Thursday, July 3, 2014

Time for Another Favorite Songs List Update

so close, and yet so far

I find that listing my favorite songs at any given point in time gives me a bit of a permanent record for future reference of where I was mentally and emotionally at that precise moment.  This makes for incredibly boring reading for anyone else, though probably not a whole lot more boring than being treated to a detailed description of my dream of being caught in a smoky house and barely making it to the bathroom on time.

My list will have no set denomination. I'll start at #1 and stop wherever I stop. I may post some videos if it doesn't make the page too cumbersome to load. My taste in music is not typical for my age, so very little  on my list will be from current playlists. My friend Becca has this in common with me. Musically speaking, we were born in the wrong decade or era or whatever.

I will note that I forgot to mention a month ago because I'm not big on birthdays, much less half-birthdays, but one month ago yesterday I became nineteen-and-one-half officially. It sounds better than nineteen by itself, but it's still ridiculously young to be going to med school. It wouldn't be quite so difficult if I actually looked even nineteen. My sole consolation is that I'm not technically the youngest person in my med school class; I was  removed maybe twenty seconds before my brother was during the Caesarean section, so he get the "youngest class member" status. For that matter, who knows? Maybe the class will have an eleven-year-old Taiwanese-American kid. I highly doubt it, but one can hope.

Back to the subject at hand, which is my list of favorite songs, please feel free to comment if you were not bored to unconsciousness by reading this, and especially to share your own lists. 

                 Alexis' Favorite Songs on July 3, 2014

1. All Will Be Well (by Gabe Dixon Band) It's an obscure little song by an equally obscure group. I first came to know it because part  of it was used as a promo for a very short-lived Dick Wolf  series called Conviction. (My parents tightly restricted the total amount of TV I could watch when I was a child, but probably didn't pay as much attention to the content of what was watched as they should have. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, though; I might not have known what the restroom attacker was  up to (barely figured it out as it was) without the  precocious television selections. The song has nothing to do with the series, anyway, except that part of it was used in the commercials. It's a lovely melody with an ethereal piano accompaniment, and it puts into words my feelings about my future in September.

2. Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen)  It's another of my current favorites, though Leonard Cohen sings it as he sang (I think he has departed) everything else [ may he rest in peace], which was terribly. My favorite rendition is done by Celtic Thunder, though I admit to a prejudice in favor of all things Celtic.

3. We Are Young (as performed by Fun) It was Jared's and my song. I've moved on, and so has he; he has, in fact, moved on from the one he moved on to after me. When it's your first really strong like 
(I won't go so far as to call it love; I don't know whether he would or not) maybe you never 100% get over it. I really don't know. The song's lyrics have little to do with the realities of our former relationship, or maybe they do. He certainly never hit me, but perhaps he would carry me home from a bar if I needed him to do so. Maybe even now he would, except that we're both too young to get into bars without fake IDs, and the most realistic fake ID on the planet wouldn't get me into a bar with my appearance. Jared could pass. he's tall, and tall
people look older than their ages when they're young. Someday I'll post Jared's picture on the blog, but I'm not ready to do that yet, and I'd need his permission, anyway.

4. House at  Pooh Corner or Return to Pooh Corner
[same difference; I'll take either one] (by Kenny Loggins) My daddy used to play and sing this song to me, and in my unbiased opinion, he played and sang it at least as well as Kenny Loggins, which was quite well.  I love  the story Kenny Loggins tells about how he wrote it at home on a day that he ditched school when he was supposed to be studying for finals, and the irony of how the song has since paid for the education of every one of his children.  The song gives me warm fuzzies.

5. Note to the Unknown Soldier (by Five for Fighting) I really like much of Five for Fighting's music and most of their avant garde videos with pianos popping up in the strangest of places, somewhat in spite of John Ondrasik's overuse of falsetto. I understand how you can't always just transpose a song to a lower key because doing so can change the whole feeling of the song, but isn't there someone else in the group (they call themselves "Five for Fighting;" where are the other four when they're needed?) with more range than Ondrasik has? Nevertheless, I find this song most touching, falsetto or not.


