If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably heard of the “30 Day Music Challenge”. Basically, you post a link to a song or YouTube clip every day for a month. Some versions have silly rules, like “Day 1 — A song that makes you think of your best friend”. While I have accepted the challenge, I’m not following those rules. I’m just making it up as I go.
Day 21: “Hair and Skin” by Mazzy Star
Around thirteen years ago I had a massive crush on French supermodel Laetitia Casta. And thanks to software that automated the downloading of pictures from websites and newsgroups (alt.binaries.pictures.supermodels.laetitia-casta!), I soon had a collection of 5000+ pictures of her. Sometimes, late at night, I’d smoke and cue up a slideshow of the pics, with each picture set to display for a fraction of a second. I’d then put on some headphones and crank up this song. It was my way of indulging in my own obsession.
Bonus info: This song was originally written and performed by the LA band Green on Red, whose drummer, Keith Mitchell, left the band to join Mazzy Star. So I guess that’s why they covered it.
Day 22: “We Used to Be Friends” by The Dandy Warhols
Yeah, I know it’s just a TV show. And yeah, I know was FOUR YEARS AGO, too. But you know what? Dawn Ostroff can still burn in hell for canceling Veronica Mars. There, I said it.
Day 23: “Skin” by Madonna
Madonna’s Ray of Light album helped me get through a really dark period of my life. Sure, the album won 4 Grammys, won the praise of music critics everywhere, made Rolling Stone’s “500 Best Albums of All Time” list, and sold 20 million copies. But even with that, it’s still a criminally underrated album. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the album, the non-single track “Skin”.
Day 24: “Undercover of the Night” by the Rolling Stones
A few days after I got my first car, I went to pick up my best friend Richard for school. He lived on a cul-de-sac and there was a steep slope in his front yard. This meant that, if you parked the car just right, you could shine your headlights directly at the front door. That morning I was feeling mean, so I put the lights right on the front door and turned the brights on. Rich opened the door and turned his face away from the bright light. He put his books in front of his face to block the light and flipped me off as he walked towards the car. When he got in he was like, “What the HELL, man? It’s like going to high school in Nicaragua!”. He’d given me the Nicaragua reference, so on the way to school I “entertained” him with my rendition of “Undercover of the Night”. Good times!
Day 25: “Our House” by Madness
I was brought up as a Methodist. My sister and I were the terrible people who would show up for youth group when they were doing something fun (going to an amusement park, to the movies or for pizza), but always had some kind of mysterious, ill-defined “family thing” to go to when it was time for the group to do something not fun (clean up a local park, visit an old folks home). Of course, I was SO THERE that time in fourth grade when the youth group went to Six Flags! That day I tagged along with Mickey, a sixth-grader who lived a couple of streets over from me. I don’t know why, but EVERY SINGLE TIME we got on a ride that day, we’d sing “Our House” as the coaster would start up the first hill. When we got to the top, it’d sound like “our house.. in the middle of our streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettt – Whoooooooooooo-hoooooooooo!”. Why’d we do this? I dunno – two stupid kids, I guess.
Day 26: “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech”
Pick any Saturday afternoon from 1972 to 1986 and chances are good that I was at Grant Field watching a Georgia Tech football game. I’ll never forget the 1985 Tech\UGA game: Tech was leading 20-16 late in the game, but Georgia had the ball and was driving. Tech’s “Black Watch” (a group of elite defensive players with black GT logos on their helmets) forced a fumble for the win. My parents dropped me and my sister off at home then went out to meet friends for dinner. Left alone, I got an old sheet from the linen closet and some leftover paint and (with my sister’s help) painted a giant banner which read “TO HELL WITH GEORGIA!”. We then hung it on the front of the house, where it was illuminated by spotlights. Uncharacteristically, it was MOM, not Dad, who flipped out, as we’d ruined a good sheet. As mom ranted, dad stood in the background just grinning at us, and half-heartedly told us not to do it again. As soon as Mom left the room, Dad told us to leave it up the next day.
Day 27: “Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato” from Beethoven’s 9th
James and I went to Germany in December 1991. We had no itinerary, so we just sort of wandered from Frankfurt to Stuttgart to Munich then Salzberg. We’d planned on leaving Salzberg at 3AM on our last day and driving straight to Frankfurt for our flight home. But weathermen were predicting a MASSIVE blizzard for the area, one that scared even the locals. And that scared us, because we had NO IDEA what kind of snowstorm would scare Austrians!
Anyway, because of the storm, we drove back the day before with plans to get a room at a hotel near the Frankfurt airport. It was snowing pretty hard. James was driving, doing about 85mph on that stretch of Autobahn. I had my headphones on and Beethoven’s 9th on the CD player. The landscape was pretty, if unremarkable at first. But then we went through a section of Autobahn that curved its way through what looked like canyons of rock. Again, not very exciting. However, we suddenly hit a clearing, and were rewarded with a view that looked like something straight off a postcard or jigsaw puzzle: MASSIVE, snow-covered mountains as far as the eye could see, with small, picturesque German villages dotting the landscape, the steeples of their medieval churches poking up through the snow. Just at that exact moment, this particular bit of the fourth movement hit my ears. It was coincidental magic, something that made the moment far greater than the sum of even its own impressive parts. Close your eyes and imagine it yourself!
NOTE: I tried “deep linking” to the specific part of the music for the above story, but it doesn’t seem to work. Please scroll to 3:18 to hear what I heard when we hit the clearing.
Day 28: “Taking the Veil” by David Sylvian
This wouldn’t be much of a list of my favorite tunes without some David Sylvian, so here’s one of his most under-appreciated tracks, “Taking the Veil”, off his second solo album, 1986’s Gone to Earth.
Day 29: “True Faith” by New Order
Shortly after I graduated high school, I started dating this girl who lived off DeFoors Ferry Road. I’d hang out at her place until 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning. Then I’d get in my car, open the sunroof and roll down the windows, put “True Faith” on and haul ass down DeFoors Ferry. I’d hang a right onto Peachtree Battle, where I’d punch it up to 60-70 mph, an insanely fast speed for that road. Hell, I wouldn’t even SLOW DOWN (much less STOP) at any of the traffic lights, including the one at Peachtree Battle and Northside. I’d then hang a left onto Peachtree Road at the dead end and dodge the drunks stumbling across the street in Buckhead before kicking it up to 70-80 just past Phipps Plaza. It was so much fun: the strangely cool pre-dawn Atlanta air whipping around the cabin of the car, the posh homes and old trees perched precariously on that stretch of road, the “not urban but not suburban” feel of the area, the feeling of “being one” with the car, and New Order blasting at top volume. How I managed to a) not kill someone; b) not kill myself; or c) not get arrested is one of life’s great mysteries.
Day 30: “He’s on the Phone” by Saint Etienne
And lastly, let me post a tune which shows you how your perception of a song can change. I first heard “He’s on the Phone” a few weeks before my first trip to London. I liked the song, but didn’t have much of an attachment to it… until I got to London, where it made me think of the Underground and thousands of people rushing about in a million directions. Later on, the song made me think of Sheila (and not in a good way, read the lyrics). But I still liked the song, and put it on a CD I made for Lisa when we first started dating. She LOVED the song, so now it makes me think of her, specifically her notion of “making new memories” from things that used to hurt you in the past.
BONUS TRACK: “Thieves” by She & Him
Because I never get tired of it: