Archive for the Jiving Ditties Category


Posted in Jiving Ditties on September 5, 2011 by butthorn

We have Sirius XM satellite radio capability in our car but we don’t subscribe to it.  It costs money, and I don’t like exchanging that for goods and services, especially if it means I’m going to be securing the jobs of people I don’t even know.  The Sirius people send us a lot of mail intended to entice and/or guilt us into subscribing to their service, with envelopes that declare things like “Commercial-free music!”, “Unparalleled selection!”, and “Hope you’re enjoying your terrible local radio stations, if you can hear them over the cries and growling stomachs of our children!”  Most recently they’ve been kind and desperate enough to offer us two weeks of free XM radio, and while en route from errand to errand I’ve found myself mostly listening to Lithium, a station that plays all 90’s “alternative rock”, which back then meant “alternative to complete silence” as it was pretty much the only thing on the radio at the time.  I still like a lot of that stuff in spite of myself, both for the nostalgia much of it unavoidably drudges up and because I’m a sucker for a good melody, a trait that even the worst of that genre’s lot could generally lay claim to.

Perhaps as a middle finger to the typical syrupy, lovey-dovey lyrics of the majority of the popular songs in the decade that preceded it, but more likely because they were all high on black tar heroin, 90’s “Buzz Bin” bands were prone to penning lyrics that either made no attempt to make sense and were just there because instrumentals typically don’t sell, and maybe it all means something and maybe it doesn’t but who cares man, it’s the 90’s (Beck, Cake, Soul Coughing, Primus, Presidents of the United States of America, Ween) or they were willfully downbeat exercises in hopelessness-wallowing the likes of which we all occasionally find scrawled in old stinky notebooks in our parents’ basement (pretty much everyone else).  Sound and attitude prevailed; prose, by and large, took one for the team.  But it was a new dawn for music, and people were trying some new things, or at any rate things that previously hadn’t gotten a lot of airplay.

That being said, I have some questions for some of you 90’s bands:


Well, jeez! Doesn't anyone knock anymore?

Oh boy.  Remember this goofy bastard, smooshing his face into your face and wagging his 80-foot long ponytail all over your television, spastically gesticulating in front of a mildly interesting tree and shirtlessly delivering to a driving beat the singularly unwelcome news that he is the only person in the world who cares about you?  Re-meet Live, one of the more humorless participants in the grunge-lite phenomenon, and for awhile there one of the more financially successful as well.  In 1994 you couldn’t enter a room containing an electronic device of any kind without frontman Ed Koyaanisqatsi blatting and braying a four-minute flood of embarrassing pleas and inane platitudes all over the lucky inhabitants of said electronic-device-containing room.  There was no escape.  You could have locked yourself in a empty room on a remote island, and within minutes you’d be farting the chorus to “Selling the Drama”.  Live was there for you, whether you wanted them or not.

But what were they going on about?  And why were they so insistent on sneaking unpleasant imagery into omnipresent songs that would be playing in Rite Aids for the foreseeable future?  The chorus of “Selling the Drama” contains a lyric that for all the world sounds like “Yay, now we won’t be raped”.  Yay, indeed!  But why won’t we?  Is it because we’re listening to a notoriously unsexy, rapist-boner-deflating band?  And why is no one there to catch the placenta at the beginning of “Lightning Crashes”?  Sure, maybe you lose some emotional heft and encounter pentameter problems by changing it to “Her placenta falls into the pan conveniently placed under her bed by a thoughtful nurse for just such a purpose”, but still, it’s a gross way to begin a song, and what kind of Mickey Mouse hospital is this?  “Here comes the placenta, Doc!”  “Aahh, just let it fall on the floor.  I’ll kick it over near the trash can later.  The baby’s dead, anyway.  Hey, does anybody else feel that…I don’t know, kind of a rolling thunder chasing the wind sensation?  Anybody else getting that?”

I have to give Live and Ed Campcucamonga credit, though, for always having delivered their incomprehensible, overwrought message with the utmost conviction.  “Hey, man, this is criminal, this hard line symmetry of people and pets” may or may not mean a blessed thing, but it sure sounds like it does.  “Tell me about it!” you want to reply, shaking your head in awe and disgust.


Before finding Christ and modifying their style to accommodate a younger, more optimistic fanbase, Hanson was originally an Australian quasi-grunge trio known as Silverchair, who foisted a briefly ubiquitous, catchy enough single called “Tomorrow” on the listening public back in 1993 or 4.  It’s this one:

I only have one question for Silverchair, and that is: From what tap is the supposedly very hard to drink water coming from?  Surely not from the aforementioned nonexistent sink?  Quibbling aside, as songs about overweight men learning about patience in underground bathroomless communities with undisclosed water sources of notably poor quality go, “Tomorrow” is easily top-ten material.


There is no meat left to beat on the dead horse that is Creed.  You’re punching the ground, maybe a little mane hair, or part of a hoof.  That’s just going to hurt your hand.  But it never fails to amuse me to point out the fact that, on top of all the other asinine lyrics and embarrassing Spike TV appearances that stemmed from this band’s success, Scott Stapp manages to inject nine – count ’em, nine – syllables into the word “again” in the first verse of “Higher”, one of their biggest and most unavoidable hits.  It’s the usual drawn-out, “hunger dunger dang” bullcrap employed by many better and worse similar bands, but sometimes I like to pretend that this is simply how Scott Stapp says the word “again”.  Perhaps after running through a take of this song, he may have said something like, “Hey guys, that wasn’t bad, but I think we can do better.  Can we try that one a-geh-ee-yeh-yeh-ee-yeh-ee-yen?”

Sorry about posting a Creed video.


Eddie, it's not that funny. My mom even calls it "Tar-jay", for fuck's sake. Did you really think you just made that up?

A high school friend of mine who was worldlier in the ways of music then myself once lent Pearl Jam’s “Ten” CD to me, unrequested, telling me I just had to check it out.  Upon checking it out as instructed in the comfort of my bedroom, I remember my initial thoughts being something along the lines of “Well, at least now I know what it sounds like when a man with no asshole tries to take a shit”.  Fast-forward a year later, and all of a sudden I’m wearing Pearl Jam tee-shirts under the plaid flannel shirts my mom bought me at T.J. Maxx and supplying my friends who had cable with blank Fuji videocassettes and asking them to try and get the “Evenflow” video on tape, so clearly something happened in between those two events.  As with most all of the bands I enjoyed back then, I know nothing of their current output, but to this day I’ll still happily and gutturally caterwaul along with “Alive” in the car whenever WKIT or WTOS deigns to throw it on.  I have no real beef with Pearl Jam. They are good at playing guitars and going bluuuuuurrrrggggghh.

But what, please, is happening in “Yellow Ledbetter”?  Surely as a self-respected, bestselling musician and vocalist you cannot simply go “Nog a zee gog, a bliggy ziggy goggy nanny yay, and a corn and a bank and a sock and a gank and a cola at Denny’s” into a microphone while your bandmate plays a sweet if cribbed from Hendrix riff in the background and then release it as a B-side to overwhelming acclaim that continues to this day, can you?  Well, we all now the answer to that by now, and oddly, it’s this blatant, brazen meaninglessness that seems to have assured the song’s ongoing longevity in our collective culture consciousness.  Again, it sure SOUNDS like it means something, and what could be more angsty and 90’s-ish than badly wanting to mean but not having anything to mean about?  When Vedder screams “I don’t wanna wear that black soda bag!”, you truly hope that he doesn’t have to, and yet fear that he probably will.  Just like we all do.

Wear it with pride, friends.  We’ll see ya next time.


