Summer iPod Shuffle

“From a Buick 6” – Bob Dylan. The SOUND of his BAND … it’s so VITAL, jangly and raucous, so PRESENT. So is his voice, and the lyrics, and everything coming from him … but listen to that band. It’s visceral.

“Those Were The Days” – Mary Hopkin. A song I’ve always treasured, since childhood when I heard it for the first time. Maybe my parents had it? I don’t know. But its melancholy and nostalgia – something I couldn’t have had much experience with yet – spoke to me, in a wordless way, it was just a feeling. Not a personal memory, but maybe a sudden awareness of the collective memory, of looking back, of loss, of happier days in the past. Maybe it was me sensing what was to come (I’ve often felt that I did, from a very young age: somehow I knew my life was going to be rough). Incidentally, many years later, the man I loved – the man who, honestly, derailed my life – it may sound retro to say, but I’ve never claimed to be a modern woman, and definitely not in the realm of love – made me a mix tape. Because “those were the days” when you made mix tapes for people you love. He threw all kinds of shit on it, the tape had no rhyme or reason. I listened to it on my walkman, one blazing hot summer day. Things had already ended by then. And my knees went weak … or, more accurately, it felt like someone hit my knees from behind, making me buckle, almost fall over … when I heard the opening strains of “Those Were the Days.” I hadn’t even remembered my childhood response to that song, it had been buried, but it all came rushing back when I heard it again. He and I had never talked about the song. We were so connected it was, at times, downright spooky. I wrote about him – and “Those Were the Days” gets a mention – in the piece that started it all. My writing, I mean. My formal writing.

“Hope For Me Yet” – Marc Broussard. I only have a couple of his. Maybe it’s a little conventional, but I like it, and I really like his voice.

“Radioactive Mama” – Sheldon Allman. In my wanderings through the Internet, I came across a double (triple?) album filled with songs about the Cold War, and the atomic bomb, and the fear of nuclear holocaust. It’s a hoot, even though the songs are filled with such paranoia and fear – but it really gives you a sense of the time. Many of these are not only one-hit wonders, but you can’t find evidence of these songs anywhere else but on the album. Believe me, I tried. It’s a great snapshot of cultural history. After Mr. Allman kisses his “radioactive mama,” his teeth glow in the dark.

“Good Night Irene” – Eric Clapton. Live. I have so many versions of this song. I never get sick of it.

“The Auld Triangle” – The Dubliners. A favorite at the Bloomsday celebration I go to every year. Nothing like an entire bar of drunk people singing this in unison.

“A Place to Crash” – the great Robbie Williams. I believe he is now doing a “residency” in Las Vegas, which … really fits. I should get my ass out there. I love him. He’s a superstar. He is a pop-anthem-generator. I’ve been listening to him constantly since I first discovered him via his first album. I was in Ireland with my sister Jean, we were visiting my sister Siobhan who was in school there. And we heard this song playing constantly, from car radios, in stores, in restaurants, it was on once, twice, three times an hour. Finally Jean and I were like, “Who IS that?” Because he wasn’t getting that kind of radio play in the States, that’s for damn sure. Siobhan told us about Robbie Williams and his whole background. Boy band to superstar. Similar to Justin Timberlake. (The song we kept hearing, by the way, was “Millennium”.) I bought a cassette tape at a Virgin Records in Dublin and forget it, I was in from that moment on. Every song was good. This is his thing. He’s good at … everything? (Also: obsessed with Elvis, which makes his move to Las Vegas particularly perfect.)

“Serve the Servants” – Nirvana. After the mayhem unleashed by Nevermind, the anticipation was HUGE for Nirvana’s next. What would happen? (The pressure must have been insane.) It was the kind of situation where people were waiting outside Tower Records to buy their copy on release day. I love In Utero and I still remember the creepy thrill I got hearing the first strains of “Serve the Servants,” which is the first song on the first side. It blows the walls back.

“40,000 Miles” – GoodNight City. I don’t know who these people are. I don’t know why I bought this, where I heard it first. I own a lot of one-hit wonders. Most of this song is forgettable, but there are a couple of pleasing chord changes … which is probably why I bought it. The chord changes still please me.

“Mr. Sandman” – The Chordettes. Swoony harmonies.

“Spineless” – Alanis Morissette. One of her real ragers. I LOVE this song.

