I just want to live on an island make of cake and listen to music.
This is the second of my “Facebook friends asked me to do lists of things so here it is” series.
This time, the post was “Post your all time top ten albums”
I couldn’t do this with any honesty, so as always, I changed the rules:
Ok. My top ten albums*
Actually no. These are ten (and a couple more) albums that came to mind when
asked what my top ten albums were. There are hundreds more than flash through
my head even thinking about it again now, but I’m going with these ten because
they had a massive impact on my life and are still in rotation.
For example, I could
have added Madonna’s Immaculate Collection – which changed my life, but which I
rarely play now. I could have added Use Your Illusions 1 and 2 and Best of
Queen 1 and 2 (I came late to music and had to do some serious catchup) but again,
they’re not in constant rotation any more.
The Twelfth Man series,
Weird Al albums, especially Fat, Bill n Ted’s Bogus Journey, and The Muppets
Christmas (but I’ll leave that for my top ten Christmas albums post). And… why
aren’t Monty Python on this list?
You see what I mean? Anyway, here are the ten as posted in April 2018 on Facebook.
#10: They Might Be Giants Flood. I’ve seen them do it live. It never gets
old. I’ve talked about They Might Be Giants before. They bring me out of
a bad mood almost every time. I came back from Japan early to see They Might Be
Giants play and went two nights in a row because they were doing the Flood album
start-to-finish the following night.
#9: I’m saying Stormy Weather by Grace Knight. I just listen to it over and
over. It was the second CD I ever bought and by far the most played. After
posting this on Facebook I went out and bought it again on eBay. It’s still
#8: Barenaked Ladies – Gordon.
If I had a Million Dollars is so catchy. I asked friends what
I should be listening to if I liked They Might Be Giants and they made me buy
this. That was maybe 1995. I’ve been listening to this album ever since. Again,
a life changer. It made me feel Canadian again.
Anthony Allstars. Dead and Alive.
I used to listen to DAAS
on the Big Gig – I could almost see the TV from my room through two windows
into the loungeroom. I’d leave the door open so I could hear. I was absolutely
not meant to be watching it. It was brilliant.
Again, I came to DAAS properly just as they were wrapping up. Dead and
Alive was my first album and is still my favourite. The Last Concert and Icon
also get a lot of play but this one just has a great combination of music and
The first Tripod I was exposed to. Still gets more play than any other
album. Dave played this at a party when we were living in Clifton Hill in
the apartment we called The TARDIS (it was bigger on the inside). From here we
started going to gigs at the Pat. They signed my VHS copy of Tosswinkle the
Pirate when Dave told them he was bringing it to me in Japan.
They are great. And Open Slather has always been my favourite album,
followed closely by Tripod versus the Dragon.
#5: Billy Joel.
An Innocent Man
This may not be the best Billy, but it is my Billy. It always makes me
feel better. It’s been a companion on many family trips, so it has
family connections as well as person connections. I’ve had it on tape, vinyl
and CD. The Stranger and River of Dreams come close seconds.
I’m very aware that these may not be the best albums. As I said, I came
to music appreciation late. My friend Craig introduced me to Queen in Year 12.
Dad played ELO and heaps of Beatles and Stones around the house.
But I was into Summer 87 and Through the Roof 85 and Funbusters.
and Rolf Harris.
And Bill Cosby.
#4: Paul Simon – Graceland. An absolute ripper of an album with incredible
rhythms and melodies. Love every single song.
listening to this on trips up to Queensland. I know every word in every song.
It’s phenomenal. None of his other albums have hit me the same way.
#3: Carter USM – 1992.
The Love Album
It’s always a tossup between this and 30 Something but 1992
gets more airplay on my set list.
Dave played these guys to me. We would get drunk
and sing Is Wrestling Fixed and Who Killed Bambi (by Sex Pistols). Never been
hugely into punk, but these albums are fantastic.
