THREE I LOVE
You ever try to pin down what your favorite song was? To me, that’s one of the hardest questions I can imagine. I’ve never been able to get a handle on any of my favorites. I only really know what songs I love. I don’t give much of a crap about Nick Hornby, but I like what he does with that “Songbook”. It’s wrong of me to say I don’t give much of a crap about Nick Hornby. I’ve never read any of his books. I just didn’t like the movie “High Fidelity” and assume that because of that I won’t like his books. That’s not very nice. Be that as it may, I probably won’t read any of his books, and its John Cusack’s fault for being a grating protagonist.
Right now, though, I’ve had a few glasses of wine and I have iTunes open and I’m feeling reasonably ready to elaborate on – or, really, try to figure out why I like – the songs in my life, the ones that when they’re on they’re all there is.
Other than it’s kind of fun, I’ve never understood why people argue about what music they like. You’re smart for liking this song, you’re dumb for liking this song — it’s flat out senseless. All it comes down to is a song is on, and either you want to turn it off or you don’t. It’s no different from food. Trying to make yourself like The Cure to impress someone you want to be better friends with is like trying to make yourself like olives if you don’t. That’s not to say you won’t eventually appreciate The Cure, or finally come across a song by them that piques your interest. All I’m saying is people don’t get in your face if you don’t like olives, so what is it about music that inspires fights? The Cure is just an example, I’m only using them as an example of an unliked band because I really, really, hate them.
So here I go, pontificating on the songs that keep me company. The ones I never skip under any circumstances. Probably what I’ll do is put the song on, write the title down, and hit buttons. Here are three I love.
BULLDOG SKIN – GUIDED BY VOICES
All right, get wild.
I can’t claim to be a rabid GBV fan, but boy do I love this song. I love how the vocals, guitar, and drums all sound slightly behind one another, like three big guys in a race that don’t care who wins. The internet tells me it’s about how much what’s-his-face likes British music, and good for him, but it’s a great song to listen to if you wanna sit back and think about all the terrible things that ever happened to you, and about how none of it matters now. The part of you that’s always kind of wanted to get in a fistfight will love this song. In high school I used to get these VHS tapes in the mail that had “alternative” videos on them, and one of them had the video for this song on it. It was this dorky kid getting knocked around, and being basically all right with it. As a guy who has actually experienced a real honest-to-goodness “swirly”, I very much appreciated it. The delight “Larky Parka” takes in his own senseless punishment is the very core of heroism. Good video, fantastic song.
Robert Pollard is the king of ridiculous lyrics that somehow make some kind of perfect sense. He made a table out of clay. Awesome. Some part of me thinks of him as Michael Stipe’s cruel older brother, who has a room in the attic, and listens to scary music loudly and their parents have stopped bothering asking him to turn it down, because frankly they’re kind of scared of him, and every now and then he barges into Mike’s room and breaks his stuff for no reason, which initially makes Michael really angry and sad but before long he thinks it’s funny.
I love this song. I want to play it on the jukebox and be the hero of the bar.
THE CLASS OF ’57 – THE STATLER BROTHERS
The Statler Brothers were a favorite at my grandparents’ home in Monson, Maine. Some of my favorite kid memories were in Monson. The ’50s came and went, but thankfully no one ever told Monson, and it was as apparent in my grandparents’ musical taste as it was in the overall aura of the town. They had one of those old, plastic, fake wood-paneled cassette storage things with three little drawers that you could pull out to see all the tapes, and among those tapes, which included Jim Nabors, Nana Mouskouri (sp? I’m not googling her, I’m sorry), Perry Como, and Lawrence Welk, were The Statler Brothers. I didn’t understand it then or now, but somehow “Hee Haw” always seemed to be on TV whenever we were in Monson, yet I don’t remember ever encountering it on the dial when we were at our own house. Then again, we never watched TV on Saturday much at our place, and it was always Saturday when we were in Monson, and eventually me and the cousins would get tired of running around and would need to watch TV to calm down, and we had to watch whatever Grammie and Grampy wanted to watch, which was always either ICW wrestling, “Golden Girls” “Wheel of Fortune”, “Murder, She Wrote”, Lawrence Welk, or “Hee Haw”. The Statler Brothers were a pretty frequent musical guest on good ol’ “Hee Haw”, and even though at the time I would have happily changed the channel if the remote had been mine to control, their perfect harmonies and rock-solid melodies, coupled with the genially goofy appearance of this never terribly hip quartet, could usually rouse me out of my indignant “hey, this isn’t Def Leppard!” attitude.
I never heard “The Class of ’57” until much later in life. All I remember is that it was probably seven or eight years ago, and I was driving through Veazie, and I cried. Essentially you could pretty safely call it a novelty song, and I highly doubt the Statlers intended on bringing its listeners to tears with it, but I don’t know, it really got to me. For all its goofy couplets, there are some desperate, pitch-black moments in this jaunty rundown of what a typical small town high school class ended up doing with their life, and they come at you out of nowhere. There’s a dark undercurrent to even the most benign-seeming Statler Brothers tunes. They’ll sucker-punch you with a depressing lyric against a jarringly upbeat accompaniment, and I adore them for it.
There’s no suitable word for how good these guys sound together. When all four of them go in on a chord, they’re overweight angels with shitty haircuts. It’s beautiful, is what it is, and to me so is this song. When they all come in on “The Class of ’57 had its dreams”, they more than give that heartbreaking, wonderful, sad lyric its due. Seriously, they’re probably one of my favorite groups. If you like what you hear in the YouTube clip (which unfortunately doesn’t actually show them), I would also recommend tracking down “Do You Remember These” and “The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Berrell”, just to name a couple.
I love anything that sounds anything like this. I hate the idea of putting together a “Top Ten” list, but if there’s one song I’m sure would go on mine, it’s this one.
WHERE EAGLES DARE – MISFITS
I’m a verse-chorus-verse man. Much as I’d love to (and occasionally, in spite of my general preferences, do) appreciate a meandering, structureless tune with more to recommend it than simple catchiness, I want to be able to hum songs, to dance terribly to them in my pajamas, to pump my fists semi-sarcastically to them, to rock out in some way to them, however small or big.
I am in AWE of the chorus to “Where Eagles Dare” by Misfits. I have no real connection to the band. I have never owned a tape or CD by them. I have seen many people wearing shirts with their logo on them. I myself do not have one. I am aware of Danzig, and find him somewhat amusing. I remember when “Mother” used to be on the radio a lot, and I did find things to like in it, whether in jest or not. But on the whole, once again, I can’t claim to be a “fan”. I know maybe 3 or 4 of their songs, and this is the only one I’d be able to sing along to.
But man, if this is the only song that ever catches on in my brain, it’s enough to make me like this band. I love a good chorus like a good burger, and “Where Eagles Dare”, stupid little ditty that it is, is the best dollar menu double cheeseburger anyone ever crammed down their gullet. Anyone looking to write a catchy song needs to be tied up and subjected to “Where Eagles Dare” for a week straight. It’s dumb, it’s awesome, it hits something perfectly, it’s insane, and it’s my favorite chorus ever in any song, until tomorrow night when I remember one I like better. And I suspect the chords are G-C-D, so all the more perfect. The verses are nothing to call your brother about, but that chorus…
It’s a crappy boombox you bought from Ames blaring on top of a mountain.
Fun! I’ll do that again one of these days!