Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Good Songs XXVI

Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
Novocain for the Soul – The Eels
Santa Monica – Everclear
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – Lenny Kravitz
Time – Hootie and the Blowfish
Life in Mono – Mono
Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
The Way – Fastball
What I Am – Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
I Alone – Live
Lucas With the Lid Off – Lucas
Virtual Insanity – Jamiroquai
Detroit Rock City – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
Hippy Chick – Soho
ABC – The Jackson Five
Mo Money, Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G.
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Higher Ground – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Loved One – INXS
Laid – James
We Got the Beat – The Go-Go’s
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Elvis Costello
Pass the Dutchie -  Musical Youth

This was the first tape that I ever went on location to make, driving all the way to Needham, MA to make use of my friend, Shawn's extensive CD collection. Shawn had well over 1,000 CDs and I remember buying two extra-long cassette tapes (100 minutes total!) to harness all the music he had. This is the reason why the playlist looks like a collection of one-hit wonders and songs from bands whose albums I didn’t own.

It’s a mess, but a nice mess.

By the time I made this tape it was the spring of 1998, I was just starting a job as a reporter for the Revere Journal and living with three friends in a Winthrop, MA apartment. Life was good. I had disposable income (actually, not that much), a job that could conceivably be a career (though it didn’t turn out that way), a girl I started dating sorta seriously (we broke up by the beginning of the summer) and a place less than a block from the beach that I thought that I’d live in for a long time (I was back in Amesbury by fall of 1999).  But at that point in time, I thought that the future seemed very rosy and everything was coming up Byron.

That’s what I hear and what I feel when I listen to this mix, not the disjointed, almost manic squashing of artists such as Soho and the Jackson Five together, but the life of someone who had gotten over the hump since an unwanted college graduation and a terrible first job.

Since there is no real thread tying all of these songs together, I’m going to cheese out and write one-sentence about them. Just once sentence, that’s it. I promise*.

* Alright, maybe more than one. But I promise you that I will try to try. It won’t happen.

The Verve – I love this song, it makes me agitated, but in a good way. Like the lead singer in the video, I want to walk down a crowded street and bump my shoulder into everyone. That would be therapeutic. What’s not therapeutic (at least for the Verve) is that because they nicked a six-second sample of an obscure Rolling Stones song, they didn’t make a dime off their biggest single.  People got these guys confused with the Verve Pipe at this point in time.

The Eels – They had the theme song, Hombre Loco, for the brilliant HBO documentary “The Jinx”. This song is shockingly different from that song, it almost makes me want to check out the Eels’ back catalog. Almost.

Everclear – Lead singer Art Alexis whines a lot. Around this time I was kinda getting into Everclear because a bunch of Patriot players (include Drew Bledsoe and some of his offensive linemen) got into big trouble when they went crowdsurfing at an Everclear show and seriously injured a twenty-something woman. If the Pats liked them, why shouldn’t I? Anyway, Everclear was brought into the lexicon of a lot of 50-year-old sportswriters.

Lenny Kravitz – How many damn times is he on one of these mix tapes? God.

Hootie and the Blowfish – I like this song then and I like it now. I don’t care who knows it. Darius Rucker has a great voice and this song sorta has something to say. I’m okay with my choice.

Mono – This was the “haunting song” from the movie “Great Expectations”. I know nothing about this band, but I do like this song.

Jeff Buckley – If I was going on a date, this is the song that would be queued up and ready to go when I returned to the car. I thought that it made me seem sensitive and deep. Don’t laugh, it was on for my first date with my wife and we had a long, icebreaking conversation about Jeff Buckley*. How about that?

* What I did not know was that my wife's ex was a Jeff Buckley superfan who created a website dedicated to the man and his music. He also spoke to Buckley's mom on the reg, so my bullshit only went so far. 

Fastball – I like songs with a story to them. This song has that with an added southwestern flair. I feel like I should be enjoying a chicken fried steak and fighting off rattlesnakes as I listen to this.

Edie Brickell – This song reminds me of being in ninth grade and hanging out at my friend Ryan's house watching MTV on a mid-sized TV in his wooden paneled living room. That's pretty much it. I thought that Brickell was cute and looked like Simone (Khrystyne Haje) from "Head of the Class" and the Corey Haim movie "Lucas", I wonder what Paul Simon thought? Better yet, what did Lorne Michael think?

