A short list of songs that changed my life – part 1

There are many, many songs that have altered my life in some way or another – but some of them have a special impact on me. I’ve tried to list them all, but of course, there are too many. Still, there are a few that stand out. And of course, I can make a list of others when the time comes. But for now, I’ve selected a handful of songs to share. Maybe these songs will change your lives as well.

REM – Stand: I’ve written about the significance of this song before, but it is such a significant song to my musical appreciation and development, I had to include this song in the list. The story goes like this: I was riding my bike some Sunday afternoon in the mid 80s. I’m listening to a pop station on my headphones, and they played this song. The excitement I felt was so immeasurable. It was so amazing. I loved this song from the first verse. A week or two later, I heard one of my classmates talking about this song negatively. Other classmates nodding in agreement. It was clear, this was not what my peers deemed to be a cool song. And yet….I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I loved a song that wasn’t popular with my peers and I was proud of liking this song.
Interestingly enough, my classmates aren’t the only people who don’t like this song. Micheal Stipe wrote the lyrics as a joke – trying to write the most inane lyrics possible. Peter Buck says it’s the stupidest song REM has ever written. I still don’t care. I stand on my opinion on the song stand, and no one can change my mind.

TLC – Waterfalls: I actually didn’t know this song existed until I heard the Weird Al Parody, “Phony Calls.” In fact, it was the first current song that Weird Al parodied in which I didn’t actually know. I listened to the proper song and, well, I won’t say the song sucks – but I certainly knew I didn’t like the song. Not in any way shape or form. I would rather have a root canal than to listen to that song again. Even now, I’ve tried to listen to it and I’m just baffled that other people actually like(d) this song. That’s not to come against anyone’s taste in music – I would be a hypocrite if I said it was a bad song and you should feel bad for liking it, but I still hate this song and I’m more than ok with that. But why is it such a life changing song to me? Like I said, I discovered it through the Weird Al Parody. It was really the first parody of his I didn’t actually recognize – so it served as an enlightening moment. I hadn’t been paying attention to pop radio for a few years by the time I heard the song – but I didn’t quite realize how far removed I was from what was popular until I heard this song. And just like I was ok with liking Stand, I was just as ok with not even knowing Waterfalls.

My Bloody Valentine – Sometimes: If you were to ask me what my favorite song is, my answer would be Sometimes by My Bloody Valentine. I had heard it before the mid 2000s, but I didn’t really absorb it till about that point. It was a very dark and lonely time in my life, but when I heard this song, I fell in love with it. After hearing the song, I was inspired to write something on LiveJournal: I don’t need a job, I don’t need a girlfriend, I’ve got good music! While I did need a job in actuality, and while this song did not in fact cure my loneliness – it reset me. It took me to another place. It made me not focus on the darkness of life – but rather the beauty of the music. This song, even today, is still a song that resets my mood.

New Order – Ceremony: This song is also one that resets my mood, but not in the same way as Sometimes. While Sometimes makes me accept and not care about the world around me, Ceremony is a song that brings me hope and drive. When I hear “I’ll break them down, no Mercy shown, heaven knows it’s got to be this time,” I feel like the song is my own personal cheerleader. After all, the song is about just needing, just being desperate for something to click – despite the fact that every other time before things have failed. To be fair, some may not interpret this song as a song of hope – but I do. This song is always going to be about hope despite my situation, despite all that’s happened….despite the fact that I’ve tried a million times before and fallen on my face. This song is about that one time I tried and instead of falling on my face, I succeeded.

Tears for Fears – Sowing the Seeds of Love: The last two songs were about bringing hope. Sowing the Seeds of love, however, is all about optimism. It’s not a boost to my mood, it’s more of a slow and steady attitude that I keep. But it’s not just my attitude – this song isn’t just about me. This song is about everyone. This song is about society, and our collective hopes and dreams – this song is about being excellent to each other even when those who have power over society are less than excellent to us. This song is all about love – and as Lennon put it, all you need is love. There’s more to this song than simple lyrics mind you – the trumpet at the end, the orchestration throughout the song, the different sections we encounter through the song – I won’t call it a journey as I personally hate that metaphor – but the song does bring you on a casual afternoon drive on a sunny day with your sweetheart.

