Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things. – Oscar Hammerstein II
Yesterday I wrote about my favorite (non-horror) movies, though as some of you undoubtedly noticed a few of them were borderline horror or contained horror elements. Two of those films (and one from my horror movie list) have connections in today’s column, in which I discuss my favorite music. I’m going to limit myself to popular music here, but since I’m sure some of you would like to know my favorite composers are Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Holst, Shostakovich and Vivaldi (though the first two stand out above the others). Since chronological order is useless in discussing popular musicians, let’s list these in alphabetical order:
1) The Beatles: Because my father used to set a radio to lull me to sleep, my first experience of the Fab Four was when “Let it Be” was in heavy rotation on WTIX in 1970. The first Beatles album I actually owned was The Beatles: 1967-1970 (the “Blue Album”) which I bought (on vinyl, of course) sometime in high school. I played that album so often it would be a candidate for my favorite-album list (see below) had I not purchased every single Beatles album on CD while I was stripping.
2) Blondie: My first exposure to this now-legendary band was “Heart of Glass”, and the album from which it came (Parallel Lines) and its successor (Eat to the Beat; see below) were among those I got “free” with my first Columbia House membership in high school. Unfortunately, they went sharply downhill after that, though I later bought and enjoyed their first two albums (Blondie and Plastic Letters).
3) Blue Oyster Cult: I don’t really much care for their early work; the first song which caught my attention was “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, but I never considered them a favorite until Fire of Unknown Origin (see below), which I came to know through the Heavy Metal soundtrack (also below). Strangely, the band went into decline immediately thereafter.
4) Enya: When I bought Watermark as a Christmas present for Olivia, I listened to selections in the music store and got a copy for myself as well; I later purchased everything Enya had ever recorded (or has done since). Her popularity has faded since the turn of the century, but not with me.
5) Heart: I fell in love with the Wilson Sisters from the first time I heard “Crazy On You”, and it’s still one of my favorite songs; Dreamboat Annie (see below) was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money (from a neighbor’s garage sale a couple of years later for 25¢). Though I liked their ‘80s heavy metal incarnation less than their original sound, it was still much better than the Private Audition/Passionworks era.
6) Meat Loaf: One of my university boyfriends introduced me to Bat Out of Hell (see below), and it quickly became one of my favorites. After buying a number of his other albums I discovered that though I do enjoy his singing in general, the songs I really like are those written by Jim Steinman, so it’s most accurate to say that the Meat Loaf/Steinman collaboration is among my favorite music acts.
8) Rush: This particular band came to reside among my favorites by a circuitous route; they were the favorite of a boy I knew in 7th and 8th grades who was very friendly to me when his male friends weren’t around (he lived next door to my Maman) but rude to me when they were. Later, they were also the favorites of a friend of mine’s stoner boyfriend whom I couldn’t stand. So, I never gave them a chance until the 1984 hit “Distant Early Warning” caught my attention. Frank slowly worked on me, exposing me to the group on every possible occasion throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, and though I came to like them it was my husband’s influence (Rush is his favorite band) which finally pushed them into my top ten.
9) Joe Satriani: “The Crush of Love” was released in November of 1988 and was played nearly every night on my favorite classic rock station while I drove home from a horrible retail job; driving much too fast down I-10 late at night while that composition played refreshed my soul, and I went out and bought the CD on which it appeared, Dreaming #11 (see below) as soon as I could. Others followed, and Satriani is one of the few artists whose work I will buy simply because his name is on it; I own every one of his albums.
10) Vangelis: Most Americans only know his soundtrack for the movie Chariots of Fire, but that is IMHO among his weakest work! My first exposure to him was through the passage from Heaven and Hell which was used as the theme to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos television series, and when I learned the name and composer of the piece in the Times-Picayune TV supplement, I absolutely begged Jeff to take me to New Orleans’ then-best record shop, Leisure Landing, so I could buy it. In those pre-internet days it was nearly impossible to discover every album released by a European musician, but by the time I met my husband I had most of them and he helped me uncover the rest. I thought I had them all, but my research for this column indicates I missed his very first soundtrack commission, which I’ve added to my Amazon wishlist. Personally, I think Vangelis’ best and most productive period was from 1975 to 1979, though 1978’s Beauborg is below average and 1984’s Soil Festivities is as good as any of his golden ‘70s oeuvre.
There are favorite artists, and then there are favorite albums. Some musical anthologies are just pure synergy; it’s like all the cosmic forces were in alignment when they were created, and every song contributes to that whole. I think most people have certain albums they feel that way about; such a favorite becomes more than JUST a collection of songs, and instead becomes an experience in itself. They certainly differ from person to person, but the experience is the same; they’re played so often one memorizes all the notes and all the lyrics, and may even have to be replaced due to wear! Here are mine, in alphabetical order by title:
1) Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf)
2) China (Vangelis)
3) A Clockwork Orange (original movie soundtrack)
4) Dreamboat Annie (Heart)
5) Dreaming #11 (Joe Satriani)
6) Eat to the Beat (Blondie)
7) Fire of Unknown Origin (Blue Oyster Cult)
8 ) Heavy Metal (original movie soundtrack)
9) Jesus Christ Superstar (original rock opera)
10) The Stranger (Billy Joel)
11) Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield)
12) The Turn of a Friendly Card (The Alan Parsons Project)
These particular albums were just lightning in a bottle for me; I mentioned most of them above, and of course the two soundtracks are from movies discussed yesterday. I was introduced to Jesus Christ Superstar in 8th grade and bought it almost immediately; it may be the one album I have heard all the way through more often than any other, and the only stage play I’ve paid to see more than once. The Stranger and The Turn of a Friendly Card came to my attention via my second roommate at UNO, and are interesting in that I actively dislike several other albums by the artists who recorded them. And then there is Tubular Bells, which I first encountered via one passage used as the theme of The Exorcist but came to love after I bought a copy from a used-record store in high school.
Well, I think that’s enough for now; as I said yesterday, if you’re curious about my favorite whatever-else-I-didn’t-mention, just ask in a comment!
One Year Ago Today
“The Slave-Whore Fantasy (Part One)” proposes that the reason so many men choose to believe in “trafficking” mythology is that it allows them to deny the uncomfortable truth that women are in control of the sexual sphere by pretending that prostitutes, the most sexually powerful of all women, are pathetic victims who are controlled by men.