Spring iPod Shuffle

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these iPod Shuffle lists. I find them fun and strangely relaxing to put together. It’s therapeutic to submit to the random-ness of the Shuffle.

I’ve been on the move the last week, going from doctor’s office to doctor’s office, dealing with so many health issues I feel like a character in a Victorian novel. I never get sick (well, except sick in the head …) so it’s weird for me. I will now list my ailments like an old biddy. I’m on “eye rest”, and had to have a thingie done on one of my eyeballs, and now antibiotics for my injured eyeball. I have an injured shoulder, which means (among other things) that I can no longer put on my bra in a normal way but instead have to put it on backwards because I can’t move my fucking arm. Physical therapy and a horse tranquilizer is doing the trick. And I probably have to have surgery again – the exact same surgery I had 5 years ago because it’s baaaaa-ack. Grrrrrrr. All of this went down in the last two months, right after I came back from Los Angeles, and it impacted my sleep, along with Daylight Savings, which is bad bad news … so basically I should have just checked myself into a sanatorium in the Alps for the month of March and April and be done with it. I just got health insurance, thank Christ, otherwise I’d be screwed. I am now BFFs with the receptionists at my GP, at the physical therapist’s, at my new optometrist’s and at my gynecologists. Literally they had not heard of me two months ago and now I am there every other day.

Here is the music that has followed me around on my veritable STRESS-BALL of medical appointments.

“Rehab” – the Glee cast version of Amy Winehouse’s classic rant. I think it’s fabulous.

“Join the Circus” – Jim Dale, from the Broadway show Barnum. The nerd quotient is already strong with this Shuffle and I’m happy about it. I saw Barnum on Broadway in high school with Tony Orlando (!!) in the lead role and he was fantastic. Singing as he walked across a tightrope wire. Go, Tony.

“Dead in the Mornin'” – Bleu. It’s a sick morbid anthem. He’s singing what he is going to leave to everyone in his will since he’ll be “dead in the morning'” – with a huge screaming chorus of girls behind him. But it’s fantastically catchy, making it seem even more morbid. He’s so brilliant. Love him.

“Thankless Bastard” – Pat McCurdy. He is a cult figure in Chicago/Milwaukee/St. Paul. If you get a chance to go to one of his shows, do so. It really is like walking into a cult, with everyone singing along to every song, in a trance of appreciation. I was a proud member of said cult.

“Nancy’s Minuet” – The Everly Brothers. Classic. There’s almost a Spaghetti-Western-ish vibe to this one.

“Farrell O’Gara/The Flogging Reel” – Joe Derrane and Carl Hession. I sure am glad the Irish showed up early. Sometimes they wait until late in the Shuffle to arrive and it never seems right. Joe Derrane is this insanely brilliant accordion player. He’s dazzling.

“I Am Better Without You” – Everclear. This could be counted as a “Bad Sport Breakup Song.” although there’s a bit more yearning in the Everclear song than the classic “Fuck You” bad sport breakup song. There’s a pleading thing going on. He’s better without her. Please leave me alone, baby.

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” – Dean Martin. There’s such warmth in his voice. You can hear him smiling. He’s perfect.

“One Broken Heart For Sale” – Elvis Presley, from the movie It Happened at the World’s Fair. People who dismiss the movie soundtracks completely are really missing out. There’s so much good stuff there, including this one. Yes, it’s not “My Baby Left Me” but come on, what is? Besides, Elvis had more in him than the guy who sang that (one of the best rock ‘n’ roll tracks ever recorded.) He had this guy in him, too, the swinger, the showman, the smooth entertainer.

“Piece of Mind” – Count Five. They’re so great. I love this album. Of course they make me think of Lester Bangs’ great essay on them.

“Little Doll” – The Stooges. It still feels new. It still feels scary. Again, let’s listen to Lester Bangs.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Elvis Presley. This track cracks me up because Elvis sounds so happy. He swings it. He roughs up his voice on “When tears come down …” Nothing can get this guy down. So to speak. I find it catchy as hell. Elvis, apparently, was not happy with this track, and it wasn’t really officially released (if I’m not mistaken – maybe it was, Elvis’ release history is difficult to understand sometimes). Regardless: what is charming about it (and it’s a very charming performance – you can hear him clapping as he sings) is what makes it weird. This is a sad song, Elvis. This is a bitter song. Remember?

“Arlandria” – Foo Fighters. Very grunge-era sound. A bit more polished, yes, but it still has that “I will be very very quiet for a while AND THEN I WILL BE VERY VERY LOUD” thing.

“What Do I Need With Love” – Gavin Creel, from the Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Fun.

“I Hear Voices” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. He was so shy, so retiring.

“Livin’ Thing” – ELO. One of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite bands.

“Heartbreak Hotel” – Elvis Presley, live, August 23, 2969, Las Vegas. Man, he slows this mother down. It’s sex on a STICK.

“Back to the Future (Part III)” – D’Angelo and the Vanguard, from Black Messiah. Honestly the whole album is so great I haven’t been able to fully absorb it yet. This song feels like an ongoing party/revival meeting. We meet up in the middle and we leave before it’s over.

“There’s a Honky Tonk Angel” – Elvis Presley, covering a song first recorded by Conway Twitty. This is from Presley’s great Promised Land album, whose mere existence disproves that Elvis was on some continuous downward spiral in the 1970s. Maybe health-wise, okay, I’ll give you that, but musically? What are you all, cracked? There was so much great stuff happening. This is an old-fashioned country song, raw in its emotion and longing. It’s a gorgeous performance from him.

“The Last Time” – The Rolling Stones. That guitar. Puts a chill right up my spine.

“All Dead, All Dead” – Queen. Haunting.

“Love Me Tender” – Elvis Presley, at some live show in the 70s. If you’ve seen the footage of any concert of his, then you know that this song would often drag out to 15 minutes long because he would kiss everyone in the front row. And sometimes, beyond. Walking out into the audience, causing bodyguards and security to freak out. He literally kisses everyone. There’s banter too. “She’s gettin’ serious, boy …” he jokes after one woman got particularly grabby. But then he moves on. Who else … who else … could pull off something like this? And have it be a celebration? I mean, it’s ridiculous and mythologizing and all the rest, but dammit, people wanted that kind of thing from him and he gave it.

