Random Rules with E


This article was originally published in online magazine Pointless Banter on April 16, 2006.

Okay, so one of the websites I check out, A.V. Club, has a new feature I’m totally hooked on, called “Random Rules.” What they do is they get various artists and musicians to put their iPods on “Shuffle” and comment on the first ten tracks that come up – impressions, memories associated with each song, etc. No skipsies allowed! Many of them have some embarrassing music on their players, myself included. Hell, they hold so much! I have to pick and choose what goes on the iPod now according to mood, because I have about four times the music on my computer than it will hold. Right now, I actually have an mp3 of Donald Duck getting a blow job on there, so I’m hoping that’s not in my first ten that comes up. Incidentally, if any of you are interested in that little tidbit, drop me a line with your email address and I’ll zip it to you. Something about Donald Duck saying “Don’t move, I’ll go get you a towel” just kills me.

Also, if any of you would like to put your own iPods/portable players/CD changers on shuffle and reply in the comments, I’d love to know what comes up for each of you. No cheating!

Without further ado, the first 10 songs that came up on “Shuffle” on my iPod:

1. Pearl Jam, “Better Man.” (Album: Vitalogy)

If I’m in the right mood, this song can make me cry. “She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man.” Who hasn’t been there? Plus I’m in love with Eddie Vedder. One of the most beautiful moments I have ever been a part of was set to this song. I was actually able to sing this while someone else played the guitar, and it was dedicated to someone that the guitarist had hurt, that was in love with him. Gotta love dating musicians. Dedicating this song to me wouldn’t make me realize that I needed to find a better man though, it would make me fall more in love with the wrong guy who was singing to me. Go figure.

2. Bad Religion, “I Love My Computer.” (Album: The New America)

As I’m on the computer a lot, this one is rather fitting. Definitely not my favorite Bad Religion song by a long shot, but “The New America” is a terrific Album. If you’re only going to buy one BR album though, I’d recommend “The Process of Belief.” Or any of the old(er) school ones (pre- “The Gray Race.”) This is a pretty good song about how a lot of the interaction with people that anyone gets anymore is “virtual”, and that’s kind of sad. One of their finer nonpolitical commentaries.

3. Clutch, “Tight Like That.” (Album: Self-Titled)

Oooooooh, man! I am SO glad this one came up! I love this song! This is exactly the kind of song that literally makes me want to strut around wearing nothing but sunglasses. I swear, if I could grow muttonchop sideburns, I would wear them, and then strut around while listening to this song. “Don’t ask me why, it’s just the nature of my grooves.” After I fell in love with this song, I found out that a buddy of mine had actually walked down the aisle at his wedding to this song. It’s SO him. (I met him some time after the wedding and subsequent divorce had taken place.) “Hallelujah, all the people in back! Hallelujah, it’s tight like that!” Ooooh, fuck yeah. Watch me walk now.

4. Sublime, “What Happened?” (Album: 40 Oz. To Freedom)

This album has been repurchased by me a total of four times. The second time because it was stolen, and the other times, because I had LITERALLY worn out this CD to the point it wouldn’t play anymore. There are about six albums I’ve had to repurchase for wearing out, and this is one. This is one of my “desert island” albums. This song isn’t one of my favorites, however. It espouses a sentiment that I’m sure most of us are familiar with though – waking up after a night of drinking and wondering what the hell happened. “Got no recollection of the evil things I done, but it feels like I must have had some fun.” It’s a great song, but if I had to rank this on the list of songs I like in order on the CD, it’s not even in the top 3/4 of what’s great about this album. I’m a big Sublime fan though. I even learned how to sing in Spanish in order to correctly pull off Sublime when I play it. Well, for that, and in order to sing Cesaria Evora’s “Besame Mucho.” Damn, I’m sexy when I sing in Spanish.

5. U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” (Album: Greatest Hits: The Best of 1980-1990)

I’m not a big fan of new U2, but old U2, such as this song, is awesome. Bono has one of the sexier voices in music, as far as I’m concerned (sexiest = Chris Cornell, in my opinion.) There’s such longing and honesty in this song that you can’t help but identify with the sentiment, and U2 are masters of musically building a song to climax. Musically, they’re a group that can bring tears to your eyes with only their composition style. (Or maybe it’s just me.) This isn’t my favorite U2 song either, but it’s at least in the top ten. As a kid when this came out, I dreamed of someone doing something “Only to be with you, only to be with you”, completely missing the point that he still hadn’t found what he was looking for.

6. B.B. King featuring Katie Webster, “Since I Met You Baby.” (Album: Blues Summit)

This is a terrific song. This is from the album where B.B. King did duets with some of the old great jazz and bluesmen and women. B.B. King can belt it out like no one else – “Since I met you baby, my whole life has changed.” That, and I love some of the lines in this song – Katie: “I’m jes’ getting tired.” B.B. – “How do you spell it baby, how do you spell it?” Katie – “T I D E, Tired.” (You have to mentally fill in the pronunciation yourself.) My favorite though – Katie – “Someone who will treat me like the queen I am. The swamp boogie queen.” I first heard this when I was about oh….fourteen? fifteen? Anyway, my good friend Dawn and I at the time had this tradition of giving the worst gifts imaginable on birthdays and holidays. Gifts that were so bad, they were good. I recall on one occasion getting a framed picture of pink flamingos in a hot pink frame, which she had autographed herself. Of course, it’s still hanging in my house. On another occasion, I gave her a fluorescent green T-shirt which had a sparkly picture of a brontosaurus on the front and the word “BRONTOSAURUS!”, and on the back, giant black velvet fuzzy letters that read “Swamp Boogie Queen.” I wish I were kidding. I wonder if she still has that shirt.

7. Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt.” (Album: The Downward Spiral)

The Downward Spiral is my favorite NIN album. I can’t listen to this song very often in its original form, although I loved Johnny Cash’s version. For some reason, Trent Reznor’s whispering lament breaks my heart every time I hear it. “If I could start again a million miles away…” I had a very good friend whom this song inspired to give up drugs. As he tells the story, he had hit the bottom of his life, and this song, as if by miracle, came on the radio. He’d never heard it before. It connected with him. He sobbed and pulled into his local record store, whereupon he bought this single, and played it over and over for days, while his heart broke. He never did heroin again. “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.” The song is ostensibly about heroin addiction, but no one I know hasn’t had thoughts like this, no matter what their situation is. This one tears me the fuck up. “Everyone I know goes away in the end.” My heart sticks in my throat every time I hear this.

8. Scott Weiland, “Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down.” (Album: The Great Expectations Soundtrack)

Most of you are more familiar, I’m sure, with Scott Weiland’s work as the frontman of the Stone Temple Pilots. Let me tell you though, this song is great. Not the greatest on the soundtrack, but I’ll get to that in a minute. This song is a slow, rolling burlesque with a piano, an orchestra, and limps along like a broken carousel. This song literally reminds me of being in a funhouse on acid. It’s one of the few songs I would literally describe as “macabre.” That said, this soundtrack is one of the most spectacular soundtracks ever. I generally hate soundtracks and think they’re lame, but on this one, every single song is good, and calls to mind the scene in the movie (also great) which it was chosen to accent. “Pitching and reaching and climbing and falling….” This soundtrack is everything a soundtrack should be – a carefully crafted opera which deliberately sets off the movie. More filmmakers should take such care with their soundtracks.

9. Dropkick Murphys, “Walk Away.” (Album: Blackout)

Oh, this is a great song. Then again, the Dropkick Murphys are awesome. “So it all went wrong, and it all just fell apart, and you ain’t got the heart to finish what you started.” My favorite DM song though has got to be, hands down, “Barroom Heroes.” That song, and the Dropkick Murphys, are singlehandedly responsible for the bar-none greatest punk rock moment I have ever witnessed personally. To this day, when I hear “Barroom Heroes”, I cry. Who cries at punk rock? Me. Yeah, I’m a big fucking pussy. The story – I, a punk of twenty, and my roommate/bass player at the time had heard that the Dropkick Murphys were playing three hours from town on their way through to something else. (They hadn’t stopped in our town.) The show was unscheduled and in an abandoned warehouse in Pocatello, ID. Through the punk network, such as it is, the kids turned out from far and wide, some of them driving all day to see this show, which was to be The Randumbs, The Ducky Boys, Oxymoron, and the Dropkick Murphys. It also had a good chance of being shut down by the cops. We scraped together our literal last dimes for gas and cigarettes, and arrived at the show. It was jammed. There were so many kids in the pit that there was condensation literally running down the brick walls of the warehouse near the makeshift stage. The vibe that night was palpable, almost a breathable, tangible gel. At any rate, the first three bands were incredible, and just as DM was about to take the stage, all the lights and sound cut out. Pandemonium. Everyone was certain that the show had been shut down. Through the almost pitch-blackness, one could barely make out a figure slowly making its way onto the stage. Confusion set in. We could see that whomever was taking the stage was confined to a wheelchair, and holding something large. Over the din, as he takes the stage we hear, as clear as an angel’s voice, the unmistakable sounds of a bagpipe. Amazing Grace. A cigarette lighter popped on in the crowd, then another, then hundreds. Picture 750 sweating, tattooed, pierced, mohawked punk kids holding their lighters up, mesmerized, and all crying together as the kid finished the hymn. Most of us had tears streaming down our faces. As the final strains of Amazing Grace faded out, the spotlight popped on and we heard the first words a capella… “Face down in the gutter, won’t admit defeat…” Barroom heroes. The room exploded into cheers choked by sobs; the sound of pure, unadulterated joy. It was a sound I have only had the privelege of hearing once or twice.

That was the single greatest punk rock moment I have ever had the privelege of witnessing. I still cry thinking of it to this day.

10. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Get Up And Jump” (Album: Compilation: The Worst of Total Anarchy)

Why a pop-funk song made it onto a compilation entitled “The Worst of Total Anarchy” is beyond me, but I’ll take a stab. (It was, of course, originally on their 1984 self-titled album.) This is an early RHCP effort, combining the best of their funkiness with a great pop vibe. I love the way the bass is played on this one. Again, not my favorite RHCP song, but still a good one. The closest they’ve come to recapturing the same vibe exemplified in this song in recent years, in my opinion, was their cover of “Love Roller Coaster”, done for the “Beavis and Butthead Do America” soundtrack. At some point, they gave up the funk-rock vibe for a good part, and did a lot of funk-flavored alternative. It wasn’t a change I minded, as “Blood Sugar Sex Majik” remains one of my favorite albums. It’s another one I’ve had to replace several times. “Get Up And Jump”, however, is a stellar reminder of what pioneers the Red Hot Chili Peppers originally were. A classic.

Well, there you have it, folks. Comment away on your impressions (I’d love to know), or you can just laugh at what a pussy I am.

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