The Music Listography refresh is back with the 3rd List that I labeled “You Are Home” the first time around. Lists are fun, especially Music ones, and they tend to evolve over time. Some Favorites change, and others stick around forever, so every time I refresh this list it’s a little bit different. And, it is always blissful to revisit my Favorite Music.
These are tough though. As a Music Obsessive, I always have more than 20 Favorites. But, these are the rules, and these Lists can always be revisited.
If you decide to play too and make your own let me know in the comments where to find them. I’d love to see your answers to these lists, too.
courtesy of Music Listography : Your Life In (Play)Lists
List Your Top Twenty Songs
“You Are Home”
1. “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen
“Famous Blue Raincoat” is without a doubt my all-time favorite song. The way I feel about it is almost indescribable. Every time I listen to it I hear something new in the sounds, the lyrics, the story, the subtext, and within my own history with the song.
I still remember – vividly – the first time I heard it, and how I kept playing it, over and over again.
This Song reads in some ways like a goodbye, like a “Dear John” letter, or in this case, a “Dear Jane”. What do you think Jane’s letter would say if she wrote one? What is her side of the story? I’ve always wanted to know what regards Jane would actually send.
2. “Heroes” by David Bowie
The first time I heard this Song I fell in love with it. It stuck with me from that first listen and is still in me today. My first car had a stereo with a tape player in it. I carried many Albums on Cassette and many Mixtapes. One mix, in particular, I vividly remember. It had this Song as its “Headliner”.
I would drive around with “Heroes” turned up high and craft a mini-movie in my head to the Song. A story grew out of these imaginings, one I wish I’d gotten around to writing down.
This Song always reminds me of every unrequited or impossible love I’ve ever had in my life.
3. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” by Elton John
I grew up loving Elton John’s Music. It was one of my go-to’s out of my Mother’s Record collection. I didn’t know my Father, but I remembered overhearing that he loved Elton John, so somewhere in my young heart I thought that listening to Elton connected me somehow to my absent Father.
Eventually, I met my Father and the illusion of who he was, and who he could be, was shattered. But, I still loved Elton’s Music. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was always my favorite, ever since those childhood days with borrowed Albums. As an adult I still love it. It reminds me of realizing the love you have in your life, and the gratitude you feel about them.
4. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” by The Beatles
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” reminds me of being small, and of how the world seemed so vast and enormous back then, so full of mystery. Some afternoons I would sit cross-legged on the floor with those over-sized headphones on. The twisted and looping cord was too short to allow much space so I would move in close to the stereo, nearly leaning into the left speaker. My eyes would close and my mind drifts off, my Mother’s perfume lingering in the air. I can picture her cooking in the kitchen, her hair long and straight and tight back tightly, her voice lilting with song and laughter.
This Song also reminds me of love. In those early moments when you first fall for another person, when you hear their stories for the first time, the ones they carefully select to share. The first time they let you into their home, how everything around you – from the emanating smells of coffee beans and bath soaps blending together, to the choices of what hangs on their walls, to the books on their shelves, or stacked up haphazardly in the corner of the front room – becomes part of how you will define them. You are invited to stay and your hands shake at your side in nervous anticipation, and imaginative wonder.
5. “Strange Condition” by Pete Yorn
“Coffee and cigarettes”, and the conversations that come in-between the exhale and the inhale. The flicks of ash into a Thrift Store ashtray and your slightly crooked smile flashing as our eyes look quickly away. These are the moments that imprint themselves deep beneath the skin.
These are the things of memories, and part of why I love “Strange Condition” so much.
My very first post on this Blog, in 2011, was about this Song.
6. “Northern Lad” by Tori Amos
There are break-up songs, and then there are songs that fit in that space of “you know it’s time to break-up but you’re not sure how to”, and “Northern Lad” fits into that latter category perfectly.
It’s a tough place to be in, that overwhelming sense of unhappiness and restlessness, mixed up with the guilt and fear of actually going. This is a song that has been so hard for me to hear at certain times in my life, but also a song that’s saved me, inspired me, and given me strength.
7. “Back On the Chain Gang” by Pretenders
This one is so full of memories.
