Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gonna Ramble On, Sing My Song...

What makes a song a favorite song?  Is it because everybody else likes it and they are playing it 50 times a day on every station in America?  Maybe.  Is it because the guitar riff is so divine that you can't help but play air guitar sublimely every time you hear it, be it in your own home, in your car on the way to work or in the tampon aisle at Walmart?  Perhaps.  Or is it something more visceral? Does it remind you of the first place you heard it?  Was it playing during your first kiss?  Does it bring back memories of prom night or graduation or maybe just cruising the streets of your hometown on a Friday night?  Most likely.  I think songs we love remind us of certain times in our lives and they bring back pleasant memories and just flat-out make us smile.  A good song makes you happy. A favorite song feels like HOME.

Some people say they couldn't possibly pick a favorite song.  I can understand this dilemma but most folks could surely name a top three.  Three songs that are irrevocably important to your existence.  Unable to go through life without hearing millions of times.  With you through thick and thin and at the highest "You're going to go deaf!" volumes.  Psyched to hear on the radio even if you have it on every medium possible including video.  Everyone can name three songs that make their heart soar, right??  And while that sounds stupid, I'm a believer.  A favorite song can make everything better on a bad day.....can make us sing loud enough in the shower to cause the neighbors to call the cops......and can help transport us to a simpler time in our lives, when everything just seemed.........easy.

My top three songs are Don't Fear The Reaper, Lithium and Thank You.

Blue Oyster Cult's (Don't Fear) The Reaper has been with me for quite some time.  I wish I could tell you where I heard it first or that it was some major revelation the first time I heard it.  I do know I had Agents of Fortune (BOC's fourth studio album) on vinyl and on 8-Track. (That's before even cassette tapes, for you clueless youngsters).  I also had it on cassette and of course on CD.  When you have a favorite song you buy the entire album because of course every song is going to be like lightning in a bottle.  (Not so much, in this case - but all in all not a bad album.) The fact that I love it didn't occur to me right off, but the more I listened the more I liked it.  And then came the kicker.  1978's Halloween used the song during the film. I think that's what did it.  It was an appropriate as hell kind of tune for a horror movie, and the lyrics were forboding and dark.  Let's face it, they weren't fooling around here:

 'Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew and then disappeared
The curtains flew and then he appeared
Saying don't be afraid
Come on baby... And she had no fear
And she ran to him...'

While we're on the topic of depression and suicide, we might as well talk about Nirvana for a moment.  Most know I am a huge fan, but let's take into consideration the fact that I graduated high school in 1986 and their first hit was in 1991.  So I had an entire 22 years before they hit the airwaves....and yet with all the music that came before it, they are still in my top three albums (Nevermind), boast a song in my top three and have countless others that would make a top 100 complete for me.  That's a fairly good track record and says something for their musical prowess.  While Smells Like Teen Spirit was virtually a 90's revelation and became the anthem for a generation, it's not my favorite Nirvana song (while it is certainly right up there.)  Lithium is a crazy-good song that highlights their signature style of alternating between quiet verses and loud (sometimes screamy) choruses.  And it's sublime.  When I hear it, I'm absolutely forced to crank up the volume, it's impossible to listen to softly.  No other song makes me feel quite like makes me feel exceedingly happy.  Obviously it made Kurt Cobain happy as well:  "I'm so happy because today I've found my friends. They're in my head."  Yup, gotta love it.

Thank You, by Led Zeppelin, is a beautiful song that I've loved since probably 1979 or so, well before I entered high school.  Led Zeppelin is my favorite band.  I had - no, have - every album and have many of those on CD as well.  Led Zeppelin II has a splendid track list and has to be considered one of the greatest albums in all of rock. With songs like Whole Lotta Love, Ramble On and Heartbreaker, it's easy to overlook Thank You.  But seriously, the lyrics speak for themselves and have to be some of the best ever written by the Plant/Page duo. 

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.
Kind woman, I give you my all, Kind woman, nothing more.
Little drops of rain whisper of the pain, tears of loves lost in the days gone by.
My love is strong, with you there is no wrong,
together we shall go until we die. My, my, my.
An inspiration is what you are to me, inspiration, look... see.
And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.
Happiness, no more be sad, happiness....I'm glad.
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.

They boast my favorite words put to music.  It also has to be one of the "quietest" songs Robert Plant has ever sung.  It's a song that I've played countless times, too many to count.  And because I associate movies, books and television so vividly with music,  when they played it as the very last song as True Blood went off the air for its last episode, I really thought how perfect that was that they used that song.  It felt like it was meant to be. Pointless, I know.  But music moves me in all different directions.

