Oh, The Letter L is a good one this week because I am sharing some of my All-Time Favorite Songs, of any letter. In some ways, it was difficult to articulate why these songs make all the right parts of my brain light up, and it’s tempting to just say, “Well, listen! It’s obvious,” but no, we do know I still like to go on a bit.
The Letter L
1. Live Forever – Oasis
(UK video here. The selective color bugs me.)
If “Live Forever” is not played at my funeral, if possible, I am coming back and haunting whoever is responsible. If you’re that neglectful person, you better just hope that the whole afterlife thing didn’t happen. I might use my ghostly powers to… I don’t know… leave your car upside down in your driveway every single morning, maybe. Fair warning.
All right. Silliness aside:
“Live Forever” is not only my favorite Oasis song, but it is also my favorite song, ever. I have heard the song so many times that it often feels as natural and undeniable as breathing. “Live Forever” appears on no less than half a dozen albums, singles and mix CDs of live performances in my collection. In the same way of being able to inhale after a cold clears, “Live Forever” continues to grab hold of me, and I know that I love this song more than all others.
Rolling off “Shakermaker,” the original sits on Definitely Maybe and is a defiant call filtered through Liam Gallagher’s frontman yowl. Only for a brief time in the ’90s did Liam sing the falsetto bit during the chorus before handing it over to Noel, the song’s author.
Other times, when I hear the song acoustically performed by Noel Gallagher, it’s akin to hearing a piece performed in its original language. In fact, every time I hear Noel himself sing these lines, I wonder if Bush’s “Glycerine” would be such a close second all-time favorite if it didn’t have strings:
Maybe I will never be / All the things that I want to be / Now is not the time to cry / Now’s the time to find out why
(Forgive the slide show here, but this one of the best Noel-sung versions of “Live Forever” out there. Though you’d do well to check out the Unplugged version too.)
Anyone who ever said that Oasis seemed to only care about acting out and giving attitude clearly never gave the music a closer listen. Unabashed optimism runs through even the heartbroken songs, knowing that although life could get worse, it almost never stays that way.
Maybe I’m overly romantic – it tends to be my default setting – but I love the sentiment, “I think you’re the same as me / We see things they’ll never see.” One of the greatest motivators in life is knowing that I’m not in it alone. Having someone who loves and believes in what you do can make all the difference. The more people in my life that fill me with the satisfied breath of possibility, the better.
“Live Forever” inspired this music project, the idea of celebrating the songs I love, and it has inspired my life in so many other ways since the first time I heard it sixteen years ago. My love for this song makes me look past the years of misbehavior and embrace every arrogant statement as just an amusing part of what Oasis was. In a way, I believe that anyone who has made me feel this way can afford to say, “I know that I’m the best” because I agree.
Though my favoritism is the main reason for wanting “Live Forever” to be played at my funeral, I also want everyone to leave me on an up-note. If there is an afterlife, I do not want my last send-off to be so solemn. I require that unrelenting optimism that life will move on and improve long after I am gone.
2. Let It Ride – Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
I’ve never sat down and tried to figure out my All-Time Top 10 Songs, but “Let It Ride” would be in there. I came into the Cold Roses album a few years after its release, and then spent some quality time mainlining the songs and wondering how I’d previously lived an existence without them.
Tumblin’ off the ferryboat / I was at the bar ’til three / oh lord / I wasn’t ready to go / I’m never ready to go
Ryan Adams is a beautiful, talented mass of occasional crazy and I’ll happily listen to anything he puts out. The man has a extensive back catalog, so even a massive fan like me (that is to say, one with a limited disposable income) will not acquire it all right away. However, I’m sure some of you have already noticed that, besides Oasis, Ryan Adams and his Cardinals/Whiskeytown incarnations take up a lot of room in this ongoing series.
(So you can imagine my excitement when The Cardinals and Oasis toured together, and I saw them all play in Seattle.)
I love the big, loud studio version, as well as the stripped down acoustic. Adams often writes from within his darkness, his longing and loneliness laid out. When he sings “Twenty-seven years and nothing but failures and promises I couldn’t keep,” you know he believed it when he wrote it. Still, so much of him wants to be with a woman who will make it all okay. His songs are filled with lines that believe in the sustaining powers of simple gestures:
I want to see you tonight / dancing in the endless moonlight / in a parking lot / in the headlights of cars
Play this song loud, and then play it one more time. For me.
