What's my favorite song? That's a tough question, and this playlist is my answer. I don't know that I could ever pick just one song. These are the cuts that I listen to, and that mean something to me. I have lots of memories and stories tied up with them, and I share a portion of those tales on this list. Surely you will recognize some of the tracks here, but probably you'll find some that you don't, and hopefully I can help you discover some good music. You might notice that some numbers are missing, including number 1, and that's because the linked videos are no longer available, so those songs have been removed from the list.
This page only includes a few recent bits. If you'd like to read some older ones, the previous link below will take you to the post before the last one, on my Blogspot runway, which has links to earlier writings. The Master List page has links to all of the playlist Blogspot articles. However, my earliest playlist rambles, before Song 185, only live on this website, since I didn't start posting on Blogspot until February of 2014.
(Sunday, 2/18/2018) Song 395: Toward the Road On the Left by Jim Bruno, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Seven weeks after my last personal friend song post, this week my old San Francisco buddy Jim Bruno appears on this list for the first time. Jim and I both moved to the Bay Area from IL in the summer of 1978, though I don't think he thumbed his way there, which I did, and I arrived from the Chicago area, whereas he had lived further downstate, but we met soon after arriving, and I liked what I heard from him. I persuaded him and his sometime partner Shawn Colvin to make the scene at the Berkeley pizza joint where I had started spending time, and soon enough, they became part of that musical circle that included myself, Bob Nichols and Carol Denney, along with some other talented singer-songwriter types. Last spring, when I decided to put together a Spotify playlist called Me and My Songwriter Friends, I included Jim among the 19 melodic mates that enliven that experience, with this cut being one of the two JB numbers on it. I had only heard it shortly before I added it, but I think it aptly showcases Jim's gifts, and it sounds pretty good to me every time I hear it. You can find that Spotify playlist by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 2/11/2018) Song 394: Without a Word of Warning by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, written by Gary Lewis, Leon Russell and Tommy Snuff Garrett. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I decided to post a Gary Lewis number this week as a roundabout tribute to his father Jerry, who died in August of 2017. I knew very little about the father's comedy, but the son's music made a major impression quite early in my songwriting fixation. As I mention in the Song 303 post (Green Grass), at the point when that 45 teased my ears, along with Monday, Monday and a few other spring 1966 hits, I ceased to even pretend to resist the devil's music. Not long after, I picked up the acoustic guitar my mother gave me and wrote 8 songs in my first week of fretboard obsession. My appreciation for Lewis & crew grew as his discography did, and I added a couple of his singles to my stash, but I didn't have this one, which was evidently the b-side of Save Your Heart for Me. I did get to hear it on a regular basis, though, thanks to its inclusion in a greatest hits LP owned by a family who I spent a lot of time with during my final 2 years of HS. I played pool with all of the 6 siblings in their basement, but it was the eldest daughter (the one my age) who I imagined I heard at night calling me, wanting me and needing me by her side. True to the background music that I treasured, at some point, Without a Word of Warning she tore all my dreams apart.
(Sunday, 2/4/2018) Song 393: Rusty Cage by Soundgarden, written by Chris Cornell. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I added a copy of the A - Sides CD to my collection not long after it came out in late 1997, and it immediately became a regular spinner on the player. Maybe I didn't listen to it every day, but I did have it playing at least every other day for a couple of years. The Rusty Cage that the singer intends to escape could signify a restrictive romantic entanglement or an oppressive employment trap, and I would bet he sketched the scene that way intentionally, giving listeners involved in either situation a good reason to scream along with him. While I've never been outside when it's raining icepicks, I do feel like I have broken out of a Rusty Cage a few times over the years, and I would imagine most listeners feel that way as well, even if they've never been hit with a hand of broken nails. That particular line might make you wonder, though, if there are any surviving photos of Mr. Cornell's partner's hands after a visit to a nail spa that went horribly wrong.
