Music that Really Meant Something

My husband and I saw a Tom Stoppard play recently called The Real Thing. Compelling ideas, and a lot of clever banter—mostly about fidelity: whether we can truly be committed to another person or if we simply make daily bargains with them.

But enough of substance. I was fascinated by one of the play’s devices: the search for just the right music to signify or bring back important moments in one’s life. The final song of the play is the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer”—perfect, because the protagonist is declaring himself a believer in true and permanent commitment. Throughout the play, he has been experimenting with music, trying to find not only the song but the arrangement which takes him back to an important moment or transition in his life—something he can hold on to. He wants to find eight.

I have been thinking about what my songs would be. I am old enough to easily compile eight, but those of you in your twenties might settle for four or five. I will list only five for now

1) “Some Enchanted Evening” from The King and I. My mother loved Rogers and Hammerstein, and had record albums (ancient disc things) of all their musicals, which I would listen to over and over as I cleaned our little Indiana apartment. To this day, I’d guess I can sing just about anything they wrote, from “I’m Just a Girl that Cain’t Say No” to “When You Walk Through a Storm.”

2) “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”—because the Beatles made us feel so cool, and I could sing along with my uncle who was three years older than I. I was ten years old, and knew that with music like this, my teen years were going to be spectacular.

3) “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe). I was in middle school, and though I felt rather ostracized by my classmates, I knew great music when I heard it. “Dizzy” was a sign that I would probably be able to actually dance, if anyone were ever to ask me. As it was, I danced with the vacuum in the hallway outside my bedroom. And damn, I was good. I never did dance with a boy at Farrer Jr. High, though. I stood against the gym wall and watched everyone else. So my dancing abilities remained my own secret—as they do to this day. Only my family has seen me dance, and that particular image will remain en familia, thanks. Our own private Hell.

4) Layla—Clapton. Can I just say that I have not yet recovered? When I took my son to a Clapton concert and the encore included that one (NOT unplugged), I leapt up and screamed like a teenager.

Finally, the one I will link here:

My parents had an album called “One Hundred Great Moments of Classical Music.” I listened to it over and over during my teen years.
Today, sitting alone in a London flat, I suddenly had a longing to hear the duet I remembered from my youth. I couldn’t remember the title, so I emailed my mom, who emailed my brother, who sent me the title. (Ah, the miracles of technology!)
I started playing it on youtube, and burst into tears. So many images, mostly of my dad, because Dad loves this duet.

I see my dad in a crew cut sitting on the hide-a-bed in Bloomington, Indiana, watching five Blair children chase each other through the apartment. He is a grad student, working on a degree in linguistics, and I have no idea how poor we are. I will be baptized in my slip (after the black bow is removed), probably because we can’t afford a nice dress which would be used only once. We can afford some things, though. My mom will buy me a lovely band of fake flowers for Easter, and bobby pin it to my hair. And she will make many things with hot dogs and tomato soup, and sometimes, for a special treat, will create a cake with a sticky frosting I will later learn is called “Seven Minute frosting.” But when I make it for my own children, I find it far less tasty than what my memory had promised.

Dad, wearing black-rimmed glasses and longer hair than before, is talking Spanish to a small man from Guatemala, who is living with us and helping to translate the Book of Mormon into an Indian dialect.

Then Dad is at his sister’s funeral, and just three years later, at his mother’s. He, the last surviving child, has bought the flower arrangement for Grandma’s coffin. It has a red ribbon with the glittery words “I love you, Mom.” I hadn’t really thought of him as someone’s son until that moment.

Dad is in the temple with me, as I prepare to get married. His hair is starting to turn white, but has not yet made the transition. Four years later, he is crying with me as I try to tell him how guilty and awful I feel for filing for a divorce. I learn later that when he understood what was happening in my marriage, he wept fiercely as he confronted my then-husband: “You cannot—you CANNOT treat my daughter like that!” I was stunned that he would do that for me. I was so battered, ashamed, and weak at the time, and it amazed me that my father would stand up for me so boldly. I remember thinking, “You did that? For me? You did that?”

Then we are in the temple again as I marry Bruce, and years later, as my own daughter marries her husband. By this time, Dad’s hair is completely white and starting to thin.

Then he is in a blue padded chair, connected to many tubes and pumps. He’s on dialysis. His laptop is open (he is studying a language, of course), though he always closes it when I enter the room. “Margaret!” he says. “How good to see you!” I can see his pink scalp under the thin strings of white. His hands shake as he closes his laptop.

