Monday, November 24, 2008

When Was the Last Time a Newspaper Columnist Wrote an Entire Column for You?

* I've been really impressed with the suggestions I have received for the ultimate road trip CD that I announced I was trying to put together on Friday (and if you haven't already, please read the "Let's Make Some Sweet Music Together" post below this one and feel free to add your own submissions!) but two of them blew me away.

My buddy Sam (who will always be my go-to music guy) compiled a great list - and you can read that in the comments section below that post - but I had to highlight the response that I got from Virginian-Pilot lifestyle columnist Mike Gruss (as you also can also see, I've added Mike's Pilot blog page to the list of my recommended sites in the bar to the right. Definitely check it out!).

Mike is a great writer with a fresh, unique perspective on life in the Hampton Roads area. I annoy him regularly with questions about journalism and column writing and he has never blown me off or just reply with enough to placate me. Instead, he always responds with very thorough advice and suggestions, and his song submission email was no different.

So I decided to let you enjoy what I get to appreciate on a regular basis.

Thanks again Mike! Hope to stay in touch...

- Josh

The classic road trip song…

One of the best things about music is that it can instantly recall a memory or a feeling from the past.

For a long time, I did not believe in the quintessential road trip song. I found it too cliché mostly because 90 percent of all roadtrip mixes included “Life is a Highway” and “Born to Run.” (See “The Office.”) No matter how fitting they might be, I did not want to ride it all night long.

But it is impossible and uncreative (not to mention no fun) to dismiss the genre as a whole.

In college when gas was about $1 a gallon and before burnable CDs, my friend Susan loved spending the afternoon going for a drive. For years, one of my favorite pictures was one she took from the dashboard of my car that showed the cornfields of southwestern Ohio. She assembled great road-trip tapes to accompany.

When I drove solo from Ohio to Chicago in the summer of 1998, it was the start of an incredible and eye-opening adventure for a kid who had grown up in the suburbs. My first gig at a newspaper. My first apartment. All that stuff. I popped in one of Susan’s tapes before I left. The first song: “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty.

Grant me, a little slack here.

“Well I started out down a dirty road/Started out all alone/And the sun went down as I crossed the hill/The town lit up the world got still”

Yup. All those things were true.

“Well some say life will beat you down/Break your heart, steal your crown/So I started out for God knows where/But I guess I’ll know when I get there”

Yup. Yup. Yup. True. True. True.

I can’t help but think this would be a fitting start to your own trek. But I’m not convinced. Besides, out at the bar the other night, one of my friends told a story where the punchline was “If Tom Petty was on the radio, I suppose I wouldn’t turn it off.” Yes, everyone in the world loves Tom Petty. So he can’t be the artist of choice for this question.

Another story.

In 2002, I took a solo roadtrip from Indiana to Pittsburgh for a friend’s wedding. I listened to two CDs and two CDs only on non-stop repeat. They were Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and Beck’s “Sea Change.” Because of the events of that trip, it became clearer than it had been in the past, I was an adult. And because we often look for meaning where there is none, I kept listening. In particular, the best song of YHF, and honestly one of the best songs of all times is “Jesus, etc.”

“Don't cry/You can rely on me honey/You can come by any time you want/I'll be around/You were right about the stars/Each one is a setting sun”

But. … eh … I’m not sure this makes the cut either.

If I was bringing just one album, I would probably bring “For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver. Although my desert island album is “Yield” by Pearl Jam. But the question you asked requires just one song.

Others to consider:

“Off He Goes” by Pearl Jam. I could quote the entire song, but read the lyrics here:

“The Ballad of Love and Hate” by The Avett Brothers. Lyrics here:

But slow songs are banned with Kansas being Kansas.

So, drumroll please, the song I chose is “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem.

(Actually I prefer, the version of this song sung by Franz Ferdinand)

Thematically, this song is similar to “The Rat” by The Walkmen. (When I used to go out, I would know everyone that I saw/Now I go out alone if I go out at all/When I used to go out I'd know everyone I saw/Now I go out alone if I go out at all”)

“All My Friends” is a song about trying to grow up too fast. It is a song about making the right choices in life. It is about always being able to go home. Most importantly, it is about knowing that your friends will always be with you.

I love the site (LOVE. IT.) A commenter on there named ‘Douchebag” (ironic?) writes: I believe this song is about how it feels after you realize you're no longer a young person and you gradually fall into being an adult. The guy is looking at life through the eyes of an adult and realizing some decisions he makes are immature, but he doesn't necissarily care. At the same time looking back at how he got to where he is now and wondering if it was right. Or maybe this is how I feel right now and I'm warping the song to fit how I feel. ?”

From another commenter: “So it's fairly straightforward that the song is a retrospective on the rock 'n roll lifestyle and whether it was worth it and what was actually gained from it. What I liked most about it was the monotony of the keyboard and bass line mimicking a life that just goes on and on, regardless of how tired one gets of it, or how oblivious one is to time's passage. It's as if the melody represents the same repetitive tasks of life: sleep, breathe, do the damn thing, etc. But what the hell do I know? I drunkenly cried myself to sleep over this song the other night.”

And another: “I think this is not about someone reaching adulthood, but rather someone looking back upon when they were emerging adults. This song is reflecting about what it was like to reach adulthood, "get with the plan", and then realize that you might not want the plan. You might not want to spend every minute with your partner. And you might want to spend time with your friends. That's not to say that you don't like the life you have. The lines- "Then it's the memory of our betters / that are keeping us on our feet" suggests that you are still motivated by the life you have with your partner. But at the same time, you miss the energy, stupidness, and freedom of your younger days. And although you are "showing your age", you still want to have those late nights.”

Fast-paced? Check. Strong lyrics? Check. Thoughtful? Check. Better than looking out the window? Check. Worth playing multiple times? Check.

Download it.

More importantly, safe travels and best of luck.


No comments: