Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season

 

Happy May the 4th! I do hate how commercialized this holiday has become. With all this starkiller base and pod-racer shopping, as well as Alderan key parties, people forget the true meaning of Star Wars Day–how many midi-chlorians you have in your bloodstream. Also, remember today is more than just Earth Day–remember that the Bluths also set it as Cinco de Quatro.

In honor of such a momentous day on so many levels, it’s time for the third set of songs from my top 100 list. If you missed the first two, well I’m making a sad frowny face in your direction, but I will help you overcome such an oversight with the help of the two links below to parts 1 and 2.

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

  • Mercy–TV on the Radio
  • Ruby Tuesday–The Rolling Stones
  • Smoking Gun–Robert Cray
  • Love, Reign O’er Me–The Who
  • Another Tricky Day–The Who
  • Mandinka–Sinead O’Connor
  • Days/This Time Tomorrow–Ray Davies
  • Man on the Moon–R.E.M.
  • Amie–Pure Prairie League
  • Silent Lucidity–Queensryche

The 2013 song “Mercy” by TV on the Radio is far and away the most recent song to make my list. It’s not even from an album–it’s a single they released that did not hit any charts. The song starts off great and intense, but it kicks it up a notch or twelve as the song goes on–the beat is relentless. I am not a big concert goer these days, but I think I’d go see TV on the Radio just to see this song performed live.

The British Invasion’s Fab 4 bands (the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Kinks) are a prominent part of this group of 10, with every group but the Beatles showing up in this list of 10. Of the four, the Rolling Stones is probably the group I listen to the least, but “Ruby Tuesday” is my favorite song of theirs (although I would probably have another three to five Stones songs if the list expanded to 500 or so–I just would be adding many more Beatles, Who, and Kinks songs).

When I first started listening to music, I was more about singles than albums. If I would listen to an album, it was often because three or more “hits” from the record had received radio airplay. The first album for me that was different was Strong Persuader. Sure, the song “Smoking Gun” first attracted me to the album, but it was the first album I remember liking from beginning to end. I think the fact that it was this blues sound I was not hearing in most pop songs that day. I loved listening to that cassette tape over and over, and would even say it was my first “Desert Island Disc.” It even resulted in me buying Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on its release date. I will admit that I did not enjoy that album as much as Strong Persuader, but I still love Robert Cray, with his cover of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” being my favorite number from the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll soundtrack.

Back to the standard bearers of the first wave of the British Invasion. I love the Beatles in total the most, but I think there’d be more Who songs on my favorites list in total. I know that I’ve said this repeatedly, but a longer list would be dominated by even more Who songs. A top 200 list would have 2 songs from Quadrophenia for example, but only 1, “Love Reign O’er Me”, made the top 100. (The other song that almost made the list was “5:15”.) I think most people would list Tommy as their favorite Who rock opera, but I am more of a Quadrophenia man myself. When doing some followup research for this blog posting, I was surprised that “Another Tricky Day” was never a chart hit. In my opinion, it is a much stronger single from Face Dances than “You Better, You Bet.”

Speaking of songs that weren’t hits, I was exposed to “Mandinka” through college radio airplay. I was the cliche kid who learned more about alternative music once I went to college. My freshman year in college saw the music acts 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., and Sinead O’Connor added to my musical rotation. After The Lion and The Cobra came out, I would have expected Sinead to be a much bigger artists, but her only big hit was the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

My Kinks entry in this batch is more of a Kinks-related entry. Ray Davies released an album in 2011 in which he re-imagined Kinks songs by performing them with other artists. The album has an eclectic batch of contributors, including Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Lucinda Williams, Black Francis [of the Pixies], Jon Bon Jovi, Paloma Faith, and more. But to me, the strongest pairing on the album is the work with Mumford & Sons on the medley of “Days” and “This Time Tomorrow.” Those that have been following this blog know I have a real soft spot for tribute albums (and my number two song of all time is from a tribute album–how’s that for a teaser?), and this is one of the more unique tribute albums as it seems to be an artist paying tribute to himself.

