Involuntary Memories (Part II)

Involuntary Memory #3 by Carl

In 1966, my brother Art had a red Alfa Romeo. I’m told it was kind of a crappy car, really, and I remember its ignominious final days in his possession: a scarlet husk parked, prone, lying in state beyond the shed at the end of our back yard. Collecting dust, collecting rust. A tow truck ultimately came to whisk this luckless red Alfa Romeo to the promised land.

But my prevailing principle memory of this doomed vehicle is a happy one. I believe the memory involves the consumption of Royal Crown Cola, or possible a root beer at the nearby A & W Drive-In. The memory absolutely involves the car’s one true immortal virtue: its radio.

That radio? When I was six years old, I may have thought that radio was magic.

I mean, it must have been magic. There were songs I heard on that car’s radio that I never seemed to hear anywhere else. I should ask Art if he listened to Syracuse’s 1260 WNDR in ’66, or if it was WOLF instead, or even the less-fabled WFBL. Whatever it was, it played “I Like It Like That” by The Dave Clark Five, a record that–to me–only existed on the AM dial of Art’s doomed Alpha Romeo. Even better, it played–often!–another irresistible exclusive: “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four. To this day, more than five decades later, my visceral memory of that terrific song is inextricably linked to those moments in my brother’s Alpha Romeo, of drums, guitars, and a singer bemoaning his fate of Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun, all pouring forth from the little car’s speakers as my big brother cruised suburban streets with his pesky kid brother on board. It’s indelible, and I embrace and cherish its vivid image.

Involuntary Memory #4 by Nicole

In the early months of 2014, I had an internship at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. When I applied, I didn’t think I’d be accepted, but I was, so off I went. Like a lot of people that spring, I was astounded by a clip of the band Future Islands performing on David Letterman’s show. That gravel-voiced singer with the slick dance moves and wild eyes, so recklessly earnest… It seemed a direct rebuke to the ruthless cynicism that often dominates online pop-culture ‘discourse’. I knew I had to investigate them further.

“Tin Man”, from their 2010 album In Evening Air, pulled me in immediately. It starts off with bouncy synth notes that sparkle like sunshine on the water, but the lyrics are jagged with grief. It mirrored the push and pull of that spring—the weather that went from blue and balmy to sideways sleet and back again, the way my “job” made me feel like a child playing dress-up in adult clothes, the yearning to go back to New York (where I’d gone to college) and the terror of not knowing what I would do once I got there.

But there was a certain freedom to that time, too, especially once spring arrived for good. The apartment I was staying in had a balcony, and I used to sit outside in the humid air, overlooking the maze of hotels and highways near Reagan National Airport. In the chorus of “Tin Man”, Samuel T. Herring sings, “And time goes by/and you’ve got a lot to learn, in your life…” Those words became a kind of mantra for me. I have a diary entry from that period that reads, in part, “I’m ready start my own life—my real life.” I decided to move back to New York, feeling like if I didn’t do it then, I never would. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew it would be worth it.

Involuntary Memories (Part 1)

Per Hermann Ebbinghaus: “Often, even after years, mental states once present in consciousness return to it with apparent spontaneity and without any act of the will; that is, they are reproduced involuntarily. Here, also, in the majority of cases we at once recognize the returned mental state as one that has already been experienced; that is, we remember it. Under certain conditions, however, this accompanying consciousness is lacking, and we know only indirectly that the “now” must be identical with the “then”; yet we receive in this way a no less valid proof for its existence during the intervening time. As more exact observation teaches us, the occurrence of these involuntary reproductions is not an entirely random and accidental one. On the contrary they are brought about through the instrumentality of other immediately present mental images. Moreover, they occur in certain regular ways that, in general terms, are described under the so-called laws of association.”

Involuntary Memory #1 by April

In the spring of 2012 I found myself traveling down Highway 101 towards San Francisco whilst this song played on the radio. The day was bright, my rental car was clean (and had a yellow exterior, or am I making that up?), and I was simultaneously anxious and excited. I had come to California as part of a (fairly) big leap of faith. I wasn’t escaping a dust bowl. I wasn’t trying to make it “big” in Hollywood. I wasn’t aspiring to become a championship surfer. And yet, I was evolving. I was becoming the director of a summer camp.

