Okay, so it’s not my birthday anymore, but I like to finish what I start, so allow me to resume telling you about 31 songs that have, in some way or another, shaped my life. Because I’m 31. Get it? If you missed the first sixteen, they are here. But moving right along…
17. Counting Crows, “Sullivan Street.” It’s the first song I learned to play all the way through on the guitar (it’s really easy). If you were in junior high or high school when August and Everything After came out, chances are you owned that album. Not all of it holds up (their second album, Recovering the Satellites, totally does) for me these days, but this song still puts a smile on my face.
18. The Clash, “London Calling.” Not because it’s the opening track of my favorite album by one of my favorite bands (although that’s part of it). I have a particular fondness for this song because when my friend Tim and I were getting our band together out here, we used to audition people with this song. We auditioned the dude who eventually became our bass player and we had so much fun playing this song that we were all three shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs by the end. It was a blissful little rock ‘n’ roll moment, made possible by one of the best bands ever.
19. Pearl Jam, “Alive.” Pearl Jam sucks now, but when Ten came out, I was a kid who was more than ready to move on from the cock-rock I loved in the 1980s. I dove into all that Seattle stuff head first and the guitar playing on “Alive” still makes me want to plug my Epiphone in and rock out.
20. LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends.” I’ve moved across the country twice in the last seven years. When you move around a lot, you meet lots of awesome people and you end up missing a bunch of them. In 2007, James Murphy created a song that helps me fondly remember everyone all at once. If someone asks you what the big deal is about LCD Soundsystem, play them this song. If they don’t get it, send some money to whatever research institution will help cure their malady.
21. Band of Horses, “The Funeral.” My sister got a heart transplant in 1997. In the years between then and when she died in 2008, there were at least six separate occasions when I was told that she wasn’t going to make it. So I knew exactly what Band of Horses was talking about from the first time I heard this song.
22. Res, “The Hustler.” I heard Res’s How I Do for the first time in a friend’s car in college (the same awesome friend who made me the Jeff Buckley-heavy mix tape) and I remember thinking that it was the first modern R&B/pop-ish album that I actually enjoyed. Res has a fantastic voice and this song has a great confidence to it. For me, though, it’s another song that was the soundtrack to some totally awesome times.
23. The Highwaymen, “Live Forever.” The Highwaymen were an old-school country supergroup consisting of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. If that sounds totally badass, that’s becuase it was. “Live Forever” is a phenomenal song, which I first heard in high school at my friend Marlayna’s house. Marlayna had pretty weird musical taste for a high school kid in the 1990s – she was into the Highwaymen and Leonard Cohen. She’s still one of my best friends in the world and this song is attached in some way to every positive memory I have of high school.
24. The Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop.” It’s impossible for me to be unhappy while listening to this song. I hope it’s impossible for you to be unhappy while listening to this song.
25. Curtis Mayfield, “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go.” Curtis Mayfield was the most underrated soul artist ever. This song is still proof that you can be funky, sexy, and substantive all that the same time.
26. Tom Waits, “Come On Up to the House.” I’m gonna die someday and when I do, I hope someone who loves me has the presence of mind to put this song on and pass out some pints of Guinness. Tom Waits’ music gets me right down to the marrow and this is the kind of song that churches should be built around (but sadly, they never are).
27. R.E.M., “Nightswimming.” I like it when songs make me wistful about shit I never did. This song is just beautiful and, like “All My Friends,” it makes me remember a thousand things and people all at once. It also makes me wish I’d paid more attention to those piano lessons when I was little.
28. My Friend Steve, “The Schooling.” I know what you’re thinking: “Who the fuck is My Friend Steve?” Do you remember their greatest hit? I was 18 when their album, Hope and Wait, came out and at the time, I thought it was a pretty smart record (hey, I was 18). I still think that and I don’t care how much it shatters my street cred. Hope and Wait was the first CD I bought when I finally had the disposable income to quit cassettes for good. I don’t get why these guys never became the thinking man’s Gin Blossoms, but you can find this album in just about any good clearance bin at your local record store if you wanna check it out for yourself.
29. My Chemical Romance, “Welcome to the Black Parade.” Not every song that shapes your life has to be good. I fucking hate this piece of shit song but I’ll tell you the impact it has had on my life: it has given me a clear enemy against whom to react. Whenever I play music, write about music, or even fucking think about music, I try to do it in a way that will utterly destroy songs like this and all the other shitty songs that My Chemical Blowmance makes. Fuck this song and fuck this band. Jesus.
30. David Bowie, “Life on Mars?”. I know this is almost everyone’s favorite Bowie tune, but there’s a reason for that: it’s fucking awesome (warning: that video can be a little creepy if you’re watching it alone at night). This is another song that I strongly associate with my nearly two years in Boston. I got paid to listen to, talk about, and occasionally put away music for most of my time in Boston and that nine-dollar-an-hour job was worth every oppressively cold winter and every fuck-humid summer day I spent there.
31. The Beatles, “Love Me Do.” This song was the first dance at my wedding reception, because you can swing to it. I don’t give out a lot of relationship advice here at Bollocks! (though I do dabble in the odd bit of parenting advice), but I’ll tell you this: it’s perfectly reasonable to fall in love with someone who makes you want to learn to dance. Or, if you already know how to dance, it’s perfectly reasonable to fall in love with someone who is willing to learn so they can dance with you.