“Back On the Chain Gang”. My first Favorite Pretenders Song back when I was in High School. I taped it off the Radio and memorized the Lyrics, then I taped the Video off of MTV. I loved that Chrissie had a deep female Voice too, like mine.
Years later it would be a catalyst to a Love Story, one that was ill-fated, but beautiful nonetheless.
8. “Lua” by Bright Eyes
Sometimes I think that this Song was taken from pages of my journals, the ones I kept when I was 20 years old.
The first time I heard “Lua” took me apart. I remember having to pull the car over to the side of the road and remind myself to breathe. Years before, in my first step into my twenties, I had been so much like this song, so much so that tears were streaming down my face on that side of the road, while Conor Oberst’s fragile voice trilled out over the strum of his acoustic guitar.
There is so much beauty in this Song and so much desperation. There’s a particular kind of loneliness that you only recognize when you have spent nights out far too late in smoke-filled clubs, pressing up against strangers in stairwells and dance floors, and making excuses to disappear into the bathroom with chemicals tucked in your purse.
It has been years past since I was that girl, but I still recognize her. I will always recognize her. I still have her heavy heart beating inside my chest.
9. “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac
“Gold Dust Woman” became my Favorite Song from Rumours around my twenties and has remained so through the years.
It is my go-to Fleetwood Mac song for whenever I am feeling emotionally raw or need that kind of electrical current boost that only music gives to me.
There are moments in our lives, crossroads in our path, that when we reach them we know we need to cross, to change, and sometimes leave. Other times, the road ahead is twisted and full of blind curves. Every step we take we feel blindfolded and spun in circles dizzy. We grasp at things to tether us to our reality. We hold tight to those we’ve chosen to be in our lives. We anchor ourselves to love.
We build an illusion. We create our own kingdom. We scratch out a story in the dirt, hoping it sticks, even when the forecast is for high winds and rain.
In this self-chained existence, we rarely see the signposts ahead, and we rarely recognize when it is time to hit the road and go.
10. “Starlite Diner” by Ryan Adams
The first time I heard this song I was in Chicago and a story wrote itself in my mind. That story has never left me, and it may someday expand into something more, something I may just write it to life.
“Starlite Diner” is one of those “forever me” songs, truths of myself lodged deep inside these melodies and lyrics, tucked deep inside my love for the Song itself, and the memories it stirs up.
It also caters to my love of diners, the 24-hour kind with pie slices in a rotating case, neverending cups of coffee, and breakfast specials in the middle of the night.
11. “Tangled Up In Blue” (Bootleg Version) by Bob Dylan
As I compile this list and write about the Songs I’ve chosen, I notice a pattern of Stories told in Song. Perhaps it is the writer in me that is drawn to a good Story. I don’t know for certain. What I do know is that it’s the Stories that leave details out, teasing the imagination to fill in the blanks, or take the characters further, that draw me in the most.
And, of course, I’m drawn to Stories in Song that I can relate to. “Blue”, if that is her name, is someone I can relate to in parts of “Tangled Up In Blue”, as well as the idea of being tangled up in another person, so much so that you keep finding your way back to each other.
I want to know more. Sometimes I listen and start writing more in my head. Sometimes I can see “Blue” and the “Narrator” so vividly I feel like I know them. Sometimes each one is me, for a moment.
Music is such magic.
12. “You Said Something” by PJ Harvey
Talk about a Story with pieces left out for the imagination to fill in. What was the “something” that was said? Funny, you don’t have to know to feel it. I listen to “You Said Something” and feel it so strongly that it runs like a current through me.
The Song hits me at a visceral level every single time I hear it. When I press play I feel like I’m in the song, at that moment, even if I’ve never been to New York, and even if I have no real idea what that “something” is that was said. I still feel it. Don’t you?
It rattles memories of moments I’ve had, at one in the morning, of conversations that will never be forgotten.
Have you ever noticed the immense power of words? How something can be said, even in just a few syllables, in person, in a letter, typed, written, whispered, bled, and everything changes. Or maybe everything stays just the same. We go on, or not, but those words, no matter how you try to set them free, they live in the deep folds of your skin, in the taste of late night, within the wallpaper of your soul.
