The Sheltering-in-Place iPod Shuffle

By request:

I play music as I clean. I also play music as I do my digital day job – which I am very VERY grateful for, since so many people just lost their jobs overnight. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s barely a job. It’s a contract position which could end at any moment, but it’s something, and it pays well and it’s keeping me afloat. It’s not mindless work, but it is highly detailed, and requires a lot of concentration … and somehow listening to iPod Shuffle makes me feel like I have company as I work.

Who knew that listing out random music would be so popular, but it is – and it always launches really fun discussions about music. So I thought: let’s keep a running list of what I’ve been listening to as I’ve been isolated, like we’re all isolated.

“Like a Baby” – Wanda Jackson. Off the Jack-White-produced album, which introduced her to a whole new generation. It’s a fantastic album. Jack White asked her if she wanted to do any Elvis songs. After all, she had dated him back in 1955! She did a whole album once of Elvis songs. She told Jack White she’d love to cover a lesser-known song of Elvis’ which she had always loved, “Like a Baby.” Her version is fantastic! And Jack White’s arrangement in the background is fantastic: lots of HORNS, almost a New Orleans-bandstand sound. A sexy song put out by a woman in her 70s. YES.

“Rooster” – Alice in Chains. Ahhh, one of the Gen-X anthems. Ominous and gloomy, with those beautiful harmonies – women – opening it, with that gloomy accompaniment beneath them.

“A Winter’s Ball” – from Hamilton. Bros on the loose! Schuyler sisters on the loose! Romance, flirtation, excitement!

“Dear God” – XTC. I am really feeling this song right now. It’s not just angry. It’s furious.

“You’re My Girl” – The Everly Brothers. I think they’re mostly known for their ballads, and of course their harmonies. Their gentler sounds. I LOVE it when they get rough, when they have an EDGE, like here. It’s not romantic, or not just romantic. It’s frankly sexual. “You’d be surprised what I visualize …” Not really! And go for it!

“Cowboy Casanova” – Carrie Underwood. Lol. This is the only one of hers I have. Maybe I should do some investigating? Thoughts? I like her voice, and I like the sort of … metal-rock feeling of this one, lightened by a fiddle … I like the genre mash-up. Anyway, I know she’s a huge star and I do like this so maybe I should buy some more.

“Ring of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis, covering a song by a fellow Sun Records alum (part of the “Class of ’55” as they called themselves). This is from his album called “Country Songs for City Folks” (lol. Oh, country music, never change. The majority of the people making country music live in a city of some kind. But never mind.) Put out in 1965. It was part of Jerry Lee Lewis’ slow uphill climb back from infamy.

“Help Me Mary” – Liz Phair. From Exile in Guyville. Because this album was so important – because it went off like a BOMB in my world – because I got the weirdest feeling about it (never before had my experience right in that very moment been so accurately expressed) – I listened to it over and over and over, so much so that I know the track list and its order. I mean, those of us of a certain age know the song order on all of our favorite albums. The world has changed. “Help Me Mary” was the 2nd song on the album and listening to the lyrics for the first time was almost embarrassing. She was describing my life AT THAT VERY MOMENT. Unbelievable album.

“Does Anybody Out There Even Care?” – Lenny Kravitz. Off of Lenny’s Let Love Rule, his debut! I of course was familiar with him, but it was randomly hearing “Fields of Joy” that pushed me over the edge (not on this album. Just babbling about my Lenny history). I don’t even think “Fields of Joy” was a current hit when I heard it. But I was starting my descent into a very bad … decade, I mean, let’s be honest … and I went to dinner with a good friend and one of her high school friends. And her high school friend had put together a Playlist for our dinner at his apartment and suddenly there was “Fields of Joy.” And it pierced my freakin SOUL. It still does. To this day I can’t casually listen to it. So even though Lenny had been a part of the music world for a while at that point, and I knew his biggest hits, I started my deep dive. And I’ve been a fan ever since.

“The Old Rugged Cross” – The Blackwood Brothers. A white gospel quartet: one of Elvis’ main influences/inspirations as a child/teen. He LOVED them. His first goal was to be part of a gospel quartet like the Blackwood Brothers. As the story goes, he did audition for one but didn’t “get it” – his voice didn’t “blend” with other voices. That’s for DAMN sure. Anyway, this is very old-fashioned and holy and … different … but it’s fascinating and GORGEOUS. Sometimes I tune into the bass line of Bill Lyles and it’s unbelievable his range, how low he goes. They won 8 Grammy’s, and are in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

“I Hate You” – Jerry Lee Lewis. I love what I call a bad-sport breakup song.

“I Need Your Love Tonight” – Elvis Presley. From his raucous album recorded while he was on break from basic training in 1958. It’s got its own sound, you can feel the explosion of energy, creativity, insouciance, even, in that recording studio. They had to get all this down, and quick, because Elvis was about to vanish.

“Fujiama Mama” – Trailer Bride. Okay this is fascinating. I always forget huge swaths of my music collection and this is the BEAUTY of shuffle. It forces me to remember, to re-claim, to re-enjoy. This is off a compilation album called Hard-Headed Woman, a celebration of the songs of Wanda Jackson. I bought it, because of course I did, and yet haven’t absorbed many of the tracks. This is fun, with a kind of New Wave-electronica-buzz to the sound, showing how far Jackson’s stuff can follow. (I love compilation tribute albums like this).

“Duke” – Stevie Wonder. This song always makes me think of a summer night in the late 80s, driving around Rhode Island with Mitchell, getting iced coffees, going to the Dairy Queen, maybe going to the movies, and blasting this song as we hit the highway. Singing along at the top of our lungs.

“Carried” – Ebba Forsberg. Wow, I forgot about her. I came across her I’m not sure how but I know it was in the cassette-tape era. I bought the album and only really liked two tracks. This is one of them. Over the years as I have updated my music technologically (which I now semi-regret) – I’ve kept this one in rotation the whole time. It’s a good song! And emotional.