“Blue Moon” – Elvis Presley. Recorded in 1956. One of his weirdest tracks. Dave Marsh calls it an “eerie masterpiece,” and I wholeheartedly agree. It cannot be sufficiently explained how a 21-year-old guy would come up with a performance like this, especially the swooning “ooooooohs” that make up the majority of the song. Seriously. That’s not a producer making that choice. Elvis made his own choices. He decided to sing it that way. And the minimal background, with the horse-clopping-hoof sound … Gives me chills, I tell ya. Every time.

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” – Sinéad O’Connor. One of her cheery numbers. This was on the huge album that introduced her to the world. This chick was not messing around. I’m a fan for life. I even suffered through her reggae phase. I’ll go anywhere, Sinéad.

“Boys Round Here” – Blake Shelton. I mean, it’s so stupid (“chew tobacco chew tobacco spit”) with that tiresome chip on its shoulder that so many country songs have. People from the city aren’t singing passive-aggressively about how they’re better than the people who live in the South. So you have four-wheel drive, so what, you want a medal for being Better Than Everyone Else? But dammit, it’s catchy. I like Blake Shelton a lot.

“Pray” – Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. I love Sam Cooke’s secular music. I do. Man could write a pop tune like very few others can. But his gospel stuff is so special! I love this too. You can really get a sense of what they must have been live, at their shows, with all the good church-girls flooding into the aisles losing their EFFING MINDS.

“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” – Lloyd Price. Elvis Presley made the song famous, but it had been bouncing around for a while, and had been a hit for other people too. Lloyd Price’s version was hugely influential on Elvis. It’s joyous. It’s such a sad song but it is impossible to sit still when you’re listening to it. Elvis’ version is a boogie-woogie burlesque, and Lloyd Price’s is even further in that direction, with a sexy saxophone solo.

“Lucinda” – Randy Newman. It’s his version of a love song. I love that piano.

“Shitloads of Money” – Liz Phair. From whitechocolatespaceegg. I’m a huge fan. She’s so honest.

“Breaking Up” – Charli XCX. Okay. I love this broad. I only have the one album, and haven’t immersed myself in it yet but I tell you, every time a song has come on that I don’t recognize and think to myself, “Jesus, this is AWESOME, who is THIS??” it’s very often Charli XCX. I mean, it’s pop music, it’s girl-power dance-club songs, but as far as I can tell, every single song on it is a “hit.” It’s girlie, it’s loud, it’s silly, it’s catchy. Big fan. Not for life yet, but definitely of this album.

“What Now, What Next, Where To” – Elvis Presley, from the bleak mid/late 60s, and yet another nice track. I mean, it won’t win awards, but it’s a nice swinging country song and he performs it beautifully. He’s channeling Dean Martin, one of his heroes.

“Rock ‘n Roll Ruby” – Warren Smith, another of the Sun Records label stable of artists. “Rock ‘n Roll Ruby” was his big hit, and apparently Johnny Cash wrote it, although Warren Smith said that George Jones wrote it. Either way, nice pedigree. It’s a good rockabilly song (and actually went on to beat the records set by other Sun artists – you know, slackers like Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins).

“Air Conditioner” – Christine Lavin. In this song, she will only consider dating a man if he has air conditioning. It’s very funny. About 10 years ago, I was sweltering through an unbearable summer. I had a roommate at the time. I had been on a couple of dates with a guy but I just wasn’t feeling it. However, he had air conditioning. I said to my roommate, also a good friend, “Yeah, but he has air conditioning.” She responded to my comment with horrified silence. Her eloquent pause helped me come to my senses. “Oh … so you think it wouldn’t be right if I keep seeing him just because…” She said, “No, it would not be right.” “Okay. Thank you.” I was so overheated that summer that my moral compass melted.

“Someday You Will Pay” – the wonderful Miller Sisters. Another Sun Records group and, refreshingly, WOMEN in the middle of that boy’s club. I love these gals. Their sound is that genre-mix that can barely be perceived as radical as it was back then. It’s country. It’s hillbilly. It’s folk-music. It’s a hoe-down at a country fair. It’s Andrews-Sisters-popular music. But there’s a bass going on there that is pretty damn rockabilly. You cannot say “what it is”. STILL. Now that’s a good song.

“Memo To My Son” – Randy Newman. Again, with that beautiful repetitive piano going on. Beautiful song.

“Alone Together” – Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. Nobody like her on the planet, before or since.

“Step It Up” – Billy Hector. Fantastic thrilling guitar. Saw him live a while back.

“Entr’acte” – from Big River, an O’Malley Family favorite. My sisters and I have driven other people out of the room with singing the entire soundtrack. We can’t stop once we get started. I got my first Actors’ Equity points understudying this show in Philadelphia.

“Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga. “Judas” is basically exactly the same song as “Bad Romance.” NEVER MIND. Her Sound of Music medley on the Oscar broadcast was gorgeous. She did it without irony. She did it sincerely. Try singing “Edelweiss” without making fun of it in some way, try singing it absolutely straight. It is not easy. (I tried to do it myself just to see what it would feel like.) And to those who were saying all over social media the next day, “Who knew Lady Gaga could sing?” I say: Don’t BROADCAST how out of touch you are. Where the hell have you BEEN?

“Shake, Rattle and Roll” – Elvis Presley. Okay, a couple of very amusing things here. The lyrics were considered too racy and so the whole bit about “sun comes shining through” the dress so he can see all “that mess” belongs to you … That was too racy and was cut. But the nitwits in charge of the cuts seemed to miss entirely the far more dirty imagery in the “one-eyed cat peeping in the seafood store” verse. Like, THAT was a-okay, and the see-through dress was a no-go.

“Down In the Meadow” – Marilyn Monroe, from River of No Return. It’s lovely, simple, beautiful.

“I Don’t Want to Know” – the Glee cast version of the Fleetwood Mac tune. You know what, it’s not bad!