Posted in Jiving Ditties on July 11, 2009 by butthorn

There’s nothing I like better than a good cry.  Yes, just burying my fat face in a filthy pillowcase and sobbing like a freshly cornholed punk.  Crying feels great, and it instantly changes the mood of a room into something interesting (unless you’re a kid, in which case it’s just loud; can it, junior!).  People don’t know what to do with a crying adult, especially if that adult is crying as a direct result of viewing an episode of “Sanford and Son”.  Old men get to me, I can’t help it.

Not gonna talk about visual lachyrma propagaters today, however.  More often than not these days I find myself moved to arguably superficial lamentation by songs, usually songs written and/or warbled waveringly by, again, old men.  There are songs out there that have the power to make me misty every damn time I’m stupid enough to play them.  Stupid because I’m usually in the car when I’m listening to music, and I wouldn’t label myself Motorist of the Year under even the least weepy of circumstances.  I bet one out of every twenty stoplights I’m hastily wiping hot tears out of my eyes, while chuckling ruefully at the same time given that said tears are likely as not the result of a Kenny Rogers song.  That’s pre-horrific-facial-reconstruction Kenny Rogers, by the way, not that I imagine I needed to qualify that but I can never be sure about who it is I might be speaking with here.  Honestly, look at this picture and tell me that’s an improvement:

yucky rogers

Kenny, old hoss.  You sure that’s what you want to be doing with your face?  Your former self shouldn’t want to kick your current self’s ass.  Supposed to be the other way around.  Look, you were never “Playgirl” material to begin with.  You can age with grace or you can polish a turd.  Grace/turd, Gambler.  Shouldn’t be a choice. 

Now that I’ve waggled a no-no finger at him for no real good reason other than the fact that he looks like a clown and I don’t get the chance to publicly dress down country and western legends all that often, let’s make amends by starting my list off with one of his tunes.  I should probably mention right off the bat that the majority of these songs are going to be of the country persuasion.  It’s a genre I find myself turning to more often as I get older.  The very earnestness I found embarassing in high school now seems refreshing and nice.  When it sucks, it sucks worse than just about anything has or could, but when it’s good, it’s something to hear.  Anyway, if you’re not into that kind of thing, now would be a good time to bail out.  (Ed.: After all that, I only ended up mentioning 2 songs that could be realistically considered country, although I was upset to learn that Glen Campbell apparently covered #3)  Also, I’ve tried to embed each of the songs into the post right before I drone on endlessly about them, so the thing to do would be to get the song playing, provided you care to hear it, then read my crap while it’s on.  I’m attempting to do this through a seemingly workable site called Grooveshark which I’m still getting used to, so if none of these songs end up working, you can actually go to that site, type in the title, and it’ll play for ya.  (Ed. We had trouble playing the songs on our Mac, but the PC seems to work fine.  Sorry, Macs.)

1) on my list of sappy songs that get my goat is The Greatest by Kenneth Ray Rogers.

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I’m not totally sure why this one gets to me, but it almost always does.  Kenny has far sadder songs than this one (heard “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” lately?), but something about the simple melody, the innocence and frustration of the theme, and the M. Night Shapoopie twisteroo at the end just gets me where I live.  I never voluntarily played any team sports in youth, and went to my happy place whenever forced to participate, and while I’d rather detach my left eyelid by repeatedly and haphazardly puncturing it with a pencil than watch most any sporting event on television, I somehow often as not find myself genuinely moved by films, shows, or songs that involve sports.  I guess it’s because they almost always involve a good-hearted so-and-so trying their best to succeed despite their obvious limitations and general lack of support.  I respond well to heart.  But only when it’s fictionalized.  And I hate competition.  The Olympics bore the shit out of me.  People actually playing sports all look lifeless to me.  You’re watching them do their job.  Jobs are usually what make you not like your life.  Maybe I’m not giving sports a chance.  I don’t know.   Another aspect of this song that should (but to me somehow doesn’t) sap it of any tearjerking possibilities is the fact that it features the word “undeterred”.  That’s a ridiculous word to put in a song.  It stands out, not least because Kenny pronounces it “undie turd”.  Poignant!

You know what I think it is about this song that gets me?  It’s the thought of Kenny Rogers reading the lyrics for the first time and being tickled by the ending, thinking to himself about what a delightful surprise lay in store for the listener.  Sure, it’s a simple trick that you probably saw a mile away, but it caught me completely off guard, and to my horror I found myself all choked up.  Plus the ending is your reward for sticking with this kid for three minutes or so while he repeatedly screws up and rachets up the tension with his ineptitude and determination.  You didn’t bargain on becoming invested in the success of a nameless Little Leaguer.  You just wanted to listen to a Kenny Rogers song.  It’s a release, one that works all too well on me, to an embarrassing extent really.  Kenny always gave you a compelling tale (“Coward of the County”!), and I for one appreciate it.  Thanks, Pennywise the Bearded Transsexual.

2) Desperados Waiting for a Train by Guy Clark

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I played the Red River Valley.
He’d sit in the kitchen and cry.
Run his fingers through seventy years of livin’.
“I wonder, Lord, has every well I’ve drilled gone dry?”
We were friends, me and this old man,
Like desperados waitin’ for a train.

Good Lord almighty, Guy Clark, why don’t you just give me a titty twister while you’re at it?  This is a bee-yoo-tee-ful song about the friendship between a boy and an old man.  I feel like this song is an old favorite, despite the fact that I heard it for the first time about a year ago.  Clark gets lumped in with Townes Van Zandt and all those Texas guys who got popular back in the 1970’s with their way of marrying spare tunes to evocative yet no less minimal lyrics.  He puts a great deal of craft into his songs, worrying over an album for years before releasing it, so while a fan may wish for more output, they can at least be assured that what they get is going to represent the best possible version of this guy.  It was pleasingly unsurprising to learn that he makes the guitars that he plays.  I would submit that few artists are as close to their work as this man.   

I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about a fella maybe getting an eyelash in his eye while listening to this song.  It’s classically sad, the melody is pretty, the chorus/hook hugs you like a good friend you haven’t seen in ages, and delivering the package is one of the most stirring voices in country music.  Both conversational and otherworldly, his vocals lend, or rather reveal, a sad magic to the people and things lying around your house.  If Guy Clark wrote a song about a laundry basket, I guarantee you I’d cry about it.

3) Marie by Randy Newman

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I’m weak and I’m lazy
And I’ve hurt you so
And I don’t listen to a word you say
And when you’re in trouble I turn away
But I love you
And I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie

Back in 2005, I was out of work, and not feeling particular about what I did so long as it resulted in funds that I could then fork over to the weaselly old bastard who owned the rickety duplex we were living in.  My mother-in-law worked in a building that housed a number of businesses, one of which was a start-up call center called “Networking Solutions” or something equally colorless and disheartening.  Anyway, she was nice enough to recommend me to the guy running the thing, an agreeable-seeming young gentleman who decorated his office with cardboard standees of Red Sox players and began every other sentence with the phrase “in point of fact”.  Following an interview during which I said almost nothing and surely gave no indication that I would be at all suited to the task at hand, I was hired, and due to the fact that I lived nowhere near my new workplace, I was allowed to work from our apartment, and I soon set about the task of phoning homeowners and gravely upsetting them.  Basically, I would procure a list of phone numbers, call them, and if the person was unlucky enough to be home they would be asked by me if they received the literature sent to them by a mortgage company whose name escapes me.  When they responded to the negative, an inevitable development given that no such literature existed, I would then awkwardly try to get them interested in refinancing their home, procuring much of their personal information in the process, including their social security number.  From there I assume their savings accounts were plundered and their housepets crucified, though we were assured that they were simply contacted by a mortgage counselor. 