For the past 2ish years I had been working as a counselor for a large medical giant that probably secretly owns the city of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. If they don’t own the city then they are probably building an entire system of underground tunnels so that they can build a city under the city where they can rule supreme after the apocalypse.

The pay was good, the co-workers were smart and fun, the clients were my cup of tea. The system however, was soul sucking. You were expected to see no less than 6 clients in an 8 hour day. There was a perpetual motion machine of paperwork. My office was windowless. There were constant conversations about chart reviews, treatment plans needing to be signed, and always the threat of visits from the state during which we would be required to present “good charts.” Good charts had nothing to do with the quality of therapy provided. Good charts meant that all of the paperwork was present and accounted for, signed legibly, and all treatment reviews fit into specific timelines. You could be a terrible therapist and have “good charts.” You could be a mediocre therapist and have “good charts.” I didn’t give a shit about “good charts.” I wanted to HELP PEOPLE.

In short, my soul was dying.

So, I left. I took a flying leap and decided that I would leave my full-time job with benefits so that I could work as a director of a therapeutic summer camp without really knowing what would happen when camp ended in August. Perhaps a few rousing games of capture the flag were all that were needed in order for my soul to climb out of the file cabinet where it was gasping for air underneath a pile of “good charts?”

“Somebody I Used to Know” appears repeatedly (and subconsciously) on playlists in my music library during various years and months. April 2016, there it is. March 2015, oh…hello! April 2018, you again? I am still not sick of it.

Each time I hear it I am immediately back there.

I am walking up and down hills to meet someone for breakfast who I didn’t know, but then immediately felt like I had always known as soon as I met them. I give them as much music as I possibly can because their ear holes might just be the same model as my ear holes, and I can’t believe that such a thing is even possible. Translation: We like the same types of music. Almost exactly. Why was this person not my neighbor growing up so that we could have shared a pair of tin can telephones and listened to oldies radio together?

I am meeting a woman who has also taken a leap of faith to become a camp director. She impresses me with her fierce and unwavering ability to enjoy food. Regardless of age, background, race, waist size, sexuality, or level of education I have known many women who live in fear of food. Fears of ordering too much, eating too much, eating in front of others….there are endless (and boring) combinations when it comes to the ways women have been conditioned to hate food (and themselves).  We order dinner. We order dessert. We order a second dessert! She is fearless and unafraid of caloric intake and I love her immediately (even though I almost barf as we travel back to our hotel later that night on BART).

I am meeting up with a high school friend who has just come from her clog dancing lessons. I haven’t seen her in decades. She is changed and the same all at once. But most importantly, she is (just like Paul Simon says) “still crazy after all these years.” While we are meeting for a drink, a solar eclipse takes place and everyone rushes outside to see the slivers of light reflected onto the sidewalk. It is May 20th, 2012 (thank you Google Gods for allowing me to pin down the date) and I am alive!

That summer, my first summer running a camp, one of my campers (who is quite musically adept) “hates” “Somebody I Used to Know.” He sings songs constantly. He sings “Payphone” by Maroon 5 while we’re swimming in the pool. He drums on his chest to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen while we eat lunch. He also brings in a photo-shopped picture of himself with a weed wacker, but that’s really neither here nor there, (although it is one of the highlights of the summer). But, whenever we hear “Somebody I Used to Know,” he says, “Ugh! I hate this song.” I ask and ask, but he can never explain why. Now, 6 years later I still don’t get it. It’s a really good song. Number 1 in fact, for the year 2012. It was a song that was playing the year my soul took Liz Phair’s advice and went “west (young man).” It was playing as my old therapy job became a job “that I used to know” and I moved into a more enjoyable phase of my working life. It keeps showing up on my playlists because it is a damn good song and I am still not tired of it. That’s when you know you’ve written a true pop hit. When it plays over, and over, and over, and people still love it just the same as the first time they heard it.

