Round 2 for February. What will come up on the shuffle? I have no clue. But let’s start!
“Sway”, Blue October: This came out four years ago. When you get married, you can fall into the same routines. Couples do this all the time. Make time for each other even if you have a billion things going on.
“If Anyone Falls”, Stevie Nicks: 1983. For some reason, I consider this one of the “big” music years for me. It seemed like every band that was out there had music out that year. At least to a teenage kid. Nicks sultry voice captured many fans between Fleetwood Mac and her solo work. People listening to this song now probably think “Damn, they used a lot of keyboards back then.” It was all synth back then. Even Van Halen went through a stint.
“Messiah”, The Farm: I miss The Farm. They had three albums out in the early 1990s and vanished into obscurity. I remember driving back from my friends Jerry and Rich’s apartment one night when I first heard this song. I was driving off the Blue Route in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The sun was setting on a warm June night. Or was it July, I don’t remember. I always think of that sunset when I hear this song.
“Rio”, Duran Duran: Another blast from the 1983 past! Duran Duran came out just as MTV was getting really big. “Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it’s very nice.” I don’t know what the hell they are talking about but the chorus just flows from the lips when you are alone in your car and you hear this on an “oldies” station.
“This Time Of Year”, Better Than Ezra: One of my faves from 1995. I went through a period of about two months that fall when I had to be VERY patient. It was tough. I used the time to my advantage and attempted to learn Swedish before I moved there. I don’t know why this song reminds me of that. All those index cards and books trying to learn this language. I didn’t do too bad. When I got to Sweden no one knew what the heck I was saying. My tone probably sounded like I was from Mars or something. This is in a country where everyone knows English, except in the places you really need it: banks, doctor offices, girlfriend’s parents house, etc.
“Breathing Underwater”, Metric: We all have these times, when the pressures of life just mount and build up. Before you know it you reach a point where you feel stuck and trapped in the deep vastness of it all. If you aren’t careful, you can get stuck in this rut. That’s when you need to reach out to those around you. Never be afraid to ask for help. Or a listening ear. And never ignore someone when they ask the same of you.
“Please Don’t Go”, KC & The Sunshine Band: I am not afraid to admit this was the first record I ever bought. Well, the 45 that is. It was late 1979. Truth be told, I didn’t actually buy it. A bunch of us in our neighborhood went Christmas caroling (does anyone do that anymore?) and after, there was a party at our house with Hot Chocolate and cookies. There was a gift exchange. I really, really wanted to get this as my present. I remember the days after I got it, just spending time in my bedroom playing this song over and over again. Singing very loud. Probably too loud for the rest of my poor family. I always loved the ballads. Not sure why.
“The Gambler”, Kenny Rogers: The song is better than the movie. Another song from the same era as the last song. I loved living in Roanoke, VA. It was only four years, but all of us in the neighborhood were like family. At least the way I remember it. Everyone eventually left. But it was a great time in my life. Innocence…
“You Will Leave A Mark”, A Silent Film: The beginning of this song is crazy! A slow piano bit and then it just opens up and kicks ass all over the place. This came out in 2010. A time of reflection and what I call the slow learn. I used to spend way too much money on an old comic book hobby. This was the last gasp of that bad hobby. Not that I don’t read them from time to time, but this was the beginning of the end of a habit gone wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it took me a long time to realize why I engaged in this activity. I realize those answers now and I made peace with it a long time ago.
“Angel Dust”, New Order: Speaking of synth music, New Order was the king of it back in the day! I didn’t get into them until 1986 when Brotherhood came out, but I still remember hearing this song and just being amazed at what a band could really do with a synthesizer. Go on Youtube and listen to “alternative music” from the old days.
“Time Of Our Lives”, Paul Van Dyk: During the early summer of 2004, I spent a lot of time inside my house. Jacob was only a few months old. HBO always has awesome songs when they do a trailer of all their shows and movies. I heard this and spent the next few days trying to figure out who sang this. It took forever! Deb and Jacob left California about six days before I did. I stayed back and finished packing, made sure our cars got towed, and stuck around that last day for the movers (which came a day late). I rented a car during the last few days. One day I had some time to myself so I just drove around the Imperial Valley. I played this song a lot. When I dropped the car off at the airport, I remember the check-out guy asking if I enjoyed my stay. I said “Yes I did!” It was an almost four year stay. I got married and had a child when I lived there. Of course I enjoyed my stay!
“Flight of the Snowbirds”, David Foster: I’ve spoken on past shuffles about how I fell into a depression in the Fall of 1990. As hard as it was, digging out of it was an interesting time. That moment when you realize it is over and life can begin again is one I will always remember. It was snowing out and I put this instrumental song on. It just seemed perfect for that moment. It was a new beginning.
“I Grieve”, Peter Gabriel: The first time I heard this song was when “City of Angels” came out in 1998. That movie haunted me, but in a good way. I often wonder if angels are on Earth like they were in that movie. Watching over us. Coaxing us in moments when we need them the most but don’t realize it. A gentle push here or an awakening moment there. I still remember when the little girl died in the movie. An angel asked her what she liked the most here and she said “Pajamas”.
