I considered the possibility that, by virtue of this meme dragging out so long, I might be able to simply go back and use my Day 1 favorite song as my favorite song “at the same time last year,” but no. This meme ended up being 30 Songs in 60 Days – it’s been a busy summer – but it is ready to end.
Today’s entry will be short and to the point, because I’ve spent most of the day helping Dave and a handful of other guys (including Jim – gratuitous blog pimping FTW!) install flooring in Dave’s condo. Yes, you read that correctly: installing flooring. I know! A construction project? Me?? Jews don’t do construction. Yeah, well, it actually went really well. Except for the part where I’m going to be crippled for a week now.
And now I have to get ready for a friend’s birthday party, where I will almost certainly pass out after one drink because I’m a wee bit knackered at the moment.
I didn’t have to (or get to) look back a year to my Day 1 song, but I will use the same band. Now the circle is complete. Maximo Park has so many damn great songs, and last year around this time, today’s song was in heavy rotation. Like five-or-six-times-in-a-row rotation. That’s partly because I was trying to learn the lyrics – Maximo Park as some of the best songs for singing along – but also because it just works. The lyrics, the changes, the rhythms – the whole package hits me on a visceral level. I probably could have used this song as the answer for many of the entries in this meme (and the same holds true of the Day 1 song, Apply Some Pressure). Sadly, none of the concert footage on YouTube had good sound, and there’s no “official” video for it, so no video for this entry. But if you are like me, you will play this tune over and over until it is etched in your brain matter, and visual imagery will become superfluous.
I thought about posting something from the Electric Light Orchestra, who were the first band I ever saw in concert – I was at their Out of the Blue tour, with its amazing flying saucer set and the laser show and the massive orchestration. Then the next year I saw Styx’s Grand Illusion tour – they were my absolute favorite band when I was 15. (I kind of wish I had smoked pot back then, because those shows probably would have been even more awesome than I thought they were.)
But since I started this meme (about 100 years ago) I have planned on a different song from even father back than my ridiculous adolescence. My favorite song when I was about ten was Little Willy. I have a distinct memory of lying on our living room floor listening to it on a little transistor radio (look it up, whippersnappers) and my visiting grandmother walking by and asking me about it. I don’t remember any details, but I seem to recall she said something about it being kind of catchy.
I also remember connecting the song in my kid brain with the nursery rhyme “Wee Willie Winkie”:
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it’s past ten o’clock?
Listen to the lyrics – you can see how a 10-year-old might put those things together. Willy/Willie… won’t go, running around the town, generally annoying people, and just not going away… Well, that’s how I interpreted the song anyway.
So I knew Little Willy would be the song from my childhood, but I had totally forgotten – if I ever even knew – what band had performed it. Thanks to YouTube, I now know that it was Sweet. And as soon as I found that out, I realized I needed to add another song to this post. Because in my mind, Sweet always meant one thing and one thing only: Ballroom Blitz.
I remember thinking this song was so cool, and funny/quirky, and to a 12-year-old that’s pretty much all it was. I never saw the band performing it, so I missed the whole glam with the capes and the makeup and so forth. But it seemed pretty radical, what with the man in the back saying “everyone attack” and such, and that was just fine.
(I had not realized until I went looking for the videos above that Sweet also did Fox on the Run and Love is Like Oxygen. They were apparently a much larger piece of my early music-listening youth than I remembered, as it was impossible to get away from those songs. I’m pretty sure I hated those songs, though now they evoke the standard package of wistful nostalgia. But I won’t subject you to them here.)
Once again, a category that I find very difficult to address. How could a song make someone feel guilty, I asked myself. I started contemplating “guilty peasure” songs – the ones I like but would be embarrased to admit I like them to my friends – and came up with a few whose lyrics or pop sensibilities might qualify them. But that’s not real guilt.
I realized that in order for a song to make me feel guilty, it would have to be linked in my memory to something I had done wrong. But I have done things in the past that I’m not particularly proud of, things I feel guilty about if I stop to think about them, they aren’t really associated with music. I mean, it’s not like I killed and ate a nun in the Mojave Desert while listening to Afternoon Delight. (Why, what have you heard?)
On the other hand, I tend to hold onto things, and continue to feel bad about them long after the rest of the world has shrugged its metaphorical shoulders and moved on with its life. Things like: I never paid my friend for the damage after I got rear-ended while driving it to Disneyland. Or: I stole small amounts of money from the till in a retail establishment where I was working. Or: I owed my college roommate a significant (for me at the time) amount of money for the phone service we shared, and never paid him back.