Whatever the case, the job was every bit as horrible as it sounds.  I would shut myself in our cramped upstairs office and stare at the list of phone numbers, working up the guts to actually call one of them and engage a sure-to-be-ticked stranger in a conversation that neither of us wanted to be in.  I would try to force my brain to believe that it belonged to someone else, someone who had no problem with any of this.  Eventually I discovered that changing my desktop wallpaper to the lewdest pornography imaginable and staring into it intently while talking to prospective refinancers both calmed me down and instilled a ludicrous courage in me, the idea I guess being that maybe you’re screaming at me for interrupting your soap opera with a half-baked and thoroughly inadvisable real estate proposition, but I’m staring directly into the anus of a lesbian drilling another lesbian’s anus with a novelty-sized strap-on.  Take that, unwitting homeowners of New England!  Please don’t be home! 

So for awhile there thanks to I burned through several lists of phone numbers, and even had a few “successes”.  But the smooth sailing didn’t last, and one afternoon I was feeling particularly listless and defeated and rather than making any calls I found myself scrolling through my iTunes, listening to songs I’d drunkenly downloaded at random in the recent past.  One of these songs was “Marie” by Randy Newman.  Not sure how I came to download it, other than I was drunk, but I double-clicked on it and gave it a shot.  Then I listened to it again.  And again.  And again.  42 times I listened to that song.  I remember the number clearly.  Cried and listened again, cried and listened again.  I didn’t want to ever not be hearing it, or not be crying, at least in that moment.  God, what a fucking awful job that was.  I was fired shortly thereafter (“In point of fact, we’re actually gonna have to let you go.”), and despite desperately needing the work, the relief was palpable. 

I worship Randy Newman.  I think he’s a genius.  He doesn’t tend to inspire an “ehh, he’s okay” reaction.  It seems like people either adore him or detest him.  I’m comfortable calling his voice gross.  He sounds like a big ol’ frog, and beyond that a frog with no range who has a difficult time with pitch.  All the more appropriate for his protagonists, the majority of which are imperfect to say the least, and proudly so.   The guy groveling to “Marie” here certainly seems to be no prize, but the missives he admits to are quite relatable to your average alternately doofy/stonefaced husband.  For as much as I love my wife and can’t begin to imagine a life without her, I sure tune her out and get pissed off at her for no reason a lot.  Sometimes that irritation stems from my own inability to conceive of someone as genuine and kind as her wanting to spend any amount of time with a bitchy dick such as yours truly.  Dumb. 

For awhile I wanted “Marie” to be the song we danced to at our wedding, and were I the only person involved in our nuptials-related decisions, I might have selected it.  In the end I conceded to a song from the film “A Mighty Wind” that we both love.  Less depressing without sacrificing the individuality.  Probably a better decision in the long run.  But for me, no song better captures the conflicting passions that are part and parcel of loving someone enough to hang out with them for the rest of your life than “Marie”.  It’s the truest and prettiest love song I’ve ever heard. 

4) My Old Man by John Prine (written by Steve Goodman)

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And oh the fights we had
When my brother and I got him mad;
He’d get all boiled up and he’d start to shout
We knew what was coming so we tuned him out.
Now the old man is gone
and I’d give all I own
To hear what he said when I wasn’t listening
To my old man

There are many John Prine songs that reduce me to tears, sometimes simply because I really like the song and I’m happy to have found it.  This isn’t actually one that he wrote.  “My Old Man” was written by the late Steve Goodman, a fellow songwriter whose career path was pretty similar to Prine’s: early critical success, the respect of quick-to-cover peers, and disappointing record sales.  Goodman is probably best known for writing that “Good morning America, how are ya” song, the title of which I believe is “The City of New Orleans”.  I’m not as familiar with his work as I’d like to be, so I can’t really go on too much about him, but to my mind he has written the ultimate dad song.  “Cat’s in the Cradle” can go jump in the lake.   He and Prine were best friends, so on top of the dad sadness, you have a guy paying tribute to a fallen comrade behind it.  Again, this is essentially an Indian sunburn in song format. 

Imagine your dad dying, assuming he’s not already worm food and you don’t hate his guts, and then listen to this song and imagine it playing at his funeral.  Now try not to crumple to the floor in a convulsing, inconsolable heap.  Try it!  It’s fun!  The pappy in “My Old Man”, though I’m willing to bet it’s an accurate portrait of Goodman’s father, is a fairly broad representation of your typical old school dad, which I suppose is what makes it so affecting from a gut level.  On paper, Goodman’s dad and my own aren’t 100% cut from the same cloth: while the song version details his “corny jokes”, “cheap cigar”, and ability to “look you in the eye and sell you a car”, my own father is actually rather clever and funny, hasn’t smoked since he was a kid, and maintains eye contact well enough but isn’t terribly interested in or adept at strongarming anyone into a hasty financial decision.  Despite this, the songwriting on display and Prine’s warm delivery of same (he’s clearly breaking up himself in the last stanza) make it impossible not to think about everything your dad did or didn’t do for you, and think even harder of everything you did or didn’t do for him, and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.  Luckily there’s a lilting flute solo in the middle of the song during which you can undergo a complete mental breakdown without missing any touching lyrics. 

5) The Last Game of the Season (A Blind Man in the Bleachers) by David Geddes

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We’ll end it on a somewhat silly note so you don’t come away from this thing wanting to put a nail gun to your temple.  I would encourage all of you to seek out the work of undervalued pop music pioneer David Geddes.  No question he is no more a household name than you or I, but his overwrought mini-manifestos of AM gold are a boneheaded joy to experience.   My minimal research on the man informs me that he only had one album.  Always leave ’em wanting more.  This cumbersomely-titled little number actually charted so you may have even caught it on an oldies station at some point, although I’ve logged a lot of oldies-station-listening in my day and I don’t recall ever having encountered it until online recently, dubbing around on in an early-70’s kind of mood one fateful evening. 

I’m not going to go into this one in great detail, both because I’m as dog tired of typing about sappy tunes as I imagine you are of reading about them and because the song and its “gotcha” moment are best experienced for yourself.  It’s so on-the-nose and over-the-top that I can’t help but directly reward it with the dreaded single tear it begs so shamelessly for.  Waaah, effort and handicaps are difficult for people!

It seems I’ve unthinkingly bookended this list of musical weepies with heavy-handed, athletic-themed underdog story-songs.  I gotta say I feel pretty good about that.  Anyway, I hope you found something here that was to your liking, but ultimately this is all about me, so at the end of the day your opinion is immaterial.  Have a good’n!


Posted in Jiving Ditties on October 13, 2008 by butthorn

Admit it, flinchy thirtysomethings who spend way too much time online: You’ve fantasized about The Onion A.V. Club interviewing you for Random Rules, the not-frequent-enough column wherein a musician or familiar pop culture presence sets their ipods on shuffle and waxes nostalgic or eloquent or embarrassed or defensive about whatever songs pop up to give them away.  