I’ve been playing the recording over and over as I’ve been writing this, weeping the whole time. I have no idea what the words mean, and I’ve heard that that particular opera (Pearl Divers) of Bizet’s is rather stupid. But this one song, this rapturous, soaring song seems to yearn into possibility and redemption. And, for me, it moves into memories that all carry the same message: I have loved you in moments you never knew I was watching. I have loved you even when you couldn’t understand. I have loved you in ways you never knew.

Couples often have a song they label “Ours .” I suppose if Bruce and I had one of those, it’d be “O Death, where is thy sting?” because we sang it when we got engaged. But I think I haven’t yet heard the song which expresses what my husband means to me. I will hear it someday.

I do know what the song means MY DAD, even though I can’t understand the words.

And I know that, like Stoppard’s progatonist, I’m a believer.


  1. Margaret Young says:

    The intent now would be for you to think of which songs bring you back to some of your most important moments.

  2. My wife and I actually don’t listen much to him anymore, but Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind, Love was a big favorite when we were in college, before we were married. But since then, I think the song that always makes me think of my wife is Bargain by The Who. Here are the lyrics of the first couple of verses and chorus:

    I’d gladly lose me to find you
    I’d gladly give up all I had
    To find you I’d suffer anything and be glad

    I’d pay any price just to get you
    I’d work all my life and I will
    To win you I’d stand naked, stoned and stabbed

    I’d call that a bargain
    The best I ever had
    The best I ever had

    The softer, acoustic bridge sung by Pete Townsend in the middle of the song, bookended by Keith Moon’s manic drumming, only makes it more poignant for me.

  3. Great post Margaret. I love how a particular song takes us back to a certain time and place. Here are a few of mine:

    El Condor Pasa; Simon and Garfunkel: My mom is gone now, but she used to listen to this album over and over when I was little and every time I hear it I go back to the Ford LTD station wagon with fake wood paneling on the side that we rode in the back of when she was driving around town. I still feel a little carsick whenever I hear this song.

    Poems, Prayers and Promises; John Denver: Same Ford LTD station wagon, same carsick feeling, only this time we’re driving to Jackson Hole to stay in a cabin at Colter Bay, our vacation spot of choice when I was in grade school. I can still see my dad’s face in the rearview mirror, wearing vuarnets, singing along.

    If You Leave Me Now; Chicago: This cheesy break-up song takes me instantly back to 7th grade, slow dancing with a particular girl. I can still smell her hair. Thank you, Sharon, I still love you.

    Bullet The Blue Sky; U2: I’m in Taipei, on a summer break from college, just after breaking up with my girlfriend, listening to a bootleg copy of the Joshua Tree album in the dead of night in a small apartment with all the lights off. This song made me feel like I was getting hit repeatedly with a bolt of lightening. Couldn’t stop listening to the album on my walkman for at least six weeks.

  4. I’m going to go ahead and guess — it’s the Flower Duet, isn’t it? (I’m at work so I can’t actually check the link until I get home.) I discovered that one as a missionary in Bulgaria. I brought the CD home and played it as I was working on the computer, and suddenly it seemed my entire family stopped moving. When it ended, my then-17-year-old brother just quietly said, “Play it again.”

    Not nearly as poignant as your memories, but still, it is probably my favorite duet of all time.

  5. John Denver, Annie’s song: My wife and I love to sing, but my two oldest children hated having us sing to them – maybe because they always knew that when we started singing, that meant it was time for bed. So we stopped singing to them entirely, until my daughter lay in a hospital bed, attached to tubes and probes and a near-constant morphine drip to alleviate the pain resulting from the antibiotic-resistant meningitis that would claim her life.

    My wife decided that, since Lily was asleep most of the time anyway, and would probably depart this life within a matter of days, she would sing to her 2 1/2 year old daughter whether she liked it or not. She gently held Lily in her arms and sang. After she finished singing “Annie’s Song,” Lily opened her eyes, looked up at her mother and just said, “Again.” It was the only time in her short life that she actually asked either of us to sing to her.

  6. Interesting, I immediately thought Flower Duet as well. For me it always seems to come back to anything by Morten Lauridsen. Currently, it’s Sure on This Shining Night.

  7. Metallica. One.

    I like the song, but my memory is from watching the video with my son. He thought it was cool, mostly because I was sharing this with him (he is 10, 9 at the time, and has become interested in my heavier music because of Guitar Hero).

    After we watched the video, I tried explaining to him the meaning of the song and the book/movie that is the basis of the song. It is about our willingness to sacrifice our sons for unworthy causes. As I talked to him, I thought what it would be like if he was the son killed or seriously hurt by war. I paused. When I tried to continue, I started weeping.

