It’s been a difficult month. And a good month. My mother was here with me for a while, which was awesome. I have been reading a lot, writing a lot, watching a lot of movies, and working hard. The Shuffle is one of those random ongoing things that I like to incorporate into my life, which can be quite rigid in its routines. It’s just the way I’m built. I’m not particularly flexible. Shuffle is a gift, in that regard. I’m quite serious. It allows an element of random-ness into my day. I have to accept what comes. That’s the fun of it. You see, you can take lessons from anything in life, if you’re open to it. I’m trying.
Here’s the shuffle for the last couple of weeks.
“Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson. This song will always, always, make me think of Mitchell, and our friendship.
“Taking Over Me” – Evanescence. Rousing. Ominous.
“Evening Is a Little Boy / Night Will Never Stay” – this is from what I like to call Shawn Colvin’s suicidal Christmas album.
“Dive” – Nirvana. Fierce.
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Elvis, from the newly released Prince From Another Planet, his Madison Square Garden concerts in 1972. The sound is extraordinary. His final notes: amazing.
“Stuck On You” – Elvis. Elvis of the 1960 period, with the very tall post-Army hair. I know this is just a silly pop song, really, but it’s one of my favorite Elvis-es ever. He’s having a blast.
“The House is Rockin’” – Brian Setzer. Big band sound, with electric guitar. Great.
“Spend Some Time” – Eminem. A bit of a snoozefest, pal.
“Mercy” – Alanis Morissette. I have no idea what is going on here, but I love it.
“If I Loved You” – Elvis goofing around at home, being recorded by his friend Red West. Elvis plays piano here, too. I think this was from when he was in Germany. Elvis sings the HELL out of this song and it makes me wish he had actually recorded it. He could pull it off.
“Lover, You Should Have Come Over” – the great and sorely-missed Jeff Buckley. I saw him in Chicago, right before Grace came out, or right around that same time. It was one of the most memorable live shows I have ever been to.
“Skull and Crossbones” – from the insanely hyperkinetic Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. SO. DRAMATIC.
“O Holy Night” – from the Glee Christmas album. I am assuming this is Lea Michele. She has a beautiful voice, and I like the arrangement.
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” – Simon & Garfunkel. I’ve always loved this song. I remember jamming out to it when I was a small child, which is a strangely tragic image to me now.
“Second Hand News” – Fleetwood Mac. Bitter bitter bitter. I love the bitterness of the song mixed with the positive non-melancholy melody. It’s vaguely psychotic and I love it.
“First In Line” – Elvis Presley. This is one of the early RCA recordings where, in trying to re-create the distinctive Sun sound, with its slap-back echo, they put an echo on Elvis’ voice so that he sounds like he is singing from the bottom of a well.
“Glass Onion” – The Beatles. I love the self-referential nature of the lyrics.
“I’ll Hold You In My Heart (‘Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)” – Elvis Presley. God, this is so emotional, so good. It’s from the American Studios sessions in the late 60s that yielded such gold. Elvis is in top form here. He’s WAILING, with that rough edge to his voice that I love so much.
“Pity the Child #2″ – This is from the live concert of Chess at Albert Hall with Josh Groban, Idina Menzel and others. Adam Pascale sings this song, and I don’t think I had really listened to it before now. It’s a tremendously challenging song, it goes from A to Z, emotionally and vocally. Pascale is PHENOMENAL.
“I’m Alive” – ELO. Classic!!
“Spanish Lesson” – Madonna. This is from her Hard Candy album that I really love. This is one of my favorite tracks.
“Any Time At All” – The Beatles. This is from Hard Day’s Night, I believe, although please, someone correct me if I’m wrong! I love this one.
“Razor” – Foo Fighters. This is live. I am not sure they ever recorded this number in a studio. If they did, I don’t have it. It’s haunting. Not like their other stuff. No lyrics, just guitar. Beautiful and melancholy.
“I Love You Because (alternate take)” – Elvis Presley. He is YOUNG here. Early early Sun, one of the first songs he recorded there. There’s a whole talking section in the middle, which is vaguely ridiculous (he’s too young to have any experiences similar to what he is talking about), but it shows his natural acting chops, I will say that. He keeps it simple. And also just slightly absurd.
