So let me lecture a bit first….the reason why I am about to post all of my geek music favs is simple. Being dorky without backing down is the ultimate in non-conformity. That’s right. Just as the title suggests, nerdy is the new black. Listening to Snow Patrol or The Shins while wearing that new Urban Outfitters gear is certainly cool – but actually not that original. Give me a brilliant, independent thinker over some slick willy “hipster” anyday….
Alright, so here it is – again, in no particular order:
“Even Now,” Barry Manilow [The Essential Barry Manilow Collection]
If the 70’s was the era of the singer/songwriter, then Barry was its king. Or perhaps, queen. No matter, because that Mary can sing and play. It was hard for me to choose just one of his songs, to tell you the truth. He ruled the radio while I was growing up, so his music was imprinted on my fragile, doughy brain early on. Some people would call that child abuse – but I loved it. And still do.
Tie Between “Biggest Part of Me,” and “Holdin’ Onto Yesterday,” by Ambrosia
O.k., o.k., so their band name blows (are they really named after a Southern dessert?), but it’s not any worse than Air Supply or Flock of Seagulls (two bands I despise with a passion). “Biggest Part of Me” just brings me to my happy place faster than most anything can – it’s my own little version of “E” for my ears and soul. And the other one – well, I just like to think of all my ex-boyfriends playing this one over and over again, lamenting over the loss of me still. Just don’t call me.
“More Than a Woman,” The Bee Gees [Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack]
You don’t like The Bee Gees? You think disco still sucks? Fuck off coward. You know you dance to it every time it comes on (unless in public, then just a smile and a hair swish). It’s true that Barry (what is with that name) looks more like Chewbaca from Star Wars – and we all never figured out why Andy wasn’t part of the line-up – but I don’t care. They rock. And I think they suffered more than the Salem witches did after disco was pronounced dead. They had to work under pseudnonyms and produce for others, for like 10 years.
And folks, that ain’t right…
Tie Between “She’s Got a Way,” and “Summer, Highland Falls” – Billy Joel
So any avid fan of Anthony Bourdain knows how much he despises Billy Joel – and it sure makes for funny copy. But screw him, because I think he was a helluva songwriter in his time. Before he fell in love with Christy Brinkley. Happiness killed him as an artist, but whadaya gonna do? We all peak and fall at some point.
“Boys in the Trees,” Carly Simon [Clouds in My Coffee]
I think that Carly is one of the most underrated songwriters of all times – but that’s true for many women artists. While Helen Reddy was blasting “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” in a most inelegant, “in-your-face” fashion, Simon comes out with this seminal classic, incorporating all the angst of the burgeoning feminist movement through the lens of a young woman coming of age. It’s a song Tori Amos said she wish she had written and I can’t blame her. There are many more in her canon worth citing, but none that move me like this one.
“I Keep Forgettin’ – Michael McDonald
Whether solo or with The Doobie Brothers, I love Michael McDonald. He’s got this voice that’s somehow smooth and gravely at the same time. I’ve never gotten to see him live, but I’d see him anywhere – well, except for the Indian casinos around here. For some reason, many of the artists of yesteryear that I dig only play there. What’s the matter, coffee-house venues? You’re too cool for Mickey McD? Huh? Huh?
“Closer to Fine,” – Indigo Girls
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s like the dyke anthem of the nineties. But I’m a sucker for songs that tell a good story – and this came out at a time when I was out of college and feeling completely lost in the “real world” (no tasteless MTV pun intended). I’ve bought some of their subsequent work – and while I do think they tend to get a bit preachy for my tastes, I think they’ve risen beyond one-hit-wonder status quite nicely.
“Annie’s Song,” – John Denver
Yep. John Denver. John-Mother-Fuckin-Denver. Gotta problem with that, punk? Too bad. Here’s some trivia for all you hipsters out there…name the first entertainer to single-handedly bring world-wide attention to the struggling environmentalist movement AND brought Congressional hearings to a stand-still when he testified AGAINST the parental advisory record labels that the Tipster was pushing harder than crack at a playground? His songs were – admittedly – sappy as hell….and being Kermit’s BFF didn’t help his rep either. He is, by far, King of the Dorks. But he had brass balls, my friend – and a true revolutionary in the end. Go figure.
“Trying,” – Lifehouse
Gotta be straight here. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Lifehouse. Love their music, but don’t know how much I actually respect the artistry – so to speak. I think they’re fairly, run-of-the-mill pop rockers, but I like them in spite of myself. Oh well….
“Killer Queen,” – Queen
I don’t know how “nerdy” liking Queen really is these days – I think the revival they enjoyed from the “Wayne’s World” movie (coupled with Freddy’s unfortunate death) still lingers. How can you not like this band? They’re campy, they’re over-the-top drama, they were the original disco drag act – before the Scissor Sisters, thank you very much…
“Learning to Breathe” – Switchfoot
There’s nothing more non-conforming, bordering-on-countercultural, for a Jewish-Buddhist girl to do than to be a fan of quasi Christian rock. I have no decent words of explanation. All I can say is that I like the spiritual vibe of their music – the feeling I get from them is similar to what I experience with The Innocence Mission. Spirituality over religiousity. Ecstaticism replacing doctrine or dogma. I just plug my ears and go “lalalalalala” when the Jesus parts come up.
So there ya go people – all fifty to one hundred of you that troll my site everyday. Next time, back to the questions….