365 Day Song Challenge: Day 44 – “Locked Out”

Day 44. Your favorite song from the 90s

“Locked Out” – Crowded House

Locked Out - Crowded HouseAs we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

So we’re up to the 90s. A decade that will be forever associated with flannel and Seattle.  And yet there was so much more.

A lot of people would probably have picked something by Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Me? I never bought into the Nirvana myth. (If you ask me, Dave Grohl was the really talented one in that band. The Foo Fighters are just so much better.) And I would piss the Pearl Jam people off because instead of something off Ten (which they treat like some sort of sacred cow), I’m much more likely to pick a song like “Leash,” “Spin The Black Circle” (Pearl Jam’s ode to vinyl) or “Off He Goes.”

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Overall, I never really got into the grunge thing. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. There were too many “me too” bands that got airplay that were simply mediocre. Or just plain bad. As a result, the grunge fad (yes, it was a fad) took the attention away from other bands that were either as deserving of it, or in many cases more so.

Crowded House falls into that category. They scored a huge hit the first time out with “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in 1986, but if you were to ask most people, they probably couldn’t tell you much after that. The fact is they released another three albums before (in order):

“Locked Out” was on Together Alone, released in October 1993. It was an interesting time for me. I’d gotten my first job out of college and had moved into my first real apartment. I can picture pulling into the Royal Park Apartments while listening to “Locked Out” on WBRU.  When I got the album, I immediately latched on to the song as my favorite track, an upbeat, guitar-driven track that belied its lyrical subject matter. (The rest of the album? Meh. I wasn’t thrilled with it. I felt the songs were all too similar in tempo and mood. I wanted more stuff like “Locked Out,” frankly. But this was one case where repeated listenings definitely bore fruit, so much so that now Together Alone is my favorite Crowded House album.)

Neil Finn is a craftsman. He tends to write complex songs that sound deceivingly simple, with lyrics that sometimes make you scratch your head. (“Locked Out” doesn’t fall into either of those categories. Maybe that’s why it was so easy for me to get into quickly.) While Crowded House was huge in Australia, they just never got the attention they deserved here.

Side note: We went to see Crowded House on that tour at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. I remember that the opening act was some unknown chick named Sheryl Crow. She had some song—”All I Wanna Do” I think she called it—that was about to be released as a single. She pointed out that the poet whose poem she used as the lyrics was in the audience. I wonder what ever happened to her? Flash in the pan, I guess.

So like, every other one of these decade things, I have some runners-up. Again these are highlights, not a comprehensive list:

All right. I’m off to hide from all the flannel-wearing Kurt Cobain and Ten fanatics. Or those who want to kill me for “MMMBop” and “I’ll Be Your Shelter.” But in the meantime, what did I miss? What’s your favorite of the 90s?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 43 – “The Heart Of The Matter”

Day 43. Your favorite song from the 80s

“The Heart Of The Matter” – Don Henley

Heart Of The MatterAs we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

Oh… My… God…

No, I’m not talking about “Baby Got Back.” (That’s from the 90s.) I’m talking about the challenge of today’s post. There are so many things working against me.

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The point? I started with over 80 possible candidates for today’s post. Eighty! But, unfortunately, it wasn’t the “Top 80 of the 80s” (although I like the sound of that; it might show up someday far down the road). So I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed trying to whittle it down to one. The fact that my head hasn’t exploded and I’m still alive to click the “Publish” button is a minor miracle. But enough complaining.

I picked Don Henley’s “The Heart Of The Matter.” You may be surprised by this. I know I’m surprised by this. It was definitely a dark horse candidate. Heck, until late in the process it wasn’t a candidate. The equivalent of a 660 to 1 bet in horse racing.

But at the end of the day (and we’re approaching it) my selection process came down to feel rather than a cognitive decision. I have a lot of songs from the 80s that I love, but as I went through them, none of them felt like “the one.” Even those from Genesis, The Cars, and some of my other favorites. A lot of people would have picked something by Michael Jackson or Madonna or Bruce Springsteen (Bruce was in the top 80), but none of those felt right for my personal favorite, either.

The more I thought about The End Of The Innocence the more it felt right that something from that album should be my pick, despite the fact that I don’t give it a lot of plays. It’s an amazing album that still sounds fresh over 25 years after it was released but yet somehow retains its (late-)80s identity. And “The Heart Of The Matter” is one of those songs that really evokes a feeling when you listen to it. I thought about picking the song “The End Of The Innocence,” especially since the use of Bruce Hornsby on the piano was another strong link to the 80s, but  ultimately decided it didn’t have quite the right feel, either.