Our iTunes libraries, while as distinctive and revealing as fingerprints, are from a wider perspective all kind of the same: we’ve all got songs we feel cool for liking, songs we pretend to be embarrassed for liking, songs we are legitimately embarrassed for liking, songs we heard on the school bus that we will take to our graves, songs that somehow remind us of our parents, at least one (and hopefully more) old-school hip-hop song, songs that “the kids” like that you’ve begrudgingly taken a shine to, songs that can actually elicit a visceral emotional response under the right (or wrong) circumstances, a song that blew your mind the first time you heard it in high school but that you now find literally unlistenable and as impossible to defend as it is to delete, a TV theme song or two, a song you recorded while fooling around with the recording software that came with your computer that you actually think turned out sort of all right but that you’d rather slit your own throat than play for anyone, “Africa” by Toto, a song from the soundtrack of a movie you loved as a kid, a couple songs by a group or musician your friend is desperately trying to get you to like but that you just can’t get into, songs from school dances, songs you had sex with people while listening to, and a bunch of insane, inexplicable shit you downloaded while drunk one night and haven’t had a change to weed out.  Not knowing what song I’ll have to reveal and rationalize to you is legitimately exciting, and a little frightening.  I vow that I will not allow myself to skip songs, as that is the coward’s way.  By the way, J-Dog Yascrumskee is what I am going to change my name to once I become famous, so that is the heading you will see on the A.V. Club page when I one day engage in this musical interview for real.  Hope you’re ready, Josh Modell!

Okay, here we go!  Fun!  Whee!  Good!

“Slow Dog” – Belly

Hey, it’s Belly.  Why do I feel ashamed when I like girl bands such as Belly?  I feel the scorn of many female friends who find cutesiness of this magnitude to be disgusting and of no use to anyone.  Well cram it up your assholes, you cranky-ass fucking bitches!  I’m gonna walk up and down my street with a boom box cranking Belly!  Screaming WWWWHHOOOOOOOOOO!  TANYA DONNELLY, OLD TOWN, WHADDAYA THINK, GOOD STUFF HUH?  YEAH!  MAR-EEE-YAH CARRR-REEEE A RI-FLLLLLE!  SING IT WITH ME NOW!  Wow, am I ever not going to do that.  That’s the least true claim I’ve ever made.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less.  Anyway, I actually only know about three Belly songs, and this is the only one I really like, so I don’t know where this whole Defiant Belly Defender act is coming from.  In high school I somehow subscribed to this weird service where every month I got a VHS tape in the mail that had ten or twelve new “alternative” videos on it, and I have to say that many of my most treasured songs came from those silly tapes that I enjoyed so much.  I felt ahead of the game!  Surely would my peers’ jaws drop when I regaled them with my impressions of the latest cuts by such underground groups (or “undie music”) as I Mother Earth, The Candy Skins, and Dink.  I could now call the college radio station and request songs that the DJs would likely not only have immediate access to but would compliment me for selecting.  Soon enough I would be so cool it would hurt Tom Waits’ feelings.  MARR-EEEE-YAH CAAAAARRRRY A RI-FLLLLE!   WHOOOOO!

“Hell Yeah” – Neil Diamond

I was hoping a little Neil would turn up in this.  <—Don’t ever let me say that again.

There’s a lot to be amazed by when it comes to the Jewish Elvis, but if you ask me, it’s his conviction that’s got him where he is today, and where he’s been for – let’s face it – ever.  Neil Diamond can sing literally the dumbest, most worthless, asinine, brain-squashingly, guts-churningly excreable lyrics known to man, and you’d think Shakespeare, e.e. cummings, and God had joined the Beatles and recorded the meaning of life in a celestial studio produced by Butch Vig.  Because he means it.  Neil Diamond means it so hard.  And we like it when people mean it, because usually they don’t.  So it really sticks out when they do.  Cause it’s nice.  Neil Diamond’s voice is like a tree:  You can cut it down if you want to, but you can’t argue with it.  In “Hell Yeah”, Neil Diamond elects to whip out the difficult-to-observe-with-any-degree-of-reverence phrase “a hoot and a holler” right out of the gate, and then proceeds to rhyme that unfortunate sentiment with “ringing like a bell that you only wanna foller”, and despite what would strike any sane songwriter as a surefire recipe for a heapin’ helpin’ of No One Will Ever Buy Your Albums Again Casserole, he pulls off a winning, wistful look back at the highs and lows of a full, remarkable, and above all, he realizes, a lucky life.  By the time he’s belting out the final HELLLL YEEAH HE DIIIIIIIIIIIID, suddenly you’re on top of a mountain shaking your fist defiantly at the sun and carrying a sharpened stick with your opponent’s head on it.  Then “Kokomo” starts playing and you have to figure out how to get down.  

“Orangeworker” – For Squirrels

What’d I tell ya?  It’s another song from those wacky altern-VHSes I used to get through the post.  This was an interesting band whose founding members were killed in a van accident and that’s how that story ends.  Despite it being a pretty blatant REM impersonation, it’s a really nice song, one that I would imagine REM would like to have written themselves.  Smooth move not writing “Orangeworker”, REM!  Nice chorus, and nice high-pitched hooting at the end.  There’s never enough high-pitched hooting.  

Man, I’d be really annoying if I were interviewed for Random Rules!  I bet famous people go back and read interviews and just start repeatedly slapping themselves in the face for being so dorky and uninteresting.  

“Doot Doot Ploot” – The Hidden Cameras

I only downloaded this because the title made me laugh, but it turns out most everything this band does is super catchy and intermittently unsettling, good qualities both.  Warning: if you listen to this, it will remain in your head for a really long time, and you will not be able to do anything about it.  

“Poor Poor Pitiful Me” – Warren Zevon

I got an earection for Warren Zevon two or three years back.  He was just precisely what I was needing to hear at that particular time.  Sometimes that’ll happen, and it’s good.  I think Linda Ronstadt’s version of this song is more widely known, but Warren wrote it and does a better job singing it.  Nothing sounds quite like Warren Zevon singing a song.  Except maybe Warren Zevon singing a waffle iron.  I don’t know.  Forget I said that, please.  I would have been happier if “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” had come on, but this is fine, I’ll take this one.  It’s fun to sing and play guitar to this one too if you’re an embarrassing geek with a guitar like some people I know and am.  

“Draw the Line” – Aerosmith

I like old Aerosmith, I’m not gonna lie to you.  Everything up to “Permanent Vacation”, with a few exceptions here and there, is for the most part stuff I generally enjoy.  That old “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits” album from Columbia House was one of the first CDs I ever purchased, and I listened to the whole thing quite frequently.  By the time they managed to crap out this song, the Aerosmith guys were pretty well mainlining entire Walgreens inventories on a regular basis, and it shows in the half-assed riff that powers the song.  It sounds like someone angrily and rapidly ascending and descending a small staircase.  I like it.

“Glory of True Love” – John Prine

A simple afterthought of a song that grew on me.  It helps that he mentions Albuquerque.  There’s not much to it but I notice I never skip it when it comes on.  It’s not as good as Glory of Love by Peter Cetera, but fuck, the guy’s not God, okay?  Why don’t you ask him to kill a mountain lion with his bare hands while you’re at it?

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

Wah, iTunes, you already gave me a Warren Zevon one!  And everyone knows this one!  I don’t look as cool now!  Wah, iTunes!  Wah!  Well, anyway, I don’t always feel like hearing “Werewolves of London”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it, and it features my favorite opening rock song lyric ever: “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand/Walkin’ through the streets of Soho in the rain”.  That’s beautiful.  Anywhere you go from there is gonna be good.

I gotta go to bed but that was fun.  J-Dog out!


Posted in Jiving Ditties on July 6, 2008 by butthorn

My closest friends have tended toward the extreme. This isn’t to say they were particularly in-your-face or stuntmen or anything like that. They just tend to know what they like and aren’t shy about proclaiming their fondness for whatever to whoever might be available to listen. What they like, they LIKE, and what they don’t, they DON’T. My friend Matt was just as powerless to effectively explain his undying love for Dave Matthews as I was to get him to stop playing it all the time. It was what he wanted to hear. For the most part, at the time, it was ALL he wanted to hear. When it came to likes and dislikes, there wasn’t a lot of gray area for Matt. That guy could listen to “Lie in Our Graves” or “The Christmas Song” over, and over, and over, and over again, and it was clear that each time he heard the songs, it was alternately as though he was hearing them for the first time and discovering all new, previously unnoticed secrets with each consecutive listen. Whereas for me, it was like gouging at a chigger-infested, pus-plumped blister with a pair of rusty pliers for hours at a time on a daily basis. Truly different strokes for different folks.

