Friday, November 27, 2009

12 Songs that Changed my Life

Music, you know-- true music--
not just rock 'n' roll-- it chooses you.
It lives in your car, or alone, listening to your headphones--
you know, with the vast, scenic bridges and angelic choirs
in your brain.

It's a place apart...
from the vast, benign...
lap of America.

-Lester Bangs in Almost Famous

I always wanted to be one of those guys that when recalling the ten songs that affected them most significantly, would pull out some really cool and interesting choices, like an odd cut of a Stiff Little Fingers LP, or something off a mixtape KRS One made before Boogie Down Productions, or some really obscure country song by Charlie Pride. Simply not the case. As Lester points out, you do not choose music, it finds you, it grabs you, invades you and lives inside of you throughout your life.
Here are my songs, some i listen to all the time, some i haven't intentionally listened to in decades, but when they play one the radio they can instantly pull me back to the moment where they introduced themselves to me.
12. "Kashmir" Led Zeppelin
Generally i despise classic rock, but when i was a teen a huge movie was "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". In this film, quintessential high school douche, Mike Damone tells "Rat" that playing Led Zep, was key to scoring with chicks. After a few years of frustrating defeats at the hands of the young ladies in my high school, i can say girls never liked Zeppelin, i shoulda went with James Taylor!
Mike Damones Five Point Plan

11. "Musta Got Lost" J Geils Band
No song ever captured my imagination to the theatrical side of music like the live version on the "Blow Your Face Out" lp. Peter Wolf, playing his alter ego "Wooba Gooba" gave the best intro in rock history, and got me to buy that record with my own money. My first album i bought with my own money, and i loved the intro rap by Peter Wolf ;
Hold on this song has a little introduction to it
It's ain’t supposed to be sad though you might feel it that way
It's a song about desperation,
Every now and then we do get desperate

This is a song about L-O-V-E,
and if you abuse it you're gonn' lose it
and if you lose it you're gonn' 'buse and
if you 'buse it you aint gonn' be able to choose it
cuz you aint gonn' have it further on down the line
things aint gonn' be so fine
you're gonn' to be sitting there on your little.. machine
tryin to look and keep it clean and
You’re going to be home playing bingo all night all alone
and that's why your sittin there by the telephone
and you know that she aint goin to call you!

So you put on the TV and you're watchin Johnny Carson
segwayin right into the Tomorrow show
but that don't got the go so you turn it off ya turn on the radio,
the radio don’t' seem to get the click so you say
"Hey Man, I can't lickety split"
You start to open up a little book
and there's somethin there you got to overlook
and you say "BABY, you know there's somethin on my mind!
"You say "Baby there's somethin on my mind -
I know that you're home and I know you aint all alone! "

So you start walking over to her house
and you get over to her house
and you walk over to her door and
you start poundin on her door and you say
"Open up the door bitch!”
This is wooba gooba with the green teeth, let me in!!"

Well, she opens up the door
and then you just kinda walk up to her and say
"Baby", (say Baby!) you look up way up at her green mascara
and you say "Oh my darling,
you know her and me was at the party as friends -
do not believe what they say
that's only gossip that they tellin ya -
a wise crack of lies!"
You say Darling!!!

Take your big curls and squeeze them down Ratumba -
What's the name of the chick with the long hair?
(Rapunzel!) Hey Rapunzel!
Heh heh... Hey Reputa the beautah! Reputa the Beautah!
Hey Reputa the Beautah flip me down your hair
and let me climb up to the ladder of your love!!
Because this is the wooba gooba sayin to ya
"Love comes once and when it comes
you better grab it fast cuz sometimes the love
you grab aint gonn' last and
I believe I musta,
You know I think I musta,
You know baby I think I musta,
You know I think I musta,
I musta got lost!!!!!!!

10. "True Love will Find You in the End"-Daniel Johnston
I have always been fascinated by autobiographical songs in rock history from Johnny B Goode, to Bo Diddley, to Come Together, To Born To Run, to Slim SHady, pop music is littered with incredible self reflection. This song, seems to the most real, and saddest tale of a guy living without the love of a woman. Knowing his life story makes the impact of this song even more powerful and the song almost becomes his own musical hug to himself.

9. "Changing of the Guards"-Bob Dylan
Dylan went from folk and rock in the mid 1970's toward religious music as he supposedly converted to Christianity. People dismissed this music as "not important" and a sellout of his generation. Those people missed some of the most inspired performances of his career as well as as many great songs as he ever delivered. Changing of the Guards followed similar lyrical path as Times They Are a Changing, but with more pointed attack on those living for this world, and more dazzling verbal frenzy. The last couple of verses say it all, and Bob ain't pussyfooting around, and he goes for the jugular like few have ever done;

Gentlemen, he said,
I don't need your organization, I've shined your shoes,
I've moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.

Peace will come
With tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will bring us no reward when her false idols fall
And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords.

