Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Good Songs XXII

Strange Days – The Doors
Suzy Greenberg – Phish
Over the Hills and Far Away – Led Zeppelin
Only Happy When it Rains – Garbage
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite – The Beatles
Ants Marching – Dave Matthews Band
Run Through the Jungle – Credence Clearwater Revival
Glorified G – Pearl Jam
Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes
March of the Pigs – Nine Inch Nails
The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion) – Grateful Dead
Who Will Save Your Soul – Jewel
Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson
Supernova – Liz Phair
Free Ride – Edgar Winters Group
In Bloom – Nirvana
Is There Any Love In Your Heart – Lenny Kravitz
Kids in America – The Muffs
Unbelievable – EMF
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
I’ll Stick Around – Foo Fighters
Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band

I really didn’t want to graduate college. Like at all. My last semester of college was supposed to be my funnest, a culmination of 17 years of school, but I spent a lot of time dreading May 19 and worrying about the days beyond. I enjoyed Merrimack College, especially my senior year when I really liked the classes I was taking, loved where I was living and had a lot of fun with my friends. I had no idea what I was going to do with my English major (and Visual Arts minor!), had zero job prospects* and did not look forward to moving home with my parents.

* When I think of how I used to apply for jobs back in 1996, it feels like I’m talking about 1892. Every Sunday night I’d open the Boston Globe Want Ads, circle the jobs that I wanted, print out a cover letter and resume, stuff it into an envelope and mail it to the company. Sometimes, I’d open the Yellow Pages and send an unsolicited letter and resume to every publishing company I could find. Before companies discovered the ultranet, it was hard as hell to find a job back in those days.

I love my parents and it was cool as hell for them to take me back, but I had just spent the better part of four years living in close proximity to my best friends and didn’t have to answer to anyone. Now it was back to a world of free food, free laundry service and no bills to pay. Ugh, the agony.

My parents also were nice enough to buy me a car after I graduated school. I’m not what you call a car guy, at all. I use my vehicles to get from Point A to Point B and I honestly don’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s reliable. My first car was a light blue 1988 Ford Tempo that my dad (who was a traveling insurance adjuster) beat the hell out of before it was passed down to me. It ran, though not always at the times I wanted it to. So when I was able to get my own set of wheels I wanted something fast and I wanted something sportysomething that was the complete opposite of my personality. I got that when I purchased my 1987 Honda Prelude Si.

I know that we’re not talking a Ferrari or Camero, but that car was the first and only car, that I really loved. Jet black and fast as a rocket, my ride was essentially a two seater (the back seat was technically there but it was extremely tight) and with the seats being so low to the ground, I felt as if in I was in the most supped-up sports car. However, less than eight months after I bought it, I blew out the engine*, but after a new one was put in, the thing ran like a dream for years.

* This was to the only malady to happen to Jet Black (which is what I called my car--my first car was called Baby Blue [because I thought I'd get a ton of babes] my third car was called Norrin Radd because it was silver and Radd is the real name of the Silver Surfer. Yes, I know.), the first week I had it, I had to replace the driver’s side door when I jumped out of my car and forgot to put it in gear—the Dukes of Hazzard were on and I was pumped. The car lurched forward into my friend’s father’s boat and there was a massive hole in the door (the boat was fine). Apparently this was a thing with me and new cars because the very first day I had Baby Blue, I smashed into a DPW truck when I was too busy staring at a girl in spandex and not watching what was in front of me. I smashed the truck’s light and busted up my fender. Did I mention I took the car after my parents told me not to because it was without plates? Because that’s exactly what I did.

I did what any person with a new car and no job did, I delivered pizzas. And this playlist was the Good Songs tape* I created when I was bringing pizzas and subs to the fine people of Newburyport, MA in 1996.

* The only difference between this playlist and the actual Good Songs tape is that I included TV theme songs between every other song. The 90210 and a majority of the 70s and 80s crime themes were particularly awesome driving music. BTW, I bought five TV Theme CDs (they were kind of expensive too) one year because I thought it would be a cool conversation starter if a girl looked at my disc collection. No one ever mentioned them.

That summer was the best that I ever had as I either aimlessly floated around my pool on Fun Island (a gigantic yellow tube), played Wiffle Ball, went to the beach or watched TV until it was time to deliver pizzas from 4:00 to 8:00. After that, I went drinking with my friends. I do wish that I saved some of that money and went to Europe that fall, but I didn’t have the courage to go by myself, so I essentially threw the cash away. But this tape was the sound track of my summer. I think that there was a part two of this playlist, but I can’t seem to find it.

