463. George Jones’ ‘George Jones Sings Hank Williams’

I still haven’t really listened to Hank Williams, because I’m holding out to find a vinyl copy of an old Hank album, so this is about as close as I’ve come to really getting into it with the father of modern country songwriting. George has one of the saddest singing instruments I’ve ever heard, so the ballads on here are especially effective. But I’m still holding out to hear Hank sing these songs before I commit fully to them. 

462. George Jones’ ‘16 Greatest Hits’

This is basically the best anecdote I’ve ever read about an artist ever. George Jones is a legend. I present it without comment:

Once, when I had been drunk for several days, Shirley decided she would make it physically impossible for me to buy liquor. I lived about eight miles from Beaumont and the nearest liquor store. She knew I wouldn’t walk that far to get booze, so she hid the keys to every car we owned and left.
But she forgot about the lawn mower. I can vaguely remember my anger at not being able to find keys to anything that moved and looking longingly out a window at a light that shone over our property. There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat; a key glistening in the ignition.

I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.

461. Elton John’s ‘Honky Chateau’

Listen, I’m not going to front: I bought this record because at the time A and I were just casually dating and she mentioned that this was one of her favorite albums and I bought it thinking “All right, I can prove to her I’m thinking about her when I’m on vacation and this will give us something easy to talk about during some of the silences we have together that I am worried are manifesting as something other than just polite joined silence and maybe we can listen to this together and think about how “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself” is the most jocular song about depression ever recorded and how “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” sounds like a test run for “Tiny Dancer.” 

But now A is my girlfriend and I know the silence isn’t so bad, and we haven’t even listened to this together, and I’m realizing that every good song on here is already on the Elton John greatest hits album I have. So idk, I guess this record makes me think of the halcyon days of seven weeks ago when I thought buying this specific record to impress a specific woman might work. 

460. Waylon Jennings’ ‘Are You Ready For The Country?’

On February 3, 1959, Waylon Jennings was due to fly on a chartered plane to Moorhead, Minnesota, along with his boss, Buddy Holly. He had joined Holly’s band late in 1958, and Holly was helping him become a solo artist, financing Jennings’ first records. Holly was touring with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in early ‘59, and they were playing 24 cities in three weeks by bus. Everyone started catching the flu, and Holly got sick of barnstorming by bus. So he chartered a plane. Jennings had a seat on said plane. Right before take off, he gave up his seat to the Big Bopper, because he had a cold, and Waylon was a standup dude who helped out people like that.

You know what happened next, right? The plane crashed, the music died, and Don McLean made a pie.

I had forgotten that Waylon was the famed near-miss of the Day the Music Died, and when I remembered that while listening to this record, it’s hard not to think about that brush with death, and its effect on Waylon’s life. Can you imagine what that must have been like? To know you could have been dead if you were less polite? That the Big Bopper would have lived longer. There’s almost no way it didn’t turn Waylon into the Devil May Care guy he became. Why not get loaded, smoke pot, and record Outlaw country? You almost died. There’s no more time for bullshit, and Waylon didn’t waste his time on any his whole career. It’s something I think I want to aspire to. Not giving a single fuck ever, like Waylon Jennings. 

459. Waylon Jennings’ ‘Ramblin’ Man’

I didn’t aim at anything except good music”—Waylon Jennings

"You know? I feel bad for new artists"—Waylon Jennings

"Cuz I was never pretty anyway and never cared anything about that."—Waylon Jennings

"I may be crazy, but it keeps me from going insane."—Waylon Jennings

"I never have any problem getting enthusiastic with a good song and a good band."—Waylon Jennings

“Garth Brooks did for country music what pantyhose did for finger fucking.”—Waylon Jennings, with the greatest ether on another performer ever. Rappers take note on this, holy shit. 

458. INXS’ ‘Kick’

1. I have this memory that I am not sure is real or if I’ve manufactured it at some point along my life. I am about two-years-old, and I am sitting at my kiddie table in the kitchen of our old house in Marshfield, and I am looking up at my mom, who is pregnant with my sister Hannah, and we are talking about what we are going to do tomorrow, and in the background “Need You Tonight” is playing on the radio. I’ve had this memory every time I’ve listened to INXS since, so it feels real, but I also realize that it’s insane to have memories of being two and hearing a pop song. But it feels so real. I’ve been listening to INXS since I’ve had memories.

2. 

3. It’s really unfortunate that INXS have been sort of written out of the “this band was one of the best of the ’80s” canon, and part of that is probably because Michael Hutchence killed himself in 1997, and in the years since, his band did dumb stuff like have a reality show where they chose a new singer. But you listen to Kick, and it’s clearly one of the best albums of the ’80s, and it gets forgotten because it’s not part of hair metal and it wasn’t made by Prince, Duran Duran, Talking Heads or Michael Jackson. This thing knocked me out when I listened to it for this. It’s flawless, and there are like six singles here. It felt like uncovering a lost classic, eventhough it was a mega hit when it came out. 

