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.

 

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My senior moment times two

Well, in the “I feel really old” department, these two gym visits covered today occurred on the last day of summer vacation for my kids and their first day of school (my forced vacation continues unabated, but I do have some hopeful prospects cooking). For my twins, they are starting their senior year in high school, but to make this about me and not them, it means I have two children that are less than a year from completing their high-school education. That of course means figuring out where they’re going next in terms of college and career. It’s strange to think that at this time next year, our household will be down to three. It’s also another reason to get healthy–the desire to see where their journey takes them next.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3.29 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • December–Collective Soul
  • December–Norah Jones
  • Decent Days And Nights–The Futureheads
  • Deciever–Disturbed
  • Deck the Rooftop–Glee
  • Deck the Stills–Barenaked Ladies
  • Decode–Paramore
  • Dedicated To The One I Love–The Mamas and The Papas
  • Deep–Pearl Jam
  • Deep & Wide & Tall–Aztec Camera
  • Deep Blue Sea–Grizzly Bear
  • Deep Dark Truthful Mirror–Elvis Costello
  • Deep Dark Truthful Mirror [unplugged]–Elvis Costello
  • Deeper And Deeper–The Fixx
  • Deeper And Deeper–Madonna

The first two songs are two takes on the last month of the year, which will be extra significant this year if those Mayans were right. I don’t know how much stock I’d put into a society that you could probably enrapture with an Etch-a-Sketch or Silly Putty. The Collective Soul number is one of their normal songs, while the Norah Jones track feels like a pseudo-holiday number. It was also a great bargain, one of the free songs of the week on iTunes. The Futureheads’ song was part of one of the OC soundtracks, which as I’ve mentioned before, really helped to broaden my musical spectrum at a time I wasn’t listening to radio (which was inexcusable as I was living in Champaign, Illinois, so I’m sure there had to be some good college stations at the time). After the  Disturbed track, I went from Jones’ kind-0f-holiday music to two actual numbers, although the Glee one is the more earnest of the two, with Barenaked Ladies paying winter tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

“Decode” is a track from the soundtrack to Twilight. Back when the movie came out, it felt like both the film series and the artist performing the number (Paramore) were pop-culture stalwarts my oldest daughter would stick with, and it turned out I was half right. She is still a fan of Paramore, but has seemed to lose interest in the Twilight saga  (and that is a trade-off I will take any day of the week). Things went rock old school next with a Mamas & the Papas tune, and then grunge old-school with Pearl Jam. The Aztec Camera song is a deep album cut (at least as deep as a cut on a greatest hits album can be).

I think all the indy rock band fans tend to love Grizzly Bear, so I probably should give them a deeper listen. As it currently stands, this track from the Dark Was The Night is one of only two songs we own by the band, with the other, a duet with Feist, also on the same album. The Elvis tune that followed is one I remember well pre-marriage as I purchased Spike while in college. Two acts that launched in the 80’s complete the list with two distinct takes on the title “Deeper and Deeper”, although neither is the original studio track–the Fixx version is a live recording and Madonna’s is a dance remix on my MTV Party to Go CD.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3.25 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Deeper Understanding–Kate Bush
  • Deez Nuuuts–Dr. Dre
  • Defenders of the Flag–Bruce Hornsby & The Range
  • Defy You–The Offspring
  • Defying Gravity–Wicked Cast
  • Defying Gravity–Glee
  • Deja Vu–Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • Deja Vu–Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • Deja Va (All Over Again)–John Fogerty
  • Delirious–Prince
  • Deliver Me–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Deliver Us–Elvis Costello; Brodsky Quartet
  • The Delivery Man–Elvis Costello
  • Demolition Man–The Police

Crazy fans of the world rejoice! Kate Bush is back (on my list, not with a new album or anything–sorry if I got your hopes up there). I don’t want to get into a celebrity blogger/rapper feud with Dr. Dre, but he really should have proofread his song list on The Chronic–“Deez” is not a word, and the spelling of “Nuts” is off by two additional ‘u’ ‘s (one I could get a chalk up to a simple typo, but the double is a little hard to take). I got into Bruce Hornsby & The Range thanks to their The Way It Is album and single (although I ironically never purchased the first album, I started with the Scenes From The Southside album).  I get a trio of “Defy..” songs, starting with an Offspring number from their greatest hits and two takes on the Wicked signature song Defying Gravity, which my youngest daughter recently ranked as one of her top five all-time songs.

