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, 4/15/2018) Song 403: Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf, written by Rushton Moreve and John Kay. You can find a YouTube video of it here. When this hit came along in the fall of my HS senior year, a few people panned it as an obvious drug reference, and a celebration of hallucinogenics, but to me, it perfectly embodied the spirit of rock and roll that I had come to treasure. The record featured the kind of sound that grabbed me, and the lyrics spoke eloquently about the marvelous ride that the sound would provide as it moved the listener from here to there, going to places near and far, to the stars away from here. Nearly 50 years later, I still feel that fantasy will set you free if you let the sound take you away, and I personally don't need any chemistry to assist in catching the ride, but I also don't condemn those who feel that they do. For me, today, the same as 50 years ago, all I have to do to take that Magic Carpet Ride is to hear the record. All aboard!
(Sunday, 4/8/2018) Song 402: The Part That Repeats by Gregg Cagno, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Seven weeks after my previous personal friend song post, this week the playlist features a clever musical message from my good friend Gregg Cagno about the intersection of songwriting and romance, touching on a subject we both know well, and I would readily echo his thoughts about how The Part That Repeats fits into the picture, both in relationships and in melodic narratives about them. In fact, if you'd like to understand more about the craft of writing a song, you might do well to spend some time studying the lyrics of this tune. While, as the old saying goes, rules are made to be broken, generally, you would start off with a line about love gone bad, and after that, list all the things you've done since she split, and how that makes you feel like shhh . . . Then, after crossing over a short bridge, you would wrap it all up in the third verse, always coming back to The Part That Repeats in the appropriate places. I personally feel his words fill in the whole scene pretty well, but if, after hearing and absorbing the complete track, you still have unanswered questions about these instructions, surely Gregg would gladly fill you in.
(Monday, 4/2/2018) Song 401: Walk This Way by Aerosmith, written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I guess it makes sense to follow up last week's saga about a Steppin' Stone with a musical suggestion about how to walk, and/or where to do so. From at least my HS days a decade earlier, the phrase that became the title of this track had been a standard joke that played on the dual meaning of the term, with comic scenes in TV shows and cartoons that toyed with those three words, so when the record came along, it seemed to have fulfilled some sort of destiny. Aerosmith got a lot of criticism back in the 1970s for sounding too much like Led Zeppelin, and that critique seemed accurate to me at the time, but I truly enjoyed their records anyway. Toys in the Attic got plenty of spins on my turntable, and this particular cut gave me a few clues about how to make certain moves. Maybe, like them, I was a high school loser too, but a little bit later in life, I appreciated it when Aerosmith came along and gave me the word about somethin' I missed.
(Sunday, 3/25/2018) Song 400: (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone by The Monkees, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I heard this cut not long after it appeared as the B-side of I'm a Believer, perhaps courtesy of a friend spinning the 45, although I also might have heard it on the TV show, which I tried to catch whenever possible. Soon enough, a number of friends had copies of More of the Monkees, and thanks to them, I got to enjoy the LP quite a bit, as it quickly became a personal favorite. In particular, I always liked hearing the chorus harmonies on this track, picturing the shifting musical intervals as I listened. Somehow I gained access to the music book for the album, and from studying that manual to play this tune I learned all about the concept of bar chords and got a lot of practice doing those fingerboard moves. It surprised me to learn recently that the band actually did not like the record very much, even though it spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart, also hit #1 in the UK and became the best-selling album of the year. Band member Mike Nesmith told Melody Maker magazine that More of the Monkees was "probably the worst album in the history of the world" but I personally think it deserved the honors it got, I liked it even better than their first 33, and I still prefer it to this day.
(Sunday, 3/18/2018) Song 399: Tom Dooley by The Kingston Trio, which is a traditional song arranged by Dave Guard on this hit. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I actually first heard this single in my 5th grade classroom, as we were learning and doing some folk songs, probably around this time of year, back in 1962. In that era, it didn't impress me, and I felt the lyrics didn't tell the story very well. Over the next couple of years I would hear some other folk music that I liked, but when the Beatles and their fellow British invaders rocked my world in the winter of 1964, my interest in folk music waned, and would not rekindle itself until the turn of the 1970s, when my circle at Northwestern U. widened my listening experience with their LP collections. Still, during that stretch, music fans in my sphere tended to see the Kingston Trio as commercializers of folk music, and therefore generally unworthy of serious consideration. Fast forward to the middle of the 1980s, when flea markets became a good place to buy used albums, and I started to expand my collection, with a bunch of Kingston Trio 33s among the many added to the stash. I soon found that the more of them I got, the more I liked what I heard, including this cut, which sounded a lot better to me than it had a couple of decades earlier. At a certain point, maybe 6 months into my new-found appreciation for the KT, I happened to mention them to my good friend and fellow singer-songwriter Jeff Larson, and I discovered that he had begun collecting their records around the same time I had, developing a similar admiration for them in the process. Whether or not the real life Mr. Dooley died a long time ago by Hangin' from a white oak tree, the record about him still sounds pretty good to me almost 6 decades after 3 guys in a small room put it down on tape.
(Sunday, 3/11/2018) Song 398: If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Around the time this 45 topped the charts 47 years ago, when I headed over to the record store, I could only afford one LP/week, so I asked the clerk if he would recommend Lightfoot's Sit Down Young Stranger or Arlo's Washington County, and when he chose the former, I followed his advice. From the first spin on the turntable it felt like the right choice, and over the next few months, I added a few additional GL albums to my stash, soaking up a lot of his vision, and in the process, teaching myself a bunch of his tunes. That stretch also coincided with a romantic roller-coaster up and down that led to a whole pile of my own songs, including Elder Street's Stormy Winds and At the Crossroads. I recently did lyric videos for both of them, and you can catch those depictions by clicking on the titles. I would credit Bob Dylan and James Taylor as the primary influences on Stormy Winds, but when I wrote At the Crossroads I felt myself channeling Lightfoot, along with the Rolling Stones, and Read My Mind was the Gordon cut on the top of the stack. Interestingly enough, that summer, I met a songwriter in Atlanta who claimed that Lightfoot had stolen Read My Mind from him, and I thought it unlikely, but I won't claim to know for sure. Later, in 1985, my good friend Jeff Larson treated me (and himself) to a Lightfoot show at the Concord Pavilion on 9/12 as a birthday gift, and though from Gordon's sarcastic between-song banter, it seemed like he himself wasn't enjoying the event, Jeff and I had a pretty good time, and I still treasure the memory of that late summer afternoon.