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, 7/5/20) Song 519: Trouble Child by Joni Mitchell, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I had already developed an appreciation of JM's music by the time Court and Spark came along in early 1974, and that LP seemed to add a whole new level to my admiration for her. While I never had any deep attraction to jazz, I thought Joni made a very interesting move in that direction with C&S, adding jazz to the singer-songwriter mix in a unique and captivating way. During the first few spins on the turntable, this track, which appears just before the closer on side 2, soon got my attention. Having grown up in a family where my mother was the Trouble Child, the lines really resonated with me, though at the time, I could not have pictured Ms. Mitchell as referring to herself. I did know that she had hooked up with James Taylor for a while, and I also knew that he had issues with heroin, so I thought perhaps the words pointed towards him, although I also thought it possible that she had a family member similar to mine. I saw my mother go through something like this - They open and close you. Then they talk like they know you. They don't know you. As well-meaning as they might wish to be, They're friends and they're foes too - so sang the Trouble Child about a point where she had been breaking like the waves of Malibu. I referenced this song's lyrical message in chapter 7 of the first edition of Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups, and in the second edition, which I hope to release shortly, I expand on what I learned from Joni and other creative types, both known and unknown, about a particular condition that has plagued this special Trouble Child.
(Sunday, 6/28/20) Song 518: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by The Police, written by Sting. You can find a YouTube video of it here. A few months before this tune hit the airwaves near the end of 1981, I had moved over from a place in Oakland, CA, into a friend's house in Berkeley. During that stretch, I had a romantic obsession with another Berkeley resident, which had begun two years earlier and would continue for about another year, so the lyrics of this hit sounded like an appropriate expression of my own personal emotions at the time. My buddy and new housemate had had his own short-lived affair with the woman who had lit my flame, and when I told him about my feelings for her, he advised me to disregard them, but I did not follow his advice. Back then, I felt like Every little thing she did was magic, Everything she did just turned me on, and my love for her would go on, even though I couldn't exactly identify the mysterious quality that made her so special. Well, about seven years ago, I finally pinpointed the match that lit her charisma (and plenty of others), and when I release the second edition of my book shortly, its subtitle will have an added third term. In the first edition of Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups, I focused on the psychiatric conditions of schizophrenia and depression, but in the updated volume, I also outline a third one which I now see much more clearly - bipolar disorder.
(Sunday, 6/21/20) Song 517: Poison Ivy by The Coasters, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I don't actually recall which version of this tune first came across my radar, and exactly when, but at some point after The Beatles rocked my world during the winter of my 7th grade year, I did get to hear it, and I relished the suggestive message in the playful lyrics. The rendition that enticed my ears could have come from The Dave Clark Five, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann or The Kingsmen (who got their first appearance on this list with song 507 which was Louie, Louie), but regardless of who crafted the one I heard in my HS years, as the 1970s arrived and unrolled, I got to know this original hit, as I did so many other first generation RnR recordings, and I appreciated the musical texture created by the originators. The track does also seem to fit the first week of summer quite well, as I strongly suspect I have some genuine Toxicodendron radicans growing in at least one or two spots on my property. Now most of us know that Measles make you bumpy and mumps'll make you lumpy, and plenty of us learned the hard way that chicken pox'll make you jump and twitch. In addition, The common cold'll fool you, and whoopin' cough will cool ya, But even worse, Poison Ivy, Lawd, will make you itch! In the warmer weather months in the northeastern states, be careful where you step and don't scratch too much.
(Sunday, 6/14/20) Song 516: Hang On Sloopy by The McCoys, written by Wes Farrell and Bert Berns. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This hit came along a little over a year before last week's tune Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron. My parents and grandparents did not approve of the Devil's Music, but they actually liked the Snoopy tune, which did have at least one follow-up 45 not long after its release, so when I saw a package of 10 singles with this record on top, I mistakenly told the folks that the front one was another Snoopy disc. Going along with that incorrect info, they allowed me to buy the box, and they soon regretted their decision, but I made extensive enjoyable use of my purchase. Over the next few years, I would often get used singles from my best friend's younger brother, and I would sneak them into the basement, where my turntable and the singles box resided, while the folks continued to believe that my entire 45 collection had come from that one box of 10, and I never did or said anything to lead them to think otherwise. I would play the newer discs a lot, but this one continued to get plenty of spins as well. If the old folks had ever tried to put my Sloopy down, I would have prevented them, because I was truly in love with the record, and 55 years after it hit the charts, it still sounds really good.
(Sunday, 6/7/20) Song 515: Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron by The Royal Guardsmen, written by Phil Gernhard and Dick Holler. You can find a YouTube video of it here. As a kid, I regularly enjoyed the Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts, including the series that started in the fall of my HS freshman year, in 1965, when Snoopy began fighting the Red Baron (an actual German WW1 historical figure), so when this single came along a year later, it grabbed me the first time it came across the airwaves. I always relished the part where someone does the count off in German (eins, zwei, drei, vier), and the lines about Snoopy asking the Great Pumpkin for a new battle plan made me smile every time. Imagining the cartoon character challenging the famous WW1 flyer to a real dogfight had me laughing as much as the Baron was when he got him in his sight. Decades ago, this 45 went spinning out of sight, but those of us who treasured it never forgot the grins it gave us.
