Amy Powell’s Eternal Mixtape


Family and Friends at the Ridge – Copper Kettle

You can hear the folks on this recording claiming that it is an old folk song, but it is usually credited to Albert Frank Beddoe and was popularized by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.  I think this is a late ‘60s recording of my mother, my grandparents and some of my grandparents’ friends at a hootenanny in the NC mountains where they have a campground.  My mother and one of my sisters now own little pieces of that campground, and my baby sister got married there last fall.  But at the time of the recording, I guesstimate my mother is a medical student in her 20s, younger then than I am now.  She has probably met my father at this point; they may be dating.  But this was a weekend or summer trip back home to the mountains, where she sat around the campfire with family and friends and played music.  It’s not a great recording, and there’s a disagreement about what key to play in.  The other voices and sounds are friends and family who have since passed away but whose names are dear to me and whose voices vividly call to mind summer camping trips where I sat around the fire listening to them play and sing.  The main male voice here is a mountain man named Ed; he and his wife were my grandparents’ best friends.  Ed built most of the structures up on the Ridge with his bare hands, and he was the primary guitar player most of the time (also, as I dimly recall, banjo and harmonica).  I think, however, that my mother is doing most of the playing on this recording.  (I’m going to try to spare the Eternal Mixtape any further family recordings.  There are very few good ones and even fewer of them have been digitized.)
Floyd Kramer – Last Date

My father, much like me, lacks any discernible musical talent or skill.  During medical school, he took piano lessons so that he could play this song.  He then quit taking lessons and hasn’t touched a piano since.  Maybe the attempt to impress a girl flopped, I dunno. But apparently it worked.
CHILDHOOD – Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ 

Jimmy Durante – Hi Lili Hi Lo

I’m only being a little cute with this one.  My mother sang it to my sisters and me occasionally as a lullaby.  I have a vivid memory of it in the crib.
Ricky Skaggs –  Honey, Open that Door

Okay, my father was obsessed with Ricky Skaggs for awhile.  I heard this tape as a child more than can possibly be healthy.  It was constantly on in the car for driving to school.  for road trips.  Bluegrass, country, folk, and oldies (like, from the 1940s and 50s, kids) were always on in the background.  And lets not talk about yodeling tapes.

Michael Jackson – Bad

I was 8.  This is the first time I remember paying any attention whatsoever to current popular music, and it was all about the video, which seemed amazing.  I was never fascinated by MTV other than Michael Jackson videos.  I was too young to notice “Thriller” when it came out, but I distinctly remember watching it for the first time around when “Bad” came out.  I also remember my parents being briefly outraged by the later video for “Black or White” in which Michael smashes up a car and grabs his crotch.  It seemed very provocative at the time.  Some years later, I danced to “Black or White” in my last dance recital.  In a stupid costume.  And no, you can’t see pictures or videos.  Not ever.
Rosemary Clooney – Sisters

Since I have 3 sisters and we all took dance lessons, we were occasionally called upon to dance together in public.  Our original tap performance of “sisters” was stunning, endearing, and enduring.  It has also been reprised at each of our weddings.  And no, you still can’t see pictures.

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

No doubt introduced to me by my parents, this was the first tape I ever bought for myself.  I thereafter bought pretty much everything Simon & Garfunkel that I could lay my little hands on.  I was an awkward middle school child, as you might imagine.  I have two very vivid memories of listening to this tape.  Once, I was at summer camp, and a bunch of girls went out robi-dosing.  I found out I was intentionally not invited because I was presumably a “narc.”  I’m pretty sure I had no idea what that meant.  I know I had to ask what robi-dosing was.  But I also ditched evening camp activities and laid in my bunk alone listening to Simon & Garfunkel.  SUCH A DORK. The year I started middle school, I met the girl who was to become my bestest best friend in the unique tortured intimacy shared only by angsty teenage girls.  I recall making her listen to “I am a rock” the very first time I invited her over to my house because I thought it said so much about me.  SAD AND PATHETIC DORK.  She later told me that she found it very intimidating at the time.   We were probably about 12.

Jimmy Buffett – Son of a Son of Sailor

Another favorite of my father.  I’m pretty sure Jimmy Buffett was also my first live concert – with the family.  To this day, it takes no effort and very little beer to induce Jimmy Buffett sing-alongs.  My husband, however, finds this horrifying and generally suggests putting on some Franz Nicolay to prevent this from happening.

HIGH SCHOOL – Don’t Call Me Daughter

Nirvana – Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam

I remember the shock, the girls crying, the teachers’ halting attempts to talk to us about suicide that day.  Only 14-year-olds could have been shocked by Kurt Cobain’s death.  But we were.  I was not really a Nirvana fan; I don’t think I cried.  But one had limited choices for sub-genre identity in a small and socially segregated town.  One either liked “country” or one was “alternative”.  A few white kids were into “rap.”  But that was pretty much the range of identities available to our imaginations.  “Alternative” just sounded better than just “nerd” (which was probably more accurate in my case).  Also, fashion sensibility and I only ever intersected in the grunge era.  So, notwithstanding my general indifference to Nirvana, Kurt Cobain was a cultural icon.  One of my cultural icons.  I think my continued indifference to Nirvana is less about their music — I really rather like many of the bands that influenced Nirvana and the bands that followed them — and more about the fact I am still angry at Kurt.

They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in Your Soul

My bestest best friend and I made all things They Might Be Giants into an important staple on debate team trips in high school.  They are charmingly nerdy, delightfully catchy, lyrically engaging.  What’s not to love?  Loud nerd sing-alongs ensued, much to the chagrin of the drama team nerds, who believed themselves ever so much cooler than the policy debaters.  This reminds me of long cross-state bus trips where the driver had to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom, and I taught myself how to bottom-deal (poorly) while playing Uno in the back of the bus.  After dark, the debate team bus games turned to truth or dare.  But the music stayed nerdy.  TMBG and Ben Folds Five were awesome.  I had a brief fascination with ska.  And I kept some of my parents’ non-country-sounding oldies in rotation.  Because, you know, I wasn’t “country.”
Oasis – Champagne Supernova

I rode my bike back and forth to the barn where I cared for my horse everyday.  The barn was not far at all, but it felt far on a rainy winter day.  The ride back home after dark — after a full day of school and then a few hours of intense exercise and then working in the barn — felt brutal.  I remember a winter where this song had been on the radio constantly and had become another incessant earworm.  I shouted it into the wind to make myself keep going.
James Taylor – Fire and Rain

James Taylor was the first concert I went to of my own volition, and even then I knew it wasn’t cool.  But he was so dreamy for an old guy.  This song I first heard on the soundtrack for “Running on Empty” (Oh, River Phoenix, I will always love you) which I rented on VHS.  Back then, I heard an entirely apocryphal origin story for the lyrics to this song, which I believed to be true until googling the matter in 2010 to write this paragraph.  Damn you, internets.  Damn you, Brendan.  Anyway, it was a sad and sweet song by a broody Carolina boy with a guitar, and it moved me to go to a live concert at the newly minted Virginia Beach Amphitheatre.  I think my friend’s mom drove us.
Indigo Girls – Watershed

My brief adolescent fascination with Simon and Garfunkel not withstanding, this was the first band I ever loved.  My bestest best friend and I added a third young woman to be our bestest best friend about this time and we all became completely obsessed.  We dissected the lyrics.  We tried to track down rumors.  We talked about how their bands were like our lives, how they shaped my philosophy – both personal and epistemological.  When my English teacher asked us to bring in music that we thought of as poetic so that we could dissect the lyrics, I had trouble choosing an Indigo Girls song.  I owned everything they ever recorded until someone stole my CD collection in college.  *sigh*  I’ve never entirely rebuilt my IG collection.  First scene.  Driving to the beach, 100 degrees, windows down, music cranked up, chocolate malts.  Three young women, an inseparable trio, belting it out.  We ridiculed our philosophy teacher who had derided the Indigo Girls as “average lesbian folk rock.”

Indigo Girls – Reunion

Second scene.  The three of us ditch school on a Friday and sneak out of town to go to an Indigo Girls concert at a club in Virginia.  We wanted to show up super-early to get good spots.  And Michelle Malone, also awesome, was opening.  So, yeah, we wanted to get there Brendan-early.  A tire blew out on the drive through the swamp.  The drive through the Dismal Swamp is a little less treacherous these days, but in those days there was no shoulder, a few blind turns, and no civilization in easy walking distance.  I was opining on how I thought a tire should be changed (I had strong opinions on the subject, having seen it done once) when a very nice, very drunk old man driving a tow truck stopped to help us change the tire.  He was fortunately not a serial killer. Then, we got lost in the one of the not-so-nice parts of downtown Norfolk.  Still, not killed.  Some nice young men on a street corner gave us directions.  We arrived at the concert venue a little before doors.  We eagerly rushed in, only to find ourselves directed to the “under-21 section”, where we were corralled off to the side with no decent lines of sight.  We were extremely grumpy about this development.  As the BIGGEST FANS, we were clearly ENTITLED to better treatment.  Our various complicated schemes to sneak into the drinking section were stymied by intimidating bouncers and our own compelling desire to not get kicked out.    But then the music started and it all washed away.  I have no recollection of what we told our parents.
Air Force Academy Cadets – On Eagles Wings

The February of my senior year of high school, my mother’s mother died. The next month, my father’s father died.  I was maimed. We sang the same two hymns at each of the funerals. In March, my dog died. No one sang. I have no particular attachment to the Air Force Academy version of this hymn; it sounds in my head like it is sung by as many friends and family as can be crammed into an old church.

THE COLLEGE YEARS:  Amy Discovers Classic Rock (and Napster) and tries to stop feeling like a jackass

Jimi Hendrix – Easy Rider

The boys ran the squad-room stereo on my college debate team.  No longer in control, I learned about classic rock and its slightly more recent incarnations.  There was a lot of Led Zepp, a lot of Pink Floyd . . . some Stones . . . very occasionally Bruce . . . some Guns and Roses. There was a running argument about whether Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix was the greatest guitar player of all time.  I listened carefully and expressed no opinion, being only vaguely familiar with the names. I didn’t mind, really. It turned out that I pretty well liked guitar heavy rock and roll. Although every now and then, the women would hijack the stereo, play some “chick angst music” and drive away the boys.

David Bowie – Rebel, Rebel

My boyfriend (now my husband) was comparing some musician to David Bowie when I broke my usual stay-silent-and-listen rule and asked him who David Bowie was.  Much mockery later, someone asked me if I had seen Labyrinth.  “Oh!  Oh yeah, that guy. ”  Even more mockery later, I borrowed the boy’s David Bowie CDs to catch up.  I have jumped around to this song a lot. But I still refer to him as “that guy from Labyrinth.”
Naughty By Nature – Feel Me Flow

My husband-to-be really liked hip-hop.  I tried to appreciate it for awhile.  I found a few good lyricists, a few good songs here and there.  But this was pretty much the only song that I already knew and liked when we met.  So we listened to it together a lot.  This is the sound of young and awkward love to me.
Indigo Girls – Least Complicated

Scene Three. My senior year, second semester, the Indigo Girls played Wait Chapel, the campus church.  I secured front row seats for me, a group of college pals and my bestest best friend from high school.  She was in a rough patch and had dropped out of school.  The third of our trio was not speaking to me. We suddenly felt very distant.  But, girl, we could re-live our glory days like champs.

Simon & Garfunkel – Keep the Customer Satisfied

One of my sisters lived in Chapel Hill, a couple hours down the road from me. During my college years, we would frequently meet up in Chapel Hill and drive home together. If you start this track just as you turn off of Edgewood Drive in my hometown, crank it up really loud and drive just as fast as the music takes you, the really cathartic bit with the horns sounds as you round the big curve on our street. And it finishes up right after you park in my driveway. This works best if you both shout along at the top of your lungs. And whoever isn’t driving should mime the horns or the drums or both. We both still queue up this song like clockwork when we turn off Edgewood.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK:  Amy’s college laptop crashes; she loses all her stolen Napster tracks, and she starts over again.

Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight

This was my first dance with my husband.  Neither of us can dance worth a damn.  But still, it was our dance.  In the space of about 3 weeks, I graduated from college, got married, moved to New York, and started a new job.
Ben Folds – Your Redneck Past

I recently re-discovered a mixtape my best friend made me around this time.  It was intended to tweak me about abandoning my roots and seeking a new life.  It was sweet and funny and moving, and it had this song on it. 

Neil Young – On Broadway

A few months later, I stood in the street and watched the second of the Twin Towers come down. That’s a longer, sadder story, and it has its own soundtrack, and I don’t tell it.