    He still talks about that experience. The song now makes me cry. Usually after I scream (in the car, of course).

    If I Had a Hammer has greater meaning for me after watching a number of documentaries on both Peter, Paul, and Mary and Pete Seeger. This song makes me wish I was less of a chicken.

  8. Margaret, my list would be too long. I even have a small jukebox in my home office for all those memories.
    I do remember the last year of my Mom’s life when she lived with us. She too loved music. I had a collection of old Jazz records that we loved to listen to together. She had danced in front of ALL of the Bands. Salt Lake (“The Lake”) was a major stopover for all the “Big Bands”. This was a close time for my Mom and me.

  9. Andrew D. Harris says:

    Margaret! I have looked for that song on and off for about 10 years since I last heard it. A member of the church in Chorley, England recorded it onto a tape for us, and we listened to it everywhere we drove. All I could remember was that the title was French and part of it loosely translated to “Near the Holy Temple” or something, which was fitting since he lived and we served in the shadow of the Preston, England temple. As soon as I clicked the link and heard the 1950’s quality audio I knew that was it. Thank you so much! It brings back many wonderful memories for me too!

  10. I have no idea what the words mean, and I’ve heard that that particular opera (Pearl Divers) of Bizet’s is rather stupid.

    The words are about two friends remembering when their friendship was almost destroyed after both fell in love with the same woman. Later in the opera, the woman comes back into their lives, and one of the friends gives his life so that the other friend can be with the woman he loves.

    I haven’t seen the opera, but the biggest critique I’ve heard of it is that this duet comes early in act 1, so it’s kind of musically downhill from there.

  11. My larger point (which I realize I didn’t make) is that the duet is about love and friendship, which seems apropos. :)

  12. Robin Pecknold’s liner notes to Fleet Foxes’s debut are an extended meditation on this topic. He starts with the realization that so many of his childhood memories were “planted” by photographs, and contrasts this with memories associated with music. One excerpt: “I can ascribe exact memories to songs by the Microphones, Jon Mitchell, Built To Spill, Dungen, Harry Nilsson, and so many others, and it’s a form of recall that I can actually trust. There’s no visual element to complicate things. No change of planted memory that wasn’t actually supposed to be there and that is reassuring to me.”

  13. Two particular songs come to mind.

    Twist and Shout – sung by the Beatles – hearing that song for the first time while cutting school and watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with my friends. I didn’t know it was the Beatles. I got out of there, went straight to a record store – figured out who it was – and was completely in love with that music. Over a period of months I ended up getting every Beatles album. I still think the Beatles are the best band ever.

    “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – I had a friend who wore t-shirts that said “The Smiths” on them – and I thought it was so generic sounding for a band name. I made fun of the shirts. Then one day I was at home in my room with my friends playing Risk and eating chinese food and the same friend put the album “The Queen Is Dead” onto my record player. That particular song and then the whole album completely got my attention. I ended up getting every Smiths album during the following year. I couldn’t believe what Marr was doing with music and what Morrissey was doing with lyrics. The whole combination was just incredible to me.

    Those two songs paricularly take me back to those specific times and places.

  14. #4 – Oops. I was thinking of Delibes, not Bizet. Sorry.

  15. Dare I comment? Dare I eat a peach? I grow old, i grow old, i notice that the bottom of my trousers are (is?) rolled.

    I’d like to give another shout out for the Smith’s here. “Girlfriend in a Coma” was a high point of the 80’s for me; David Bowie’s Starman brings back almost unbearably tender moments for me as I sang that to my children as a lullaby; the Ramones–me and my kids would dance around to them in glee, occasionally picking up a room or two (don’t mention it to them) Anything by Bob Marley–again, my kids loved it, as did I. Glenn Miller–a child taught me about the beauty of his music; anything by Ella Fitzgerald; something my kids and I all loved; (insert music I’m embarassed to mention here but the kids and I all bonded over). Oh, Sonic Youth; turns out I have family members who listen to them; a way for us to pretend to have something in common; and Sex Pistols. Because everyone loves them. For vanishingly small values of ‘everyone.’ Thanks for the post.

  16. Holy cow I could write a whole book. I did a series of blog posts years back called “the soundtrack to my life” or something like that, doubt it’s even online anymore, but this is a subject that I spend a lot of time on. Music and what it means to me. :)

  17. “But I think I haven’t yet heard the song which expresses what my husband means to me. ” How about a poem–you can make up the melody yourself–by John Donne; A valediction forbidding mourning.

