Reminders of the past lists, starting from six years ago and six feet apart.
At the start of November 2015, I decided that a great way to approach the milestone of turning fifty years old would be to count the days down with music. I did so on my Facebook page and thus began a tradition of yearly countdowns. Facebook has since removed the ability to post "notes" so here I am, finding a way around it for anyone who may be interested, since tomorrow I will commence my 55 to 55 - A Countdown To Memorial Day Weekend! As a teaser today, I give you the first countdown from six years ago, my Fifty to Fifty. I hope you enjoy!
Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen) – Day 50
50 days from yesterday I am to turn 50 years old, so to celebrate that I wanted to do a daily countdown of music (individual songs, actual eras, just plain old musicians/artists) because that’s kind of the story of my life, the way I love music: how it moves me, guides me, calms me, and saves me. Many of you will HAYHUH, huh being the songs I post, but that’s ok. And since I don’t have a blog, I’ll use Facebook as my forum. Feel free to comment and enjoy, or not and don’t.
First up, to start off, I begin with Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s a happy song with a catchy tune, and don’t tell me you never caught yourself singing along. It reminds me of a moment in the early nineties, way before CRJ was even born, on a night out when I first laid eyeballs on a particular guy and garnered the cojones to go and say hello. I asked him for a piece of gum, then slipped him my digits on a napkin and said, “so, call me, if you want...” And he did!
The first time I heard this song, it transported me immediately back to that timid boy with the braces, perm and mustache who was slowly breaking out of the closet, and I remembered the guy’s face, and that he smelled really good, too. I remember the feeling of excited accomplishment, of not failing and chalking up another missed opportunity.
So song #50 is Call Me Maybe.
Wonderful (Gary Go) - Day 49
Presenting a great song with great lyrics on those days when you feel less than what you really are. It’s a good song to bring you back to the earth, to plant your feet and tighten that upper lip.
This is Wonderful by Gary Go from 2009. A tough start to the year, promise found toward the end.
If what you’ve lost cannot be found
And the weight of the world weighs you down
No longer with the will to fly
You stop to let it pass you by
Don’t stop to let it pass you by
You’ve got to look yourself in the eye and
Say I am, Say I am, Say I am wonderful
‘Cause we are all miracles wrapped up in chemicals
We are incredible
Love Is A Battlefield (Pat Benatar) - Day 48
In 1983, the year I graduated high school, Pat Benatar exploded onto the video airwaves and all over the radio with Love Is A Battlefield, and I was appropriately blown away. I had already known the power of Benatar’s voice, but this was something new and beyond the ordinary... to me, at least. The lyrics hearken back to a sense of freedom as well as connection to home. Maybe I had yet to connect the dots back then to the reality that I was living in fear in my own home, waiting for the day that I’d be excommunicated, leading me off to wander the world (but not dancing nearly as fabulously in all a tattered, punk-inspired tutu.)
It will always remind me of my dear Maria, without whom I couldn’t have made it through those terrifying high school years lost in the woods.
We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
No promises, no demands
Love is a battlefield
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths) - Day 47
Take me out tonight
where there’s music and there’s people
and they’re young and alive
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, by the Smiths, touched such an integrally personal part of my closeted soul and empowered me to start the process of breaking those doors down; it kind of still does. This is a go-to song for me if I just want to feel a vibe. The helplessness and near hopelessness of Morrissey’s voice, the lullaby of the synths, it all just mixes to become one of my favorite songs in one of the most delicate yet deliberate eras of my life, at the precipice of coming out.
Back in those clandestine days I had met a man with whom I’d meet up and we would drive around Malverne in his car, talking or just sitting in silence. He was married, and I was young and frightened, but somehow on those rare drives we’d help one another to feel connected to something. This song tells my story as if I’d written the lyrics myself.
And in the darkened underpass, I thought
Oh God, my chance has come at last
but then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask
Three minutes into this brilliant song, the melody takes over and I can close my eyes (I still do) and get lost, floating off in the dreamscape of those young Malverne evenings filled with longing and hope.
Kids In America (Kim Wilde)/No More Words (Berlin) - Day 46
If you’re old enough to remember bopping around in your shitty starter car to either of these songs from the best decade of music (fight me if you dare disagree), then maybe you get the same ecstatic feeling I get when I hear them come on the radio. That’s why today it’s a set of songs from two powerhouse females of the eighties, Kim Wilde and Teri Nunn (Berlin).
Kids In America is from 1981, so admittedly I wasn’t doing the driving back then, Karen was. She and I had a ball anytime we would go driving around the Poconos in the Little Brown Chevette. Whether it was parking at the Knob or hitting the drive-thrus in Stroudsburg (“Fuck You, Mrs, Geotz!!!”), we wee allowed to be little freaks and laugh at the world without judgement.
No More Words is from a little later on, and this one is owned by my stink-ho baby Cristine, resplendent in parachute pants and aquanetted hair. It was still a Karen time, but also a Cristine era. We liked to think we were the rebel youth hanging out at a teen dance club in a building that looked like a castle. That’s’ the moments when the line between cousin and friend began to blur; I loved hanging out with her. She was the devil on my shoulder despite being three years younger than me. I envied her irreverence and when I had the chance to, would emulate as best I could.
Tons of songs flood the memory from this era, but these two crunchy, new wave pop monsters rise to the top of the crop. Enjoy!|
Lovesong (The Cure) - Day 45
There’s something about the melody of Lovesong by the Cure that pops. There’s something about the haunting honesty in the voice of lead singer Robert Smith. There’s something about the year 1989, which was pivotal for me and my independence. A love song by a band notorious for moody, melancholy goth songs; Indisputably unheard of.
Here is an example of a song that is, for me, about the vibe, not necessarily the lyrics. It’s such a vibe that it’s been covered many times since, but nothing stands up to the original. I close my eyes and picture Joan Carlini grooving with her eyes jammed shut at the Malibu, not just hearing the song but feeling it. It's an image I hope never to forget.
However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you
Fly me to the moon…
Beautiful Day (U2) - Day 44
The early two-thousands were a definitive and tumultuous time for us as Americans, but they were also unsettling and scary for me as every day forward was another day further apart from my then-partner. We had shared so much and bonded over the worst thing to ever happen to either of us – the death of our ‘sister’ a few years earlier. It was exhausting trying to figure out a way to leave without ending the relationship. Crazy, right? Most people shut it off like a light switch or pull it off like a band-aid; not me. We’d had too much invested; there were too many common family and friends.
