This is the record that I best recall being played over and over when I was a kid. Now, I grew up in a household in which country music was the primary background, but there was a good infusion of rock (and classical, and jazz, and...) to support it. Each of my parents had their favorites, and Paul Simon was a frequent go-to. Maybe it was because he had wide appeal in a family with disparate tastes. Maybe it had just been played so much that we all knew it and wouldn't object. For whatever reason, it seems like I've always known this entire album by heart--and I still do. This is the version of "Slip Slidin' Away" that I like the best. "Stranded in a Limousine" always makes me laugh. I remember singing "Still Crazy After All These Years" when I was far too young to see the irony of "after all these years" coming out of my mouth, much less the beautiful heartbreak of the song itself. "Have a Good Time" taught me more about syncopation than did any music teacher I ever had. "Something So Right" could have been my mantra for years:
I’m the first to admit it
I’m the first to admit it
But the last one to know
When something goes right
Oh, it’s likely to lose me
It’s apt to confuse me
It’s such an unusual sight
Oh, I can’t get used to something so right
Something I can’t so right
My brother got this LP for Christmas while he was still living at home, so I couldn't have been older than 11 or 12. I remember the song "Tom Sawyer," how cool it was and how I knew it wasn't quite 'for me' yet. It would be several years before I really 'got' Rush; college, Steve-from-across-the-street, Lucky Lager, falling in love with drums (not just drummers), and listening more to the lyrics and less to the songs, I guess. I realize that Rush is a band that people either love or hate, which I find pretty frustrating. We don't have to agree, and I'm not holding you down and forcing you to listen. Why get on me about what I like? "Red Barchetta" is a raucous, free song that's about a car, and about authority (and contempt for same), and about loving where you came from. And "Limelight" is about what you have to give up in order to have what you've wished for all along. That, and "Freewill" (from Exit...Stage Left) are my favorite Rush tracks.
What's your best "meet-cute" music story? What's the most interesting, clever, unexpected way that you've come to 'fall for' an artist, an album, a song?
Mine is Hello..., which came to me by way of one of my junior high school yearbooks. My monster-big crush at the time, Eric, agreed to sign my yearbook, which was amazing to me. (Looking back, it shouldn't have been so surprising, but I had pretty low self-esteem and he was a Cool Kid so it seemed like the convergence of all that was Awesome in the universe at the time.) When I'd finally retrieved it and scanned through the scribbles to find his personal message, here's what he'd written: "Amy, Hello! I must be going. Eric."
The record had just come out. I got the reference, but then kind of didn't. Was he just...repeating the album title? Or was there some Deeper Meaning behind it? It seemed A Sign. I needed to know! I shook out my piggy bank and cajoled a ride to the record store to buy the album as soon as possible. I had to know!
If you've ever heard "I Don't Care Anymore," you might realize what I was feeling when I first played that record. I had it on full-blast (or as close to that as I am capable of), with my headphones on, lying on the floor in my bedroom between my bed and the wall. Eyes closed. Concentrating. The intro to that song is LOUD. DRUMS. Pounding, amazing, throbbing, vital, painful. Drums.
Oh my good Lord, I was transformed. I no longer cared one whit about Eric. (Well, OK, that's a big flagrant lie, but anyway.) I was in love with this album.
"Do You Know, Do You Care?" spoke to my teen-aged soul. "You Can't Hurry Love" was on the radio every other minute. "It Don't Matter to Me" was very British, in a way that made me wish that I was, too. "Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away." Who wouldn't want someone singing that to you? Seriously?! It made short, pudgy, adorable Phil Collins the most appealing man alive. I didn't understand the subtext beneath "Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning," but I really, really wanted to. I 'bout wore out that LP. Loved it. LOVED it. Thanks, Eric!
The first concert I saw was Depeche Mode, at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Nitzer Ebb opened for them. I'd been a sort of mild Mode fan for a while, but that concert--in the high heat of summer, far from home, surrounded by thousands of Mode fans, outside at night, singing along and dancing--was life-changing. Music had been, before then, a primarily intellectual exercise. Depeche Mode at Summerfest made it both personal and expressive.