4. My mom told me last night that she owned a cassette tape of Kick, and that memory I have might be true. She said I used to sit at the table when she made things in the kitchen, and we’d listen to tapes. So maybe that is true? But then again, she said, “I don’t know you’re memory is either really strong or you make stuff up. Who knows?”   

456. The J. Geils Band’s ‘Freeze Frame’

It’s a weeknight, and A and I are settling into our routine of laying in bed and reading like an old domesticated couple even though we’ve only been dating for a few weeks, and she says the thing every music geek wants to hear from the girl he’s dating because we’re all shallow and want to be acknowledged: “Put on a record.” So, I go out into my living room and look at the stack of vinyl I brought home from vacation, and instead of, you know, playing something that might facilitate…more than laying in bed and reading…I pick up Freeze Frame by The J. Geils Band because it’s the next record up alphabetically for me to listen to.

I realize my mistake as soon as I lay back down; this is basically a record by a bar band and A was expecting me to play something semi-romantic or at least not an album that includes an ode to a girl in Playboy. She kind of raises her eyebrows, and goes, “Why did you play this?” and I say, “Because it was up next alphabetically and I’m an idiot.” She laughs and goes back to her book.

It’s probably time for me to admit that I have a problem.  

455. The Doobie Brothers’ ‘Minute By Minute’

1. Here’s a story I’ve been told roughly 49 times since I was old enough to know that the Doobie Brothers totally ruled and also that my parents loved them. So I guess since I was about 4-years-old:

In 1982, my parents, who had been married for three years at the time, went to a Doobie Brothers concert at Alpine Valley in Milwaukee with my aunt Kathy, her now-ex-husband Brian, and my uncle Karl. This was an important tour, because it was the Doobie Brothers’ farewell tour and my parents were 27 and still without kids and could be wild irresponsible. They rode into Alpine in the back of Brian’s pickup, and they ended up sitting way up the incline hill at Alpine, to the point where Michael McDonald and the boys were “like ants performing somewhere in the distance.” It was the best concert my parents had ever seen, and I could only hope to see a concert that good when I got older.

As I got older and started going to concerts, this story got another element: it was one of the last times my parents could remember smoking pot. They sat on blankets, and my uncle Karl, the plug, had an ample supply, and there were many joints going around and my parents got prodigiously stoned at a Doobies concert. I was consequently unsure whether to believe the “best concert ever” platitudes.

2. About 5 years ago, I was visiting my parents at home, and we were driving somewhere and “What A Fool Believes” came on the radio. All three of us sing every word—I would bet my parents and I agree more on how rad “What a Fool Believes” is more than anything other than that my sister is crazy—and then I brought up the “you guys got wild stoned at a Doobie Brothers concert, how cliché is that,” thing. And to the surprise of my mom and I, my dad doesn’t get it.

“What? Why would smoking pot at the Doobie Brothers be cliché?”

 “Dad, because of their name.”

 “What? Brothers smoke pot?”

 “Dad. Doobie means weed.”

 “What? It does? No it doesn’t! I’ve never called it a doobie. We called it weed. Who calls it a doobie?”

 “Wayne, a lot of people,” my mom said.

“No way. I have never heard that.”

 “Dad. How is that possible? You smoked weed till almost right before I was born. Didn’t you know any of the names for it?”

 “Sure, we called it weed.”

It was in that moment that I realized my dad was cool enough to be a hippie and smoke pot for 10 years, but was so clueless he never learned alternative names for it. My dad literally never knew that Doobie Brothers was a weed reference, and he listened to the band for 30 years. Dads are incredible. Go talk to your dad about things, he will make you laugh.

3. This isn’t the one my parents saw, but it took place 3 years earlier, so whatevz. There are days when I can’t be convinced this isn’t the best song of all time. 

454. Phil Collins’ ‘No Jacket Required’ (Written By Aidan Cusack)

Hey y’all, I have a guest on the blog again today. Today, my mans Aidan Cusack writes about Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, a classic #sadboy album. He’s about the most earnest college grad in America, and he wrote a guide for breakups centered around this album. Here it is: 

The summer after high school ended I had the romance to end all romances. After pining over a friend for more than a year, I finally mustered up the courage to go in for a kiss, and was summarily rejected. I swallowed my pride and went about business as usual, but a week later I found myself cuddling with her in the backseat once again. Being young and reckless wasn’t a concept I was very familiar with, but she was nuzzling my cheek with hers so I figured that this is one of those “signs” you hear about, and I went in for a kiss. I knew this was a risky move because being rejected twice in the span of a week wasn’t something my 18-year-old heart could take. But I went full speed ahead and was once again stopped before my chapped lips made any sort of contact. After being questioned as to whether my motives were “a heat of the moment kind of thing” or the result of romantic feelings, I was allowed to pass go, collect $200, and we made out for what seemed like hours.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I’m picking her up at her house. She climbs into the car and I proudly show her the Phil Collins greatest hits collection I had just picked up from the library. That album ended up being the soundtrack to that summer, and Phil Collins will forever be the Peter Gabriel to my Lloyd Dobler.

