleep and am eating well and healthy. I feel like Manny Pacquio preparing for a big fight.

In case you do not know, APO has released a new album which even if largely unannounced and not available in any store except through the APO office (4265301/4260103) and during APO concerts, has sold a few thousands in a little over a month. It’s close to beimng a gold record actually. If you are in Australia and want one, you can order from me. I should have it here by Dec.1. I can mail it to you or you can pick it up. If you want it autographed, please say so. Write me at and I will prepare it for you.


Limited copies of BOBOY, JIM, AND DANNY. THE APO is now available. You can order Apo’s 27th album by calling (+632) 4260103. This is APO’s first independently released. In case you do not know, this album and is not yet available in record stores. Grab your copy now!

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I watched Oprah yesterday where she devoted 3/4 of the show to our very own Charisse Pempengco. She was clearly gushing over this uber talented Pinay who continues to wow the world. David Foster, noted music man, arranger, performer, producer was also there and apparently has taken her under his wings. Oprah also showed a video where she sent her crew to trace the roots of Charisse in the Philippines showing her neighborhood and telling her sad story of being abandoned by her violent father.

After the touching footage, Oprah decided to surprise Charise with a video call from one of her (Charisse’s) personal idols, Celine Dion. She was clearly and pleasantly surprised. What I found funny was Charise’s reaction which to me was so truly Pinoy. When she saw the face of Celine Dion on the big screen, I swear she reacted in a ‘ngiii!’ sort of way we Pinoys do–you know, with bungisngis glee, hand movements and a big ‘ngiii’ utterance and sometimes accompanied with stomping of feet. For a second, Oprah’s show looked like Filipino TV.

Nothing to apologize for Charisse. You are Pinoy through and though!

My next 20 years

Philippine Star
Sunday Life

My next 20 years
Sunday, October 26, 2008

At 57 years old, I find that life continues to be challenging. When I was younger, I thought that the things I worried about would resolve themselves by the time I got older. In many ways, they have, and in many other ways, they haven’t.

A young man usually sets his goals and, if he is consistently focused, he can achieve a good number of them. I was young once and had my own goals and dreams. For one, I wanted to be materially comfortable. I also wanted a job I would enjoy. But what I was obsessed with was writing songs for my generation.

I wanted to give my fellow Filipinos a kind of pop music that did not just speak to them but was also about them. I wanted to write the soundtrack of the lives that were being lived in this country. And yes, I also hoped that it would make me famous as well, if I was successful, which was something I also dreamed about.

This writing of original songs in Pilipino was a rebellion of sorts. While it was true that we were a generation that grew up with Western music, we still saw ourselves as Filipinos even if we could not relate too well to the kundimans and balitaws of earlier days. What was natural to us was Western melodic structure, but the APO decided to break ground by writing our messages in Pilipino.

We were rebelling against the fact that a lot of the music that was being played on radio was foreign, and though it was nice to listen to, we knew the songs were written not for us, but mostly for Americans and Brits. Even if we could identify with and even love the songs, we knew that the composers and those who sang the tunes never really had us in mind. We were not even an afterthought. We were just a fringe market whose existence must have totally surprised the people who marketed the music.

Actually, many other songwriters of my era (the ‘70s) had the same thing in mind. We wanted to break away from the practice of blindly admiring what was foreign and laughing at what was locally made, at least when it came to music. We hated the fact that radio and the rest of the media were ramming all this foreign junk into our ears. We wanted something different. We were tantalized at the idea of singing our own songs, and dancing to our own music.

That’s how the genre of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) came to be. I am happy to have participated in adding this musical genre and component to our popular culture.

And while I continue to enjoy doing this performing with the APO, lately, I have been sensing other possibilities and callings somewhere in the distance.

I may be in my late 50s but I still believe in looking forward and impacting the world in a tangible way. It upsets some people, especially my classmates, when I tell them that the next 20 years are the last good years of our generation. In fact, if I can manage to stay healthy and active and attend to all the other callings I have in this span of time, I would consider myself extremely lucky.

