Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Wish I'd Written That (#10-6)

Here is another installment of I Wish I'd Written That--an eclectic collection of songs that have stricken me as so profound in music and lyric that my only response as a songwriter and music lover could be, "Man! I wish I'd written that!" Take a break and absorb some of these songs that may be new to you or, at least, deserve to be revisited. Also, enjoy #20-16 and #15-11.

10) "Lithium"--Nirvana

Most folks will say give me a good "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but for me, "Lithium" is the place teen angst crosses over into outright madness. The tune is similar to "Teen Spirit" in it's bipolar verse-chorus moods. However, the major key and happiness of "Lithium" takes it a step deeper into Gen X sarcasm and cynicism. You gotta love that opening line: "I'm so happy / 'cause today I found my friends; / they're in my head." When "Lithium" came out, the chord changes were so cool that I actually wrote a song of similar character. But the alienation was something I wasn't yet able to express. Nevertheless, I was (and remain) drawn to it.

9) "Crazy"--Gnarls Barkley

Keeping with the emotional instability theme... A highly unlikely Top 40 hit, "Crazy" wins the prize for best opening line ("I remember when I lost my mind..."), as well as best use of a laugh since "Wipeout." I still get chills at that line: "Who do you think you are? / Ha ha ha! Bless your soul. / You really think you're in control? / Well, I think you're crazy..." (The video also wins the best use of Rorschach ink blots.) All the spaced-out, funky fun of Parliament/Funkadelic, but stripped down to perfect simplicity. Gets under your skin.

8) "Takin' It To the Streets"--Doobie Brothers

I've wished to have written this one as well as "Black Water" (great mixture of acoustic, fiddle music and lyrics like "Catfish are jumping, paddle-wheel's pumping..." to create a sense of place). However, the "brotherhood" message, the descending chords in the bridge, and Michael McDonald's voice push "Streets" into the winner's circle. What a great anthem! (When no one's around, I slip into the sanctuary at church, sit at the piano, and do my best impersonation of this song.)

7) "No More Tears"--Ozzy Osbourne

Dark? Yes. It's Ozzy, for crying out loud! But what an amazing song. It seems a strange disconnect for some that Ozzy claims to have been very inspired and influenced by the Beatles. This song shows that Ozzy is every bit as capable, inventive, and musically sensible as his heroes. At the time it came out, I had written a "classical" chamber piece based on the Robert Browning poem "Porphyria's Lover," in which a man, upon realizing the affection his lover has for him, strangles her with her own hair to freeze the moment forever. So, when Ozzy came out with this version--mixing a similar lyrical theme and heart-achingly beautiful harmonic and melodic progressions with such a thick, heavy stomp--my jaw dropped. Plus, you just have to crank the volume to get the full impact of Zakk Wylde's crunching guitar!

6) "Bohemian Rhapsody"--Queen

Even when I was a kid, not even a composer/songwriter, I wished I could create such beautiful music. My words aren't really needed--most know this is one of the greatest songs ever written. Overplayed during the Wayne's World popularity, yes, but I'm thankful for that great movie exposing a new generation and wider audience to Freddie Mercury and Queen's masterpiece. And didn't we all bang our heads to this even before Wayne and Garth?!


Unknown said...

All excellent songs. Lithium is far too often overlooked (as much as I love Teen Spirit and Heart-Shaped Box) as one of Nirvana's greatest songs.

Oh man, now I want to go listen to "Polly" and sit in a corner with my head tucked down into my cardigan.

robert c. pelfrey said...

Ahh, the good ol' days when angst was underground and rebellion was...well, rebellious. Now it's all collective. And my wife threw away my cardigan.

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