If you ask someone what their favorite song is, they will probably think a minute and say, “Oh, it’s…. I just love that song. It brings back memories of…”
We all have songs that evoke times and places that are important, happy, and care-free, or that are associated with not-so-happy times that are stuck in our memories. Why we like certain songs may not have any association with times or places at all, though. There are certain parts of songs, for example, that I really enjoy simply for the sound alone. There’s a terrific snare-drum roll on “She’d Rather Be With Me” by The Turtles that always makes me smile; there’s a dirge-like organ part on “I Get Along Without You Very Well” by Carly Simon that makes me understand exactly what she’s going through (there’s also a three-note piano interval that is just heart-breaking); the organ part in “How I Spent My Summer” by Cat Mother and the All-Night News Boys, on the other hand, sounds like a carnival organ, a happy, bouncy sound that plays off the serious political lyrics; the bass line in “Theme from St. Elsewhere” absolutely moves the song along in a merrily rousing way (even though the opening sounds a bit like “Tubular Bells”, that incredibly spooky song from “The Exorcist”); who can resist the banjo on “Some of Shelley’s Blues” by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band” or the pedal steel guitar on Ray Steven’s obscure, but wonderful version of “Misty”?
For the most part, I tend to identify my favorite songs for the music and not so much for the lyrics. There are certain artists, however, who are at the top of the list because of the words they write or sing; often, it’s not a whole song that catches my attention, rather it might be just a phrase or two that makes me stop and listen. For example, when Marc Jordan sings “I wish this pain would just go away; I wish that dogs had wings” you know that he’s in a terrible place and can’t see how to make it end; when Todd Rundgren says “We all know what comes of that, livin’ in your pockets and talking through your hat”, we begin to understand that there must be more than just the surface of life; I’m sure that we all find hope when The Kinks sing “Here’s wishing you the bluest skies”; and I’ll bet we’ve all thought Herman’s Hermits were right about “Something tells me I’m into something good”.
Music has always been an important part of my life. I inherited my uncle’s trombone and started playing in the elementary school band. I’ve played marches, Dixieland and good old rock and roll. I’ve liked almost every kind of music, though I’ll confess that country/western and rap are styles that elude my appreciation. I developed my interest in classical music when I found a recording of the 1812 Overture in a bin at the local Piggly Wiggly for 50 cents. I’ve been through vinyl, eight-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and now digital. My computer and iPod hold a good deal of my music these days and when I want to hear my favorite song, I don’t have to thumb through the hundreds of 33⅓ rpm records or stacks of CDs; I just pull it up on my Mac, stream it to my amplifier via my Apple Airport Express and listen blissfully. And iTunes even tells me what my favorite song is: I just consult the “Top 25 Most Played” playlist. Well, frankly, I didn’t know that Chad and Jeremy had the honor, but iTunes is never wrong, right?
In case you are wondering (though I can’t imagine that you could be), here are the 25 (mostly pop) songs that iTunes says I have played the most over the last couple of years. And I will admit that I love them all.
- A Summer Song by Chad and Jeremy
- Satin Dolls by Marc Jordan
- I Love L.A. by Randy Newman
- All Those Years Ago by George Harrison
- What Do You Hear In These Sounds by Dar Williams
- Are You Out There by Dar Williams
- My Back Pages by The Byrds
- We Gotta Get Out of This Place by The Animals
- Thinking of You by Loggins and Messina
- Run Home Girl by Sad Cafe
- Venus by Frankie Avalon
- See You In September by The Happenings
- Tell Me Why by Karla Bonoff
- She’d Rather Be With Me by The Turtles
- Better Things by Dar Williams
- Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
- Wild Wild Life by Talking Heads
- All The Children Sing by Todd Rundgren
- Forever, Forever by Keiko Matsui
- Lost in the Hurrah by Marc Jordan
- I’m Telling You Now by Freddie and The Dreamers
- I’m Into Something Good by Herman’s Hermits
- A Must to Avoid by Herman’s Hermits
- A Groovy Kind of Love by The Mindbenders
- Veronica by Elvis Costello
Here’s wishing you the bluest skies and the sweetest songs. May they all be your favorites.