Flashback Fives: First Cuts

Along with our letters, we also publish “Flashback Fives”—a list of five moments when each writer fell in love with a song, album, artist, genre, et al. This list was submitted by Daniel from Columbia, PA.


The Allman Brothers Band
Brothers & Sisters
“Wasted Words”

I owe this introduction, and a mound of thanks, to my parents. Best lyrics have ambiguity that can be applied to multiple subjects. Amorphous, brilliant, priceless.

“Weekday soap-box speciality, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout now,
By the way, this song’s for you, sincerely, me.”


The Stray Cats
Rant N’ Rave
“Rebels Rule”

This was on one of my first cassette mixes. Dialed through FM, adjusted an antenna before that to receive it. Heart-warming, familiar rumble at the beginning for me.

“You look like something that the cat dragged in,
Yeah well you look something off an assembly line”


Cap’n Jazz
Analphabetapolothology
“Little League”

Sometimes friends turn you onto some wonderful things. Word play is a fascinating thing that delightfully rings my ears. I was scribbling lyrics on walls and tables when I first heard this.

“We live in quick flips, slips, tips, and taps,
To snap us outta these statue traps”


Ryan Adams
Gold
“New York, New York”

Every once and again things have a way of playing out in a timely fashion. At their most misunderstood—bittersweet and better when reflected upon. Rolling with punches, wounds, hard places. Music.

“Had myself a lover who was finer than gold,
But I’ve broken up and busted up since”


Lord Huron
Lonesome Dreams
“Ends Of The Earth”

Standing in heat, thinking about anxiety, things big and small. An air can blow over you so comforting, you slip away. I found serenity, a place in the shade, kicked my feet up.

“Out there’s a land that time don’t command,
Wanna be the first to arrive”

Life has a way of marking people and having its way with them. These opening tracks, music, lyrics, experiences, make me love everything more. Cheers to all involved.

Dear John,

How these three albums came out of a man that should have been completely jaded with the record business at this point in his career is something miraculous, and a true testament to perseverance. I’m talking about American Fool, Uh-Huh, and Scarecrow by the man of many monikers, John Mellencamp.

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Listen to “Cheap Shot” from Nothin’ Matters And What If It Did and you would never expect his next album to be a commercial breakthrough. (Actually, American Fool was almost totally scrapped by his label.)

Who would question the output of a wise ass such as this:

Labeled as heartland rock and the next Neil Diamond, while this totally mocks a culture and barely anyone got the joke.

That being said, American Fool kicked (and still kicks) some serious ass, in listenability, lyricism, and sales. Fitting for him, the title track was among the songs that were nixed from the initial release. Nose-thumbing and still succeeding in the business—admirable today, much more so then. My tender ears could feel the honesty in all three of these albums, which were a large part of my 80s listening pleasure. In “honesty,” I mean the evidence of his love/hate for what he’s doing. I think there are a bunch of singer-songwriters out there that owe a nod to this dude, but refrain for odd reasons. Maybe they’re waiting until he kicks the bucket, in true industry fashion. Regardless, I love this man. As a child, I wanted to be him, he was the shit. Anyone who listens to “Weakest Moments” and hates it is a person I’d rather not speak with.

In walks Uh-Huh. This one was the kicker for me. I can still remember my parents showing my sister and I how to turn on the receiver, place the record on the turntable and set the needle. This album has a special place in my heart, I can remember jumping around to “Crumblin’ Down” and “Authority Song” like it was yesterday. And the delightfully playful “Jackie O,” which was done with John Prine. I used to stare at the album art and wish I was cool, not even fully comprehending the messages in the songs. Now, I like them even more. “Forget all about that macho shit and learn how to play guitar.”

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And then, Scarecrow. Another beast of an album, telling people everything they should already know within an awesome rock and roll album. From the horse’s mouth in 1985: “I wrote a song called ‘Stand For Something,’ but I never did say what you should stand for— except your own truth. That song was supposed to be funny, too, and I hope people got that. But I think that’s the key to the whole LP —suggesting that each person come to grips with their own individual truth—and try to like themselves a little bit more. Find out what you as a person are—and don’t let the world drag you down. People should have respect for and believe in themselves.”

This is the reason his music resonates and transcends generations. I know people decades older and decades younger than me who appreciate his work as much as I do. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, John Mellencamp, whatever—I love you. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Dan

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Danger List

Crumblin’ Down

Justice and Independence ’85