Tag Archives: music

5 Amazing Songs

As per request (and writing prompt) from one of my dear readers and a fellow music devouter, I’d like to share 5 amazing songs that build up emotion in my chest, take me to happy and far away places, or just leave me whirlishly dancing on the chipped-tiled kitchen floor.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

This song of course is married to the ever-universal teen angst classic The Breakfast Club, making it even that much more endearing. That last scene when the song smacks in and John Bender gives a requited fist pump in a freeze frame forever is one of the best movie endings.

Don’t You Forget About Me reminds me of precious 80’s nostalgia, the innocence and simplicity there regarding music and hand-written letters and Walkmans and trips to the mall sans security personnel.

And the meaning: Don’t you forget about me. We all want to be remembered. We cannot let time or circumstance or distance allow the brain to turn us into static and the heart unforgiving or worse, ignored.

This one is for belting out fearlessly and dancing feverishly.  My students have seen me do this. On my fortieth birthday this is the song I boldly requested at the skating rink among all the preteens and their Taylor Swift enthusiasm. I’ll be singing and dancing to this one when I’m an old, old lady.

Don’t you forget about me. I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby…

 

Us and Them by Pink Floyd

I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on a constant loop along with The Cure’s Disintegration on a summer stint in Italy in my early teens. I know Roger Waters was talking about war in his lyrics but to me the “us” and “them” represented both the subtle and not-so-subtle differences I experienced between Americans and Italians. We spoke different languages, ate at different times of the day, looked different, but in the way we were different we were also the same. Just people trying to make it in the world, experience life, try not to trip on pebbles.

To this day, every time I hear that keyboard intro I feel the welling up in my chest. I am completely transported back to that balcony in Sardinia, back to that innocent 15 year old taking in everything never witnessed back in Antioch, Tennessee. I’m reminded of all the people I met and their cultural and nurturing influence on me.

Us, and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men…

 

The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles

The Beatles were a big part of my growing up. They were not forced on me but rather gently introduced as my parent’s record collections included many Beatles albums and 45s. My brother and I would sit on the shaggy carpeted floor of our basement-turned-playroom and listen to them on our Fisher-price turntable. We fashioned ourselves as rock singers, belting out tunes as the grated vinyl spun round and round.

But when Fool on the Hill rolled along and into the tiny speaker, we would quietly sing together. Never looking up, frozen in that moment with lyrics and melody I swear brought welling up in my goofy sibling’s eyes.

That is one of my strongest and most fond memories of us together as children. Later in our teens we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky with a group of like-minded friends to see Paul McCartney in concert. I was enthralled to be in the presence of a Great. And to enjoy it with my bro at my side.

But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round…

 

A Forest by The Cure

This haunting song is one of the reasons I will forever be a Cure fan and Classic Alternative junkie. I was first introduced to the Cure when Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came out. During this era I was blown away by this sound which at the time never reached the local radio airwaves.

A Forest mirrored my teen angst, depression, and need for creative inspiration as sheets of rain seemed to fall endlessly in the grey, Tennessee winter. This dirge didn’t exasperate my feelings as my parents agonized. Instead it encapsulated and provided solace. I wasn’t alone in my fervor.

And just the word forest. It conjures images of lush foliage where mystery hides and escape is possible.

A few summers ago I was driving alone in North Florida on a windy road away from friends and family with whom I’d just spent an unforgettable week. As soon as I entered Tate’s Hell State Forest, an unforgiving ominous expanse of swampy woodland, my GPS fell silent and A Forest shuffled on my auxiliary. I don’t know if there’s ever been more perfect timing between song and circumstance.

Come closer and see, see into the trees…

 

The Dead Heart by Midnight Oil

I could write an entire blog post about songs by Midnight Oil but for the purpose of not turning this into a biography I’ll sample this one.

I was introduced to Midnight Oil via the video for Bed’s Are Burning, seen on MTV’s Friday Night Videos. This unique sound from Australia fronted by a bald, passionate giant literally left me gasping in its strum guitar and water tank drum beats. I was instantly transformed. Life would never be the same. And then began a life-long love and adoration for the band, their extensive collection of songs throughout the decades, and their messages about equality and the environment.

The Dead Heart evokes singing and whirling, and to the tune of aboriginal rights in Australia. It’s as serious as it is heartfelt and in the end a hopeful dance. The Oils do a fantastic job of informing while entertaining and this song is no exception. When I hear it I’m in the Outback as well as on my old friend’s balcony (what’s with me and balconies) back in ’87 when all this alternative rock hoopla began voluntarily infiltrating my soul.

Midnight Oil will forever be my favorite band of all time. And The Dead Heart is just one of many that fill me with emotion, the need to research, to help bring about change, and yes, to belt it out and move.

These 5 songs helped shape who I am. What are yours?