If you have to hear a song two times in a row, “Deja Vu” is an appropriate title for such a pairing, right? Of course, you don’t get the feeling when you hear the third song titled “Deja Vu” when Fogerty’s song is a completely different number with the same name (although they do use a parenthetical to better differentiate). “Delirious” is a great Prince single from 1999 that doesn’t get its deserved credit, as the title track and “Little Red Corvette” have had a longer lasting impact. Three solid songs out of the final four close the list, with a Tom Petty number from Long After Dark, an experimental Elvis Costello instrumental interlude before his “Delivery Man” number and then a great old Police track.

 

Weekend Worrier

The weekend’s theme was twofold. First it was father-son gym time as on both days my son went to the gym with me. Ironically, the Saturday visit was a shorter one (less than 45 minutes), and it was conceived of to “beat the heat”, as my son wanted to get in an air-conditioned area for some time before he had to go to work, and my gym has excellent AC. The other piece was this weekend saw the calendar turn from June to July and my next-job anxiety increase accordingly. While I do understand the need to be patient and that things will happen in their own time, but I can’t help but wish things would speed up a bit–I don’t do well with uncertainty.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

2 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Chanson Pour Les Petits Enfants–Jimmy Buffett
  • Chapter 13–+44
  • Chapter Four–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Charge of the Batmobile–Danny Elfman
  • Charlie–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Charlie, The Methadone Man–Fastball
  • Chase The Fire–The Fixx

I tend to not listen to much Jimmy Buffett in English, so putting a song title in French, and completely out of my area of knowledge and understanding, really ups the degree of difficulty. Through Google and consultation with my daughter, I think the title of the song is “Song for the Children”, but don’t hold me to that please. Through the magic of Apple’s alphabetizing, this is one of the few places where chapter 13 will come before chapter four. If ranking those two chapters by artist, I’d probably split my vote in two, with +44 being a preferred choice during normal listening situations, but Avenged Sevenfold receiving the nod when working out, particularly when going for some intensity to my cardio.

Danny Elfman’s Batman score was perfect for the film (I know, duh! that’s what he’s supposed to do when scoring the film, but his style of music and Tim Burton’s filmmaking vision is such a natural pairing) and I still enjoy listening to the soundtrack from time to time, even if Nolan’s Batman has surpassed Burton’s in just about every way possible. The Red Hot Chili Peppers tell us about “Charlie”, but I’m pretty sure that Fastball had another “Charlie” in mind, which is why they provided such a helpful qualifier, “…The Methadone Man”.  This short visit to the gym ended with a nice live track from the Fixx–not one of their big hits, but still a fun song anyway.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

3 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • The Chase, Part 2–A Tribe Called Quest
  • Chasing Cars–Snow Patrol
  • Chasm–Flyleaf
  • Chavito Ardiente–WWE
  • Cheap Day Return–Jethro Tull
  • Cheap Sunglasses–ZZ Top
  • Cheap Sunglasses [live]–ZZ Top
  • Cheatin’–Gin Blossoms
  • Check It Out–John Mellencamp
  • Check On It–Beyonce & Slim Thug
  • Check Yes Juliet–We The Kings
  • Check Yes Juliet–We The Kings
  • Check Your Time–Westbound Train
  • Checkout Time in Vegas–Drive-By Truckers

Strong start to the Sunday workout with a bit of A Tribe Called Quest. I only have one of their albums, Midnight Marauders, an oversight I need to correct. However, if I’m going to buy another 90s rap album, I will be getting De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising first. It’s frustrating that it’s not available on iTunes and I will have to get it through a used CD store to add it to my collection. The next song is a more modern number, the big Snow Patrol pop hit, “Chasing Cars”. As I’ve mentioned before, Flyleaf is a band that my kids like more than me, but like A7X, their tracks can be pretty invigorating when working out. The WWE song was the theme music for Chavo Guerrero; I think he would be better off with Jethro Tull in that role.

I only own one ZZ Top album–a greatest hits compilation, but that one collection produced two different versions of their classic “Cheap Sunglasses” (studio and live). I expect that more with dance/pop acts who fill an album with remixes of existing songs, but getting the same song (or variations thereof) twice by a classic rock act seems rare. Not that I mind that much–as ZZ Top songs go, “Cheap Sunglasses” is one of their better numbers. Speaking of better numbers, I love “Cheatin’ “, the final track from the Gin Blossoms’ New Miserable Experience. The entire album is outstanding and the country-flavored “Cheatin’ ” is a nice bow on the package. The lyrics like “You can’t call it cheatin’ if she reminds me of you” are a wee bit cynical, but that’s rock music, right? Rock with a tiny country edge continued on my list with John Hoosier Mellancamp’s “Check It Out”, a song that also continued the theme of cynicism as well as the theme of great songs.

