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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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.

 

Can’t skip my 43rd birthday, can I?

Well, a big part of my self-inspection and decision to step up my activity became official today, as I reached my 43rd birthday, or as I like to call it, the day I am reminded of all my facebook friends. I knew there would be meatloaf (excellent) and cake (red velvet) waiting for me tonight, so it seemed fairly imperative that I get some preemptive calories burned earlier in the day to minimize the self-loathing that would come later when I kept eating more of the sacred birthday meal.

March 19th, 2012

3.30 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • After Midnight–Blink 182
  • After Midnight–Danny Elfman (from the Chicago soundtrack)
  • After Midnight–Eric Clapton
  • After Party–The Lonely Island
  • After the Fall–Elvis Costello
  • After the Flood–Lone Justice
  • After the Scene Dies–Drive-By Truckers
  • After the Storm–Mumford & Sons
  • After the Thrill is Gone–The Eagles
  • After You Who–Jody Watley
  • After You’re Gone–Iris Dement
  • The (After)Life of the Party–Fall Out Boy
  • Afterlife–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Aftermath USA–Drive-By Truckers

It’s entertaining to get three different songs that share a title. When one is known to you, and older than the others, you always wonder if the other songs are covers of the original. The Blink 182 is certainly not a cover, but a song from their 2011 release. My son was really excited in 2011, as three of his favorite bands, Rise Against, Sum 41, and Blink 182, all released new albums, and the latter two were the first releases by those bands in years. The second “After Midnight” also came from one of my children–my youngest daughter, who in addition to being a big Glee fan, also loves musicals. At some point, I need to take her to a Broadway show (but don’t tell her that I want to do that. I don’t need to worry about her reading this, as it isn’t Kurt-Blaine fan fic, it’s just her lame dad’s lame blog.) The last “After Midnight” is the one I know and love, the Eric Clapton version.

I’m not sure if this is disturbing or not, but everyone in my family is a huge Lonely Island fan–me, my three kids, and my wife. In fact, when we take long car trips, we rotate control of music–people can either choose to hear 10 random songs from their own playlist or an album and my wife chose Turtleneck and Chain on one of her rounds. Speaking of my wife, thanks to her we have so much Elvis Costello music that you’re going to have to excuse me if I just list him and not whichever backing band has accompanied him on the album, be it the Attractions, Impostors, or the Duran Durans. I am thankful that my wife introduced me to Lone Justice, so I have to give credit there.

Two different Drive-By Truckers songs this workout session. If you haven’t listened to the band, I highly recommend them. The Mumford & Sons song came from their album last year, which I received as a birthday gift from my family. This year I got the Childish Gambino release, so that will be showing up in the future. While I like “After the Thrill is Gone,” the thing I most remember about the song is the jarring piano piece at the end. It sticks out, and not in a good way. I wish that could have been isolated as its own track on the CD.

I mentioned the Red, Hot + Blue Cole Porter compilation yesterday, and got to hear the Jody Watley song today.I love a good compilation, particularly one that has a number of artists giving their take on a artist or composer. We just got the 4-disc Chimes of Freedom set, so that will take some time to absorb, but along with Beat the Retreat, the Cole Porter songs of Red, Hot + Blue is one of my favorite collections.

The last three songs come from family members–my wife (Iris DeMent), daughter (Fall Out Boy), and son (Avenged Sevenfold). They certainly are three significantly different styles, and are indicative of what makes music so entertaining–no matter what mood you are in, there will always be something for you to enjoy, whether you are 7 or 70 (or just turning 43).