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.

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Strother Martin, Rock Star

So I am desperately hoping that my time of unemployment will end soon (please!?) and don’t want to regret not taking advantage of the time of fitness opportunity. So Wednesday, July 18th started a run of 8 (and counting) consecutive days with gym visits. It’s getting me further and further behind on the blogs, so maybe I’ll start doubling up some days here, but that may not even be enough–I may have to cover 3-4 lists per blog to truly get back and current. Nice thing is that I’m down another 4 pounds for a total of 9 since I started this blogging plan. So that makes me feel a bit better about myself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

3 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • City of Mud–The Dead Milkman
  • City of Night–Bruce Springsteen
  • Civil War–Guns ‘N Roses
  • The Civil Wars–David Byrne
  • Clairvoyant Disease–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Clampdown–The Clash
  • Clap Your Hands–They Might Be Giants
  • Clap Your Hands–A Tribe Called Quest
  • Class–Chicago Cast
  • Cleanin’ Out My Closet–Eminem
  • Clear–Miley Cyrus
  • Cliches of The World–The Kinks

The list begins with my final two “City…” songs and they are from artists as different as day and night (or mud and night I guess). I’d argue that the Milkmen are as goofy as the Boss is earnest, but I love each in their own right. I believe that the first time I saw a “get this at midnight” promotion, which is so common now for movies, video games, and music, was for the release of the two Use Your Illusion CDs from Guns ‘N Roses. I was at Indiana University at the time, and I remember the record store on Kirkwood opening special for the release (I can’t remember the name of the store, but it was across from Nick’s.) While I did buy the CDs on the first day, I waited until after classes in the afternoon. “Civil War” opens with Strother Martin’s famous “…failure to communicate…” speech from Cool Hand Luke, which I had not seen at the time, so I found the clip baffling. I wonder if he got paid for the appearance in the song. I guess one “Civil War” wasn’t enough for David Byrne, so he went for multiple “…wars”.

Thanks to Avenged Sevenfold for giving me a song to push myself to, and while it was great in its role, “Clampdown” did an even better job due to my love of the Clash and London Calling. Both TMBG and ATCQ (not sure people use the abbreviation for A Tribe Called Quest, but I think it looks great) want me to clap my hands, and although each take a different musical approach, both cases are compelling. I’m a big fan of two of the final four songs listed–can you guess which two? Time’s up–and I hope the cast of Chicago and Ms. Cyrus do not take my choices personally. But how can you choose against the bitter payback anthem from Eminem or the rock anthem from the most overlooked of what I consider the big four of British bands that started in 60’s (with the Beatles, the Who, and the Rolling Stones).

 

 

Celebrating My Musical Moralist

For the most part, I am trying to keep my bonus Red Sox walks exactly that–bonus exercise. So when I go to the gym each day, I don’t want the time I spend doing cardio to double up as the commemorative walks as well. So today I needed to pull double duty and get out and walk and go to the gym. It feels great to do both when I have the time (and right now time is something I have in abundance), but it leads to a large list of songs to discuss…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

4+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victories #37 and #38 of the 2012 season

  • Cars–Gary Numan
  • Cartwheels–Reindeer Section
  • A Case of You–Joni Mitchell
  • A Case of You–Prince
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Cassie–Flyleaf
  • Cast No Shadow–Oasis
  • Cat Like Thief–Box Car Racer
  • Cat’s In The Cupboard–Pete Townsend
  • The Catalyst–Linkin Park
  • Catch Hell Blues–The White Stripes
  • Catch My Fall–Billy Idol
  • Catcher in the Rye–Guns N’ Roses
  • Catching On Fire–They Might Be Giants
  • Catfish–Bob Dylan
  • Catholic Pagans–Surfer Blood
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • ‘Cause Cheap is How I Feel–Cowboy Junkies
  • Cautious Man–Bruce Springsteen
  • The Cave–Mumford & Sons

If you asked me to name a quintessential 80’s song, “Cars” has to be a strong candidate, or at least would have been for me until I just found out it was released in August of 1979. So that would have disqualified the song from being an answer and made me look foolish for even considering it as a choice, so I’m glad we never had that conversation.  I guess I could argue that the song, like car models, came out late in the previous year in order to make buyers/listeners feel like they were on the cutting edge. Perhaps it’s best to move on to the next song, another OC soundtrack selection. It’s a favorite of mine, but not one that got me into a new group, as I guess the Reindeer Section were not going to be a full-time act. Next up is an old original-and-cover combo, but the pairing of Joni Mitchell and Prince was certainly unique and worth my time.