Beautiful Day by U2, released at the end of 2000, is a song of celebration and hope for what we can achieve. I was able to relate to the hope, that he and I could salvage all the good parts of what we’d shared and maybe morph it into something else. Looking back, we somehow achieved just that.
And then the terror attacks of 9/11 happened. Our nation was electrified with fear, uncertainty, and sorrow. And this song about a beautiful day, much like that Tuesday in early September, was still all over the airwaves, and it rang through all of us with sounds of hope for what we all can achieve.
Easy (The Commodores) - Day 43
This entry should be very easy. The song, Easy by the Commodores, has all the makings of a pop/R&B classic: Lionel Richie on vocals, a soft seventies groove, and a beautiful, rolling melody.
There is a beautiful electric guitar bridge that makes me swoon, and a chord change near the end. It's a song about just being who you are, that it's just so much easier than pretending to be who others want you to be.
I used to be able to kick the shit out of some karaoke of this song, including Lionel's "EWW!"
PS: This isn't the last you've seen or heard of Lionel on this countdown. I know, DUHR. Like I had to even mention that.
Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley) - Day 42
You'll call it getting Rick-rolled, but whatevs. EVERY time this AMAZING song comes on the radio it gets cranked up and I don't care how gay that is or how much you judge me. That's how Honey Badger I am about loving Never Gonna Give You Up.
He was the king of VH1 at the time when VH1 played music, and I was all about it - a pale white dude with a baby face and the voice of a soul singer? Done. Then you see that video and you realize you could totally have beaten him up in school. But nope, this infectious song stole my damn heart in 1987 and I was hooked, making me a fan of that British ginger for good.
These days Astley has become a meme, but if it were me, I’d be hella-pleased knowing how much influence I’ve had over pop culture. Things Rick Astley will never do:
Give you up.
Let you down.
Make you cry.
Tell a lie.
Now that’s commitment.
We Are Family (Sister Sledge) - Day 41
I would like to take you back to 1979, if I may. There you’ll find K-Tel compilation albums with all the latest songs featured on Casey Kasem's countdown every weekend. Disco fever was still afflicting the nation and I certainly had the infection without any desire for the damn cure. Even in that wood-paneled Pocono Country Place prison to which my parents sentenced me, I still managed to find disco on the radio and lip-sync into a hairbrush to the groove.
We Are Family by Sister Sledge represents, to me, the entirety of the disco sound. Harmonic ladies fronting a bass-driven jaunt through night-life subculture. For the little boy who was just getting popular with the "cool kids" in Lynbrook and was readily slapped in the face with a life-changing culture shock, disco was the solace-inducing music behind my closet doors, and this song was the grand anthem. The rest of 'we' were left behind in the town where I grew up, thus beginning a lifetime of nostalgic longing.
The song also features a golden rule, and it’s a really good one: Have faith in you and the things you do, you won’t go wrong. Smart words, sisters!
Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds) - Day 40
The landmark, ground-breaking movie The Breakfast Club made us all think about into which category we fell in high school. For most of us, these categories were our first foray into social classism and they predetermined how we would develop into adults. The movie helped us see that, deep inside, we’re all just insecure children hoping for the acceptance of our peers and meaningful, lasting friendship.
The theme song to this classic movie is a bulletproof anthem of the need to be acknowledged; mutual acceptance across the board. It solidified my friendship with Jan, turning her from a childhood acquaintance to a dear friend, the sister she is to me today. It reassured my place in the life of my first childhood friend, Linda. It gave me courage to move forward and forge new, lasting friendships with so many others throughout the eighties.
There is a build-up in the bridge at the end that’s palpable. Lead singer Jim Kerr is urging, commanding them to come on, call his name. It’s definitive of the feelings we awkward weirdos all can relate to. And then, success in the form of a million “la’s”!
The Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me is today’s countdown song for all these reasons, but also because the song just kicks fucking ass. You probably turn it up when you hear it on the radio, too. It’s even been made relevant again as a romantic ballad in Pitch Perfect, so what’s not to love?
The Sign (Ace Of Base) - Day 39
Hey, remember in the early nineties when a band out of Sweden, comprised of two girls and two guys, exploded onto the scene and were kind of the second coming version of ABBA? Well I remember it very well, and though I’d had a hard time at first with Ace of Base’s reggae-inspired first hit, All That She Wants, I soon quite literally saw The Sign and it opened up my eyes! Between me and Vincent, we must have played this song hundreds of times each on repeat on our respective cassette players!
If you’re searching for substance, this isn’t the song for you. But if you enjoy the pop bounce and the polish of synth chords, seek no further. I don’t even care if the song has a message; it brings me joy and makes me happy. And more importantly, it instantly brings my Vincent directly to the forefront of my mind; I can smell his cologne (oh, my fucking God, so much cologne!), hear his laugh, see his face. That’s one sign I will never mind seeing.
No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light, where you belong.
Getting Away With It (Electronic) - Day 38
One-part New Order, one-part the Smiths, two-parts Pet Shop Boys. Sounds fucking amazing, right?? Well, that’s Electronic with their gigantic alt-rock track from the dawn of the nineties, Getting Away With It. The first time I’d heard this song was on WDRE, the local station that played the alternative rock I loved so much after WLIR, the other Long Island staple, went defunct. It was my favorite radio station, churning out left of center hits by artists like the Cure and the Cult and all three of those amazing bands named at the top of this entry. Flash forward to present day: I pay for SiriusXM solely because they have a channel called FirstWave which generously plays all this kind of awesome, awe-inspiring music, bringing along radio DJ Larry the Duck to the mix.
It’s no shock I identified with underground, new wave music. Even today, when the mood strikes, I’ll find a playlist of songs from this era and genre, and this song is usually atop the list. It’s not about the lyrics, as it usually isn’t with many of my favorite songs. It’s the melodic joy that makes me close my eyes and sway. Specifically speaking about With Getting Away With It, there’s a beautiful crescendo at the end of the song that transcends anything on current radio.
If all I had to do all day was listen to music like this and close my eyes and sway, my days would be complete.
Lovin’ You (Minnie Riperton) - Day 37
A number one hit on the US charts in 1975, Minnie Riperton’s breakout song, Lovin’ You, may make you cringe from the schmaltzy seventies-vibe and her crazy, high pitched soprano notes, or perhaps the tweeting birds throughout. But I listen to this song and I can close my eyes and imagine being a wide-eyed little boy at West End Elementary School, the kid whose teachers usually agreed was always distracted in the classroom, somewhat of a nuisance. Yep, they were allowed, if not encouraged, to tell parents these things back then. But man, was I cute! Small but loud, full of happiness and innocence.
