Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10)

OK, fact #1–I am overweight and badly need to lose many, many pounds. Fact #2–I love numbers. This combination of facts led me to purchasing a Fitbit a little more than a year ago. Before I did, I thought the concept of “wearable tech” was a stupid fad. However, my record of exercising has been spotty at best, and the idea of hitting a number on a daily basis appealed to me. Over the next twelve months, my Fitbit has pushed me to hit daily goals on a fairly regular basis. I even upped my thresholds from 10,000 steps to 11,000 steps and 5.0 miles to 5.5 miles daily. I was regularly hitting my exercise goals 5 to 6 times a week and even had 25+ day streaks on three occasions. My cardiac procedure in early April set me back a bit with the hospital time and the recovery, but I think I’m back in business, as yesterday was the fifth consecutive day I hit both step and mile goals.

I know the Fitbit and other wearable tech is not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing more motivating to me than sitting on the couch at night, ready to veg in front of the TV, but looking at your step counter and seeing you’ve done fewer than 5,000 steps is a real call to action. Particularly if you add friends and family to your Friend list. It’s the reason I’d suggest Fitbit over the other wearable tech options–it has the biggest base of current members, so you can add people and then compete against them to see who can get the most steps in a day, work week, or weekend. So when I am nowhere near my goal, it pushes me because I want to do better than others and I am sure they are looking at my lack of activity and judging (which logically, I am sure no one is doing–but leave me to my self-centered paranoia, OK?)

Now the Fitbit isn’t perfect–for example, if the arm that the device is located on is locked, the steps don’t count. So if you are pushing a grocery cart around a store, it will not give you credit for your steps. You have to be moving arms and legs to increase the counter. So in my cart example, there are two workarounds. Push the cart with one hand while continuing to swing the other arm–don’t worry,  it doesn’t make you look like an idiot to all the other shoppers (actually, it does). It also makes steering the cart a bit of an adventure. That’s why the second solution, put the tracker in your pocket, a better workaround. This also works in other armlock situations, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill (if you plan on holding the heart sensors for any length of time). Speaking of heart sensors, my Fitbit model does not include a heart monitor in it–that was the next model up. However, I heard from a cardiologist that he does not recommend getting an exercise tracker with heart monitor–he thinks people obsess too much about the pulse numbers. He did like the idea of an exercise tracker–so if you want to get onto the wearable tech craze–save yourself some money and get a model without heart rate checking. And let me know if you do–we can be Fitbit friends!

On to part 4 of my 100 favorite songs list. There are links to parts 1-3 at the end, but now that I’m walking more again, let’s look at the next 10 songs that come up when I listen to my top 100 playlist:

  • Welcome to the Terrordome–Public Enemy
  • Around the Dial–The Kinks
  • Eminence Front–The Who
  • Scar Tissue–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss–P.M. Dawn
  • Floating Vibes–Surfer Blood
  • You Can Call Me Al–Paul Simon
  • Invisible Sun–The Police
  • Your Love–The Outfield
  • New Year’s Day–U2

I will admit being late to appreciated the genius that is Public Enemy. I first heard them as part of the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. It was already a powerful film, but I got to see an advanced screening of it introduced by Spike Lee while I was at MIT. Of course, I was disappointed at how the Larry Bird Celtic jersey was used in the film, but the movie blew me away. A big part of that was “Fight the Power.” One can argue that with songs like it and “911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy was the most effective act to fix popular music and politics since the protest singers of the late 60’s. However, the Public Enemy song I enjoy the most was a different release from Fear of a Black Planet–“Welcome to the Terrordome.” All of their songs have such raw power and anger behind the lyrics, and this one is no different. I know that Flavor Flav has become a punchline in recent years, but his work on “Welcome to the Terrordome specifically and all of Public Enemy’s work in total is amazing.

