365 Day Song Challenge: Day 59 – “Don’t Give Up”

Day 59. A song whose lyrics you take advice from.

“Don’t Give Up” – Peter Gabriel (featuring Kate Bush)

Don't Give UpSometimes you get those situations where life just beats you down.

I ran into one of those many years ago. I won’t go into details, but I’d been wrongly accused of something, and the accusation hit me hard. I was depressed. (Even thinking about it now brings me down, so this post will be short.) At the time, I had no idea what to do or what was going to happen.

I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s So album (yes, he was finally coerced into an album name other than Peter Gabriel) one day while all of this was going on. I was very familiar with the album by that point, but there had never been any real personal connection.

And then “Don’t Give Up” came on. The song on the whole deals with a man who’s at the end of his rope because of employment and financial issues. While that was not my situation, there were many lines in the song that seemed to hit home.

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Like this:

In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

And this:

Rest your head
You worry too much
It’s going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don’t give up
Please don’t give up

But mostly this:

Don’t give up
‘Cause you have friends
Don’t give up
You’re not the only one
Don’t give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up
You still have us
Don’t give up now
We’re proud of who you are

This last part was what really hit home. This is basically what my family was telling me, if not in so many words. They knew what was being said wasn’t true, and they were behind me. I don’t know exactly why their words didn’t affect me as directly as the lyrics to the song did, but that’s how it worked out.

I don’t know how the protagonist in Peter Gabriel’s song fared in the end, but my story’s ending was good. The truth came to light, which brought the whole ordeal to a close. There are still some emotional scars that haven’t healed, but that’s all part of life.

The important thing is I never gave up.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 58 – “Cool Change”

Day 58. Your therapist in a song.

“Cool Change” – Little River Band

little-river-band-cool-change-capitol-9Stress. Stress! S-T-R-E-S-S.

Sound familiar? I don’t think any of us are immune. Except me, obviously. I never get stressed. What do you mean “what about that facial tic”? I’m completely calm. I don’t have a facial tic! Everything is under control.

Okay, maybe even I am not immune. I’m generally a pretty “go-with-the-flow” kind of guy, but there are times when things keep piling up on me and I feel it.

The end of my Senior year of college was like that. There was the course load, which included two multi-term major projects that were required for graduation. And my job. (A workstudy job, which was only ten hours a week, but still part of the pig pile.) Student government. The tail end of my stint with the student newspaper. And because of the economy at the time, the looming reality of “the real world” but no looming likelihood of “a real job.”

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In short, I had a lot on my plate. I was busy and I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep.

My schedule was such that, between eating lunch and going to the office for work, I had about 40 minutes of actual free time each day. So I used that time like any sane, busy person with lots going on would.

I napped.

That’s when I discovered just how refreshing a 20 minute nap could be. During these naps, I would put on some music. For some reason, the choices tended to be either Paul McCartney’s Tripping the Live Fantastic – Highlights! or Little River Band’s Greatest Hits (the original version, before they remastered it and added a whole bunch of songs). The latter ended with “Cool Change.”

The song, in general, talks about loving the water (which I do), spending time sailing (which I don’t) and needing a change (as you might expect from the title). The chorus goes like this:

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change”

Between the water imagery, my schedule, and my own need for change, I felt a connection with the song. Somehow, listening to it and visualizing the relaxed atmosphere of the ocean allowed me to decompress, if even for only a short while. It just made me feel better.

For me, therapy isn’t about advice, or what the therapist thinks, it’s about identifying a problem, and talking and/or working your way through until you determine how to mitigate it. In my opinion, the best therapists are nothing more than sounding boards, who might interject a little something to get you to the solution, but ultimately, it needs to be your own solution. The “therapist,” then, could be an actual therapist, a friend, a place, or a song. “Cool Change” fit the bill for the situation I was in at that time.

I still listen to it if I’m feeling stressed or if my schedule seems a bit too “prearranged.” I expect I’ll need “Cool Change” a lot this year, actually. I once again have a lot going on.

