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.

Settling in for the Long Haul

It’s good to be back–particularly after seeing some real-life feedback on facebook that at least a few people are reading this. That unfortunately derails my plans to just use good old lorem ipsum text on days I want to mail it in–I couldn’t possibly let down my multitudinous loyal readers, could I? Plus, just as the daily exercise is important for my body, the daily writing is key to my mind.

March 20, 2012

1-mile neighborhood walk

  • Afternoons and Coffeespoons–Crash Test Dummies
  • Again–Flyleaf
  • Again Tonight–John Mellencamp
  • Against All Odds–Phil Collins
  • Against the Wind–Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  • Against The Wind (Live)–Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Remember that brief period between record 45’s/cass-singles and the ability to buy individual songs on iTunes, when if you liked a song, you bought the entire CD? (Yes, there were some CD singles, but I never really got into those unless it was a single plus 3 other songs not available on the actual album, like special live versions or covers of other groups’ work.) I don’t know about you, but for me, that led to some questionable album purchases, with God Shuffled His Feet being People’s Exhibit A. I enjoyed “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” so I bought the Crash Test Dummies album, and the fact that I also enjoyed “Afternoons and Coffeespoons” made me think I’d like the entire album.  But I’ve almost owned it for 20 years, and if you came into my house right now and offered me $10,000 to name a third song off the CD, you wouldn’t be leaving any money in my position (unless you really wanted to!)

Flyleaf is another group that I learned of thanks to Rock Band. All three of my kids have several of the Memento Mori songs on their playlists. John Mellencamp should have a special place in my wife’s heart, as like him, she’s a native Hoosier. But I’m the one that brought the John Cougar or John Cougar Mellencamp or finally, John Mellencamp into the relationship. She doesn’t mind her fellow Hoosier as much as she minds Phil Collins (my wife is a bit of a music snob). “Against All Odds” is my favorite Phil Collins song, even though it doesn’t have a cool apocryphal urban legend like “In the Air Tonight,” but maybe, as a homework assignment, readers could make one up.

I actually only own one Bob Seger album, the live Nine Tonight release, but I also got a studio recording of “Against the Wind” thanks to the Forrest Gump soundtrack. I remember thinking that “Running on Empty” was the better song during Forrest’s cross-country jogs, but it wasn’t on the soundtrack; luckily my local library had several Jackson Browne CDs.

3.10 miles on the elliptical plus upper body weight work at the gym

  • Age of Consent–New Order
  • Age of Consent–New Order
  • Ageless Beauty–Stars
  • Ain’t Good Enough For You–Bruce Springsteen
  • Ain’t Got You–Bruce Springsteen
  • Ain’t Got You–Gary Lucas’ Gods and Monsters
  • Ain’t It The Life–Foo Fighters
  • Ain’t No Crime–Billy Joel
  • Ain’t No Cure for Love–Aaron Neville
  • Ain’t No End–The Jayhawks
  • Ain’t No Make Believe–Stonefree Experience
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough–Play
  • Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me–Axel
  • Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me–WWE
  • Ain’t No Sunshine–Paul McCartney

I feel bad that we have two copies of “Age of Consent.” My kids and I are the big purchasers of iTunes songs, and are far more likely to receive and use iTunes gift cards, than my wife. Every once in awhile she gets a hankering to get a song, and she once got “Age of Consent” by borrowing some of my store credit. Two weeks later I ended up buying a New Order CD, so I feel like I invalidated her purchase.

I loved the show The OC. I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and most of all, the music. The soundtracks introduced me to a number of artists that I enjoy to this day. One of which is Stars, who’s “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” is one of my favorite tracks from the show. I’ve enjoyed their other albums as well, and “Ageless Beauty” is a great song by them.

It feels like Bruce Springsteen has been a dominant presence so far, which does make sense as we have 12 of his albums, as well as the tribute album Light of Day, which absolutely falls into the great compilation category I mentioned yesterday. A mark of a great compilation is when you consider whether a new interpretation of a song is actually superior to the original recording, and there’s a few candidates on Light of Day, at least in my opinion. (I don’t think “Ain’t Got You” falls into this category, but I’ll mention the ones that do when I get to them.) Another compilation song shows up later on this group, as “Ain’t No Cure For Love” is from one of two Leonard Cohen tribute collections we own–ironically, the most famous Cohen cover, the Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah” is not on either, as those versions come from John Cale and Bono.

A Bill Simmons column a few years back asked the question “What acts will eventually be big enough to perform at halftime of future Super Bowls?” I don’t remember if the Foo Fighters were an answer, but I think they should be. They have such a deep and memorable catalogue of hits that they seem like a no-brainer. While looking up who has performed at halftime of previous Super Bowls, I was surprised to see that Billy Joel has not done it.

Adam Corolla introduced me to the Jayhawks and now I’m a big fan. Their song “Blue” was featured in the movie “The Hammer” (which both my wife and I enjoyed), and I liked it so much, I bought it on iTunes. It led to me sampling other songs of theirs, and I keep adding to my Jayhawks collection. Play was a group my daughters loved in their pre-teen days.

Three of the last five songs are WWE themes for Superstars no longer with WWE (like me) John Morrison and Shelton Benjamin. I never understood the John Morrison theme. Clearly he was supposed to be giving off a  Jim Morrison (of the Doors) vibe, but the theme music sounds more like a Jimi Hendrix knockoff. The final song of the day came from the Paul McCartney Unplugged CD, which was a limited run, with each CD having a unique number on the back. I always thought that was cool, but it was then released wider later, which made it feel a little less special.