This week’s glorified love letter to favorite songs reaches The Letter “F,” for which I get a little bit ’90s (as is my wont), but we’re mostly hanging out in the early aughts. As usual, we’ve got love, we’ve got heartbreak, and also, just a splash of lusty business. Mee-yow. Let’s get to it:
The Letter “F”
1. Full On – Oasis
My reaction to this song must light up the exact same portions of my brain as would Vicodin just kicking in, or a perfect, strong cup of coffee sucked down at just the right temperature. The same portions would burn as bright as when I catch a whiff of my husband’s infrequently worn-cologne, or when I see Daniel Craig in action. I have such an immediate gut reaction that I want to condense that feeling, bottle it, and then mainline it directly into my system.
I hear my heart beatin’ faster
I feel it in my bones
I want it now cos’ I have ta
and why, no one knows
In short, this song turns me on.
“Full On” is a B-side to the “Sunday Morning Call” single (another excellent song), from the 2000 album, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. Somehow, I didn’t hear it until around 2006, and what a shame I took so long. “Full On” is unlike most Oasis songs and definitely unlike the usual Noel-sung acoustic heart-stealers. With a howling, rhythmic crunch of electric guitars and piano keys as percussion, it takes the amazed attraction of “I’m alive when you walk that way” in the song “Step Out,” and turns the lust to eleven.
It’ll be all right
if you stay tonight
It’s where we both belong
It’s gonna be full on
The song could be about sex, drugs or both, but that doesn’t matter. The feeling behind wanting those things is the same, the end result can be the same. Every addictive personality out there knows what I’m on about, and it’s lucky that I let my addictions manifest themselves in mostly caffeinated and musical ways. In writing about this song, I’ve probably hit “repeat” 20 times, and I’ve not tired of hearing it yet. That about says it all – it’d be redundant to try and articulate the feeling any further.
2. From the Floorboards Up – Paul Weller
The Modfather! Get in. Paul Weller’s brilliant. The Jam, Style Council, his solo stuff – even when he gets a bit cheesy with his slow jams, I dig it. I love how he goes headfirst into whatever he does and that he’s always trying to moving forward. “From the Floorboards Up” is from his 2005 album As is Now, and this is what makes it fantastic:
I’ve got a feeling
from the floorboards up
Call it a calling
if you like that touch
Call it what you will
I really don’t care too much
I can respect a person who steadfastly does their own thing, who knows what they are good at and follows it. Hell, he started The Jam when he was 14 years old. What were you doing at fourteen?
It was maybe around four years ago that I started paying any attention to Weller, which once again makes me very late to the party. It was the same time we briefly had satellite TV and I could binge on VH1 Classic’s version of 120 Minutes, which played a lot of The Jam and Style Council, and BBC America’s reruns of Later… with Jools Holland. I bought a singles collection on CD and a couple of albums on vinyl within a short amount of time, and it’s just grown from there. This won’t be the last time you see a Weller tune in this series, is what I’m saying. Again, I don’t really have a lot to say except that “From the Floorboards Up” is a great rock ‘n’ roll tune, and if you haven’t listened to much of Paul Weller’s music, you should probably remedy that.
3. Fake Palindromes – Andrew Bird
(This video has a different vocal arrangement from the original, but I’m including it because you should watch the man perform.)
I started listening to Andew Bird after I met my husband, who had been a fan of his since high school. I’d listened to Squirrel Nut Zippers, for whom Bird once played violin, but I didn’t know much about his music otherwise. The mister, meanwhile, had once driven from Billings to Missoula (about a 5-hour drive) to sneak into the small bar in which Bird was playing. He wasn’t well-known at all then, and the crowd there was mostly interested in the country group that played after him. A few years later, once we had met, I think the mister played The Swimming Hour roughly 100 times before we were even married. (For those just joining my story, the time between us first meeting and the time we were married was 10 months total.)
Later, we had moved to Spokane, and Bird was coming through town with Nickel Creek. Through his mailing list, the mister was able to secure a gig working Bird’s merch booth, and even though we were having a horrible snowstorm, he was happy to do it. He had The Swimming Hour signed, and I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to go (we didn’t have a babysitter), but I was thrilled that he was able to spend some time with one of his favorite artists.
Then came The Mysterious Production of Eggs, the album that produced thousands of hipster fanboys. It was a bit funny to suddenly see Andrew Bird’s name in music magazines, but neither of us are the sort of fans who get all proprietary and put-out when a favorite musician has greater success. “Fake Palindromes” is one of the songs from the album, and at one point, I even heard a Spokane-area band cover it in one of their live sets. Out of all the songs on the album, this is probably the one that most gives the mister Musical Tourettes – that is, he can’t help but sing along, particularly this part, for reasons unknown to me:
She says I like long walks and sci-fi movies
You’re six foot tall and East Coast bred
Some lonely night we can get together
and I’m gonna tie your wrists in leather
and drill a tiny hole into your head
Thing is, my husband can’t really sing. I mean, he’s fine. He can sorta-kinda carry a tune – but he knows this, and he knows that I’m not trying to be mean when I say this. He is fully aware of his shortcomings in that department, but I do love how that does not stop him. He loves this song, and he is going to sing along, dammit. When I hear this song, I think of him singing, and though it’s not entirely in tune, it’s one of the best ways I know how to hold onto his voice in my mind, should I ever need to call it up without effort.