Minnie was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the success of this song and sadly died in 1979. On a special Mother’s Day episode of Saturday Night Live a few years back, comedian Maya Rudolph spoke about her mother, whose lullaby ballad was the very same I had always loved. It made me love this song even that much more.
Stumblin’ In (Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman) - Day 36
This song might be a little bit of a surprise because it really never propelled the career of singer Suzi Quatro in the direction it should have (in my opinion), but it’s a melodic romp through that late seventies sound that I love so. It climbed to number four on the US charts in 1978 and it hooked me. It’s the kind of song that makes me crank the volume. EVERY time.
The overall feel of this song reminds me of classic Fleetwood Mac, the voices a natural match; Chris has that Rod Stewart rasp and Suzi has a simple honesty the likes of Bonnie Tyler, a sincerity that demands your attention. This was a different time when it was okay to sing about a girl being too young.
As a side note, these old videos from the seventies crack me up with their lack of production value! But that hair though…
Gimme Shelter/Angie (Rolling Stones) - Day 35
The first of the giant rock and roll bands on my countdown, here are the Rolling Stones. We all know they have too many hits to mention and so many songs to just love, but for the purposes of my lifetime, it boils down to two, so this post will be celebrating them both. The first is from the war-torn late sixties, and as with most music from that era it played on the radio well into the seventies until, earning a home as a Classic Rock anthem. Gimme Shelter is just a giant of a song but it’s the vocals of Merry Clayton that give me life, all pure and full of earthly soul. She stole the record. Sad that a song about the atrocities of war is heralded as legend.
My other Stones‘ song, certainly not the lesser of the two, is obviously, Angie. Strip away the metal-pop of signature Rolling Stones music and you get a silent ballad in its most sincere form. It’s the song I always heard in my head anytime my mother was sad; even though it was meant as a love song, for me it represented the need to always be able to lift her up and take away her pain. Even as a little boy, when it played on WGBB in our kitchen in Lynbrook, I was drawn to the emotion of helplessness and longing; strangely, it was the first time it occurred to me that my mother had a name, and it was Angie.
It is impossible to explain the emotions this song makes me feel. I am being as real as possible when I say that it evokes tears every single time. What can I say, I’m a sucker for songs whose titular subject is named after someone I dearly love (see day 13’s entry).
Fast Car (Tracy Chapman) - Day 34
Bleak yet hopeful. Sad and completely beautiful. Sung with a voice like we’d never heard and a chorus that is as optimistic as it is infectious.
So remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast it felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder and
I-I had a feeling that I belonged
I-I had a feeling I could be someone…
Tracy Chapman came from nowhere with this monster song from 1988 that earned her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance as well as Best New Artist. Though I couldn’t relate directly to the words of her song, I gravitated to the power of the music and the haunt of her voice. By far, Fast Car is one of my favorite songs of all time.
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision: leave tonight or live and die this way.
Sunday Morning (Maroon 5) - Day 33
Sexy and melodic: that’s how best to describe Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. The impossibly effortless tenor voice of Adam Levine’s, in my opinion, is what makes him one of the sexiest men alive. It’s like a manly silk. And this song makes me close my eyes (dangerous when I’m driving!) and think about a wonderful stay-in-bed weekend listening to the rain and feeling loved. It’s just an overall feel-good ballad; not much else to it than that.
Otherside (Red Hot Chili Peppers) - Day 32
Flea’s bass, one of the most consistent things in music history; Anthony Keidis’ soulful, nasal voice is like none other, and just the perfect harmony for the rock wonder that is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Another band whose collective music finds a home in my library, it’s hard to narrow down one favorite of theirs, but right after their biggest break-out Under The Bridge, I find myself drawn to the harmonies and rhythmic bass of Otherside from 2000’s Californication.
Part of the reason I love it so much is that it will always remind me of watching my boys Rob and the Phurk jamming out on guitar and drums in their basement in Bath as I observed in indescribable awe. Raw talent, straight off the family tree, hidden in plain sight. It was impossible not to be moved by that. I would go back to that moment in time in a second, knowing my Sis was just a few steps away upstairs, as was my cute little Mom, both probably cringing over the echo of the Phurk’s drums. Love.
Get Closer (Seals & Crofts) - Day 31
To know me is to know I am obsessed with the eighties. But to really know me is to know I am also a dork that is enthralled by the sounds of the seventies, from the pop AM-Radio hits to the disco to the classic rock. Obviously, the music of the seventies represents my childhood from ages five to fourteen, the most formative and developmental. Elementary and Middle School, my mom’s many red-headed hairstyles, holidays at Aunt Annie’s, a park the size of the world and littered by autumn leaves across the street: I have a fondness for it all. Most days I try and remember what a lucky person I am to have had such a dreamy, innocent childhood. Well protected, overbearingly loved.
There are several songs on this countdown from that decade, quite definitive of this genre of music, but this song resonates extra-specially with me. It’s another volume-blaster that inspires my best car-karaoke. Get Closer by Seals & Crofts is the epitome of that early seventies feel that was my childhood. The consistent harmonies and the soft rock melodies are, to me, the sound of love, of joy, of togetherness. And that is precisely what my childhood was.
Rock With You (Michael Jackson) - Day 30
RETRACTED. THIS WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO HBO’S DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE BOYS THIS MONSTER SEXUALLY ABUSED, SO PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE REMOVED THE SONG FROM MY PLAYLIST.
Michael Jackson’s music never really did it for me; I mean, I get it, I really do, but for me there was really only ever one giant amazing song, and it’s Rock With You. It’s that soft disco of the late seventies that I love, but think about it, the song really holds up today. You can hear it on Lite-FM or wherever and it doesn’t sound like elevator music; it’s just got such a great rhythm, and his voice is fluid like silk. I don’t love the beginning lyrics that much (they do sound a little rapey, if you ask me…) but once it gets going and begins to sound like they’re mutually feeling it, I’m hooked. There’s a magic in this song.
One of my favorite lines from any song is in the bridge:
And when the groove is dead and gone, yeah
You know that love survives
So we can rock forever on…
I just love that. I hope this song makes you feel good, too.
Creep (Radiohead) - Day 29
I wish I was special.
You’re so fucking special.
