The Quintessential Tune


When I meet someone new and get to talking music, they’ll often ask what I like and when I ask them the same, if they say they like everything it usually means they don’t. Spend some time with my friends Anthony and Loren if you think you like everything, and we’ll fix that.

I believe that at any moment during the day there is a perfect song, and that song can be measured on a scale of one to 100.

I’ve had a few 100’s I’ll share and ask as you read this, if you’ll do the same with me.

In 1984 I was in my parents’ house with a girl, my first foray into the carnal, and Neil Young’s “Helpless” came on, my first time. Strange and mysterious, like sex. I took a picture of it in my mind and said Remember this.

In 1998 we drove across Morocco, entering through Ceuta and passing through Casablanca, en route to Marrakech. It’s odd to be in foreign countries and hear American music, and often I wish I wouldn’t, but on this day we pulled over to check the map and as we did, a cover of the 1978 song “I Will Survive” came on the car radio, by the band Cake. We had the windows open and there was a warm, sandy breeze coming through and I said Turn it up.

On that same trip we drove the Spanish coast in the middle of the night and stopped for gas. Below in the dark, waves crashing, high above the sea. The others were asleep while I pumped gas and it seemed there was no one else anywhere, just me and Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Suzy Q” on the gas station speakers. And I realized then how psychedelic they were, it carried me away. I got my micro cassette recorder out and taped it, the waves and guitar twisting in the wind.

Nowadays, the iPod shuffle is a kind of horoscope to predict your life and fortune, except unlike horoscopes, it’s happening right now.

Got a quintessential tune story? Please share it, embed it below, and wax on.

Categories: music

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19 replies

  1. I feel like I’ve already told this story, and it’s not much of a story, but I’ll tell it anyway.
    We were new to town and, as new parents often do, had created a tight circle with other new parents. We were a fairly hard-drinking circle as well, relying on Winnie-the-Pooh videos and baby monitors while we debauched. Deb and I lived in an apartment on the main drag that backed onto a drab gravel parking lot, but there was a large porch verandah suitable for barbecuing and hanging out. One night, as it got later and drunker, we backed the van up to the porch, popped the hatch, and played music off the cassette player, loudly and probably annoyingly. I remember Ace of Base coming into play, it was around that time, but it was this song that fit the night and the moment and made us feel young even as we were quickly getting old.


    • Wow – I never heard that song Ross. Thanks — Electronic, Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr, I think. Only heard one of their songs…this one is gorgeous. I can picture the night and the that moment of supposed-clarity when the song seems to suit your life, just perfectly. Thank you for sharing. I need a job so I can quit dicking around like this.


  2. Well, to quote The Dude from the Big Lebowski, this is interesting, man, this is fucking interesting. Because I remember certain musical moments like I remember where I was when Kennedy got shot. Or rather when Reagan got shot, or when the Challenger exploded. Because nobody says “when Reagan got shot” or when “the Challenger exploded.” They only say “when Kennedy got shot.” Anyhoo…

    I remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard Iron Maiden. And the first time I heard Metallica. I wrote about those here:

    I also remember the first time I heard Nirvana. I wrote about that here:

    (My point is not to plug my posts. I just wouldn’t be able to recapture the feeling that I would need to rewrite them right now.)

    Then there is One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning by the Flaming Lips, which made me wet my musical pants when I saw them do it live in 1993 at a show I almost missed when I left our tickets in the back seat of the car. (My friend’s girlfriend drove away with the tickets. We ran after her waving our arms, hoping she’d see us in the rearview. She didn’t. I watched her disappear over a hill as my friend got to the top. I couldn’t see what he saw down below, only him putting his head down, a silhouette against the setting sun like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I puffed along behind with a cigarette in hand until I got to the top, out of breath. Then a miracle happened. Her car stopped, did a three point turn, and came back. Turns out she thought she was going the wrong way down a one way road. She wasn’t. It was a two-way road. And I contend to this day it was the hand of God turned her around.)

    The Lips opened for the Butthole Surfers that day, who were opening for Stone Temple Pilots. But there were all of 50 people on the floor in front of the stage for the Lips at the end of their set when they closed with an epic version of this song. Which might have been made more epic at the time since I was maybe a little bit high.


