In my early 20s I was living in exile…in Arkansas no less. I had moved there for that first corporate job out of college. I couldn’t stand it and as Bob Dylan once sang, “one day the axe just fell.” I walked in and quit. On a random Tuesday. My father was utterly distraught. I don’t remember specific conversations with him but I seem to remember rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. His anger was biblical in scope. I used to joke I could never get a date while I lived in Arkansas as I didn’t have any relatives down there. That probably goes a long way in explaining why Arkansas wasn’t a fit for me… or maybe vice versa. I had to get out of there and my father never understood that. I did what many post-college kids in their twenties do, I showed up at my parents front door in a U-Haul with all my earthly possessions and moved into their guest room. I don’t think that event ever made my parent’s Xmas newsletter. It’s never a proud milestone: moving back in with your parents.
After about a year of living with my parents, during which time my father rarely spoke to me, I finally got a job. Yes, I was unemployed for a year which was also a big hit with my “parental units.” The tension dropped after I got a job for a dubious medical supply company out of Chicago. I think they did most of their recruiting at prisons…”So, it says here on your application that you assaulted someone…did you happen to steal anything too?” One afternoon, I was in a cramped corner of my father’s home office where I’d carved out a small space as my “home” office doing some paperwork. The office door burst open. My father had this strange ability to come through a doorway without turning the knob which is a skill I wish I had, but I digress. It was startling, his sudden appearance in the office as he never came upstairs. He looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. His eyes finally rested on me…his face screwed up with that familiar distaste he registered when he spoke at me…”I know this woman from work, she’s a friend of mine. She knows a lot of people. You’re meeting her for drinks tomorrow.” I was sitting frozen in the position I was in when the door burst open, paralyzed with surprise and could only mutter, “Huh?”
Apparently my father had taken it upon himself to help my social life. Perhaps he was concerned about me hanging out with all my old college friends who were, as Jackson Browne sang, “the fools a young fool meets.” (I still love those guys, don’t get me wrong). I faced this meeting with great trepidation. In my paranoid young mind I assumed this woman was being sent in as a spy, to inform my father of my miscreant ways. I drove down to the dreaded meeting at the Levee, a bar in midtown. The woman in question, who I’ll call the Jean Genie (to protect the guilty), was sitting at an upstairs table nursing a longneck. And lo and behold, we clicked. I mean, it took me a while to trust that she wasn’t a spy but rather quickly we became good friends. She was like the sister I never had. Who’d have thought after my father’s rough intro that it would end up this way.
We’ve had a lot of rock and roll moments, the Jean Genie and I. From drinking until two on her thirtieth birthday… on a Wednesday no less, to celebrating St Patrick’s Day together in Chicago with my good friend Doug we cut a wide swath. The Jean Genie married a wonderful man who happens to be a huge Neil Young fan. When she was pregnant, and I mean like 8-months in, her husband had a work conflict and she called and asked if I wanted to be his stand-in at a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. Yes, please. Of course I’ve never gotten over the hateful stares of people who thought I’d drug my very pregnant wife out to a concert. Judgmental bastards.
Needless to say, the Jean Genie’s rock and roll bonafides are in place. When we became mired in our current quarantine, I saw that the Jean Genie was doing a 30-Day Song Challenge. Every day you have to go out and pick a song that fits into that day’s theme. One day it was about color, one day it was a song with a number in the title… you get the drift. The only caveat or rule – you can’t pick the same band twice. I found myself looking forward to her selections each day. What else do I have to do? Last Friday in a vodka-fueled frenzy, trying to kill time in quarantine, the Rock Chick and I decided to take the 30 day challenge in one night. Well, I was vodka fueled anyway. The Rock Chick would pick a song on the assigned theme and then I would do mine and so on through all thirty songs. That’s sixty songs between us for you math people out there. We actually played all sixty songs while we were choosing them. It made for a great, long evening.
I will now share with you the Rock Chick’s choices (annotated as “RC”) and then my choices (annotated as BV) in order. Below are our selections, with my usual commentary. I’ll post the B&V list and also link in the Rock Chick’s list as she’s already posted hers. I encourage everyone to Google “30-Day Song Challenge” and try this yourselves, either day by day or all at once. It’s fun and what else do you have to do? With my thanks to my dear friend the Jean Genie as inspiration! Some of these categories are hard… Good luck!