“New York Story” – Teddy Goldstein. This song was on a mix tape someone made for me a million years ago and I had completely forgotten about it. In a recent purge in my apartment, I came across said mix tape (which was awesome), and saw the title written out on the little sleeve and thought: “Hm. I have no memory of that, what is that.” I found it on iTunes, and fell in love all over again.
“Kashmir” – Led Zeppelin. This is up there as one of my favorite songs of all time.
“The Nightmare” – orchestra, from the movie Anastasia. I love that score in all its melancholy bombastic Russian-ness.
“Muquin” – Harriet Harris, from the adorable Thoroughly Modern Millie soundtrack. I’m clocking a ukelele in the background. Love it.
“Mother’s Pride” – George Michael. Great album, not a stinker on it. He’s got such an amazing voice.
“Heart of Rome” – Elvis Presley. This was on his country album, and I love it. It’s so dramatic, with a note you think he won’t be able to hit at the end … and then, naturally, he hits it beautifully. Indestructible voice. Freedom, courage, nothing held back, nothing left on the table.
“U.S. Male” – Elvis Presley. The ultimate in Elvis self-parody. There are a couple of different takes, and in each one, he keeps talking as the song fades out, and it’s clearly improvised, and so funny. In this one, he says, “You talkin’ to the U.S. male. The American U.S. male.” Elvis’ sense of humor was goofy, in some respects (he loved water balloon fights and practical jokes, etc.) but on another level it was quite sophisticated and ironic. His favorite movie of all time was Dr. Strangelove. Elvis had a highly developed sense of satire. You can hear it in the blown takes of various songs, and the things that make him roar with laughter. The humor in his clarification that he is an American U.S. male is ironic in nature, and a sort of letting us know that he is in on the joke. What other kind of U.S. male would he be but American? Doesn’t U.S. mean American by default? Elvis is making fun of the kind of macho cock-swinging dumbass that the song portrays. It’s great.
“Highway 57″ – the opening number in the Broadway musical Pump Boys and Dinettes. I love this musical so much!
“Season of the Witch” – Donovan. My parents had one of his albums when I was growing up. This song is awesome. It always works for me. Never get sick of it.
“Cathy’s Clown” – The Everly Brothers. They are just perfect. The harmonies!
“Dumb” – Nirvana. The lyrics fucking kill me. “I think I’m dumb. Maybe just happy.” Heartbreaking.
“I Feel Fine” – The Beatles. Brilliant opening.
“My Babe” – Elvis, live in Vegas. Sexy as hell, and a couple of times he goes over the edge (which for Elvis, was pretty damn far out), and he cracks himself up.
“Night Train to Memphis” – Everclear. I love these guys! This is from their album of covers, which includes the theme song to “Land of the Lost”, so naturally it is a great album!!
“Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming” – Elvis Presley. From the underrated Promised Land album. This is mature sad Elvis. He’s killer.
“Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite” – Mark Mothersbaugh, from The Royal Tenenbaums. If I am not mistaken, this is also used in the great Canadian TV show Slings and Arrows as one of its themes.
“Old Shep” – Elvis Presley. Oh, Elvis. I know you love this song. It’s okay. He sang it at age 10 at a Tupelo country fair (held here), and came in 5th. He sang it a capella. He adored the song, which tells the song of a little boy and his beloved dog. It’s amazing to me (and cool, although the song is not my favorite) that when he became famous, he would record it. Elvis remembered things. Elvis had great ties with his past. But still. Old Shep, Elvis? Let it go.
“Maybe This Time” – Kristen Chenoweth, from Glee. Woman can sing, no doubt. But I don’t understand her interpretation of this song. She hits a final note that is clearly just a showoff moment for her, and seems completely at odds with the sentiment of the song, which is chastened, hopeful, and tinged with tragedy. It’s like she couldn’t help herself from pulling out the soprano register, it doesn’t fit. I saw Natasha Richardson do this role on Broadway, and it is the most memorable live performance I have ever seen.
“We Are the Champions” – the Glee version of Queen’s classic. It’s actually rather lovely.
“Old Woman From Wexford” – The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. I was wondering when the Irish brigade would show up!
“Lucky” – Britney Spears. This is adorable and I don’t care who hears me say that.
“Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” – Elvis Presley, in an Oriental-inspired number that is completely absurd.
“Unchained Melody” – Charlie Rich. God, he’s good.
“Shake It Out” – from Glee. I have everything put out by Glee. It’s a compulsion. Sometimes they hit it, sometimes they bore me. This is great, though. Beautiful voices.
