There’s this thing I have that is sort of compulsion when it comes to listening to music. There are certain words and sounds that scratch a perfect spot in ear I didn’t realize was metaphorically itchy until I heard the song. Then I will listen to the song a bajillion times in a row until the itch is gone. Or I something shiny distracts me.
Now, this isn’t the same as just grooving on a song or having to repeat a song 183 times because it’s fitting with something you’re writing. It’s different because you have to listen to the song so often because of the way the words are said. It’s the combination of the words and not even the words specifically. It’s not like the phrase is beautiful or clever. It’s just the sounds. It doesn’t happen a lot. At least not for me. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac, Drive-by Truckers
TRUE STORY: I had a spiritual experience at Sun Records in Memphis. It was weird and it made me feel tingly and weepy & totally embarrassed Sister #4. This has nothing to do with the words they say in the song. It’s just that I thought about it right now.
ANOTHER ASIDE: I think I have a thing for songs about singers (see: Alex Chilton and Emmylou, which are the first two I can think of right now). I should probably start a new playlist.
FINALLY: The way one of the Truckers (I don’t know which one it is, because I am a bad fan) sings ‘all y’all’ is so dreamy and awesome I want to buy it ice cream.
Walt Whitman’s Niece, Billy Bragg & Wilco
I have been known to say that if I were the marrying type and it were legal, I’d totally marry the way Billy Bragg says the word “poems” in this song. It never, ever fails to make my parts all quivery.
Fort Hood, Mike Doughty
Now, there was a time in the not-so-distant past where the mere mention of the name Mike Doughty made me think all kinds of sexy thoughts. I had a real Mike Doughty thing going for awhile, a thing that was bigger than my love of his music. But as is often said, familiarity breeds contempt and after seeing him in concert what felt like 728 times in the span of a few years the sexy-crush wore off and I was just back to being a regular, old Doughty appreciator.
Now if you’re a fan of The Doughts (as I have taken to calling him in my head) dating back to the Soul Coughing-era you know he’s got a way with pronunciation. I could probably write an essay on the way he says lisssening (I wont. At least not today). So, it’s probably surprising that it’s not one of the Soul Coughing-era words that gets me. In fact, ‘Fort Hood’ is a pretty recentish song and I remember (surprising because there was a lot of gin involved that night) the first time I heard this song at HippieFest down somewhere in MN that is not here. From that moment the extended ‘parking looooooot’ got me. Still does.
Pancho & Lefty, Willie Nelson (with Merle Haggard)
As you may not recall (and why would you?), I’m a relative newcomer to the wiles of Willie Nelson and a lot of this newfound appreciation can be laid right at the feet at the way he says the word ‘Federales.’ What great fucking word. I wish I had more use for it in my everyday life.
I Love Rock’n’Roll, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
I hopped on the Joan Jett bandwagon pretty young — ridiculously, elementary-school, not even fully understanding the Joan Jettiness of Joan young. There was two reasons for this: 1.) getting a 45 of that “Crimson & Clover” cover she did in the early 80s from my Mom’s cool friend TJ and 2.) the fact that I was pretty sure Joan Jett was Leather Tuscadero from “Happy Days” (she was not, though she did cop her style from Suzi Quatro).
I wish I could remember the exact first time I heard “I Love Rock’n’Roll,” but I can’t. All I know is that whenever I hear Joan scream “OWWWWwww” my heart soars. It’s not the same kind of jiggly heart that the opening to “I Will Dare” gives me, but it’s close.
There are more, and perhaps I’ll write a part II but right now I’ve begun to bore myself so I’ll stop.