Some songs make you smile, some make you tap your feet, some make you sad…and then others just want to make you slit your wrists. We’re living in dismal times, to be sure. Most of the lesser forms of malaise, like the death of rock and roll and degradation of culture in general, have been subsumed by the disaster that is Trump. We’re in deep. It’s a depressive’s jackpot, I tell you. The following are a collection of songs you probably shouldn’t listen to – they’ll only sink you down further into the abyss.
Gilbert O’Sullivan — Alone Again Naturally
I remember listening to this song on AM radio as a young child and feeling like I wanted to asphyxiate myself with a pillow casing. I guess people were bummed over Nixon and all had raging headaches from the sixties hangover. It was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s only hit and a total downer. Jeebus, those lyrics though — I promise myself to treat myself and visit a nearby tower/and climbing to the top will throw myself off.
Yeah, well, I hear you buddy.
Peggy Lee — Is That All There Is?
This ode to existential angst still packs a punch. Life is meaningless…it’s the truth. Fire, circuses, love, and death – there isn’t much of a point to any of it. I’m not much of a dancer, but the booze is always flowing at my place, baby. Armageddon is coming…it’s bucket list time – I say go to town. That final disappointment awaits all of us, might as well have some fun in the meantime.
Janis Ian — At 17
Janis Ian perfectly captures teenaged dread and loathing in this jazzy ditty. Of course, my high school years were even worse than hers…she was a famous singer at a very early age – I was an obese, tortured, misfit. It was a life of Big Macs, bruises, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Paul Simon — American Tune
Paul Simon wrote this one the night Nixon was re-elected…and it’s just as relevant today. Despite the nightmare of Trump, we all have to keep getting up to go to our shitty jobs every morning – if we’re lucky to have one that is. I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered or driven to its knees… damn fucking straight, brother.
Joni Mitchell — The Last Time I Saw Richard
Joni was a genius…maybe the greatest genius in the history of rock. This brilliant song about a conversation with a misanthrope is still as powerful as it ever was. In the end Richard succumbs to convention. He was smart…life is either convention or total despair. Everyone’s got to make that decision for themselves.
Elvin Bishop — I Fooled Around And Fell In Love
Every time I hear this song, I’m overtaken by an ungovernable feeling of yearning. It’s something about the chord progression…or the sound of the guitar. Some melodies just hit you that way. It’s very similar to Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay – another depressing ditty. Mickey Thomas sang the shit out of this tune and totally nails the gorgeous agony of being in love.
Gordon Lightfoot — If You Could Read My Mind
Jeebus, this one always gets me. He wants to connect, but knows his limitations…he’s a ghost. Too many movies and books – we’ve all been ruined by the false expectations of perfect love. We can try our best, have moments of happiness — but when the feelings gone…we just can’t get it back.
Harry Chapin — Taxi
Lost love…lost dreams…we all know this cabbie’s pain. The promise of youth is fleeting, in the end it’s just survival. We make our choices in life and most of them are dumb as hell. Our best hope is to break even. That’s about all anyone should really expect.
Syd Barrett — Opel
Syd was past the point of no return by the time he recorded this one. It’s such a tragic tune…a last attempt to swim back to shore, but he’s hopelessly out to sea. We’ve all been there, but most of us find our way back. He couldn’t…many don’t. When he plaintively sings – I’m trying to find you…he’s talking about himself. But he was lost…and would remain so for the rest of his life.
Billy Joel — And So It Goes
The tragic paradox of life is how humans are born with a desperate yearning to connect but at the same time are instinctually wary of the very thing they most desire. So many of us live cautious lives and miss out on the few joys that are available to us. One of those is to love. This song beautifully describes the fear, ambivalence and bravery of exposing your heart to someone you know will only leave you in the end.
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