2: Cake – Prolonging the
I almost put Fashion Nugget (and had to fight between Cake
and Cat Empire and Bloodhound Gang) but Sheep Go to Heaven pushed me over the
edge. That song fires me up every
Maybe Presidents of the USA should be in here too.
I think they’re more Dave than me, but the Dune Buggy album is still on regular
rotation around the house.
And in the top spot:
1. Whitlams – Eternal Nightcap
I listen to this almost weekly. It got into my brain at my
most musically susceptible and has never left. God it’s a good album.
And again, I
could have put Ben Folds Five in here, but it hasn’t stayed in my rotation.
So anyway, thirty or so albums in my top ten list. Go and
listen to all of them. Let me know just how bad my music taste actually is.
I’m getting back into the writing season, with my Golden Pen club starting up again, so I’m going to start writing small pieces that I can put up here for your viewing pleasure. My rules are that the entire story is written in one sitting and placed up without too much recrimination or reflection. Some of them I will take a good hard look at and change them for publication. Others are simply small pieces of entertainment that I will never take any further.
This is one of those.
If you haven’t heard the song, it goes like this:
It always freaked me out as a kid, and I always watched out for the Skundig (whatever they might be). I present for you, a quick writing expansion of that idea:
Many people tell you that they’re your friend
You believe them
You need them
For what’s round the river bend
Make sure that you’re receiving the signals they send
‘Cause brother you’ve only got two hands to lend
Maybe there’s someone who makes you weep
And some nights loom up ahead
When you’re asleep
Some days there’s things on your mind you should keep
Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap
Better watch out for the Skin Deep
– Skin Deep, The Stranglers. 1984
I am terrified. They’re coming to get me. The Skundig. When I was young, my parents used to play this song by the Stranglers over and over. It is my bible. It is my saviour. I wrote down the words. This was before the Internet. As many times as I listened, I couldn’t tell what it was I had to look out for. The best I could come up with was Skundig. Better watch out for the Skundig.
I’m at the train station. I haven’t been able to completely remove myself from society. But they could be anyone. A complete stranger, a most trusted friend. I can’t take the chance. Nobody is safe. People watch me when I have to move among them. I flinch from their gaze. They might be trying to brainwash me, sending signals straight into my head. Vigilance is my only weapon. Vigilance and solitude.
Better watch out for the Skundig.
I haven’t slept properly for two months. I don’t shower. It’s too dangerous. I just wish I had more information! These clues are so cryptic. They obviously steal body parts and organs. I think they sedate you with their minds and then cut off your hands. Do they eat them? Do they make more of themselves? Oh God, now I see them as constructs built out of stolen pieces of their victims!
Brother watch out for the Skundig!
Not enough information. I can’t protect myself. Did that “person” just look at my hands? Measuring me up for her replacements? I can’t tell anyone. I can’t trust anyone. I can’t sleep. How can a person live like this? The answer? A person can’t. The Skundig win. Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap. Quickly now, before they control my mind. Here comes the express.
At the end of my first year of university, I was having a bit of a rough time. I’d had very little sleep. I’d just told someone how I felt about her and been unrequited. I wasn’t sleeping (completely self-inflicted) and had fallen asleep during an exam. It was a low point.
In fact, it really wasn’t a low point. I’d had a great year. But being out of home for the first time, I’d gone a little bit mental at university. Sleep and study were secondary to booze and this wonderful new thing called “The Internet”. By the end of the year I was at the end of my tether and was completely strung out, emotionally.
The Internet was new and wild (bear with me, I’m getting back on track), mainly text-based and incredibly addictive. We were learning to program. We were discovering how to interact with other systems and other schools. We all had online personalities in an age before online personalities were mainstream. We were talking to people in other countries and other universities. The world had opened up and I wasn’t planning on missing any of it.
Side bar: When I first found out about the Internet, our mentor Fiona took us to a computer room where dozens of students were “online”. A number of them were playing a MUD – a Multi-User Dungeon. It was called Discworld, and as I watched over one guy’s shoulder, he chatted freely with people in a number of different countries, all trying to solve a quest and making random conversation. Each sentence ended with a colon and a right-bracket.
