Friday, February 27, 2009

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side by The Magnetic Fields

Another favorite by the Magnetic Fields. The above short animation was made by an art student to accompany the song, and it's really lovely. Thank god this song supplanted LOC in my consciousness today. I left a job interview feeling lighter than usual of late, and whistled this song as I walked down the streets of the financial district.

Year: 1999
Rating: Hot!

Land of Confusion (redux)

* The frequency of this awful song in my neural jukebox requires me to refer to it, henceforth, simply as LOC.

Last post: 2/9/09
Year: 1986
Rating: Cold
Noteworthy: Yes, in the shower once again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones

There are a few Stones songs I really love, and their musical influence is enduring. Start Me up doesn't make the cut. Exhibit A: car-as-cock analogies. Exhibit B: Jagger in a leotard. Exhibit C: "You make a dead man come." One of the most revolting lyrics in rock history.

For a good time, give a listen to the Folksmen parody.

Year (original): 1981 Rating: Cold
Year (parody): 2003 Rating: Warm

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mad About You by Belinda Carlisle

This song came into my head, no doubt, because I'd looked into Amber's eyes last night and said, "Baby, I'm mad about you." Cooing and smooching ensued.

While I much prefer her Go-Go's era, I am genuinely fond of this Belinda Carlisle solo song. On listening now, I realize it's some mediocre pop, but back in the '80s, I surprised even myself by admitting to Barry on some extended teenage phone chat that I actually liked it. Her other big solo hit from her second album without the band is squarely in late-'80s diva territory, in which I can't hang.

Year: 1986
Rating: Warm

The Lines You Amend (redux)

Still in m'head.

Last post: 2/14/09
Year: 1996
Rating: Hot!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Help Me, Rhonda by the Beach Boys

Another song that stuck in my head as a result of linking it in my Musical DNA entry. Above you'll find an interesting alternative version and takes with notorious harsh coaching by Beach Boys manager and Brian, Dennis, and Carl's father, Murry Wilson.

Year: 1965
Rating: Warm

Monday, February 23, 2009

Life During Wartime by Talking Heads

Here's a yummy live performance from 1984. Originally released on the album Fear of Music in '79, this really became a quintessential '80s song. It's kind of the most "'80s-sounding" song on the record, actually. The rest of the tracks are more arty and almost prog, which isn't surprising, with Robert Fripp contributing in studio and Adrian Belew on tour.

Year: 1979
Rating: Hot!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Logistical update

Hi all,

Be sure to keep checking back over the next couple days - I'm back-dating a bunch of new entries to catch up with the original list of Songs in My Head that I started on Facebook on February 9, 2009. I want the posting dates to match the actual days those songs were, you know, in my head. Scroll down to see entries dated earlier than the introductory posts on 2/21. I'll be caught up to "real time" pretty quickly, I imagine. I'm sure this post is unnecessary, but I'm anal like that. Hope you're enjoying!

The Book of Love by the Magnetic Fields

In my entry entitled My Musical DNA, I linked to a studio version of this song (set to an old silent film of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk). The above version is from a 2008 show, a tour I got to catch.

The Book of Love has music in it
In fact, that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

It was just a wonderful experience to see them live and stripped down to such spare acoustic accompaniment. For those of you unfamiliar with the Magnetic Fields, their sound is often much more produced and heavily influenced by '80s synth-pop. Here's an example of one of their more synthy songs. They have huge catalog of material, and songs range from old-timey country to ultra-modern, but nearly always with a tinge, or maybe a gash, of irony, arch humor, and melancholia.

Year: 1999
Rating: Hot!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Prune Song by Frank Crumit and Harry DeCosta

An old Camp song based on this tune came into my head, and in researching it online, I discovered that it goes all the way back to 1928, written by Frank Crumit and Harry DeCosta. If you view the song at YouTube you can see the full lyrics - it's a real treat. My favorite verse is:

Prohibition worries us
But prunes don't sit and brood
For no matter how young a prune may be
It's always getting stewed

We ended the song with that last couplet in the version we sang at Camp, but it took several years of singing it throughout my childhood before I figured out that "stewed" was a euphemism for "drunk." Once I put that together, I loved the song even more.

Year: 1928
Rating: Warm (very)

All I Am Is All You're Not by Sloan

This one appears on Sloan's album Parallel Play, released last year. It's a fine tune, though not as memorable as some others on the album. It's a weird one to have in one's head, 'cause the chorus is strong and pedantic, and the verses are almost labyrinthine and hard to keep track of. So mostly I'm just singing in my head, "All I am is all you're not/All you want is all I've got" over and over again. And as Sinead O'Conner has said, "I do not want what I haven't got, so that's all I got.

