Random Song: “Tiny Dancer” Elton John

September 2000.  The new millennium hasn’t gone so well. I spent the first half of the year working for Census 2000 in Boston and then there was a period with no job and rapidly dwindling savings.  I’d just started a position as an accounting assistant, but money was still tight.  It was the first time I learned that when your money gets to a very low level, it takes time to pull yourself back into financial stability, even if there are paychecks coming in.

Cameron Crowe’s new movie was coming out soon.  There was a time when a new Cameron Crowe movie was a big deal, and this movie, Almost Famous, promised to be a really great movie.

Its release date coincided with a trip home for a friend-of-family wedding.  I didn’t really have the money for a weekend trip home, but had already bought my ticket, so I skipped paying for some other things and headed off to Boise.

I would have been better off staying home.  The wedding was nice, but my divorced parents freezing each other out at the reception was not enjoyable.  There was drama around meeting up with an ex-boyfriend, I completely dissed another friend, and then suffered through a night of not-dancing at a dance club with yet another friend who, I realized around hour two of watching her have fun with other people, had grown very distant.

Almost Famous was my vacation reward.  I was going to see that movie on opening weekend, because I suspected I was going to love it.  It was about the life I thought I wanted when I was in high school.  I was going to be a roadie, touring with the band, music surrounding me.

Almost Famous wasn’t playing in Boise that weekend.  It opened three weeks later.

I returned to Boston, beat up from the changing friendships, and with no extra money for movies.  I headed off to work as usual, girding myself for the day.  This job didn’t have enough for me to do and pretending to be busy for hours on end gave me a lot of time to mull over the sorry state of my life.

I can’t remember exactly when I finally watched Almost Famous, but I know it was a “screw it, I’m gonna see this damn film” moment. I’m pretty sure it was after work on a weeknight. I worked in Harvard Square in Cambridge and one night, instead of going home, I went to the theater after work.

I did love that movie.  I loved it from the first frame to the last one.  I watched the story of a time when music was changing at the same time my life had shifted so abruptly and that film imprinted itself on me. I hoped for a transformative cinema experience and I got one.  And I didn’t anticipate how funny it was going to be.

There are quotes from that movie that run through my head.*  Aside from being transformative, and having a really great soundtrack, this movie also rehabilitated my opinion of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” with one scene.

After a fight between band members, William Miller has just spent the night at a party in Topeka, Kansas with Russell Hammond.  The bus comes to collect them, and everyone’s mad.  Russell sits alone in the front seat and as they leave Topeka, “Tiny Dancer” plays.  Tension dissipates as people start to sing along, until the whole bus joins in for the chorus.

It’s shoddy storytelling, fixing an argument through a sing-along.  But it totally works.  Before this movie I thought Elton John’s song was kind of silly, seeing members of a touring band love the song so much made me love it too.


*The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when your uncool.

Song of the month: S.O.B. by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

My monthly pick for a song of the moment which I will then purchase.

Nothing new popped up this month, so I’m picking a song I was obsessed with before December: S.O.B. by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

This song is so much fun to sing along with.  You can sing lead, you can sing backup, you get to swear, it would make an awesome karaoke song, you can clap along. It’s about the DTs! I love music with a horn section, and in my obsession with this song, I watched a live performance from a few years ago, and Mr. Rateliff looks to put on a good show.  That version has a different arrangement too, which was interesting to hear.

The video is fun too.  Especially spotting the people clapping off beat.  There’s also a tiny desk concert featuring the band, though not this song.

Song of the month: “Way back when” by Kodaline

New feature.  Once per month, I will feature a song that is “of the moment” for me.  Usually because I have discovered it and can’t stop playing it repeatedly on YouTube.  Because I never buy any music, (and that is very wrong) I will then purchase that song.

This song popped up on Pandora the same night I watched the movie Brooklyn.  Brooklyn is an incredible movie and perfect in many ways, but I left with the feeling of “I will never be that young ever again.” It’s a feeling I’ve had intermittently this year, especially this summer.  I feel it deeply, while at the same time understanding its ridiculousness.  My twenties were in many ways not that great and I would prefer not to return to them.  But some part of me longs to be that age again.  Overlaid with this internal struggle, is my future 80-year-old self saying, “You thought 40 was old? Try being an octogenarian!”

And then this song played and the chorus caught me:

Yeah, those will be the days that I’ll be missing
When I’m old and when I’m grey and when I stop working
I hope that I can say
When all my days are done
We were just having fun

It’s a good song, and one I’d like to work into my song repertoire.  Because eventually I’m going to have a songbook of songs I can play and sing.  You know. Someday.

