10 August, 2008

Tell me about your favorite songs (in degrees of separation)

I wouldn't say that I'm a superstitious person, but I do believe in connections. I find examples of Jungian synchronicity in so many facets of my life that it's almost impossible not to believe in a collective unconscious, and therefore an interconnectedness of all things in the universe. It's not religious per se, but there's definitely a spiritual aspect to this personal belief and the concept certainly adds to my hopefulness for the human race.

The thing is that this concept of interconnectedness is also just mad fun, especially when I'm compiling playlists. I'll randomly pick a song and then try to tie it to every song that follows. Sometimes I create rules for this game. For example, I might only be able to make connections between the artists and not between the genre or subject matter. Sometimes I play with completely personal connections. Music is tied closely to memory, and I can usually find a memory of my own that's associated to multiple songs. Often, there are no rules except finding that one required link between songs.

I encourage you guys to play this game. It's fun and relaxing. Here's a quick example of one of my music by degrees playlists. I've created better playlists (I'm sure), but this is just a quick example to get your creative juices flowing.

"Up On Cripple Creek" by the Band is my starting point, and it lends itself well to this kind of game. At first glance, it's a fairly unique song, but it also has many ties to different genres/memories/moments in time/other bands. I'm going to follow it with a song by Apollo Sunshine, who do a slamming live cover of "Up On Cripple Creek". My second song is "Mayday Disorder" off of the beautifully psychedelic album Katonah. Fantastic imagery and instrumentals are par for the course with most Apollo Sunshine songs, but "Mayday Disorder" climaxes in a smashed guitar solo and high energy percussion. The first band I can think of that also combines high energy instrumentals with psychedelics is the Flaming Lips, and the best song to showcase this kind of jamming is the "The W.A.N.D." off of the 2006 release At War With the Mystics. It would be fairly easy to tie The Flaming Lips to many 1960s bands who dabbled in LSD and other hallucinogenics (I feel like that word choice is fairly comical) given Wayne Coyne's outspokenness about his own trips. Instead, I like a bit of a challenge, and I'm going to make this connection with shared political dissatisfaction. The Flaming Lips will be followed by "Zombie" by the Cranberries, another song that uses some mystical and disturbing images as metaphors for the evils of war. There are really famous Irish bands, like the Cranberries, but there are also fake famous Irish bands like the Commitments. The book by Robby Doyle was turned into a movie with an amazing Irish soul covers soundtrack that includes a version of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" (the next song on my playlist). Another Redding song that became a famous cover is "Respect", later performed to great acclaim by Aretha Franklin. In the Redding version, the song is a mid-Civil Rights era request for "a little respect" at home. The Civil Rights era was a time of soulful and inspiring protest music which has inspired the protest music of generations since. For my generation, our standard-bearing song has to be "American Idiot" by Green Day. It has been overplayed, but it can still make me wince and then slam-dance. I saw Green Day twice while on their American Idiot tour, and they put on a fucking show. I was pleasantly surprised when one of their opening acts - Jimmy Eat World - performed with just as much energy and enthusiasm. My favorite song by Jimmy Eat World is "A Praise Chorus", an addictive ode to musical first love that has the campy chorus "Crimson and Clover, over and over". This chorus was lifted from the song "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells, a rock band of the 1960s who released "Crimson and Clover" in 1968 (the same year that the Band released their first album Music from Big Pink).

Here's a rundown for those readers who lost track:

"Up On Cripple Creek" by The Band
"Mayday Disorder" by Apollo Sunshine
"The W.A.N.D." by the Flaming Lips
"Zombie" by the Cranberries
"Try A Little Tenderness" by the Commitments
"Respect" by Otis Redding
"American Idiot" by Green Day
"A Praise Chorus" by Jimmy Eat World
"Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells

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