End of summer iPod shuffle

I’ve had a hectic summer, and have been job-hunting, with little-to-some success. I’m going on a trip in September, a trip I’ve wanted to take for … 20 years? … so job-hunting while I have this huge thing looming is rather odd (not to mention traveling while I’m looking for work … it feels very decadent, but I booked the trip last year when I had some money.) I have a temp job last week and this week, and my commute (from my new apartment) is so long. Almost 2 hours. I keep experimenting with different transportation combinations to shave off 5, 10 minutes. And, not sure if you’ve heard (those of us in the New York area are obsessed with it) – the MTA system is breaking down. Or broken. I got on my subway train last night, settled in, only to find the next stop was not the expected next stop, and the train had changed to a different line, going in the opposite direction. So the A turned into the F without any warning and I got off, standing in the sweltering muck of the subway station, waiting for any train to come along that wouldn’t deposit me in Queens. I figure since my life has been pretty much subway-less for a couple of years now, since the gig at the New York Times was so central I just got off at the bus station and walked across the street … it’s my turn to participate in the misery that is the New York subway system. So I don’t complain about it too much. Also, I’ve finished 2 short novels during the last week on these commutes.

The point of all this is: Thank you music in the earbuds. Here’s what I’ve listened to on these deadly commutes.

“Mr. Harris” – Aimee Mann. This song is difficult for me to commit to listening to. I usually skip it. It’s … the story of one of my love affairs. THE love affair. It was so long ago. I’m so much older now. Things have faded. But this song makes me remember what it felt like to love someone like that. It burned.

“Bells on a Leper” – Candy Butchers. Mike Viola’s band. The O’Malleys love Candy Butchers. My sister got me into them. She ended up opening for Mike Viola once – it was as huge to all of us as if she were opening for U2. Amazing singer/songwriter/collaborator. He’s the one who wrote all the songs for That Thing You Do and then got screwed in terms of getting credit. He’s amazing.

“Spread Your Wings” – Queen. One of my favorites of theirs. And considering their catalog, that’s saying something. I wrote a little bit more about it – and the music video – here.

“Sinner’s Prayer” – Lady Gaga. From her “country” (??) album. Which I really like! And I can’t wait for A Star is Born.

“Tell It to the Sky” – Tracy Bonham. From her great album The Burdens of Being Upright. From the brief season when you could hear female anger on the airwaves. Before the Lolitas took over the industry. And listen, I love some of those Lolitas. But it just goes to show you women are required to be all one thing, because otherwise … HOW COULD PEOPLE EVEN PROCESS IT? Tracy first came to my attention when I was living in Chicago, and I walked into a Virgin Records (remember them) on Diversey and her RAGER “Mother Mother” was screaming from the speakers. I went up to an employee and said, “Who is this?” He led me to her. That album is now a favorite. Not a bad song on it. I still “follow” her. She’s still recording. Now she’s middle-aged and seems to be happy so … her music isn’t as urgent and young-girl-raging – something has been lost in the transfer (for me). But I’ll still follow her wherever she goes. She doesn’t put out that much, so you have to be diligent to keep her on your radar.

“Getting High for Jesus” – Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. Adore them.

“Marigold” – The Foo Fighters. A live recording. It’s thrilling, I love the chord changes.

“Burn On” – Randy Newman. Don’t look now but the Cuyahoga River is on fire.

“Missing Person” – Split Enz. I realize I’m dating myself but I wonder if you have to be a certain age – and exactly that age – to have gotten swept away by this album. All I know is everyone was listening to it in college. I associate it with college. It’s a really good album!

“O Holy Night” – live, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon McRae. Honestly, what is my life. I grabbed this off Youtube. It is stunningly beautiful, their two gorgeous male voices harmonizing but still … sometimes I have to laugh at myself.

“Beale St. Blues” – Eartha Kitt. Such a great track. I never get sick of it and I’ve been listening to it most of my life. I also would love there to be a resurgence of Female Vocalist with Male Backup Singers. Marilyn Monroe did that a lot as well. It’s sexy as hell.

“Polyester Bride” – Liz Phair. Off of Whitechocolatespaceegg. I guess there are people who don’t like this album? There are people who dislike everything she’s done since Exile in Guyville. Ah well, I can’t help it that people are wrong. I love the image of the egotistic bartender here – “You’re lucky to even know me.” Which reminds me of Bruce Willis’ comments when he came and talked at my school about his time as a bartender: “I was more famous as a bartender than I”ve ever been as an actor.”

“Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga. You could not escape this song. It blasted out of car windows, out of speakers at Dunkin Donuts, it was in the air. Thank goodness I liked it. This has been a good girl-heavy shuffle so far.