“Bosom of Abraham” – Elvis Presley. One of his many gospel tunes: and one of my favorites. See above: The Blackwood Brothers. The second Elvis had the tiniest bit of fame, he started recording and performing gospel tunes. He didn’t wait around. In his final appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1957, he sang “Peace in the Valley”.

“Cannonball” – Radio Company. Jensen Ackles, of Supernatural fame, just came out with an album, collaborating with Steve Carlson. So you KNOW I had to get it. To be honest, I’m not crazy about it – a lot of the songs sound exactly the same to me – I almost wish he had done covers. HOWEVER: this is the opening track, and it is hot as SHIT. SEXXX. MACHO. Yes, please. Great background singers.

“Not Afraid” – Eminem. From Recovery which … I guess didn’t do well? Compared to his others, I mean. I don’t know, I don’t care. I’m an Eminem lifer. This is probably the big track from this one, it’s basically his version of a power ballad, an inspirational call to unity and strength to people who are struggling. His post-rehab anthem.

“My Babe” – Dale Hawkins. His stuff is PRIMAL.

“Country Mile” – my new crush Johnny Flynn. Who is not only an amazing actor but a musician with a bunch of albums out, which I have been having so much fun – in isolation – discovering. He’s a folk singer, really, and you can hear in his voice his familiarity with Irish/English/Scottish folk ballads – he’s got that sound IN him. He sings in Emma. and you can hear it then. So I’m having so much fun “getting to know him.” He’s SO talented.

“Jesus Christ” – Big Star. Their Christmas song. In the middle of an album that was not a Christmas album. Chilton saying right before the sax solo: “We’re gonna get born now” is so … moving to me. I suppose you could see this song as … at the very least skeptical … but I think there’s some belief in it too. It sounds pretty earnest to me – although earnest-ness is not really Big Star’s thing. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

“Lucille” – The Everly Brothers. Love that opening. How many songs opened with this exact same formation and structure? Thousands? Yeah, well, it WORKS.

“Smoke” – Liz Phair, from that album she did that nobody liked, except … me? It’s super weird. Yeah? Well, she’s awesome and inventive and doesn’t repeat herself. On the strength of Exile in Guyville, I will follow her wherever she wants to go.

“I Say a Little Prayer for You” – Aretha Franklin. Perfection.

“Laughing Boy” – Randy Newman. His chord changes can make you cry.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” – Eric Church [feat. Chuck Leavell & Glenn Hughes] Live in Denver. It’s so fun hearing him sing this classic. You can really hear his bar-band origins in stuff like this. The band, the singers, they all become one jamming organism.

“Mystery Train” – Elvis Presley. One of the early Sun recordings. It gives me goosebumps. Is it rock ‘n roll? Well … yes? But without drums. That’s what gives it its eerie openness and rawness. They’re way out on the edge. He’s a KID. But he already knew who he was. You can HEAR it. Scotty Moore rules in this track, and … just listen to Elvis. Especially when he jumps the octave and basically becomes the train whistle … He was always free.

“You Don’t Own Me” – Rasputina. I was very into these gloomy scowling string-section girls for a hot second. I love that they covered this feminist-anthem originally by Lesley Gore.

“One More Love Song” – New Grass Revival. My first boyfriend and I were really into this album (their Live album). And so it remains in the collection. Amazing male voices, all around.

“What We Have (To Change)” – Lucius. These two women are my new favorite thing. (Along with Johnny Flynn, of course). I ADORE them. Their harmonies! Check them out.

“Elizabeth” – The Indigo Girls. For me, it’s all about their chord changes. I’ve been listening to them for what is now the majority of my life. I never would have thought, from their first album, that they would STILL be around now. Not that they weren’t great, but how many folk duos come and go, particularly folk duos that arrived in the late 80s?? They were a throwback. I have followed them ever since. A couple of their songs are so linked to a specific time in my life I can no longer listen to them. Some things will always hurt. No closure. Just moving on. And yet a song like “Watershed” or like “Fare Thee Well” or – the worst – “Love Will Come to You” can put me back there, Sheila with a heart broken (for good, as it turns out) … and so I can’t listen to those. I love them but I can’t hear them.

“I Just Want to Make Love to You” – The Rolling Stones. Then go ahead and do it, guys.

“All Our Own” – Radio Company. Another off of Jensen Ackles’ album. A ballad. This is pretty, and I love the accompaniment of piano and violin.

“Ex’s & Oh’s” – Elle King. Huge fan.

“Jesus is God’s Atomic Bomb” – Swan Silvertone Singers. This song is some wild mashup of Cold War paranoia and love of Jesus.

“Jackie Robinson” – Everclear. A sweet song about his upstairs neighbor who “saw Jackie Robinson play.”

“I Feel Fine” – The Beatles. I listen to a song like this – and it always reminds me that I taught myself how to sing harmony as a very young child by singing along to Beatles albums and trying to different lines, melody and harmony. I recommend this approach! These are not easy harmonies, in many cases, but they make perfect sense once you get into the groove with them.

“He Touched Me” – Elvis Presley. Recorded in 1971. His vocals here are just STUNNING. It’s juuuust on the far edge of what he can accomplish with his voice. He challenged himself. He was competitive with himself.

“Another Girl” – The Beatles. See above comment in re: harmony. The Beatles are great teachers.

“La Di Da” – Pat McCurdy. My old friend. He is currently doing Facebook Live concerts every Friday night. Broadcasting from his home. I “went” last week. Thousands of people from all over the world showed up – his fans – spread over the earth. It was surreal.

“The Milky White Way” – Charlie Rich. His whole THING makes me just want to swoon. The voice. The piano. The … sexuality. Even in gospel. I mean, that’s the thing, right. That’s the thing all these guys understood. Anyway, Charlie Rich is so powerful in such an immediate way I have to lie down.

“Darling Darling Darlings Overseas” – Mike Viola. He’s so wonderful. My sister Siobhan really introduced me to his work. A frequent collaborator of Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, who just died from Covid-19, so so sad. He was 52.

“Hair of the Dog” – Mike Viola. A Viola Cluster. One of his saddest songs. And he’s written songs so sad I can barely listen to them.

“I Wanna Be Loved” – Ricky Nelson. Ricky Nelson, teen idol, lets out the Sexpot. This is super HOT. I can’t imagine being 15 years old at the time, and fangirling over Ricky Nelson, and hearing this come off the turntable. I would have been beside myself.

“Fare Thee Well” – Indigo Girls. Holy shit, WHAT DID I JUST SAY ABOVE, SHUFFLE?

“Love Shack” – The B-52’s. They were huge for us in high school. The image of an entire high school gym dancing to “Rock Lobster” makes me think – man, people do not know what they are talking about when they talk about the 80s as some cultural wasteland. We were listening to Devo and The B-52s and the Gogos and we were going to midnight screenings of Rocky Horror. This album accompanied me and my first boyfriend in our long lONG journey around and up and down and across this continent in our camper van. It was not a particularly good “trip” – in fact, it wasn’t a trip at all. It was a lifestyle. Now this song is a wedding reception staple.

“Hot Stuff” – Donna Summer. A freakin CLASSIC.

“Zu Asche, Zu Staub (Psycho Nikoros)” – The singer in drag in Babylon Berlin (Season 1), whipping the nightclub into a frenzy, a scene I love. (Great series. Love the soundtrack.)

“Night Time Is the Right Time” – Ray Charles. That background: “Night and day … night and day … ” creating the structure beneath and behind him, so that he can go where he needs to go. It’s such a SOUND. It’s HIS sound.

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – more Charlie Rich gospel. I can’t get enough of him.

“Get Rhythm” – Johnny Cash. This is full of what Keith Richards calls “the rhythm of the tracks,” the train-track-chug of all rock ‘n roll.

“Little Town Flirt” – Del Shannon. I love his voice. It’s so OPEN. And then occasionally he roughs his voice up, and my knees turn to jelly. What can I say. I’ve always had the soul and constitution of a horny teenager. Never grew out of it.

“The Black Widow” – Link Wray. Talk about feeling like a horny teenager, Jesus Lord.

“Left Hand Free” – alt-J. I like the bass line.

“Easy Street” – from the original Broadway recording. Dorothy Loudon. I love its boozy sinister SWING, and that crazy 3-part harmony.

“Some Other Guy” – The Beatles, from that Live at the BBC double album. The tracks have this rough-ness, and it’s all LIVE, so you really feel THEM, and what they were creating amongst themselves.

“Rock and Roll Music” – The Beatles. From Beatles for Sale. I wonder if this Chuck Berry song is one of the most covered songs of all time. I think I have no less than 20 versions of it.

“Kentucky” – The Louvin Brothers. Perfect harmonies. Zero irony. Lol. I love them so much.

“Baby Doll” – Jimmie Dale. A rarity from 1958, after Elvis moved on into the Pantheon of Untouchables, leaving in his wake a huge vacuum filled with country boys playing hillbilly music and rockabilly and you can hear Elvis’ influence in all their voices.

“Something About You” – Lucius. I raved about them above. This is one of my favorites of theirs. Crank it UP. These women can SING. No Auto-tune here.

“Don’t Holdyrbreath” – Liz Phair. From The Girly-Sound Tapes, the release of which was an EVENT. Seriously. She is the Gen-X Patron Saint. Well, there are others, but she holds the special spot in my heart. These tapes give me goosebumps just thinking about them.

“Jive After Five” – Carl Perkins. This kid cannot wait for his shift at the soda counter to END so he can go “jive.” This song makes you thirsty. All that soda pop.

“Ode to Billie Joe” – Bobbie Gentry. This song haunted me as a child. It should be rated R, because of the disturbing echoes it reverberates through a child’s mind, filled with bodies jumping, and … WHAT DID THEY THROW OFF THE BRIDGE? I asked my poor mother, begged her to tell me what the song was about and what happened and what they threw off the bridge and on and on. I think she realized then, Uhm … this is not a song for kids.

“White Lightnin'” – Big Bopper. One of the artists who lost their lives alongside Buddy Holly. Big Bopper was a popular DJ/personality and you can tell. With a voice like that, he had just one destiny: RADIO.

“Love Is All Around” – The Troggs. I know I always have to give a tip of the hat to Lester Bangs when one of their songs comes on, because … well, I am not a Troggs scholar but it’s hard for me to imagine that a better thing was ever written about the Troggs than Bangs’ lengthy – endlessly lengthy – essay with the most memorable essay name ever: “James Taylor Marked For Death.” And it’s not really about James Taylor. It’s about the Troggs. Eventually, Bangs drags JT into it, basically to show where he thinks popular music is going and how much he despises it, using the Troggs as an example of everything that is good about rock ‘n roll. If you haven’t read it, well then obviously you must. I loved the Troggs anyway – who the hell doesn’t? – but I appreciated them on an even deeper level after Bangs’ article.

“When I’m Sixty-Four” – The Beatles. If you think about … the history of music … and popular music … I mean, others may know better than me (in fact I’m sure of it) … but … who could have predicted Sgt. Pepper? It was just a decade after the Sun Records boys came flooding up north from the South, bringing with them everyone else. And now we have … “When I’m Sixty-Four”??? It still kinda blows me away. And it is SO BRITISH. Oh, and listening to this song as a kid – is how I learned what the word “dear” meant in the song’s context. Dad told me what it meant.