A pair of pop hits cover the next three songs on my list, starting with the first Beyonce appearance. I’ve got to believe that no matter where your musical tastes lie, you have to enjoy the works of Ms. Beyonce Knowles. Her songs are so entertaining–earworms if you will. “Check Yes Juliet” also had a great hook and was worth hearing more than once, which worked out well for me as we own two copies of the song, obtaining it once when it was the iTunes Free Song of the Week and getting a second version when we got the entire album. I’m not sure who added the Westbound Train number to the family collection, but it fulfills the occasional need for Ska music. I do know the Drive-By Truckers came from me, and it helps fulfill my constant need for awesome music.

 

Cheerful songs about bullets and burning

The weekend is here! (Which, truth be told, is not that different from the rest of the week when you’re not working. Actually, I prefer the rest of the week because there’s a chance a company could call me about a job interview during the Monday-Friday time frame, something that’s highly unlikely during the weekend, as those hard-working heroes of human resources certainly deserve the time off on Saturday and Sunday [sorry for the sucking up, you never know who’s reading this]. Well, that’s enough wallowing, let’s get to some exercising and music!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2.5 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • Built for the Future–The Fixx
  • Built to Last–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Bull in a China Shop–Barenaked Ladies
  • Bullet the Blue Sky–U2
  • Bullet the Blue Sky–U2
  • Bulletproof–La Roux
  • Bulletproof Heart–My Chemical Romance
  • Burn–Deep Purple
  • Burn Away–Foo Fighters
  • Burn Down This Town–Rosanne Cash
  • Burn in My Light–Mercy Drive
  • Burn it Down–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Burn the House Down–Scars on 45
  • Burned (Kane)–WWE
  • Burnin’ Up–The Jonas Brothers

The thing about today’s two lists is that they started so constructive and promising–we were talking about building things. Both the Fixx and Tom Petty were on the same track–after all, if you want to build things for the future, you need to build something to last. But then things took a turn for the destructive with “Bull in a China Shop” that did not let up for the rest of either exercise period. Bull in a China Shop is one of those metaphors that only works in the poetic sense these days, as there aren’t many shops that specialize in china to my knowledge.

The violence moves from bulls to bullets, starting with studio and live versions of a U2 song that’s (this is sure to surprise you) highly political. La Roux’s “Bulletproof” follows. This was a group that my youngest daughter enjoys, but I will admit that when I first heard the song and saw the lead singer, I thought that she was actually male. However, I do find the song infectious and it’s easy to dance to (although my children would prefer that I didn’t, which only makes me want to do it more, particularly in from of their friends–yep, I’m that kind of dad). My Chemical Romance (which is one of the coolest band names ever) has the right idea–with all these literal and metaphorical bullets flying around, it’s smart to protect yourself with a “Bulletproof Heart”. Of course, their timing isn’t great as the bullets die down and the fires start, which might still put their heart in danger.

Things start off simple and slow, as Deep Purple looks to just “Burn”, while the Foo Fighters point out that there’s consequences to the flames with “Burn Away”. Rosanne Cash decides to stop beating around the bush (burning around the bush?) and ratchet up the destruction with “Burn This Town Down”. It seems a little much, doesn’t it? I’m not one to advocate violence, but if you really want to get someone back, wouldn’t burning their house down be enough (something Scars on 45 seem to be willing to settle on)? Do you have to take out the entire town?

“Burn in My Light”, one of my favorite WWE entrance themes, is an older Randy Orton number. His new one, “Voices”, is pretty good as well–Orton tends to get good themes, ones my kids like as well.  Two songs later, I got one of the more iconic and enduring WWE themes of the past 15 years, the instrumental Kane theme “Burned”. (As a side note, I loved meeting and working with all the WWE superstars during my years in the company, but Kane was one of my favorite people in the organization.) The last three Burn songs come courtesy of artists representing three distinct genres with Avenged Sevenfold, Scars on 45, and the Jonas Brothers.