As I said when I first started talking about my 100 list, I refused to place artificial constraints like one song per artist on the list, and a few artists have more than one song from the same album. One such album is Give The People What They Want by the Kinks. I remember my older sister listening to the cassette tape of the album all the time when she got a boom box for Christmas along with it, Working Class Dog, Escape, and Candy-O. I enjoyed all four albums, but the Kinks release was the best. A second song from the album cracks my top 10, but “Around the Dial” has always been a favorite, right from its radio-tuning opening. I’d argue that the message of the song–the corporatizing of radio stations–is more apt today in the Clear Channel era than it was at time of its release, although to make it more timely, we’d have to change the lyric “FM, AM, where are you?” to “FM, XM, where are you?” as you only find political, religious, and sports zealots on AM these days.

After two Who songs in the previous group of 10, they are right back with a third entry on my list. There were almost two versions of this song on the list, as a member of Sons of Sam Horn shared with us a mashup of “Eminence Front” and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” by Digable Planets. He called it “Cool Front” and it’s an amazing combination of two distinctly different tunes. I would recommend it, but I know it’s unavailable and I shouldn’t share it for copyright reasons. The Red Hot Chili Peppers then make their first, and only, appearance on the list with “Scar Tissue,” which like many songs by the Peppers effectively mixes rock and mourning.

Remember cass-singles? When I was carless in graduate school, I rode with a friend from Bloomington, Indiana to Tampa, Florida for holiday break. Three of those cass-singles dominated our listening time during the trip–“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, and “Set Adrift in Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. The new age-i-ness of the song always drew me in, although the song was almost permanently ruined by the parody of it done in Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it enough–it’s a rap version of This Is Spinal Tap, but it really nails the different song styles, the gangster culture, and more. The soundtrack is top notch and the parody/homage to the NWA Detroit situation portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is dead on. It’s a hard movie to find, but worth the effort.

I mentioned Sons of Sam Horn earlier, and for those that don’t know, it is a online community devoted to fans of the Boston Red Sox. However, the site is not limited to baseball talk or even just sports. The site has many members knowledgeable about a number of different topics, and thanks to some, I have received some great new music recommendations. It was on the site that I learned about an indie band named Surfer Blood. Looking at the name, I would have assumed they were some sort of heavy metal group, but their sound is more pop, more surf music than blood music. I’ve become a big fan, owning all three of their albums as well as their EP. I can listen to their music at any time, but “Floating Vibes” from their first album is still my favorite.

The list has multiple Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it also has a solo song from Paul Simon. Almost anything from Graceland could have made the list, but I chose the hit, “You Can Call Me Al” (with “Boy in the Bubble” being a close runner-up). Another 80’s group that could have had numerous songs on the list, but just got one, was the Police. I love their hits, but I seem to gravitate toward their odd, darker songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King of Pain.” I’d probably put “Synchronicity II” in that category as well. But the dystopian world presented in “Invisible Sun” takes it to the top for me.

The last two songs in this batch are also 80’s entries, and from opposite bands for a number of reasons. Most guys I know that went to high school in the 80’s loved the Outfield’s album Play Deep and their hit song “Your Love.” Unfortunately for the band, most guys I know did not buy any of their subsequent albums. However, their big hit has had a bit of a resurgence recently, as the Patriots play it in their stadium and the song was part of the soundtrack for Rock Band 4. That game also is the first game of its type to have U2 songs in it. Unfortunately, you can’t play “New Year’s Day” yet, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the same album is available. This is the only U2 song on the top 100, a surprisingly small number, but when you’re this limited, you have to make some tough choices. Sorry “Grace”!

If you want to read any of the earlier parts of this series, the links are below:

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season (part 3 of 10)

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.

 

3-Day Workout Weekend!

