Monday, October 19, 2009

What a way to spend a Monday...

Every year, one of my favorite public radio stations, WXPN, comes out with an exceptionally long list of tunes to put on the airwaves. It's always a countdown of some sort revolving around favorite albums, songs, artists, etc... And this year it happened to be the "top 885 songs you can't live without." It takes about two to three weeks to complete this countdown. And I can honesty say, it's the only time of year when my ipods, itunes, satellite radios, cd collections, and the hoards of mp3's I own take a back seat... I just listen to the radio, this countdown, from start to end, and everything in between... (Yes the dreaded fund drives and all...) To me it's the greatest thing - To hear these songs you love, hate, forgot about, and never ever heard before, all being played one by one.

So after thinking about making my own list for the last three weeks, I actually sat myself down and did it. So at this moment, these are my top favorite songs. Yes, this topic is always a revolving door, and I'm sure I forgot many songs and will kick myself in the booty for not thinking about them when I wrote this out. But these songs are what comes to mind at the moment, and I guess that's good enough for now. And by no means do I write this thinking that these are the best songs ever written, recorded, or sung... because they definitely are not. I'm not trying to impress you with my music knowledge. These are just the songs that got me started, interested. These are the songs that mean the world to me...

God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
This song is just incredible. End of story.

Long, Long, Long, The Beatles

Yes, I know. Of all the Beatles songs to choose from I pick one from the least loved side of white album. With valid reason though, because Harrison lets himself loose and reveals it all. This could be the one of most genuine, heart felt songs in the Beatles collection. (Bold statement I know.) And it does it for me every time.

Romeo & Juliet, Dire Straits

I first heard this song while watching the movie Empire Records. Being 13, this movie was pretty damn cool, and the epitome of what I wanted my life to be. I wanted to work at a record store. (What can I say, I dream big.) I wanted to know these songs... especially this one. It was was so different than anything I had heard before. It was sweet and sincere, but at the same time it held mystery and intrigue. I was hooked. As time did unfold my adolescent dream job came to reality. Almost a decade later I became an official employee at record store. Oh bOy! Only it wasn't nearly as exciting as the one at Empire Records. There was no speed. No pills. There was no back room sex or roof top hook-ups, and there definitely wasn't a has-been singer that I wanted to lose my (non-existing) virginity to. My record store had Chris Isaak. And while I do secretly admire the man a little, (and by a little I mean a lot) I most certainly was not pulling a Liv Tyler and wearing a red bra for him... But I might have lingered by his autograph table for a few hours, re-stacking the same shelve of cds over and over like a manic obsessive-compulsive.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead

... from my first and favorite Radiohead album. I think I was initially drawn to this song because it was the easiest to learn on guitar. Now for many more reasons than that.

Night Moves, Bob Seger

I'm a sucker for some Seger. I can listen to this song on a constant loop. Ooooh it's good! Find me someone that doesn't have this blaring down the boulevard on a perfect summers night. Seriously. I would like to have a word with them. It would probably start out with me asking this... "So it's the (lyrical) promiscuity that gets your goat?"

Sometimes, James

This is just one of those songs that continually builds to be better and better. James is tremendous and (for the most part) breathes life to the fullest. Great lyrics full of honest emotion.

The Boy with the Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian

One of my college loves & road trip favorites. And Alex, I owe these last two all to you...

Nightswimming, R.E.M.

There are certain things you remember in life. Your first job. Your first kiss. Your first best friend... and to the music fiends out there, i'm sure you recall your first record, 8-track, cassette, or cd... So that being said, one fateful day-trip to Circuit City, my mother purchased me a 3-disc changer home stereo. Fuck Yeah was it ever cool! I was happy as a clam. I remember decorating it with those big peace flower stickers and all. Boy. Now this was an exciting moment in my life. And since it was a high tech 3-disc changer, I needed 3 cds to compliment it. So my first ever CD purchases went as follows. 1/ Counting Crows - August and Everything After. As disappointing as they became, they were phenomenal when they started. This album I hold near and dear. 2/ Meat Puppets - To High To Die - I don't even know where this CD went, but I'd sure like to find it! And 3/ as most could expect, R.E.M - Automatic for the People... That's when the gates opened and the floods pursued. I owe a lot to them. From Murmur and beyond... This song sets the tone for it all. (And after living a pretty fun life, and a few late night swimming moments of my own, this song is ever the more meaningful and memorable.)

Cue the wah-wah music... Yes, I am one of those chickies... One of those hopeless romantics who fall to their knees in love with every whisper and crack of certain singer songwriters. Show me a romantic comedy movie or have me read a romance novel, and i'll wince with pain as I laugh all the way home. But put on a Drake, Elliot, or Buckley album and I'll succumb to every word and believe them all to be true.

Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley

Have you ever pulled your car in the driveway, turned it off, and waited in the driver's seat, in the dark, for the song you're listening to to finish?... and then remain sitting there, for a while after it's done, to take it all in. As simple as they are, these are some of the greatest moments in life. And this was one of them for me. Yes, I know it's Cohen's masterpiece originally. But Buckley. He made it magic. He made it come to life. For the most part every song on this album is interchangeable. It's a great piece of work. (Side note: When I get a place with enough space, I'm getting a dog, most likely a retriever, and his name will be Buckley... So check called it, don't be stealin' my thunder!)

One of These Things First, Nick Drake

This one falls in the above category. Now there are so many choices from Drake, but this one in particular combines optimism, innocence, and imagination. I always picture a small child bicycling in slow motion on the streets of his suburb town, arms spread out like wings as he rides daydreaming about what the future holds.

I Want You, Elvis Costello

Some things just happen by chance. Elvis Costello was exactly that. I happen to have an amazing friend who says Yes! to everything. No matter how crazy or stupid the situation is, the answer will be yes, every time. So one weekend during the college days, said friend wanted to drive to Canada just for the hell of it. I guess I kind of did to, because I jumped in his car at 5am and we were off. We got pulled over at the border. Could have got in a lot of trouble, but didn't... Then continued our way to Niagara Falls, where we could drink and gamble for the first time legally. (Canada is great fun!) Next day we continued North to Toronto. Got an expensive Hotel and went to a Blue Jays/ Giants game. Just for the hell of it. Next day saw a flyer on the street for an Elvis Costello show that night. We heard of his name before, but never actually heard his work. So we went. Just for the hell of it. And it was fantastic. Funny how life unfolds itself sometimes. Been digging in his works ever since. This song is frickin' awesome. Maybe it's because he maintains to sound so cool and collective throughout, even though his lyrics are dripping with an unbelievable amount of jealousy, desperation, and lust.

Hotel Chelsea Nights, Ryan Adams

I like Adams a lot. And I feel like he doesn't get enough recognition. Or maybe he does. But I can only remember having one conversation
in my lifetime that revolved around him. And I think it lasted a whole 13 seconds. And he's worthy of more. Chelsea Nights offers the grit of a classic Tom Waits tune with the soulful undertones of Prince's Purple Rain - And all the pain that lies in between.

Wish You Were Her, Billy Bragg

You know. Looking at my list, it's pretty evident that I like depressing songs. The more dark the better. Don't know why, but I just do. Though this one could be classified as a "downer," I also think it could be viewed as quite the opposite. Perhaps more of a secret appreciation. Either way, though Bragg is mostly known for his words of government rebellion, he proves with this song and others, that sometimes people just get distracted.

Bullet with Butterfly Wings, Smashing Pumpkins

Aaahhh Whaaat!? Was that your first reaction? I'm sure it was. Because it would be mine. But trust me there is a story to go along with this pick. Remember a few albums back when I said, "There are certain things you remember in life..." Well consider this part II, The continuation of my musical memories.

The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie Tour', with opener Garbage, was my first concert. Ever. Alone. Accompanied only by friends and that amazing feeling of freedom. Of living. Yes, at 13 this was one of my favorite albums. And Bullet with Butterfly Wings was my favorite song. (Looking back, tracks like Galapogos, Thirty-Three, and By Starlight are way better...) But it was the angst and explosion that Bullet with Butterfly Wings had that hooked me. And like every typical confused teenager, I thought "the world is so f'ed up... no one gets me, blah, blah, blah..." So this was the perfect song to match... (News flash for the little kiddies of the future. The world will always be f'ed up, and no one will ever get you 100% of the time. Hopefully you'll end up with someone that gets you 72.3% of the time. And that's a good average.) So back to original story. So we are at the show. Garbage was okay, probably slightly better in my mind because this was the first time I was in a large arena with loud guitars and cool looking people. But then the real deal came on. The Pumpkins! I was going out of my mind. This was amazing. A few songs past, and then I heard the beginning riff to my favorite teenage tirade of a song... My eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.

Just then one of my two girlfriends looks over at me and says... "You ready?" (What she meant: Are you ready to go smoke these Marlboro Lights that I stole from my mom's purse? We want to go now.)

(Pause.) Almost five seconds later, I said..."No, it's cool. You guys go on." (What I meant: Now? Now!! Are you guys fuckin' serious!!! Is this not the best moment of your entire fuckin' existence? And you want to leave it, to go smoke cigarettes that we probably aren't even inhaling. You're insane. Absolutely not.)

What they said... "Suit yourself" (What they meant: I knew she wasn't cool enough to hang out with us.)

What I thought... (Wow. This must mean something to me.)

... And it did. That was is it. That was my music moment. That's when I realized that the strong emotions I carried for music was not the same as everyone else's. For a teenager to skip on an activity that was declared "cool" was unheard of. This was huge. Or atleast it was for me. Because at the time, I definitely was one to follow the crowd. But not now. I had this. So going on music was my main passion. None of my girlfriends understood it like I did, but I was okay with that. It was officially mine.

And that's why I declare this song one of my favorites of all time.

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