Now, I guarantee that I’ll wake up in the morning and come up with at least 5 songs I should have picked instead, but like Laura said to me, there’s no “correct” answer. So nyah.

I could list all the runners-up but I don’t feel like typing that much, and you probably don’t want to read them all, either. So here are some highlights, in no particular order:

I could go on and on and on and on… but this isn’t “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (Which did not make the top 80.) But, I still have 322 days, so you’ll probably see some of those songs pop up somewhere.

I’m actually thankful this one is over. There was a fair amount of torture and angst here. Kind of like a 80s John Hughes movie. Where’s Molly Ringwald?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 42 – “All Mixed Up”

Day 42. Your favorite song from the 70s

“All Mixed Up” – The Cars

AllMixedUpAs we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

As I go through these exercises I’m finding that on the one hand the less I think about my choice, the better off I am. That is, go with one of the first things that comes to mind, because looking deeper just complicates things and after the initial analysis paralysis I don’t end up picking  any of the additional songs as the favorite anyway. On the other hand,  I tend to find some good runners-up that way, so it’s not a total loss.

I still have to give is some thought, though. For example, you might not know this, but Genesis is my favorite band. (That’s a joke, son. Not that they’re my favorite, but that you wouldn’t know.) Genesis released an album every year of the 70s except for 1979. So you might think that there had to be something they released in that decade that would top my list. And I had to think about that before I ruled it out.

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To be sure, they’re in the top ten, and if you’d have asked this question a few years ago, “Dance On A Volcano” probably would have been my choice. (DOAV was my gateway drug to Genesis’ back catalog, by the way, but that’s a story for another day.) Things change over time, though. Heck, for all I know, “Dance On A Volcano” might be my choice if you asked me next week. But not today.

The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” is actually what came to mind first. I love the song, and again, it’s definitely top ten. It’ll probably show up as a selection for one of these challenges somewhere down the line. (The Cars has so many good songs, I probably could have picked any number of them for this challenge.)

But in some ways, “My Best Friend’s Girl” is too easy. It was a single. It’s very accessible.

I had to work for “All Mixed Up.” You see, when I started getting to The Cars (the album), I actually didn’t care too much for the song. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I was wrong. Maybe it was the minor key. Maybe it was the structure. I don’t know. But I do know it took a long time to grow on me. (But then kept growing on me.)

It has another thing going for it that helps give it the edge. I mentioned in the “Crazy On You” post that when a song really gets me, my face flushes and I can feel it in my cheeks. (Am I the only one this happens to?)

No matter how many times I’ve heard “All Mixed Up” that continues to occur. It happens around 1:40, when the song comes out of the first chorus, the drums change, and there’s a short guitar solo. (It’s the guitar that makes them flush, especially if the room is dark or dim for some reason.) Then the vocals come in: “She’s always out making pictures/She’s always out making scenes.” It’s one of those perfect musical moments for me when everything seems to come together.

Finally, the stats are there to back up the selection. “All Mixed Up” is the most-played song on my iTunes with 96 plays (and counting). That means, since 2006 when I converted to iTunes, I’ve spent nearly 7 hours listening to that song. Just that song. (Yes, I have a life, why do you ask?) “My Best Friend’s Girl” is second with 85 plays, or just over 5 hours 15 minutes of listening time. (It’s also 30 seconds shorter.)

So that’s what I’m going with.

By the way, today’s runners-up (in addition to the aforementioned songs) minus Genesis and The Cars:

For a decade touted for its crappy music, I found it pretty easy to put a list of favorites together. Although some songs were never candidates.

But then, I don’t remember much of the disco craze, so maybe it’s just that I don’t have the PTSD that those who really experienced it do.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 41 – “And Your Bird Can Sing”

Day 41. Your favorite song from the 60s

“And Your Bird Can Sing” – The Beatles

As we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

The 60s start to ratchet up the difficulty for these challenges. And part of that is that music radically changed during the 60s, much of which can be attributed to The Beatles.

You’d have to either be living in a cave or dead not to have heard all the recent hoopla about yesterday’s 50-year anniversary of The Beatles appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” I’ve seen the date referred to as the day the world changed. This isn’t true, but it’s quite possible it’s the day the United States changed musically. The release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band represented another sea change, and a lot of the music that appeared after that would have been completely foreign to the music listeners of February 8, 1964.

