Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zero by The Smashing Pumpkins

As I mentioned last week, The Smashing Pumpkins were a significant part of my angsty teenage years. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out in 1995 and I'm pretty sure I didn't take it out of my CD player for at least five years. It was absolutely gorgeous to look at and the songs encompassed every mood I'd ever felt in my 17 years on the planet. 

Zero is a song from my "angry playlist", for when I'm pissed off or generally fired up about something. The guitars are non-stop, intense and fierce. Billy Corgan's voice is one that is quite recognizable and I think his style here is perfectly clear. It's the classic Smashing Pumpkins sound that I love so much.  

When I listen to it all these years later, the lyric that stands out most for me is "Intoxicated with the madness, I'm in love with my sadness".  It sums up that 90's alternative rock so beautifully. I think this is how I felt for most of the 90's, actually! 

I'll never get tired of listening to The Smashing Pumpkins. Their songs contain a lot of emotion and memories for me. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

As I mentioned in my O post, thanks to my mother I've enjoyed The Beatles' music from an early age. I've loved all things Yellow Submarine related for as long as I can remember. I was five or six years old when she got me this book and read it to me in the evenings at bedtime. I was fascinated by the illustrations and I've forever associated the song with these images.

It was sometime around this age that I saw the animated Yellow Submarine movie for the first time although surprisingly I can't recall it exactly. I do know that when I was a few years older, my mom wanted to buy the movie on VHS and had an extremely difficult time getting it. Our local video store had to special order it. This was of course in the early 90's, long before media was available at our fingertips like it is now! We watched the movie together as a family many times over the years. It wasn't until I was in my 20's and watching it on DVD with a friend that I ever realized the movie was thought of as psychedelic or anything like that. My friend turned to me and asked if I was usually high when I watched this and I was horrified at the suggestion!

One thing I inherited from my mother that I'm truly grateful for is my love of music. This song is important to me because it's one of my earliest memories of learning that from her. It's the ring tone that plays when she calls me! It's a fun happy song and this is my favorite of The Beatles' phases. I love everything about it, especially the images and characters from the movie. For me, there's nothing else like it!

My little Blue Meanie sits on my desk


Monday, April 28, 2014

X Stands For Crossover: Personal Jesus

As hard as I tried, I couldn't come up with a song that starts with X. I've racked my brain for weeks with no luck, so I decided to write about something I enjoy when it comes to music, crossover songs. As I mentioned in my I post, I learned about the concept of cover songs at a young age. I have mixed feelings on them in general. When it sounds a lot like the original version, I often think of it as a bit of a rip off. My favorite type of cover song is when it crosses over into a different genre and is given it's own new sound, while still remaining recognizable. There are some punk covers of songs from other genres that I think are awesome, Somebody To Love by MXPX and Baby One More Time by Bowling For Soup are a couple that come to mind. I like the idea of a song being introduced to a new generation of listeners and getting a second life, so to speak. Often this will lead to listeners of the cover to look into the original artist and that's cool too!

I was a kid in the 80's so it wasn't until the next decade that I became familiar with Depeche Mode's original version of Personal Jesus. From the first time I heard it, I recognized it as something awesome. It's intense and dark and always made me ponder what exactly it means to be someone's own personal Jesus. It's a classic 80's song and I think it set the stage for a lot of music that came after it.

The next version I heard was Marilyn Manson's cover. It's my favorite by far. It takes the feeling of the original and makes it even darker with the industrial sound. I listen to it when I'm angry or when I'm feeling like a bad ass and often when I'm running. The video is creepy, it takes the song to a whole new level but I like it.

Johnny Cash recorded a version of Personal Jesus for his 2002 album American IV, which is mostly covers. This album was released just a year before his death so I think that gives the song a bit more meaning for me. This version is so good. It's acoustic and much simpler than the other versions but Cash's voice adds something to it that no one else can.

There's a huge number of versions of Personal Jesus available on iTunes including jazz, string quartet and techno versions. I even found a lullaby for babies! The song has appeal across years, musical genres and lifestyles. That's what a true crossover is, in my opinion. It's something anyone can love and relate to.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What's My Age Again by Blink 182

If I had to choose a theme song for my life, this might be it. I first heard it shortly after I turned 21 and it seemed to appear at just the right time for me. I've never been a big fan of the idea of "growing up", that there are certain things you have to do when you get to a certain age. I think that gets people into troublesome situations some times. I know my decision to get married in my twenties was partially influenced by the thought that this is just what you did when you were this age and had been with someone for a few years. 