I’m not saying that you can jinx yourself, but I should have known better. After my last post where I practically broke my arm patting myself on the back for gym visits on six consecutive days, I casually mentioned that I had to go Thursday in order to make it a solid week. Can you guess what happened? If you chose Dean worked out for a solid hour and felt great about himself afterward, well, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but unfortunately circumstances (a nice way of referring to my laziness) prevented me from getting to the gym. To make up for it, I worked out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. (Couldn’t get to the gym on Monday as it was only open until 1PM due to the holiday and those circumstances–sleeping in–reared their ugly heads again.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

(Before the Friday list, a miss from Wednesday’s list:)

  • The Democratic Circus–The Talking Heads

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Demon’s Eye–Deep Purple
  • Demons–Guster
  • Demons Are Real–Guided by Voices
  • The Denial Twist–The White Stripes
  • Dental Care–Owl City
  • Denver–Willie Nelson
  • Deora Ar Mo Chroi–Enya
  • Depending On You–Tom Petty
  • The Deportees Club–Elvis Costello
  • Derelict–Beck
  • Derezzed–Daft Punk
  • Descent Into Mystery–Danny Elfman
  • Desecrate Through Reverence–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Desecration Smile–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Desire–The Gaslight Anthem
  • Desire–U2

I have to admit that normally, if I realized that I missed a song, I’d probably just ignore it instead of calling attention to my error. However, I decided to mention the song due to its incredible timeliness over the past two weeks. I usually get to the gym at night, and so recent workouts have been accompanied by the Republican and Democratic conventions. I’m obviously listening to music, so I didn’t get to hear the speeches, which was almost perfect conditions for viewing the conventions. The only flaw was the presence of close captioning, so I did have to read the BS on occasion.

Deep Purple has played a musical role in my life longer than most other bands, simply because I remember when I was 7 or 8 that we had a family stereo with an 8-track player and a K-Tel 8-track with “Smoke on the Water” was one of the songs in the selection. Nothing seemed dumber to me than when a song was broken across more than one section of an 8-track, and you had to hear “duh-duh-duh-duh Click-Click!” and then the song would continue. Guster is a band that has seen my interest in them grow from my introduction to them (they opened for Barenaked Ladies at a concert) to the first album of theirs I owned (Goldfly, a Christmas present) through Easy Wonderful. Another gift album track came next as a work friend of my wife and I gave us a copy of Bee Thousand.

I’d like to see a triple bill concert featuring the White Stripes, Owl City, and Willie Nelson just to see the different fanbases interact. That’s always an underrated aspect of attending concerts live–in college I saw Squeeze open for Fleetwood Mac (this was in 1990 or 1991) and while I was a fan of both, it seemed like most had chosen one side and one side only. I’m not entirely sure why I own an Enya album, and I’ll be honest–it doesn’t get a lot of play. After a trio of song regulars (Tom Perry, Elvis Costello, and Beck), it was back-to-back instrumental soundtrack numbers, starting with a Daft Punk song from the Tron reboot and then some Danny Elfman.

Of particular note from the last four songs is my first number from the Gaslight Anthem, who’s album, Handwritten, is a new addition to the music library. So far it’s excellent, and I am sure one of their tracks will make my year-end sampler for sure.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

3.21 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Desolation Row–Bob Dylan
  • Desolation Row–My Chemical Romance
  • Desolation Row [Alternate Take]–Bob Dylan
  • Desperado–Clint Black
  • Desperado–The Eagles
  • Desperados Under The Eaves–Warren Zevon
  • Despertar–Aisha Duo
  • Destination Moon–They Might Be Giants
  • Destiny–Richard Thompson
  • Destroya–My Chemical Romance

It’s not Led Zeppelin-level, but half of my workout was devoted to one song, although it was three different takes on that number. We own two long versions of “Desolation Row”, at 8+ and 11+ minutes, and a more radio-friendly 4-minute version, and as you could probably imagine, the two Dylan takes are the long takes. We also have two different versions of “Desperado”, but as anyone who watched Seinfeld can imagine, that song is more of a punchline than composition to me these days. I don’t think “Witchy Woman” ever really stuck for Elaine.