“Just Because” – Brenda Lee. I love her stuff so much. Here, she covers one of Elvis’ early tunes, and she gives Elvis a run for his money. Here she is performing it live in 1958. Look how tiny she is. And what a HUGE voice. In the U.S. pop charts, during the 1960s, her heyday, she ranked 4th. Who came before her? Elvis, The Beatles, and Ray Charles. Here’s another amazing fact from her career: In the 1960s, she had 9 consecutive top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits. Nine consecutive top 10 hits. It was a record for a female artist.

“You’re the Boss” – Brian Setzer and Gwen Stefani, covering the hot-hot-hot Elvis/Ann-Margret duet that was, unfortunately, cut from Viva Las Vegas.

“Drink With Me” – the sad-sap students of Les Miserables.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” – Led Zeppelin. It’s sheer liquid sex.

“Rollin’ Stone” – Muddy Waters. Talk about sex. That guitar.

“The Golden Rule” – Everclear. It’s kind of stock, but even when they’re stock, it’s a good sound.

“Country Road” – James Taylor. Grew up with his music playing in our house. He was part of the fabric of my childhood. I’ve seen him live a bunch. I love him. But I can’t help but think of two things when he comes up: My grandmother not liking what she sensed as his egotism in naming a song after himself (“Sweet Baby James”). It didn’t sit right with her. And it occurs to me that that narcissism is exactly what Lester Bangs sensed in Taylor as expressed in Bangs’ measured reasoned essay entitled, calmly, lovingly, “James Taylor Marked For Death.”

“Boys” – The Beatles. 1963. What ferocious energy. Those “bop shoo wops” in the background. The whole thing feels on the verge of careening out of control. It’s thrilling.

“As Long As I Have You” – Elvis Presley, gorgeous ballad from King Creole. He’s to die for.

“Honey Don’t” – Carl Perkins. Classic song, recorded at Sun Studio, with that Sun sound. That’s the song that had the chord change that freaked everyone out when they first recorded it.

“Precious Things” – Tori Amos. This album was so huge to me when it first came out that I listened it to death. It’s hard for me to listen to it now. I have then gone on to have a real love/hate relationship with her. I had seen her perform at the Park West in Chicago, right before Little Earthquakes dropped. Right before she became a superstar. It was a thrill. “So you can make me come. That doesn’t make you Jesus.” Those lyrics were so shocking/thrilling at the time.

“Save You From Yourself” – Bleu. One of his gigantic power ballads.

“Breakaway” – Kelly Clarkson. I love her. Have you seen her cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”? I love Tracy Chapman’s version, but Clarkson’s is better.

“Hunker Down” – Mike Viola. From his superb album Hang On Mike. He’s such a good songwriter. I follow him on Facebook and he just came back from a trip to Memphis, posting pictures of himself in the studio at Stax, saying he wants to come back and record there. Yes, please.

“Mister Loneliness” – Gene Vincent. What a ridiculous and fun song! It sounds like his back-up singers are a group of Muppets.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – The Kingston Trio. I am such a nerd.

“Sweetie Pie” – Dale Hawkins. An unmistakeable sound: rich, full, sexy, layered, rough and ready. And because I never want to miss a chance to point you towards Kim Morgan’s piece on Dale Hawkins

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” – no, not the song by Twisted Sister, but The Who, from Tommy.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Hank Williams. The effortless and lonely swoop of his voice … very difficult to imitate. You have to mean it. Hank Williams means it. He meant everything he did.

“Hollywood” – Michael Buble. I feel almost embarrassed at how catchy I find this tune. I feel like I should resist it or something. But fuck it. I succumb. Every time. I’m easy. It’s one of my best qualities.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” – Michael Buble. Hahahaha. A Buble-cluster.

“Russians” – Sting. Oh, shut up, Sting. Of course the Russians love their children too. Like is that a real question? This kind of thing passes as deep to people who have never encountered real depth before.

“Uninvited” – Alanis Morissette. I have no idea what this song is about and I don’t care. It’s so needlessly bombastic. I love it.

“Long Shot” – Kelly Clarkson. “Why’s everything gotta be so intense with me?” she asks. I feel the same way, girl.

“Say Goodbye to Hollywood” – Eminem. So brilliant. From The Eminem Show, an album that took up an entire year of my life. And it still kills.

“Like a Baby” – the great Wanda Jackson, from her Jack-White-produced album The Party Ain’t Over. Jack White suggested she cover an Elvis song. Of course, they dated back in the day. He was very important to her. She did an entire album of Elvis cover songs after he died. But for The Party Ain’t Over, she decided to cover a little-known Elvis song called “Like a Baby.” Her version is great.

“One Way or Another” – Blondie. Hot.

“What Goes On” – The Beatles, from Rubber Soul. Such a great album. I really learned how to harmonize by listening to Beatles albums in my childhood.

“Believe” – Justin Bieber. I think it’s catchy and sweet. I am in no way a big fan, but I did find him pretty compelling as a performer in the movie of the same name, Believe. I watched the concert sections and thought, “Oh. I totally get what’s going on here, I totally get the appeal.”

“Jaded” – Green Day. From International Superhits, on constant rotation at that time. You could not escape it.

“Stars and Planets” – Liz Phair. It pisses me off when people bitch about how she sold out. Puh-leeze. I love her “sell out” album, of which this song is one of the best.

“Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” – Dean Martin. Honestly, my brother Brendan has the last word on this song, and Dean Martin, in general.

“Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church. I just got into him. Not really into contemporary country, but I think he’s pretty great. For example, when the hand-claps come in here … I think it’s exciting.

“Stupid” – Pat McCurdy. “I stand here feeling stupid, just as stupid as can be …” Love this one and love the guitar here too. He and I go way WAY back. And here’s Exhibit B on that. Sheila, you do realize you’re in public, right? Put your clothes on.

“I’ll Cry Instead” – The Beatles. Recorded for Hard Day’s Night but left out of the movie. The movie just turned 50 and was given the Criterion Collection treatment.