After my divorce, I was 28 when I moved across the country to start over. I went out drinking a lot, I had one night stands, I did things that I hadn't had a chance to do when I was younger because I was married. I especially loved this song at that time because I was older than my friends who were in this same phase and my friends who were older than me didn't fail to mention they thought I was getting a bit old for this sort of thing. 

Here I am at 35, unmarried, no kids, I play roller derby and I let my tattoos show. I feel young. Then I hang around people who are 10 years younger than me and I think Nope, I'm not that young anymore. Once I hit 31 or so, I really started to feel comfortable with my age. A lot of struggle is behind me, trying to figure out who I am and trying to impress people who don't matter. 

I listen to this song almost every time I run. A) I like to imagine myself running naked like in the video and B) It reminds me that being silly and making mistakes is okay. My favorite line is near the end "With many years ahead to fall in line, why would you wish that on me?" because that's what I thought when people were looking down on me a few years ago. Why do you want me to be different and not have these experiences? Just because you didn't? Or because women my age "shouldn't"? Needless to say, most of those people aren't in my life anymore. The people who understood what I was going through and supported me, who  loved me even when I made poor choices, those are the people who are still around me. And they probably like this song as much as I do!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai

The first time I ever heard this song was seeing the video on MTV while I was housesitting. It was during my first year of college and I'm realizing that a lot of the music that shaped who I am came into my life around that time! The video is bizarre and the song has such a unique sound along with discussing what a crazy world we live in-I think it all appealed to my young self struggling to find my way and figure out who I was. 

When Maroon 5 first came out, I thought they sounded just like Jamiroquai and were ripping off their sound. I didn't like them for the longest time for that reason! I do think Maroon 5 sounds a lot different now and I haven't heard anything from Jamiroquai in years so this seems funny to admit to!

I like this song because it has a relaxing sound to me. I find that an interesting contrast to the lyrics talking about how mixed up our world is and that we're living in a virtual insanity!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers

This song is the first one I ever slow danced with a boy to. It was my 7th grade semi formal dance in the cafeteria of the high school. I was so nervous that my friend Billy (a girl who was way ahead of me when it came to boys) took me out into the deserted hallway to teach me about hand placement and stepping, in from of a wall of lockers. That first dance was glorious and terrifying. I had a crush on that boy through middle and most of high school and while it was never reciprocated, I'll always remember that he was kind about it and became a friend to me. We shared other slow dances over the years but none of them are burned into my brain like this one. I am confident that my mother possess a photo of me, taken right before the dance, but we've been unable to find it for this post. However I didn't feel like I could write about that dance without acknowledging the dress I was wearing at the time. I did find this picture of me in it later that year at a family function. It's not quite the same but I think you can probably understand how special that dress was to me at the time.


Then I saw Ghost when I was about 13 and my adolescent heart nearly exploded! This song is forever twisted up with all of my teenage longings and expectations about love, which were pretty much crushed as I got older. When I hear this song, they all come rushing back with images from that movie!
It's a beautiful song, there's nothing that sounds quite like it to me, even now. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Today by The Smashing Pumpkins

This is the song that inspired me to do this project! It's definitely one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time and it never fails to get me pumped up and inspired about life. 

The first time I heard this song was seeing the video on Beavis & Butthead! I was 14 and I was on a babysitting job (don't worry, the kids were in bed!). We didn't have MTV in my house so this was always a treat for me when I was at other people's houses. When the song was over, I wrote down the song/artist information, determined to find out anything I could about these Smashing Pumpkins. (How did we ever learn anything in the days before Google?! ) Shortly after that, I got my hands on a copy of Siamese Dream on cassette tape. It was one of my first glimpses into the world of alternative rock that was opening up in the early 90s and I loved it!

During my junior year of high school I was pissed when the senior class ahead of me chose Today as their class song. It was such a perfect choice and now my class wouldn't be able to use it! I honestly can't tell you what my class song was but I remember what the class of 1995 chose! Damnit! 

In the winter of 2000, I saw Billy Corgan play solo acoustic at a small club in North Carolina. He played this song on the piano and it has always been one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. It obviously was a  different version of the song but it was almost more powerful than ever before. 