3. Lumina – Joan Osborne
(Yes, the embedded video is of someone poi dancing at a wedding. Sorry. Youtube is not especially forthcoming with this song. It was either this or a cut-off version with insect drawings.)
Joan Osborne was another one of those musicians that my brother inexplicably had albums from first, despite the fact that I never remembered him showing an interest. He had both Relish and a live album of hers, and I still have neither, save for downloads of this song and “Right Hand Man,” and a cassette dubbing of the full album buried somewhere in a box. Unlike with Lisa Loeb, I never convinced him to give me the CDs.
The summer after the album came out, my family and I drove to Yellowstone National Park with friends of my parents and their two children. Forgetting that we’d need music for the drive down and back, not to mention all the driving we’d do in the park itself, no one had packed many cassettes. My parents had the Forrest Gump soundtrack, someone else had Alanis Morrisette and I had Relish. I had to take a short break from those songs after the vacation’s overkill.
When a friend covered “Lumina” at one of her gigs, it had been a while since I had heard it. It was nice, knowing that someone else loved the song too. “One of Us” is usually the song people associate with Joan Osborne. It’s too bad because that album was really good beyond that hypothetical think-aloud.
“Lumina” starts with a quiet electric guitar and organ that sound quite like The Wallflowers album that came out a year or so later. It’s a simple and beautiful ballad that stands out from her more up-tempo, bluesy numbers. There are lovely lines throughout like “Melting inside / melting away / like butter in a pan“ and “Here is the place /now is the time / let’s invent the kiss.” At three minutes long, it’s the perfect closer to an underrated album
4. Listen Girl – Mic Christopher
As I said in The Letter K, Mic Christopher is talent lost too soon. “Listen Girl” is my favorite song on Skylarkin‘, and speaking of the sustaining powers of another, this song is a tribute. Christopher breaks down what it is like to be exactly yourself around someone who means a lot, and how that other person can make you want to be better.
I couldn’t get out of bed, babe / Oh, I could hardly walk / but I come here to amuse ye / I come here to talk
It’s quiet, this transformation. It’s sneaky. One day, we are in some deep, dark place, and the bits of light someone else brings are cumulative. It can take time to notice just how much better we feel when in the presence of the right person. No, I’m not someone who believes in “soul mates” or that there is just one person who can fulfill all that we need in terms of companionship. Yes, it is lovely when one person does most of these things, but I find that romance takes many forms. Romance is not only about the marrying kind of love – it is also the steadfast friend, the professional confidant, or whomever else scratches that particular itch you have.
Listen girl I might / if you ask me very nice / I just might tell you the truth / because it’s only love but I like it / and charming as you might be / listen girl / you like it too
When we find these magnificent reciprocal relationships, we need to hold on.
5. Lots Sometimes – Glasvegas
And yet, those relationships don’t always stay reciprocal. Losing a person that you love can, of course, be an all-consuming, maddening process, and good lord, Glasvegas does an excellent job articulating those conflicting feelings.
I’m out of control when I think of you lots sometimes / I tell myself I don’t need you anymore lots sometimes / I wonder if you ever loved me at all lots sometimes / I don’t want to live without you anymore lots sometimes
The song builds and builds – if you’ve got a set of headphones, put them on and tell me that the song burrows straight into your chest. Tell me you remember every heartbreak and know exactly from where James Allan sings. With all that constant thought, yet willfully trying otherwise, you rehash everything that ever happened between you and the other person.
It makes me mad when I think about you lots sometimes / I feel lower than the pavement when I think of you lots sometimes / I wish you were here with me nocturnally lots sometimes / I hope you’re happy wherever you are lots sometimes
It is that feeling of being lost that comes across so well in this song. What starts as a quiet reflection turns into a cry across worlds – How did we end up like this?
Glasvegas makes me want to write. I want to get down all these true, complicated aches that make us who we are, and all the different ways we can be attached to one another. The honesty in “Lots Sometimes” is consuming – it makes me want to cry, it makes me want to hug someone, it makes me want to spend the rest of my days trying to articulate why it is so great that songs like this exist.
Log – Ren and Stimpy (“It’s great for a snack / It fits on your back / It’s Log! Log! Log!”)
Lord Only Knows – Beck (“Invite me to the seven seas / like some sea sick man / you’ll do whatever you please / and I’ll do whatever I can”)
Life Uncommon – Jewel (“Fill your lives with love and bravery and we shall lead a life uncommon”)
Lumberjack Song – Monty Python (“I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay…”)
Friends, tell me your favorites for The Letter L.