In short: Thank you Gotye!

P.S. How many takes were needed in order for you to sing “have your friends collect your records and then change your number” in such a rhythmically perfect way? Also, if people tell you that you’re just a Peter Gabriel or Sting ripoff don’t pay them any mind. They’re just jealous that you can shout-sing with such genuine emotion.


Involuntary Memory #2 by Jen

When my husband suddenly left me, I started obsessively listening to Sufjan Stevens’ “Come on Feel the Illinois.” I’m not sure why it resonated with me at that particular moment in time, but it hit the spot, musically. I particularly remember driving along the North Carolina coast, blaring “Chicago,” with my kids in car seats in the back with the windows down. They were too young to really see my tears for what they were, and I mumble-cry-sang the lyrics.

Two phrases from “Chicago” became mantras for me over the next two years, and I moved from “I made a lot of mistakes,” to the zen-koan-like “All things go,” as I navigated joint custody, a solo budget, and the infinite loneliness of losing my spouse.
Almost three years to the day after my husband left I took a solo trip to Denmark. It was my first time abroad and the longest I’d ever been away from my children. I stayed in a bunk in the hold of a shipping yacht on the harbor in Copenhagen. I crawled into the belly of the ship and found two nordic hipsters huddled around a wood stove. They were listening to “Come on Feel the Illinois.” It might have been the jet lag or the hash, but I felt like the credits were rolling on the story of my divorce and “Chicago” was the hopeful theme leading us to believe everything might just work out in the end for our fearless heroine.


Mr. Tom,

Did you feel the loss during 2016 and well into 2017 when we watched so many artists and musicians leave the world? Were they your friends? The epic storytellers, trendsetters, and style makers who taught us all how to be a little cooler and a lot more open-minded: Prince, David Bowie, Chris Cornell, Chuck Berry, Sam Shepard, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adam West – they topped the much-too-long list of goodbyes. Myself, I felt sort of numb about it all. Each time, I watched my news feed light up with tributes. I listened to friends reminisce about defining moments that made this musician or artist one of their favorites. I had empathy. But I couldn’t relate to the sensation that I lost someone personal to me. I never felt like I’d lost a friend…except this time.

This time, it was you that died.

As I write this, it’s been 123 days since you died.

I can’t get my thoughts clear about it.

I haven’t cried. I haven’t faced it directly.

I’ve listened to your songs every day since I can remember listening to songs. I can’t tell you when you showed up in my life because you’ve always been there. Your music preceded my birth, and you helped me grow up. You’ve always been there for me: a consistent and supportive guide. There’s an empty space now.

I won’t regale you with tales of specific moments that one of your songs, or concerts, helped me out – I just want you to know that they, you, your music, changed me for the better.

It’s hard to explain how a person you’ve never actually met can be a friend and confidante. I see how ridiculous that sounds as I write it. But the person that the world knew as the rock star Tom Petty…that part of you that you shared with so many…well, that guy, I think, was a solid foundation for many people. Your capacity for creating universal and life-affirming lyrics, and your expert delivery of good old rock and roll songs aided in the positive transformation of many. This is the magic of music and you, Mr. Tom, were a profound channel.

It’s hard to explain how I feel now.

Two days ago, a friend shared a video with me: of one of my favorite bands covering your “Wreck Me.” It was a perfect tribute. I felt elation that someone thought to tape the moment, the pure love I have for both the band playing it and your original song, and the sadness that this is as close as I’ll ever be again to your original spark. That even though we’ll always have the 40+ years of music you left us, it doesn’t sound the same now. Because without you here, our continuum has changed.

Can I sing you to sleep?

“Good night, baby

sleep tight my love

may God watch over you from above

Tomorrow I’m working

what will I do

I’d be lost and lonely if not for you

So, close your eyes

We’re alright for now”

Yours truly,


Dear Dolores,

It should not have taken you no longer being on this earth for me to think about writing to you. But, now you are gone and your passing brings up so many feelings and memories for me. You were one of my first rock n’ roll loves. I adored you.

