over winter break i did a major revision to my yearly soundtrack. it was time – they’ve stayed pretty much the same in the decade i’ve been making them. i can see now how much this revision was influenced by the fact that i drive again after about 4 years as a passenger – i almost never have music on in my apartment, but i love to listen to music in my car. and this soundtrack is just what i need for 2014. it’s getting the job done.
and what is the job of a personal soundtrack, you might ask? good question. i think it depends. i tend to make soundtracks to set the tone for my year. it’s the music i hear when i’m cruising around in my life. heavily influenced by wes anderson movies:
and this scene from i’m gonna git you sucka:
when i listen to friends’ soundtracks, i wonder about the reasons a particular song made the cut. it has to fit on one CD, so time is valuable. one friend’s soundtrack has more than one cher song on it – why? another friend’s is so much more tender and sweet that i would have imagined – it makes me look at her differently, in a good way. zari, co-founder of the soundtrack project, was a teen when she made her first first soundtrack, and now it seems so earnest and adorable. supposedly she’s working on a new one; it’ll be interesting to compare the two.
i named my soundtrack “listen” because that’s my theme word for the year.
here are the cliffsnotes for my 2014 soundtrack:
track 1 ~ “alive” by the beastie boys
“i have never been more ready in my entire life to do this right now. never.” it’s no accident that these are the first words spoken on my soundtrack. “alive” is from the beastie boys’ anthology, “the sounds of science.” it came out in 1999 and in my mind is when they started to make growing up cool. it replaced “so what’cha want,” which had been in the opening tracks since my original soundtrack. i think a lot about adam yauch, and i wanted to a song that represents the cool world citizens that those men became as they matured. and you know what? i have to agree with them. it is nice to be alive. and it helps to have mike d to remind me that i’m ready.
track 2 ~ “the greatest thing” by elvis costello
“i hope you’re happy now” has been my lead-off song since my original soundtrack. but for 2014 i wanted something a little more sincere and less snarky, to go with the mature beasties. so “the greatest thing” works for me in this spot. it’s zippy, but not sappy. here it is in case you want to practice your EC karaoke.
ok. for these a few of these next ones you should keep this in mind:
track 3 ~ “me myself and i” by de la soul
i listened to my tape of “three feet high and rising” while i drove that ’85 honda civic all over southern california, so this song is part of my return to the driver’s seat. it sounds just as good in a subaru.
track 4 ~ “jelly man kelly” by james taylor
one thing that was missing from my previous soundtracks was room 5 – the classroom of first, second, and third graders where i spent some of the finest days of my life. i had a student whose parents were always late to pick her up. while we waited for them, we’d draw with sidewalk chalk and sometimes she’d lay down in my lap and i’d sing her this song. it was the most important thing i could have been doing after school.
track 5 ~ “livin’ thing” by elo
man, i love jeff lynne. i got pretty obsessed with elo in the first year or two of my recovery. this is the song that emerged as my second “rally song” – i’d listen to it to motivate myself to get up off the security of my couch and go practice one-hand walking with my quad cane. my fabulous physical therapist brian told me that walking to music would help me even out my wonky gait – to this day i have a pavlovian reaction to this song. please don’t use that against me.
it also became the music for a digital story i made around that time.
track 6 ~ “feelin’ stronger every day” by chicago
legend has it that when i was in the hospital, my nurse brian told my mom that i was feelin’ stronger every day. my mom used that as the subject line of one of her email updates to our friends and family. my friend michelle read it and posted this video on my facebook page, and it became my first rally song. after i was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home, i’d watch the video over and over to motivate myself to get into my wheelchair and head downstairs to physical therapy. a few little things that made an enormous difference.
track 7 ~ “papa gene’s blues” by the monkees
quick – who’s your favorite monkee? mike nesmith? mine too. and this is my favorite mike nesmith song.
track 8 ~ “paradise city” by guns n’ roses
when i listen to this song it might look like i’m 41 and driving a subaru forester on highway 34, but i’m actually 16 and driving a honda civic on the 210.
track 9 ~ “be my angel” by mazzy star
my senior year of high school i was IN LOVE with my boyfriend, in that way that seventeen year-olds are. joel wilson. he was an older man – he’d graduated from my high school two years earlier and was a sophomore at northwestern. when he broke my heart, i spent my first year of college listening to the tape he had made me of this mazzy star album, “she hangs brightly.” when i hear this song i can still feel it in that spot between my collar bones.
