A Boing, Some Gulls, A Screech
If I was smart enough to isolate single tracks within a song, the first thing I’d do is capture and bottle the little boing at the start of Joan of Arc’s “The Hands.” I’d make it my text sound, and I’d always leave my phone turned up.
“Did you pick up the kids?” boing
“Grab potatoes for that corned beef recipe.” boing
- “Pedro Bound!” — Mike Watt
- “Can’t Stand the Strain” — Funkadelic
- “…& On” — Erykah Badu
- “Pacifics (Sdtrk ‘N.Y. Is Red Hot’)” — Digable Planets
- “Around the World In A Day” — Prince
- “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” — Led Zeppelin
- “Margie” — Heathers
- “Unfucktheworld” — Angel Olsen
- “The House of the Rising Sun” — Nina Simone
- “Moon River” — Frank Ocean
- “Un Tabaco para Elegua” — Orquesta Akokán
- “The Hands” — Joan Of Arc
- “England, Half English” — Billy Bragg & the Blokes
- “Summer Babe — Winter Version” — Pavement
- “How It’s Gonna Go” — Wavves
- “The Tide” — RVIVR
- “Rodeo Jones” — Sunny Day Real Estate
- “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” — Laura Jane Grace
Despite listening to Joan of Arc for the past decade or so, that noise is the extent of my music memory. I can’t name or hum a single other song: it’s just that boing, always that boing, never more than that boing.
Everything else blends to fuzz, which is not so much a testament to their music (which I like very much, for the record) but more an estimate to the lasting power of a surprising first impression, like while my parents definitely played Purple Rain a lot but I never embraced Prince as someone I care about until he did that weird screechy voice thing at the start of “Around the World In A Day,” the other Prince record my parents had.
(A quick aside to my parents, here: I’m not mad that you gave up on buying Prince records after that, but I’m sad you didn’t keep going, because the record collection I inherited is sorely lacking a Sign O The Times, and while that might sound like the ramblings of a spoiled middle-aged man, probably you’re absolutely right.)
I hate that my mind translates this into advertising — the attention grabbing, the mind hooking — just as I hate when musicians admit to front-loading records or gimmicking up the album in some way to increase sales and notability. I learned to love music in front of a Food Not Bombs table, I suppose. Where music was devoted to unsustainable artistic expression, never in any way designed to make money or provide anything other than pure unbridled passion.
And, yet, there’s Prince, the most mainstream that weird counterculture ever dared to go, and there’s Joan of Arc, who never wrote an accessible mainstream album in their life, and there’s the seagulls on the Mike Watt album no one remembers and there’s the sudden horns on Billy Bragg’s “England, Half English” and suddenly you don’t know anything about anything anymore.
So you pretend to make ring tones, you ramble about music, and you wonder why you never wrote anything as attention grabbing as these songs you love.
“Because you never learned to play an instrument.”