Actually, I still feel like a young man with goals in mind. I am excited about what may lie ahead and what I may surprise myself doing and discovering. But, just like the young man that I was, I am often still fearful, unsure of how to go about doing things.

Some habits, I guess, I will never really outgrow, and one of them is fear. I am both excited and hampered by the fear of cutting a new path in the forest of my life, even if that’s exactly what I have been doing, however unwittingly.

In the next 20 years, I would like to find the energy and focus to do what I feel are important things that still need to be done. A lot of these involve our country, the Philippines. Like so many others, I feel that there are things that we should have done at certain junctions in our recent history but which we failed to do.

I would like to do work in education. I feel strongly about this and I cry at the state of our educational system. There must be a way to educate the young that can make them imagine greater things to do with their lives beyond manning call centers or leaving for greener pastures abroad. I want to help educate Filipinos so they can contribute to our society, and not to some other society. This is an investment we cannot afford to pass up, or the consequences will be disastrous.

I am also looking at ways to transform popular culture into something more liberating and transformative which will awaken our people to our own greatness. After having met so many of our kababayan on countless trips abroad, I have no doubt that we Filipinos have what it takes to rise above the physical, moral and psychological squalor we find ourselves in. The real question is why a lot of us can’t seem to make things happen in our lives without having to leave the country and working somewhere else. We need to awaken and realize the power of self-inspiration.

We need a cultural revolution on top of the political and social ones. I think that if we want to wage real change in this country, one of the most important things we need to do is take control of the media and change its content radically. Our attitudes and self-image are like software that is largely defined by media. As long as our self-image as a people (which television encourages) is an immature, childish and dysfunctional one, that is what we will continue to be in our daily lives.

I am amazed that in a country like Australia, people can watch high-quality documentaries that teach people how to garden, do carpentry, or fix things. These are shown during prime time! No asinine soaps and childish telenovelas, and no corrupting values being passed on as entertainment in noontime shows. There is not too much shallow or irresponsible newsgathering, either.

It will take a different kind of mindset to bring Philippine media to something close to this. We need a national paradigm that promotes responsibility, accountability and the habit of continuing education. I would like to be among the vanguard that will bring about these changes.

Lastly, I want to help change the structures and culture of the government that rules over us. I am not just looking at the personalities who are running it today but the very system itself which inevitably corrupts and stands in the way of reforming anything. There are better ways to run a country, as many OFWs who live under more functional systems abroad will attest.

All these issues are playing over in my mind right now as I look at scenarios on how to spend what remains of my life. I ask myself often if this is indeed my next calling — or am I just ranting? I also ask myself if I still have the energy and dedication to handle the work involved. Shouldn’t I just slow down and enjoy the next 20 years?
I am not yet sure of my answer to these questions.

Then I remind myself that Mother Teresa’s calling came to her in her late 50s when, as a teacher in an international school in India, she found her life changed totally by a beggar who had collapsed on the street, right at her feet.

She cared for this man, a man of the untouchable class, who eventually died. But it started her on the path of a nun in the service of the poorest of the poor, which is the part of her life where she contributed the most to humankind.

Life is full of twists and turns. Anything can still happen in our lives, no matter how old we may be in years. The one thing I’m sure of is, this 57-year old is not ready to retire — or be an old man.

Stevie the Wonderful


I wanted to write this last night right after the concert but I got too tired with all that singing and yes, dancing!

The concert started 8:40PM with Stevie Wonder entering the stage escorted by his daughter Ayeisha of ‘Isn’t she Lovely’ fame (remember the line, ‘life is Ayeisha, only a minute old’?). Instead of going to straight to the piano and singing, he and his band did a jazz waltz Miles Davis number where he played harmonica. He then proceeded to the piano and followed it up with a relatively unknown number from a recent album called ‘As if you read my mind’. Then it was “Master Blaster’ , and on and on it went.