I have nothing serious against Dave Matthews. I think he’s a talented guitarist and a solid songwriter, and it is no problem for me to comprehend why others might enjoy him. I just couldn’t fathom what would drive a person to listen to his music every single, solitary day, without fail, at length. I didn’t, couldn’t, get it. And while I wanted to blithely snap every one of his Dave Matthews CDs over my knee with a jolly grin and a jubilant cry of “tally ho!”, at the same time I envied Matt his clearly genuine obsession. He wasn’t electronically carving inch-deep grooves in his “Under the Table and Dreaming” CD to torment his roommates (though at the time I might not have been so quick to say such things). He was smitten, and he needed to hear those songs like he needed to eat, or go to the bathroom, or say stupid shit to pretty girls. I didn’t understand.

Same thing with my friends back in high school. My friend Ken was more gung-ho about his likes and dislikes than anyone I’ve ever known. I can’t recall ever hearing him say anything was just okay. Either he bought it and loved it unconditionally or left it at the store, in pieces on the floor once he was done stomping on it. He loved Hulk Hogan, Jim Rice, Run DMC, and Danzig, and he talked about them all the time, with terrific enthusiasm. My friend Ted had great affection for Hootie and the Blowfish, and remained undaunted by our refusal to recognize their penchant for hooks and the stirring baritone of lead singer Hootie McGee. My friend JR’s love for The Beatles was widely recognized by people who didn’t know him from a hole in the ground, and my friend Harold would happily fill you in on the merits of such college faves as Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew, neither of whom had many fans in the greater Howland area, as you may rightly surmise.

Me, I had a lot of songs that I liked, but no one I ever raved about, or wallpapered my room with, or even gave much thought to in my spare time. And even if I had, I would have been reluctant to share my appreciation with anyone. Historically, whenever I admitted to liking a song, and it met with any disagreement whatsoever, I immediately stopped liking it, whether I wanted to or not. I simply couldn’t handle even the mildest dissent. If you didn’t want to hear it, I didn’t want to hear it either. And it wasn’t as though I made a conscious decision to stop liking a song or band upon learning that a friend, or even an acquaintance or complete stranger, hated it or them. I genuinely stopped wanting to hear it. It just made me think of an unhappy person, and why would I want to think of that?

Well, it’s a ridiculous, pathetic, and mentally destructive way to go through life, and if I could travel back in time I’d approach my young self and beat the crap of him/me to teach him/me a lesson. Where I haven’t gotten any better at personal confrontation, let alone hand-to-hand combat, in the decade or so that has spanned since those days, it would no doubt make for a miserable and ungainly and hilarious altercation, but hopefully it would eventually result in my 1997 self being able to proudly proclaim “Hey everyone! I like “How’s It Gonna Be” by Third Eye Blind and I don’t care who knows it!”. Not one of the nobler battle causes, but a personally important one all the same.

Anyway, that’s all behind me now, because I finally found a musician that I like so well, no amount of naysaying or disagreement or switchblade assaults could sway me from my enjoyment. His name is John Prine, and he couldn’t have come along at a better time. Had I heard him back in my formative years, I would have dismissed him as hokey country old-person music, which incidentally is not an entirely inaccurate assessment. It just happens, apparently, to be what I like.

What makes us like what we like? That’s a question that fascinates me above most. There are answers for that to be found in upbringing and environment, obviously, but I can’t help but wonder (and for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, to hope) that, to some extent, taste is ingrained from birth, via some tiny organelle or gland that hasn’t been discovered yet. I’d like to think I was both genetically configured and supernaturally preordained to like John Prine, and Matt to like Dave Matthews, and Annie to like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and on down the line. This type of explanation makes the most sense to me. Because you can’t decide to enjoy something. God knows I tried with Dave Matthews, in a last-ditch effort to preserve what remained of my sanity, but it never took. As it happens, I’ve succeeded in getting Matt into John Prine as well, yet I still have no burning desire to download “So Much to Say” (although I could probably sing it for you in its entirety). Which ultimately makes me feel kind of bad, like I should enjoy Dave Matthews in exchange for Matt validating my opinion about John Prine. But alas, it didn’t work that way, as I was not genetically configured nor supernaturally preordained to enjoy Dave Matthews. There isn’t a thing I can do. Maybe I should see a doctor about it, or an occult specialist. My new job has pretty good benefits. I should take advantage of them.

I listen to John Prine almost every day, and I force him on friends and loved ones whenever possible. This is a new thing for me, and I hate the things that come out of my mouth when I’m peddling his genius to people that clearly and understandably couldn’t possibly care less. But I can’t help it. I like him so much that I can’t comprehend the notion that others might not. It’s as if I alone have been introduced to chocolate chip cookies, and the only way anyone else on Earth can try them is if I mercilessly expound upon their virtues until they agree to give them a whirl.

Kind of a silly-looking man, no? He always has a smile and a funny hairdo for all to enjoy. His vocal stylings aren’t going to astound anyone with their tone or clarity. In fact, the man recovered from neck cancer, which ravaged an already shaky instrument. I read somewhere that before he had his operation, his doctor mentioned that the operation might ruin his singing voice, and John’s response was something to the effect of “Obviously, doc, you’ve never heard any of my albums”.

He can’t really play the guitar all that great, either. Not saying he’s a slouch, he just strums a few basic chords and picks a little. Nothing flashy. But the man can write a song. I’m a sucker for a catchy tune with a sad tale to tell, and he does that sort of thing better than anyone I’ve ever heard. He’s not afraid to be lyrically obtuse now and then, but his best stuff tells a story in plain English that occasionally sucker punches you with a brilliant (and generally heartbreaking) turn of phrase. And his voice and playing style work well with the material, complimenting the rough-around-the-edges characters that tend to narrate his songs.

It took me awhile to glom onto him. The first tune I ever heard by him was “Illegal Smile”, a sort of novelty little number I drunkenly downloaded at random one night that most people assume is about getting baked. It eventually grew on me, but it’s more of a fun singalong than a life-changing experience. Deciding to give him another chance, I downloaded something called “Christmas in Prison”, then promptly forgot to listen to it for two or three months. Then one fateful night or morning or whatever the day was doing, iTunes presented it to me on shuffle, while I was mostly likely playing Luxor or somesuch “match three like-colored balls” game. I heard a lyric. I paused the game, heard the rest of the song out, and played it again.

I waited for what I thought I heard, the best lyric about a girl in the history of American music. It came around again, and it was there, exactly as I’d heard it.

“Christmas in Prison” is a sad, spare waltz related from the perspective of a prisoner forced to spend the holidays apart from his girl due to the fact that, well, he’s in prison. It isn’t all bad: they got to have turkey for dinner (and there’s something innately funny and sad about the mentioning of the turkey; turkey doesn’t get brought up in songs too often, especially not tender love songs) and there are inexpensive presents and music.

Ah, the hell with it. These are the lyrics:

It was christmas in prison
And the food was real good
We had turkey and pistols
Carved out of wood
And I dream of her always
Even when I don’t dream
Her name’s on my tongue
And her blood’s in my stream.

Wait awhile eternity
Old mother nature’s got nothing on me
Come to me
Run to me
Come to me, now
We’re rolling
My sweetheart
We’re flowing
By god!

She reminds me of a chess game
With someone I admire
Or a picnic in the rain
After a prairie fire
Her heart is as big
As this whole goddamn jail
And shes sweeter than saccharine
At a drug store sale.

