So, I saw on the Entertainment Weekly web-site (why I was there, God only knows) that Stephen King had done a list of his favorite rock and roll songs. It was a good list. I mean, it capped out with the Sex Pistols, and that’s a good way to end any list.
So I says to myself, I says, “Self, why don’t you do one of those lists for both your loyal readers? Won’t that be fun?”
I have no idea how to do it.
It occurred to me that my musical tastes, varied though they be, tend to wander through different phases which affect what I listen to, or what I consider popular. Thus, I have no idea how I’d write a decent “definitive list.”
So instead, I’ll arbitrarily name off some songs that, if I were stranded on a desert island for today only, I wouldn’t mind spending the day listening to. Bear in mind that this list is probably influenced by the fact that Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll hasn’t left my now playing list in three days.
Here we go. My top twelve.
12. John Lee Hooker, “Boom Boom”
Honestly, how can you ever NOT want to listen to that song? It’s one of the best blues songs ever done. And John Lee Hooker is a good person to look to for inspiration as a writer, too. This is the man who said, “I don’t need no three days to record no album.” Go and do thou likewise, the next time you feel the almighty writer angst tickling your throat. Go watch him do it with Van Morrison.
11. Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”
This isn’t their most popular song, nor their most catchy, but the guitars do some truly amazing things, and this early in his career, Ozzy’s voice is full of texture and emotion in a way it lacked, later in life. And the way the guitar suddenly attacks toward the end is just stunning. Here’s a video, but since it’s weird 1970’s stuff, just think of it as enhanced audio.
10: Metallica, “Master of Puppets”
Although really, it could be the whole entire album. You can have an argument with any Metallica fan about what their best CD was (and each argument will end with “they blow goats now”) but for me, it’s always been “…Puppets.” The songs are solid, the writing is powerful, the guitars line up beautifully, you get Cthulu references, and “Orion” was a great instrumental. The song “Master of Puppets” was just brilliant though. They still rock live, long as they steer clear of the new stuff. Which blows goats.
9: Lonestar, “Walking in Memphis”
I know, I know. What the hell’s country doing on this list? And I don’t know. I don’t like country, but I like this song, and I like their particular version of this song which is better than, say, Cher. It’s a good song, and it’s one of those songs that I listen to over and over again and think “there’s a story here.” There probably is. I just don’t know it yet. I like songs that nudge me into thinking that, though. Here’s an Elvis Montage with Lonestar singing. Give it a shot. A final weird detail: whenever I listen to this song, I and my visual mind always see…a rainy, blue-tinted window. I don’t know why.
8: Credence Clearwater Revival, “Down on the Corner.”
This song sounds like a John Lee Hooker party, and I love it. This is another one where you could very nearly put in any song that John Fogerty wrote. The man’s one of the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers we have. The band broke up. The rest of the guys are now Credence Clearwater Resuscitation, or some dumb shit. John Fogerty is still going, all by himself. Guess which one still rocks? You got it. Here’s a video lesson in why, even as rockers, we need to get away from the seventies really fast. A final note: John kind of looks like Harrison Ford, doesn’t he? He Steve Martin. It weirds me out, watching him sing.
7. Cradle of Filth, “Nymphetamine”
I realize I just took a fairly blues-rock list and steered it headlong into heavy metal, but that’s sort of how I am. This is a pretty typical list for me so far. This song is one of CoF’s best and I never get sick of it. The female vocals counterplay wonderfully with the lead singer’s alarming voice. I’ve been a CoF fan for a long time. This isn’t going to change that. Their new CD isn’t as good, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. Here’s the short version of the song, and it’s video. Please watch it, even if it’s not your sort of thing. I think you’ll enjoy it. The lyrics are a good thing to find too. Dark, but it’s poetry.
6. Rufus Wainwright, “Hallelujah”
This is another one of the songs which I listen to and have large parts of my brain saying “This is a story,” over and over again. I haven’t written anything about it yet, and I may never do so, but it always leaves me thinking like a writer. There’s an umpteen million versions of this song by all sorts of people, but I like Rufus’s other songs (“In the Graveyard,” for example) and so I chose him. Plus, he was the first person I heard do it. I first heard it during Shrek, and it caught my attention and distracted me from the movie. Here’s him doing it live, and rather well.