June 13, 2012

2+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #30 of the 2012 season

  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House [live]–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning In The Skies–Linkin Park
  • Burning Love–Elvis Presley
  • Burning Up–Glee Cast
  • Burnout–Green Day
  • Burns Supper–Richard Thompson
  • Burnt By The Sky–David Byrne
  • Bury Me–Guster
  • Bushfire–The B-52’s

For almost the entire first mile of my walking tour, I got to hear the Talking Heads’ only Top-10 hit, “Burning Down the House”, five times, four studio originals and a live version (the four studio copies come from the original album, a greatest hits collection, a hits of 1983 compilation, and the soundtrack to 13 Going on 30). I remember when the song first came out (I heard it often because I got most of my music from radio, including American Top 40), I kind of liked it, but it wasn’t till I decided to get into the Talking Heads (to impress a girl) that I really gave the song my attention. I must say that I enjoy the live, Stop Making Sense, version better than the original, as it’s a more driving, rocking take on the song.

Linkin Park takes the burning to the air, but ironically, I could have had a second Linkin Park “Burn…” song if I had their latest single, as “Burn It Down” has been on the radio recently, and has been featured as the musical accompaniment to some highlight packages on ESPN. I always thought the Elvis Presley song was called “Hunka Hunka Burning Love”, but it’s just the last two words. When I saw that Glee had a song titled “Burning Up” that I would hear soon, I assumed at first it was a cover of the Jonas Brothers song I’d heard earlier, but it was in fact a Madonna cover, and I can now tell the difference as Madonna’s version features the proper spelling of “burning”, including the ending ‘g’. I’m not sure how much it will help me, as I’m unlikely to listen to either song willingly.

The list ends strongly for me, starting with a Green Day track from Dookie, and then running into my wife’s favorite artist (non-Elvis Costello division) Richard Thompson. I actually saw him in concert with her in Bloomington, Indiana, but it probably was wasted on me, as I don’t remember which songs he performed, save a rousing cover of “Oops! I Did It Again”. I will say that not knowing the specific songs did not blind me to the amazing virtuoso skill he has with the guitar. If I hadn’t heard enough of his voice with the five renditions of “Burning Down the House”, I got one more “burn” track from Mr. Byrne (ahh, homonyms!) before the fires finally burned out–or so I thought–as after the Guster song “Buried” (keeping with the violence I guess), things flamed up one last time with the B-52’s giving me a “Bushfire”, a song that inspired me to listen to Cosmic Thing in its entirety tonight.

 

Reaching the pinnacle of the Hillbilly Hits chart.

Sorry I took yesterday off–I was actually on my way to the gym, realized I wasn’t feeling well, and came home and went to bed. Felt better today, so I was able to hit the gym and the cinema

AVENGERS: What a great, fun movie. It’s better than Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, and I liked all three of those movies. (I did not like Iron Man 2–I felt it focused too much on Mickey Rourke’s character.)  The challenge of this type of movie is that with so many characters, all need something meaningful to do, and subplots can feel forced as a result. But that’s not the case here. The tone works well, there’s some great dialogue, and the action scenes are great (none of that dizzying camera action crap directors seem to rely more on these days). I need to think about it, but it may be my third favorite superhero movie, only trailing The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class.

RIP Adam Yauch. I don’t have a lot of Beastie Boys in my library, but I love all their catalogue.

May 4, 2012

3.01 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • A Big Hunk O’ Love–Elvis Presley
  • The Big Light–Elvis Costello
  • Big Love–Fleetwood Mac
  • The Big Parade–10,000 Maniacs
  • Big Red Machine–Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner
  • Big River–Johnny Cash
  • Big Rock Candy Mountain–Harry McClintock
  • Big Shot [live]–Billy Joel
  • Big Sister–Elvis Costello
  • Big Sister’s Clothes–Elvis Costello
  • The Big Sleazy–The Dead Milkmen
  • Big Star–The Jayhawks
  • Big Tears–Elvis Costello
  • Big Tears–Elvis Costello
  • Big Ten Inch Record–Aerosmith
  • Big Time–Peter Gabriel
  • Big Time Operator–The Dead Milkman
  • Big Wall–The Fixx

It’s fitting that a list heavily flavored with Elvis Costello leads with the man whose name he took. I wasn’t into music at the time, so I’m curious whether it was seen as tribute or heresy when Declan took the King’s first name as a stage-de-plume.  I’ve never understood the latter, as no one owns a name and if you want to try and live up to the heavy burden associated with following a famous name–have at it! Clearly for my wife, Costello is the true King E, and as a result I got 5 Elvis Costello songs today (4 different) sprinkled throughout my list. Apparently, he’s a “Big” fan of “Big…” songs.

