I cannot tell you how glad I am that my brother-from-another-mother Shenry has returned to the blogosphere to share with us his deep thoughts about poo and ferrets, and in time to host his annual CD swap. For five years now we’ve been swapping tunes and finding new favorites with musicophiles across the nation, and this year we’re international, eh. And it’s all thanks to Shenry who had the inspiration in the first place.
This year’s theme, “The Path,” appealed to me, as I’m an unabashed seeker. And while I envisioned the mix being filled with songs with a philosophic, navel-gazing bent and about paths, generally, what evolved was something more personal, reflecting my own path these 37 years, and what I imagine is yet to come. Funny how that happens sometimes; but I rather dig the result. Below’s the song list, and the reasons they ended up on this here mix. This explanatory post is for my fellow swappers (Welcome!) but if you’re reading here and are NOT a swapper and find yourself intrigued, hit me up, and I bet you could find yourself possessed of this mix with very little begging required.
I took the cover photo, shown above, in January 2007 as I walked on the headlands near Ft. Bragg, CA, where the guitar camp I go to every year is held. I liked that the path went right to the very edge and into the ocean.
1. Na Na Na-Theresa Andersson
First, let me say that if you ever have the opportunity to see this woman live, you must do so, at all costs. Unbelievable pipes her album doesn’t even do justice. I happened to see her at no cost, as she opened for a recent Squeeze show that sold so poorly that they made it a free show at the last minute just to fill the hall (I assume); it still was sparsely attended. A one-woman band, she played violin, guitar, drums, dulcimer, and multi-track vocals in a stunning performance that left my jaw on the floor from the third minute in until she walked off the stage. As for the song, I thought it was the right one to start this mix with, because I think it describes the path we’re all on: we’re trying to feed our empty hearts. And I’m not the only one.
2. The Babysitter’s Here-Dar Williams
The first time I heard this was at her live show in October. Once I realized what the song was about, I was just delighted and smiling ear-to-ear in the darkness of the club. I was tickled that anyone would write a song about a babysitter; I remember that hero worship for a few of my favorites when I was a kid. People don’t hire babysitters anymore, it seems, so perhaps we are the last generation who will have aspired to the mystique of a teenage girl. The song made it into this line-up because of the innocence in it. The narrator doesn’t yet understand…so many things, including just how bad things can get in life. And even this babysitter doesn’t yet know; she has a problem, but among the problems available, it is not the worst. It’s just the worst she’s had to deal with. This is where we start on the path, and the years just chip away at that innocence. The only people who truly appreciate innocence are those who have lost theirs; that seems to be the way of things.
3. Everybody Knows-Leonard Cohen
During our teens and twenties, we cultivate a cool cynicism for things we, in most cases, don’t know anything about. At least I didn’t; I led a pretty sheltered life, but it didn’t stop me from knowing it all, and having some pretty strong opinions about all of it. At that age, we mistake common knowledge for wisdom, and offer some pretty hefty penalties for those who don’t conform; we are not excluded from our censure, either. For me, it was a time in my life where I was simultaneously optimistic and hopeless, however impossible that seems; looking back now, I know I was just afraid. Sour grapes and being judgmental were the natural symptoms of that. Everybody knows a lot of things; that doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t much more to know.
4. Pretend That You’re Alone-Keane
Related to the above, this song, then, is about who we are, who we might allow ourselves to be, if we unplugged from the various matrices that keep us in our imagined places. For me, I began doing this in earnest in my late twenties; my mantra was that “being a good girl never got me anywhere.” That’s not entirely true, but Jung’s statement that “I’d rather be whole than good” is more meaningful to me now. And those things that we keep hidden in the shadow are almost never as bad or as scary as we think they are, once we let them into the light. I am happier being whole than I ever was being “good.” I haven’t got much use for other people’s definition of morality; I tend to think we need ethics more than morals. Ethics define how we act; morals are about telling others how to act.