 

 

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A Special Place

I’ve been listening to Midnight Oil nonstop for the past week. This wasn’t the case for chunks of time in the past decade. New music tastes, life occurrences, the band’s parting of ways on the stage and in the studio led my ears away from my FAVORITE BAND OF ALL TIME. But they were never gone from my heart. Ever since those warm Tennessee days in 1987 when I awoke to this new sound from a country so far away, they have stayed in my auditory cortex, in my blood.

Music lovers all over the world recognize this. If given the means and time I would have seen every show they ever did. But I’ve danced to them three times live, once just a week ago.

I traveled from Florida to Toronto to see them. It had been fifteen years. They are currently on a reunion tour. Fans all over the globe coming out in droves. Waiting in line for hours. Donning their old concert tees. Swapping stories. A quirky, nerdy, socially and environmentally conscious group of people sharing a diehard love for this Aussie band we only dreamed would reunite.

This rekindling of my love for the band has me sifting through all their albums and compilations and remembering why I started listening to them in the first place. They were different from any of the alternative bands I was listening to at the time and definitely different from the bubblegum pop dominating the radio. They brought global awareness even though many of the issues I did not quite understand, me living in Antioch. Who is Jimmy Sharman, where is Alice Springs, and what is a bullroarer? Midnight Oil inspired me to be more environmentally conscious, to research, to write, explore, travel, dance wildly.

I listened to them in my teens when I needed to be understood. I listened to them while waiting for my dad to have brain surgery. I listened to them while pushing my son in the stroller. I’m listening to them now as I write this, those teen years long gone, wrinkles on my face, my father alive and well, my son now a teenager.

Thank you Midnight Oil for sharing your gifts of music and awareness with the universe. Thank you for coming together, perhaps one last time, to re-instill all that we love about you and continue to. A special place in our hearts, always.

And damn did you rock the stage.

 

 

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As it Exists in our Minds

They say you can’t go back. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. But sometimes it’s inevitable.

Steely Dan Radio on Pandora. That’ll do it for me. A tinge of past immediately starts flowing through the neurons and blood stream. Back to childhood days in my dad’s mustard El Camino or hunched over the Fischer-Price record player with my brother.  Back to teenage days, cycling through songs on random play from the new CD player. Back to college days, blasting out the sub woofers in my ’87 Nissan Sentra. And about a hundred other memories involving a Steely Dan song.

Whether you want it to or not, music will take you back.

There are those songs you can’t bear to hear. Either they bring back a dark memory or someone you’d rather not keep in your consciousness. Those we turn off as soon as we can, if possible. Or perhaps we need a good cry out and we let it rip.

Then there are those songs that fire up our frontal lobe like fourth of July sparklers and we are transported to a time and place no longer existing. Even if our childhood homes are still intact, or the city in which we grew up, it is never the same.

I guess that’s why they say you can never go back. Because no matter how bad we may want it to be there, it is gone.

And that is one of the many beauties of music– enabling us to hold onto a moment as if we were right there. Right there in our dad’s old car. Right there on the front porch with the Walk-man. Right there in the school parking lot with our quirky friends. Right there dancing with Grandma. Or and old friend. Or an old flame. Those that have moved on or passed away. In this moment they are alive.

And this is why I play Steely Dan on Sunday morning. So I won’t forget.

El Camino

 

 

 

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Bathing In

I need to bathe in the music of the soul

That which is beautiful and free
without sadness

I don’t want to bathe in the bloated belly
of discontentment and sorrow
and hopelessness

There is a light out there
that shines brighter than any
chasm is dark

And it doesn’t blind
but leads and fulfills and carries
when the void does come

Bathe with me in this

Engulf in the sweet luminous sound
of all that is good in this world.

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In the Quiet of the Evening

In the quiet
the quiet of the solitary evening
my ears are laid to rest

I do not have the usual music playing
to remind me
to excite
to awaken
to inspire me

Instead there is stillness
a slight hum from the motherboard
a distant helicopter buzzing east

I cup my left ear to hear the sounds in the proposed silence
and they are magnified
almost sound as if a hundred crickets are singing me to sleep

This absence of noise is welcome
my ears need a break
my mind needs space
my heart needs to feel, ache, mend, hope.

 

 

 

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Hippy Music

I just took a road trip back to the motherland (Tennessee) with my son Ian. He usually has his ears plugged into his music via iTunes collection on iPhone and cushy headphones. “I’m gonna listen to some music ok?” He always tells me before going into his music world. Because god knows he cannot hear me once that happens. 

He appreciates a pretty decent range of genres for an 11-year-old. Lately he has been into Rhett & Link, YouTube stars who create some pretty humorous videos and songs. My favorite is the one about OCD because I can relate to wincing when a chip bag is opened from the wrong end or one blind slat is flipped the opposite way. 

Ian usually shares what he’s listening to and loves to sing the songs to me, especially if there’s a rap bit. He’s got a great memory (multiplication tables excluded) and can repeat lyrics quickly after he hears a song a couple times. 

