day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event
Song: “I Want An Alien For Xmas”
Band: Fountains of Wayne
Event: Solstice party, my parents’ house, annual event/Christmas Eve, same
I first heard this song in college. I don’t remember where – it was either something Matt and Jeremy played on U Maine campus radio station WMEB, 91.9 (“Redefining ALTERNATIVE!”) or it was on Napster. Ah, Napster. Anyway, it was around Christmas, end of Fall term, I was probably wearing a big long coat and driving to Dysarts. I know that I definitely *did* come home for Christmas that year with a tape (yes, a tape) of alt-rock and folk Christmas songs that I taped off my computer, which we played while we trimmed the tree. And “I Want An Alien For Xmas” was one of them.
My parents do Christmas really well – they perform music at church and have a big caroling party every year, on Dec. 21 (the winter solstice.) Everyone hangs out and plays music and drinks hot cider. If the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland, the dream of the ’60s is alive, for one night a year, in Westford. One year – I don’t remember which – I played “I Want An Alien For Xmas.” The kids loved it. The grownups loved it. Somehow, it became The Song I played every single year. Well, that and “The Christians and the Pagans”, which has become another wonderful tradition.
But I hear “Alien For Xmas” by Fountains of Wayne and I think of my godfather’s kids, Rebecca and Maria and Sandra, jumping up and down and asking me to play it each year with joy and wide-eyed wonder in their eyes and hearts. It should be noted that Rebecca now works for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Sandra has a MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and Maria is a college sophomore. I kind of accidentally started a tradition.
I also think of my grandmother – I definitely played it for her for the first time in December of 2001. She adored it, and every year, on her birthday, which happened to be December 24, she insisted I play it.
day 08 – a song that you know all the words to
song: “We Didn’t Start The Fire”
artist: Billy Joel
No real story here – I’m just bragging.
By the way – this song might sound like just a list of stuff, but it’s way better written than you think it is. You know why Billy ends the first verse with “Satayana, goodbye!”?
OK, so, Billy’s doing the typical baby boomer thing of thinking it’s all about him and his generation, so he’s listing all the historical and cultural events he can think of since the year of his birth, 1948. By the end of the first verse, it’s 1952, Billy’s four years old, England’s got a new queen, Rocky Marciano’s the champ, Liberace’s a star, and Satayana’s dead.
Who the hell is Satayana?
George Satayana. Spanish-American writer and philosopher. Came up with that immortal phrase “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Which is the whole point of “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” Billy’s intentionally dropping an obscure reference he hopes you’ll look up, and when you do, you’ll figure it out, man. And he gets there at the end of the first verse! Pretty cool.
day 09 – a song that you can dance to
can you dance to it?: Totally. And so can you.
day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep
song: “Neon Sky Rain”
artist: Vector Lovers
sleep in a good way?: Oh yes. This is wonderfully calm, blippy, ambient electro. Enjoy.
day 11 – a song from your favorite band
artist: The Dresden Dolls
First saw them in 2003, the year they won the Rock and Roll Rumble. Thought that, with Amanda’s songwriting and Brian’s drumming and the whole aesthetic, they had the potential to be cult heroes. Saw them with an audience of about 50 people at the late, lamented SkyBar. Saw them with an audience of about 30 people playing a radio show. Saw them in the basement of the Middle East back when you could smoke in bars in Cambridge. Saw their CD release party at the Paradise. Saw them play bigger and bigger venues, like Avalon and The Roxy. Two years later, saw them open for Nine Inch Nails at the Orpheum. The year after that they were touring the world. Amanda Palmer released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2008 on her own, became a social media icon/genius, and married Neil Gaiman.
There’s something really gratifying about being right.
day 12 – a song from a band you hate
song: “She Loves Me Not”
artist: Papa Roach
For some reason, I can’t access any of my original comments from Facebook past Day 20, but I think I said something like “the perfect song to listen to you while you lurk in a trailer park with a sock full of pennies because that b***h owes you money and tonight, she’s gonna pay, man.” Which was icky and violent, but totally sums up how I feel about this band: they always seemed to me like they were about to go beat their wives.
day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure
song: “Part Of Your World”
artist: Skye Sweetnam
Oh, come on: this cover totally rocks. Sure, it’s from Disney Mania 3 or some such evil thing, but holy crumbs it’s good.
(to be continued)