One of the other college alternative artists I began listening to as a freshman (thanks to my record album purchase of Document) was R.E.M. I have come to love their early work, but the two songs that make this list are later releases. The one in this group is from another desert-island disc candidate for me–Automatic for the People. Every song on the album is phenomenal, but “Man on the Moon” is my favorite. I also loved hearing it on the trailer for the movie by the same name. That’s a movie I have not seen in years, but I think it might be worth revisiting with my kids this summer when they are home from college.

When making these kinds of lists, it’s always interesting to think about when I first really connected with a song. For the Pure Prairie League’s “Amie,” it was thanks to Freaks and Geeks. (If you have not watched that show, go an do it RIGHT NOW, and not just because it launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Siegel, Busy Phillips, and Linda Cardellini. Every one of the 18 episodes is so powerful and raw–it was the first show that got the high school experience perfectly down. I believe it is on Netflix instant, so go and watch it. One episode featured them going to the local planetarium for a laser Pink Floyd show, but show up on the wrong date and end up seeing a country and western show instead. Sorry for the spoiler, but I promise it will not lessen your enjoyment of the entry. Over the closing credits, “Amie” plays–by the way, the acting and writing are the best thing about the show, but the soundtrack is also pitch perfect.

The last song on this batch is a power ballad and one of three songs that makes me think of my father. I already mentioned “My Way” by Frank Sinatra in part one, and “The Living Years” probably the most on-the-nose choice, by Mike + the Mechanics, did not make my 100 (but would make the 200). “Silent Lucidity” in specifics and the album Empire more broadly, feels like the closest another band got to re-creating the Pink Floyd sound. This song is one of my go-to numbers if I want something to help me drift off from a stressful day–it is the perfect capper to a tough day, and the perfect ending to a group of ten songs.

 

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Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

What better way to spend the weekend (or the weekend time between going for exercise walks and getting your car stuck in mud) than to follow up the last post with the second group of songs from my 100 favorites of all time playlist? So on to the second batch of songs!

What? You actually care about how I got my car stuck in the mud? It is a treacherous tale that involves high-speed chases, attempts on my life, homemade explosives, stolen government defense plans, illicit love affairs, and a wisecracking robot sidekick. Unfortunately, if I shared the details with you dear reader, I would be putting your life in danger–they will stop at nothing to silence anyone that knows the truth. So instead, I will share the cover story. I was heading to our local branch library to return a book (Stephen King’s The Dark Half), CDs by the Gin Blossoms and Pistol Annies, and the movie Furious 7. Unfortunately, the library had some sort of fair going on in the parking lot, so parking was limited. However, a number of cars were parked in the grass in front of the library, so I parked there and ran in with my returns. (My wife was with me, but she stayed in the car. She had also suggested that I pull up to the front, drop her off with the returns, and circle around, eliminating the need to park. I nixed this solution as I wanted to go in and make the dead drop see if I wanted to check anything else out.) When I returned and tried to leave, the wheels started spinning–we were stuck. My wife got behind the wheel while I pushed. In a terrific visual bit of luck , the wheel threw some mud up and over my legs, which were now caked with wet dirt (and not the blood of the countless ninjas and assassins trying to steal the plans). I was able to move the car a bit, but luckily some young men helped us push and get the car back on firm asphalt. I know this story makes me look like an idiot, but if that is the price I have to pay for our nation’s security, so be it.

