I first heard about Glen Cambell’s album Meet Glen Campbell when listening to Peter Togni’s Weekend on CBC Radio 2. Togni introduced the song in such a complimentary way that I paid particular attention, and bought a digital copy of the album later that day. I was so proud in a way of this effort, having seen the pictures of Campbell after his drunk driving charge and fall into disrepute. This album was such a relevation. It was gothic Nashville mated with modern sensibilities and one of my favorite albums of all time.
I choose his cover of Jackson Browne’s These Days for a couple of reasons. First, it’s just a goddamn whallop of a song, a strong punch straight to the heart. Second, it’s written by Jackson Browne, and I have a lot of time for Jackson Browne. Third, well, it’s kinda awesome, don’t ya think?
I’ll keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten
Please don’t confront me with my failures
I’ve not forgotten them
Another addition to my Death List, this time from Kris Kristofferson, In the News. This is a sad and angry anti-war song from one of the premiere songwriters of the last half of the twentieth century. I remember when I was a student at the University of Saskatchewan and taking a variety of courses, one of which was an introduction to philosophy. We were studying the existentialists, and I wasn’t quite sure about the concept. The day I was introduced to existentialism I went home and was listening to Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby McGee, and thought, my god, there it is. “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” – strip it down and you get the terrible responsibility that comes with “enlightenment”.
In the News comes from This Old Road, which, when it came out, was on heavy rotation at our house. The album was bare-bones, songs from a haggard warrior sharing experience through an acoustic guitar and a raspy, guttural voice. No adornment here but the elevation of a cowboy philosopher passing judgement on his own life and experience.
The song begins with a terrible vision of cruelty, a horrifying glimpse into a dark corner of the human condition. This is a war metaphor – a glimpse into the bent, misshapen contortions that human beings are forced into in times of war. It was timely and necessary when it came out and is timeless in its ferocity.
This one I dedicate to the philosophers.
Read about the sorry way he done somebody’s daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died
Starting to fill out my Death List here. John Hiatt is for my money right near the top of a very exclusive collection of singer-songwriters, somewhere above Bruce Springsteen and somewhat below God. I love the sentiment in this one, Shredding the Document, and the relevance has only grown with the advent of the internet and the rise of social networking. Written before Facebook was a zit on Mark Zuckerberg’s ass, the protagonist in the song is a private person, somewhat appalled by the abasement people are willing to put themselves through for a shot at “the limelight”, and he has a sense of humour when he says “I’m not taking any more calls…well maybe from Larry King”.
This one I dedicate to Karl, my father, who was always willing to let the record speak for itself and had no problem hanging up on Facebook, or its equivalent, back in the day.
You know what my father said
Well I’m not going to tell you
Some words that I try to live by
It’s none of your goddamn business
It’s been true for a number of years now – since Chris picked up Chavez Ravine after hearing about it on a CBC Radio One spot – that Ry Cooder is at the top of my playlist. The very top mind you. Starting with Chavez, and onto My Name is Buddy, I Flathead and Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, it’s a string of topical, powerful, and just flat-out great listening albums. My current favorite is I, Flathead, a strange and thoughtful journey through SoCal’s Flathead racing culture of the 50s and 60s.
Today I’m adding one of the songs from this album to my Death List, 5000 Country Music Songs. The song channels Bobby Bare and pays homage to Hank Williams’ Cadillac, telling the story of a couple living out their own version of the perfect life in a house trailer in the country with two rusty Cadillacs and 5000 country music songs. A poignant piece ending appropriately and sadly with the woman in the story passing on and the man locking away his memories and hitting the road.
You can take what you want after I’m gone
It’s only just a little place that we called home sweet home
One old house trailer two rusty Cadillacs and 5000 country music songs
OK, I came home late tonight after a summer-league hockey game and had some extra adrenalin kicking around. So I poured myself some Woodford Reserve and screened The Royal Tenenbaums, to singular enjoyment.
