This all began as most conversations begin these days - on Facebook. I posted something about Billy Joel on my friend Anita's FB page (in response to a conversation we had while out at karaoke the night before) that was not particularly complimentary. Bad Shakespeare (or Michael as some of you know him) was shocked. It was as if in my post I had admitted to not liking puppies or happiness. I happen to love puppies and happiness but I don't like Billy Joel.
And so in honor of Record Store Day, Bad Shakespeare and I decided that we would settle this discussion musically. We would each prepare our Top Ten Life Changing Songs list and respond to the other person's list. For the record (ha!), this is one of the hardest lists I have ever had to make. I felt like I was hurting other songs' feelings by not putting them on the list
Head on over to the Island (http://theislandofmisfittoyseag.blogspot.com/) to find see Bad Shakespeare’s list and my response.
Bad Shakespeare: Thank you Erin. Or TIOMT, as I will call you. No... no I’m going to stick with Erin. Because that's your name. I'm glad we get this opportunity, because even if we may disagree over one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time (and your feelings on puppies, which we may have to discuss at some point.), I think it's important that we have the discussion. Music is important. Music drives our life. No one reading this can point to a song or a poem that didn't change their life in some profound way. I throw poem in there because music is poetry, and my list focused mostly on the words. As Erin mentioned, make sure you go over to her blog to see my list, and to read her response. Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Let's take a look at what Erin has to say about the songs that changed her life...
Erin’s Top Ten Life Changing Songs
1. Rock N Roll Suicide by David Bowie. This is one of my favorite songs of all time. I’d like it to be played at my funeral, not because it’s sad but because it’s insanely comforting. We’re not alone and David Bowie will always be there for us all.
BS: You know, it's always hard to argue with David Bowie. It really is. No, I'm afraid to really argue with him. He's not only King of the Goblins, but he's also the leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent! No, I enjoy David Bowie, and I really like this song. It is sad and comforting and a good "walking the streets while contemplating life" song. I can understand why it's on this list. Even if David Bowie still freaks me out.
2. Kick Out the Jams by MC5. MC5 was one of the most political punk bands to come out of Detroit. I was floored the first time I heard this song. I went through a bit of a hippie phase before I got into punk and this was the song that changed it for me. It wasn’t all peace and flowers – it was explosive and loud. I wanted to live in the percussion of this song.
BS: You didn't really "switch" from hippie to punk with this song so much as punch it in the face, spit on it a few times, and then go dance with punk after hippie's bought you drinks all night. Love it.
3. Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground. I went through a Warhol phase at some point and that’s when I started listening to the Velvet Underground (and I really liked it when Nico was with the band). I didn’t realize rock music could sound like this. Listen to the guitar and the viola together – it’s perfect. John Cale and Lou Reed are amazing musicians and I remember thinking “what just happened?” after I heard this the first time. And I wanted to hear lots more.
BS: I enjoy The Velvet Underground. They're trippy and deep and so many other things I could spend a blog post on them alone. I think everyone should be required to listen to them in literature classes in high school. This isn't just the first time rock could sound like this... this is the first time I think I ANYTHING could sound like this. Ever. It's amazing.
4. Gimme Danger by The Stooges. I love punk music – it’s aggressive, political, and playful all at the same time. People have a misconception that it’s just shouting and loud guitars. For me, this song is about the power of good writing in an aggressive genre. It’s like the guitars are daring you to love Iggy. I love the phrase “kiss me like the ocean breeze” – so not punk but it totally fits. This song led me directly to Nick Cave and I’m grateful for that.
BS: Ah, Iggy Pop. The thing with Iggy Pop and the Stooges (despite the fact that Iggy Pop may be the greatest name on the planet, and the name of my future son) is that they were punk in the way they played their music, but they'd always throw you for a loop in their music. Gimme Danger is the type of song you want to blast while you're wheeling down the road in your hot rod with your girl by your side (in a 1950's movie apparently... get it together Bad Shakespeare, you've got guests today) but when you're alone, you're going to pay attention to those lyrics. And they're going to blow your mind.
5. Thirteen by Big Star. Despite my punk rock tendencies, I’m a big, sappy love song kind of girl. Isn’t this what love is like? It reminds me of passing notes in class. This song has my favorite lyric of all time in: “Won't you tell me what you're thinking of? Would you be an outlaw for my love? If it's so, well, let me know, if it's no, well I can go” – crushes me every time I hear it. I’ve said it on the Island, if a guy seriously sang this to me, I would marry him.
BS: Ah, Erin. You big softie. You hit us with some great punk songs, then you show us a great love song. I've never heard this one before, but you're right, it's extremely beautiful. No further comment is going to be needed on this one, because I'm hoping you're not mocking Vienna too much right.
6. Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. This was the first CD I ever bought and there are lots of really great songs on it; this is the last song on the album. I’m glad I had to wait until the end to hear it for the first time. Tori Amos is an interesting voice in music – she’s playful, artful, religious, and not particularly shy about anything. This song is so complex and full of imagery. I thought she was a total punk with a piano. Tori Amos is the reason I became a feminist.
