Thursday, May 19, 2016

Didn't Make the Cut

In the late 90s, I put a lot of thought into ranking my favorite songs. I used to carry around a little notebook and as songs came to my mind, I would write them down. I probably gathered well over 200 songs. I decided to try to cut it down to 150 and then rank them from 1 to 150. I will have to admit, that it was not an exact ranking, but I’d say that numbers 11-150 fell into the category of  “second ten” for 11 to 20; “third ten” for 21 to 30 and so on. I tried to put the final ten in order as best as I could.

There were a few quirky rules. If this were really a list of my top 150 songs there would be a lot of Beatles, U2, Radiohead, Wilco, etc. So I made a rule, only one song per artist could make the list. Therefore, only one Beatles’ song, one U2…There was an exception for work done as a solo artist. Paul McCartney makes the list as a Beatle and as a solo artist (same with Sting). But McCartney does not get a Wings exception.

I began to put together this list with copying songs off of the cassettes and CDs I had (and recording the occasional song from a CD checked out from the library). But in the early 2000s, the advent of P2P sharing made copying these songs for carrying around much easier. I found the remaining songs I didn’t have and then burned about 10 CDs to carry around.

So much music has come along in the last 15 years or so. I have been thinking about doing this for a couple of years and I finally found some time to spend thinking about this and re-ranking the songs. This was much easier this time around; I had already done the hard work of slogging through my music memory files, weeding out 30 years of music memories. Now I had to account for the past 15 years.

This isn’t a perfect list. I basically went through my iTunes songs and pulled all of the songs aside that I thought could make the cut (and I looked through a couple of the Spotify playlists I had created). I came up with almost 200 songs. Then I eliminated the extras to get to 150. And I probably changed a few of the original songs from their original artists as well.
I’m going to post the songs that were originally chosen as potentially worthy but didn’t make the cut to 150. These will be in semi-alphabetical order.

The Alarm – Rain in the Summertime: reminds me of my waning days of living in St Louis, my old softball buddies, “The Fugitives” and Andy Crews, who I probably borrowed this CD for longer than I should have.
Blur – Parklife: I missed Blur during the Britpop explosion in the mid-90s. I saw a documentary on Britpop and this song kept coming in and out of the break. Stayed with me for a few days.
David Sanborn – Bum’s Cathedral: this is a throwback to my college disk jockey days at SLU. We played what we wanted. I went through a late 80s fusion period. Sanborn is a fellow St Louis native.
Dee-Lite – Groove Is in the Heart: I have always been a fan of a funk groove, and Bootsy Collins provided it here.
Erykah Badu – Time’s A-Wastin’: I’m a sucker for the electric piano, and this song has that intro.
Herb Alpert – Rise: Herb had a great run of instrumentals making the pop charts. This song is about seven minutes long. Reminds me of cold mornings getting a ride to school.
Hole – Doll Parts
The David Crowder Band – Open Skies
The Housemartins – Happy Hour: Mike Nash had a friend living with him for a while named Dave Gudermuth. Dave was a great source for finding new music. I remember Mike and Dave being captivated by the MTV “Hip Clip of the Week”. I was captivated soon after.
Nicola Conte – Bossa Per Due: I recently went through a bossa nova phase on Pandora. I still am in that phase. This song comes up from time to time. I bought it.
Robert Cray – These Things: another CD I borrowed from Andy. Was on the previous list. A few songs dropped out all together. This one just missed.
Robbie Robertson – Sweet Fire of Love: me and the softball buddies (mainly Pete Vogel and I) were fascinated by another song on this CD (Somewhere Down the Crazy River). But this song is better, features U2.
Rose Royce – Car Wash: if you grew up in the 70s, you still know the clapping in this song. I would clap it while playing the infield in Little League games.
The Rutles – Goosestep Mama: this came very close to making the Top 150. The Rutles are a fake band created by Eric Idle for a fake documentary spoofing The Beatles. I couldn’t put a fake group in the Top 150. (“You’ve got nothing to “ein, swei, drei fear…”)
Sammy Davis Jr. – The Candy Man: I have performed this song live…twice!
Shawn Colvin – Get Out of This House: another song that dropped off the Top 150. This song was big while 93.3 The Zone in DFW was my station of choice. Sunny Came Home was on this album but this song is better.
Stan Getz – Desafinado: I believe this song was written by Tom Jobim, who I can’t get enough of. I believe I have four of his songs in various forms on my lists.
The Staples Singers – Respect Yourself: Bruce Willis did a cover of this. This song is fun to sing along to.
Steven Curtis Chapman – I Will Not Go Quietly: maybe the biggest drop of all of the songs. I believe this was in the previous top 10. From “The Apostle” soundtrack.
Tears for Fears – Working Hour: this song was the hardest to drop. It may move into the Top 150 if I fell short of my original count. (It may take the place of number 150 as well).
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here: I almost had another category for Christmas songs, but this brings back so many memories (and melancholia).
10,000 Maniacs – Like the Weather
Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love: great sax intro, reminds me of my radio alarm clock going off in 7th grade. It seemed like it played every morning.
Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love: shows the versatility of the band (and Freddie’s voice).
Foreigner – Urgent: during my freshman year of high school, Foreigner “4” was a huge album, with “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Jukebox Hero”.
Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget about Me: from the Breakfast Club.
Kajagoogoo – Too Shy: it’s the opening bass line that grabs me and Limahl’s androgynous voice that make a great combination.