Every time I hear this song I think Yes, today is the greatest day I've ever known, no matter what's going on. The sun is shining, or the snow is beautiful, or I'm excited about my new job or sad about something, no matter what it is, I can find a way to see it as a positive when Today is playing. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunshine Song by Jason Mraz

I've liked Jason Mraz since I first heard The Remedy in the early 2000's, so I went to see him in concert when he came to Bozeman almost five years ago. This is one of my favorite adventures I've had with my good friend Jake, who was my roommate for a while. He's a huge Jason Mraz fan and thanks to his membership in the official fan club, we were able to get into the show shortly before the general public and secure a spot directly in front of the stage. After the concert I think I borrowed all of his CDs that Jake had! 

This is the song Jason opened with at that concert. I had never heard it before but liked it right away. As the concert went on I was more and more impressed with Jason's messages of positivity and gratitude and his general sense of mellowness. He performed barefoot and drank from a travel mug with tea bags hanging over the side! Before the concert I hadn't realized what a down to earth soul Jason is. I've been to many concerts over the years and I've found that seeing an artist live changes my relationship with them in some way (almost always in a good way, occasionally in a negative way). Even if I'm already a fan of a musician, standing in front of him or her for a performance allows me to gain something from the music that is simply missing when listening to a recorded version. 

My favorite line is the first one "Sometimes the sun shines on other peoples houses and not mine". Isn't that a lovely way to say: sometimes life sucks and other people have it better than me? A few months after the concert, I lost my job and was unemployed for three months. I would walk my dog around the pond near our house and listen to this song two or three times in a row. Last year when that sweet dog passed away I found myself listening to this song again, to remember the times he had walked with me and brought me comfort, and also to get me through that dark time. 

There isn't an official video for this song. It's never been released as a single (that I know of) and I can't find a version of it that isn't live. I chose this video I found on YouTube because it was obviously recorded by someone in the front at a concert and it's strikingly similar to the experience I had. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ramona by The Ramones

Ramones laces in my roller skates
I was named after this song so it obviously has always been special to me. My father and his father are both Edwards and it was assumed that as the first grandchild, I’d be a boy and therefore another Edward. My mother tells me that as the end of her pregnancy approached, she had a sudden thought one day: What if it’s a girl?! Apparently Edwina was a possible choice but fortunately my parents were into the 70’s rock & roll scene and had recently purchased The Ramone’s Rocket To Russia on vinyl. It just so happens to include a song called Ramona and so here I am!

I've always liked having a unique name. I have a last name that people often have trouble spelling and pronouncing so I've been able to go by my just first name a lot in my life and I've enjoyed that. Once when I was a child, I wandered away from my mom in a store and as she was calling out "Ramona, where are you?" an adult voice answered from a few aisles away "I'm over here!" What a surprise that was to me because I'd never encountered anyone else with my name (besides Ramona Quimby of course)! I've come across a few other Ramonas in my life, most often on the telephone or more commonly I meet someone who has a relative with the name. Most of the time those women go by Mona but I've never had any desire to shorten my name or go by a nickname. I do have a couple of friends who have decided on their own to call me a nickname and in those cases I like it because it's something special I share only with those people I'm close to.

I absolutely love listening to this song. It will always cheer me up and give me confidence because whenever I hear it I think Oh yeah, I forgot this awesome thing about me! I also love telling people I was named after The Ramones. I think it's pretty bad ass!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Que Sera Sera by Doris Day

As I've been working on the posts for this challenge, I've realized that many of the songs I've chosen share a common theme, they remind us that everything is going to be okay. I'm not sure if I've learned that from the music or if I'm drawn to it because it speaks to my inner voice-perhaps it's a little of both!

I'll admit I've never been terribly familiar with today's song. While compiling my A to Z list, I stumbled on a couple of letters (specifically Q and X) and reached out to a couple of friends who are also music lovers for help. When my friend Melissa included this one in her list, it was like "Duh!" My mother has sang the refrain for as long as I can remember. Whenever a situation doesn't turn out as we'd hoped or when the neighbor boy crushed my adolescent feelings "Que sera sera, whatever will be will be".  She has often annoyed the hell out of me with that line!