Year: 2008
Rating: Warm

My Musical DNA

It might be a good idea to own some of my musical biases and influences here. Already, just in the first week of keeping track of the songs in my head, I'm realizing (and not surprised) that growing up as a white, middle class suburban kid in the '70s and '80s is having a big influence on the songs that well up in my consciousness during a given day. I imagine as time goes on, it will become glaringly obvious that the '70s mellow hits burned into my unconscious mind overwhelmingly dominate the daily mental playback loops of opera, hip-hop, and traditional Indonesian Gamelan. Nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest that my brain and indeed my psyche have absorbed an impressive array of musical influences, including, for example, Western classical music, a genre I've never particularly enjoyed nor studied, the composers and composition titles of which I haven't the faintest idea. Be prepared for some surprises, is all I'm sayin'.

Here are some tried-and-true genres that I love, am fascinated with, or am amused and/or plagued by (enjoyment and revulsion are not mutually-exclusive in music appreciation, I've found):

American Radio Pop
I rode in the car a lot with my mom while I was a little tyke, and accordingly, got heavy doses the music she grew up with: traditional pop and jazz-era crooners like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. We also listened to contemporary pop vocalists like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond to name just a couple. This sort of stuff, the music that was ubiquitous on the radio during my kid years, was a big shaper of my musical tastes and set me up for a tremendous amount of nostalgia for all things '70s.

As I started developing my own tastes in music, I first fell in love with The Beach Boys and then by junior high with The Beatles. And as I'm reflecting on my earliest musical inspirations, I have to acknowledge the huge impact that my experience summer after summer at JCC camp had on my musical DNA. Hebrew songs and prayers (though I've never been religious), folk music (Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Carole King) as well as very silly songs about little green frogs and "Little Rabbit Foo-Foo" and even songs in which prunes take on anthropomorphic qualities abound in the farthest reaches of my psyche. And since I continued to come of age in the '80s, I've always got psychic space for anything synthy, new wavy, hairy, or otherwise period-piece.

Classic Rock
I've been to an embarrassing number of Steve Miller and Grateful Dead concerts in my day. Though this is not my current genre of choice, I still have a deep and abiding (while sometimes ironic) love for the Cock Rock, particularly bands named after geographical locations (see Boston and Kansas to get a feel for the geo-rock).

Dyke Music
My college years coincided exactly with the early career path of the Indigo Girls. I was pretty much obsessed, and I think I've seen them live a dozen or more times. Ditto ani difranco. I burned out on both of these acts pretty thoroughly, but I've still got a soft spot in my mental soundtrack for Amy and Emily, and after about a ten-year break from them, saw them live a couple years ago, and they were still fantastic.

Indie/Alternative Rock
During high school and college, I started tapping into the "college radio" phenomenon of the '80s and then the '90s, which has grown to encompass a huge array of subgenres. This is the genre, speaking very broadly, that persists as the music I listen to most actively. I got big into R.E.M., Talking Heads, 10,000 Maniacs, and Elvis Costello, and then through my twenties, Velvet Underground, Smiths, Aimee Mann, Jonathan Richman.

Most recently some of the bands that move me are Magnetic Fields, Mountain Goats, Stereolab, Electrelane (bitchin' women with amazing layered guitar work, sadly disbanded), and any project featuring Spencer Krug. I'll usually be interested in anything that blends clever, melancholy, melodic, lyric-oriented elements, and is influenced by or created within the traditions of folk, post-punk or post-rock, and eighties electronic sounds.

Clearly this hasn't been an exhaustive list of my influences, but it's as fine a start as there can be for now.

What it's About

The Songs in My Head started as a note on my Facebook page and begged to be transformed, as Virginia Woolf might have said, had she known about the internets, into a "blog of its own."

The background is that I wake up nearly every day with a song in my head, or if I don't come into waking consciousness with a melody of some sort, a song will invariably form itself by the time I hit the shower, and I'll either sing it or whistle it or just play it in a repeat-loop in my mind for hours after that. On February 9th, 2009, I started keeping a list of these songs in an ongoing FB note, and on February 15th, I figured "why not start a blog?"

So the premise of this blog is deceptively simple: I will create an entry for every song that pops into my head in the early waking hours, try to find a good visual or audio link to the song, and provide a bit of commentary. In order to make this a tenable task for myself, I will have to disclude the many dozens of other songs that float through my head throughout a given day and keep to posting entries about the songs that either I wake up with or come to mind in the first few hours of cognizance each day. As many of you know, songs in one's head can be very welcome companions, and they can also be incredibly annoying. The Songs in My Head will welcome all, from the hippest and most influential to the schmaltziest tunes imaginable. They're all in there somewhere.

