I read Nick Hornby’s book 31 Songs and thought he could have done better. I have enjoyed his books (thanks Grant). Fever Pitch turned me into a football fan and I was entertained by High Fidelity. I was expecting more than what I got as I read 31 Songs. It dragged on and read like the ramblings of an eccentric forlorn reformed D&D dungeon master.
His book did inspire me to thought. Which I guess is what most good writers aspire to accomplish. So it has been over three weeks since I have read this book and am currently struggling to get through John Irving’s, The World According to Garp, which I am finding very difficult to get into. This guy is absolutely boring. And the mother complex thing is a bit too much for me. It was recommended to me so I will push on!
Well to continue my line from reading Hornby’s book 31 Songs it inspired me to reminisce about songs that were important to me and marked moments in my life. Hornby did not necessarily do this. So I claim some degree of literary originality here. This is not a favorite or best of list. It is only a reflection on some songs that I loved and that impacted my life. Even now when I listen to these songs it conjures up the memories and emotions of the times gone bye. I could honestly write commentary on thousands of songs. Music means a lot to me. I am very moved by sounds and the words that the artist delivers. There is no particular order or listed with any special significance. Here are 23 songs…cause I at 23 had not way to articulate the emotions and feelings I held on to.
Rock On by Michael Damian
In Junior High I had the biggest crush on this girl. I was some kind of confused rapper/ghetto/wrestler/white guy, basically I was the most awkward thirteen year old I could have been. This girl was dancing in some kind of performance with the dance squad after school one day. I thought that if I went and she saw me there I would claim her heart and forever be branded the masculine badass I so rightfully claimed I was.
On this day I go to the cafeteria (which converts to a sort of dance hall as well) and meet up with some of my pubescent buddies to stare at the girls and look cool. I saw her walk in wearing a long black leotard and leg warmers. She was with all of the other dance squad girls. Now at that age I had no idea what a woman was nor did I truly grasp the concept of sexuality. I did know that this girl was attractive and made me feel funny.
Inside the hall the dancers gathered to begin and then it happened. It was like the dawning of a whole new age for me. I sat there trying to be cool and not “really” pay attention. This was not too difficult for my deficient attention span. I saw here there swaying and moving to this song by Michael Damian (who was a soap opera star at the time)… Hey kids rock and roll, Rock on, ooh my soul Hey kids boogey too, did ya? …The beauty of the moment shook me and founded a station in my soul. I could only sit there dumb struck as she danced to this; I say she cause no one else was there as far as I could remember. I remember identifying with the lyrics so intently…maybe it was the part…and where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear. Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen prettiest girl I’ve ever seen, ROCK ON!
To this day if I hear this song I am transported to that day at that dance in 1988 watching that blonde haired little beauty queen Rock On. It always puts a smile on my face.
Nothing Compares to You by Sinead O’Connor
What can I say about this song that already has not been said? This piece of music is absolute sheer pop music genius. The song fit perfectly the mood I was in during that period of High School. The synthesized music with the orchestra…brilliant! I do not remember a specific crush on any one girl…there was this one girl in my drama class that I had a thing for most of my High School years. She was a cute little brunette with eyes that would bring back the days of Troy. When I think of her though I think of Mudhoney or Nirvana, and astrology. She was a woman among girls at the school.
Sinead mainly reminds me of the love lust I held in High School searching for that special someone…that woman to couple with and sing this cheesy tune with. Sinead’s eyes kill me in the video! So blue, so pure, so Bambi. It is amazing what you discover when you look back into your past and try to revive long lost and dead artifacts of memories.
My favorite part of this song is the violin (I always dreamed of playing the violin) and this verse… All the flowers that you planted, mama. In the back yard all died when you went away. I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard, but I’m willing to give it another try…Cause nothing compares … Nothing compares to you! The infliction on the word “All” in the beginning sends shivers down my spine.
