Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Certain Songs

I have been listening to a lot of the Hold Steady this year, especially on my commute to school and home, from Portland to Hillsboro and back, on four different highways (84 to I-5 to 405 to 26) and one of those long suburban roads past strip malls and new development.

I also went to this one party last Friday night. It was part of Horace Phair VII, the seventh annual Columbus day party at Laurel, Seamus and Megan's house; Friday night is when the sing-along takes place, apparently (this being my first time attending). Laurel updated the songbook, Seamus and Jody (Laurel's dad) accompanied on guitar, and the assembled group sang...

These songs were included in the songbook:
-"Ana Ng," "Turn Around," and "Women and Men" by They Might Be Giants [We didn't get to "Ana Ng," but the other two were sung enthusiastically. It was the second time in a week that some of us had sung "Women and Men," since Laurel and Megan had the idea to bring "Flood" on our apple-picking adventure the week before. Always amazing to remember all/most of the words to a song you haven't heard in probably ten years]
-"Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (traditional)
-"A Pair of Brown Eyes," and "Dirty Old Town" by the Pogues [I think we only sang "Dirty Old Town," but we did sing it raucously]
-"The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton," and "No Children," by the Mountain Goats [our take on "The Best Ever..." was inspiring, somehow--at least Seamus was inspiring and inspired, and I was just excited that this song was in the song book]
-"Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad," and "Pretty Boy Floyd," by Woody Guthrie, and "Hobo's Lullaby," by Goebel Reeves, also performed by Woody Guthrie (with alternate lyrics included by Thos. Pynchon) [we only sang "Hobo's Lullaby," but it makes sense that Woody would've been well-represented here]
-"Nebraska," by Bruce Springsteen [one of the first we sang, and way more disturbing a song than I'd registered before--maybe it was the act of singing it.]
-"The Mariner's Revenge Song," and "Sons and Daughters," by the Decemberists [These were the big hits of the night, with "The Mariner's Revenge Song" an event like going to see Led Zeppelin and just waiting for "Stairway to Heaven" all night. "Sons and Daughters" sounded good, though Laurel wanted more. Laurel, we'll practice a round for next time, okay?]
-"The Heart of Saturday Night," and "Innocent When You Dream," by Tom Waits
-"Papa Was a Rodeo," and "Reno," by the Magnetic Fields
-"Mandelbrot Set," by Jonathan Coulton
-"Man in the Moon," by R.E.M.
-"Folsom Prison Blues," by Johnny Cash, and "Ring of Fire" by June Carter [though we sang it vaguely more like Johnny than like June]
-"Blister in the Sun," by the Violent Femmes [another song I knew all the words to, a million years later]
-"Burning Airlines," by Brian Eno
-"Just What I Needed," by the Cars [as we were winding down]
-"Christmas in Washington" by Steve Earle
-"Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying," by Belle and Sebastian
-"Flowers on the Wall," by the Statler Brothers,
-"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," by Neutral Milk Hotel
-"Jolene," by Dolly Parton
-"There is a Light that Never Goes Out," by the Smiths
-"Time to Get a Gun," by Fred Eaglesmith
[these two appeared on facing pages, with a box on the "Time to Get a Gun" page labeled CHORUS: and reading:
And if a double-decker bus
crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck
kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure
the privilege is mine

Laurel and her dad RULED on "Get a Gun," but then The Smiths singers were a smaller group--people had petered out by then, somewhat--but me, Rick, and Tim didn't let it die, and we kept going sans songbook with part of "Hand in Glove," part of "Panic," and almost all of "Golden Lights"--though Brenden, you should have been there! I had many of the beach crew in mind that night, plus my sister.]

These were also in there, but didn't get sung:
-"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath
-"Snazzy Portland," by the Bad Mintons
-"Strumpet" by Lois
-"Perfect Day," by Lou Reed
-"Dog End of a Day Gone By," by Love and Rockets
-"The Philosopher Song," by Monty Python
-"Tell Me Why," by Neil Young
-"Rory" by the Vaselines
-"Death is not the End" by Bob Dylan [note in songbook: "as played by Nick Cave]
-"I Have Seen the Land Beyond," by Beck
-"Take the Skinheads Bowling," uncredited.

On the last page was a list of songs that did not get included but apparently should have been:
Every day is like sunday
L & M
Birdhouse in your soul
I wanna be sedated
Sloop John B
The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A Calling-on Song
Narrow Your Eyes

One of the Hold Steady songs I really like is called "Certain Songs":

I guess you're old enough to know.
Kids out on the east coast.
Roughly twenty years old.
Got coaxed out by a certain perfect ratio.
Of warm beer to the summer smoke.
And the meat loaf to the billy joel.
Certain songs they get so scratched into our souls.

She goes low on the seats when she gets high in her car.
She looks shallow but she's neck deep in the steamy dreams of the guys along the harbor bars.
She's pulling out her shirttails and jacking up her socks.
Stern and stoned and confident, coming up towards the jukebox.
Born into the only songs that everybody finally sings along.
B-1 is for the good girls.
It's only the good die young.
C-9 is for the making eyes.
It's paradise by the dashboard light.
D4 is for the lovers.
B12 is for the speeders.
And the hard drugs are for the bartenders and the kitchen workers and the bartender's friends.
And they're playing it again.
Ellen Foley gives us hope.
Certain songs they get scratched into our souls.

I guess you're old enough to know.
Kids out on the west coast are taking off their clothes.
Screwing in the surf and going out to shows.
They get high and ride around in GTOs.
I guess you're old enough to know.

- - -

Some of the songs that got sung the other night are some of my certain songs. That's all I have to say about that right now--took me forever to list out the songbook songs, with my limited annotations.

- - -

The photo, by the way, is Seamus playing guitar (maybe "The Best Ever Death Metal Band..."?), and Laurel is sitting on the floor to his right.


Anonymous said...

Golden Lights? For serious? That was after I'd sung my little voice out and disappeared downstairs.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Megan said...

this is amazingly comprehensive. rick and i also did a very drunken reprieve of "in the aeroplane over the sea" later that night since he'd missed it. but i think we were lying in my bed and singing very badly. so you're glad you missed that.

Elissa said...

I was thinking about that--about how you'd wanted to wait for him. Glad he got to sing it.

Elissa said...

& no, not sorry I missed it.