  18. C Jones says:

    Susan M, I was hoping that you would comment on this post. More please :-)

  19. Alright. Here’s a few.

    Pink Floyd – “Hey You” ~ When I was a kid in the 70s I had an older brother who was a teenager, he didn’t live with us, but he’d come over to listen to his Pink Floyd records on my mom’s nice stereo. I remember very clearly lying on the carpet under the upright piano listening to this song. My brother died when he was in his early 30s, and it’s one of my favorite memories of him.

    Big Black – “Kerosene” ~ The perfect teenage anthem. I had a boyfriend in high school who had a giant bright pink mohawk (he dyed it in my bathroom) and he had a cassette tape with Big Black on one side, and Jane’s Addiction’s first album on the other. We’d play it over and over in my car while driving around.

    Madness – “It Must Be Love” ~ Totally describes how my husband and I felt about each other when we were dating. It was our song–we’d listen to it while driving in the car between my college and his house (a two hour drive or so). It still is our song and still does describe how we feel about each other now.

    There’s just too many. Isis, “Carry” – lying on the couch after work to unwind when my husband was a student; Indigo Girls, “Galileo” – driving in the car with my daughter and both of us singing along to it; Tool, “46 & 2” – my son asking me what a “shadowah” was…

  20. I miss music in the air_everywhere. Damn IPod.

  21. Just a little nit-pick: “Some Enchanted Evening” is from “South Pacific.”

    That said, I too love the whole Rogers and Hammerstein canon and the Beatles and a lot of the songs that have been mentioned in the comments.

    Not exactly sure which eight I’d pick. The only thing I really know is that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would be on the list.

  22. Margaret, wow. Simply that. Wow. You have set me thinking.

    So I’ll just list one: Blue Oyster Cult, Don’t fear the reaper. I can’t listen to it with out it bringing up feelings of one of the most defining times of my life in the late 70’s.

  23. Dark Side of the Moon. I seriously listened to it start to finish every single day for nearly 2 years. And that was 25 years ago. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times since then.

  24. What a great post; here are the first that spring to mind for me…

    “Shall We Dance” from the King and I: When I was little my dad would sing this every night to me while we danced cheek to cheek before bedtime.

    Saturday’s Warrior/Fiddler on the Roof Soundtrack: Between the ages of 3-5 my identical twin and I listened to these two records countless times. Music is still a powerful bond between us.

    Early INXS albums, especially “The Swing”: Road trip music on a very memorable family vacation when I was 9. My oldest brother was into them, and he was the coolest cat I knew.

    “Man in the Mirror”, Michael Jackson: I remember jamming to this and the whole “Bad” album while doing paper routes. The companionship of my walkman on countless paper routes was a huge part of who I was from age 7-18, and MJ was the first artist whose albums I started buying as a kid. I also remember crying when my cat died while listening to “She’s Out of My Life” from the oh-so-awesomely-disco “Off the Wall”. I’m not much of a crier, so for some reason it’s a vivid memory. I’m still a huge MJ fan much to the chagrin of my wife.

    Faure Requiem: Singing this as a teenager was an awakening for me: music well beyond entertainment.

    “The Promise” by Tracy Chapman. My wife and I went to high school together. I fell for her within days of meeting her; but when I found out we shared a love of Tracy Chapman music, that sealed the deal. (Anyone diggin’ Tracy’s social justice lyrics must be the salt of the earth!) Thank the Lord she waited for me while I was on a mission – the lyrics to this song were on our minds during that time, and this was our first dance at our wedding reception.

    “St. Judy’s Comet”, Paul Simon: My wife sang this to our firstborn as a lullaby. Reminds me of our first exciting year of being very young parents.

  25. Norbert says:

    ‘I Want to Be Adored’ by the Stone Roses still takes me back to some very dark days on my mission.

  26. Oh yes, I need to correct two errors. As Jack said, “Some Enchanted Evening” is from _South Pacific_, not _The King and I_. My bad. And the duet is from _Pearl FISHERS_, not _Pearl Divers_.
    And thank you, SteveP. I’ve been trying for so long to remember that title so my son could download it onto my mp3 player. Cool!
    And Agnes, I have indeed written a poem for Bruce. I gave it to him for Christmas many years ago. It’s a sonnet, and since I assign my students to write sonnets, I figured I ought to do one as well. But I’ve been also thinking about what song expresses who we are or who we’ve become.
    By all rights, it should by be the Beatles, because Bruce is such a fan. Still thinking… Seems like there are lots of sings by men written for women, but the women’s songs for men are a little depressing or dumb, generally speaking, aren’t they? “Oh Micky, you’re so fine; you’re so fine you blow my mind…” Naw. “I will survive…” Nope. Hmmm.

