Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My 25 Favorite Songs, Part I

What's your favorite song? Your favorite 5 songs? 10 songs? Impossible to answer, right? Whittling down a lifetime of music listening and appreciation into one tiny little box?

Well, no, not quite impossible. But yes, very difficult. And the only way to do it, as they say, is to do it. That’s what I did.

I thought of those songs that please me the most. Those songs that I’ll stay in the car to listen to until they finish, even though I’m already sitting in the driveway. Those songs that have etched a place in my heart, mind and soul. Those songs that, in their own small ways, play a part in who I am now.

Without further ado, here begins my Top 25 Favorite Songs Ever.

25) “Can’t Help Falling In Love”—Elvis Presley, 1962. My favorite Elvis song, which has to count for something. Plus, it says it all so easily and so sincerely. “Some things are meant to be.”

24) “So. Central Rain”—R.E.M., 1984. This wasn’t their first great song—“Radio Free Europe” was—but it was their finest early attempt to get directly personal. And maybe more important to me, it was the first R.E.M. song I ever heard,  being allowed a quick listen on a friend’s Walkman backstage during a high school musical in 1984. Peter Buck’s guitar lines ring with haunting clarity, and Michael Stipe was only beginning to show was he was capable of doing with his voice. “Go build yourself another home, this choice isn’t mine.”

23) “Mercy Street”—Peter Gabriel, 1986. A stunning, muted tribute to troubled poet Anne Sexton, with images so real you can see Gabriel staring out over the empty streets as he writes. I have always been amazed by how sweetly he sings these lines, at the richness and soulfulness in his voice. “Dreaming of the tenderness, the tremble in the hips, of kissing Mary’s lips.”

22) “Visions of Johanna”—Bob Dylan, 1966. This is high poetry, with which Dylan sets the bar at an impossibly lofty level for himself. I am emotionally invested by the second verse, and I never want it to end as the song keeps building and the images of Johanna’s face and Madonna and nightwatchmen with flashlights and Mona Lisa with the “highway blues” keep flooding in. If William Blake did his stuff to music, it may have sounded like this. “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.”

21) “Fat Man in The Bathtub”—Little Feat, 1973. Around every corner of this song I hear something a little different from what I’d previously expected of rock-n-roll. Before being introduced to them in college by pal Tim, I thought they were a Grateful Dead-like jam band.  Which as Scott once said (about something else, not this) is a little like saying the Beatles were a great cover band; accurate but only a tiny fraction of the whole truth. The meshing of so many musical flavors into one glorious tune sucked me in right away. As did the best of Lowell George’s surreal, depraved imagination. “All I want in this life of mine is some good clean fun. All I want in this life and time is some hit and run.”

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