Romeo in black jeans by Michael Penn
This guy is Sean Penn’s brother and an accomplish musician in his own right. I am reminded of a summer I spent at my mom’s house in Eagle Rock and hung out with my Brother Grant and cousin Greg. We went to Dodger games, Tommy’s, the comic book shop, and tried our hardest to pick up chicks.
I enjoyed the melodic quality the song had. It was almost a lullaby that lulled me to dream of dancing with some beautiful woman while I wore the coolest cloths sponsored by some local surf shop. As I looked for the lyrics online I was drawn to the line someone to dance with. Well I hate dancing and any of my friends can attest to that. So why did this song speak to me when all he was doing was accepting the fact she was looking for someone to dance with?
If my memory serves me correctly the part where he sings about Chinese is good in sound…. look at the lyrics here…What if I were Romeo in black jeans. What if I was Heathcliff, it’s no myth. Maybe she’s just looking for someone to dance with? Sometime from now you’ll bow to pressure. Some things in life you cannot measure by degrees. I’m between the poles and the equator. Don’t send no private investigator to find me please ‘Less he speaks Chinese and can dance like Astaire overseas OK.
Now that I read it I am ashamed I like/d this song. The language is boring and he rhymes like a sixth grade love poem. I think he just wanted to wear black jeans and sing love songs to Madonna but his brother beat him to it. Regardless of this recent development I would still own this album again or at least pirate it online.
Joey by Concrete blonde
I’m not angry anymore…. this cries pain, hurt, remorse. All of those good things experienced by teenagers. Especially if you grew up in the 90’s. What was going on with the folks around us? It seemed like we lacked any kind of identity. I love Concrete Blonde! I feel young and vital when I listen to them. This song is powerful to me. I am not sure why it reminds me of death. Well dying young to be exact. It makes me remember a guy named Olin that was tragically killed by a car in Eagle Rock that summer with my mom. This guy was a rebel in the truest sense. I did not know him very well and the times I met him he reminded me physically of a ghoul in the Misfits Army.
This song piledrives the precious nature that youth holds. The tone or mood of the song drives me to consider Olin and other people like him that have died young in my life. Stevie (she died of ovarian cancer), Napoleon (a motorcycle accident), Adam (drowned in the floods), Smiles (he was killed in gang activity), Matt (drug over dose), and countless other people I went to school with.
This song pains me to hear but I must listen to it and remember those souls that are no longer living. Now that I am older and have a deeper understanding of life. I wish I could go back and see the people one more time or have one more meaningless conversation with them. Like the song says, “Oh, Joey (any name), if you’re hurting so am I”.
Everybody knows by Concrete blonde
This song blew me away when I first heard it. That was in the Christian Slater film, Pump up the Volume. It had to be the films dark and mysterious quality that sank into my reception on this song. In the film it was played very slow and almost in a mocking way. It was some time until I heard the Concrete blonde version and loved it in a different way.
The song delivered to me an anthem to live by. The new line of rebellion in a melancholy fashion. To rebel in the most discreet manner and to be quite about it. Keeping that veil of innocence and productivity. It gave me inspiration to accept life’s dark and dirty holes. “Everybody knows that it’s now or never. Everybody knows that it’s me or you. Everybody knows that you live forever. When you had a line or two. Everybody knows the deal is rotten… Everybody knows you love me baby. Everybody knows that you really do. Everybody knows that you been faithful, give or take a night or two. Everybody knows you been discrete so many people you had to meet without your clothes and everybody knows… That’s the way it goes!”
I desired to be a rebel to speak the truth to stand up for justice. To free the oppressed and to just fight! I desired to break this system and find my place in it. I was a young man seeking my way with no idea where to go and why? It was mostly the poetic ramblings of Christians female co-star that kept me hoping for my turn to lead folks into the fray! I still love this song. I love the Concrete Blonde version much more now than I did back then. It still holds a deep affection for me…although I think I am done rebelling and breaking the system. I need to back up and left the next generation fight the good fight.