(Sunday, 1/28/2018) Song 392: The Brand New Tennessee Waltz by Jesse Winchester, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. The early 1970s singer-songwriter trend didn't shower Jesse with the kind of attention shown to artists like James Taylor and Jackson Browne, but I liked what I heard from him, so before too long I added his eponymous debut LP to my collection, and that album included this cut. Having grown up listening to Pee Wee King's waltz (see last week's post), this number became its obvious companion, and the new lyrics soon occupied a space in my memory quite close to the original set. Just as the first song became part of a classic country music foundation for me, so too did this one join a small core group of singer-songwriter recordings that informed and influenced my pursuit of the craft. If listening can make you feel like You're literally waltzing on air, you'll probably have a lot of respect for the man who penned the lines, even when he admits that There's no telling who will be there when you dance.
(Sunday, 1/21/2018) Song 391: The Tennessee Waltz by Pee Wee King, written by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I learned this tune well before my first double-digit birthday, thanks to the OH relatives with their extensive country music collection. On our summer visits, they gave me complete access to their LPs and turntable, so I quickly got to know a bunch of country classics. I heard this original record first, and later got acquainted with the Patti Page hit version, liking both of them, though of the two, I still preferred King's recording, not knowing, or caring, that for much of the rest of the world, Patti had far outsold Pee Wee. In those years before The Beatles rocked my world and got me focussed on music with a back beat that you can't lose, this cut existed as part of a core group of about two dozen country tracks that animated my musical spirit. I knew the melodies and all of the words, I would often sing along with the records, and would also sometimes sing them to myself at times when I wasn't close to the LP stack. In addition, they might appear in my dreams, so well before the British Invasion awakened an interest in RnR and songwriting, I already had a country foundation to build on, which included a very catchy dance in 3/4 time that was truly stronger than drink and that offered a warning about what could happen if you let an old friend cut in with your partner.
(Sunday, 1/14/2018) Song 390: Too Much Of Nothing by Peter, Paul and Mary, written by Bob Dylan. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I first encountered this tune a few years after its release, during the height of my Dylan obsession, by hearing tracks from The Basement Tapes on the radio at the point in the early 1970s when they existed only as bootlegs. Bob's version pegged my meter, but I found the PPM record quite pleasing as well, and as the one version of the piece that I could buy at the time, I got to liking it even more when it became a regular spinner on my turntable. Four decades later, the lyrics can apply to the current era when a certain president can walk the streets and boast like most But he wouldn't know a thing (and he clearly doesn't). Many workers, including some who expected the man to save their jobs, have already gotten Too Much Of Nothing from him, and I don't expect that pattern to get better any time soon.
(Sunday, 1/7/2018) Song 389: Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash, written by Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer. You can find a YouTube video of it here. A full week into the new year, following a couple of weeks of brutal cold weather along the East Coast, coupled in some places with a sizable snowfall, this particular question might have occurred to a number of residents in the affected areas. Back in the early 1980s, I generally didn't get that excited by releases from The Clash, but I thought this one justified all of the attention it triggered. That attention continued through a number of reissues for a few years, plus one in 1991, and then the cut had a huge resurgence in 2016 via its inclusion in the Netflix sci-fi drama Stranger Things, so while it may or may not be here 'til the end of time, listeners have for the most part answered the question by having it stick around, evidently because they like the sound of it.