The song on this tape that sticks out like a sore thumb is Jewel’s debut, “Who Will Save Your Soul”. I am pretty sure that I chose this song mainly because I found Jewel extremely attractive because as a song, it’s not very good. The lyrics, the guitar playing; it’s all really basic and clichéd. I think that this was a hit because of Jewel’s story, she was a homeless in Alaska! and made her way to California where she was discovered and given a record contract. Or something like that.

People love stories like that and if they star a good-looking girl, even better. And I was caught up in that. I remember using some college graduation money to buy “Pieces of You” at Newbury Comics and trying really hard to like it. I thought that it might say something about me if I could like this album. But I couldn’t do it. I thought that it was terrible and couldn’t stand the over-serious writing, the elementary guitar playing and her voice wasn’t pleasing either. I didn’t hate Jewel, but by the end of the summer, I was pretty sick of her.

Another CD I bought on that Newbury Comics excursion was Garbage’s premiere effort, “Garbage”. Unlike “Pieces of You”, I thought that this CD was excellent. I loved how lead singer Shirley Manson’s voice paired with the rest of the band’s sound. It was sexy, it was unapologetic, it was really awesome. “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” was one of three popular hits from the CD (“Queer” and “Stupid Girl”), but the whole album is something that you should check out if you haven’t.

Their sound softened a bit over the years, but Garbage’s first album was something special. One of the things that were so cool about the group was how innovative it was, and with super producer Butch Vig (he was behind such bands as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, among others) it’s no surprise that Garbage had a sonic sound that was unlike anything on the radio at the time.

Pearl Jam might be one of my favorite bands of all time and I’ll probably write more about them in another entry, but I am conflicted about “Glorified G”. The first time I bought “Vs.” this was the one song that I came back to again and again and again. I liked the bouncy rhythm, the guitar riff, the lyrics were something I was interested in and it was just a good tune.

But one day my roommate was making fun of another friend of ours and he said something to the effect of, “Yeah, I bet that your favorite Pearl Jam song is ‘Glorified G’!” With the implication that GG was not “serious enough” for real Pearl Jam fans and was thrown on the CD to please teeny-bopper PJ followers. You know, the ones that don’t really get “Daughter”. In any event, that throw-away line from a long-forgotten fight, got to me and I never told anyone that I liked that song, lest they think that I wasn’t a true fan of Eddie and the boys*.

* Yes. This is something one contemplates when one doesn’t have anything to really worry about.

But my love for this song didn’t go away and I felt pretty bold putting this song on a tape that was going to get a lot of airplay. Especially in the summer with the windows and moon roof rolled down. But by then, I had a boxful of Pearl Jam bootlegs and if anyone attacked my fandom, I could show them my collection. “Would a teeny-bopper fan have Pearl Jam, live in Atlanta from April 1992? Huh?”

I’ve made my peace with the song (I’m still a supporter!) but during the last five or six years, the song has taken on a new meaning. The number one sports radio show in the state is “Felger and Mazz” and as far as sports talk goes, the show is okay. There’s your typical daily HOT SPORTZ TAKE but sometimes they can dial it back and have good conversation about the day’s event. The song that opens up every hour on the Felger and Mazz tape is a loop of the opening guitar rift, so when I heard it today I expected to be assaulted with a diatribe on why the Patriots are so cheap or why David Ortiz is a wimp or why the Bruins and Celtics are hopeless suckbags.

I was pleasantly surprised to not hear any of that.

Trent Reznor moved to 10050 Cielo Drive Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles when he was working on “The Downward Spiral”. You might remember that address as the home of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. And you might remember that a very pregnant Tate and her pals were brutally slaughtered by Charlie (no relation to Shirley) Manson’s zombie death squad in August 1969. The word “Pig” was written  in blood on a door of that particular house. You might also remember that the day after the Tate killings, another of Manson’s group mutilated Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Before leaving the house, Susan Atkins carved the word “PIG” into the stomach of Leno with a fork.

Reznor wrote a song called “March of the Pigs”.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I know that when I was younger I thought that it was cool that Reznor did this because it was spooky (okay) and anti-authoritarian and all that fight-the-power bullshit. But now that I’m a little older, glorifying a mass murder might not be the best thing to do. And I’ve read interviews where Reznor essentially feels the same way.

The song is still really good, I love the driving, industrial beat – it was a staple of any gym mix that I’ve made through out the years. But the sentiments behind it may be a bit off. 

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