It’s good that I had excellent Warren Zevon and They Might Be Giants songs sandwiched around “Despertar” as I hadar no idea where that song came from or even who Aisha Duo is. Every time I hear “Destination Moon” I think it has been too long since the last listen–sometimes I wish iTunes had a feature that would allow you to mark certain songs on your larger playlists to increase the probability that they would show up in a shuffle. Richard Thompson make his seemingly daily appearance on my list, followed by a poorly spelled, yet enjoyable, My Chemical Romance number.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

3.30 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Destroyer–The Kinks
  • Destroyer–The Kinks
  • Destoyer [Live]–The Kinks
  • Details in the Fabric–Jason Mraz featuring James Morrison
  • Detroit Rock City–Kiss
  • Detroit Rock City–The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
  • Deuce–Lenny Kravitz
  • Devil’s Arcade–Bruce Springsteen
  • The Devil’s Been Busy–The Traveling Wilburys
  • Devil’s Dance–Metallica
  • Devil’s Haircut–Beck
  • Devil in the Eye–Big Country

Nothing gets you pumped for exercising like the Kinks’ “Destoyer”, so hearing it three times in succession was just fine by me. It does remind me that I need to get some older (60s and early 70s) work by the band, and it’s not the easiest task if you’re lazy like me–none of their earlier albums are on iTunes and it’s not like modern stores carry a deep selection of older albums.   I love when I get a song that “features” a performer I’ve never heard of in my life–that is, assuming that Jason Mraz didn’t do a song with the long-assumed diseased singer of the Doors who is using a formal first name to throw us off the track.

I actually don’t own much Kiss, which is funny as they were the first musical act I ever saw in concert. I was in sixth grade at the time, living at the National Asthma Center in Denver, Colorado. A bunch of us talked the councilors into letting us go. We didn’t know the music that well–it was the makeup, breathing fire, spitting blood, and the rest of the performance art that hooked us. (I do believe the councilors that took us got into a lot of trouble for letting us see the band. For that, I am sorry.) In a rare coincidence, I then got back-to-back Kiss covers from the Kiss My Ass compilation album, and I love them both, particularly the Lenny Kravitz version of “Deuce”.

The Devil continues his musical run thanks to the Boss, the Wilburys, Metallica, and Beck. The last song today (another “Devil” number) comes from the Big Country compilation shared with me by a friend this summer. It’s quite a treat as the only work I had by the band before was their seminal “In A Big Country” (which is still my favorite), but the music in the A to Z sent to me is very different and shows the band’s range.

 

Would the real Matt Nathanson please stand up?

This week continues an excellent run of consecutive gym appearances. Lost in this streak is walks to commemorate Red Sox victories–as of this writing, I think I am 6-7 victory marches in the hole. I plan to rectify that oversight next week. Even without my promised bonus walks I am extremely happy with my level of exercise these last few weeks, and I’m back in a place where if I don’t get out and get moving, I’m angry with myself–quite the 180 from the usual sluggish “take an act of Congress to get me moving” Dean. Let’s cover three days of exercise lists in this entry:

Monday, July 23, 2012

3.20 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Colossal–Wolfmother
  • Coma–Guns N’ Roses
  • Come & Talk to Met (Radio Edit)–Jodeci
  • Come and Get Me–Timbaland featuring Tony Yayo & 50 Cent
  • Come Around (featuring Timbaland)–M.I.A.
  • Come As You Are–Nirvana
  • Come As You Are [live]–Nirvana
  • Come Back–Foo Fighters
  • Come Back Around–Feeder
  • Come Back Baby–Elton John
  • Come Back to Me–Janet Jackson
  • Come Crash–A.C. Newman

Wolfmother was another band that I knew nothing about until I heard their “Joke & The Thief” track in the Rock Band series. They’re still not a group I’d choose to listen to on most days, but their metal tracks do inspire me while I’m trying to exercise. That’s also true about the music of Guns N’ Roses, a band I do occasionally choose to listen to (and plan on putting on when I am finished with this entry). The Jodeci song is from one of my many compilation albums. If my list were like the Oscars, Timbaland would be a double nominee with Lead Performer on “Come and Get Me” and Supporting Male on the M.I.A. song “Come Around”. I obviously am a fan of Timbaland, but I enjoy the second song more because of M.I.A.

