This is just one of those things floating around social media that caught my eye. I thought it would be fun… and then I realized it might make for an interesting series of columns. You all should feel free to play along at home, as well.
I rarely talk about this here but music is a big part of my life. I got the bug from my old friend Joe, who I’ve mentioned here once or twice before. Some of my favorite memories from high school are the two of us tooling around Portland in Joe’s ancient Plymouth Duster on Saturday afternoons, going to various record shops and music stores, and then Joe would throw me a bone by stopping in at Cameron’s Books or the Looking Glass bookstore. (Most all of those places are gone now except Music Millennium and Cameron’s.)
Once upon a time, the record collection rivaled the book and comics libraries in the Hatcher home; we still have a number of CDs but they mostly live in the car now. These days my music listening tends to be when I’m working here in the home office, so I usually just pipe the stuff in through the computer. But I always have music going when I write– I think because my work habits were formed in college, typing away in the dorms where someone was ALWAYS making noise, I need to have some sort of background noise for my brain to push against. Trying to write in total silence is much harder for me than it is when the music is going.
So for the next four weeks of columns I’m going to be posting my picks for this challenge up here, a week at a time; some will be seven and some, like this week, will be eight, so that we end with thirty after four weeks. Here’s Week One.
Day One: A Song You Like With A Color in the Title.
Without question, my favorite song with a color in the title is “Out of the Blue,” by Roxy Music. Joe put this on a mixtape for me when we were in college and it went to the top of my personal playlist instantly. The one he chose was from their live album Viva! Roxy Music, but this is my favorite version, from the 2001 reunion tour. Mostly because of the young lady playing the violin, Lucy Wilkins. The violin solo is the best part of the song and she really nails it, and her modestly triumphant grin at the end is utterly endearing.
I’m going with live versions wherever possible because I think it’s more fun to see the band actually play the song. You can find the whole album here; or maybe you’d rather have the DVD. (We have both.)
Day Two: A Song You Like With A Number In The Title.
Most people jeer at the Rolling Stones’ brief flirtation with psychedelia on Their Satanic Majesties Request, and as a Stones album it is pretty lame. However, I always liked “2000 Light Years From Home,” especially when a REAL psychedelic band plays it. Sky Cries Mary were big in Seattle in the 1990s back when grunge was a thing, but really they are more in Pink Floyd’s ballpark.
Day Three: A Song That Reminds You of Summertime.
My idea of ‘summertime’ music is probably different than most people’s. For me the image that comes to mind is the memory of a bunch of people rocking out and pogo’ing like mad at local concert hall dives with the hot new band of the moment. Specifically, Portland’s Theatre of Sheep back in the early 1980s: they were selling out shows all over town and we saw them any number of times at the local all-ages venue, Starry Nights. It would get so hot out on the dance floor it felt like it was a steam room instead of a dance hall. This is the song they’d usually close the show with, “Glamour.”
If you want more, there is an album, Old Flames, that you can get at CD Baby, here.
Day Four: A Song That Reminds You of Someone You’d Rather Forget About.
In the early 1980s my life was a mess; I was trying to go to college but mostly I was drinking a lot with my fellow honors students. Quite a few of those folks are dead now from AIDS, overdoses, other bad behavior; a bunch more of us went through rehab. Being in the honors program was a lot like being in a cult and those of us that are still in touch wonder at how we made it out alive. (A lot of my novel The Silver Riders is pulling from that experience.) Which brings me to Day 4: A Song That Reminds You of a Person You’d Rather Forget.
1980s me is that person. Even more than Theatre of Sheep, The Confidentials were THE band for our posse of damaged people back then — I was drunk at a bunch of their gigs and I can never hear one of their songs without cringing at the memories it evokes.
The Confidentials, as talented as they were, nevertheless by all reports were even more dysfunctional than we were back in the day, and were constantly breaking up and reforming and so on; they self-destructed before they got any actual recording done. No albums that I’m aware of, just a couple of clips on YouTube. This one is the better of the two.
Day Five: A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud.
Well, shucks, I think they ALL do. But this one, especially.
Before Scrooged, Freejack, and Buster Poindexter, David Johansen fronted the New York Dolls. The Dolls were punk before punk was a thing. They were great and EVERYTHING they did should be played loud. I happen to like this one, “Girls,” which technically was released after the band split up, but the Dolls used to do it and I believe Johansen’s touring with a new version of the band today, featuring himself and the members left that didn’t OD on heroin. This clip is from a half-hour show recorded for Musicladen back in the eighties… I first saw it on Night Flight, a very odd but cool show you used to see on cable.
Day Six: A Song That Makes You Want To Dance.
I didn’t really come to appreciate jazz and funk until I was in my late forties. With the inverted snobbery that most young people have, I tended to dismiss it as ‘old people music.’ But in recent years– as I am becoming an old person myself, I suppose– I have come to really like it a lot, in particular the subgenre known as “acid jazz.” This is the Brand New Heavies, a remarkable group of musicians from Britain. They look like they’d be a lot of fun to see live. This one, “Stay This Way,” is a favorite of mine. You can find their albums here.
I am frankly a terrible dancer, with a bad case of Protestant rhythm (which is to say none at all) but the Heavies are one of the few bands that allow me to overcome my repressed white-guy fears and shake it a little bit. Badly, and no one but my wife Julie ever sees it… but it happens.
Day Seven: A Song To Drive To.
Roxy Music again… this time it’s “Both Ends Burning.” This could just as easily been the entry for Day Six– Julie and I both find it really propulsive and when Julie hears it coming out of the office she often will come dancing into the room doing the same moves as the go-go dancers featured here, just to make me laugh.
So this one does provoke dancing. But it’s ALWAYS played in the car at least once on our road trips, so I decided it was a better fit for Day Seven. Again, this is from the 2001 reunion show; you can find it both on CD and on DVD using the links listed above in Day One.
Miss Wilkins is just as endearing here on keyboards as she was on the violin. The percussionist in the blue corset, Julie Thornton, is kind of adorable as well. The whole show is great fun to watch just because the BAND seems to be having so much fun.
Day Eight: A Song About Drugs or Alcohol.
There are so many, but growing up in Lake Oswego, or “Dysfunction Junction” as we tend to refer to it in our household, this was our anthem. “White Punks on Dope” by the Tubes. They still tour, doing a stripped-down version of their infamously elaborate stage show…. and lead singer Fee Waybill still dresses up as faded glam rocker Quay Lewd to play “White Punks.” This is from a couple of years ago.
We always go when they’re in town, and we usually try to bring along someone who’s never seen them before just to watch them react with delight. They are a wonderful live band no matter the venue, and if your only memory of them is a couple of minor hits on MTV in the eighties then you are missing out. If they are playing in your town you should go… I think they’re actually more fun now, in the smaller clubs, then they were at the height of their fame playing big coliseum shows. You can find their records here— I’d recommend one of the live albums, myself.
And there you go. Feel free to give us your picks in the comments; and I’ll be back next week with the second installment.