Two bands with distinctive female lead singers followed, although the Fleetwood Mac song is performed by Lindsey Buckingham. I’m realizing that I enjoy groups with singers of both genders as it helps to shift gears on each individual album. That’s not to say I don’t care for groups that stick with a single voice, as 10,000 Maniacs was, at the time they were releasing albums, my favorite group, even when the themes of their songs were a little ham-fisted, like “The Big Parade.” I know the imagery of the various mourners at the Wall should be moving, but it just felt forced to me. “Big Red Machine” still makes me think of the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s, which leads to the pain of the 1975 World Series. You’d think I’d be over it, particularly after the Sox won two World Series, but you still can’t help going over the losses in your head (and don’t get me started on 1986!).

A pair of older songs with a country feel come next, first with one of Johnny Cash’s hits from the 1950s, followed by an even older song, albeit from a more recent source. The soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? introduced me to some great songs for the earlier half of the 20th century, and one of my favorites was “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”. Looking it up, it apparently hit #1 on Billboard magazine’s “Hillbilly Hits” chart in 1939, according to Wikipedia. Now I know that one must be careful with facts gleaned from Wikipedia, but I hope this one is accurate, as I feel my life would be better knowing that there used to be a countdown of the top hillbilly hits in the country (even if it was just a precursor for the country chart).

I’m surprised that I only own the live version of “Big Shot” by Billy Joel, as I though I had the studio as well, but that is probably from my years of owning hit greatest hits on cassette and forgetting I never purchased it on CD. I’m used to getting multiple songs by acts like Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, or They Might Be Giants, but hearing two songs by the Dead Milkmen, but I was in luck today, getting one of their “talking” hits from Metaphysical Graffiti, followed by “Big Time Operator” from the album that introduced me to the group, Bucky Fellini (actually, that’s not completely accurate. I was introduced to the group by a friend that gave me a mix tape with several Dead Milkmen songs from Bucky Fellini on it, which led me to buying the entire CD. The funny thing is that one of my dorm-mates in college was from Michigan and a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers. One of their players that year, Jim Walewander, was a huge fan of the Dead Milkman, so knowledge of the group came from a second direction as well.)

I still hope the title of the Jayhawks song “Big Star” comes true for the group, but I then got a little distracted by the Aerosmith song that followed, as I now believe the title is, in fact, a double entendre. I believe the song not only concerns the style and size of a record album, but is also an oblique reference to a certain part of the singer’s anatomy. I will not discuss the matter further in order to keep this blog at a respectable level of decorum. (After all, when people think Dean Miller, they think decorum!)

“Big Time” was one of the perfect pop songs of the 1980’s–it was infectious then and it holds up amazingly well. I also remember how groundbreaking the videos Peter Gabriel did for it and “Sledgehammer” were at the time.  All of his videos throughout his career were amazing, and I’d suggest finding them on youtube. (In fact, I just was distracted for 15 minutes watching various videos of his, particularly “Steam”.) One of the underrated pop acts of the 1980s is the Fixx, and React is an excellent album that has both live versions of their  hits, plus a few new songs, including “Big Wall”.

My Secret Icehouse Shame

Busy day today–well, as busy as a day where I’m not working can be. (I was hoping that now that Easter has come and gone, the job offers would come pouring in, but alas no. Perhaps HR departments are filled with Greek Orthodox types, and I need to wait until next week.) In addition to my first Red Sox victory walk and gym time, I went to our local mall and saw American Reunion. I liked (but didn’t love) the film–I think it was a little too busy as they had to give everyone (Jim and Michelle, Kevin and Vicky, Oz and Heather, Finch, Stifler, Jim’s Dad) their own story arc, so there were too many threads to be resolved, occasionally at the expense of comedy. But it did make me laugh, at I still enjoy the characters.

Now we’re getting closer and closer to Friday, and my daughter’s departure to Europe. She’s getting so excited, and so am I (with a dash of nervousness thrown in).