I remember when I first saw this movie in the theatre. The suicide scene had an impact on me. “Baumer” doing himself in after discovering that the love of his life – his step-sister, the adopted Margot – was not exactly pure in the carnal arena. He took it badly, and in the middle of this richly textured comedy a suicide scene – viscerally real – appeared, with Nick Drake’s “Fly” playing in the background. It was an incredibly moving scene.
As for the music, I knew of Nick Drake at the time of viewing but I didn’t know the song. It has in the interim become a favorite.
Not the sort of song I really want to put on my death list however. Not tonight anyway. Tonight, instead, on the way to bed, I found myself humming “Time Has Told Me”, from Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left, and decided to add it to my death list.
Adding this to my death list. It passed me by on the random playlist tonight and I thought, my god, that’s it right there. My personal philosophy is to keep 10 songs on the death list at all times, but keep it current. If something grabs me at a particular point in time it’s going on the list and something else is getting dropped. This has the advantage that when i actually croak, my list has a chance of being fresh, so to speak, which isn’t a bad thing.
Solomon Burke died a year or so ago. I’m not the biggest expert on his career (and I’m not going to fake it by googling), but I do know he had a couple of albums at the end that were highly regarded in the No Depression community (to which we were/are a part of). Our friend Dan gave us this album.
This song has a sad ring and a heavy undertone, like a tide going out:
Takes the form of frustration
It’s a sad combination
Of emptiness and down
But a only human connection
Is expressed for the shown
Will I think I’m gonna have to just sit this one out?
Here I’m adding song number one to the death list, Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre, which has little to do with bourbon, less with death, and even less with anything I know personally in terms of actual experience (i.e. the actual land mass the song celebrates). It’s a vibe is all, and I do love the soaring bagpipe solo that departs for the outer planetoids at about two minutes into the song. I heard it last night for the first time in years and just have to go with it.
The video has some great photos of the Mull of Kintyre, and of course the song itself as the soundtrack.
We drove back from Saskatoon today – 18 hours of driving across Western Canada – the end run of our trip to my nephew’s funeral. Matt was 24 and died in a car accident, rolling his truck on the return home from work in northern Alberta. Needless to say the funeral was wrenching. For a close family and community to lose a son, brother, and friend of just 24 years in a such sudden and tragic fashion is both terrible to behold and awesome to be part of.
On our return trip we were listening to some tunes and one song stood out so much that I have to post it here and dedicate it to Matthew’s memory. One of our favorite albums from recent times is the Decemberist’sThe King Is Dead. Our daughter Erin turned us on to it last year and we quickly included it in our go-to list of favorite albums. The song that stood out for me today was Don’t Carry It All, which is the first song on the album. The song is principally about community – that there are burdens neighbours can and should help each other carry – but also carries an extremely positive message of loss and renewal using the metaphor of nature. It seems to me entirely appropriate for the situation Matt’s family and friends have just gone through.
By the way, I’m adding this song to my own Death List…
I post some of the relevant lyrics here and of course the youtube embed:
Buried wreath of trillium and ivy
Laid upon the body of the boy
Lazy will the long come from it’s hiding
Return his quiet certitude to the soil
So raise a glass to turnings of the season
And watch it as it arcs towards the sun
And you must bear your neighbor’s burden within reason
And your labors will be borne when all is done
And nobody, nobody knows
Let the yoke fall from our shoulders
Don’t carry it all don’t carry it all
We are all our hands in holders
Beneath this bold and brilliant sun
This I swear to all
I’m starting a new play list on the bourbonhours site which I’m calling my “Death List”. It’s a list of ten songs that I would play at my own funeral, should I have the privilege. Why ten? Ten is a good number. It’s about the number of fingers I have. Toes also. It’s about how long in inches my … wait a sec, let’s not exaggerate here. Ten requires a bit of discipline, a little bit of thought, and the ability to prioritize. Ten songs for a death list means you had to leave a lot of songs off, which means you put some thought into it. I’ll add to this over time and show the edits as strike-through (a bit of a cheat, I know, as people will then have a longer play list to work from – I’ll have to think about this). Also, each song will have a post associated with it, which we’ll link to here.
Chinaski’s Death List:
Mull of Kintyre – Paul McCartney and Wings (blog post)