Saturday, April 24, 2010

...11 songs I wish I wrote.

It was as I was trying to get the shit (both mine and the younglings') together so that I could ship them off to the Succubus for the remainder of the weekend when it happened.  I had been streaming some music over the PS3 ( as I got everyone bathed.  I bounced from jazz, then a few versions of rock.  And then the fateful call from the cutest girl on the planet, when given a couple options, she called out "hair bands" and the song began (it's the first one n this list, in fact).  And the thought in my head, which I think I edited was, "Fuck, I wish I'd written this song!"

So what follows is not necessarily my list of "favorite" songs, because there are some songs that I like at the moment, some that capture the spirit of something, and some songs that just happen to fit somewhere.  This list would definitely be great songs, but great songs with orchestration that you can see the video in your head.  And it's the kind of music I've half-assedly tried to capture when I can be motivated enough to get a guitar.  And it's not even a complete list.  It started with 10, but I had to add another because I ran out of space.  So feel free to add another if you'd wished you wrote something else.

1. Bon Jovi - Livin' On a Prayer - A child of the 80's that grew up without Bon Jovi was abused.  Because even if they weren't your favorite all the time, they could always be counted on for big-ass sound that flat out rocked.  There are plenty of songs to pick.  This one gets it for two reasons.  First, it's a ballad.  It tells a simple story.  And the intro, which starts with a fade in, then just builds to the start of the song.  And the song builds all the way to the chorus.  And it never fails, at appropriate volumes, to give me a moment of goosebumps.

2. B52's - Love Shack - For the most part, it's nonsensical crap for lyrics.  But it's grotesquely, sweetly seductive in that you can't help but bounce to this obscenity to deep meaningful music.  Seriously, turn it up really loud, stand in the middle of the room and see if you can't NOT bounce  to it.  I can't describe why this song is good.  It has to be blasted.

3. The Doors - The Celebration of the Lizard - This is actually a sequence of a few songs and bits of poem, the song "Not to Touch the Earth" being the only part that made it out of the studio.  I found it on their live In Concert album.  It was something that defined how I did my college radio back in the day (tapes survive), and it's what happens when you mix poetry and jam band performance and a shitload of people (and assloads of LSD).  And it's something almost too organic to be written down.  But it was and I wish I had.

4. Alanis Morissette - Perfect - This is one of the lesser-known tracks off Jagged Little Pill.  It's also a buildup of sheer agony that other tracks touch on, but don't quite convey.  It's the musical equivalent of having your guts ripped out, your soul shattered, and all that there ever was made meaningless.  It's not a pissed off song, or a contemplative song, or whatever bohemian shit Alanis is up to this week.  It's pure, beautiful pain.

5. System of a Down - Chop Suey! - Sometimes it takes just one song for me to pick up and listen to a band and thereby get hooked.  This is the one that got me to first pay attention to System.  Half the fun is the quiet moments and cuts to silence.  And even if the majority of the song is high-speed, high-octane thrashing guitar, it's mixing those elements that makes it a symphony worthy of recognition.

6.  Kenny Rogers - The Gambler - A few years back, I decided to try my hand playing in front of people (after some previous disasters).  Plus, I had honed my stage presence in some choral work.  And I needed a song that was universal, was that good, and could be rendered on just a 12-string and my voice.  My version doesn't sound that much like the original (because Kenny isn't my style), but there are few songs that are better.  Period.  

7.  Green Day - Wake Me Up When September Ends - If you want one album to listen through without interruption, the opus that is American Idiot is well worth it, even the Bush-ripping parts (because a few songs wouldn't be on this list if my politics dictated the bands I listen to).  And track 11 on the album (September 11, get it?) is both emblematic of how the album functions, as well as reminding us how much the world changed in a sense.  And it does both lament and buildup to an explosion of emotion.  Three chords (more or less) never sounded so sublime.

8.  Billy Joel - Scenes From an Italian Restaurant - This one is on the list because it is a song within a song within a song.  How the fuck do you do that?  And the whole ballad thing, of course.  For me, it's being able to engage my mind, my emotions, and my ear.  This is one of those songs that probably wouldn't make the top 10 anything.  But then again, when you have a song that keeps changing, even if it has some douche horn work, it makes me wish I had come up with it.

9. Tenacious D - City Hall - I can't believe I've got the fucking D on the list.  But this particular song has the epicness, goes all over the map, and is funny as shit.  That it's the nonsensical funny album from two ingenious fat fucks doesn't diminish from the quality of writing and performance.  Makes me wish they put these bastards in a video game that rocks....  Wait, they did.

10. Meat Loaf (written by Jim Steinman) - Paradise by the Dashboard Light - First of all, I have to credit both writer and and musician.  After all, Elton John would just plunk piano without Bernie Taupin as his hetero music partner.  And this was a hard one, because there were a few options from the same album that were just as awesome, and furthermore, there's some history of this song and the Succubus.  But I'm not going to let that ruin a song for me (there are a few songs that have exes attached).  What put this over the top is the tendency to tell a story, be ridiculously over the top musically, and call the struggle of a guy trying to fuck a chick in the backseat like it's a baseball game, turning it into a girl manipulating a guy into selling his soul to get laid, then regretting the insane choice he just made.  Wow, it's almost autobiographical.

11.  Don McLean - American Pie - I sat down with my guitar one day to see if I could master this epic of epics.  I can play through it.  I suck at some points.  But if you wanted to capture what I wanted my music to become, this song would be the blueprint.  It might sound completely different, but this is the ultimate one hit wonder song.  How was the poor bastard ever going to top this?  Which is why I saved it for last.  I don't think further elaboration is necessary.

So with the kids gone, maybe I'll pick up my axe and murder one or two of these myself (assuming I get some cleaning done too).....

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