Torteya has a post on songs you blow out your voice to, usually in the car. Rather than clutter up his comments with youtube links, I figured I’d treat you to some of mine.
Every now and then, work sends me somewhere within driving distance — a conference, a trade show, the occasional face-to-face sales call. I actually prefer these to the ones further away that require me to get on a plane. You’d never know it by how often I make Greg drive, but I actually don’t mind solo car trips. I take my time getting where I’m going, I bring music I love, and I just kind of… go.
Road trips with other people are all kinds of fun, too, don’t get me wrong. But in addition to singing until I’m hoarse, when I’m by myself I’ll also take a long stretch of highway to work out a scene in a story I’m writing. Yep, I’m the chick behind the wheel in the next car over talking to herself, working out beats in dialogue to make sure it doesn’t sound awkward or ring false. I do it in my head on the walk from work to the train station, too, but, well, you start talking to yourself out loud where others can hear you, even in Boston, you get funny looks.
But! The weird shit I do for writing is another post for another time. This one’s about the songs most likely to leave me voiceless when I get to my destination.
First, “Anna Begins.”
The song has this slow build, from low, stilted, and insistent to the higher, drawn out “her kindness bangs a gong/ it’s moving me along/ and Anna begins to fade away.” I’ve always, always loved this song, from my first listen of August and Everything After. There is only one Crows song that tops it, and that’ll be on this list, don’t you worry.
Funny thing about “Anna Begins.” The name makes it sound like an obvious choice for the playlist for one of my WoW characters, Annalea, but I didn’t think of it as an Anna-song for a long time. I do now, and finally caved and added it to her list. I’m still not sure if in-game events made it hers, or if it’s always been hers and has always informed the character and I’ve just been denying it.
Next. “Another Horsedreamer’s Blues.”
Something you might not know if you didn’t spend way too much time on Counting Crows message boards once upon a time (though this may be more common knowledge now, ten-plus years since Recovering the Satellites was released): there’s a kind of unofficial trilogy comprised of “Anna Begins,” “Another Horsedreamer’s Blues,” and “Margery.” I can’t seem to find “Margery” on youtube, so you’ll have to live with the lyrics for now. The version from Flying Demos is a weird cross of pop and country and not at all the version I’d want you to hear. For one thing, Adam’s voice is way too reedy in it. Should you go looking, find the version from Sleeping in a Perfect Blue from August of ’94. Or ask me.
Anyway, the connection is in “Margery,” here:
I looked up at Anna
She turned back to look at me
It’s best to kill the ones that matter
Render blind the ones who see
But oh, Margery
Takes the blade and walks away from me
Those lines give me chills every time.
I’d guess that a good part of my love for “Another Horsedreamer’s Blues” is, aside from wailing along with the ba-da, ba-da-da at the end, the song’s story refers to a play by one of my favorite playwrights — Sam Shepard’s “Geography of a Horsedreamer.” I’d love to see it onstage. There’s a man who can dream the outcomes of horse races, but (and it’s been years since I’ve read it, so forgive any inaccuracy in the summary) the bookie? mob boss? he’s been working for has pretty much drained him of any joy he took from it, keeping him locked in a room and demanding the dreams all the time. By the time the play starts, he can barely even dream about the horses; the best he can do is predict the dog races.
Time to dig that off of my bookshelf and add it to the reread pile.
Onward, then, to my all-time favorite Counting Crows song, forever and ever: “A Murder of One.”
There are at least six versions of this in my mp3 folder, plus uncounted ones on bootlegs I have yet to rip. No two are quite the same. The band tends to take out the “I’ve walked along these hillsides” lines in concert and add in any number of other things, all of which give the song a slightly different meaning. And there is not one of them I hate.
I do, however, have a favorite, and the only version of it I have is on a cassette tape that cuts off at the end of the song. My mom and I went to see them in October of 1999, and… oh my god.
If you listen, at about 4:38-4:39 mark, there’s this little riff. Three notes you might not even really pay all that much attention to. I don’t have my guitar available, and I’m awful with picking things out by ear so far, so I couldn’t tell you the notes (Torteya, halp!), but they are, in most versions of the song, just a neat little thing going on in the background.
In the show we saw, they became so much more. From the lyrics to the Sordid Humor song, “Doris Day,” then softly, so softly, that little riff became melody. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry now. I’m sorry, sorry now.” Which, here you go, from 2007:
Five minutes in, they go into “Doris Day,” then the “I’m sorry,” but not with that same melody. Hell, I’ve never heard it the way they played it in 1999 ever again, not even in a bootleg of a show they put on two days after the one I saw. Most of the time the sorries are nearly screamed. But that one time, that tiny little bit of melody. Ohgodperfection.
If I ever manage to get that version off of the cassette and onto a CD, my vocal cords are doomed.