“Elevator Boogie” – Mabel Scott. I have this great album of old piano boogie-woogie. This stuff is so hot, drenched in sex and fun.
“Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” – Rufus Wainwright. He’s hit or miss for me, but this song is great.
“Joey’s Arms” – Cliff Eberhardt. I’ve written a bunch about Mr. Cliffhardt before. I can’t imagine my life without his music. I don’t say that about every musician. I love Foo Fighters, but I certainly can imagine my life without them. Cliff Eberhardt was important to me at a very significant time in my life, and his songs were soothing, painful, cathartic, and healing. This man’s been through it. I’ve seen him perform a bunch. He’s fantastic. One of my favorite songwriters.
“Set Fire to the Rain” – Adele. You GO, you fabulous woman.
“Everyday” – the wonderful band Hellogoodbye, on their ukelele album. Yes, they do all this electronic stuff, too, but then they come out with an album of ukelele covers? They sing Buddy Holly? I LOVE THEM.
“Smooth” – Santana & Rob Thomas. I certainly remember the time when this song was everywhere, you could not escape it. Its power lasts, though. It’s a really good song.
“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” – Marilyn Monroe. Not only do I love her voice (it’s quite a flexible instrument, and I don’t think she gets enough kudos for her singing), but I love the arrangement here. The big band feel.
“Basket Case” – Green Day. “Do you have the time to listen to me whine?” Actually, no. I’m busy with my own whining. Sorry.
“Something In the Air” – Thunderclap Newman. Used, memorably, in Easy Rider. I love the song. “And you know that it’s right!”
“Jeremy” – Pearl Jam. The song still has power and relevance.
“Dragon Attack” – Queen. YES. From The Game. Such freakin’ rock stars.
“What” – Brendan Benson. Another one of my favorite songwriters writing today! He seems incapable of writing a bad or boring song.
“It’s a Boy” – The Who. Goosebumps all over my body. Not an inch left uncovered!!
“Minnie and the Moocher” – Cab Calloway. I love his stuff. I have a whole double-album of it.
“Lonesome Cowboy” – Elvis Presley. From the movie Loving You (1957). I wrote a whole piece about his performance of this song.
“Strong Black Vine” – Tori Amos. I know many of her fans love her interior-introverted ballads. I am not as crazy about them. I like it when she gets big, rough, and angry. This is a great example.
“Washing of the Water” – Peter Gabriel. To be honest, this song is too painful for me to listen to.
“Scentless Apprentice” – Nirvana, live in Seattle. Outrageously huge. You can just picture how crazy the crowd must have been. The sound is a giant undulating WALL.
“Paid For Nothing” – Pat McCurdy. I believe this is his first appearance on the Shuffle, which is shocking. This is live, from one of the 350 shows he does in the Midwest every year. Funny lyrics.
“Window” – Fiona Apple. My dad loved her. I love that he loved her.
“Monkberry Moon Delight” – Paul McCartney, from the phenomenal album Ram. I believe this is the first thing he did post-Beatles. A solo album. Not a bad song on it, and “Monkberry Moon Delight” is my favorite track. I love it when Paul screams.
“Everyday is Xmas” – Pat McCurdy. I love this song of his. It’s live, and everyone sings along, as they always do.
“Harlem Pas de Deux” – from the Broadway production of Ragtime. Beautiful. And strangely sad.
“Gay Messiah” – Rufus Wainwright. I get bored with him sometimes. Like now.
“Shake, Rattle and Roll” – Elvis Presley. Lots of takes. The lyrics were seen as two risque for a white boy to sing (racist: it’s okay for blacks to glory in sex, but not whites?) But there are some takes when Elvis sings the dirty lyrics. “You wear them dresses, the sun comes shinin’ through …” Funnily enough, that was seen as too dirty. But somehow no one thought that “I’m like a one-eyed cat peeking in the seafood store” is the dirtiest line in the whole thing. I guess they didn’t understand the imagery, but I don’t know how you could miss it. A one-eyed cat? The seafood store? Come on.
“Spanish Lady” – The Irish Tenors. So ridiculous.
“Skip Rope Song” – The McGarrigle Sisters and Emmylou Harris. Rufus Wainwright’s mother! This is from the wonderful album The McGarrigle Hour. I am so glad that album exists.