He knows my complete adoration and need for music as there is some sort of speaker in every room in the house. So his love of music is well, music to my ears. But he has still not grasped the importance of appreciating The Beatles.

My brother Art and I spent hours and hours of our childhood in the basement listening to our parent’s old 45s. Thus a lifetime of Beatle love was born. 

Halfway into the road trip Ian didn’t have his headphones on and wanted to just sit quietly next to me wondering if we were there yet. He needed a break from his electronics. Bob Dylan was echoing out of the car speakers. 

“Sorry you gotta listen to my hippy music,” I said half apologectically. 

He shrugged under his downy blanket. 

“Do you know what a hippy is anyway?”

“I know some of what a hippy is.”

“Well what do you know?” I asked.

“Someone who drives a van covered in peace signs and does drugs?”

“Well not exactly.

I explained to him what a hippy was. How their culture came from a revolutionary movement during a time of war and unrest. He wasn’t fidgeting or distracted. He was listening to me. So I decided to take this time while we were encapsulated in the car together to teach him a bit about history. Musical history. 

  
I have my Sirius satellite radio favorites at the ready and will switch between them depending on mood. Each time I landed on a great road-trip worthy song (mainly those that you can sing along to and don’t put you to sleep or drown you in their sorrowful lyrics) I took the opportunity to tell him a bit about the artist, the genre, and what was going on at the time. 

When a Paul McCartney song came on I told him how each member of the Beatles had their own solo career and how I had seen Paul in concert back in the nineties in Louiville with his uncle Art and some friends. “Is Paul dead now?” He asked. I explained to him that Paul and Ringo are the two remaining Beatles on this earth. 

I told him about grunge music when Nirvana came on. And what an integral part they played introducing the Seattle-based guitar heavy sound to the world. “What is he saying, Mom?” 

Yeah.

I told him how I couldn’t listen to Stars by Hum when he was away from me because it reminded me of how much he loved that song when he was very little. 

I told him about New Wave and early alternative when Morrissey’s melodic groaning flowed through the satellite airwaves. And how I got a speeding ticket once while rocking out to Pop Muzik by M. 

I’m hoping he’ll remember some of what I explained to him. I don’t have old 45s for him to listen to (my bro took all those before I could protest). But perhaps he’ll raid my cassette or CD collection one day or download a Beatles song. And perhaps he’ll even remember the lyrics to Let ’em In the next time he hears it. 

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That’s My Jam

I have satellite radio in my car. It is one of the best inventions of our time. You can cruise to about any genre of music you’re in the mood for. No commercials. Even news (bleh), comedy, live concerts, and interviews. No commercials!

Today I was running errands under a cloudy sky when Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven bounded from The Bridge and out of my kick-ass Prius factory speakers. Yes, despite that I named my car “the Blue Vagina” the sound system really kicks ass.

Listening to Stairway’s melody on a sunless morning reminded me of my mom and days when we drove thirty miles to her parent’s house for a visit. That trek from Nashville to Murfreesboro was flat like these Florida streets. Except in my memory those Tennessee trees were barren of leaves. I looked out of the passenger window as a teen and caught a glimpse of the train track running parallel to the monotonous roadside. Sometimes a train would slowly lurch forward, never quite keeping the car’s pace. Most of the time the tracks were empty. But the flashes of naked-limbed oaks and maples blurred by as if they were a locomotive. And many times a Zeppelin song would resound from Nashville’s premier classic rock station. Mom has said Stairway is her favorite.

When I hear a Doobie Brother’s song, which sometimes plays from the satellite radio and sometimes from my phone or TV on Pandora (another fabulous invention) I think of my dad. I always have this vision of him washing his rust-colored El Camino in the driveway of the first house I really remember. I must have been four or five. Don’t know why this one instance has stayed with me so long. I can even see his dark blue jeans, slightly flared as the bell-bottom style was hanging on for its last days of glory. He had a Burgundy mustache. He sudsed the car with military precision. Later I would come to despise this meticulous way of washing the car. But damn if his cars never bore a water spot post-dry.

Thank God my parents introduced good music to me and my brother. When we weren’t listening to it in the El Camino or the Minivan we were in the basement scouring their old 45s. My love for the Beatles flourished early. Doobies, Zeppelin, New Wave and Alternative rock were to follow.

Remember the Walkman? I distinctly remember pacing my driveway with it, waiting for the DJ to play Karma Chameleon. And when it finally leapt through the headphones I was completely ecstatic in my knee-highs. “They’re playing my song!”

Now with iPods and whatnot we don’t have to wait all day. We can listen to any song any time we want. And this is a great invention, too.

But there is something to be said for having your jam played just at the right moment when you don’t expect it. That’s how it was when I heard Stairway. A happy surprise mirroring my now life with my past.

Music reminds us of people, places we’ve been, seasons, eras. It’s the soundtrack we drive to as the scenery passes by like a long train runnin.

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