That concert was part of the Violator tour, but the CD that I listened to over and over and over that summer was Black Celebration. I loved the title track, "A Question of Lust" and "A Question of Time" are terrific counterpoints. "Stripped," "Here Is the House," and "World Full of Nothing" are great tracks. "Sometimes" is my favorite Depeche Mode song of all time.
Water Music is one of Handel's most famous works. Pinnock's version with The English Concert (which is a performance group, not an event) is my favorite Handel piece, and my classical music of choice in most circumstances. It is gently invigorating without slipping into the category of obnoxiously perky. It is also soothing in its way. I don't spend a lot of time listening to classical music, but when I do, I will seek this out more often than not.
This was the first alternative rock/alternative metal/post-grunge album that really "spoke to me." It came out at a time in my life when I was particularly moody and sensitive, and from the first time that I listened to it, several of the songs seemed to have been written just for me:
"Run Away"--I've Mastered feeling nothing
"Right Here"--I've got some imperfections,
But how can you collect them all
And throw them in my face?
"Schizophrenic Conversations"--you say that I'm weak; show me the proof
"Devil"--I always fail to see the little things in front of me
The things that mean so much to you
Don't keep telling me that it's okay...
"Everything Changes"--I am the mess you chose
The closet you cannot close
The devil in you I suppose
"Take This"--Though you say you understand
You still won't face this
Sister Hazel represents something for me. Choosing to see the good rather than the bad, maybe. Thinking positive thoughts rather than sinking into gloomy all the time. It's a subtle change in philosophy that started slowly--yeah, it's still slow, sometimes so slow that it barely moves at all--but continues nonetheless. Something about these five guys from Florida makes me sing along, smile, and throw off the woe for a few moments.
All their CDs are really, really good. I love their whole backlist, and in fact have bought the entire thing on iTunes so that I can listen to it as one big playlist on long car trips. My voice is a better match to Ken Block's than to Drew Copeland's, but that doesn't stop me from singing along to anything that shuffles up. All that being said, BAM! is the one album that I love from start to finish; there's not one song on it that I don't know by heart, that I don't love for some unique and wonderful reason, and that doesn't mean something special to me. A lot of these tracks are special in part because of having been shared with the Mumbler, and writing about them makes me miss him once again, even more. "Work In Progress," "Little Black Heart," "Grand Canyon," and especially "Can't Get You Off My Mind" are can't-miss songs.
Everyone knows how I feel about Alkaline Trio, so I won't bother explaining how I found them in the first place (years after I should have!), how close I am to where they started out (how could I have literally missed them before?!), and how I have all their discs so that I won't miss anything (even the weirdo EPs and shared discs). I'll just say that Agony & Irony and This Addiction are my favorites--I loved them from the first time I popped them into player in my car--but that A&I beat out TI as the one for this list because it includes my favorite Alk3 song of all time. "Over and Out" is an underrated gem, as is "Do You Wanna Know?" "Live Young, Die Fast" is what I think of as punk for grownups. "Lost and Rendered" and "Ruin It" stand up to heavy repetition and lose nothing in the process. And "Love Love, Kiss Kiss" is one of my favorite songs of all time, expressing regret and heartbreak, insouciance and self-deprecation, all at once.
Grunge passed me by in a lot of ways. At the start of the 90s, I was really drunk really often, or I was involved in very Midwest-centric pursuits that were, to no great surprise, a few years behind the Coasts in terms of what was popular. Apart from what we wore (I was quite comfortable in flannel and ripped jeans), grunge would have had no meaning for me at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and their cohorts were lost to me.
Twenty years later, I heard a song from Backspacer before it was released. It knocked me on my ass and stole my breath--ironically, since it's called "Just Breathe". How had I missed this?! Where could I get more?!
The day that the CD came out, I was at the store. I ripped off the plastic and drove around listening to it. "The Fixer" and "Unthought Known"--damn. The latter gave me chills that I still, even now, get when I hear it.
There are nine titles on this list. Why not ten?
I'm leaving open the possibility--the hope--that something awesome is waiting around the corner for me. I don't want to pull any of my favorites off this list to make room. What could it be?
[the title quotation is by Lord Bishop William Beveridge, from 'Resolutions: Concerning My Actions. V' in Private Thoughts Upon Religion, Digested Into Twelve Articles (1709)]