Donald Byrd – You and the Music: Some would say a song about music is something we should avoid. While I say it is a subject one should approach with caution, a song about music is a song about passion. After all – music is a way to express passion – so why not go meta? That is exactly what happens with Mr Byrd’s You and the Music. The song really sums up how I feel about music in general. Sometimes a song is fun, and it just makes me want to dance. Sometimes a song inspires my passions, and it makes me want romance. Sometimes the song captures me and won’t let me go – it puts me in a trance. Honestly – this song does all three to me. This song really describes my passion, my desire, and my very need for music. Any song that can put these things into words deserves a spot on this list!

Joan Jett - Bad ReputationJoan Jett – Bad Reputation: Sometimes you just want a song about rebellion. A bunch of loud guitars, a I don’t give a ….. attitude, and just plain old rock and freaking roll. This provides just that. It isn’t against anything in particular, and that’s what makes this song great. This is a song that expresses pure emotion – the emotion might not be filtered through our logical senses, it might not know why it’s happening, but then again, emotions aren’t about logic anyways. Deal with it! Cry if you want to cry, yell if you want to yell, laugh if you want to laugh. And yes – it’s all about a bad reputation the speaker of the song supposedly has, but maybe that’s an undeserved bad reputation to begin with! I suppose this song accomplishes the same thing as Mr Byrd’s You and the Music, only limited to a specific genre. Some would view this as a lesser song – but considering rock and roll tends to be my favorite genre, I refuse to take sides on the issue.

Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company: I discovered this song after I broke up with a girl. I had never actually been the person who stops a relationship, so a wave of new emotions and feelings came over me. As I listened to this song, it’s sometimes conflicting journey, I realized this song was about those feelings I was experiencing. It made me feel normal. It made me feel human. I realized I wasn’t a monster. Most of all, I realized this is how every girl who broke up with me felt. I wanted to give them all a great big hug and tell them how much I understood.

This song earned a permanent place in my musical rotation. A little more than a year passed and I found someone else. As this song came up, on random shuffle, I realized this song isn’t about breaking up, but it’s actually about the process of falling for a new person – the mistakes you’ll make in the process, the uncertainty, and the general craziness of it all. I found myself making these mistakes, and realizing that it was ok – because the girl I fell for wasn’t running.

So….now I have two conflicting interpretations of what is this song about? Is it about breaking up? Is it about falling in love? Maybe it’s about both. Or maybe it’s just a song that is exactly what you need it to be.

Belle_&_Sebastian_-_I'm_A_CuckooBelle and Sebastian – I’m a Cuckoo: Sometimes a relationship isn’t just about two people – it’s about an entire group. And When one leaves that group, it’s essentially breaking up with them. Sometimes these groups can be informal groups, sometimes they’re formal like that of a job or a church. I left a church I had been at for probably fifteen years. I realized I just couldn’t fake it anymore – I just didn’t fit. I felt bad, there were a lot of people that I loved and cherished there, but I knew it was what I had to do. At about that time, I bought Belle and Sebastian’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and found the song “I’m a cuckoo. The song is a reminiscence of someone the speaker of the song obviously cares about, but had to separate themselves from. It’s both apologizing to the person – but it also recognizes the problems of the relationship and why it was just best they both move on without each other. I’ve already said that a song will capture your emotions of the time, so I feel like I’m repeating myself with this song. But I’m a Cuckoo really did say exactly what I wanted, what I needed to say to the group I left behind.

On and On – Stephen Bishop; What a fool believes- The Doobie Brothers; Say a little prayer – Dionne Warwick: I’m lumping these three songs together, and there’s probably more that deserve to be in this section. These were songs that I heard when I was really young, and somehow set a spark for me. It’s hard to even put a finger about what they said to me at age four or five, but they said something. It wasn’t their lyrics either – it was the melodies, the music, the sounds, and the overall feeling I got while hearing them. Even now, I’m brought back to this primal feeling when I hear any of these songs. My girlfriend had an interesting theory – these songs were my lullabies. It makes sense. A lot of the songs mentioned in this article are all about knowing things were going to be alright. There were certainly times, even in my young life, I needed to know this. And isn’t that what a lullaby does? Doesn’t it tell the listener that everything is going to be alright? That the monsters under your bed aren’t going to attack you in the middle of the night. Perhaps all of the songs on this list are a lullaby. Sure, I’ve grown past the beliefs of monsters under the bed (though I am still a little afraid of the dark). But sometimes I just need to know everything is going to be alright. Most of these songs in this article can be linked to a time that where everything worked out fine, despite the monsters under my bed – despite the monsters in the world.

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