Holiday iPod Shuffle

“Mr. Harris” – Aimee Mann. Every time I hear women being judgmental about older men dating younger women – and I hear it all the time – I think of … well, my own life. My greatest love was 13 years older than I was. And I was 25 when I met him – at that point, it was a HUGE age difference (age difference lessens in importance as you get older). But I also think of “Mr. Harris.” Don’t knock May-December til you’ve tried it.

“Alibi” – Bradley Cooper, from A Star is Born. Absolutely love it. It rocks. Cooper knows his Eric Church, I’m thinkin’. Anthemic electric guitar.

“Whiskey In the Jar” – Metallica, playing live in Dublin, 2006. Hearing the audience sing along is electric. My cousin Liam said, “It’s the unofficial anthem of Ireland.”

“Song for Children” – Brian Wilson. From SMILE. Every time I hear one of these tracks, I think of that beautiful moment in Love & Mercy when the studio musician tells Wilson during a break, “Listen, we’ve played for everyone. But you? You’re touched, kid.” Goosebumps.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana. Live. It’s so eerie. So ominous. So GIGANTIC. I will never ever be “over” this song.

“Laugh I Nearly Died” – The Rolling Stones. Talk about eerie.

“Put Your Hand In the Hand” (take 1) – Elvis Presley. Slightly tired. Granted, it’s only take 1. (I love listening to all the different takes of all of his stuff. You can feel the song take shape – Elvis always worked with the full band in the studio, in real time. These are all live takes.)

“New Slaves” – Kanye West. Yes, I know, I know, KANYE, WHAT IS UP WITH YOU KANYE. Well, he’s nuts. This isn’t news.

“Dark In My Heart” – Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. I love them so much.

“I Hate You” – Jerry Lee Lewis, from 1978’s Jerry Lee Keeps Rockin’, a truer title never spoken. I love his little swoops of the piano in the middle of this gentle country tune – stabs of aggression, of personality – he can’t help it. Everything he is goes into everything he does. And that’s why he’s Jerry Lee.

“A Rumor in St. Petersburg” – the cast of Anastasia. And this right here is why I love iPod Shuffle and why it will be pried from my cold dead hands. From Jerry Lee Lewis to THIS.

“Creep” – Prince. Okay, so everyone appears to need to cover this song at some point in their career. There have been many astonishing covers of it. Well played, Radiohead. But what is unique about this epic live performance from Prince (yes, I cribbed the mp3 from Youtube) is that Prince somehow … because he’s Prince … turns this epic expression of self-loathing into a FEROCIOUS anthem of self-acceptance. Acceptance in the tune of “Fuck you if you disagree” … and opening his arms to include the audience in this too: we are all creeps. Creeps are sexy, beautiful, thank God we’re creeps, revel in it. Now, Radiohead does this too. But when Prince does it … it feels different. He takes the song SOMEWHERE ELSE. It’s almost 8 minutes long. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Jerry Lee Lewis. Elvis called this song “the saddest song I’ve ever heard.” Hank Williams made it famous. This album (Jerry Lee Lewis Sings the Country Music Hall of Fame, Vol. 1) is made up of Lewis singing classic country songs, part of his determination to cement his position in country music. Which he did, becoming one of country’s biggest stars.

“Land of a Thousand Dances” – Little Richard. Pretty sure he recorded this in the late 60s. You can hear it in the sound, the enormous horn section, the frenetic rhythm, it’s r&b on steroids.

“Float Like a Feather” – Dawn Mitschele. Beautiful and sad. Can’t remember how I found this.

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” – Stevie Wonder. A perfect song off a perfect album.

“Do Rae Me” – Eminem (feat. Lloyd Banks). Hailey’s giggles in the background in the beginning make this whole thing … insane.

“In a Little While” – Wynona Carr. She died in obscurity. She was a peer of Sam Cooke’s, came from the same gospel world, encouraged to put out a “pop” album, which she did (it’s fantastic), and she left behind a bunch of gospel tracks too. But nothing happened for her while she was alive. I love her stuff so much, I wish her story had been different.

“Rock & Roll High School” – The Ramones. Classic.

“Caruso” – Lara Fabian. Her voice is such a phenomenal instrument. What a belt.

“Sweet Virginia” – Jerry Lee Lewis (featuring Keith Richards). I can’t get enough. From JLL’s Mean Old Man in 2010.

“Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones. Two words: Merry Clayton. Impossible to imagine the song without her. That was no “backup vocal” gig. And the Stones knew it. Her voice cracks … once. The next time she goes for that note, she digs in, and it cracks twice, and the entire world falls apart. But Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz wrote about this already, in a great post where he walks through the song second by second.

“My Truly, Truly Fair” – Guy Mitchell. WTF. It’s even funnier – and weirder – coming directly after “Gimme Shelter.” An entire culture toppled in a 10-year period. However, I won’t lie: there’s something catchy about this.

“Rave On” – Buddy Holly. The Crickets were one of the best bands ever. This still sounds fresh, exciting, still leaps out of the speakers.

“Black Dog Blues” – The Jack Hills. This is how the song is listed, but I don’t know who The Jack Hills are (besides a place in Australia), and I have no memory of ever listening to it. Welcome to my music collection.

“Dibs” – Kelsea Ballerini. Great name. I think this is adorable. The song is (sort of) country-ish (there’s a banjo), but it’s more pop song, with a couple spoken-word sections. I like it, it’s catchy.

“Rock ‘n Roll Ruby” – Brian Setzer. People mock him. Dummies. He was one of my “ways in” to this kind of music, its depths, the byways, not just the big names. Through him, I found Billy Lee Riley and Sonny Burgess. I was, like, 14, 15. Besides, I remember reading some article years ago – 20 years ago – where some record label guy said, “If Brian Setzer said tuba solos were gonna be the next big thing, I’d believe him.” SO THERE.

“Satisfied” Sia (feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah). It flat out gives me goosebumps throughout. From Hamilton Mixtape.

“Ten Cents a Dance” – Doris Day, sung in the harrowing Love Me or Leave Me (which I wrote up for Film Comment). The placement of this song in the narrative (mentioned in the piece) is brutal. And she plays it brilliantly.

“Criminal” – Eminem. One of the best tracks on that album, and that’s saying something.

“Love Somebody” – Robbie Williams. Superstar. One of the best things going now, in the last 20 years, whenever. I am grateful for him. There’s very little “filler” in his work. He swings for the fences. He writes pop anthems. And he can FILL THAT SHIT.

“Must Have More” – L7. I don’t think I can sufficiently describe how much I love them, and how much they meant to me when I was a wild wild girl in my 20s.

“Just For Love” – ELO. I’m no Bill Janovitz. I can’t explain why ELO’s chord changes and song structures hit the absolute sweetest of sweet spots. It’s like pressing into the bruise on an apple. The songs make me feel sad, but not devastatingly so. A yearning, maybe is a better word. The song remains as a net underneath me, containing all the emotions they unleash. If that makes sense. I mean, in song after song after song, this is true …

“True Love” – The Everly Brothers. Perfection.

“In Only Seven Days” – Queen. Written by John Deacon – who also wrote “Spread Your Wings” which is up there with my favorite Queen songs. There’s something sweet about this, not too much bite, but I really like it.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – Leftover Cuties. I am so so glad I discovered them.

“You Know Me” – Air Traffic Controller. I discovered them because Bleu (one of my favorite singer/songwriters working together) produced their album, and promoted them like crazy. They opened for him when I saw him play. They’re fantastic.

“Sixty Minute Man” – Jerry Lee Lewis. At least it’s not sixty seconds!

“Could Be Worse” Bleu. Speaking of Bleu!!

“Just Lose It” – Eminem. One of his few dance hits.

“Deep Water” – Seal. I have a very specific memory attached to this song. An unprintable memory. But a good one!

“Downs” – Big Star. You can hear the coming of “grunge” in this. They were such phenoms.

“Raw-Hide” – Link Wray. 1959 TV performance, a year after “Rumble,” one of the only instrumentals to be banned from radio play. Let that sink in. (No, just kidding. Let’s retire “let that sink in.” But still. Banning an instrumental because of what it might unleash is through the looking glass – although a huge tribute to the song, too. If you listen to “Rumble” and think like a censor or frightened PTA member, you can hear the Danger). When this clip below gets to his guitar solo near the end – the “solo” is really just one note – which he hits again and again, swooping it, curling it, digging into it – it’s so exhilarating the audience starts screaming. And he’s just playing one note over and over. That’s Link Wray.

