One year ago today, I posted my first of what would become 365 entries describing songs that I liked.
The way I got started was due to one of those challenges that get tossed around on Facebook, asking people to post some kind of content for some length of time. I've posted seven days of nature photos. I've posted seven days of black and white photos.
But on January 1, 2017, my cousin's husband, of all freaking people, decided he would link me on some bonkers New Years challenge called the 365-Day Music Challenge. Simple: Post about a song I liked... every day... for an entire year...
I laughed at this knucklehead even daring me to undertake the folly of such massive project, for free, on my own time. Did he even realize the ridiculous commitment that completing such a challenge would take? Even if you did nothing but post the names of 365 songs, you would first have to arrive at 365 songs you want to post about and then make sure to do that for an entire circuit of the Earth's orbit around the sun.
That already would get old for most people in a few weeks, tops.
And for some reason, I decided that if I was going to do this thing, I would write a little about each song too.
It was really funny. I really laughed.
For a day or so, I kept thinking about this challenge, and I kept laughing. Screw that guy, no way.
And then I kept on thinking about it. The possibilities seemed inherently to be flowing out of the idea as it fizzed in my mind. The only thing that froze my blood was the gargantuan scale of the thing.
And then I realized not even that really scared me. I could fully visualize and accept the workload facing me.
So I decided, what the hell, I'll do it.
I just now thought to look around to see if anyone has ever finished this challenge, in any form, on any platform. I could not find a single one. That can't be. Someone please show me that I'm not the only one. But I also see that most versions of this challenge feature a fixed list that suggests types of songs to post each day. That would've been helpful. Luckily, before I received this challenge, I had a playlist of my absolute most admired songs, and it was just a smidge over 365 songs long. Truly. I basically cut out a few less-amazing Pearl Jam songs.
And I guess I'm the only asshole who decided to accompany every song with an essay, some of which ran hundreds or thousands of words in length.
It wasn't always clockwork. Life intervened. Sometimes I missed three or four or eleven days, then worked double-shifts or more to get caught up.
In the last year, I have:
Been laid off from my financial industry job
Spent two months searching, applying, and interviewing for a new job, then playing with my unsuspecting children each night
Entered an amazing career trajectory as an editor for a major healthcare network
Lost 35 pounds after overhauling my diet and taking up a regular exercise regimen for the first time in my life
Got fully caught up on Game of Thrones in four weeks
Went on awesome camping trips with my family and made an unprecedented five trips back to my hometown
Fixed broken drains and mowed lawns
Held crying children over and over
Skyped my grandparents every week
Thought to schedule far more date nights with my wife because it's time
Watched and read everything about the Minnesota Vikings
And yet, for the most part, I stayed on-task with this completely arbitrary challenge.
Because I wanted to.
I wanted to show you all that I could not only pull off such an insane challenge, but to do it while offering a series of structured, interrelated entries replete with interlinking narratives and thematic call-backs -- and do it with word choices layered with metaphor, allusion, and connotation. I wrote from the back of my skull, deep in the poetic recesses of abstract association, letting the phrasing roll as fluidly as it came at my clickety-clicking keyboard. Daily. For a year.
Because I freaking can.
And because apparently I had a lot to share.
From the very beginning, these songs attracted me as funnels for me to pour my feelings and observations into. Because that's what songs that mean something to you are anyway. I just appropriated the phenomenon for my own edification.
Someday, if I'm crushed by a bus, I'm happy knowing that maybe my boys will read some of these things and maybe come away knowing one or two things about their dad, and maybe getting one or two decent lessons from him too.
The rest of you can enjoy too, if you care. Otherwise, at least you got a hell of a show.
Some of you have been so amazingly enthusiastic and supportive and really were my motivation to get something done on some tough days. I really hope I lived up to whatever you felt you were getting out of these.
Today, I added the last batch of these write-ups to this website.
If you actually enjoy them, I suggest reading them in the alphabetical title sequence they were written. The best way to do that is to go to the website Index and start clicking the list under "365 Songs." Otherwise, if you'd rather just skip around, knock yourself out.
Here they'll stay. Maybe I'll figure out something more for them eventually, or they'll end up as raw material for something even greater.
For now, I'll just close by saying a true thank you to the jackass who got me into this mess, Mr. Chadwick Edwards.