“Waiting” – Bleu. One of my favorite singer/songwriters today. Check him out! He also writes songs for various pop princesses. He writes HITS. But it’s his own career that hooked me in. This is off a little LP he recorded – and wrote – with a bunch of friends during the apocalyptic Blizzard of ’05. (They called themselves Blizzard of ’05.) Sometimes it’s hard to track down Bleu’s stuff because so much of it is under various pseudonyms but I think I have all of it now. This song is gorgeous.

“I’m Going Slightly Mad” – Queen. This is one of those songs it’s impossible to imagine withOUT Sgt. Pepper having happened.

“Dirty Orchestra” – Black Violin. I got into these guys when one of their music videos went viral. So I bought more of their stuff. They are two African-American violinists, classically trained, who are putting out their own stuff, which is … not classical, but almost pop songs. Instrumentals. I love them.

“Good Rockin’ Tonight” – Link Wray. People were afraid when Elvis sang this. His version sounds tame compared to Link Wray’s. Link Wray was a man whose INSTRUMENTAL “Rumble” was banned from the radio. That’s how scary people found him. And honestly, when you listen to this – just one example – it’s an assault. In a good way. It’s terrifying and thrilling. He’s screaming.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – The Beatles. I guess I wish I had been 18, 19 years old in 1967 – so that I could have had some experience listening to music, and then hear this opening track for the first time. What must it have been like? I wasn’t even alive yet so I just have to imagine. If I find it exciting, what must it have been like then?

“G.I. Blues” – Elvis Presley. I like this era Elvis. Yes, it’s a weird moment: Elvis returns from being stationed in Germany. He puts out a phenomenal album, one of my favorites of his, Elvis is Back, and then the movie career starts up again. It’s a strange in-between time. Some of his best movies were made during this moment – movies like Flaming Star, Wild in the Country and Follow Your Dream. Audiences didn’t like those movies though. Anyway, around here, he made G.I. Blues, a very meta-movie, utilizing everything everyone knew about Elvis’ time in Germany. Some good songs, like this one.

“I Got a Woman” – Elvis. He had recorded this back when he started out – this live version is from a decade+ later, when he was starting up his stint in Vegas. (This is off the great album That’s the Way It is). The song has been transformed entirely. There’s a huge band, backup singers, etc. This is Elvis at his most powerful, his most alpha – 30-something Elvis. He’s exploding with energy, self-confidence, humor. And his VOICE.

“Red Weather” – The Duke Spirit. Now where on earth did this track come from? Sometimes I hear things in movies, or TV series, and track it down as best I can. This is good. I can say nothing more than that. It has a big sound, her voice is distorted, giving it an edge. I like it and I can see why I bought it, wherever it came from.

“Weary Blues from Waiting”- Jerry Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter. This is gorgeous. Heartfelt. Sad. Also off of Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson.

“Little Pink Umbrella” – the aforementioned Pat McCurdy. Off his album where I’m mentioned in the liner notes, I’m thanked, and I don’t know why, I had nothing to do with any of it. But I’ll take it. I love the lyrics to this one. Check him out if you haven’t!

“Seven Bridges Road” – The Eagles. From their double live album. People are so weird about the Eagles. Like, enraged. Calm down. They were a band. I like them.

“Big Boss Man” – Elvis Presley. Elvis and Jerry Reed? I wish there were MORE of it. I am just glad it happened at all. I am glad we have what we have.

“Mellow Yellow” – Donovan. My parents had this album in their collection. This was the only song I cared about off the album as a child. Something about Donovan … scared me? I’m not sure why. I was 7 years old. Ancient history. What I’m trying to say is, this song has always been there in my life. I mean, of course, it came out before I was born. I’m fascinated by how my brothers and sisters imbibed music through my parents’ record collection. Like … Herb Alpert. Ian & Sylvia. Bob Gibson. Phil Ochs. Pop culture was going on all around us but it was a different time. I didn’t get into my generation’s music until middle school when suddenly I was exposed to way more than what was going on in my parents’ collection. I know it seems unreal now. And many of my contemporaries in grade school were listening to music that was out at that current moment, top40 hits, etc. I did have some awareness of Queen, I loved “We are the Champions”, but beyond that … I don’t know. There was something comforting about my parents’ record collection. It never even occurred to me to go out and buy my own music. That didn’t happen until I met my friend Meredith in 8th grade. She introduced me to a whole new WORLD of music.

“Wooly Clouds” – Little Auk. Now this I think I heard on some commercial – and thought it was beautiful. Hey, don’t knock it. That’s how I discovered Brendan Benson, one of my favorite contemporary singer-songwriters. His song “I Don’t Know What I’m Looking For” played during one of the early iPod commercials and it hooked me immediately.

“I Need You So” – Elvis. This is off Loving You (the title of his second movie – although this song wasn’t included in the movie – this was a bonus track). There’s a doo-wop vibe here, but listen to Elvis’ vocals. It’s so … HIM. His voice, even at this early date – 1957 – is a flexible instrument that does exactly what he needs it to do. He’s so in control.

“I Saw the Light” – a live performance of the Hank Williams song by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. I’m in heaven.

“Spanish Lesson” – Madonna. I stopped paying attention to her after this album. Not for any reason – I like this album a lot – I just … I don’t know, I basically fell off the train. This isn’t my favorite off this album (that honor goes to her duet with JT), but I do like it a lot.

“Minority” – Green Day. This was about the time I got into them. The International Superhits era. I would never have predicted American Idiot (and etc.) from this album. But my brother said it all better than I ever could.

“Cradle Baby” – Eddie Cochran. Wow, these lyrics. Lol. Cochran’s voice is … a sexpot voice. There’s just no other word for it.

“Incomplete” – Alanis Morissette. “I’ll be arriv-ehd.” The way Alanis breaks up words – like it’s scanning iambic pentameter – is so bizarre. Like … the syllables don’t fit your melody, lady. HOWEVER. I love her. I can’t help it. Some of it is silly. And it is the epitome of navel-gazing. But I love her and this is a beautiful song!