“Pointed Toe Shoes” – Carl Perkins. One of the things I love about the whole rockabilly explosion is how self-aware it got, once it “hit.” It became a “movement” and there were “things” attached to that movement: blue jeans, pink cadillacs, blue suede shoes … Perkins has a lot of songs that mention what people are wearing at the sock-hop, etc. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s commenting on itself. And of course he was one of the first guys to successfully mix those different genres (country, hillbilly, r&b) … the other guys who came after (like Eddie Cochran and others) were trying to ride the wave set by Perkins and Presley. But I love all of the “here is what we are wearing, here is what we are driving, here is what we look like” songs of the late 1950s. The teenagers were taking over the world.

“Rainbow Connection” – Kermit the Frog. Tearing up. For real.

“Only the Young” – the legendary James Burton (guitarist for Ricky Nelson, Elvis … you know, minor artists like that). So when Charley and I went and saw James Burton play, he did this instrumental piece that cracked me open like a walnut. I actually sat there crying. I had no idea what it was. I received an email the following day from one of the band members who had found my post, and answered my question: “That was ‘Only the Young.'” Found a clip of Burton doing it online, and downloaded it as an mp3. I still find it almost too emotional to even listen to. Don’t even know why!

“So High” – Elvis. One of my favorites of his gospel tunes. Old-school revival sound.

“Back Where You Belong” – Sinéad O’Connor. From her latest (I think?) album, which I really really like. Her voice goes right through me, man.

“Good Thing” – The Rolling Stones covering Sam Cooke, off their third album. There’s such a sweetness here. The Stones sweet? Yes. I love this.

“I Saw Her Standing There” – The Beatles. I’m not making an official statement, but this is my favorite Beatles tune. I probably first heard it when I was 7 years old, probably even earlier, and I have listened to it constantly since then. Literally, there’s probably not been one week in my whole entire LIFE that hasn’t passed by without me listening to this song at least once. So. Well done, lads.

“Precious Time” – a gorgeous ballad from the great Maria McKee (whose movie, created with her husband Jim Akin, The Ocean of Helena Lee, opened yesterday. See it. My review here.

“Breadfan” – Metallica covers the song by Budgie. And it’s exhilarating, as only they can be.

“How’s the World Treating You” – Alison Krauss and James Taylor. Gorgeous duet of a classic country tune, first recorded by the great Louvin Brothers, and recorded by Elvis, too. Their voices together are beautiful.

“Living with the Shades Pulled Down” – Merle Haggard. I mean, the title alone!! The song starts: “I fell in love with a working girl. Lawd, she was sweet.” All they do is stay home, pull the shades down, and make love all day long. Not a bad life, you know?

“Come Let Us Go Back to God” – Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. A cappella. Gorgeous quartet singing. Unearthly.

“How Blue” – Bleu. He has an incredible falsetto. He can sing anything. This is a tour de force.

“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” – Waylon Jennings. Brill. He’s so sexy I kind of can’t even stand it. The song is by Chuck Berry. From his amazing debut album in 1957. And it was a song that launched a thousand ships. Everyone did it.

“You Got Your Hooks In Me” – Little Charlie & The Nightcaps. So good, so satisfying, like all great blues songs are.

“One” – Metallica. Super intense.

“Roi” – The Breeders. One of my favorite albums ever. I miss these dames.

“Young, Gifted and Black” – Nina Simone. So brilliant you can’t do anything else when the song comes on but stop in your tracks and LISTEN.

“Time to Bum Again” – Waylon Jennings. “Your nagging is hard to stand so I pack my things and I’ll be on my way …” Don’t blame you, pal.

“And I Love You So” – Elvis Presley. Wake up, Elvis!! Elvis covering Don McLean is pretty great, but there’s no “oomph” here. The background singers and orchestration are overwhelming him, and that’s not really how it went with him. Something’s missing here.

“Hurt” – Elvis Presley. One of his most harrowing and honest performances. A howl of pain. The song STARTS at the climax. This is a tough song to sing vocally, it took everything he had. He’s best when he’s right on that edge, pushing himself. Great track.

“Even Flow” – Pearl Jam. I remember all this commentary during the grunge era that basically amounted to, “Will these white boys stop whining?” I don’t know what songs they were listening to. These guys weren’t whining. They were screaming. Beware of people who interpret emotion as “whining.”

“I Build This Garden For Us” – Lenny Kravitz. I don’t have his discography in front of me, but I’m pretty sure this was from Circus, a follow-up to his insanely popular Mama Said. And Circus was dark and twisty and weird and people rejected it. They wanted happy flower-child Lenny. But Circus is a really really good album!

“Gaudete” – The Medieval Babes. I love these women. They’re burlesque stars and performance artists and strippers and all the rest, but as the Medieval Babes, they do these traditional choral arrangements of these Medieval hymns, and they’re wonderful. I am pretty sure they are still around!

“Better Be Home Soon” – Crowded House. I adore this song. It’s perfect!

“Time of the Season” – The Zombies. Love that background: the little knocking sound, and the rhythmic breathing. Eminem sampled this on his latest album and it’s fantastic.

“He Can Only Hold Her” – Amy Winehouse. I still miss her. She was so talented.

“Across the Great Divide” – The Band. Have you read Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music? There is a great great chapter on The Band. Their music is so poignant to me. Hard to even bear, for some reason. Something to do with the chord changes, the sounds. It makes me nostalgic for something, but I’m not sure what it is.

“Put Your Cat Clothes On” – Brian Setzer, covering the Carl Perkins song – which is another great example of the self-aware nature of the music happening in the late 50s. Here is what I wear, here is how I do my hair, here is how my girlfriend dresses … They knew they were pioneers, trend-setters, and it went into their music. They created the times, they reflected the times.

“Beidh Aonach Amárach” – The Cassidys, a wonderful family group who sing traditional Irish songs, in Irish. There’s a lovely lilt to this one.

“Desperation” – Eminem, from his latest album. Love songs by Eminem are rare, and when he does go there it’s always … interesting. There are a couple of love songs on his latest album, one of them is damn near sweet. “Desperation”, however, is not that song. It describes an unequal relationship. He wants her BAD, and is caught up in wanting her, and she? She seems to be just using him for his fame. But he didn’t really understand that that was what was happening. Anyway, great sound, macho as hell, macho AND neurotic (Eminem’s stock-in-trade). Love it.

