I must be getting old. None of the songs I liked best and played most in 2010 were new songs released in 2010! Some of them are decades old. But they’re all really good songs, and none of them ever was a big popular hit, so you might have missed them. For the thrifty music lover who still uses old technology, songs that can be found on used CDs or even vinyl records are the best kind!
1. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” is from the 1973 Genesis album Selling England By the Pound, which I first heard in 2009 when my local independent public radio station played the complete first side of the album. I loved Genesis in the ’80s but had never heard much of their earlier music. Daniel got me this album for Christmas 2009, and I’ve been enjoying it for the past year, particularly this song. Something about it vividly evokes a place and time and situation that appeals to me even though I don’t quite understand it, one specific person’s life in England in the year I was born. Something about the lyrics is so compelling that I have to restrain myself from quoting them like platitudes: “There’s a future for you in the fire-escape trade.” or “Have to thank old Miss Mort for schooling a failure.”–although I’m not sure what I mean by either of those! This also is good exercise music.
2. “Mordred’s Lullaby” by Heather Dale is one of several songs we discovered by attending our friends’ wonderful Mix Mixer party last January: Each guest (or family) brought copies of a mix CD of favorite music, and each went home with one copy of all the other CDs. We got two that are all Celtic music of various flavors. Late one night, Daniel and I started one of them from the beginning, and after 17 tracks we were getting sick of Celticness, so I was just about to suggest switching CDs when we heard this weird, groovy sound, followed by ethereal singing that was gradually joined by other voices and instruments, building up the kind of tune that coils around your brain . . . and the lyrics are those of a scheming mother singing to her baby:
Guileless son, I’ll shape your belief,
And you’ll always know that your father’s a thief,
And you won’t understand the cause of your grief,
But you’ll always follow the voices beneath.
It’s very dark and disturbing but so beautifully sung and perfectly mixed. I’m glad I didn’t discover this song when my son was a newborn; it would have been too tempting to play it all the time, which might well have had a bad influence on him! (As it is, for months we only played it when he couldn’t hear, until one time he accidentally heard it and we saw that it doesn’t cast the same spell over him as it does us; he ignored it.) We now have a whole Heather Dale album, but this song is still our favorite.
3. “Mary Mac” by Carbon Leaf was on the other Celtic mix CD. It is an ideal song for making oneself move faster! It starts off at an inhumanly fast pace–yet the words are impressively distinct, if you listen closely–and then it seems to get a little faster with each verse, and then, unbelievably, at the end the first verse is repeated at double speed!! Funny song, too. These lyrics are correct or pretty close–Google found a lot of wrong or incomplete ones first.
4. “Dogs in the Midwinter” is a Jethro Tull song that somehow never got my full appreciation until we were digging out from our February troubles.
You ever had a day like I had today?
Things are stacked up bad!
You look around, and every face you see
Seems guaranteed to drive you mad. . . .
We’re all running on a tightrope wearing slippers in the snow.
We’re all dogs in the midwinter!
Well, the ice is ever-thinner; be careful how you go
Like dogs in the midwinter.
It reminds me that I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed, and the incomparable flute music helps me breathe deeply and makes me feel like skipping!
5. “Gloria” is an early U2 song included on a “songs of 1980-81” anthology CD we happened to find at a yard sale years ago. I always liked it but got particularly into it last spring when the lyrics suddenly struck me a new way.
I try to sing this song; I–I try to
Get in, but I can’t find the door.
The door is open.
You’re standing there.
You let me in.
It reminded me of what Jesus said about knocking on the door and of the way I feel when I’m metaphorically stumbling around in the dark unable to find the way out, and then I look up and suddenly realize that Jesus (or, sometimes, a regular person who loves me) has been patiently holding it open for me all along! At that point I tend to waste time feeling stupid, but this song reminds me that what I should do is throw my whole self into being grateful: Gloria! Exultate! And I just love the way the music between verses doodles around until you think it’s going to lose all structure and destination, and then all of a sudden it picks back up and crests into a new wave of joy.
6. “Hole in the Bucket” is a Spearhead rap that pops into my mind every time I see a beggar on the street (which happens almost every day) and wonder whether he truly needs my help or is a fraud. I used to give money to every panhandler, but over time I encountered way too many whose stories were obviously fake, who had new shoes and cigarettes, or who reacted to whatever I gave them by rudely demanding more . . . but what if this person huddled in the cold in front of me really does need help? As compassion and cynicism battle in my mind, I think of this story and its funny yet meaningful ending.
7. “Up and Down” is a song from the early years of “Sesame Street” that we have on a 45rpm record from Daniel’s childhood. Herry Monster approaches Cookie Monster with, “Hey you! Fuzzyface! Why you cryin’?” and questions whether Cookie knows the difference between Up and Down. Upon realizing that they know the same song on this subject, they call for music (it seems a full band is conveniently available) and launch into it. This one makes me smile every time! It’s particularly good for dancing with my kid after an argument, when he’s forgiven me but I’m still struggling to get over it. 2010 was a year of frequent emotional turmoil for me, with a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve found I can push the fretful worries out of my head for a while with this happy tune whose simple words center me in the here and now:
Oh, I look up and see a birdie flying, high and free!
Well, I look down, and then the sidewalk is what I see!
I look up and see the sky!
I look down and see the ground!
I look at you and sing a song about Up and Down!
Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what other writers are thinking about today . . . and to be impressed that Jennifer is still hosting her weekly blog carnival while in the hospital, with the help of a friend who owes her one after (accidentally) having her sleep on a rat-infested couch–a story even better than The Horror of the Porch for calming any fears that everyone else is a better housekeeper than you are!