5. The Space Between-Zero 7
I felt a bit of mild shock the first time I was telling an anecdote and referred to it happening twenty years ago or so. That I was old enough to have clear memories of things that had happened two decades prior was a new experience. I now had a long enough view to look back on, and some perspective. That’s what this song is about (in this mix)—-that transition from learning the lessons to understanding the lessons.
6. You Can’t Always Get What You Want-The Rolling Stones
These next few songs are about the lessons I’ve learned on my path. Given enough time, it seems that all these disparate experiences of my life smooth into something more intentional, however mysterious the intention seems to me. I’ve never been impressed with the verses of this song, but there’s wisdom in the chorus.
7. There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You-Ben Folds
The day you give up on being cool is such a damn relief. And paradoxically, it is that moment that you actually begin to become cool, in a greater sense than you ever imagined it when you were young. The key is not caring so much what other people think. And not being a chump.
8. The Hustler, the Widow, and the Boy from Detroit-Tony Lucca
There comes a point in one’s life when no matter how good you’ve been, no matter if you’ve followed all the rules, no matter how much you are loved, no matter if you’ve been kind to strangers and gentle with animals and as loving as you can be, something’s going to happen to you that drops you to your knees and leaves you there for a long, long time. It will be brutal, unfathomable, and seemingly impossible to recover from. And until it happens, you would’ve never believed it could happen to you. Thing is, it happens to everyone; bad things happen to good people every day.
9. Can’t Go Back Now-The Weepies
The only path is through, and forward. Even when we want to go back, it’s not an option; at best, it’s a pathetic facsimile that will never satisfy.
10. This Is It (Your Soul)-Hothouse Flowers
This is one of my favorite songs, ever, and it shows up on a lot of mixes, though I think this is the first time it’s been on a Shenry swap CD. Actually, it was featured on the very first IAVSX mix, which I only realized AFTER I’d dropped the mix in the mail. Oops. What can I say? I love it, and it comes off an album that is great start to finish.
This is a song about looking past all the surface clutter that drives us mad, and digging deep to find what matters, what feeds your soul and others’. I think my soul is that part of me that never ages, and felt the same when I was six as it does now; I also think it’s the part of me that stays calm when my mind is chaos and my heart is broken and says, “Yes, this is terrible, but you will be okay.” I think it’s what’s left when our worlds fall down around us. I wasn’t able to see it until everything else was gone.
11. Witness-Sarah McLachlan
I have become more spiritual in recent years, which has been both a boon in my life and a frustration. The frustration comes out of the insistent, incessant mystery. Does it have be a secret, why we’re here? Does it have to be so hard? Why? The question never really changes from the time we’re three, does it? WHY?
It was easier when I thought we lived and died like any other animal and that was it. It only got dicey when I began to consider the possibility that we might actually have a purpose here.
12. All That We Let In-Indigo Girls
“I don’t know where it all begins
And I don’t know where it all will end
We’re better off for all that we let in.”
I suspect we’re on this earth to experience everything there is to experience. I think that ultimately we will learn, once we’re done here, that there are no good or bad experiences, just experiences, including the experience of the spectrum of emotions. My philosophical theories, though, do very little to help me through the most difficult times. They merely give me a star to steer to.
13. Walking Higher-Heather Nova
It is said that death ends a life, not a relationship. I can only agree. There is more to us, more to life, than meets the eye. And if you told me ten years ago that I’d be saying that, I would’ve told you to lay off the dope.
14. Like a Seed-Kenny Rankin
This song is another rerun, I’m afraid. It also appeared on IASVX #3. The context is slightly different here, and it’s funny how that changes it for me, which may be the reason I forgot I’d already used it. Or maybe it’s just my usual CRS acting up.
This song came out on an album of the same name in 1972. It has long seemed to me that Truth is everywhere, for those who are open to seeing and hearing it, and that there are many prophets in all times, if you look beyond the name brands. “There’ll be nothing left to hide…all will be known…we’re going home.”
15. Love is the Answer-Todd “The God” Rundgren