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Posts Tagged ‘lists’

Noted Lyrics

My junior year independent study advisor—a Scot who taught at Leeds, but was enjoying a visiting year with us in Ohio with our “fortress in the middle of a cornfield,” as he described it—wryly informed me that I should have titled my work, Don’t Quote Me On That, as it was indeed an artfully strung together melange of quotations from Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, scholars’ comments, and a little me thrown in.

Continuing in that tradition, with even less reliance on my words, let’s start a list of some favorite lines in songs that always make me sit up and take notice, relish the singing along with, and hit the rewind button:

Beelzebub is aching in my belly-o
My feet are heavy and I’m rooted in my wellios
~Kate Bush, “Kite”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud
It all goes slo-mo
I don’t know why I’m crying
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
~Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”

All my colors, turn to clouds
All my colors, turn to cloud
~Echo & The Bunnymen, “Zimbo”

It’s been cold,
This vein of blue is seizing me
~Shelleyan Orphan, “Century Flower”

The note I wrote, as she read
She said, “Has the Perrier gone straight to my head?
Or is life sick and cruel instead?”
~The Smiths, “I Won’t Share You”

Like a liar on a witch trial
You look good for your age
~Hole, “Plump”

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My reading calendar has been consciously in place longer than my music one, which is still driven only by feeling until maybe my last post, where I codified my feelings, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure how it started, but it must have been feelings like my music ones, and then a decade or so ago I looked at all the books on my shelf and decided to enjoy the carousel that was my mind, for once. Some of these monthly selections arose very naturally, long before I was conscious of anything, some came when I saw I had a mess of worthy books that were not being read. 

You might wonder where the nature books are; well they have been declared an ongoing concern, with readings in that vein taken up throughout the seasons. 

January

Russian, or Continental, fiction. This clearly arose from my working world days, taking the train to work in bitter weather and enjoying soaking up every phantasmagoric page of bedraggled, disgruntled, gauche civil servant fiction.

February

Brit hist, Vicky, Boney, Scots, &c. This started in an era of a lot of reading of the eras and lives of Napoleon and Queen Victoria, branching into general British history, including and especially the more alienated nations, plus the rest of Europe. The 19th century doesn’t loom as large as it once did, although it is still immense.

March

Presidential bios/U.S. history. Having collected two sets of presidential biographies, this seemed requisite. One president a year in at least one short book, and history related to his era.

April

International history (non-U.S., non-European). Adventures in my smattering of history books set in Asia, Africa, South America, Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Arctic, Siberia &c.

May

Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. In order written, as series should be read. We’ll see if I live long enough. I have a couple of translations of some of the books and have enjoyed comparing them to the originals when selecting.

June

Children’s fiction, Very Short Introductions. Summer away from school, why not read the old favorites? I have pairs of Oxford’s “Very Short Introductions” books and this an opportune time for summer study fun!

July

Thick novel. Sometimes not so thick. Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

August

Music, art. A small group of classical music books (scores, lives), plus a lot of books about 19th-centure painters, mostly. 

September

Greek, Classical World, ancient, Louis MacNeice. A return to my heady first year of college where I delightedly delved into Classics. Greek Epics, plays, and poems, maybe history and art, what have you. Other ancients have been added to the mix. I began reading my collected Louis MacNeice (born on a date near mine) poems whose publication dates matched my age. I abandoned this habit several years ago, but am rectifying that this catch-up year.

October

Poetry, ghost stories, Irving-Chew. More loving return to schooldays, and what other month could be most poetic of the year, Keats’ birth month? On his birthday I read Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” annually for a decade or so. This gave way to Ruth Chew books about witches and magic. I also read a biography of A. C. Swinburne this month a while back. I never liked his poetry, but dug his life, and decided he’d make the ideal Hallowe’en persona if I ever put a lot of effort into ever wearing a costume again. 

November

Philosophy, religion. November weather must make me think, or want to. Paving the way for celebration and change?

December

Mystery, comics, roleplaying game rules/worlds. This started with reading a volume of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books per December along with Wodehouse or something akin. Now I have some comic book collections and roleplaying game guides lying around, so might add those. We’ll see.  

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My Music Calendar

Turn, turn, turn, spin, spin, spin.

Certain music comes to mind at certain times of year, which is no surprise for a merry-go-round mind like mine. I am glad it is in tune with the seasons and not just completely random. Several years ago I noticed similar inclinations for the types of books I want to read at certain times of year, so I made a “book type of the month” that has gone well since then. Maybe I’ll make another post sharing that sometime.

This will be updated from time to time.

Spring

Shelleyan Orphan, We Have Everything We Need, spring awakens this their last album continues to grow on me.

March

Split Enz, the romance begins afresh

April

The Church, Uninvited, Like The Clouds, loud spring torrents and freshets

The Jesus & Mary Chain, Darklands, april skies, yes i’m happy when it rains

May

Summer

Shelleyan Orphan, Century Flower, a contender for first album I associate with a season, summer flies buzzin’ bees, heavenly.