Los Angeles by Frank Black
Frank Black is an amazing songwriter and I love the whimsical collection of words he throws together and tells a story. I want to be driving down Santa Monica at midnight departing from an amazing party where I just meet the hottest, smartest, and most beautiful woman ever. On my way with my buddies to a bar to close out the night.
This song brings back the fist pumping, (a specific) finger pointing, foul mouthed nights I used to live. It also conjures up images of nights on the Westside walking in the fog and happening upon a taco truck (which I swear was a gift from GOD) on our way to another party. This song reminds me of the blessings I have been given in life. Even if people do not believe that all that crazy shite really did happen to me.
Here in Africa it makes me miss my beloved home of Los Angeles! What better city to live in than LA? The Dodgers, Lakers, Natural History Museum, MOCA, LACMA, KCRW, Alvera Street, great Mexican Food, Tommy’s, Fatburger, the Eastside, the Westside, the Valley, and anything else worth having, experiencing, or being!
I want to live in Los Angeles!
Jump around by House of Pain
This song never needs to be introduced! Anyone that is breathing will soon have the urge to jump around when this beauty is played! This song brings me back to a time in the loveliest city of Tijuana, Mexico in 1999 a few friends and I went on a binge there.
The day after my buddy Jon was married in Winnipeg, Canada (which has its own stories to tell) I arrived back to LA. A friend that wanted to celebrate her birthday in San Diego and cross the border in to TJ for an evening on the town greeted me the very next day. Well I obliged not wanting to disappoint anyone. In three hours we were in this club that was two stories high with an open balcony that open up to the streets below. I was perched there drinking everyone else’s mixed drinks cause it has ice in them that was part of Montezuma’s revenge (they were also blue in color and have some sort of fruit in them). As I drank all of these drinks I think there were like six of them I thinking I held a resemblance to Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fame hung over the balcony and waved trying to cause a stir. What I did was to manage to make myself look like an ass and stirred that beat deeper inside me. This night TROY was lurking around the corner.
We left my outdoor perch in search for something a little better and found some beach club place that served beers in a bucket with ice. You cannot go wrong with a bucket of beer. I would partake in almost anything if it came in bucket form! That is just me. Well we settle down at the bar with of buckets of beer and all the sudden Jump Around comes on and every single white person in that Godforsaken bar rose to their feet and jumped around! It was amazing and seemed to be rehearsed like in a bad teen movie party scene.
I jumped around until my heart contented and lifted my arms in the appropriate moments and drank my beers knowing life could not get any better than this. Little did I know I would pretend to be an undercover cop and try to arrest a beautiful woman for throwing a burrito at a wall in a Mexican Food joint back in San Diego. I could tell stories from the old days for years and never tire. AHHHHH, my youth and beer…I am glad I am who I am today. Thank God!
Unbelievable by EMF
I just like this song. It is innocent, upbeat, and unbelievably simple! I was into this band for the sum total of 30 minutes. I took a rash of crap from my brother who called me a sterling member of the Fag Corp (FC) due to this period of my life. I had the worst hair cut and dye job as I listened to this song and others like it.
What happened to them? I cannot remember liking any other song from them? I loved other groups like SOHO and hippy chick, that guy on the roller skates with the techno infusion stuff…Information Society and Pure Energy!!!!!! Man I had great taste in music those days. It makes me happy to have discovered the beauty and grace in the likes of Louis Armstrong and Uma Sumac.
Please do not go & Add it up…by The Violent Femmes
I used to sing this song (Please do not go) to myself as I nursed the wounds of crushes gone bad. I would like a girl become her friend and then sing this song. Ha…I laugh now. It sucked back then. I thought that if I was a famous musician I would be able to get all the chicks and they would be singing this song to me. Ha look at me now. I am not famous, they are not singing this song to me, and I have never felt better about my life. I still love the Femmes! One of the greatest original bands in my time. They and the Talking Heads still amaze me.
