Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alphabet Soup: The Letter L

1. Live Forever — Oasis
If “Live Forever” is not played at my funeral, if possible, I am coming back and haunting whoever is responsible. So if you’re that neglectful person, you better just hope that the whole afterlife thing didn’t work out so that you don’t have me running up your water bill by turning the faucets on and off in the middle of the night or using my ghostly powers to... I don’t know... leave your car upside down in your driveway every single morning, maybe. Fair warning.

“Live Forever” is not only my favorite Oasis song, but as I said before, it is my favorite song of all time. However, I don’t always stop everything to listen to it. I have heard the song so many times that it often feels as natural and undeniable as breathing. “Live Forever” appears on no less than half a dozen albums, singles and mix CDs of live performances in my collection. It has permeated my life in such a way that it is not the song I immediately turn to when I need an Oasis song to move me — nearly every song of theirs moves me in some way — but sometimes I am in that moment where I do stop everything and listen. In the same way of being able to inhale after a cold clears, “Live Forever” will grab hold of me, reminding me why I love the song more than all others. Sometimes rolling off “Shakermaker,” blasting Definitely Maybe on a sunny morning will do it. Other times, when I hear the words acoustically performed by Noel Gallagher, it’s akin to hearing a familiar work performed in its original language. In fact, every time I hear Noel himself sing these lines, I wonder if “Glycerine” would be such a close second favorite if it didn’t have strings:

Maybe I will never be
All the things that I want to be
Now is not the time to cry
Now’s the time to find out why

Anyone who ever said that Oasis seemed to only care about acting out and giving attitude clearly never gave the music a closer listen. The unabashed optimism runs through even the heartbroken songs, knowing that although life could get worse, it almost never stays that way if we put forth the effort to improve.

Maybe I’m being overly romantic, but how could I not love a song saying that although life has not yet worked the way we wanted, “I think you’re the same as me. We see things they’ll never see.” One of the greatest motivators in life is knowing that I’m not in it alone. Having someone who loves and believes in what you do can make all the difference. I’m not necessarily talking about having a romantic significant other (although that person can contribute to this role— and should if they’re worth keeping), but of having any sort of supportive person in your life who inspires. The more people in my life that fill me with the satisfied breath of possibility, the better.

“Live Forever” inspired this music project, the idea of this site celebrating the things that I love, and it has inspired my life in so many other ways since the first time I heard it twelve years ago. My love for this song and this band makes me look past the years of misbehavior and embrace every arrogant statement as just an amusing part of who Oasis is. In a way, I believe that anyone who has made me feel this way can afford to say, “I know that I’m the best” because I agree. And when anyone tries to say differently, my brain cannot quite process the possibility.

Though my favoritism is the main reason for wanting “Live Forever” to be played at my funeral, I also want everyone to leave me on an up note. If there is an afterlife, I do not want my last send off to be so solemn. I require that unrelenting optimism that life will move on and improve long after I am gone.

2. Lumina — Joan Osbourne
I can’t believe the nose ring was fake. If VH1 is to be trusted (so, maybe not), Joan Osbourne did not actually have a pierced nostril in her ever present video for “One of Us.” And here twelve year old me thought she was so cool and “alternative.”

Joan Osbourne was another one of those musicians that my brother inexplicably had, despite the fact that I never remembered him showing an interest until I showed an interest. He had both Relish and a live album of hers, and I still have neither, save for downloads of this song and “Right Hand Man,” and a cassette dubbing of the full album buried somewhere in a box. Unlike Lisa Loeb, I never convinced him to give me the CDs.

The summer after the album came out, my family and I took drove down to Yellowstone National Park with friends of my parents and their two children. Forgetting that we’d need music for the drive down and back, not to mention all the driving we’d do in the park itself, no one had packed many cassettes. My parents had the Forest Gump soundtrack, someone else had Alanis Morrisette and we had Relish. I had to take a short break from all of those songs due to overkill after that vacation.

When a friend from high school covered “Lumina” at one of her shows, I was somewhat surprised that she knew it. It had been awhile since I had heard it. Probably six years had elapsed since the album, and “One of Us” is usually the only song people associate with Joan Osbourne, but I’m guessing more people remember the song and maybe not her name. It’s too bad because her talent really is beyond a hypothetical think-aloud about God.

“Lumina” starts with a quiet electric guitar and organ that sound quite like The Wallflowers album that came out a year or so later. It’s a simple and beautiful ballad that stands out from her more up tempo, blues-y numbers. There are lovely lines throughout like“Melting inside/melting away/like butter in a pan” and “Here is the place/now is the time/ let’s invent the kiss.” At three minutes long, it’s the perfect closer to an underrated album.

3. Log — Ren & Stimpy
“What rolls down stairs
alone or in pairs
and runs over your neighbor’s dog?
It’s great for a snack,
It fits on your back,

It’s log, it’s log!
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood.
It’s log, it’s log!
It’s better than bad — It’s good!

Everyone needs a log,
You’re gonna love your log,
Come on and get your log,
Everyone needs a log, log, log...
Log— From Blammo!”

Like the theme to “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” this is one of those songs that people of a certain age and a certain sense of humor know by heart, no matter how much time has elapsed since they last heard the song. Ren and Stimpy were great for theme songs— Between this, Muddy the Mudskipper, The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen and “Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence,” they provided hours of demented entertainment to my childhood. My dad liked to watch the show as well, though he’d always say, “I can’t eat while watching it.” Looking back on the extreme close-ups they’d do— snot, nipple “knee warmers,” hairballs and etc.— I can see why.

I’ve never seen any of the new episodes that aired on Spike TV a few years ago. Somehow, I’m thinking it just wouldn’t be the same. “No Sir, I don’t like it.”

4. Lord Only Knows — Beck
To paraphrase former tour-mates The Flaming Lips, Beck is the sort of guy who takes a limo and then wonders what everyone will think about him taking a limo. He may be very talented and has done very well for himself, but I imagine he might be a little annoying to hang out with. Still, Odelay remains a great album over a decade later. Most of it crosses his sense of 70s funk-rock with Dust Brothers beats, but “Lord Only Knows” is a semi-country slide guitar number as sing-along as the rest, closing with the funny line “Going back to Houston to get me some pants.”

I received Odelay for Christmas the year it came out, and I enjoyed the Hungarian sheepdog on the cover because it was a white version of Gavin Rossdale’s dog, Winston (r.i.p). I liked “Loser” from a few years prior, and the song afforded him the option of a higher production value – there’s a lot going on in every song, and the sound is worlds away from “MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack” and other early lo-fi offerings. The lyrics range from seeming nonsense to almost straightforward. Beck seems to operate on a playing field about a hundred feet left of everyone else, so it’s not always clear what point he’s getting at in his songs and yet I don’t really mind. “Lord Only Knows” seems to be about feeling run-down and lowering standards enough to make it easy for others to take advantage.

Invite me to the seven seas
like some sea sick man
you’ll do whatever you please
and I’ll do whatever I can

I suspect it has a lot to do with creative freedom when you’re no longer working for yourself, but it’s also a total bar song. Not one that hypes up the crowd, but more of a jukebox nodder or an oddball karaoke pick. “Your senses are gone, so don’t you hesitate” applies very well to that scene.

I haven’t really kept tabs on Beck’s music since Midnite Vultures. I have Guero, but I hardly ever put it on (maybe I should). However, in writing about “Lord Only Knows,” I found myself listening through the rest of Odelay and remembering how much I enjoyed it. Beck has fallen into the self-important end of artistry, but I suppose when you release one of the better albums of the 90s, the chances of “keepin’ it real” all the time run slim.

5. Life Uncommon — Jewel
When it comes to religion, I’m a confirmed fence-sitter. I don’t have any reason to believe one way or another, so I stay put on the line and figure that I will find out eventually — or not find out. If I’m dead and that’s it, well I guess I won’t be finding out anything. The thing I don’t understand about evangelists — besides their tendency to not like anything that’s not white, straight and Republican (unless you’re a child in an impoverished country)— is that they think they can “educate” a person into belief. Isn’t the whole point of faith that you can’t manufacture it? You either got it or you don’t. Having faith is supposed to be personal, not something you’re badgered into either by upbringing or social climate. Right?

“Life Uncommon” is the closest I get to faith. I have to believe that if you’re a good person who cares for others and embraces the differences in us all, if there is some sort of cosmic ethics board out there, then he/she/they won’t hold it against you for not believing in the first place.

We must give to live
Lend your voices only to the sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that we wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery and we shall lead a life uncommon

I like that the song takes the attitude that the world would be a lot better off if some people weren’t so busy condemning (or giving patronizing prayer to) those who don’t believe in their specific brand of faith. All you need is love, after all. “If praying were enough it would come to be/ Let your words enslave no one,” she sings. She presents the song as a spiritual, but in the simplest sense. “Life Uncommon” is clear and passionate, made for singing along.

I am moved by faith in basic human compassion, and the rest is just superfluous. I don’t think that my actions should be motivated by wanting to please some deity with a different set of standards depending on which book you read. The thinking that life is just some vague points system with a theoretical big reward at the end doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t feel it to be true, but I don’t begrudge those that do, so as long as they treat everyone with love and respect, no salesmanship involved.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite Joan Osborne song? Pensacola, but somehow over the years, that CD seems to have gone missing. And as far as TV theme songs, I have the Camp Awnawana song downloaded... And frankly for me, I think I like those TV theme songs because they are reminders of a more carefree, less stress time in life when my biggest worries was catching the lates episode of Hey Dude or Doug. Heather H