  • For What It’s Worth–Buffalo Springfield
  • Smoke–Ben Folds Five
  • Against All Odds–Phil Collins
  • Secret Garden–Tom Cochrane and Damhnait Doyle
  • Gypsy–Suzanne Vega
  • Shadow of the Day–Linkin Park
  • Dirty Work–Steely Dan
  • How Deep Is Your Love?–The Bee Gees
  • Africa–Toto
  • Out of Touch–Hall & Oates

Is there a Vietnam movie out there that doesn’t feature “For What It’s Worth” on its soundtrack? Until today, I always assumed this song was a protest number about the war. However, according to the never-wrong folks at Wikipedia. the song is about the Sunset Strip Riots (also known as the “Hippie Riots” Read Wikipedia if you don’t believe me!). Really saps a lot of power from the song, right? I did not know this information when I put it on my top 100, but I don’t think it’s enough to bump it off, unless Beyonce writes an amazing tune about Jay-Z actually cheating on her with Rachel Ray.

Before the advent of iTunes/steaming music services, it was fun to occasionally make a “roll the dice” album purchase. You know, you hear one song from an artist you don’t know and decide to buy the whole album because of it. I think the first time I did that was after hearing “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits and deciding to grab Brothers in Arms. That clearly worked out great, and it got me to work backward on their musical catalog. In fact, an old song from the band will be appearing later on this list. One of the other great leaps for me was buying Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five based on the strength of “Brick” (now there’s a song to listen to anytime you want to feel good!). Again, I loved the album and “Smoke” is my favorite track from it.

Like “Don’t Answer Me” from the last list, “Against All Odds” might be another ashamed to admit favorite. It was also one of two Phil Collins soundtrack hits from the 80’s I am ashamed to admit liking. The other “Separate Lives” (a duet with Marilyn Martin) is not even part of my music collection these days–I had the 45 but have not added the song in the digital era. If I was going to add a Phil Collins duet to my collection, it would be “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey from Earth, Wind, and Fire, a song that would probably make my Top 200. The interesting thing about these two soundtrack hits is that while I love the songs, I have not seen either movie (Against All Odds and White Knights). Ironically, I haven’t seen three other movies that Collins contributed soundtrack songs to either–Tarzan, Brother Bear, or Buster. The first two are odd misses as my kids were right in that Disney animation sweet spot when they were first released, while the last miss makes complete sense.

I assume that almost anyone who creates this list will have a few songs that most people would say “who or what is that” when they see it listed. The “Secret Garden” song is probably that. It is a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song featured in Jerry Maguire. Now I love the Boss, but I am telling you this duet version from Light of Day, a double album of Bruce Springsteen covers, is an incredible improvement over the original. The male/female duet makes the lyrics seem more poignant and sadder. Another one people might not know is “Gypsy” by Suzanne Vega, the first of two songs by her on my list. This one is on her Solitude Standing album, which also has her most famous hit, “Luka.” That is her only top 80 hit in the United States, which I find crazy. She has a rich selection of songs, but none are as beautiful as “Gypsy,” with the chorus

Oh, hold me like a baby
That will not fall asleep
Curl me up inside you
And let me hear you through the heat

(I know I haven’t quoted lyrics until now, but I’d like to make a secondary mission of this particular blog entry to get people to sample more Suzanne Vega.)

My list is skewed to older songs, but I do have a few post-2000 entries, including “Shadow of the Day” by Linkin Park. But my list jumps back four decades after it with a pair of 70’s efforts that feature in films too. Obviously “Dirty Work” was originally just an album cut from Steely Dan’s debut album Can’t Buy a Thrill. But after seeing it in the opening credits of American Hustle, I added it to my digital music collection and listened to it enough to add it to my top 100. The other 70’s song, “How Deep Is Your Love?” probably gets a little lost in the anti-disco fever that erupted at the end of the decade. Actually, I am not sure where we stand these days–is disco awful, cool, retro, kitsch–where do we stand? Regardless of that answer, “How Deep Is Your Love?” is a generational ballad that transcends the genre anyway.