“The Weight” – Aretha Franklin. Aretha covering The Band. It gives me goosebumps.

“Vogue” – Madonna. Peak Madonna. Well, for me, Dick Tracy was peak Madonna. But I love this phase too.

“Best Friend” – Sofi Tukker (feat. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno). SO CATCHY.

“Did You Miss Me” – Wanda Jackson. Beautiful. She could rock out with the best of them, but here she sings a ballad and I love it.

“Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” – Pam Tillis. We’ve all been there, Pam.

“Celebrity Skin” – Hole. Iconic.

“Down Came the World” – Waylon Jennings. I think it’s one of his most beautiful vocal performances.

“Little Baby” – Buddy Holly. Sexy. With that boogie-woogie piano going on, in the background, and then foregrounded with a solo.

“Candles” – the Glee cast version, which is totally lovely.

“Mystery Train / Tiger Man” – Elvis Presley, onstage in Las Vegas, off the tremendous That’s the Way It Is album. This is thrilling. He’s returning to his roots, one of the first songs he recorded – and morphing it, taking it into the present with him. He would not be a nostalgia act, no way no how.

“Forget Her” – Jeff Buckley. What a voice, what a spirit. Will always always treasure the memory of seeing him live.

“On the Fence” – Brendan Benson. One of my favorite singer/songwriters today. And he came to me via a commercial for an iPod, so thanks, Apple. This is the best off his latest. I love how honest he is.

“She Bangs” – Ricky Martin. Take me there, Ricky, you and your frenzied horn section.

“Michael Row the Boat Ashore” – by the beloved American folk singer and unrepentant Stalinist, Pete Seeger

“Love Is a Woman” – The Beach Boys. There’s something so goddamned pure about this.

“Monkey Wrench” – Foo Fighters. Talk about pure. The first full-length song on The Colour and the Shape, the album that put Foo Fighters over into mainstream superstardom (there had been one previous album, which I love). The Colour and the Shape was a revelation, especially to those of us – my generation – still traumatized by Kurt Cobain’s death. If you feel like mocking that statement, get in fucking line. We were mocked relentlessly by mainstream media and everyone else for how we grieved. We didn’t care then and we don’t care now. I listened to The Colour and the Shape every day for almost a solid year. Maybe more. I don’t know. I mainlined it into my veins and I couldn’t get enough. The album holds up. A classic.

“Norwegian Wood” – Waylon Jennings. Such a great cover.

“Let It Be Me” – Indigo Girls. The sentiment is a little earnest for this cynical lady, but it’s a beautiful song. I love them (or, most of their songs. There are a few clunkers). I’m slightly surprised they’ve “lasted” but I am happy they have. I still keep track of them.

“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” – The Soggy Bottom Boys. Off the O, Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

“Make You Feel My Love” – Bob Dylan. OUCH.

“She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye” – Jerry Lee Lewis. Live in London, 1983. Such a hilariously bitter song title. Gorgeous performance, with a thoughtful and yet – always – aggressive performance. His personality is such it can’t be denied expression: it’s in his piano playing (exquisite), his voice, and his asides.

“Folk Singer” – Brendan Benson. See above comments. He hasn’t written one boring song. No “filler.”

“The Hunter’s Wife” – Pistol Annies. Sister, this is a sorry sorry tale.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey. This song has been in my life – via osmosis – for almost my entire time on this planet. I was not a huge Journey fan, it’s not really my taste, not when I was a teen and not now. But this song definitely has “something” that makes it a classic. And it is now 100% associated with this:

“No Regrets” – Little Willie John. It’s so romantic, painfully, yearningly. No regrets … but the regret is in the music, the harmonies.

“Morning Sun” – Robbie Williams. I love this song’s build. It’s a classic Williams structure. Ballad start. And then … it changes. It gathers its forces, and EXPLODES.

“One Last Time” – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson, from Hamilton. It reduces me to a puddle of tears.

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Nigel Lewis with the Tombstone Brawlers. I love this so much. I love this whole album so much. I tripped over it during one of my Elvis rabbit holes. It’s called “A Psychobilly Tribute to Elvis” and these crazy bands don’t just cover the main hits. Like, one band covers “Crawfish,” of all things, the opening song in King Creole. It’s awesome.

