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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Who wants apple spit in their face?

The two days covered today represent the 10th and 11th days of consecutive gym visits–one of my best runs in months. And I feel fine with the reason the streak ended, as my wife, kids, and I got to visit my parents, sister, and nephew on Sunday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Contact–Rent
  • Contagious–Avril Lavigne
  • Continental Drift–The Rolling Stones
  • The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill–The Beatles
  • Contrecoup–They Might Be Giants
  • Control–Metro Station
  • Control–Glee
  • Controversy–Prince
  • Conversation 16–The National
  • Cook’s County–The Who
  • Cooksferry Queen [live]–Richard Thompson
  • Cooksferry Queen–Richard Thompson
  • Cooksferry Queen–Richard Thompson
  • Cool–WWE

If you ask me the best way to start a workout playlist, “Broadway showtune” is not high on my list of options. Now my youngest daughter would strongly disagree with me, particularly when said track is from Rent, one of her favorite musicals (and she’s into them enough that she could do a top 10, and really have to consider all the candidates). I don’t know much about “Contagious” but I should give it more of a chance because I do find myself enjoying most Avril Lavigne I hear. That is also true of Rolling Stones content, including today’s song from their Steel Wheels album. Now while all Beatles songs, particularly their later works, are awesome, some are less useful as workout numbers. Luckily, “The Continuing Adventures of Bungalow Bill” works well in that capacity.

Once again, They Might Be Giants has me looking up information on a song title of theirs. Apparently “Contrecoup” is a head injury, specifically an injury that occurs on the opposite side of the injury’s impact. What a great group–one that entertains and educates! Two different “Control” songs followed with Metro Station giving their own version of the song, while the cast of Glee covered the Janet Jackson hit. I then got to hear a trio of artists I love, starting with an early Prince hit, “Controversy”, which is now more that 30 years old, which I consider the true controversy. Next up was one of my favorite more recent acts, The National, with a track from their most recent album. This trio closed with the Who, which is always welcome. Speaking of trios, I got a trio of “Cooksferry Queen”s from Richard Thompson, with one live and two studio versions. The song was originally on Mock Tudor, a favorite album of the family. When he was young, my son loved “Crawl Back” in particular, which I’ll be visiting soon enough. This list closes with one of the most baffling WWE theme songs ever, that belonging to Carlito. The song opens with Carlito speaking and he states “I spit in the face of people who don’t want to be cool.” Here’s my question. Who doesn’t want to be cool? Particularly if the consequences are getting chucks of pre-chewed apple spat at you? I never got that at all. Wouldn’t it have been better and made more sense if he just said “I spit in the face of people who are not cool” or something like that?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

3.15 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Cool, Cocky Bad–WWE
  • Cool Dry Place–Traveling Wilburys
  • Cool For Cats–Squeeze
  • Cool Front–Digable Planets mashup with The Who
  • Cool Jerk–The Go-Gos
  • Cool Places–Sparks & Jane Wiedlin
  • Cool the Engine–Boston
  • Cool Water–Talking Heads
  • Cool, Cool River–Paul Simon
  • Cooties–Hairspray
  • Copacabana (At the Copa)–Barry Manilow
  • Corporate Ministry–WWE
  • Corrina, Corrina–Bob Dylan
  • Corrina, Corrina–Pete Townshend
  • Cosmic Love–Florence & The Machine
  • Cosmic Thing–The B-52’s

It’s another paired bracket as I get another WWE theme to open this list after one closed the last. It’s actually the first of two WWE theme songs I heard today, with the Honky Tonk Man’s Elvis tribute coming first and the mashup of Vince McMahon and Undertaker themes coming later in the list. Speaking of mashups, a message-board friend created (or just shared, I’m not entirely sure) “Cool Front”, which mashes Digable Planet’s “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” with the Who’s “Eminence Front” (easily one of my top 10 Who songs).  The combo is outstanding. The two songs before the mashup were great as well, as I will never tire of the Traveling Wilburys or Squeeze.

I love the Go-Go’s (saw them in concert my senior year in college), but “Cool Jerk” is my least favorite song by the group. If I want to hear a “Cool…” song involving a Go-Go, I’d much prefer the next track “Cool Places” with Jane Wiedlin of the group teaming up with Sparks. I loved the song when it first came out (the only year of junior high/high school that I had MTV), and was happy that I was able to add the single to my collection thanks to a compilation album. “Cool the Engines” is probably one of the biggest “no duh” songs for the group Boston as it seems like all their album covers were built around giant guitar-shaped spaceships. Coming back to Earth, the Talking Heads sang of “Cool Water”, and if you were looking for a location for such a thing, Paul Simon would correctly suggest a “Cool, Cool River”.

After things were cool for such a long time, I guess the antidote would be some “Cooties”, which arrived courtesy of the Hairspray soundtrack. I think my wife would argue that the list continued moving in a non-cool direction with “Copacabana” (she is most assuredly not a Fan-a-low), but I do find the song fun and will sing along whenever it comes on. If my singing has the chance to embarrass my wife and kids, well it’s always nice to get a bonus like that, right? While most of the Chimes of Freedom cover artists are newer acts, some of the album’s tributes come from stars as revered and longstanding as Dylan himself, and on “Corrina, Corrina”, Pete Townsend provides one of the best of those pairings. I may have to borrow Boston’s guitar rocket for the last two songs, as things get a bit “Cosmic…” with a Florence & The Machine number and the title track from the B-52’s album.

