Category Archives: Pop Culture

Day 25 – A song that makes you laugh: “Let’s Rock and Roll”

“Let’s Rock and Roll” – Bobby Bare, Jr.

the luxuries of van living

Thanks to my brother Andy Russell for turning me on to this song. Truer lines have never been written about the indignities of the ‘rock and roll lifestyle.’ I laughed, I cried … because it quite literally had been a part of my life for twenty some-odd years. Not to the extent it has been BB, Jr’s, but I’ve seen the vomit running down the walls, and when I heard the opening verse, I knew that this song would be one I’d be listening to again and again:

I live in the floor of a mini-van

Driven by drunks across this land

And I wake up in the worst part of your town

Drink free beer and sing until I fall down

Let’s rock and roll, let’s rock and roll

May the good lord of wine, women and song bless the road warriors like BB Jr who are still out there doing it every night. My rocking and rolling is now limited to once a month or so, and very seldom does the van get more than an hour away from home base. The days of draft beer dinners and crashing on strange, cigarette-stained couches or six dudes sharing a cheap motel room (“we don’t take checks!”) are fading into the fog of memory. And I can laugh about it now, thanks to this song.

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Day 24 – A song that you want played at your funeral: “Strangers”

“Strangers” – The Kinks

This rare Dave Davies-composed (and sung) Kinks tune leapt out at me when I first heard it on Pandora, and I heard it again on the soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited. I like the simplicity of the lyric, as well as the melody:

If I live too long I’m afraid I’ll die

So I will follow you wherever you go

If your offered hand is still open to me

Strangers on this road we are on

We are not two we are one

Such a beautiful song.

Where are you going I don’t mind

I’ve killed my world and I’ve killed my time

So where do I go what do I see

I see many people coming after me

So where are you going to I don’t mind

If I live too long I’m afraid I’ll die

So I will follow you wherever you go

If your offered hand is still open to me

Strangers on this road we are on

We are not two we are one

So you’ve been where I’ve just come

From the land that brings losers on

So we will share this road we walk

And mind our mouths and beware our talk

‘Till peace we find tell you what I’ll do

All the things I own I will share with you

If I feel tomorrow like I feel today

We’ll take what we want and give the rest away

Strangers on this road we are on

We are not two we are one

Holy man and holy priest

This love of life makes me weak at my knees

And when we get there make your play

‘Cos soon I feel you’re gonna carry us away

In a promised lie you made us believe

For many men there is so much grief

And my mind is proud but it aches with rage

And if I live too long I’m afraid I’ll die

Strangers on this road we are on

We are not two we are one

Strangers on this road we are on

We are not two we are one

Day 23 – A song that you want to play at your wedding: “Such Great Heights”

“Such Great Heights” – The Postal Service

So, this gives me a chance to gush a bit about how much I love my missus.  I’m not much for big events (I hate most ‘milestone’ events — for myself or others — finding them at best a big let-down or, at worst, a reminder of the impermanence of any given moment of happiness … sorry to be Captain Bringdown), but our wedding is, in my memory, one of those times that really was better than I’d ever dreamed it could be, and it’s all because of who I’d shared it with! Friends and family of ours from all over the country — heck, some from other parts of the world, came together and had a great party. It was a huge conflagration of folks and, I would like to think, an unpretentious and fun experience for all. But, most importantly, it was the wedding that we wanted it to be, and music was very central to it.

Thems some fancy outfits

The Hussy and I actually played “Such Great Heights” together at our wedding — that is, we performed it. As music-nerds, we wanted to not only have a cool playlist for our ceremony — which we did — and great singers for the songs — which we most definitely did, we wanted to play a couple of songs together. The tunes we chose for pre-ceremony were:

Don Eanes (on keys), David Hart (vocals), and Chad Light (guitar)

“Maybe I’m Amazed” – Wings (sung by Don Eanes)

“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” – Death Cab for Cutie (sung by David Hart)

Wedding March: “The Final Countdown” – Europe

Vanessa Bentley

“To Make You Feel My Love” – Bob Dylan (sung by Vanessa Bentley)

We had a great bluegrass band for our reception, Meridian, and they played “Tennessee Waltz” when we came into the barn (yes, our reception was in a barn). After eating and dancing some, we took the stage along with many of our rock and roll compatriots, commenced to rocking. My now-wife and I played “Such Great Heights” and Teddy Thompson’s “Altered State”; the combined forces of many of my bands, past and present, kept it rocking on into the night. The wonderful night.

Day 22 – A song you listen to when you’re sad – “End of the Rainbow”

“End of the Rainbow” – Richard & Linda Thompson

The Whole Records is ALmost tHis hapPy

This is a harsh song. Brutal even: “There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow / there’s nothing to grow up for anymore.” Whenever I’m sad, very sad, this is the soundtrack playing in my head. Tough stuff. But there’s something about the absolute rawness of the lyric, the clarity —  “I feel for you, you little horror” — that’s somehow cleansing. When you see the world that bleakly, and you’re feeling bleak, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Right?

Day 21 – A song you listen to when you’re happy – “I Believe”

“I Believe”  – REM

,,,, nice eyebrows ....

REM was one of those bands that was special for me when 15-16: still kind of a ‘secret’ because radio and MTV hadn’t really discovered them, thus most of the popular kids hadn’t either. Lifes Rich Pagaent was their first really mainstream sounding record, the first one that I could get my non-record nerd friends to listen to and admit that these guys were really a rock and roll band. “I Believe” was, and still is, my favorite track off that record. Kicking off with a little lo-fi banjo lick, it soon leaps into signature REM territory: rollicking Byrds-jangle with Stipe’s pastiche lyrics. And such great lyrics: “I believe in coyotes / and time as an abstract / exchange the change the difference between / what you want and what you need / there’s the key … and change / is what I believe in.” Up to that time, probably his best work.

Day 19 – A song from your favorite album – “Rocks Off”

“Rocks Off” –  Rolling Stones (opening song from Exile on Main St.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones

I listened to a bagful of records the other day during a day of driving — to Charlotte, NC and back — to see if I my choice of favorite album may have been surpassed. Dylan, Costello, Beatles, Waylon, Willie, Thin Lizzy, Kinks? Nope, it’s still Exile on Main Street. Rock on, Rocks Off.

Day 18 – A song that you wish you heard on the radio – “The Knife Feels Like Justice”

“The Knife Feels Like Justice”  – Brian Setzer

In my opinion this song had it all: a great, Byrdsy riff (it is, quite literally, the reason I own a 12-string guitar);  a strong melodic hook; and a killer lead vocal from Mr. Setzer. However, nobody was ready for Brian Setzer as a cow-punk rock star in late 80’s. The Stray Cats were still fresh on everyone’s mind, Dwight Yoakam wasn’t cool yet, and alt-county was still a half-decade away. So this excellent song, and the kick-a$$ album it came from – which I still own, thank you very much – quickly hit the bargain bins. Still, I dream of the day when I hear this tune bursting out of the radio speakers, where it really belonged … and still belongs.