mp3: Jayhawks – “Up Above My Head”
Stop the presses. End all the discussion. The # 1 most memorable musical moment is at hand – and guess what, I think you’ll agree with me. And it happens daily. A little patience, please.
August 1965 – My cousin (soon to become to my stepmother, but that’s a long story for another time) pulls up in her cherry red convertible on a radiant, carefree, cloudless summer day with the radio blasting. The song – “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits. I am instantly smitten… with the song, jackass, not my cousin. It’s the first time I remember falling head over heels with a song at initial impact. Thus begins a life-long love affair from which I’ve never strayed.
October 1971 – A suitably scattershot, monotoned dj takes the Sunday underground midnight shift at top 40 kingpin WIBG with the promise to “blow your mind” with an epic celebration of rock’s history. I’m 14, it’s a school night, I’ve got the fading-in, fading-out transistor radio under my pillow with the volume low so my parents don’t come in and make me turn if off. The song begins “Long, long time ago” and it’s “American Pie” and I’m breathless with excitement at this magical, mystic (yes, now I know, but back then that’s exactly what I thought) nine minute tribute to rock’s golden days. I thought it was the greatest song I had ever heard and no else would ever hear it. Two weeks later it was omnipresent…
December 2002 – I’m working a little Christmas retail at my friend Pat’s cd store (Main Street Music in Manayunk – get thee down there and support your local, independent cd store before it’s too late) and, in a scene that’s almost Groundhog Day-ish, he says “I got one for ya, jackass”. And he plays “Wendy” by Jesse Malin. He’s right, it’s so me – ringing guitars, brilliant hooks, soaring chorus, witty pop culture references (Tom Waits, sixties Kinks and Jack Kerouac). I can’t believe a song this good exists and I didn’t know about it. Now I do… and it becomes my personal mission statement to make sure every one I’ve ever met hears this song.
March 2006 – Another friend (in truth, someone I’ve only known through an internet message board) and I agree to swap best of 2005 mixes. I send mine out promptly in January, his doesn’t arrive until March. His mix contains mostly bands and artists I’m not familiar with and this knocks me for a loop for two reasons – first, one song’s better than the next and two, as is the case with most music obsessives, I think I know everything. One song in particular – “Anjalee” by Lucero – sets my hair on fire with its inital blast of serrated buzzsaw guitar and lead singer's commitment to throat devastation - this is a song and band to love. Now shut up and play that guitar.
Last Friday – The wife and kid are asleep, I decide to troll the mp3 blogs for some new tunes, because this Dionysian task never ends. My foraging pays off as I download “Cigarette” by young Canadian singer Jeremy Fisher. Gadzooks!! Imagine "Julio"-era Paul Simon fronting the Violent Femmes with songs co-written by Brill Building Neil Diamond. And then I download four more of his songs, and they’re all terrific. I immediately burn them (and some other discoveries) to disc and begin spreading the word. And I know I’m not alone as Michael nails the giddy rush of a new crush.
And no, I won’t bore you with every instance of discovery, for I don’t have the time and you don’t have the stamina, but I guarantee that every one who reads this has had similar epiphanies. That’s why the “next great song” is the # 1 musical moment – because whether it’s a dusty old relic or a song written tomorrow, that initial buzz that hits like a lightning strike, it never fails to amaze.