Let me start by saying that this is NOT a ranked list of my favorite songs. What it is though is the result of an exercise I performed where I tried to document my all time favorite song from each letter of the English alphabet, using each letter to represent either the singer or the band. I could find no other example of this exercise on the internet. Some of these were no-brainers for me, for example the letter “G” – Garbage is a band I really love. A few letters gave me heartache, for example the letter “B” – no Beatles song? Am I crazy? Don’t worry, there’s a Lennon song here for you die hard Beatles fans. I just had to count in the classic by Blue Oyster Cult. The letters “X” and “V” were difficult because offhand I could not think of a group or singer beginning with X and the only ones I could think of for V were Bobby Vinton and the Ventures. The entire exercise must have taken me a good 6 hours of effort as I’d make a short list for each letter and then I’d have to imagine hearing each one, trying to figure out which I ‘really’ loved. Then I’d come back to the list the next day and maybe change a letter – “P” was a good example as I think I had a Pink Floyd there for a long time before remembering how much I loved the song Roxanne. Most of these songs have a special memory attached to them for me and I’m sure there are a few in here that you’ve never heard. Maybe give some of them a listen – you might stumble upon a new sound you enjoy. Oh, and I’d challenge you to do this exercise yourself. You’ll find it as difficult as I did, I’m sure. I’m a rock and pop guy – your list might be classical or jazz. That’s ok; music is like food – beauty is in the senses of the beholder. Enjoy:
Fiona Apple – Sleep to Dream
I know, I’m starting off with a ‘weird one’. This takes me to my favorite concert, Fiona in her prime at Taft Theater in Cincinnati. Best concert I ever attended, she was fantastic.
Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper
I think this song has one of the best guitar riffs of all time. Naturally it takes me to SNL and ‘more cowbell’, but I remember it also as the opening tune of the made for TV Stephen King movie – The Stand (awesome book – moon, that spells moon).
Cooper, Alice – I’m Eighteen
Cooper was the very first hard rocker I fell in love with. Listening to him takes me back to my childhood friend Timmy (link) and my very first concert (link). I am quite fond of a memory of singing this song into a microphone while my son played guitar in our basement in Liberty Township, OH.
Dylan, Bob – Like a Rolling Stone
I love the lyrics to songs and I like to sing. I love that Dylan doesn’t always prescribe to ‘norms’ when he writes his lyrics. Dylan takes me to the basement of Mathews house where Diane (link) and Tommy would play records belonging to an older sibling (I think the Dylan collection belonged to the oldest boy, now deceased, but can’t be certain).
Evanescence – Bring Me to Life
What the hell was I thinking? I had originally published this with Victim of Love by the Eagles but realized I missed this song. I f’ing LOVE this song and I’m very fond of live performances so I offer up this awesome performance.
Firefall – Strange Way
Firefall takes me back to early marriage, living in an apartment on Gordon Smith Blvd in Hamilton, playing pitch with Rick and Traci (link). I have a few favorites from this group, but this one is tops. I used to be able to sing the high notes pretty well, but reaching them today is an ear-bleeder.
Garbage – Special
I absolutely love this band! I’m not sure I can describe what it is specifically that I love so well, but I do enjoy good lyrics in Alternative genre. My son Mitch first pointed out this band to me, saying he thought I would like them. That was over 20 years ago. Shirley just turned 50 and she and the band are still going strong. The special memory would have to be my attending their 20 year anniversary concert of their very first album – saw this at The Greek in LA.
Heart – Crazy on You
Heart is a band my wife and I first gelled together on. We’ve seen them perhaps a half dozen times over the past 40 years and they never seem to not deliver. Ann’s vocals are still terrific and Nancy can still play that guitar and move around like she’s 20. I really like the slower acoustic version of this song they put together but the original is still wicked too, definitely a crowd pleaser.
Ivy – Lucy Doesn’t Love You
I discovered Ivy with Ben Stiller’s movie, Something About Mary. They are not very commercially successful, but after trying one of their cd’s, I had to buy them all. I hope you listen and enjoy.
Jackson 5 – I’ll Be There
This song takes me back to simpler times of slow dancing at Wilson Jr High School (link). I debated between I’ll Be There and Who’s Loving You, which I also love.
Knapp, Jennifer – Fallen
Awesome song and awesome story Jennifer has. This song is about a love and being chastised by others because the love does not fall into prescribed norms. I had to be in Cincinnati for business and saw that she was going to perform a free show at a church in Indianapolis so I traveled in early, caught this show (in the very front pew) and then drove north to spend the night with a childhood friend. She told the story of being away for 7 years and I caught her off-guard when after singing this song, I complimented her, saying “that alone was worth 7 years”. It was a special moment and this is a special song.