Maybe this is where it all comes from, my belief that everything happens for a reason and my faith in The Universe. I listened to the full song for the first time when I started this challenge and I do like it. I like the fact that despite it's age, I can still relate to it and enjoy it. I think it proves my point of this project which is that music can just speak to us for a variety of reasons and when it does, it often burrows into our brains and souls and stays there, making us who we are. Here I've lived my life affected by this song and I didn't even realize it!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Push by Matchbox20

This song came out during my first year of college. I'd already had my heart broken by my high school sweetheart so I thought I knew what it was like to get tossed around. (I didn't.) I related to this song right away because it spoke to the part of me that was still angry. A few years later I heard the acoustic version and liked it even better than the original. It still has the same strength in the lyrics but without the intensity of the electric instruments. It's also a little bit slower than the original, which I think works better for it. 

Push has stayed significant to me over the years because I feel like I can relate to it at some point during any relationship: either I'm being pushed around or I'm the only doing the pushing. I've always liked the opening line "She said I don't know if I've ever been good enough, I'm a little bit rusty and I think my head is caving in. And I don't know if I've ever been truly loved by a hand that's touched me" because I've certainly felt like that at times. I think most people do at some point in their romantic lives.  

This is yet another song that has gotten me through tough times because it reminds me that I'm not the only person to ever feel this way.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La,Da by The Beatles

I thank my mother for my love of The Beatles. I'm sure I was hearing their music when I was still in the womb!

This song is special because I think it's impossible to listen to it without smiling! It tells us a story but of course it reminds us that life goes on and things keep going.

I think this song probably became prominent in my life during my pre-teen and early teen years when I regularly watched a TV show called Life Goes On which used this as it's theme song. I don't know how much I realized it at the time but the show was pushing boundaries and dealing with material that hadn't been handled on prime time TV, especially in a family drama. 

This song is on my running play list and my feel good play list. It's good for times when I'm low and need to be cheered up and for times when I'm happy and want to relish in it. It's a sing along loud song (in case you haven't noticed, I like those a lot!), it always makes me want to clap along and really get into it! I especially love songs like this that have lasted through generations and continue to be popular and stir up emotion. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

November Rain by Guns N Roses

It only takes the first couple notes of this song to give me goose bumps and transport me through time. Oh, this song is epic. When you listen to it, you can't think about Guns N Roses past their prime, Axel Rose's reputation or anything else, only this song and how amazing it is.

I was in middle school when November Rain was popular. This didn't sound like anything they'd done before. It was sweeping and intense. I knew all the words by heart, even though I couldn't fully comprehend them at the time. During those years, I had a crush on my neighbor boy and one Christmas he gave me Use Your IllusionI on cassette as a gift. That was a pretty big deal!

Oh and let's talk about this video! It's glorious. Axel Rose at his absolute best, classic Slash solos, a symphony, a wedding. I'll say it again: epic. I watch it now and I'm still struck by how incredible it was to my 13 year old self. While looking up some info on the song, I learned that at the time it was one of the most expensive music videos ever made. 

Before I started working on these posts, I don't think I'd fully listened to this song in a decade or more. At the end of a long day, I was in the bath tub with a glass of wine listening to a bunch of songs on my list to potentially write about. November Rain came on and I knew for absolute certain that I had to choose it for N. "Nothing lasts forever and we both know hearts can change", woah,  I'd forgotten how passionate this song could make me feel. 

I think I'm fortunate to have come of age at a time when Guns and Roses were still reigning and bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were just coming onto the scene. I feel like I got the best of both worlds. GNR certainly holds a special place in my heart for that reason and for this song. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Motorcycle Drive By by Third Eye Blind

This is a song that has gotten me through a lot of tough times, romantic break ups and falling outs with friends. The times I moved and started over, I got strength from this song. It starts out slow, quiet and sad, contemplative but then builds suddenly become fast and fierce, crashing and angry. It's a lot like those transitions in my life could be, back and forth between calm and raging.

I've always loved this line: "And there's this burning like there's always been. I've never been so alone and I've never been so alive". Sometimes there's a relief that can come with a break up that you weren't anticipating and it can flood you with a sense of freedom. I've experienced it a couple of times. I've been glad to be rid of someone yet miss them at the same time and then be angry because I miss them. It's the same thing here: "And this is the last time we'll be friends again. I'll get over you. You won't know who I am." I can't tell you how many times I've screamed that line! There have been a couple times, at the end of a long relationship or after living in one place for many years, that I sensed that I'd changed a lot since the beginning but I needed to get away in order to complete the transformation.

