Friday, June 3, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Pt 2: 20-11

I think the 30 Day Song Challenge on Facebook was one of the coolest Facebook time wasters they ever came up with. I decided when I was finished with the challenge I would write a blog about my choices and kind of go into more detail about why I made some of my decisions. This is the second part of what will be a three part series.

Part II - 20-11

20. A Song I Listen To When I'm Angry

I remember the exact moment I first listened to "OK Computer" by Radiohead. Nick Bradford and I had just gone to the book barn to spend money on CD's, and Nick bought it. He told me he had owned the CD at one time, but his ex-girlfriend stole it when they broke up with each other, and he'd always loved the album. Radiohead was a band I only had a passing familiarity with. I knew "Creep" and "Karma Police," and that was about it. Nick couldn't believe I had never heard the album before and after we bought it we drove around in his red Mustang and listened to the entire album. "This is quite possibly the most angsty album you will ever hear," he told me. To this day I think he was right about that. At that time, right out of high school and just starting college, I was in a weird place emotionally. I was bitter toward love, pissed off at God, and sinking into the vacuum of nihilism. In short I was mad at everyone and everything, and this album, and in particular this song, became my banner. The song starts at such a passive, emotional place, and builds to this all out assault of anger, ending on maybe one of the most hateful phrases in songwriting history, "We hope that you choke, that you choke." Yes, for the years that followed, this song would be played many more times, and from time to time I still rely on it.

19. A Song From My Favorite Album

Dylan had to make this list eventually. It was inevitable. My favorite album of all time is Dylan's Bootleg Series Volume 4: 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert. If I could save one of my albums from utter destruction it would be this one. Here, we see Dylan at a crossroads - his departure away from folk and his embrace of rock and roll. It is a snapshot into a very significant point in modern music history (top 5 for sure), and the album itself illustrates this - a Dylan concert in two parts: an acoustic set where the crowd is warm and inviting and an electric set where the crowd boos him and at one point yells "Judas!" at him. "Visions of Johanna" is by far my favorite Dylan song, and this version of that song is the one I prefer above all others. It's slowed down, acoustic, and personal. That's all I can say about this entry, as I've already written a post about this song. I invite you to read it.

18. A Song I Wish I Heard On The Radio

I don't listen to the all. I hate the music that's played on it. So yes, I would like to hear some Mountain Goats on the radio. Why wouldn't I?

17. A Song I Hear Often On The Radio

In the rare event I do listen to the radio it's usually an oldies station, and it never fails that I hear this song. Also, I really hate this song!

16. A Song I Used To Like But Now Hate

In 7th and 8th grade I was all about Led Zeppelin. I used to crank my Zeppelin Greatest Hits cassette tape while I played Secret of Mana on Super NES. As time went on, though, I became interested in other kinds of music, and Led Zeppelin became less and less impressive to me. It also didn't help that every time I went into a bar, or a head shop, or talked to any skeezer about music Led Zeppelin was usually a band that was playing or talked about. For me Zeppelin is a lot like Jerry Maguire - great the first time I saw it, but annoying after the next 89,000 times. The same holds true for "Stairway To Heaven."

15. A Song That Best Describes Me

I said in my original post that there were several reasons I chose this as a song that best describes me. I will now point out those reasons.

1. It's Muppets. My love and admiration of the Muppets is well documented, and they have been a cornerstone of my life, and have shaped a lot of my attitude toward life.

2. It's Comedy. The secret to comedy is timing, and this sketch is one of the best examples of it. Kermit sets up the bit as Irish themed. We see the curtain go up, and there are a few seconds before the singing happens and we see, Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal in green hats. There is a pause. We know something funny is coming, but we're still not prepared for it, as the three most inarticulate Muppets sing Danny Boy, a song that is supposed to be sorrowful. It makes me cackle every time I see it and hear it. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, so this song being so steeped in comedy also describes me very well.

3. Like I said before, the song is "Danny Boy," a sad Irish ballad about someone who has died. My family has deep roots in Ireland on both sides. Irish music stirs a lot of emotions in me that can only be explained as old and ancestral. And it's a sad song, which typically are the kinds of songs I like to listen to and create.

14. A Song No One Would Expect Me To Like

Kellen Neubert and Gordon Campbell and I used to listen to Wu Tang on the way to lunch everyday during high school. I associate a lot of great memories of playing chess in Mr. Bastin's classroom during lunch to "Bring Da Ruckus." Plus, I have a secret obsession for hardcore gangsta rap.

13. A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure

"Coney Island Baby" isn't so much the guilty pleasure here. Barbershop music as a genre is the guilty pleasure. Ever since I was like seven years old I wanted to be in a barbershop quartet. I think they are the pinnacle of coolness. I'm also a dork.

12. A Song From A Band I Hate

I really hate Hanson. I hated them when they were popular. I hate them now as an adult. To me it was just bubble gum music. I had a girl in high school try to explain to me that there was a deeper meaning to "MmmBop," that it referred to a fleeting moment in time that you can't describe in words. I told her I thought it was just a stupid song hook. At any rate, I really hate this song!

11. A Song From A Band I Love

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is a very close second behind Dylan's Bootleg Series Volume 4: 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert as an album I'd want to save from total destruction. It's another one of those snapshots of a crossroads in modern music. Here the Beatles have decided to stop touring, their manager has died, and for once they are at a place where they can really explore their potential as musicians and artists. Before "Pepper" came out, there had been a period of several months where no one heard anything from the Beatles. Many critics thought the band was done, another flash in the pan that couldn't survive under the weight of their own success. Then they released "Pepper" in 1967, and it was similar to when Dylan went electric. Their old fan base hated them and turned away from them, but their reward was a much greater, much more appreciative fan base. The album changed the kind of band they were, and became the measure for the kind of music that followed. Even to this day when we talk about the best album by a particular band, we refer to it as that band's "Sgt. Pepper."

At the end of "Pepper" is what I consider the Beatles strongest song - "A Day In The Life." This song has so many things go on that make it great. I hope I can hit them all.

First, the vocals are haunting. George Martin did a fantastic job weaving John's already brilliant vocals around the main song, and blended Paul's bridge into the middle beautifully.

Second, with the exception of maybe "Across The Universe" or "Elenor Rigby," I think lyrically this song might be the strongest. The meaning sits on the edge of ambiguous, but the combinations of words is a vivid tapestry.

Third, it builds. MY GOD DOES IT BUILD! We climb this mountain with this musical mountain or lyrics and instrumentation. At one point we think the symphony is taking us someplace great, but we're dropped down again into Paul's bridge, only to be carried back down on John's voice to the final verse, but then the symphony rises, and rises, and rise, and then all of sudden BONG!!!! The song ends in quite possibly the most perfect way.

Listen to it again.

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