  27. Songs by women about men, let’s see…

    How about:

    Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”

    Stevie Nicks, “Leather and Lace”

    Sheryl Crow, “Strong Enough”

    Carole King, “You’ve Got A Friend”

    Pat Benatar, “Heartbreaker”

    Alanis Morrisette, “You Oughtta Know”

    Any of those do it for you? I’ve got more…

  28. Exactly, MCQ. Where’s the equivalent to Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight”?

  29. The Cat Stevens songs that were used in the soundtrack to Harold and Maude. Any and all of those songs brings back memories of a certain time period in my life – from about age 13 to 19. Dreamin’ of Monday by The Jam and Here Comes the Rain Again reminds me of when I was in college and had a major crush on my now-husband. ALL Beatles songs – they’ve always been part of me. Into the Deep by Kula Shaker was a song I listened to almost every day when I was pregnant with my first baby. Drunken Tears by Quasi, Suite Judy Blue Eyes by CS&N, and the whole Oasis album What’s the Story, Morning Glory are songs that will forever remind me of our two years we lived in Malaysia because as a family we listened to these songs every day on the way to school in our car.

  30. Because of the time difference between the UK and the States, I didn’t read most of the comments until this morning. Rick H–your #5 is so poignant. Thank you.

  31. The last month of my mission, Elder Good pulled me into his room in the other Elders’ apartment in Poitier. He showed me the pictures on his bulletin board. The trinity, he said: Christ, Clint Eastwood and Neil Young. He told me I needed to hear something, gave me the earphones and introduced me to Neil. Twenty years home, the spiritual experiences from my mission are starting to fade from distinct moments into a foundational collage. That afternoon in Elder Good’s room listening to Out on the Weekend tapped so unexpectedly and profoundly into my unacknowledged emotion, exhaustion and readiness to head on back to LA that I suspect it may end up the one enduring moment from my two years in France:

    Think I’ll pack it in
    and buy a pick-up
    Take it down to L.A.
    Find a place to call my own
    and try to fix up.
    Start a brand new day.

    The woman I’m thinking of,
    she loved me all up
    But I’m so down today
    She’s so fine, she’s in my mind.
    I hear her callin’.

    See the lonely boy,
    out on the weekend
    Trying to make it pay.
    Can’t relate to joy,
    he tries to speak and
    Can’t begin to say.

    She got pictures on the wall,
    they make me look up
    From her big brass bed.
    Now I’m running down the road
    trying to stay up
    Somewhere in her head.

  32. Margaret; it seems somehow presumptuous to call you that; Sister Young? Seems even more rude. She of whom I quiver unworthy in the presence: (Notice how I rewrote that to avoid the preposition in the last place in the sentence–**** you, Robert Lowth, for failing to properly speak your own language and making life that much more difficult for the rest of us.)

    (now to the comment) However, there are a wide variety of women who sing and write killer songs.

    Sandy Denny–one of the best voices ever–check out Liege and Leaf when she was in Fairport Convention, and “Where does the Time Go” from shortly before.

    PJ Harvey–Don’t listen to her, because, just because; but she writes songs for men exactly the way you object to writing songs for women.

    Judee Sill; bizarrely underestimated songwriter and singer which I suspect may be much closer to what you’re looking for than anything on the charts for the last 30 or so years. Pure perfection. And there’s Anne Briggs. You have my email, contact me, and you may get some other ideas.

    (Changing genres somewhat jarringly now) Plus, why has everyone forgotten Kirsten Flagstad? OK, she spent quite a bit of her career singing Wagner, but such a voice.

    And to mention someone obvious, but seemingly overlooked, what about the young Joni Mitchell?

  33. I love your memories, MBY. I call those poignant hot spots in our recollections Little Fires Burning Brightly- and so often music or scents are the triggers.

    Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver, Hank Williams and Emmylou Harris people my childhood fires. We had a compilation album of classical music my aunt picked up at a yard sale for me, and that was my first exposure to the classics. My young ears fell absolutely, fantastically in love with Mozart, Bach and Verdi. My parents thought I was off my rocker. I suspect they were relieved when I found Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

    The only songs I am absolutely sure belong in my life soundtrack are Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Over the Rainbow, and San Andreas Fault by Natalie Merchant.

  34. And Eva Cassidy singing Fields of Gold.

  35. The Beatles weren’t into love songs; they were clever boys that were into what appeared to be love songs, but weren’t, on close examination. Then John met Yoko; I somehow suspect even mentioning “God,” one of my all time favorite love songs may get me summarily booted off this site, but hey, what’s the internet for?

