Songs About Claires

Claire is not a weird name, but I would call it just weird enough. I was only ever in one class with another Claire. I never knew other Claires or had other Claire friends. I could never find customized “Claire” knick knacks, like the tacky keychains and bracelets you can get at twirly displays at the beach. I know what you’re thinking: “But I live in a world full of Claires!” or “I am surrounded by Claires!” or “My actual name is Claire, you can’t deny my Claire-ish existence!” I get it. You may live in a more Claire filled world than I do, and if you do, please send me a keychain. I still want one.

Until I get that keychain, I thought it would be fun to make a customized list of Claire songs for all the Claires out there. Also it’s Songs Featuring Girls Names week over here at Charm City Jukebox, and I figured I’m a girl, with a name, so lets find some songs. (I told Joshua that he should write about Joshua Tree this week. He declined, on the grounds that U2 is the worst.)

“Clair,” by Gilbert O’Sullivan

There’s this quality to some 70s music that is uncomfortable because it makes me so…happy. The whistling, the horns, the high pitched voice—it’s like junk food for my soul. Gilbert O’Sullivan makes David Cassidy sound like Al Green. This song is painfully cheesy, but the first few bars give me this sunny, smiley feeling, until that line where he says something about their age difference and the marriage thing, and then the song takes a slightly weird turn. I thought for a while that this was a Gilbert O’Sullivan take on “Isn’t She Lovely” but Clair wasn’t his daughter, or even a relative–she was the daughter of his manager. I would, in general, advise musicians not to make love songs about other people’s young children. But according to this very strange YouTube link, which may be 100% false, Clair Mills of “Clair” fame is alive and well and has nothing but warm regards for her fuzzy haired pop crooner family friend.

“Secret Life of Claire,” by Jill Sobule

You could make a girl’s name songs list entirely based on Jill Sobule songs (Top 5 Jill Sobule Girls Name Songs: Secret Life of Claire, Karen at Night, Lucy at the Gym, Mary Kay, Margaret) The chorus has this fun bouncy “Listen to this while you get ready! Feel like you’re in a romantic comedy, Claires of the world!” sound to it, but really it’s a nice song about an old woman with memory problems, kind of like Jill Sobule’s Claire-themed take on Elvis Costello’s “Veronica.”

“Claire,” by Rheostatic

I think this is my favorite one so far, just for the video. The tuxes, the big paper mache masks and night sky backdrop, the girls in little body suits and candy colored tights, muted by that funny dim 90s sitcom lighting. Listening to this song is like watching a “Friends” marathon, or listening to Soul Asylum—it’s so pure and dated that it looks like it was plucked out of a not-very-old time capsule. And you can’t get a much better “Claire” song—not only are about half the words “Claire,” but they close the song by spelling it repeatedly for a minute and a half.

“Planet Claire,” by The B52s

Every couple years someone sends me this song with the same message: “THIS IS YOUR THEME SONG!”

They think they’re being clever, but technically they’re right. My parents worked for a radio station, and a DJ at the station played this song the day I was born in honor of my birth. So if a theme song is what you enter with, this is mine.

“Oh Claire,” by Cheap Trick

Hey—what do you think this song is about? Secret love? Ghosts? Suicide pact? I just spent a weird half hour on Cheap Trick message boards, and here’s what I learned:

  • Cheap Trick has two songs called “Oh Claire”—one is this little ditty, and the other is a minute long song where the only lyrics are “Konichiwa.”
  • People think Cheap Trick inspired the Beatles. There’s a serious timeline problem here! How can you think that! This isn’t even a dig against Cheap Trick, who are mostly fine in my book, but still! Look, I’ll be straight with you, I got off that message board because I was about to make the rookie internet mistake of commenting on a message board, and I could see into the future (like I guess the Beatles could, when it came to Cheap Trick), and I saw me having a week long heated argument on a Cheap Trick board. So I didn’t do it, mostly because I’m trying to keep Claires off the Cheap Trick radar lest they write another Claire song before I figure out this one out (“Message Board Claire/ I spoke to John Lennon last night/Oh Message Board Claire/It was all true/Sorry you wasted a week on this/Think of the hours you spend watching Bravo/Paul Mccartney says “Did you see Bethenny this week?”/Message Board Claire”)

Claire at 16: A Mixtape

Picture above: Me at 16! I’m the one in the glasses making the serious face. Rahnia Mersereau is the one rocking the tiara.