“This Time Could Mean Good-Bye” – Stevie Wonder. So gorgeous, so soothing. The melody is beautiful.

“I’ll Do Anything For You” – the great Link Wray. It was just his birthday. Somehow he makes “I’ll do anything for you” sound like a threat. But then you’re not sure. He’s so so great.

“Shangri-La” – Robert Maxwell. What the hell.

“I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen” – Robbie Williams. I was wondering where he was hiding. He’s a superstar. I wish he would talk to Hollywood. And I wish they would listen. Someone should put him in something, that’s for sure.

“Lucille” – The Everly Brothers. Sometimes I mistake the opening of “Lucille” for Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.” Another great song to practice your harmonizing skills. Because the harmonies here are strange. But so so right.

“Weather Man” – Wynona Carr. A fantastic singer, who honestly should be more well-known. Like Sam Cooke, she started out as a gospel singer. I think she and he may have been on the same label. I remember her showing up periodically in Peter Guralnick’s book about Sam Cooke. She’s got a rough raw gorgeous voice. I love her gospel stuff. But then she, like Cooke, switched to secular music. I think she may have only had one album put out, but every track is good – like this one. There isn’t that much Wynona Carr out there. She died in obscurity. I was so happy to hear that the film 42, about Jackie Robinson, closed out with the Wynona Carr song “Life Is a Ballgame.” Check her stuff out!

“This Wheel’s On Fire” – The Band. “If your memory serves you well …” It honestly doesn’t, guys! Their stuff is so immediately recognizable as theirs. But there’s also so much “tribute” in it, echoes of other things, all in one big melting pot … Tin-pan alley, hillbilly-folk songs, ragtime, the 60s psychedelia … all this big gorgeous American mix.

“Raise You Up / Just Be” – the cast of Cyndi Lauper’s Broadway show Kinky Boots. I have not seen the show but I am in LOVE with the music. Great ensemble. Cyndi Lauper is the best.

“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die” – Elvis Presley, trying to weasel his way out of being in trouble, from Girl Happy, a wonderful Elvis “formula” picture. So entertaining. Nobody could get away with this shit but Elvis.

“Bounce” – Timbaland and the great Missy Elliott. This whole album (Shock Value) is great. This is one of my favorite tracks. I love Missy Elliott. Humorously, when she just performed on the Super Bowl, many young Katy Perry fans had no idea who she was. (Similar to all the “Who the fuck is Paul McCartney” Tweets when Kanye announced a duet with Sir Paul.) I have to say that Boomers (and Gen-X-ers) did NOT comport themselves well in the face of these two events. “Kids today,” they fumed like the old fogeys that they are. “How dare they not know who Paul McCartney is …” They sounded ridiculous. I was embarrassed for them all. Glenn Kenny observed: how many of these idiots fuming at teenagers on Twitter for not knowing who Paul McCartney was were well-versed in, say, the music of Al Jolson when they themselves were teenagers? Of course they weren’t. Embarrassing all around. Anyway, Missy Elliott’s response to the “Who the fuck is Missy Elliott?” Tweets was gracious and beautiful. She’s no dummy. Her fan-base exploded, yet again. She was introduced to a new generation. She was introduced to a mainstream, too, who may never have been paying attention to her before. That’s just the way life goes, and she’s philosophical about it. To be ungracious in response to the fact that people don’t know who you are is to miss an opportunity to say, “Yeah, hey, I’m here, I’ve been doing my thing for a long time, glad to have you aboard!” She’s a class act, and I have always loved her, but her reaction to that whole nonsense made me love her even more.

“Let’s Twist Again” – Chubby Checker. Because no music collection is complete without this.

“Do Re Mi” – Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music. Sometimes Shuffle makes me laugh out loud.

“School Days” – Chuck Berry. It still explodes out of the speakers. It has not lost its freshness, its power.

“Drop the World” – Eminem and Lil Wayne. Blast this and people will go into a trance on the dance floor.

“Fast Changes” – Seal. Boy, this album brings back a very specific memory of meeting up for drinks with a college boyfriend years after we broke up. I was in the process of going absolutely BATSHIT INSANE, living out in Los Angeles by myself, staying in the spare bedroom of this elderly woman in Woodland Hills (a woman I didn’t even know – a friend of mine had hooked me up with her), and freaking out on innocent tow-truck drivers.. I felt like my life was over. (I was 23.) I knew no one in Los Angeles. My boyfriend and I had driven across the country in a VW van (the cliches mount), and slowly and horribly broke up during our journey, which took months. I remember staring at the Tetons, in a daze of misery, thinking, “Well. Those are beautiful but I obviously will need to come back when I’m in a better frame of mind.” Anyway, by the time we reached the Pacific, we decided to go our separate ways. He went to San Francisco to start his job as a corporate lawyer, I sort of squatted in Los Angeles, where I didn’t know a soul. I went fucking nuts. In the middle of all of this, I flew home for Christmas. I hung out with family and friends, went to a party (this picture, now known as the “sloozy butt” picture, was taken at that party), and suddenly, in a loving atmosphere of humorous friendship, I remembered who I was. I realized, in a flash, that of course I wasn’t going to stay in LA. Fuck L.A. I was going to move to Chicago and start my career as an actress. (Which is just what I did. I flew back to LA, sold all of my stuff, and moved to Chicago with two suitcases of belongings.) On the final leg of my trip home to the East Coast, I got together with that old college boyfriend I mentioned, the guy I hadn’t seen in about 4 years. We had drinks, we flirted, we caught up, we made out just like in the old days. I slept over at his apartment in Boston, although, you know, no sleep happened, and in the morning, we had bagels and coffee, he blasted this album by Seal, and we danced in the living room, holding onto each other, laughing, hugging tight. It was our good-bye. Our relationship had ended pretty rancorously, so we sort of made things right. Then I took a cab from his apartment to Logan Airport, feeling suddenly like my life was not over, but that it was just beginning. And so. Long story long, I hear a song from that Seal album, and all of that is what I remember.