I'll try to have the Top 150 in various installments up within a week. I'm sure you can't wait.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016



What is your favorite verbal crutch? We all seem to have at least one, a crutch that helps us gather our thoughts or prepares our conversation partners for what is to follow.

“Um…”, “uh…”, “like…”, “you know…” These are some of the most popular verbal pauses. “Um…” is the preferred crutch of NBA owner Mark Cuban (but it sounds much classier as it sets up Terry Gross’ next question on “Fresh Air). If you want to do a proper JFK impersonation, you have to employ the “Er…uh…” combo (or at least a decent Mayor Quimby).

“You know…” is semi-understandable. It is probably short for “Do you know what I mean?” It is almost like an insecure person wanting to know if you are following along with what they are saying…you know? I used to listen to a sports talk show in Dallas where they would take sound bites of athletes and count the “you knows…” then they would divide that number by the length of the sound bite. There would be extra points awarded for the double “you know…” and the elusive triple. However, I notice that “you know…” is rapidly being replaced in some circles with the one word “nowhatimsayin”.

“Like” may be my most frustrating crutch to listen to. “I was all like…and then she was like…” In most cases it becomes the replacement for “I said…and then she said…” A lot of the time it serves no purpose. “Then my dad went, like, crazy after I told him about the car.”

A few years ago, I noticed a verbal pause I never noticed before, even though I’m sure I’ve used it hundreds of thousands of times: “well…” I should probably capitalize it because it almost always comes at the beginning of a sentence or a train of thought. “Well, if you want to know how to make good tamales…” “Well, I think it is about time for me to head home…” “Well” is typically used as a noun to signify, among other things, a deep pit in the earth used to reach a supply of water (or other things like oil). “Well” is also an adverb that is used to define an action done in a good, proper or successful way. (It is often improperly replaced by the adjective “good” but that’s another lesson).

How did we begin using this as a verbal crutch that begins our train of thought? I’ve even seen it in writing. It first came to my attention while reading Tony LaRussa’s memoir, One Last Strike. This book was even co-written by Baseball Hall of Fame journalist, Rick Hummel. In several places, TLR begins to explain his reasoning behind a decision by starting with, “Well…” Why wouldn’t you edit that out? What purpose does it serve (other than perhaps to convey the sense that LaRussa is having a conversation with you). I read a blog post by an academic who started a thought with, “Well…” I’ve even received text messages that began with “Well…”

I have become self-conscious about my use of “well”. But I still catch myself starting a discussion with it. Where did this come from? What are we trying to convey? As someone who had to write a lot over my academic career, I try to eliminate unnecessary words.

Where did this come from? Is there a “well”, so to speak, from which this all sprang? It is my goal to help you think this through, to think “well” on this subject. Perhaps it could be the beginning of a movement to eliminate one unnecessary verbal crutch. If we could do that, it would be s’well.