Tuesday, January 19, 2010

desert island election

On the not-as-infrequent-as-I'd-imagine occasions that someone inquires, "You play music? Ooh, what is your Desert Island Music?!" my reaction is as predictable as the tides: My eyes glaze over and my face slackens into screen-saver mode. For me, that question triggers the same response as listening to someone recite their dream from last night, or trying to shop for groceries without a list: My mind draws a complete blank. I lose the plot. I can hear the ocean in my head. Also, I suddenly don't care about anything. I just feel a wave of "get me out of here"—out of the island, the other person's subconscious, the grocery store, and my own anxiety dream where I am center stage, in a spotlight, and where a voice from the sea of empty seats in a blacked-out auditorium bellows, "WHAT IS YOUR DESERT ISLAND MUSIC?"

That's my patent, unreasonable reaction to that get-to-know-you question. I feel challenged committing to a plan five minutes from now, let alone a list of music I am gonna have to listen to forever by myself—or perhaps with an island mate straight out of the Far Side, and Lord knows what THAT man brought. Then there's the concern that if I manage to cough up a list, will my selection accurately reflect my actual taste? Or am I just nervously sounding off music that I manage to recall in that moment—like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" when he finally gets to speak with Department Store Santa and wants so badly to beg for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but loses his cool and in his own state of shock, chokes and asks for, "A football. A football? What's a football?!" Except in my stage frightened moment I stammer, "Uuuuummmm, I'd prrrobably bring aaaa, um, yeah, "A Very Special Christmas"....the, uh, yeah, the first one?" because that is suddenly the only album on planet earth that I can remember. At all.

What's more, "trapped on a desert island" as a concept further unsettles me. I don't know why. Maybe it's the dread of being stranded with a straggly cartoon weirdo on a tiny island with one palm tree. That idea doesn't make me wanna curate a compilation of kickin' jams in advance, it makes me wanna figure out in advance how not to get stuck there. Why can't the question be, "If you had to give away all your music TO a guy trapped on a desert island, which essential albums/songs would you keep for yourself [on your ipod pequeño]?"

But still, the question and no satisfactory answer remains....

Or *remained*. Until this morning, that is, when a foolproof rejoinder revealed itself on my computer monitor. I had just woken up and half-heartedly scrolled through my music library by song title, looking for a solid "shower and get dressed" soundtrack. Brian Eno's "Here Come the Warm Jets" felt right. When I arrived at that song and its neighbors, my riposte was as crystal clear as the cobalt Caribbean. The scales fell from my eyes: The solution to this Gordian knot was so obvious. I suddenly felt as exhilarated as irrationally overcome Michael Caine in "Hannah and Her Sisters" when he giddily declares, "I have my answer! I'm walking on air!"

I may have even said that out loud.

It turns out any song with the title "Here come" or "Here comes" covers all bases. Ok, let's be honest, the song selection knocks it right out of the park. I wanna listen to them all, all the time:

"Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles
Features one of my favorite bass lines, ever.

"Here Comes the Night" covered by Them.
Van. The. Man.

"Here Comes the Phantom" by the Clientele.
Ethereal, lilting, lovely.

"Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty.
A classic. I also decided it's the soundtrack for this little vignette, as it's a song all about wandering around wondering, feeling listless and "just so...hopeless," that is until the answer suddenly walks right up and knocks you cathartically between the eyes. I also just realized that I have the exact same haircut as Tom Petty.

"Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies.
A nice companion to the Petty ditty.

"Here Comes My Baby" by Cat Stevens
Winning instrumentation and a good one for harmonizing.

"Here Comes the Judge" by Shorty Long
Amazing slide show featuring archival Motown album art for that song, here.

"Here Comes a Regular" by the Replacements

"Here Comes a Headache" by Hypnolovewheel
Fuzzy, driving, relentless.

"Here Comes the Summer" by the Fiery Furnaces

And I will. All of them. And I will also stop myself here. I have my unforgettable solution in pocket.

Also, I need to go download "Here Comes the Boom" by Nelly.

But before I sign off, I have to wonder, what is it about those words that makes any song introduction rock solid? For starters, that all-purpose presentation handily conveys a whole range of moods—anticipation, hope, dread, excitement, love, relief—with a good measure of melodrama. Someone or something is about to happen. Even if it's "Here comes trouble" there's something really thrilling and "this is gonna be good" in the message. That particular preamble confidently sets the stage for a good yarn.

Regardless of the why that formula is such a success story, the wait is over: I can check "Decide on Desert Island Music" off my to-do list. To repeat: I have my answer. I'm walking on air.

Tom Petty sums up this post (and this blog, for that matter) better than I ever could:

"Yeah, I just catch myself waiting, worrying, wondering
about some silly little things that don't add up to nothin'.
But then [the list] looks me in the eye and says, "we're gonna last forever darling"
And man, you know I can't begin to doubt it.
No, because this feels so good, and so free, and so right.
I know we ain't never gonna change our minds about it—hey!...."

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