When E. and I were in Amsterdam, K. reminded me of that radio show, Desert Island Disks, where some famous musician would host the show and play their (supposedly) favorite songs. I have been mentally compiling my own list in my head since then. But, it has been hard. I am not one to codify these things, and I find as soon as I assign a song to the list, I begin to wonder if it will stand the test off time. And I also wonder what the criteria should be. Some would choose songs that have been historically important; others would pick songs that had the most powerful emotional impact on them. Some would pick the songs that they listen to the most.
For me, the songs I love are inextricably tied to time and place. When I hear them, I am immediately transported to some other moment. It is almost narcotic. So, here are a few possible candidates:
Nina Simone: Turn Me On
M., who I dated briefly before I moved to Portland, introduced me to Nina Simone. We’d sit in her amazingly dirty apartment drinking beer and listening to To Be Young, Gifted and Black,and some of Nina’s other, more political songs. M. would play the album on a dinky little plastic turntable, as these were the last, dying days of vinyl. It wasn’t until I got to Portland, and was staying with Cheryl out in the boonies, that I heard the Nina’s more bluesy stuff–Sugar in My Bowl, Turn Me On, In the Dark. I would sit by myself in Cheryl’s empty little house, listening to The Nina Simone Collection, feeling lonely and far away, but knowing that, if I ever I decided to walk out the door into the strange city outside, an adventure would begin.
Erik Satie: Gymnopedie #1
This song, along with Chopin’s Nocturnes and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, is most responsible for my interest in classical music. I first heard it on album my wife owned, a jazzy version done by saxophonist John Harle. It is a melancholy little piano piece, perfect for my melancholy soul
Louvin Brothers: I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby
My friend Lee introduced me to the Louvins. He had bought their box set, and taped most of it for me, sending 3 or 4 cassette tapes full of those exquisite harmonies to me when I was still living in Portland. I listened to them constantly, and, for the first time in my life, I felt truly Southern. And I felt truly Southern while I was living about as far from the South as I could be. Knoxville Girl are Kentucky are two other deserving Louvin songs.
Brian Eno: most of Before and After Science, all of Another Green World
Smog: Cold Blooded Old Times, Bathysphere
Elvis Presley: Blue Moon
Neil Young: I have to think about this one some more
Gillian Welch: The Revelator
Sonic Youth: most of EVOL, Daydream Nation
Meat Puppets: Lake of Fire, Magic Toy Missing
Residents: Moisture, Santa Dog ’78, It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World
John Lee Hooker Bundle Up & Go
Peter Gabriel: Games without Frontiers
Liz Phair, Nick Drake, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Hazel Dickens, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Butthole Surfers, ThePixies, Talking Heads, Beck, Neko Case, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Wilco, The Carpenters, Tindersticks, Al Green.