    Oh, and for another beautiful love song, check out Richard Thompson singing “Beeswing,” about Anne Briggs, whom I already mentioned.

    All the good songs go unheard.

    And then there’s “Mother,” by John Lennon, again; nothing speaks to me like that song. Don’t listen to it.

  36. Agnes–missionaries tend to call me Sister Young. Some of my students do as well, though I far prefer Margaret. Those who have known me from my teen years (Mark B, for instance) often call me Maggie. I answer to about everything.
    Thanks for that great list. ALL of the names are unfamiliar but Joni Mitchell’s. Now I have some listening to do!
    I do not like Bjork. There. That’s said. But I like swans. I just got back from jogging around Kensington Gardens and saw a swan kissing its reflection in the pond. It was lovely. I think people should not wear swan suits.

  37. Vashti Bunyan. Another beautiful singer-songwriter from the British Isles that’s practically unheard.

  38. And Traci, may I just say that I love it whenever you comment on anything I’ve written? You always make me feel good.

  39. You may note, person whose name I dare not say, that I did not mention Bjork; none of the music I suggested is in that semi-avant-garde style. Have no fear. Only normal song structures. But please, now that I have your attention, try to find some Judee Sill. I swear, she’s astonishing.

  40. Indeed, you didn’t mention Bjork. One of the missionaries I write to adores her and insisted that I watch one of her youtubes called “Love is over all” or something. It featured robots kissing. I find nothing attractive or sexy about robots kissing. (Or were they androids?) Have we moved from “Dave, what are you doing? What are you doing, Dave?” to a far more dangerous interaction with technology? These are important questions.
    On a more serious note, the juxtaposition of Bjork’s weird youtube video with James Joyce’s gorgeous depiction in “The Dead” of a young man singing to the woman he loves (as she remembers it years later) alone and in the snow provides an important contrast. It’s that kind of moment–the moment which stops everything in “The Dead”–which Stoppard’s character is seeking.

  41. The link above is to one of the very few live Judee Sill performances. Maybe you’ll hate it; it’s your right; the amount of stuff I hate is legend to friends and family. But you might just give it a listen. Here’s some Vashti Bunyan

    Just another diamond day. On second (or tenth) thought, this should, perhaps, be the one you listen to. Plus, it only lasts about 20 seconds, so not much lost.

  42. So, you guys banned me for fun? For mentioning a farmer’s daughter that doesn’t know her place? For mentioning one of the most famous men on the planet? For actually knowing and caring deeply about music, whether or not you agree with me?? Fine. Just, please let Margaret Blair? Young read my terrible banned post which references both Jesus (reverently) and the beauty of the world around us.

  43. Never mind; I don’t no why I torture us all like this. I recommend repeat listenings of Saturday’s Gay warrior pretending to be straight until he got his degree. Much more faith promoting.

  44. Agnes, I’ll make sure I read it. No worries.

  45. OK, Anne Briggs and Sandy Denny sang, for the most part, traditional Engish ballads but had beyond beautiful voices.

    Vashti Bunyan has also, a stunning contralto voice; her songs could be sung in primary, for the most part.

    Judee Sill’s style is basically based on Bach, plus she had an amazing poetic voice that is just now being noticed, roughly 20 years after her death. Beautiful stuff, all. Really. Magical being I only dare approach on bended knee, isn’t this what you’re looking for?

    Over and out.

  46. Margaret Blair Young, read what? Listen, perhaps? ps. we share a name. Basically, from Scotland.

  47. I know, very well, “The Dead.” The only singer-songwriter who comes close to that kind of epiphany is John Darnelle, more formally known as “The Mountain Goats.” If you care to explore his oeuvre I recommend “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton” or “palmcorder yajna.” Other people (and considering your history, you may be among them) prefer “No children” which isn’t about quite what it seems. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of other songs.

  48. Hate me all you want, but at least give the music a try, assuming you really care about music; I’d just like your life to be that much richer.

  49. The last post was not meant to cast dispersions on those who aren’t obsessively obsessed with music as I. It was meant to make me sound slightly unhinged and rather more foolish. Just to make things clear.

  50. Why haven’t you guys banned me? Is it the wee hour of the morning and I can expect all my posts to disappear into the eather come sunrise?

    yrs, Agnes the bad.

  51. Oh, if you’re looking for Joyce moments, then run right out and buy “Ghana, ” a compllation of the earliest Mountain Goats (read John Darnelle) songs.

