Friday, February 10, 2006

Musical Heartbreakers

I recently read someone's list of top 20 albums from 1985. This was on a discussion list I subscribe to (scroll down if you need a clue as to its subject matter). The list-maker claimed 1985 was an especially verdant year for rock music, and said this list of 20 had been a tough exercise for him because he had to cull it from a list of 80.

Full stop.

A list of 80.

I was 20 at the time, and a late bloomer when it came to musical taste, so I still had some distance to go before I reached my zenith as a full-blown musically-obsessive freak. But even when I finally reached that nerdy pinnacle, I never had a list of the year's favourite albums that exceeded 20, nevermind 50. There were years when I bought all manner of professionally recommended strangeness, but even then I don't think I purchased as many as 50 CDs in 365 days. I'm not proud of that fact -- had I been flush, the tally would likely have been higher. As it was, half my paycheque went to rent, and half of what was left went to pay off my student loans. The rest went to beer and peanuts. But still: 80 albums that rocked my world in one single year?! It never happened.

I guess you could say I've been humbled. I've also come to the realization that my musical passions tend to be a bit feral. I'll sink my teeth into a particular performer for a few years, then discard the body when it's finally been drained of all signs of life. When critics were still in the business of wiping my nose for me, I used to think this was an indication of a band's frailties: "I can't listen to the Rolling Stones, anymore. They used to be so dangerous, and now they're just a joke" -- the larger implication being that I, as a listener, was receiving the brunt of the punchline. No mere witless consumer, I! I was a connoisseur, the personal arbiter of my own taste.

But, you know, somewhere in the last few years I came to the miserable realization that when it comes to music, I'm just a huge, needy sponge. I reach for CDs the way a self-pitying lush reaches for his fish-monger wife. "Gives us a bit of love, ducks?" At this point, whether or not a song connects with me has more to do with my state of mind than it does with the performer's abilities.

I wonder, sometimes, if I'm not on the verge of discovering a "new" favourite musical genre. There was a time when I shut off rock music altogether, and discovered jazz. I was courting my future wife at the time, but the path to love did not run smoothly, and we finally reached a point where we decided enough was enough, and parted ways. For two years, there wasn't a single CD in my collection that I could listen to without feeling absolutely miserable, so I limped down to the local library and took out some jazz records. Viola -- problem solved. (The two-year break-up addressed the other issues, to my everlasting gratitude.)

Alright, I'll leave it at that -- you would-be shrinks out there, if you've got any pertinent questions to ask me, now's the time to do it. In the meantime, since this is the time of year when I cobble together some sort of top-ten list, this year's list will be my Top Ten Musical Heartbreakers. That's right: ten songs (or groups of songs) that force me to retrieve my hanky and dab at my eyes. Stay tuned!

Heartbreaker #10


Scott said...

I fully expect to see Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" on that list.

Oh alright, fine -- I'll make one too!

DarkoV said...

I've been holding my breath for, oh, 11 months waiting for a top ten list on your blog. I can now exhale and get that super jumbo box of Kleenex. Please, oh please, no Emmy Lou nor Judy Collins! NOt that I want to alter your list or anything.

DarkoV said...

..just wondering. Are Ballbreakers a sub-category of Heartbreakers or a completely different source of physical pain? I'd say they were connected, with the pain travelling from top to bottom and vice-versa. The big difference, I think, is that songs that are Ballbreakers (Little Feat's Dixie Chicken as an example) contain at least some humour while Heartbreakers (Lucinda Williams' Sweet Old World are bereft of any laugh or grin.

Like I said, just wonderin'.

Just an additional comment. If that two year limbo you were wandering around in between love & commitment with your wife drove you to the Land of Jazz, I'd say the hiatus may have been worth it. Well, somewhat, at least.......but perhaps not too overly somewhat.

Whisky Prajer said...

Scott - get your list together now, because Ms. Bush will not be on mine!

DV - let me say this again: my list. Emmy Lou qualifies for one entry, pal, and that's all there is to it. As for the break-up-which-became-a-hiatus, those two years were exactly what we both needed. So that, and the jazz, made it all more than worthwhile

Whisky Prajer said...

I like the ballbreakers idea, though - could easily pull together ten songs for a list like that, I should think.

DarkoV said...

I was counting on Emmylou being on your list, so that I could have at least something to disagree with you on. This way, I'll be able to launch a Greg Brown tune or a John Prine song into your general vicinity. Perhaps even a Mostar Sevdah song of woe & despair.

This heartbreaking music list is making me so happy!!