Today is Record Store Day! Kids, records stores were the iTunes back in our day, but rather than being able to download an infinite number of songs at a moments notice, you had to actually go to a store. It was also difficult because if you didn’t hear what the name of the song was when the DJ announced it, you were stuck trying to hum it to a guy who really didn’t know it, but was going to point you in the direction of some shelf to keep you from talking to him.
I joke, but Record Stores were places where people could get together and enjoy music. It was more than just a place to buy music, it was a community. It was a different time. Back then, Nicki Minaj was called “Lil’Kim”, the boy bands were boy bandier, and no one was quite sure what a Simon Cowell was and he wasn’t responsible for 40% of the Karoke contests on television.
In honor of Record Store Day, The Island and I wanted to discuss what music means to us. These aren’t necessarily my favorite songs, these are the ones that mean something to me. So here they are. They aren’t in any particular order, unless you’re paranoid and you want to see something in it. Maybe it spells out the name of where I buried the treasure.
- “River of Dreams” by Billy Joel. I’m a huge Billy Joel fan, and I could name pretty much any Billy Joel song that he’s ever written. I’m always saddened that he doesn’t seem to get as much respect as he deserves. Listening to Billy Joel is like listening to history. (Fact: He wanted to be a History Teacher, and it shows in the music he writes. Yep. Writes. Not comes out of the compu-writer 7000) But “River of Dreams” was the first Billy Joel Album I owned. It was the first song I heard of his that I discovered on my own. I’d heard other Billy Joel that my parents listened to, but this was different. This was one that I heard. It was my song. I couldn’t get enough of
- “Nicole’s Song”/”The River 1873” by the Virginia Coalition. I’m doubling up! Yes, I’m cheating on someone else’s blog! These are from the same album, VACO (as the cool kids call them)’s very first. I was given the pleasure of reviewing their first album for my college paper. I really enjoyed it, but these two songs just really affected me.” The River;1873” is a work of art. It’s a story within a song, and I’ve listened to it a million times and I just can’t wrap my brain about it, and I keep wanting to enjoy it.“Nicole’s Song”, I discovered much later, but it just evokes so much perfect emotion. It’s a beautiful, devastating song about love. One of the best love songs that’s out there We’ve all had feelings for someone but the timing just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. We’ve all felt like in another world, another time, if just something would work out... we could be together. It’s a devastating, haunting, beautiful feeling.
- “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might be Giants. How can any life changing list exist without They Might Be Giants? Blue Canary in the Outlet by the Lightswitch/who watches over you... Fantastic lyrics, fantastic fun that hides a deeper meaning. They Might Be Giants taught me that you can do something deep... but hide it in something amazing.
- “Vienna” by Linda Eder. You’d expect more musical type songs from me, who’s a musical type, and while this song isn’t from a musical it’s got that “musical” quality. It’s a story song, written from the point of view of a lover that is looking back on better times. A lot of songs look back at better times. A lot of songs look back on former lovers. This one manages to combine it into a coherent story. And it’s not a musical. It’s just an amazing song that needs to be experienced, not really listened to.
- “Cineplex Carmex” by My New Mixtape. My New Mixtape isn’t so much a band as is an experience. It was started by a member of the Virginia Coalition, and features a lot of different local artists. While again, they have a large stable of excellent songs, but I picked this one because the first time I heard it, I had to listen to it about seven or eight more times to make sure I got it. It’s another relatable song... it’s about a first date. But the whole thing is done with a robot voice. (They joke that it’s a robot love song.) But the robot voice forces you to focus on the words... (Words are important!) I dare you to listen to this one just one.
- “Cologne”/”Best Imitation of Myself”/”Evaporated” by Ben Folds/Five. I picked both eras, where Ben Folds was solo, and back when he was with the trio of Ben Folds Five. At any time, he is still one of the best songwriters in the world. I could go into a lot of detail on this, but again, it comes down to the words. These are some of the best written songs that have ever been written, particularly the wordplay of Cologne and Evaporated. Evaporated was one of the songs that got me hooked on Ben Folds. Both can be torn down to their essence and enjoyed. The greatest is still “Best Imitation of Myself” which again, speaks to me at a certain time. Sometimes the hardest thing we can do is be ourself. But sometimes we have to wonder if we make the face until it stuck.
- “1000 Goodbyes” by Captain Tractor. What? You mean you don’t listen to a lot of Canadian Celtic Folk Rock? 1000 Goodbyes. It’s a song about being leaving, and being terrible about saying goodbye. Who hasn’t done that? As a military brat, I’ve done it a lot.
- “Hail Mary” by Eddie From Ohio. I have to include EFO on here, which again is a local (ish) band. But this song speaks to me as well. It’s a retelling of the Prodigal Son story, but in a way that anyone can relate to. Plus, just try not to enjoy a line that says, “I’m a buck twenty five from being broke and a Hail Mary shy of redemption.” It just breaks things down in a way that I hadn’t thought of before.
Yes, there’s more than 10. I cheated. I’m priceless. I hope you take this opportunity to download and listen to some of these songs.
The Island responds:
Onto the list. I would like to point out that Bad Shakespeare cheated - there are more than 10 songs on this list. But in the spirit of RSD and because music makes us all do crazy things, I'll let this slide. I'm cool that way. The other thing that you have to realize is that there is no winner - both of our lists are perfect. They're perfect because music is a very personal experience. Even when you're at a concert with hundreds or thousands of other people, you're still connecting to the music in a personal way. This is one of the many reasons I both love and hate sharing music with other people - I know how I feel about it and I love hearing their reactions. But I also get a bit paranoid and possessive - I really don't want them to ruin the song or band for me. I'm fine if they hate it but I don't want my experience to change because of their reaction. This is all part of the musical journey that we take and why I don't talk about music on first dates.
Has Bad Shakespeare convinced me that Billy Joel is the greatest? No, he has not. But I would never begrudge or judge his love of the Piano Man. I think his experience with "River of Dream" is very similar to my experience with "Little Earthquakes" or "Thirteen"; these were songs I discovered on my own and became foundations for the way I think about and approach music. I always thought Billy Joel's music was my parents' music (even though neither of them listened to Billy Joel). Billy Joel is a hugely talented musician but his music has never spoken to me the way it does to Bad Shakespeare. So I will not be purchasing a Billy Joel album or CD today as I enjoy RSD. I will, however, stop rolling my eyes when someone tells me just how much they love Billy Joel.
What's awesome about this list is that I haven't heard the vast majority of it until today. I love They Might Be Giants (saw them in concert recently) and Ben Folds Five. Ben Folds is an exceptionally good songwriter and I am putting my name into be the next Mrs. Ben Folds. I've heard Eddie from Ohio before but never got into the band. I've never heard songs by Virginia Coalition, My New Mixtape, or Captain Tractor (I didn't even know Canadian Celtic bands were a thing). While Bad Shakespeare hasn't changed how I feel about Billy Joel, he's given me some new bands to listen to. To me, that's a win.