There are worse things in life than getting a double shot of Nirvana, particularly a studio/live combo of anything off Nevermind and Live in Reading. If you haven’t heard the latter (I’m kind of assuming that everyone has at least listened to, if not a proud owner of, the former), do yourself a favor and grab a copy. Always a bit fitting when Dave Grohl’s band the Foo Fighters comes after Nirvana. “Come Back Around” is yet another song (and by extension, band) to be introduced to me via soundtrack, specifically, the American Wedding compilation. I’m not sure if it puts me in the mood to own more Feeder–any Feeder fans out there willing to argue the group’s cause? As for Elton John, I’d argue I have the perfect amount of his music–a 4-disc boxed set I purchased while in college.

Monday’s list closed with a Janet Jackson number from Rhythm Nation 1814. (It was amazing that the album managed to produce *7* top 10 hits, including “Come Back to Me”), and a track from A.C. Newman, who I love, but would guess will not produce 7 top 10 hits in his entire career, even if you include the New Pornographers (which is a shame).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

3.10 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • Come Dancing–The Kinks
  • Come Dancing [live]–The Kinks
  • Come Go With Me–The Beach Boys
  • Come Monday–Jimmy Buffett
  • Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)–Bruce Springsteen
  • Come On Eileen–Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • Come On Eileen–Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • Come On Get Higher–Matt Nathanson
  • Come On Home–Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Come On, Come In–Velvet Revolver
  • Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)–The Offspring
  • Come Sail Away–Styx
  • Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)–Hairspray Cast
  • Come Together–The Beatles

The opening two tracks for Tuesday’s exercise are my studio and live versions of the Kink’s “Come Dancing”, the song that first got me into the group, and seeing how awesome their earlier work is, makes that song an important and beloved touchstone in my musical education. Plus it’s a great story song that is fun to sing along with whenever it plays. The next two songs are appropriate summer numbers from the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett. The Springsteen number is a previously unreleased track from his Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions, which leads into my first-ever “favorite song” Dexy’s Midnight Runners only US hit, “Come on Eileen”. I didn’t really listen to music until I was 14, when I started listening to popular radio. “Come on Eileen” started rising up the charts, and it was my first go-to radio song.

So I’m listening to “Come On Get Higher”, a song my daughter purchased on iTunes a few years back and I find I’m really enjoying the song, but I don’t know the name of the artist. When I look him up, I see that he’s also the singer of “Laid” from the third American Pie movie, American Reunion. I couldn’t believe the two songs came from the same artist (although it made a bit more sense when I learned that “Laid” was originally a James song and things made a bit more sense. We actually have a third Matt Nathanson song, a cover of a Muppets’ number “I Hope that Something Better Comes Along” from The Green Album. I have to hand it to Nathanson, able to create such different tunes and styles is quite a feat. (To be honest, the three songs I own could be the outliers–for all I know, all his other songs may sound the same,)

The hits keep “Coming…” (Ha! Get it? Anyone? Is this thing on?) with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Velvet Revolver, which I’m pretty sure was a common double bill for summer concerts tours.  Next up was a favorite of my kids (and admittedly, me as well), The Offspring and a classic 80s band, Styx. My youngest daughter added the Hairspray number to the collection, but the comparison to the next song, “Come Together”, made the Fab Four’s number even sweeter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3.25 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Come Together–The Beatles
  • Come Undone–Duran Duran
  • Come Undone–Duran Duran
  • The Comedians–Elvis Costello
  • Comfortably Numb -[live]–Pink Floyd
  • Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider [live]–Carly Simon
  • Coming Back to You–Martin Gore
  • Coming Back to You–Trisha Yearwood
  • Coming Clean–Green Day
  • Coming Home for Christmas–Kristy Starling
  • Coming Up–Paul McCartney