13. “Jeepster” by T-Rex
For me, my introduction to Marc Bolan and T.Rex came via Duran Duran, and one of the off-shoots some of the members did with Power Station. Power Station’s Cover Version of T.Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” got my attention, and as with most of my Music Discoveries, had me digging for more. Paired up with my Love of David Bowie, my love affair with Glam Rock Music began.
Later, in the very late 80’s and early 90’s, I frequented a variety of Underground Clubs in Hollywood, one of them being Sunday Night’s Club 1970. My love of Marc and T.Rex and all things Glam grew exponentially and has stuck with me through the years.
“Jeepster” is my Favorite by far. Every time it would play at 1970 I’d rush to the dancefloor, no matter what. It became synonymous with me at the time, so much so that a short-lived boyfriend at the time wrote some of the lyrics down on the fogged up back window of my car.
How I’d love to go back in time and be able to see T. Rex play live!
14. “Lonely In Your Nightmare” by Duran Duran
I wrote an essay of sorts, this week, on what Duran Duran meant to me. I won’t repeat it here.
Though I’ve had many Favorites, and have so many memories to so many of their Songs, its this one that I always go to first when I want to listen to their Music. There’s something about it that resonates with who I was when I first heard it. Troubled girl with secrets and scars who had terrible nightmares all the time. “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, and the sentiment of being lonely in nightmares and having someone want to be let in was comforting and hopeful. If nothing else, I let the Song in. It was my “homing angel”.
15. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'” by The Velvet Underground
I first heard “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'” in the film Away We Go. From the first listen, and the experience of taking it in with the film, I loved it. When I hit play, as soon as the Song starts up, I feel good. It has this overwhelming soothing effect on me, like cool water on a hot Summer day, or that first hot cup of coffee. It gets me in ways I can’t quite explain.
I’m pretty sure I’d heard the song before I saw Away We Go, but it wasn’t until this film that it hit me so deeply. That last scene encapsulates so much of what love is, in all the hope and wistfulness and uncertainty and risk, and those moments of bliss.
The ending feels like a beginning, and this song feels like both, a stop and a start to the story. I’m glad I could take the song with me afterward.
16. “Angeles” by Elliott Smith
“Angeles” is a ballad to the city of Los Angeles that I know and love and hate at differing times, and with differing amounts of emotion. This is the lens that I see this city through, my city, with all its marks and scars and memories. I hold them close to me, along with all the struggles and stumbles and joys and love that I’ve succumbed to, fell into, lived through, and survived.
Once upon a time the darkness I exuded fit well on the streets of Los Angeles. Sometimes it felt hard to regain light there though. So, I found myself desperately longing to fly away, to escape, to leave.
And, I have left. But here’s the thing, I’ve always come back.
I’ve had a torrid love affair with Los Angeles since I was 19 years old. We’ve had the kind of tumultuous tangles that any infamous Hollywood marriage endures, with stops and starts, screaming infidelities, tearful goodbye’s, and the eventual “, yes, I will take you back again” returns.
That said, another part of me feels like a grown-up child of Los Angeles. Growing up with the city, and in spite of it.
The conflicting imagery of lover and child, like some kind of virgin/whore push-and-pull dichotomy, matched up with the love and the hate I’ve felt about this city, and within its borders. I have visible and invisible scars that will be with me forever, scars that I’ve accumulated in some of her dark corners and alleyways. I’ve had kisses in stairwells and on the opposite side of “no trespassing” signs. I’ve watched the sunrise from atop train tunnels. And, I’ve lost a significant part of me on what could seem like an innocuous residential side street.
I drive by it most mornings on my way to work. Some mornings I swear I can see my shadow dancing circles on the sidewalks.
17. “Death On The Stairs” by The Libertines
The early aughts brought on a shift in my style of music that I found myself getting into, all starting with a mix CD that introduced me to a number of new bands, including one that stood out from the rest, and threw me into a tailspin of love/obsession, The Libertines. Everything about their music turned me on big time; the intelligent and clever lyrics, the punk-infused/garage-rock sensibilities, the addictive melodies and guitar riffs, and the chemistry that all four of the band members had with each other, most especially co-frontmen, Carl Barât and Pete Doherty.