A couple years after that first merch booth meeting, Andrew Bird came to town again, this time touring with Josh Ritter (who is from Moscow, Idaho – basically a hop, skip and a jump from Spokane). We got a babysitter and we both decided to work the merch booth. I was hoping to meet Bird, but this time, his popularity had grown such that we were absolutely swamped when it came time for him to sign albums. Grown men tripped all over themselves trying to articulate how much his music meant to them, and it seemed like the women, while just as appreciative, better kept their cool. It was interesting to see. Apparently Bird thanked me, but I didn’t hear it during the rush for T-shirts. (I was able to say hello to Josh Ritter, however, so that’s something.) For our time, we were paid a little bit of money, a canvas bag, and a selection of live albums, and it was a fun night. Part of us wishes we’d seen more of the show itself, but I’m glad I had the experience. People, be nice to the merch booth people. They are doing the best they can.
4. Falling in Love – Lisa Loeb
My brother was easy going to the point that his older sister could convince him to do just about anything, including handing over one of his CDs in exchange for say…cleaning his room, once. I’m not sure why my brother had the second Lisa Loeb album, Firecracker. My dad had her first album, Tails (and despite my persistence, would not let it disappear into my room until years later when he finally couldn’t remember the last time he had listened to it), and really, I don’t know if my brother paid all that much attention to what my dad was playing. Maybe he’d seen Lisa Loeb on MTV and thought she was cute, I don’t know, but I wanted that album, too. No way was my brother, a casual fan of music in general, going to have a semi-neglected CD in which I had genuine interest. This was before the age of CD burners by a couple of years, and with little convincing, my brother decided that it was easier to just let me have the album than to have me bothering him about it.
With the determined battle for ownership behind me, I now had the time to really get into Firecracker, and I was pleased that I liked it just as much as I’d enjoyed the first album (11-year-old me may have played “Stay” about 40 bajillion times at the height of its popularity). I like the way that Lisa Loeb can tell a story within a song in the same manner a country song might, without actually producing country music. “Falling in Love” might be a little country with lines like “She wanted to be a cowboy/ She was shootin’ “˜em down,” unhurried strings and acoustic guitar.
“The time between meeting and finally leaving” – in four minutes, this song fleshes out the headfirst tumble into an intense relationship that can hardly be absorbed until after it has ended. A movie could come out of this song.
Well one night while sleeping alone in her bed,
the phone rings, she woke up
and sat up and said,
“What time is it…
What time is it?”
“Well it’s 5:30 here and it’s 2:30 there, and I won’t be home tonight,” he said.
Near the end of the song, I love the quiet reflection on the relationship after the fact: “The grey sky was romantic because he was holding her hand/ He was her man.”
I wrote an entire story about a depressed man falling in love with a woman who suffered from varying degrees of crazy. Set on the coast of Maine, it was partially inspired by this album and Fleetwood Mac’s “Sweet Girl.” Since I was still in high school, the quality of the writing isn’t that great, but it may be a story worth revisiting sometime.
5. Feel to Believe – Beth Orton
Seventeen Magazine is not exactly known for broadening readers’ musical tastes, but a review probably not any more than 100 words caught my attention. My friend Heather’s sister had a subscription to the magazine, and I’d flip through them when I was over at their house. Perhaps it was because “Orton” was an unusual last name, or that an album called Trailer Park could be described as “electrofolk” and had interesting cover art, but I bought the album based on that review. I’d never heard a single note, and it ended up one of my favorite albums. There’s not a bad song on it. When the next album, Central Reservation, came out a couple of years later, I bought it, too.
“Feel to Believe” stands out from the other songs in its simplicity – it’s just Beth and her guitar singing about finally moving forward. She’s not angry, but she’s realistic that it’s best. “I won’t waste a single second/ living in hell like it’s some kind of heaven” – most everyone fails to come to this smart realization right away, and I know I’ve failed before. I’ve failed to notice while listening and singing along to this very song, even. Every good failure, I think, always seems clear from the outside. In the middle of everything, it’s easy to try and cobble together the bits and pieces that drew two people together, but it’s just scotch tape on the inevitable.
Like “Angel Child,” this song tries to find the hope within difficulty.
If one truth leads to another,
isn’t a one that we can’t uncover
There isn’t one that we cannot discover
It’s the right time
It’s our time
It’s our time to discover
I don’t know if I’m drawn to certain songs because they remind me of my book, or if the ideas for my book that I’ve worked on in some form for a decade now come from my favorite music. I hope that I have not written something that would benefit retirement, but it’s hard to know for certain. Maybe I do have better things within me, but I am going to make a solid, reasonable effort with this current story.
Perhaps I like these songs of despair because sometimes I doubt my path in similar ways. I like knowing someone else is in my boat even if it’s not the same situation. I think the difference between realism and optimism is that realism means searching for that optimism and not staying passive in the assumption that good things will come. Perhaps nothing good comes when I’ve not worked for it. I have a hard time believing in winning life’s lottery and that just a random assortment of events will make my life grand. If anything, I can become suspicious of sudden good fortune – “You know it/ You want it/ You just can’t believe you’ve got it” – wondering if I really did get something right, trying not brace for the other shoe to drop but at the same time realizing that it could happen. Songs like this remind me to pause, find patience and to remember the only thing we “know” is what is happening right now.
Flowers in the Window – Travis (“You are one in a million and I love you so…”)
Flagpole Sitta – Harvey Danger (“I wanna publish zines/ and rage against machines” – so delightfully ’90s. Also, this song is now stuck in your head.)