“Foreclosure of a Dream” – Megadeth. YESSSSSSS.

“A New Door” – Lenny Kravitz. Recently I saw some bozo on Twitter make a disparaging comment about Lenny, and the tone of his comment was like “All right-thinking people feel this way.” Excuse me, but speak for yourself. I love Lenny.

“Let It Be Me” – The Indigo Girls. Their songs are hit-or-miss for me. This is a really good one.

“Shakin’ All Over” – Wanda Jackson. Off the Jack White produced The Party Ain’t Over which if I’m not mistaken was her first time in the Billboard Top 100. !!! This is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer we’re talking about. “It’s about time” doesn’t even begin to cover it. If you get a chance to see her live, do it. She’s old. She won’t be around forever. What are you waiting for?

“Unbroken” – Jessica Sierra. Whatever happened to her? I think she was on Celebrity Rehab (member when that was a thing?) I know she had a lot of troubles. I hope she’s well. She sings the hell out of this song.

“Louie Louie” – The Troggs. I love them so much.

“Young Blood” – The Coasters. This SWINGS.

“Let Her Go, God Bless Her” – The Louvin Brothers. Great guitar-picking. Great harmonies. So influential. Everyone copied them.

“To the End” – My Chemical Romance. These guys are so histrionic.

“Tired Of You” – Foo Fighters. “I woke up getting tired of you.” Brutal.

“Hush Hush” – Pistol Annies. These girls are not having any of your sanctimony.

“Underneath the Tree” – Kelly Clarkson. From her wonderful Christmas album. Love it!

“On the Run” – ELO. There’s just something about their chord changes … mainlining into my emotions. How does that work? If I were a musicologist I could probably analyze it.

“Revolution” – The Beatles. This is a pretty devastating cut-down of what Tom Wolfe called “radical chic”.

“Cure” – Metallica, from the unfairly-maligned Load. Yes. It’s not classic Metallica. Sometimes you’re like, “What on earth are you all doing …” But it’s entertaining. I’d prefer them to try new shit than to keep repeating themselves. They’re not people who play it safe. That’s why they’re Metallica.

“Christ for President” – Billy Bragg & Wilco, off their great Mermaid Avenue album. This was on constant rotation in our family after it came out. My nephew Cashel was a newborn then (he’s a junior in college now – WHAT?) and baby Cashel LOVED this album, and used to lie on his blanket and move around to the beat. It’s too much adorability to even think about.

“Get Down, Make Love” – Queen. Stop telling me what to do.

“Low” – Foo Fighters. Lots of FF in this shuffle. Clearly I love them.

“I Can’t Stop Loving You” – Elvis Presley (HEY ELVIS WHERE YOU BEEN), a rehearsal off of the That’s the Way It Is album (such a good album). I love Elvis’ version of this. This is a rehearsal where he’s kind of goofing off – “Oh YES IT DOES NOW” – pure Elvis. He’s so into it. And there. That’s why Elvis is Elvis. Cuz he gets so into it.

“Rehab” – the Glee version. It’s completely ridiculous and it completely rocks.

“Waitin’ In School” – Ricky Nelson. He was like the biggest damn thing in the world, he was a phenom, the biggest star of his day. He still has his passionate fan base (listen to his “Fever” if you think he was totally white-bread) … but … like Brenda Lee, it doesn’t seem that the magnitude of his fame has filtered down to common knowledge, in the same way that, say, the Beatles’ fame has. Lesley Gore is in this category too. Maybe people think she was a one-hit wonder? Like, Brenda Lee set records that weren’t broken until Madonna came along 20 years later. Anyway, let’s hear it for Ricky Nelson.

“Miss the Mississippi and You” – Jerry Lee Lewis. Off of the 1995 album Young Blood. Still going strong. Still in great voice. I mean, he YODELS here. He’s so damn great. I dread his passing.

“A Very Special Love Song” – Charlie Rich. Another guy who got his start at Sun Records. I don’t think he put out a bad track. His love songs are beyond compare. His VOICE. How much HE was in his voice. Very emotional music.

“Love Game” – Eminem (featuring Kendrick Lamar). This is so much fun. Sampling “The Game of Love” which is so bizarre and perfect. It’s a love song. By Eminem. So, you know, it’s filled with rage, but it’s also weirdly innocent. (“I’m a fucking romantic, you fucking bitch.” hahaha) Also he name-checks Norman Bates.

“Coconut” – Harry Nilsson. Classic.