“Mother Mother” – Tracy Bonham. Talk about a rager. One of the anthems of my mid-20s. It calls up such a specific time and place. I was in a Virgin Records in Chicago – I think on Clark Street near my apartment – and I heard this incredible song playing on the airwaves, reverberating through the air. I asked a store employee: “Who is this?” “Tracy Bonham.” I raced to buy a cassette tape. Every song on the album is incredible. This was the brief moment – brief and precious – when real female rage was actually commercial. Maybe it’s better that it’s not commercial. But once Britney Spears started her onslaught on pop culture (I love Britney, don’t get me wrong), there was no more room for people like Tracy Bonham. It’s a loss. I came of age in the “female rage is normal and everywhere” era, and younger people would do well to remember that they haven’t invented anything. The only thing “new” around here is social media.

“If It Ain’t Easy” – Steve Carlson. He’s got a great voice, both gruff and melodic. This song is a toe-tapper for sure.

“Things We Said Today” – The Beatles. I learned how to harmonize by singing along with my parents’ Beatles records. Songs like this are why. The harmonies are easy, and yet … counterintuitive, in a lot of ways. You have to practice, you have to HEAR the harmony line to follow it. Once you hear it, it becomes obvious what should be happening. I still enjoy singing along with Beatles songs, following the harmony lines.

“Stalin Kicked the Bucket” – Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley Boys. Member up above my mention of the Cold War/Atomic Bomb album? This is off that. It’s a gleeful hillbilly-yodeling folk song … about Stalin dying.

“Son of Sam” – Elliott Smith. He haunts me.

“Satisfied” – Sia [feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah). From The Hamilton Mixtape. It’s thrilling. I love Sia’s voice.

“Do the Clam” – Elvis Presley. How absurd that this is the first Elvis song to show up on this shuffle. Lester Bangs was slightly obsessed with “Do the Clam.” He references it often. At one point he compares it to the Sex Pistols’ version of “My Way.” Who else would ever make that comparison? I mean, “Do the Clam” is such a deep cut you actually have to have listened to all the soundtracks. It’s absurd. I love Lester Bangs.

“30 Seconds” – Tracy Bonham. Off the same album as “Mother Mother.” That album brings back my whole Chicago era.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Hank Williams. Classic.

“Love Me” – The Phantom. Primal PRIMAL rockabilly. Grunts, groans, screams. Think like a parent in 1958. This shit is scary. It’s so primal it almost tips into punk rock 20 years before punk rock arrived.

“Sober” – Pink. She’s got one of my favorite contemporary voices. Rock star voice.

“New Clothes” – Pat McCurdy. An old friend. From long ago. Still doing his thing. Hugely successful in the Chicago/Minnesota/Wisconsin area. For 30 years now. He’s got a cult following. I used to be (sort of) a part of it. I’m on one of his albums, too. He wrote a duet for us. Those were the days, my friend. Have you read our recent-ish conversation about Elvis?

“Money Honey” – Eddie Cochran. Live. I love his studio stuff but something is unleashed in these live tracks. Let’s be honest, it’s his sex drive. And it is a force to be reckoned with.

“Suicide Ride” – Ai Tunes. I have no memory of buying this. I also don’t really … like it? C’est la vie.

“Lonely Weekends” – Waylon Jennings covering a Charlie Rich song. I was wondering where Waylon had been hiding. And I’m still waiting for Jerry Lee Lewis to make an appearance. This is beautiful, you can feel the revolution in his stuff, how much it toppled the conservative Nashville sound. He’s so HONEST. You can FEEL it.

“Lonesome Town” – Ricky Nelson. His voice is perfection. Such a huge pop idol and now he’s associated with … what exactly is his legacy? I get the feeling it’s not accurate. Like he’s some benign bubblegum 1950s symbol. A typical condescending assessment for a pop star whose main fanbase is female. (Those who think he’s a symbol of 1950s bobby-sox innocence need to check out his “I Wanna Be Loved.” Yeah. He says “loved” but you can tell he means something else.) At any rate, he was a gigantic star and a wonderful singer.

“Choices (Yup)” – E-40. Best to blast this in the car as you drive to the beach, windows down. I love the structure of the song, too, its constant barrage of choices, requiring either a “Nope” or “Yup” in response. It’s great.

“Little Pigeon” – Chuck Sims. He appears to have been a one-hit wonder with this 1957 single. A pure Elvis imitation, showing the enormity of Elvis’ influence in such an extremely short amount of time. But this swings. I like it!