“Dear Boy” – Okay, so this is fabulous. The whole album is great, speaking of Paul McCartney (“who the fuck is Paul McCartney?”) The album is called Pure McCartney, and it’s all McCartney songs (from Ram and on, through the Wings years), sung by Tim Christensen, Mike Viola, and Tracy Bonham – some of my favorite people – all with the band The Damn Crystals. I highly recommend it!

“Tell Me What You See” – and right on cue, The Beatles! The lyrics are a little bit scary, aren’t they?

“Back Street Girl” – The Rolling Stones. A rich and complex sound. Great vocals by Jagger.

“It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way” – Waylon Jennings. What a heart he had. What a big honest heart.

“Molly’s Lips” – Nirvana’s raucous cover of The Vaselines song. I still haven’t seen the Kurt Cobain documentary. I must get on that immediately.

“Girls Run the World” – the Glee cast version of Beyonce’s delusional anthem. I like this version though because it’s re-imagined as a marching-band number, fun arrangement.

“Firework” – Katy Perry. A couple things. There’s a reason why the song caught on so hard. It’s an irresistible force of positivity. It’s a “hit,” what can you do. I love the University of Arkansas frat boys’ video of the song. It makes me laugh. I have always liked Katy Perry. I think she’s over-managed, a bit, and her image is a bit over-determined but I like her voice and her songs and all that. But it was the following moment that made me love her. Watch her behavior during that performance. Watch how her focus, throughout, is entirely on that little girl. She is there for her. Beautiful.

“Welcome 2 Detroit” – Trick Trick & Eminem. It’s awesome. Sing-song-y and slightly psychotic.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen, live at Wembley Stadium. I’m so mournful that I never saw Freddie Mercury live. What a sui generis figure. He can never be replaced.

“I’m Hurtin'” – Roy Orbison. What a voice! Of course I can’t help but see John Belushi’s hilarious imitation when I listen to the guy.

“Monsters” – Lucius. I discovered them last year and am in love with their sound. I’m not all that familiar with them yet, but a track comes on and it sounds like them. I can pick their sound out of a lineup. I love the songs too.

“Wabash Cannon Ball” – The Carter Family. It was their sound, which may sound so old-fashioned now that it can’t even be perceived properly – so much stuff was made possible. It’s like listening to Robert Johnson. In their sound, they carved out space, space where other things could blossom, develop.

“Rocket Reducer No. 62” – MC5. Awesome. It starts out like a gospel meeting, “Brothers and sisters …” and then morphs into some hard-core screeching rock ‘n roll.

“Venus in Furs” – Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. From what we called “the banana album.” I was terrified by Lou Reed in high school. I felt the power of what he was doing. I didn’t understand it. I was drawn to it. But it seemed so … grown-up. I had read the Edie Sedgwick book in high school (we all did). That whole scene fascinated/repelled me. It still does. “I am tired. I am weary. I could sleep for a thousand years …” sings Lou Reed, and the chords beneath suddenly sound classic, like a pop song, a Top 40 song. It’s great.

“I Just Don’t Know” – MC5. Their shows must have been insane.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Michael Buble. Swing it, douche! (I say that with affection. I think.)

“Sittin’ Pretty” – the wonderful Brendan Benson. One of my favorite songwriters today.

“Wish Lizst” – the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I actually went to see them with Allison a couple of years ago out at the Nassau Coliseum. It was … a spectacle. Putting it mildly. It was surreal because we went to see them in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and there was a pall of mourning over the country so thick that it covered everything. I was also in the process of being broken-up-with by an ASSHOLE (I’m tapped out on being a “good sport” about being treated poorly, as my love for the “Bad Sport Breakup Song” genre can attest) and had started to descend into the state of mind that eventually alarmed my family so much that I was hauled into treatment, where I finally got diagnosed. In the middle of all of that, Allison and I went to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Surreal, to say the least.

“The Real Slim Shady” – Eminem. Classic. I will never forget this MTV awards moment (clip below). Look at his fucking body. Sorry. And all of those extras who dyed their hair. What a fun and bizarre gig. Please notice that they bleep out the word “clitoris” and yet leave in all of his other less-than-pleasant imagery. So indicative of the problems in our culture. And he’s not saying “destroy the clitoris” or “cut off the clitoris” – he’s just saying the word, saying that we all know what it is, we all have heard the word before. At the first strains of this song, when Jean and I went to see him, the stadium erupted. And everyone knew every word. Of course. Hearing 30,000 people scream the benign and blameless word “clitoris” was a beautiful moment.

“Just As Through With You” – Nine Days. I don’t remember why I have this. It was on a soundtrack, I’m sure. It’s one of those generic well-done pop songs that I love.

“Matchbox” – Carl Perkins. Great rockin’ blues structure. Recorded at Sun Records, which you can tell immediately. That indefinable yet unmistakable Sun sound.

“Fool to Cry” – The Rolling Stones. Lead single off Black and Blue. It’s mesmerizing, and Jagger is a good story-teller. That’s what the song is. A story.

“Shake a Hand” – Faye Adams. Woman knew how to sell a song, boy. Every moment is meant, felt. And she had the voice (and crazy vibrato) to back it all up. Classic singer. Love this track.

“Jingle Bells’ – Sammy Davis, Jr. Suave, perfect rhythm, consummate showman. I love his phraseology. How he holds onto consonants, letting them resonate. I mean, it’s Sammy Davis Jr. turning “Jingle Bells” into a swingin’ single. It’s ridiculous.

“I Go To the Rock” – Whitney Houston, from the fantastic and rousing Preacher’s Wife soundtrack. I miss her.

“The Night Before’ – The Beatles. Another favorite track. I mean, who can choose. I’m not a big “List’ person. But I do love this song! “You were so sincere …” I love that use of the word “sincere.”

“I’ve Been Needing Someone Like You” – Waylon Jennings. Hopefully the one-night-stand provides some comfort. That’s what they’re meant for, really, although it’s a crap-shoot. Good luck, Waylon. “Lack of love” causes “slow starvation” and the man speaks the truth.

“Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby Now” – Carl Perkins. Welcome to being a rock star, Carl.