6. Blackbird (by the Beatles) My dad would rip my list to shreds simply because it went all the way to #6 before mentioning a Beatles' song, but tonight I suppose I'm just not quite so much in a Fab 4 sort of mood. Still, this will probably always be my favorite Beatles  song, though it competes with two more I will list. Lennon & McCartney credited their works as having been jointly composed, but who actually composed what is known. This is a McCartney song. I find that I'm slightly more drawn to McCartney's works, though I'm certainly not putting Lennon down as anything less than the genius he was. On another night this song might be higher on my list, because I do find the song to be almost perfectly written.


7. Desperado (by the Eagles) According to Wikipedia (lame source used by lazy people, I admit; I should at least have gone through the motions of using their bibliography as I did in high school), this song wasn't released as a single, but was listed, albeit pretty far down, in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Times. Written by Frey and Henley, it's been covered by everyone from the Carpenters to Johnny Cash. While I know a few people who like Linda Ronstadt's version, I personally would prefer not to hear the covers. The Eagles' original set too high a standard for comparison.


8. Landslide (by Fleetwood Mac)    Speaking of covers . . . I cannot stand Stevie Nicks' voice, yet I don't like hearing this song sung by anyone else . . . and I love hearing this song.  It's a paradox, I know. Incidentally, my mother has sung this song. My mom holds doctorates in piano and vocal performance; her training is classical, and she does a decent job with show tunes and anything not too hard  (hard in the sense of indelicate, not difficult; my mom handles the technically difficult stuff just fine) , but this song . . . hearing my mom sing it reminds me of what it would sound like if that lousy novelty singer Mrs. Miller from the 60's attempted "I Can't Get  No Satisfaction." If  Mrs. Miller ever attempted "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," I never heard it, thank God. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my mom's rendition of this song. If you read this, sorry, Mom.

9. The Moon's a Harsh Mistress (written by Jimmy Webb) Jimmy Webb composed in the 60's and maybe the 70's, and wrote a lot for Glen Campbell, but composed things that were sung by many others as well.  He was actually a rather talented composer, especially considering that much of what he wrote ended up being crossover-country. He was an insanely good pianist as well. This particular selection is often performed with Webb's original piano accompaniment, which in itself is sufficiently unusual that it in a way puts Webb practically in a category with Mozart.  Linda Ronstadt's version is probably the most well-known, but I'm partial to the song as performed by Lisa Kelly of Celtic Woman, who does marvelous things with a relatively modest if well-trained voice.

10. If I Fell (the Beatles) This one was actually, though again credited to both  Lennon and McCartney, written by Lennon. Lennon has described it as his attempted at showing the world he could write a proper ballad. He actually wrote others as well, but this is my favorite of anything he wrote. It hearkens back to a simpler time, has a sweet melody and harmony, and reads as though it could have been written for me personally and where I am in my current relationship about which I'm not ready to talk.

11. Hey Jude (by the Beatles)  This one was written and composed by McCartney.  Conspiracy theorists tried to ascribe all sorts of nefarious meaning to it, but McCartney maintains it was merely written as a song of consolation to Jules Lennon, John's son, over his parents' divorce. I personally find the "na na na na na na na" coda to be a bit long, but it's a great song regardless, and the "na na na na na na na" has taken on a life of its own, occasionally used at sporting events and such.

12.  Summer Highland Falls  (Billy Joel) A non-hit, it's sort of a teen angst anthem with regard to relationships, but also an acknowledgment to the  extreme nature that lives in the hearts and minds of most of the world's truly creative people. Why is it that our artists  so often range from moody at the very least to bipolar or worse? Is it an inherent curse that comes with the gift? The song features a strong melody and a beautiful running piano accompaniment.

Anyone who can perform live in front of a crowd of whatever number of people who show up with only his or her own voice and the instrument with which he or she accompanies himself/herself is both a hero and an icon to me. Here's to the Billy Joels, Elton Johns, Gordon Lightfoots, James Taylors, Paul Simons, Lady Gagas, and the others I have not named who are a dying breed. Keep music in our schools!


