30 Songs in 30 Days: day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy

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.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 20 – a song that you listen to when you’re angry

I don’t generally have specific songs that I listen to when I am in specific moods, or feeling particular emotions. This is especially true of anger. If I’m angry, I don’t think of music as the first outlet. (The first outlet usually ends up being shouting a lot, particularly if it’s my kids pissing me off.)

But if I were angry about my girl runnin’ around on me, usin’ and abusin’ me, or doing other activities from which the final ‘g’ had been dropped, I think this song would give me a lot of comfort as I plotted my revenge.

I’m not very familiar with Dash Rip Rock, but I do love the Louisiana roots rock/rockabilly sound. From what I understand, they are a phenomenal live act, and if they ever get to my area, I would definitely want to see them. Unfortunately, the only video I could find of them doing this track was not very good quality, and it featured a guest singer. So I brought you this instead:

Damn, they’d be a blast to see live.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 19 – a song from your favorite album

Once again, the reason this entry has taken so long is because I had no idea what I would consider my “favorite album.” For one thing, I hardly ever listen to “albums” and most of my music isn’t arranged – in my mental space, anyway – by album. Then there’s the whole picking-a-favorite thing, which is, as we have seen, almost impossible for me in the area of music. I swear, if I ever do a blog meme again, it will not involve favorite anything.

So I decided that if I couldn’t pick the favorite of all the albums I have ever owned, I would choose a favorite album. But which one? Well, sometimes, you get lucky and inspiration hits. Today, it was just from seeing a track listing in my iTunes library.


My folks had this album when I was growing up, and even as a kid who didn’t have much use for jazz, I recognized it as amazing. I’m still not a jazz aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but this album never ceases to amaze and astound and delight me. The offbeat time signatures, the crazy tempo switches, the bouncy upbeat moods… I could listen to this one over and over, taking nostalgic comfort in it and finding new things each and every time. If that’s not a good definition of a “favorite album,” I don’t know what is.

The song I spotted in my collection that triggered this inspiration was Take Five, but I chose instead to give you the opening track from the album, Blue Rondo a la Turk. I go back and forth as to which of those two is my favorite, and I finally decided that they are both equally brilliant, and I like this video, so that’s what you get.

But wait there’s more!

On December 6, 2009, Dave Brubeck was one of the honorees in the Kennedy Center Honors program. (It was a good crop that year. In addition to Brubeck, they honored Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Robert DeNiro, and Grace Bumbry.) It also happened to be Dave Brubeck’s 89th birthday. The presentation was amazing – watch for the reveal at around 3:30, and his reaction. Classic!

OK, I gotta go. I think there’s something in my eye.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 18 – a song that you wish you heard on the radio

As we have already established, I don’t really listen to the radio, so frankly I don’t much care if anything in particular gets played. However, I think the radio-listening world would be a lot better off if they listened to some Art Brut.

I love this band, and this song covers most of the reasons why. Aggressively optimistic and cheerful, but not in a happy-sappy way. Tongue firmly in cheek. Attention to the minutiae of life. The hard-edged, high-energy guitars. Eddie Argos’s not-quite-singing voice. “It’s not irony. It’s not rock and roll.” (As a guy who can’t sing but loves to do it anyway – fortunately for the sake of everybody who knows me, I confine it to when I’m alone in my car – I am living the rockstar life vicariously through Eddie Argos.)

I am sorry to say that these guys have played Chicago quite a bit, and I have never made it to one of their shows. The last one would have been perfect – they were playing somewhere I had free tickets for – but it coincided with a business trip. Dammit. Some day, Art Brut, SOME DAY!

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 17 – a song that you hear often on the radio

I may have hinted previously that I don’t actually listen to music on the radio. In fact, the only time I regularly listen to the radio is on my very short drive to work in the morning. And it’s never a music station. I flip back and forth between NPR and progressive talk radio. Given the time of day I’m usually making the drive, this is the only song that I hear regularly, because it’s the theme song for The Stephanie Miller Show.

The song has been around for 25+ years, and I’ve been aware of its existence, but I never paid much attention to it. It wasn’t until Stephanie Miller had Katrina Leskanich on the show that I learned that the band member who wrote the song was Kimberley Rew – a musician with whom I was much more familiar as the guitarist for one of my all-time favorite bands, the Soft Boys. The world of music is full of such intertwinings, I guess, but given the different styles and sounds of the two bands, I found it surprising that Kimberley Rew was not only a member of Katrina & The Waves, but that he had previoulsy been a founding member of a precursor band (just The Waves back then) before going off to work with Robyn Hitchcock in the Soft Boys. (There may be a whole post about the Soft Boys coming some day. You have been warned.)

Walking on Sunshine is never going to be on my list of top songs. It’s a bit mindless, a bit happy-sappy and relentlessly optimistic – and it takes fucking forever to get through on Rock Band – but I hear part of it almost every weekday morning, and so far I haven’t needed to kill anyone afterward. I’d say that makes it a pretty good song for the radio.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 16 – a song that you used to love but now hate

They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba

I don’t know that I ever actually loved this song, but I will admit that when it first hit the radio (back when I was still listening to the radio), I enjoyed it. It was loud and anthemic and easy enough learn the words to for singing-along-in-the-car purposes. I even bought the CD. Listened to it a few times, read a little bit about the “collective” that is Chumbawamba… and finally decided I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s because it was being played 14,000 times an hour for a while, but eventually I realized that the song is pretty vapid.

