Just to give you an idea of how old 30 is, I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she mentioned that she'd run into one of our former next-door neighbors whose kids I used to babysit all the time. The younger of those kids is starting at Georgia Southern this fall; the older one joined the Marines, made it through Paris Island, and is currently headed off to California. It's always nice to know that the hyperactive six-year-old you watched after school is now more than capable of kicking your ass.
Anyhoo. This week's Random Ten+5 is going to be a little different -- it's not random, first of all, and I'm combining the Ten and the 5 into a Not-So-Random 15. This is the 15-Track Soundtrack To My Life, fifteen songs that made some kind of major impression on me at various points in my life and will be the starting point for the soundtrack whenever they make the Doug Gillett biopic. ("Doug Gillett: Chancellor of the Sexchequer," they'll call it.) Prepare to get video-tastic:
Lionel Richie, "All Night Long" (1983)
This is the first song that I can remember calling "my favorite." Don't laugh at me, I was five years old, and Lionel's career was pretty much hitting its peak.
Billy Idol, "Eyes Without a Face" (1984)
The first video I can ever remember seeing on MTV. It was also the venue through which I was introduced to the concept of the thong (at six years old).
Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls" (1985)
I remember hearing this song on the radio right after my aunt got me my very first Walkman (or generic equivalent) as a First Communion present; even then, at the tender age of seven, I knew the Pet Shop Boys were fricking geniuses. (Technically, this was the first rap song to hit number one in the U.S.)
My Bloody Valentine, "Soon" (1991)
Right after we moved to Georgia, I remember going up to Atlanta to go shopping and go to a Braves game, and as we were driving through downtown, my mom was flipping through radio stations and stopped for just a minute or two on WRAS 88.5, Georgia State University's student radio station. This was even a few months before "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had started taking the airwaves by storm, so hearing My Bloody Valentine for the first time at the tender age of 13 was basically a revelatory experience for me. If every child has a moment when they put aside bubblegum top-40 pop and start listening to grown-up music, that was mine.
U2, "The Fly" (1991)
Just a few short months after hearing "Soon" in the car on the Downtown Connector, U2 released the first single off Achtung Baby, which was another transformative experience. Achtung Baby was probably the first album I ever bought and listened to nonstop to the point where I probably started wearing the CD out; what little I knew of U2 at that point was basically limited to "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "With Or Without You," and this was entirely different, darker, delivered with a wink and a wicked grin. I still think this is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under the Bridge" (1992)
Everyone I knew liked this song back during my sophomore year of high school, and that was the problem. As alternative music started to take hold amongst me and my group of friends back around that time, we all felt like we'd discovered something new and groundbreaking with this song and the album it appeared on, but that only lasted for a couple months before WCGQ started playing it every five minutes. Thus were we introduced to the concept of being "overplayed" and a good song being done to death by corporate radio. (CGQ has since switched to an adult-contemporary format, which is another unfortunate metaphor right there.)
A Tribe Called Quest, "Award Tour" (1993)
The song (and the album, Midnight Marauders) that really got me started listening to hip-hop. Pretty much the only rap I knew up to that point (aside from "West End Girls," of course) was "Walk This Way" back in 1986, which may or may not count.
Pet Shop Boys, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" (1993)
Still my favorite song, particularly the Beatmasters remix, and I still think Very is the single greatest pop album ever recorded. It has a lot to do with the fact that I had my first-ever actual girlfriend right around this time, and I got her listening to all this stuff too; she would later go on to be the only person to ever dump me twice, but some music is so good that it transcends even embarrassing memories like that.
R.E.M., "Nightswimming" (1993)
Contrary to most of my friends -- and most of the teenagers in the state of Georgia, probably -- I didn't like R.E.M. that much at first. The album that came out right as I was really starting to develop my own taste in music was Out of Time, which I still think is incredibly overrated; the only song I really liked on it was "Radio Song," and that was probably only because KRS-One was on it. But a couple years later, a friend of mine was playing this track off Automatic for the People, and I decided maybe it was time to give Michael Stipe a second chance. Automatic was a spectacular album, and I even became one of the few people who had anything nice to say about Monster.
Chemical Brothers, "Get Up On It Like This" (1995)
Underworld, "Juanita" (1996)
If my Friday Random Tens confound you on a regular basis with their obsession with electronic music, these two songs are probably to blame. I remember a classmate of mine taking me over to a friend's house shortly after I arrived at UGA in the fall of 1995, and his friend was a DJ who had crates full of CDs and promo 12"s all over the place; he put on a record by some group called the Chemical Brothers that he said was just about to drop its first album in the U.S. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard before, and I raced out and bought Exit Planet Dust almost as soon as it came out.
A year or so later, I saw the movie "Trainspotting" for the first time, and the song "Born Slippy" -- which is played at the very end of the film as Ewan MacGregor is abandoning his friends and making off with the drug money -- made an impression on me that was almost as big. I found out that the group that recorded the song was called Underworld, and I went out and bought their then-just-released second album, Second Toughest in the Infants. The opening track on that album, "Juanita," was a sixteen-minute, three-movement opus that almost left my jaw hanging wide open; it was amazing how they could take a song through so many twists and turns by making a subtle change here and adding another instrument or effect there, to the point where it sounded like a completely different song at the end than it did at the beginning. The version in the "video" above is cut down from the full-length version, obviously, but it's still pretty amazing, and after that I think it's hard to make the case that techno music, when done right, can't be beautiful in its own way.
The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (1981)
A couple years ago, Chuck Klosterman wrote a piece for Esquire about how not even individual songs but parts or aspects of songs could have profound effects on a listener. I can't explain why, but the last minute and a half of this song, where the lyrics basically end and The Police just basically start rocking out all over the place, are 90 of the most exhilarating seconds of pop music ever. The song itself is sort of anxious and frustrated when you really listen to it, but you can't listen to it without getting a smile on your face or a twitch in your legs, even if you're sitting behind the steering wheel, stuck in traffic.
Dean Martin, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" (1965)
First song I ever sang at a karaoke bar. And I kicked ass.
Nina Simone, "My Baby Just Cares For Me" (1958)
As Dave Attell says, the song that's playing when you lose your virginity is a pretty critical piece of music, 'cause if it's not good, it's going to haunt you. (A friend of mine who remembers handing over his virtue to the soothing sounds of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" sometime in the early '80s can attest to this.) So I guess I was actually kind of fortunate in that regard, even if I didn't actually have sex for the first time until I'd almost graduated from college.
The Jam, "A Town Called Malice" (1982)
The first song I ever downloaded illegally off the Internet. Thanks for the memories (and the spyware), Kazaa!
Just short of life-changing status, but still important: Miles Davis, "So What"; Devo, "Whip It" (currently the default ring tone on my cell phone); Nanci Griffith, "Red Brick Floor"; Massive Attack, "Unfinished Sympathy"; Right Said Fred, "I'm Too Sexy."
Oh, and "Never Gonna Give You Up," of course.
All right, readers, your turn -- which 15 songs do you put on the soundtrack of your life? Don't hold back any bad or embarrassing songs that really meant something to you at younger and/or more naive points in your life; we're all friends here.