Musings from the basement...

28 Songs that Changed My Life: The Crystals – “Da Doo Ron Ron” (5 of 28)

There’s just something about a chorus of women singing a catchy melody over a dense bed of sound that feels right. Phil Spector was a murdering villain. That is now his legacy, and it will be forevermore. But that legacy shouldn’t taint the legacy of fantastic vocal groups like The Crystals, who provided a soundtrack for my youth and who, without me knowing it, influenced the music I’d later come to love. For a time, I found the stuff by The Crystals, The Ronnettes, and others to be dated and quaint. It was my mom’s music, not mine. It’s music for old movies (and old PEOPLE), not for listening by someone modern and with it. Time has proved me wrong. This stuff is classic for…
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28 Songs that Changed My Life: Michael Jackson, “Thriller” (4 of 28)

Heck, not just the song. The entire damn album. If you were breathing in the early to mid 1980s, you couldn’t escape it. It was HUGE. Thriller was one of the biggest albums of all time. Not counting Star Wars story records, Thriller was the first record I owned that was truly mine. Asked for it for Christmas, got it on vinyl, and listened to it endlessly on my crummy turntable. It was jam-packed with big songs, from the title track to “Beat It” to “Billie Jean,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “Human Nature,” and others. Michael Jackson was a hit-making force of nature. I grew out of being an active fan, moving towards rock music and other genres, but my childhood experience with Thriller left…
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28 Songs that Changed My Life: The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup” (3 of 28)

For most people these days, The Foundations’ 1968 classic, “Build Me Up Buttercup,” is just that quirky song that has appeared in a thousand movies and maybe gets played at a wedding now and then. For me, it’s long been the sound of what “carefree” feels like. I grew up with this song. It was a staple in my household, and as a result it became one of the first songs I loved. After all, what kid doesn’t latch onto catchy melodies? And this is a VERY catchy melody. Just hearing the title, I guarantee it’s already in your head! But over the years it has become more than just a childhood favorite. It’s a song that represents pure happiness; swinging your arms around and…
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28 Songs that Changed My Life: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme” (2 of 28)

Prior to my journey into jazz beginning (which largely started with Miles Davis and the legendary Kind of Blue), all I knew of John Coltrane was a fleeting reference in a U2 song. I assumed their reference to A Love Supreme was because it was some important or influential work, but I was young and not nearly as musically adventurous as I’d become, so I did as I often did and didn’t think much about it. Then jazz happened to me. I discovered how great escape it was. How it could put me at ease and transport me somewhere else. It began to influence my own freeform, meandering music. I’d first heard Coltrane on Davis’ classic records of the mid-to-late 1950s and it made me…
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28 Songs that Changed My Life: Public Enemy, “Night of the Living Baseheads” (1 of 28)

It’s no exaggeration to say that Public Enemy helped change how I view the world. Much like George Orwell’s 1984, it helped me clarify thoughts I’d had and refine my overall worldview, putting to words an sounds the way I saw politicians, authority figures, media, justice, and more. I’ve extensively written about Public Enemy’s impact on me, so here I’m going to skip the formalities and get right to the song. I still remember the day I first saw the video for “Night of the Living Baseheads.” The blaring horns, pounding rhythm, thought-provoking lyrics, and insane multimedia assault of a music video was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Growing up as a sheltered white kid in a tiny New Jersey town (which I helped…
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