The Trash Can Sinatras

Split Enz, Bic Runga, The Go-Betweens, the romance continued so long ago now…

Sly & The Family Stone, there’s a riot goin’ on! Never more true.

June

The Smiths

Morrissey, Viva Hate

The Church, priest=aura

July

August

The Zombies, Odessey & Oracle, see my previous post for the history of this.

Fall

Shelleyan Orphan, Humroot, quiet, close autumnal beauty

September

The Church, Seance, the Beardsley-esque cover image, it must be autumn soon

October

The Church, Untitled #23, as we near the end

R.E.M.’s Murmur took hold this year, as it often does in hazy, witching days in fall or late summer.

Herman’s Hermits Blaze, too, hit the spot with its rich music and blots of yellow gold and raw gray-green turf on its cover.

Sixpence None The Richer, Sixpence None The Richer, like clockwork every most beautiful month of the year

November

Echo & The Bunnymen, cool, slicing apocalypse

The Sundays, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, gray on grey on grey on gray

Winter

The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue, this may be the first album that always kept popping up at this time of year. When streets are ice crystalled after fallen snow, that is the time I think of this. Really frigid winter days.


Babacar, Babacar, a little slip of this Caroline Crawley free-form before we slip into…

Shelleyan Orphan, Helleborine, a summer holler in winter, ending in crystal Shelley

December

The Cure, I have vague memories that I listened to The Cure in winter first, on those cold cold days just before Christmas on tapes given to me by my sister and her friend, also informed by another friend for whom The Cure was her fave. All cozy and cats and poetry and cold and blankets.

Ian McCulloch, Candleland

Der Bingle

January

February

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I remember you by

thunderclap in the sky

The feelings that surge in this one, more than any of our previous five Post-its. A certain M introduced me to Split Enz on those two celebrated mix tapes, and a certain L will forever come to mind first when I hear this group sing, as they do here more than almost anywhere else.

If you’re wondering what this is all about.

This is the most visceral of my Post-its, thunderclap in the sky, for me, someone who celebrates rainstorms, and used to thrill over being caught in them in grad school in Virginia, leaving the library as they moved in, being drenched while walking, then simply changing clothes when I got back to my apartment. Another time there, one struck at 8 or 9 pm and I dodged lightning bolts escaping my office with a female colleague of mine, we two laughing it up under a small wooden pavilion when we needed a break. Then there’s the morning thunderstorm when I was drawn to driving out to a great marsh and watching nature take its course seemingly ignoring the weather in what many imperceptive humans would describe as hell all round.

And then there’s that Louis MacNeice poem that led to a story with the same title.

Some memories of storms, and though I am more conscious now, sadly, of the chance of being struck by lightning, I still hope to be caught in them despite my mutated self. This song invariably brings me to L. The thunderclap of the lyric makes me think of her every time, so, it’s the lyric, the song, that brings her to me, not an actual thunder. It’s all the sameshe reappears to me in moments to treasure. The venture I took to go out and see her: tyranny of distance didn’t stop the cavalier.

* * *

This song is part of what I call a “hat trick.” This is a misnomer, but trifecta sounds too cheap, trilogy to lumbering. In hockey, not that I am a fan of that either, a hat trick is three goals scored in one game by the same player. I have co-opted the phrase to mean a span on an album where three songs in a row sustain a rarefied air, something well above and beyond, ten minutes of bliss. Why this matters I am not sure, but it’s hard to sustain such excellence and I make mental notes whenever I notice one. One the brain’s many parlour games. Time to share.

The practice started with Split Enz’ first album, Mental Notes, where three songs near the album’s end reach that peak, one I’m not sure has ever been matched. The hat trick we’re talking about today is not as intense, but the song “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” was prefaced by an instrumental called “Pioneer” on the Split Enz collection where I first heard it; and this was as it was on the Time and Tide album release. “Pioneer” sets the stage with smooth, swirling synth zest for “Six Months” and its video which has a touching, albeit outdated, nostalgia to it, bringing to mind initial contact and lost love.

The song is followed on Time and Tide by the first Split Enz I ever heard, “Haul Away.” This was on the mix tape M made for me, the one that introduced me to so much music of my future and present. So from “Pioneer” to “Six Months” to “Haul Away” it is a fantastic, very personal hat trick, even a triptych. (Maybe I should be calling these triptychs, but triptych implies a feature piece flanked by two lesser.) How the songs fold into one another: the instrumental setting the stage, the big impact of the main song, then the jaunty jig of a “nervous breakdown” ending things. More than ever, I feel the “lapping at my heels,” “love goes all wrong,” “it’s all we can do to carry on.” Listening to them all again yesterday, it’s amazing all the loving detail that goes into music, all eventually swept away by Time and Tide as the world stops listening and moves on to something new.