It will almost always come back to the 80’s for me, and the last two songs on this list are square in that wheelhouse. I started listening to top 40 music regularly in 1983, so I missed the peak of the album Toto IV by a year. (Side question–who’s four was better? Toto IV with “Rosanna” and “Africa” or Foreigner 4 with “Urgent”, “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, and “Juke Box Hero? Do you give bonus points to Toto for its fancy use of Roman numerals? Or do you vote for Chicago IV? That last on is a trick–Chicago’s fourth album, between Chicago III and Chicago V, is titled Chicago at Carnegie Hall. So they are out of the running!) Anyway, I didn’t need to hear it on the radio daily to appreciate the joy of the song “Africa” and it has been a list candidate for decades. My last song is the only top 100 entry from one of my favorite bands, Hall & Oates. They were, along with Men at Work, my first favorite artists. I think if I made a top 500 list, they’d have a dozen songs, but “Out of Touch” has always been my favorite from the group.

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

I’ve enjoyed expanding the topical reach of this blog, but I also liked last weekend’s column where I pontificated about Prince songs throughout the years after listening to a playlist of them. It was a throwback to the original point of this blog, where I was going through all my family’s music in alphabetical order by song title. I actually got pretty far into it before life got in the way of constant exercise and constant posts. Now I am back to exercising–particularly thanks to my Fitbit as nothing is more frustrating that looking at the number of steps I have on a particular day and thinking how far I am from 10,000 steps/5 miles. But I use my iPhone as my electronic workout buddy, and it is harder to fit music on it, forcing me to be a bit more selective in my choices.

However, one playlist that is a staple on my phone is DEAN100. This is a list I created of my 100 favorite songs of all time. It’s the kind of idea that starts off easily enough–50-70 songs absolutely have to go on it. Then as the remaining number of slots dwindle, difficult choices have to be made. However, once I settled on the 100, it has remained solid. I think there was only 1 or 2 changes due to me remembering a song I had completely forgotten. One quick note–there was no limit on the number of songs from a particular artist or album. I never understand these types of artificial constraints on these lists. If you are picking the 10 greatest movies of all time, and want 5 of the Fast & Furious films there, go for it! So several artists are represented more than once.

I also started to put them in order 1-100. This proved to be a frustrating experience, and once I realized that I listen to my list in shuffle, I decided it was pointless. However, my top 10 or so did stay up high, so seeing that I will be walking through the list in groups of 10 starting from the bottom, my absolute favorites will only appear at the end of this–properly building up your anticipation. So this batch is not 91-100 by any stretch of the imagination, just the first group.

  • My Way–Frank Sinatra
  • Secret Separation–The Fixx
  • Don’t Answer Me–The Alan Parsons Project
  • The Magic Number–De La Soul
  • Head Over Heels–The Go Go’s
  • (Keep Feeling) Fascination–The Human League
  • Do You Believe in Love?–Huey Lewis & The News
  • Slip Slidin’ Away–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Nuthin’ But a “G” Thing–Dr. Dre Featuring Snoop Dog
  • Word Up!–Cameo

My father died in a car accident when I was seven years old, so my memories of him are spotty at best. One of the things I never really knew about him was his pop-culture touchstones. What movies did he like? What TV shows did he try not to ever miss? (Well, I can guess that there was almost nothing on that second list as he was a bartender so he tended to work nights, and this was before one recorded shows with a VCR, let alone DVR.) I do remember him liking certain hymns at church (“Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Go Forth” in particular) and I remember being told “My Way” by Frank Sinatra was his favorite song. For this simple reason, I always had an affinity for the song, and I purchased a Sinatra CD to make sure I could always listen to it. Before I bought the CD, the only Frank Sinatra song I owned was his duet of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with Cyndi Lauper on A Very Special Christmas 2.

I mentioned having to tweak my 100 list a couple of times because of a sudden realization that I had forgotten a song. The first one of those was “Secret Separation” by the Fixx. I think I’d even put a different Fixx song on the list–“Stand or Fall.” I even listened to it on the list once or twice before realizing I meant to include a different Fixx song–“Oh yeah! Secret Separation!” These both come from the same CD, and the only Fixx album I own, React. I had purchased it thinking it was a greatest hits album, not knowing it was a live album until I got it home. I kept it, as their live versions of all their songs are pretty great.

