Saturday, July 12, 2014

Carl's Musicology 101

This past Father's Day my son (and my wife...mostly my wife!) gave me a new iPod Nano to replace my worn out, secondhand original iPod. My old device held about 230 songs on a good day. The new one currently has around 1200 songs on it, and it is still only about 2/3 full. I can finally put all of my music on at once, plus I had some iTunes gift cards and have been loading up old CDs as well. So it should be painfully obvious that I am getting to listen to a lot of music that I haven't heard in a long time. This process is teaching me a lot about my own musical history and my personal music tastes. Such wisdom needs to be shared, even if you don't really want to hear it. With that in mind, I present Carl's Musicology 101. I am not responsible for any iTunes spending sprees this may lead to...

* I don't know why science fiction writers and movies are so obsessed with time travel- it already exists! I just plug into the music and I can travel back to the dawn of time...or at least the late 1960's! Bands like the Turtles, Herman's Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Four Seasons, The Temptations and The Monkees can transport me. I can listen to Hey Jude, or any song by Bread, or Hurricane Smith singing Oh Babe, What Would You Say and the years just disappear. One of my recent purchases was the album Calumet by an artist named Lobo. The last time I owned this collection of songs was around 1974, and it was on 8 track tape. Steve Semmler remembers it I know, because we played it to death. Listening took me back to the heartache of 8th grade, when every romance was life or death and being friends with a girl was the kiss of death. The crazy part was I could still sing every word of songs like Stoney, How Can I tell Her? and Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend. Talk about doing the time warp (which is also on my iPod...). 

* There are several hundred artists (515 albums) represented on my collection, many having only one song make the cut. But there are a few notable exceptions. Here are my top 10 artists by number of songs on my playlist:

  1. Beach Boys- 74 songs
  2. Jimmy Buffett- 48 songs
  3. Dan Fogelberg- 34 songs
  4. John Denver- 33 songs
  5. Billy Joel- 29 songs
  6. Elton John- 28 songs
  7. The Beatles- 24 songs
  8. dc Talk- 20 songs
  9. The Eagles- 20 songs
  10. Jars of Clay- 19 songs
But it's not just about numbers. I only have two songs by the Florida based band Sister Hazel, but those two songs get more play than most anything else. Even the one-hit wonders matter! Remember Come On Eileen, Brandy, War and Hold Your Head Up?
* I have rediscovered a love of not only the great songs of the 60s and 70s, but also of the 80s. I bought a Duran Duran song the other day. I was reminded of what an incredible pop song Freedom by George Michael is (that's right, I said something nice about George Michael!) and how much I loved REO Speedwagon. No Culture Club, Thompson Twins or hair metal yet, but I still have lots of room. I draw the line at Culture Club. There will be no Culture Club.

* To give you an idea of the variety I enjoy, I give you the following list. There are 16 artists who have one complete album stored on my device. They are Three Dog Night, Jimmy Buffett, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, dc Talk, John Denver, Steve Martin, Green Day, Lobo, George CarlinJars of Clay, Mumford & Sons, U2, PocoJim Croce and Elton John. Everything else is a partial album or single song. Feel free to place your bets on which albums this list covers! I'll give you one- the Elton John album is Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I have owned the CDs (it's a double set) for many years, but I had not listened to the album from start to finish since high school. It is absolutely amazing! The big hits- and there are several- may be my least favorite songs on the project. It will get another listen very soon.

* Is Mike Cross famous anywhere besides NC, because the man is an incredible talent. His stuff is all over my new Folk/Grass playlist- as is music from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Poco and Mumford. On a related note, I am remembering how much I love bluegrass music. In fact, if I could find a church that played Gospel bluegrass on Sunday mornings (think "I Saw the Light" or "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder") I would so be there. I still listen to a lot of the classic 1990's contemporary Christian music, but much of what has been written in the last 10 years all sounds the same to me. They all want to be Chris Tomlin.

* Some of you are wondering why I would have 74 Beach Boys songs. Others of you are surprised to learn that there are 74 Beach Boys songs. As a public service to my readers, here are 10 GREAT songs by the Boys that you may have never heard- unless your name is Ashley or Steve. :)

  1. Long Promised Road
  2. Goin' On
  3. I Can Hear Music
  4. Honkin' Down the Highway
  5. That Same Song
  6. Funky Pretty
  7. Add Some Music to Your Day
  8. Good Timin'
  9. Please Let Me Wonder
  10. This Whole World
* I have also fallen back in love with many of the great singer/songwriters of the 1970's. Artists like AmericaJames Taylor, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Carole King, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Seals and Crofts, Loggins & Messina, Harry Nilsson and Joni Mitchell (in addition to some of the others mentioned previously) are dominating my listening these days. Throw is some other 70's mainstays like Chicago, Queen, ELO and Styx and it is easy to tell the decade of my formative years.

* But I also am enjoying lots of music of a more recent vintage as well. I have some 90's classics like Matchbox 20 and Hootie & the Blowfish right up through brand new stuff from Phillip Phillips and Adam Levine. My son Will got me into groups like 30 Seconds to Mars, My Chemical Romance and The Killers. I LOVE The Killers! So I am not just a geezer. Mostly...but not only.  :)

In the end, for me music is all about emotion. And with my newfound musical freedom my emotions have been all over the map. Lots of laughs (I have the Lumberjack Song and lots of Tom Lehrer), lots of smiles, lots of memories and even a few tears. Does anything...ANYTHING...capture the feelings of loss or heartbreak better than a well-written song? So that's my lesson for today. Like most teachers, I got a little long-winded. And also, there is homework. Leave me a comment with a suggestion for a song, old or new, that you think I might not have yet. I still have room to grow. Have a great weekend!


  1. Anonymous7/12/2014

    No country music? That would seem to be a major oversight...

    1. Yes, my playlist is lacking in that area. I do have some Zac Brown and some Willie Nelson. And much of the Buffett I love is closer to country than anything else. If iTune sold Garth Brooks I'd be all over that. I think he is brilliant.

  2. Infinite by Kevin Max.
    Greater than me, Leave me alone, and Bible on my hip by ThaKiddJopp. (Provided that you like hip hop/ rap)

    The others I can think of are local bands from IL and I'm pretty sure they aren't on iTunes.


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