This is the earliest song I remember: “Band On the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings.
This one always makes me think of my dad’s first apartment after he and my mom divorced. He got a studio with beautiful hardwood floors and a huge armoire. This was down in Algiers, just across the river from New Orleans. I remember a burnished glow about the place and weekends with my father as he practiced this song on the guitar. I don’t know if he could even play guitar before; I think this was one of the first songs he learned aside from studies in practice books. Even at that young an age, I remember loving the interesting harmonies and different time shifts. Apparently I liked prog rock even as a toddler. 🙂
So many choices here! The song below always reminds me of a high school classmate of mine, Trini Triggs.
For those too young to remember, this was a hugely controversial song in 1984. It inspired Tipper Gore to found the Parents’ Music Resource Center and the ensuing Congressional circus over obscenity in pop music. Our journalism teacher hadn’t heard the song and asked what the deal was about it, so Trini sang it for the whole 10th grade journalism class. (We had all heard it, of course; the teacher was momentarily shocked by the “masturbation” line, but not really offended.) It didn’t hurt that Trini looked a little bit like Prince, a short, light-skinned black guy with an AWESOME Jheri curl. Trini was a successful singer in high school and in local bands, and has even had minor success as a country music artist. I’ve linked to one of his videos in the past; here’s another.
I’m going to come right out and say that there’s nothing particularly sad inherent in this song. It’s touching, yes, but it’s a beautiful recounting of the beginning of love.
Nonetheless, this is about what makes ME sad, not anybody else. I was listening to The Best of Manhattan Transfer one summer in New Orleans. A few seconds after this song came on, I started crying and just couldn’t stop. That was almost 30 years ago now, and I couldn’t tell you exactly what set me off. I think it was the bareness of the song that started it all. It had been a hot day (NOLA in summer, of course), I’d been to the mall and the theater and watched cable TV (!), I was physically and mentally overstimulated. And then this song came on. Delicate in its way, artistic, with nothing to hide behind or distract. I couldn’t ignore my mental problems (getting pretty serious in my teenage years) with those beautiful vocal harmonies in my ear. The song has made me sad ever since. It’s kind of a same, since objectively I think it’s a gorgeous recording.
This is what music is for.
OK, I’ll play along. I don’t want to be a hater, because there will probably be at least one good friend reading this who thinks this stuff is AWESOME. Please don’t take it personally. With that out of the way, let’s press on.
There’s lots of bad music in the world. Tiny Tim, Jefferson Starship, Vanilla Ice, any and all Cambodian opera. But I’m picking Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” as my least favorite song because it pushes so many buttons. This song is unadventurous. Soulless. Predictable. It’s the culmination of 70s AOR radio dominance. Foreigner takes just a bit from truly classic rock and roll, then filters it until nothing’s left but dull, middle of the road sludge. “Jukebox Hero” is wearying and histrionic, the audial equivalent of being married to an overwrought drama queen with an inflated opinion of his family’s importance. Worst of all, it reminds me of my young self at my worst: immature and unsure, focusing my identity through vague platitudes about rock and roll rebellion and flailing about as I tried to make real connections.
Favorite for what? Waking up in the morning? Driving down a deserted Interstate on a rainy night? Listening while I work? Skanking, moshing, pogoing, lindy hopping? I’ve never understood the question “What’s your favorite song?”. It changes from day to day, even moment to moment depending on my moods and needs. I’ve chosen one of my most versatile favorite songs for today: “Better Get Hit In Your Soul” by Charles Mingus. It’s energetic, intricate, uplifting, groovy, and proud. This song fits almost any occasion for me; give it a listen.