Changing of the Guards

8. "Ball and Chain" - Social Distortion
It could've been anything off their self titled album in 1990. I found Mike Ness's music to have all the vitality of the punk music that i loved, but also showed influences of folk and country. I went to see the band live and was transfixed by an absolutely charismatic frontman, filled with rage, brains and impecable musical tastes. Ball and Chain live

7. "Triumph" Wu-Tang Clan
The Wu-Tang Clan hit the scene in the early 90's with Enter the WU, amid probably the greatest (last) music scene in American pop music history, with the east coast/west coast hip hop rivalry, fueling some great music, and grunge acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and ALice in Chains breaking out and indie music producing the Elephant 6 Recording Company. By the time Wu-Tang returned in 1997 with "Forever", the hip hop scene was a mess as icons were being murdered and the gritty reality of those early MC's was now being replaced by vapid self promotion. No record was anticipated than the Wu-Tang follow up, as i saw it as Rap's great hope. (While it wasn't that!), It delivered with its first single (and video) an amazing lyrical barrage, not often seen. Its gritty, its minimalist and its raw.
Video i especially liked Inspecta Deck's opening verse:

I bomb atomically, Socrates' philosophies
and hypothesis can't define how I be droppin these
mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me
Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics
I inspect you, through the future see millenium
Killa B's sold fifty gold sixty platinum
Shacklin the masses with drastic rap tactics
Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths
Black Wu jackets queen B's ease the guns in
Rumble with patrolmen, tear gas laced the function
Heads by the score take flight incite a war
Chicks hit the floor, diehard fans demand more
Behold the bold soldier, control the globe slowly
Proceeds to blow swingin swords like Shinobi
Stomp grounds and pound footprints in solid rock
Wu got it locked, performin live on your hottest block

6. "Landlocked Blues" Bright Eyes
This song restored my faith in new artists, not only in their ability to write great songs, but to go for it all. The Bright Eyes production was sterling, the songs as good as any i ever heard and Conor's uninhibited view of love and politics was really refreshing. The line that got me;
and the moon's laying low in the sky
forcing everything metal to shine
and the sidewalk holds diamonds like a jewelry store case
they argue "walk this way," "no walk this way"

5. "Space Cowboy" The Jonzun Crew
This is major old school, but this was my introduction to rap music, and this (along with the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb") dominated our high school's hoop team layup line in pregame for a few seasons. I had a teamate (Jon Scoville) who i would hang with before practice, and we would play one on one all afternoon, while listening to underground funk music from the Barnstable High School radio station. It seems so dated today. Space Cowboy
Funny thing is, one of these guys Maurice Starr, went on to discover and produce pop groups like New Kids on the Block.

4. "Heaven" Bryan Adams
All i can say is, that at the Hyannis Rollerskating Rink i touched my first booby to this song (my big move!) and when i hear it to this day it transports me to that glorious moment every time. She was very cute, although i doubt this moment had such a powerful impact in her life. I know its very sad.

3. "Complete Control"-The Clash
Without question, no song has been played more in my life than this one. I have never tired of it, and use for fuel when i need a pick me up. I think it pretty much sums up my musical ethos, even though i dont know the lyrics to this day, (and i don't want to know them!)aside from "they say, British rock is dull". The only band that matters, and the best live band ever. And I loved the harmonies!, the best i would hear for the next twenty years till The Felice Brothers!

2. "Frankie's Gun"-The Felice Brothers
People assume because i have seen 30 something shows, and i have these sites running, that i have been with The Felice Brothers from the very beginning, and that i live near the Catskills. Far from the truth. ALthough i had heard "Lou The Welterweight" before, and found it amusing, i was not a huge fan yet. In the fall of 2007 a DJ on a pirate radio station had a copy of Adventures of the Felice Brothers, and spun "Frankies Gun" as i was driving my truck onto a boat ferry. I thought immediately it was the greatest song i ever heard. It had everything i ever liked about music, it was gritty and real, it was totally unpretentious, yet alarmingly genius, it had amazingly ragged harmonies, the best lyrics i had heard in decades, and inside the walls of that truck i heard country, rock, rap, blues, and folk wrapped up in a virtually cinematic experience. It was the music that i had been waiting my whole life for and IT FOUND ME. I was so grateful, and so determined to mine this musical gold. I went home to find this gem, and i couldnt find it easily, i eventually was able to rip some sound off the internet and basically listened to this song daily for months, i soon discovered other music by these guys and was tansfixed by the songs and the sound, my early favorites being "Rockefeller Drug Law Blues" "Hey Hey Revolver" and "The Devil is Real". You all know the story. In the Spring, i picked up the self titled album, (the best record i have ever heard), and played to death all year. Still do.

1. "Highway Patrolman" Bruce Springsteen
No song has ever kinda told my story like this one. Its the story of a Highway Patrolman named Joe Roberts who is his brothers keeper, and Frankie, who finds trouble all too easily. The Album, Nebraska, found its way into a cut-out bin (that was a place record stores would place albums that didnt sell well), and i perused the back track listing and what caught my eye was one of the song titles: "Johnny 99" . I didn't know what it was like, but that title sounded so HUGE! Larger than life. I thought with a title like that it had to be great. It was nothing as i expected, it had none of the rock and roll majesty of Born to Run lp, or the punkish "I hate my dad" attitude of Darkness on the Edge of town, but instead i found a scary depiction of souls over the edge, people who are disconnected from the rest of us, waging pyschological war in their heads. This was like a punch in the stomach to me, as it reminded me of my own brother, who was born with all the gifts in the world, looks, brains, athletic prowess, but was overcome by regret, unwillingness to forgive people in our past and eventually his life crumbled down around him. He could very well be living on the streets tonight. "Highway Patrolman" was made into a movie by Sean Penn, called Indian Runner. This song and this album are listened to in the dark, alone. I do it every so often and it always leaves me spooked.