track 10 ~ “bagheera” by blues traveler
joel was the one who introduced me to blues traveler. i went to five or six of their shows when i was in college. my blues traveler obsession died down around the time i graduated from humboldt state – good thing i never got that tattoo of a cat wearing shades and smokin’ a joint. fast forward to 2010 – my long-lost buddy from elementary school, kristin, makes a soundtrack with blues traveler on it, specifically this song:
leading me to realize that i really should have some BT on my soundtrack.
track 11 ~ “lost without each other” by hanson
this song was on zari’s original soundtrack, and it eventually made its way onto mine. i know, hanson is the macauley culkin of sibling rock bands. but give it a chance – those brothers know a lot about life. and if you watch the video until the end you’ll be rewarded with a piano going up in flames.
track 12 ~ “so lonely” by the police
so i think that this is how it goes. back in the early days of music uploading, i borrowed “outlandos d’amour” from the humboldt country library and this song went into heavy rotation. it’s the happiest little song (and video) about being lonely. and it’s a good reminder that sting has been cool for a long, long time.
track 13 ~ “my little blue window” by elvis costello
take a moment and listen to the loveliness of this song.
yeah, i love this song. when i moved to oregon, the farmhouse i rented had a closet that i turned into a reading nook, complete with my little blue window.
in the last few years i’ve realized that my ideal man is a combination of the fonz, han solo, and elvis costello. my lovely hooligan. even though i don’t live in that house anymore, i still have a little blue window.
track 14 ~ “say hey (i love you)” by michael franti & spearhead
i have nothing against michael franti, but this song is on my soundtrack entirely because of craig ferguson.
that guy uses his powers for good. makes his own fun.
my last year teaching elementary school was a tough one. i’d listen to this song over and over on my drive to work, thinking about how damn happy craig ferguson is in this video. it helped me start my work day on a positive note.
track 15 ~ “see you” by foo fighters
“the colour and the shape” is one of my desert island albums – it’s one of those that i listened to over and over, all the way through. and i just think that this is a lovely song.
track 16 ~ “bron-y-aur stomp” by led zeppelin
in room 5 i always read out loud after lunch recess. i started playing a song to measure the time the kids had to get settled in with drawing paper and crayons and all that jazz. i had fun putting together a mix of songs for that specific purpose. this ended up on it, and became one of our favorites. a lovely song about a man and his dog.
track 17 ~ “solace of you” by living colour
“time’s up” came out in 1990 and it’s another one of those tapes in frequent rotation in the honda civic. and “solace of you” is just one of the loveliest love songs i know.
track 18 ~ “walt whitman’s niece” by billy bragg and wilco
for christmas one year, my ex-boyfriend tom and i decided that we would makeover my foster daughter karla’s bathroom while she was at school, like those “while you were out” design shows. we got the paint and towels and i made curtains, and when karla left for school on the friday before christmas break, we launched into action.
tom is a big wilco fan, and that day we listened to “walt whitman’s niece” many times. it was a pretty cool day.
the bathroom looked great, and karla was really surprised.
track 19 ~ “brass monkey” by the beastie boys
I think that my friend jamie put it best. she’d had my soundtrack for a while, and one day she texted me: “brass monkey making my day.” it always makes my day, too. the beasties needed to make another appearance, and this song at track 19 turned out to be just right.
track 20 ~ “cotton fields” by creedence clearwater revival
in my early twenties i went deep into a CCR phase. around that time i was working at an infant/toddler daycare center, which meant that i frequently had to put small children down for their naps. cotton fields was my go-to lullaby. it’s a good one – try it.
track 21 ~ “gone” by ben folds
zari got me into rufus wainwright, who gave up his spot on my 2014 soundtrack to make room for guns n’roses and de la soul and some of those other folks. soon after i moved to oregon, rufus was playing in portland and i got a few tickets in the hopes that z could come up from northern california to go with me. but she couldn’t. so i took jaqui and rachel from the school where i taught. rufus was on tour with ben folds, who i knew nothing about. after rufus’ dreamy set, the crew rolled his enormous piano off stage and rolled another one on. we thought that was strange, until ben folds started his set. the guy plays the piano like it’s a flying v electric guitar. he kicks the shit out of it – i wouldn’t share a piano with him either. ben folds is a total nerd and a rock star all at once. and he does great covers, too. on that tour he and rufus ended up covering careless whisper, and it’s pretty damn great.
after the show i really got into ben fold’s album “rockin’ the suburbs,” and “gone” just kills me. i like what it’s doing here as the penultimate track.
track 22 ~ “end of the line” by traveling wilburys
speaking of ultimate tracks, this is the best possible song for mine. jeff lynne! and good ol’ george harrison! and tom petty says it best: “i’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.”