Top Ten Songs I Could Listen To Forever
ike my last Top Ten on the inverse subject, this one could be alternately titled ‘The Top Ten Songs They’d Play In Heaven’ (though I’m not sure if even God would be down with the rather obvious move of picking “Spirit In The Sky” as his personal muzak), or maybe ‘The Top Ten Songs I’d Like To Be Playing During My Death In The Movie Of My Life,’ but brevity is the soul of wit when it comes to titles (though, for the record, if there were a movie of my life, I’d like to be played by Dominique Swain, Chloe Sevigny or Emma Thompson kthx).
But beyond the fact that more than a handful of these songs are heavenly, they’re the songs that I never, ever get sick of hearing. Like most music nuts, I frequently go through song or album obsessions; I’ll find a new drug—last week it was Amerie’s “Talkin’ About”—and play it and play it again, thinking “this is great! I’ll never get sick of this song!” And then, of course, it happens. You get sick of it, for now—some things are just too good to last. But then there are the others that are so good they last forever. I don’t know whether you could technically call these my ten favourite songs, because there are certainly songs I love a lot that might not necessarily last a lifetime of repeat airings; I mean, I get excited whenever I hear Quad City DJs’ “Come On Ride It (The Train),” but I don’t think I could handle its being my soundtrack for eternity. So, here are the Top Ten songs I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing upon stepping off this mortal coil, but that I could definitely handle listening to forever.
“I Will Always Love You” – Dolly Parton
Nobody does it like Dolly! Though I’m also partial to her duet on the same song with Vince Gill (and I am fully prepared to admit that Whitney Houston’s version has its own bombastic charm), it’s Dolly’s original take that is the definitive one. It’s one of those songs that people—particularly those making mix-tapes for wedding receptions—refuse to really listen to, much like The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”; sure, she’ll always love you, but don’t they hear that first line? “Bittersweet memories, that is all I’m taking with me”!! She’s LEAVING! And, for the record numbskulls, “The Greatest Love Of All” you have with yourself. Get it right!
“Spirit In The Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
This one’s an entry for semi-sentimental reasons; it was the first 7” I bought at a record fair, the first song I requested on a radio show, the first guitar solo I played with my garage band, one of the first MP3s I ever downloaded… My Dad told me, at the height of my teenage Beatles obsession, that “Spirit…” was one of John Lennon’s favourite songs and I was in like Flynn. Also, Mum used to tell me a great story about a family she grew up near, whose patriarch had forbidden from listening to “that rock’n’roll music”—with the exception, their having been devout Catholics, of “Spirit In The Sky,” which was played ad nauseum. Gold. But aside from all that, it’s a brilliant song containing possibly the best use of ‘rattle snake’ percussion ever.
“Most Of The Time” – Bob Dylan
Though I’d like you all to think I’m one of those effortlessly engaged music scribes who can waltz into record stores, buy ten discs and go home to soak them up, in reality it sometimes takes a movie, film preview (I give thanks to the trailer for the dreadful Bewitched for reintroducing me to my love of “Magic” by The Cars), radio gig or advertisement to either remind me of a song’s greatness, or, in this case, its existence. So, if it weren’t for High Fidelity, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon “Most Of The Time,” having been thoroughly turned off Dylan’s later works by my parents’ brief affair with Gotta Serve Somebody.
“I Knew These People” – Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski & Ry Cooder
Those who know me well know about my appalling ‘film debt’; there are so many allegedly brilliant movies that I’ve never had the time or inclination to see, and Paris, Texas is one of them. Still, I feel as though I have seen it—at least in my mind—thanks to the battered old vinyl copy I wore thin through years of repeated listening. In particular, it was the epic, heartbreaking soliloquy of sorts delivered by Harry Dean Stanton, with Ry Cooder’s magic score burbling underneath, that captured my imagination. That, and the way Nastassja Kinski said “in a trailer?”
“Desperados Under The Eaves” – Warren Zevon
Well, Warren Zevon is one of my all time, top five favourite albums, so an inclusion of a track from its innards might not be surprising – but there’s something about that heavenly chorus of various Eagles and Beach Boys that lifts “Desperados…” somewhere transcendent. That and Zevon’s grumpy line par excellence, “And if California slides into the ocean / Like the mystics and the statistics say it will/I predict this hotel will be standing, until I’ve paid my bill.”
“The Lark Ascending” – Ralph Vaughan Williams
I just love this piece. Words can’t explain it, really. Sorry. Here, have the poem instead!
He rises and begins to round,“Message To My Girl” – Split Enz
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.
- George Meredith
It was the considerably syrupier “Message…” on the Enzso record (the Aus/NZ art rocker’s KISS Symphony, if you will) that hooked me onto this song; pumped as it was with strings and orchestral swells, it appealed to my then-teenaged sense of romance™. Now that I’m older and (slightly) wiser, I prefer the starker original—particularly Neil Finn’s abrupt delivery of the line “I don’t wanna say ‘I love you,’ that would give away too much.” Well, der, you’ve already given it away! I love a man who sabotages his own mist of cool aloofness with a moment of unguarded emotion—years of dating have taught me that it’s the charming ones with the ‘I Wuv U!’ teddies in the plastic tubes that you’ve got to watch out for.
“Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve
Perhaps it has something to do with the accompanying video (which, for those of you who’ve lived under a rock since 1988, features a cocksure Richard Ashcroft striding down a street, knocking those who cross his path out of the way), but “Bittersweet Symphony” is The Best song to listen to on headphones whilst out and about. And, as a thumbed nose to those detractors who say it’s all because of the Loog Orchestra’s version of “The Last Time,” it’s equally thanks to The Verve’s crashing drum beats—besides, other songs sampled “The Last Time” and they were so clearly memorable that I can’t recall any of their names. So there.
“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” – King Curtis
Yes, this is that brilliant tenor sax version of “A Whiter Shade…” recorded Live At The Filmore West, the one that opens Withnail And I, hands down my favourite film of all time. I could listen to this marvellously soupy recording for an aeon and not tire of it, mainly because—though the scene bookends the film’s conclusion, the song begins it—it makes me think of beautiful Withnail, in the rain, playing the best Hamlet ever to a pack of scrawny wolves in the park. Was he in love with Marwood? I don’t know—and I don’t particularly care—but just know that I went dressed as Withnail to a party in Year 11 (in other words, when I was 16). I love this film, I love this song.
“Claire De Lune” – Claude Debussy
Here it is: the one song on the list that can claim both ‘favourite’ status as well as inclusion on the playlist of eternity. My all time favourite ‘song’ (technically it’s the third movement of Debussy’s Suite bergamasque), the piece of music that I want to straight up hear when I’m dying. Not just in this theoretical movie of my life, but when I’m actually about to cark it. I had a MIDI version of this piece of music that was my personal saviour during high school; it played on constant repeat while I slogged through project after essay after emotional crisis after failed party. Now I prefer the ‘real’ version; particularly the ‘50s matinee movie vibe it brings to any situation. “Claire De Lune” sings me to sleep, it wakes me up, makes me cry and then makes me feel better again. Yes, I could definitely listen to this song forever.
By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2005-07-22