Even though women musicians and performers sort of had a bit of a feminist renaissance in the 1990s where it actually seemed like they might just be on the same level as men and they actually might not have to show more of their flesh in order to be considered a valid entertainer, you stood out.

You wrote all of the lyrics for “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” That’s impressive in and of itself, not to mention the fact that everyone loved that album. High school girls, high school boys, Moms, Dads, siblings, teachers, anyone who worked in an office and listened to the radio, dentist hygienists, we all loved that album. It was beautiful, unique, and palatable. Not everyone can write an album that has strong lyrical content, sounds beautiful, and is accessible to so many different people at so many different points in their lives. You did that.

The December of my 9th grade year my (soon to be) closest high school friend gifted me a green stone/marble pendant necklace, a peppermint flavored Lip Smacker (great because it made your lips feel tingly) and EEIDISWCW on CD. My parents who were/are fundamentalist Christians were highly suspicious of, and controlling about, the pop culture content that made its way into our house. I could not listen to the majority of the music I was beginning to love (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Bouncing Souls, etc.) out in the open at home. I was closeted. Due to the accessible and non threatening nature of EEIDISWCW I was able to actually listen to that album, out loud, in my room. I could even sing along. Thank you Jesus!

God, I loved your voice. You had the most amazing voice.

In 1995 when given the choice to attend one outdoor summer concert I chose to go and see you and your band over going to Lollapalooza. I chose you over Hole and in hindsight this choice makes more sense than ever. We traveled 2 hours to New Jersey to see you. It was worth it.

I thought you were so very beautiful. I desperately wanted to have short hair but I was “scared” to cut mine off. Afraid I would look ugly. I already felt ugly. I didn’t need any further confirmation from anyone. You had short hair and you were beautiful. You were not afraid. You were my hero and eventually by the time I reached 12th grade I mustered up the courage to get my hair cut short. It was your picture I took into the hairstylist to provide an example of what I wanted. Thank you for being my role model.

You were sexy. It didn’t seem to be contrived or purposeful. You could play the guitar and sing and dance. From where I sat you looked like you were just being you and you just happened to also be sexy. We needed and continue to need women like you. Women who are not products. Women who have talents and show these talents. Women who are sexy who also do not have perfect teeth, hair, boobs, etc.

Your teeth were crooked. You were still sexy.

We need women who are sexy because they are showing themselves to the world and their showing involves a myriad of talents. A fully dimensional human. That was you.

I have not yet read all of the details of why you are gone. I saw a tweet from Chuck Prophet on twitter and I did a Google search and saw the words “bipolar” and the number 46 and then I started writing.

I could go on and talk about other albums you created, other songs that I loved which were written by you. I could elaborate on how you were a lifeline for me throughout my high school years and into college. But, none of that is going to change the fact that you are gone.

I’m sorry I didn’t write to you sooner.

I miss you already. Thanks for everything. You were a life changer.


I’ve Loved You For A Lifetime: Part 1


Back in December LL2RNR asked folks who have written for us to start thinking about 5 songs that they have loved “their entire life.” If this seems like a strange or unusual request to you, then you should probably just stop reading this blog now.

Good ‘ol Carl was the first to come through on this request and so his list goes up first. We apologize greatly for the lack of posts lately. It ain’t easy keeping up with a blog.

P.S. Happy New Year! Happy Birth Month Carl!

From Carl:

I will be 58 in January, so I figure anything I loved prior to turning a world-weary six years old in 1966 is fair game, provided I still love it now as I did then.

And there is indeed quite a lot I loved a lot, and never stopped loving. I mean, 1966 through 1968 encompasses a wonder world of pop music. The ensuing years and decades brought me even more. But for me, it all started before that. It was a decent time to be an apprentice pop fan, eagerly learning whatever the radio, the TV, and the family record player could teach me. 1966 would bring a whole new cascade of personal discoveries: Batman, The Monkees, Marvel Comics, Lesley Gore, my first plane trip, my first surgery, and my first broken heart (courtesy of six-year-old Suzette Mauro). Before I turned six in ’66? Here are but five among many that have never left me.


My earliest memories stretch back to 1963, when I was three years old. I have no conscious memory of a time before I loved music. It’s likely there never was any time when I didn’t love music. As a little, little kid, I used to pick up 45s and spin them on my fingers, pretending I was a record player, warbling the single aloud as it “played” in my hand.. The fact that I could match the 45 with the correct song convinced many that I could read at the age of three or four, but I’d memorized which label went with which catchy tune. I also loved my parents’ Broadway show LPs; I was known to blurt out lyrics at inopportune moments in public, like the time I was in a department store and loudly and proudly sang out the line “Here’s to the son of a B, tra la!” from Carnival (which is still one of my favorite plays). Yeah, I was a joy to be around. My favorite show album was actually the movie soundtrack from West Side Story. I didn’t understand its urban milieu, social commentary, and Romeo & Juliet storyline until many years later; I dug the tunes immediately. “Gee, Officer Krupke” was my favorite, but I loved the song “America” nearly as much, and it has stayed with me ever since.

EYDIE GORME: “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”

Both of my parents worked. I often stayed with my Godparents the Klusyks, my Aunt Connie and Uncle Nick. I remember their house in Westvale, in Syracuse’s Western suburbs. I remember my first girlfriend, four- or five-year-old Mary Rose Tamborelli, who lived across the street from the Klusyks. I remember Mary Rose’s older brother playfully popping a toy percussion cap with his baseball bat in the Klusyk’s garage. I remember the neighborhood teens and/or pre-teens having a party one evening in the Klusyks’ basement, with li’l toddler me right down there with them, helping the big kids listen to their Four Seasons records; the music got too loud, and the adults killed the light as a warning to the kids to quiet down already. I was afraid of the dark, and this move freaked me out, prompting me to wail, upset and inconsolable. I remember the sight of my parents’ car pulling into the Klusyk’s driveway to take me home at the end of one of my Westvale stays. Good times.

But my most prominent memory of life at stately Klusyk Manor remains music with my Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna was Uncle Nick’s sister, and she lived with Uncle Nick and Aunt Connie. Every week day that I was there, I would greet Aunt Anna when she got home from work with one simple, urgent request: “Records, Aunt Anna!” Aunt Anna had 45s. I wanted to hear those 45s, again and again. I specifically remember Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” as a Fave Rave, and ditto for “Downtown” by Petula Clark. I’m sure she had some Beatles records, too. My favorite songs were “Who Stole The Keeshka?” by Frankie Yankovic and “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” by Eydie Gorme. I can’t even tell you for sure whether or not those were among Aunt Anna’s 7″ slabs o’ bliss, but the memories of all of this–all of this–dovetail together so pleasantly in my mind, a happy image of music and love, a heaven on Earth abruptly terminated when Aunt Connie died in 1965. I was devastated, and this early lesson in mortality haunted me throughout the rest of my childhood. Even today, though, hearing “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” brings a smile, and transports me back to a cherished time I recall with affection and surprising clarity.


THE BEATLES: “A Hard Day’s Night”

Even four-year-olds knew The Beatles in 1964. The Beatles were synonymous with pop music, with radio. “All My Loving” was an early favorite, sung by that guy I thought was named Paul MilkCartoney. But the whole giddy sense of Beatlemania is best represented by “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title tune from a movie I saw with my brother, sister, and cousins at The North Drive-In in Cicero in ’64. All the girls in all the cars were screaming at the images on screen. I’ve often pointed to that experience as one of my three prevailing pop music epiphanies (along with hearing “Sheena Is  Punk Rocker” by The Ramones and seeing a live show by The Flashcubes). Aside from a few brief moments of doubt in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there has never really been a time when I didn’t regard The Beatles as the greatest group in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.