“Blue Christmas / Santa Claus Is Back In Town” – Elvis Presley, the first rehearsal for his 1968 “comeback special.” You can hear people chatting in the background. Elvis is single-minded, and never stops, but you can hear him having fun with it. Part of his hat-trick: this special could not have been higher stakes, but he sat in the middle of the whirlwind, calm, absorbing the stress and putting it back out there as a performance. Not to be tried by amateurs.

“Shame On You” – Indigo Girls. I love them, but I admit I’m all about Emily Saliers’ songs. Hers are my favorites. I can take or leave (and sometimes I can just leave) Amy Ray’s songs. This is one of Amy Ray’s. So … yeah. I’m ambivalent.

“Stratford-On-Guy” – Liz Phair. I’ve written extensively about her and this album. She “hit” while I was in Chicago. And she was in Chicago too. She felt “local” to those of us who were there. It was instantly obvious that Exile in Guyville was different, far above and beyond so much else that was going on. I’m still obsessed with this album. I still know the order of the track listing. This is second to last on the whole thing. She creates a whole world here.

“Needing/Getting” – OK Go. My love for them is unapologetic. Although this is nothing new. I don’t apologize for the things I love. Something about them really struck a chord with me. Their sound. Their demeanor. There’s very little “filler” in their stuff. For me, their stuff doesn’t get old with repetition. I’m always happy to hear from them.

“The Tennessee Waltz” – Jo Stafford. A 1930s singer, with a pure crystalline voice. I have many many versions of this song too. My favorite is Sam Cooke’s, who completely re-imagines it … but still: it’s a beautiful song. Elvis loved this song.

“Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” – Colin Hay. His stuff gives me an ache. Like a bruise on my arm I can’t stop pressing, just to see if it still hurts.

“Ready, Willing and Able” – Doris Day. From Young at Heart. I’m with Brian May. A perfect singer.

“Matchbox” – Carl Perkins. Such a pioneer. The real breakthrough, if you want to call it that, came from him. Merging country with rhythm and blues. He was part of a much larger moment, of course, but he was the one who was the songwriter, who started writing the zeitgeist, putting it all together.

“Throw Down” – Tenacious D. YES. I love how Dave Grohl said something like “I have played with the greatest rock band in the world” and he was talking about Tenacious D. Lol. Tongue-in-cheek for sure but it makes me love Grohl. Tenacious D rules.

“I Won’t Go Hollywood” – Bleu. I’ve been so proud that I turned someone onto Bleu, a person on Twitter I don’t even know. But he started posting all these tracks, thrilled to have made the discovery. I remember how I felt when I discovered Bleu. I was like … why isn’t this guy HUGE? Followed by: I am so glad this guy ISN’T huge. It means I can go see him play in a tiny venue where there’s barely 100 people there. But he is one of the best songwriters writing today (he writes songs for pop princesses throughout the world), and his VOICE. I wrote a huge piece about him. I won’t go too into it, but will just say I was openly suicidal at the point that I wrote what I wrote, dreaming and planning and rehearsing my checkout date. I was in such anguish it was literally unbearable. I couldn’t take it anymore. In the middle of all this, I went to go see Bleu, by myself, white-knuckling death thoughts. And even though I had a moment of almost terrifying dissociation on my way home through the dark city, by myself … I shiver even thinking about it … I didn’t feel like I was real, it was overwhelming … I went home and decided to write up my thoughts on the concert. Writing that piece got me through one more day. It gave me something outside longing for peace (i.e. death) to think about and do. Which is why when some Irish asshole commented “Love your work, but my God you need an editor” it felt like he had shot me in the heart. Please realize that people you don’t know may be going through something. The best quality of all commenters is those who know when not to comment. Second of all, Noel from Ireland: this site is FREE. If you feel a piece is too long, please realize that 1. it’s not all about you and 2. nobody is forcing you read something that’s “too long.” Baby want a bottle? I’m still mad. I’ll let it go eventually. Not yet though.

“Mr. Misunderstood” – Eric Church. A monster mega hit. So glad I got to see him at Outlaw Fest. He played solo. He said he was “terrified.” I need to see him again, with his band behind him. I love Eric Church so much.