“Trying to Get to You” – Elvis Presley. His original recording, which is wonderful, young, confident, hopeful. A decade later, he would revisit the song during his 1968 television special, and blow the roof off. Seriously, it’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Compare the two versions below, the 1956 version and the 1968 version. It’s not that one is better than the other. It’s that he grew, and the song grew with him. A boy sings the first one. A MAN sings the one in 1968.

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34 Responses to Spring iPod Shuffle

  1. mutecypher says:

    I hadn’t heard Kelly’s version of “Give Me One Reason” before. That’s good!

    And I had pretty much the same reaction as your grandma to titling a song (heck, an album) “Sweet Baby James.” But then I have happy-bleary memories of singing “Country Road” in a robatayaki restaurant near the Hard Rock cafe in Tokyo. So, mixed feelings. Heck, the guy is an adjunct member of the State Department now.

    I hope you get healthy soon. Sending good thoughts your way.

    • sheila says:

      Thanks, mutecypher – on the road to recovery!!

      Isn’t that Clarkson cover great? I’ve always loved Chapman’s version too, but I think Clarkson brings something really fresh to it.

      // But then I have happy-bleary memories of singing “Country Road” in a robatayaki restaurant near the Hard Rock cafe in Tokyo. //


      I too have many happy memories associated with James Taylor! But I read Bangs’ rant – which actually has very little to do with Taylor (Taylor only gets one paragraph, where Bangs threatens to kill him – can you imagine a magazine printing such a thing today??) – anyway. I read that rant and I can see what Bangs is talking about. JT is fine without me defending him. :)

      It’s interesting – he plays a cocky cool-eyed gearhead in Two-Lane Blacktop – fantastic if you haven’t seen it – JT and Dennis Wilson starring in a car-race movie together with Warren Oates?? – Brill! – but he taps into something macho and … tough – in that role that seems extremely honest. Not more honest than “Fire and Rain” but a different kind of honesty. The honesty of the asshole, the honesty of the mechanic. Kind of interesting!

      • mutecypher says:

        I haven’t seen Two-Lane Blacktop. Not a side of JT that I’m familiar with.

        It’s funny how boasting “I’m a steamroller, baby” is acceptable/cool (to me) but “Sweet Baby James” is annoying in the abstract. It’s a beautiful song, though in terms of rhymes there’s no reason it couldn’t have been “Sweet Baby Malcolm.” Doesn’t scan the same…

        I remember Lester’s essay – mostly not about James. A sad testament to our time that no one could get away with an outrageous title like that today.

        • sheila says:

          // It’s funny how boasting “I’m a steamroller, baby” is acceptable/cool (to me) but “Sweet Baby James” is annoying in the abstract. //

          Definitely. Boasting about being an awesome lover is far less obnoxious than boasting about being a nice sweet guy. And I honestly love “Sweet Baby James”!! but I have to admit that my grandmother and Lester Bangs (who … why are they in the same sentence??) always enter my mind when I hear that song now.

          Two-Lane Blacktop is something else. Monte Hellman. A masterpiece of malaise and aggression, the exhaustion of the 70s – the hippie-hippie 60s burned out. Great great car movie, with a superb performance from Warren Oates.

          JT has one of my favorite line-readings in the whole thing (and ever). He and Dennis Wilson are traveling across the country in this big Chevy they basically built – that is all engine. They’re at a burger joint, with all these crazy racing cars parked outside – and it’s all macho posturing, etc. Everyone is looking for a race.

          Someone proposes a race to JT – such-and-such distance and time. JT drawls, deadpan, with this weird syllabic emphasis:

          “Make it three yards, motherfucker ,and we’ll have ourselves an auto-MO-beel race.” It’s so TOUGH.

          Clip here. His line comes at around the 1:24 mark.


          • sheila says:

            JT filmed Two-Lane Blacktop right before he became famous. 1969 or 70, I think. He was known in folk circles and everything – not sure of the timeline exactly – but it was right before he got huge.

            Everyone in Hollywood tested for those two lead roles. Al Pacino. Everyone. And Monte Hellman, God bless him, gave the roles to two musicians who had almost no acting experience – and they’re perfect.

          • mutecypher says:

            Okay. Into the Netflix queue it goes.

          • sheila says:


            Kim Morgan has written a couple of brilliant essays about it.

  2. Nicola Enslin says:

    Ugh. Sitting in bed crying at that Katy Perry video. How great. I do love her.

    Have you ever watched Katy Perry: Part of Me, Sheila? I also liked her quite a bit from her first single, liked her catchy songs, but watching that tipped me over into love too. I’m sure it was just astute marketing on her and her management’s parts, but it really worked on me.

    • sheila says:

      Nicola – Hi! Yes, that Firework clip just kills me. I love how when the audience first starts clapping during the little girl’s performance, you can see the little girl get thrilled and surprised – but she doesn’t stop, she doesn’t get tripped up, she knows what she’s doing.

      And you know, I always meant to see that Katy Perry movie but missed it. I should check it out. Thanks!

  3. Jaquandor says:

    I thought “Russians” was totally deep when I first heard it. I was, however, in tenth grade. He actually made a big deal in the liner notes about how he took the song’s tune from Prokofiev, going so far as to actually print the tune, staff and everything, in the notes. Oh Sting….

    The Trans Siberian Orchestra is an annual thing here now, and we’ve gone twice. Lots of folks always make a lot of fun of it, saying “It’s just a hair metal band doing Christmas music!” To which I always respond, “Yeah!” I never understand that objection. Every other style of music gets in on the Christmas game. Pop, blues, jazz, soul, country, classical, Celtic…you can find Christmas albums in every one of those styles. Why NOT hair metal!

    And Lady Gaga is an amazing singer, which I’m proud to be able to say I knew years ago.

    Let’s see, what else…oh yeah, Sam Cooke’s gospel music. Just amazing. He packs so much WORSHIP into his two minutes thirty seconds or whatever…one of my favorite songs of his, by far, is “Touch the Hem of His Garment”. I love that song right up there with “Wonderful World” and “Chain Gang”.

    These posts are always a blast!

