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.