“Poison Ivy League” – Elvis Presley, from Roustabout. Dark days for our rebel, Elvis. Where his rebellion is reduced to making fun of Ivy League guys, as opposed to completely destabilizing the ground on which we walk.
“A World Of Our Own” – Elvis Presley, from It Happened at the World’s Fair. Not a stand-out song, but Elvis performs it beautifully. Languidly melodic.
“The Long Black Veil” – Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Powerful, and so simple. You can hear a pin drop in that rowdy room of convicts.
“Danny Boy” – The Irish Tenors. You guys again? Relax. You’re all wonderful, stop competing with each other.
“One Hit Wonder” – the great Tracy Bonham, from her great first album The Burdens of Being Upright.
“It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” – Dolly Parton. A legend. So homegrown, so American, and yet so universal.
“That Thing You Do” – The Wonders, from the That Thing You Do soundtrack. (Of course, this was all by Mike Viola, one of my favorite songwriters.)
“Hosanna” – from Jesus Christ Superstar. The celebrity is gettin’ to J.C. at this point.
“It’s a Hard Life” – Queen. Who has the balls to open a song the way Mercury/et al opens this song? I mean, let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s jump right into the heart of the moment.
“Up the Ladder to the Roof” – The Nylons. This song, and this group, always makes me think of my friend Brett, who died recently. He loved The Nylons, and introduced me to their music.
“Don’t Say No” – Robbie Williams. Great song. Great pop anthem. He’s so awesome.
“Who’d Have Known” – Lily Allen. This song is so lovely. I realize she’s a bit of a trainwreck. She’s young. This is beautiful. I worked her Today Show segment, when she was first hitting it big.
“Chokin’ the Gopher” – Pat McCurdy. Pat’s gentle loving song about euphemisms for masturbation, male and female. He does not, however, include my favorite euphemism for female masturbation, which would only make sense if you are of a generation that remember rotary phones: “Dialing zero.”
“Jingle Bells” – Bleu. I pretty much said what I need to say about Bleu here. This is from his fantastically entertaining holiday album.
“Somethin’ Stupid” – Robbie Williams. Lovely two-part harmony, with Robbie and Nicole Kidman. This is from his Rat Pack tribute album.
“I Need a Man” – Eurythmics. So do I, girl.
“Trapped Under Ice” – Metallica. My brother says that Metallica is for “metal math nerds”. Their songs are intricate, complex, and highly structured. I love them.
“Higher Ground” – the great cover of the Stevie Wonder song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of those rare instances when the cover is almost (almost) as good as the original.
“When You Say Nothing At All” – Alison Krauss. Her voice soothes the troubled spirit.
“Party” – Elvis Presley. This is the big production number that closes Loving You (1957). It’s one of those great instances when Elvis is totally in the moment – at the same time that he is commenting ON the moment. Not too many artists can pull that off. One or the other of the attitudes tends to take over: either you are totally engrossed, or you are ONLY winking at the audience and commenting on yourself. Elvis does both.
“Two By Two” – hilarious number from The Book of Mormon. So mean, so funny.
“Go or Go Ahead” – Rufus Wainwright. A song that starts slow and on one level, and moves inevitably to a hugely expressive wailing level. I love it.
“You Don’t Know What It’s Like” – Nina Simone. No, I don’t Nina, but you sure let me know what it’s like. She’s so incredible.
“Seether” – Veruca Salt. Boy, this song brings me back.
“Little Sister” – Elvis Presley. Again, with the sex-on-a-stick Elvis. I love this Elvis.
“Tomorrow Is a Long Time” – Elvis Presley covering Bob Dylan. Haunting steel guitar. The song lingers, the song meanders, it’s beautifully modulated, beautifully performed. Dylan loved it.
“Give ‘Em Hell, Kid” – My Chemical Romance. I love them but I always want to tell them to relax, everything’s going to be okay.
“SexyBack” – Justin Timberlake. The song is already a classic. The O’Malley Sisters love JT beyond measure.
“Boyfriend Overture” – the great and swinging overture to the Broadway production of The Boyfriend. Seeing a local production of this when I was 11 or 12 changed my life. 1. It made me interested in the 1920s, an interest that has lasted me my whole life. 2. It made me want to get up on that stage and pretend to be somebody else, preferably a “perfect young lady” ensconced in a boarding school wearing a flapper dress.
“Dream On” – the Glee version, which is pretty damn awesome. It becomes a duet, featuring Neal Patrick Harris, and it works great.
