Alphabet Soup: Favorite Songs for The Letter Z

We’re winding down towards the end of our alphabetic musical adventure, and for this week’s offerings, I grab a song from each recent decade.

The Letter Z

1. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

One year, my high school’s homecoming theme was space-related. I don’t know who decided that sort of thing year to year, but compared to other themes throughout the four years, it wasn’t the worst. For the Friday we were supposed to dress according to theme, I joked that I was going to show up as Ziggy Stardust. I think the only thing that prevented me from doing it was my massive amount of blonde hair at the time. Where was I supposed to stick all that and still have the red Ziggy hair? Instead, I ended up with a massive blonde and silver mountain of hair atop my head, anchored by an aluminum foil covered headdress-type thing that was, at its base, a disguised Burger King crown. I’m not sure what I called that particular look, but why not just go for it? Why not make use of that hair and embrace my inner weirdness for a day?

Most frequently asked question that day: “Is that all your hair?”

Yes, and yes, I know it’s approaching a foot tall. It was glorious.

A few years later, I ended up having that Ziggy Stardust hair, albeit a bit by accident. I happened to have short hair around the time I decided to go from black hair to bright red. My hair’s tough; it could take it. However, paying for a haircut is usually the last way I use my money, and that short hair got a bit shaggy. As a result, I had this odd and fading red hair that led to a 7-ft-tall-in-heels drag queen to comment, “It’s a bit Ziggy Stardust and Annie Lennox combined.” A-ha! Yes, that’s totally the look I was going for, and not something that happened out of lazy/cheapness. Yep.

It wasn’t my best look, to be fair.

I do like this song a lot, but mostly, it makes me think of my hair, and that I should probably get a haircut more than once a year. It’s been seven months since my last one. I have time.

2. Zero – Smashing Pumpkins

When I hear this song, I think of a guy who sat in the row next to me and up one seat in my 8th grade social studies class. He would wear his t-shirt from their 1997 Billings concert all the time, and I would either get this song or “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” stuck in my head – the shirt had the lyrics from one of those songs printed on the back, but I don’t remember which. The songs would play on a loop in my head, and I wasn’t sure if that was preferable to paying attention. This part is quite the earworm:

She’s the one for me… She’s all I really need oh yeah… She’s the one for me…
Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and God is empty just like me

“Zero” is one of the catchiest songs on the album, and the guitar is perfect. Listen to it while refreshing your memory of the time when The Smashing Pumpkins played actual instruments, before Billy Corgan started looping everything with software and hired band members that look like children.

3. Zither – Doves

“Zither” is a lovely, two-and-a-half-minute instrumental that closes the US version of Doves’ Lost Souls. I don’t really have a lot to say about it other than, you know, it’s nice to listen to, and we already know I’m a fan of quiet album closers.

What it reminds me of is this ABC book my brother and I had as kids. It was sort of strange in the things it would identify with each letter. The Letter K had the word “kitty” listed three times, yet there are no other repeats throughout the book. The Letter U featured “Unusual Underwear” that was meant for earthworms. When it came to The Letter Z, instead of the common “zoo” or “zebra” one might see in other ABC books, it listed “zinnias” and “zither.”

While the vocab lesson was probably a good thing for our preschool brains, I wonder how many other books use those words? Recently, I was looking around the kids’ section at Powell’s, and I was tempted to buy The ABCs of Rock for my son. He’s five and already knows his alphabet, so I ultimately decided he was a little too old for it, but who did that book list for The Letter Z? I bet you can guess…

(I’m not crazy for ZZ Top, but if we’re going to make a P-Mag connection, one of the guys in the band plays Angela’s dad on Bones, which Crystal is kind enough to recap here.)

Think this is the end of my Alphabet Soup column? Worry not! I’ll be back next week with a Bonus Numbers Round. In the meantime, give me your Z songs.

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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