A Few (Okay, 100+) of My Top Songs

My dear Twitter and real life friend, @jtvancouver, recently challenged her followers to name 100 of their favourite songs. I wasn’t going to participate, because I kind of suck at the whole “favourites” thing for all kinds of reasons, some of which are profoundly and tediously philosophical, and some having more to do with a personality defect most easily summarized in layman’s terms as the “couldn’t make up her mind which lifeboat to choose if she were trying to escape the sinking Titanic” syndrome. 

As I thought about it, though, all these songs kept clawing their way through the general fog in my brain saying, “But what about me? I’m one of your favourites, aren’t I? What’s up? You ashamed of me or something?” 

And I’d say, “Well, you know, you’re quite delightful, really, and I do love bouncing around the kitchen with you while I’m making dinner, but fab as you are, I’m not so very sure you’re top 100 material. Frankly, love you as I do, I’m not even sure you’d make it to the top 500 shortlist. No offence.”

Because, people, there are a bazillion songs out there–possibly more–thousands of which, as it turns out, I’m very fond. It became clear very quickly that narrowing the field down to a paltry 100 top songs would require weeks of listening and re-listening, superhuman feats of organization  and spreadsheeting, and possibly a tarot deck and a divining rod.(Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why I don’t do favourites.) 

And then I realized that a simple preposition and a re-positioning of terms could strip all the stress and angst out of the whole traumatic process: instead of my top 100 songs, I could list 100 of my top songs. Boom! Now that I can do. And have done. Even this was stupidly difficult, and you’ll notice that I’ve cheated repeatedly. 

100 of My Top Songs
(at this particular moment in time, subject to change within the next 20 seconds)