These things are all from my young-and-stupid phase – which lasted for several decades, and may in fact still be in effect. I wouldn’t say they torment me or disturb my sleep, but when I think about them, I feel bad. Fortunately, I hardly ever think about them. But the song I chose for today reminds me of the last of them, so I guess listening to it makes me feel (a tiny bit) guilty. The Degrads were my college roommate’s band from back in his home town. They self-published one single (as far as I know, it was their only one), and I have kept it for 25 years or so. I had a DJ friend of mine convert it to mp3 format, and now, you get to hear it. (No video for this one.)
Sorry about the money, JCE, but maybe posting this will assuage my guilt. Which, I promise, is totally wracking and devastating. Ish.
As I noted in my last post, I wish I could play an instrument. Even at my advanced age, I still have delusions of becoming a rock star, or at least of playing in a band. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of technology, I can indulge an ersatz version of that delusion: Rock Band. Oh, I’m not very good – I find Medium difficulty is quite enough of a challenge, thank you very much. For a while, I had a regular weekly “band session” going – it may be about time to reinstate that – and there were so many songs I enjoyed playing. I could choose almost any of them for this meme posting.
Instead, I’m picking one that is available, but that I don’t have, and thus that I don’t think i’ve ever had a chance to play. It’s an amazing song, and I would give an internal organ to be able to play guitar so I could take a shot at this. (I am encouraging my son to take guitar lessons so he can become the rock god I would like to be.)
Them Crooked Vultures is a so-called “supergroup,” formed by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age; Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters; and John Paul Jones, of Revolutionary War naval history… no wait, wrong guy. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. These guys can play, and when I hear the opening riff, my hands go instantly into air guitar mode. Can’t help myself.
Driving, raunchy, bluesy. I cannot hear this song enough.
Here’s a bonus video: somebody ran the song in Rock Band at Expert level (in the Spanish-language version of the game) without playing, just to show the charts. Frankly, if you can play it on Expert, you might as well get a real guitar and play it for real. The video also has the lyrics, so you can sing along if you want.
I don’t play any instruments. I have, at various times in my life, taken lessons to play violin, drums, and piano. I have owned, at various times in my life, a violin, a drum kit, a piano, an electric bass, a synthesizer keyboard, and miscellaneous other instruments (e.g., harmonicas). I never learned to read music fluently (though, like Hebrew, I can puzzle it out slowly), and I stand in awe of people who can look at a piece of written music and hum it or sing it or play it.
So the selection for this day of the meme should be, technically, “not applicable.”
But in high school, I did take some time to learn how to play two things on the piano. From some source or another, I had the music for both, and I painstakingly and slowly picked my way through the notes and taught myself how to play both of these tunes.
I would love to be able to play an instrument, but I waver between bass guitar, drums, and fuck it, I don’t have the time or energy to learn. Guess which one wins out every single time?
There are plenty of songs that make me laugh. I posted a few of them in the Day 24 post – which seems kind of strange, since that was about a song I want played at my funeral. Basically, anything mashed together with Muppets has the capacity for making me laugh. But I think you all deserve a special treat, for hanging in with me for this 30 Songs in 55-so-far Days. And because most of you weren’t able to join me at Wootstock in June of 2010, I give you a song that is not only funny in and of itself, but was presented in such a manner that I am giggling – yes, GIGGLING! – in anticipation of seeing it again here.
WARNING: This is five videos totaling something over 35 minutes. There is a song in here, honest, but it is buried (deep) in and among the finale for an incredible evening of nerdery and geekage, starring not only the guys on stage – Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, Jason Finn (drummer for The Presidents of the United States of America) – but a plethora of other geek heroes and icons.
Nothing I can say beyond that will do anything but delay the joy, so… have at!
My first thought was to find a song that would contain clues that I faked my own death and hints on how to find me. I got this one – more of a how-to – but it seemed a bit too on-the-nose. No subtlety.
But in the end, I turned to a poet and songwriter who, faced with his own impending mortality, managed to put down something that struck me as poignant and hopeful and the kind of message I’d like to leave behind.
My hope is that this song will come on during my funeral, and everyone will pause briefly from their inconsolable wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, look at each other with a wistful smile and a knowing nod, and then go back to being inconsolable.
Then, the Muppets will come on again with a clue to my actual whereabouts:
This one’s pretty easy, because it actually was played at our wedding by my wife’s cousin, Judy Roberts. Sadly, I don’t have a recording of that to play here. Instead, I give you five different interpretations. Enjoy!