1965 was pop music’s best year ever. I didn’t truly start to appreciate the year’s bounty until more than a decade later, when I began to discover essential ’65 gems by The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Buck Owens, The Yardbirds, The Beau Brummels, The Byrds, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fontella Bass, The Small Faces, The Dixie Cups, The Vogues, The Who, The Zombies, The Miracles, The Hollies, George Jones, Stevie Wonder, and so, so many more. Whatta year! The best stuff was popular, and the popular stuff was the best.

Even if I had to wait until teendom to understand the splendor that was all around me when I was five, there was still much I knew as it happened. I certainly knew “Get Off Of My Cloud.” I may not have had reason to believe The Rolling Stones were substantively different from contemporary hitmeisters like The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Castaways, or Gary Lewis & the Playboys, but I remember that voice bellowing out of transistor radios: Don’t hang around boy, two’s a crowd! At five, I thought the twisting of the familiar “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” maxim was interesting. This record was probably my introduction to the idea of a song having swagger.

THE T-BONES: “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”
One of 1965’s final hit records was a cover of the music from an Alka Seltzer commercial. See? Best pop year ever! Granted, The T-Bones‘s “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” was really a 1966 hit–its Billboard chart peak at  # 3 was in February of ’66–but it was released in December 1965, so…close enough, I say. I had the 45 on the Liberty Records label, and it was The Greatest Record Ever Made. I’d play that sucker on the family hi-fi, dancing around our little living room as the song created images in my daydreamin’ little head. I would close my eyes. I swear, I could see the music. I saw colors, shapes, figures, even a brightly-garbed clown a-boppin’ and a-swayin’ to the tune. I was a weird kid. Still am. Almost fifty-two years later, the music still means as much to me as it meant when I was five, and as when I was three, when I was twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six, forty, fifty, and on down the dark and twisting path ahead of me. It’s best played loud. No matter what shape.

Dear Paul,

If I’m at a party of intellectuals, artists and music lovers, there are certain rules I must follow in order to have my opinions on music taken seriously. I must have cursory knowledge of obscure indie pop bands, a forcefully acknowledged passion for diverse and worldly musical offerings and, most importantly, I can never, under no circumstances, admit to loving post-Beatles Paul McCartney. Everyone loves John, of course, but Paul? Wings? Are you serious?

Yes, Paul. Believe me. I’ve had these conversations. Many times. Despite your decades worth of hits minus the Fab Four, too many people need to assert the fact that they think your solo music blows. And that anyone who admits to loving your solo work cannot ever be taken seriously as a lover of arts and culture of any kind.

I’m sure you’re aware of this. And I’m also sure you really don’t give a fuck. I mean, you’re Paul McCartney for God’s sake. Why would you care what some pretentious, scrubby faced, hipster with skinny jeans thinks of your music? Or anyone, for that matter.

You were never going to be able to match what the Beatles did. But then again, neither were other Fab three. That’s what made you so special as a band. When The Beatles broke up in 1970, someone asked you how you were going to follow them and I thought your response was spot on: you just follow it. Seriously, what else could you have done?

But you’re a genius. And you know what? As a solo artist, you’re still a genius. You remained a vibrant and relevant creative artist for decades and continue to produce great music even today. You created Wings, which ultimately was just as commercially successful as the Beatles, which is amazing to consider. You collaborated with Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. You wrote the best James Bond theme song ever.

You ventured into the new wave scene with the underrated “Back to the Egg” album. And even though the album suffered from a White Album type schizophrenia- with elements of punk to new wave to soft rock to chamber pop to vaudeville mixed with some random “Abbey Road” style medleys and various song fragments for good measure- it’s still shows off your endless creative curiosity.

You recorded 24 albums since the Beatles broke up, as a solo artist or with Wings, plus five classical music albums, and collaborated on another seven albums. Where do you get your energy from and does it come in a pill form or something I can drink? Whatever it is, I need some. Just email me.

I do, however, feel a little like the odd man out as I find myself constantly having to defend you against the McCartney haters of the world, but it’s the least I can do after everything your music has given me.
As a painfully shy, introverted kid growing up, I often felt displaced and alien to just about everyone else in the world. Yet your music was always there to comfort me.

