30 Days!

No, I’m not proclaiming a new date for the end of the world. A bunch of folks (including some friends of mine) created an improved version of the “30-Day song” meme on Facebook, called the “30-Day Song Selection Spectacular.” Here’s what I uploaded…with a couple alternate tracks for fun. (Some videos are live or alternate versions; some are “official” videos; some are fan-made.)

1. Favorite cover version of a non-obscure song

There is no way I can narrow this down to one track – anything I’d put, I’d second guess it by thinking of something else. My cheat: what band is almost guaranteed to have only “non-obscure” songs? Why, the Beatles, of course! And…what Beatles cover – among my many, many Beatles covers – utterly and completely transforms its source material in a nearly miraculous way? Why…that would be The Shazam…and their track “Rev 9”…which is a cover of “Revolution 9” (really).

2. Favorite love song

I don’t know if this really counts as a “love song” per se… a sex song? and a regret song (last few lines)? but it’s one of my favorite songs, period – so there: The Wrens “Made Enough Friends.”

3. A song from your favorite movie

Okay – I give up on the whole “favorite” thing, and accept that I’m just going to go with something I enjoy a lot, have for a long time, and am likely to keep doing so. Still too many…must be arbitrary, so…I had Mulholland Drive, Repo Man, and (yes, I’m predictable – so kill me) The Big Lebowski as my first few ideas…and y’know, that’s a great Roy Orbison song in the Lynch film (but Roy’s version isn’t in the movie), the title track of Repo Man is great Iggy…but if I use Lebowski, I can use Captain Beefheart’s “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles.” So I am.

4. Favorite breakup song

Bob Dylan “Idiot Wind.”

Alternate: XTC “Your Dictionary” – this video is, unaccountably, merged with the band’s amusing little “History of Rock’n’Roll” thing… (note to video person: Kraftwerk’s Autobahn is not from the ’80s).

5. A song you hear when you’re shopping

Tuxedomoon “Holiday for Plywood.” Well, I hear it my head, anyway… (Give the song longer than its first 35 seconds, please… Video component is, as usual with these, disposable…)

6. A song you can’t listen to just once

Yeah, every once in a while a song comes along that grabs hold of me and makes me listen to it over and over again. This is the most recent one: Violens “When to Let Go.”

7. A song that breaks your heart with the first few notes

Ivory Library “Swiss Army Night Out.” Alternate: Buffalo Springfield “Expecting to Fly.”

8. A song that made you pull your car over (or otherwise completely halt whatever it was you were doing) the first time you heard it

Two songs that made me do something similar: listen to the radio until the song was back-announced. One of them’s more popular and is therefore my alternate selection; the other is “A Girl Like Patti Smith” by The Mosleys. (local flava!). The other is “Right in Time” by Lucinda Williams.

[9. A song about counting, to assist the originators of this 30-Day Song thing with where “9” goes]

A song involving counting…in recognition of the Spectacular organizers’ accidental omission of Day 9: Human Sexual Response “12345678910.”

10. A song that you first heard live, that you became instantly obsessed with

The Monkees “The Porpoise Song.” No, I did not hear the Monkees play this live. Some of you may be familiar with Milwaukee’s own Couch Flambeau. I used to see them often when they’d play out regularly, and among a handful of intriguing covers (including a selection from George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music) was this track. (Trivia: I once won an impromptu dance contest suddenly announced by Jay Tiller at a Couch Flambeau show – I think it was at the old Toad. Those who know me know how unlikely this is…but I won entirely due to my wearing a Ralph Records t-shirt…) I didn’t know the song, and I think I besieged Tiller with questions about this track.

11. A song which makes you think, if temporarily, that you love everybody! (think: uplifting anthem)

Talking Heads “The Book I Read.” Don’t know if it makes me think I love everybody – but it does make me dance around room making goofy noises. I’ll call that a “yes.”