“Orange Colored Sky” – Screaming Jay Hawkins. If aliens visited our planet and were introduced to Screaming Jay Hawkins … imagine the first impression they’d get of us. They’d think we ALL were as genius as weird as … OUT THERE … as this singular artist. He really can’t be fully explained. This is true of most people who staunchly follow their own star. Who trust their instincts to this degree.

“Fell on Black Days” – Soundgarden. This song …

“Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” – Jellyfish. I adore them. I associate them with a very brief period in my life … when I was hanging out with a certain crowd … and I did ecstasy for the first – and only time. That whole crowd was into Jellyfish.

“Masseduction” – St. Vincent. She’s such a rock star.

“In a Little While” – Wynona Carr. In general, she should be better known. She only came out with one “pop” album (not a bad track on it), and a gospel album – she came out of gospel, playing the same circuit as Sam Cooke at the same time. She’s terrific. Great voice.

“He Can’t Fill My Shoes” – Jerry Lee Lewis. From his 1974 album I-40 Country, after his rejuvenation/rehabilitation in Nashville. I love his country albums. He always brings in that … honky tonk ego (I love how he always throws in his own name into the lyrics) and showmanship, there’s something corrupt about him. Not a bad thing in a rock star. He’s seen too much, done too much, he hasn’t “come through” the storm, he lives in that storm. It’s his sweet spot. It’s his thing. Even with the big chorus behind him, you still feel the wild man in operation. Such an insanely talented man.

“HUAC” – The Raunch Hands. They were a “folk group” in the 1960s. I think they only came out with one album, which my parents owned. My siblings and I were obsessed with it. We knew every lyric to every song. So please picture grade-school kids sitting in the backseat of the station wagon singing lustily,
“H-U-A-C! H-U-A-C!
They’re just lookin’ out for guys like you and me.
So become reactionary and of progress be most wary
Keep our country true and strong and brave and free!”
My parents must have been like, “What have we done.” (Please don’t be boring and be like “You do know the HUAC was horrible, right?” The song is sarcastic.) My mother converted the old scratchy album to a CD and gave it to all of us for Christmas. My life flashes before my eyes every time a track comes up.

“Why Don’t We Get Drunk (And Screw)” – Don Sparks, singing Jimmy Buffett from Escape to Margaritaville, the Broadway show – script written by my cousin Mike O’Malley. It was a blast. The whole audience sings along with every song. People showed up in Hawaiian shirts. Hard-core.

“You Can Make It If You True” – The Rolling Stones. Slow lewd blues. Work that tambourine!

“So Much Better” – Eminem. Mad jealous Marshall! “My life would be so much better if you dropped dead!” Yeah, I think this qualifies as a “Bad Sport Breakup Song,” one of my favorite song genres.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen. So Elvis-inspired you know he would have covered it had he lived long enough to hear it.

“Shine a Little Love” – ELO. For me, it’s all about that opening hook, that then repeats throughout. The rest is kinda disco-stock. But that hook makes the song. Most of their songs have something like that, a unique spin, a chord change, something that grabs you, stays with you.

“The Beehive State” – Randy Newman. A rollicking dance-hall ode to delegates from various states taking the Senate floor. Only Randy Newman …

“Love Runs Out” – OneRepublic. I put this onto my “running mix” about 20 times because the beat is so damn insistent it drives me on to match the pace.

“A Hard Day’s Night” – The Beatles. I just never get “over” these songs. I’m never like “Yeah. Whatevs.” How many times have I listened to this? How many times have I enjoyed harmonizing? (I learned to harmonize, by the way, as a kid, from listening to Beatles albums.)

“Broke Record” – Eric Church. So good. The Rolling Stone cover story interview was something else. Will be interesting to see how some members of his base react to it. He’s not some obscure dude. He is THE superstar right now and he’s bitching about the NRA? A gun owner? Amazing. I saw him perform last year at Outlaw Fest (with Willie Nelson) and it was a thrill. He has a new album coming out in October and I can’t wait.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” – Elvis Presley. This kind of swooping power ballad drives some Elvis fans crazy. But this is as personal as anything else he ever did. He had a power ballad soul. He sings the hell out of this and it’s one of my favorites of his vocals. The song gets HUUUUUUGE and guess what, he fills it. Or … the song expands to HIS size. Either one. I find it thrilling.

“Raglan Road” – The Dubliners. “And I said let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.” My God.

“American Honky-Tonk Bar Association” – Garth Brooks. Has anyone written a knowledgeable take-down of Brooks and his detrimental impact on country music? I like him, I went to his free concert in Central Park … but after you’ve listened to a ton of country music, before him and presently, there’s something really … “off” about him. Like he’s … a fake, maybe? But I don’t know how to say it and wondered if anyone else had done so.