(Sunday, 12/31/2017) Song 388: The Butt Song by The Fast Folk Ensemble, written by John Gorka. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This track seems like a fun way to start out the new year, featuring a live ensemble from 25 years ago. 7 weeks after my last personal friend song post, the performers here include some old friends, 3 of whom - vocalists Wendy Beckerman, Kelly Flint and Richard Julian - have appeared on this list before. I played a role in Fast Folk during this era, though I didn't actually make this particular show in February of 1993, but my name appears on the masthead (under GENERAL STAFF) of the FF 702 print issue that accompanied the CD, as does the moniker of my recording partner David Seitz (under RECORDING ENGINEERS). A friend had told me a few years earlier about watching the writer John Gorka perform this opus, and in describing the lyrics a certain way, he conveyed a sense that the piece didn't impress him, but I suspected that I would like it, and when I got to hear it, within moments it had me smiling. I also found it particularly inspiring because it didn't actually go the way I had pictured from my friend's description, so I ended up crafting the jewel that would eventually shine on The But Single CD a few years later (and this website contains some hidden gems in the form of newsletters about that record, on the Stuff page). If you're curious, you can find the video for my But But But recording by clicking on the title. David Hamburger, who played pedal steel guitar with the Fast Folk Ensemble on The Butt Song, later added his golden tones to As Long as Merle is Still Haggard and you can likewise hear that by clicking on the title. Happy New Year! May the wisdom of 25 years ago bring you a smile today: Some butts wind up as presidents who wish they could be kings. Enjoy! Laughter is the best remedy!
(Sunday, 12/24/2017) Song 387: Leroy The Redneck Reindeer by Joe Diffie, written by Stacey Slate, Joe Diffie and Steve Pippin. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I only recently discovered this cut a couple of years ago, though it dates from the middle of the 1990s, but I find it a highly-entertaining take on the flying reindeer tale, and a welcome alternative to the ever-present repetitive background music you'll get in the stores at this time of the year. Personally, I'd much rather catch Joe blabbing about Leroy leading the pack than Gene crooning about Rudolf, but it hasn't happened yet. Even though that down home party animal Leroy might have made history that night, perhaps not enough people know About that crazy Christmas That the North Pole can't forget. On a side note, this track is a first sly reference to the third (and final) verse of my own song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard. Leaving aside the first 3 references in it, the middle of the third verse begins with the line and would Joe know the Diffie, and you can find the Merle video by clicking on the title.
(Sunday, 12/17/2017) Song 386: Truckin' by the Grateful Dead, written by Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Robert Hunter. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Back in the early 1970s, if you listened to any rock FM radio station long enough, you would surely hear this cut. I picked up on it pretty quickly, though it took me a while to warm up to the rest of American Beauty. The LP did eventually become a regular spinner on my turntable, as I grew to appreciate it more than I had initially, but this closing track remained the highlight of the record. For a while, I struggled to decipher some of the lines, though I soon understood that Houston was too close to New Orleans and that New York had the ways and means. At that point in my life, I was indeed sick of hanging around and really thought I'd like to travel, so I hit the road when I could, though I surely wasn't truckin' nearly as much as this band. On a side note, earlier today I uploaded a new song on YouTube called Wheel - a Reinvention that includes, in the first verse, a sly reference to this classic, which, as I just found out from doing the research tonight, was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure. I sure would like to have my reinvention of the wheel achieve that status someday!
(Monday, 12/11/2017) Song 385: I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline, written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Though this single topped the country charts in August of 1961, I first heard it the following summer, as our family visits to OH relatives changed from yearly trips in the 1950s to even-numbered-year excursions in the 1960s. Aunt Mary and Uncle Dick had an extensive country music stockpile, and during our stays I had total access to it. This track graced a greatest hits collection that soon became a favorite, so that by the time we headed back towards the east, I had it memorized. On our repeat journeys 2, 4, and 6 years later, I often had the LP spinning on the turntable while I sang along. Sadly, I did not know that between the time I first enjoyed this cut and my further enjoyment 2 years later, Patsy had actually literally fallen to pieces in an unfortunate airplane crash, though if I had known that, it would have only increased my appreciation of her recordings. On a side note, the songwriter name Harlan Howard has appeared on this list a couple of times before (Don't Tell Me What to Do by Pam Tillis as Song 210 and Why Not Me by The Judds as Song 287) and will surely appear again, when I get around to posting Johnny Cash's Busted, Buck Owens' Tiger By The Tail and a few others. He earned my respect as a songwriter a long time ago, and the more I learn about his career, the bigger the nod I'd like to give him.