"Without music, life would be a mistake." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Musical taste is wildly subjective. I like all genres of music as long as the music conveys extraordinary emotions. If you are familiar with my psychotherapy work and DVDs you know that I believe that our society tolerates an extremely narrow bandwidth of emotions; the underlying psychological purpose of music is to allow us to cathartically experience some of the emotions that would otherwise be deemed unseemly by our fellow pedestrians.
I grew up listening to rock music - Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Boston, Queen, Rush - now often divided into "Classic Rock" and "Hard Rock" - as well as "Alternative Music," which during the 1980s were these weird little rebellious bands that couldn't get onto mainstream radio, e.g. U2, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, The Talking Heads, The Cure, The Smiths, et al.
After university I lived in Manhattan where I found out the real meaning of "alternative" by frequenting places such as the Knitting Factory (then on Houston Street) and experiencing musicians such as John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards (with at various times John Medeski on keys and Marc Ribot on guitar), John Zorn and Bill Frissell. At the same time, I made no bones about using my expired student ID to finagle my way into Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall whenever possible.
I still go to rock shows but I would much rather see Patti Smith at the Troubadour reciting "Piss Factory" like a homeless person in Tompkins Square Park, than waste my time watching David Lee Roth act like a buffoon at the Staples Arena while he massacres beautiful Van Halen songs.
Over the years I've collected 23,503 songs according to my iTunes account and below are ten recordings that I doubt many of you have ever heard but I think you will enjoy. The only common threads I find in my choices are funky bass lines, heavy drum sounds, boppy horn riffs, luscious guitar lines, densely layered crescendos, and heartfelt singing of somewhat ironic lyrics or tearjerking poetry. Plus the fact that not many of these songs spent much if any time on American radio (unless you consider KCRW to be located in America) even though they all have more hooks than Bubba's Bait & Tackle Shop. One of the below choices is a blatantly dated, cheesy early 80s tune but I hope that you'll forgive the tinny synthesized sounds (produced by a young man named Jimmy Iovine) and appreciate the lush vocals and brilliant songwriting.
So here goes:
"The Only One" by Mazarin - This is a classic, timeless pop song. It has a 1950's swing, a 1960's kick, and funny 1970s lyrics. The drums are tribal, the bass seamlessly wafts through, and the sax and guitars rock it forward. If Bow Bow Wow's "I Want Candy" could last for twenty years on the radio then so could "The Only One" if someone had given it a shot.
"Amo La Vida" by Jacqueline Fuentes - Here is the case of a song that is simply too powerful, poignant and beautiful for the radio. Thousands of cars would end up on the side of the road if this mesmerizing song ever made it onto the radio. Jacqueline's trilling in the second verse makes me stop whatever I'm doing and pay 100% attention to the rich interaction of bass, guitar, clarinet, and vocals.
"Tripping Over Gravity" by Sam Phillips - This is a haunting, luscious symphony. The way all of the instruments mesh with Sam's voice and hurl the song towards a surreal gothic ending is so smart, unexpected, sophisticated and engaging. Make sure to listen to the last minute with the volume turned up high. The swelling reminds me of Gorecki's #3 for some reason.
Speaking of threes... "Three" by Scott Walker - This is admittedly a bizarre track. I don't think they used an octave machine to double the voice; I think Scott is singing the eerie harmonies as well as the melody. The attention to all of the tones of the instruments reminds me of Lou Reed's collaborations with Hal Wilner, which I refer to as "A Museum for the Ears." I find this song to be unexpectedly meaty, hearty, tasty.
"I Said a Prayer" by The Red House - This rock gem was buried on a CMJ sampler that I got in 1990. I love the twang of the rhythm guitar but to be honest, I admire the singer's raw, splenetic anger in the choruses - it is so pure and honest and rises from such youthfully innocent verses. I could easily envision these guys opening for Bruce Springsteen if they had some stage presence. Really sweet guitar licks over thick drums on this track too.
"Little Darling" by Joy Askew - If you like Rickie Lee Jones (whose "Live at Red Rocks" is one of the greatest live recordings of all time) then you will be blown away by this song. The piano and bass are so soft and precious. Joy's ethereal voice will move anyone with a beating heart. This song is magic.
"Rocky World" by Daniel Lanois - Every verse of this song is like a antique postcard with dog-eared edges. The only people who can melt phrases together like Daniel are fellow Canook Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. So many words flow, rhyme or float together in this epic ballad that has the most colorful and gorgeous poetry of anything I have heard since Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust." The only ballad that moves me as much as "Rocky World" is Richard Thompson's "Beeswing."
"Every Lover's Sign" by The Lover Speaks - I know I'm going to take alot of flak on this one. It's so terribly dated, I know. But try to look past the electronic drums to hear the backing vocals over the chorus. I would put this up against Jimmy Iovine's other hit from that era anytime: Stevie Nick's "Stand Back."
"Spam" by Save Ferris - This song just makes me smile. It's so brave to write a serious ska tune about canned pig flesh. The bass and the horns are so rocking. I don't see much difference between "Spam" by Save Ferris and some of No Doubt's best songs such as "Different People" and "Excuse Me Mr."
"Carnival 2000" by Prefab Sprout - This song encompasses so many genres and yet eludes them all. It's so soulful, peppy, and hooky - it reminds me of an upbeat, Spanish version of David Bowie's "Young Americans."
Well, those are ten relatively obscure pop songs and ballads that I think you will like. Please turn me on to new music by leaving links in the comments below.
Thanks so much!!!