(Maybe I should go with three hares instead of hat trick. I am reading Watership Down for my big summer novel this year. That is a more circular symbol, though. But maybe that’s fitting for someone like me whose internal life is like being on a merry-go-round.)

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Surely from an antsy time, and the pinhole at the top shows I had this hanging up somewhere for “inspiration.”

Twitching

like a finger

on the trigger

of a gun

This is one of those lost songs from my radio childhood rediscovered in the mid- to late 90s, and what a song. Simon & Garfunkel reunited and not with just some tepid retread, but a fresh kind of song, despite and because of “dirty breezes” and “the dead and dying.” It’s one of my favorite Paul Simon lyrics and Art’s presence on the song adds that nostalgic return to their youth referred to in the song, plus the usual fibrous vocal punch.

There was a period of listening to S&G albums, with my masterpiece being Bookends. Their ability to see and depict age were incredible despite these being from their callow days. An amazing achievement for only five studio albums (only four that anyone’s heard of). One of the few things I’ve written mentioning a family member was a rewrite of one of their lyrics. A bit embarrassing, the product, but at the time it was satisfying, and I was in New York, so…

As for the sentiment on the Post-it, I didn’t have an intense feeling toward my hometown and its people and trappings expressed in this song, although there is always an ambivalence, especially for someone like me who has steadily spent so much time there long after high school graduation.

It was more just an eagerness to break out and do my thing at odds with my job when I scribbled this down. If I’d known then what I know now, I might have scrapped this Post-it rather than the job, but c’est la vie, guerre, &c.

 

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There’s no one specific in mind here, but just another splendid little scenario in my head, thinking how nice it would be to be able to say that about someone. Could it have been related to someone specific of the time, possibly, but I don’t recall the association, although she was a pretty polite, strait-laced person.

I fell for your

Etiquette

The first time we ever met

This isn’t the first time Phil Judd and Split Enz have surfaced here in Stevesunusual Land. This is an outstanding music video, showcasing Noel Crombie’s contribution to the group. And it’s long before MTV, so disproving the lie that MTV and its ilk wanted us to buy in the early 80s that the music videos they broadcasted were a new phenomenon. Utter nonsense that fresh generations try to pull on older ones, or, more accurately in this case, older generations (advertising types) try to pull on younger ones (targeted youth) to make them feel they are unique.

The emotive close of the video, each band member looking us in the face. Sweet dreams, sweet dreams, sweet dreams every once in a while.

 

 

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From the various seemingly work-related jottings on the back, this seems to be the earliest Post-it, possibly from 2000 or 2001. I’m sure the efficient cause of this Post-it was my workplace, but it can apply to so much more. There’s really not much more to say.

BOOT

The Grime of this World

In the Crotch, Dear…

Louder Than Bombs was always a real album to me, not a compilation, a real treasure trove of Smiths stuff, and an album cover that stands with their best. “Unfocused,” as one reviewer says, but essential.

I’ve been having a Morrissey renaissance. Not owning all of his (often labored) solo stuff, I just collected of a “Golden Hour of The Smiths and Morrissey” for audio consumption, including uncollected Smiths songs and highlights from those Morrissey albums I don’t have.

Strange, it’s The Cure that comes in winter, The Smiths in summer. A few years ago I recommended a bakery barista listen to Strangeways, Here We Come as it started to get really hot out; summer was time for The Smiths I think I told him.

I don’t know if it was that certain mix tapes must have been given to me in the summer, or it’s a memory of tooling around with friends while back from college, but those very tapes still get played in my antient automobile from June to August.

I was going to end this with images from the Johnny Marr show at The Vic from May 2019, but that wouldn’t sit right with you know who. He might prefer to end on these notes, two of his newest, most delightfully nature-y videos, taking the outsider animal’s point of view, of course. Love Is On Its Way Out and Once I Saw A River Clean. There are some dogs in this one too. And what a song!

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More than a decade ago, I scribbled a few song lyrics on Post-it notes and strew them around my room; they are now stacked in a cabinet. There are six, and I thought it would be fun to take a look at each one and see what they dredge up. I recently re-listened to a John Betjeman interview where he likened pop stars to poets for our times, and these six quotations I wrote down were poetry to me.

Telephone rings,

someone speaks —

She would very much

Like to go — out to a show…

I remember being excited by these words, the idea of a woman who would call me out of the blue and invite me out. This Post-it gave a tiny sketch of an ideal woman, an ideal experience and situation. Wistfulness, a longing, a something lost in the past these are part of the Post-it sextet, but there’s more to it as well. The song is called “Paintbox,” and its lyrics and music bring a bunch of images to my mind I won’t get into here.

This Post-it has a line of tape across the top of it, so I had it taped onto something at some point. Could it have been a telephone?

