So Many Na na nas

In Which the Scribbler Rebuilds the Soundtrack to His Life

My Cricket account had something called ‘Muve Music’, which was basically free music you could download to your phone, and I gradually collected a pretty good selection of songs. Cricket’s switching to something called ‘Deezer’ now, which is basically the same thing for a six-dollar-a-month fee, which shows a couple of things: first, that Cricket has some idiots in their ‘name our shit’ department, and second, that I’m one of those consumers that will pay for stuff I previously got for free, so long as I got a taste for it. Cocaine dealers have used the same business model with some success for quite some time.

So I’m in the process of putting together a new collection. If you’re a certain type of person, you might think this would be a frustrating endeavor. If you’re MY type of person, you’re rubbing your hands together gleefully. I love making lists, and every opportunity I get to start a new ‘best of’ list is a little like Christmas. And I want to share the joy with those of you with like minds, so I’m going to give you a running commentary on how I’m choosing which songs to download as I download them.

My first pick for the new playlist is, of course, Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It’s pretty much the perfect song. It’s romantic, it’s soulful, it’s got that nice slow beat. Stephen Stills on guitar, Donald “Duck” Dunn (of BLUES BROTHERS fame) on bass, twenty-five repetitions of “I know”…what more could you want from a song? It makes me smile and nod my head while it’s on.

If you’re gonna put “Aint’ No Sunshine” on there, you gotta follow up with “Son of a Preacher Man”, by Dusty Springfield. The song was written for Aretha Franklin, who didn’t particularly like it. She realized her error later on, but by that time Ms. Springfield had nailed the thing, and it’s another one of those songs that everyone loves; romantic, soulful, that nice slow beat, etc…

So I get those two songs out of the way. Time for something a bit more modern. And what’s the best band ever? Talking Heads, of course. You can have your Stones and Beatles and Ramones (and I’ll have them too, because they’re all incredible), but note-for-note, I’ve always considered the Heads the most listenable band of all time. Never heard a bad song by them. Their stage shows, from CBGB to cavernous basketball arenas, are legendary. Their lyrics are sheer genius, their rhythm perfect, their willingness to do any- and everything to make the song work are my definition of great craftsmanship. And I like “Life During Wartime” best of their oeuvre, so it’s the third song on my new playlist.

It’s probably not coincidental that when I go out for karaoke I do the Heads and the Withers. I’ve also karaoke’d Def Leppard, but only once–there’s so much screaming my throat hurt the next day. There are subtle traps in the karaoke game. When the thing first started getting popular I went out with some friends and we all gave it a shot, and while you might think “Hey Jude” would be a good song to do, you’re forgetting the fifteen minutes of ‘na na na na’ at the end of it, which make you want to stick the microphone right through your eye socket into your brain. Same with the ‘na na na na’ (different na-nas, but same principle) at the end of “Centerfold” by the mighty, mighty J. Geils Band, or the eternal denouement of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” (in which the chorus is repeated for about a half hour). That said, Def Leppard is next on my list, with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, one of those great rock songs in which the lyrics are so transparently sexual and the guitar beats so compelling that it transcends its stupidity to become a kind of art.

And while we’re on dumb rock, it’s about time for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, by Blue Öyster Cult. Not my favorite band (though I DO love the umlaut over the ‘o’ in ‘oyster’), but this song has become something of an anthem for every guy who ever wrote a horror story. When Stephen King finally got THE STAND on the small screen, he picked this bad boy to be the theme music for the miniseries, and it was the perfect choice. Moody, atmospheric, got that ominous guitar progression, suitably creepy lyrics about suicide and such. Sheer thud-rock. One of the great tunes ever.

So there’re my first five songs. If I get any interest in this blog post, I’ll do the next five. If not, I’ll go back to talking about my cat and stuff.