Lennon, John – Imagine
Well now, who in my age category cannot get a bit choked up when he/she thinks back to a fateful day in December when John’s life was snuffed out. Lennon was a might important poet of my generation and I can still get teary-eyed when I think back on losing him.
Meatloaf – For Crying Out Loud
I guess by now I’m surprising some of you with my diverse preferences in my rock and pop music. I would put the Bat Out of Hell album near the top of my favorite albums list. I love to sing along with songs and I love anthem type theme albums. This live performance will speak for itself. Such emotion and feeling in this performance. I hope you enjoy.
Nirvana – Teen Spirit
Where would a great song list be without Teen Spirit? My oldest boy who is really into music just loved Curt’s music. His death is one of many tragedies in their business. This is perhaps the greatest rock song from the past several decades and I never get tired of it. Only 27 years old, it always makes me think about my boys and heartache, hoping they never get as depressed as Curt must have been.
O’Jays – For the Love of Money
The letter O was a bit of a toughie for me. I had to look up groups and singers beginning with this letter to help me choose but when I saw this song, it became a much easier exercise as this was one of the favorite songs to skate to (link) and to bounce to when we kids would ride with our childhood friend Randy (link).
Police – Roxanne
If you’re not a fan of the Police, I would challenge you to go listen to the soundtrack from Leaving Las Vegas as Sting sings a number of songs. You will hear a very nice voice sing some haunting tunes. I love this song though listening to it always takes me to a Saturday Night Live skit with Sting in an elevator. I would love to be able to sing these high falsetto notes today (Sting probably does too).
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Uh….Wayne’s World, need I say more? The special memory is of my wife and I with another couple, watching this movie in the theater down in Alexandria, Louisiana. Then of course I am whisked away to a happy time of my playing Garth in a skit made for P&G. (You can find this in my videos section if curious).
Rolling Stones – Symphony for the Devil
R was maybe the letter that I struggled with the most because I am quite fond of REM’s Losing My Religion. I actually sang the REM song once in karaoke and did a great job of it, if I do say so myself. Both the REM song and the Rolling Stones song take me back to Louisiana. The REM song because of the time line and the Stones song since it was in the movie Interview with the Vampire written my Anne Rice (who has a great house in the New Orleans Garden District).
Sade – Jezebel
I guess we first heard Sade with Smooth Operator since it got a bit of air time on the radio. The song was enticing enough to want us to buy her albums which Kim and I played to death in the early 80’s. Helen (Sade) cowrote Jezebel with Stuart Matthewman. The sexy saxophone in this song is enough to hook anyone and the song here is one of my all time favorites to listen to again and again. I do hope you listen to this one.
Tommy Tutone – Jenny (867-5309)
Ah, the MTV days. Where would music be without the decade of the 80’s? If you had a video, you could get onto early MTV. Don’t believe me? Do you remember “Fish Heads”? I rest my case. Do you know that any zip code there is a Safeway, there is a club member number with zip-867-5309? This is still a favorite to sing.
U2 – New Year’s Day
This one was an easy for me because I just love this song. I admit that I am not a U2 fanatic, but they have a couple of songs I think are outstanding – this one being a favorite of mine. This song takes me back to the MTV days and of bottle feeding at night when MTV was the only thing on television in the middle of total darkness.
Verve Pipe – The Freshman
I liked this one from the very first time I heard it. The lyrics are crystal clear in the song and from the get-go I knew it was about a girlfriend having an abortion. I love the underlying message in this one too – that when we are young, we are all idiots and we make mistakes…..some that haunt us all our lives. We were only freshmen….
Wonder, Stevie – Living for the City
Skating, skating, skating….when this song would begin, we’d all start to fly around the rink. This was an easy letter for me. (link)
XTC – The Mayor of Simpleton
I heard this song on MTV, down in Louisiana and it reminded me of The Byrds. It just felt like a great pop song and I liked the message that emotions are more important than brains. 🙂
Young, Neil – Old Man
Another easy letter, I like the level of introspection in Young’s music and of course the Jimmy Fallon & Neil Young skit is awesome.
ZZ Top – La Grange
That brings us to Z. ZZ Top always takes me to Terry’s house (link) where we’d blast his stereo full into the night to ZZ Top and Crimson King. I got to watch how incredible Slash is (sober) recently while seeing a Guns N Roses concert in Phoenix. Slash almost stole the show – he is a living legend among guitarists.
Continue growing up? “The trick is to keep breathing” – Garbage