The Clash – Death or Glory

I didn’t discover punk rock until I went to law school.  That may seem counterintuitive and unreasonable.  Or at least somehow hypocritical.  But it was the first time I was living in a city.  And having moved in with my husband, I had the run of his CD collection – which included heavy doses of early punk rock.   I wasn’t going out to shows at all.  Actually, for the first couple of years of law school, I wasn’t going out at all.  And I was only listening to enough new music to conclude that very little of it was interesting to me.  But the internets were a wide and wonderful place to learn about old punk music, even if you didn’t want to steal it.
Lucinda Williams – I Lost It

Studying for a tax law exam has a peculiar effect on one’s mind.  I had this song on constant repeat for about a month.  I also had an awkward conversation with my mother about what it was about.  This album — which I had owned for a long time before putting it on repeat — was actually my first inkling that I had been lying to myself for many, many years about whether I liked country music.  So, I said for awhile that I liked “alt-country”.  And then that I liked “old-timey” country.  It turns out, I LOVE country music.  So, having moved to the great Sodom in the North, I started to explore country and bluegrass music. I found an old Doc Watson cassette in my car last week; I’m pretty sure I stole in from my parents on a trip home.

The Hold Steady – Cattle and the Creeping Things

I wanted to hear more new music but I wasn’t hearing much that interested me.  A colleague at my job told me that I should check out Arcade Fire, who had just made “the greatest album of all time” and that they were Pitchfork-approved.  I glowered at him but bought the album.  It was fine.  A buddy from law school told me about the Hold Steady around the same time.  It’s hard to describe, he said, it’s like this spoken word thing but over rock and roll.  And, there’s this line about the bible “the dude blamed the chick and the chick blamed the snake.”  I glowered at him too and bought the album.  I found it kind of hard to listen to on the first run through.  But I kept coming back to it.

BANNED IN DC:  A new obsession, live music, and D.C. hardcore 

The Hold Steady – How a Resurrection Really Feels

So, not long after I moved to DC, the same law school buddy called me up to rave about the new Hold Steady album and the show he went to.  I picked up two tickets to the show at the Black Cat.  There are a lot of stories from that night, but they’re a little blurry.  Some whiskey.  Some dancing.  One fistfight.  One wholly embarrassing moment.  And a hazy light gives everyone and everything a halo.  Resurrection segues into Killer Parties and a stage invasion.  A fire was lit.  The next morning, I sent emails to everyone, everywhere about how they need to see this band.  I started to lurk on the Hold Steady message board, where I eventually started helping out as a moderator.  A year or two later, I fly to Ybor City to see a Hold Steady show, and I met the fans known affectionately as the Unified Scene.  These days, I have traveled thousands of miles and made many dear, dear friends from several countries.  I jumped the border once myself. These songs have soundtracked my life more than any other since 2006.  Next month, the Unified Scene invades Harrisburg, PA, and I’ll be there too.  Look for me up front in my nerd shirt – #0.
The Dismemberment Plan – The Ice of Boston

Having (re)discovered live music, I searched around for other shows.  I found myself in the audiences for They Might Be Giants, The New Pornographers, Lucero, Against Me, Constantines, Drive-by Truckers, the summer shows out at Fort Reno, and many more followed fast upon.  Hip indie bands. Serious noodly bands. Big band. House shows. Joke bands. Friends’ bands. Punk shows in suburban garages and urban basements. I started to consume music at a frenetic pace. Good music is great, but the perfect live show was the one sweet fleeting feeling.  There have been a few here and there.  The Dismemberment Plan reunion shows at the Black Cat have to be near the top of any list.  There was pornographic cake!  And a stage invasion!  And I did not know it at the time, but there were at least 2 Unified Scene folks in the crowd that I would soon consider near and dear.

Minor Threat – Bottled Violence

So, I knew a little about DC’s hardcore scene before moving here. But living here, I decided to explore it more – Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Teen Idles, etc., and then their current offspring.  These songs soundtracked my life as a government lawyer under the Bush Administration who drinks too much in her spare time.  If you think that involves a degree of cognitive dissonance, you would be right.  But anyone who works in government and doesn’t occasionally want to burn it all down is either dense or dissembling.  Or both.  So, imagine these songs occasionally reverberating in the halls of the Justice Department.  You can hate it if you want, but we’re better off.

World/Inferno Friendship Society – Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in this Room

Exploring the back catalogue of Hold Steady people led me quickly to WIFS. Riveting. The fans seemed kind of toxic on the internets, but have always been pretty decent bunch of kids in person. Well, except for that first time. The husband and I were visiting NYC for the weekend; seeing some pals, some sights. Somehow, in the 6 years he lived in NYC, my husband had never visited Coney Island, which seemed important to rectify. In my zeal to spread the word about this stunningly awesome band, I planned the trip around a World/Inferno show. Also, the opening act was billed as pirate puppet rock opera; key chorus – “dirty, dirty scurvy pyrate love.” So, it was like they designed a show just for me. I took the husband and a friend. We hung in the back by the bar with the old people. The pirate band was sans puppetry that evening, but still pretty swingin. The show was oversold; the 15-year-old punks were packed in skinny jean-clad cheek to temporary-tattooed jowl. They chatted and chewed gum right through the pyrate set, which was a shame for those of us in the back. But my between-sets conversation with the professional clown was interrupted by the band taking the stage.

The tweeny-bopper punks became a single, seething mass. I was utterly entranced. I suppose it’s not possible that I really didn’t breathe for the next 20 minutes or so. The band was stunningly awesome, but the real spectacle was in the free space they created for the kids. Being kids with visions of punkdom, they used their newfound freedom to tear down the kitsch from the walls and the ceilings, to jump off the stage, the railing, the bar, each other, and to become one flesh with many flailing arms and legs, soundtracked by WIFS. When the owners asked Jack to tell the kids to settle down, he said something precatory and launched into the next song on the setlist – “zen and the art of breaking everything in this room.” The hive-mind energy was overwhelming. I passed back the crowdsurfers. I saw the broken glass and pressed closer. A boy with too much eyeliner tugged on a live wire from the light fixture he had just smashed, apparently because he enjoyed the sparks. I’m pretty sure most of the blood was fake. I was just enough outsider that it fleetingly occurred to me that I was an adult and should do something about the kid playing with the live wire; but the thought was lost in the tumult. The plug was pulled. The music kept going. When one of the owners climbed on the soundboard and begged everyone to stop destroying her bar, I momentarily thought it was a bit of performance art. They jeered her.

Peter and Jack eventually led the kids pied-piper style out of the bar. I stood transfixed until being surprised to see that I was still holding the remains of my drink. By the time the police arrived, the band had played all of about 20 minutes. The bar was all demolished stuff and broken glass and unidentifiable stains. The seabreeze soothed our crashing adrenaline and then our arguments. There was a cop with one hand on a gun, performing his best command presence and ordering people to disperse. He ignored the three of us for a while – I assume we didn’t look the type — but he couldn’t avoid our scrutiny after awhile. He gave us a funny look and glanced at our wristbands. “Uhhhh, I don’t know if you were part of all this but you need to move along.”

Faith of our Fathers

In summer 2008, my husband and I traveled to Italy. Part of the trip was with a group to study the church my mother’s family comes from. They were pre-reformation Protestants in the Alps near the French border. About 30 of us climbed the rocky slope in the rain. There was nothing but old forest, not even the occasional stone home with a garden we saw elsewhere in those hills. It was grey and cold in the wind, even at midday in June. Some of the more frail turned back to the bus, but my 85-year-old great aunt soldiered on, as did I, my husband, a sister, my mother, some cousins, both preachers, and a large crew from the church my mother grew up in. One by one, using flashlights, we ducked and clambered into the rock cave through an entry barely big enough for one, hidden by the same rockfall that formed the cave inside. Once past the dark, damp, and claustrophobic entrance, the cave opened up. The ceiling was 20 feet high at least, and the cavern could have uneasily hit 150 people. And did at one time. I have been hearing about this cave since I was crawling. They held church services in secret here hundreds of years ago. 2 thin slats of light at either end of the cavern let us see each other’s faces dimly. One ray of light fell directly on a raised rock at one end of the cavern – a natural pulpit. No one re-told the legend. We all knew it. Christ, I think I first heard it before I could read. It’s possible this cave wasn’t even actually the cave from legend but our collective imaginations made those walls echo with the screams of the slaughtered, choking on the smoke, mothers choosing between letting the children smother in here or running outside so they might be gutted. So, we beat back the darkness. A few people climbed the pulpit. The preacher said a short blessing. But only music could fill the space. We made a circle and grabbed hands. I was between my husband and my mother – both clammy-handed – and we sang faith of our fathers. And the walls sang back.

Franz Nicolay – Hi Lili Hi Lo

I like this song. I love this guy. And tonyrockyhorror for recording this guy singing this song. And DC9 for putting on a show where tony records this guy singing this song. And everyone everywhere who buys music, goes to shows, offers up their couch, some food, a drink to help this guy sing this song and any other tune he feels like playing anytime and anywhere he wants. And everyone everywhere who lends a musician a hand.

Rich Tarbell’s Eternal Mixtape

:: 88 lines about 44 bands ::

carroll was a catholic boy
he held out until the bitter end
exene was a different type
she’s the one who put it in
violent femmes sand about black girls
never been afraid of a girl like that
david lowery painted pictures sitting down
like the buddhists sat

stipe was an aimless man
With geographic memory
tweedy wasn’t a jesus freak
but he seemed to dig the misery
liz had this special way
of turning sex into a song
bun e. couldn’t sing
kept the beat and kept it strong

suicidal were the archetype
A voodoo king, king of rap
mbv were just loud as shit
no rhyme goes with this
rotten was an anarchist
he really had that gift of gab
devo’s point of view was this
can’t take whatever you can grab

mclusky was another band
who left their mark upon the map
material issue tied me up
then left us all hanging by a strap
urge overkill had this nightclub walk
that made grown women feel underage
chrissie who had a son
said “i must go” but finally stayed

mick had the last taboo
shattered by his tongue one night
iggy brought the taboo back
and held it up before the light
alex chilton who knew little fame
was never satisfied
d. boon came and went so fast
he couldn’t even say goodbye

well dulli had a house in n’awlins
lived on brown rice and cocaine
alejandro had a house in Houston
shot cough syrup into his veins
paul thought his life was empty
filled it up with alcohol
lftr pllr was much too pretty
they didn’t do that shit at all
uh-uh. not lftr (yeah right)

lou said that love was simple
turn it on and turn it off
bowie was complicated
like some french filmmaker’s plot
sweet was like a perfect lady
always kept their stocking straight
julian was a rich punk rocker
silver spoon and china plates

david byrne was a modern dancer
lean pristine transparency
morrissey wrote bad poetry
in a crazy kind of urgency
lux interior liked to fuck
while wearing leather biker boots
craig’s strange obession
was for certain alcohols and fruits

mark sandman was an artist’s son
the deeper image shook him up
dee-dee’s mother left her father
took his money and his truck
bill carter had no such problems
perfect norman rockwell home
black francis had his band
then he kind ended up alone
kim joined a new wave band
and changed her name to the breeders

bob mould who played guitar
sang songs of loss and regret
killing joke didn’t give a shit
just a nihilist
joe was much more my style
he wrote songs just like this
kim gordon went 40 days
drinking nothing but perrier
jello drove his chevrolet
into the san francisco bay
gbv came from ohio
i am a scientist
the nails – here’s a kiss
i chose you to end this list.

:: endnotes ::

jim carroll band – “people who died”
x – “Johnny hit and run pauline”
violent femmes – “black girls”
camper van beethoven – “tania”
r.e.m – “maps & legends”
wilco – “jesus, etc.”
liz phair – “Stratford on guy”
cheap trick – “surrender”
suicidal tendencies – “institutionalized”
my bloody valentine – “sometimes”
public image ltd. – “fff”
devo – “uncontrollable urge”
mclusky – “to hell with good intentions”
material issue – “Valerie loves me”
urge overkill – “sister Havana”
pretenders – “tattooed love boys”
rolling stones – “can’t you hear me knocking”
iggy pop – “the passenger”
big star – “watch the sunrise”
minutemen – “king of the hill”
afghan whigs – “rebirth of the cool”
alejandro escovedo – “last to know”
replacements – “here comes a regular”
lftr pllr – “nice nice”
velvet underground – “pale blue eyes”
david bowie with arcade fire – “life on mars”
sweet – “ballroom blitz”
strokes – “new york city cops”
talking heads – “life during wartime”
the smiths – “what difference does it make?”
the cramps – “goo goo muck”
the hold steady – “barfruit blues”
morphine – “buena”
ramones – “Havana affair”
screaming blue messiahs – “wild blue yonder”
pixies – “tony’s theme”
breeders – “hellbound”
husker du – “makes no sense at all”
killing joke – “eighties”
the clash – “the right profile”
sonic youth – “kool thing”
dead kennedys – “too drunk too fuck”
guided by voices – “shocker in gloomtown”
the nails – “88 lines about 44 women”

Camie Heller’s Eternal Mixtape

There is no recognizable order to this list whatsoever.