“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” – Elvis. This is from the “first sit-down show” on the 1968 “comeback special” (which just had its anniversary. NBC celebrated by airing it again!) You listen to this, where he’s playing the stuff that got him started in 1956, and it’s now 1968 and it’s just extraordinary how he enters into these songs – not as throwback, or nostalgia for the past. Here, he enters into the song as though it’s the first time he ever sang it. And that, kids, is why he was The King.

“Heart Shaped Box” – Nirvana. THESE LYRICS. “Forever in debt to your priceless advice …” It cracked open our world. As Tori Amos said of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: “It gave a generation some juice.”

“Nowhere Fast” – Eminem (feat. Kehlani). Every time I write “feat” I think of that purposefully awkward cable-access show where Stephen Colbert interviewed Eminem, pretending he didn’t know who Eminem was. At one point Colbert says, “What does ‘feat’ mean?” Eminem trying to be polite and having to deal with this – maintaining his deadpan although you can tell he wants to laugh – is extremely entertaining.

“Love’s What I Want” – The Monkees. From their new album, which I adore.

“Words I Couldn’t Say” – Leighton Meester, from Country Strong, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Garrett Hedlund. This movie surprised me. I thought it would be ridiculous. But it’s kind of great. Something happens with Gwyneth Paltrow when she sings (see Glee), she’s freed up, she’s glorious, she’s a star. Hedlund is great as a barroom singer, uninterested in big-time fame, and Leighton Meester is terrific as the new hottest country star. Good music, too. I was surprised at how moved I was by the final scene.

“Superstitious” – Stevie Wonder. That guitar line. I mean, it KILLS.

“Always On the Run” – Lenny Kravitz. Your mama was right, Lenny.

“Young World” – Ricky Nelson. He was so huge. Outside of his still passionate fan base … has that knowledge filtered down into the mainstream? He feels forgotten to me. Almost like Brenda Lee. I know there are those who know, who remember. I’m talking about people who AREN’T fans. Like, Brenda Lee set records that weren’t broken until Madonna came along 20 years later. Anyway, I love Ricky Nelson.

“Huh Babe” – Luke McDaniel. Off of one of the many “Sun Records recordings” compilations. It’s interesting because – outside of the big-wigs like Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Rufus Thomas, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis – there was a lot going on there, people who didn’t “hit it” big, those who came along post-Elvis. Everything sounds like Elvis, like here – with those little hitches and glitches that Elvis had in his voice. This also has Carl Perkins echoes. But there is that classic Sun sound, which has to do with ephemeral things … the acoustics in the room, the slap-back – RCA spent a shit-ton of money trying to re-create the Sun sound once Elvis signed with them – but they couldn’t pull it off. Nobody could. Totally distinctive sound.

“Every Sperm is Sacred” – Monty Python. Hilarious. And it gets funnier the longer it goes on. It’s a 4-minute long song! When the sopranos burst in … when the boy chorus … singing these ridiculous dirty lyrics … hits my funny bone at the perfect angle.

“Money Honey” – Eddie Cochran. He had a sexual persona almost as strong as Elvis’. He was a sex powerhouse. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m a girl, and that’s what’s going on with him. This is a live version, which captures who he was in front of an audience, and it had to have been overwhelming. What a loss.

“Maybe” – Alison Krauss. Her voice, it’s just perfection.

“Flower” – Liz Phair. This is what adult female sexuality sounded like (or can) … right before the teenage Lolitas took over the airwaves, with their performative sexuality – slightly pervy since all of them were so young. Liz Phair was not messing around. This is what it looks like when a woman not only says “Yes” but initiates the conversation. “I want to be your blowjob queen.” Go for it, good for you. If you want true liberation, you need to own how much you want to say “Yes” and then go for it. And also deal with the fact that you might have some bad sex along the way. That’s part of the risk. People will try to shame you. Fuck them. This is what Liz Phair “represented” – and the riot grrrls – they weren’t “role models” for me, because I didn’t need role models. They SPOKE what I – and everyone I knew – was already doing. It was the zeitgeist. I didn’t “relate” to Madonna’s sexuality, who was the big thing in high school. It was too performative for me, way too much pressure. In looking back, I found more to admire in Joan Jett’s attitude, which – was equally performative, but felt more grown-up, maybe? Like, she was sexual but it had nothing to do with how she was PERCEIVED, whereas Madonna played with perceptions – and often brilliantly – but it just didn’t strike a chord with me. Liz Phair came along when I was a little older and I was like, “Holy shit, that. THAT’S IT. That’s my life RIGHT NOW.”