  52. wait, I’ve got it; please delete my last 140 posts or so and replace with this; “I always loved John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” because I knew he was talking about how beautiful and spiritual it was to live in the mountains, which are, you know, pretty high off the sea floor.

  53. There’s an album by the Cars – Heartbeat City.

    As a teenager I loved that album. Still do. I used to ride my bicycle everywhere and at the time I also had one of those old tape recorders – the kind we used to see in Primary. I would put a cassette in of Heartbeat City and ride my bicycle – putting my right hand through the the handle of that tape recorder to simultaneously hold on to the bike handlebar. I’d ride from White Plains to Scarsdale or wherever I was going – and listen to that album the whole way – stopping at times to flip over the cassette.

    This may have been before or during the age of the Walkman – but I didn’t have one and probably also needed my ears to be free to hear traffic.

    Anyway, I’ve been a fan of the Cars for a long time and that’s a memory of how I used to appreciate their music while on the go.

  54. Here’s some more suggestions on love songs written/sung by women:

    Alison Krauss – “When You Say Nothing At All”
    Carole King – “Natural Woman”
    Sarah McLachlan – “Ice Cream”
    Fleetwood Mac – “You Make Loving Fun”
    Everything But The Girl – “Come On Home”
    India.Arie – “Brown Skin”
    Tracy Chapman – “For You”
    Norah Jones – “Turn Me On”
    Sade – “Sweetest Taboo”
    Susan Tedeschi – “Til I Found You”
    Frou Frou – “Must Be Dreaming”

  55. This post has me thinking nostalgically about my own growing up years and musical influences from that time.

    1) My first 45 single I purchased was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. “Revolution” was on the other side and my father was non-too-pleased with the musical choices of his then 8 year old daughter.

    2) My parents were both big fans of Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass. I can remember being scandalized by the album cover for A Taste of Honey (a woman wearing nothing but whipped cream). My sister and I recently requested a mariachi band in Old Town San Diego play “Tijuana Taxi” for us. Great memories that I share with her…

    3) When I was a kid, I thought my Mom loved Frank Sinatra more than my Dad.

    4) My older brother introduced me to LA punk. I now have everything recorded by the band X – including their solo projects.

    Great post, I love hearing about everyone’s musical memories.

  56. Not that anyone should care, but when I think of songs that changed my life in one way or another, I could write a page on each song and why it affected me or changed me. they are, in no particular order:

    1. Roads by Portishead
    2. Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun by M83
    3. Theme From Shaft by Isaac Hayes
    4. An Ending by Brian Eno
    5. Shine by Collective Soul
    6. First Breath After Coma by Explosions In The Sky
    7. A Satisfied Mind/16 Tons Performed by Johnny Cash
    8. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized
    9. Von by Sigur Ros

  57. Not that anyone should care, but when I think of songs that changed my life in one way or another, I could write a page on each song and why it affected me or changed me. they are, in no particular order:

    1. Roads by Portishead
    2. Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun by M83
    3. Theme From Shaft by Isaac Hayes
    4. An Ending by Brian Eno
    5. Shine by Collective Soul
    6. First Breath After Coma by Explosions In The Sky
    7. A Satisfied Mind/16 Tons Performed by Johnny Cash
    8. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized
    9. Von by Sigur Ros
    10. Somewhere in Time Soundtrack- John Barry/Rachmaninov

  58. larryco_ says:

    Greatest Rock Song Of All Time: Layla
    Worst Lounge Song Of All Time: Layla unplugged

    In the olden days, they would string men up by their necks for committing less abominations than what Clapton did!

  59. JD Dancer says:


    I just have to tell you that I absolutely love your posts and I have missed them so these many months. . . Your always poignant sincerity connects with my soul in a way that always leaves me pondering for hours (days?). Thank you for words.

    I hope you’re doing well across the pond with whatever it is that has taken you out of regular BCC syndication. And I hope you’ll be back more frequently in the future.

  60. 58; one of the reasons the original Layla was one the greatest songs of all time (in your words, I have my favorites, but they”re not so far off from yours) is that sone of the greatest geniuses ever to pick up a guitar, Duane Allman, played most of the lead and all of the pitch perfect slide guitar on that album shortly before his untimely death. So sad. So unrepeatable. he’s number two. Jimi is, of course, number one.

  61. Brian Eno (Though I’d disagree with the track–but his work with Harod Budd is probably the album i listen to the most, not to mention the Nico) Explosions in the sky, Spritualized; we should get to know each oher. Do you know Tortoise? Very high recommendations. And Sigur Ros is necessary for everyone on this thread. it just is.