Just as Tuesday’s list ended with an Abbey Road classic, Wednesday’s set began with the same song, this one from the compilation album. It’s a double double as two copies of the Duran Duran song “Come Undone” comes next, followed by an Elvis Costello number. Hearing my one copy of “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd reminds me of one of the major holes in my record collection–we do not own The Wall. (it’s tough to admit, so I just need to think what Jack Black’s character Barry said in High Fidelity to the shopper that didn’t own a copy of Blonde on Blonde–it’s going to be ok). We will have to rectify the Floyd oversight at some point, however. After Pink Floyd live, I got another live number, this time from Carly Simon, a mashup of her hit “Coming Around Again” and the children’s song “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

We own two covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Coming Back to You”, which led into Green Day and a nondescript Christmas carol. Things closed with a third live song in this list, one by Paul McCartney. I actually don’t think I’ve ever heard the studio version of “Coming Up”, but that’s not an oversight I need to correct as quickly as The Wall.

 

Strother Martin, Rock Star

So I am desperately hoping that my time of unemployment will end soon (please!?) and don’t want to regret not taking advantage of the time of fitness opportunity. So Wednesday, July 18th started a run of 8 (and counting) consecutive days with gym visits. It’s getting me further and further behind on the blogs, so maybe I’ll start doubling up some days here, but that may not even be enough–I may have to cover 3-4 lists per blog to truly get back and current. Nice thing is that I’m down another 4 pounds for a total of 9 since I started this blogging plan. So that makes me feel a bit better about myself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

3 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • City of Mud–The Dead Milkman
  • City of Night–Bruce Springsteen
  • Civil War–Guns ‘N Roses
  • The Civil Wars–David Byrne
  • Clairvoyant Disease–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Clampdown–The Clash
  • Clap Your Hands–They Might Be Giants
  • Clap Your Hands–A Tribe Called Quest
  • Class–Chicago Cast
  • Cleanin’ Out My Closet–Eminem
  • Clear–Miley Cyrus
  • Cliches of The World–The Kinks

The list begins with my final two “City…” songs and they are from artists as different as day and night (or mud and night I guess). I’d argue that the Milkmen are as goofy as the Boss is earnest, but I love each in their own right. I believe that the first time I saw a “get this at midnight” promotion, which is so common now for movies, video games, and music, was for the release of the two Use Your Illusion CDs from Guns ‘N Roses. I was at Indiana University at the time, and I remember the record store on Kirkwood opening special for the release (I can’t remember the name of the store, but it was across from Nick’s.) While I did buy the CDs on the first day, I waited until after classes in the afternoon. “Civil War” opens with Strother Martin’s famous “…failure to communicate…” speech from Cool Hand Luke, which I had not seen at the time, so I found the clip baffling. I wonder if he got paid for the appearance in the song. I guess one “Civil War” wasn’t enough for David Byrne, so he went for multiple “…wars”.

Thanks to Avenged Sevenfold for giving me a song to push myself to, and while it was great in its role, “Clampdown” did an even better job due to my love of the Clash and London Calling. Both TMBG and ATCQ (not sure people use the abbreviation for A Tribe Called Quest, but I think it looks great) want me to clap my hands, and although each take a different musical approach, both cases are compelling. I’m a big fan of two of the final four songs listed–can you guess which two? Time’s up–and I hope the cast of Chicago and Ms. Cyrus do not take my choices personally. But how can you choose against the bitter payback anthem from Eminem or the rock anthem from the most overlooked of what I consider the big four of British bands that started in 60’s (with the Beatles, the Who, and the Rolling Stones).

 

 

Family fitness–hey, wait up!

For the last two days of gym visits, I have brought my oldest daughter, who asked to come along. I was the kind, borderline-patronizing dad, explaining that she might want to bring a book in case she wanted to knock off before I was finished on the elliptical, and that for these first few visits she should go at an easy pace. 50 minutes later she had crushed me by going more than half a mile farther during the same time period. Perhaps I should just keep my useful tips to myself. Today my son decided to give it a whirl, and just like my daughter, he would have left me in the dust if we were out walking together at our respective cardio paces. But the key is just making sure I get in my exercise, not that I win a race.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