Stevie Wonder, the legendary singer-songwriter started performing when he was 13 or so, and has been performing non-stop since. As I watched him, I tried to get into his mind and see where he was coming from. I saw a man who lives and breathes music and is overflowing with positivity. He was so unbelievably infectious in his joy for what he was doing. And yes, he sang great, still in the original keys of his recorded material. His bursting vocal improvisations were still novel, different from the original recordings and had that fresh Stevie Wonder touch.

He performed generously and enthusiastically for his audience with his big hits, and not surprisingly, like many seasoned performers, he also took the time to feed his soul with music he simply liked to do. In this latter list were songs like ‘Visions in my mind’, a non-hit song only a few fanatics like me would know, ‘Spain”, a jazz instrumental that he did not write but is staple among jazz performers plus a few more. He also paid tribute to the lead singer of the Four Tops who died recently by doing the classic R & B ‘Can’t help myself’. At a certain point, he also had Ayeisha sing an unknown song from a recent album of his.

Strategically, he let loose a whole tsunami of hits for the second hour of the concert where he sang crowd favorites like “Overjoyed’, ‘Sir Duke/ I wish, What the fuzz? medley” (this got the audience bouncing all over the place like popcorn in a microwave). He also did “Lately’, a personal favorite and a high point. “Living for the City’ was absolutely wonderful. There was ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, ‘I just called to say I love you’, ‘Isn’t she lovely’, ‘You are the sunshine of my life’. Am sure I am missing a few more. He then called a man he met a few years back in Aus, a native Aussie who played the digeridoo before Stevie broke into the funky roaring intro of “Superstition”. He ended with a few strains of “As’.

Stevie had great rapport with his audience. He was totally unguarded, spontaneous and completely disarming. How could he not be? He had a crowd that simply adored his music. Again, putting myself in his shoes, I could see a man who was totally oblivious to everything a ‘norma’ performer pats attention to–his looks, his unconventional body movements. Nothing else mattered except the connection he had with his happy audience which he loved to interact with and talk to, and the power of his music. His blindness which he has turned to an advantage has made him more focused on the music, which is really all that matters.

He put in a good word for Barack Obama twice, much to the delight of the crowd, and added that though he had never met him or McCain, he has connected with Barack’s spirit. He also said something to that effect to his audience about having such a great time meeting so many friends and yet never having seen them.

“Part Time Lover’ was a highlight and done with a lot of audience and band participation. It was light yet so much fun. People just got up and danced the moment the song started.

I saw him 20 years earlier in an open air concert in Manila. We were all younger then, but Stevie seemed to have hardly aged. He did a longer concert then at the Ultra field, and he sang more songs like “Do I Do’, “If you really love me’, “I was made to love her’, and a few more. Here in Aus, I knew he had to really end by 11PM. He kept on saying he had a few minutes left. In many countries, the unions lord it over the venue and going overtime means the producer paying a few extra thousands of dollars.

It was a great night. I’m still high. I was so glad to have gone since there is a short list of people I am willing to pay to watch, and yes, Stevie is one of them. He promised to be back soon to do a charity show for the handicapped. I will be watching again, if I am lucky to be in Aus at that time.

What a concert!

Sinigang, Stevie and a shoot!

Being away from my life in Manila and chilling out here in Sydney somehow opens me to myself. I go the little extra effort to do something I would not do back home like cleaning around the house, fixing things and cooking. The first time I made adobo, I felt so happy and accomplished. I felt that i had met a previously unknown aspect of myself. It was like a part of me made its debut– Jim Paredes the cook!

Today I totally pleased myself with my first attempt at making sinigang. Let me tell you with an understandable and shameless bias, but with some respectable objectivity (from my son) that it was DELICIOUS. When I first tasted the broth, my face grimaced with the sourness that was unmistakably kick-ass sinigang. It was nowhere near light and undefined. It was hardcore, through and through as sinigang as it could get! SARAP!

Buoyed up by the success of my culinary adventure, I am contemplating on my next project. Kare-kare? Lechon Kawali? Pochero? Hmm.