(Sunday, 5/31/20) Song 514: Get Back to Work by Joe Giacoio, 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's entertaining jog comes from my good buddy Joe Giacoio. I first saw his name when he signed onto my mailing list (back in the days before email) following a set I did at a folkie club in The Bronx. I got to meet him not long after that, and we soon became close friends, to the point that when he did his 1997 CD Superman's Midlife Crisis (which features this cut) I actually did some of the photo and layout work for the project, and enjoyed doing so. The lyrics on this track always make me smile, as I treasure the way Joe parodies the tough boss types, pointing his finger at God and the angels, asking them if they have nothing to do but sit around singing. As our society slowly reopens following the pandemic, I wish the workers well, but unfortunately, I expect that far too many of them, if and when they do Get Back to Work, will face the kind of ridiculous behavior that Joe makes fun of in this tune. I'd personally like to see the manager tell the angels they need to earn their wings this year, but the sad reality is that he's more likely to direct his wrath at the ones who can't fly away.
(Sunday, 5/24/20) Song 513: Come As You Are by Nirvana, written by Kurt Cobain. You can find a YouTube video of it here. When Nirvana's second album Nevermind showed up at the end of the summer in 1991, it got a lot of attention, and rightly so, I thought. I particularly liked the sound of this follow-up single (and I also really enjoy the video the band did for the hit, which I saw for the first time today). I had recently decided to feature a Nirvana track in this stretch as I got close to finishing the second edition of my book Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups, having finally had the time to complete the rewrite. The paperback focuses on my step-by-step understanding of psychiatric disorders, and about 2/3 of the way along that journey, the unfolding tragedy of Mr. Cobain's bipolar trauma, which led him to commit suicide, played a major role in putting together the puzzle for me. At the time that he killed himself, I had no comprehension, or respect, for the suffering that motivated him to pull the trigger, but a few years after, The Sock Drawer Moment (chapter 14) happened, and the necessary pieces fell into place. As I mention in the following chapter, I later said to a psychiatrist that Kurt sacrificed his life for the sake of his art, and the doctor replied, "Yes, he did!" I now have a lot more regard for the man than I did when he ended his life, and while it does sound ironic to hear him sing I don't have a gun, I certainly can venerate him for turning an old enemy into a friend, as the lyrics of this cut picture him doing.
(Sunday, 5/17/20) Song 512: Traffic Jam by James Taylor, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I had become a major JT fan during the summer of 1970 when I introduced my fellow camp counselors to Sweet Baby James, which fascinated them as much as me, to the point where that LP hit the turntable almost every day, in the months before Fire and Rain hit the charts. Seven years later, when Mr. Taylor released an album called JT, it had a few tracks that immediately grabbed my attention, including this one that appears just before the record's closer. Living in the Chicago area at the time, I all-too-often had also found myself in a situation where I could have given voice to the phrase Damn this traffic jam! Getting to know the cut, I felt most impressed with the couplet at the end, which expresses a perceptive view of the foundational dilemma on the road ahead: I used to think that I was cool running around on fossil fuel until I saw what I was doing was riding down the road to ruin. Now, a little over 4 decades later, a large proportion of our human comrades recognize what he, and I, did back then. Of course, with the current pandemic lockdowns, we have a lot fewer traffic jams, and a lot cleaner air across the globe, but as we gradually return to normalcy, our fossil fuel challenges will return as well. However, if you drive an EV, or a hybrid, getting stuck in a traffic jam won't hurt your motor, won't create any pollution, and usually won't waste any power, even if it takes fifteen minutes to go three blocks.
(Sunday, 5/10/20) Song 511: Long Tall Sally by Little Richard, written by Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell and Richard Penniman. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This particular lanky woman appears on the playlist today as a way to honor Little Richard, who sadly just passed away, but who did make it well past his 87th birthday. I first met this female incarnation via The Beatles, and I certainly enjoyed getting to know her. When the Fab Four rocked my world back in the winter of my seventh grade, I wrongly believed that they and their fellow British Invaders had created RnR, but I finally started digging deeper into the real story around the turn of the 1970s, when I arrived at college and got a subscription to Rolling Stone that began filling in the blanks for me, as did a 1950s revival that also happened on the radio during the same era. I soon came to appreciate the role that shouters like Little Richard had played in laying the groundwork for the music that had grabbed me, and I often concluded, with cuts like this one, that if I had heard the original versions, I would probably have become a fan of that pioneering bunch even before a certain February 1964 Ed Sullivan Show. In spite of the rough current unfolding reality that can make things feel all wrong, I urge folks to have some fun tonight listening to this track, and when you do, let it make you feel like everything's all right.
(Monday, 5/4/20) Song 510: Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, written by Neil Young. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Today being the 50th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre, it seemed like an appropriate moment to feature the stirring opus that Mr. Young wrote about the horrific incident. I had to do the post a day late this week due to a minor sickness that kept me in bed yesterday, but maybe that actually turns out to be a good thing. During my freshman year at NU, I joined a mass demonstration protesting the Nixon/Kissinger bombing campaign of Cambodia which would end up killing millions of innocent civilians. That day, a similar protest happened at Kent State, and there, national guard soldiers fired at the crowd, killing 4 students. On hearing the news about the shooting, we at NU had a bigger and louder follow-up mass demonstration, as did many other campuses across the country. When summer rolled around, I spent a good portion of it working as a counselor and music teacher at a music and art summer camp near Camptown, PA, where I heard no news whatsoever about the rest of the world, so I missed the release of this amazing hit. However, not long after I returned to Evanston, IL, at the end of the summer, I did get to hear it, and it gave me chills the first time around because it painted such a clear and compelling picture of what happened in May in Ohio. On a side note, at our protest on 5/4, someone approached me with a petition to have Nixon impeached, and I reacted by saying, "But if he got removed, then we'd have Agnew as president!" Given that reality, I couldn't sign the paper, no matter how much I might have agreed with its POV.