Relationships were forged through a shared love of their music, as well as the rebirth of enthusiasm for music that had quelled some since my younger years. Their songs ignited my passions, fueled my dreams and lit a fire in my own writing. Of course, there were emotional consequences to loving this band, as they were fraught with troubles which led to a split after only two albums. Sometimes it was heartbreaking to love this band, but that is the price of love at times, and in the end, it was best to keep holding on, as new music is on the horizon, a fantastic single is already out there, and a new album is just around the bend. As the band is known to say, the Albion sails on.
“Death On the Stairs” was my first Favorite of theirs, and will always live in my “way more than 20” list of Favorite Songs.
18. “You Could Make a Killing” by Aimee Mann
I am quite sure I have written about “You Could Make a Killing” at least a dozen times. My love for this song never lessens, and I believe it never will. It caught hold of me when I first heard it back at the end of the 90’s and has never let go of me since.
It is one of my lifetime soundtrack songs.
“If it doesn’t kill you it’ll make you stronger” was something my Grandmother used to say all the time, that and “Follow your bliss”. They were both her life mantras, and her insistence (and persistence) in passing them on to me worked – they both are super-glued into my psyche, for good.
Forty-nine years in this world, and every day I wake up and try to find my bliss so that I can shadow it, tail it, and eventually catch-up to it and make it my own.
And the killing me, or making me stronger part? I like to joke that I have super-powers, that I’m some kind of post-modern Wonder Woman, but that’s all part and parcel of that mantra, as well. It’s my way of surviving. It’s my bullets for my gun. I try to not let anything crush me enough to make me weak and helpless. Instead, I try to breathe and keep my head up and wake up stronger.
Growing up too fast and too soon leaves indelible marks. Scars stay just beneath the surface where only a trained eye can see. But all of it, well, it made me stronger.
Stronger, but often older than my years, though often wishing I was a little weaker, a little younger, a little more naive. This Song makes me think of all of this. Often.
19. “Slave to Love” by Bryan Ferry
“Slave to Love” starts to play and I feel a rush of emotions wash over me. It happens every time I hear it. It is forever in my collection of “Favorite Songs” (that are far beyond just 20 Favorites) because of just that – how it makes me feel.
It’s one of those Songs that demands I listen. No matter what I’m doing, no matter what stresses or thoughts are in my head, and no matter where I am when this Song starts up I have to pay attention.
Sometimes I think its because of the Film 9 1/2 Weeks that I love this Song so much. The Film, at the time I saw it, impacted me in big ways. It isn’t the best Film out there, by any stretch of the imagination, and one could dissect the plot, the problems with the subject matter, and the characterizations. But, for me, the Movie opened up a sexuality in me that had been locked away due to childhood trauma, and it also made me fall in love with both New York (or my idea of it) and, of course, Mickey Rourke. Oh, and the Music? Every single Song worked perfectly in the Film, and the Soundtrack – both in Album form and collected to include the Songs that didn’t make it to Vinyl, became some of my all-time Favorites. Especially Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love”.
I think the Song appeals to me on a personal level, as well. I’ve often said that I fall in love too easily, that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that I let love, or the idea of it, overtake me and swallow me whole. Is love an addiction of mine? Am I it’s willing slave? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Or all of the above, and everything in-between? I may spend my entire life wondering, and never figure it out.
One of my Favorite Lyrics from the Song speaks to just that:
“We’re too young to reason,
too grown up to dream.”
20. “Wild Wood” by Paul Weller
The first time I fell in love with “Wild Wood” was when I watched the U.K. Television Series, “My Mad Fat Diary”. The second time I fell in love with this Song was about a year and a half ago when I met my wonderful boyfriend and discovered/rediscovered the Music of Paul Weller.
I got to hear Paul play this last year when I saw him for the first time live at the Wiltern.
I know it’s not a “love song”, but to me, it is just that.
My Top 20 Songs
- about the songs Aimee Mann Bob Dylan Bright Eyes Bryan Ferry David Bowie Duran Duran Elliott Smith Elton John Fleetwood Mac Leonard Cohen Listography Music Listography MusicListography My Top 20 Paul Weller Pete Yorn PJ Harvey Pretenders Ryan Adams songs T-Rex The Beatles The LIbertines The Velvet Underground Top 20 Tori Amos