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Ala just came home gushing over the Stevie Wonder concert she just watched at Acer Arena in Homebush. She said it was her best concert experience ever. I saw Stevie Wonder in Manila in 1988 and I still feel that it was the best show I had ever seen.

Due to Ala’s enthusiaistic reportage, Mio and I are watching it tomorrow!! Artists like Stevie who have defined so much of the good music that has thrilled us through the years are gems hat must be admired and enjoyed while they can still perform well. He pretty much wrote many of the most stirringly beautiful, singable tunes that have defined the times of my life.

I can’t wait!

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I bought the Canon 50D during my recent trip to the US. It is a great camera. I just love everything about it. Today, I took a few pics around the house and they came out pretty well.. I am raring to do studio shots with it except that I do not have a model to shoot. Anyone reading this who is female, presentable, in the Sydney area and who wants great pics and is willing to pose for free, do get in touch with me.

Send me a photo first at If you are the subject I am looking for, I will call you to set up a schedule. All I can promise are good pics. It will be fun.

2010: Last chance for Baby Boomers?

Philippine Star
Sunday Life
Sunday, October 19, 2008

baby boomer1

I have been caught up in the US presidential race lately. It is easy to see why this election is so important. The US — still the world’s largest economy — stands on the brink of economic disaster, and could take the rest of the world with it. But while the economic picture is of the most immediate emergency crying out for a solution, I believe there are a lot of other issues at stake for America’s future and its standing in the world.

The battle is beginning to look classically and mythically symbolic in many aspects. There is the angle of the new and the young standing up to the old and increasingly irrelevant. There is the angle of the rich Senator John McCain (who owns 13 houses and is worth $100 million) versus Senator Barack Obama (who owns one house and is worth $1 million).

There is also the race issue. Is America really ready to vote for a black man as president? I really wonder about that. The election results will speak volumes about where America is now and how much of what it preaches about the American Dream is actually possible in America.

My main interest in these elections is how Obama is presenting the idea of change and how this can be applied to the Philippines. Obama has presented new alternatives in the way of handling his campaign, from fundraising (where he chose to go directly to the people instead of relying on federal funding) to the way he has presented his ideas and inspired people with his message, using not just the traditional media but also the Internet. His campaign has been unique and the response has been unprecedented.

Our own elections in the Philippines will happen in 2010 (unless the politicians manage a coup via Cha-cha), and no one who has positioned himself or herself as a candidate has excited nor inspired a lot of people, including myself, one bit. All these wannabes have done well in our political and economic system that is broken, corrupt and dysfunctional. And their pronouncements on issues and the way they have conducted themselves in public show no fundamental difference from one another, much less any hint of a new vision or paradigm that could bring change to our country.

I have been meeting with different groups for some months now, people who are impatient and aching for real change to happen in our country. Some of them are veterans of the two EDSAs, or people long steeped in NGO culture and work. Some are young, idealistic politicians themselves who see no real hope for things to change unless some new people with fresh ideas are voted into power and initiate a new national conversation that will impel us into a new trajectory.

I have seen too many reformers take on the political scene with the aim of changing it only to be rebuffed by the system itself and the very people they wanted to help. It is disheartening to see, too, many Don Quixotes bleeding by the wayside while the bad guys continue to win. And I often ask myself why they have not succeeded. Most political observers will give the easy answer and say that what these defeated candidates lacked was money. Perhaps they are right.

But then, I don’t recall the Cory campaign in 1986 as having even half the funds that the Marcos campaign had; and yet she managed to pull it off and win the presidency. So as much as money is needed, there may be other factors that are equally important.

Everywhere I go, whether here or abroad, I hear Filipinos talk about the near hopelessness they harbor about the quality of our leaders. Everyone is upset at the present dispensation and they feel that there is no leader in sight to replace the present, and worse, that the next elections will result in more of the same type of leadership and lack of good governance.