Thriller – Michael Jackson

The twelve top singers of the school… something I wanted to be a part of since making it to MSHS. The show choir, or Choraliers as it is called was the top of the performing arts in my high school. If you made that group by trying out in your Freshman year, you were considered arts wing royalty. In the end of my Freshman year, there were only four spots available to this group, two spots for boys, and two for girls. There were a lot of hopefuls, so many that instead of the normal singing try out, they were adding a dance portion as well. This did not bode well for me. In drama, dance had never been my strong suit. The dances that I had to perform for drama took me hours to figure out, mostly due to the fact that I had never taken a dance class in my life, and simply couldn’t be told how to dance. I needed to see it so I could copy. Luckily, we were told to do exactly that, copy a music video. I decided that Thriller would be quite fun, but different, since most of my peers were planning on performing as Brittany Spears, or some other popular pop bimbo of the time. I spent all of my spare time working on this dance sequence, making sure that I covered as much detail as possible. I wasn’t disappointed, I was first pick after the list went up.

I Got Lost In His Arms – Annie Get Your Gun

The name of this song could tend to make this story a bit creepy, but it is completely innocent and actually a moment that I would never want to give away.
I was having a really rough year. My aunt and uncle were going to get married, and the original plan was for the kids in the family to be the wedding party. They won a wedding in Hawaii, so that plan went away, but they were going to have a party for us anyways. While this does not seem like a bad moment of anyones life, the situation thickens. Two of my cousins who I used to see all the time were going to be in the wedding party. They had left recently, with their mother who put my uncle through a nasty divorce. They would come over during the weekends and stuff, but that had even stopped because my uncle was dying of cancer, and it was getting bad. Knowing I wanted to take advantage of getting to see my cousins, I had asked my drama director if I could go to this party. It was falling during a dress rehearsal in hell week, but considering I was an extra, that meant nothing in the full long run, I thought maybe she would let me go. Not only was I shot down, I was shot down with a hell of a rant that reverberated into the classroom wing of my school. So, in tears I run to the stage crew director. He knew a lot of what was going on within my family, and the hard time I was having with everything. I cried to him, and we plotted a rebellion. We were on stage during the same time in the show for a scene. We were to be getting into place behind the sheer curtain (sheer if lighted from The thrill of rebellion (if we were ever caught at this, there would be some serious hell to pay) and the thrill of getting caught helped put a smile on my face, and the dress rehearsal went off without a problem. We then became superstitious… we performed that slow dance every performance afterwards, including the actual ones the next week. (and were caught, the last night… where we got the evil eye, but laughed it off.)

MMMBop – Hanson

Every pre-teen has a band that they become obsessed with, and Hanson was my boy-band. I remember the first time hearing the song, and my best friend at the time saying “Listen to this bunch of girls.” I of course, later that night, found out from another friend that they were not girls, but teenage boys. (Teenage boys to my pre-teen eyes were very attractive). Well the obsession grew, and grew, and grew to the point of my entire bedroom walls being covered with their faces. I also had a huge stand up of them from a record store, which thinking back on it now was extremely, extremely creepy. Hanson was the reason I took drum lessons during that summer. My friends and I wanted to form a band. It was pointless though, my friends at the time had no musical talent, and in all reality I had no time for drum lessons, (between sports, and scouts, and everything else) even though they were free from a neighbor. Hanson was my first concert (nose bleed seats!) they were the first band I completely fangirled, and hearing this song now and then still gives me a bit of a smile.

Your Little Hoodrat Friend – The Hold Steady

This is not only the song that introduced me to my favorite band, it is also a song that started a friendship that I truly cherish now. My friend Alex was in town, and had a show at Bucknell University in PA. Alex had invited along half of Draco and the Malfoys (Brian) to play the show with him. A friend of mine (Rory) brought two of her friends and all six of us were going to share a hotel room for the night. Since I only knew two people, I was a bit shy when we finally all got to the hotel room, but the shyness didn’t last long. We rushed to dinner, where small chat happened and everyone who didn’t know each other broke the ice. We got to the venue for sound check where I helped both boys with cables and instruments (what I usually do at shows of theirs, besides taking lots of pictures). Alex sound checked quickly, and then it was Brian’s turn. He messed around with some Malfoys songs for a bit and for his full song.. he started playing this song. I was enthralled. After he was done playing I went up to him and asked who originally made that song. He explained about the Hold Steady, and said he would send me the song via email. We all had our laptops at the venue (we were there so early, and the campus had free wireless). Instead of sending me the song, he sent me the whole album Separation Sunday. I was content knowing what was in my inbox, so for the rest of the night we talked music. What types he was into, what types I was into. This lead to guitar discussion because I brought my newly acquired acoustic along for the trip (I SUCKED SO BAD, but he helped me learn my first three chords) I didn’t listen to the whole album until the drive home, and I became instantly HOOKED! I went out and bought the first three albums that same weekend (Boys and Girls In America had come out that past summer, this went down in the middle of winter). What was really interesting was that the email where Brian sent me the song became more like a conversation. I would write him questions about music, guitar, or wizard rock. We became friends quickly. The best part about this story is not the fact that he was the one who introduced me to this band… we have since had some funny moments because of the mutual like of The Hold Steady. We had both gone to different Hold Steady shows of the same tour, we texted each other throughout the shows we attended. Later that month, there was a wrock show in NYC. We showed up to that show in the same Hold Steady hoody that we both bought… completely not planned (which was quite a laugh). I also got to cover Hoodrat with him and his brother at a house party show in Rhode Island. We are possibly going to the same Hold Steady show this April in New Haven.. kind of pulls this story completely full circle!

Looking For Trouble – The Remus Lupins

First things first…. every wrock fan remembers the first time they heard their first wizard rock song. I am not a typical wizard rock fan. Most of the fans who got into wrock the time I did heard Harry and the Potters as their first band… I heard The Remus Lupins first. I was in my dorm… and was bored. I decided to put campus radio on. There was some random DJ on (it was super early in the morning) and they were playing random stuff off of MySpace (yeah.. MySpace… before it became a burning ring of hell). I don’t remember the intro to this song, but I vaguely remember the mention of Harry Potter. I listen in and I was intrigued. I turned off the campus radio, and booked it to The Remus Lupins myspace. I listened to the song, and then looked at the friends… and found the amazing world of Wizard Rock (I then became obsessed).

To continue this story, Alex (The Remus Lupins – yeah at the time he was a one man band with a photographer… the plural band name was a joke. He now has a full band behind him) was playing a show in Philadelphia. It was at a place called the Spazz House, near St. Joe’s University. He was set to play at like 7pm. I was thinking this was a type of club/coffee joint, but when I pulled up it was a residential house. I thought I had gotten the address wrong, but right after I pulled up, Alex pulled up with his friend/roadie/photographer Brandon. I had never met Alex before, and was extremely nervous (First wizard rock show… I was guilty of fangirldom GASP!) So I slowly walked up. I was wearing a hp shirt, so he walked up to me like I knew what was going on, which I didn’t. The house was deserted… no one was there. We sat outside of the house on the porch, until two girls showed up. The two girls owned the house. They said that nothing was going to go down until around 9pm and that there were two/three bands before Alex was to play. So we decided to chill out on the porch. I met Alex, we listened to his iPod, Brandon searched for a wireless signal, and we got some apple juice from some store called Bill’s Market. The girls who owned the house started being complete jerks and almost set their own porch on fire. Alex thought they were trying to be funny and just messing around, but I could tell that they were being complete asses. I stood up for Alex (without actually knowing him all that well) and tada, the start of our friendship. Alex finally went on the stage (which was in a dingy basement, empty kegs were the only seating) around 11pm. He played a 5 song set, asking me which songs of his I wanted him to play. Not having his cd yet.. I asked for only one… Looking For Trouble, and sang the bah bahs for him when he played that song last. (he tells this story so much better than I do).

Follow the Yellow Brick Road – The Wizard of Oz

When I was little, my parents had a bright yellow carpet that covered the living room, dining room, and went all the way up to the upstairs hallway. I believe it was the original carpet of the house from when my grandparents owned it. I was all of 4, and I was obsessed with The Wizard of OZ. At that age, many cheapy stores have crappy cheap shoes that little girls can wear. I found the ruby slipper kind, and insisted that I have them. I would frolic around my house with the shoes on, pretending to be Dorthy singing Follow the Yellow Brick Road over and over and over again until one day one of the shoes broke. At this time of my life, I believed that my dad could fix anything (He was a carpenter… so my 4 year old mind believed he could fix anything) and brought my shoes to him to fix. He took them out to the shop, and used some glue and a clamp.. and got my shoes to work again for a bit (like a day) until I broke the shoe again. Unknown to me at the time, after the first series of shoe breaks.. he asked my mom where the shoes came from, and then went out to the store and bought the rest of them. Every time I broke a ruby slipper, my dad would take me out to the shop.. put on a show of “fixing” the shoe, and he would grab a new shoe from his stash. Oh what parents do to make their children believe.

The Weapon – Harry and the Potters

Every scene has an anthem. The anthem in Wizard Rock is Harry and the Potters – The Weapon. During their longest summer tours (So summer 2006, and summer 2007) Harry and the Potters would finish off their shows with The Weapon. At their live shows, the boys start this song at their instruments (Paul on his red Gibson SG and Joe on the keys and if they have a drummer (whoever that may be, whether Brad from the Malfoys or someone else) on the drums) About halfway through the song they ditch their instruments (the drums go to backing track – Brad usually takes a quick break here) and Paul and Joe (or Harry year 7 and Harry year 4 respectively) jump into the crowd with their mics and rock out with the crowd. At some point or another, the drummer returns, and Paul jumps back up on stage. He grabs another guitar, a yellow Gibson Explorer with an orange lighting bolt painted on it. He finishes the song with an epic jump high into the air. (This song live cannot be explained with text.. it has to be experienced). This song has become an anthem of sorts. The Potters don’t even have to be at a wrock event… large conferences usually end with another wizard rock band covering this song if the Potters cannot supply the song themselves. It usually involves a lot of hugging (usually a large group hug involving everyone in the room – those are the best!), or it is just a massive sing along. This song is what every wrock fan wants to see at a wizard rock show. This song is the experience that everyone wants to have. I hear this song and realize the amount of fun I have had at these shows. I remember when I saw the Potters, Malfoys, and Matt perform three nights in a row in two different states, and this song finished every night. I remember the sleep over where we all (the group listed above) came up with countless Hedwig is Dead jokes, and then the next morning called Melissa (a NY Times best selling author) and told them all to her. It was the summer of 2007, everyone thought it was all going to end and come crashing down… but it hasn’t.

Screening Process – Lauren Fairweather

The full story behind this song is extremely complicated and emotional and I will not go into it because while I was somewhat involved… the song has nothing to do with me. My feelings towards this song are what I am going to write about.
My friend, Lauren, has a way with words. She has the uncanny ability to be able to put words to music and basically say everything that you have ever felt in a situation and completely capture it. Lauren wrote this song during a hard time in her life, and I am not going to go into it because in all reality, the song basically covers it. This song also explains something that I have always done. I have a “Screening Process” so to say. I hide, I put up a front, and it takes a little while to fully get to know the real me. With certain people this doesn’t last long, and with other people it can take years for me to truly show myself. I have trust issues, and I feel this song really kind of explains some situations. Again, without Lauren’s skill of putting words to song, I wouldn’t have a song to explain this part of me, and I am grateful for her talents.

High Hopes – Harry Kalas

It was the song of a season, and a song of remembrance. Harry Kalas, beloved voice of the Philadelphia Phillies sung this song for the fans one day. After his death, after every home win, the fans would wait for the recording of this song to be played so they could sing along. In my household it was sung, as a family after every win. It was the hopes for a repeat, as well as a high remembrance to a beloved person of the franchise. Will High Hopes continue to be played this season after home game wins? Who knows, but I do know if it is, Philadelphia fans will continue to smile in remembrance of a city icon.

The Sign – Ace of Base

This was the song of summer during my childhood. Summer officially started when my friend Ryan’s pool was opened for the year. Every weekday (and some weekends, but those were usually for sports) we would go swimming at his house from 10am till dark (and on some special occasions, after dark). My mom would donate a box of ice pops at the beginning of the season (and whenever the supply ran out), and lunches would be switched between the group’s parents at various times. We would have a mix tape (or as we got older, a mix cd) for every year, but one constant song, “The Sign” was always present. It was necessary, it was tradition. We would sing it at the top of our lungs throughout the summer. I still smile every time I hear the song. Its a reminder of more innocent times.

See You Again – Miley Cyrus

The song of the 2008 softball season. Every softball team in the NJAC (the NJ NCAA div 3 conference) has a mix cd for each season. Usually these mix cd’s are completely random and have no relation whatsoever (due to every team being completely different). There was a common thread in the 2008 season, and it was Miley Cyrus’s See You Again. At the beginning of the spring season (so… like January) this song was one of the most popular songs on the radio, so hearing it now and again on mix cd’s was never an issue. Quickly, as the season progressed, the song became very old. It was overplayed on the radio, and EVERYONE had it on their mix cd. There was no escaping the song. Even when I hear it now, there is a cringe.