April 10, 2012

1st 2-mile walk to commemorate a Red Sox victory in 2012:

  • Anybody’s War–Icehouse
  • Anyone Else But You–Michael Cera & Ellen Page
  • Anyone Else But You–The Moldy Peaches
  • Anyone’s Ghost–The National
  • Anything But Ordinary–Avril Lavigne
  • Anything For Your Love–Eric Clapton
  • Anything Goes–Guns N’ Roses
  • Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do–Glee Cast
  • Anytime You Need a Friend–The Beu Sisters
  • Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere–The Who
  • Anywhere But Here–Rise Against
  • Anywhere’s Better Than Here–The Replacements
  • Apache Rose  Peacock–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • The Apartment Song–Tom Petty

Icehouse is my primary guilty pleasure. I love Man of Colors, and listen to the album in its entirety at least once a month, but it’s not something I admit to publicly (at least until this blog. Now my half-dozens of readers know, and it is sure to spread like mildfire through the internets). Two versions of the same song from the Juno soundtrack follow, with actors Michael Cera and Ellen Page acquitting themselves nicely, although musically, The Moldy Peaches are not the highest bar one needs to clear. DOn’t get me wrong–it is a fun song (both versions).

I then got a National song from High Violet, before another guilty pleasure showed up. I think Let Go by Avril Lavigne was the first CD my oldest daughter ever owned, and it turns out that it’s a great album, and I enjoy listening to every song on it. So Icehouse has a little company today. Eric Clapton and Guns ‘N Roses helped me reclaim my man card before songs from Glee (a musical theater mashup, no less!) and a Disney collection threw things in doubt once again. To make matters worse, it was about at this time in my walk that it started to rain.

Luckily, I would get a tremendous 5-song run to finish my two-mile trek. I started with a classic Who hit, and then got Rise Against (one of the better bands of the past few years, in my opinion), The Replacements, RHCP, and a Tom Petty track from Full Moon Fever. Also nice was the fact that the rain tapered off during this run and allowed me to enjoy the end of my walk.

3.30 miles on the elliptical plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • Apartment Story–The National
  • Apeman [live]–The Kinks
  • The Apologist–R.E.M.
  • Apologize–Timbaland featuring OneRepublic
  • Apple Tree–Wolfmother
  • The Approaching Curve–Rise Against
  • April After All–Anne Sofie von Otter and Elvis Costello
  • April After All–Ron Sexsmith
  • April Come She Will [live]–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Aqualung–Jethro Tull
  • Aranjuez (Mon Amour)–Herb Albert
  • Arbor Day–10,000 Maniacs
  • Arc–Pearl Jam
  • Architects–Rise Against
  • Architects & Engineers–Guster
  • Are We Ourselves? [Live]–The Fixx
  • Are We The Waiting–Green Day
  • Are You A Man or a Muppet?–Dialogue from the Muppets
  • Are You Gonna Be My Girl–JET

I always know what is going to start my next run of music when I shut down my iPod at the end of an exercise period. And when I know I’m getting a song like a National song from Boxer, it gets me really excited for my next gym time. I believe “Apartment Story” was the first time I heard the National and it eventually inspired me to get the whole album, a decision I continue to be happy with to this day. I then got “Apeman” a great classic Kinks song, and an R.E.M. offering, making me think my 5-song lucky streak to end my walk was now at eight. It went to nine with a Timbaland song from the Shock Value album (sue me, I like Timbaland). Wolfmother is a band I think my son is into more than me, and I didn’t know this song very well, so I felt the streak ended before it hit double digits.

I did get another great rock anthem with the second of the three different Rise Against songs I heard today, and then the mood and tempo changed dramatically with first a cover of Ron Sexsmith’s “April After All” by Anne Sofie van Otter and Elvis Costello and then Sexsmith’s original (How cool would it be to become a musician because of the influence of some great artist, only to have that artist eventually cover one of your songs. That would have to be the peak, bigger than any award, right?)

The best live album of all time is still Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park, and I got a track from that. Then things really got eclectic, with Jethro Tull’s biggest hit (and remember the words of Owen Wilson from Armageddon–Tull is a group, not a man), followed by some instrumental magic from Herb Albert, a wonderful track from the 10,000 Maniacs album The Wishing Chair, and some kickass rock from Pearl Jam. I then got one of the hits from last year’s Rise Against (and if you haven’t heard Architects, I suggest you do) and a catchy pop number from Guster.

My 80s needs were attended to today by the Fixx, and Green Day is always a welcome artist on a workout list. The dialogue from The Muppets is a little misleading, as it is just Amy Adams asking Gary to decide if he’s a man or a muppet, and not the Oscar-winning song, which I won’t get until I get to the “M” section, or to be more exact, some time in 2013. JET was a band that the first Rock Band video game allowed me to enjoy, and led me to purchasing the single. No guilty pleasure there, but then again Icehouse, Avril, and Timbaland is probably more than enough for one day, even a double-up day like today.