The search light in the big yard
Swings round with the gun
And spotlights the snowflakes
Like the dust in the sun
Its christmas in prison
Therell be music tonight
Ill probably get homesick
I love you. goodnight.

My guess and my hope is that the same lyric that struck me struck you. At the end of the day, what guy doesn’t want a girl who reminds him of a chess game with someone he admires? Lyrics come and go, and most of them only mean anything to the person who wrote them, if even that, but that first time you hear a favorite…man, there really isn’t anything like it. You’re only solution is to track down everything else that guy or gal ever recorded. Which can occasionally lead to disappointment, a sad realization that you’ve already bumbled upon that musician’s finest moment. Needless to say, in this case a happier outcome awaited me.

John Prine on unrequited love, from “One Red Rose”: What I never knew I never will forget.

That lyric makes me want to kick him right in the balls. He has ruined the very concept of unrequited love for any writer of any medium who may have cared to expound upon it. Everything that need be said on the subject is right there in that eight word lyric. I hate it when people are good at things.

John Prine on aging, from “Hello in There”: Old trees just grow stronger/And old rivers grow wilder every day/Old people just grow lonesome.

John Prine on Jesus, from “Jesus the Missing Years”, in which Prine imagines what Jesus did with his time during his less-documented adolescence:

Wine was flowing so were beers
So Jesus found his missing years
He went to a dance and said this dont move me
He hiked up his pants and he went to a movie
On his thirteenth birthday he saw “Rebel Without a Cause”
He went straight on home and invented Santa Claus


So he grew his hair long and threw away his comb
And headed back to Jerusalem to find mom, dad and home
But when he got there the cupboard was bare
Except for an old black man with a fishing rod
He said “Whatcha gonna be when you grow up?”
Jesus said “God.”

In every John Prine song there’s always a lyric I especially look forward to, but that hardly means it’s a chore to sit through everything surrounding it. I listen to John Prine every day, and on a lazy hot Saturday evening you can occasionally find me engaging in a beery singalong with myself, an enormous and outdated monitor, a blaring pair of headphones, and a guitar with a missing high-E string. I’m not gonna say everything he touches turns to gold. On occasion he’ll try to get a little too self-consciously cute, or he’ll try to craft a song out of nonsense lyrics that don’t add up to much. Believe me, I notice when he’s not at his best. But even his weakest work is rarely dull, and coming across a song by him that isn’t perfect is almost a relief, a reassuring reminder that he isn’t an otherworldly song machine from the planet Wondermagic.

All right, I’m staring to annoy myself with all the blather, so I’ll cut it short here, with the exceptions of posting the lyrics to arguably my favorite Prine song, “Sam Stone”, which devastatingly accounts for the listless life of a beaten-down war veteran, and an obligatory video of him singing it. Seeing him perform this song live at the Troy Saving Bank Music Hall is far and away my favorite concert memory. It was during the portion of the show where he played a solo set, sans backup musicians. Without bothering with introductions, he just launched into it, him and a guitar, and 2/3 of the way through his backup guitarist and bassist wandered onstage and joined him, almost as an afterthought, as though they didn’t want to be left out of this one. No doubt it was all part of the act, but it worked, and it pretty well wrecked Annie and I. It’s as pretty as it is sad, horribly sad, and no songs come to mind that draw me in so fully, like a terrible but important memory.

Sam Stone came home,
To his wife and family
After serving in the conflict overseas.
And the time that he served,
Had shattered all his nerves,
And left a little shrapnel in his knee.
But the morphine eased the pain,
And the grass grew round his brain,
And gave him all the confidence he lacked,
With a Purple Heart and a monkey on his back.

There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.

Sam Stone’s welcome home
Didn’t last too long.
He went to work when he’d spent his last dime
And Sammy took to stealing
When he got that empty feeling
For a hundred dollar habit without overtime.
And the gold rolled through his veins
Like a thousand railroad trains,
And eased his mind in the hours that he chose,
While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…

Sam Stone was alone
When he popped his last balloon
Climbing walls while sitting in a chair
Well, he played his last request
While the room smelled just like death
With an overdose hovering in the air
But life had lost its fun
And there was nothing to be done
But trade his house that he bought on the G, I. Bill
For a flag draped casket on a local heroes’ hill

And here’s the man himself singing it live, in all his cragginess. If you like this, I strongly urge you to track down the studio version. Hell, I strongly urge you to track down everything the guy ever did. If you do, I swear I’ll shut up about him. Seriously, not another word. On my honor. John Prine? Why, I’ve never heard of the man. Is that a gentleman with whom you have become acquainted in the midst of your day-to-day travails? Because his name certainly conjures not even the faintest glimmer in my mind. What was him name again? Ron Fine? Lon Dine? Flon Gline? No idea, I’m afraid. Sorry.

THREE I LOVE: 03/30/08

Posted in Jiving Ditties on March 30, 2008 by butthorn

I’ve been drinking and it’s time to talk about the music!


I have yet to fully establish an opinion regarding Van Morrison. I can’t lump him into any particular category. I don’t know what he is. But this song never fails to impel me to lean back in my computer chair, crossing my arms and smiling fondly and thinking of boats I’ll never own.

This is in spite of some lyrics that would ordinarily give me some pause. You don’t ideally want people to sing things like “I wanna rock your gypsy soul” to you. I don’t really want Van Morrison doing anything to my soul, and I resent him labeling it a “gypsy” one. I don’t care WHAT he wanna. But dumb as it is, holy shit, that’s the part that floors me. Boy does he belt that out. Once he gets to the part where he’s quietly intoning “when that foghorn blows” over a lilting acoustic riff, my heart rate actually increases, because I know in a few short seconds he’s gonna lay into that “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s the best sustained, gravelly held note in popular music. It’s too bad it ushers in a now dated and silly line, but it really only serves to prove his estimable vocal power. Who cares about whatever follows that thrilling “I”, the most compelling of all vowels? He could be saying “I wanna alphabetize your DVDs” or “I wanna read that Parade when you’re done with it”.

This is a case of some dopey words being nullified – no, for my money elevated and justified – by one of the best male rock vocals ever. He sells it, and I buy it, and I love it.

The song predates music videos, so enjoy this random couple’s vacation to the Grand Canyon. I find it only increases the poignancy.


I cannot overstate my affection for Jerry Reed. I wish I could purchase him. I’d love to just have him around the house. I can think of no better pet than Jerry Reed. Sure, part of it has to do with the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, and “Eastbound and Down”, which is now and forever one of the catchiest songs ever to come down the pike. But if you’ve any interest in countrified rock or guitar playing in general, do yourself a favor and seek out some of his lesser known work, including this novelty hit from the early ’70s.

“Lord Mr. Ford” is essentially a bunch of drawled corny observations involving the various problems that owning a vehicle can incur, and at face value it’s middling Dr. Demento at best. But what keeps me returning to it? My iTunes just loves to play it for me on shuffle (isn’t it odd how certain songs play more than others? it borders on creepy sometimes.), and I never, ever skip it. I’ve also put it on one or two mix CDs for the car, and while I tend to be a wanton skipper of songs while driving, I’ve never once skipped this one.

It probably helps that it’s about cars. But it choogles along so well, and Jerry’s humor, while lowbrow, is infectious, and his bark of a baritone is a wonderful instrument, unrefined but unfailing. I truly think his talents have never been adequately appreciated, and not just within the realm of music. Check him out in “The Survivors” or “Gator” sometime. Neither are particularly good movies, but his villainous turns in both are genuinely frightening. For all the knockabout redneck goofy charm he exhibited in his live concert performances and in the “Smokey” movies, there was a dark side to him, and he clearly relished the opportunity to indulge it. “The Waterboy” be damned, Jerry Reed is a great character actor.