I like being asked to do things. I'm not just gonna go out and write 365 goddamned creative essays without an invitation. Sometimes it takes cool, engaging guys like Chad to get the rest of us to open up once in a while. Thanks, dude. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. But don't think I didn't notice that you utterly failed at your own challenge! I see you, asshole!
All right, folks. Be excellent to one another. Be bold as love. And keep jammin'!
January 3, 2018
“Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: In the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions.
But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
And an athlete...
And a basket case...
And a criminal...
Does that answer your question?
The Breakfast Club”
I am a fraud.
Years ago, this song came on in the middle of the party, a glowing basement of tipsy young laughers floating in the immaculate EQing of a gifted music engineer's speaker system. This was one of the best party thrower's places, where dancing and conversations effervesced in the midst of each other, all smiles and music and movement and voices. There was any conversation I wanted to have, and I remember being busied by the thoughts stirring from person to person, everyone so willing to convey so much. I had no reason and no motivation to stop joking and sharing and learning and playing. Then "Could You Be Loved" played, bursting like spring sunlight from a music that had been in the mood of a current, cutting-edge, obscure wildness. And suddenly I was out of my conversation, had found Jill, and we were in the dance together with a spontaneous group, and I danced and danced as I had apparently imagined I would if this moment ever arrived. You ever have songs that are only in your quiet life, but you know what you'd do if they ever played in a tumult? I had listened and listened and listened to this song; I finally got to live it out then.
I was happy like I'd known this song my whole life. But if this song played just a few years before then, I'd have gone on with my conversations and gone hoarse before I'd have jumped into action. I would've reached my conclusions and fallen off into a silence that I didn't realize was an absence...
My wife introduced me to this song.
When I met Jill, I didn't listen to Bob freaking Marley. I tended to like my music to slug me in the face.
"Could You Be Loved" is absolutely a Jill song, not mine. I can picture her dancing to it right now. I hear music, and I think of the ideas and the musicians making their sounds. She's the one with the moves. Still today, I think of how lucky I am to be with a woman who really has moves.
Our first dates and weeks and months emanated with excitement that I continually think back to and try to live up to. As I fell in love with her, I was also learning from her, her fun, her soul. There is so much Bob Marley playing in the shimmering shadows of those first memories, blessing us.
She still teaches me.
Robert Nesta Marley still blesses us.
One by one, I hope he reaches all of us.
Wait! This list is supposed to be in alphabetical order! You see, I've tricked you a little bit. We're still going in alphabetical order, I've just cycled back to the top for a few more to finish off my year of songs. This last group of songs struck me as good ones to leave off with, and then these posts will disappear from your Facebook news feeds, freeing you finally!
"Bold As Love" is the finale to Axis: Bold As Love, the second album that the Jimi Hendrix Experience released in 1967.
While the first album was a proper album of guitar rock numbers, Axis: Bold As Love revealed that a vast amount of evolution had occurred in just a short time, in terms of songwriting and viewpoint. It also helped that in the interim between the two albums, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and revolutionized the ambition and consciousness that went into making rock records. Maybe just as impactful was the Beatles' international television broadcast of "All You Need Is Love" that same year. With "All You Need Is Love," the Beatles famously transformed the concept of the pop love song, something they specialized in writing, and expanded its connotation to a transcendental scope.
Jimi Hendrix clearly liked where all this was headed.
The Axis: Bold As Love album broke open a technical bag of tricks in an obvious response to the challenge of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And probably inspired by "All You Need As Love," it also dove headlong into the idea of love as the medium of all people's spiritual connectedness.
The album ends with its crowning achievement and heaviest statement: "Bold As Love."
There are no acerbic Beatles in the lyrical earnestness of "Bold As Love." As opposed to the alternating semantic puzzles and agit-bluntness of "All You Need Is Love," "Bold As Love" takes the colors of the rainbow and personifies them with human emotions. It dramatizes the multiferous attitudes of our species while showing them to be as related as colors on the visual spectrum. You love what is related to you. "All You Need Is Love" makes the philosophy of love a simple, easy choice. "Bold As Love" makes it a bold one.
The Beatles brought melodic genius and inspired multi-instrumental tracking to their great 1967 masterpieces.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience brought the drums of Mitch Mitchell and the guitar of Jimi Hendrix.
The final coda of "Bold As Love" is as close to holy flame as a song can sound.
People today may have given up on the idea that the world can be changed by a single guitar. Jimi Hendrix wasn't capable of that cynicism. In the span of four minutes, he did everything in his considerable musical power to urge us to hear.