I had a writing teacher in high school who once told me “Don’t look down on your former self. Once upon a time, she was everything.” So with that sentiment in mind, this week we’re taking a look back at our music collections at age 16. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, some it’s worse—it’s a cringeworthy good time (don’t worry, just for us—that is the price of having ever listening to DMB). Sit back, enjoy, and as always, leave your musical memories in the comments.

“Rising Sun,” by The Bridge

Junior year of high school, Joshua and I worked at an after school daycare center for kids. It was a solid high school job, one that I’m not sure either of us were any good at, but one of the perks was that our coworkers were awesome. Faye Berman helped teach me how to drive and introduced me to Israeli food. Our boss Bob unintentionally taught me how to dress for work. And Kenny Liner gave me a seemingly endless stream of advice on boys (they’re the worst), school (stay in it), and music (don’t listen to crap). Part of that music lesson involved Joshua and I seeing his band, The Bridge, all the time. Kenny didn’t tell us to follow his band; we liked them, and him, enough that we didn’t need prompting.

After we graduated from high school, The Bridge exploded on the jam band scene. Friends loved them, they were at all the big festivals, they were everywhere, and we were stunned. Everyone has local bands who they follow and think “Man, these guys should be bigger”; it was wild to watch that actually happen. The Bridge has since broken up, and by the time they did, I had stopped listening to jam bands and moved across the country. But still, so many of my memories from being 16 involve standing in a sweaty crowd with Joshua and our high school friends, singing along to “Rising Sun.” It would have been nice to see them one last time.

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” by The Ramones

The first time I ever drove by myself, this song came on the radio. My adventure options were limited since I wasn’t allowed to stray too far from my street, so I think I bought a lipgloss and visited my Grandma. But driving for the first time solo, windows rolled down and this song blasting—I had never felt cooler.

“The Scientist,” by Coldplay

I don’t know what to do about Coldplay. I know we’re all supposed to hate them, I know—I got the memo, just like the rest of you. But sometimes they’ll have a song that I genuinely enjoy, like “Green Eyes” or “Lost!”, and I thought Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends was a solid album, and this is all information I feel uncomfortable with because it grates my inner snob (who, between this and another post this week defending Top 40 radio, is not having a good time of it lately).

This song doesn’t currently fall into the category of Coldplay songs that I like, but listening to “The Scientist” now, I know why 16 year old Claire was so into it. At 16, this was the kind of quasi-deep nonsense that I ate up, along with David Grey and Dave Matthews Band. A Rush of Blood to the Head (which this song is from) is the soundtrack of hormonal melancholy and suburban ennui, developed to facilitate clumsy backseat makeout sessions and terrible post-makeout session poetry.

“Nugget Song,” by Voodoo Blue

If you were a teenager in Baltimore County in the early 2000s, you know who I’m talking about. Voodoo Blue was THAT local band—everyone listened to them, everyone went to their shows, everyone knew someone who knew someone who partied with the band, and they were totally going to get invited to an after party, one of these days. I saw them at least a dozen times with my best friend Jamie, usually at Fletchers or the Recher.

I don’t remember the music very well, and I don’t even know if I liked them. What I do know is that this marked the beginning of a solo show going time for me. My dad had taken me to tons of concerts, but this was the first time I was seeing live music with friends. And these weren’t shows he would’ve remotely approved of, full of sketchy guys and cigarettes and songs like the one posted above. It was a solid stab at independence. Nugget Song? It’s terrible. So was everything else by them that I listened to today. Terrible like I blushed furiously at the “Diggity-dank” line, and I’m sitting in a quiet apartment, by myself. But even though I’ll never listen to “Nugget Song” again, they were important to me in a classic teenage way. I’ll always associate Voodoo Blue with hanging out with my best friend, dancing in dirty clubs in the city, and listening to music that my parents would’ve hated.