Lovegame – Lady Gaga

This is a song that will forever be highly awkward, just because of the story. We were playing an away game at Ramapo College. During the warm up time, Lady GaGa’s Lovegame came on the their warm up cd. We were stretching with our coaches sitting right in front of us. For our warm up cd, our coach required everything to be family friendly and appropriate. We have a lot of young girls come to our games to watch and learn, so our music is not just for us, it is for everyone in attendance that day. When this song came on we were all shocked at the inappropriateness of it and everyone was embarrassed. Awkward doesn’t even come close to the amount of emotions going on at that time. That song is perfectly acceptable at the club, or at a party (and in that atmosphere, I have no problem with the song, I like it. It’s creative.) but it was completely unnecessary on the softball field that day, especially with 8 year olds in front of you watching.

Transparent – The Moaning Myrtles

This is the song that fully explains what wizard rock did for me. Wizard rock is not just a niche music genre (well it is, but hear me out). To a lot of people it was a place to make friends as well as a place to break out of their shell. Before I entered this niche of music, I was never one to make friends easily. I was a floater, I was active in a lot of different places, but I never truly fit in anywhere or with anyone. When I found the wizard rock scene I made great friends quickly, and truly found who I was through the community. I was myself here. This song basically puts my experience into music, as well as the experience of many others (of course including the two girls who wrote the song, Lauren and Nina!)

A Conversation with my Demons – The Whomping Willows

The album that this song comes from was not a wizard rock album in my opinion. While it was under the artist’s wizard rock name, this album was an album about the person behind the music, not the character (or in Matt’s case… the tree) that he portrayed in his music. (You see in wizard rock, the band name usually tells you what to expect, With Harry and the Potters, you have two guys dressed as Harry Potter, singing songs from Harry’s point of view, same with Draco and the Malfoys… the Whomping Willows.. sing songs from the tree’s perspective – quite humorous.) Going into listening to this album I knew he had some really bad times in his past, and heck I had some really bad times in my past as well. When I first heard this album I instantly loved it. It was humorous at parts, but at other times, such as this song, it was straight from Matt’s soul. This was him getting rid of his demons, this was him coming completely clean and fully starting over. The first time I heard this song I cried. I cried for Matt, as well as for myself. Hearing your friends face their past, and for them to put it out there in public is a freeing experience. I sometimes even now listen to this song, not out of sadness, but to help me keep my head up. If Matt can face his demons in front of the world, I should be able to as well. It keeps me in check.

What’s Left of the Flag – Flogging Molly

On my college softball team, every senior gets to have at least one song on the mix cd that does not go to vote by the rest of the team. I tend to like pretty much whatever everyone else chooses for our mix cd (we only play 60 seconds of each song… that way we get to have a lot more songs, and a lot more variety). My senior year came up and I had a few songs I would like on the cd, again, most of them were already picked by other girls, so I knew that they would be put on. The only song that was not chosen for the cd by other girls was What’s Left of the Flag. The girl putting together the cd started to listen to the song in front of me. The song starts out a bit slower, and then changes tempo quickly. She started to argue that this was not a song that could pump anyone up, or a song that anyone would like. I told her to wait a minute. When the song switched tempo, her jaw sort of dropped and she started to like it. Later, she mentioned that a lot of my songs were chosen by other people and that I would have a song on the cd. I looked at her and just said “I want What’s Left of the Flag” on the cd, senior choice.” It was the 7th song on the cd, and it quickly became a team favorite.

If You Were Gay / The Internet is for Porn – Avenue Q

Senior year of high school field hockey. We were going to have a rare night practice under the lights because we were going to have a rare night game under the lights in a few days. While the team was in the parking lot waiting for the coaches to arrive, a fellow senior started playing music out of her car. All of a sudden she proclaims: “You all have to listen to these songs, they are very funny. They are from a musical that my Uncle is in, it’s called Avenue Q. It might go to Broadway soon!” So of course, we all crowd around the car. The first song she plays was If You Were Gay. The girl’s uncle was Johnny Tartaglia (who voiced the puppets of Rod and Princeton (male lead) in the original cast of the show). We were all laughing so hard by the time this song was over. Right after the first song, she put on The Internet is for Porn in which caused even more laughter. The coaches still did not turn up, so she continued playing random songs from the cd. I eventually got to go up to NYC and see this show on Broadway, fully enjoying the show even more because of how my discovery of the show occurred.

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) – Bruce Springsteen

I missed the epic Hold Steady show in Brooklyn where the venue pumped this over the house system and the party ensued. While I did hear about this amazing occurrence, as well as seen various videos of the event on youtube. Being there would have been an amazing story to have in my mixtape list, but alas it is not to be. Why then, do I have it? This song has been strangely present in one way or another during some interesting times recently. I was teaching my brother how to parallel park (which basically determines pass or fail on the NJ test… if you fail parallel parking, test is over), and his ah ha moment happened when this song came on the classic rock station. I was listening to my ipod and this song came on when I got the news that I had passed my praxis (my teaching certification test). I was visiting a friend at TCNJ in the Rat (a restaurant/bar on campus) and hearing some interesting team news (cannot explain fully to you guys.. team stuff) when this song came on the jukebox. The most recent occurrence of this song playing at a weird time was when I was talking to a friend about how this song was played at the show in Brooklyn. I had just finished that line of conversation when again, the song came blasting out of the bar’s jukebox. I don’t know why this song seems to be following me. Maybe I was supposed to be at that show in Brooklyn, and this is the universes way of making it up, or it’s just a complete coincidence that a lot of good things (or random, however you see it) seem to happen when this song is playing, I don’ t mind though, it is my favorite song, from my favorite Bruce album!

Belle – Beauty and the Beast

Everyone has their favorite movie when they were a kid. One (well in my generation) where you watched the movie so much that you wore out the VHS. My movie was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. While my favorite song from this show is not even in the movie (it is in the play – Human Again) I am using Belle for my story, because there actually is something there. I did not know the origins of the story when I was little, I just liked Beauty and the Beast because Belle had brown hair (LIKE ME) and when the movie came out, I was the target audience. Now I fully understand the story, I understand the origins of the story, and I know what Disney did to it to make it marketable (like most of their adaptations of fairy tales.) While taking French in high school we had the option of watching this movie, but not in English, we had to watch it in French (since the DVD gave us the option). In high school, I fell in love with this movie again, and the love was instant. Belle is chosen as the song for this story because when I first watched the movie in French (around 3rd/4th year…) for the first time, it was the first song that I completely understood the French language in. It may have been because I knew the songs so well in English, or it may have just been the timing of watching that movie, and my AHA moment in the class, but I will always remember finally being able to know what was going on during a French language movie that did not have subtitles.

My Dad is Rich – Draco and the Malfoys

I have seen Draco and the Malfoys perform a large number of times. At first, before the first song was sung, I found it quite funny that everything they did was a complete parody to Harry and the Potters. I also found it funny that you couldn’t find two guys that looked less like the character of Draco Malfoy (Harry and the Potters look like Harry Potter). The first song of Draco and the Malfoys I ever remember hearing live is My Dad is Rich. It is a delightful song about how the Malfoys have money, and Harry’s parents are dead. While the two performing look nothing like Draco Malfoy, they get his character to a T through their lyrics. They pack that punch of ‘evil’ just enough to make it believable. It also helps that the boys are also in character the entire show, taking jabs at the Potter’s, and whatever other character they decide on mocking at the time (usually Harry, or Weasleys). This song is probably the second most popular DatM song… with the first being their cover/filk of 99 Red Balloons – 99 Death Eaters. This was the first song of theirs to make me laugh out loud… In fact I believe that I sprayed a room with water the first time I heard this song. They got it just right, the right amount of maliciousness mixed with the right amount of humor.

Defying Gravity – Wicked

This song is one huge fuck you, and that is why I completely relate to it. In high school I was never one to fit in anywhere. I floated around yes, and was accepted places, but I never found where I FIT. I saw this play in the middle of high school, and yet the message never fully clicked until after I had graduated. Elphaba (or the wicked witch of the west) gives up everything that she ever wanted, to do what was right. When I finally realized the implications of this song, I knew it was a plea for everyone to do what they believe in. I finally got this message in college. I stopped caring what people thought of me, I started being myself, and I have ended up happier than I would have if I did the exact opposite.

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

This is a song that was also overplayed on many softball mix cd’s throughout the years I played in the NJAC, but the overplaying is not the story here, the story is how much Coack K hated the song. Coach K was an assistant coach on the team, and she would normally be the one who warmed us up in the batting cages before the game. We of course had this song on our mix cd (luckily it was only 60 seconds of the song) and the first time it was played, Coach K started to complain. We thought it was funny. We then started to notice that whoever was in the cage when this song came on the mix cd, was going to be challenged a lot. For the rest of that season, I tried to be in the batting cage during this 60 second period. The song angered her so much, she hated it so much, that she would pitch to beat us. It was some of the best practice ever! One practice that season when we were playing the cd (because we desperately needed music) she screamed for us to turn it off. So, of course, what do we do the next three years, put this song on the mix cd – I wasn’t the only one who figured out that there was more of a challenge when this song was playing. (the next three years she just sort of rolled her eyes at us over this song. She knew it was there just for us to be annoying.)

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

It was my freshman year in college, middle of the spring semester actually. It was starting to get warm outside, and the campus was becoming lively again. One night, my roommate’s best friend comes to our dorm, and she is really upset. There was a kid missing on her floor, no one had seen him since the night before, and campus police were searching the entire floor for information. We talked and we all decided that it really was just an overreaction, but little did we know the chaos that was about to ensue. The missing kid was John Fiocco Jr, and if you were paying attention to the national news at this time in spring 2006, you know the story of how he was missing, there was a huge search. Blood was then found in the trash chute of his dorm, and then near the trash bins. John was later found in a landfill in Pennsylvania, and to this day the who, what, and why of this tragedy has never been discovered. That next morning, all three of us (My roommate’s friend never go the call that she could return to her dorm, so she slept over) were awoken by a campus police officer banging on our door. The police were asking everyone who lived in the towers (Travers and Wolfe. I lived in Travers with my roommate, and her friend (as well as John) lived in the connected tower of Wolfe (my roommate’s friend and John actually lived on the same floor)) where they were the night that John disappeared, if we knew John, and a whole bunch of other questions. If this wasn’t enough, security throughout campus was increased, which meant that it was nearly impossible to get around campus without feeling like you were in a different world. Later that week, the news vans showed up, and you were being attacked walking into your dorm, going to eat, walking to class. The media was horrible. Soon the campus made the media stay in a parking lot away from any academic buildings and residence halls. It was close to some huge tests and students were starting to get annoyed. We needed to blow off some steam. I was writing some huge freshman paper for a class we have to take freshman year, and my roommate was busy with a project for her Russian class. We were fried from being harassed by the media for living in the adjacent dorm of the kid who was missing, and the rumors flying around campus didn’t help either. We needed a release. My roommate had her iPod on and Free Bird came on. We both looked at each other, she cranked the music up, and we went out into the hallway and danced. We danced for the entire song. A few of our floor mates heard the music, and saw what we were doing and joined us. It wasn’t about the song, it was about needing a release.

Colors of the Wind – Disney’s Pocahontas

Being Greek and Italian means I tan easily. When I was younger, saying that I tanned easily was a complete understatement, I tanned in 30 seconds in the sun, and for the entire summer I was always, always very dark skinned (I actually have to try now.) It was the summer that Disney released Pocahontas, and of course I was out playing the entire summer. That summer I had gained the lovely privileged of being allowed anywhere in the area that we live, not just around the block, but anywhere in the area. This freedom was great, a lot more kids to play with, and with new kids to play with, new parents to interact with as well. One of the parents immediately identified me as looking like Pocahontas, and the name stuck. That entire summer I was either called that or the reference came up some way or another.

End of an Era – Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls

In the winter of 2006, most Harry Potter fans thought that it wasn’t going to be until 2008 when we would receive the final installment of the Harry Potter series. We were all theorizing this and that. Christmas came, and the huge announcement was made. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be released on July 21st 2008. We were shocked, it had taken longer than that for the 6th installment to come out, and waiting for the 5th book was a nightmare. Flash forward to the end of spring beginning of summer. There was a song, End of an Era by Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls (one man band). It became the song of the summer. It was a semi-sad song, one about how the series was coming to an end, but how we would not forget our friends we had made because of the series. This song made me think, what is going to happen to the fandom as the series comes to an end. Yes we would have the movies (but they usually just caused aggravation to the book fans), and yes we would still have the internet (where most of fandom occurred) but we would not have the anticipation of the next book to keep the interest. The wizard rock portion of the fandom insisted that they would continue to pay shows as long as their was a fan demand for the shows to be played. This statement has proven to be true, it is 3 years after the final installment has come out, and the wizard rock portion of fandom has pretty much remained constant. Bands are still writing new music (they are taking a lot more liberties, but still, new music is new music) bands are still playing shows, and fans are still attending those shows. This song just hit a chord that year. It is now a song that makes me smile, where that summer, it made me contemplate what may/could have been.