Either that, or that tic is just going to get worse.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 57 – “Did You Ever Look So Nice”

Day 57. Your favorite song from your favorite genre.

“Did You Ever Look So Nice” – The Samples

The Samples - No RoomSeriously? Another broad “favorite” topic? Like the song that I’m likely to pick for this topic wasn’t covered in the “decades” posts here, here, here, here, here, or here? Don’t these people know I’m trying not to duplicate?

So, you want to play that way, huh? Well, fine.

Today my favorite genre is “songs I first heard while writing music reviews for the student newspaper in college that were released on independent labels where the CD was eventually stolen.” Sure, it’s doesn’t quite have the flow or simplicity of “Rock” or “Pop” but then, people do crazy things where they’re desperate.

Ranting aside (for now) this really is one of my favorite songs. It’s probably pretty likely that you haven’t heard of The Samples before. That’s okay, I can forgive you. I probably wouldn’t have either if it wasn’t for the music review gig. Per Amazon, “The music has been described as ‘reggae influenced folk and rock/pop'” which is how I would have put it myself, but maybe not as succinctly. Also per Amazon, “The band’s name came from the members’ early sustenance of food samples from the local grocery store” which I did not know, but would have been a handy trivia tidbit for the review at the time. (They were really taking the “starving artist” thing pretty seriously, I guess.)

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The CD came to us via “Al Bum’s.” It was a local, independent record store and we had an agreement with them where we traded albums for ad space. The manager there (who we knew only as “Geo” even though his real name was Frank) was a chain-smoking guy with bad teeth. But he knew his music. So he would point out interesting things that were being released, and we’d pick them up. I liked this song the very first time I listened to that CD.

Even after the review (which would have been sometime in 1992), this CD got a lot of play in the Newspeak office. Music was about the only thing that would get you through the tedious Saturday editing sessions. (Have you ever tried editing something written by an engineer? Horrible. Multiply that by 30 and you have my Saturday afternoons for 4 years.)

And then one day the CD was gone. Vanished. No sign of it. (You get the idea.) We were all pretty bummed.

In September 1993 I was a few months into my first job and I started rooming with a guy who I’d known while at school (and was also on the paper staff). One day I went looking for a CD to listen to and noticed No Room sitting on the shelf. A-ha! He sheepishly owned up to it. So being the honest type, what did I do? I listened to it again and enjoyed it immensely. (Yeah, I’m honest, but it wasn’t like I was going to go back to school and return it to a bunch of people who no longer cared.) I got my own (legally acquired) copy sometime later.

But back to the song. True to Amazon’s description, it is most definitely reggae-influenced; the prominent bass line drives it, no question. If you’re a regular reader (and if you aren’t, why not?) you know that a good bass line can can be enough to grab my attention, and I think that’s what hooked me in the first place, here. But it’s not just the bass line that’s good. It’s a well-constructed song overall.

Besides “Did You Ever Look So Nice,” which is my favorite, there are a number other good songs on the album (“Summertime,” Nothing Lasts For Long” and “Won’t Be Back Again” to name a few), and I’d certainly suggest checking it out. But “Did You Ever Look So Nice” is the highlight of the album for me. Twenty years later it still makes me smile when I hear it.

I’m really hoping this is the last broad “favorite” post. If not, I might just have to invent… uh… “identify” some more genres.  Who needs overly simple genres like “Pop and “R&B” anyway?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 56 – “Werewolves Of London”

Day 56. A song that is insanely simple/repetitive, but that you consider awesome anyway.

“Werewolves Of London” – Warren Zevon

Werewolves Of LondonOn some of these posts you really have to think. Even if, when you find the right song, it’s accompanied with an “I-could-have-had-a-V8” forehead slap, shake of the head, and “Of course!” spewing from your lips.

If you think about it, pop music in general is based on the concept of repetition. Repeated chords, repeated phrases, repeated choruses. But there are some that just take it to the extreme. The most simple and repetitive song I know was obvious. It’s essentially 2 notes. Over and over and over and over and over and… The problem is, that song, “The Macarena” sucks. So much so that there aren’t enough formatting choices available here to emphasize the word “sucks.”