“Karen by Night,” by Jill Sobule

I liked Jill Sobule because she told stories and because she had a weird, nasally voice, which years of listening to Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews had really primed me to enjoy. Her songs had a totally different narrative flow from anything else I was listening to. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus, at a time when I was really into purchasing random albums, taking them home, and devouring them. No context, no recommendations—just a gut feeling and solid cover art. It felt really daring and adventurous, and of all the experiences I could’ve gotten into at 16, I’d like to believe my parents enjoyed the fact that holing up in my room with a random CD was my go-to crazy thing to do.

Top 5 Album Closers

Claire: We’re closing out our month long amble down record collection lane with album closers. Joshua and I had a long discussion about this post after I admitted that post by post, it’s come to my attention that I skip out on the end of most albums. Even some of my favorite albums contain mysterious final tracks that I’ve never reached. Why? Boredom sometimes, but more often it feels like the rhythm and narrative of the album got lost in the last few tracks, and after the penultimate and pre-penultimate, I can’t sit through another assault on my mini musical experience. Leave your favorite album closers, and closer criteria, in the comments! Maybe this post and your suggestions can end my stint as an album closer novice.

“The Big Country,” by the Talking Heads on Talking Heads 77

The Big Country is the epitomy of a proper album send-off. After a musical smorgasbord, this track winds you down, but not too much, not too fast. Perfectly paced, and still in pace with the album as a whole, with a solid last track length. If I’ve learned anything from our month of album posts, it’s that you never really want to leave a Talking Heads album. Once it’s on, once it gets going, it’s hard to give it up, hard to let it end. The Big Country is so satisfying it’s downright quenching.  And when Talking Heads 77 is done, you’ll probably replay the album (I know, you can’t help it) but if for some reason you couldn’t listen through again—if there was a tornado or some kind of martian landing— you could walk away and be okay. Until you remember Stop Making Sense, and then wipe out your schedule and cozy up to David Byrne, cause you’re a goner.

 “Jackson,” by Lucinda Williams on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Around the time I turned 16, my family spent a week in St. Cloud Minnesota, the town where I was born. We stayed with my parents’ friend Julie’s house, where we shucked corn in the backyard, ate mole off of plates perched on our laps, and flailed our open, stinging palms through the air, swatting mosquitos. It’s strange to say three cities later,  but everyone seemed so much more alive in Minnasota. My dad was on the radio, bonfires sprung up and filled with my parents’ college friends, and my sister and I ran free. I tasted my first beer that week (and developed a lifelong hatred of Leinenkugels), got my ears pierced, and spent the morning of my 16th birthday walking right down the center of an endless, empty road. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus and listened to it relentlessly.

There’s a great line in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, about listening to “I Will Always Love You” over and over again, and crying because she had never experienced that kind of love. During that week in St. Cloud, I felt ready to grow up and be tumultous, adventurous, and achingly heartbroken, as soon as I could, and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was my window into a life I didn’t have yet, but could reach out and almost touch.

“Save Me,” by Aimee Mann on Bachelor No. 2 or the Last Remains of the Dodo

I was in the throes of a bad breakup, and bingeing on sad girl music (…like Fergie) and a newly reacquired cigarette habit, when I got introduced to Bachelor No. 2. I remember that summer as being rainy and constantly dark, though looking back it was so sunny that I came home daily with a pink, scabby sunburn. And I also remember this album being a pitch-perfect ode to heartbreak, so personalized Mann may as well have laced my name through the choruses. But it’s not, not really. It’s heartbreak and growing up and being so strange inside that new love, someday, feels unlikely. I think this is where I ended up five years after I had exhausted Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, when I really was heartbroken and a little more grown up, and it was a lot less delicious than I had imagined.

“One Man Guy,” by Loudon Wainwright on BBC Sessions

Loudon Wainwright III is the world’s saddest man. If there were a “Sad, old guy singing sad songs” version of the Hunger Games, he would win in a heartbeat. He would get a walloping score from the Gamemakers, based on a freestyle ode to his lost loves and distant children. He would pull out a guitar and beat Leonard Cohen death, then melt everyone into a depressive heap with his pretty, lowkey songs, rife with death and loss and major life mistakes. (Oh my glob I want to cast the Sad Old Guy Hunger Games. What are we thinking, guys? Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, wild card from District Experimental, Brian Eno…) (I’m reading the Hunger Games and they’re actually haunting my dreams. And this post, apparently.)