“My Dad’s Gone Crazy” – Eminem. Another album where I have memorized the track listing order through sheer repetition. I consider this one of THE post-9/11 albums, 9/11 haunts it (particularly this track). Including his daughter on this is classic MM. Hailey saying stuff like, “Daaaad” in a scolding voice, like “Calm DOWN, Dad.” “I think my Dad’s lost it,” in her little mouse-voice.

“Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard it. It still makes me shiver with dread. Have you read Bill Janovitz’s second-by-second breakdown of this song? What they have unleashed in the song cannot be undone or made better by “it’s just a kiss away” … but you can understand the attempt.

“The Red We Want is the Red We Got” – Elton Britt. From that Cold War album I mentioned. A swoopy dance song, about the American flag, which includes the immortal line: “it’s the right red, not the wrong red.” Oh boy.

“I Got a Woman” – Elvis, live onstage in Memphis. To anyone who thinks it was a continuous progression down needs to listen to this album. He’s on fire. In his home. One woman is losing her shit, and Elvis says at one point, “Honey, you have got BAD laryngitis.” hahahaha

“Too Fast For Love” – The Donnas. I loved these girls. I need to check in with where they might be now. I loved this album. They were tough chicks, a term I like far better than “bad-ass” (let me know when that awful word has been retired). The Donnas were tough little rebels, a little bit mean, and tauntingly loud. Teenage tantrums.

“Everybody Loves Me, Baby” – Don McLean. From American Pie. This album may very well be my first obsession, or at least the first one I remember. I had to be like … 4 or 5. All I know is that on show ‘n tell day in kindergarten, while other kids showed off their Barbies and gerbils, I stood in front of the class and sang the entirety of “American Pie.” And I was very frightened of the cover. I would stare at it, wondering what it meant, and why it disturbed me.

“A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” – Little Richard. Nobody like him. Before or since. And doesn’t he know it!

“Mandinka” – Sinéad O’Connor. From The Lion and the Cobra. Great album, great song. I was so excited to read (and post) my brother’s essay on this album. He captures what it was like when O’Connor arrived.

“Rich Woman” – Robert Plant & Allison Krause. From their great album of duets. You wouldn’t think this pairing would make sense, but once you hear one track you wonder how you have lived without this album. I love Robert Plant’s comment that one of the appeals of the project was that he would get to sing harmony, something he had rarely done in his career as a lead singer. So awesome.

“Commie Lies” – Janet Greene. Hmmm, I wonder if you can guess this is from the Cold War album? This Janet Greene lady … I had no idea of her existence until this album. Her songs are vicious. A right-wing folk singer. She has a beautiful voice and a heart full of hate. I’d link to it on Youtube, but it’s been uploaded by someone who approves of its message. Now listen, I’m not a fan of Communism or Socialism. I know too much about the horrors done in Communism’s name to treat it with anything other than a skeptical side-eye. But this kind of propaganda is hallucinatory and damaging – a fascinating window into the time, that’s for sure.

“Danny Boy” – Jackie Wilson. The best version of this song. I don’t think there can be any valid argument. I mean, you can try, but I’m bored already. I have many other versions done by Irish tenors, famous Irish singers, and they are gorgeous, it’s a gorgeous song and it’s really fun and satisfying to hear people who can really sing take it on. Elvis does a version too and it’s beautiful. But Wilson takes it somewhere else, creating the bar with which all the other versions are measured – and it makes you understand – on a visceral level – while women would faint at his shows. Because he literally takes your breath away.

“Bossa Nova Baby” – Elvis. I absolutely love this. His performance of it is hilarious. Watch how he moves.

“Those Were the Days” – Dolly Parton along with Mary Hopkin, Porter Wagoner and the Opry Gang. Okay, this is eerie. Considering my monologue way up above about this song and the mix tape. Dolly kills it.

“Extraordinary” – Liz Phair. To those who complain Liz Phair “sold out” with this album, I say: LOL. None other than punk rock Paul Westerberg said that people’s so-called “sellout” albums are often super interesting, and even better than some of the other “pure” stuff – because it represents what the singer has always wanted to do and try, and when they finally get the chance, when money/producers at their fingertips, boom, all kinds of great shit happens. There isn’t a bad song on this album. Besides: I am not a fan only when Liz Phair does something I “approve” of. Exile in Guyville made me a fan for life. I’ll follow her anywhere.

“That’s Old Fashioned (That’s the Way Love Should Be)” – The Everly Brothers. Talk about harmony lines. If you want to learn how to sing harmony, if you want to practice, sing along with THEM. You can’t get more perfect than what they do with harmony.

