Glorified Love Letters to my 5 favorite songs for (almost) every letter in the alphabet, with a bonus number round.
1. Cast No Shadow — Oasis
While making my list, I set some arbitrary rules: five songs listed only in the order that they occur to me, no repeats of artists within the five songs, but with a couple of exceptions, possibly for the sake of filling out a letter. Some letters, obviously, are harder to fill than others. Even if I might have several songs from the same artist that I liked better than others that started with the same letter, I decided to pick one and work some others in. Honorable mentions are listed only to make up for gaps I have in other letters. You try and find five favorite songs that start with the letter Q, all right?
That being said, I could have gone three ways with Oasis and the letter C. “Carry Us All” has the great lines “I’m just trying to persevere with the sins I have to shake from me within” and “Have faith in what you got and it will carry us all.”
I could have gone with the classic “Cigarettes and Alcohol” — “Is it my imaaaginaay-shuuun or have I finally found something worth living for?” and “Is it worth the aggrivaay-shun to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?” — with all its Liam swagger.
I could have talked about how “Champagne Supernova” first caught my attention and my memories of my Mormon friend, Cathy, and I singing “Where were you while we were getting high?” while in 8th grade (we were “slowly walking down the hall,” after all.)
Still, I had to go with the literary theme. I had to go with the one I love both when it’s on the original album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and when I hear it come from Noel on the MTV Unplugged session or most any other live performance. “Cast No Shadow” also has a dedication to Richard Ashcroft, whom I did not know of when I bought the album, but of course later came to appreciate the parallelism. I know that it was sort of a dedication made in an ‘I love you, man!’ drug haze and that both Noel Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft seem slightly embarrassed when a reporter brings it up, but on a very simple level, it is a nod from one songwriter to another.
“Cast No Shadow” is about feeling as though you matter. On both a literary and very real level, I am struck by the lines,“Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say/As he faced the sun/ he cast no shadow.” I find it very easy to feel very small, as though no matter how much effort put into a person or endeavor will ever yield the desired results. Defeat, never feeling as though you rank and trying to persevere nonetheless — I try to tackle themes in both my writing and my life. Sometimes, I succeed and those successes are enough to propel me toward trying again. Still, as we all know, it can be hard to even notice. Our focus too easily shifts to the disappointment and the despair in life, and we wonder how to cut through it all and still remain ourselves.
2. Cheeseburger in Paradise — Jimmy Buffet
By now, you’ve noticed that my dad pops up a lot in this series. He is the number one reason why I know not to only accept what is on the radio, what your friends like and what is deemed critically “important” as a barometer for personal taste. From him I inherited my singing voice (passable) instead of my mother’s (prompts toddlers to ask “Are you even trying?”), and from him I know how to tell a story. You’ve probably also noticed that I keep referring to him in the past tense. My dad died on Christmas Eve 2005 from a heart attack at the age of 50. I am absolutely gutted that I cannot share this series with him (though I don’t know that I would have shared that “Brass in Pocket” record story...).
My parents grew up in Miami. They started dating in 8th grade, went to different high schools but continued their relationship on through college and then got married. As you did when you were a Miami local at the time, you saw Jimmy Buffet play about once a year. I imagine it’s similar to growing up in New Jersey and seeing... Well, Bruce Springsteen is up a few levels from Jimmy Buffet, but say, Bon Jovi — It’s something you do, even if you’re otherwise listening to Jethro Tull or Black Sabbath.
Needless to say, I grew up hearing a lot of Jimmy Buffet. I don’t own any of his stuff now (and am glad my dad never saw his partnership with the unbearable Toby Keith), but I will always have a soft spot for him. As a little kid, you have to love a song about cheeseburgers and permission to sing about beer. As an adult, I’d have to agree that a cheeseburger “with lettuce and tomat-a, Heinz 57, french fry potat-a” almost always sounds tasty — no mayo, even! I don’t even really know the rest of the words off the top of my head except the chorus, but that’s okay. The lyrics are pretty secondary for me in this case.