This song can probably mean something different to everyone based on their life experiences and I think that's cool. I like that the singer is going through those emotions and phases during the song. Many of Third Eye Blind's songs are like that for me. I enjoy them because they come across as extremely genuine.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Like A Prayer By Madonna, Life Is A Highway by Tom Cochrane

This is the only letter for which I just couldn't choose only one song. Both of these songs are significant to me and genuinely fun tunes!

                                                  Life A Prayer by Madonna

Like A Prayer came out in early 1989 so I would have been 10. I had the cassette single, which I rewound and listened to so much I'm surprised I never wore it out. I was a Madonna fan before this point, but this song had a unique sound that affected me in a different way than her other music had. I wasn't raised in a religious household and although I had heard that the song and video were raising a ruckus, I didn't really get it. I remember watching the controversial video with my friend Tina at her house, knowing it was significant even though I wasn't fully grasping it at the time. It was my first view of Madonna as a brunette and a totally different image for her than that of her "Material Girl" years that I had seen as a younger girl. At first I wondered if it was even her, I was so blown away by the idea that someone could change themselves so much.

As a woman who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I hold Madonna in high regard. Many of her songs are significant to me but she's important to me for other reasons too. While I like all of her music, this is hands down my favorite song and I still find it to be pretty powerful. It still has such an awesome strong sound to it and I love the changes in style and tempo. When you watch the video, pay attention to how she's dancing around the four minute mark. Every time I hear this song, no matter what I'm doing, in my head I'm dancing like this the entire time. If I'm at home alone then I am totally dancing the whole time. Even though the video is heavy, I still think of this as a feel good song. It lifts me up, gets me moving and feeling something. It's an awesome song for singing along, for dancing and moving to. Because of the age I was when it came out and I saw the video and of how significant Madonna's music has been in my life, I do consider this song a pretty significant building block in my path as a woman.

Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

Hands down best driving song ever! 

I don't know when I first discovered this song but it was some time in the early 90s while I was still in high school! It's been on any list of favorites I've ever made, any mix tape (or later CD burned) for a friend. It's a song I listen to when I want to get fired up and feel encouraged, or when I'm just feeling good about life and want to keep it up. I like it so much because it's positive, fast paced, simple and straight forward. It's about love and life and it never goes negative. I've always considered it a great anthem for life in general. I've heard a remake of this song and didn't like it as well because it didn't have the right energy and just wasn't quite right.  


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kinky by The Clintons/John McLellan

This song was written by John McLellan, who is the lead singer of a band called The Clintons. He's also one of my oldest and closest friends, one of my two "brothers from another mother". John and I met in 1997 while we were both going to Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. A mutual friend introduced us because we both were (and still are) huge fans of Dave Matthews Band. John was in the earliest stages of his music career at that point, and this is one of the first songs he ever wrote, during those initial years of our friendship.

Me and John in May 1998

I've always liked this song because it's cute and catchy. Over time it's changed from this solo acoustic version into one that's played with his full four member band. Just about every time I see John play I ask him to play Kinky because a) it's fun to dance to but b) it takes me back the days when I'd go see him while he was working at our campus library. We'd go in a back room and he'd play me the songs he'd been working on. As John's career has advanced and he's written many other wonderful songs, Kinky has always stuck with me in my heart as my favorite. I think it's partly because I know the story behind it and each time I listen to it, I'm reminded of how far we've both come since our college days. When I'm in a crowd that's singing along to his songs, I'm filled with a sense of pride in him because I know how hard he's worked to get where he is.

Being friends with someone for 17 years isn't a small task. As John said to me on the phone this week "We've been through a lot of shit together. If there was ever anybody whose got each other's back, it's John and Ramona." I couldn't have said it better myself. He was my Man of Honor when I got married, supported me through my divorce, helped me move across the country to start over. During those years, he got married and has had two sons. We've both changed so much over the years and we haven't always agreed with each other as that's happened. Because I don't have siblings, my closest friends have been especially important to me, they're my family! There are a exceptional few who have known me through all my stages, supported me through some poor life choices and some awesome ones and I wouldn't be who I am without them. John's music always reminds me of that.

Me and John March 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Joker by Steve Miller Band

This is the only song on my list that is here simply because I think it's awesome. I don't have a  story to go with it or an emotional explanation. I don't remember the first time I heard it but I know I've always thought it was fantastic. I grew up listening to my mom's music, which is what we now call classic rock, so I was probably exposed to Steve Miller Band from a young age. Pretty much all of their music has a cool sound to me and I've always enjoyed this one in particular. There's something about it. It's got a funky, sexy sound but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense yet it still works! Once I was old enough to think about it, I've always figured the song has to do with sex and drugs but I've tried not to think about it too much so I don't ruin it for myself!

