Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's the Music

Music is a big part of my life, and one of the first things I did as I packed for the hospital last year was fill throw a couple of gigabytes of music onto my PSP. It didn't take long for favourite songs to emerge, based on mood or pain management. Here's a rough idea of my playlist necessities.

Fight Songs
These are the songs I listen to when I have to focus past pain or extreme discomfort. They get my blood pumping, my adrenaline up, and sometimes just plain angry enough to deal. Most of these songs involve some form of protest (sometimes political, sometimes not), or at least an element of flipping the finger at somebody, somewhere.

- Almost anything by Michael Franti and Spearhead, but to really get me going it's "Rock the Nation," "Yell Fire," or the remix of "Bomb the World" with Sly and Robbie.
- Lo Fidelity Allstars: "Warming Up the Brain Farm" and "Battle Flag"
- Red Hot Chili Peppers: "The Power of Equality." "Can't Stop" isn't actually a fight song, but it's energetic and of course the title is appropriate.
- LL Cool J: "Mama Said Knock You Out" (the definitive "I'm not going to take this crap" song, and the source of my recent "Don't Call It a Comeback" title)
- Artists United Against Apartheid: Remember the feel-good "Sun City"? "Revolutionary Situation," off the same album, is the this-is-why-we-get-up-and-fight track.
- The Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI): "Bulletproof," as the title implies, is a great "I'm invincible" song, but for a true fight song "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" has a hard-driving beat, and is a stark look at the alarming rise of the extreme right in Europe in the mid-'90s. Sample lyric: "And when they come to ethnically cleanse me/Will you speak out, will you defend me/Or laugh through a glass eye as they rape our lives/Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right." Whenever I listen I think about how this is still going on elsewhere, and still needs to be fought.
- Public Enemy: "Night of the Living Baseheads," "Rightstarter" and "Prophets of Rage." Can't touch 'em.
- Meat Beat Manifesto: "Acid Again." This is only a fight song in my mind; I choreographed a space battle scene to this song years ago.
- Geinoh Yamashirogumi: "Kaneda," the opening track from the movie Akira. (It's played during the motorcycle gangs' fight.) It's all drums and chanting, and it doesn't let you go.
- The Prodigy and PWEI: "Their Law." One of the few lyrics in the song is "F--k 'em, and their law." Clearly an appeal to disenfranchised or alienated youth, but damn you can dance to it.
- Consolidated: "Tool and Die," "Guerillas in the Mist," and "Crackhouse" are some of the most pointed works they ever did on inner-city problems. And, again, you can dance to them.
- Fishbone: "Fight the Youth." Another response to the mid-'90s rise of hate groups.
- Oasis: "F--kin' in the Bushes." Damn, those kids can rock hard.
- Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System: "What's My Misssion Now?" Classic '80s British industrial, on the subject of America's military spending.

Songs I Listen to at Night
Again, these are the essentials. I notice they're mostly albums, rather than single tracks.

- David Sylvian: Weatherbox and Weatherbox Instrumental. Soothes even the most troubled soul.
- DJ Spooky: Celestial Mechanix: The Blue Series Mastermix. Two CDs worth of mixes that put me into a contemplative state.
- Miles Davis: Kind of Blue.
- Pop WIll Eat Itself: "X, Y and Zee," from the Cure for Sanity album. Upbeat, poppy, only slightly melancholy. Sample lyrics: "This is the time, the time of our lives/Escape in time for the all-time highs/Of love, lust, laughter that make us sweat/Let's simulate sensory amplification/This is PWEIzation/This is this, it's the living end/'Je t'aime!' 'Encore!' 'Je t'aime!'"
- Quincy Jones, Valerie Simpson vocals: "Bridge Over Troubled Water." This is the version I grew up listening to and is, so far as I'm concerned, the best one. One night in February my fever spiked so bad I spent hours clutching ice bags to my body. I listened to a lot of my fight music to focus past the intense cold, but when I played this song in the early morning I just started crying.

Honestly, though, the one song that always makes me stop what I'm doing comes from Santana's Supernatural: "Put Your Lights On." Aside from the fantastic instrumentation, Everlast's vocals are incredible. It came up randomly when I was alone one night in the hospital in January, and couldn't sleep. These lyrics in particular really spoke to me:

Hey now
All you children
Leave your lights on
Better leave your lights on

'Cause there's a monster
Living under my bed
Whispering in my ear

There's an angel
With her hand on my head
She say I got nothing to fear

There's a darkness
Living deep in my soul
Still got a purpose to serve

So let your light shine
Deep into my home
God don't let me lose my nerve
Don't let me lose my nerve

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