5. Alice Cooper, “Bed of Nails”
Again, this could be the entire “Trash” Album, which is one of my absolute favorites. I’m a big Alice Cooper fan in general. I can listen to this album, or “The Last Temptation” or “Brutal Planet” over and over again and be happy. “Trash,” though is a particular favorite. Here’s a really cheesy video for it. What do you expect? It’s the eighties, which were like the seventies, but with fewer mutton chops.
4. Ozzy Osbourne, “Road to Nowhere”
Another one where it could be the whole album. “No More Tears” is my favorite Ozzy album ever. Aside from fairly perplexing middle-songs like “Zombie Stomp,” which are still catchy, it’s a great CD. But the particular favorite for me is this last song on the album. I think it’s Ozzy’s best, (“Blizzard of Ozz” didn’t catch for me, I like it but this CD’s better) and I’m happy for anything that has Zakk Wylde tearing up a guitar. Here’s the old music video for it.
3. Thea Gilmore, “Mainstream”
This one was tough, in that it could’ve been a half dozen different Thea Gilmore songs. She’s the best British songwriter and rocker that we have right now, and she makes me very happy. Her last CD, Harpo’s Ghost, is great…but I come back to this song, which was one of the first I heard. Failing to find anything about this song online, I give you Thea’s MySpace page, where you can hear some of her stuff from Harpo, all of it good.
2. My Chemical Romance, “Welcome to the Black Parade”
When they released “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,” I was very impressed. I called them — and I stand by this — the current Alice Cooper. They don’t sound anything like Alice, but they embody some of the same things that Alice Cooper did and still does. I was proven dead right when they released their concept album, “Welcome to the Black Parade,” which has crawled up my list as one of the most solid rock albums I’ve heard in ages. It’s wonderful. I could have listed a lot of songs here instead of the title track (I could have done “Teenagers, Famous Last Words, Blood or Mama…”) but I thought this song was a good starting place. Even if you have the good common sense not to listen to Emo music, you should pick this CD up. They’ve gone past that now, they’re just a solid rock band. With this CD, I hear the same story of tone and story that with other songs has made me want to write a story about it. Here, I’m just content to listen. I have no Black Parade stories (well, I do, but I have no desire to write them.) Here’s the video for you.
1. Nightwish, “Ghost Love Score”
This is another song that tickles me as a story. It has since I first heard it. It’s epic and powerful and beautiful and, and, and…Actually, the whole CD (“Once”) is really stunning, and I’m looking forward to their next album, the first single from which we get on May 30th. For this song, I’ve written four different stories, all called “Ghost Love Score,” and with each one, when I go to sell the story, I’ve changed the name to something else. (e.g., I sold “Ghost Love Score” to Coyote Wild and changed the name to “Only Time”). This is because I feel like I still haven’t gotten right. I still haven’t written THE story that belongs to this song. Here’s a video for you.
So. There’s my list. It could be changed tomorrow. I can look at it now and think of what I’ve left off (Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, Coheed & Cambria, Bowling for Soup…) but it’ll do for now.
With the songs that are tickling me as stories, I should mention that it’s not the lyrics in any of those cases (except “Hallelujah”) which keep moving me to stories, it’s just the emotion, the tone, the color of the song which I go for it. If I were just translating lyrics into a short story, that’d be easy. The songs resonate something within the creative parts of my brain, and I’m trying to get them out and written. That’s all.
This week, through midnight on May 31st, I’m in a race against Lori Basiewicz (Birol to you, chum) to see who can get the most written on our respective novels. This is a terrifying race, in that she’s got an iron willpower where I have the willpower of a small floppy fish. Loser buys the winner an interesting variety of tea.
So, this is my last blog until June, while I go write until my fingers fall off. And the reason I’m SAYING that this is my last blog post until then is so that I don’t do what I’m doing now…which is waste writing time (this race has been in progress for two days now) by sitting here writing an ****ing list of songs.
So, now I vanish and stop writing just like