Taking inspiration from this blog post by my friend Justin, I have selected 13 songs that could serve as a soundtrack to my life, whatever that might mean. These then do not serve as an “all time favorite list” of songs, though some of these would overlap that list, but instead serve as the music to which I’ve lived important parts of my life. The music that was on because it was important to me then and now. It’s a group of songs I can’t quite imagine life without at this point.
These don’t necessarily represent a specific moment in time. Some do, but more so they capture a feeling I’ve had that I can let go.
1966 - She Said She Said, The Beatles
Many possibilities for me when it comes to the Beatles, but this song got me jump started in high school when it came to what I was feeling. Sitting in front of this little stereo in my cardboard room, willing it to make sounds that would change me or lead me someplace. This song delivered. Lennon, the fucker, changes the meter even.
1975 - Goin’ to Acapulco, Bob Dylan and The Band
Maybe my favorite Dylan song. If it’s on I pretty much have to listen to it. It’s like that guy in Seinfeld with Desperado. Yes it’s seemingly about the speaker going to visit a prostitute and live the good life. The Band is so good on it too. My jaw goes slack when I hear it. It arrests a part of me that cannot be explained. I have to listen to it right now.
1995 - Game of Pricks, Guided By Voices
Maybe just a handful of bands that have affected me so strongly that life is simply a different color as a result. GBV is one. This song is all pop and grit. I first heard it when I lived in Florida during the dark times. It was one of the glimmers of the vast world shining directly in my eye from far away. This is the album version, which is definitive for me, but there’s also a kickass alternate version here.
1992 - In the Mouth a Desert, Pavement
Another song that reminds me of California. Oddly enough driving down 101 to L.A. Seeing the avocado farms and little eateries.
1996 - Naomi, Neutral Milk Hotel
I used to semi-gladly work the night shifts at the front desk of my dorm. Thankfully there was a little boom box that looked like a space ship and it played compact discs flawlessly. I listened to this song a lot. Just sitting there in the otherwise silent and dark front hallway.
1994 - Condor Ave, Elliott Smith
One of the Elliott songs I mostly learned on guitar but gave up because I just realized that I liked listening to it so much more than playing it. I can’t even remember when I first heard Roman Candle. It’s mixed up with moving from Florida to California. Those were some times.
1967 - Luxury Liner, International Submarine Band
I used to walk around San Francisco wearing my headphones listening to this song and when passing another person wearing headphones I would think, “I bet he is not listening to Luxury Liner.” I would also sometimes play it loudly when I drove the campus shuttle at night, not a passenger for hours.
1998 - Hooray for Tuesday, The Minders
I saw this band several times in San Francisco. They would drive all the way down from Portland for a single show and then drive all the way back up. They are saints for that. An Elephant 6 band so good at making a pop song it’s ridiculous. This particularly gives me strong nostalgia for riding in cars in the East Bay.
1967 - What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round, The Monkees
Yes, the Monkees. Absolutely, the Monkees. This song in particular. Written by Michael Martin Murphey and Owens Castleman, but sung beautifully by Michael Nesmith. This song makes me want to lay in a hammock.
1999 - Carry the Zero, Built to Spill
A song I heard in college while listening to Keep It Like A Secret. For an album of such loud and rocking guitars this song has a soft lining even though it too is loud. I’ve heard it hundreds of times probably. It still hits me. The chords are fun to play on guitar too.
1997 - Everything Beautiful is Far Away, Grandaddy
This song from their amazing first album, Under the Western Freeway, perfectly captures my imagination in a way that great speculative fiction does. It just makes my mind go. I come back to this to remind myself of where I can go in writing, which is anywhere.
1997 - Triumph, Wu Tang Clan
Not the first rap song I heard that I liked, but one that just comes at you like almost nothing else. Inspectah Deck’s opening verse is about the best thing I ever heard. This song makes me feel like I could tackle anyone in the middle of the street.
1982 - Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen
"Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line." It’s a bomb. Right to your gut.