Really, there’s nothing there. It is not musically innovative. It is not lyrically interesting. It isn’t even “fun,” in any sense of the word that I can understand. Maybe it’s supposed to be some sort of satire on hooliganism or British alcoholism, in which case… nah. It’s bullshit. There’s really nothing that can redeem this song – which is all the worse because it has a tendency to become an earworm and burrow into your brain if you hear it.


This morning, Jim turned me on to the one thing that could possibly make this song worth listening to: a cover by They Might Be Giants, performed for The Onion’s A.V. Club. The two Johns rarely disappoint. I’m not going to spen a lot of time with it, but this version is at least enjoyable. The people in the video actually seem to be having some fun.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love

I can see this is going to turn into “30 Songs in 45-60 Days,” but so be it.

I have no idea what would surprise people any more. I could come up with something ridiculous here, and someone would undoubtedly say, “Oh yeah, of course you’d like that.” Still, one must try…

This song is definitely not something I would expect myself to like. It’s basically country, in both musical style and lyrical sentiment, and while I might not actually say I love this song, something about it gets into my ears and under my skin. I tried to analyze why, and the best I can come up with is that it reminds me somehow of this:

Look at that hair! Those dance moves! I actually have a great fondness for this song, reaching back to when I was about seven years old. We lived in a big house that had been divided up into six or eight apartments. One of the neighbor families had a daughter named Jolene (yeah, really) who was a year or two older than I was, and this was her favorite song. I don’t remember having a crush on her or anything – we were friends, but I think I may not have been quite to the having-crushes stage – but I distinctly recall at least one occasion when she did a lip-synch and Nancy Sinatra-style dance routine in the back yard, involving me as the hapless “you” of the song. Good times.

Huh. Now that I think of it, I think people might be surprised that I love that one, too.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure


OK, I admit it. I like Jethro Tull. I grew up with the band, especially Aqualung, which remains one of my favorite all-time records. But I wouldn’t consider that a guilty pleasure. See, Aqualung (and Thick as a Brick, the other Tull album I am most familiar with) can be viewed as pretty straight-up rock albums. Not so Songs From The Wood – that one is the bastard child of a classic power rock album and a Renaissance Faire. See Ian Anderson caper about with his flute, like a demented Pan! Watch as he bugs out his eyes and smashes cymbals together – huzzah! Where’s my flagon of ale and giant turkey leg? When’s the Mud Show?

Be that as it may, I totally adore this album, and I will endure any amount of teasing for it. The harmonies and the lyrics press my D&D/medieval/Celtophile nerd buttons eight ways from Sunday, and the fusion with the rock guitar, drums and keyboard is epic. The title song, here, is but one. There’s also Jack in the Green, The Whistler, and my personal favorite, Hunting Girl. That might be an even guiltier pleasure, I suppose, because of the suggestive lyrics, so I’ll include it here.

Honest, I only listen for the music.

30 Songs in 30 Days: day 12 – a song from a band you hate


How can anyone hate U2? you might be asking. It’s pretty easy. By their fourth album or thereabouts, it was clear they had bought into their publicists’/label’s marketing message that they were a Very Important Musical Group Indeed. I stopped being able to listen to them about the time they took on Very Serious Political Ideas in their work. Not that I’m opposed to musicians taking political stands or incorporating them into their music. I just thought the music U2 were making stopped being very interesting.

I really started to despise U2 when Bono became some sort of spokesperson for… something. What was his first issue? Who knows? Who cares? The fact that he decided he was going to use his Single Name of Power in the service of making himself look like a great humanitarian just turned me off. (Again, I was generally unimpressed with the band’s music throughout this period, too.) Also, what was up with those stupid-looking wraparound shades? “Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just a regular guy trying to shade my eyes from the sun, not a one-name celebrity with pretensions of — oh, you caught me!”

And of course, more recently, Bono (along with The Edge) proved that even highly successful musicians can rise well above their levels of competence. A Broadway musical? Really? And based on Spider-Man, of all things? Oh, I’ve no doubt that many of the failings of that show were attributable to the now-departed Julie Taymor, but did nobody think to tell these guys that writing a Broadway show is not like writing a Top 40 hit song? (Well, of course nobody told them that – I’m sure nobody gets within 30 feet of Bono unless they are willing to blow fifteen different colors of smoke up his ass.)

But long before all of that, U2 were a pretty decent four-piece from Ireland whose music fell on the melodious side of the post-punk music scene. I bought and owned and even loved their first album, Boy, from which this song is taken. Look at Bono in this one, playing on a British TV show. Sure, he’s smirky, but it’s a smirk of youthful hijinkery, not one of snotty superiority. If the band had kept making this kind of simple, fluid music, I’d still be buying their stuff.