I took a trip to drop off my brother Grant to Santa Barbara with my brother Kevin. To drop off Grant as he was moving to SB and starting a new life. The jerk was just getting pop to pay for gas and stuff so he could go and party. Anyway Kevin had a 62 Falcon four door land yacht. He did not like to drive on the freeway so I was driving up the 101 at maybe 7 or 8 at night. The car had no radio and barely stayed on the road. This thing drove like hell though. Kevin always let me drive as fast as I wanted in this bad boy!
So I proceeded to take this beast up to one hundred and change. As we cruised around Kevin and I got bored of our conversation so silence meet us. As we did Grant was in the backseat with a Walkman playing a Femmes mix tape. Then we heard Grant singing along…“Day after day I will walk and I will play, but the day after today I will stop and I will start my way. Why can’t I get just one kiss? Why can’t I get just one kiss? Believe me there’d be something’s that I wouldn’t miss, but I look at your pants and I need I need a kiss!”
As we drove to SB we sand the entire album and some. We were so horse by the end of the trip. All in All that was the defining moment of our adult relationship and we still love the Femmes. By the way Kevin and I dropped Grant off, drank a beer spent maybe a half an hour visiting and got back to LA in under 2 and a half hours. This feat matches the one of getting to Disneyland from Reseda on the 101 in half an hour.
If I should fall from grace with god by The Pouges
I was never a big fan of the Pouges until I caught the life story of Shane McGowan. This guy was trapped in a sea of anger, desire, and confusion. The bigger he became the deeper he had to be in the image he was. The more booze he drank the more people loved him.
This guy was hurting and felt he could go nowhere. This song speaks a truth to me that I understand to be a call for help. “If I should fall from grace with god. Where no doctor can relieve me. If I’m buried ’neath the sod but the angels won’t receive me. Let me go, boys. Let me go, boys. Let me go down in the mud. Where the rivers all run dry… Bury me at sea. Where no murdered ghost can haunt me. If I rock upon the waves then no corpse can lie upon me”. This guy goes up there as speaking to my soul with the likes of Johnny Cash, and Sam Kinison.
▼Cold Cold ground by Tom Waits
Tom Waits has not made a bad song in his entire career. No his acting moments I would be hard pressed to argue that. I can only thing of one person when I hear this song and that is my old friend Qwai Chang Dave!
Dave got this name by watching every single episode one summer of unemployment of Kung Fu with David Carodine. One in the morning and one at night. He took that show like it was a cure for a tragic illness. At night we would collect in his mom’s garage and he would catch us up on the events happening on the show over a twelve pack of natural light.
Dave got a job working at a major insurance company, as did my brother, a few other buddies, and myself. This song would be played into the phone at each others extintion cause it brought tears to our eyes. On more tears were gained than by good old Dave. The moment Dave heard this song the phrase, “you bastards,” would be heard followed by him hanging up. If you were lucky enough to corner him somewhere when he had to listen to more than a few seconds of the song he would truly shed tears. It was amazing.
This song came to me in my last moments of the party days. It represents the moments I knew I needed to make a change or go nowhere. I love the emotion on this song and this Album, Franks Wild Years, is my favorite Waits album ever. I used to listen to it in the hot hot shower in pitch-black darkness tending to the days gone by and seeking a way to recover and move on. Mr. Waits you can say helped me listen to God.
▼Last Good Bye by Jeff Buckley
This is another one from one of my favorite albums, Grace. There is not a bad song on this album as well. Jeff Buckley died far to young!
I played this song over and over to mourn the break up of my first girlfriend and I (I hate to feel the love between us die but it’s over just hear this and then I’ll go you gave me more to live for more than you’ll ever know). I had always wished I understood better the workings of women. Jeff gave me conclusion and answers where I had none.