13. American Tune (by Paul Simon, borrowing heavily from J.S. Bach, which is legal; Bach's music is under public domain) Art Garfunkel expressed once that he wished Paul Simon had composed this song while they were still working together because he found it so beautiful. The version I've included is from the Concert in Central Park, where Simon and Garfunkel perform it together. As beautiful as the song is in its original form, it is even more so with their voices blended in Bach's harmonies.

Had I been President Obama, I would have asked Simon or Simon and Garfunkel to perform this song at my first inauguration. It would have been too late at the second inauguration, as some of the lines ( i.e."we come in the age's most uncertain hour") would have come across as somewhat self-incriminating. At his first inauguration, the words could have been attributed to the mess President Obama had inherited from President Bush.

14. April, Come She Will (written by Paul Simon and performed with Art Garfunkel, who typically sings this one solo. I'm sure I've heard a version where the two did the song in harmony, but I haven't been able to find it. I'd say I dreamed it, but I never dream anything so banal; my dreams are about being trapped in smoky attics or held down by attackers while rapists loom. I could only be so fortunate as to dream about Simon and Garfunkel singing in harmony where they hadn't before done so. Garfunkel has described the song as "one of Simon's sweetest poems -- about time."  I heard his say it in a performance, so the punctuation is mine. My assumption is that he meant that it was one of Garfunkel's sweetest poems and that it was about time, and not that it was one of Simon's sweetest poems about time, since, productive as he may have been, I'm not aware that Simon wrote all that many songs or poems specifically about time; such would have made Garfunkel's comment less than effusive  praise.

"April, Come She Will" was featured in the iconic 60's movie (one of the all-time greats in my opinion) The Graduate.  The inclusion of Simon and Garfunkel's movie was a trade-off between producers and director. The producers wanted Anne Bancroft in the role of Mrs. Robinson, while the director wanted an older French actress. The director wanted Simon and Garfunkel's music, but the producers did not. They compromised: Bancroft was cast as Mrs. Robinson, and Simon and Garfunkel provided the soundtrack. For those who have seen the movie, can you even imagine it without the quintessential Simon and Garfunkel recordings?

Paul Simon wrote two original songs specifically for the film, neither of which were used. He described a song he was writing about the times to director Mike Nichols. He mentioned the name "Mrs. Roosevelt" as being in the chorus of the song. Nichols said to change the name to "Mrs. Robinson" and to use it in the score. Other selections were existing Simon and Garfunkel recordings.

My dad used to sing "April, Come She Will" while accompanying himself on his guitar in order to get the ever-sleepless Alexis to conk out. It was nice -- my dad is a talented performer -- but it would be ridiculous to say he sang it as beautifully as Art Garfunkel did.

15100 Years (by Five for Fighting) I can't put every song Five for Fighting has recorded on my list, because then it would just become a list of Five for Fighting's greatest or not-so-greatest hits, and that's not my purpose here. I decided that tonight, this one is the most profound of their  remaining songs. The fact that it was featured on something like an insurance commercial cheapens it a bit for me, but only a little. As a group, they hadn't made that much of a name or that much money for themselves, and surely had bills to pay. So they sold out? I can forgive them. If the rent were due and some commercial enterprise wanted to give me money for a song I had written and performed (fat chance!) would I have sold out? In a heartbeat! The song is still profound. It also has one of their almost-signature videos with pianos, usually grands, in bizarre places.
Their videos remind me of when my family was in Florida during Christmas break about three-and-a-half years ago. We went because my mom and my aunt, both Stanford grads, wanted to see Stanford play in the Orange Bowl game. Some idiot rich punk had taken a grand piano belonging to someone in his family and had  used either a family boat or chartered one to take the grand piano out somewhere past Key Biscayne, where he dumped it on a sandbar. The Coast Guard  found the piano and took their time in deciding what to do about it since it wasn't an imminent crisis.  