I was just thinking about when I was young and used to object to songs that had the wrong message in them. Now that could pretty much wipe out half of all music to me, as sex, cheating, drugs, etc. are all open season, but I am talking about a time when I was really young and subtlety was generally lost on me. The song had to really hit you on the head for me to understand. As a result, three songs really bothered me back then, starting with the Grateful Dead’s cautionary tale “Casey Jones” (how much clearer can ‘Driving that train, high on cocaine’ be?) As an FYI, the other two were Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & #25, which I was sure was about smoking pot (and may be more  concerning the literal meaning of stoned), and the Carpenters’ “Top Of the World”, and I’m sure this one takes some explaining, but when Karen sang of being ‘on top of the world, looking down on creation’, my young Catholic mind thought she was equating herself with God and I knew that was wrong. Those were the three biggest offenders in my mind. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones? They were right, it did taste so good–particularly on oatmeal!

Flyleaf led into my first Oasis song from their incredible (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album. I was not an Oasis fan when I started watching Lost back in 2004, so I didn’t initially get the Oasis/Driveshaft links that I get now. Box Car Racer is a Blink-182 spinoff band my son loves, but if I met them, I’d have to chastise what I think is their poor syntax. I believe they need a hyphen in the title “Cat Like Thief” between the first two words unless they are expressing the affection their feline has for a burglar. The Pete Townsend song is from his Empty Glass album, a particular favorite of my wife, and the Linkin Park song is from one of my son’s albums. I like the band, but I’m finding that a number of their songs are bleeding together in my opinion. I was able to push myself on the walk thanks to the rocking efforts of the White Stripes, Billy Idol, and Guns N’ Roses.

They They Might Be Giants song is one of their quick numbers from the “Fingertips” section of the Apollo 18 album. There was certainly a flavor to the closing of the list that my wife would enjoy, as she has always been the family’s biggest fan of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cowboy Junkies, but her current interest (or I may go so far as to say obsession is Mumford & Sons. Their CD is being worn out in the car and she has finally learned that youtube can be used for band videos and live performances. When I played for her the Ray Davies and Mumford & Sons collaboration from the former’s recent See My Friends album, the joy in her face was evident. The remaining songs were favorites of mine, with a Surfer Blood selection from their first album and two versions of the Doves’ “Caught By The River” (we own it on both an OC soundtrack and an MTV compilation album)

3 miles on the elliptical plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Cave In–Owl City
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia Ann–The Pixies
  • Cedars of Lebanon–U2
  • Celebrate Me Home–Kenny Loggins
  • Celebration–They Might Be Giants
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration of the Lizard–The Doors
  • Celebrity–Barenaked Ladies
  • Celebrity Skin–Hole
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago

Gym time began with the techno pop of Owl City. While it’s not the catchy hook of “Fireflies”, it’s still a fun song to both listen to in stationary mode or while working out. I got to hear two copies of “Cecilia”, which I think is the biggest Simon & Garfunkel song to not make the Concert in Central Park. It did however, get a nice mention in an episode of How I Met Your Mother a few years back, complete with a visual aid to the gag. (I will not spoil it for those who haven’t seen it). I guess the Pixies felt like it wasn’t enough for there to be a song celebrating girls named Cecilia, they wanted to be a bit more specific with their tribute to gals with the moniker “Cecilia Ann”. I think I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t given a close enough listen to U2’s newest album, so I wasn’t familiar at all with “Cedars of Lebanon”, the album’s closing tracks.

Time to celebrate! (Not that I have good news yet, I’m just to the four “Celebration…” songs on my list!) The first is by decades the most recent, and the one I like listening to the most from old friends They Might Be Giants. I also have studio and live versions of Led Zeppelin’s song, and apparently the Doors track was a previously unreleased number from the group, although it’s nice to see our friend the Lizard get his proper celebratory due, particularly as he makes his film debut in The Amazing Spiderman, out today in theaters. (Of course my daughter saw it at midnight and loved it!)  I heard two songs that cover the pitfalls of fame, with Barenaked Ladies singing about how amazing it would be to be famous and Hole covering the darker side of it all. My last three songs were from the film adaptation of the musical Chicago. Now I don’t want to get your hopes up if you haven’t seen it–it’s not like Mama Mia, only with the songs of Peter Cetera and Chicago. It’s a musical about jail, fame, and jazz. It’s supposed to be a great film (it won the Oscar for Best Picture), but to date I have had no interest in seeing it.

