Archive for the ‘50/50 Songs’ Category

[50/50] Song #13: “What a Fool Believes”

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Song #13: “What a Fool Believes” — The Doobie Brothers (1978)

Officially the saddest fucking song ever written.

[50/50] Song #14: “I Ran”

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Song #14: “I Ran (So Far Away)” — Flock of Seagulls (1982)

DebutSeagullsI’ve really enjoyed the rise of Future Islands, a Baltimore-by-way-of-North Carolina band that recently hit critical mass — if for no other reason than I always feel like I’m back in college when I hear them. The time I first saw them, I jokingly described them as A Flock of Seagulls… if Tom Waits had been the lead singer. While Future Islands’ style has since become distinctively their own, they still sound like a they just came through a wormhole from the 1980s.

Hopefully they will avoid the fate of A Flock of Seagulls, better remembered (and mocked) now for their hair than the droll synthpop of their New Wave hits. “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing (I had a photograph of you)” ensured they wouldn’t be one-hit wonders, but so what — it is “I Ran” that will be played again and again (as it was just about every hour on MTV in 1982). My freshman year at IUP the local automated radio station played it so religiously you could set your clocks by it, and there wasn’t a dorm you could walk through without hearing it echo down the hallway.

As with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” I could listen to the bionic reverb that makes up the backbone of the song on an infinite loop. Forget about the hypnotically-bad haircut; “I Ran” is mesmerizing all by itself.

Bonus North Carolina connection: After their last hit in 1984, A Flock of Seagulls went into a slow spiral over the next decade or so. The breakup, when it came, was painful, and created a rift between the two brothers at the core of the group. They reportedly didn’t talk to each other for years. It turned out that Alister Score, the drummer, now lives just north of here, one county over. When lead singer Mike Score formed a new version of the band for an ’80s oldies tour in 2008 with Naked Eyes and Human League (cripes it hurt to type that line), and played at nearby Koka Booth, he invited his brother to sit in and play the drums for “I Ran.” Awwww.

Song #15: “Heart of Glass” — Blondie (1979)

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


Song #15: “Heart of Glass” — Blondie (1979)

(This recent photo of Debbie Harry by Annie Leibovitz has jump started my 50/50 countdown of favorites. I mean, how can you say no to a woman with a sword? After the last year my ambitions have been tempered, so I’ll be posting 1-2 entries a week, writing about my favorite books, movies, games  and songs, until we reach #1.)

Blondie’s “Parallel Lines” should have been in my list of top 50 albums. I don’t know why it isn’t. Debbie Harry’s ying and yang of lust and loathing (“One Way or Another,” “Hanging on the Telephone” “Just Go Away”) is still a skewed and hilarious take on modern love. But it’s “Heart of Glass” that beats them all. I could listen to that rolling syncopation and playful synth endlessly. Here it is, coming in at #15:

[50/50] Between a rock and a hard place

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

SomeGirls78This entry is about the oddest concert experience I ever had. This is also the only opportunity I’ll have to write about the Rolling Stones as (spoiler alert) they don’t appear anywhere in my Top 50, songs or albums. (Although, it should be noted, “Some Girls” came close to making the cut, and I always had a soft spot for their oddball hit “Emotional Rescue,” if only because I remember my friend Monty mocking Mick Jagger’s soliloquy at the end of the song, endlessly repeating “I will be your knight in shiiiiiinning aaaaaaaaaaamour …. on a fine aaaaaaaarab chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarger” as we played D&D in the Link’s basement.)

Anyway, back to the concert. After years of listening to my friend Rusty go on and on about how awesome the Stones’ famous 1981 tour was, and, having never seen them play live —[ Fun Fact Aside! One of the very first shows the Stones ever played in the U.S. was at the FARM SHOW ARENA in Harrisburg … in 1964! ]— my brother got us tickets to the 1989 Steel Wheels tour. This tour was notable in that a) it was the first band stage so tall it required FAA lights at the top of the structure so planes wouldn’t hit it and b) it was widely reported that this would be the Rolling Stones final tour.