When he sings kiss me, please kiss me but kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation. You know it makes me so angry ’cause I know that in time I’ll only make you cry, this is our last goodbye! I feel his words as if they are my own. When I hear his voice I hear Gods heavenly angels reveling a chorus.
If I could experience a love that was born from those emotions I would take the chance to feel the same amount of pain as well. This song is deeper to me than I can explain…. my words saturate its meaning in a limp dramatic pool of Yak Dung.
Creep by Radiohead
Again I cannot truly say what this song does to me in mind, body, and spirit. If any song spoke to me as my own inner voices this is it. This is the model of my love life. Seeking return of affection. Being there to be desired and objectifying myself as inadequate and remorseful over moments lost that were not truly there. Second-guessing the specialness on my own self to make way for the glorification of the one i deem special.
Who has not desired the perfect body, the perfect soul, to be noticed when they were not around…. who has not thought of themselves as a creep? Radiohead hit the nail on the coffin with this song. They and the Smashing Pumpkins are the spokespersons for the generation I grew up knowing. Teenage angst and rebellion never knew what hit them when the sophistication of Tom and gang rode into town. His voice horrifically and magically mends together a web of intrigue that binds all of my senses into the precise moment of my self-awareness and points me towards the light.
▼The Carnival is Over & The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove by Dead Can Dance
I love both of these songs equally. This album Into the Labyrinth is in my top ten to own. It harkens me back to the days of late 1999 and early 2000 when I was getting my feet wet with Christian fellowship in South Orange County. I was hanging out with this cool group of folks that included my cousin, her now husband, and a bevy of musicians, artists, and groupies.
I remember sitting in my truck one night outside of this chick’s house that I was in to somewhere in Laguna and listening to this album and it made sense. There I was surrounded by rain and enveloped in the loving life giving gift of rain and this music was emanating from inside me. The words were not mine but they might as well have been… Outside…The storm clouds gathering, moved silently along the dusty boulevard. Where flowers turning crane their fragile necks so they can in turn reach up and kiss the sky… We sat and watched as the moon rose again for the very first time.
Nothing happened between this woman and I. I did enjoy here company and even began to watch Ally McBeal with her. I look back at that time in my life and see now that God was planting seeds in me that are blooming today in the actions I lead now. I cherish the time with that group of people and wish they knew how much I appreciate the time I had with them.
What more can I say? by Nina Simon
Nina Simon is the most powerful voice I have ever heard. She could sing to me that I smelled like shite and that I should jump off a bridge and I would gladly agree and find the nearest bridge. I stole this compilation album from my brother and hid it from him after I listened to it just once.
How could I return the most touching song in my life at the time? It was late 2002 and early 2003 I had my heart broken by someone and sought to understand what, why, and how I let this happen to me. My first reaction was to shut down and I did that for a while. Then I turned inside and thought. I just thought for over a year and a half. The fact I am here in Africa I attribute to this encounter with that woman.
Well i picked up a CD to drown out my over active imagination so I could sleep one night and pulled out Nina Simon. The moment I heard her say… “I would do anything, anything you say. If you would just be mine. What more, what more can I say? I would give anything, anything I own. If you’d be my love. What more, what more can I say… Anything I’ve got to give, it’s not a lot to give Baby if I’m giving it to you. Anything is nice to give, I don’t have to think twice to give… that’s how much I love you. I say that’s how much I love you. That’s how much I love you.” I was sold. She shared my pain in those moments and I love her for that.
It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World! by James Brown
James Brown is the baddest, funkiest man around. The godfather of soul is a just title for this man.
I remember the first time I heard this song. It was at a very hip house in the hills of Brentwood with Holly. She I think was a cousin of mine that I had met at work and began to hang out with. She was fun to be around. She had the best smile ever! Well she invited me to hang out in the Westside that night and I went over to her house to pick her up in my truck with negligently expired tags and a fear of going to the hokey.
