Eleven Songs in Eight Hours


Here’s a list of songs that got stuck in my head yesterday, and I found myself singing, out loud, yesterday at work. There may very well have been more songs that I was humming, and never really noticed. This isn’t particularly an enlightening post about anything except the inner workings of my head, and the soundtrack that bounces through my mind, and flows out my head. And boyyy are you folks in for a treat.

Let it also be known, my workplace has a stereo, and it cranks out mostly indie music all day long. It’s monotonous and makes everyone on staff quite grumpy. I have a feeling, without knowing for sure, that they’d rather listen to me sing. 😉

“Just Call Me Angel of the Morning.”  This classic has been done by several people, including Olivia Newton John and Nina Simone. It was originally written for Connie Francis, but her handlers thought it was too risque.  The version in my head was the one from my early teens, that Juice Newton sang. It’s a little bit country. It’s also a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

“I Can See Clearly Now,” recorded by Johnny Nash, was soon vying for equal time. I looked this song up on Wikipedia because I wasn’t certain I knew the exact title. It’s a little reggae, a little sunshine. A little honky Rhodes piano. I like the piece even though it’s most definitely an earworm. It’s laid-back with unthreatening lyrics that make you relax. Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to get through a long shift.

“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” If this song had any couth at all, it would have lined up right after Angel of the Morning, and made a country-western playlist from the last quarter of the 20th century. But it didn’t. Crystal Gayle, with the super-long hair (and, apparently, with brown eyes that did not change colors), was the sister of Loretta Lynn. I didn’t think of Loretta. So I didn’t think of Kenny Rogers or Waylon Jennings. Or Conway Twitty. I thought of Crystal Gayle. And her brown, brown eyes that were made blue.

Then, and this was a treat, I thought of the “Kovari Waltz.” Unless you are Czech, and lived in the late 19th century, I’d wager you’ve never heard this piece. My great grandmother taught it to me.  I know all the words in Czech. It doesn’t make me special. It makes me really really weird. And I like this song, not because I dig polka bands (although that’s as good a reason as any) but because my grandma taught me to play it on the accordion. That’s right. I have heretofore unrevealed Accordion Super Powers.  I could only find a single version of this song on YouTube. I guess that makes that version of the song definitive, although it’s definitely not quite how I remember the tune going.

Czech polkas and waltzes lead, of course, to Elvis Presley singing “Blue Christmas.”  The background singers were even doing their doo wop rumble in the background. I didn’t try to sing that part though. I’m good, but I’m not *that* good. And I just have to say, DANG this song annoys me. It didn’t take long before it finally left my mindscape for something else.  Nobody deserves too many minutes of Blue Christmas. Not even Enemies of the State. Not even defense attorneys.

Something made me think of “Abraham, Martin and John.” The famous version was recorded by Dion (without the Belmonts.  He was keeping away from Runaround Sue, I guess). I remember a less popular version: Harry Belafonte had one tucked away on an album that I listened to over and over again. I really love his voice. It can’t be helped. Sometimes cheeseball melancholia gets the better of me, and I find myself crooning this piece while I’m trying to locate the mop.

Then: “My Glory and the Lifter of My Head.” This is taken from a Psalm 3. I have a really tough time taking this song seriously, because it needs a banjo and a bluegrass fiddle to really give me any kind of feels. It’s too happy, but It’s stuck in my memory, from the 1970s when we sang songs like this in my church. I remember Brother Fred Eccleston strumming out the chords on his guitar.

“The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” There’s only one version of this song. He was the greatest little hobbit of them all, you know. And if you’re not listening to this Leonard Nimoy novelty masterpiece, you should be. I annoyed my co-workers with it for a full 10 minutes yesterday, before I finally veered off into the Rolling Stones.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Oddly, I heard this song this morning as part of my runner’s playlist. I assume that this Stones piece entered my head because I was complaining about a customer.

And then I sang another song that few people remember: “Gitarzan,” by Ray Stevens.  The song is not one of his most famous works, but the following lines: “He had a pet monkey, and he liked to get drunky, and they played boogie woogie and it sounded real funky.” I mean, how can you go wrong with deep lyrics like that?

Aaaand finally, before anyone killed me, one more song passed my mind: The Serendipity Singers did a calypso piece called “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down.” I don’t remember when I learned this piece, but as a kid I remember going to Fairytale Town, across the street from the Sacramento Zoo. I loved that place almost as much as I loved the Zoo itself.  It had a plaster Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall. It had a giant Shoe you could climb inside, à la “there was an old woman who lived in a…” There were plaster swans and ceramic toads, and giant mushrooms to climb on. And “there was a crooked man who had a crooked smile. He had a crooked sixpence and he walked a crooked mile. He had a crooked cat and he had a crooked mouse. And they all lived together in a crooked little house.” The crooked mile was there (a raised stone garden pathway that meandered all through the place) as well as the crooked house.  I discovered the song years later. And then I sang his crooked song for 20 minutes while I did the dishes.

And that, my friends, is why you don’t want to work with me.

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