soundtrack contenders for 2006

After the runaway success of my 2005 compilation not a crazy frog in sight, work has already begun on my 2006 compilation. I’m going to keep a running tally of the candidates, and then narrow it down when December comes. So while you’ll get a sneak preview here, you won’t know the final tracklist until you receive it. I even have a tentative title, but you won’t get that until then either.

Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell: I’ve been wanting some Joni Mitchell since Adam Duritz, lead singer of Counting Crows, mentioned her as a significant influence – in fact, her album Blue is his favourite album ever. So when I saw her best of at Kmart for $2.50, I figured it was money well spent…and how. Sure, it’s over-earnest 1970’s folk, but she has a voice like an angel and some really great tunes. And when the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is your daughter Chelsea, and the cd alarm clock goes off and plays “Woke up it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I heard/Was the sun outside my window…” it just works.

Out of Control – U2: I’ve had to learn this year that life is totally out of your control, and the more you can come to grips with that and live into it rather than trying to desperately wrest control back, the more you truly live…not only is that true of life, but of concerts too. When U2 postponed their Australian tour scheduled for March, it was incredibly disappointing, but well and truly out of my control. They’ll be back in November though, and this song has been on regular rotation at their shows, so I’m hoping they’ll play it. Has a baseline and tempo to get the heart thumping.

In Bloom – Nirvana: “He’s the one who likes all the pretty songs, and he likes to sing along…” I found the Nirvana best of at the library and dang if it doesn’t bring back a whole lotta memories for me of high school and the moods that surrounded it. Although, as the conversation in The Simpsons went:

Lisa: It may be bleak, but this music is really getting to the crowd.
Bart: Eh, making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Give It Up – Hothouse Flowers: I’m seeing these guys tomorrow – woo hoo! – and have had their first three albums on heavy rotation as a result. They were pretty much the first band I got into, before U2 even (although U2 were partly responsible for making them famous), and so it reminds me of that time. The lyrics of this one are just great:

I’m coming face to face with my conscience
Coming to an understanding of myself
Clear out all the old cobwebs
Clear the old books from the shelf

This song is inspired by a good man and his tune
Thinking good of others, sing Amazing Grace to you
It doesn’t really matter if you’re all jumbled up inside
As long as you know love is as endless as the world is wide

Just so optimistic, and positive, and the music reflects that…and goodness knows they have their share of depressing songs, so it’s nice for a change.

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn: It’s not necessarily specifically or exclusively a this-year song, although I’ve probably heard it more this year than any other year, it’s just a dead-set classic. Seriously, it’s one of the best songs ever written. I mean, if you have to have only one hit in your lifetime, like Marc Cohn, make it this good. Never fails to move me – the music just sounds like what it’s describing. A whole thesis could be written on the line, “She said ‘Tell me are you a Christian, child?’ and I said ‘Ma’am I am tonight!'”

I Can See Clearly Now – Hothouse Flowers: Ok, it’s a cover, but it’s a classic cover…this would probably be the Hothouse Flowers song most people would be familiar with. And seriously, when it goes to double-time, you just can’t help feeling like the world is an ok place to be.

More to come.

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born in the USA

One of my Christmas presents was The Essential Bruce Springsteen three cd compilation. It stretches over his whole career to this date, more than 20 years of music.

One of the songs that struck me afresh was ‘Born in the USA’. I was introduced to this song when it first came out in the mid 80s, and I have strong memories of the album cover, the one with the picture of his butt in blue jeans with a red cap hanging out of the pocket, and the US flag as a backdrop.

born in usa

The repeated chorus of “Born in the USA” combined with that album cover and the growing American confidence in their victory in the Cold War gave this song a powerfully pro-American slant for me. It just seemed to scream jingoistic US patriotism.

So it wasn’t until the weekend that I actually listened to the words:

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
‘Til you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said “Son don’t you understand”

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go

I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

‘Born in the USA’, it turns out, is dripping with a melancholy sarcasm. Forced into the army, and sent off to fight on behalf of his country, he returns to find that his country no longer wants him, and all of the patriotic zeal with which he was reassured is for naught. What his country stands for – freedom, opportunity – is denied him despite his risking his life for its cause.

But the reference to Khe Sanh caused me to reflect on that other (less officially recognised) patriotic song, although this time Australian – Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh. It’s been called Australia’s ‘unofficial national anthem’ (and let’s face it, it’s no more or less appropriate than ‘Waltzing Matilda’, a song about a suicidal thief). But lest we think that Americans are the only ones who are sucked in by jingoistic patriotism, let’s check the words of Cold Chisel’s offering:

I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the blackmarket man
I’ve had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it’s only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-dayheroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
Saw an old friend but couldn’t kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains

And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypackets lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novacaine

So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m drifting north, to check things out again

You know the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I’ll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain’t nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I’m gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And it’s really got me worried
I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone

Again, the same story. The sentiments “Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go” and “I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry” are almost identical. Two songs that have been co-opted as patriotic jingles, neither of which fit that mould in the slightest. In fact, both of them are scathing in their assessment of their country of origin – and both as a result of their citizens’ reactions to Vietnam War veterans. I found this to be a fascinating parallelism, not only because of the way it demonstrates that songs can be co-opted or misappropriated (deliberately or by ignorance), but also because one of our members is a son of a Vietnam Vet who has gone through a very similar experience, and it has affected not only his life, but that of his children in a very deep and profound way.

All of this sits awkwardly with the current political climate, with Born in the USA potentially traitorous under the US Patriot Act, and Khe Sanh potentially undermining the state according to the new Australian sedition laws. We would do well to let these songs sit as they were originally intended – as critical commentaries on the injustices prevalent in two of the most advanced democracies in the world. And we should encourage more critical commentary, always being wary of how such commentary can be co-opted by blind patriotism.

Not a crazy frog in sight: Simon’s soundtrack 2005

I finally did my soundtrack to 2005 compilation disc, entitled “not a crazy frog in sight”, and here’s the tracklist:

1. Ben Lee – Gamble Everything for Love
2. Lifehouse – Unknown
3. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
4. Midnight Oil – My Country
5. Ramones – It’s Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)
6. U2 – Love and Peace or Else
7. Jason Mraz – Curbside Prophet
8. Counting Crows – Sullivan St (with Did She Wanna Run alts)
9. Missy Higgins – Nightminds
10. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew
11. Ben Lee – Desire (B-side of Gamble Everything For Love single)
12. Jess McAvoy – Easy
13. Powderfinger – Don’t Wanna Be Left Out
14. Ben Lee – Catch My Disease

seriously, it’s the best way to reflect on your year. try it sometime.

actually, that reminds me of the Nick Hornby quote from Hi Fidelity about mixed tapes.

“To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again…A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention…and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs…oh, there are loads of rules.”