Forget Your Troubles, C’Mon Get Happy

I started this blog about a month ago and then abandoned it like a toddler being shown something shiny. (In my defense, the something shiny was the copyedited manuscript followed by the first-pass pages of THE DIVINERS, so, you know, it wasn’t so much distracted by THE SHI-I-I-NEEEE as it was distracted by the cold kiss of the revolver at my head.) Anyhoo, said blog was about playlists.

As many long-time readers know, I write a playlist for everything I write. Well, not grocery lists. Then again, I don’t make grocery lists. Even in food procuring, I go on a wing and prayer. This would explain why I come home with fancy mustard and eco-friendly dishwasher pellets and forget things like milk and bread. But I digress and it’s only paragraph two.

I make playlists because, like a sense-memory exercise, they really help me get to a certain place in the writing. But lately, I’ve been thinking about the various kinds of playlists I like to make: Happy songs playlist. Slightly melancholy with a twist of lime playlist. Beyond melancholy through sad and right into morose self-pity with delusions of grand opera playlist. (Come on. We’ve all been there…) Road trip playlist. Workout playlist. Good make-out songs playlist. Bad make-out songs playlist. (Although, it should be noted that I once made out while watching “Dawn of the Dead” so I may not be a good authority on that one. Or else the undead really turn me on.) You get the picture.

Today’s blog is about the very necessary Happy Song Playlist. See, when the winter doldrums are upon me, I get into complete hibernation mode. My conversations run along these lines:

Husband: Why don’t we go see a movie?
Me: (snuggled under blanket on couch) Can’t. Movie is out of house.
Husband: Yeah, but the theater is only 8 blocks away.
Me: Our house cannot walk those 8 blocks.
Husband: Ho-kaaaay…
Me: (heavy sigh)
Husband: What’s wrong now?
Me: (slightly sad whine) I really want some hot chocolate.
Husband: So go make some. Kitchen’s right there.
Me: (heavier sigh) I know. But I’m here and the kitchen’s all the way over… (with great effort, rolls head to assess the twelve feet from chair to the kitchen) …there.

And so it goes. When winter comes, all I want to do is wear my bear suit. (For the record, I do not actually own a bear suit. But man, I wish I did. Then I could be like Susie the Bear from THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is one of my Top Five favorite books of all time. Talented sewing people, if you can make me a bear suit, I would WEAR IT AND VIDEO MYSELF DANCING IN IT! I would probably never stop wearing it. It would be my fashion lovey. And my family would disown me, but that is because they don’t understand my hirsute hibernation needs. This is a strange, strange digression. I’m leaving this paragraph now. Okay…turning the knob aaaannd shutting the door.)

This is why I need a Happy Song playlist. Something to get the energy flowing. Something to make a person say, “Hello! There is a bear suit in my future! And now, we dance.”

And now, without further weird, weird ado, here is one of my Happy Songs Playlists:

Solsbury Hill/Peter Gabriel. The first time I went to the south of England (“Thomas Hardy country!” as I was told again…and again…) I imagined that this song had been written about a beautiful green hill I found there. I conjured images of Camelot and the Lady of the Lake…and then this very stoned dude in a black velvet dress came over and showed me his Excalibur and asked if I wanted to play Sword in the Stone. I declined. Now this song always makes me giggle.

Linus & Lucy/Vince Guaraldi Trio. It’s not just that it reminds me of being five, which, as I recall, was a pretty good year, with plenty of cookies and juice. It’s that from the jazzy opening piano riff, I am up dancing, arms at my sides just like the Peanuts gang who clearly would’ve been at home in “Riverdance.”

Goody Two Shoes/Adam Ant. I will not speak too much of my nearly incapacitating crush on Adam Ant in the ‘80s except to say
that boys wearing frock coats, eyeliner and naughty sneers had an automatic in with me. (I kept expecting to date a 19th-century highwayman.) That I also wanted to dress like that says something about the fluidity of gender lines—and the appeal of puffy shirts.

"Fancy a little eyeliner, darling?" 

It’s Oh So Quiet/Bjork. Most Bjork songs feel like Artaud for the ears. (For the record, I love Bjork. And Artaud.) But this is pure 1950’s Technicolor musical and lordy, that woman can sing.

Let’s Go Crazy/Prince. “Dearly beloved…we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” Oh, Prince. You are proof that good things come in small packages. Most Prince makes me, um, “Delirous”-ly happy, but this one in particular puts the groove in my groove-shaker. As the Purple One says, “U better live now/Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door!” Word, Prince. Word.
"Baby, baby, baby, what's it gonna be?"

"Baby, baby, baby, what's it gonna be…" 

Gay Bar/The Electric Six. Maureen Johnson turned me on to this Detroit band, naturally. We were sitting in a café when she turned to me with one of those MJ inscrutable expressions which could indicate either “Let’s share a cookie” or “How do you feel about an outing that could result in possible incarceration?” Instead, she showed me this video. And now, it’s on my happy list. 
It's Maureen Johnsons' fault

   "It's all Maureen Johnson's fault."    

It’s All Too Much/The Beatles. This is the song I want played at my funeral, not to get all morbid or anything. I would also like people to wear bear suits and dance. Thank you.