    • Texas bands. Well here we go: any opinion on Scratch Acid by any chance? Spoon? Seems you lived in Austin at one time maybe. Trail of Dead is one of the best shows I saw before they went metal, no offense.

      WordPress put this in Moderation queue even though I don’t have it set for that, maybe you tripped a character limit thing or it’s due to the unusual pairing of the Flaming Lips with Iron Maiden, which says a lot about a body’s taste…I like it. Thanks for taking the time to share your story and those links, I was really hoping people would. Thanks for being “people.” You made me think about those bands tonight and I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

      And the Butthole Surfers…I took a dip in that but those days are really gone, and I don’t miss it. Great reference to Raiders of the lost Ark by the way. I’m going to bed.


      • Yeah, I was in Austin from 89-93, which according to Wikipedia was after Scratch Acid and before Spoon and Trail of Dead. I’m afraid I’ve never heard any of those guys. The Lips were the soundtrack to those years for me. One time they played a place called the Backroom, which was in the parking lot behind my apartment. We walked over to hear the opening band, walked back home to smoke, and walked back before the Lips went on. It was awesome. As for that BH/STP show, I wasn’t there to see those guys, just the Lips.


      • Well you’ve inspired me to go back to some Lips then. I had the cover album they did to “Dark Side,” but I have a hard time connecting with anything more than the Yoshimi record. That’s the first one I heard and I love it top to bottom. Also the covers they did on an EP, like for the Radiohead song “Knives Out” which is freaking brill.

        Of those TX bands I listed, Spoon is the best. But I think you would like the Trail of Dead record Source Tags & Codes. It is perfect throughout, and has some amazing art inside if you’re into that thing, with carefully sketched lyrics…I think three of the band members take turns singing, and they have two drummers, which is always pretty excellent. One of the drummers sings too, and it ain’t no Phil Collins.


      • Yoshimi was a very popular one from what I call the sock puppet era, which came about when Wayne stopped playing guitar. I remember being at one of their shows in Dallas where I saw the sock puppet for the first time. I think I stood there scowling with my pipe going put down the goddam puppet and pick up the guitar, Wayne.

        The Lips that were near and dear to me were the Lips of the early 90s. In A Priest Driven Ambulance is a forgotten masterpiece. Try that one. But the one after that, Hit to Death in the Future Head is good too, and the one after that, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, is great. The Soft Bulletin got a lot of praise and critical attention. But for me, that trilogy starting with Priest is where they peaked.

        I will try to check me out some Spoon and Trail of Dead. I don’t know how anyone can drum and sing at the same time. I know they do, I just can’t fathom how they do it.


      • “Put down the goddamned puppet and pick up the guitar, Wayne.” Now that is something. Thank you for the insight…one of my closest friends went to school in Norman, OK, so he had some interactions with Wayne I think when they were just starting up. And he always just shakes his head and laughs.

        Do you use Dropbox? If you do let me know and I can share some Spoon with you. My Trail of Dead is now on CD only but if you would like to hear some, will be a good excuse for me to burn it to my old Mac and then transfer it to my new one etc. Which is just retarded, that it’s that hard.

        Peace be with you.


      • Well hey! Whadda ya know! Spoon popped up on my Pandora feed today, and on the FL channel no less. It was “I Summon You.” I liked it. I also listened to ToD, the one you mentioned, via YouTube. I liked them both but Spoon is more my style. I do have the Dropbox thingy on my iPad but I’ve not used it much. I hope it won’t make me think?


      • Well hey! How cool is that? Very good. Expect an email from me tomorrow with a touch of Spoon and we’ll see if it transmits right. I’m a DB with technology and have figured it out OK so I trust you will, but it won’t be a waste of time on my end if it dunt work too. (“Negative Creep” came on around 8:45 this morning and I kept pumping the volume until my tinnitus flared up.) So we’ll give that a go, then. Cheers mate.


  3. My iPod shuffle constantly freaks me out. I was walking through Grand Central Station and it played Five O’Clock World by The Vogues. I exited Grand Central and walked down 42nd Street and up 6th Avenue to my office. During that walk, it played On Broadway by The Platters, Bummed out City by Joe Strummer and the Mescalaros and, finally, New York, New York by Ryan Adams.