This song, aptly entitled Creep, is a refined mix of soulful rhythm and taunting rock guitar jabs. I remember hearing it for the first time at a house party in Manhattan when I was in my mid-twenties, thinking to myself this is the way music is going. It’s moody and melodramatic the way an obsessed fan might be, and I have had my share of obsessions in my lifetime. It’s an anthem to all the things you wish you could touch but know you’ll never be able to. They’re just.. out.. of reach…. #HandbookOfMissedOpportunities
During the bridge when Thom Yorke breaks into falsetto, there’s so much intensity that you become inescapably glued to the sound.
I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.
How Much I Feel (Ambrosia) - Day 28
Back to the late 1970’s again with a band that had a few moderately successful hits in a time when music was changing drastically. AM Radio was fading away as punk and pop were moving to the forefront, but the harmonies of Ambrosia’s How Much I Feel stick with me to this day, every time I hear it. It’s a brooding song about wishing he still had what he lost, and even though he’s moved on, he still longs. I think we all have a “one that got away” scenario through which we can identify. I refer to mine as he who shall not be named. Some of you know.
The bridge of this song is my absolute favorite, probably of any song at all. I am obsessed with the backing harmonies. They’re sweet and sad and beautiful. Then the go ahead and add the piano and bass? I can’t. Lead vocalist David Pack’s voice is like expressive honey. Put it against those delicious harmonies? Nope, I can’t. I can listen to it on repeat for hours. And I do. And I AM. That’s how much I feel.
Cool Change (Little River Band) - Day 27
Mostly, today’s song is about sailing under a bright full moon, but as a kid back in those early Pocono days, feeling trapped and wounded, this song was about hopeful release, the yearning for freedom in so many ways. This song was on the charts when my only escape was reading about a group of stalwart teenagers from a hundred planets who often boarded their space jet and traversed the stars in the pursuit of galactic peace; I longed to be one of them, right down to their colorful jumpsuits and impossibly tall headquarters that jutted atop the skyline of a 30th century metropolis. I’d look up at the endless stars in my own front yard and close my eyes, pining for the day their space cruiser would come and find me, help me discover my own powers that I’d never known I’d had all along. I’d say goodbye to my sickly poodle and maybe hug my mother harder than ever before, but I’d gladly board that cruiser and speed off to the far-flung future where anything and everything was possible.
Yeah, so none of that is conveyed in the lyrics of this song, but when I hear it, it’s where my mind immediately goes. Every. Time. Walking the halls of the HQ alongside my stocky teammate from Rimbor and his caped, invulnerable Daxamite pal, heading to the mission monitor room where a flirting couple from the planets Xanthu and Naltor are coyly bobbing a verbal spar and not really watching the edges of space on the monitor. I’d overhear a girl’s voice echoing in the hallways, giggling to a teammate as they turn to watch their respective boyfriends amble in the opposite direction. Soon a gust of air would gather and a colorful tunnel would open in mid-air as the teen hero from whom the team was inspired would appear from somewhere in the late 1960s, and the mood would immediately change to that of celebration as everyone’s favorite caped hero had just arrived.
That’s how alone I felt in 1980.
Hello (Lionel Richie) - Day 26
As promised a few days back, today I present Lionel Richie. Basically, the entire album Can’t Slow Down is amazing and classic, but for the sake of narrowing as much as I can, I will talk about my favorite Lionel song, Hello.
The epitome of eighties schmaltz, with one of the most terrible videos to go with, it’s about yearning for someone who sees you but doesn’t really see you. And at the very young age of 17 (and perhaps mentally 15), as I was finally living on campus at college and separate from my parents for the first time ever, I began to experience things I could only imagine in my small, wood-paneled bedroom at home. Here I was with athletic young men in a dorm that smelled like a gym locker room and stale beer: open doors, loud music, bad cologne to cover up the stank. But there was one boy, one very special boy… He was from New Jersey and was incredibly popular, indeed magnetic. His room was at the farthest end of our floor, which meant he had to walk past our room at least 4 times a day to come and go to classes or bangin’ bitches or wherever he roamed. At first it was just a “hey buddy,” until he learned my name, and then it was, “Hey, Nicky-Nick!” The only of the athletic guys to even acknowledge me, let alone call me a silly nickname. I was done. Cooked. Finito. That smile, those shoulders, that hair, the dimple on his chin. Jesus Christ.
And so, I would play Hello on repeat. So many times, my roommate genuinely threatened to smother me with my pillow as I slept. So many times, I’d forget the words to the song and only hear the melody when he’d walk past our door, all shirtless with a football and an open Rolling Rock. I think it was then that I learned the meaning of the word unrequited. To this day I wonder where he ended up. That’s the part of my brain I hope will go first if/when I develop dementia.
Show Me The Way (Peter Frampton) - Day 25
Picture, if you will, driving from Lynbrook, Long Island to Miami, Florida, in a smoke-filled station wagon, 3 howling boys with no seat belts, bouncing from back seat to cargo area without abandon. The year was 1976, and the soundtrack was Frampton Comes Alive. Dazzling with sounds like nothing we’d ever heard before, voice synthesized through guitar. I was on the edge of 10, but my brothers and dad were really into this sound. Wah, wah wah wah wah Waaah, wah wahwah wah WAH wah wah wah….
I can still picture those moments vividly, and every single time I hear Show Me The Way, I am brought back to that simple time in the Marino family history, our first and only road trip. It’s one of the only songs that reminds me of my brothers from a more innocent time. Over the past few years as Carmine was going through all his cancer treatments, I would snap a pic of the radio screen in my car to text it to him in hopes that the reminder of the simpler times would ease his worries, if even for just a while. I guess now it takes on a more sentimental meaning. Queue the tears.
As Long As You Love Me (Backstreet Boys)/You’ll Be In My Heart (Phil Collins) - Day 24
Anyone who knows me knows that the end of 1997 was the most horrific time of my life. It was then that I lost faith in God and watched as two beautiful, small children had to move forward in the world without the most amazing mother I’d ever known. Mary’s death changed so many lives. It affected my own selfish, day-to-day existence. Reality planted my very heavy feet that October day and I knew, through floods of tears, I would never ever see the world the same way again.
In the weeks and months following the loss of Mary, I spent a lot of time with her babies, watching them grow and wonder and try to put their own tiny fingers on what the hell happened. I would cook them grilled cheese sandwiches and open cans of soup, and we’d sit on the couch watching Disney movies hoping to make it all just go away. I would leave the room to go sob in Mary’s yellow kitchen, trying desperately not to let them see me; one time, that I can never forget as long as I have memory, as I sat in the kitchen sulking, little Mike wandered over and peeked his chubby cheeks from the doorway and asked, “Uncle Nicky, why are you crying?” Immediately I dried my face and said, “I’m not crying, Mike, I’m ok.” He ambled into the room, pulled out one of the heavy wood chairs and climbed up onto his knees to rest his elbows on the table. Without words or provocation, he began singing along to the song on the radio. I don’t care who you are, where you’re form, don’t care what you did, as long as you love me. Every single word, clearly, as if he were the littlest Backstreet Boy, never ever taking his eyes away from mine.