… I’ll give you a minute so you can stop laughing…

So there we were, in Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia with 100,000 people before a structure the size of an aircraft carrier, with stories-high blowup dolls flanking the stage and swaying back and forth as Mick and Keith played the hits. They veered into stuff off their latest album and had just broken into a number called “Rock and a Hard Place” when a fight broke out in the row in front of us. Stadium security quickly appeared, but instead of coming down the aisle, they decided to swarm over the seats of our section and make a beeline for the brawl. Suddenly, my brother and I were in the middle of a huge scrum between the frat boys, still throwing punches, and overzealous guards grabbing over our heads. The crush of people carried us back and forth like a rugby ball as the chorus reached its crescendo and Jagger yelled repeatedly “Between a ROCK” and the backup singers replied “and a HARD PLACE.”

I looked at my brother and shouted out something like, “oh the irony.”

As the song ended the cops swept down the aisle and dragged the perps out. The guards wanted to clear the whole section and tried to throw everyone out, but the police stopped them. I don’t remember much after that except that we now had a much better view of the stage. Regardless, I wanted to thank the Rolling Stones for giving me my most literal rock-n-roll experience ever.

[50/50] Song #16: “Crazy on You”

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

[50/50] Song #16: “Crazy on You” — Heart (1977)

  You know who you are.

[50/50] Song #17: “Immigrant Song”

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Song #17: “Immigrant Song” — Led Zeppelin (1970)

I was just looking for another excuse to post this:

[50/50] Esch1, Jenn1 and Lisa D.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Song #18: “Should I Stay or Should I Go” — The Clash (1982)
Song  #19: “Sexual Healing” — Marvin Gaye (1982)

My freshman year in college also turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I was one of those kids who took the opportunity to reinvent themselves at university, and flourished in the new environment. That environment turned out to be the first floor of Esch Hall, a dorm in the east quad of IUP. jenn lisa d and jpOstensibly the “honors floor” for studious students intent on studying, it was an odd mix of adult grad students, upperclassmen and freshmen. It was also co-ed. In addition, Esch1 came equipped with two huge apartments (each with a convenient hidden back stairway), which came in very handy for parties. Because, it turned out, people who liked to study hard needed a way to blow off steam. A lot of steam.

By the spring I had the girlfriend I’d always wanted, an incredibly cute, incredibly fun blond named Jenn. Better yet, she had just switched dorm rooms and moved in with one of the best friends I would ever have, a spirited and irrepressible j-major who went by the name Lisa D. The rest of the year was a perpetual state of rollicking bliss, full of all-nighters, practical jokes, and falling crazy in love.

There were two songs that we blasted out louder than any other when they came on the radio, and they almost perfectly bookend that year in Esch 1.

[50/50] Song #20: “Jump”

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Song #20: “Jump” — Aztec Camera (1983)

A good cover song is fun, a great cover makes you see the original in a new light — and the very best cover songs so thoroughly obliterate any earlier version they may as well not even exist. Van who?

[50/50] Songs: My wife’s favorites

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Song #21: “Sleepwalk” — Santo & Johnny (1959)
Song #22: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” — Elvis Presley (1961)

For her 50th birthday, I took Maura to Nashville, a town she always wanted to spend a few days exploring. Our initial plan was to hit the high points, a museum or two, maybe take in a show at the Grand Ol’ Opry … instead, we went on a 3-day bender in the honky-tonks up and down Broadway, catching who-knows-how-many musicians. On our last night, I tipped the band to play a song for her birthday, and they launched into “Sleepwalk.” She started crying and said, “How did you know this was my favorite song.”

“I didn’t,” I replied, “I just asked him to pick something good.”

* * *

elvis stampYou just knew there had to be an Elvis song in this countdown…. While Fat Elvis is a cruel but fair cliché, I always rather liked his later stuff — especially “Suspicious Minds” and “Burning Love.” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was our wedding song, however, and so is the clear winner.

[50/50] Song #23: “Word Up”

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Song #23: “Word Up” — Cameo (1986)

Seriously, how can anyone be unhappy when this song comes on?