Comments, reactions, associated memories, related song knowledge, and really any kind of friendly participation are all strongly encouraged. You don't need a Blogger account to leave a note.

Thanks for reading, and for singing, whistling, and fist-pumping along.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel

One of my oldest personal favorites from the ubiquitous Billy Joel, and a much more welcome mental soundtrack song than any number of his irritating radio hits (I won't link any examples here, 'cause they're bound to wind up in my head sooner or later anyway.) I love this song because it's one of a handful (along with Allentown from the same album) that reach outside the scope of the commercially-friendly songs about love and simple nostalgia he's famous for.

Year: 1982
Rating: Warm

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ramble On by Led Zeppelin

Ah, the Zep. Many people have very strong opinions about this band, love/hate feelings usually more than just that they're meh (and, by the way, did you know that "meh" is now officially a word?) Not that I wanted intentionally to start a debate about whether Zeppelin's songs are meh, but a good many of them are, at least to me.

Here's my feeling about this band: they were musically excellent—some of their songs are beautiful—and hugely influential, if lyrically a bit too "Middle Earth" for my aesthetic. But the vast majority of bands that patterned themselves after Zeppelin were mediocre hair bands. So thank you, Plant/Paige/Jones/Bonham for rocking hard and leaving a legacy of metal dudes screaming at the top of their lungs trying to mimick Plant's tenor vocal peaks that even he was straining to reach.

Year: 1969
Rating: Warm (no, not meh.)

O.K. with My Decay by Grandaddy

When this song came to mind, I adapted the title to a Facebook status update, telling the world "I'm not really okay with my decay." I proceeded to get a dozen worried wall posts, several emails, and a phone call from friends and family asking me what the hell was wrong.

The words are fatalistic, as life does present us with an unfortunate but firmly rooted fate, and at the same time freeing:

I'm O.K./With my decay
I have no choice/I have no voice
I have no say/On my decay
I have no choice/so I'll rejoice

Year: 2003
Rating: Hot!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let It Be by the Beatles

Whistled in the shower this morning. One of the Beatles' finest, no doubt. I remember my brother-in law G. once said it was "the best song ever written." I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's certainly proven to be one of the most enduring. In my head, at least.

Year: 1970
Rating: Luke Hot

Hey Good Lookin' by Hank Williams

Everybody now, "Hey, Good Lookin' - Whatcha got cookin'? How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?"

I did not realize that this song was written by the venerable Hank Williams. Being the child of the '70s that I am, I'm sure it was a cover version I was most familiar with. When I looked into it, I assumed it was the Jimmy Buffett version, but I guess he didn't record it 'til quite recently. It may have been the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's cover (this performance features Linda Ronstadt - bonus!) but I suspect I know the song just through cultural osmosis of some sort.

Year (original): 1951
Year (Nitty Gritty): 1975
Year (Buffett): 2004
Rating: Warm

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Manic Monday (redux)

Here's the original video, if you wanna see it.

This morning, and often when I'm cycling on this song, there is a part of the melody that segues nicely into "I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray" from Prince's 1999.

Last post: 2/12/09
Year: 1986
Rating: Luke Hot
Noteworthy: Today is Tuesday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Emotion by the Bee Gees with Samantha Sang

This video pretty much speaks for itself. It couldn't be any better unless Samantha Sang were on roller skates with rainbows shooting out of her unicorn horn.

Year: 1977
Rating: Luke Hot

I'm a Lonely Little Petunia (In an Onion Patch) by Arthur Godfrey

This 1940s novelty is not a song you want in your head for very long. It's come into the public consciousness of late because it was featured in a Season Four episode of Six Feet Under, with an Imogen Heap cover over the end credits (a much more palatable version of the song than the one in my head.)

Thanks, Michael! ;)

Year (original): 1946 (?) Rating: Lukewarm
Year (Heap): 2004 Rating: Warm

Do You Believe In Love? by Huey Lewis and the News

Oh, the corny but irresistible power of Huey Lewis & the News. This song was never one I paid much attention to, but it sure is catchy and doo-woppy. I think these guys did a great job being earnest while not taking themselves too seriously. It's not high art, but it's solid pop.

Year: 1982
Rating: Warm

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Wanna Be Loved By You by Marilyn Monroe

This classic American ditty was written by Stothart, Ruby, and Kalmar in 1928. I guess this is an appropriate song for Valentine's Day, though it's not a song, nor a holiday, that I care much for. The melody is snappy, but the words are about as sappy as you can get, and dare I say the message:

I couldn't aspire to anything higher/
Than, filled with desire, to make you my own.

leaves a lot to be desired, particularly for the woman who can't "aspire to anything higher" than snagging her man. Seeing Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag in the background of this clip is pretty great, though. I've never seen Some Like it Hot - is it any good?

