I was amused when recently it dawned on me, perhaps ridiculously late, that my iTunes Most-Played list was a stunningly accurate portrait of my personal tastes in music. If you use iTunes, the same’s of course true for you. First, then, just for the record, as of today the list reads thusly (you’ll notice immediately who dominates my list; I apologize in advance for the self-involvement of the subject, a necessary evil in this instance): “Murder by Numbers,”with Sting as guest vocalist on Frank Zappa’s Broadway the Hard Way, recorded along what turned out to be his final tour; the suddenly prescient-again “Eye of Newt” by Ike Willis from his Dirty Pictures disc; “Stolen Moments,” also from Broadway the Hard Way; “Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk,” from—you guessed it—Broadway; “Como en Vietnam,” by Gary Burton from Times Square; “‘Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” by Richard Thompson and one of the most powerful war songs you will ever hear, from Sweet Warrior; “Biznis As Usual,” by Ike Willis from Should’a Gone Before I Left; “No More Mr. Nice Girl” by the Fowler Brothers from Breakfast for Dinosaurs; “Abacab,” (that’s right) by Genesis from Three Sides Live; “Healing Power,” by the great Carla Bley from Sextet; “Legalize It,” by Medeski, Martin, Scofield, and Wood, from Out Louder; “Tutu,” by Miles Davis from Live Around the World; “Whiskey Train,” by Procol Harum from Live at the Union Chapel; “Chunga’s Revenge,” by Aynsley Dunbar from Mutiny; “Song Sung Long,” by Carla Bley from Live!; “Paint It Black,” by Rick and Adam Wakeman from Wakeman with Wakeman (the truth is the truth, and this list doesn’t lie); “Nite School” by Zappa’s Universe; “Avoid the Year of the Monkey,” by Charlie Mariano from Helen 12 Trees; “Drafted Again,” by FZ from You Are What You Is; “Day in the House,” by Jeff Beck from Guitar Shop; “Sledgehammer” (yes, that one) by Peter Gabriel from his greatest-hits collection; “Long Time Gone,” by David Crosby from his live solo disc; “Andy,” by the Band From Utopia; “A Taste for Passion,” by Jean-Luc Ponty from the disc of the same name; and “Blue Wind,” by Jeff Beck from his disc with the Jan Hammer Group.
Of that 25, about a third involve Frank Zappa in some way, which probably does not come as a surprise to my wife. The Sting guest shot, BTW, is the stuff of legend. Sting was not featured in any promotional material for the album, oddly enough, due to contractural, lawyerly problems. “Oh—who’d want to be associated with a Frank Zappa album of all things?” (Only the best; the rest ought to have just forgotten all about it)
The political creeps in, inexorably. Not just with Zappa, either. “‘Dad” in this case is Baghdad, and the point-of-view figure is a U.S. soldier; The “house” Jeff Beck refers to is the House of Commons; and etc. These songs among many other possible examples prove, at least to me, that written art can well contain political subjects without doing any harm. “Drafted Again” is also one of the drop-down funniest tunes I have ever heard.
It seems I have a penchant for risking what some other people’s sense of taste might consider risking kitsch. You’d get no argument from me, except to say that anyone who isn’t blown back into their chairs over the sheer dramatics of “Abacab,” in particular that marvelous minimalist keyboard solo and the power of the batterie of Collins and Chester Thompson, should listen again. Really.
What I like about the iTunes list is that it’s accurate. It’s taught me some important little lessons. I didn’t know I had such a thing for Broadway the Hard Way until I started paying attention to that list. While my tastes are fairly wide, I do gravitate to certain familiar names and sounds.
I’ll be curious to see how this list evolves. It’s a minor mirror into what music we truly cleave to. And now: back to the playlist for today. More on the subject later on.