Mike Myer's movie The Love Guru is one of my favorites (and yes, I know it is generally not a popular film but I don't care!) so when this song was featured in a fancy song and dance number at the end, I was thrilled. I was in tears from laughter and had a heart full of joy from hearing one of my favorite songs so I wanted to include this version here too because I love it!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany

In 1987 I was nine years old when my mom took me to Boscov's and bought me this song on a 45. Yes, that was a record single. She would play it for me over and over and over.The two of us made up a dance routine that I might be able to preform now if I really tried! This is probably the happiest memory I have of my mom from my childhood, and possibly from my whole life. Those were some fun times we spent dancing in our spare room. 

I remember my friend Billy coming to school and breaking the news that the song had originally been recorded by an oldies artist! Gasp! I didn't believe her until it was later confirmed by my mom and she explained the concept of cover songs. 

I got the entire album on cassette at some point after that and memorized every song. I think this was most likely my first real venture into liking music of my own. My mom helped me turn a jean jacket into a vest like the one Tiffany wears into this video and I went as her for Halloween one year. 

Until I started working on this project I hadn't heard this song in years. It sure makes my heart happy to listen to it! I'll admit I still like it but my musical tastes have certainly evolved. I remember thinking this was the most awesome thing I'd ever heard in my life and I guess it was when I was 9! I also like watching the video as a reminder of how much our culture changes!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hand In My Pocket by Alanis Morissette

I was a junior in high school when I listened to Jagged Little Pill for the first time. I'd barely experienced life at this point yet I knew this was the real deal: anger, bitterness, heartache, lust, self confidence. I knew I'd come to know all of these experiences intimately and I couldn't wait!

As I mentioned a few days ago, Alanis' songs have always resonated with me because she does such an incredible job of capturing what it's like to be a woman, to experience this roller coaster of emotions and hormones. We can feel ugly and beautiful in the same day, wearing the same outfit! This song says hey, there are some not so nice things about me but they all have a silver lining. This struck a chord with 16 year old me and still does 19 years later. I'm still short, but I'm healthy. Sometimes I'm wrong but I'm often sorry about it. I can be brave but I can chicken out. I still haven't gotten everything figured out but I know everything is going to be quite alright. We all have all these sides to us and it's nice to be reminded I'm not the only one.

This is a pick me up song, a feel good about life song. There's never a time it doesn't make me smile. I don't think I know a woman my age who doesn't like at least one of Alanis' songs or find her relatable in some way. She's gone through phases of being angry, angsty, sentimental and romantic. We've all been there! I definitely appreciate a female artist who can sum up these universal experiences and put them out there for those of us in need of some reassurance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good by Better Than Ezra

This is quite possibly my favorite song in the whole world. The first time I ever heard it was one morning during my junior year of high school, at my friend Rachel's house. We regularly watched videos before I drove us the few blocks to school each morning. The sound caught my attention and I noticed the lead singer was wearing an FFA jacket and I was like What is this crazy wonderful thing??!! and I've been a fan ever since! Years later when I met the band, I told them about watching that video for the first time and had them sign the dust jacket from the CD I'd had since that year. They were pretty impressed at how old it was! It's an amazing feeling to be able to connect with someone who created the music that has been special to me. I've been fortunate enough to experience it several times and I'm always blown away by the gratitude I'm shown by musicians who probably hear a story similar to mine thousands of times.

Me with Better Than Ezra 2004

The older I've gotten, the more I connect with this song. I think it's about looking back on the time spent with someone after it's over. I like the repetition of the word good, I'm not sure why but I always have. It reminds me of how, sometimes when a relationship is over, it's easy to dwell on the good parts and forget that there were bad parts and a reason it ended. And sometimes you think that you'll see that person again or stay in touch with them, "Well maybe I'll call or write you a letter. Now maybe we'll see, on the 4th of July". I get where this song is coming from! It's fairly short, fast and loud and with Kevin's voice it sums up BTE's classic sound that I've come to love so much.