I am hoping this blog is a safe space, one where I can freely admit to some potentially embarrassing choices without being mocked too badly. I would think that having “Don’t Answer Me” is possibly a choice like that. My first encounter with the Alan Parsons Project was winning a 45 of “Eye in the Sky” at a Bar Mitzvah, but it was “Don’t Answer Me” that really caught my ear. It also caught my eye, as the goofy animated video was a favorite of mine as well.

De La Soul came into my life during my year of graduate school as a friend had Three Feet High and Rising on cassette and played it fairly constantly in his car. The album is entertaining beginning to end, but the group’s tribute to Schoolhouse Rock is my favorite track. Years later, I tried to buy the album on iTunes or at a store, but could not find it anywhere. Luckily it was available on Amazon.com, so now the CD is a proud part of my collection. It even came with a second disc of rare tracks and outtakes.

Seeing that I started listening to Top 40 music on the radio in the 1980’s and seeing that 80’s music is awesome, it should come as no surprise that my 100 list has a significant number of 80’s tracks and groups represented, including the next three songs. I figured most people would pick one of “We Got the Beat”, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, or “Vacation” if asked to name their favorite Go Go’s song, but for me it’s “Head Over Heels” and it’s not even close. (Side note–when the Go Go’s reunited and toured in 1991, I got to see them play in Boston. I went with someone from my college, but she was joyless at the show, refusing to sing along or dance to the music. Meanwhile, about five rows in front of me were other friends who I did not know would be at the show and they were having a great time with audience participation. To this day, I wish I had gone with them.) I remember loving “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” when I first heard it back in 1983, and it has remained one of my favorite songs ever since. Finally, I was a Huey Lewis fan, owning both Picture This and Sports on cassette back in the day, but their first chart hit is the one that has most stuck with me.

The second live song in this initial group comes from the famous Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park. (Spoiler alert–this will not be the only appearance of a song on this list, but you will have to wait to the final group–my top 10–before you see them again. I have always said that I think Paul Simon continued to write Simon & Garfunkel songs for the first decade after the duo broke up, and “Slip Slidin’ Away” is a perfect example. The Paul Simon version of the song is good enough, but when he performs it with Art Garfunkel, it becomes transcendent. It just sounds like it was written specifically for their combined vocal styles. To be fair, this may be true of all music and not just 70’s Paul Simon.

My relationship with West Coast rap got off to a rocky start. I remember not wanting to listen to Straight Outta Compton because the song “Fuck tha Police” seemed disrespectful. (I was a bit of a toe-the-line kind of teenager.) However, thanks to MTV I was able enjoy the first few releases from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. After purchasing the album on CD, I have made it a regular part of my listening rotation, and the track “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” almost made the top 100 as well, and would certainly make the top 200 list. But “Nothin’ But a ‘G’ Thing” was a lock for this list, and if I had order the top 100, it would have been much higher, in the top 50 for sure. By the way, thanks to the film last year, I finally picked up Straight Outta Compton and I regret not doing it sooner. The album is dynamite from top to bottom, and “Express Yourself” is just below the top 100 for me.

The last song from this first group is another 80’s hit and another song that’s been in my favorites since I first heard it on the radio 30 years ago. (Do you ever find yourself catching your breath when you realize how long ago something happened? Here’s one–next year is the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.) I just knew that “Word Up” was completely unlike any other pop song I’d ever heard, so I bought the album back in high school and still own this track to this day. I am all for this song getting as much exposure as possible, and I often love covers, but I think it is a crime that the Korn version of this song is the one available in the Rock Band video game franchise. It should be Cameo all the way.

 

Royal Discography

As I mentioned recently, I tend to listen to podcasts more than music when exercising these days, but in light of the passing of Prince, it has been 48 hours of Prince songs (I had to dig out the old iPod to do this). Prince on YouTube, Prince on AppleTV, and Prince while walking on the treadmill.

When I first heard that he had died, I stated that Prince’s death was going to be tougher on me than Bowie. Not just because Prince was a bigger artist and I liked his music more–both are true, but they are not the only reasons. I did not really get into music until 1983. Sure, I would listen to the occasional family 8-track tape before that, but popular music (and Saturday mornings listening to American Top 40) did not start until then. While I know that Prince had three albums and several hits before that year, it felt like he truly arrived with the late 1982 release of 1999. I do now enjoy much of his earlier work, particularly “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” (although as a piece of advice, if you are trying to rev your wife’s engine, saying that your sex life is like a Prince song, with you being “Soft” and her being “Wet” does not work that well), but 1983 is when I started to love Prince.

  • “1999”
  • “Little Red Corvette”
  • “Delirious”

I think more people at the time loved “Little Red Corvette, but the jarring combination of uptown dance beat and “the world is ending”lyrics was so damn appealing. At one point I was sure that Prince sang all the parts on the song, including the female-sounding parts. Going by the expertise one finds at Wikipedia, I have now learned that Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution handled the ladies singing. When “1999” came out in 1982, the year seemed so far off, like 100 years in the future. It was less than two decades away,  and we did not get our flying cars and monkey butlers. (Although, when Prince sang about people who “…run from their destruction…” do you think he was predicting the Y2K problem?)

  • “Let’s Go Crazy”
  • “When Doves Cry”
  • “Purple Rain”

I did not see Purple Rain in theaters when it came out in 1984–it was an ‘R’ rated film and I was a nerdy-follow the rules 15-year-old (as opposed to now, where I am a nerdy-follow the rules 47-year-old). It wasn’t until three years later that I saw the movie on VHS. The film was amazing, but my favorite part of the film was Morris Day and the Time. I purchased their album Ice Cream Castle based on their appearance in the film. I enjoyed their record, but the soundtrack was inescapable that summer and for the rest of the year. While these three were the big hits from the album, I remember having that soundtrack on cassette and listening to it beginning to end almost nightly. That’s an album I can brag about listening to all the time, along with Born in the U.S.A, Synchronicity, Thriller, and Strong Persuader. It’s a little harder for me to brag about how often I listened to Chicago’s 17.

  • “Raspberry Beret”
  • “Pop Life”

Like everyone else, I was dying to see how Prince would follow up the success of Purple Rain. I remember initially having mixed feelings about the song “Raspberry Beret,” but the more I heard it on the radio, the more it grew on me. Both of these songs from Around the World in a Day seem more airy than Prince’s earlier work, but his ability to shift gears really made him stand out from his musical contemporaries.

  • “Kiss”

Talk about standing out–I needed no time for this to grow on me; I loved it from the first listen, and I ran out and purchased it on 45. I also enjoyed the cover of the song done by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise. (If you want an underrated greatest hits album, go get the best of the Art of Noise).

  • “Sign o’ the Times”
  • “U Got the Look”

Once again, Prince shifted gears, giving us a powerful song about the issues of the day. Thanks to “Sign o’ the Times” I learned what horse was. I also learned that the sweet, innocent Sheena Easton of “9 to 5 (Morning Train)”, “For Your Eyes Only”, and “We’ve Got Tonight” was gone, thanks to the raw sexiness of “U Got the Look.” Frankly, I should have figured that out sooner, particularly when she oh so subtly asked people to spend the night inside her “Sugar Walls.” Like horse, it took me time to understand what exactly she was getting at.

  • “Alphabet Street”

This is the single I have been listening to the most since I heard of his passing. I think it’s the “slipped through the crack” song. You know when an artist has a deep catalog of songs, some do not get the attention that others do, and you often re-discover the song later. Sometime you think “cool, so-and-so has a new album out” only to discover that it’s a song years or even decades old.