“People Are People”, Depeche Mode: This was one of those songs that got a lot of airplay back in the 80s. It was just kind of there. Years later I actually listened to the lyrics and they were brilliant! Things like racism and discrimination have always bothered me. We all live on the same planet. We all bleed the same blood. When this song came out, the Uncanny X-Men was the best selling comic in the country. If you’ve seen the movies, you know the X-Men are mutants. People feared and hated them. They were bullied and even killed. It was the comic equivalent of what this country did to black people for centuries. Laugh if you want, but I think that comic instilled my hatred of people hating other people. “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man help me understand.”
“Tom Sawyer”, Rush: If you listened to rock music in 1981, this song catapulted Rush to the top of the charts. There are some songs you switch when you hear them on the radio or on a shuffle. This song is not one of them. I listen to it from beginning to end, start to finish. The world is love!
“The Same Moon”, Phil Collins: Never released as a single, I have always felt this song was one of Phil’s best. It holds a very special meaning for me. Once upon a time someone told me something about the moon. It was one of the sweetest and most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me in my life. They say words are just words and actions mean more. But for this memory, the words were the action.
“Time Ago”, Black Lab: When you chase a dream you need to be very careful you aren’t just wanting what you once had. Tricky words and hard to explain. Sometimes, and it really sucks, you can’t get something back that you once had. You can drown in that loss or rise above it and move on.
“Universal Daddy”, Alphaville: The first time I went to Kryptons, the coolest nightclub in Westchester County in the mid to late 1980s, I heard this song. I was with my friend Pete. I wasn’t much of a dancer, but when this song came on I got my groove and went out on the dance floor. I danced the rest of the night (except when my friend Vicki the waitress kept hooking me up with drinks, thank God I didn’t have my driver’s license yet). By the end of the night I was a sweaty mess. But it was fun!
“The Trick Is To Keep Breathing”, Garbage: I actually had a Facebook conversation with someone about this song just last week. Life is funny like that! This song, along with the whole album it came from, Version 2.0, reminds me of a trip I took to visit friends in Sweden in 1999. I left two years earlier and truth be told I broke up with my Swedish girlfriend and moved back to America. Going back there felt very strange. She was engaged and about to get married. I was still bitter about that but I was the one that made the choice to move back. Looking back now, going back was the right thing to do. It helped me to realize I made a choice that was best for all involved.
“Some Nights”, Fun: This song reminds me of Campus Community School. Not the bad memories, but the good ones. When I was teaching the 8th and 9th graders. Mrs. Eldridge and her Brainstormers or whatever she called them. Talking to the kids. Trying to understand this new generation. Once in a while I see one of those students and some remember me, some don’t. Most of them graduated last year. At the time, I gave serious thought about going into teaching. But then things went bad for my son and I lost that desire. And after all I learned about what teachers go through the past few years, no way in hell would I get into teaching in this environment! But some nights I did want to.
“Here Comes The Feeling”, Asia: 1982 and 1983 belonged to Asia in my house. All of us Ohlandt brothers loved this band. I think at one point we each owned their albums separately. No sharing allowed! Funny how that worked out. Nowadays we could just download it from each other’s iPod and save a ton of money.
“Elevation (Influx Remix)”, U2: Have you ever created a situation where a song fits an action? I did that with this song. When I lived out in California, I would take long drives. I remember one Sunday afternoon when I just drove towards a mountain. I wanted to drive up that mountain. So I did. When you see Hollywood movies of people driving along the coast and the windy roads, forget about it! Mount San Jacinto is an interesting place. When you drive up it, there are tons of rock formations. But when you get to the top, pine trees take over the landscape. There are a few lookout spots for drivers where you can see for miles and miles. At the top of the mountain is a town called Idyllwild. It is an artsy type town that is over 5,400 feet above sea level. If you go past the town, there is a lake where folks go camping. I found all this in a day.
“Hear Me”, Imagine Dragons: We all want to be heard. I always think it is very sad when someone can’t get their feelings out. It is humiliating. With that comes a level of decency with how someone gets those feelings out. But all too often when someone feels they aren’t being heard, those feelings become confusing and feel out of control. We are only human. What was once someone not being heard morphs into something bigger and the problems get bigger and bigger.
“You Learn”, Alanis Morissette: A few months after I moved to Sweden, I was on a bus going to my girlfriend’s parents house. She had gone back a couple days earlier. I spent a lot of that time writing a letter to my parents. I remember writing about this song to them in the letter. At the time, I didn’t picture one day leaving the country. It was hard to express that to my parents who were across an ocean.
“The One I Love”, David Gray: Once upon a time I heard this song and thought of Deb and I getting old together. Flash forward eleven years later. Deb and I were at John Carney’s Inaugural Ball. We were on the dance floor and there was this older couple dancing together. I remember saying “That’s us in twenty years.” Time is a tricky beast because that will never happen.
“All We Ever Knew”, The Head & The Heart: I wonder every day what happens next. I just don’t know. A million thoughts swirl through my mind. A million different paths and roads I could take. It is consuming. I miss the days when I could just sit back and enjoy life. But it is a time of responsibility and courage. Of making decisions that seem like the right thing one day and a horrible one the next. Why isn’t this enough? There are things I cannot control. Things where I don’t even factor into the decision-making process. That is the hardest part. Coming to terms with this and having to accept it.