Therefore, to me, it’s pretty easy to break the decade into three distinct sections, with the breaks both revolving (ha!) around The Beatles.

What’s less easy is picking a single song from all the wildly differing styles that came out in the course of the decade. (Can you compare “Love Me Do” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”? And that’s the same band!) But I think I’ve done it.

I am one of those seemingly rare people who prefer The Beatles music pre-Sgt Pepper’s. While I like much of what they did later, it didn’t have the sheer joy of their music up to and including Revolver.

I was introduced to “And You Bird Can Sing” watching the old Beatles cartoon. I think they showed it on MTV for a while. They used “And Your Bird Can Sing” as the theme song to the show, but at the time I had no idea what the name of the song was. When they finally released The Beatles catalog on CD in 1987, I discovered the song on Revolver.

It gained a whole new level on my favorite list when Woody and I drove cross-country in 1996. We listened to nothing but Genesis and Genesis-related artists on the road, but when we stopped in towns, we’d take a break from the Genesis and listen to some other things. This song came up several times and, since we share a brain, we discovered we both loved it.

After that, all it would take is for one of us to say “Bomp” (mimicking the first note in George Harrison’s guitar lick in the song) and we’d be off to the races. I still love the song to this day, and even though there were a number of runners-up for the 60’s, I decided this was my winner.

So—quickly—the runners-up were:

Note that they run the gamut from the start of the decade to the end, and also note how different those early songs are from the later ones. I even thought about including “Heartbreaker/Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” by Led Zeppelin, just to push the point, but I didn’t.

So there you have it. Work kept me up (way, way, way) late and I’m just trying to get this one in, so no witty closing today. Maybe I’ll do two tomorrow. But I doubt it.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 40 – “Get Rhythm”

Day 40. Your favorite song from the 50s

“Get Rhythm” – Johnny Cash

Get-Rhythm_Johnny-CashNow that the “singing trilogy” is complete, we move into a week of “Your favorite song of the XXs” series. I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

This topic, and the ones that follow, are going to be tough for me. I find that picking a song based on very specific criterion is a lot easier than picking a favorite of <insert category here>, especially over a period of time.

For example: My favorite song ever? Unlike some people, I don’t have just one. When you get an answer—if you do—it’s going go come along with a bunch of caveats and explanations. I can’t just come out and say something like, “No question! ‘Love Is A Wonderful Thing’ by Michael Bolton is my favorite song.” (I’m praying to God those words have never ever been pieced together in that order before.)

I actually think this is easier if you’re not a big music fan. As it stands, there are too many songs that I love for me to be so singular. On top of that, my choice may change based on my mood, the day, the weather; any number of variables, really.

Having said all that, as the “Favorite song of the XXs” go, the 50s are the easiest for me. Since my preferences run primarily to rock, and having been born in 1970, there aren’t that many songs from the 50s that really grab me.

My theory is this: your favorites tend to correspond roughly to the years you’ve been alive. There are exceptions and extensions of course. (For example, I like a lot of stuff from the 60s, but more on that tomorrow; similarly, I died back in 2004 and was replaced with a look-alike à la Paul McCartney*, but there are still songs coming out today that I like.) So the farther back in time you go, the less you’re familiar with; thus, fewer songs of the day make your list.

Again: in general. Nothing is absolute. (Bonus points if you can tell me what’s wrong with that last sentence.)

The 50s songs that rate highest with me come courtesy of either movies or my mother. (If you’ll recall, my mother was a fan of what she termed “hillbilly music” so that colors the candidates quite a bit.)

My list was quickly narrowed to four:

And finally:

As it turns out, I really enjoy most of those old Sun Records-era Johnny Cash recordings. Maybe it’s the fact that I like trains and that Luther Perkins’ “boom-chicka-boom” guitar style channels the feel of a moving train so well, or maybe it’s just that they’re damn good tunes. Whatever the reason(s), the songs—and “Get Rhythm” in particular—strike a chord with me.

While Johnny Cash is most closely associated with country music, and not rock per se, his influence on rock music is undeniable. Heck, he’s even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (But then, so are ABBA and Madonna, so maybe that’s not a good litmus test. I like ABBA and Madonna, but “rock” they are not.) At any rate, it may not be too crazy that a Johnny Cash song ends up being my choice for the 50s.

Now give me a Coke and a burger while I grease up my hair and put a nickel in the juke box…

* If you look closely, there are clues scattered among the first 39 postings that support this.**
** No there aren’t, and if you believed that, I have a bridge to sell you.