“Roller Coaster Ride” – Eric Church. An awesome song.

“Never Been to Spain” – Three Dog Night. Elvis performed this in his live shows in the 70s, and he blows the roof off. LOVE it. But it’s a great song and I love Three Dog Night.

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8 Responses to Summer iPod Shuffle

  1. Biff Dorsey says:

    Sheila, I loved your paragraph on Mary Hopkin. I think she was my first celebrity crush when I was 7 or 8. She looked and sounded like an ice cream sundae to me. She ended up marrying Tony Visconti and sings backup on Bowie’s “Sound and Vision”. The album Visconti produced for her, “Earth Song, Ocean Song”, is worth checking out.
    As is Dylan’s version of “The Auld Triangle”.

    • sheila says:

      // She looked and sounded like an ice cream sundae to me. //

      Biff – I love this! I did not know this about Bowie – fascinating. She has such a beautiful soothing voice, and this song is a classic. Despite my love of it, I haven’t delved into the rest of her work so thank you for giving me a roadmap. I will for sure check it out!

      as well as Bob Dylan’s Auld Triangle which I also don’t think I know. I look forward to listening to it. Great song for him.

  2. carolyn clarke says:

    Sheila, is this the same Steve Carlson that hangs out with Jensen Ackles? That Steve Carlson is rumored to be putting out an album with Mr. Ackles.

    I feel about the Beatles the way you feel about Elvis, though I will admit that I’ve seen every movie he made and I’ve seen A Hard Days Night and Help about fifty times. Elvis was the entertainer but I don’t think the Beatles get enough credit for their harmonies and arrangements (although George Martin should get full credit for that).

    Jackie Wilson AND Sam Cooke? I am impressed. Throw in Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tendeness’ and you have a true trifecta.

    • sheila says:

      Carolyn – oh, is that how Steve Carlson came on my radar? I was wondering! I think this is the only song of his I have, I will have to investigate him further. And yes, JA posted that pic of himself in a recording studio and it was very very intriguing!!

      // I don’t think the Beatles get enough credit for their harmonies and arrangements (although George Martin should get full credit for that). //

      Their harmonies, yes! “Love Me Do” – I absolutely love that harmony line. It’s not the “norm” – it’s very unique, and fun to sing along with – and listen to.

      // Jackie Wilson AND Sam Cooke? I am impressed. //

      Love them both so much. IIRC, from Peter Guralnick’s Sam Cooke bio, they came up in the same gospel scene – maybe even toured together? – and then made the segue to pop music around the same time. Jackie Wilson’s shows sound insane – women fainting, lines down the block, etc. and this was for his gospel stuff! What a voice. Just outrageously gifted.

      and I love Otis, too. There’s a whole room devoted to Otis memorabilia at the Stax Museum in Memphis, and it was so great (and yet also sad) to see all of it. Such a huge and random loss.

  3. Carolyn clarke says:

    One more thing. I LOVE Gimme Shelter. Must be played at war splitting level from the opening guitar riff and those drums. Then, you can clean your whole house, rock the night away, make love until you’re sweaty. Whatever. It is a fantastic song as is the Janovitz piece.

    • sheila says:

      // Then, you can clean your whole house, rock the night away, make love until you’re sweaty. //

      That seriously sounds like the best day (and night) ever.

      and Merry Clayton … impossible to imagine the song without her contribution. and those cracks in her voice (shivers). Maybe the most famous background singing of all time? I can’t think of a comparable example to what she does on that song.

  4. JOÃO CARLOS GONÇALVES says:

    ABOUT JACKIE WILSON SINGING DANNY BOY, I THINK HE GOT A BIT DISTRACTED BY THE BEAUTY OF HIS VOICE AND EXAGGERATED IN HIS INTERPRETATION. I THINK ELVIS’ RENDERING OF THE SONG IS MUCH BETTER, HE SANG IT STRAIGHT AND DID A WONDROUS JOB OF IT, IN A PERIOD OF HIS LIFE SOME DETRACTORS WERE SAYING HE WAS LOSING HIS TOUCH. I REALLY DON’T THINK HE WAS, ON THE CONTRARY.

    • sheila says:

      // I THINK HE GOT A BIT DISTRACTED BY THE BEAUTY OF HIS VOICE AND EXAGGERATED IN HIS INTERPRETATION. //

      Elvis’ is good, but it’s not Jackie’s.

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