“I Pleaded” – the great Gene Kelly, from Anchors Aweigh (speaking of Dean Stockwell! Anchors Aweigh was his debut!)
“Mothersbaugh’s Canon” – again from Mark Mothersbaugh’s score to Royal Tenenbaums. Beautiful and very sad.
“Could I Fall in Love” – Elvis Presley, from Double Trouble. Lovely, with rare moments of Elvis singing with someone else (he was always a solo artist, almost no duets). But you can definitely hear her the problems with the 60s soundtracks, in terms of the mix: Elvis’ voice is pushed so far out in front of the accompaniment that, frankly, it sounds weird. Elvis hated that sound.
“Dark I Am Yet Lonely” – Sinéad O’Connor. This is from her bizarre double album (which basically features the same songs on both albums). This is beautiful, though.
“Baby What You Want Me To Do” – Elvis Presley, live, in the 1968 NBC special, during the informal jam session section. I wrote about this song here.
“Love In My Heart” – Pat McCurdy. Another live track, with everyone singing along and harmonizing. “I’ve got love in my heart, anger in my pants …” Don’t we all.
“We Are Young” – Fun. I had forgotten I owned this song. Very exciting song!
“Heartache Tonight” – Michael Bublé. He turns it into a big-band number, and I think it’s quite effective.
“Blow Up the Radio” – Bleu. I love it when he writes dance-hits. This is basically a disco song. Donna Summer would’ve loved it.
“Shove” – L7. This is from the Tank Girl soundtrack, which is outstanding. I have some other songs of theirs, and I love the loud grunge sound.
“Sacrifice” – the superb Clint Mansell, in his soundtrack for Moon.
“Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 ‘Pastoral’” – The London Symphony Orchestra, playing Beethoven. This sounds like it should accompany a royal pageant!
“Strong” – Robbie Williams. This may be my favorite of his songs. The lyrics kill me and I really click with them. “You think that I’m strong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.”
“Look Out, Broadway” – poor Elvis Presley, and his co-stars in Frankie and Johnny. Harry Morgan sings along! The image of Elvis – ELVIS – being a Broadway-gypsy-hopeful is absurd.
“Take Me I’m Yours” – Squeeze. Ha. Totally forgot about this song until now!
“Heartbreaker” – Sarah Donner. She’s so good. I will always have her on my radar now.
“If” – Dean Martin. My God, he’s perfect.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” – Elvis Presley, in Vegas. He performed this in all of his shows. You never feel he gets tired of it, although he did make fun of it (often).
“Yancey Special” – Jimmy Yancey. Awesome boogie-woogie piano! Roll up the rugs and dance!
“Pride (In the Name of Love” – U2, live in Paris. This is an absolutely electric live album. The crowd is ferocious, so into it (any time Bono speaks a French word, they lose their minds!), and the band sounds great.
“Once Upon a Time” – The Pogues. I love The Pogues, and this is one of my favorites of their songs.
“Little Red Corvette” – Prince. This song took over the airwaves when it was first released for what felt like forever.
“Hound Dog (live)” – Elvis, live in the 70s, I think in Memphis. He starts off by saying, “This was a song I performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1912.” They totally rearrange the structure here, slow it down, so that it almost becomes a country song. He can’t stop making fun of it. He just can’t.
“Something’s Got a Hold On Me” – Christina Aguilera, wailing in all of her awesomeness in the wonderful Burlesque album. I recommend the album. Cher sounds amazing, and Aguilera is in fine form.
“Been a Son” – Nirvana, live in Amsterdam. It’s hard to believe how huge their sound is with so few people playing.
“Exit” – U2, again from the Paris live concert. The crowd sounds almost totalitarian: clapping in unison, screaming at the tops of their lungs. It’s exciting.
“How Do You Think I Feel?” – Elvis Presley, from his second album for RCA. I don’t know, Elvis, why don’t you tell me how you feel?
“Fairytale (alternate take 2)” – Elvis Presley. This is a strictly country number, traditional, and maybe not as well known as some of his other country numbers. But I absolutely love him here. I love him when he gets pissed, listen to how he hits the word “bet” – and listen to how it intensifies over the course of the song, getting angrier and angrier: that’s excellent “script analysis” right there: “You used me, you deceived me, and you never seem to need me, but I BET — you won’t forget me when I go!” You’re right, Elvis, we won’t!