One of the things I remember most vividly about that summer was singing along to “Easy Lover” with this girl. I turned the music down, laughed nervously, and said, “I’m pretty sure this song is about you.” We both rolled our eyes and laughed, but I should’ve stopped the car and immediately listened to Phil & Philip’s Bailey’s advice because that girl ended up breaking my heart like they said she would.

At some point in the weeks following our breakup I found a used copy of No Jacket Required and picked it up because I recognized “Sussudio” and “One More Night” on the tracklist. I played it over and over again alone in my room and the album became the soundtrack to the emotional coaster I was riding after the breakup. There was a song to describe exactly how I was feeling on any given day of those following weeks, and I’ve decided to share the six stages of a breakup through the songs on this masterpiece.

Stage One - “Only You and I Know:” This Must Be a Mistake…

“Just try to remember / Now I’m the one you love / You told me, ooh try to remember/I’m the one you’re always thinking of”

The first step of any breakup is trying to ascertain what exactly is going on. You think about all of the events leading up to it and what was said. You think about the “always” and “forever” statements and think that those MUST have been true and this is just some rough patch you’re going through. This is some silly mistake. How could YOUR relationship be falling apart? You think about how you said you’d always love each other and figured that everything would work out in the end. You hold on to how things were in the past and don’t realize how foolish and naive you truly are.

Stage Two - “Who Said I Would:” Maybe This is for the Best

“I’m not the only one but I do fine / I suit her purpose and I’m just her kind”

This is the part where you think back and start to sift through the all of the shit that transpired over the course of the relationship. You start to remember all of the not-so-fun moments and the things that should’ve been red flags. You begin to understand that things weren’t exactly as great as you thought and maybe this particular girl was just using you. Maybe you weren’t so good to her yourself. This is where you throw on “Who Said I Would” and realize that maybe you were just a pawn in her game and accept it. Maybe this breakup is for the best…

Stage Three - “One More Night:” COME BACK!

“Like a river to the sea / I will always be with you / And if you sail away / I will follow you”

Remember how you felt like you were finally moving on yesterday? Forget that. Today is a different day and all you can think about is getting another chance. Whether it was a dream, a chance encounter in public, or a little too much wine, you’re deep in your feelings today and all you think that all you need is one more night to make things right.

Stage Four - “I Don’t Wanna Know:” Ha, What Was I Thinking Yesterday?

“She can cry all she wants / she’s not gonna bring me back”

This stage follows any moment of weakness in which you think “I wish things were back to normal!” Remember all of those things you were saying the other day about how you’re better off now and you’ll never be with someone like her again? You now remember all of those things and realize you were silly for wanting to give her another chance. You’re finally on the road to recovery and happiness.

Stage Five - “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore:” It Wasn’t Meant to Be

“I wonder why doesn’t anybody stay together anymore?”

This stage usually occurs after consuming a copious amount of whiskey. You start getting deep and think that love is bullshit and that the relationships you see in movies haven’t existed since your grandparents met at that sock hop in the ‘50s. You think about the fact that Ciara and Future couldn’t make it work and you realize that true love is a sham. Tip: don’t try to sing along to this after gulping down a bottle of Johnnie Walker. Your roommates WILL knock on your door and you’ll have to say something like, “Tears? Noooo, that’s sweat. It’s really hot in here. I was just doing some pushups.”

Stage Six - “Sussudio:” I Met Someone New and Feel Alive Again

“There’s this girl that’s been on my mind / all the time…”

This is by far the best part of life after a breakup. You finally feel like you can move on and then you meet someone! Remember all that stuff you said about love being bullshit and non-existent? Fuck that! This new person is way better than your ex and you can’t believe you were mopey and drunk for almost three months following your last breakup. You’re meeting people, dating, and open to anything. Maybe you WON’T sell all of your stuff and move into a cave (or to the Midwest) after all. Life is good once again.

Aidan Cusack is writing sonnets in your girl’s DMs right now. Trust me. He’s on Twitter—@royalswords  

453. Robert Flack and Peabo Bryson’s ‘Born to Love’

“They were wonderful singers. That’s all that it was about. There was nothing more to it, really. They sang that genre of songs your dad and me loved. Whatever genre that was. That’s up to you to name it. I’m not a music critic and I don’t know genres. I like what I like and it doesn’t matter if it was full of hits, and I liked Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack”

That was my mom, after I called her to ask why she took my sister and I to see Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson three times when we were kids. Peabo and Roberta have been an ever constant in my life; my mom still plays Christmas songs that the two of them sang together every Christmas. There was a period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when Peabo was my mom’s favorite singer, without question. I think the thing I appreciate most about growing up with my mom as my mom is that she had far ranging cultural interests, and she had to be the only mom in Oshkosh, Wisconsin making her kids dress up and go see Peabo Bryson when they were still in Pampers. She thought it was a cultural event, and her kids needed to be there. My mom rules.