 

CSN (and sometimes Y)

It’s a little odd being home this weekend, as for the last six years, I was always on my way to WrestleMania. I decided to make the most of my change by getting in two rounds of exercise, with both walking and gym time.

March 30, 2012

1-mile neighborhood walk

  • Almost Cut My Hair–Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • Almost Hear You Sigh–The Rolling Stones
  • Almost Home–Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Almost Saturday Night–John Fogerty
  • Alone–Glee Cast (featuring Kristen Chenoweth)
  • Alone & Forsaken–Social Distortion

For this short burst of exercise, there was a “classic rock” theme, starting with “Almost Cut My Hair”. Back in the days of record stores (Hey kids! Not sure what a record store is? Ask your parents if they ever went to Tower Records, Strawberries, Record Town, or like store), one store created a backing card (the dividers between different musical acts) for this group that read “CSN (and sometimes Y)”. I always loved that, and if it had been the era of cell phones with cameras, I’m sure I would have captured the card for posterity. As it is, I have to settle for the memory, which I’m assuming I find funnier that anyone else.

I own the Rolling Stones’ album Steel Wheels. That on its own is not embarrassing, but the fact that it was the first Rolling Stones album I ever owned is. That’s sad, right? It’s also an indictment of my early musical taste.Truth be told, other than Tattoo You, I still don’t own any of the Rolling Stones studio albums, settling instead for the 2-disc greatest hits collection, 40 Licks. Clearly this ranks at least 6.0 Minds on the Simple Minds scale, as discussed in Wednesday’s post.

Like many teenagers, my life used to be about absolutes, and one of those absolutes was that I hated country music. Truth be told, I really didn’t even give country music a chance for years, but Mary Chapin Carpenter started to change that for me. I still fought the change, initially trying to rationalize that Chapin-Carpenter was folk music, not country, but I now know to listen to a song and judge it for its merit, not its category. The John Fogerty solo number is from his first run post-Creedence.

Then I heard a familiar opening instrumental run, and thought to myself,  “awesome, I forgot I had this Heart song!” As Kristen Chenowith’s vocals kicked in, I remembered that I didn’t own the Heart song, we owned the Glee version. Not disappointing at all! At least I was able to close my walk with a Social Distortion cut from last year’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes comeback album.

2.53 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • Alone and Forsaken–Emmylou Harris
  • Alone at the Drive-In Movie–Grease Movie Soundtrack
  • Along Comes a Woman–Chicago
  • Alpha Dog–Fall-Out Boy
  • Alphabet Lost And Found–They Might Be Giants
  • Alphabet of Nations–They Might Be Giants
  • Alphabet Street–Prince
  • Already Gone–The Eagles
  • Already Gone–Tanya Tucker
  • Alright–Janet Jackson
  • Alright For Now–Tom Petty

My gym time started with the same song my previous walk ended with, just performed by a distinctly different artist (well, at least I see Emmylou Harris and Social Distortion as different artists–maybe you feel otherwise). The ironic thing about the Drive-in song from the Grease soundtrack is that the first time I saw Grease was at a drive-in theater. I fell asleep toward the end, so I didn’t get to enjoy the second half of the double feature, Saturday Night Fever.

Chicago is another one of those bands that gets me the glare from my wife when I put them on. She can almost tolerate the bluesy early work of the band, but not the sappy love-song festival of Chicago XVII. (You do have to hand it to the band for their attempt to help fans learn and master Roman numerals, but I think the Super Bowl and WrestleMania have that educational opportunity covered.) Some time soon I’m going to ask my oldest daughter to give me her 10 favorite Fall Out Boy songs for this blog, although I don’t know if I’ll every get a response–she hates having to make those kinds of decisions.

Parents that want to get their kids into rock music should pick up the kids albums of They Might Be Giants. They currently have 4, No!, Here Come the 123s, Here Come the ABCs, and Here Comes Science. The two alphabet songs come from the third album on that list (as you may have been able to guess). While my love of all things They Might Be Giants is likely to bias me, I think the songs are awesome for kids and adults, and I challenge you to listen to “The Alphabet Lost and Found” and disagree with me. The Prince song “Alphabet Street” is one I forget about, and then as soon as I hear it, I wonder why I don’t make more of an effort to keep it in active rotation.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I love artist tribute compilations. The country-music themed salute to the Eagles, Common Thread, is one of the first I remember seeing, but I didn’t add it to my collection until last year because of my previously mentioned blind disregard of all things country music. I don’t regret not having it earlier, as not much on the album stands out.  Speaking of standing out, this run of music ended with cuts from two of the stand-out albums of 1989, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever. Now those are two albums I would have regretted not getting sooner.