Day 1: A song you like with a color in the title
- RC: U2, “Red Hill Mining Town” – The Rock Chick has always dug side 2 of The Joshua Tree
- BV: Porno For Pyros, “Black Girlfriend” – Perry Farrell’s other band.
Day 2: A song you like with a number in the title
- RC: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, “Zero” – Technically, zero is not a number but I’m not going to overrule the Rock Chick on a playlist… ever.
- BV: The Beatles, “The Two of Us” – One of my favs off of Let It Be. They were doing a riff on the Everly Brothers and I love it.
Day 3: A song that reminds you of summer time
- RC: 311, “Sunset In July” – The Rock Chick’s selections are much hipper and more current than mine.
- BV: Van Halen, “Ice Cream Man” – “I’m usually passing by right around eleven o’clock…I never stop…”
Day 4: A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget
- RC: Boston, “Don’t Look Back” – A song about not looking back under the category of forgetting someone… The Rock Chick’s selection here blew my mind for the depth of the symbolism. She’s an onion, soooo many layers.
- BV: Don Henley, “You Don’t Know Me At All” – “You took my breath away and now I want it back, you should have killed me, you always looked so good in black.”
Day 5: A song that needs to be played loud
- RC: Motley Crue, “Primal Scream” – Perfect again for the theme. The Rock Chick was on fire during this process.
- BV: Dio, “Last In Line” – Dio’s best track.
Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance
- RC: Michael Jackson, “Rock With You” – A fine choice.
- BV: Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive” – Nothing will ever make me want to dance. Ever. When pressed I went to a primordial disco track from my childhood… and yes, I like this song. I don’t know why.
Day 7: A song to drive to
- RC: Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Passengers” – Superb Iggy Pop cover.
- BV: The Allman Brothers, “Ramblin’ Man” – Clearly my heart remains stuck in the 70s… like my musical tastes.
Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol
- RC: Social Distortion, “Drug Train” – The Rock Chick’s favorite Social D track.
- BV: AC/DC, “Gone Shootin'” – Bon Scott singing about his woman’s heroin addiction.
Day 9: A song that makes you happy
- RC: The Go-Gos, “Our Lips Are Sealed” – A good time track from the 80s.
- BV: Bob Marley, “Three Little Birds” – Bob Marley’s music makes me happy.
Day 10: A song that makes you sad
- RC: Ryan Adams, “To Be Without You” – Ryan Adams, the king of sad songs.
- BV: Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Cribbed from the Jean Genie’s list, yes. Reminds me of those tragic, melodramatic break up days…sitting in my car staring up at the moon.
Day 11: A song you never get tired of
- RC: The Cult, “She Sells Sanctuary” – Her favorite song from her favorite band.
- BV: Bruce Springsteen, “The Ties That Bind” – Every time I hear this song it takes me back to high school and the first time I dropped the needle on the vinyl…
Day 12: A song from your preteen years
- RC: Queen, “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” – Yes, technically this is two tracks, but I felt you have to play both. Her big brother owned the album.
- BV: Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” – This takes me back to my brother playing my dad’s old singles in our shared bedroom.
Day 13: A song you like from the 70s
- RC: Jerry Rafferty, “Right Down the Line” – A truly great song and an inspired choice, yet again from the Rock Chick.
- BV: Jim Croce, “Operator” – I love almost everything from the 70s except disco… This was a song by an artist my parents owned not one but two albums by. He just reminds of that era.
Day 14: A song you’d love to be played at your wedding
- RC: Whitney Houston, “Your Love Is My Love” – The song the Rock Chick wanted to play for our first dance but never told me… I wish she had.
- BV: Rod Stewart, “Have I Told You Lately” – Rod singing Van… and the song my wife humored me with for our first dance at our wedding.
Day 15: A song you like that’s a cover by another artist
- RC: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Higher Ground” – Great Stevie Wonder track from the Peppers.
- BV: U2, “Paint It Black” – U2 doing the Stones!