  • “Thieves in the Temple”

One song I do not have in my Prince selection is “Batdance.” When Batman came out in 1989, I made the choice to purchase the instrumental soundtrack by Danny Elfman rather than the Prince release. This was clearly a mistake, as thanks to ownership complications, none of Prince’s songs from it can appear on his greatest hits/B-sides CDs that I listen to. I mentioned on Facebook recently that no artist could have taken “Batdance” to #1 other than Prince and I still believe that. I think it would have seemed like a joke in the hands of any other, but if you watch Batman, it’s clear the film was influenced by Prince and not the other way around. Prince’s success with the film is nice to see, as it was clear with Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge that Prince was not going to replicate the success of Purple Rain, at least not on screen. The album by the same name worked, producing “Thieves in the Temple,” which is not a favorite of mine, but still a good song.

  • “Cream”
  • “Gett Off”
  • “Diamonds and Pearls”

I am not sure how I feel about the transition from the Revolution to the New Power Generation. I guess the important thing was the constant Prince, but I loved the the Revolution as well. These three songs from Diamonds and Pearls did make the transition a smooth one. I was always a big fan of “Diamonds and Pearls” even if it has spelling within the song.

  • “7”
  • “Pink Cashmere”
  • “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  • “I Feel for You”

I always had meant to buy the Prince box set, but I was a broke new worker fresh out of graduate school, so I settled for the two discs of “The Hits/The B-Sides”, which not only had all his big hits (sans “Batdance”), but also his versions of hit songs that he wrote for Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”). Of course I also knew about “Manic Monday” being written for the Bangles, but it was only recently that I learned he also wrote “Stand Back” for Stevie Nicks.

  • “Cinnamon Girl”
  • “The Marrying Kind”
  • “Life ‘O’ the Party”

Sadly, I lost interest in new music from about the mid 1990s until 2004 or so. However, thanks to my time at WWE, I received a copy of Musicology. I remember when I first got home thinking how odd it was that Prince would cover a Neil Young song. But his version of Cinnamon Girl was all his own, and the album was an incredible return to the world of Prince. I didn’t partake of much of his music after that, but now that he’s passed away, I feel it is time to do just that, giving me an opportunity to keep his musical spirit in my life.

Embracing the Dreadful

After two autobiographical posts, I thought I would get back to the original spirit of this blog–forcing readers to listen to my ramblings about what I listen to when I walk to get some exercise in. Again, thanks to my iPhone and its more limited storage space, I am not listening to all my songs in alphabetical order. Instead I have been listening to focused playlists (including one I made of my top 100 songs, which I plan to cover in a series of future posts) as well as podcasts. I believe podcasts are one of the extremely undervalued content forms in history. People put so much time and effort into creating unique niche long-form content in a variety of topics and genres. They are great to listen to during walks, commutes, and long car trips. Most people really came to know about podcasts thanks to the runaway success of Serial in late 2014, but the format had been around for years.

(Side note on Serial: Like almost everyone else, season 1 of the show hooked me with its fascinating story of Adnan Syed. You can debate all you want whether he committed the crime, but there is no way he committed the crime in the timeline the prosecution presented–it is a sham that he was convicted based on the presented evidence. I know many people weren’t as happy with season 2 of the show about Bowe Bergdahl. I understand the complaints–there wasn’t the “solving a mystery” element that season one’s story had, although the show tried to make it seem like what happened to Bergdahl would be solved over the course of the season. Once the show abandoned this subtext after the first few episodes of the new season, it got stronger. Also, it would have been almost impossible to recapture the cultural lightening in the bottle of the first season. However, there was a third reason the second season would have never reached the dizzying heights of the premiere season. The Joe Buck effect. If you don’t know Joe Buck, he’s a lead baseball/football announcer for the Fox network, and he has the unique skill to be hated by all fanbases. When he is broadcasting a Red Sox/Yankee series, for example, all of the Red Sox fans (myself included) feel that he is openly rooting against our team and pulling for the Yankees. However, if you ask Yankee fans about Buck and the same games, they too feel he is biased against their squad and is acting as Pravda for the Red Sox. The only team he doesn’t generate this feeling for is the St. Louis Cardinals, because he does subtly root for them–and it’s easy to understand why as his father was a longtime announcer for the team. Anyway, the Bergdahl case is so politically charged that no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you’d feel that the Serial squad was carrying the water against what you felt the case reflected. This is the danger in modern America to covering both sides of a story–each side openly whines that you spend any time giving credence to the other.)