Who does Michael Jackson better, Fall Out Boy or Fergie?

Before I get things rolling here, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence for Starburns…his name is Alex! (For those confused by the reference, Community killed it  again tonight with an awesome Law & Order parody that dropped character development for a series of jokes that killed it, with a great Wire reference thrown in as well. It was nice to laugh after a tough day, but at least I had a third straight day of double exercise, and tomorrow is going to be a fourth straight day. Go Sox!

April 26, 2012

2-mile walk to commemorate Red Sox Victory #7 of the 2012 season

  • Beast and the Harlot–Avenged Sevenfold
  • The Beast in Me–Nick Lowe
  • Beast of Burden–The Rolling Stones
  • The Beat–Elvis Costello
  • The Beat [Live]–Elvis Costello
  • The Beat–Elvis Costello
  • Beat It–Fall Out Boy featuring John Mayer
  • Beat It–Michael Jackson
  • Beat It–Michael Jackson
  • Beat It 2008–Michael Jackson featuring Fergie
  • Beat the Retreat–June Tabor

It was a bit cold and windy for my outside walk, so to hear something by Avenged Sevenfold was a great was to push me right away. A7X is not a band I listen to often, but they are pretty entertaining when I’m in the right mood. So I was happy with the first of my “Beast…” trilogy. The middle section is a Nick Lowe contribution to the Sopranos soundtrack, and it’s like a treat as I don’t recollect hearing it before, and I enjoyed the song. I have, of course, heard “Beast of Burden” many times, and the Stones deliver as always.

The next seven entries on the list are only two songs, starting with three different versions of “The Beat” by Elvis Costello. Then I got four versions of the Michael Jackson classic, “Beat It”. Ironically, the first version is not by the King of Pop, but instead Fall Out Boy, with John Meyer trying to fill the drug-addled shoes of Eddie Van Halen. I like covers that bring something new to a classic song, but this one felt like a tribute band more than an artist giving a new rendition. The next two versions were two copies of the original before my last “Beat It” being the 2008 update of the song, which once again, didn’t feel like anything special, just Fergie taking some of Michael’s lines so it was more of an alternating duet than collaborative. I wondered if this was because it was released after Michael had died, but the album came out in 2008 (the 25th anniversary of Thriller) and Jackson passed in 2009, so it was just his career that was dead.

The last song of my walk was a cover that I enjoyed a bit more, with June Tabor giving her spin on Richard Thompson for the title track of the tribute compilation.

3.61 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • Beat the Retreat–Richard Thompson
  • Beat the Retreat [Live]–Richard Thomspn
  • Beat the Time–Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
  • Beatbox (Diversion One)–The Art of Noise
  • Beaten to The Punch–Elvis Costello
  • Beating Around The Bush–AC/DC
  • Beatnik Beach–The Go-Go’s
  • Beats to the Rhyme–Run D.M.C.
  • Beautiful–Barenaked Ladies
  • Beautiful–Christina Aguilera
  • Beautiful–Glee Cast
  • Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)–John Lennon
  • Beautiful Bride–Flyleaf
  • Beautiful Day–U2
  • Beautiful Disaster [Live]–Kelly Clarkson

After closing my walk with the cover, I get to open gym time with studio and live versions of “Beat the Retreat” by the original artist, Richard Thompson. Mrs. Paul Simon’s group follows before we get to one of those “Why did I buy this CD again” songs. The Art of Noise CD was a college purchase that was probably driven by either “Paranomia” or  the “Peter Gunn Theme”. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the Art of Music, but when I do hear on of their songs, a little goes a long way, particularly when you consider the length of some of their songs (“Beatbox” clocks in at longer than eight and a half minutes).

From the “didn’t see that coming” file, I got another Elvis Costello song, then my pizza group, AC/DC returned. Now I enjoy the Go Go’s a great deal; I even saw them in concert in college, although the only album of theirs I own is their greatest hits, and I’m pretty content with just the one album (1 Mind on the Simple Minds scale). However, of all their tracks on that compilation, “Beatnik Beach” is my least favorite. I just feel they were trying for something and didn’t quire hit the mark with the song.

Like the Go Go’s, another “greatest hits only” act for me is Run D.M.C. I love their music–they were my second-ever rap group (I do remember being obsessed with “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang back in 1980 to the point where I’d constantly be singing/chanting the lyrics to myself, event getting a fellow 5th grader to once chastise me “enough already!”) I had no follow-up with the Sugarhill Gang, never buying an album, cassette, or single. But once I heard “Walk this Way” by Run D.M.C., I had to own the album, and I remember wearing out my cassette copy of Raising Hell. I finally got them on CD (their greatest hits), allowing me to explore other tracks from different periods of their career.

The Barenaked Ladies song “Beautiful” is a different than the more famous Christina Aguilera version. The BNL song is a serenade to a loved one, while the latter is a truly moving song for female self-image, even when Glee does it. It’s sad hearing the John Lennon tribute to his son as it makes me realize that the boy lost his father at too early an age, a pain I understand. The “Beautiful…” festival continued with Flyleaf and then U2, although that song still makes me think of the countdown to Triple H’s return from injury at the Royal Rumble years ago. I closed with the inaugural winner of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, singing one of her infectious pop numbers that show she was the right choice all those years ago. I just hope she never tries to cover “Beat It”.