“Missionary Man” – The Eurythmics. One of their best.

“Baby I Love You” – The Ronettes. Great song, with that enormous Phil Spector sound.

“Monkey Back” – Beth Hart. One of the best most gravelly rock ‘n roll voices around. I love her. She stopped recording for a while – or at least I lost track of her – so it’s been fun playing catch-up. I mean, watch. She’s a fucking rock star.

“The One” – Foo Fighters. “You’re not the one but you’re the only one that can make feel like shit.” You know, they’ve got a way with words. I love this one. I’m emotionally attached to the Foo Fighters and have been from the jump, like many of my generation. It was kind of a miracle that they even emerged and that Dave Grohl was… front man? Playing guitar? I grasped onto them and was thrilled that their first album – recorded in, what, 5 days? – was so good. It could have been just a one-time thing, a kind of “Okay, Nirvana is done, I am admitting it is done, I need to do this album to free myself, to grieve for my dead friend, to move on …” But here they still are. 20 years later. Amazing.

“Too Many Rivers” – Jerry Lee Lewis. In his voice is everything … except innocence, maybe. Elvis’ voice had innocence in it, although he could be as dirty as anyone on the planet. But what makes JLL special is how his life experience, the craziness, the scandals, the controversies, probably also the awareness that he had another path (the Jesus path) and maybe he’d pay for that … is in every single note of every single song. He enjoyed his own talent. What can I say. He’s a phenom. But you listen to something like this? A pretty standard country song, if you think about it. With that white-bread chorus behind him … and there’s Jerry … and you can hear ALL of that, ALL of his life in his voice, and how he sings. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.

“Firework” – Katy Perry. She could buy 10 castles in Austria with the proceeds from this song alone. The song always makes me think of this and I just rewatched it now for the 100th time. I’m still not sick of it.

“Girl from the North Country” – Bob Dylan. People more articulate than I am can probably describe the impact of this song. It’s like the impact of a meteor. It changes everything. At least that’s how it makes me feel. It makes me want to lie down and cry for hours.

“Bosom of Abraham” – Elvis Presley. In the 60s, when Elvis was doing movies, and putting out only soundtracks (all as he watched The Beatles and the Stones sweep the nation), he retreated (so called) to the music that comforted him most, gospel. He put out two gospel albums that decade, and they went platinum many times over. They’re probably still going platinum again, as we speak. You can FEEL the urgency in them, the fervor with which he threw himself into these songs, how deep they go for him. It’s great stuff.

“We Shall Overcome” – Mahalia Jackson. It’s devastating. My heart is broken. But if she could hold on, then so can I.

“The Dream” – Rufus Wainwright. I saw him at Town Hall on Valentine’s Day 2002. New York was still wounded. People forget. WE don’t forget but other people do. And certainly people who didn’t live here can’t know how long it took, and in many ways … it’s still always there. I go through the Oculus every day, resting on the footprint of the towers. I think of that day every time I go through there. So there was a sad feeling at that Town Hall – it was in the air – and Rufus felt it. He drank wine, was wonderfully funny, beautifully entertaining and at one point, during one of the songs, he said to us, “It’s going to be okay!!” He FELT it. That sadness-in-the-air was so omnipresent that by Valentine’s Day 2002 it was our new normal. Rufus picked up on it. I’ll never forget that.

“America’s Sweetheart” – Elle King. I love her.

“Make a Wish On Me” – Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones. I love this album so much. An album of duets, old-fashioned country/folk duets, a man and a woman harmonizing … it’s “old-fashioned” I guess … but old-fashioned as in precious, to be treasured.

“Too Much to Gain to Lose” – Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s just perfect.

“Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” – Jerry Lee Lewis. 1980! Still trucking. He’s got 40 years to go. I love the violins here.

“Highwayman” – Johnny Cash, with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Hell of a lineup. It delivers.

“Copperline” – James Taylor. Okay, this is fine. In fact, I love it. I grew up listening to James Taylor because my parents had all his stuff on vinyl. And I followed him after. Follow him still. I’ve seen him live a bunch of times. Of course it’s hard for me to forget Lester Bangs’ unbelievably titled essay “James Taylor Marked for Death” but the funny thing is, I can see why Lester felt the way he did, and still can enjoy James Taylor’s music. However. HOWEVER. I think the most honest Taylor has ever been – the deepest glimpse we have ever gotten of who James Taylor REALLY is – is in Two-Lane Blacktop.