The summer after my dad died, Tyson and I were back in Great Falls having a late night greasy plate of breakfast foods, and this song came on in the diner. Over two years ago, I never would have suspected that such a happy song about one of my favorite meals would make me cry. “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is less of a favorite and more of a dedication.
3. Cannonball — The Breeders
Every time I hear this song, a tiny voice inside my head says, “Rawk!” Those first opening notes are notes that once again make me lament the fact that it is hard to put music into text to better demonstrate the sound for the purposes of a list like this. At around ten years old when this song popped on the radio, I would turn up the volume, jump around the room or yes, even my bed. I had no idea who the Pixies were and how they related to The Breeders. I had no idea who Kim and Kelley Deal were — I just wanted to rock out.
On a Spring afternoon in eighth grade, I bought the album Last Splash when Hastings had a one day sale with a large portion of their used CDs for 99 cents. Honestly, it’s about the only song I listen to on the album. I’ve never given it a good, solid adult listen, but at the time, I glazed over the rest of the songs, except for maybe “No Aloha.” I suppose now I can look at it as paying the iTunes price for a song.
Some of the best rock songs are simple. I don’t play guitar or bass, but I know this song would be easy to learn if I were to try. The pauses before the tempo kicks up are really what makes the song. It’s another one of those cases where the lyrics are not exactly clear, but you sing along anyway. When I first heard the song at ten years old, I otherwise had cassettes in my collection like Janet Jackson or Mariah Carey. I own exactly zero of those artists now. I like to think that “Cannonball” became the precursor, one of the first seeds of the music to which I listen today.
4. Cornflake Girl — Tori Amos
I remember the Christmas when my dad received Under the Pink from his sister. I did not exactly know Tori Amos’ name, but I had figured out how to play the opening notes to “Silent All These Years” on my keyboard, even if I did not know the name of the song at the time. My attention to Tori Amos would not happen until the summer before 8th grade. While writing this, I’ve noticed that I mention that year a lot, but it really was the year that I suppose I became more... me. Maybe everyone does at 13, but then again, some 13 year old girls listened to Backstreet Boys and Hanson, probably embarrassed by it now.
(Okay, I’m a little embarrassed that I still like the Spice Girls. Leave me alone.)
My point is, I found a way to do my own thing and have somewhat fervently grasped to it ever since. I’ve grown up, of course, but the elements began to fall into place to accept the odd, to see other sides and to push forward that ardent sense of ego that I find necessary survive sometimes. If there is anyone off the beaten trail, it is Tori Amos. If there was ever a song that lent itself to my half-dreamy spinning and singing alone in a bedroom, it was “Cornflake Girl.” The song feels very orchestral in its arrangement — there are so many layers to notice and absorb. Of course, her writing has always been very abstract and the meaning behind what you sing really only trickles into your consciousness as you grow up, learning more upon repeated listens. Sometimes, you’re never really sure, but you’ve got a good feeling and loving the music so much that thinking about it all intellectually feels besides the point. I’m enjoying myself too much to really think about a girl’s loss of dignity, you know? And I certainly did not consider it with the Alice in Wonderland allusions as a teenager either.
Some of my favorite Tori Amos songs sound very spare and really are all about the lyrics. However, a larger part of me really loves when she lets everything loose and the big production, the overall blast of everything spilled forth feeling the most satisfying.
5. Cum on Feel the Noize — Quiet Riot, Oasis
Speaking of not thinking about songs intellectually and just wanting to rock out, “Cum on Feel the Noize” makes me smile every time. It’s designed for singing in the car high on only the company surrounding you or singing with a crowd, shouting with a drink in the air and three coursing your system already. I love the original, but the one I own is the Oasis cover, a B-side to “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
Oddly enough, the version played at Amanda’s wedding was the original. For the first time that night, Tyson and I stood up and danced. I have no lengthy story for this song. It’s great just because it is.