“It’ll Be Me” – Jerry Lee Lewis. 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis. Before his fall from grace. First of all: rhythm of the tracks. Plus, his voice – which swoops all over the place making him sound … Dionysian and dangerous. Like he’s cackling in glee. And that piano break. I love him. I can’t remember who said this – but he recorded so much, his career lasted decades, there’s so much to explore, and … when you really dig into it – which I have – there’s very little “filler.” There’s almost nothing boring or listless or derivative.

“Creepin'” – Eric Church. Live version. He’s really explosive live. His BAND. I mean … he’s a “country” star, but sorry … there’s something else going on with him. There’s a reason why he’s so popular. He’s influenced by Metallica as much as he is by Waylon. You can hear it. LISTEN to this.

“She’s a Woman” – The Beatles. His VOICE. Good Lord.

“Mesopotamia” – The B-52’s. This was HUGE among my group of friends. As was “Quiche Lorraine.” We would dance around like zombies.

“Elephant Love Medley” – Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor, from Moulin Roge. It’s kind of difficult for me to imagine myself back into the dark time where this movie was my only lifeline. I watched it every night. There’s one shot of Ewan McGregor’s face that literally kept me going. Boy, I must have been REALLY bad then. I mean, the movie is fine, but it hasn’t had any real lasting impact. But I am glad it was there for me when I needed it.

“All My Loving” – The Beatles. Just … how … why … how can this song still work and feel so fresh after literally 100s of listens? I feel this way about so much of their stuff. It’s easy to take them for granted. It’s important to resist taking things for granted.

“Springsteen” – Eric Church. So many of his songs are tributes to the people who influenced him. Merle Haggard. Waylon. Elvis. Janis. They all show up in his songs. He wrote an entire song about Merle Haggard, and here’s his Springsteen song. “When I think about you, I think about 17, I think about my old Jeep, I think about the stars in the sky… funny how a melody sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night …. Springsteen.” I mean … I have goosebumps.

“Goodnight Irene” – Jerry Lee Lewis. I have so many versions of so many people singing this song. I mean, Jack White did it. You gotta do it. This was the start of Jerry Lee Lewis’ improbable rise to the height of the country world. He’s the least family-friendly singer in the world, and yet still, it happened. The outlaw thing helped. Nashville loosening its controls after the explosion of Elvis and rockabilly 15 years before, which had so freaked them out.

“Hold Up” – Beyonce. One of my favorite tracks from her bombshell, Lemonade. She’s not holding anything back, boy. You wince. Very vulnerable. You wonder at the possible repercussions for such honesty.

“Sleepwalk” – Big Bopper. I am laughing at myself. Two tracks from The Big Bopper in the same Shuffle. I have a lot of his stuff though. And I love “Sleepwalk,” the dreamy instrumental, so romantic and swoony.

“Money (That’s What I Want)” – Barrett Strong. Of course eventually covered by The Beatles, and their version is probably better known. But Barrett Strong did it first. It rocks. Early Motown.

“So What” – Pink. I love it when she gets bratty.

“Wasted” – Wanda Jackson. 1955 Wanda, so you can hear how close she is to her country roots. I mean, there’s a fiddle solo. She always said she started out as a country singer, assuming that would be the kind of music she recorded until … she met Elvis. And rockabilly exploded. And Elvis encouraged her to give it a try. “We didn’t even have a name yet for what the new music was …” she said (paraphrase). It was rock ‘n roll that unleashed her. She was one of the few girls in that first generation of rockers.

“California Girl” – Candy Butchers. This is Mike Viola’s old band. That’s how I got into him. Brendan, Liam, my sister Siobhan … all were so into Candy Butchers I had to check them out. He’s so good.

“Where My Father Went” – Johnny Flynn. He’s so wonderful. I am so INTO HIM right now. He is helping me bear the stresses of quarantine. Not exaggerating. I have a feeling I will always associate Johnny Flynn with this strange stressful unprecedented time.

“Holding On” – Jerry Lee Lewis. His singing doesn’t get enough credit. His VOICE and what he can do with it. I always say he FLINGS his voice around, hitting those high notes – but never with effort – just tossing his voice up there before swooping back down. He’s a thrilling singer.

“H.W.C.” – Liz Phair. Considering the graphic lyrics of many hip-hop artists, I mean pornographic, the fact that the title was edited to “H.W.C.” is so annoying. Men are so fucking weird. God forbid a woman … love sex? I mean, what on earth is your problem? Don’t men want women who love sex? So fucking sick of this shit. I worked hard to liberate myself from all that shame-spiral shit imposed on women. And I am fortunate to have met men who weren’t all hung up, who wanted nothing more than that they give me a good time. It’s upsetting to see the sex-judgment coming back, and it’s always more upsetting when it comes FROM women. Sex-phobic. As though every sex is exploitation or somehow coerced. Nope. It’s a very Victorian view of female sexuality. Gonna stay liberated, thank you very much. I hacked that shit out of the EARTH.

“Ramblin’ Rose” – Jerry Lee Lewis. What can I say, I have a lot of JLL. I think I have it all, as a matter of fact, and the man has recorded a LOT.

“Someday You Will Pay” – The Miller Sisters. I love them! The Sun Records roster is mostly men. Very very few women in those early days. This trio was one of the girl-groups. Sam Phillips called them something like “those sweet girls with the harmonies …” Their harmonies are just phenomenal. They had a very short-lived run.

“A Million Dreams” – Ziv Saifman, Hugh Jackman & Michelle Williams, from The Greatest Showman, which I love unabashedly.

“What Makes a Man Wander” – Waylon Jennings. WAYLON. I was wondering where he was! I missed him in this shuffle!

“Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave” – Little Richard. Nobody like him. Before or since or ever. He’s STILL HERE. So is Jerry Lee. Last men standing.

