Joshua at 16: A Mixtape

Picture above: Me at 16! This was taken at Claire’s 16th birthday. More proof we’ve known each other forever. 

We all have musical skeletons in our past, shit we wish we could forget about (I’m looking at you, my 13 year old love for Korn). But I realized while compiling this list that most of the stuff I listened to at 16 I still listen to. I didn’t have terrible taste at 16, just pretty bad. Well, ok; maybe I was super obsessed with Dave Matthews Band, which was….regrettable.

Embarrassing musical story from age 16, to set the tone: 16 was the year I was given my first acoustic guitar. I immediately tried to learn how to play “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band and failed because my fingers just didn’t stretch like that yet. So instead, the first song I learned to play on the guitar was “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters. And it gets more embarrassing than that. I had a super crush on this girl at the time who I’m pretty sure hated me. So in order to win her over, I left a note taped to her locker with a rose and the lyrics to “Everlong,” with a note at the end to pay attention to the morning announcement on that Friday (which was, of course, Valentine’s Day). Our morning announcements were televised over close circuit television. At the end of the announcements, I played “Everlong” very, very poorly with my clumsy bass fingers to the entire school. I was, of course, promptly rejected by this girl.

After that story, this list does not seem that embarrassing! Enjoy.

“Pakalolo” by The Bridge

Kenny Liner had a way about him. Maybe it was the off-color jokes and smoking just outside of children’s earshot. Maybe it was the fact that he walked around beat boxing to himself constantly. Either way, in typical 16 year old fashion, I simultaneously  thought that the sun shone out his ass and that he was a complete tool. But that never stopped me from going to see his band, The Bridge, on what seemed like a weekly basis. And this song was what sold me on their first album. It’s tightly crafted instrumental, led by Kenny’s beat boxing and mandolin playing, with some wicked cool sax harmony effects (there was only one sax player in the band when we knew them).

(Side story: Since Baltimore is actually Smalltimore, Kenny Liner was in my aunt’s class in preschool. In fact, she potty trained him. Me and a friend once yelled this fact out at a show.)

(Sorry about the video quality. Couldn’t find the studio version.)

“Crush” by Dave Matthews Band

If I was being honest with myself and this blog, this 16 year old list would consist of four Dave Matthews Band songs and one acoustic Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds song.  I like to use the excuse that I was white and grew up in the suburbs; I had no choice but to like Dave Matthews Band. They had just the right mix of musical talent and pop-catchiness to make anyone seem cool by liking them. I thought I was so cool! Especially with this song, a young bassist’s wet dream. It wasn’t a particularly hard riff, just over the funk line and half-badass. But to have bass, an instrument consistently relegated to the background shoved to the forefront was appealing to me. Plus, the lyrics are all about unrequited love, something I was totally all about at 16. But looking back now, they are really stupid and bordering on creepy, a running theme for Dave Matthews Band. Also, the video is full of smoking and drinking, which are 2 of the 3 coolest things you can do at age 16.

[Unfortunately, I cannot find a video of this song. Look it up on iTunes or something…It’s really fucking good.]

“Bluesman” by Kelly Bell Band

Kelly Bell Band is so good that they have consistently garnered respect and audiences for at least 20 years and they do it by playing a wildly outdated genre of music: Blues. No one plays the blues anymore. It’s somehow become uncool, which I’ll never understand. To demonstrate this fact: I put this song on at work the other day and my boss, a total music snob, immediately recognized who it was and was singing along. The 18 year old cashier told me to turn off my “old-fogey music.”

I loved going to their shows, especially the triple bills with Laughing Colors and Almighty Senators. I bought every one of their albums they had out, including a live record recorded at a show I was at. They aren’t the best blues musicians, but they have such a fun sound and I still go out of my way to see them whenever they play in town.

“Roll Into The Light” by Laughing Colors

Laughing Colors were my first foray into local music when I was 13 or so, hearing them and playing them waaaaay too loud on my stereo. I then promptly forgot about them when I left middle school until I was 16 and randomly found a mix of their music I had burned to a CD, found behind a dresser. I had until then been listening pretty much exclusively Dave Matthews Band and this was a welcome refresher. This was the first track on that mix.

This song fills me with such wonder every time I hear it. It’s wide open and expansive, and Dave Tieff’s voice is just so perfect for the sound of the band, which has a little edge, but is really just perfect rock for the radio. I’m still shocked that they never got famous. I think they had the unfortunate timing to be playing pretty straight-ahead rock during the awful nu-metal movement.

Their break up devastated me. Theirs was my favorite local live show: ridiculously upbeat and energetic and infectious. When I realized I never would see them play again I’m pretty sure I cried. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

“Me & My Bass Guitar” by Victor Wooten

Ah, Victor Wooten. You are just so good at the bass. This is painful to listen to as a bassist, realizing I’ll never, ever be able to do what he can do. When I was sixteen, however, I had just enough musical talent and ego to believe that I could not only do what he could do, but I would be better one day. I had this dream that I would be invited to his bass guitar camp and play a line that would just make him stop and proclaim me the next Jaco Pastorious.

He is that good. There are few bassists, if any, who can play this line, much less sing over it, and way less do that fill in the middle. But he has no funk! It’s just, “Hey, look how fast I can slap and pop! That’s cool, right?” It is, Mr. Wooten, but it’s just not enough for me anymore.

Top 5 Worst Love Songs

Claire: Welcome to Week 2 of our February love song extravaganza. We’ve done Top 5 Love Songs, had our first ever guest post with Top 5 Alternative Love Songs, and now it’s time for my personal favorite, Top 5 Worst Love Songs (or what not to woo anyone with, ever). Get ready for a few more weeks of love, lust, loss, Lionel Richie, and other musical goodies brought to you by the letter L.