I have so many other songs that I love, it would take forever to list them all.  There are crazy, silly or perfectly legit reasons for each one.  Some have great significance to me (such as Ozzy's Crazy Train, more on that later) and some I like just because... (like Bob Marley's One Love.) Some songs remind me of my youth long past, like The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald because my mom loved Gordon Lightfoot (as do I.) Some favorites bring my teenage years back into focus, like Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here and Modern English's I'll Melt With You.  Some have lyrics that speak volumes to me (like Thank You, off my favorite Led Zeppelin LP, and Death Cab For Cutie's masterpiece, I Will Follow You Into The Dark.)  Many, MANY songs remind me of drinking wine coolers or Jim Beam out in the cornfields near my hometown, like Bad Company's namesake tune, JCM's Small Town, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gimme Three Steps, Bob Seger's Turn the Page and Phil Collin's In The Air Tonight.  In the last fifteen years or so, every time I hear the song Fisherman's Blues by The Waterboys, it takes me right back to the Outer Banks, where we spend a week each year.  Something as simple as hearing a song play on the website of one of the restaurants there and connecting with it, makes it special.  It's the little things that mean the most, after all.

I believe music is the glue that holds our memories together and puts everything in perspective. So many if not most of my memories have songs associated with them.  For instance, I had a dear friend that my friends and I spent countless hours with who, before he went off to join the service, bought each one of us Bryan Adams' Reckless album.  Seems like a funny thing to do, in a way....but it meant so very much to each of us, and I'm fairly certain that my four fellow friends, when they hear "Summer of '69", have to get a lump in their throat.
Our friend passed away in his early 30's of colon cancer.  Bittersweet memories indeed.

I spoke of the song Crazy Train having special meaning to me.  I know how "crazy" (pun intended) that probably sounds.  But wait...  I have been a very big Black Sabbath and particularly Ozzy Osbourne fan since I was probably around 12.  I once played Iron Man over 50 times in a row until my mother burst into the bedroom and demanded I give up the album to her and listen to something least for a while.  I complied, and I got the album back eventually. (Side note:  my grandmother, after hearing that story, reminded my mom that she did the same exact thing with The Beach Boys Surfer Girl!) But I was hooked.  At many a school dance, my friend Tracy and I would be in charge of playing the records (this is way back kiddos, when we used to have primitive school dances in the gym after football games - I know, hard to imagine!)  Crazy Train was wildly popular and always got played, most nights more than once.  Hold on, this is actually going somewhere..... When I got married, it was a very small affair, just 11 family members in my grandparents' house.  It was just the way I wanted it, as introverted and anti-social as I had become.  We were to head to my parents house for a small dinner after and since there was no traditional reception with a band or DJ spinning tunes, my hubby and I decided that whatever song was on the radio when we started the car was to be "our song".  And as you've already guessed:  it was Crazy Train. But that's how it goes.... (see what I did there?)

Music is the end-all to evoke a certain mood.  When I discovered headphones in probably the seventh grade, there was no better teacher to take me to headphone school than Pink Floyd. It was a love affair that continues to this day, albeit more with earbuds than headphones.  Comfortably Numb and Wish You Were Here are favorites but pound for pound, nothing can ever top The Dark Side of the Moon for sheer bliss in your ears.  This is an album that stayed on the charts continuously from 1973 to 1988, so I wasn't the only one listening.  Another Pink Floyd headphone classic (from the Wish You Were Here LP), Shine On You Crazy Diamond is, for lack of a better word, rapturous.

 Another song that always gets me is Nights in White Satin.  I feel instantly melancholy, in a good way, when I hear that song - and I truly don't know why.  It has such a dreamy feel to it, I guess that's why I love it so much. Thing of the matter is, it is not meant to be a "moody" song, it's a freaking love song.  Listen to the lyrics some time.  I realize a lot of people consider it a downer kind of song, and maybe it is meant to make people feel introspective, with its wistful yet sluggish chorus and the considerably melancholy flute solo within....let alone the alternate ending with the spoken words...I imagine that perhaps it overstays its welcome and is waaaay too long...but it will forever make me FEEL something.  And that is what I look for in a song.

I feel like I need to stop here, lest I ramble on about favorite songs forever and ever... But I will be back with more tales of meaningful songs to me.  Songs like Springsteen's The River and Thunder Road.  Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man.  The Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated.  Van Morrison's Into the Mystic.  Joni Mitchell's River.  Johnnie Lee Hooker's Boom Boom.  Green Day's When I Come Around. David Bowie's Space Oddity.  Even James Taylor's Carolina.  My tastes are eclectic because my life has been thoroughly enriched by music.

What are your three favorites???