“Free As a Bird” – The Beatles. Boy, member when this song came out? That was crazy.

“Speaking in Tongues” – Eagles of Death Metal. Lol. Love it.

“My Boyfriend’s Back” – The Angels. Another good one to practice singing harmony if you don’t know how to do it.

“Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go” – Brendan Benson – mentioned above! One of my current favorites. This is off a live album, where different artists covered Ringo Starr songs (because life is sometimes awesome). It was a benefit concert in honor of the David Lynch Foundation. This is a rager!

“Salt Lake City” – The Beach Boys. “And the #1 radio station makes the town swing …” They had a huge fan base in Salt Lake City. Hence … this song.

“Better Times Are Coming: – Kate & Anna McGarrigle & Rufus Wainwright. This is off a great compilation album, with different artists – like the McGarrigle sisters (and their son/nephew Rufus), and Richie Havens, and Waylon Jennings, and etc., covering Civil War songs.

“Sexx Laws” – Beck. I admit: this is the only one of his I have. I like him, but I LOVE this song.

“Time for Change” – Robbie Williams, off his recent Christmas album, which makes me so happy I can’t even tell you. I love him and I have wondered over the years why he didn’t put out a Christmas album. Well, he finally did, and it’s a DOUBLE album. My only complaint is he didn’t cover “Blue Christmas” or, even better, “Santa Claus is Back in Town.” He’s such a huge Elvis fan he’s got an enormous Elvis tattoo on his arm. So I was surprised at the omission, but still: I love this album.

“Back to Black” – Amy Winehouse. I love her but her stuff gives me a pang. It’s appalling what happened to her, and that her descent was so quick. I miss her. I agree with Tony Bennett, who said she should have been playing little jazz clubs. That level of fame was just … too much. So so talented.

“Goodbye Stranger” – Supertramp. A perfect song in structure, chord changes, arrangement, the whole thing. I’ve heard it more times than I can count over the years of my life. And it always brings up an emotional response. Not some huge thing like those Indigo Girls’ songs I mentioned – but just … a response, my spirit thrilling to the music. It works.

“The Tear of the Year” – Jackie Wilson. I hear him and I completely understood why women would faint at his live performances. He’s definitely one of the greatest singers … ever.

“Try a Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding. It’s really the only advice that matters.

“Turn Me Loose” – Eminem (and Fred Durst). This is a deep cut man. You gotta be a hardcore Eminem fan to know this one. (Or maybe a hardcore Limp Bizkit fan … which I am not).

“Break of Dawn” – Stevie Wonder. One of the songs on the Soundtrack of my College Years.

“I See the Sun” – Tommy Henriksen. This is really quite lovely, and soooo ’90s. It’s off the great Blast from the Past soundtrack.

“Black on Black II” – Heart. Grown-up woman sexuality. None of this Lolita shit. I love their voices, and their ballads are of course wonderful but I like their songs with an EDGE, with a sex drive. Like this.

“One Night of Sin” – Elvis Presley. This eventually was changed to the more appropriate and family-friendly (because nothing says “family-friendly” like Elvis does) “One Night with You.” But there is evidence of the original in this track. It’s great. But the greatest performance of this song – and one of my favorite live performances ever – like, ever – is his performance of it during the “sit-down” section of his 1968 comeback special. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

“Stalin Kicked the Bucket” – Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley Boys. So insane. A hillibilly jubilee about “old Joe layin’ down and dyin’.” I mean, I agree that it was a cause for celebration, but still. Also that I own this. I’m a lunatic.

“A Gift to the World” – Loveless. I forgot about them! Boston-based indie rock. That lead guitar line … it’s a helluva hook. Also there was a girl in the band. Always nice to see. Sadly rare.

“Poison Ivy” – The Coasters. “She comes on like a rose … but everybody knows … she’ll get you in dutch … you can look but you better not touch … POISON IVY.” So good.

“Goody Two Shoes” – Adam Ant. Wow. HIGH SCHOOL FLASHBACKS.

“For Those About to Rock” – AC/DC. Absolutely epic.

“Dawn of the Dead” – Loud Lion. This band was put together by Bleu (see above) – to pay tribute to Def Leppard. Because that’s the kind of thing Bleu does. I love him. And I love this album.

“I’ll Never Love Again” – Lady Gaga. From A Star is Born. Just kill me now. She goes high here, using her head voice, something she rarely does. It’s beautiful and vulnerable.

“Wig In a Box” – John Cameron Mitchell. From Hedwig and the Angry Inch. One of my favorite live theatre experiences was seeing this show in its first iteration, before it went mainstream (at least here in New York), before it moved venues. I saw it when it was still just a cult thing happening downtown. Where when you sat in those seats you felt you were “in on” something before everyone else. You just knew it was going to be huge. It’s difficult to explain the feeling in that theatre. We were blown away.

“Off the Hook” – The Rolling Stones. This was one of the songs they sang on the now-legendary TAMI Show, when they were so cowed following James Brown’s one-for-the-books performance that they actually looked frightened. If you haven’t watched that whole concert (available on YouTube in its entirety), I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. This is early Stones. You can hear the energy behind the music, the sense of mission. But still: that was nothing compared to what James Brown had just done. And they idolized James Brown. Years later, Keith Richards said appearing on the TAMI Show was one of the biggest mistakes in their career as a band – and when you consider their history – that’s really saying something.

“Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina & the Waves. Of course I remember when this song arrived on the radio. It was huge. But now that first association has been obliterated by its use on Supernatural. Now when I hear it, all I see is Charlie (Felicia Day) dancing in the glass elevator.

“Swanee River Rock (Talkin’ ‘Bout That River” – Ray Charles. The blend of his voice … with the women always behind him … is so much a part of his THING, part of the texture of what he was doing … it’s soooo pleasing. The kind of song where you want to be on the dance floor, connecting with someone – even if you just met him 5 minutes before. Minimal orchestration. Piano. Saxophone. The clapping hands is basically the main percussion.

