June 20 – Day 18 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I wish I heard on the radio
Back in 1991 I had some wicked seats for the Van Halen show in Toronto. Those were the Sammy Hagar days, but whatever. My friend Jon and I were something like ninth row center and it was at the then named Skydome (now the Rogers Centre). We got to the show early and settled into our seats and the opening act came on. It was Alice in Chains. By the end of the set the crowd was, shall we say, not exactly interested. The lead singer, Lane Stanley, was not pleased with the tepid reception his soon-to-be superstar alternative rock band had received and he yelled into the mic, “thank you Toronto for being the worst fucking crowd we’ve ever played to,” and he dropped the mic (not in a cool mic drop way like people do now) and they walked off stage, never to be heard from again.
Well, not exactly. They ended up becoming a bit of a big deal and are the unofficial fourth band in the grunge axis of awesome along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden. Lane was a troubled soul and succumbed to his addition in 2002 but left behind a musical legacy that helped shape a generation.
This is a song I don’t recall hearing on the radio but wish they would play. Don’t Follow, by Alice in Chains.
June 21 – Day 19 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song from my favourite album
The opening track, “Where the Streets Have No Name” is, in my opinion, one of the most iconic opening tracks on any album ever and is featured as the opening of U2’s movie Rattle and Hum based on their Joshua Tree tour from 1987-1988.
I was lucky enough to see the album played live in its entirety this past Friday night with my fifteen-year-old daughter and it was everything I had hoped for and more. Hearing any song on that album invokes the best memories.
I remember stuffing envelopes as a fundraiser for my hockey team back then and one of the coaches had a company that made binders and other back-to-school type stuff. He was licensed to sell Joshua Tree binders (black with a gold outline of the tree from the album cover on it). The team spent the afternoon listening to that album and stuffing envelopes as mail out promos for 5¢ a piece (or something like that).
I also remember at summer camp there was a counsellor named Roop who wore a black Joshua Tree t-shirt. He was one of the coolest counsellors in the place and him wandering around in that t-shirt is burned into my brain. I can even tell you what cabin he was standing in front of the first time I saw him wearing it.
Most of all, I remember the craft hut at camp. The summer of 1988 I was in cabin 12. It’s the cabin that, due to some large trees in the way, was set back from the others in cabin row. Of course, there were lots of stories about why the cabin was set so far back and they were all some variation of a serial killer / monster story set on scaring the pants off you. That didn’t happen, we were all 14 and very little rattled us, but one effect this did have was to give cabin 12 a sense of uniqueness, rebellion, and outcast.
One day I had a free period and everyone went off to the rec hall to do something silly. It was raining and I wasn’t feeling up to shenanigans so I wandered off to the craft hut. I was a scrawny kid with long blond bangs and still quite awkward. I wasn’t exactly Romeo with the ladies and while not un-cool I never exactly achieved full cool status. The craft hut was filled with some girls from cabin 2 (same age as me) and I just walked in and sat down at a table with five or six of them and started working on a gimp bracelet. Didn’t say a word.
The final riff from The Edge’s guitar on the opening track of Joshua Tree was playing and when track two started playing I started to sing along, quietly, as I made my craft. A few of the other girls started to sing as well, and soon it turned into a full blown sing-along. We spent the rest of the hour singing along and crafting with that album playing. In fact, I can’t recall a single piece of conversation that happened in the hour I was there. I’m sure there must have been some, but it sure didn’t feel like it. It was just me, ten girls from cabin 2, a couple counsellors, and U2.
For 60 minutes in the summer of 1988, I found what I was looking for.
June 22 – Day 20 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I listen to when I’m angry
I, like many other young punks of the time, used to jump into the mosh pit when a Nine Inch Nails song came on and throw my body around with reckless abandon letting out some rage and aggression. Sometimes mosh pits would get a little bit rough and tumble and a good old fashioned donnybrook would break out, but most of my experiences with it were pretty tame. I break easily so I never really got right in the middle of it.