Good - Better Than Ezra by jezcle

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Fixer by Pearl Jam

I'm a fixer but not in the literal sense. I think I was trained since a young age, and so over and over again I have attracted people/relationships that have benefited from my natural ability and desire to improve any given situation and make the other person feel better. Over the past couple of years I've taken huge steps in my life to change my habits and my personal story but it's not always easy. 

I don't think I'd ever thought of myself this way before this song came out, in 2009. I hadn't even heard of the song until late that year when a close friend, who I'd known for 10 years, emailed me the video and wrote "As soon as I saw this I thought of you." At first I was like What's that supposed to mean? and then I listened to the song and said Woah that is me! It was the early beginnings of me becoming aware of myself in a whole new way. This just happened to be shortly after I'd been dumped by a guy who I was definitely trying to fix, which was the situation that prompted me to start seeing a counselor and truly changed my attitude toward life. 

I love this song, it really fires me up.  I've been a Pearl Jam fan for 20 years so I was disappointed they didn't play this one when I finally got to see them in concert last fall.  I'm probably always going to be a fixer, or have that urge somewhere inside me. What I've learned to do is to remind myself that I don't need to take on the responsibilities of others, and I only have to focus on what's immediately affecting me. When I care for myself first, I'm actually doing a bigger service for my loved ones because then I'm happier, healthier and more fun to be around. In the long run this leaves less that anybody should need to fix! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Everything by Alanis Morissette

This is the only song on my list that has fallen into favor with me fairly recently. In fact, Everything was not the E song I initially decided on when I started working on this project last fall. That was Escape by Rupert Holmes (also known as The Pina Colada song) which is a cool song but besides the fact that I enjoy it, there's no real significance there for me. 

Although I consider myself an Alanis fan, I'm more familiar with her earlier work and I'd never heard this song until a few months ago. I was carpooling to a temp job one morning when I heard the opening line in Alanis'  familiar voice from the tinny speakers of the company mini van: "I can be an asshole of the grandest kind" and I leaned forward in my seat to be sure I didn't miss a single word. I downloaded the song when I got home that evening and it's been on my regular playlist every since. Once again I was struck by how perfectly Alanis can sum up my feelings about being a woman, specifically the overwhelming appreciation I feel for my partner. 

Until now, I'd never been in a romantic relationship that felt completely mutual. All my other couplings seemed to involve one person giving, liking, loving, wanting at least a little more than the other. Sometimes that would shift back and forth in the same relationship, but I never truly felt like I was on the same page with the other person at all times. 

I've recently told my other half that he is with the best me that I have ever been. I truly believe that, but in order for me to be getting to this place he has supported me through a couple dark times and transition periods. He's lifted me up and had faith in me when I wasn't quite able to do that for myself. I have never had a romantic partner be willing to make the sacrifices for me that he has made. This song honed in on all of that immediately and worded it perfectly. I'm happy to have a new song to add to my list of favorites, especially from an artist who means so much to me already and obviously knows what it's like to go through some of the things that I have. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Divorce Song by Liz Phair

This is one of the few songs that has played a big role in my life but I don't particularly enjoy listening to any more. In fact, I listened to it several times to write this piece and it makes me a little sweaty and nauseous. I was a Liz Phair fan before I stumbled onto this song although I can't remember exactly how I discovered it. I had recently separated from my husband and was confined to the house I was sharing with roommates due to a broken foot. I know when I first heard the lyrics I thought I was imagining them because they applied so perfectly to my feelings at the time. Since I couldn't drive because of my walking boot, my ex had to drive me to and from the appointments with our divorce attorney. You want to talk about an awkward car ride? We had a couple of those! When he dropped me off after one of the meetings, I made him come inside and listen to this song. "Can you believe this song exists?" I exclaimed. "It's like it was written just for me!" I don't think he appreciated it to quite the degree I did... 

There's a line near the end that goes "And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead. But if you're tired of of looking at my face I guess I already am".  It's strange to look at that now and know I felt it so absolutely back then but I did. I thought my life was over. I didn't know how I was going to go on without that man in my life. This song helped me through that. Look at Liz Phair, I thought, She made it through a divorce and she's a bad ass. I can do this! 