“Why Oh Why” – Charlie Rich. What can I say. He’s TO DIE FOR.

“Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” – Bobby Darin on The Judy Garland Show. I love this performance so much. My group of college friends are obsessed with it – always have been – and can imitate it perfectly, every gesture (when he claps, the fists – he sings it with CLENCHED angry fists) – and then that final shout: “MICHAEL.” We often yell, randomly, “MICHAEL” and we all know what we’re referring to.

“The Night Hank Williams Came to Town” – Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. I love the sub-genre of music where one singer celebrates another singer. Or, as in the case here, two singers pay tribute to the influence of one singer. It’s a necessary reminder of the continuum of music, how one thing leads to another, how “appropriation” is … kinda the way art has always happened? Nobody just emerges clean and clear of any influences.

“Guitar Medley” – Jerry Reed on the Porter Wagoner Show, because that’s how I roll. There’s no other way to roll, frankly.

“My Truly, Truly Fair” – Guy Mitchell. In this song is the collective psychosis of the 1950s. Sorry. I wasn’t there. But judging from this … things were not all right. But still: it swings! Which is part of the psychosis! You listen to this and are not surprised at all that a decade later came the Summer of Love, because fuck this noise.

“Country Memories” – Jerry Lee Lewis, 1977. I just read Nick Tosches’ interview with Jerry Lee (Tosches was probably already at work on his harrowing sui generis biography of JLL, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story). It’s a crazy interview. “Listen, son, I’m a mean mean man.” Lots of Bible and hellfire talk. This one has a New Orleans jazz sound, more even than strict country.

“Enough Space” – Foo Fighters. From The Colour and the Shape, which took over my LIFE for a year, similar to how The Eminem Show dominated my LIFE. For a good year. Reminiscent of what it was like when Thriller came out (for example). You couldn’t escape it. While we’re here, go read my brother’s essay on this album. So you see, this album – and the obsession with it – was an O’Malley affliction.

“Hey, Soul Sister” – the Glee cast version. I like best when the Glee music arrangers re-imagined a song into a high-school-chorus sound (like this one).

“She Said” – Longpigs. Now I would have to go under hypnosis to figure out where I heard this song. Maybe it got radio play on some indie station and it stopped me in my tracks? Sounds plausible. Because this song did stop me in my tracks. I was FLATTENED. His VOICE. I bought the whole album, and it’s filled with good songs, but this one … this one is the keeper. I played it for Brendan. Sometimes I have hesitated to “show” Bren songs I like – because he’s a music fan and aficianado and what if he didn’t like it?? We were in the car and I popped in the cassette, because this was in the olden days. And Bren was floored into silence. The song ended, and he said, “That song is so JOYFUL.” I remember him saying that. Maybe the lyrics aren’t joyful. But the music … is infused with such life, such passion, the sound is so big, that his response was one of exploding joy. Yes. HIS VOICE.

“The Greatest Show” – from The Greatest Showman: Reimagined album, which I love. Panic! At the Disco covered this, the main theme. I’m such a nerd. Listen, I don’t mess around with my fandom. I always mean business.

“Velveteen Queen” – Bleu and Mike Viola – which, if you’ve been following along, means I AM IN. These guys!! Collaborating! (Along with Ducky Carlisle). This is off their album Aquavia, and they called themselves “The Major Labels,” a supergroup. See, to me, Bleu and Mike Viola are superstars. They are the Greatest Shit I’ve Ever Heard. So the “humor” of two guys known mostly to a passionate underground creating a supergroup (and this isn’t the only one they were involved in) is so pleasing. And the songs! One after the other after the other … fantastic. The album is on Soundcloud. Here they are performing it live!

“All Apologies” – Nirvana, from their legendary MTV Unplugged. It’s almost too painful, to listen to, not to mention watching. The audience is so quiet, so rapt. They were so rapt it freaked out Cobain. Why were they so QUIET? Well, obviously because of what he meant to them, his status. And he was uncomfortable with that messianic status. It separated him from his fans, from who he had been – as an unknown up until very recently in his life. How could he ever have prepared — he, a dirtbag from Seattle — for having people listen to him the way that audience listened to him? There was this weird vibe – with the set, the flowers, the candles – it felt like visiting hours at a wake. And it gave off that vibe at the time. You just sat there, stunned, holding your breath, trying to “read into” his face, trying to understand what was going on, what you were sensing. Cobain would be dead 5 months later. Even now, I grasp around trying to understand. Mike Powell wrote a really good article on Pitchfork about this concert.

And that’s it for now. More than enough. Gotta get back to cleaning and disinfecting my apartment. I also need to do a load of laundry but am too freaked out, currently, to go to a laundromat. New Jersey is suffering and my brief foray to Stop & Shop yesterday freaked me out. The shelves, I am not exaggerating, were empty – there was nothing there. No olive oil, no pineapple, no spices, no meat … If you wanted to buy a collander, you were in luck, but other than that … This is a super-store, it’s gigantic, and there was nothing there. I might have gone at the wrong time. I should go on a weekday, but the sight of those shelves made me think of Soviet Russia. Thank God there was one bag of kitty litter left. But the vibe in New Jersey is eerie, everyone stressed out, wearing masks, staying far away from each other. Except in their cars. People are driving like maniacs, even more so. I was almost forced off the road by an SUV trying to get around me as I turned off on the exit. I had to swerve away quickly, and there was a car next to me on the other side, who then had to swerve away from me. Both of us almost went off the road. I guess because I wasn’t careening off the exit at 80 miles an hour this douchebag wanted to teach me a lesson. Because nothing says “we’re all in this together” like harassing a fellow citizen – not to mention endangering her life – just to show me who’s boss. So I just don’t feel like the ordeal of a laundromat, but I must wash everything. So I will be washing my clothes in the bathtub and sink, and then drying them on the fire escape. Just like my ancestors used to do. Busy Easter Sunday ahead.