In the other room sat the sad little girl without a mommy, watching Tarzan. Little Mike and I went into the living room to join Angela and as soon as we sat beside her, Phil Collins’ You’ll be In My Heart blared and she looked up at me. Oh stop you’re crying, it’ll be alright. Just take my hand, hold it tight. I will protect you from all around you, I will be here, don’t you cry. As I teared up again, she grabbed my hand with her tiny one. A 4 ½ year old was reassuring me with her own strength and love that can never ever be matched or lost. I hope I always have these memories in spite of the reason they developed.
From A Distance (Bette Midler)/Get Here (Oleta Adams) - Day 23
A pair of songs from the early nineties, both of which bring me to my mother and to the hope for peace in the world and the need to tell the people you love that you love them. From A Distance was released during the Gulf War and the Divine Miss M belted out our need for peace already, our need to stop all this senseless shit. Shortly thereafter came Get Here by Oleta Adams, whose unique voice was a harbinger for the desperation of holding the ones you loved as close as possible. This all while I was in the process of finally coming out to my mother and hoping I’d never feel the yearning accompanied by excommunication.
Looking back and hearing these songs today, I celebrate the strength of character my mother had, in the face of what others would think. She loved me no matter what, proving she was one classy broad.
As a post script, one of the final voicemails from my sister (that I have saved if I ever need to hear her beautiful little voice again, thankfully) was that she called just to tell me From A Distance was on and she knew Mommy was there with her, helping her stay strong during her cancer struggle. Insert appropriate and obvious waterworks here.
Reelin’ In The Years/Do It Again (Steely Dan) - Day 22
Finally, we move away from songs that suggest tragedy and loss! In their decades long career, Steely Dan released a decent amount of amazing music, but for me there are 2 giants, and they are Reelin’ In The Years and Do It Again. These are songs that, when they come on the radio, get cranked to maximum and my steering wheel becomes a bongo.
I challenge you to listen to either of these songs and not enjoy them. They don’t necessarily remind me of anything (which, if you’ve been following this blog, most songs do) but they always perk me up and make me feel good, which is the whole point of music, no? Special shout out to Aja, another brilliant jam sesh for the ears and soul.
Save A Prayer (Duran Duran) - Day 21
Let’s talk about Duran Duran, shall we? I mean, at the dawn of the MTV generation, these guys were the shit. In a way, they kind of still are. Pop sensations whose music broke ground, making masterful use of the art of the music video, producing songs that are so memorable that people around the globe can recognize them. Tell me you don’t know at least some of the words to Rio or Hungry Like The Wolf? Don’t lie and say you weren’t a little tickled when H&M used a revamped version of Girls On Film for one of their commercials. This band epitomized eighties pop culture and I am honored to know I got to experience it full-on, right from the start. Even into the nineties with songs like Ordinary World, a song that still holds up today.
Since I can’t choose between Rio an Hungry Like The Wolf, I’ve decided to choose a D-squared ballad that makes me close my eyes and breathe in deeply because I just can’t, anytime I hear it. In a good way.
This is Save A Prayer, and I hope you like it as much as I. It’s not Rio, and it’s not Hungry, but it’s Duran2, so it’s golden. It’s the perfect new wave ballad to pin to the movie soundtrack of your youth.
Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney) - Day 20
Maybe I’m amazed at the way you’re with me all the time.
Maybe I'm afraid of the way I leave you.
I took a lot of things away from my ten years with Frank, but the most was his loyalty to the ones he really deeply loves. To be able to keep someone with whom you shared a bed and vacations and family parties in your life after breaking up is a really hard feat to accomplish, and I was terrified to do it, which is why our relationship lasted so much longer than it should have. But here he is, still here in my life, still always a presence and a friend to me and my loved ones.
When I turned 40, he proved once again his loyalty and kinship by throwing me a very unexpected, very ME surprise party. And we were already officially split at that point for almost 3 years, and he was already with Moosheeta, another surprise in my life as someone who I adore and who adores me.
So yeah, maybe Maybe I’m Amazed is a love song. I know Paul wrote it for the love of his life, Linda. But for me, although it’s a love song, the romance notion is swapped for gratitude to someone who still came around after some really poor behavior on my part, someone who stuck by me through the really shittiest, most awful parts of my life, and even now into the good parts. I’m amazed someone can be that loyal a friend.
Hold The Line (Toto) - Day 19
Much like my post a few days back regarding Duran Duran, a similar thing can be said for rock gods Toto: how can you choose one amazing song when there are so damn many? Love songs and pop smashes, all of which soared the charts in the early eighties. You know that anytime you meet someone named Rosanna, you hear Steve Lukather singing her name in your head. Admit it. And you KNOW you wish you knew about the rains down in Africa. Don’t even play.
Here we have my first favorite by these guys, their late seventies foray into the limelight for a band of guys who otherwise had been studio session players. Hold The Line has amazing guitars and amazing vocals and a catchy hook with the synths. I crank it every single time I hear it. It’s not Africa or Rosanna, but it counts.
Together In Electric Dreams(Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakey) - Day 18
Not the first Vincent song. Won’t be the last.
He LOVED this song, and I loved it too, never even knowing it. It’s from some terrible eighties movie called Electric Dreams (where, subsequently, actress Virginia Madsen got her start). It’s so catchy that you can’t help being pulled in. But here’s the rub: the damn lyrics are eerily apt for how much I miss my best friend, and never knew how bad I’d miss him when we first met and instantly became one another’s lobster.
Because the friendship that you gave
Has taught me to be brave
No matter where I go, I'll never find a better prize
Though you're miles and miles away
I see you every day
I don't have to try
I just close my eyes, I close my eyes
We'll always be together
However far it seems
(Love never ends)
We'll always be together
Together in Electric Dreams
Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol) - Day 17
Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol is an unassuming little ballad from the later aughts, and for me it’s a comfortable, beautiful song about knowing you’ve found the one, yet again.