“Four Letter Word” – Dale Hawkins. The four letter word he’s referring to is “rock” but, you know, the double entendre is RICH.

“Cups” – Anna Kendrick. From Pitch Perfect. It’s so adorable.

“Paisley Park” – Prince. Every so often I have a moment where I’m like, “Wait … he died?? is that real??” I absolutely love “Paisley Park” and this album rules.

“Think” – Aretha Franklin. Oh, Aretha!! I FEEL the absence. Don’t you? But of course she’s left so much of herself behind, with us, forever.

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6 Responses to End of summer iPod shuffle

  1. mutecypher says:

    //“Paisley Park”– Prince. Talk about feeling the loss.//

    Gone too soon.

    My gf is a nurse practitioner who deals with so many opioid-addicted people. States are putting systems in place to track who’s getting what from where. But so late. It’s a terrible thing that we’ve let happen – not doing a good job of helping people manage their pain.

    Prince singing The Cross.

    So many people in pain have been so poorly served.

    • sheila says:

      “The Cross” is just amazing.

      Your girlfriend is really on the front lines. and yes, far too late …

      In this way, and in many others, Elvis was ahead of his time. I can’t be addicted to this, a doctor prescribed it.

      The one and only time I was prescribed Oxy was a couple years ago when I had that uterus procedure thing. They only gave me like 4 pills – like this is how careful they are with that drug. I had never taken it – and honestly I wasn’t in that much pain – but it was the most extraordinary thing. I was lying in my bed, and my mother stayed with me and was making some soup – I took the first pill and within 10 minutes – not only did my discomfort (not pain) vanish – but I also was flooded with the most amazing sense of well-being.

      It hit at the pleasure centers so hard that my worries dissolved and I felt better – emotionally – than I think I have ever felt. I knew what was happening – I said to my mother, “Oh my God. Oxy. I can’t believe what I’m feeling right now.”

      I was already anxious that I only had 3 pills left.

      I don’t mean to equate my one tiny experience with the tragic ravages this drug has wrought – but it was my taste of what it does, how it works – and it cuts RIGHT through any pain you might have – physical and – more powerfully – emotional – and I was saying, “No wonder. No wonder people can’t kick this thing.”

  2. mutecypher says:

    //Garth Brooks. Has anyone written a knowledgeable take-down of Brooks and his detrimental impact on country music?//

    Kathleen (the gf) is more of a country music fan than I am. We saw him in Tacoma last year, when he did 5 shows in 3 nights. Right before the CMAs and his lip syncing. Which Eric Church REALLY crapped on in his RS interview. I thought that was very funny – and apt. I can understand Eric’s outrage about how the fuck do you lip sync when you are singing ahead of the Performer Of The Year Award? On the other hand, Garth went out and did 5 shows in three days just ahead of the CMAs. His voice was gone because he had been doing some serious performing. It’s complicated.

    I’m not a huge fan of his work, but I can see the quality. Though (to address your question in a shallow way) much of his stuff sounds to me like very well done novelty tunes. Friend in Low Places. Good Ride Cowboy. Papa Loved Mama. But I really like Ask Me How I Know. And the guy loves to perform. The part of the show where it’s just him and he’s taking requests from the audience – he genuinely loves his fans and loves country music. If he has sins, they are washed away by that.

    I’m with you, I’d like to read a knowledgeable person talk about his influence on country music.

    The fact that Eric has an album coming means he’s going to tour soon. I definitely want to see him.

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, like I said, I saw Garth too and he was great – and I appreciate him “pushing” more progressive ideas into some of his songs – “We Shall Be Free” etc. – and I also appreciate him playing the Grand Ole Opry for the first time, and opening with, “It’s an honor to stand on the stage right where Elvis stood.” An explosive and pointed comment – since Elvis only played the Opry once, and that was early on – 1954!!! – and the Opry rejected him roundly. “Don’t quit your trucking job,” one Opry person said to Elvis. Elvis never forgot this rejection, and for the rest of his life he had an aversion to Nashville. He had to record in Nashville once he switched to RCA but he spent as little time there as possible. And Nashville – the music industry, not the city – did what they could do to “contain” Elvis by banishing him from their charts. In trying to maintain their integrity, they made themselves obsolete for a good 15 years. So I loved Garth for saying that. It was a kind of “Fuck you, it’s good to be here, but I want to remind you of how dumb you all were.”

      and yes, ha, I had forgotten for a second about Eric Church trashing him for lip synching.

  3. Tracey K says:

    I recall reading that Freddie Mercury did write “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in the hopes Elvis would sing it, much as Springsteen did the same with “Fire.”

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