12. A song which seems incredibly deep no matter how many times you hear it

Well, I’d delete the “incredibly” simply because hey, it’s a three-minute pop song. I’d prefer “substance” over “incredible depth.” But anyway…here’s one: Wire “Map Ref 41°N 93°W”. A patented post-punk move: the lyric at first seems to be pure abstraction. Who’d write a song about cartography, grids, measurements, etc.? Brilliant sonic evocation of vision from an aerial remove – and suddenly, the other meaning of “rule” comes into focus – and the other meaning of “order” – and… “a deep breath of submission has begun.” It’s a metaphysical punch in the gut.

The runner-up here takes a very different approach: “All Her Favorite Fruit” by Camper Van Beethoven. I had a whole sort of scenario worked out on this one…but as it turns out, it’s based on two characters from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake)…but my scenario – a critique of imperialism focusing on the sometimes willed ignorance of lower-level bureaucrats who make it possible – turns out to work pretty well there too. I think. I wish I had time to reread Gravity’s Rainbow just to verify this…

13. A song you love but can’t bring yourself to listen to. (You fill in the reason.)

That’s easy: “A Psychopath” by Lisa Germano. The actual 911 tape in it is just too fucking real.

14. A song you put on everyone’s mix tape

The Fall “Cruisers Creek” – although I haven’t actually made a mix tape for…??? Hell, I haven’t even made a mix CD for a long time – it’s playlists all the way down. One of the best repeat-forever riffs in the entire history of life, the universe, and everything.

A couple of alternates – songs that used to show up on my mixes nearly as often: Wire “A Question of Degree”: Mostly for the bridge (from about 2:12 to 2:30) which still freaks me right the fuck out; and Mission of Burma “Einstein’s Day”: Apparently, when someone says “mix tape,” I think “postpunk”… It’s the way this song’s melody line gradually rises – and the wonderfully articulated feedback in the solo, floating effortlessly amongst the overtones…and check out Clint Conley’s nice bass descent in the coda after that solo.

15. Favorite duet/collaboration between two artists you love (or maybe you only love one of them)

I think I’m going to go with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by P.J. Harvey & Björk.

My alternate choice is “Not Clean” by Ghostigital – which might also be regarded as “most annoying duet/collaboration,” as Ghostigital is an Einar Örn project (you know – the guy who was to Björk in the Sugarcubes what Fred Schneider was to Cindy Wilson in the B-52’s…), and this track, “Not Clean,” features guest vocals from none other than Mark E. Smith from The Fall.

16. A song you love from a genre/artist you usually dislike

“(Love Is) Thicker than Water” Andy Gibb: “Love” is too strong, but…I do like it (video is, of course, atrocious).

17. Biggest musical misstep by an artist you usually adore

To clarify – I will argue strongly against those who consider Tin Machine itself to be the misstep: there are lots of good songs on those two albums, and I think they were essential to (what I will also argue has been) Bowie’s regeneration since their release. But…this song (“Stateside”) – and letting Hunt Sales’ idiotic macho “singing” take the stage – is definitely Bowie’s biggest misstep. (I’m letting this stand in for the mostly awful Oy Vey, Baby: Tin Machine Live album – which, by the way, we’ve all decided to agree does not actually exist.)

18. A song you like recorded by an artist who was under 18 at the time of recording

Gordon Gano’s work on the first Violent Femmes album. I can’t speak to the actual recording…but I know most of the songs were written by Gano before he was 18. In fact, most of the Femmes’ best songs on their next few albums were written by Gano before he was 18… I’ll let this 1991 performance of “Kiss Off” stand in for the whole first album.

Runner-up: Kate Bush “The Man with the Child In His Eyes.” Again, can’t speak to actual recording, but Kate Bush started writing this song in her early teens – and I think at least the earliest demos were recorded when she was all of 16 or 17.

19. A song from the first album you ever bought with your own money (extra credit if you rode a spider bike to Woolworth’s to make the purchase) or first 45 if you’re old enough to know what that is

The first album I bought with my own money was probably Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies...I’ll highlight “Elected” from that album. either that, or The Best of Tommy James & the Shondells – I’ll go with “Crimson and Clover.” I don’t remember the first 45 I bought…must have been too long ago.

20. First song you ever illegally downloaded

Most likely, though, it was an oldie by an artist I didn’t want to buy an album from and didn’t feel the need to support, perhaps because they’re dead. I have no idea…let’s pretend it’s this one, because it’s a great song with one of the best all-time instrumental solos. Sorry – every version I could find had crap sound…this was actually the best one… (Ironically, I think I actually bought this particular song from Amazon or iTunes…): Del Shannon “Runaway.”

21. A song that you clean house to

What is this “clean house,” kemosabe? This would work well: R.E.M. “Wolves, Lower.” Alternate: Talking Heads “A Clean Break.”

22. A song by an artist that you used to love, but now are at least a little ashamed of (because either you or they changed)

Emerson Lake & Palmer (the entire damned catalog). This one (an early live version of “Knife Edge”) is still pretty good, though… I’ve seen two videos of this performance: one edited, and this one, unedited…and this version reminds me of some of why I no longer like the band: they do go on and on and on…and why throw in a bit of Bach in the solo for no good reason other than that, hey, Bach? On the other hand, I have to remember: this was 1970, and a lot of that stuff was new and exciting then. Who the hell made those weird noises on synthesizers (which were barely usable on the road at that time)? The sense of what-the-hell-we’ll-do-it led them down some ugly dead-ends, to be sure…but I think it’s still rather bracing in comparison with some clowns test-marketing their guitar sound.

23. A song that infuriates you

Bette Midler “Wind Beneath My Wings.” I just want her to shut the hell up – such horrific blathering, and all about “oh you’re my hero!” Gag. Gaah.

24. Last song that got stuck in your head

“Wolves” by Phosphorescent. This is an excellent example of something I’ve realized: sometimes I like songs more when I have no idea what they’re actually about. It’s clear that the song means something to its narrator…but what, exactly, I’m not sure.

Alternate selection: Rolling Stones “She’s Like a Rainbow.” Long-time favorite of mine…one thing I like about it is the way it’s so un-Stones-ish. Buncha tough guys, you know…and here they are, with a piano part that evokes delicate little ballerinas, and a string section on top of that: the solo section in the middle almost seems designed to annoy the crap out of, I dunno, the most aggressively macho Stones fans.

Of course, this is from their generally reviled “psychedelic” album Their Satanic Majesties Request (even though that album has always had its fans, too). Anyway – alongside that anti-macho, I suppose, is the manifest content: Mick’s still fine letting you know that his lady is awesome not only for her psychedelic variety but also, you know, cuz she comes in colors (which is hell on laundry, but hey). And that string part goes rather avant-garde and bizarre at moments – part of the whole psychedelic passage which lets you know that, hey, you men can be at once delicate, fey, virile, and freaky. It was the sixties: for all its flaws, we need its openness, in an era when far too many shut down as a first response.

25. A song your parents would play during parties

As if my parents kept me around or awake when they were having parties? I have no memory of any particular music they might have played. Perhaps I was dosed with whiskey first. Let’s let this song stand in for that entirely hypothetical and unlikely scenario: Ant Farmers “Girl in the Cake”

26. A song you love to sing in the shower

Klaatu “Sub-Rosa Subway.” I’m not sure I like to sing this song in the shower…but I do like to sing, and sometimes in the shower, and this song just occurred to me as I thought of the idea, so…

The main thing about singing in the shower is the acoustic resonance. (Actually, I did record a vocal in the bathroom, although not in shower, for a cover of “God Bless the Child” for my friend Rex Broome’s project. There are two versions – one with organ, one with 12-string…linked from elsewhere on this here ol’ bloggo. (Mostly, I just shouted hell out of it, since I’d arranged it as a garage-rock song for some reason).

Anyway, for those who don’t know: When this came out, there was a weird little rumor campaign that this was “really” the Beatles. Of course, it wasn’t…although this song and a few others on the album were recorded “between the keys” likely for the same reason several Beatles songs were: tape-speed alteration – and there’s an obvious quotation here from “The End”…as well as a generally Beatlesque air. Doesn’t matter – it’s just a bunch of Canadians, doing a fab powerpop number.

