Wednesday, March 05, 2008

songs that changed my life, part 1

I've been meaning to follow up on this post for some time and devote a paragraph or two to some of the songs that made me who I am, either musically or as a person. I guess you could call these favorites of sorts, but I sort of think of them as more than that. Inspirations or reflections of me. In all my glorious angsty-ness.

There's no way I could cover all or even a meaningful portion of songs in a single post, so I'm starting small. Hopefully I'll be inspired at some later date to add to this list:

1. Fall On Me (R.E.M.)

I still remember the first time I saw the video for Fall On Me. 1986. I was 16 years old, babysitting at someone's house who had Mtv (I'm pretty sure it was during a period that I didn't have cable at home). 120 Minutes came on and I watched it, possibly for the first time. At this point, I didn't really know what college music (remember when it was called that?) or alternative music was. I saw Michael Stipe flipping the cards, Dylanesque, and listened to the incredible lyrics and folk-inspired guitar parts and I was simply amazed. Falling in love with R.E.M. as an impressionable 16-year-old kid significantly altered the musical course of my life. Sure, my sister had introduced me to Talking Heads by this point, but in suburban upstate NY those sorts of acts didn't get much play. Mtv was changing things, of course. Making more kinds of music accessible to the masses. And seemingly just for me they were playing a 2-3 hour college music show. Something I couldn't have found in Albany, NY on the FM radio dial.

there's the progress we have found
a way to talk around the problem
building towered foresight
isn't anything at all
buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky
I still love this song today. I still love Life's Rich Pageant today. I still love R.E.M. today. They, to me, are an act that is hard to classify. They appeal to the folk-lover in me. To the alt-country lover. To the rock lover.

There is a concert video from a recent concert (in Japan? Europe?) that has been airing on The 101 for those of you with DirecTv and it is wonderful. Somehow even when they were one of the biggest acts in the world, they never seemed to sell out. Michael Stipe today is his own person. He's writing protest songs. He's painting a black mask on his face. He's doing things the way he wants to do them. You just get the impression that the money doesn't matter so much to him and that he could live quite happily without being played on Clear Channel ever again.

2. Jezebel (10,000 Maniacs*)

There are those songs that get us through the hardest times in our lives and that we forever associate with those events. This is one of those songs for me. I must have listened to it approximately 1 billion times during the 18 months surrounding my divorce. Honestly, I'm not sure what else to say, other than to post the lyrics:

to think of my task is chilling
to know I was carefully building the mask I was wearing
for two years, swearing I'd tear it off

I've sat in the dark explaining to myself that I'm
straining too hard for feelings I ought to find easily

called myself Jezebel I don't believe

before I say that the vows we've made
weigh like a stone in my heart
family is family, don't let this tear us apart

you lie there, an innocent baby
I feel like the thief who is raiding your home
entering and breaking and taking in every room

I know your feelings are tender
inside you the embers still glow
but I'm a shadow, I'm only a bed of blackened coal
call myself Jezebel for wanting to leave

I'm not saying I'm replacing love for some other word
to describe the sacred tie that bound me to you
I'm just saying we've mistaken one for thousands of words
and for that mistake, I've caused you such pain that I
damn that word

I've no more ways to hide
that I'm a desolate and empty, hollow place inside

I'm not saying I'm replacing love for some other word
to describe the sacred tie that bound me to you
I'm not saying love's a plaything
no, it's a powerful word
inspired by strong desire to bind myself to you

how I wish that we never had tried
to be man and his wife, to weave our lives
into a blindfold over both our eyes

Thank you, Natalie (and the other Maniacs), for getting me through.

3. Our Time Is Running Out (Muse)

If any song from the last 5 years should be on this list, it is Our Time Is Running Out. The first time I ever heard this song, I stopped what I was doing, just to listen and marvel. It hit me so hard and left me rambling to anyone who would listen about what an incredible album Absolution was. Mike and I saw Muse play KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas in December 2004, a couple of months after we moved to LA, and they completely stole the show. To me, they've always seemed a bit like a cross between Radiohead and Queen. And that is not a bad thing.

Our Time Is Running Out is in my Top 5 all time driving songs. Quintessential road trip mix tape material, were I still making those. Though I prefer to sing it loudly, desperately, in my car by myself. Hoping that the passing motorists can't see the tears streaming down my face.

* I thought this was a Natalie Merchant solo song, but it turns out that Our Time In Eden, an album that I've thought of for years as her first solo album (and listened to countless times), was actually the last 10,000 Maniacs album (of new material). Sorry to the other 9,999 Maniacs.


bold said...

I like this post quite a bit. I'm a huge fan of both lists and music, so it appeals to me.

Back in college, I used to write lists in my journal. I should post some of them for laughs.

Jason said...

r.e.m.'s brand new single is out now, "supernatural superserious"