Back to podcasts in general. I love a spectrum of offerings, but my favorites, my week-in-week-out listens tend to clump in two categories: sports and comedy. One of the latter entries is a film-focused offering called How Did This Get Made? On this bi-weekly show, three comedians–Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas–along with one or two guests spend 60-90 minutes discussing a “so bad it’s good” movie. If you’d like to see a list of the 130+ movies they have covered since late 2010, here’s a list: Wiki for How Did This Get Made. In addition to listing the movies, you can also see who was the guest in case you have a favorite comedian. Does it help if you have seen the film they are discussing? Absolutely. Can you enjoy the podcasts even if you haven’t seen the films? Absolutely. Each member of the cast brings something special to the discussion, but for my money, Jason makes each show. If you’ve ever seen The League, Jason played Rafi on that show–he was also Dennis Feinstein on Parks and Recreation and Detective Adrian Pimento on a recent run of Brookly Nine-Nine episodes. His willingness to criticize others as well as his absolute love of craziness in film shines in almost every episode. The episodes can vary in quality, but if they have a top-notch guest, the shows are almost guaranteed to be hilarious. For a first-timer, I’d recommend 108 Con Air, 109 Face/Off, or any of the Sharknado episodes. They’ve also done each of the last three Fast & Furious movies with Adam Scott, and those are always fun as well.

The interesting thing about this show is that it has gotten me back into caring about things that are so bad they are good. I have been, and always will be, a pop culture maven. When I was younger, I was interested more in the bad things as well as the good, but as I got older, I found it harder and harder to justify spending time watching that category of camp. My twins find it frustrating–they want me to watch films like Mac & Me and Birdemic with them, but I often refuse. Ironically, both of those films have been covered by How Did This Get Made?, so perhaps I should find a bit of time to squeeze them in, scoring quality family time and preping myself for another enjoyable podcast. I’m not sure if I’d be doing it for John and Alice, or Paul, June, and Jason.

A weedy vacant lot

Hey, I remember this neighborhood! I used to have a blog here! Then I finally found my next job post-WWE, which required relocation to Buffalo. That lasted about a year before I found a better opportunity in Orlando, Florida, working with Ripley Entertainment, home of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I got to work with some incredible people and learn some truly bizarre information, but after 20 months, I am now looking for my next opportunity.

It’s always scary working without a net, but my wife and I are confident that things will work out the way they are supposed to. Plus the break right now isn’t so bad–I had been super stressed at the position and last week I had a cardiac ablation. There’s probably many of you out there wondering what that is. Hell, I would have been in that camp until early January when a doctor suggested it for me. Basically, a cardiologist sticks catheters into your body, either through your arm, neck, or groin. All men just shuddered at the description of door number three, so of course that’s what I got. the doctor then kills the electrical impulse ability of part of your heart tissue in order to prevent future arrhythmia. There’s risks associated, but the procedure was a success for me. Perhaps I will share more details in a future blog if people want.

A future blog? I am working toward a second relaunch of this blog. I am thinking about altering format, as I have not been listening to my 10000+ songs in alphabetical order any more. It’s not that I’ve stopped walking. In fact, thanks to my Fitbit, I now walk more than 5.5 miles a day. However, I now use my iPhone when I walk and I cannot fit all my songs, so I listen to podcasts more during my extended walks. Perhaps I can talk about those, or about broader pop-culture topics. Maybe I’ll just write about my medical procedures–who wouldn’t want to read that? If my ego is healthy enough to think you’re interested in my extemporaneous thoughts, everything is in play.