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More fun to write than read

One nice thing about memes (ooh! that word!) is that when one is feeling blogblocked, one can blog a meme without much creativity, that is, without deciding what to post about, or what to say about it. It’s blog-by-numbers time, providing momentum to YHB and (I hope) at least a trifle of enjoyment to Gentle Readers all.

  1. Elvis Costello
  2. Duke Ellington
  3. The Beatles
  4. Jim’s Big Ego
  5. Eddie from Ohio
  6. The Pogues
  7. Louis Armstrong
  8. XTC
  9. Ella Fitzgerald
  10. The Ramones

We begin with a numbered list of ten, er, “singers or musical groups” that YHB likes. For those of you playing along at home (or, you know, on your portable device), this list is to be made entirely independent of the questions. I made it by taking the ten who have the most sides rated four or five, that is, the singers (or musical groups) who have put out the songs I am least likely to get sick of on repeated hearings. This was an interesting if oddly time-consuming task, since iTunes is not a real database. I suspect that the meme would be more interesting should you take your “artists” randomly from some list of listenables; if you need to, you can always throw out some. Now that I look at the questions, there are quite a few that would be more interesting to answer for groups and singers that you like but about whom you are not stone cold crazy about. whom. about.

And now the questions:

What was the first song you ever heard by 6? I believe this was “If I should fall from Grace with Gd”, on MTV, but then the timing doesn’t actually work out for this very well. I would have guessed that I first heard the Pogues in 1986 or possibly very early 1987, which was before that album came out. At any rate, if I remember correctly (and clearly I do not), I saw a video, noted the name and that the band was completely crazy, and then didn’t think about it much again for years and years and years, until finally purchasing “Peace and Love” in or around 1992.

What is your favorite album of 8? This XTC, which in one way makes it a really good question, as their albums tend to have an identity more than as collections of songs. In fact, their heyday covers, pretty much, the heyday of the album; for anyone much earlier or (I’m predicting) much later, the question makes little sense. What’s your favorite Elvis Presley album? Which one has the singles arranged in the best order? Anyway, as much as I absolutely adore Apple Venus Volume 1, I’m going to name Black Sea, which came along at the right time for me to listen to it again and again and again as an album, and which in addition to working very well as an album, has “Respectable Street” and “Generals and Majors” and “Sgt. Rock” and “Rocket from a Bottle” and other songs that work very nicely on the shuffle.

What is your favorite lyric that 5 has sung? Oh, dear, well, an admission, then, that as much as I like the sound of Eddie from Ohio, I think the lyrics tend to be just good, rather than great. Still, it’s tough to pick a favorite. I’ll lay out a verse or two from “Very Fine Funeral”:

Wednesday morning/my Aunt Sarah died
not many had known her/not many had tried
and there at the funeral/we all sat and lied
and said how much we missed her

you wanna know about Sarah/where do I begin
she had this growth/to the left of her chin
let's all be honest she was ugly as sin
no one recalled having kissed her

How many times have you seen 4 live? I saw Jim’s Big Ego open for the Nields, the day or perhaps the day after I heard them on live on Emerson College radio. They were great. Since them I have seen them, let’s see, twice at Johnny D’s, twice at Passim (the Hallowe’en show), once at the Lizard Lounge, I think, and then there was the time we went to the CD release party at TT’s, if that’s where it was, and bought the discs and left before they went on. Strangely enough, and this did in fact come about totally randomly, Jim’s Big Ego is the band I have seen most often, at least not counting street performances. I don’t go out to shows that much.

What's your favorite song of 7? Oh, well, how do you pick a Louis Armstrong song? I mean, hard not to go with “Wild Man Blues”, right? Or the “St. Louis Blues”, just because, well, it’s the “St. Louis Blues” and one of the best songs ever written. If written is the word I mean. On the other hand, his versions of “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Solitude” both are just marvelous. I think, for the purposes of moving on to the next question, I’ll pick “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues”, just because.

What is a good memory you have considering the music of 10? My Best Reader and I saw the Escape from New York tour, with Debbie Harry opening, Jerry Harrison and the Tom Tom Club hitting second, and then the Ramones coming in and kicking ass. The crowd was filled with punk kids who had no idea who these old guys were, and were just waiting around for the Ramones. They were great, just exactly what I’d expected, with the three guys just standing stock still in their spots and slamming out their noise, and Dee Dee occasionally taking a step or two forward and shouting “Marhah arghah hargle margle ONE TWO THREE FOUR!” We’d get to the second chorus before we could figure out which song they were playing. It was brilliant.

Is there a song of 3 that makes you sad?A sad Beatles song? Well, there’s “For No One”, which I listened to again recently for the first time since becoming a parent and found terribly sad. There will be a time, I know, when my Best Reader will be convinced that we are trying to give her only what money can buy, and not, you know, fun. This was the first time I’d listened to it and thought that the parents were totally misrepresented, and that it is inevitable that they will be represented, and that their bewildered hurt at the end is not because they were bad parents, really, but because they were good parents, and that wasn’t enough.

What is your favorite lyric that 2 has sung?Duke Ellington, of course, doesn’t so much sing. But let’s go to my favorite lyric sung by a vocalist with his orchestra, which would be “Every Time We Say Goodbye”. Well, I’m sure at some point he must have played that; it was a big hit, and he played all the big hits. But since I don’t actually have a recording of it, let’s go with the Beale Street Blues:

If Beale Street could talk
If Beale Streak could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk
Except one or two, who never drink booze
And the blind man on the corner says I got my eye on you.

What is your favorite song by 9? By meaning written by? I mean if by means something like associated with or even recorded by then my favorite Ella (today) is “Every Time We Say Goodbye”. If by means written by, then, well, I don’t know that she actually wrote any. Although this may be a good spot to tell the story about how Irving Berlin would complain about jazz singers improvising when they sang his songs, and how they would change his melodies. When asked about Ella’s recording of the Berlin songbook, though, he said, more or less, “It’s different when the singer is a better composer than I am.”

How did you get into 3? How do people my age get into the Beatles? Older siblings, of course. Playing the Red and the Blue collections over and over on an old hi-fi. I mean over and over. Wearing out needles. Do you remember needles?

What was the first song you heard by 1? I have no idea. Seriously, I can’t remember a time before I knew Elvis Costello. I would guess, and this is strictly a guess, that I heard “Allison” first, but then it’s equally likely—more likely, now I think about it—that I heard the album before I heard any tracks on the radio, so it would be the first song on that album, “Welcome to the Working Week”.

What is your favorite song by 4? Well, and I think I’ll go with “Cat Named Boogers”, although I would really really really like to have a copy of “Little Miss Communication”, which I think might be my favorite if I could listen to it enough to know whether I was sick of it. “Boogers”, though, has a great bit where the unrelated verses each wind up contributing a line to the expanding chorus. By the end, the chorus makes no sense at all:

Bomb in the back seat
boogers hanging from you nose
hit the pigeon with the tennis racquet
he gave me a whole ten dollars
bomb in the back seat
veins running underground
on the steps of the art museum
she only gave me two kisses
And yet it makes an odd kind of kaleidoscopic sense anyway.

How many times have you seen 9 live?Oh, never not ever. Not in the prime of Ella, before I was born, not in her later years, when it still would have been a hell of a thing. Missed it. Gone now.

What is a good memory you have concerning 2?A good memory of the Duke? Well ... Jazz History class was where I wound up getting the Duke, and Jazz, and it was kinda revelatory, but I don’t think that’s a specific enough memory. Hm. How about this ... it’s isn’t my memory, really, but my mother saw the Duke at a college dance in, let’s see, it would have been 1957 or so, and at one point when I was home from college, or maybe shortly after, she told me about seeing him, and his enormous hands, and the carpet slippers he was wearing, and it was one of the first times my mother and I had a conversation as two adults.

Is there a song of 8 that makes you sad? Like the Beatles, from the earlier version of this question, sad is not what XTC is best at. They’re, you know, burning with optimism’s flame. I mean, they sing lots of songs on depressing topics, particularly political, but mostly those songs are upbeat sounding and don’t make me sad to listen to. The last time I heard “Dear Gd”, though, I was, briefly, sad about how many people view religion as essentially being about, well, about what the song thinks it’s about, about fooling people into believing things that aren’t true in order to manipulate them.

What is your favorite lyric that 3 has sung?A fave Beatles lyric. Can’t be done, can it? I mean, how do you choose between the magniloquent “Mr. Kite” and the earthshaking “I Saw You Standing There”? I’m afraid I’ll pick the latter. I read an essay once that claimed the moment they changed the line from “a real beauty queen” to “you know what I mean” was when rock and roll really began.

What is your favorite song of 1? Aw, come on. That’s just silly. See, this is why I think it would be more fun to do this with random artists you happen to like rather than with artists that you are completely and inappropriately obsessed with. I couldn’t even do a Top Five Elvis Costello songs. Let me put it this way: I have 463 rock songs rated to let me listen to them at least once a week. Of those, thirty are EC songs. That’s one out of fifteen, right? Here’s another way: I have three hundred and seven Elvis Costello sides. I am not going to pick one of them and call it my favorite. Even if we were to change the criterion and say ‘which song (of 1) would you like to listen to next?’ it would be a difficult choice, and one which I would be happier solving by random chance. Which is how I will choose this one. And the winner is ...Hm. It’s the cover of “Hidden Charms”. Not what I would have picked, but, when you think about it, it’s a hell of a recording.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


If one decides to use the metric of "which song by Artist X is most likely to pop into your head unbidden" as the criterion for "favorite song", then I guess my favorite Elvis Costello song is "Beyond Belief". But, yeah, impossible to pick, when you get right down to it.

I don't know if any XTC songs make me sad, but "Harvest Festival" has a lovely melancholy, longing feel. (And not just because the word "longing" is in the lyrics.)

If you're the sort of person who's interested in this sort of meme, you can see my list and questions over at holychao.blogspot.com.


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