I met my Woof and he was wounded; fragments of his heart were missing, and it was so hard not to want to rescue someone knowing how empty and broken his heart was. I saw who he was the instant we met. I saw the love and joy and compassion and looking into the eyes that yearned for his children, it was obvious this was a man who was on the brink of hopelessness. I helped bring him back to life, and I knew someday those missing pieces of his heart would be found; and they were. Thing is, he helped bring me back to life too. I was deafened by so many things that I had built barriers and began to shut down and helping him helped me.
This song makes me think of that time in both our lives, discovering we can be happy again, if we just hang on to hope, and to each other. We spoke about whether we had “a song” last year while planning our wedding. If I had to choose one, it would have been this.
I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Let It Be (The Beatles) - Day 16
The Beatles are the biggest rock band in history. Like, world history. They are the standard by which most others gauge their influence, whom most emulate, from whom they borrow, to whom they credit their own successes.
So how do you even choose a favorite Beatles’ song? You don’t, obviously. They created anthems for our time. Ballads to last centuries. I can’t really say anything that has not been said before, so please simply enjoy this song from their last album. I’ll bet you love this one as much as I do.
Let It Be.
When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”
Feels Like The First Time/I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner) - Day 15
In 1977, Foreigner released their self-titled debut album. Talk about an instant classic. Great songs, great memories. Feels Like The First Time is one of my all-time favorite songs ever, by any band, in any era. I would secretly borrow my brother’s album and play it and play it and play it. As much as I was lip-synching Bee Gees and Olivia into hairbrushes in the mirror, I was really singing this one as loud as I could. It has nothing to do with the lyrics, it was just the overall (no pun intended) feel of the song. It’s just that good. I also loved Star Rider, but it doesn’t really hold up now. I liked it as a kid because I was really into the Micronauts and the song made me daydream about being a super-hero in outer space (inner space to any geeks in the know).
Honorable mention, and worth adding to the list, goes to I Want To Know What Love Is from the later part of 1984 when I was that scared, confused college gaytard gay-dreaming while tripping over himself in Driscoll Hall. Lou Gramm’s vocals are so amazing, I really felt like he was speaking what was in my mind. All I’d wanted to was to seriously know what love was. But the sad fact was that I could never admit, not even to myself, the ones from whom I wanted to be shown said love. (Refer back to day 26…)
Flashdance [What A Feeling] (Irene Cara) - Day 14
She’s a scared, talented kid with a gigantic voice. Her voice is so infectious you MUST sing along. You are compelled to sing with Irene Cara when she belts out her disco-pop monster hits Fame and What A Feeling. They’re just all-around feel-good songs.
The films were just as big: Fame being made into a TV series, and Flashdance the epitome of eighties movie stories: young girl lives her life as a gigantic dance montage while she struggles to find what makes her happy, becomes torn between her lover and her true love, dance. Seems corny, but I love it, and I’ll watch it anytime it’s on!
And this damn song.
What a feelin’, being’s believin’. I can have it all, now I’m dancin’ for my life!
And today, my first great-nephew was born! Welcome to the world, Ethan Michael, grandson of my sister Mary! There’s no better a day to sing this song!!!
Smile A Little Smile For Me, Rosemarie(The Flying Machine) - Day 13
This post needs no blog entry, really. Clearly it is dedicated to the most beautiful girl in the world, something I vehemently stated when I was just that bowtied kindergartener. She was my big sister and there was a song on the radio about her! What other kid could say that?
I proudly present to you Smile A Little Smile For Me, Rosemarie. As I prepare to leave the beguiling city of Paris this morning to head back to the States, I think about that beautiful rose-colored sky Chris and I saw on our first night here and am reminded of my sister’s undying loveliness and her infectious, happy laugh. I know she still smiles her little smiles for me, because I still feel her around.
2 days before I turn 50, she would have turned 60. We always celebrated our birthdays together. People used to ask me if I hated having a birthday so close to Christmas, and my answer time and again would be the same: no way, I get to share it with my sister!
I love you, Sis, and boy do I miss you!
It Don’t Matter To Me/Everything I Own (Bread) - Day 12
Bread, with lead singer David Gates whose voice is pure perfection, might be one of the lamest AM Radio bands of the seventies, but as you already know, that shit’s right in my bucket. And anyone who’s ever paid attention to any of my blog or wall posts knows I am obsessed with these two Bread songs, specifically, which is why day 12 has to share 2 – It Don’t Matter To Me and Everything I Own.
The first one is all about letting go of that one most amazing person, allowing him to live his life in the hope that he will find his way back eventually. (PS, he never did, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be, otherwise I’d have never found my Woof!) Tomorrow’s song will be more about the same topic/person, just sung from another amazing singer’s perspective.
The second Bread song is self-explanatory. Because, again, anyone who knows me knows I’d leave it ALL behind to have just moments back with, well, take your pick: Mom. Sis. Vincent…. Anything I own. My life, my heart, my home.
I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston) - Day 11
This one’s gonna be tough. I talk a lot about my loves; it’s hard to think about that one, though. The one that got away, because I pushed him and let him. It was 1990. I was a baby. I didn’t know any better. I made mistakes and in early ‘93, once the door was closed, it was closed.
I remember sitting in my car listening to Whitney belt out her heart-wrenching version of I Will Always Love You and sob. No joke, I literally sobbed like a bitch because I knew what I had ruined. What I had lost and what I would never hold again. It seemed like, that year, there were a plethora of break-up songs: I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me) by Expose, Just For Tonight by Vanessa Williams, Water From The Moon by Celine Dion. But this was the one, and it always will be. I wish I could tell him I was sorry, I AM still sorry.
Honesty/An Innocent Man (Billy Joel) - Day 10
Billy Joel - One of my favorite overall artists of all time. Choose any song from any album between 1976 and 1983 and I will tell you how much I love it the exactly reasons why. I will remember where I was when I first heard it and talk about how I wore down the needle on the record player, creating permanent scratches in the albums. Especially 52nd Street.
That said, since it’s impossible to choose one single Billy Joel song, I will start with two of my stand-outs, Honesty and An Innocent Man. You can pick your own.
Honesty, to me, is a testament to what perfection this man’s smoky, husky voice held. It’s sincere, vulnerable, heart-wrenching, and vivid. If I could be anything at that age when I first played 52nd Street to death, it would to be just a fraction of an amazing singer as this man was/is.
An Innocent Man, title track to Billy’s departure album from the early eighties, is a steady introspection of relationships, and yet all I hear is powerhouse vocals and so much sincerity, so much honesty. See what I did there? When I hear this brilliant song, I imagine the long winter of 1983, walking late at night along the campus paths in search of something I still wasn’t ready to find. My own innocence was the thing keeping me from any chance of self-discovery.