Featured too often on t-shirts and other cultural utterances as a kid, I avoided Pink Floyd (and Led Zeppelin) for a long time (I have still successfully avoided Led Zeppelin). One day I got hold of Relics, a grab-bag compilation of their early stuff came my way, and that along with a bit of knowledge of the oddity of Syd Barrett got me to listen.

Composed by their keyboardist, Rick Wright, “Paintbox” has a pressing, percussion-driven beat from the drums and piano. Other than the romantic moment I’d latched onto, its theme is more of desire to escape from pounding social pressures. The singer wants to be rid of fools, rules, ‘their’ friends, the game, the scene, traffic, she. “I open the door to an empty room / Then I forget.” When the girl telephones, the singer isn’t sure what to do, but she sees through him, and the outing is planned and some comical stress and anger ensue.

A wonderful mix of music and words and themes from, as the 45s below call them, The Pink Floyd. One of their best songs, and it’s the b-side of a single, something not so unusual when you get to know a group well. 

 

We’ll see what’s next in our Post-it sextet soon.

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A quick list of my six favorite * & The * groups, with music released under those names, in chronological order, as prompted by a friend who asked us to stop at five.

Gerry & The Pacemakers

Freddie & The Dreamers

The Mamas & The Papas

Sly & The Family Stone

Echo & The Bunnymen

Prince & The Revolution

 

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I

As I look at my lists⁠—lists of favorite books, games, favorite movies and shows, movies and shows to see, careers, what to do today, what I want to do with my life in writing, nature studies, and learning the didgeridoo⁠—I sometimes think of what has been lost, how life was long before these lists really took hold and established what seems to be a permanence.

When I was young, I didn’t think about or try to plan which way my mind would go, and accomplished seemingly all sorts of things, including a few fun lists, of course, from the World Almanac, an Estes model rocket catalogue, or whatever else was in my hands; but they were never lists that pressured me into the future. You never know, and more importantly it never seems to matter, which way the mind will go when untutored, unstudied, left to its own devices, un-self-conscious. What projects, pursuits, and pitfalls it will fall into and just as easily slip out of. If there is an inherent energy, a lot will be done, possibly even accomplished.

A couple of writers come to mind who wrote in this way⁠—Lord Byron and H.G. Wells. Byron was an endless fount of poetry for a lot of his life, and was tired by his editors, but kept composing and wasn’t given to too much polishing. Wells pursued his writing objectives, completed them, and then moved on. He did not dwell upon his novels in the aesthetic revision sense. John Keats could sit under a plum tree, scribble up an ode and leave it thrust into some books, to be scooped up by Charles Armitage Brown and later published as a masterpiece.

There is something to working randomly that the burden of age, conscience, time pressures, or simple change has robbed me of. But, contrariwise, there is something to that final polishing and publishing that takes conscientiousness and follow thru. The fine art of acting in the moment and then taking the steps to preserve what is worthwhile out of it.

II

This tidbit came to mind amidst this crisis and all of this almost lecherous turning out of doors and socializing in larger and larger groups: “I am perfectly fine with many things being put on hold. When you’re on crutches you can’t play soccer for a while⁠—do something else. I don’t know why many in our society don’t draw that same conclusion.” My married, but otherwise bordering-on-hermit friend concurred, adding a few choice words about sheep, well here they are: “Maybe I’m full of myself but I think many in our society don’t have the capacity to draw the same conclusion. People work their jobs, watch television. They aren’t critical thinkers. They aren’t learners. They’re sheep. Sitting at home all day, they don’t know what to do with themselves. When you have a narrow identity and that identity is taken away, they don’t see anything other than getting that identity back. I don’t know. It’s a theory.”

III

And then this exercise from an old junior high friend who posted the idea online: favorite songs of yours as a kid, from tenderest babe up to early junior high. I copped out a bit on this, not digging into the deeper reaches of my memory. Maybe I was a little afraid to probe into the pre- and early elementary school daze, but what I came up with was something at least. Just way too many songs passing into my brain in the 70s. I fondly remember playing the song “I Can’t Stand It” from a neighbor’s Donny Osmond album at speed 78, ca. 1977, and I know that wasn’t because we liked the song. 

So, restricting myself to early ’45s I bought that I still have and sometimes play: “Come on Eileen” Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Rock of Ages” Def Leppard, “Cum on Feel the Noize” Quiet Riot, “Electric Avenue” Eddy Grant, “Abracadabra” Steve Miller Band, “Even the Nights Are Better” Air Supply, “One Thing Leads to Another” The Fixx, “The Safety Dance” Men Without Hats, “Keep Feelin’ Fascination” The Human League, “I Feel for You” Chaka Khan, “Stray Cat Strut” The Stray Cats, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” Taco, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Bonnie Tyler. Not so bad, actually!

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