But foremost, what an amazing musician this guy is. You’re not gonna find a better picker anywhere. There are riffs throughout “Lord Mr. Ford” that floor me every time, particularly the deliriously cascading coda. I submit that he could throw down with Yngwie Malmsteen anytime, or at the very least punch him out in a bar fight, and really, that’s all that matters in the end.

One time I burned a CD to play in my parent’s car when they drove us to see my grandmother, and I put this song on it. My dad laughed at every single dumb joke and smart-aleck comment Jerry Reed made. It did my heart good, and so does this song. I get a big ol’ kick of it, son.

Again, the homemade video above contains no actual footage of Jerry Reed, but here’s one that does. Highly recommended if you want to see a human guitar machine at work:


You’re causin’ it.

As far as Uncle Tupelo offshoots go, Wilco continues to get all the attention, but none of their perfectly good tunes have stuck with me as well as this single from Son Volt’s 1995 album “Trace”. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and it stops and starts at will throughout, all qualities I unfailingly respond to, and if I’m the one being asked, I’ll take Jay Farrar’s sad pleas over Jeff Tweedy’s sleepy excuses anyday.

Ideally, I just wish those guys would kiss and make up, but if they hadn’t gone their separate ways, I never would’ve gotten to hear “Drown”. What a great tune. It’s the musical equivalent of the old comfy jeans that only you think you look good in, and hell man, only you matters anyway.


Posted in Jiving Ditties on March 6, 2008 by butthorn

I amused myself (and likely only myself) by recording this fine tune on Garage Band. I call it “Goo-Goo Beh-Beh”. Please like it.  See that new “snazzy effin” box to the right there, in the sidebar?  I may decide to put low-quality songs in there from time to time.   Probably not very often because I get sick of doing things extremely quickly.

Purportedly, all you have to do put your pointer on the file there, click on the arrow that appears, then download it, should you like to listen to it.  I am just now learning this newfangled technology, so if it doesn’t work I refuse to apologize for my ignorance.  I can no more help being stupid than I can help being devastatingly handsome.

One of them iTunes games.

Posted in Jiving Ditties on February 10, 2008 by butthorn

I done stole this from my old lady’s blog. I love these kinds of shuffle games. They’re probably more fun to write than they are to read, in the long run, but I find myself with a snowed-in Sunday to kill.

The fonts’ll be all messed up since that seems to be what happens when you cut and paste. At least I got to use the contraction “fonts’ll”. Also, I accidentally listed mine in descending order, since I’m used to seeing music lists done in that order. I decided to just leave it that way to be exciting, unique, and impossibly sexy.
Like Annie, I opted to link the songs to YouTube videos whenever possible. By the way, whether you like the song or not, I highly recommend watching the “Kitty” video, especially if like me you enjoy watching cats do stupid things.

Put your music player on shuffle.Post the first 40 songs that come up. You can repeat artists if you want. If you have any repeats, skip to the next track. (From there, answer 38 questions about your 40 songs).


40) “Train in Vain (Stand By Me)” – The Clash
39) “Kitty” – The Presidents of the United States of America
38) “Cause I Can Do It Right” – Big Daddy Kane
37) “Your Genius Hands” – Everclear
36) “Trees Lounge” – Hayden
35) “Blue” – The Jayhawks
34) “Roll the Old Chariots” – Wood’s Tea Co.
33) “Shotgun” – Junior Walker and the All Stars
32) “Last Stop This Town” – Eels
31) “Wonderful” – The Beta Band
30) “Subterranean Homesick Blues” – Bob Dylan
29) “The Girls Want to Be With the Girls”– Talking Heads
28) “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” – John Prine
27) “We Want a Rock” – They Might Be Giants
26) “Pablo Picasso” – The Modern Lovers
25) “Burn On” – Randy Newman
24) “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work” – Tom Waits
23) “This is a Call” – Foo Fighters
22) “Who Do You Love?” – George Thorogood
21) “You Really Got a Hold On Me” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
20) “Indianapolis” – Bottle Rockets
19) “The Legend of Xanadu” – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
18) “Happy Organ” – Dave “Baby” Cortez
17) “Stars” – Hum
16) “Disorder in the House” – Warren Zevon
15) “Know Your Onion!” – The Shins
14) “Glory of True Love” – John Prine
13) “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley
12) “Furnace Room Lullaby” – Neko Case & Her Boyfriends
11) “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John
10) “Down Along the Cove” – Bob Dylan
09) “Vanessa From Queens” – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
08) “One Big Holiday” – My Morning Jacket
07) “Graceland” – Paul Simon
06) “Lowdown” – My Morning Jacket
05) “Tired of Sex” – Weezer
04) “’74-”75″ – The Connells
03) “Anticipation” – Delta 5
02) “I’ve Got a Feeling” – The Beatles
01) “You Better You Bet” – The Who


1. Which song do you prefer, #1 or #40?
Those are both good songs, but I’ll take “Train in Vain” (#40) over “You Better You Bet” (#1), though not by an enormous margin. Neither of these songs represents the best work of either The Clash or The Who, but they’re both catchy and fun. I used to think “You Better You Bet” was really stupid as a child, because my brother and I found the vocals ridiculous (which they are, but in a way I can now appreciate rather than mock) and we thought it was about a girl named Betty Bettybet.

2. Have you ever listened to #12 continuously on repeat?
I have never even listened to “Furnace Room Lullaby” on non-repeat until it came up while playing this game, but I liked what I heard. Neko Case is more Annie’s thing than mine, but I keep meaning to listen to more of her stuff.

3. What album is #26 from?
“Pablo Picasso” is from The Modern Lovers by The Modern Lovers. It’s a good time for everyone.

4. What do you think about the artist who did #15?
Actually I was just discussing The Shins with Annie. Some unfair part of me wants to dislike them, simply because they’re inescapable and too many people want to yak about them. In this case, it turns out the yakkers have solid reasons behind their ceaseless prattle. The Shins are a good band. They don’t do anything particularly daring instrumentation-wise, but they’re practically melody scientists. If you can write a catchy tune, like “Know Your Onion!” for example, you’re all right in my book.

5. Is #19 one of your favorite songs?

“The Legend of Xanadu” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich is not one of my favorite songs. It is not even one of my favorite Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich songs. But I like it fine.

6. Who does #38 remind you of?
“Cause I Can Do It Right” by Big Daddy Kane doesn’t remind of a solitary soul. I’ve racked my brain, and really it only reminds me of Big Daddy Kane. Who rules, by the way.

7. Does #20 have better lyrics or music?
Not that they can’t play, but The Bottle Rockets are pretty lyric-oriented songwriters, and that’s certainly true of “Indianapolis”: “Can’t go west, can’t go east/I’m stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that’s deceased”. Good tune.

8. Do any of your friends like #3?
I have no idea if anyone I know likes “Anticipation” by Delta 5. It’s possibly. I’ve been friends with an angry broad or two in my day.

9. Is #33 from a movie soundtrack?
As a matter of fact, I seem to recall (and a quick internet search confirms) that “Shotgun” by Junior Walker and the All-Stars plays over the opening scene of the movie “Misery”, while James Caan is getting into his fateful car accident. It’s impossible not to make unattractive pelvis-undulating motions in your computer chair while listening to “Shotgun”, by the way.

10. Is #18 overplayed on the radio?
Unfortunately, “Happy Organ” by Dave “Baby” Cortez is sadly underplayed on the radio. It’s just great. I love anything with organs in it, including “Happy Organ”, “96 Tears”, my wife, and hot dogs.