“Is that some sort of sign-off thing?” I asked. The guy looked at it in puzzlement for a while, then laughed and told me to turn my head to the side. Thus I was introduced to the smiley. And its overuse. Oh, and incidentally, to the Discworld. It all comes together.
Back to the narrative and the slow trundle towards a point. Using a tool called ytalk, I was chatting with a girl called Haggis, who went to uni down in Melbourne at La Trobe. We’d arranged to meet up during exam week. She arrived in the middle of this low point. I was lying on my bed, my friends were making commiserative noises. I really didn’t want to see anybody. And probably wasn’t in the right frame to meet this girl I’d been chatting with online.
She came in, realised I was upset, reached into her bag and stuck a cassette tape into my tape player:
And my life was changed forever.
I’ve never been so instantly cheered up as I was by that song. Lorraine’s (that’s Haggis’ real name) tape contained a number of songs from a few different albums, including Shoehorn with Teeth and of course Lighthouse in your Soul. It was a mix tape, and I still have my copy of it hiding somewhere in the house. It has been chewed up and wound back in. It has been taken apart and replaced in a different cassette tape case. And it was the beginning of an obsession that would only be rivalled by Red Dwarf and Terry Pratchett.
They Might Be Giants have been a major influence on my life. They sing in a manically cheerful fashion, even as they talk about skeletons and people’s heads falling off. They have been used in Tiny Toons animations,
wrote the theme song for Malcom in the Middle,
did the sound track for the Power Rangers movie and Coraline…
And they’re back in Australia for the first time since I came back from Japan in 2001.
When we found out that they’d be coming back to tour with Nanobots, the Facebook messages went wild. We had the option of going to see them at Groovin’ the Moo in Bendigo, or at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.
“A true fan,” you say, “would do both!” Which is true. But a true fan, with a child and a mortgage, has to choose. So we chose the Corner Hotel. One night only, when we bought the tickets. Since then, a number of new shows have popped up.
I’ll transcribe this later:
I was introduced to the Whitlams through They Might Be Giants. They supported TMBG at one of their shows, before No Aphrodisiac shot them to stardom. They also gave me The Lucksmiths, although they didn’t ever really rocket, so much as saunter gently upwards and out of sight.
We went to the Factory Showroom tour, still raw from my breakup with Cath. As an act of revenge I picked up a girl who was only there to see the support act.
When I came back from Japan, TMBG were doing their Mink Car tour. I even left Japan a few days early so that I wouldn’t miss the concert. We rocked up to the concert with pink letters on our forehead. At the end of the show, they announced that they would be performing a rare Flood show – the entire album from start to finish – on the following night. We left the concert, jumped online and bought tickets to the following night.
The number of nights my friend Shay and I would lie under the trees outside the Kyabram Fauna park, singing Whistling in the Dark and other TMBG classics.
They Might Be Giants have been the soundtrack to my life, from the end of my first year of university until pretty much the present day. Having said that, and in all honesty, I am no longer even in the slightest bit obsessed with them. The last couple of albums have had a couple of catchy songs and a couple of very thoughtful songs. They still know how to put together an album. But they’re not going to bring me instantly out of a depressive funk as they used to do. And I didn’t go to Groovin’ the Moo as well as the Corner Hotel. I didn’t buy the new album as soon as it came out. And I don’t have a t-shirt that still fits.
My iPhone signature still says “I don’t want the world, I just want your half.” I can still sing Flood from start to finish (and sometimes this happens in Greek restaurants late at night). But I don’t have the energy to get as excited about them as I used to. Or they aren’t providing me with the songs to get excited about. I was going to end the blog saying: “Either way, it was fun, but the love affair is over.” And then I went to see them love and a little fire rekindled inside my heart. I’m still a fan.
And we’ll always have Istanbul (not Constantinople).