Everyday Sunshine/Fishbone. This song, to me, is what I wish church had been like. Then I might’ve actually wanted to go. “I wish everyday the sun would shine…” I also love the infectious joy of this video, so I hope the link proves linky. (I just took five minutes to watch it and now I’m grinning like a fool and chair dancing, which is getting me some interesting looks here in the café. Just wait until they see my bear suit.)

"You, too, could be having this much fun if you will abandon gravity."

She’s So Modern/The Boomtown Rats. “She’s so twentieth century. She’s so 1970s!” Duuuude, I listened to this song so much my freshman year of college that I wore the grooves out on it. (Yes, it was vinyl.) I mostly remember my roomie, Christina, and I dancing around the dorm room to this in our underwear. No doubt, Michael Bay could turn that into a movie scene in which we’d have sex with robots…and then be engulfed in a fireball from a spectacular explosion. I love you, Bob Geldof.

"Tiger, do not eat Bob Geldof, or there will be no Live Aid!"

Beat Surrender/The Jam. Oh, the skinny tie era makes me so, so happy. “Come on, boy! Come on, girl! Succumb to the beat surrender!” I mean, how often to you hear the word “Succumb” in a pop song? I would’ve killed to have seen The Jam back in the day, but I can still groove to Peter Weller’s soulful growl in the privacy of my living room. 

"What do you blokes think of the name The Style Council?" 

Ain’t No Thang/Katzenjammer. This is the ultimate all-chick, Norwegian pop/folk band kiss-off song.  (You HAD been searching for that, right?) Because nothing says, “I burned your stuff, asshole, and now I’m walking away and I really don’t care what happens to you” quite like a rockin’ balalaika solo. I defy you not to fist pump through this.

Mistress Mabel/The Fratellis. I heard the Fratellis perform this live on some show late at night, maybe it was Jools Holland. I don’t remember. But every time I hear it, I have to sing along. Even if I’m at the gynecologist’s office. Which can be awkward.

"But this IS my Casual Friday outfit."

Cool, from “West Side Story”/Bernstein & Sondheim. Not gonna lie—when I was fifteen and in the absolute hey-day of thinking every day was a possible musical revolving around…me, I would put on my bronze Danskin leotard and multi-colored leg warmers, affix my headband like the girl on the cover of “A Chorus Line” and totally Jerome Robbins it out in my bedroom to this song. That I was not much of a dancer did not deter me. The sharp edges of my bed, however, eventually did.

What Makes You Happy/Liz Phair. This is the only song I for which I had a burning desire to direct the music video. It was a weird idea that involved Edward Hopper and The Venus de Milo. I suppose this is why they don’t allow me to make music videos. But I love this, and so I suppose, Liz, that what makes me happy is your song. It’s nice when it works out that way. Liz is teh awesome

"Behold the awesome." 

Cruel to Be Kind/Nick Lowe. I saw Nick Lowe with Rockpile in concert back when I was but an impressionable teen. I had a crush on him. (Really, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone I DIDN’T have a crush on.) This song reminds me of hanging with my BFF Eleanor, the two of us singing at the tops of our lungs and trying to outdo each other with ridiculous antics including running into walls for laughs. Man, we were some weird, weird teens. 

Dance to the Music/Sly & the Family Stone. This one does double duty: The extended Dance to the Music Medley (about 12 minutes long) is #1 on my workout playlist. I live for the moment when they cut out and break it down with the acapella “Boom-boom-boom boom-boom-boom…” Sly Stone was also born in my hometown of Denton, Texas, and, as everyone knows from “Rocky Horror”, Denton is the Home of Happiness. ‘Nuff said.

"All of the squares, go home!"

Take Your Mama/The Scissor Sisters. “Gonna take your mama out tonight/Yeah, we’ll show her what it’s all about/Get her jacked up on some cheap champagne/We’ll let the good times all roll out…” Well, that works.

Ray of Light/Madonna. Yes, it’s a Madonna song. Sue me. I love this song. And it’s easier to dance to than Patti Smith. (Don’t start—I adore Patti Smith. Revere her, even. But she’s not on my happy songs playlist.) 
I swear I wore a semblance of this outfit once upon a time...

"Libba, you will look back on pictures of yourself in your Desperately Seeking Susan phase and be afraid. Burn them, Libba. Burn them, now." 

What’s New Pussycat?/Tom Jones. When I listen to this, I like to imagine I’m a 1960’s-era Ann Margret with serious, serious hair frugging it out next to The Man himself. It also involves a white-lace jumpsuit and a swing. I don’t know why. I don’t question the images the brain hamsters send. They’re artists, dammit! And they want, nay, NEED, me to be Ann Margret for this song. Thank you, brain hamsters. Thank you. (For the record, I also saw Ann Margret in concert. She was fabulous. My Ann Margret love runs deep.) 
"Sexxy Beast!"



What a Wonderful World/Louis Armstrong. Kind of self-explanatory, n’est-ce pas? Take out us, Mr. Armstrong. “And I say to myself…what a wonderful world.”

"Life is beautiful. But wear sunscreen."

In a weird moment of kismet, just as I was finishing this, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" starting playing in the cafe where I'm (avoiding) writing. The power of positive thinking, perhaps?

So…what about you? Which songs would be on your happy song playlist?

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