Songs of the Year—1998 The Next Big Thing

Songs of the Year: “Give Me Daughters”, Jonathan FireEater; “Underground”, Ben Folds Five

Runners up: “Torn”, Natalie Imbruglia; “St. Louise is Listening”, Soul Coughing

Honorable Mentions: “Doo Wop”, Lauryn Hill; “The Rockerfeller Skank,” Fatboy Slim

1998 was the year that alt-rock died. I swear it. Later, it was reincarnated as “Indie”, but the death throes had started the year before. Pearl Jam and 311 (!) released live albums; Green Day went soft with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and Matchbox 20 acquired yet more fans. It was soon to be Jay-Z’s world and I was merely living in it.

In the year that Alanis finally thanked India, when Shaniah Twain was kept from conquering the world by Celine Dion and Cher and while we all started to endure an overwhelming onslaught of boybands and young R&B performers (Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Brandy and Monica), I started to stop listening to the radio.

No Lisa Loeb, for sure

What a terrible year for music—one that anticipated worse years to come. The top three singles? Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, Cher’s “Believe”, and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. Napster couldn’t be deployed soon enough. Radio was dying or dead. I was in the dishroom, or behind a bar, or carrying trays of lobsters to tables begging for the radio to be turned off.

When I wasn’t playing bad cover songs or trying terribly hard to put together a band that sounded like Guster, I was probably in a classroom or a dishroom. In abandoning the radio, the Rhythm Guitarist and I entered a seemingly endless search for the next big thing. If we were still playing cassettes, we would have worn out Guster’s Goldfly and Soul Coughing’s Irresistible Bliss. But we weren’t. We had CDs. If you’re careful, they play forever.

The year was short on big things. What was I listening to? I loved the Ben Folds Five live album Naked Baby Photos, was slightly disappointed in Soul Coughing’s last album El Oso, Cake’s immensely disappointing Prolonging the Magic, and the wildly successful and only sometimes cloying You’ve Come a Long Way Baby by Fat Boy Slim. I wasn’t cool enough to know about Bright Eyes’ Letting Off the Happiness (which I wouldn’t hear for four years).

I was cool enough to have the short release Tremble Under Boom Lights by the soon-to-implode Jonathan FireEater. The nearly incomprehensible lyrics on the lead track “Give Me Daughters” detracted nothing from the distanced B3 organ, the throaty and deep voice of the vocalist, and the gritty dirt of the recording. The song structure is loose, but repetitive enough to be memorable.

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Airport Bar Music

Yeah I didn’t hear this song in the airport bar, but I wanted to include a cover of the John Denver classic and this one was my favorite after sifting through a lot of them. I always loved this jam and seeing as I’m very into hip hop right now, it felt like the right one.

I’ve written about airline music and dive bars, but never about airport bars and the music played through in the background. I’m currently in Texas visiting the Elder J and family, flying in last night from Portland, Maine to Newark, NJ then on to San Antonio. I had a three-hour layover in Newark and as I hate to fly, I naturally had the compulsion to have a few drinks to settle my nerves. I stopped into a Heinekin owned lounge and found no place to sit, so I moved down the concourse and found a NYC inspired oyster bar where I quickly got a table. Instantly and aptly, I heard this song.

The Outlaws are great and the guitar soloing on this track is amazing. This version is my favorite, even above Johnny Cash’s because of the instrumentation. I never saw the Ghost Rider movie but Nick Cage looks pretty bad-ass. I think it was an apt choice because of the flying occurring, not because I am part Native American because this song is about the plight of our Native brothers. Lastly, I am in no way a Native American, 100% Scandinavian. 

I rarely hear songs in restaurants that I like anywhere, much less in an airport so this  is pretty cool. Because of the proximity to NYC and my affinity for bourbon, I chose to order a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. Airports are weird because people generally don’t want to communicate too much and use every distraction available to trick themselves into thinking they aren’t just killing time while in transit. I like to have random conversations with people while traveling, but had picked up Keith Richard’s autobiography on the way to the airport and was trying to get into it. As I settled on the shrimp Po’ Boy, this next song came on much to my surprise.

It’s public knowledge that the Elder J and I love Soul Coughing and Mike Doughty so it was awesome/strange to hear this song sitting in an airport bar. I watched an interview with Doughty a few weeks ago where he blames the other members of the band for all of their issues, saying they bullied him into giving all of them credit for songwriting and kind of glossing over his significant smack habit. Who knows what went down, but I love their music.