“Bridge Burning” – Foo Fighters. I am always amazed at how Dave Grohl can scream in tune.

“Do Somethin'” – Britney Spears. After my monologue about Liz Phair, it is time to reiterate how much I love Brit-Brit. I was a fan from the jump. Two things can be true at the same time. This is a great dance tune.

“Junk” – Tim Christensen, Tracy Bonham & Mike Viola. From their wonderful Paul McCartney tribute album called Pure McCartney. McCartney fans, I recommend this. These are three singer/songwriters I love, so it’s really fun to hear them sing these McCartney songs. Tracy Bonham, among other things, plays the violin, and there’s a beautiful violin bridge here.

“U Hate It” – Liz Phair. From Funstyle, an album nobody seemed to get, and even actively disliked. This song is about how much everyone hates her new album, which makes me love her even more.

“Four Green Fields” – The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. The most sentimental Irish song ever? Some stiff competition there. But if you want to know why my dad – who basically raised us on the Clancy Brothers – used to say, “Tommy Makem was the real singer” – this is the song to listen to.

“Hush” – Jellyfish. From Spilt Milk, an album we all loved in my crowd. It was very big. I had no idea they would be so short-lived, but I absolutely adore this album. Not a bad song on it. ELO-influenced. Queen-influenced. Fantastic.

“Ghost Riders in the Sky” – Johnny Cash. A Spaghetti-Western song. Cash is so authentic. Authentic to his core. You can hear it in his voice. There it is, there he is. Pure and unadorned.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke. One of the most important anthems of the civil rights movement. It’s overwhelming. And it makes me want to cry because of Sam Cooke’s early end.

“My Way” – The Sex Pistols. WTF.

“The World Was Wide Enough” – Leslie Odom, Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton. The buildup to the Hamilton-Burr duel and then the duel. No turning back now. Heartbreaking.

“Greatest” – Eminem. I’m dazzled by him and I make no apologies.

“Little Less Conversation” – Elvis Presley. Absolutely ferocious.

“Chain Gang” – Sam Cooke. He was such a brilliant song-writer (and arranger and producer). The rhythmical grunts from the chain gang punctuating the song – with an echo on it – just genius, give the song that extra pop. He was so observant, his lyrics always reflected that, his songs came out of real life, were not general, always specific.

“Sunglasses At Night” – Corey Hart. Holy mackerel, I had no idea I even had this. I don’t even know what the lyrics mean, but what I DO know is that I am unable to hear this song now without thinking of …

“Is It So Strange” – Elvis. Recorded in 1957. A beautiful ballad. It’s filled with emotion once you know the backstory.

“Deep Feeling” – Chuck Berry. God, his guitar SPEAKS.

“Girls! Girls! Girls!” – Elvis Presley, the title song to the 1962 movie. Now listen nobody’s gonna call this peak Elvis. In fact, for many, songs like this reiterate their hatred of the movies. But if you remove all that – if you can – this song is pretty catchy, in a super silly way. “I never get to finish my lunch because there’s always bound to be a bunch of girls.” I mean … I like it because it’s got Elvis’ insouciance, his pleasure in pleasure. It’s so apparent.

“Love Game” – Jerry Lee Lewis. 1980. Big string section, grounded by his piano. And his voice. This is a big song. He wails and snarks about his heartbreak, which you never really believe in, but it doesn’t matter, because he means it while he sings it. It won’t last long, though. Jerry Lee doesn’t get thrown off easily.

“Detroit City” – Brandon Calhoon. What a great rock ‘n roll voice.

“Time Stands Still” – Pat McCurdy. I was wondering when he would show up. He’s an old friend. We’re not really in touch – except for a brief recent-ish conversation about Elvis. This is from his album called Showtunes, which includes a duet with me and Pat. He wrote it for us specifically. We recorded it at a small studio in Milwaukee, both in the booth together, a live take. Fairly certain, if memory serves, the first take was the take used.

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2 Responses to Holiday iPod Shuffle

  1. Larry Aydlette says:

    You SING, too? Jesus…

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