27. A song by the first band you saw in concert

Aerosmith “Toys in the Attic.” I’m assuming this means the first concert I went to myself, as opposed to being dragged along by parents to Sven Siggurdsen and His Magic Polka Band at the local church picnic. I was in 8th grade, and I went to this show with my then-best friend Dave. Even though I was a fairly squeaky-clean adolescent (there’s yr unused punk band name), I was determined that I had to be more “rock’n’roll” at this show…so cigarettes were smoked, and alcohol was consumed…the latter in the form of brandy Dave had brought along, sneakily concealed in (of all things) one of those bear-shaped containers honey is sold in. Because everyone brings honey to rock shows, do they not? Dude, don’t you know? All the famous rockers use honey – you have no idea – I mean, most classic albums were created by musicians who were totally “on the bear”…

28. Favorite oldie (a song you grew up thinking of as an oldie)

Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps pt. I of IV: Well, it is, isn’t it? (This video is the first three sections: Introduction, Les Augures printaniers, Jeu du rapt.)

29. A song with chord changes that really thrill you

Thin White Rope “On the Floe” – It’s the endless modulations in the coda…with a pedal tone in the organ part to add to the fun…

Alternate: Tommy Roe “Dizzy” <http://youtu.be/c2mGCaRPVZA&gt; If you give a rat’s, I’ve written about this one

30. Your favorite vocal performance

Merry Clayton’s performance in the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” – specifically, about three minutes in, when her voice breaks on her solo. Utterly spine-chilling.

Bonus: Song from the album you played over and over and over in high school

Yes “Starship Trooper” live: High school was kind of a dead zone for me, or least in my memory. I know I didn’t really get into newer, punk stuff until the very end of my high school years…and I can’t recall now what I was listening to that was contemporary (late ’70s). Pretty sure I was paying attention to Bowie and Eno by then…but no particular song stands out. I do know that I listened to this song incessantly during my early teens, though – figured out a passable version on piano by ear, at one point I think I knew where every scratch in the LP was. I was most familiar w/the live version from Yessongs (this one)…

For your pleasure… Here’s the complete tracklist (alternates below):

  1. The Shazam “Revolution 9”
  2. The Wrens “I’ve Made Enough Friends”
  3. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”
  4. Bob Dylan “Idiot Wind” (alt. XTC “Your Dictionary”)
  5. Tuxedomoon “Holiday for Plywood”
  6. Violens “When to Let Go”
  7. Ivory Library “Swiss Army Night Out” (alt. Buffalo Springfield “Expecting to Fly”)
  8. The Mosleys “A Girl Like Patti Smith” (alt. Lucinda Williams “Right on Time”)
  9. Human Sexual Response “12345678910”
  10. The Monkees “Porpoise Song”
  11. Talking Heads “The Book I Read”
  12. Wire “Map Ref 41°N 93°W” (alt. Camper Van Beethoven “All Her Favorite Fruit”)
  13. Lisa Germano “…A Psychopath”
  14. The Fall “Cruiser’s Creek” (alt. Wire “A Question of Degree”; Mission of Burma “Einstein’s Day”)
  15. P.J. Harvey & Björk “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (alt. Ghostigital “Not Clean” ft. Einar Örn and Mark E. Smith)
  16. Andy Gibb “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water”
  17. Tin Machine “Stateside” (live)*
  18. Violent Femmes “Kiss Off” (demo) (alt. Kate Bush “The Man with the Child in His Eyes”)
  19. Alice Cooper “Elected” (alt. Tommy James & the Shondells “Crimson & Clover”)
  20. Del Shannon “Runaway”
  21. R.E.M. “Wolves, Lower” (alt. Talking Heads “A Clean Break”)
  22. Emerson Lake & Palmer “Knife Edge” (live)
  23. Bette Midler “Wind Beneath My Wings”*
  24. Phosphorescent “Wolves” (alt. The Rolling Stones “She’s a Rainbow”)
  25. Ant Farmers “Girl in the Cake”
  26. Klaatu “Sub-Rosa Subway”
  27. Aerosmith “Toys in the Attic”
  28. Igor Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps (first three sections) Kirov Orchestra dir. Valery Gergiev
  29. Thin White Rope “On the Floe” (alt. Tommy Roe “Dizzy”)
  30. The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”
  31. Yes “Starship Trooper” (live)

* since these selections are pretty much “songs I don’t want to listen to,” they’re not included in the playlist.

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