Rock Lobster/Love Shack (B-52’s) - Day 9
The first time I heard Rock Lobster, I think I may have stopped breathing for a full minute. It was the strangest, most amazing cacophony I had ever heard, and I knew it was going to be a piece of music that would change my life. I borrowed a B-52’s album from my cousin, not really knowing it was a permanent borrow, and played it to death. Strobe Light. Planet Claire. Private Idaho. Never had I heard anything like these songs.
Later that decade, when I moved back to Long Island and found the radio station WLIR, I knew I was home. The DJs were spinning the B-52’s and so much other alternative music. I was instantly hooked.
Then came the summer of love, 1989. Living in a sweet apartment in Elmont with Jan & Ellen and then Vinny, living the music of my life, finally being myself for the first time ever. As if on cue: Love Shack. One of the most amazing party songs ever recorded.
Today’s entry is two songs to celebrate Fred, Ricky, Keith, Kate & Cindy! Please enjoy Fred’s seventies porn-fro, some sick dance moves, and look out for that bikini whale! In addition, please note Supermodel of the World, RuPaul, highlighted as a party-goer in the video for Love Shack, baby!
Hotel California/New Kid In Town (The Eagles) - Day 8
People may argue the validity of my next statement, but among the many perfect albums out there, the Eagles’ Hotel California is perhaps THE best. From 1977, one of the most disco-heavy years, came this amazing album with one radio classic after another. Even my parents loved this album, but they each loved the titular song in specific. And honestly, who doesn’t? Can you really say you don’t sing along with Don Henley or jam out your best air guitar at the end? Well, there’s no shame in admitting it. I am a master at the final air guitar in this truly incredible recording. It’s a piece of musical history, a tangible moment in time. Amongst the myriad of songs that are considered the pinnacle of classic rock, from Stairway To Heaven to Let It Be, from Bohemian Rhapsody to Who Are You. Hotel California is my number one.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
Here it comes. The rock instrumental that ends this magnificent triumph of a song. If it were to go on eternally, I truly believe I could live with that. Crank it up.
The second track, New Kid In Town, also holds special meaning for me, since I was relocated to the Poconos at such a young, pivotal, vulnerable age when fitting in was paramount. I had only just found my ground in Lynbrook and there I was, yanked away to a foreign land of trees and rocks and bullies. I went from being the kid everybody loves to the wallflower skulking the hallways in hopes of never being discovered. So why do I love the song? Because it tethers me to the moment in time just before.
Chains of Love/A Little Respect (Erasure) - Day 7
Another double feature by a giant new wave group – here comes Erasure! Song after song after song, each one better than the last. And then came The Innocents, and in a flood of perfection two songs that will ever remain favorites for me and will always bring my Vincent back to me, for they were his as well: Chains of Love and A Little Respect.
I guess when it comes to music and the songs that are dearest to me, it’s impossible not to loop in Vincent. We had so much in common; we used to finish each other’s jokes; we’d each insist of the other to “give me back my brain!” The next few days’ worth of top ten songs are going to reflect my love for my best friend. I call it keeping his memory alive!
Oh, to be that young and finally free to break my own chains. Oh, to relive those days of wide-eyed hope as I stepped foot into a gay bar for the first times ever, never knowing at all what to expect, hearing these two songs as the anthems.
Come to me, cover me, hold me, together we’ll break these chains of love. Don’t give up, no, don’t give up, NO! Together with me and my baby, break the chains of love!
I try to discover a little something to make me sweeter. Oh baby, refrain from breaking my heart. What religion or reason can drive a man to forsake his lover? Don’t you tell me no…
Who Knew? (P!nk) - Day 6
He left us in the summer of 2006. We kind of knew the end was coming but we weren’t about to accept that. No way. We just wanted more time. In his passing, Vincent gave me so much. He brought Lusty back into my life, and with Lusty came Tom and Giovana. They saved me from the brink of my sadness and self-doubt.
Not long after, P!nk released a song called Who Knew. I think I had to shake my head in disbelief when I first heard it because it was as if the lyrics had been written by me. tt was every single word I’d wished I’d had a chance to say to him. And not to have the irony lost one me, the song was from her album entitled I’m Not Dead.
In most respects, I have kept him alive by talking about him and remembering him as often as I can without it flooding my senses, but when he’s not beanstalking me from beyond, I can hear this song and it helps me know he knows, he sees, he remains.
This Time I Know It’s For Real/On The Radio (Donna Summer) - Day 5
She was the Queen of Disco and I was forced to listen to her albums secretly because, by the time I had really discovered her, disco was dead and I was living in the Poconos where Lynyrd Skynyrd was king. Sounds insane, right?
Well, I’m not embarrassed now to say how much I love Donna Summer. She broke so many boundaries and her music is unforgettable. Her sound ruled the late seventies and her soul started the eighties with a huge song of empowerment, She Works Hard For The Money, another of the many songs that bring to mind my number one girl Maria, my life saver during the most tumultuous of times in my youth. Yes indeed, Donna Summer’s catalog was massive Last Dance, Bad Girls, Heaven Knows, Hot Stuff, I Feel Love, MacArthur Park, and on and on and on…
Her comeback song in 1989 is one of the two featured today: This Time I Know It’s For Real. Big shock, another Vinny song. We would hear the opening note and our eyes would lock and bulge out of our heads like cartoons screaming “Ah-wooo-gah!”, and we’d jet for the dance floor at Grand Central, disappearing into the rhythm as it marionetted our bodies. I can only imagine how ill we looked.
Song #2 is my personal favorite – (which was an impossible mission when it comes to Donna Summer songs) - On The Radio. It takes me back to that room in the Poconos, lifting the needle on the turntable every time the song ended just to start it back over. Simpler times, strangely fond memories.
Express Yourself/Crazy For You (Madonna) - Day 4
Imagine being so huge on the entire planet you only need one name? MADONNA.
I can remember vividly the first time I heard of this chick. She was aloof and her sound was bouncy and happy, and she was just what was missing from American pop music since disco had ended. But she was way more than disco, she was edge. In her softness was severity. Amidst that crazy mane of hair was a purposefulness. This bitch knew what she wanted, and she was here to stay whether we liked it or not. She said as much on her memorable debut television appearance on American Bandstand, when asked what her dreams and aspirations were for her future: “To rule the world.”
