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But O heart! heart! heart!

The first love of my life was Mork from Ork.

I think it was because Robin Williams was furry like a teddy bear. Or it was the  rainbow suspenders.

Today’s news is sad and confusing, but Robin Williams was open about his demons. It’s distressing. Depression is a soul sucking phenomenon.

I hope he has found peace.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “Song To the Siren” by Tim Buckley

The guy is essentially known now as Jeff Buckley’s junkie dad. That’s just so wrong. Anyone who has heard the incredible Starsailor album knows that.

This song is also now better known as a This Mortal Coil song. This Mortal Coil were music execs playing dreamy electropop, but “Song to the Siren” was essentially a one-off from Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie under the guise of the band. It’s all very sketchy, although Liz Fraser’s voice is exquisite on the song ( the song itself holds up great under the circumstance). Buckley’s version, a lush folk version with electric reverb and his own unique timber, is in my eyes far superior. The song began on, of all places, The Monkees. Yes, it did. Don’t argue with me. I am a fan of both this song and The Monkees. You think I’m wrong? It’s also quite easily Googled. That’s right, sit back down and remind yourself that this is my blog and as such I am never wrong.

The original TV version was more typically folk based, with different lyrics that bordered on the absurd. He stepped away from it for years, only to return to it, a new and more devastating rendition unfolding. Considering Buckley’s untimely death at 28, and his son, who evoked his father unintentionally and intentionally in so many different ways and seemed to be born from this dreamy melody, would also perish at the tender age of 30, it’s a bittersweet song to love.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “What You Do To Me” by Teenage Fanclub

I discussed Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque here.

The lyrics are twenty-one words repeated over and over on top of a sunny melody, topped with grungy guitars. They were so Big Star that it hurt. It’s a juvenile love song- “What you do to me, I know, I can’t believe, there’s something about you that’s got me down on my knees”. It is so beautiful in its simplicity. It was one of the highlights of my 1991.

Not every song need to be deep to be meaningful. Some can just be shiny little power pop gems that make you feel what I can only assume is happy.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison

Someone on the web, in some comments section somewhere, recently criticised Van Morrison as a singer. Limited range, nasal tone, the usual things said when someone hates a singer. Now, the guy wasn’t totally wrong on those points- Van is nasally, and does not have a huge range. But Van is an amazing songwriter, and as a storyteller he is in the upper echelons of music history. And when I put on Moondance, I go to a very happy place.

“Into The Mystic” begins with the line “We were born before the wind” and from there, Van leads us down a path of spiritual connection. Over a faintly jazzy, very soothing melody, with gentle spanish guitar picking, And Van makes the connection between sex and the universe… sorry, mind wandered a bit.

Despite my rock hard outer shell that seems impenetrable to sentimentality and love, I am a soft, squishy romantic at my core, prone to crushes that last years (years… and years…).  Yes, there is a guy I would love nothing more to snuggle up to but am too afraid to actually attempt to have a relationship with (I am always afraid my anxiety-driven self will destroy all that is good about him).  He really is the sweetest man, one I have known for years. He makes me smile and laugh, but everything is at a level where I”m never sure what he wants and as always, being of anxious mind, I’m certain it isn’t me. But I can put on songs like “Into The Mystic” and pretend in my own stressed out, million miles a minute brain that someone, somewhere, like him, or not, makes me feel so completely at ease and at one with the universe. I imagine this is what romantic love is ( I have come to the conclusion that I have never, really, truly been in love, and that all my couplings have been driven by- surprise- fear). I believe that love is like listening to Van Morrison saying he wants to rock your gypsy soul.

As someone with a gypsy soul, I look forward to it.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos

1991 was when Tori Amos unleashed Little Earthquakes on to an unsuspecting public. A fiery red-head who could play the piano like it was her bitch, spawned from Debussy and Rachmaninoff and inspired by Zeppelin and Bowie, she unleashed a torrent of feelings on the universe. I will be speaking about songs from Little Earthquakes later- it is an IMPORTANT album in my life, not a beloved one.