Tick Tock – Stevie Ray Vaughan

This was a constant song of my childhood and will always be remind me of my father. One summer my father decided to put a sound system in the back porch so there could be music for gardening, swimming, and general entertainment. My dad listens to a lot of blues and one album he had was Stevie Ray Vaughn. Tick Tock People came on and my little brothers fell in love with it. Soon every time we were outside with dad, the song had to be played. Until the song was played, my brothers would chant TICK TOCK, TICK TOCK until our father relented and finally put the song over the speakers. I remember one time well, where we were all gathered in the porch doing something (what it was is insignificant.) We all danced around and sang along to the song. I got to dance with my dad, and even dance with my brothers (we were all little). While it is something small, it is something significant that I will always cherish.

Most People are DJs – The Hold Steady

It was your favorite song of theirs ( I say was, because I really don’t know if it currently is your favorite song of theirs anymore.) I remember the dinner we went to at the crepe place before the show. How it was kinda awkward. I associated that place with friends (I still do, most of my meals there have been large parties of friends), but that night it was just the two of us and the lights were low, and I think it was more ‘date’ like than we both wanted. When we got to TLA you confessed the one song you wanted to hear was DJs. I wanted to hear “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” (which, seriously… I should have known that it was going to be played.) We were up front and there was a lot of violent pushing and shoving going on. You stood behind me, taking the brunt of the violence, whether or not you meant to do this or not, I remember how protective of me you were that night. I don’t remember if it was the end of the set, or during the encore but when the first chords of this song came on, you were so happy. I remember the look on your face, and your whoop of appreciation. (I remember now.. it was during the encore, because the next song was Killer Parties, and there was a stage invasion. You helped me up to the stage when I was too scared to go on the stage myself, you boosted me up, while Franz pulled me by the arm.) I think of you every time I hear this song now… “a thousand kids will fall in love in all these clubs tonight.” Well it wasn’t that night when it happened, but somehow, someway, I fell for you. While I know you probably don’t feel the same, it’s out in the open now, and I have to say that it’s a bit freeing to finally say it.

John Nagle’s Eternal Mixtape

“The Best Mixtape I Have”

George Harrison: “I Got My Mind Set On You”

My parents got MTV and a VCR around the same time. When my dad saw a video he liked, he taped it. “I Got My Mind Set on You” was the first video on the tape, and the first music video I ever saw. I didn’t know anything about song structure, or lyrics, or even that George Harrison was a Beatle, I just liked the way his vocals melded with the kick drum.

Fine Young Cannibals: “She Drives Me Crazy”

“She Drives Me Crazy” also begins with a pounding kick drum, but Dave Cox’s guitar was what hooked me. I can hear the riff in my head to this day. If you listen hard enough, you can hear “fallen logo,” whatever that means. I went through three copies of The Raw and the Uncooked before my third copy mysteriously disappeared. I guess someone was tired of hearing Roland Gift’s falsetto 3,000 times a day.

The Beatles: “She Loves You”

The Beatles are so ubiquitous in our house that it’s a miracle I can still listen to them.
When music nerds name their favorite Beatles song, they usually try to go as obscure as possible. Screw that. Abbey Road is my favorite album, 1965-1966 is my favorite period, but “She Loves You” is the best thing the Beatles ever did. Every time I hear McCartney hit the final “be glad,” I wonder what it’s like to feel that kind of joy.

Smashing Pumpkins: “Today”

Travis Brown was as cool as a kid could be in the third grade. Travis had a much older sister, so he had unlimited access to popular culture. When his sister discovered The Smashing Pumpkins, he became obsessed with them. He even wrote a story about them in Storybook Weaver. I can’t remember the plot, but it probably involved Billy Corgan riding around in a van solving mysteries. I think he wore a kerchief. I wanted to be cool like Travis, so I took my allowance to Waxie Maxie’s and spent the astronomical sum of $12.99 for a Siamese Dream cassette. It was the first album I bought with my own money.

Green Day: “When I Come Around”

I was the only suburban kid in the United States that didn’t own a copy of Dookie. My mom’s best friend told her that it was the worst thing she had ever heard, so I was told that it would never enter the house. Oddly enough, she had no problems with NWA’s 1988 opus, Straight Outta Compton. Figure that one out.

No Doubt: “Sunday Morning,” Hootie and the Blowfish: “Time,” Bush: “Greedy Fly”

These records started thousands of collections, including mine. We all began by listening to the radio and copying our friends. Then you either continue on the main road, or travel down the rocky road of music geekdom.

Guns n’ Roses: “It’s So Easy”

My family belongs to an exclusive country club. At the end of the summer, they have a back to school cookout. I was always forced to attend. During one of these cookouts, I was playing catch with a group of kids. The ringleader decided that he wanted to play football in the volleyball pit, which is covered in sand. I asked if we could play somewhere else, since my wheelchair can’t go in sand. He flatly refused, and the kids left me there. As I was going back to our table, the DJ played Dave Matthews’ “Ants Marching.” I remember thinking, “I am going to find the exact opposite of this.”

When I went to the record store the next day, I found a little record called Appetite for Destruction. The cover was a crucifix with five skulls on it. The dudes on the back were drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. The one in the corner was wearing leather pants and had a look on his face that said “If you fuck with me, I will beat the shit out of you.”

I took it home, and Axl Rose became my first musical confidant. He was saying everything I wanted to say, but couldn’t. My favorite track on Appetite for Destruction is “It’s So Easy,” because of this line: “I see you standing there/you think you’re so cool/why don’t you just FUCK OFF!”

Those kids couldn’t fuck with me anymore. I had Axl, Slash, Duff and Izzy on my side.

Poison: “Talk Dirty to Me”

Poison is the most significant band of my teenage years. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes, but put yourself in my Chuck Taylors for a second. Imagine you are in a body cast for two months. After you get the cast taken off, you have to spend three weeks in the hospital for rehab. After you get out of the hospital, you have to go to a special school so you can get physical therapy every day. The teacher hates you for no apparent reason. You have no confidence in yourself whatsoever. Then you hear a song about the most glorious, sinful, carnal, inappropriate, un-Catholic sex in the world, sung by the coolest guy you have ever seen. Instead of telling you to go away, he invites you to join the party. You’d take him up on it, right?

Limp Bizkit: “Hot Dog”

If you are a white male born between the years 1984 to 1987, you have a Limp Bizkit record in your collection. You may listen to Grizzly Bear now, but you once gave it all for the nookie.

I spent many lunch periods discussing the pure awesomeness of Limp Bizkit with my esteemed associates, Jeremy and Steve. Fred Durst was like, so cool man. We eagerly awaited the release of Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, which was going to be the Sgt. Pepper of our generation. Brother Fred was going to reveal some deep truths. Finally, after months of anticipation, the big day arrived. My mom took me down to Waves music and I proudly gave my allowance to the clerk. He rolled his eyes as he rang me up, but what did he know?

I raced home, put the sacred disc in my Sony boombox and shut the door. One day, I was going to tell my grandchildren about this moment. My ears were greeted with this:

What? That was weird. Why is Fred breaking the fourth wall? What does he have against Trent Reznor? Does he really need to say “fuck” 45 times?
I listened to the album five times in a row and came to a conclusion.

“This album sucks.”

My inner critic had arrived.

The Replacements: “Unsatisfied”

I discovered Let it Be without any recommendation from Spin or Rolling Stone. I found it in a Best Buy one day, and was impressed that they had the balls to steal a title from The Beatles. I was the perfect age. Paul Westerberg became my second musical confidant. If Axl Rose said the things I couldn’t say, Westerberg was articulating the way I felt. I was sixteen, stuck in the suburbs wondering when life would begin. Paul didn’t have the answers to my questions, but he let me vent.

Pretty Boy Floyd: “Wild Angels”

All music geeks have asked themselves this question: If you could make any album in the world, what would it be? Most people would say Blonde on Blonde, Sgt. Pepper or OK Computer. Not me. If I could make any album in the world, it would be Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz.

Poison was my gateway drug to hair metal. By my senior year in high school, I listened to them all; Skid Row, Motley Crue, LA Guns, Ratt, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., Danger Danger, Faster Pussycat, Stryper, Whitesnake, Dokken, I could go on for days. If a band had big hair and obscenely tight pants, I bought their record no questions asked. By 2003, the critical opinion of hair metal had slightly shifted. It still sucked, but you could like it ironically. In the spirit of irony, Spin ran a cover story about the Sunset Strip. At the end of the story, the author singled out Pretty Boy Floyd as the band that killed hair metal.

Wow. That was a pretty strong statement. I had to hear that record. I mean, they killed an entire genre. The album was long out of print, so it took me about six months to track down a copy of Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz. It was worth the wait.

Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz is not the record that killed hair metal. If it had been handled properly, it would have saved it. PBF are not great musicians or talented lyricists, but they captured the sheer joy of rock n’ roll. They never aspire to be anything more than the most over the top glam band in the world. When Steve “Sex” Summers talks about running away to Hollywood and rocking all night long (like he never could), he means it. I played this record for a friend recently, and he put it best. “This is the sound of hair metal clawing its way back.” Indeed.

Butch Walker: “Mixtape/”Best Thing You Never Had”

“Mixtape” and “Best Thing You Never Had” are forever linked in my mind. One represents the awkward joy of telling someone how you feel, while the other is the pain of unrequited love.

I had discovered Butch Walker in my freshman year of college. I bought his first solo album, Left of Self Centered, on a whim. I liked him a lot, but Letters changed my life.

Throughout high school, I was in love with a girl. We sat next to each other in history class, and eventually became friends. She would argue with her boyfriend and then come crying to me. I would tell her how beautiful she was and how he didn’t deserve her, yadda yadda yadda. This went on for almost three years.

The week Letters came out, we had a huge fight. I don’t remember what it was about, but we stopped talking. “Best Thing You Never Had” summed up our relationship in four minutes and 30 seconds. I spent a lot of time riding around Towson playing that record over and over again. Butch tried to tell me it would be OK, but I didn’t believe him.

In the fall of 2005, I met a girl named Monica. She complimented my Nine Inch Nails patch. We went out to dinner, watched John Cusack movies, and went to wrestling. It was a mutual thing rather than a one-sided therapy session. After a couple months, I had to tell her how I felt and I chose Butch Walker’s words; “You gave me the best mixtape I have. Even the sad songs ain’t so sad. I just wish there was so much more than that, about me and you.” She cried.

Although it didn’t work out romantically between us, Monica is one of my best friends.

Butch was right.

Bob Dylan: “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat”

I bought my first copy of Blonde on Blonde because it was on sale. I thought I had finally sold out. After years of decrying the rock critics who pretentiously worshipped Dylan, Sonic Youth and Pavement, I had crossed the line. I was treating it like the musical equivalent of Schindler’s List; nobody wants to see that film, but you have to. I think you can guess what happened. It’s Blonde on Blonde.

I like Pavement and Sonic Youth now too. My fourteen year old-self wants to kick my ass.

The Rolling Stones: “Sister Morphine”

Like every other person with Baby Boomer parents, I was exposed to The Rolling Stones at an early age. The first album I ever heard was Steel Wheels. Steel Wheels is a decent album, but it’s a latter day Stones album. The Stones were not really a band in 1988, but a corporation. My mom told me that she wasn’t allowed to listen to the Rolling Stones, because they were bad boys. I looked at the pleasantly wrinkled face of Mick Jagger and wondered what was so threatening.

I didn’t find out until many years later. I bought Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed. When I heard Sticky Fingers in its entirety for the first time, I understood. The Rolling Stones were not always elder statesmen who performed “Satisfaction” to stadiums of yuppies. Sticky Fingers shows a weary band mired in drug addiction. Jagger’s voice is so weary that you feel like you have done heroin with him.

David Bowie: “Lady Stardust”

I’ve always been fascinated with David Bowie, because I’m fascinated with the idea of personal transformation. How did a kid with an ordinary name become a bisexual space alien sent to save Earth? Bowie has something that not many people have anymore; complete and total mystique. When people talk about David Bowie, they usually talk about his recurring motifs, but he’s also one of the most underrated singers of the rock era. “Life on Mars?” is the best known, but “Lady Stardust” is my favorite vocal showcase of his. He lets his vocals soar without overdoing the pyrotechnics. “Lady Stardust” is a masterpiece of grandeur and restraint.

Elvis Presley: “Unchained Melody”

The King has entered the Eternal Mixtape. I spent way too long debating which Elvis song to include here. I almost went with “Suspicious Minds,” which is his masterpiece and my favorite Elvis song. Then I switched to “Jailhouse Rock,” which was the first Elvis song I ever heard. Then I decided to go really obscure and pick something like “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame,” or “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road.” I even considered my two least favorite Elvis songs, “No Room to Rumba in a Sports Car” and “Who Needs Money?” so I could argue for his greatness.

