Sunday, July 15, 2012

My favorite song

There's a certain appeal to being able to say you have a favorite song; it's like having a signature drink. When asked my favorite anything, I'm always tempted to subcategorize. It's very hard to narrow down my favorite food, but I can name my favorite egg preparation (poached) or my favorite fruit (can I, though? I think it's nectarines, but what about cherries, and what about Champagne mangoes?). Favorite movie is tough, but I know my favorite Woody Allen movie (Manhattan). My favorite They Might Be Giants song is probably "Ana Ng." My favorite karaoke song is "Father Figure" (though "Wanted Dead or Alive" is good too). But my favorite song, full stop? It requires a certain decisiveness. Today, driving back from the grocery store, I decided that -- today, at least -- my favorite song is "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out." Earlier this year I learned that poetry goddesses Sommer Browning, Ana Bozicevic, and Cindy King all have the same favorite song, "Carolyn's Fingers" by Cocteau Twins. They say you only need 23 people in a room before the odds that two people there share a birthday shrinks to 1 in 2. Do any of my reader share my rapturous love for this song?

25 comments:

  1. I like "Half a Person" better, so even among Smiths songs this isn't my favorite. But very good. Morrissey is coming to NYC this fall I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My second favorite is "Big Mouth Strikes Again" I think. The "B side" (second half) of The Queen Is Dead blows my mind.

      Delete
    2. For some reason, when I hear "Have you got a vacancy for a back-scrubber?" I think of Spirited Away. I picture a cartoon character scrubbing some big demon in a magical bathhouse. Probably not what the Smiths were getting at.

      Delete
    3. My friend Starkey and I once came up with a plan to play Taboo using only Morrissey lyrics to convey whatever concept was on the card. But we never actually played.

      Delete
    4. Oh man. If you ever do play, invite me to the game.

      Delete
  2. I'm with you on the temptation to sub-categorize. It's so much easier to pick favorite songs by years of my life than an all-time favorite.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or like, "Favorite sad song." "Favorite happy REM song."

      Delete
  3. Picking a single favorite song is truly a tough one. For a long time the song I usually named, if someone asked me or the subject came up, was "Free Man in Paris" by Joni Mitchell. (It's on her album Court and Spark.)

    Not sure if I would name the same song now, but I might name some other song by Joni Mitchell. She's definitely my favorite musician.

    For me, certainly one of the supreme moments in music in the past century is Jimi Hendrix's live performance of the Star-Spangled Banner in 1969 at the Woodstock music festival. Absolutely the greatest cover of a song ever done. The guy was possessed by holy demons and they came out and danced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My favorite Joni Mitchell song is "Urge for Going"

      Delete
  4. For what it's worth, I'm with you on Ana Ng.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was a time when I would have said it was my favorite song, period.

      Delete
  5. I'm curious why "There Is a Light..." is your favorite song? Were there unusual circumstances that coincided with a time when the song was being played? Is it the lyrics, the melody? Just something ineffable? I could never pin down a favorite song.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No unusual personal circumstances, not that I can remember. I just love so many things about the song. The lyrics hit that note that I'm always looking for in art, poised between irony and sincerity, or humor and seriousness. (I've never understood people who find Morrissey depressing; with the exception of a couple of genuinely super-sad songs, they're so full of wit.) I think the melody is beautiful. I love the plea that opens the first verse. I love how it captures the impossible poignancy and desperation of teenage love. I love the freaking FLUTE part at the end. And I love the title, and how it becomes part of the lyrics at the end of the song (but does not appear in the chorus). In general I like when songs have a single line refrain (see also the end of "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" and a couple of songs on Liz Phair's second album). Whenever I hear it, I want to skip back to the beginning and listen again as soon as it's over.

      Delete
  6. I love this song, but I think Girlfriend in a Coma or Ask might win out for favorite song for me, if I were choosing from The Smiths. I have a top three list that I keep in rotation in my mind because I can't decide on just one ultimate absolute favorite song.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really hard! I'll probably change my mind next week.

      There's an Okkervil River song that is really vying for top spot.

      Delete
  7. I think we have the same favorite Smiths songs, tho I might prefer Bigmouth to Light. I also like still ill and nowhere fast. With the exception of light, I've always preferred their rock songs to their pop songs.

    I have a grad school friend who had/has a very impressive system for tracking his favorite song. It involved making note of his favorite songs each month and keeping track of which songs most frequently appeared in the top spots. As far as I know, he has been doing it for years. Like, I believe he could tell you what his top ten favorite songs were in October 1999 -- or any other month since he has been doing it. And then he could tell you which song has been in the number one spot the most. I have so much admiration for this project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bigmouth kicks so much ass.

      I love projects like that too!

      Delete
  8. I love the lyrics of "Big Mouth Strikes Again." (Love Joan of Arc. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is one of my favorite films.)

    "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out" is nice, but I think I prefer "William, It Was Really Nothing" and "This Charming Man" from Hatful of Hollow.

    Long ago I had Hatful on LP. I always lifted the needle over "Handsome Devil"--it was too obviously gay. You know: "And in your scholarly room/ Who will swallow whom." I think I outgrew my adolescent homophobia, however.

    Cocteau Twins are great! & I share Lyle's enthusiasm for Joni Mitchell, especially the old albums like Court and Spark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the part where he sings "As the flames rose to her Roman nose and her Walkman started to melt..."

      There's a really amazing cover of "How Soon Is Now" by a band called Snake River Conspiracy. I think I prefer it to the original.

      Delete
    2. "As the flames rose to her Roman nose and her Walkman started to melt..." - my favorite Morrissey line!

      Delete
  9. "It's Not My Birthday" is my favorite TMBG song. Though I'm tempted to sub-categorize and say it's my favorite song by John L.

    "William, It Was Really Nothing" is my fave Smiths song, I think. Though there too, The Smiths have so many good songs. It's hard to choose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I even have a favorite John-Linnell-solo song: "Montana."

      Delete
  10. I absolutely love mangosteens. I'm not sure if it's available in America, since it's a tropical fruit. If by any chance you found one, try it!

    My favorite song is Crystal Castles - Magic Spells. I can listen to the song non-stop, every day. I have this problem of categorizing songs as a song for breakfast, for example, or a song for a rainy day, but this one is just all-encompassing.

    P.S: I'm not sure if you're comfortable with remixes, but if you are, try listening to this remix of your favorite song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4UMpEHa_Ns

    Also, I'm sorry if it sounds like a robot. Well, I used to like it four years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never had a mangosteen, though I think I have seen it in dried form.

      That version is creepy but interesting. I think the verses work better than the chorus.

      Delete
    2. Oh, also: I have a mental category called "Brunch Music" -- which is mostly low-key folky-art-rock like Red House Painters and The Mountain Goats.

      Delete