Like Donna Summer, Billy Joel, the Beatles… how does one choose one favorite Madonna song? I can’t even really choose a favorite album! I have loved her music since day one, have identified with at least six of her songs personally. Her music has been the soundtrack of my adulthood. College, moving away from home, living in my own apartments, becoming seriously involved with boyfriends, deaths in my family, etc. And the hits just kept coming: Holiday, Like A Virgin, Into The Groove, Papa Don’t Preach, Like A Prayer, Vogue, Erotica, Human Nature, Music, Beautiful Stranger… Too many to list.
Today I celebrate her most amazing ballad, Crazy For You. Heard it for the first time as part of a terrible movie called Vision Quest, and it has stuck to me like glue. There she was in all her oversized torn-up-clothing glory, rubber bracelets up her arms, hair in wild tangles, giant dangling cross earrings. But she was singing a ballad, and I felt it.
Today I also celebrate Express Yourself. 1989. I’m redundant with why that summer was the most important, life-changing one of my life, but this song was top of the playlist that year. It’s not about the lyrics with this one as much as it is about the whole package: the beat, the vibe, the wonder. Don’t go for second best, baby, put your love to the test, you know you know you’ve got to…
This blog could go on for day about the affect Madonna has had on me over the years. Instead, I hope you enjoy her as much as I do and I’m sure you have your own connection to her music.
Have You Never Been Mellow/Suddenly (Olivia Newton-John) - Day 3
The voice of an angel. AM Radio’s sweetheart. Olivia Newton-John is MY sweetheart. As a little boy, I recognized the gift she gave us with her voice. Chris and I had an opportunity to meet her a few years back in Westbury after her concert in the round, and I got a chance to tell her the story I’m about to share. I remember being a tiny little Nicky, sitting on the stairs watching my mom do the laundry. Have You Never Been Mellow came on WGBB and my mother started humming along and said to me, “Nicky, this is what an angel sounds like.” I can never forget that moment, etched on my heart and in my memory until I die.
Then I grew up and Olivia’s sound changed a little, but her voice was still as sweet and perfect as always. And in the confines of that room in the Poconos I discovered the soundtrack to Xanadu. And Suddenly, a duet with Cliff Richard, entered the top 10 with continuous radio air play. I think it may have been the most beautiful love song I had ever heard. Though I had no experience with love, I recognized the emotion and the beauty.
As an adult I understand the true gift of Olivia’s voice. Such a rare thing to possess. And now when I listen to these songs, not only am I taken back to wondrous, simpler times, I am immediately calmed. Her music calms this savage wildebeest.
Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Bonnie Tyler) - Day 2
Hormones. Confusion. Sexual awakening. A dark, lonely closet. A Total Eclipse Of The Heart.
It was my first time ever away from home, the first semester of my freshman year of college. I was a scared little boy with a mustache and acne who had been sheltered and frightened into thinking that my true nature was evil and sick. And now I was living in a dormitory with virile, hairy boys. My escapes, as usual, were music and the daily collect calls to New York City to chat with Karen. And her artsy, soulful new boyfriend, Steven.
Now please understand, I had no idea what love was. I thought I knew in those moments when I used to force myself to believe I could love a girl. When I would pray as hard as I could at night for god to take it away and make me normal so I could be a real man. And there were many girls for me to love, and many who I knew loved me. But inside my soul I knew it was wrong, and certainly not fair to them. I don’t even know what I expected as I left home to go to school, but maybe things would change there. And still I prayed at night against my emerging true nature.
One day Karen and Steven sent me a Greyhound bus ticket. I left Scranton and arrived in NYC to be greeted by Karen, Steven, and Robert. And in a flash, it was there: the first ever spark of what was real and true. Steven’s eyes and my eyes had both seen something finally recognizable. It was truly the first time I saw what could be.
Without too many details, let’s just say we became pen pals and he helped me begin the road to my self-discovery. And Total Eclipse was the heart-wrenching soundtrack of that route for Steven and for me. Wherever he is in this mad world, I’m certain my Heathcliff hears this song and thinks about me the way I still think about him. And my forever friend Karen.
Kiss On My List (Daryl Hall & John Oates) – Day 1
My number one song is not my very favorite for any other reason than the way it makes me feel. It’s not about the lyrics, it’s about the melody and the earnest eighties sound. Heavy pounding on the piano, a voice that cuts the air like a hot knife through butter, a rhythm that makes you want to sway, and bouncy harmonies to which you must involuntarily bob your head.
Hall & Oates had so many pop hits in the eighties, but this is the one that turned them from a blue-eyed soul group from Philly to the top ten superstars of pop music. As anyone who knows me know, I tried desperately to steal John Oates’ style, with the caterpillar mustache and permed curls. Between John’s look and Daryl Hall’s icy blue voice, Hall & Oates are the curators of my mid-teen life: angst, blues, and love’s tears. Kiss On My List. This SONG is on my list of the best things in life. If I have accomplished anything, maybe when you hear it in your car or shopping at Kohl’s or wherever it may be, you’ll think of me and smile.
Finale [In The Heights] – Day 0
Of all the music in all the genres from all the time eras, it’s been incredibly difficult to cull down 50 odd songs as favorites. I love music. Music is joy and sorrow, an outlet and a hope chest. Songs represent my mood, my feelings, my opinions, my celebrations.
Most days I am just a confused 12-year-old boy trapped in the skin of a 50-year-old man living in the world. But some days there is clarity and I have it all figured out: I’m here as the recorder of events, the keeper of the memories of those who’ve passed. I remind the rest of us of their joys and triumphs and tragedies. Each one of those passed loved ones has at least one song that brings them right beside me, keeping their vibe strong. My own memories in my very blessed life are also outlined by so many songs, too many to list.
Today as I turn 50 years old on this sad but beautiful green & blue marble, I am drawn to this song, the finale from my favorite Broadway musical In The Heights. The unassuming lead character of the piece realizes, in a moment of lucidity, that it’s his job to be the recorder, the streetlight that illuminates the stories of the people he loves. If not me, who keeps their legacies?
If not for so many people from so many points in my life, I never ever could have come to this spot, this point in my world. A pinnacle of accomplishments, most of which are relationship-based, because what is life without connection, without community? I thank my Woof Christopher for so many things, but mostly for bringing the joy of musical theatre to my life as a necessity, not just a thing to do. I thank my family of friends, way too many to list but I hope you know who you are, for lifting me up and allowing me to burn brightly as the necessary streetlamp at the corner of the street. And I thank my mother Angie and my sisters Mary and Rosemarie for teaching me so much about love: how to do it properly so that your life is fulfilled.
The hydrants are open. Cool breezes blow.