11. What does #21 remind you of?
“You Really Got a Hold On Me” reminds me of what a fantastic singer Smokey Robinson is, but most of all it reminds me of this.

12. Which song do you prefer, #5 or #22?
Let’s see, “Tired of Sex” by Weezer against “Who Do You Love” by George Thorogood. Both songs are big loud messes, so it’s a close race, but “Tired of Sex” has grown on me steadily over the years, while “Who Do You Love?” just kind of is what it is, although I’ve always liked the line “I got a cobra snake for a necktie”. That’s pretty badass, but as usual George (who I’ve always had a certain fondness for, even that ridiculous “Get a Haircut” song) didn’t write it. That’s a Bo Diddley original, and while it’s possible that Bo’s version might beat the Weezer song, George’s doesn’t quite.

13. What album is #17 from?
“Stars” is from Hum’s 1995 album “You’d Prefer an Astronaut”. I think it was on a car commercial recently, which wrecks it somewhat, but I imagine Hum was pretty thankful for the paycheck.

14. When did you first hear #39?
I first heard “Kitty” by P.O.T.U.S.A. upon purchasing their debut album on the basis of the then-ubiquitous single “Lump”, and putting it in the CD player. It’s the first track on the CD. It was the first of many spins of this particular disc. They had that perfect mix of catchy and retarded that rarely fails to engage me, for a few months anyway, whereupon I never want to hear it again, and then six years later I’ll put it on for shits and giggles and love it all over again from a nostalgic standpoint.

15. When did you first hear #7?
I honestly couldn’t say when I first heard the song “Graceland” by Paul Simon. I almost think my friend Ted put it on a mix tape, and I heard it in his car, perhaps en route to the Bangor Mall or the movies or something. That’s just a guess. It’s a good song that I don’t often get the urge to play.

16. What genre is #8?
I think My Morning Jacket would be considered a jam band. Let me check. I never know what anything is. Well, the internet isn’t telling me anything helpful. They get mentioned in that magazine Paste a lot, if that helps.

17. Do any of your friends like #14?
I’m willing to bet that absolutely zero of my friends (excluding my wife, who would probably recognize it but not be able to identify it by title) have heard “Glory of True Love” by John Prine, and my uneducated guess is that none of them would really give a crap about it either way. This is off his most recent album, which I’m just starting to appreciate. But if you’re curious about him, listen to his older stuff. Anything off “John Prine” or “Sweet Revenge” would be a good place to start. His live stuff is also usually a good introduction. I’m going to shut up now before this gets out of hand.

18. What color does #4 remind you of?
“’74-’75” by The Connells instantly conjures up a very pale green in my mind, and what a pretty song this is, incidentally.

19. Have you ever blasted #11 on your stereo?
I do most of my blasting directly into my eardrums through the headphones plugged into my computer, as it has no external speakers. But if I had a blasting-capable stereo, I would have no qualms whatsoever about blasting “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like to hear this song at maximum volume, and I refuse to believe anyone who states otherwise. Elton John rocks the party that rocks the body, in case anyone asks you who does that. It’s a question that comes up from time to time.

20. What genre is #37?
I would call Everclear rock. Nothing too fancy about it. “Your Genius Hands” is from “World of Noise”, their first album, which never got much attention, and they crib heavily from Pixies on it, but I’ve always liked the annoyingly repetitive one-note riff on this song. Not sure why.

21. Can you play #13 on any instrument?
I imagine I could figure out “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley on guitar if I sat down and worked with it. I don’t detect a multitude of different chords in there. It might not sound that great but I could do it.

22. What is your favorite lyric from #30?
Quite a few lyrics in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” to select from, but the only one that ever stands out is the last one, when “the pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handle”. Pump vandalizing: unforgivable!

23. What is your favorite lyric from #23?
“This is a Call” by Foo Fighters has some pretty inane lyrics. I don’t think meaningful poesy was foremost in Dave Grohl’s mind when he slapped this debut album together, but I always thought it had some catchy stuff on it. I guess I’d have to go with “Them balloons are pretty big”. Emily Dickinson eat your heart out.

24. Would you recommend #24 to your friends?
I doubt I’d think to recommend “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work” by Tom Waits to anyone. Nothing against it, it’s just not a song that’s ever foremost in my mind. I just found out my mom likes Tom Waits. I don’t even know what’s real anymore.

25. Is #2 a good song to dance to?
I like most everything off “Let it Be”, this song especially, but “I’ve Got a Feeling” by The Beatles is not a good song to dance to. Maybe compared to, say, “Revolution 9”, but otherwise, not really.

26. Do you ever hear #16 on the radio?
I’ve not heard “Disorder in the House” by Warren Zevon on the radio. Barring XM or Sirius or whatever, I doubt I ever will.

27. Is #32 more of a “nighttime” or “daytime” song?
“Last Stop This Town” by Eels strikes me as a nighttime song.

28. Does #36 have any special meaning to you?
I love “Trees Lounge”, but I wouldn’t say there’s any special meaning involved.

29. Do any of your friends like #31?
I associate each of my friends with no more than one or two musicians, none of which are The Beta Band, so I wouldn’t know if any of them like “Wonderful” or not. “Dry the Rain” is a lot more fun.

30. Is #25 a fast or slow song?
“Burn On” is on the slow side. Randy Newman isn’t exactly known for writing barn-burners, although he did write one called “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield”. So crops yes, barns no. This is the song they play over the beginning credits of “Major League”, and it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.

31. Is #35 a happy or sad song?
“Blue” is unquestionably a sad song. It’s called “Blue”, for God’s sake. It’s one of the most raggedly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and for that reason I don’t find myself playing it too often. It’s like listening to your dad sob softly in the next room.

32. What is one of your favorite lyrics from #9?
The one that sticks out is “Won’t you let me let me let me love you?”. I like “Vanessa from Queens” quite a bit, but more for the tune than for the words.

33. Is #34 better to listen to alone or with friends?
I really don’t like listening to music with friends. The shitty thing about friends is they tend to feel they need to express their opinions. “Roll the Old Chariots” is by Woods Tea Co., a little-known band that covers a lot of Irish standards, and it’s short, sweet, and a bit sad. Annie turned me on to them, and we used to play card games while listening to a live CD of theirs when we lived in Jay, so I have fond feelings towards them.

34. When did you first hear #27?
A pen pal from media camp (yes, I attended something called media camp, please don’t judge) sent me “Flood” by They Might Be Giants back in 1992 or 93. Not because she liked them, but rather because she despised them and wanted the tape out of her house. I gladly accepted it, since I only knew a couple songs and really liked what little I’d heard. I played that tape to death, and “We Want a Rock” was one of my favorites.

35. Name 3 other songs by the artist who did #29
Okay, if you say so. “Psycho Killer”, “Stay Up Late”, and “(Nothing But) Flowers” are three more good Talking Heads songs.

36. Do you know all the words to #6?
I find that I know really none of the lyrics to “Lowdown” by My Morning Jacket, other than “baa, baa, baa”.

37. Does #28 have better lyrics or music?
This is interesting, because although I rather like “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” by John Prine, I’m not terribly impressed by either the lyrics or the music. I guess it’s a “whole package” kind of deal here.

38. What album is #10 from?
No clue, give me a second. All right, Amazon tells me that “Down Along the Cove” is from Bob Dylan’s album “John Wesley Harding”. I’m pretty green when it comes to Bob Dylan. I find either I like his songs a lot or I never want to hear them ever again.

There, that’s it for that. Thanks for bringing me three hours closer to death, iTunes game!



Posted in Jiving Ditties on January 27, 2008 by butthorn

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.


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 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.


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!