Year (original): 1928
Year (Monroe): 1959
Rating: Lukewarm

The Mork and Mindy Theme

OK, why the fuck do I have the Mork and Mindy theme song in my head? (Forward to about 45 seconds into the opening sequence for the main theme music.) It's perfectly lovely, but so random. This is the sort of head-song that's really hard to account for. Did I hear another song somewhere in the ether with a segment of similar notes? Did someone mention Robin Williams in my vicinity, or Pam Dawber in a less-likely scenario? Guess it's best not to over-analyse these things.

Year: 1978
Rating: Warm

We Built This City by Starship

Ugh. This is one of those tunes that makes me cringe and at the same time rubberneckily (you like that word?) nostalgic for my youth in the '80s. As well as nostalgic for Grace Slick and Paul Kantner's youth in the '60s. Be clear that this is a Starship song. No not Jefferson Starship, and not predecessor Jefferson Airplane, but simply Starship. A song written not one, but two shark-jumps away from the band's relevance in the rock canon. The video is pretty hilarious.

Year: 1985
Rating: Lukewarm (cold, with a dash of warming irony.)

The Lines You Amend by Sloan

Sloan is fantastic at writing the catchiest numbers with the most sullen material. This is the cutest song you'll probably ever hear about suicide. "My friends, the lines you amend/Like what's so bad about dying anyway?"

Year: 1996
Rating: Hot!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts

If nothing else, this blog project will help me own how goddamned tickled I get whenever I hear cheesey mellow hits like this absolutely essential one by Seals and Crofts. If I had a nickel for everytime this song came into my head...well, I'd have a grip of nickels, as the youth might say.

Year: 1972
Rating: Hot!

A Campfire Song by 10,000 Maniacs

One of my old favorites from 10,000 Maniacs, I believe Barry put this song on a mix that he, Jen and I listened to a lot in the summer of '93 when we were living in Santa Cruz and fancying ourselves a tiny writers' colony. Natalie Merchant is good listening when you're feeling all righteous and artistic. I really cherish them, but haven't gotten back into listening to them in a long time.

Year: 1987
Rating: Luke Hot
Noteworthy: Guest vocals by Michael Stipe.

Only Time Will Tell by Asia

Ah, this is a song you need to know about if you're to understand anything about my popculture sensibilities and my undying love of these three subgenres of rock:

Bands named after geographical locations, or geo-rock, as I like to call it. It's more a category of bands than a genre unto itself, because Asia's post-progressive and stadium rock haven't much at all to do with the jazzy mellow pop of Chicago and even less to do with the stylish new wave quirkiness of Berlin. But for some reason, place-named bands have flourished in the annals of rock history and in my consciousness.

Prog Rock - a subgenre I know very little about from a musical standpoint, yet I continue to be enthralled with. The telltale signs of prog, in my lay terms, are dramatic melodic changes during a song not commensurate with a conventional refrain or bridge, often an extended flight of keyboard or instrument other than the usual blues-based guitar riff, and epic—almost symphonic—musical and lyrical themes, with complicated layering. See King Crimson and Yes for some examples. True prog rock fans (I'm just a novice) tend to be big-time music geeks with a lot of knowledge of theory, as evidenced by some of the comment threads on these YouTube videos.

Supergroups - Asia is a band formed by members of many other commercially and/or creatively successful bands, in this case, from an amalgam of gold-star prog and art rock bands: John Wetton (vocals, bass, guitar) had worked with Crimson, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep (and loads of other bands); Steve Howe was the guitarist from Yes, Geoff Downes was the keyboardist of the Buggles and briefly with Yes, and Carl Palmer of ELP played drums.

Anyway, dig the totally '80s video, and the cross configuration of the TVs during the singer's martyrish plight.

Now, sure as the sun will cross the sky/This lie is over.

Year: 1982
Rating: Hot!

I'm Into Something Good (redux)

It's floating around my mind again. I wish I knew more than just the chorus.

Last post: 2/9/09

Year: 1964
Rating: Warm

Endicott by Kid Creole and the Coconuts

This song by Kid Creole and the Coconuts is infectiously, annoyingly catchy. It's forever emblazoned in my memory from just one viewing of this video in the '80s. I have no doubt you'll be seeing this song turn up in the blog again.

Year: 1986
Rating: Lukewarm

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Manic Monday by The Bangles

Here's a nice acoustic version for ya, from a session at the House of Blues in 2002. Doesn't Susanna Hoffs look stunning? (She just turned 50 last month.) This song is in my head *a lot* - good thing I like it.