I also think back to Fight Club when talking to random people while in transit, the whole concept put forth by Tyler Durden of single serving friends you meet at airport or on an airplane. You will almost certainly meet these people only once so you have ultimate control over their perception of you and the ability to talk about whatever you want. I had a five-minute conversation with a middle aged looking woman about how Maker’s Mark is the most drinkable bourbon and a roughly 8 minute conversation with how silly most airplane safety measures are with a teenager. Lets face it, if a plane falls out of the sky at 20,ooo feet, a seatbelt ain’ t gonna do much for you. I missed a few songs and my second conversation ended as this song came on.

My brother and I obviously love the Pixies and Fight Club so it was pretty cool and coincidental that this song came on at this time at this airport bar. This is one of the best songs by the band and probably my top ten use of songs in a movie which is another post we should write. However, the Elder J is annoyed enough that three days into my Texas visit I still haven’t finished this post so first things first.

I was feeling pretty relaxed at this point and my boarding time was near, so I wandered back to my gate and tried to delve further into Keef’s life story. It was pretty slow at the beginning because he felt the need to recount endless details of his childhood but it heated up as he got into his early love of music and the first time him and Mick Jagger met. I am very into this book three days later and glad I spent the twenty bucks on it. I got onto the plane and was seated next to a harried looking woman and what I assume was her very young son, although the ages didn’t really match up. From the get-go, this kid was running across both our laps so I smiled and plugged my headphones into the armrest like I did the last time I flew to Texas. This song was what I heard first.

The last time I heard about Fatboy Slim was when he did that sweet music video for “Weapon of Choice” with my boy Christopher Walken doing some gravity defiant dancing. It doesn’t surprise me that Slim would have a career resurgence because electronic music is so big right now. I hope he does well and steers clear of  dub step music.

The kid kind of settled down and his father, who was the next row over, bought me and the mother a Jack Daniel’s nip so that made me feel much better. Besides the kid and a terrible movie called Last Vegas, the flight was pretty uneventful. I got off the plane in San Antonio and as I waited for my brother, I watched a man get busted for drunk driving right in front of the airport. He literally had an open Dos Equis in his newer Chevy Sedan  and by the look on his face, you could tell he knew he’d made a grave mistake. Besides that, my trip has been very chill and spent mostly with the kids who now are much bigger and have equally bigger personalities. I love it and it makes me happy to see the Elder being such an adept parent and sad I live so far away. Every time we get into the car, they want to hear this song which I think I introduced to my brother a little while back.

Our enthusiasm for J. Roddy has not waned. I love this band and I hope to catch a show in Boston this spring. It makes me very happy I can enjoy this music with my family while on the other side of the country.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My brother just brought the kids to school and is hitting the gym while I finish up this post. I only came for a few days and as per usual, it feels like I just got here and I really don’t want to go back to the frozen north tomorrow at noon. We are going to go out tonight after we go shotgun shopping and then I’ll spend some time with the kids tomorrow morning before I get on the plane. I guess I should consider myself lucky for being able to come visit at all and cherish the time I got with my brother and his family whom I don’t see that often. This is what the Elder would do but as I am the youngest of the siblings, I’ve always been the emotional one. So on that note, I leave you with a happy/sad song about the fleeting nature of existence and the advice that you should spend as much with your family as you can because blood runs thicker than anything else. Also, take my other advice and spend some time in an airport bar, I know I will tomorrow.

One of the best shows I’ve ever been to is the Flaming Lips and I highly suggest you all check them out if you have the chance.

2001-Songs of the Year

Song of the Year: “Ima Thug” -Trick Daddy

Runners Up:  “Ms. Jackson” -Outkast,   “Last Nite” The Strokes,  “Chop Suey!” System of a Down

Best Dance Video ever: “Weapon of Choice” -Fatboy Slim

2001 was a crazy year. My brother wrote about it in pretty heavy fashion a few weeks ago and, besides the fact that I have not written a “songs of the year” post in some time, I felt I could add some things since I experienced the year much differently as a sophomore in high school. I distinctly remember hearing about the plane hitting the first building and thinking that I hoped my brother was ok. I knew from my frequent trips to the city that his NYU offices were not in close proximity to the towers, but who knows?

I was in Honors Algebra 2 listening to my teacher drone on about polynomials when someone with a laptop got the first headlines. I called my mom who tried calling my brother and she eventually got the message that he was alive/well and actually saw the second plane hit the other tower. That is extremely heavy and I commend him for writing about the experience. This was a dark period in the history of our country and the shadow looms today and probably forever after.

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