I wanted in the worst way to rent or charter a boat and to go out to the sandbar to play that piano. I would have been barely sixteen at the time, and that's the sort of thing that sounds like a terrific idea to a sixteen-year-old. I offered to let the cost of the boat charter be my Christmas and birthday presents for the next ten years, or to pay for the boat myself, as I had accrued a decent savings account from playing for school choirs and church masses, not to mention weddings and funerals. My mom explained to me that every time the tide came in, the piano's innards were being power-hosed with salt water, and that if the piano would even play a note, chances are that it would be a wrong note.  Still, I wanted to play it even if it was silent. The idea of sitting or standing (I doubt the punk had thought to bring a bench) on a sandbar playing  the works of Bach, even inaudibly,  on a grand piano was almost more than I could resist. I even hatched a plot to charter a boat myself by forging my dad's signature, which I do really well. 

In an act that was probably what was best for me, before I could enact my scheme, a private citizen took his own boat out to the sandbar, loaded the piano up, brought it to shore, and took it home. I haven't a clue as to what the private citizen planned to do with the most likely irreparable beyond  belief piano, but he didn't get it without a fight. The U.S. Coast Guard ruled in his favor, though, and said that abandoned property in the ocean may be claimed by whomever gets to it first.  The punk's family had actually hired a lawyer on his behalf.  I'm all for permissive parenting to a point, having been on the receiving end of  more than a smidgen of draconian parenting policies in my own childhood and youth,  but the behavior of these  parents was beyond an acceptable degree of enabling. It's the sort of upbringing that gives frat boys the idea that they're entitled to do what they want with any women they want even if they must slip drugs into drinks in order to have their way with the uncooperative wenches.

The saddest part for me was that my Uncle Ralph had been unable to make the trip due to a problem with one of his dairies. Had Uncle Ralph been there, he and I would have chartered  a boat and would have made it out to that sandbar before either of my parents had even given a thought as to what they might have done to prevent us from going. Sometimes it's almost too sad to think of what might have been.

Getting back to "Five for Fighting," John Ondrasik, and music videos with pianos in innovative places, he really needs to shoot a video with a grand piano on a sand bar, ideally somewhere off the coast of south Florida. If he were that worried about the piano, he could use special effects, or even rent the piano from the guy who rescued it from the sandbar since that piano is already totaled, musically speaking,  but I believe the Yamaha  corporation pretty much throws pianos in Ondrasik's direction for use in his videos as long as the Yamaha logo appears prominently. It's all about product placement.


16. Sister Christian
(by Night Rider)  I'm not sure why I like this song. I don't know who Night Rider is/are and if they're one-hit wonders or if they've  salted and peppered the charts with their hits over the years, none of which I've ever heard besides "Sister Christian." In any event, I have decided I like the song, and it's on my list. It may not ever be there again, but right now it's there, fair and square, at # 16.

The video I came across the  randomly, and watched and listened to it.  The song itself features a nice melody beginning with a slightly rustically chorded piano accompaniment -- the sort I like to play. The video reminds me of an alternate ending to those "The Trouble with Angels" movies with Hayley Mills and her friend as Catholic school girl trouble makers. In the actual movie, the Hayley Mills character decides to join the nuns. In this, the unintentional alternate ending to the "Trouble with Angels," Hayley Mills (or a much prettier version of her) escapes the Catholic school. 

I like to imagine myself in the glamorous role of the rebel girl who escapes, but only in my dreams (and I only have demented, psychologically twisted dreams, so it won't even happen in my dreams) could I ever I be so glamorous. My uncle told me that in five years I will be a beauty. My question to him is this: who's planning on paying for all the cosmetic procedures that might remotely make his prediction come true?  (Knotty, I'm sorry for the rather unbecoming self-deprecation, but it's fitting right here, and I'm not planning to slit my wrists or OD on Klonopin because I'm not as beautiful as the girl in the  "Sister Christian" video.  I understand that expecting to look like a movie star or even a Kardashian is an unrealistic expectation. Besides, where the Kardashians are concerned, when would I ever have time to master the art of cropping and photo-shopping all of those selfies?  I have books to read and things to learn. They don't. ) Anyway, give it a watch if you have time.