Year: 1986
Rating: Luke Hot
Noteworthy: Today is Thursday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill

Oh, the catchiness and schmaltziness of this song, very indicative of the '70s mellow hits that are constantly on rotation in my mental soundtrack. But though this song is musically so broad that it almost becomes its own Musak version, the lyrics and theme are quite emotionally arresting. Take the opening lines for example:

You ask me if I love you, and I choke on my reply/
I'd rather hurt you honestly than mislead you with a lie.

The song goes on to explore the conflicts that emerge over time in a relationship, as lovers weave between the bliss and terror of real intimacy. So, hats off to you, Dan Hill, wherever you are. You've given us a gem of a pop song, both commercially perfect for its time, and lyrically resonant even now.

Year: 1977
Rating: Warm

I Don't Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats

I've always adored the sound and aesthetic of this specific early punk and emergent new wave period of about 1976 to 1980. The Boomtown Rats, an Irish band with both political and commercial sensibilities, exemplifies this feel. See also The Modern Lovers, Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Knack.

This dark but dramatically humorous song was written by band leader Bob Geldof in response to a San Diego elementary school shooting by 16 year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, who explained the spree by saying "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day."

Anyway, it's in my head 'cause I sang it at karaoke the same day of the Round and Round episode. I did a passable job, I think.

Year: 1979
Rating: Hot!
Noteworthy: Today is a Wednesday.

Panama by Van Halen/Round and Round by Ratt

Couldn't grow up in the '80s without coming across Van Halen, and their smash hit album 1984 was particularly hard to miss. Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing was something special, for sure. Whistled the melody, and the bitchin' solo, in the shower today. I was pretty good.

Year: 1984
Rating: Warm

I had less familiarity with Ratt than VH, but this song was fun back in the day. It had never really entered my mind passed its heyday, but my friend Chris performed it at karaoke a few days ago and it's had some staying power, I guess. Catchy tune but not nearly as musically interesting as Panama, which debuted the same year.

Year: 1984
Rating: Warm

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2 by Neutral Milk Hotel

Not Two-Headed Boy but the reprise at the end of Neutral Milk Hotel's truly great album In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. This song manages to combine eerie uncertainty and graphic images of loss with some sort of comfort, as in sheets warm and wet.

Year: 1998
Rating: Hot!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Picture Book by the Kinks

From the Kinks' great album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, which provides an earnest-and-critical look into bygone genteel English society (an era that arguably never existed in the first place).

"Picture book/Of people with each other/To prove they love each other/A long time ago."

With this indicting lyric, laid over lighthearted "Scooby-doobie-doo" refrains, Picture Book exemplifies the tone of the whole record.

Artist: The Kinks
Year: 1968
Rating: Luke Hot

Land of Confusion by Genesis

Oh, dear readers, if you only knew how many times I've been punished by the infinite-loop that this "we've jumped the shark" Genesis song makes through the corners of my mind. And for some reason, it usually hits me while I'm taking a shower in the morning. Perhaps it has worked its way so deeply into my neural pathways that I will now and forever associate shampooing with the insipid imperatives of Phil Collins's pinnacle-of-the-Cold War anthem.

"This is the world we live in/And these are the hands we're given/Use them and let's start trying/To make it a place worth living in."

Over. And over. And over. Help me Peter Gabriel, you're my only hope.

Year: 1986
Rating (song): Cold
Rating (video): Warm

I'm Into Something Good by Herman's Hermits

This song was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and popularized by the Hermits, but the version in my head is usually the children's chorus from the Langley School Music Project, released in the late '70s and re-released to the public in 2005.

Year: 1964
Rating: Warm

Peg by Steely Dan

This relatively recent live version is pretty good, but of course lacks the crucial Michael McDonald backing vocal. I have an irrational love of Steely Dan, what can I say? They make me feel all warm and fuzzy, even when they're singing about drunk gamblers and letchy cradle-robbers.

Year: 1977
Rating: Luke Hot

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Truckin' by the Grateful Dead

I'm not a big Dead fan in the present, though I did attend a fair number of shows when I was in college in the early '90s. I was a suburban version of hippie, but never went super hard-line (i.e. wore Birks and tie-died shirts; did not cultivate dreadlocks nor wear patchouli oil). I was always amused by the spinners at the shows, and at that time in my life, certainly appreciated the enticing atmosphere for being high. Truckin' is one of those Dead songs that neither thrills me nor annoys me; it's alright.

Year: 1970
Rating: Lukewarm

Sunday, February 1, 2009

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