3.25 miles on the elliptical plus upper-body weight work

  • Cello Song–The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
  • Cells–They Might Be Giants
  • Celluloid Heroes–Ray Davies
  • Celluloid Heroes [live]–The Kinks
  • Cemeteries of London–Coldplay
  • Centerfield–John Fogerty
  • Century City–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Certain Leaders in Government Look Or Act Like Certain Pop Culture References!–David Cross
  • Ch-Check It Out–The Beastie Boys
  • Chain Gang–Sam Cooke
  • Chain Gang is the Click–John Cena
  • Chain Lightning–Rush
  • Chain Of Broken Hearts–Billy Bragg & Wilco
  • Challenge of the Love Warriors–Tom Tom Club
  • The Chamber of Secrets–The City of Prague Chamber Orchestra
  • Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends–Fall Out Boy

“The Cello Song” comes from the Dark Was the Night compilation, one of the later compilation albums released to benefit the Red Hot Organization, an AIDS charity. I’m a proud owner of two of their albums, including the original Red Hot + Blue, which was released in 1990 and featured current (at the time) artists covering Cole Porter standards. I get a science lesson next about “Cells” from They Might Be Giants. I like the new version of “Celluloid Heroes” from Ray Davies collaboration album See My Friends (he does this song with members of Bon Jovi), although they cut the superlong instrumental opening that built and built until the lyrics began (for reference, listen to the live version done by the Kinks). The lyrics of the song are so strong and I love getting multiple listens to it.

I am on the fence about Coldplay–I enjoy their music enough, but I don’t find it particularly memorable. It’s great background music for me, but I never say, “would someone please put a Coldplay album on!” John Fogerty is more of a must-listen for me, but I prefer his CCR music to his solo works, but “Centerfield” is one of his best solo tracks, particularly in the middle of summer. The must-listen meter continues to read higher ratings as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers top Fogerty & CCR for me, and “Century City” is a great early track from the band. There was a short break in the music as I got a comedy track from David Cross, the first track from his second album, It’s Not Funny! In a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” manner, I can connect Cross to my next artist, as Cross played a character in the Beastie Boys’ concert film.

It’s never a bad thing when you get some Sam Cooke on your playlist, and I still find listening to John Cena tracks to be a guilty pleasure. After a Rush track, I got another Billy Bragg & Wilco Woody Guthrie track, this one from the third and most recent volume of the Mermaid Avenue releases. Thing close with the Tom Tom Club, an orchestra number from the Harry Potter films, and a Fall Out Boy overly cleverly titled song.

 

Things are about to get “Big…” around here!

Got May off to a great start by hitting the double exercise today. If I want to do it tomorrow, it will be a freebie as the Sox couldn’t get over .500.

Another side movie note: I was (well, I still am) all excited for The Avengers to release this weekend, thinking it was going to be the summer movie of the year, but then yesterday saw the release of a new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Returns.  I feel this was deliberately put out this week to remind the world who is still the king of the superhero movies until proven otherwise.

May 1, 2012

2+ mile walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #11

  • The Best of My Love–Brooks & Dunn
  • The Best of My Love–The Eagles
  • The Best of Times–Styx
  • Best of You–Foo Fighters
  • Bet On It–High School Musical Cast
  • Beth–Glee Cast
  • Betrayed–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Better–Guns ‘N Roses
  • Better Days–Elliott Murphy
  • Better in Time–Leona Lewis
  • Better Live–Keith Urban
  • Better Than It Was–Fastball

I was really disappointed with the Brooks & Dunn cover of the Eagles hit “The Best of My Love”–it felt like a simple aping of the song, a feeling even more profound when I hear the two songs back-to-back. It doesn’t help much that while I’m a big fan of the Eagles, it’s one of my least favorite songs of theirs. I actually already had Styx on my mind recently as yesterday when driving to the store, “Come Sail Away” came on and my wife admitted to actually liking it. This was quite the moral victory for me, as my wife is not a fan at all of the late 70s arena rock bands like Styx, REO, Journey, etc.