Note: These songs are listed in entirely random order. I do like some more than others, but you won’t be able to ascertain which from their position in the list. Unless you’re psychic, in which case, can I please hire you to make all my decisions about favourites from now on?
  1. Arcade Fire – No Cars Go. Love this band — they’re fresh, original, thoughtful, playful, and able to tackle serious themes without being boring or ponderous 
  2. The Stooges – Gimme Danger (I’m also a fan of Ewan MacGregor’s version from Velvet Goldmine) 
  3. Iggy Pop – I’m Bored. There are better Iggy Pop songs, but this one always amuses me, and there are days when it runs through my head on a never-ending loop
  4. Feist – Well, the obvious choice is 1234, which grabbed me from the first time I heard it on that iPod commercial, but I’m going with How Come You Never Go There
  5. James Morrison – Nothing Ever Hurt Like You, because his voice is amazing and the emotional rush of the song i
  6. Neil Young – The Needle and the Damage Done
  7. Neil Young – Southern Man and still going strong with songs like Let’s Impeach the President and Grey Riders
  8. Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna and It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding
  9. Bob Dylan – One More Cup of Coffee, I didn’t find a good video link, but if you’re interested, White Stripes also did a fabulous version of this
  10. Bob Dylan – I love both the original version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and the version Dylan did with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  11. Led Zeppelin – In My Time of Dying
  12. Florence and the Machine – The Be Good Tanyas –  The Littlest Bird, a song that never fails to charm me
  13. The Cowboy Junkies – This Street, That Man, This Life
  14. The Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane
  15. Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me – What can I say? Makes me cry every single time, but it was hard to choose between it and Angel from Montgomery
  16. The Clash – I was torn between two songs, both rock classics, London Calling and Should I Stay or Should I Go? –I’m going with the former. 🙂
  17. Elvis Costello – The thing about Elvis C. is that he’s a writer’s song writer. Or this writer’s songwriter, anyway. His lyrics are complex, insightful, sometimes lyrical, frequently pointed, and the way he melds the words and the melodies is pure genius. No one writes like Elvis Costello, and it’s stupid to even try and pare down to one song. Instead, I’m forced to go with the song I’ve listened to most recently, which makes it Oliver’s Army, from his Armed Forces album. You may be interested to know that the bonus track on that album (well, the track thrown in at the last minute, anyway) was Costello’s version of the Nick Lowe song, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, a passionate, compelling, furious call for the world to give its head a shake. As relevant today as when he released it back in the 70s. And, you know, as I listen to it right now, I might go out on a limb and say, yeah, I think this might actually be one of my actual top 100.
  18. Elvis Costello – While I’d never describe this as one of my favourites, I do sing the chorus to myself on a regular basis as a motivator to get back to the writing: Every Day I Write the Book
  19. Dire Straits – So beautifully atmospheric, evocative and sad: Brothers In Arms
  20. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss – This song always manages to pull a smile out of me; two major talents collaborating, something which can go horribly awry, goes wonderfully right this time: Gone Gone Gone
  21. Leonard Cohen – Again, it’s ridiculous to pull one LC song out of his vast body of work. I love almost every song and poem he’s written, but I’m going to choose this one because it’s not one of his songs that tends to get a lot of airplay. From his classic Songs from a Room album,  The Old Revolution
  22. The New Pornographers – Witty, funny, delightful, beautifully crafted: Myriad Harbour
  23. The New Pornographers – Your Hands (Together)
  24. The Eagles – Again, I’m going with the obvious choice: Hotel California (while confessing an abiding love for Desperado and Just Another Tequila Sunrise)
  25. Jeff Buckley – There are a good three billion and four versions of this song out there in songland, but Buckley’s Hallelujah is my favourite (although it’s hard to choose, given Leonard Cohen’s haunting original, not to mention K.D. Lang’s and Rufus Wainwright’s unforgettable renditions)
  26. Paul Simon – Seriously, is it possible to choose just one Paul Simon song? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. My only option here is to cheat a little (or a big honking lot) and count the entire Graceland album as one song. In the interests of space, though, I’ll restrict myself to two links: Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al (because any song with the line “I ducked back down the alley with a roly poly little bat-faced girl” has surely earned a spot in anyone’s top 100). And as for all the other albums, what can I say? Another day, another list.
  27. Tom Petty – Lovely, yearning, there’s something about Wildflowers that makes a person’s heart sing
  28. Joni Mitchell – Another brilliant songwriter. This is another of those songs that’s like a kick in the guts every time you hear it: River
  29. The Killers – All These Things I’ve Done
  30. The Pogues – Streets of Sorrow and Thousands are Sailing from Rum, Sodomy and the Lash are songs I go listen to again and again. I love a song that can tell a truly sad story without tipping over into the realm of maudlin. (Although I can go for a bit of maudlin, too, from time to time.) 
  31. The Pogues – Thousands are Sailing
  32. Van Morrison – I’d like to include almost every song on Astral Weeks (including  Madame George), but I’ll restrict myself to the title song 
  33. Van Morrison – Into the Mystic
  34. Justin Timberlake – What Goes Around (although I’m also very fond of Bringing Sexy Back)
  35. Spirit of the West – Home for a Rest
  36. Kate and Anna McGarrigle – Sweet, sad, lovely: Heart Like a Wheel
  37. The Roches – Okay, so Mr. Sellack may not be up there with some of the other songs on this list, but it never fails to resonate (or to make me smile)
  38. My Chemical Romance – I loved their Black Parade album, and it’s hard to narrow the choice down to one track. I’m going with Disenchanted (and if you don’t like that, maybe you’d prefer I Don’t Love You or Teenagers
  39. Don Henley – The End of the Innocence 
  40. Patsy Cline – With Patsy, it’s a tie between Crazy and I Fall to Pieces. You be the judge.
  41. Tom Waits – Couldn’t find a link with visuals for Blind Love, but it’s too gut-wrenchingly raw and beautiful to leave off the list 
  42. Tom Waits – Downtown Train always fills me with such a sense of yearning and loss
  43. Lyle Lovett – No words to describe the love I feel for this wonderful, whimsical song: If I Had a Boat
  44. Eurythmics – Here Comes the Rain Again (although it was hard not to choose Sweet Dreams)
  45. Annie Lennox – Walking on Broken Glass
  46. Radiohead – Separator
  47. Soul Asylum – Runaway Train (okay, so maybe it’s a tad on the sappy side, but I love it anyway; sue me)
  48. Bauhaus –  And on the completely non-sappy side, Bela Lugosi’s Dead 
  49. Bauhaus –  The Dog’s a Vapour
  50. Kurt Vile – Runner Ups, which if for no other reason would have to make the list on the strength of the line “If it ain’t working, take a whizz on the world”
  51. Lady Gaga – One of the things I appreciate about Lady Gaga is her multi-dimensional approach to pop music; song, theatre, fashion, performance art:  Bad Romance has ’em all.
  52. The Rolling Stones – Plundered My Soul
  53. Neil Young – Love and War
  54. The Gaslight Anthem – The Diamond Church Street Choir
  55. Patti Smith – The studio version of Horses was amazing, but I found this live performance on YouTube which also knocked my socks off.
  56. Patti Smith – And then, of course, the classic and unforgettable Gloria
  57. Jakob Dylan – Nothing But the Whole Wide World
  58. David Bowie – Another one of those artists who has to be on the list, but it’s impossible to choose just one or two songs. Several of his albums are on my all-time favourites list (including, but not limited to, Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, The Lodger, Scary Monsters, and more recently, Heathen). He’s also been cited as an influence by several other bands on my list. I’ll limit myself to three. First, Rock and Roll Suicide, although I love the whole Ziggy Stardust album. 
  59. David Bowie – Future Legend/Diamond Dogs
  60. David Bowie – a newer song, I’ve Been Waiting for You
  61. Best Coast – Boyfriend
  62. The Dead Weather – Hustle and Cuss
  63. Arcade Fire – We Used to Wait
  64. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
  65. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
  66. Queen –  Well, Bohemian Rhapsody, of course, but I also love the soaring vocals in It’s a Hard Life 
  67. Unchained Melody – Another one of those songs that people love to cover, my favourites being the versions by  Cindy Lauper, The Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbison and U2 , probably in that order (although sometimes not)
  68. Phil Phillips and the Twilights – Sea of Love (also love the Iggy Pop and Tom Waits versions)
  69. Brian Eno – King’s Lead Hat (his ambient music is equally amazing, but possibly doesn’t fit the intent of this challenge — but just in case you’re interested, check out Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel – 1: Fullness of Wind)
  70. Amy Winehouse – Our Day Will Come (but it was hard to decide between this song and Just Friends)
  71. Bruce Springsteen – Impossible to choose but, much as it pains me, I’ve narrowed it down to three songs I keep going back to. First, Born to Run narrowly squeaks out Thunder Road
  72. Bruce Springsteen – Next up, The River 
  73. Bruce Springsteen – And finally, one of his newer songs, The Rising
  74. Band of Horses – The Funeral
  75. Macy Gray – I Try
  76. Joan Baez – Plaisir d’Amour 
  77. Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust
  78. The Dandy Warhols – Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth
  79. Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
  80. Live – All Over You
  81. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
  82. Nathan – When I first heard the song Scarecrow, it sounded like the chorus went: “I feel the Pokemon under my feet.” It doesn’t. 🙂 
  83. U2 – Every song on the Joshua Tree, but  I’ll link to With or Without You and Pride
  84. U2 –  Moment of Surrender. Or, wait a minute. What about Beautiful Day?
  85. The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (and Lola, of course)
  86. Kathleen Edwards – An unlikely title for the perfect driving song: Change the Sheets
  87. Lou Reed – Take a Walk on the Wild Side
  88. Lou Reed –  Romeo Had Juliette,
  89. Lou Reed & Elvis Costello – Set the Twilight Reeling 
  90. James Blake – Love his version of Feist’s Limit to Your Love 
  91. Sons of Granville – This classical/rock group don’t seem to have a video out yet, but you can check out April Song (and others) on their Facebook page 
  92. The Black Crowes – She Talks to Angels
  93. Barenaked Ladies – I know it’s a Bruce Cockburn classic, but I prefer the BL’s version: Lover’s in a Dangerous Time
  94. Barenaked Ladies – What a Good Boy
  95. The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated. I mean, duh. Who doesn’t love this song?
  96. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
  97. The Head and the Heart – Just discovered this band recently, and I love the beautiful vocal harmonies they bring to their songs; case in point:  Lost in My Mind
  98. Dirty Beaches – Another recent discovery for me; deliciously retro, dark and haunting: Lord Knows Best
  99. The Civil Wars – Again with the beautiful harmonizing: Poison and Wine
  100. Clem Snide – Ironic, witty, eccentric, Something Beautiful always makes me all kinds of happy