The video is classic “band on the road”.  The band seems to have an impossibly good looking lead singer–the kind of guy who spells trouble for the girls and trouble for the band.  I wish all of them well.

Songs of summer 2015

Every summer I associate songs with the season.  This doesn’t happen in spring, fall or winter, for whatever reason.  Sometimes the songs I hear all summer are songs I hate, sometimes they are songs I love. Sometimes they are songs I grow tired of because they are played too much.  Back when things changed all the time–say when summer was a passing point between two different grades, or I had a different job every summer–it was easy to link specific songs with specific summers.  But now that one summer isn’t much different than any other they blur.  The summer of “We are Young” by fun (loved it!)  and “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye (hated it!)?  Who knew when that was?  (Yes, the internet could easily tell me.)

So here is my scrapbook of songs from the summer of 2015.

Note that I interacted with all of these songs through the radio when I was driving around.  I’ve never watched any of the videos and until I was writing this post I had no idea who sang any of these songs, because radio stations rarely tell me, perhaps because the Shazam app can do that for them.  And perhaps because even though there are still local (sometimes “local”) radio stations, most of them have cut back significantly on their on-air talent.

Walk the Moon’s “Shut up and Dance”

This song was all over the pop stations this summer.  I find it vaguely rude and the slightest bit overly manufactured and obvious, but rarely changed the station when it was playing.

Elle King’s Ex’s & Oh’s

This was also all over pop stations and also 94.7, the alternative radio station.  Plus KINK liked it.  So basically every music station I listen to.

Vance Joy’s Mess is Mine

I think it was mostly KINK that loved this song.  Maybe the alternative music station now and then.

The very wordy named Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness’s “Cecilia and the Satellite”

Another across-the-preset favorite.  I liked singing along with this, while also finding it slightly cheesy.

It occurs to me I’m not really crazy about any of these, so I’ll add in one more that I adore, even though I started hearing it in the spring.

Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers”

I love the music, I love the words, I have watched this video and I like it also.  I would like it to be longer, but songs seem to be very short right now.  I think all of these are under four minutes.

This song is one that I also looked up the chords and figured out how to play on the piano.  It involved figuring out some chord inversions, but I was successful in my inversions and I felt very smart.

Random Song. Cake: Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle.


At one time I was very into music and it was a big part of my life. With that came the worst archetype of the music world: the asshole who knows everything about music and thinks your taste sucks.

Not surprisingly, this archetype was always a man.

Which is why I greatly enjoy this song, as it seems to skewer a particular brand of music asshole.  I was all about music, but, given the constraints of the time, I could only listen to the music that played on the radio, MTV and stuff that I could buy myself or tape off of stuff that my friends bought.  My music tastes were as broad as it could be, but there were huge gaps, which asshole blowhard music guy was always happy to remind me about.

A good detail from Heavier Than Heaven, Charles Cross’s extensive biography of Kurt Cobain, was the large music gaps Cobain had.  Which, of course he did, he was a poor kid with a Walmart for a music store.  I remember a scene in the book where a now-famous Cobain was blissing out to something like Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way” and the other musicians in the room–for which this was a completely cheesy song–were unsure if he was serious or not.

I afforded my rock & roll lifestyle as much as I could, but there were many people who could outspend me.

I also greatly love Cake, whose music is sort of a 90s-era cool oasis for me. Plus they have horns.  I’m a sucker for a good horn part.  When we saw them several years ago, the horn player was a hard working man, covering not just the horn parts, but also backup vocals and extraneous rhythm things.

As a side note, I was interested to note that the guitar riff in this  song reminds me of one in one of my favorite Cake ditties, “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts”

Also, the above video is weird.

Random Song: I’ve got you under my skin. (Sinatra & Bono)

This song (Frank only) came on in my tap class tonight and I was reminded of this version, which came out when I was in high school and got me listening to Sinatra.  

In general, I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Sinatra.  I adore a couple of songs (this, “That’s Life”, “Something Stupid”) but overall I find I’m usually snapping my fingers and yelling at him to, “Speed it up, Frank!”  But this is pretty speedy and I love the way their voices work together.

Random Song: I Wanna Get Better

So catchy.  Good positive message.  Fun places for the melody to go.  Really good lines*, addictive back-up singer parts, excellent shredding-type guitar solo.  This video isn’t the greatest, but it does give you the words.  There’s another video with a plot and stuff, should you want that.

“Lost control when I panicked at the acid test.”
“Because the love, the love, the love, the love, the love, the love that I gave, wasted on a nice face.”
“Chase that feeling, of an eighteen year old ,who didn’t know what loss was, now I’m a stranger.”
“And I miss the days of a life still permanent, mourn the years before I got carried away”