While working at WWE, when meeting with prospective licensing partners or retailers, we used to open the presentation with a “sizzle reel”, a video that showed WWE’s global reach, our superstars in and out of the ring, their charitable efforts with the military, Make a Wish, literacy, anti-bullying, as well as the spectacle of WrestleMania, international shows, and more. The productions always gave me goose bumps as our TV people did an outstanding job setting the footage to popular rock songs. One of my favorite sizzle reels was set to “Best of You” and it always set a great tone for meetings and presented WWE in the best possible light.

TV films and shows that got kids back into musical theater contributed the next two songs on my list, starting with a Zac Effron-led number from High School Musical 2 and then a Glee cover of a Kiss song performed by the boys in show choir. Kiss was the first concert I ever saw, back in 1980. The funny thing is that I really wasn’t into their music; I loved their theatricality and stage show. I actually own more covers of their hits than originals.

After a sanitized power ballad from one of the classic hard rock bands of all-time, I got back-to-back harder rock songs from the real McCoy’s, although there’s still a little something untrue about that label on the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Chinese Democracy album, but I don’t view it as a Guns ‘N Roses album. I feel Axl should have left the band name in the past and created something new.

After nondescript songs from Elliott Murphy, Leona Lewis, and Keith Urban, I closed with a Fastball song from All the Pain Money Can Buy, a favorite of both my wife and I. We originally got it just for the song “The Way” but soon found that we liked the rest of the album as well.

3.46 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Better Than Most–A.C. Newman
  • Better Than Revenge–Taylor Swift
  • Better That We Break–Maroon 5
  • Better Things–The Kinks
  • Better Things–The Kinks
  • Better Things–Ray Davies & Bruce Springsteen
  • Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight–Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  • Between a Man and a Woman–Kate Bush
  • Between My Legs–Rufus Wainwright
  • Between the Lines–Debbie Gibson
  • Between Two Lungs–Florence & The Machine
  • Between Two Worlds–Tom Petty
  • Beyond Belief–Elvis Costello
  • Beyond Belief–Elvis Costello
  • BFFF–Bowling for Soup
  • Bicycle Race–Queen
  • Big Bad World–Plain White T’s

Another track from A.C. Newman’s The Slow Wonder kicks off my gym session. If you’re a fan of A.C. Newman, I’d suggest the albums of his group, The New Pornographers, as well (and the reverse is true, too). Just a day after Taylor Swift moved me with one of her songs, she tried to hit me with a follow-up that didn’t generate the same emotional response. Too soon, Taylor, too soon. Not much to say about Maroon 5 again–I promise that will change in the future.

“Better Things” is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it’s a message that I need to hear now more than ever, and hearing the song three times re-enforces the message. The first two versions are the original Kinks song, while the third is an entertaining duet between Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen from Davies See My Friends album of last year, and it’s one of my favorite tracks from the album. I got a live track from Bob Seger next.

As mentioned earlier, I can always count on my wife to dislike certain rock acts, but she is not a fan of one of the biggest alternative acts of the 80s either. The thing is, I’m not a huge Kate Bush either, but something possessed me to buy The Sensual World CD during college.  It doesn’t get a ton of play these days, but I do enjoy the musical callback of hearing one of her songs from time to time. Another artist that I own some material from but do not usually listen to is Rufus Wainwright, who followed Bush. Then I got another track from a CD that I purchased in college (and there’s far more regret on this one), Debbie Gibson’s “Between the Lines.”

Florence & The Machine is a newer act that all members of the family, particularly my twins, love. I’m always trying to get my kids to love some of my favorites (like Tom Petty, who contributed a track from his Long After Dark album) and my wife probably feels the same way, so she would champion Elvis Costello (who followed Petty with two version of “Beyond Belief”). The music education goes both ways, as my youngest loves to extol the virtues of Bowling For Soup (and as I’ve said before, some times their songs connect (and “BFFF” is one of them), but some times it doesn’t work for me.

It’s always nice to have a Queen song in the rotation, and things closed with the Plain White T’s.