While this can be downright depressing, one thing is clear: there is, in this country, a constituency for change, though it is seemingly passive right now. People are really quite fed up with the situation, so much so that they are opting to migrate and live elsewhere. If only someone could harness this discontent into a vibrant movement that will sweep the country and demand real change, perhaps we could really get somewhere as a nation.

Living through the ‘70s as a young man and up to the end of the Marcos regime, I saw the cultural shift that occurred which made the end of the dictatorship possible. The spread of new, bold and frankly subversive ideas coming from the left was enough to fire up the First Quarter Storm generation to imagine new possibilities. And many of them were cultural and social and not necessarily aimed directly at the political jugular. The spread of Pilipino as the national language, the birth of OPM, the new political jargon that encapsulated and simplified the explanation for many of our problems — terms like burgis, feudalism, imperialism, fascism, etc. — became political catchphrases. To be fair, many of the definitions from the left were over-simplifications but they managed to insert themselves into the national conversation and pushed many people to act.

The new reformers who wish to join the elections have something to learn from recent history. The arena for the changes they want to achieve must go beyond the political. They must engage the electorate in many other aspects. There are cultural, social and environmental problems that must be addressed, and it must be done in a novel and engaging way. The battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate must not only be a political battle but a culture war as well.

If it took the opposition against Marcos so many years to state their case to the people, it will take the new politicians of today much less time with an aggressive media, plus the Internet, cell phones and other ways of communicating.

The leaders that this new constituency is looking for are those who do not only have fresh ideas that will impel the country to change, inspire its citizens to sacrifice and act for the common good, but also are willing to die if need be to achieve the necessary change. Incorruptibility, decisiveness and the ability to harness opposing energies into common action will also be needed. The new leaders will also have to have the guts to stand up to the traditional institutions that stand in the way of progress.

In turn, they will need to demand that the people do not just go along passively but actively express support for programs that are meant to have far-reaching consequences for the common good.

It will not be an easy task.The road is long and hard and reaching the desired destination is not guaranteed. But it’s a step in the right direction.

In one of the meetings I attended, someone pointed out that for our generation (baby boomers, mostly), this is the last chance to effect real change. Either we succeed in 2010 or we fade away and spend our last 20 years on golf courses, or in retirement mode. While looking at the faces of my friends, I recalled the line from Dylan Thomas: “Do not go quietly into the night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Oddly enough, in a world that has long been described as belonging to the young, this may be the moment for aging Baby Boomers to live out and pursue what really matters.

Another tour done!

Just arrived from the US last night. We did three shows in two weekends. I write to say thank you to everyone who was there and made every concert commercially and critically successful and so much fun. The shows in Sycuan, Morongo and Oxnard all rocked! We had a lot of fun and met a lot of new people. It was a good tour, and incidentally, the last show was the 20th one we did with Jeff David and Jennifer Santillian of Kewlit Company, a great outfit to work with.

Danny doing a sound check at Morongo.

I had forgotten how hectic concert tours can be even if this one was not close to how hectic the previous ones were. For one, we only had three shows and all in the same state (California). But the gap (24 hours) between the last two shows was quite tiring. What gets us exhausted are the late dinners and conversations that last till 2 AM and the early call to wake up and drive three hours for the next show.



We do travel in a limo. One of the few perks we enjoy!

Just the same, it’s a life I enjoy and always look forward to. It’s like doing magic. You enter an empty venue and people mysteriously show up. You weave music, harmony and humor and moments of sheer pleasure are created.

I am reading a book now and the author contends that when you want to experience the presence of people and loved ones who have passed away, visit the places where they spent time enjoying themselves, and you will feel their presence. When I told this to Lydia, she wholeheartedly agreed. She’s been spending a lot of time lately at her parent’s home going through their things. She says she feels her mom’s presence when she is in the studio where her mom loved to do Chinese paintings!

When I am gone, visit the venues we have performed in, or just listen to our music. If the author is right, then I will surely be there! Boo!

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APO live at Morongo tomorrow and Oxnard on Sunday!