    • I thought it was just my iPod shuffle. There’s something in that algorithm that maps to our freaking lives, they are god-like those Apple people. Your shuffle has some tasty vittles. I just put German tapes on mine, and now I walk through my neighborhood with my dog spouting out German like, “Wine glass,” und “Salz. Salz. Pfeffer.”


  4. I feel like I do like all kinds (country AND western) so maybe I’ll click that link…

    The song that popped into mind is untitled (track 4), sigur ros:

    Very early spring of 2005 (I think) after what must have been record snowfall in the Poconos. It was like living on a glacier. I was home with a young child and looking for a job to keep from going mad, I think. Driving on my way to an interview for a job I thought I very much wanted but did not get, I saw a heavy, bearded man riding his bike along a melty patch of road. The above song was playing and I felt more buoyed in the 3 seconds it took to pass him than I had all winter. He was my robin (pretty sure I wrote about it already, naturally).

    Fun exercise. I bet there are a million more, stories intertwined in each.


    • What a lovely image and story. I played the song and realized I used to hear that a lot on our local radio station KEXP which is no longer local…Sigur Ros has a real cinematic sound to them, like you could put that song to about any dramatic moment in a film and it would be just perfect. M83 can do that too.

      There’s a country singer who uses that same line about all kinds of music (country AND western) on KEXP, whom I like. Most times people will cast out C&W or rap, or opera, when they talk about what they don’t like. What a pity! I visit my uncle in Pennsylvania once a year and when I do, I always bring my laptop and play my four or five Hag records through it, so we can sit around and sip whiskey and nod, innit this good.

      Thanks for playing, that was fun…there are moments in our lives we can map to music and songs, and it’s fun to sit around the fire sharing with friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One day I was talking with an attractive acquaintance and she let her guard down and told me a story about how she had cheated her employer. Realizing that she had maybe shared too much, she started rationalizing and showing all her venality and internal ugliness. After saying good-bye, a little surprised at what the pleasant exterior hid, I got into my car and ELP’s “Still, You Turn Me On” got shuffled to play.

    I know I have lots of stories buried somewhere in my memory. It’s been a long day. The only other one that comes to mind is once with my ex when she started babbling faster than any brook I know and it was time for Chilliwack’s “Crazy Talk” to come on ( Seeing the memories that are coming to mind, I also see that I’m revealing the type of day I’ve had, though not the necessarily the music I prefer.


    • I’m sorry about your day. I hope by wringing some of this out, it makes room for some clean energy now, at the risk of sounding too New Age.

      I hadn’t thought about that ELP song for a while. When I first read it, I thought it said ELO. And funny, there are some similarities between the two maybe.

      I had also expunged from my memory that album cover and that Geiger artist, who’s always bothered me with his 70s-take-on-the-cold-digital-age-of-the-future, later combined with eroticism, a bad combination for me personally. Kind of turns my stomach. But perhaps some prophesy in it.

      Thanks for sharing and let’s hope tomorrow’s better for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The only song that I immediately comes to mind that was just right for the moment was Welcome to the Pleasure Dome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I was young–at a teen disco. The dance floor packed, and a fog machine filled the air.

    But I think more about those moments in life when our musical outlook takes an exciting new direction.

    First day of seventh grade–junior high, new school. I listened to a lot of solid rock bands at the time. KISS, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and the like. I arrived at school wearing an REO Speedwagon shirt my mom bought me at Fred Meyer. I remember a ‘big kid’ made fun of me for that shirt; and it was that experience that opened my eyes and led me toward The Clash, Adam and the Ants, and a new sound.

    I would also say that live music has the power to change perspective. I saw Echo & the Bunnymen with The Church in a small venue back in ’86. I think I listened to the album, Heaven Up Here, every day for the next 2 years. It’s still a great album!

    A few years later, Beastie Boys gave me a whole new perspective on music with their epic Paul’s Boutique. Groundbreaking!

    And maybe not so groundbreaking but more in line with your original question, in the early 90s I must have listened to Jane’s Addiction every night while going to sleep. The song Three Days is perfect if you’re baked out of your head.

    Here’s a more recent discovery…

    New Order is anything but ‘new,’ but I love the fact that this modern technology can take us back ot a place in time. This particular live recording is so fucking cool I have to share.

    Hope you’re doing well, mate–I miss you.


  7. Errr, laptop at work fried–on a loaner from the Tech Café. Thought I was logged on. Andrew here…


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