When my friends were off swimming at the town pool without me because I couldn’t swim, I’d be home by myself, sitting in front of the A/C listening to “Wings at the Speed of Sound.” When I needed to escape my crowded and noisy household, I would pop in the “Venus and Mars” cassette into my Sony Walkman, hop on my bike and disappear. “McCartney” and “Ram” provided a warm soundtrack to my family vacations on Cape Cod and “Band on the Run” was always blasting from my radio in the depressing and, sometimes violent, central New Jersey flea market I worked at as a teenager.

So we have history together, you and I. Listening to your music now instantly transports me back to a time when I needed your songs the most. And the next time I’m stuck in a room crowded with stuffy, music snobs, I will wear my McCartney love like a badge of honor and I will tell them, how can you hate someone who has brought so much joy to so many people? I’m living proof of that.


5 Songs Loved by Carl: From Movies He’s Never Seen

Rock ‘n’ roll as we know it might not even exist if not for the movies. That may be an overstatement, but it’s certainly true that rock’s first crossover success came via Hollywood. When the film The Blackboard Jungle appeared in 1955, its opening credits sequence propelled a novelty fox trot called “Rock Around The Clock” to the top of the pops, making the seemingly unlikely figures of Bill Haley and his Comets the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll stars. The ongoing sheet-shakin’ between rock and film has been consummated again and again over the ensuing decades, from Jailhouse Rock through A Hard Day’s Night, The Monkees in Head, The Ramones in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and the fictional Oneders in That Thing You Do!, plus whatever more recent iterations have occurred since I grew too old to keep up with what you crazy kids are up to. Just stay off of my lawn already.

The sheer abundance of great rock ‘n’ pop tracks that have appeared in movies makes the prospect of selecting my all-time Top 5 movie songs too daunting to consider. Honestly, I doubt I could even narrow down a list of my five favorite Beatles movie songs, and I’d still need room for at least two tracks from The Dave Clark Five‘s Having A Wild Weekend, The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song (Theme From ‘Head’),” Little Richard‘s title tune from The Girl Can’t Help It, the museum outings montage version of Lulu‘s “To Sir, With Love,” and Paul McCartney and Wings‘ license to thrill “Live And Let Die.” Among others. Among a lot of others! “Light Of Day” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, fercryinoutloud!

So, as an alternative, I figured I’d list five great movie songs from films I either didn’t really like or have never actually seen. That narrows things down to a more manageable field. By arbitrarily discarding any song used as a film’s title tune–buh-bye “Don’t Make Waves” by The Byrds and “They Ran For Their Lives” by The Knickerbockers–I came up with a quintet of popcorn-ready tracks that mean more to me than the films that delivered ’em. Dim the room. Kill your phones. And keep your trap shut until the closing credits roll. Lights! Camera! GUITARS!!

THE CRAWLING KINGSNAKES: “Philadelphia Baby” (from Porky’s Revenge)

The only Porky’s film I ever saw in its entirety was the first one, and I did not care for it. I mean, c’mon–it’s not like it was The Hollywood Knights or something. But one of its sequels, 1985’s Porky’s Revenge, had a killer soundtrack, consisting mostly of oldies covered by acts like Jeff Beck, Willie Nelson, Clarence Clemons, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Dave Edmunds, plus Carl Perkins performing a new version of his own “Blue Suede Shoes” with two out of three Stray Cats. The soundtrack also includes George Harrison‘s otherwise-unavailable take on Bob Dylan‘s “I Don’t Want To Do It,” and Edmunds (who was in charge of the soundtrack) turns in an incredible original called “High School Nights.” But the highlight is this cover of Charlie Rich‘s “Philadelphia Baby” by The Crawling Kingsnakes. Who da Kingsnakes? None other than Robert Plant, with Edmunds, Paul Martinez, and Phil Collins. That’s a pretty impressive line-up for a no-account flick like Porky’s Revenge.