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10 Responses to The Sheltering-in-Place iPod Shuffle

  1. Jack says:

    I can’t believe you saw Hedwig at The Jane Street.

    There are two things I wish I’d known enough about NYC when I first moved here in 1997, (one of which I still would have missed as I wasn’t here early enough – but let’s play along anyway because it’s equally one of those if only things):

    1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Jane Street

    2. Jeff Buckley at Sin-e

    I had no awareness of Hedwig Off-Broadway. New York was so big to me back then, it was never even a thought in my life’s plan. I was a California boy, New York was NYPD Blue. I only became aware of Hedwig itself when I saw the film as it played at the Art House movie theater on Oak St. in Chicago when I lived just down the block for a short time due to work. What? Two? Three years later? And I only went to see the movie because I knew no one in Chicago and the movies were literally my only weekend entertainment. If it wasn’t for the movies the loneliness would have overwhelmed me. And I basically saw anything and everything which had a poster in the window of a movie theater during that year or so. I knew nothing about Hedwig but it’s tagline, it’s title and that it could give me 90 minutes on the weekend. It blew me away, the breadth of it’s creative force. It still does.

    And to come to learn what an event it was for those who knew in NYC and that I could have seen the actual live musical anytime was a knife to the ribs. By the time I came back to NYC it had closed. And needless to say, I wasn’t one of those that knew, I’m not in the Arts world nor did I live I downtown in the late ’90’s. The Internet was up and certainly existed but it wasn’t what it is now, you still kind of had to know things back then or know one of those people in NYC that always, mysteriously to me at least, did. New York taught me city adventure but unfortunately not quickly enough.

    I eventually saw NPH play Hedwig on Broadway and he was amazing, just almost as incredible as the film and I’d only ever seen the film. I saw it again with Micheal C. Hall, which wasn’t as good, but it’s not his fault as he probably suffered in my mind from having to follow the years of only knowing JCM in the film and then NPH in the musical.

    Of all the things I may envy in the world Sheila your seeing Hedwig in the late 90’s Off-Broadway may be in the top 5%. The jealousy is real.

    I know you should never shout requests to the performer on stage (or on the page) but if you ever wanted to write about what it was like I would be 1st in line to read it! I miss the Downtown on the late 90’s. Also, I realize this was a playlist post but you can’t casually mention you saw Hedwig at The Jane. I’m sorry. You just can’t.

    Stay safe and thank you as always for your writings.

    Jack

    • sheila says:

      Jack –

      // but you can’t casually mention you saw Hedwig at The Jane. I’m sorry. You just can’t. //

      haha!! I am so sorry – I had no idea!! I should have eased into it.

      Love your comment!

      Yeah, seeing it at the Jane was one of those things that came to me because of my cousin Mike (O’Malley) – who always has tickets to things, who is always calling you up half an hour before something starts and saying “Got a free ticket – come on over.”

      and the Hedwig show was one of those. I had heard of the show and had been dying to see it of course.

      The whole thing was so mind-blowing – first of all, HIM, and that he had written all of that – plus the BAND – whom I was equally obsessed with – and also just the off-the-beaten-track feeling in the theatre with that crowd. It was a super thrilling night and I was so glad I had gone because I couldn’t have gotten a ticket a year later – it had become the thing!

      That’s happened to me only a couple times. Hamilton was another one. I had been tracking its progress – since I’m such a Hamilton fanatic – and my mother bought three tickets for the PREVIEWS on Broadway – before the reviews came out, in other words – so many people knew about Hamilton but the WORLD didn’t know about it yet. I saw it before the reviews came out – if I had tried to buy a ticket once it was up and running I would have had to wait a year, maybe more to see the damn thing.

      All of this talk is making me a little sad right now because all of the shows closed in New York! I am so fearful about what all of this will mean to live theatre – it will take time to rebuild!

      // I miss the Downtown on the late 90’s. //

      Oh man, you and me both!!

      Thanks for the super entertaining comment. I also saw Jeff Buckley live but that was after his Cafe Sin-e days – I too wish I had seen one of his shows there.

      Stay safe and well – thanks for reading!

      • Jack says:

        You see, your Cousin is one of those guys I didn’t know. Although of course I know and love his work now. You’re whole clan has rare talent. Of course it because the Irish are the best story tellers and the best listeners to stories told.

        You set the stage for the Hamilton musical for me, I learned about that musical through your writings on Hamilton and then your excitement for the Musical. Throughout my years in NYC (before heading north to Westchester) I ran in Central Park and Hamilton’s statue up by Cleopatra’s Needle and the Met was a special marker for me – I’d silently whisper to myself as I passed him, ‘half-way home Ham’. Though I did not get preview tickets or original cast tickets and it did take me two years to see it, see it I did, and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on stage.

        My only story that can even breathe in the same space as yours is I can say I saw the Lumineers, a little band only I seemed to know anything about at The Library on the LES where the only people in attendance were me, the Band’s mothers and the mothers co-workers. I bought a band-shirt from the drummers Mom. Two months later ‘Ho Hey’ was used in a MasterCard commercial and they were on their way to Super Stardom.

        Now though, Hamilton in previews and Jeff Buckley live… the knife just twists and twists.

        And New York will recover. The New York Arts will recover. We know this because we came here. We know this because we know what New York is. It breaks, too often it seems and it will take time but the blood beats in those streets; in fact it hammers through every street and every avenue. The lights will go back up.

        There will be better days.

        (thank you for responding)

  2. hugh grissett says:

    great list! great writing!

  3. mutecypher says:

    I think this guy listened to H.W.C. but didn’t quite grasp what the health benefits were.

  4. mutecypher says:

    It’s safe for work.

  5. Jennie says:

    Love this and thank you…so many chills…so much time to explore them…

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