    • sheila says:

      // I was, however, in tenth grade. //


      // how he took the song’s tune from Prokofiev, going so far as to actually print the tune, staff and everything, in the notes. Oh Sting…. //

      More laughter. I know. I was a huge Police fan and there are some solo songs of his I love – but that … “look how smart I am” thing – huge eye-roll. Oh Sting ….

    • sheila says:

      In re: Trans-Siberian Orchestra:

      // I never understand that objection. // Me neither. Ridiculous! Go for it, orchestra, do your thing!

      We did start laughing at one point during the show – mainly because of how over the top it was more than anything else – and we annoyed the people in front of us who were taking it deadly seriously. I didn’t want to be that person snickering at something someone else found sacred. But I did think the whole thing was much better with just a drop of irony. I’ve always actually liked them a lot – I bought that first album of theirs (or at least it was the first one I paid attention to) on cassette tape – that’s how long ago it was!

      That show was CRAZY. I would definitely advise my epileptic friend NOT to attend.

    • sheila says:

      // And Lady Gaga is an amazing singer, which I’m proud to be able to say I knew years ago. //

      I know, right?

      I mean, fine, her type of music may not be someone’s cup of tea – but – empirically – it’s obvious she’s a good singer, with a killer set of pipes.

      What I was so struck by in the Sound of Music thing was the strength of her soprano range! She’s mostly a belter in her pop stuff, but she’s got a huge head voice too. Totally impressive, I thought!

    • sheila says:

      “Touch the Hem of His Garment”!! YES.

      I love all of their voices, and there is such a beautiful blend with all the guys – but he is clearly the star. You can tell it even in the earliest stuff. He just had that … something.

      What a loss. And the WAY he died. So senseless.

    • Jessie says:

      Re: Russians, you know you’re in trouble when BILLY BRAGG can release a DICK GAUGHAN cover on an album called REACHING TO THE CONVERTED saying essentially the exact same thing and it’s MORE subtle.

      Re: Tori, Precious Things is such a great song, and I freaking love it when she goes nuts on the Venus & Back live version.

      • sheila says:

        Jessie – I love Billy Bragg but I didn’t know that song. How beautiful, how emotional. Great folk-song!!

        // I freaking love it when she goes nuts on the Venus & Back live version. //

        YES. It reaches some other level. Thrilling.

        • Jessie says:

          Yeah, it’s a great song and it was the b-side to an even better song named Levi Stubbs’ Tears and the guitar work on them both is so cool. Damn I love Billy Bragg! ha ha. Songs by awesome musicians about other awesome musicians is another fun sub-genre.

          • sheila says:

            // Songs by awesome musicians about other awesome musicians is another fun sub-genre. //

            It really is! Someone just started a thread on FB the other day with that sub-genre and it reached the 100s of comments! Super fun!

  4. Pingback: LITTLE MISS DYNAMITE MOTORVATES ACROSS THE YEARS (Segue of the Day: 5/10/15) | The Round Place In The Middle

  5. Always love the Shuffle…I keep my fingers crossed that the iPod will never die!

    That Brenda Lee clip led me down one of those bottomless YouTube threads that fetched up with Brenda standing next to Johnny Cash in 1970 and coming to just about where she came to Red Foley in 1958 but she’ll always be ten feet tall in my book!

  6. Barb says:

    Glad you’re getting started on the mend, Sheila. I’ve so enjoyed the Shuffles, and the associations they bring up. Long may the iPod live!

    Just a quick association of my own. We went to see “The Muppets” when it came out, and when the banjo intro to “The Rainbow Connection” started towards the end of the movie, I suddenly found myself in tears. I don’t even really know why–I guess it caught me off-guard. Such a lovely sentiment behind that song.

  7. Paula says:

    Everclear always grabs me in the heart especially when I’m in a blue spot. Will definitely check out some of the others. Sending good thoughts your way this week.

  8. Dan says:

    I saw Two Lane Blacktop for the first time last year and I was kind of blown away by how compelling and charismatic JT is in that film – I came to it expecting to have to mentally work around him to enjoy the movie and it was not that way at all. Lovely when art surprises like that.

    I hope things fall back into place for you health and sleep-wise very quickly for you.

    • sheila says:

      Dan – Thanks so much.

      // I came to it expecting to have to mentally work around him to enjoy the movie and it was not that way at all. //

      I know, right? He totally IS that guy. I’m slightly obsessed with that whole movie.

  9. Dan says:

    It’s an easy movie to become obsesses with. Not a lot of ‘events’ happen in terms of plot, but the movie pulled me into kind of a weird reverie in the same ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ did – when it was over a I felt like I had slipped in and out of someone else’s life.

    You may have already know about his, but the Projection Booth podcast did an episode on TLB a couple of years ago which included an interview with Monte Hellman:

    I just discovered this podcast recently and have been listening to old episodes I thought were interesting.

  10. Maish says:

    I trust that you are on the road to a full recovery? I seem to recall James Taylor in his preamble to playing the song “Sweet Baby James” in concert relate the story of how he came to write it. He claims that he was driving in his car to visit his brother who had named his new son after James. The song is for the new baby “Sweet Baby James”.
    I hope that I’m right and don’t end up with egg on my face.
    Love your blog. Be well and healthy.

    • sheila says:

      Maish – Yes, I do believe that story is true – or at least I had heard it before, too! But I think his narcissism goes a bit deeper than just that song – for me, I can hear it in songs like “You’ve Got a Friend”, “That’s Why I’m Here,” “The Handyman” … a bit self-congratulatory, if you ask me. And again, I say that as a huge fan!

      I don’t think narcissism is necessarily a bad thing – it makes for some really interesting art – but there’s a self-conscious “I am such a good person” thing going on with him – in some of his songs, not all – that is very revealing. And Lester Bangs, who called it “I-rock”, despised it. He liked music that was outward-looking, extroverted, expressive – even if all you were expressing was, “My God, I would like to fuck you” – that was better than “Look at me, thinking thoughts, walking down a country road, going home to Carolina, feeling things, and thinking things …”

      I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with Bangs – but Bangs’ way with words is so striking and forceful that it has a way of changing forever how you look at something. At least that’s true for me!

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