I went with the song that revived my love for Elvis, and turned him into my favorite artist of all time.

I went through a brief but intense Elvis phase as a kid. When I grew out of it, I started to subscribe to the theory that Elvis was flat out racist and plain (motherfuck him and John Wayne). I had no grounds for believing this theory, other than what I read in music magazines. Then Rolling Stone pointed me to this video of Elvis singing “Unchained Melody” during his final concert.

He’s fat, bloated, and dripping with sweat, but he summons the notes from the depths of his soul. When he hits the first few high notes, the suit, the fat and the bloat melt away. He is the King again. I think I have something in my eye.

Bruce Springsteen: “No Surrender” (live, acoustic)

On his blockbuster album Born in the USA, “No Surrender” is a fun song. On this version, recorded during the Born in the USA tour, The Boss strips it down to the bare essentials. It’s just his guitar and his words. He sums it up so succinctly: “Here’s one for friendship.” Bruce’s best songs are about friendship and loyalty, and this one is my favorite.

Cheap Trick: “Clock Strikes Ten”

“I’m not going to cry this time,” I thought, as I prepared to see Cheap Trick for the
third time. “They are just a band. I see bands almost every week. It’s only Cheap Trick.”

My resolution lasted about 30 seconds.

I can’t really explain why Cheap Trick makes me so happy, but they do. They are my vision of a perfect rock band. They have the matinee idols, but they also have two nerds. Rick Nielsen’s guitar riffs are really heavy, but are offset by killer harmonies. The choruses are big, but the lyrics are complicated. Christ, I sound like a Pitchfork writer. I think it can be summed up in one sentence: “ON THE DRUMS, MR. BUN E. CARLOS!” If that doesn’t get you, nothing will.

Radiohead: “Black Star”

My first exposure to Radiohead was in the ninth grade. My best friend, Steve, had a crush on a girl who liked them. He went out and bought Kid A, which was their newest release at the time. He listened to it for about three weeks and then went back to Disturbed. I inherited Steve’s copy of Kid A, and I didn’t get it either. So because I was fourteen, I decided that I didn’t like Radiohead, even though I’d never heard anything else.

By my sophomore year of college, I was more enlightened. I was listening to everything, from The Smiths to John Coltrane. Since I was giving everything else a chance, it was time to reevaluate Radiohead. But where to begin?
I went to the record store that weekend and bought The Bends, because I knew “Fake Plastic Trees.” When I finished the album, I understood Radiohead. Why did I respond to The Bends, but not Kid A, which is their masterpiece?

It’s quite simple; The Bends is an arena rock record. The songs had riffs, choruses, bridges and hooks. The conventional structures were twisted with avant guard flourishes; a tape loop here, distortion there. It’s easy to get sucked in. From there you get OK Computer and then go into Kid A.

Once I had a firm foundation in Radiohead’s music, I understood Kid A. My experience with Radiohead taught me that a gateway is everything. If you are looking to get into an established band and get the wrong record, it can influence your opinion for years to come. If only I’d heard The Bends first.

The Gaslight Anthem: “High Lonesome”

As an acclaimed music journalist, I have to listen to a lot of music. Once in a while, I encounter something that reminds me why I started writing about music in the first place. “High Lonesome” is one of them.

Ramones: “Cretin Hop”

Finally, “Cretin Hop” has been on every mixtape I’ve made since I was seventeen. Why break tradition?

This tape only scratches the surface of my musical life. Here are some songs that missed the cut.

Skid Row: Monkey Business
Warrant: Heaven
Metallica: One
Pantera: Revolution Is My Name
Marvelous 3: Beautiful
Prince & The Revolution: When You Were Mine
Elvis Costello: Hand in Hand
Joe Jackson: Happy Loving Couples
The Smiths: I Know It’s Over
Thin Lizzy: Romeo and the Lonely Girl
The Faces: Flying
Notorious BIG: Big Poppa
The Hold Steady: Constructive Summer
The Clash: Brand New Cadillac
Iron Maiden: Aces High
The Ronettes: Be My Baby

Andrew Schlaack’s Eternal Mixtape

This task was hastily done at the last minute, yes, but great care was still put into the mix. I tend to make mixes better under pressure, I think, as some of my best ones came from me trying to compile them before going to school at 7:30 in the morning when I had to be there at 7:45, and it was going to take 15 minutes just to burn it (I was constantly late due to that slow piece of crap burner). This is a departure from my usual mix, in that I deviated from three of my own personal rules: 1) No back to back artist tracks… And one track separating the two songs doesn’t fly, 2) Make sure everything flows as if you were making a completely new album. Pretend you’re Roger Waters making sure the sequence to The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon is just right, and 3) No live tracks with studio tracks. One rule I did keep was the length. I kept it within 80 minutes because what good is compiling a mix if you can’t give it to someone if you’re proud of it. I wanted to be able to share a cd with someone if I felt compelled to do so. So, it’s probably pretty short by comparison to other mixes that will be. Oh well.

I also want to thank Brendan for making people actually think about the music that they listen to. It’s not very often that people are asked to do it. Many people just blindly listen, and whether they want to admit it or not, don’t really care about the audio they claim to love. This was a challenge, and it was very welcomed. Thank you.

And now, “it has begun.”

“80 Minutes of Eternity”

01. Chocolate USA – Test (1992)

This is a fantastic lead track. It’s short, simple and hooked me into one of my favorite albums ever released. This was the first track that introduced me to the genius of one Mr. Julian Koster, formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel. Being in various choirs my whole life, I was pulled in by the loose harmonies of “Test” after popping this cd in the listening station. I stood at the listening station, totally engrossed in the completely carefree tone of the chorus as they sang a line like “We have something important to say/we’re all going to kill ourselves today” as if it were nothing important in the world, and possibly worth celebrating. I snatched this out of the Dollar bin in an instant, and played it in the car so much, friends of mine started to ask about it. Not just any friends, either: Admitted music snobs. Burned copies of this album were distributed freely since it was out of print, and many of us grew closer over our love for this album. This isn’t just an album that opened my ears to a more unconventional music style than the straightforward punk and classic rock/metal and whatever else I was listening to at the time. This brought me closer to my friends at a time when I felt alienated from those I considered my friends. And that is why it is my lead off track, as a sort of “welcome, come inside,” like I got. Let’s continue.

02. Kiss – Detroit Rock City (live) (1978)

This is the song that started it all. This is the earliest rock song I remember hearing. I was two years old, jumping on my oldest brother’s bed, attempting to sing along with Paul Stanley, being shown the picture on the inside of the gatefold of the album jacket of the unbelievable stage show that these four makeup wearing grown-ups were putting on with fire and lights and all this other fantastic ridiculousness. It would be Kiss that would end up being my first concert eight years later, and even though I could only faintly remember who they were, my brother insisted it was in my best interests to go with him. Hello, my name is Andrew, and I am now addicted to going to concerts because I saw Kiss when I was ten years old. It was everything I had hoped it was, and everything I had heard so long ago came rushing back to me during the show, and there I was, singing along to all the songs I remembered from my younger years. As embarrassing as it seems, if it weren’t for Kiss, I may not be here. What with many messages within the music being that of “stand your ground,” and “who cares what they think, have fun anyway,” it gave me the confidence needed to overcome quite a bit in my personal life, and even though they may be a bit of a joke nowadays, I owe a lot to this band. And “Detroit Rock City” from Alive II is what started everything. not just my interest in Kiss, but my interest in music. So I have Kiss to thank for everything. Everything.

03. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road (1975)

Keeping in the “get ’em hooked while they’re young,” mindset that my brothers had, I was exposed to a lot, but few had as lasting an impact as Bruce Springsteen, particularly Born To Run and Born In The USA. I knew all the lyrics to both of these albums by the time I was four years old, and while some of those lyrics have faded from my memory (I have to admit I don’t listen to Born In The USA as much as I used to), listening to these albums make me feel like a kid again, discovering them both for the first time every time. “Thunder Road,” to me is a perfect composition set to a perfect poem. Everything just lines up so well, I sometimes weep. My wife and Brendan can both attest to me crying while seeing Bruce and the E Street Band perform Born To Run in it’s entirety. One puff on that harmonica, and I was gone, daddy, gone. The song moves me in a way I cannot begin to describe. More so than the title track, more so than “Jungleland,” more so than most songs. It’s a feeling that makes it seem like everything can and will be all right. And who knows? It might end up being that way.

04. Steve Vai – For The Love Of God (1990)

Steve Vai played in Frank Zappa’s band for a time. I didn’t know that, nor would I have known what that entailed when I was introduced to him by my younger older brother. I was just learning to play the guitar through a Beatles “Fakebook,” that showed the chords above the lyrics, and showed you how to make each chord. My brother decided to give me something to aspire to, clearly because I’m sure he realized that I’d never actually generate such a level of perfection on guitar. This is a composition that I always aspire to be able to play, but know I will never be able to get it down, which pushes me to be better than I am. The sheer virtuosity on display in this six minute track is impressive enough, but to think that this was done after the man fasted for four days (out of a total of ten in all) in order to achieve an altered state of consciousness because, “in those states you can come up with things that are unique even for yourself.” It certainly pushes me to be better at my instrument, though I know I’m not going to be this good. But that’s fine. I’m content to listen to the work of others.

05. Heywood Banks – Toast (1990, track from 2003)

Heywood Banks is a comedian that I’ve been a fan of for many, many years. Musical comedy is his specialty, and “Toast” is performed by banging a slot toaster, worn around the neck with a pair of forks. Odd as it may seem, this song has had a profound effect on my life. By the time I hit the eighth grade, I was near a breaking point in my life. My entire school life, I had been picked on for being the fat kid in my class (while other kids who were at my size or larger were not subjected to this sort of treatment, for the most part). During my eighth grade year, I had enough. After I was suspended twice, for trying to lash back at people insulting me and my family to the point of me threatening to kill them, and in another instance, punching them for doing so, I decided it was time to try to end this a different way. I decided to get up for the talent show, and perform this song. Play it exactly how Heywood plays it. People laughed. they spread the word. They weren’t interested in making fun of the fat kid now that they know he can make them laugh. Which helped. It was a turning point in my life. People stopped. I stopped caring what everyone was hurling at me, and as a result, it was just about a complete 180. I’ve spoken to Heywood after performances and told him about this, and even had him sign the first toaster I used to turn my life around. I don’t know if he’d ever had someone say that to him about his songs. I’m glad to let him know he made a difference in someone’s life instead of just made them laugh.

06. Propagandhi – Anti-Manifesto (1993)

Until about 2000, I was a pretty strong opponent of punk rock. Being raised on classic rock, I had the mindset of “no guitar solo = bad,” and all I had gleamed from any punk band was that they were usually sub-par musicians who couldn’t turn out a guitar solo if their lives depended on it. Looking back, I realize how absurd this was, but still, that’s how it was for me. My girlfriend at the time had two older brothers, both vegans, both major anarchists, and both major punk fans. A suggestion for me was this band called “Propagandhi.” I thought it was a funny name, so I got the song off of Napster. “Anti-Manifesto” was this blistering, near-metal punk rock assault on my senses. I knew not that such anger about a scene could be conveyed as succinctly as it was in this song. “Dance and laugh and play/ignore the message we convey/it seems we’re only here to entertain” and “We stand for something more/than a faded sticker on a skateboard/now we’ve rained on your parade, we’re out the door/and I don’t even care any fucking more” bookend the first verse, and I think, this is one of the most honest songs I’ve heard in my life. This was a sort of call to arms for me. I kept listening, and completely agreed with the ending line of the song, which merely stated, “it don’t really matter, ’cause nothing’s ever felt as right as this.” And then came what hooked me further: The solo. Honesty AND a solo! Who would’ve thought?

07. The Cure – Pictures of You (1989)

In stark contrast to the metal I was used to, or the punk I’d just gotten into, the Cure gave me an appreciation for the empty spaces, and the soaring soundscapes that is this song. When my first girlfriend and I broke up, this song that she urged me to download when we first declared ourselves a couple was at the top of my list of “well, gee, you should’ve seen this coming, dumbass” songs. Pictures were what we mostly had, and back then I truly did feel that if I had said anything differently, we’d have stayed together. Unfortunately this is the first of a long line of songs I can attribute to my first (and only) breakup, and their significance. Sorry!

08. Blink-182 – Apple Shampoo (1997)

Like I said, there’s more where “Pictures of You” came from. This is almost a song I would’ve written, right down to the title, considering Mark Hoppus wrote this song about a girl who used shampoo that smelled like apples… Which my first girlfriend did as well. Pretty popular stuff, apparently. But the feelings behind the song spoke to me at that time, and pushed me cherish the time spent together, rather than dwell on what we could’ve had. This was a song that would make me push myself harder on the exercise bike, in order to not let my parents hear me cry like a baby shortly after the breakup. However, with my first band, I was all for covering this song, because of what it says to me. It wasn’t a single, and due to it’s relative obscurity (in comparison to “Dammit,” I suppose), it’s a song I share when given the chance.