“One Man Guy” is an apt ending to a live-ish album: Loudon in concert is a carnival of kooky facial expressions, quips, and goofy smiles, all working together to cleverly mask some of the wrenching sadness in his songs. This song is an exploration of his lodged-in-his-bones-loneliness, and a quick peek behind his live performance mask.

“Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows on August and Everything After

Murder of One is a great big “things are going to change” song. It’s also solid internal montage music: If you need to imagine that things will change, for the better, in a quick, several scene cuts kind of way (instead of in the usual slow, up and down, un-soundtracked way that life works) this is your song. A nice, almost upbeat ending to a brooding, emotional rollercoaster of an album.

Honorable Mentions

“Rock Me to Sleep,” by Jill Sobule on Pink Pearl: Pink Pearl is the worst kind of album: Heartbreakingly sad, and equally catchy. It’s a lovely hummable type of torture, full of failed heroes and cruel lovers and Mary Kay Latourneau. “Rock Me to Sleep” is a pitch-perfect send off—a song about unbearable loneliness masquerading as a lullabye.

“Stumbling Through the Dark,” by The Jayhawks on Rainy Day Music: Another con—the opening sounds lighthearted and playful, but listen to the lyrics for a second and it’s another lovely ramble on sadness and confusion.

“Montana,” by Frank Zappa on Over-Nite SensationWeird and fun, like this whole album. Makes me miss the “I might be moving to Montana soon/ To raise me up a crop of dental floss” pin I made in high school. It had a green field on it with tiny boxes of dental floss growing out of the ground.

Joshua’s List:

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon, on Excitable Boy

The first line is so good: “I went home with a waitress…the way I always do.” It begins with a count-off. It’s loud, crass, and mean. It’s the perfect way to end Excitable Boy. Oh, and the music is pretty damn cool too. I love big guitars, both as a wall of sound and actual physically big guitars. And I can only assume this song has both.

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake, on Fashion Nugget

I may have mentioned this song before, but as Cake is one of my favorite bands they’re going to get a lot of mentions. And they actually don’t have very many good album closers, at least none I’d be willing to put on this list. Except for this song, of course. It’s a great cover of a Willie Nelson song, and it fits in perfectly with the whole jilted lover theme they have running through the album. Plus, it’s a nice slow way to end the album, which is my favorite way to end an album. And it’s a ¾ waltz! Who doesn’t like a waltz?

“Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, on O.C.M.S

Let me preface this song with telling you that I am not a big fan of this band. The album this is on is not very good and the only other standout on the album is a song called “Big Time in the Jungle.” But this is quite possibly the best campfire sing-along song of all time. When I was at St. Mary’s College, it seemed like every single person knew the lyrics to this song and everyone who played guitar knew the key changes. So yeah, it wraps up a bad album, but it does it in one of the happiest ways ever.

“Sons & Daughters” by The Decemberists, on The Crane Wife

I’ve seen The Decemberists three times now, and twice they’ve ended their encores with this song. It’s big, it’s happy, and it’s a sing-along! (Ok, so sing-alongs are a running theme this week.) Every time I hear this song it puts a big smile on my face. It’s the perfect way to end The Crane Wife, which I feel is ostensibly a “winter” album, with the spring peeking out of its hidey hole and giving us hope after a long, dark winter.

“All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints” by Paul Simon, on Graceland

So yeah, I love this album. It’s on three of the four lists we have about albums. But goddamn, this is an amazingly fun song. It’s singy, it’s danceable, it’s balling. Also, props to the many mentions of watermelon. I totally want some after listening to this song.

Honorable Mentions:

“The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned” by The Decemberists, on The Hazards of Love: Only bumped because of previous mentions and a Decemberists song already on the main list. Otherwise, one of my favorite album closers.

“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” by John Lee Hooker, on Live at Café Au-Go-Go: His signature song, and one of the best versions available.

“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book: Gets a big positive for closing out the movie version of High Fidelity. But it’s also a crazy good song. Also, the outro is really, really, really funky.