One time everyone was at the apartment carving pumpkins and, having exhausted everything new that I had in rotation, I played my Happy Songs mixtape. Every time a new song played Amy looked up, happy and alarmed, and announced “All of the hits!” It was my all time favorite mix tape compliment.
Usually I want to offer this bouquet of musical discoveries. I want you to hear exactly what I’ve been listening to for the past month (or, more often, week). And then I forget, in the rush of so much new, all the old things I love listening to most of all. It’s comfort food, something good and warm for the soul.
I felt kind of overwhelmed by the present and the future these part few weeks, so I bopped around in the past and pulled together something that me at any age would call “All of the hits!” I’ve been time traveling a little with this playlist. Here’s where I’ve been going:
1. The first time I remember hearing “I’m Waiting for the Man,” I was 21 years old and it was the favorite song of the four-year-old girl I was babysitting. I was sitting in that house with the girl’s mom, taking a break from painting in the garage, paint smears on her loose clothes, her charming light eyes and short short hair. The house smelled like baby shampoo and sliced bread gone stale and some sweet arid food smell that lingered no matter what I cooked for dinner. “Sure, you can listen to it one more time,” the mom said, so we listened to it three times in a row and the girl danced around and the grownups grinned. For some reason, everything about this moment was great. Baby’s first Lou Reed jam.
2. It was very dark grey all the time and most mornings my car valiantly tried to start but wasn’t up to it. I was 19, living in Baltimore, and working at the music memorabilia shop a couple days a week. The staff smoked cigarettes in the rain and ate steamy plastic vats of glossy Chinese food from the same awful carry out place every day. I scrawled the names of records and reorganized knick knacks, wrote copy, but mostly I walked around the musty mini warehouse, sifting through the comforting chaos of musical oddities. I played Get Behind Me Satan nonstop for at least two months.
3. It was the middle of the night and I had just tracked down the High Fidelity soundtrack. Like a guardian angel, that movie kept appearing on TV the second I plopped down on that tremendous couch in that tremendous house, two sweet dogs with little old man faces illegally crawling onto the leather to curl up in a ball by my side. Outside was Australia, but I was always inside, sleeping or working or having no money to do much of anything. But it was nice sometimes, those long dark hours in the middle of the night, when I wrote and drank espresso and listened to what I wanted to listen to. Sometimes Joshua and Noura were up and I’d have maybe my second conversation of the day. “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” is sitting in the dark, content and caffeinated, finally putting a name and a band to a song I’d been wanting to track down for years.
“Honey Love” is dazzlingly sweet, from images to title to sound, upbeat and cheerful. “Cussin’ Cryin’ and Carryin’ On” will guarantee that you never forget the awesomeness of Tina Turner again. “Let’s Go” sounds like the start of a big adventure.
And you’ve heard the rest of these, right? It feels a little bizarre to lay out the basics of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” to you.
What are you listening to this month? Have you been doing any musical time traveling? Let me know in the comments.