THE FOUR TOPS: “Are You Man Enough” (from Shaft In Africa)

Another sequel. I don’t remember whether or not I’ve ever seen the original Shaft, but I certainly knew Isaac Hayes‘ title theme song. I did see some episodes of the TV series that eventually followed. And everybody knew that Richard Roundtree was badass in the role of the man that would risk his neck for his brother, man. 1973’s Shaft In Africa brought “Are You Man Enough” to AM radio, and it was my de facto introduction to The Four Tops. I retroactively discovered the group’s fantastic ’60s catalog, but it all started for me with this song from Shaft In Africa. Can you dig it?

HERMAN’S HERMITS: “A Must To Avoid” (from Hold On!)

When I think of rock ‘n’ roll movies, I don’t think of concert films or documentaries. I think of scripted flicks with some excuse for a plot (however slight), and pop idols singin’ their songs. I primarily think of star vehicles, like Sonny & Cher in Good Times or Bloodstone in Train Ride To Hollywood. As a kid growing up in the ’60s, I only saw two such films: the magnificent A Hard Day’s Night and the significantly less-great Hold On!, the latter starring Herman’s Hermits. I’m sure I liked Hold On! just fine when I was six or whatever; I tried to watch it as an adult, but could not get through it. On the other hand, the soundtrack LP has its moments, particularly this rousing pop put-down, a song spirited enough that my power pop Fave Raves The Flashcubes used to include it in their live sets circa ’78 or so.

DAVID JOHANSEN & ROBIN JOHNSON: “Flowers In The City” (from Times Square)

1980’s Robert Stigwood-produced Times Square was supposed to do for new wave music what Stigwood’s earlier success with Saturday Night Fever did for dat ole debbil disco: sell records, inspire pop culture, and generate a free flow of cold, hard cash. It did not do that. The few minutes of the film I’ve managed to catch in passing on TV support the prevailing opinion that Times Square was stuffy and overly serious in its tone. I think I’d still like to see it some day, and see what I think of it. The 2-LP soundtrack album is very good, comprised mostly of familiar gems by The Ramones,

Suzi Quatro, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, XTC, et al., all of which were available elsewhere, but which made an attractive purchase when bundled together in one pretty package. “Flowers In The City,” a duet between former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen and Times Square co-star Robin Johnson, is unique to the film’s soundtrack, and it’s terrific. It was released at the peak of my interest in Johansen, and it’s as great as nearly anything on his first two solo albums, and better than anything he did after that.

PAUL McCARTNEY: “Not Such A Bad Boy” (from Give My Regards To Broad Street)

Paul McCartney‘s Give My Regards To Broad Street may get a worse rap than it really deserves. It’s not bad, but it’s not in any way special, either. Well, let’s amend that a bit–even by itself, the presence of McCartney does make it sorta special. I should add this to the list of movies I oughtta watch again and re-assess. The soundtrack is mostly very nice, including a remake of “Ballroom Dancing” and the hit single “No More Lonely Nights.” The album approaches the transcendental with two of McCartney’s best tracks of the ’80s–“No Values” and “Not Such A Bad Boy”–which are not on any other album. Both tracks feature McCartney playing with an ace combo of Ringo Starr, Chris Spedding, and Porky’s Revenge wunderkind Dave Edmunds, and they’re just as solid as anything Sir Paul ever did after leaving the act you’ve known for all these years. In particular, “Not Such A Bad Boy” is such a confident rockin’ pop number, oozing with swagger and amiable panache. It’s aching for rediscovery as one of McCartney’s best.

Okay, the house lights are on. Clean up your concession-stand debris and head for the parking lot. And let’s pop in a rock ‘n’ roll movie soundtrack to accompany our drive home.

If you wanna read some half-baked notions of how I would have (in theory) slapped together a rock ‘n’ roll movie when I was younger, check out my proposed Bay City Rollers movie, or my quarter-baked fantasy of an ’80s update of The Girl Can’t Help It starring Bo Derek (the latter also featuring bonus discussion of a Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart TV series and a star vehicle for Ireland’s phenomenal pop combo The Undertones. I could rule the world if I had money. And ambition. And talent.