There’s what is probably the definitive version – Nat King Cole:
Then there’s a whole passel of other great versions, including Ella Fitzgerald and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra:
Ella again with Louis Armstrong and the Oscar Peterson Quartet:
As I’ve noted before, I don’t usually listen to music based on mood. So in order to come up with an entry for this post, I had to think back to a time when I did listen to a song because I was sad. If you listen carefully to the lyrics, you can probably figure out why I was sad, but I’ll give you the rundown anyway.
My freshman year of college got off to kind of a weird start. I went to school close to home, and the majority of my friends were still at my high school, so I was both able and willing to spend a large chunk of my time with them. My girlfriend at the time – my first serious girlfriend – was a boarding student there, so I spent half of freshman week in her dorm room instead of, oh, I don’t know, meeting my classmates and dormmates, going to the Freshman Mixer, the stuff you do to help yourself settle in to the college life when you’ve no idea what it’s going to be like. So way to go, 17-year-old me. (It turned out I was living in the most neurotic freshman dorm on campus, so my social ineptitude actually wasn’t that noticeable.)
Still, things were going pretty well. I got along well with my roommate and our next-door neighbors in the dorm, my friends would come and hang out in our room, and my girlfriend (she was a dancer, so let’s call her “Cyd”) and I were totally in love. Well, I was totally in love. Along about November, she decided that it was time to move on. I was gobsmacked. Never saw it coming. Things got very bad for me, and Cyd only made it worse by not ruling out the possibility that we might get back together. I moped and mooned around, and I think I may even have sent her a letter with the lyrics to this song. I know I listened to it a lot. It really spoke to me, it expressed everything I wanted to say to Cyd, yadda yadda yadda.
One night, one of my local friends was having a party. Cyd and another friend and I were in someone’s car on our way there, and we stopped so I could use my fake ID to buy vodka, mostly for Cyd and our other friend. I wasn’t much of a drinker at the time. Before we got to the party – probably as we were getting out of the car; the details are a little fuzzy – she handed me an envelope. So I’m up there at the party, and of course I opened it and read the letter she had written to me. So much for that party. The letter made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted nothing to do with me ever again; and it did so with an angry blast of vicious, cruel words. I don’t remember the specifics of what it said, but I know it knocked me on my ass. (Unfortunately, I destroyed it almost immediately, which I now regret, because I would like to see if the reality matches my recollection.) EDIT: I almost forgot one of the most hurtful (and memorable) aspects of this incident: she handed me that letter, without saying a word, minutes afterI had bought her alcohol. That’s cold.
The rest of the evening is gone from my memory. I may have walked back to my dorm. I think my birthday was not long after, and I do remember having several friends in my dorm room and getting extremely drunk – on Kahlua, of all things… ah, the stupidity of youth – and maudlin and weepy. And eventually sick as a dog. (Kahlua, remember?) Ah, good times.
And then I went on to be totally – and possibly clinically – depressed for the rest of my freshman year. I don’t blame that on Cyd, but the end of that relationship definitely contributed to it.
I have reconnected with Cyd, sort of, via the miracle that is Facebook. We haven’t discussed our break-up or that night (or anything else, really) – I’m not sure my memory of it is accurate, and I don’t know that it made anywhere near as big an impression on her as it did on me. Anyway, I think I prefer to let it remain a bit of personal mythology. It’s an old injury that acts up, not with pain but with a mild twinge of discomfort when the weather conditions are just so. But we are the sum (or product) of our experiences, real or imagined or interpreted, and Cyd was part of what got me to who and where I am now. How can I complain about that?
This one’s a little easier. Though I don’t generally choose music depending on my mood, when I’m in a good mood and driving – for instance, on a beautiful summer day when I’m cruising home from the office and looking forward to a long weekend – I will crank something on my car stereo. I have a handful of go-to songs for that situation, songs that I love, that sound great loud, and that I can sing along with. This is one of them.
The garage sound, the chord progression, the rhythms, the shouty-rootsy vocals… it’s a great song reminiscent of the original garage/psychedelic/punk of the 60’s released in the Pebbles and Nuggets series. (My college roommate was heavily into those series; I was not much impressed at the time, and now I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention.)
I don’t know all the lyrics to this one perfectly, but half the time, I’m “singing” along to the bass line or the guitar anyway. The one downside to playing this when I’m happy is that it’s possible to forget yourself in the music and drive a little over the speed limit and get pulled over and ticketed. Dammit.