BS: I'm so torn on Tori Amos, because she was always an artist I wanted to love, but one I never really got because everything she does sounds so sad. Also, I had an ex that swore by everything that came out of Tori Amos' piano, so I got to hear a lot of it.
This is a good time to take a quick break and talk about music's impact in life, while we're discussing life-changing songs. I'll never forget that the day that things really started to go bad with me and this ex (whom I loved), it started over Tori Amos. I swear on a stack of Billy Joel albums the following story is true. One day, this ex of mine started blasting a bunch of Tori Amos songs on repeat. We were working on a few things at her apartment at the time, so I didn't think anything about this. It's like "hey, you like the album. Good for you." And I continued working on whatever it was I was working on. I think I was putting up a shelf of something.
Then, things went south, quick. I started getting screamed at because I didn't ask her why she was listening to Tori Amos on repeat so much. I don't mean a cold shoulder, I mean "you just hit my car after knocking the groceries out of my hands" screaming. I mean turning it up to 11. (And I land the Spinal Tap reference. I just won record store day.) She was listening to Tori Amos because she was sad, and wanted to talk. Apparently I didn't pick up on the psychic vibes given out by a Tori Amos CD. To this day, I can't even hear the name Tori Amos without thinking about that entire sequence, and about how that day was the beginning of the end. You may be great, Ms. Amos, but I'm only associating you with a bad relationship that ended badly, but at the same time fueled many of my characters in things I write. So I guess it says something about the circle of life, and how we all have moments that are bad, and we take what we can from them.
Or just the bad memory of the time I dated that crazy chick. Your call, readers.
7. Because the Night by Patti Smith. I don’t even know where to start with this song. This is a classic love song and I wanted someone to sing it to me when I was a teenager (and in my 20s and now). Patti Smith was the first musician I ever wanted to be and it’s because of this song. I saw her live for the first time in December and it was the best concert I’ve ever been to.
BS: You can't mess with the classics, and you can't mess with Patti Smith. I feel in putting in a love song as classic as this one, you've BS proofed at least one response on this list as something I can't argue with. Well played, Erin... well played....
8. How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths. My older brother introduced me to The Cure. I took it one step further and started listening to The Smiths. Johnny Marr is an awesome guitar player and Morrissey is just Morrissey. It starts with “I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar” and ends with lyrics about being on your own and wanting to die (literally for Morrissey, figuratively for me). If this doesn’t describe high school, I’m not entirely sure what does.
BS: Interesting pick. I don't know that I'd pick this as a great song of theirs, but at the same time, it's a list of songs that changed our lives, not a list of songs that are really, really good. (Although I'd hope they would be the same. At least good to us.) You can't argue with the fact that they are awesome at what they do. I can see how this would speak to a high school student. Not like today's music with their autotune and their Justin Biebers. Before I go onto the next one I'm going to go outside and shake my fist at a cloud.
9. Tipitina by Professor Longhair. When I was growing up in Louisiana, I had little to no concept of all the great music that existed around me. I went to Jazz Fest as a child but didn’t fully appreciate the music until I was older. I love the piano – how can you not? Mostly it’s just ‘Fess bringing the funk and soul into your life. And we all need funk and soul in our lives – that’s what New Orleans music has taught me. Any time I listen to this song I’m immediately transported to a bar in New Orleans.
BS: Ok, before, I had at least a passing reference to the people on your list, even if i haven't heard the song. "Professor Longhair?" Now you're just messing with me.
Ok, I'll play your game. I took a quick listen, and this is an interesting song. And I do like that this is tied to your memories of Jazzfest. I've been to Jazzfest, and what impressed me the most, other than a bunch of musicians were able to perform in a city that manages to have 100% humidity 11 months out of the year, was the fact that you could walk away from one band and just as you got out of range to hear them, you'd start to hear another. I can see being dragged into Professor Longhair's magical musical journey. I can also see that I'm happy I went with "Bad Shakespeare" as opposed to searching for "Professor Longhair."
Seriously, you'd better not be making fun of Vienna right now.
10. Fell In Love With A Girl by The White Stripes. I have an affection for The White Stripes for a lot of reasons and I will talk about all of their albums for hours if permitted. I had gotten very bored with rock music until The White Stripes came along. They renewed my faith in rock and roll. I must have listened to this song a hundred times when I first got this album. There’s beauty in a song under that’s less than two minutes long and nails it completely.
BS: Have you ever seen a movie called Coffee and Cigarettes? It's a weird movie, and Jack White and his sister are in it. Jack White builds a Tesla Coil, and hilarity ensues. (Bill Murray also serves the Wu-Tang Clan at a diner.) I can't see them without thinking that. Again, we have something that's difficult for me to argue with: The White Stripes rule. They brought back a sound that was missing for years. And Jack White may be one of the most talented artists to come around in a while. This is a song that manages to pull off a great song, but nails everything that's great about the band in under two minutes. This is another one that should be required listening for literature students.
I hope you all enjoyed this. Now put down your computers, look up your local record shop (there aren't many left) and go out and support them. Then come back here and read back through the Bad Shakespeare and Misfit Toys Archives.