I followed her to this friend of hers house I have no idea where it was other than off the beaten path way past Sunset into the hills. This guy had catered a get together of folks wearing all the latest GAP styles and speaking on the likes of yoga, 12th century Chinese philosophy, great post colonial literate, and the next amazing neo liberal banana farming peasant writer/rebel from San “Developing” country. Holly and I were the only non-couple there. I proceeded to the backyard where I smoked mine and others smoked theirs (Mary Jane). I cannot handle the smell of weed so I came back inside to the most elegant sound produced by Mr. Brown. This is a man’s world. This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl. The absolute build up in his voice and the rhythm engulfing him in an ecstasy of raw emotion was breath taking.
He’s lost in the wilderness. He’s lost in bitterness. James sang this tune as I sat there wishing I were more sophisticated in my tan Dickies, white t-shirt, and New Balance trainers. Alas I fell sophisticated enough to embrace those cats and that scene. Lo I am in Africa still thinking about that night James sang to my heart that it would not be nothing without a woman or a girl.
Like a tattoo. by Sade
This was a song that a woman I loved told me that this song embodied our relationship. I love Sade and will listen to her by myself as no one I know enjoys her like I do. I have developed a stigma about her music that if I listen to her long enough I will either get my truck stolen (it was three times) or fall for some hottie with emotional issues (I have countless times).
I still keep her albums in my collection and this particular song I hold in my heart with the emotions, memories, and love I had for the woman that introduced Sade to me.
Cult of personality by Living Color
I wanted the outfit that Cory wore in this video. I really dreamed of showing up on the first day of school in a sleeveless, pantless wetsuit with that red French field jacket from Waterloo. With the white high tops and colored dreadlocks. I would have been the cat’s pajamas!
This song kicks ass! It is all that a roll song should have been in the 90’s. I enjoyed every minute of this rocking anthem of social change. It introduced me to many of the political figures mentioned and gave me a platform to consider my part in social change. Where are these guys now? I would go and see them play even if it was at a nasty, smoky, smelly, and rundown bar wait that would make it better!
Back in Black by AC/DC
Anyone that knows me will attest to me love of this band and this song particularly. When I die I want these guys to play my funeral or this song to be played and my funeral. Then I will be placed at a seat in the middle of the room as a celebration rages on around my lifeless body. When who ever wants to speak is finished this song would be played again as my body is loaded into a cannon and my body shot into the pacific ocean ala a Viking funeral.
It would be even better if I was dressed as the Pirate Morgan!
▼The entire albums Welcome to the Cruel World, Diamonds on the Inside by Ben Harper
There is not a bad song on either of these albums. I listen to both of these as one song and enjoy every minute of it. I used to put these on when I would work in the ceramics studio (well along with Norma Jean) and work for hours.
Ben Harper is a great songwriter and a beautiful musician. I feel every song and desire to live every word of his. This guy is probably my favorite musician ever. The album Welcome to the Cruel World is great with is driving rhythms and sparkling lyrics. He kicks the door down on the music world and continues to beat it with the album Diamonds on the Inside. Track two is my favorite. I love the thumping beats in it. If you want to listen to a solid, good artist then Ben Harper is it.
I experienced a time warp driving with a friend near the Glendale Galleria while listening to Ben Harper and talking about Circle K’s drink the super hog? It is supposed to be the Big Gulp type of drink. 7-11 rules with all that noise. Ben and I have shared some great times. I put him in the realm of Chris Issak, which is not on the list but no less appreciated in my life. Chris Issak, Johnny Cash, Roy, Orbison, Hank Willams, and Marvin Gaye need nothing to explain or reflect on their music. Their music is the light into which we steer of vessels.
Take Five by Dave Brubeck
This is the song I will play when my wife and I are sitting in our first place together. This is a cool song and the clarinet is haunting. I wish I was this cool. This was also my birth into jazz.
The ▼ means it is one of my top ten albums as well.