Pandemic Playlist 1

Well. I just read an article. I wasn’t even looking for the news. And there it was. 10 percent positive rate, 17 percent only a few blocks from me.

Meanwhile, all the businesses are desperate. I want to help – but I don’t want to see anyone, do anything. Maybe this is the final stretch. Maybe. It’s like what they tell you about yoga – the moment – the breath – just what you can see – hear – feel – right now. Don’t think about tomorrow. Or anything. Especially not that. Or that. Remember when, and the look in her eyes… No. Stop.

I thought a playlist of music might help. Things I’m listening to. Not the usual “I Will Survive” stuff – even if that song was so helpful a few months ago, and Gloria Gaynor’s new video about it made endless handwashing better. Like it made fighting back better, back then.

Way back then.

No, this playlist seems to be a bit darker. But no less strong for that. Here we go.

Robin Trower – I Can’t Wait Much Longer

I haven’t heard this song in so long. Those dark sweeping guitar bursts, the soulful voice, (what is that song it reminds me of – ah! it’s old Journey! Ok, will look for that). But it’s the blues through the electric guitar, that low string vibrating through you, back when music was recorded in a room, not on a chip. The bass line, like a sword cutting through the air.

Journey – Anyway

This is the song the last one reminded me of. Before they picked up what’s his name, that man with the incredible voice. This, however, still pulls at me, even with the overdone drum emphasis. You know, that little string pull-off and the cheesy guitar chord. Still I’m going to love you yeah.

Kiss – God Gave Rock N Roll To You II

Kiss? I know. But that chorus. Come on. You’d be glad to hear this on the last 1000 yards before the top. And I think that’s where we are. God I hope so. Fun fact – I worked for one of their dads for a bit. No – never met them. Never wanted to either. But hey.

Grand Funk Railroad – I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home

Again, in the ranks of “oh wow that song.” One of those bands that punched above their weight. Do you miss the radio late at night? The ringing guitar and the understanding of space and silence. Choral vocals. Again – overdone drums and the new-fangled effects, liberally scattered everywhere. Perhaps there is a theme here. But there is something wishful and lonely about this, especially when it switches over to Closer to Home. Yes, I’m a sucker for the beach sounds. I’m getting closer to my home. Yes, it’s long. Remember when we had attention spans, and didn’t need it all explained in the first 10 minutes – family tree, explosions, and close-ups of blood.

Heart Full of Soul – The Yardbirds

The best. The spaghetti western echo of pop sounds mixed with the guitar revolution that was on the horizon. The beginning of nearly everything you think was invented last year. The voice of Keith Relf. One lung. If he can do it, so can we. Stay away from your bathtub though. That riff.

Sophie – Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck is the best. Sorry, Jimmy. And I did love you so. But you can feel his fingers on the strings and it pulls down all that feeling from the clouds above. Structure makes you wait. What doesn’t fit in the box, though, matters. And suddenly we are back in the streets, fighting for position. Sometimes the synth is a bit annoying but then the guitar sings against it, and there you are.

Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes

The first movie. Isaac Hayes – who could have played the hero, endlessly, utterly cool. I think there’s a link between this song and the previous one – of course this is when you had orchestra instruments play the the synth parts – but the exchange between sweep and organization is there. The first lines have maybe become a bit of a cliched joke, but I still think it expressed an energy of what was possible. No more domination of the airwaves by the heartland.

David Bowie – Watch That Man

I stood in front of his apartment building five years ago for hours in the cold, with the other people who felt they needed to keep a vigil, stunned at the news. And what he meant to all of us fractures and changes, like the light in the prism. There will never be one story here. In NYC, this album feels like so much of the NYC Velvet Underground energy. Those backing vocals. The threat of the streets and what you learn there. Oh the piano. Percussive and delicate all at once. Did Rick Wakeman play on this one? Must check. Ah no. It was Mike Garson, who is all over the internet these days with a tribute. He went to Brooklyn College. How is everything related?

Wendy and Lisa – Blues Away

Why this album is not on everyone’s list forever I will never understand. They changed the cover to try and appeal to people who need a visual. Yes, they are women. Whatever. Prince’s backing duo write their own stuff. His style of funk with a poetic drift that’s much sadder. And they have a sad story. People think being a musician must be easy. Maybe it is when you’re just a model in front of a meaningless song. Love the blues away. We’ll try.

This is Not America – David Bowie and Pat Metheny

Not as true as it was last week, but not out of the woods yet. What was that movie this was the theme to? The Falcon and the Snowman. Have you ever watched that clip of Bowie asking the MTV guy why they didn’t play music by musicians of color? God, we’ve lost so much.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

One man, one voice. Last week, I described my day to day to a friend. “That sounds like prison.” I keep thinking of that. I try not to. Or of all the people really locked up, injustly. Cheerful on the surface, but those lyrics. And the audience. When music wasn’t just what you ordered online.

Night by Night – Steely Dan

One of the last outings I had – before the pandemic – ended much later than I had expected. A bit buzzy from cocktails, understanding, and talk, I walked for miles. I finally had to get on a bus which took me over the bridge and I tried to gauge the warehouses, blurrily, to find where I should get off. On foot, I crossed another bridge over the empty train tracks, alone except for the one guy trying to sleep in his cardboard box, and the one car that went by, slowed down ominously, and sped up again. I shouldn’t be here, I thought, secretly delighting in the still signals lighting the tracks below, the emptiness and wind with nothing to strike against. One day, when I can walk the streets at 3am without fear, I’ll do it – and feel like this.

Iggy Pop – Loves Missing

That voice. If I were the producer, I’d pare it down even more. “She just needs someone to say I love you before she gets pushed away.” “Love’s absence when she cannot touch a friend.” “Clocks ticking…it’s bad when she’s by herself.” It’s a good song, too.

Want – Recoil

Alan Wilder twirling his darkness around us. Disturbing. Incredibly produced. That build after “what reaches back”. How many emotions can you throw out, mix in, swallow down? Rejection of everything easy, and then teasing with what’s possible. “And I want…”

Well, this was fun. Let’s do it again soon. Stay safe. Don’t let yourself get derailed – by anyone.