Live – I think that the reason why this band went away was because lead singer Ed Kowalcyzk was so intensely sincere. Every band has a bit of bullshit and myth in them and that’s what makes the bands tick. It’s what people latch on to, like Jim Morrison portrayed himself as this modern-day rock poet, but he was a drunk who liked to hear himself ramble. Kowalcyzk seemed so heartfelt and genuine and serious that he became a parody of himself. In the early 90s, most rock frontmen acted like Kowalcyzk, but you had an idea that they weren’t totally serious about it. Maybe I’m cynical, but I never bought it. Plus, their lyrics were pretty dopey too, “to cradle a baby in space.” Okay, dude.

Lucas – You should search for this video, it’s pretty awesome. When he first came out, I used to get him confused with MC 900ft Jesus or Us3, even though his song was called “LUCAS With the Lid Off”. Not to be confused with aforementioned Corey Haim move, "Lucas". Nor my nephew. 

Jamiroquai – If it wasn't for this video and his hat, I don't think anyone would have been ga-ga for this song. I mean, it's a good song. But good songs are a dime a dozen. This thing was all over the place in 1997 and 1998. I never figured out if Jamiroquai was one guy or a band. And he should have toured with Jodeci. That would have been dope.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones – This was an excellent cover by the Bosstones because it was so different from the original KISS version. This was a time where it seemed that every mildly popular band from the 70s and 80s were getting albums devoted to covering their songs and they were played the exact same way, as if the record companies hired really expensive bar bands. On the cover of this album – “Kiss My Ass” (a truly clever title) – the nuclear family is decked out in KISS makeup, except the little boy is not wearing Ace Frehley grease paint. That bugged me mainly because Ace was the coolest member of KISS, and it's not even close. 

Pearl Jam – This was the song to own if you were a “real” Pearl Jam fan back in the day. It was the B-side to the “Jeremy” single and record store workers would go crazy when someone asked what album Yellow Ledbetter was on*. If the universe was fair, this should have been former Boston Mayor Thomas Mennino’s go-to karaoke song.

* My old college roommate used to work at the Wall, a record store that was located in many of America’s malls. Just about every night in 1993 and 1994, he’d come back to school after his shift and complain about “idiots” asking about the album that YL was located on. He really became crazy about it. So, we’d ask him every time we saw him. Mainly because we’re assholes.

Soho – This song was featured in an episode of “Beverly Hills 90210”, though I can’t remember which one. I do remember that this was playing in a scene where Brandon was driving around and thinking about something important. I’d get this song ready for some important driving and thinking times too. Have I ever mentioned how much I loved 90210? It was a sickness.

The Jackson Five – These kids could really sing, huh? Damn it.

Notorious B.I.G. – For a song that’s credited to Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy and Ma$e won’t shut the hell up. But you know what? That was late 90s hip hop. Bigger is better and mo voices means mo money (which leads to mo problems*). This video was the first time that I saw anyone wear a Yankee hat that wasn’t dark blue. Mas$e started a trend that was copied by douche bags around the world (see Durst, Fred). Though I will say, I’m happy to see the gospel of baseball spread.

* Around this time Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn took his talents to Anaheim when he signed with the Angels. His career went right in the crapper after that. I wonder how many times any “hip” copy editor ever used “Mo Money, Mo Problems” as a headline of a story detailing how Vaughn should have stayed with Boston? Probably a billion, right?

David Bowie – I really should get into David Bowie, he’s someone that I have a feeling I might like. Maybe I’ll just tell everyone I’m into him. That’s just as good.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – As much as I like the Stevie Wonder version, I really like what RHCPs did with this song too.

INXS – Do you realize that this is remake too? It is. I had no idea, but man oh man, this was my favorite song off of my favorite album (circa 1988). You really can’t go too wrong with INXS on a mix tape. Who doesn’t like INXS?

James – It’s hard to listen to this song anymore. It was fun. Then it was fun and a bit overplayed. Then it’s just overplayed. Now it has transcended to shorthand. Like when you hear the first few guitar chords in a movie trailer, you know that something wacky is about to occur. “Uh oh, here comes ‘Laid’ and here comes a guy screwing a pie. Just like how God intended.”

The Go-Go’s – Their “Behind the Music” was awesome and is probably the reason why I put them on this tape. Sex, debauchery, drugs, booze, bitchy cat fights, selling out, punk roots, squalor. It’s all there. Go YouTube it, you’ll love it. I also probably put this on here because it’s in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, which I was obsessed with at this point in my life (I wanted to go to California and be a script writer – specifically for high school comedies. But I chickened out.).

Elvis Costello – I had a name burn my a disc with Elvis Costello’s best songs on it (he also did the same for The Smiths) and I still listen to both. Thank you Steve Kelly for that.

Musical Youth – Were you surprised when Musical Youth admitted this song was about marijuana? Yeah. Me either. I don’t care how old those kids were.

I did a bad job at keeping this to one sentence per band. Really bad. Sorry.

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