Enjoyed reading this last week. A different take on music lists, with some cool contributors – Jon Savage, John Williams, Cathi Unsworth, Niall Griffiths, Simon Reynolds amongst others. I particularly enjoyed the piece (below) by Willy Vlautin, who writes songs for his band Richmond Fontaine and whose first novel ‘The Motel Life’ is a great read. (JB)
Riding with Lowell George: Music to Help You Try and Get Through
Ten songs/albums to listen to when you’ve just split up with your violent girlfriend and you’re too broke to live anywhere but in a camping trailer in the backyard of your friend’s house. These are to get you through a weeklong bender without thinking about your life.
10 ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ – Ennio Morricone
The greatest desert music ever. This should be the first CD you put on when you wake in the morning. It’s winter and cold and you’ve blacked out the windows in the trailer so the neighbours won’t notice you living there. Things seem pretty bleak. You just lie in your sleeping bag and play Morricone over and over and wait until your friend and his girlfriend go to work. When you hear their car start wait ten minutes, then move into the house.
9 ‘Bad Man’ – Juicy Bananas (from the Repo Man soundtrack)
This should be the first song you listen to when you go into their place. Open a can of beer, smoke weed and play the song over and over. This bad-man monologue is the best bad-man monologue around. Pretty soon you’re in a bar full of repo men and they’re giving you the worst advice you’ve ever heard. The repo wives are there too, and they’re trying to molest you. If a guy just ran into a busload of kids you could still make him laugh with this one.
8 ‘Dim Lights’ – The Flying Burrito Brothers
This is for when you start your second beer and you’re getting a bit loaded. You might want to stay on the Flying Burrito Brothers for a while. Sleepless Nights is a great one. They can transport you like no other. Soon you’ll forget you don’t have a place to live, a girl, or a decent car. You’ll just be surrounded by hippy/country girls at a party in the desert.
7 Let It Be – The Replacements (the whole record)
It’s mid-morning and you call your boss to tell him that your sister, the one who you said just got beat up by her boyfriend and broke three ribs, has to be driven 800 miles back to your mom’s house. The boss says, ‘Don’t worry, take the whole week off. And listen, we should kill that mother fucker.’ You tell him you’re trying, that you’re really working on it. Afterwards you call your brother, ’cause you don’t have a sister, and he tells you you’re lucky as hell to have made it out alive with that
‘crazy violent bitch’ you were with.
6 ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ – Tom Waits
It’s past noon and you’re half drunk. You talk to your mom, who knows you’re drunk and tells you that the break-up is a sign for you to make something of yourself. ‘You got out of it without knocking her up. That’s as lucky as you’re going to get. Now don’t fuck up again, and for God sakes I hate men who drink during the day so cut it out.’ You hang up and start to spiral. How are you going to get your stuff out of your old place? Will she break your records? What about your dad’s guitar and your framed picture of Carole Lombard? She’s broken a lot of things so you start to worry. This is when you play the ballads. ‘Alice’, ‘Rainbirds’, ‘Palookaville’, ‘Closing Time’, ‘Muriel’, ‘A Soldier’s Things’.
They help you start to pull out of it. Then you put on ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker’ in Minneapolis and suddenly you feel like you’re going to make it.
5 Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits (& Some that Will Be) – Willie Nelson
You smoke more weed and put on this record to help build your confidence so you can leave the house. You try to read some of Willie Nelson’s biography by Bud Shrake. You try to think like him, you try to convince yourself you’re him and eventually it works well enough that you can go down to a local bar and get something to eat.
4 Car Wash – Rose Royce
The bar down the street isn’t much, but their jukebox has the Car Wash soundtrack. You put on ‘I Wanna Get Next to You’, ‘Daddy Rich’, and the ‘Richard Pryor Dialogue’. Then you order lunch and a couple drinks and go back to the jukebox and add ‘I’m Going Down’ and ‘Crying’. Pretty soon you’re in the movie. You’re working at a car wash in LA and everything’s all right and Richard Pryor is there and the sun’s out and you work all day long with a guy who calls himself ‘Super Fly’.
3 ‘Big City’ – Merle Haggard
When you get back to the house you still have two hours before your friend gets off work. You open another beer and smoke more weed and listen to this song over and over. If you’re lucky you’ll make it to the middle of Montana without a job and you’ll be hanging out with Merle Haggard and his third wife and her sisters in a hot springs.
2 Sandinista! – The Clash
Your friend gets off work early and you both leave the house before his girlfriend gets home and go driving around. You drink beer and listen to Sandinista! ‘The Magnificient Seven’, ‘Somebody Got Murdered’, ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ and ‘The Equaliser’. You stop at the worst bars you can find and your friend tells you over and over how lucky you are. ‘But the luckiest thing is she didn’t stab you to death,’ he says. ‘She wouldn’t have stabbed me,’ you tell him. ‘I’m too fast.’ ‘Jesus,’ your friend says and starts laughing, ‘you’re as dumb as your brother says.’
1 ‘Willin’’ – Little Feat (Sailin’ Shoes version)
As pathetic as all this sounds, it gets worse. You have a small tape deck in the trailer and a tape that has Willin’ playing over and over on a sixty-minute loop. You get in your sleeping bag and lie there and listen to the song and convince yourself you’re riding with Lowell George through the desert of Arizona. And really all that works until you’re almost asleep then you start thinking about the girl and the two years you spent together, and the decent times and even the good times. You spend all day trying not to think about the bad times but it’s the good times that throw a wrench into everything. You end up telling yourself you’ll get it together and quit drinking, get a better job, find a normal girl, and get a place to live. But really what you should do is repeat this day six more times first.