High Fidelity Style

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“A while back, Dick, Barry and I agreed that what really matters is WHAT you like, not what you ARE like. Books, records, films – these things matter! Call me shallow, it’s the fucking truth.” – High Fidelity

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to working on the meme-that-is-not-a-meme that started with 12thHarmonic, spread to SteveAudio and then onto firedoglake and onward. Before I start I just want to remind everyone that “I was never cool enough to get a job in a record store”, as the Refreshments once sang, but here goes:

Top Five Lyrics that Move Your Heart

William Gass once wrote something along the lines that a good author could describe an airplane, but it took a great author to make us believe that it could fly. All of these lyrics soar.

1. Mr. Harris -Aimee Mann

So he’s retired
lives with his sister in a furnished flat
he’s got this suit that
he’ll never wear outside without a hat
his hair is white but he looks half his age
he looks like Jimmy Stewart in his younger days.

And honestly, I might be
stupid to think love is love
but I do
and you’ve waited so long and
I’ve waited long enough for you.

My mother’s calling
from where she’s living up in Troy, Vermont
she tries to tell me
a father figure must be what I want
I’ve always thought age makes no difference
am I the only one to whom that’s making sense?

And honestly, I might be
stupid to think love is love
but I do
and you’ve waited so long and
I’ve waited long enough for you.

The day I met him he was raking leaves
in his tiny yard.
Of course I know that
we’ve only got ten years, or twenty, left
but to be honest
I’m happy with whatever time we get
depending on which book you read
sometimes it takes a lifetime to get what you need.

2. Romeo and Juliet -Dire Straits

Juliet says hey it’s romeo you nearly gimme a heart attack
He’s underneath the window she’s singing hey la my boyfriend’s back
You shouldn’t come around here singing up at people like that
Anyway what you gonna do about it ?

Juliet the dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded in my heart
And I forget the movie song
When you wanna realise it was just that the time was wrong juliet ?

Come up on differents streets they both were streets of shame
Both dirty both mean yes and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is real
How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals ?

Where you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of gold
You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold
You promised me everything you promised me thick and thin
Now you just says oh Romeo yeah you know I used to have a scene with him

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above I’ll love you till I die
There’s a place for us, you know the movie song
When you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet ?

3. Nightswimming – REM

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water
They cannot see me naked
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday

Nightswimming, remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming

4. A Case of You – Joni Mitchell

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid
I remember that time that you told me, you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
“Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time

Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
And you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you
I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
I’d still be on my feet

5. All That You Have Is Your Soul – Tracy Chapman

Don’t be tempted by the shiny apple
Don’t you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
‘Cause all that you have is your soul


Here I am waiting for a better day
A second chance
A little luck to come my way
A hope to dream a hope that I can sleep again
And wake in the world with a clear conscience and clean hands
‘Cause all that you have is your soul

Honorable mentions go to Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones, Aimee Mann’s Invisible Ink, and Ani DiFranco’s Untouchable Face.

Top 5 Instrumentals

This was a tough one. I’m not really the instrumental kind. I would have included the Propellerheads Spybreak, but I didn’t think it would count.

He’s Gone Away – Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny (this is probably an odd place to mention this, but I want He’s Gone Away to be played at my funeral right after Everclear’s Santa Monica, and right before the strippers show up.)

Secret Channel – Tabla Beat Science

On The Sunny Side of the Street
– Jimmy Smith

Theme from Alamo Bay – Ry Cooder

My Funny Valentine
– Chet Baker

Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

1. Paul Simon – San Diego State Outdoor Amphitheatre. In 1983 Paul Simon went on the road promoting Hearts & Bones (this was before his Graceland come-back album). It was just Paul, some guitars and a beat box. Solo. Before a half-filled theater he delivered goosebump-enducing versions of Kathy’s Song, American Tune, and Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War. With so few people in attendance, it was like a private performance.

2. Ry Cooder/David Lindley/Joaquin Cooder – Belly Up Tavern. Date Unknown,The music booker for the Belly Up passed away unexpectedly and they held a benefit for his wife and children. A rare appearance by two men who can play anything with strings.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers/Nirvana/Pearl Jam – O’Brien Pavillion Dec. 1991. Teen Spirit had hit the radio, nobody knew who Pearl Jam was, and nobody cared about the headlining Peppers. O’Brien Pavillion is a metal roof, a slab floor, and chainlink walls (they use it for flower shows and dog shows). On a cold December night, Nirvana turned it into a steam bath.

4. H&#252sker D&#252 – SDSU Backdoor 1986. It was H&#252sker D&#252. What more need be said? The opening act was Phranc.

5. Diana Krall – Humphreys 1997. The night before Krall had played to a sellout crowd at Hollywood Bowl. At the smaller Humphreys she played to a crowd that about a tenth of the size and wowed everyone with her piano improvisations.

Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To

These aren’t the ‘cooler than thou’ bands, so much as artists who either aren’t getting any attention or should be getting more.

1. Hem. I’ve mentioned them before. Distinctly original in much the same way The Band was in their heyday.

2. Tracy Chapman. With that voice and her passion she should have attained Springsteen status by now.

3. For Squirrels – Okay. The lead singer is dead and they only recorded one CD, Example, before the accident. But they sound so much like Murmur-era REM only better and different. I bought this CD used for $1 and it’s one of my ten favorites.

4. Beth Orton – It’s in her voice and in her style.

5. The Golden Republic – The seventies and eighties are coming back, but they’ve promised to be better this time.

Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

1. Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat. Best live CD ever.

2. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – The Flaming Lips. If you don’t listen all the way through, how will you know how it ends?

3. Good Old Boys – Randy Newman. Any CD that starts off with the lyrics:

Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too

…has something to say.

4. The Pretender – Jackson Browne. What Jon Landau did for Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, he also did for Browne’s Pretender. Springsteen’s kids “huddled in the mist” and faced adulthood on the Jersey shore. Browne’s aging Angelenos confronted the end of their endless summer and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

5. American Idiot – Green Day. Bound to go down as one of the best CDs of the decade. For my daughter’s generation this concept album will be their Tommy/The Wall/Quadrophenia/OK Computer.

I reserve the right to add Aimee Mann’s new The Forgotten Arm later after I’ve really had time to listen to it thouroughly.

Top Five Musical Heroes

1. Bob Marley

2. Van Morrison

3. Lowell George

4. Cassandra Wilson

5. Bradley Nowell. I’m not kidding about this one. I think he might have been a genius, but now we’ll never know.

A final musical note.

When I was a mere twenty, some friends and I took off work (I was a roofer in those days) for a few weeks to sail down the coast of Baja Mexico on a 60-foot trimaran. We decided to keep moving all of the time sailing far off the coast and not putting in for the night. With the twin diesels running at a few knots we would take shifts at the helm while everyone else slept below, our only company being cassettes of the obligatory Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley which was all that people listened to on sailboats in those days. With no cabin and the speakers spaced out over the main hull, the sound would just float out over the water ending who knows where.

I drew the dreaded 2AM to 4AM shift when things were really quiet and it was on a very calm and clear night with a million stars in the sky that I popped in a Joan Baez in-concert tape and I heard Joan singing Amazing Grace acapella and I could hear it running out over the water far from land and I thought, at that moment, under that sky, away from everything, that that was the most amazing, chilling, extraordinary moment of my then young life.

I can’t put a name to what I felt that night, but I know I’ll probably never feel it again.


And so with that, we pass that High Fidelity meme/not-a-meme on to Amanda at Pandagon and the guys over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. They can fight over who gets to (or has to) do it.

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