My friend Patrick posted a list of the ten songs he couldn’t live without. After reading I immediately began compiling my own. This took longer than I expected. I originally had a top 25, then slashed the list to 20 and then the final 10. For me, songs are more than just music. They are memories. Each song here is great and important to me not just because its a great song, but because its tied to a memory. My only rule was one song per artist. So, here goes:
1) Detroit Rock City – KISS. Most of my friends know that I discovered KISS just before I turned four years old. To say that their songs are ingrained in me is an understatement. ‘Rock And Roll Over’ from 1976 was my first KISS album, for my birthday in 1977. That Christmas, I got ‘KISS ALIVE II’, and ‘Destroyer’ both of which contained ‘Detroit Rock City. I was hooked. I love the almost jazz type drum part that Peter Criss plays [a part I could never fully duplicate on the drums,despite hours of trying]. The dual guitar solo is perhaps KISS’ best moment on record, and it all ends with a car crash. At the age of four, the audio drama that unfolded in that song made quite an impression. I could make a list of just the ten KISS songs I can’t live without, but this is the one song that is still an adrenaline rush, whether its turned up to eleven on my stereo, or plays quietly in the background on my iPod at work. It still quickens my pulse and puts a smile on my face. And, like I said, car crash.
2) Rhapsody In Blue – Gershwin. My father had a Quadraphonic system in our basement in the 1970s. He bought a lot of Quadrophonic recordings, mostly on reel-to-reel tape. One of the tapes he played was called ‘Hugo plays Gershwin’, a tape of Hugo Montenegro and his Orchestra playing Gershwin classics. The last song on the tape was Rhapsody in Blue. Again, I was very young, and I had no opinion of classical music. But I loved this piece instantly. I would play that reel tape a thousand times in my life before the 70s technology finally wore down. In the late 80s, I saw the film ‘Manhatten’ for the first time and, if you’ve seen it, you know the opening scene is set to this song. One of the best moments in film ever. I even liked to watch/hear the Delta commercials from a few years ago because they used Rhapsody In Blue. A truly timeless and great song.
3) One Hundred Years – The Cure. Senior year of HS, September 1991. I am cast in the school play [J.B.]. Also cast in the play [as Job no less] was one Tony Abeln. This is where fate stepped in. See, I don’t drive, so, when it was learned that Tony and I lived in the same subdivision, he graciously agreed to give me a ride home after rehearsal each night. First night in the car, Tony puts in this tape by this band I don’t like [The Cure] and the song that comes on is…well to me at the time, it was sh*t. Understand, I was in my ‘Heavy Metal Headbanger’ phase of my life so I had little time or patience for anything that wasn’t played at a thousand miles an hour. Second night in the car, Tony puts in the same tape…long story short, by the end of the week I asked him if I could borrow his Cure tapes over the weekend to make a mix tape. The song of course was One Hundred Years, and to this day, if forced to pick a single favorite album by the Cure, Pornography would be the one. I always think of Tony when I play this album, and that makes me smile. The fact that I got to hear this song live in concert [followed by Disintegration] is a supreme concert moment that will not be topped. Thank you again Tony for forcing me to listen. 😉
4) I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello. In my book the best, most bitter ‘F You’ Break up song ever penned. I first heard it in 1993 on the Costello Retrospective set ‘Girls Girls Girls’. At the time, my heart was relatively unscathed. Since then, the lyrics ring truer and truer with each listen. [True confession time: The set was my roommate’s. I made sure when he packed his things to move, that he did not get it back.] It must be one of Elvis’ faves too because the two times I have seen him in concert, he has played it.
5) Jane – Barenaked Ladies [BNL]. 1994 can be summed up in one word for me: HELL. In August, I was admitted to the hospital. This CD came out September 6. I had planned to pick it up, but I was stuck in the hospital. The day after the album came out, I was told by my doctor that I was going to be in the hospital for at least another four weeks, and that time would be spent not being able to eat or drink anything. As a way to recover from the shock that I had eaten my last meal for a long while [Hardee’s Fried Chicken], my dad asked if I wanted anything from Plan 9. I asked for the album ‘Maybe You Should Drive.’ To hs credit, he found the album [something I doubted at the time because BNL were not exactly popular in the US]. That disc became my food. And ‘Jane’ made me smile in one of my darkest hours. The line ‘She thinks it’s cooler if we just stay friends’, well that hit too close to home to admit. BNL’s finest moment.
6) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You – Elvis Presley. If this song were released today, as is, it would be a smash. I first heard this in the car, because my mom bought a bunch of Elvis albums on 8-Track [I know, I’m dating myself there…]. It probably was just after Elvis died in 1977, but I remember wanting to hear this song again, and asking to hear it again, not realizing that, with the 8 track, you would have to sit through three or four other songs before the one you wanted came on. One of the best love songs ever that’s not in the least bit sappy.
7) Help! – The Beatles. I discovered The Beatles in 1979. While staying at my grandmother’s house, I was in an upstairs room that had an ottoman with a removable top. Being my usually clumsy gawky self, I fell into the ottoman and knocked the top off. Looking inside, I saw a bunch of 45 records. These records had belonged to my aunt when she was a little girl. All of the 45s were First Edition US Beatle 45s. [Speaking as a collector, I can tell you they were worn and scratched, but to me, they were gold.] The singles included Twist And Shout/There’s A Place; I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There; and Help!/I’m Down. It really was like discovering a new world. ‘Help!’ especially grabbed me. For the rest of that week, I put away the KISS records I had brought with me to my grandmother’s house and played these new discoveries, all day, every day while I was there. My grandmother was just thrilled to hear something besides KISS, so, on the day I was to go back home, my grandmother stuck her head in the room I stayed in and said ‘You know, if you want to take those records home, you can have them.’ I couldn’t say Thank You enough. When I got home, my father pulled out a ‘Meet The Beatles’ songbook he had bought in 1964 to show me what these guys looked like. For the rest of that summer, I played Beatles music, and my life was happily never the same.
8) Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley. I love both versions of this song. I heard Buckley’s version first in a foriegn movie [‘Juli’, I think it was German]. Soon after I ‘downloaded’ the song [a long way from the 8-Track] and it ran on my MP3 player on repeat for a week. Leonard Cohen’s version is very different but just as beautiful. A beautiful ode to a lost love.
9) The Winner Takes It All – ABBA. ABBA really gets a bad rap it seems and they get tagged with the ‘disco’ label. This song however is exquisite meloncholy. The vocal, the piano, the lyric. A great song to sum up the end of a relationship. Also, for me, ABBA reminds me of my father. He would play their records every Saturday morning while making breakfast [this was well into the 90s, when ABBA was anything but cool]. I never got tired of hearing ABBA, especially this song.
10) Be My Baby – The Ronettes. If I had to pick one song to define pure pop perfection, this would be the one. Phil Spector changed the game with this one. I mean, just the SOUND of this song is so different from anything that came before and it spawned a thousand imitators. A cosmic blending of the perfect song, the perfect singer and the right producer [before Phil went crazy]. And, the drum breakdown at the 2:13 mark is one of the best ever recorded. I can’t help but feel better or happier whenever I hear this song.
So, there ya have it. My irreplacable top ten. Thanks for reading.