My Personal Top 20 Songs (Part 4)

Last ones!

16. Dr. Who Theme – Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire (BBC Radiophonic Workshop) (1963) – Source: Gallifrey
There are so many reasons I love this song. Being a great song, standing the test of time, and being re-imagined almost as often as the doctors have been regenerated. Having a life of its own outside of the show, thanks to things like the KLF spinoff.
The work that went into the original recording is beyond stupefying. It sounds so much like something I would do (and have done), that I feel like Delia and the crew at BBC who did this are part of my extended musical family. If you know me at all, you’ll probably agree if you read this piece I salvaged from the wayback machine. The whole crux of it is that “each note was individually hand-crafted”. I’ve manually synched together multiple tape decks for multitrack fakery, done tape collages with dozens of splices, and taken my MIDI files into a hex editor to manually tweak parameters on every single note in a sequence, so I know a bit about what this must have been like. I also know that the results are usually worth it. Obviously, I’ve covered this song numerous times. It’s another one of those pieces with a time signature that is worth arguing about, but for the sake of simplicity I always just dial in as 12/16 to make things easy. (IMHO: “triplets” are the bit of music theory I’ve always considered a mathematically inconsistent hack…naysayers, fire away!) Also, last but certainly not least, hearing this song always reminds me of watching the show with my dad when I was a kid, and I’m truly thankful for those times.

17. Fool’s Overture – Supertramp – Source: Even In the Quietest Moments (1977)
(Link is not to the original, which is still my favourite, but this is a really good live performance too…I can’t find a decent link to the studio version anywhere!)
A funny thing about this song, if there was ever a piece that you’d need sheet music to learn how to play, this would be one. There’s even a PICTURE of the sheet music for this song on the front cover of the album! Hilariously, at least for the decades I spent scouring the globe for it, no such commercially available sheet music actually exists. I spent a long time figuring out the intro piano section (the first 2 minutes) by ear, and months of tweaking it, realizing that this note here was wrong, or that arpeggiated chord was missing a note, requiring all five fingers to play properly. When I walk into a piano store (sadly, never having owned a real piano in my life), I’ll sit down at the nicest piano they have (usually some half-million dollar work of art I could never afford) and start playing this song. It always gets a reaction from people. Things like “what IS that?!”, or “I’ve never heard anyone play that before”, or (the best) “I’ve never heard anyone play that PROPERLY before”. I’ve even, on one occasion (while playing a $480k extended grand Bösendorfer at a shop in San Francisco) had everyone in the whole store stop everything to listen. IMHO, this is in part because, although technically accurate, the emotion this song is trying to convey resonates so strongly with me that it pours out of me whenever I play it. It always leaves me shaking a bit.
I could also talk about how great the rest of the song is, for many of the same reasons as the other songs on this list, or talk about how I was introduced to this song via mix tape my dad sent to me when I was 8, and he was stationed up in Alert for 6 months. (Thanks again dad!) Like every song here, there are so many reasons why it matters to me…

18. Big Time Sensuality (The Fluke Moulimix) – Björk – Source: Big Time Sensuality single (132 TP 7 CDL) (1993)
Björk…what can I say? If you don’t know me at all, I could say a lot. If you do, you’ve probably heard more than you can stand already. I wouldn’t claim to be her most hardcore fan, but I don’t think I’d want to meet someone more extreme about it than me. For over 20 years now, I don’t think I’ve ever had more than a day or two at a time that I haven’t listened to her. (That’s one reason why, even camping, I make sure I always have some kind of music player and headphones with me). This song was probably the first thing I heard from her after Tappi Tíkarrass, KULK, and Sugar Cubes, and I was so thrilled that she was finally launching a solo career where she was “in charge”, it was finally her unrestrained, undiluted, uncompromised artistic vision. This song, and in particular this version, and the crazy video that accompanies it (link above is to an even better, rare alternate version) really hammer that feeling home. It’s only one small part of everything she represents as an artist, but something I treasure, and keep coming back to.

19. Bad – U2 – Source: The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
Link is to the Wide Awake In America version, but every version of this song is perfect in its own way. I know it’s the “in” thing to hate on U2 now, but screw all those people. Some of the best concert moments I’ve ever had were at U2 shows, and in particular around this song. Some of the best jams I’ve ever had were U2 covers, and my moments of zoning out for hours at a drum kit usually involve playing early U2 songs. This song hits me hard, and encapsulates so much of that. Also the message of the lyrics, and the “I don’t care if I completely destroy my vocal chords” delivery of them, really does make me feel wide awake whenever I hear it. As an aside, I also vividly remember spending all day watching the live broadcast of Live Aid in July of 1985, and even coming out of my crappy TV speakers, U2’s performance of this song was incredibly powerful, and was the highlight of the whole day for me.

20. Stereo – Watchmen – Source: Silent Radar (1998)
(I also love this version equally) A Winnipeg band! Go figure.
This song is me. Every word of it, every sound, everything. On every level. Even literally. My life *is* a stereo. (Kinda cheaply made though) I’d write about it more, but it’s all way too personal. If you know me though, you already know this song, even if you’ve never heard it before.

So, there you have it. You might be surprised by some of the missing things, like how, for example, there’s no Nine Inch Nails, no Bach pieces, no Tragically Hip…all I can say is, my top 100 has a lot of that, and no way am I going to write about it all! These are the songs that made the cut, is all. I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear why…


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