But 1994’s Under the Pink is beloved by me. It felt more thought out and controlled than her début, less messy, more direct ( in the way I can expect Tori to be direct, which is to say not at all direct, but I think I get what she’s trying to get at. Tori fanatics know what I mean). My favourite Tori songs are all on Pink, and “Cornflake Girl”, her biggest hit, and best known track not involving an EDM remix, is the magnificently bizarre centerpiece.

The song is clearly about women. As in, women, being the mercurial creatures we are, hating and betraying other women. Men I know are always baffled by the claims women are so vicious to each other. Spend a day with a group of women ( preferably not related to each other- that’s a different dynamic, though the betrayals there are just as frequent and often cut deeper).  Really observe them, their body language, their verbal language. You’ll pick it up quickly if you aren’t completely dense. There are hints about girls denying their true selves in order to fit in, the disbelief in the actions of the betrayer, and yes, female genital mutilation (the ultimate betrayal in the eyes of most women is the mothers of the girls who are put through this horrific and unnecessary brutality). The song was inspired by an Alice Walker novel, and use of the word “Cornflake” continues to divide Tori fans. I always found the use of “Cornflake” and “raisin” to be interesting- Tori has suggested that raisins are the ones that hide while the cornflakes overwhelm to consciousness. There is also the fact Cornflakes were created by Kellogg to diminish sexual desire ( women who want sex are whores, dontchyaknow), which is a theory that intrigues me.

Tori has always been vocal in her feminism and her support of women. Her goddess worship persona is not an act, it’s a real thing.  Even bringing in legendary backing vocalist Merry Clayton (still best known for singing “Rape, murder, is just a shot away” on “Gimme Shelter”) is a feminist move. One only needs to see the Oscar-winning doc 20 Feet From Stardom to see that. The song rocks when it rolls, zigs when it is supposed to soar, zags when it’s meant to centre. There are melodic choices that make no sense, and then what is up with Rabbit and the keys.  ( i have ideas, but my dad may see this one day…)

As a teenage girl on the verge of adulthood (I was sixteen when I heard it for the first time- it was given to me by a boyfriend. Piece of advice- be wary of guys who think a Tori Amos CD is a good after sex gift), Tori Amos was a god-send. She was frank and open about love and sex in a way most women are not and in a way I think we should all strive to be. As the mother of daughters, I believe it’s one of the ways we actually protect the forthcoming generation from the sins of the past.

And for God’s sake, lets all be a little nicer to each other. Please.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “The Whole Of The Moon” by the Waterboys

Sheer exhaustion, work, life, and a totally broken down computer have taken me from my ultimate goal, but I am back several weeks later with more songs and records to discuss. It’s good to be back.

I decided to come back and discuss one of my all-time favourite songs, the glorious and bold swaths of synths and melody topped with trumpets and exquisite visuals, all because Mike Scott’s girlfriend asked him if it was hard to write a song. He said in Scotland’s Greatest Album that he got the hook line “I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon” pretty quickly, but that the rest of the song was months of work.

The song itself seems both timeless and very 1985 in equal measures.  The tinny synth lines date the song. But under the squeaky electronic noises is a strong melody, and the lyrics, a list of comparisons Scott has created about himself and his love, never get old. There is a poetic quality to song lacking in so much pop music, from the evocations of Brigadoon and unicorns to the exclamation of swooning (such a great word, swoon).

The song end with a cacophony of noise, as horns, voices, keyboards, guitars and sound effect all pummel the song at high volume. It’s all sonic release, a pure moment of music. An astonishing and beautiful song, it was a minor hit in 1985. A 1991 re-release, though, went nuclear, winning an Ivor Novello award and becoming an anthem for swoony romantics everywhere. The song continues to make me smile, and yes, swoon.

I saw the rain dirty valley. You saw Brigadoon.

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Soundtrack of My Life: The music of Pete Seeger

This American Masters embedded above pretty much says it all…

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