09. Alkaline Trio – Radio (2000)

I first saw Alkaline Trio open for Blink-182 and New Found Glory on the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket Tour in 2001. At both stops on the tour I saw, I took in all three bands, and couldn’t not pay attention to this song. The imagery is crystal clear: “shaking like a dog shitting razorblades.” This guy is not feeling good about the subject of this song. This is not going to be a happy love song. This song made me stand up straight in a crowded outdoor amphitheater to listen. From it’s simple start, to it’s screamed chorus, this song couldn’t be more perfect in my ears.

10. Blink-182 – What Went Wrong (2001)

A few months had passed since my breakup. Then a party I tried to get to gather on the last day of classes my freshman year of high school didn’t pan out, turnout was abysmal, and I still couldn’t find any other girl to even look at me, let alone go on a date with me. I was still a mess over her. And then this hidden track came on while I just sat in my (then unfinished) basement in my parents’ house. I broke down at the first chorus of “I can’t forgive, can’t forget, Can’t give in/What went wrong, ’cause you said this was right/You fucked up my life.” It was one of those moments you always laugh at in the movies, but every once in a while talk to the screen and start going “no, no, no, no, don’t do it, don’t do it.” I called her. I made her listen to the song. The whole thing. Told her that was what she’d left me to feel like. She was crying as she said she was sorry for doing it, but it couldn’t go on anymore. Even before I played that. She was still crying as she hung up. And so was I. I stayed down there until it was light out, listening to this song. It would probably be #1 on my last.FM if I were using a computer and not an old-school cd player for it just on that night/morning alone. It was just me and my loneliness that night. I can listen to the song without being a whiney emo kid now, but it even resurfaced when I actually saw Tom DeLonge perform it during Blink’s set of the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day in ’02. it still takes me back sometimes. It’s a powerful memory. But it’s done and gone. Some songs just stay with you. Forever.

11. Jawbreaker – Kiss The Bottle (2002)

This was another recommendation by my first. To me, it’s the perfect EMO song, and after the breakup, I would’ve drank to this song every night if I drank at all. People who call bands today “emo,” truly don’t know what it is. Panic! at the Disco isn’t emo. Nothing like that is. Whining isn’t a core tenant. The vocal delivery on this song was painful for me to take at first. I figured Blake Schwarzenbach just couldn’t sing. But I realized later that this is pure, unadulterated emotion dealing with the loss of someone you hold dear due to circumstances that should be controllable, but for one reason or another… It just didn’t turn out that way. This is a yell along in the car song if I ever had one. And I feel it the way I’m supposed to when I do it.

12. NOFX – We Ain’t Shit (1995)

My attitude about being in a band is derived and explained by this song. If I ever get another band, the point of view that Fat Mike has in this song is exactly how mine will be. no matter how good we will be, we’ll still suck. But hey, as long as people will pay us, who cares? I can see everyone lining up to be in a band with me now, but in actuality, the mindset helps me strive to be better. It’s an inspiration to achieve more than what I previously think I can. If I thought I was hot shit in a band, then what motivation would I have to try harder? Complacency is dangerous in such a context, and I’d rather just not have any at all. I want to be the best, and why shouldn’t I? “We know that we ain’t shit” is a battle cry to me, conveying a sense of “yeah, you may think we suck, but we’re still getting paid, how about that?” And that’s bulletproof to me.

13. Andrew W. K. – I Get Wet (2001)

Andrew W. K. is a complete mystery to me. I still don’t know what it was about “Party Hard” that hooked me, but I just stared at the music video for the entire duration the first time I saw it on MTV, when MTV actually played videos in 2001. I picked up the cd, and it was more a breath of fresh air to me than anything I’d heard for a while. At the show, though, I found a world of complete abandonment. “I Get Wet” is one of those show closing songs that truly affirms the notion that life is good, and worth living, especially in a live setting. The pure energy that Andrew and the crowd exchange is proof that there is good in a seemingly shit-tastic world. The positivity put forth by Andrew and company allowed me to grow closer to friends of mine, and make more friends. And I can’t wait to see the full band again. It’s been too long.

14. The Minutemen – This Ain’t No Picnic (1984)

This short punk song comes from the rhythm section of Mike Watt and George Hurley. Since hearing this song and learning the baseline, even at a base level, it has been this song that I judge all bass players I ever want to play with. If a bassist can play this, they can surely play anything I’d want to write with them. The Red hot Chili Peppers didn’t so much teach me as much about a tight rhythm section as this song by this band did. Mike Watt has been a profound influence on my bass playing, and D. Boon, God rest his soul, taught me that you can have sparse guitar parts and jangle punk solos and still be cool as hell. The influence the Minutemen have had on my playing is immeasurable, and it’s mainly from this song. The bass just drives you to a different place. And it jams econo.

15. Manic Street Preachers – Another Invented Disease (1992)

If you know me at all, you know who Manic Street Preachers are. When my wife and I met, we got along together quite well musically. Within a month of meeting each other, Emily asked me to download a few tracks from this band I’d only heard of in passing. “Faster,” “4st 7lb,” and “A Design For Life” flashed across my screen as requested songs, but I couldn’t find any uncorrupted files (or rather blank files, who knows what viruses I put on that computer), so I heard nothing. We went out the next day for a day of thrifting, and lo and behold, while scrounging the Goodwill for cds, I came across an old Q Magazine compilation from 1992 in a paper sleeve. One of the tracks was “Another Invented Disease” from The Manics. “Hey, is this that band you were telling me about?” “……… GET IT.” We purchased it and popped it in the car immediately, and my body just started tingling. This was everything I liked about early nineties alternative/hard rock. Except the lyrics were smart, the guitar was crisp, not muddied by so much distortion, and there was just something about this band. The guitar was just so damn good, too. Being a guitar player myself, this is important, dammit! This song about the effects of drug culture and it’s being pushed by the very forces that enforce laws that lock people up for partaking in that culture in order to keep the populace in a stupor just shocked me in that oh so sweet way. It was a welcome surprise. Emily and I went on a mad quest to find more form this band that very same day. We went to every cd store we could think of looking for anything, giving us a hint of how difficult it would be to locate further material in the coming years. We finally found a copy of their 2001 album, Know Your Enemy, which was an obvious far cry from what they used to be, but it still obviously kept my interest enough to track down over 450 pieces of music and memorabilia by this one band that never got big over here in the States. This is the favorite band, this is the intro song.

16. Manic Street Preachers – Faster (1994)

“I hate purity. I hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt” is a quote that leads off this song, atop glorious feedback, and sets the tone perfectly. This is the favorite song by the favorite artist. It is also the favorite song by any artist. This song is simple in it’s composition, riding a nice, augmented A chord most of the way through it’s lyrics. James Dean Bradfield intentionally kept the music simple because to do anything else would’ve been far to complex and difficult to recreate live because he’d also have to sing what were already difficult lyrics to spit out with the required vitriol. Lines like “Self-disgust is self-obsession, honey, and I do as I please,” “I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing” and “I’ve been to honest with myself, I should have lied like everybody else” hit me in the nuts the first time I heard this song. This song is not a traditionally punk song, but hits harder than most in the sheer honesty of the lyrics. The song runs through the first scathing eighty-five percent of the track before going into any semblance of a solo which makes the music take a turn from simple to face-melting in a solo that I’ve been trying to learn since I got my first copy of the album back in 2004. When I finally got to see the Manics on their first US tour in ten years back in 2009, I could do nothing but scream the lyrics to this song. There was no pogoing, no slam dancing, no headbanging… Just staring and screaming with the most ridiculous smile on my face.

17. Say Anything – Admit it (2004/2006)

More a sprawling monologue than a song, this is Max Bemis’ dissertation against the unfortunately prevalent hipster movement, and how disgusting or futilely stupid the prominent viewpoints of the movement were and how stupid the “not caring is cool” mindset is. It gave me a bit of backup in repudiating one of those stupid sceney hardcore chicks that so value their whole existence on building up a fake relationship with band members through solely casual encounters with the members. I feel there is much truth in the song, as it points out such vile hypocritical stances like the judgment of everything in sight when in all actuality, the one judging does so out of what seems like a compulsive superiority complex brought on by the exact judgment leveled by others unto them. If you don’t like this song, it probably applies to you too much.

18. The Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism (2003)

I actually found the Dresden Dolls’ first album at my public library. It caught me by surprise, as I don’t feel too much of a fondness to most female singers. It’s just one of those things. Amanda Palmer caught me off guard, though. The album’s second track, “Girl Anachronism,” displayed this fervor shown in the piano playing that was erratic, yet precise. Fundamentally flawed and imperfect, yet perfect at the same time. Brian Viglione’s drumming provided a perfect backdrop (and sometimes foreground) for the frantic lyrical delivery, and ivory tickling. When I first witnessed the band perform live, Mr. Viglione made me forget who the drummer for Slayer was because he was THAT impressive. “Girl Anachronism” started a love affair with a band that prompted Emily and I to drive 6 hours just to see them. Our vanity plate was a Dolls reference. And this is the song that hooked me in.

19. Chocolate USA – Two Dogs

Most love songs are completely sappy. For all the wrong reasons. They’re more syrupy than anything. Cheesy, and completely beyond what a rational adult should ever recite in front of people. This song is a love song in pure form, though. Julian Koster made a weird, quirky love song that spoke to my still childlike adolescent sensibilities and made it okay to have a song you could consider “our song” without it being a trite, boring ballad. Just Julian and an acoustic guitar, talking about two things coming together and being better for it, culminating with “one me” and “one you.” No rope or crazy glue as with the previous examples. Just the promise that if they’d stick together, they’d be better than ever. I performed this song at my high school talent show during my senior year, dedicating it to my then girlfriend, now wife Emily. We danced to this at our wedding reception. It was a family favorite because of its sweetness. It’s just a pure, unadulterated, innocent song about love. Not fucking or getting down or making love. Just love. There should be more of this in the world. Whether Julian believes it or not.

20. Jimmy Eat World – Polaris

Futures came out in 2004, after Emily and I had spent a near-lifetime listening to Bleed American. The cd didn’t leave the car stereo for months on end. But then we had heard they were putting out a new album, Emily and I were worried. We constantly just said to ourselves “don’t suck… Don’t suck…” as we popped the cd in, and to our complete relief, we had another winner on our hands. One of the songs that truly touched us in ways both appropriate and inappropriate, was “Polaris.” To me, it’s another pure song. One that would be thrown off balance if there were anything more or less. It’s a pop soundscape. It also has the distinction of being the one song Emily wished to walk down the aisle to with her father during our wedding. It’s going to forever be a part of our lives, so long as I can look at Emily “and know the world is beautiful.”

21. The Gaslight Anthem – Here’s Looking At You, Kid

The wedding night wasn’t without it’s ups and downs. But all in all it was fine. One of the gifts we received was from a friend of ours, John Gallienne. Manics fan before we knew him, Gaslight Anthem and Hold Steady fan before we knew of them, he gave us a wedding day mix. Mixed with songs about leaving Ohio (which we were to do a few days later with his help), songs to remind us of Dayton, songs that reminded him of us, and some choice “bedroom songs” (“Debra” by Beck, “Fire” by Electric Six, etc., etc.). The final track on the mix was the second to last song from The Gaslight Anthem’s second album, “Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid.” The song connected with the both of us on our way up to Chicago, prompting us to keep it on repeat for most of the way. It touched us. It’s a poignant song about loves lost and regret for those relationships. The last verse sealed the deal for me. And that’s how it goes.

Evan Thorne’s Eternal Mixtape

This is such a huge project, I don’t know where to begin, or how to organize things, or even what songs to include. I’m 23, so I decided 23 songs was a good number, and even though these stories didn’t occur on any kind of annual basis, the list is arranged, more or less, chronologically. Some of these songs I haven’t thought about in ages, while others I listen to every couple of days. At the end of the day though, it’s all music, and all music is based around stories; so here are some of my stories, and the music that goes with them.

Johnny Clegg & Savuka – “One (Hu)Man, One Vote”

Really, I could have picked nearly any song by this groundbreaking South African group. They were the first ever racially-integrated band in Africa during apartheid. They were also my first ever favorite band. My parents used to tape the musical performances on “Saturday Night Live” and similar programs because even back then, I totally dug the tunes; one night, Clegg and company were on one of the shows. I’m not sure if it was the outfits or the traditional African dancing, or the utterly unfamiliar but still totally approachable nature of the music, but I was hooked. My parents bought me three albums on cassette, and I listened to them all the time. As I got older, the politically-inspired lyrics in songs like this led me to look into some of South Africa’s history, and truly appreciate this band’s pivotal role in their own culture. They had a couple of minor hits in the States (including “Great Heart,” which was covered by Jimmy Buffett), but due to the fact that roughly 50% of their lyrics are in Zulu, they’ve remained mostly under the radar. One time I tried checking out a “teach yourself Zulu” book from the library to help me decipher the lyrics I couldn’t understand, but quickly gave that up. I guess I could look up translations, now that the internet is around and stuff, but any more, I kind of like the mystique that surrounds these familiar, well-loved songs. I know what they’re singing about, even if I don’t know the words.

