The Lyrics That Live With Me

When Lou Reed died, there was some great news coverage, such as the NY Times obituary, and much absurdity – which I guess could be predicted. My local news stations struggled to explain him to those who’d never heard of him. Here and there a reporter would add personal viewpoint (“He singlehandedly invented alt rock!”) to the obit pablum. Pablum. Does anyone still know what pablum is?

Not for the first time, I was grateful and impressed with how social media responded. Facebook, for example, didn’t just spread the news of his death, but also filled with tributes from people to whom Reed had mattered. Many simply quoted song lyrics that were important to them, which started conversational riffs that were moving and healing. I wish social media had been available when we lost Lennon! Or Strummer!

All of which got me thinking about what song lyric I would quote if another of my musicians dies before I do. There are certain songwriters who have been so important at some point in my life – so transformative – that their deaths would leave permanent holes. Even if I haven’t listened to (or thought about) some of them for decades, I need them to be in the world.

Below are the lyrics I might post. Although who knows what might instead occur at the time. When Alex Chilton died it wasn’t Chilton’s words or Big Star’s lyrics that surfaced, but Westerberg’s tribute song, Alex Chilton.

I’m in love, what was that song? 

Here is one of my lists. What would yours be?

 Leonard Cohen

 I have tried in my way to be free.

Elvis Costello
(note: the link has lyrics altered for TV!)

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
trying to anesthetize the way that you feel.

John Doe

You are the lump in my throat
I am the aching in your heart.

Bob Dylan

I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
Okay here is where I acknowledge what a silly exercise this is.
The proper Dylan lyric changes hourly.

Exene & John Doe

She had to get out. Get out. Get out. Get out.

Patti Smith

Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

Bruce Springsteen

The dogs on Main Street howl because they understand
If I could take one moment into my hand

Graham Parker

Life isn’t good enough. Music makes it good enough.
(Actually that quintessential Parker line
comes from an interview not a lyric.)

Kelly Joe Phelps

like a shine-eyed Mr. Zen
actually I’d probably use the lyrics that Corinne West
surely wrote for him in “Whiskey Poet“,
You took some chances
now the silence is your friend
As will I be in the end

Chris Thile

I’d probably quote his stage observation
that he lives vicariously through his own songs.

Paul Westerberg
(Live video without image.
Song that truncates unexpectedly.
Yup. Those were our ‘Mats.)

Look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied.

Neil Young

I am just a dreamer but you are just a dream.

This post responds to a recent WordPress weekly writing challenge about music that matters.)

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How Long Is That In Dog Years?

Today is a milestone: Required Writing is one year old. So. Is my blog a toddler? An adolescent? A septuagenarian?

How does a blog lifetime compare to a human’s? We don’t yet know what the maximum lifespan of a blog is, do we? Clearly, many of them die young, after scant months or a handful of years. But how long might a blog keep going? Should it? Can we look to some other realm of pop culture for a comparison?

The Tonight Show?

Days of Our Lives?

The Fast and the Furious?

The New Yorker?

Mad Magazine?

Rolling Stone?

The Rolling Stones?

The Sex Pistols?

Dear Abby?

James Dean?

Betty White?

What do you think the right comparison should be? I confess I have no clue. Should I want my blog to live fast, die young, and make a good looking corpse?* And I hope I immediately know when it is time to go. Like the song** says, it’s better to burn out than it is to rust. Although I would prefer to do neither. My goal is to keep writing until it is time to stop. 

=============

* What movie is this from? Anybody?
**The song being “Hey hey my my”, which Neil Young wrote about the advent of punk (with some lyrics derived from Devo’s days as copy writers, and the ad campaign Rust never sleeps). Or was that “My my hey hey.” For obvious reasons, I always mix those two up.

Feedback Therapy

Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a newly-revealed heroin addict and I am a newly-discovered codependent and in dealing with all of this I find it very lucky that I love so much aggressive and feedback-laden music. Something about feedback, played loud enough, can smooth the roughest of moods. These songs have been particularly soothing of late:

  • Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins
  • I Was Wrong – Social Distortion
  • Hey Hey My My – Neil Young w Crazy Horse
  • New Day Rising – Husker Du
  • Revenant – Distillers
  • Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies
  • anything by X
  • anything by Sex Pistols

Additional recommendations welcomed.

Musical Hypocrisy (Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!)

When I was growing up – musically speaking – I hated ultra-pop and ultra-popular. I couldn’t stand Stevie Nicks and it was a big deal when Patti Smith admitted that she liked “You’re the One That I Want” by Newton-John and Travolta. What a relief! I loved that song and thought I was crazy!

But seriously – and it was a big, serious deal; we were rightly passionate about music that was real and music that was bogus – I tried hard to judge music on its merits and not on what was cool. Of course, nowadays saying cool is not cool. Sick. Whatev. Making such an effort was one thing I have in common with my Scar Jewelry character, Heater. (Below I excerpt her remarks* on the subject.)

During the writing of Scar Jewelry there were a few songs that I kept playing again and again, and I quoted them in the book. When I got to quoting “Landslide”, by Smashing Pumpkins, I discovered it had been written by — Stevie Nicks. And it turned out to be incredibly difficult for me to process this fact. I don’t want Stevie Nicks in my book. But I want “Landslide”. But she wrote it. But I don’t want-— you get the idea.

P.S. I won’t try to justify my antipathy to Nicks. Partly some kind of kneejerk purist thing about Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green. A niece is probably named after a Nicks song (not “Landslide”) and I do love her so there you go.

P.P.S. I still love “You’re the One That I Want.”

*Here is what the always-opinionated Heater wrote about this, back in approximately 1979:

Today’s kids got no respect for their elders. Or for anybody else, I am usually proud to report. Respect should be earned, not ordained based on age, status or the other trappings. But so too should disrespect be earned and likewise not be due to superficial claptrap. Punks are no better than rednecks when they disdain Neil Young. So he is from the Sixties, so fucking what. He moved on. He’s always moving on. That’s what makes him an artist. Now I’ve said the A word. So come and get me. You’ll have to catch me first. And I’m moving fast because I just got to interview Neil Young. Who appreciates the great wherever he finds it. Hank Williams, Johnny Rotten. He gets Devo, he gets Kraftwerk, and I’m betting that in another decade he’ll be getting whatever else is new and fresh, while you’re still rattling your rusty safety pins. If he were in Ellay he’d be going out to hear the music that was the most honest and true around. He’d be at all those Alleycats – Differentials nights at Blackies West.