Day 16: A song that’s a classic favorite
- RC: AC/DC, “Back In Black” – Living up to her nickname…
- BV: Led Zeppelin, “Stairway To Heaven” – After several vodka drinks, it just seemed that if I was going to pick a classic favorite, it needed to be the classic favorite.
Day 17: A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke
- RC: Johnny & June Carter Cash, “Jackson” – Their greatest duet.
- BV: Kenny Rodgers & Dolly Parton, “Islands In the Stream” – First off, like dancing, singing karaoke is something that will never happen again. Kenny Rogers just died so I picked this one. Blame the vodka.
Day 18: A song from the year you were born
- RC: Tom Jones, “It’s Not Unusual” – I love Tom Jones.
- BV: The Rolling Stones, “It’s All Over Now” – This one took some internet research, I won’t lie. I’m glad I saved the Stones for this one.
Day 19: A song that makes you think about life
- RC: Bruce Springsteen, “You’re Missing” – From the phenomenal LP, The Rising.
- BV: Jackson Browne, “Sleeps Dark and Silent Gate” – OK this song is actually about death but what makes us think more about life than death?
Day 20: A song that has many meanings to you
- RC: Depeche Mode, “Never Let Me Down Again” – This was a really great choice in a really hard category.
- BV: Bob Dylan, “Murder Most Foul” – See this, Bob Dylan: The Dark, Mesmerizing 17- Minute New Single, “Murder Most Foul”.
Day 21: A song you like with a person’s name in the title
- RC: Steve Winwood, “Valerie” – A great tune. I never pegged the Rock Chick as a Winwood fan… You learn a lot when you’re putting music lists together.
- BV: The Cars, “Candy-O” – Title track from my favorite Cars LP.
Day 22: A song that moves you forward
- RC: Oasis, “Champagne Super Nova” – Their best track.
- BV: Triumph, “Fight The Good Fight” – Gets me up and going.
Day 23: A song you think everybody should listen to
- RC: Green Keepers, “Lotion” – Its not very many bands who can put dialogue from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ into song…
- BV: Iggy Pop, “James Bond” – I wish everyone listened to Iggy Pop.
Day 24: A song by a band you wish were still together
- RC: The White Stripes, “Hello Operator” – Meg White, come home, we need you.
- BV: The Faces, “Ooh La La” – Written by Ronnie Lane, sung by Ronnie Wood. Rod’s best music was when he was with the Faces.
Day 25: A song you like by an artist no longer living
- RC: INXS, “The One Thing” – The one and only Michael Hutchence.
- BV: Tom Petty, “Breakdown (An American Treasure version) – This version was released to radio stations only as a promotional deal. It was the version KY/102 played when I was growing up.
Day 26: A song that makes you want to fall in love
- RC: Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe” – Like I said… you learn a lot about someone playing music on a Friday night.
- BV: Frank Sinatra, “The Way You Look Tonight” – If you’re gonna talk about love, you’ve gotta talk about Frank.
Day 27: A song that breaks your heart
- RC: Nirvana, “Something In the Way” – I’m especially fond of this track in it’s Unplugged incarnation.
- BV: Neil Young, “Out On the Weekend” – “Woman I’m thinkin’ of, she used me all up and I’m so down today…”
Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice you love
- RC: Eurythmics, “Love Is A Stranger” – Annie Lennox has a sublime voice.
- BV: Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me” – The voice of an angel. I’m looking forward to her upcoming album.
Day 29: A song you remember from childhood
- RC: Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” – The King singing to Priscilla…
- BV: Peter, Paul & Mary, “Blowin’ In the Wind” – My parents fucking loved these guys and I don’t know why. This track takes me back to that time.
Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself
- RC: Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Yes, indeed they do. And the Rock Chick and I had a lot of fun with this playlist.
- BV: Mick Jagger, “Wandering Spirit” – “I’m a wandering spirit, yes I am a restless soul.”
For those of you interested, here is the B&V playlist on Spotify:
And, the better of the two, here is the Rock Chick’s Spotify playlist:
I hope all of you enjoy our picks and hope you will also take this challenge… I mean, again, what else do you have to do? Stay safe, stay healthy, stay away from people. Let’s all social distance now so we can see each other at concerts later.