Yes – “Siberian Khatru” (live)

When I was really little (five, six years old), my dad would take me to the airport in Schaumburg, not far from where we lived at the time. I don’t know the actual name of the place, because I always called it “the little airport.” Anyway, it’s still there, but when we would go, it wasn’t developed, and you could just park on top of this hill and watch the prop planes land and take off, walk around and look at the planes on the ground, and just generally have some quality father-son bonding time. My dad’s car had a CD player, which I thought was just the coolest thing—at the time, we still only had a tape deck in our home stereo system—but he only had about three CDs, one of which was “YesSongs,” the live album by Yes. At that age, I had no use for sprawling progressive-rock opuses, but I sure liked raucous guitar licks, and for years and years, “Siberian Khatru” was the very definition of raucous guitar licks. It’s been nearly twenty years now, but I still think of spending time with my daddy, watching the airplanes at the little airport, when I hear this song.

Jimi Hendrix – “Little Wing”

When I was little, I used to hate slow songs. Then I heard my dad’s friend play “Little Wing” on guitar, and it changed my mind. The original recording is kind of a dreamy ballad, but it’s got spirit and vitality, and some of the niftiest guitar playing Hendrix ever recorded. Even before I hit the inevitable adolescent classic-rock phase, I would listen to “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Castles Made Of Sand” and “Little Wing,” and somehow, even though they were a little slower than the rest of what I liked, they still managed to rock.

Third Eye Blind – “10 Days Late”

Third Eye Blind’s “Blue” was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I listened to it constantly, knew every word (especially the “F” word in “Darwin”), and would even play it when my parents were around (except for “Darwin”). One day, I was in the car with my parents, and this song came on, and my mom asked me for the lyric sheet. I was convinced I was somehow getting in trouble, that there was some hidden meaning somewhere in the lyrics I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to be allowed to listen to my CD again. She just read through the lyrics and said something to the effect of, “Wow, that’s really nicely put.” While I do agree, and could go on about the meaning of the lyrics, whenever I hear this song, I just think of the profound sense of relief I felt that day.

Dr. Dre/South Park – “Forgot About Timmay”

A buddy put this on a mix CD for me when I was about twelve or thirteen. Needless to say, it instantly appealed to my sense of humor at that age. But, growing up in a house where rap was totally despised, it was also my first real exposure to hip hop music. It took a few years, but I eventually developed an appreciation for good hip hop; but this song still makes me laugh like a goddamn twelve-year-old.

Vertical Horizon – “The Man Who Would Be Santa”

Songs like this are the reason this band was my favorite for years and years, despite extended periods of inactivity and disappointing later releases. This song was released in 1994, but I didn’t hear it until 2001, which would have put me at fourteen years old. As anyone who has ever been fourteen should know, being fourteen kind of generally sucks a lot. You’re confused and emotional and feel like the whole world is usually working against you, and it’s damn hard to be sure of anything. I think that’s why this song was such a relief to me when I heard it, because the message is simply that your parents will always love you and be proud of you, whether you’re their little boy or girl, or their rebellious teenager, or an adult making your own way. This song was written to end a period of estrangement between the singer and his own father, but when I heard it, it struck a really personal chord in me at the time. I think there are a handful of other songs that have made me cry, but this one was the first, and they were tears of pure adolescent gratitude.

Pennywise – “Bro Hymn (tribute)”

I got stuck working on a science fair project with this kid Kyle my freshman year of high school, and we couldn’t stand each other. Then one day, we got to talking about music, and Pennywise came up. We put this song on (followed by GNR’s “Paradise City”), rocked out for awhile, got back to work on our project, and he was one of my best friends for the rest of high school. As sad as the song is, it still manages to be almost forcefully optimistic, and brings like-minded people together—which is almost certainly how Jason would have wanted it.

The Replacements – “I Will Dare”

The first time I heard this song was when I was fourteen years old. I was just starting down the road to my unhealthy obsession with rock music, and while I’d heard of the Replacements, I didn’t know anything about them. The Dundee Library had a copy of “Let It Be,” and I thought it was pretty funny that they’d lifted the Beatles’ album title, so I picked it up. By the time the opening track was over, I was hooked. The song, like the rest of the album, is so brilliantly constructed that it resonates just as strongly with me now as it did nearly a decade ago. Taking that CD home and putting it in the computer, as cliché as it sounds, was a moment I’ll never forget in and of itself.

Weezer – “Tired Of Sex”

Remember being an adolescent, and absolutely convinced that everyone else has had more sex than you? This song floored me, because it was the first time it ever occurred to me that even sex was something that could become mundane. I was vacuuming the living room the first time I ever listened to “Pinkerton,” and I literally remember turning off the vacuum after about two minutes, starting the song over, and just thinking “That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard,” or something to that effect. The next time I was listening to that record, I was also vacuuming the living room (I liked to listen to CDs while I did my chores), and I’d forgotten about the song since last time. The second time through, it didn’t make the same kind of impression—I basically just thought about it, shrugged, and carried on—but after that, it made the absence of sex in my teenage life a little more bearable. In an interesting side note, I’m fairly certain I scored this record from the Dundee Library on the very same trip I grabbed that Replacements record…

Gin Blossoms – “Found Out About You”

I was at a Gin Blossoms show, right up in front, age fifteen. I shouted for this song, they played it, and it was the highlight of the set. Years later, I got to interview the band and party with them on their tour bus. I still love the Gin Blossoms, and fuck you, Fred. I decide to use the version from “Dusted,” because it’s a lot closer to the way it’s played live.

Flickerstick – “Smile”

This song was on the first CD I ever had to review for the Daily Herald job I held for roughly seven years. I was familiar with the band from their stint on VH1’s “Bands On The Run,” easily my favorite reality show ever, and I remembered liking this song when they’d play it on the show. When I listened to the CD, I was just floored by the recording quality. It was the first time I’d ever listened to music with such a critical ear, and it was also the first time I’d been knowingly exposed to Tom Lord-Alge’s enormous rock production sounds. His records may be slick as hell, but even if that’s not your thing, he gets sick tones, and the guy knows how to make shit breathe, man.

Sunny Day Real Estate – “Guitar and Video Games”

I don’t even remember how I got a hold of this song, but it wound up on my computer somehow. I didn’t listen to it for years, probably because it’s such a slow starter. Finally, my WinAmp (hell yeah) was on shuffle, and the song came on. I honestly didn’t know what to make of it at all, but it brought back this really obscure memory from my childhood of sitting in a cardboard box and sliding down the stairs. To this day, I have no idea why, but at least partially because of that odd memory, it remains my favorite SDRE song, and it really increased my appreciation for the gradual crescendo.

Fall Out Boy – “Dead On Arrival”

I’d seen Fall Out Boy a couple of times at free shows opening for 5o4Plan at the Metro, and Joe Trohman and I had met through mutual friends once or twice. They were okay, but nothing special. I heard they’d been picked up by Fueled By Ramen and were recording a CD with a real producer (Chicago wunderkind Sean O’Keefe, as it turned out), and had supposedly upped their game. Joe sent me a promo disc with two tracks from the new album, including this one. The sound, in addition to being more cleanly recorded, couldn’t have been more different from what I was used to. They sounded more confident, a bit more mature, and by god had their knack for writing hooks increased. That first Fall Out Boy full-length remains one of my favorite pop-punk records ever, despite all the overplayed tripe they’ve been peddling ever since. But this song, to me, was really the first time I’d ever heard a local musician I had actually met catch a big break. It was cool.

Christopher John – “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”

This is one of my very favorite Weezer songs, but Christopher John took it to a whole new level. Not only was this one of exactly two worthwhile tracks on the Weezer tribute album (The Stereo did a pretty awesome cover of “El Scorcho”), but the arrangement and his quavery vocals accentuate the profound sense of adolescent alienation that, frankly, I didn’t even know the song contained. I love Rivers Cuomo, especially what he did in the 90s, but from a straight-up performance standpoint, this version does it for me every time. This is when I realized that covers can actually be legitimate in their own right, when done properly.

Eve 6 – “Girlfriend”

I went through a really messy breakup when I was sixteen. I have since realized this is almost a universal experience, but at the time (just like everyone else), I was sure I was the only one who had ever felt that kind of pain before. I guess this song was kind of a reality check—here is this super-popular rock band, with a song expressing exactly the same feelings I was having. I’ve never believed a singer was singing anything “just for me,” and I still don’t, and to be honest, it’s comforting. As much as I hate to admit it, Eve 6 is the band that got me through my first really bad breakup.

Suburban Legends – “High Fives”

I was standing in line, waiting to get into the Reel Big Fish show at the Congress theater, when the guys from Suburban Legends came walking down the sidewalk. I’d seen them the last time they were in Chicago, and it was easily one of the most fun shows I’d ever been to. I loved their CD, and had even reviewed it for that week’s Daily Herald entertainment pullout. I flagged the guys down, and in a fit of sixteen-year-old rudeboy fandom, told them just that. They thought it was pretty cool, so they asked if I wanted to join them for some tacos across the street. I hopped out of line, followed them over, and because I had only enough cash for a t-shirt in my pocket, wound up being bought tacos lenguas by Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish. To this day, I’m not sure if I would ever have tried tongue on my own, but anymore, it’s usually what I order when I eat authentic Mexican.

Neutral Milk Hotel – “Two Headed Boy”

The first time I heard Neutral Milk Hotel, a friend burned me a copy of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” right after it came out, and I liked the title cut but hated the rest. Then, a couple years later, I pulled the disc out again, and was completely sucked in. Around that time, I’d been listening to a lot of safe, predictable pop music, and this was the record was what helped me see that music that was uncomfortable and jagged could still be pop music. The lyrics in “Two Headed Boy” in particular kept reoccurring to me, the strangeness of the imagery, the nature of the confusing relationship between narrator and subject. This song led to all sorts of suitably pretentious indie music, but so many of the great artists I’ve discovered since then make me think back to the weird little twinge I felt the first time I heard Jeff Mangum sing about placing fingers through the notches in your spine…

Television – “Marquee Moon”

I was watching an interview with Moby, and he said this song had his favorite guitar solo. I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but this song and album essentially inspired me to look deeper into the late-70s CBGB’s music scene. It’s not exactly a story, but this song definitely belongs on my mixtape.

The Hold Steady – “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”

On the train to Lollapalooza in 2006, I had a massive mix of about 70 artists who were going to be at the festival, one song each. Most of it I had either heard before, or was only idly interested in, but this track really grabbed me. It wasn’t until “Boys And Girls In America” came out the following year that I realized I’d found my new favorite band, but this is the first track I ever heard by them, and it’s still one of my favorite songs to see the guys play live. I’m guessing it’s just because of the circumstances, but this song always makes me think of the Metra…

Fugazi – “Repeater”

I saw Joe Lally from Fugazi play a solo show. It was really, really terrible. The whole drive home, I just put this album on repeat, and this song in particular was the one that made me the angriest, because it’s everything his performance hadn’t been—catchy, emotive, intense, just interesting. It was just a shame.

Buddy Guy – “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues”

One night, Andy and I were hanging out in my apartment at school. We were trashed, listening to blues records and smoking cigarettes, because it seemed like the thing to do. Whenever we’d go outside, we’d take my iPod out and plug it into my car, so the music didn’t have to stop. I’m pretty sure it was the last time we went inside, we were listening to this song, and having one of our frequent animated discussions about how totally kickass Buddy Guy is at pretty much everything blues-related. I put the iPod down on the windowsill to unlock the door, and must have left it there when we went inside for the night. That’s how I lost my first iPod.

The Ramones – “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down)”

I was at a Halloween party dressed as a schoolboy when suddenly I knocked a Victorian aristocrat’s wife’s drink out of her hand. This song was played by the best Ramones cover band I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen four total.

Andrew W.K. – “She Is Beautiful”

And finally, here it is—the obnoxious girlfriend story. There had to be one, right? Anyway, this one takes place on the night of our first date. It had gone fantastically well: sushi for dinner, followed by hanging out at the local hookah bar, which led to her accepting my invitation to have tea and continue our conversation at my apartment before calling it a night. Naturally, part of the conversation had centered around music, which was when we learned of our mutual love and respect for Mr. Andrew W.K., the man who deserves at least an honorary doctorate in partying. In a fit of boldness (read: “desperate corniness”), I decided this song was the perfect soundtrack for the brief ride back to my place. She laughed, I laughed, and for as many times as I’ve listened to this song, that’s the one time that will keep sticking out in my mind.