  62. 55 Kim, I recentlyish heard the knitters. (This is an X referense for all of you not in the know; after accidentally knocking over their string bass and hightailing it out of band-member reach, I heard the most amazing set, including a scorching version of “Burning house of love.” John Doe and Exene Cervenka still have something magical going on.

  63. I wouldn’t wish that second version of “Layla’ on Guantanamo prisoners. its the same song with all the musicality scissored out. Very clever, and sad.

  64. Margaret Blair Young, I know nothing of your musical tastes, but there’s some Leonard Cohen songs that are worth listening to repeatedly. Famous Blue Raincoat, Halleluhah (but only when sung by Jeff Buckley), that’s no way to sasy goodbye, Joan of Arc…. thee’s quite the list.

  65. sorry about the misspellings, etc. For once I can blame it on my keyboard which seems to be heading toward an untimely death.

  66. ps. Thnaks, oh great and magical powers that be with the banning stick, thanks for letting my somewhat cheeky posts stay up.

    Yours in gratitude,

  67. Busy morning in England. Agnes, I haven’t had time yet to listen to the songs you posted, but I will. I already have Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” on my youtube playlist–though it violates copyright in the UK, so I can’t play it here.

    JD Dancer, I am truly touched by your kind words. I will be writing one more blog within a few days. Can’t resist. I got a blessing from Bishop Desmond Tutu yesterday. Must blog. But in general, I don’t do it anymore.

  68. Margaret Blair Young, you are so out of my league, I’m honored that you mentined me in a blog post. Anne Briggs, Bert Jansch (not yet mentioned) Sandy Denny, can all be heard in Great Britain, and people probably know khem. Try “Who knows where the time goes” by Sandy Denny. I’m sure the youtube version there has it. Sandy Denny was a nurse in Ireland, but somehow the voice was discovered.; perhaps the most beautiful voice i have ever heard.

    Vashti Bunyan is also having a resurgance; I’m sure people would be pleased that you know who she is. she made an album that i love that vanished into obscurity about 30 years ago, retreating all the way to the outer hebrides. I saw her acouple of years ago in Portland; she still has that perfect too-delicate lemon-drop voice.

    Here’s one for a start:

  69. (assuming you have any chance of reading it)

    But the brits know Sandy Denny and will appreciate that you appreciate her too.

  70. Thank you very much for treating me with much more respect than i deserve; I notice (I’m not quite that clueless) and appreciate it more than you can know.

    i love music more than i have any right to, and wish to share some of my favorites with someone who might also feel the same sense of elation that i receive from hearing it. Thank you for at least the illusion of such a moment. And for readinjg all the way through my somewhat convoluted sentences. etc.

    the lamb

  71. BTw, Jeff Buckley’s version of halleluhah is currently on sale in the uk in various forms, so i’m not quote sure how it violates copyright, as presumably, the copyright owners are getting a slice of the proceeds.

  72. It also reached (Jeff Buckley’s version of hallelijah) number two in the uk charts in Dec. 2008, so i suspect someone or other would have noticed if it was beng sold illegally.

  73. The premier rock magazine in the UK, MOJO, ranked “Grace,” Jeff BUckley’s only solo release the best modern rock classic of all time. I suggest they would have been reluctant to do this if the songs had been subject to copyright infringement. Enough. deepy sorry for my loquatiousness. let’s all hum ‘give said the little stream’ slightly out of tune and out of rhythm. of course, I can do that all by myself.

  74. I would call Grace one of the best debut albums of all time. Don’t know about best modern rock classic…but then I’m not really sure what that’s supposed to mean?

  75. It would be hard to choose just eight. A year ago, while I was out in California for several weeks due to work, I made my wife a “mix tape” for Mother’s Day, chronicling our courtship, honeymoon, marriage, and subsequent 23 years of marriage (2nd marriage for both of us).

    I sent her the songs — 154 in all — on a pink iPod shuffle.

    Were I to remake the list today, there’s probably quite a few more songs I’d put on it.

    Oh, by the way, “I’m A Believer” was on the tape. :-) ..bruce..

  76. Bob Dylan’s album Highway 61 Revisited brings back exact moments from my freshman year of BYU walking around campus. I still remember where I was when some of those lyrics hit me. My roommate and I are still probably most closely bonded over Dylan.

    I remember some songs that my dad sang around campfires or the piano–“I met an old lady, who swallowed a fly,” “The Marvelous Toy,” and others. I also remember my mom playing “Hail to the Redskins” over and over with all us kids singing along when they won the Super Bowl back in 1991.

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