One day I was down at a club in Toronto with a friend of mine and we were wandering around and Head Like a Hole came on and he and I jumped into the pit. It didn’t take too long before bodies were being tossed left and right and limbs were flailing this way and that. There was this one particular dude who seemed to be having more of a seizure than he was moshing and, in a terrible sequence of events, he ended up accidentally elbowing me square in the face.
It was a knockout blow if there ever was one and down I started to go. That was, until my friend reached out and grabbed me by the front of my baggy flannel shirt, yanked me to my feet, moved me out of the pit, and held me up until my eyes uncrossed and my head stopped spinning.
That was the second time this particular friend saved my ass (or my head, as it were) from a mosh pit/crowd surfing debacle (I think I bought him a round but if I didn’t then I owe you one, Kirb).
June 23 – Day 21 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I listen to when I’m happy
There are a few songs that are impossible to not be happy when hearing them and Spirit of the West has a few in this category. Born from the West Coast Canadian music scene, this band has a distinctly East Coast sound with lots of fiddle, foot stomping, and that hand drum thingy you whack with a small stick as you twist your wrist to and fro really quickly.
The song that I’ll put on when I’m in a good mood is one that was the anthem of many a university dorm room, particularly “The Zoo” at the University of Western Ontario, which in its day had earned a five-star reputation for being the partyingest dorm in Canada. It’s also my go-to song for when my house is in such a state of disrepair that there doesn’t appear to be any hope of salvaging it.
“The furniture’s on fire, this house is a disgrace, someone change the locks before we trash this place! Save this house!”
June 24 – Day 22 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I listen to when I’m sad
There was a time in my life when I found out someone died or was sick or was seriously ill or just plain stricken with grief and the same song would come on the radio. For a two-year period in the early ‘90’s, without fail, this would happen. Every time I would hear it I would get this impending sense of doom and I would spend the next several hours flinching whenever the phone rang.
Thankfully, the disturbing trend didn’t continue, but if I’m feeling low sometimes I’ll throw this song on just let myself wallow for a bit, because everybody hurts, sometimes.
June 25 – Day 23 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I want to play at my wedding
Seeing as I was married in 1999 to my beautiful wife, Jodi, there should be songs from our wedding. We didn’t have a “typical” reception, though, and there was no dancing. We had an early dinner at a restaurant and then went back to a friend’s house for some drinks and socializing. We did, however, have some music being played for the processional, recessional, and during the signing of the registry.
When Jodi and I met the organist she sat down and played some snippets of songs asking us if whatever she was playing were the types of thing we were looking for. When she started into “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles her operatic voice and emphatic mashing of the piano had both Jodi and me stifling laughter and anytime we hear that song we both do a reasonable impression.
We ended up not using that song, or maybe it was in with the other songs while we were signing the registry, I can’t quite remember what we used in there. Instead, we went for something a little more traditional with Pachelbel’s Canon in D as our processional and Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for the recessional. I love both those songs and decided that for our fifth anniversary I would secretly learn to play it on the piano and surprise Jodi with a performance.
For this, I also needed to learn how to play the piano.
So off I went and I sort of learned to play it and sort of performed for her on our anniversary. I ended up only being able to play just the right hand and not even all the way through, but it was a fun experience nonetheless.
For our 10th anniversary, I ended up getting the first few bars of it tattooed on my right arm (the right-hand part only, of course), which later became the base for a pretty wicked tree tattoo.
Here’s a fantastic 80’s rock/metal cover of the classic Bach tune:
June 26 – Day 24 of the 30-Day Song Challenge
A song that I want played at my funeral
I haven’t really put much thought into my funeral, to be honest. I’ll be dead so there’s little I can say about it and I guess what happens after I cease to live is out of my control. I think I’d like a low-key service with my family and some close friends. I don’t want any big long-winded speeches where the officiant drones on and on about loss and grieving, and I certainly don’t want there to be any religion. Ideally, people would convene at the beach beside a small fire and everyone would have a beverage of their choosing in hand and everyone would get a chance to share a story about a time when I made them laugh. Around the circle, I want them to go, remembering one thing that made them chuckle or otherwise brought a smile to their face.
After everyone has a turn I’d like to have this song played, because if not for the presence of all those people in my life, I would never have been able to enjoy mine as much as I have, and that deserves a thank you.