Fairy Ring Writing Contest Submission

This is my entry into the fabulous Anna Meade’s Fairy Ring Writing Contest. The rules were simple: 300 words or less of flash fiction describing a fictional or non-fictional first-person encounter with a fairy. 

Green Grow the Rushes
Gran disappeared the summer I turned seven. She’d gone into the garden to pick snap peas for supper and hadn’t returned. 
‘She probably wandered off into the woods,” my mother told the police, weeping into the blue checked tea towel.
“Don’t you worry,” my father said to me a couple of weeks later when the search was called off and all the neighbours had gone home. “They’ll bring her back, or she’ll find her own way back. It’s just a matter of time.”

Every morning after breakfast, I’d hurry to the bottom of the garden to see if Gran had managed to find her way back from Fairyland. I’d look behind the hydrangeas and peer under the wild rose bushes, holding the treacherous branches back with a broom. Sometimes I’d venture as far as the first line of pine trees in the woods, and I’d listen for the crunch of her footfalls on the parched pine needles and yellowed grass that covered the ground.

One day my father followed, tiptoeing down the path behind me, ducking behind the garden shed when I stopped to unlatch the gate, and then slipping out after me into the sunbaked forest.
I waited for him by the dried up creek.

Jocelyn,” he said, crouching beside me. “Sweetheart, you know you’re not allowed to come here by yourself. Are you still missing your Gran?”

The rushes that still hung in forlorn hope over the creek bed shivered, and I knew it was time. I beckoned for him to lean down, and I kissed his dear stubbled cheek.

Over his shoulder I could see the fairy’s pale white hands parting the rushes.

Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll take good care of you in Fairyland.”