Friday, January 18, 2008

Songs That Move You

There are songs that mean something to me and songs that I just like to listen to...and then there are the songs that really move me. The ones that I refuse to listen to covers of or the radio versions because they always cut off the good part. These are the songs that bring back very vivid memories or give me goosebumps. The songs I close my eyes to listen to and just let them take me away.

I wanted to write a post about a few of these songs so I picked three. I'm going to list the song and then why it means something to me, why it moves me so. And away!

Comfortably Numb
Pink Floyd "The Wall"

In 1994 I went to see Pink Floyd play at RFK stadium in DC during there 'Division Bell' tour. It turned out to be their last tour, unfortunately. In any case, they put on this amazing show. It is absolutely astounding. They have this huge arch over the stage that is some 8 stories tall and suspended in the middle is this huge circular screen with lights around the outside of it that they project video onto. At the very back of the stadium they have a huge speaker setup and to the left and right halfway back as well so you end up with this huge stereo system. During some songs they swirl the music around the stadium from speaker to speaker that just makes the pot smokers minds explode.

Anyway, 'Comfortably Numb' is the last encore song they perform. I've always enjoyed the song, particularly the guitar solo at the end which, in my mind, is the best guitar solo ever. The lyrics have meant something to me at different points in my life and play a part in why I like the song so much, but mostly it is the Gilmore's guitar work.

So throughout the song they have these amazing light show that goes with it. During the part when they give Floyd a shot and he screams all these lights come on and kinda move from the top of the stadium to the bottom...very cool. Song continues and then we get to the solo at the end. Now on the radio they cut the solo off maybe 1/3 of the way through. Live it goes on and on in sonic bliss for quite a while. The thing that makes the solo so cool is the way it builds and how edgy it can just feel the emotion from it. So Gilmore is up there playing his heart out and slowly this big circular screen starts to move! It starts to rotate so that the screen faces down toward the stage. This happens pretty slowly so you don't even notice it at first but eventually the screen is perpendicular to the stage right above Gilmore's head. At a key point in the solo all the lights in the stadium go out except for the ones around the circle...those lights come on and you end up with this amazing cone of light that just totally surrounds him. Man I get goosebumps just describing this.

While that screen was moving something was happening in the middle of the stadium that you don't notice. Out of the control station or whatever it is in the middle on the field this HUGE disco ball had been slowly rising out of the ground. There is a point in the solo where it has built to this crazy sorta wailing and it climaxes with some really high powerful stuff. At this moment a bunch of lights come on to the ball and the entire 50,000+ (or whatever) packed RFK stadium is full of swirling lights. It was absolutely amazing because everyone was so fixated on the stage that you didn't even see it coming. The solo goes into this kinda wavy back-and-forth thing and I'm like 'How the hell do you top this?' Well, you top it by slowly opening the disco ball up. It folds back on itself and has these crazy lights inside. The solo is going nuts, lights and lasers and crap are all over the place and people are literally jumping up-and-down. What a fucking amazing thing.

Every time I hear that song now and it gets to that solo I close my eyes and listen and just remember. It was a really comfortable night, perfect weather...couldn't hear a damn thing for a week afterwards.

It literally brings tears to my eyes.

99 Flavors
Chick Corea "Beneath the Mask"

This song is a Jazz Fusion song - purely instrumental. On my first trip to Europe I had a walkman and had a tape with this album on it. The trip involved a lot of riding on a bus through some amazing scenery. During these trips I would just listen to this album from start to finish over and over, never rewinding to repeat a song or anything. The '99 Flavors' song is relatively short but has a part that is almost spiritual. Every time I'd get to that part I would again close my eyes and just really let myself go in the music. That bit of music - actually the entire album - now brings back memories of the countryside we traveled through. In particular one bit of Austria near the Crow's Nest where Hitler hung out. It was a highway that was on the side of a mountain and you could look over the edge all the way to a lake with the most blue water I have ever seen.

On An Island
David Gilmore "On An Island"

Most songs I get into because of the music, not the lyrics. In this case, it is both. David Gilmore is the guitarist and lead singer for Pink Floyd and 'On An Island' is his third (and latest) solo album. I just recently found it in the fall and totally fell in love with this song. The music is beautiful but has this undercurrent of hardness to it that just fits perfectly. The chorus goes like this:

Let the night surround you,
Halfway to the stars.
Ebb and flow,
Let it go
Feel the warmth beside you.

The song is about a time he spent with his wife on an island but it really hits home to me on a lot of different levels, particularly the chorus. There is also one line near the end that I love both because of it's lyrical beauty (to me) and because of what the music does to complement it. The line is:

Dreamers may leave, but their here ever after.

Text really can't do the song justice because the lyrics and the music fit together so perfectly.

Anyway, those are probably my top three. What are yours?

1 comment:

James said...

Oh geez...I could go crazy replying to a post like this. I'd like to put some thought into it, but for now I'll be spontaneous and just throw a few things out there...

First, because this has been on my mind for a few days, there is a particular line in the Billy Joel song "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" that I find myself singing in my head quite often, particularly at work (since I'm in a complex with thousands and thousands of people): "So many people in and out of my life; some will last, some will just be now and then; Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes; I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again."

Second, one of my favorite songs of all time (and this is partially your fault for turning me on to Sting in college): "Fields of Gold" I love both the simple lyrics and melody. A particularly enjoy the Eva Cassidy version of the song, and Sting's live version on the "...All This Time" album. One of the memories it brings back for me are our hill-hopping days, driving around the back roads of Washington and Frederick Counties, with all the corn fields, etc. Good times.

Another song I've been getting into lately because it evokes similar small town (H-town) memories is the Pearl Jam song "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town." Makes me think about the people we knew that never left Hagerstown at all, and whether that's a good thing or not. I also like the driving waltz-like beat and simple acoustic guitar of the song.

A couple random songs here that I find moving for both the lyrics and the music itself. First, "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy. Second is "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley. Love the guitar riffs and synthesizer. Also, even as a kid, I was always fascinated by the line "Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac." Speaking of Don Henley, more so for the lyrics than the music, I adore the song "The End of the Innocence."

Before I go on and on because I am moved by so many great songs, I'll finish up by mentioning an entire genre of music: No matter which way my religious compass happens to be pointing during any particular year, I am always moved by Christmas music. And I'm talking the religious variety, like "Silent Night" and "Oh Holy Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Religious convictions aside, some of these songs are some of the most beautifully written songs of all time (both lyrically and musically). A personal favorite that can get me to tear up about half the time is Jim Brickman's rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Very moving stuff indeed. The other thing that can break a man down is listening to any part of Handel's "Messiah" live. We've had the good fortune to experience this a few times during the MD Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert. Speaking of instrumental (see, I knew this was something I could comment on forever), there are some Broadway musical tunes that I particularly like as well, mostly from Phantom and Les Miserables. Then there's movie soundtracks. Love the theme from Shindler's list, the Luke & Leia theme from Star Wars, the opening theme from The American President, etc. etc. Okay, I'll stop for now. :-D Great post though!