CLAIRE’s List:

“She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones

An upbeat, misogynistic number by America’s most revered lounge lizard (Wayne Newton, it’s over. You heard it here first.), Tom Jones. This, like much of Jones’ body of work, sounds like it was written for the soundtrack of an early 80s romantic comedy. Here’s the scene: Hot chick in day-glo shoulder pads enters the restaurant in slo-mo (and you know that restaurant has a salad bar and oddly placed palm tree like plants, cause shit is CLASSY). Jaws drop, weirdly tan guy in a suit (read: Tom Jones) who’s watching her enter leans back approvingly and nods (That’ll do, shoulder pads. That’ll do.)

Lets take a look at a couple choice moments from this song:

  • She’s never in the way” and “I can leave her on her own, know that she’s okay alone, and there’s no messin'” : These lines sound like they should be followed with a chorus of “She’s a toddler”
  • And I don’t abuse her!”: He says this twice, guys. Congratulations?
  • Woah woah woah” and “Na na na”: You get ONE. One sound. Get it together, Jones.

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship

Mannequin is a touching love story about a man who can’t handle relationships with humans so he gets it on with a mannequin and nobody thinks that’s weird. It features Hollywood power players “That-guy-who-did-not-deserve-Molly-Ringwald-in-Pretty-in-Pink” and “That-lady-from-SATC-who-said- ‘Lawrence of My Labia’-and-ruined-both-the-movies-and-Arabia-for -me, forever.” Damnit Kim Cattrell. This is the creepy theme song for their “man meets and marries doll” love story. I first heard it at the “Delocated Variety Hour” show a few weeks ago with Ben Gibbard singing into a voice modulater while watching Jon Glaser go to town on a mannequin. So it was pretty magical.

“Every Breath You Take,” by The Police

A love song that says “Stalking is neat!” and “Sting is gonna getcha!” Come on everyone. Stop playing this at your wedding, stop using it on shows and in movies when characters finally fall in love, just stop it. No. Listen to the lyrics just one time and you’ll know that a song about a heartbroken dude who is watching you sleep and breathe is not romantic. It’s scary as hell…just like Sting.

“I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meatloaf

Full disclosure: Much to my parents’ chagrin, I loved this song when I was a kid. But that was just because the video is awesome and it’s live action Beauty and the Beast and explosions! Explosions! Anyway. Basically, Meatloaf will do anything for love, but he won’t do a bunch of stuff that nobody would want him to do anyway. I swear at one point it quotes graffiti I read on a bathroom wall in high school, (“Some days I just pray to the god of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”). And I know Meat Loaf came first, but trust me: Fourteen year old boys with sharpies were writing similar sentiments in bathroom stalls way before the early ‘00s. They were also saying earnest, hormone-addled things like “But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way, tonight” since cave-boy first invited cave-girl to come over and make out in his basement. Meatloaf, you’re too old for this. Do all the stuff you said you would do and leave it at that.

“I Want it that Way” by the Backstreet Boys

In 1998, the Backstreet Boys decided that they were so important that they no longer had to use sentence structures or themes or any basic songwriting staples. They weren’t excelling on these points before, and they were making Scrooge McDuck levels of cash, so at a band meeting one day, the awkwardly old one said “Hey guys, lets just say words and dance.” And the non-threatening to girls one said “Why don’t the rest of you have to have ponytails? It’s 1998. This is not a thing anymore” And the one in the hat said “We can just say the words ‘heart’ and ‘you’ a lot so preteen girls get confused and think a) we’re singing to them and b) we’re super deep?” And really Christian guy and Nick Carter agreed, and it was so. Here’s a link to the lyrics. Enjoy.

JOSHUA’s List:

“Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band

This is one of those songs that falls under straight up creepy, akin to “Every Breath You Take.” It’s masked, however, by a very beautiful and relatively hard to play chord progression and Matthews signature wilting voice. But he’s essentially talking about stalking the girl he’s in love with and admitting to having wet dreams about her! What did you think “come into you / in a boy’s dream” meant? Maybe if he had spelled it “cum” or “skeet” we all wouldn’t have been suckered into thinking this is song is pretty and sexy. I actually like that. The next time a pretty woman asks me to play this song (it’s always the really pretty ones who like this song [often blond]) I’m totally replacing “come” with “skeet” and we’ll see if that changes how she hears the song. Or if she slaps me in the face.

“Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton

Oh man, this is a boring song. He talks about different types of light for like 6 verses then follows each up with a very nonsensical chorus. To what way does he refer? The way she does what? Because, Mr. Frampton, the way you’ve done this song is boring, straight down to the chord progression. And Rob Gordon was wrong, even Lisa Bonet couldn’t save this one.

“I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder

Speaking of High Fidelity, the boys in the shop had it right with this one. No one wants this song…which is basically a calendar. He boldly takes us through each holiday month by month and reminds us, in a precursor to Rebecca Black, that January is followed by February and March is after that. And the worst part? Stevie Wonder is a musical genius and  yet this song sounds like it was knocked up in ten minutes on a Casio keyboard with multiple MIDI sounds and a drum machine and a robot voice. Talk about phoning it in, Li’l Stevie.

“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton

All I want to say about this song is it would far more interesting if he had answered truthfully and said, “No, honey, you look like you’ve gained a bit of weight.”

“Your Kiss is On My List” by Hall and Oates

Oh, Hall and Oates. Does anyone really want to get a love song sung to them b a creepy dude with a 70’s pornstar mustache?  Or does this answer that question?