Therefore, it doesn’t even come close to qualifying for today’s post, because it’s about the farthest, most polar opposite of “awesome” that you can possibly have. Even Michael Bolton is better. The only thing I can think of in nature that sucks more is a black hole. And even that may be a tie.

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I had been thinking about a good song to use for a while, and not having a ton of luck. Then, I was driving home from a meeting when someone starting telling me about seeing a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand.

Cue the forehead slap.

“Werewolves Of London” was released in 1978, and I’ve liked it since I first heard it, which would have been within a couple of years after release at the most. But there’s no question it’s a pretty repetitive song. The main piano riff is eight notes/chords over two measures. (I counted.) Those notes are played 42 times over the course of the song’s 3:26. (I counted.) There are 14 “Ah-ooooo”s. (I… well, you know.) But somehow I never seem to notice.

I think I can bear the repetition because it’s a song where I’m actually focusing on the words. There’s a lot of interesting imagery going on in the story, and I think that saves it. How many songs can boast of having Lon Cheney and the Queen mentioned? (In the same phrase! Twice!) To me it’s a little slice of brilliance from a guy who wrote some seriously bizarre songs. (“Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner,” anyone?)

“Werewolves” isn’t, of course, the only repetitive song I like. So today we have some honorable mentions:

There are many others, of course. Tell me your favorites. Let the debate begin!

Incidentally, I wonder if that werewolf ever found Lee Ho Fooks to get his Beef Chow Mein?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 55 – “Hey Ya!”

Day 55. A song you’ve listened to so many times that you just can’t listen to it anymore.

“Hey Ya!” – OutKast

Hey Ya!I don’t listen to a lot of radio. I haven’t for years. As a result, when a song becomes ubiquitous on the radio and everyone else is getting sick of it, I’m fairly immune.

In 2004, I had just taken a new job. It was a small office and the policy at the time was that individual radios were okay. I didn’t have one, but Julie, the woman in the cubicle across the aisle, did. She listened to “Magic 96.5”, which had a top 40-ish “work-friendly” format.

That translates to having heard a lot of “This Love” by Maroon 5 (who, incidentally, should move like Jagger out in front of a moving freight train); “The Reason” by Hoobastank; “Why Don’t You And I” by Santana & <insert_guest_singer_based_on_your_country_of_origin_here>; and “Hey Ya!” by OutKast. Of the four, “Why Don’t You And I” is the only one I can listen to with regularity and would actually say outright that I like. I think you can guess how I feel about “This Love.” (Yes, I still find it completely barf-inducing.) “The Reason” is meh and “Hey Ya!” is… well, it’s today’s topic.

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Now, I was never a huge fan of the song to begin with, so when it became the “played every hour on the hour” song of the month, it grew very tiresome, very quickly.

Thus, “Hey Ya!” is not a song I listened to so much I can’t listen to it any more; it’s a song I heard so much that I can’t listen to it any more. Which is, in fact, worse, because you have no control over the situation. It’s not like I could have walked over and changed Julie’s radio to a different station. (Well, I could have, but trust me, as nice as Julie typically is, the results would not have been pretty.)

10 years later, it’s still not a song I gravitate toward (it’s not even in my iTunes collection), but at least I can stomach it now.

Honestly, it was a YouTube video that got “Hey Ya!” out of the doghouse. Some brilliant soul decide to mix OutKast with the Peanuts Gang and the results were sheer genius. That video is my equivalent of a “happy place.” When the song comes on, I picture the video, and it makes me smile. This is much better than the alternative, which involves weapons and sharp things.

As time went by, due to various changes, radio use was curtailed, and I eventually moved to an office with a real door and everything. So my exposure to the “magic” of Magic 96.5 was short-lived. (Thankfully, or I, too, might have been short-lived. Refer to “weapons and sharp things” above.)

That said, my exposure does result in the occasional Maroon 5-induced nightmare from time to time. But that’s what therapists are for, right?

Charlie Brown and Snoopy 3000…