This is my third day in Morongo Casino. I am normally not crazy about casinos. For one thing, I do not gamble AT ALL. There is also smoking everywhere. But Morongo Casino is a great place. It is in the middle of a dessert, a geographic locale I always enjoy. The other reasons are, it is a nice hotel with big rooms and nice bathrooms and big windows that frame the beautiful mountains, and it is close to a lot of factory outlets.

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The hotel and the factory outlets have our photos all over together with other acts like Foreigner, etc. who will be performing here soon as well. If you live near the area, and even if you are not so near, I invent you to drive over and catch the shows. I guarantee that it will be a fun show and will be worth your while. APO shows are one of the few things I like to brag about because I feel confident that we do deliver. It would be odd if after 39 years, we have nothing to crow about!

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Casinos, economics and an epiphany

I took a sabbatical from my column in Philippine Star since I am currently on a California tour with APO. We did our first concert last October 3 at the Sycuan Casino. This coming Saturday, we do the Morongo Casino and on Sunday, we do a show in Oxnard and then head home for Manila the next day.

Sycuan, Morongo, Cache Creek and a few more are the new additions to the casino destinations in the US. These successful temples of chance, all tax free are owned by American Indian tribes and the beneficiaries of these operations are the members of the individual tribes who have set them up. In the case of Sycuan, the interesting thing is that the chiefs and members of the board (all Indians) are married to Filipinas! We have met them since they attended our shows last time around. I hear one of them is an Ilocana!

Last October 3, we had a great show. It was a full house and we got a standing ovation. I liked our performace even if minutes before we came out, I had serious doubts about the condition of my voice and body. I was tired, jet-lagged, and felt heavy. But as the overture began to play, I felt all my energies gather together and work on me enough to do the show successfully. It was amazing. I felt a coming together of body, mind and spirit and an ‘awakening’.

* * *
It’s been more than a year since I was in the US. It’s election season and I feel a polarization especially among Filipinos who are traditionally Republicans. I feel that more and more, many of them this time are turning Democrats this election. The few who remain Republicans seem defensive and feel the need to explain and defend themselves. The fear of job loss, the observable decline in economic activity in malls with less shoppers, and the general anxiety about the economic conditions here has given me the impression that the US these days seems like a less happy place compared to before. People are clearly worried about the future.

In a small reunion with classmates I attended, the conversation was 80 percent about the bail out plan, the elections, and their take on the future of their adopted country which seems mostly bleak.

It wasn’t too long ago when we saw the fall of the Berlin wall and the following disintegration of the once mighty USSR. An economist-writer here has claimed as much and says that the drop in the DOW Jones of a trillion dollars (roughly the entire economy of India) in 15 minutes is comparable to the fall of the Berlin wall and signals the decline of American Capitalism as we know it. Pretty scary stuff. He says that the brand of economics that is decidedly American and has been the model and ideal for decades is now fatally flawed and must be rethought!


It’s sobering to actually see how things can change just like that. Nothing is forever. This is a reality which we seem to understand and accept only conceptually, if we ever do. Coming face to face with the irreverent force of impermanence can be quite disturbing and humbling.

* * *
I am having a epiphany. I am glad to be where I am right now as I write this. I am on the 8th floor of the Pacific Palm Hotel in West Covena ad I have a beautiful view of mountains and homes in between trees. It is a good moment. I feel a kinship to the moment as I write write without thinking at all and just going with the flow. Perhaps it’s because I got good sleep last night which I felt may have finally aligned my body to the time zone I am currently in. Or perhaps it is just one of those rare moments when I am present to and thankful for all that is around me.

I am happy to be where I am and who I am right now. I am unfolding right this second. Words are spilling out of me, and my body is sustained by the spirit that flows through me every second. In a few days, I will be doing two performances with Danny and Boboy singing songs we have made through the years and gifting our audience with our brand of entertainment. As Lionel Ritchie likes to sing, ‘Life is good, wild and sweet. Let the music play on, play on, play on.’

Does it get any better than this? Right now, I don’t think so.