It took me a long time to recover but I did. It was one of the first experiences in my adult life that showed me I was capable of something I didn't think was possible. When I listen to this song now it brings back some of the feelings I had at the time and I can barely recognize myself as the same woman I was then. I don't know that I'll ever say I'm glad I got a divorce but I can say I'm grateful for all the things I learned from the experience. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Crash Into Me by Dave Matthews Band

Even if you don't know any other song by Dave Matthews Band, you probably know this one. My friends who are hard core DMB fans are always giving me crap because I like this song so much. It's the one song that everybody at the concert stands up for, even if they sit down for the rest of the show, and all the women squeal for it (myself included). It's on my favorite DMB album, titled Crash. There are many reasons I love this album but the biggest one is the first time I ever saw the band live was in 1996 when they were touring for this album. I had liked the band before I went to that concert but seeing them perform live took it to a whole new level!

I could probably listen to this song on repeat indefinitely and never get tired of it. It has a beautiful sound, even without considering the lyrics, and when you add them in it's a sexy song, plain and simple. I have about a dozen different versions of it in my iTunes library. I can't get enough of it!
It's also my favorite DMB video. I think it's a perfect match of images for the sound and lyrics:"You wear nothing but you wear it so well", "I'm bare boned and crazy for you", and of course the classic Dave lyric "Hike up your skirt a little more, and show the world to me".  I honestly don't understand how anyone can not like this song. I think it's a perfect blend of everything wonderful that could go into a piece of music!

Crash Into Me never fails to take me to my happy place. It always slows me down, resets my nervous system and reminds me that all is well in the world, life is awesome and everything is going to be just fine. (Most DMB songs do that for me actually!) 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson

What makes this song special is that while it's sad, it's about being broken and low, it's played on a ukulele and sounds pretty darn up beat. I like the contradiction because there have been many times when my heart was crushed but I knew it would pass soon and I'd be okay again so I was optimistic about my situation. I believe it's important to give yourself time when bad things happen, to sit with that feeling of This is really shitty and I feel like garbage, because it won't last and it helps me appreciate the good times when they finally come around again. Sometimes, though, it's difficult to sit with it because I'm angry or get bored with being sad. That's where this song has been a comfort. Sometimes I feel like screaming I JUST WANT TO BE OKAY AGAIN!! and that's what this song allows me to do! I've listened to it while showering to get ready to go out, while dancing alone in my apartment, while running or doing any number of things that help me feel better when I'm low.

I especially love the imagery of the chorus: "Open me up and you will see, I'm a gallery of broken hearts. I'm beyond repair let me be. And give me back my broken parts." It reminds me of those times when I want to wallow in my broken heartedness and be bitter for a little while because sometimes that feels good too. I think it's a great song in general for reminding us about the ups and downs in life and it's fun to sing along to!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

At The Stars by Better Than Ezra

Better Than Ezra is one of the bands that will appear a couple times this month. They are one of my top beloved bands of all time. I've been listening to them since I was 16 so their music has been a huge part of the soundtrack to my life. I've seen them in concert several times,  met them a few times and I've played cowbell on stage with them twice!

Me (w/arms up) on stage w/BTE, photo later signed by band 2005

At The Stars is a strong song. It's a windows down on a sunny day, sing along loud song. It reminds me of the time I spent living in North Caroling in my 20's. A lot of BTE's music does, actually. This song reminds me of a particular muggy September afternoon I spent back and forth between my apartment and a guy's place because I showed up under dressed for an event and had to go home to change. I remember being hot, sweaty and embarrassed, thinking I shouldn't be wasting my time on this guy. I was right. The song is about wanting to be someplace other than where you are or where you're going. One thing I love about Kevin Griffin's (lead singer) voice is that it always sounds passionate and is expressing the exact feeling it should be.

This song happens to contain what is probably my favorite line of any song, ever:
"I've finally found that everybody loves to love you when you're far away"
I always sing that part as loud as I can! I love that line because I've experienced it in several times in my life and I appreciate having found a song lyric about it. Somehow it's easier to maintain a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with someone from a distance because your idea of that person becomes whatever you want it to be and that's often what we fall in love with more than the actual person. Once we close that distance and have to deal with the reality of each other and the relationship, it's often too much to maintain. Whenever I encounter a song that resonates with me in regard to an experience I've had, particularly one that my friends can't relate to, it's always incredibly reassuring to be able to say to myself Well if someone wrote a song about this then surely I'm not the only one it's ever happened to! 
At The Stars has done that for me many times and every time I hear it, I'm reminded of that. Hearing it always fills me with a general sense of nostalgia and pride for all I've experienced on my journey so far and the great songs I've been listening to along the way!

My cowbell tattoo