This list has grown far too unwieldy, so I must stop. This is my list of favorite songs on this early morning  of July 3, 2014. I worked on it all night, so it should be a masterpiece, though it isn't. I need to read the Rolling Stone's List of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time for my own cultural education before I go off to school in September, because God  knows there will be no time for such frivolity once I meet my first cadaver.

P.S. Sorry for the length.  Sleep was not destined to happen last night.



  1. You can find a duet version of Simon and Garfunkel's "April, Come She Will" on their Live in Central Park album from 1981. If you haven't heard that album, I highly recommend it.

    I think Night Ranger had a couple of other hits besides "Sister Christian", but they didn't last much longer than the mid 80s.

    I know a lot of people love "Hallelujah", but I have gotten really sick of it because it's been done by so many people, especially on shows like "America's Got Talent".

    Also, John Lennon's son is named Julian. He had a few good songs himself in the 80s and early 90s. One of my favorite songs by him is "Saltwater", which is kind of a sad number. I like the melody.

  2. I didn't even know Night Ranger's era.

    I have the concert in Central park DVD and the CD. Simon plays guitar but doesn't sing on '"April Come She .Will." This clip is from the Concert in Central Park. It's a beautiful CD and DVD..

    There's also a clip of just Simon singing "April, Come She Will" on YouTube, but it's shortened and not very refined. I have no doubt he could have done the song beautifully had it been a better production. The harmonies would have been nice as well, though. I'm not an adherent for harmony just for the sake of harmony, because not every song is enhanced by it, but Simon's and Garfunkel's voices blended so seamlessly even after they hadn't been working together for years.

    Yes, he is Julian, and the band called him Jules as a nickname. Jude worked out better for the song than did Jules, so that's how it went. .What's Yoko's boy's name? Is it Sean? I'm unfamiliar with his work. I'll need to look it up. I noticed at the Olympics ceremonies Julian sat far from Yoko and her son. There were probably hard feelings from way back when.

  3. Yeah, Sean is Yoko's son. I think Yoko is not well liked among anyone having to do with the Beatles!

    Night Ranger is still around, but their heyday was around when I was in 6th or 7th grade. They had another song called "Sentimental Street" that was a moderate hit. There were a bunch of bands that were kind of like them back in the day. Survivor was another one that had a very similar sound.

  4. I think 'The Search is Over" was by Survivor. it was on some album that got played from time to time at my house, anyway.

    1. Yes, "The Search is Over" was Survivor… I actually remember Florence Henderson singing it on a telethon once. That was weird…

      I love Linda Ronstadt's "Desperado" and like to sing it her way myself…

      Sadly, my dad is not doing well and will be going on hospice. I am going to go to VA to see him this weekend.

    2. I'm so sorry about your dad, but glad you have the chance to visit before going to Germany.

      Florence Henderson singing "The Search Is Over" sort of falls under the category of "Mrs. Miller performing 'I Can't Get no Satisfaction.' " Ms. Henderson had a nice voice in her day before she lost some hearing and got a bit pitchy. Remember the Brady Bunch episode where she lost her voice and wasn't going to be able to sing in church for Christmas, but a Christmas miracle caused her voice to be restored at the final hour, ending in all of us being treated to her rendition of "O Come, All Ye Faithful' "? The song selection for her solo was so bogus. She would have sung something like "O Holy Night' or "Gesu Bambino." "O Come, All Ye Faithful" is a congregational carol..

  5. Prefer Ronstadt's "Desperado" especially the live version with just the piano. There is however a tremendous version with Linda and the Eagles all together performing a nd knocking it out of the park. You can find it on the Video site Daily Motion.

    1. Many people are fond of Ronstadt's rendition. The one of her combined with the Eagles sounds spectacular, and I will look it up.

  6. Great list Alexis! Like your dad, I love all those Beatles' tunes and loved the Billy Joel. I hadn't heard it before and am listening now as I type.:) Oh, and I agree with Anonymous about Linda Ronstadt's version of "Desperado."

  7. Donna, my next blog is in response to your post. It will be up after I nap. my wonderful colitis meds are making me groggy. it may come across in y writing as well, but i'll fix things when I'm lucid.