Author Archives: Matthew Appleton

About Matthew Appleton

A dad and loving husband who is also an easily distracted sf&f junkie, LEGO enthusiast, Phillies fan, and writer wannabe who really has too many other responsibilities to be working on his many different on-going projects.

The Original 2013 Hall of Songs

Seeing as posts about just 43 songs from the original Hall of Songs actually made it online back in 2013, it seems only proper at this point to post that list in its entirety — especially since the very first post in the Song a Week series was also the first 2019 inductee.* Just to give a quick explanation for the structure of the original Hall of Songs, there is no real attempt to numerically rank them. Rather, they were grouped into three categories. The first, The Immortals, represented the all-time favorites; 30 songs that be absolutely need to be considered for a single CD of my all-time favorite songs (obviously, they wouldn’t all make it.) This was followed by The Inner Circle: 40 beloved songs almost certain to remain favorites, but not quite in the same category as The Immortals. The final group, The Outer Circle represented those songs that, given enough time, might not remain in the list of 120 all-time favorites. Given the original intent to revisit and revise the list in 2018 (rather than add to it), this was an attempt at recognizing the songs that stood the greatest chance of being replaced.

With that bit of explanation out of the way, on to the original 2013 Hall of Songs.

* This is not an indicator of the strength of the song relative to those that will also be added to the Hall of Songs as the series of posts continues.

The Immortals

“Brian Wilson,” Barenaked Ladies
“Overkill,” Colin Hay
“Don’t Answer Me,” The Alan Parsons Project
“Enjoy the Silence,” Depeche Mode
“Landed (Strings Version),” Ben Folds
“Crazy,” Alanis Morissette
“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen
“Til I Hear It From You,” Gin Blossoms
“Beautiful Girl,” Pete Droge & The Sinners
“Dracula from Houston,” Butthole Surfers
“Turn the Page,” Metallica
“I-95,” Fountains of Wayne
“Everlong (acoustic),” Foo Fighters
“One Man Wrecking Machine,” Guster
“The Boys of Summer,” Don Henley
“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” Barry White
“I’m Your Moon,” Jonathan Coulton
“Code Monkey,” Jonathan Coulton
“Galileo,” Indigo Girls
“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” The 5th Dimension
“Taken In,” Mike + The Mechanics
“Somewhere Only We Know,” Keane
“No Such Thing,” John Mayer
“Devil’s Arcade,” Bruce Springsteen
“Life in a Northern Town,” The Dream Academy
“Kiss From a Rose,” Seal
“Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
“Heroes,” The Wallflowers
“Sloop John B,” The Beach Boys
“Solsbury Hill,” Peter Gabriel

The Inner Circle

“(Nothing but) Flowers,” Talking Heads
“Free As a Bird,” The Beatles
“The Night Is Still Young,” Billy Joel
“Fearless,” The Bravery
“Comfort Eagle,” CAKE
“I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” Daryl Hall & John Oates
“(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding,” Elvis Costello & The Attractions
“AM Radio,” Everclear
“Midlife Crisis,” Faith No More
“The Chain,” Fleetwood Mac
“The Pretender,” Foo Fighters
“The Summer Place,” Fountains of Wayne
“How to Save a Life,” The Fray
“November Rain,” Guns N’ Roses
“Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses
“Center of Attention,” Guster
“Upside Down,” Jack Johnson
“I’m Yours (Original Demo),” Jason Mraz
“The Future Soon,” Jonathan Coulton
“Skullcrusher Mountain,” Jonathan Coulton
“Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey
“Something About You,” Level 42
“Happiness,” Matthew Sweet
“Home Sweet Home,” Mötley Crüe
“The Cave,” Mumford & Sons
“Sister Christian,” Night Ranger
“Blinded By Rainbows,” The Rolling Stones
“Paint It Black,” The Rolling Stones
“Come Sail Away,” Styx
“Crush Story,” Too Much Joy
“Happiness Is,” The Verve Pipe
“Five O’Clock World,” The Vogues
“Pork and Beans,” Weezer
“Eye in the Sky,” The Alan Parsons Project
“Dear God,” XTC
“Rough Boy,” ZZ Top
“Hotel California,” Eagles
“Africa,” Toto
“Not Ready to Make Nice,” Dixie Chicks
“Forever Young,” Alphaville

The Outer Circle

“Hazy Shade of Winter,” Bangles
“You Run Away,” Barenaked Ladies
“Bull in a China Shop,” Barenaked Ladies
“Pinch Me,” Barenaked Ladies
“Intergalactic,” Beastie Boys
“Sabotage,” Beastie Boys
“If I Fell,” The Beatles
“In My Life,” The Beatles
“Still Fighting It,” Ben Folds
“A Murder of One,” Counting Crows
“Please Don’t Ask,” Crash Vegas
“Sunset Grill,” Don Henley
“September,” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Fantasy,” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Worms and Angels,” Echobelly
“100 Years,” Five for Fighting
“Statues,” Foo Fighters
“Walk,” Foo Fighters
“Action Hero,” Fountains of Wayne
“Hackensack,” Fountains of Wayne
“Who Loves You,” Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” Green Day
“Hold on Hope,” Guided By Voices
“On the Ocean,” Guster
“Happier,” Guster
“The Rainbow Connection,” Kermit the Frog
“Broken Wings,” Mr. Mister
“Little Lion Man,” Mumford & Sons
“When in Rome,” Nickel Creek
“Shattered (Turn the Car Around),” O.A.R.
“It’s a Sin,” Pet Shop Boys
“The Book of Love,” Peter Gabriel
“Under Pressure,” Queen & David Bowie
“Happy Ending,” Randy Newman
“Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds
“Everything Else Disappears,” Sister Hazel
“1979,” The Smashing Pumpkins
“Misery,” Soul Asylum
“A Different Sort of Solitude,” Steven Page
“Cinnamon,” The Storys
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears
“Birdhouse in Your Soul,” They Might Be Giants
“You Got Lucky,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
“Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song),” Warren Zevon
“My Ride’s Here,” Warren Zevon
“Chains of Love,” Erasure
“Best of You,” Foo Fighters
“The Ghost of Tom Joad,” Bruce Springsteen
“Superman,” Lazlo Bane
“Am I Wrong (marching band remix),” Love Spit Love

Once all the 2019 inductees are decided, the list will be resorted, with 40 Immortals, 70 in the Inner Circle, and 90 in the Outer Circle. At least, that’s the plan. We all already know how often these projects get seen all the way to completion.

Song a Week, #1

“I liked pop. I liked soul. I liked rock, but I never liked disco.”
— Everclear, “AM Radio”

“Who the hell are we fooling? This isn’t really what we do. We had to borrow these keyboards. We only listen to Mötley Crüe.”

— Bowling for Soup, “A Really Cool Dance Song”

It took a long time to admit liking any dance music at all. Despite being a teenager who claimed to fervently embrace individuality, acknowledging enjoyment in any kind of song expressly recorded to make your body move seemed like a form of moral failure. The thought that anyone might discover I enjoyed any kind of dance music resulted in feeling a foreboding sense of dread. Bruce Springsteen, ZZ Top, The Beatles, Prince, Sting, Van Halen… these were the artists that mattered. Huey Lewis and the News and “Weird” Al also mattered, but the less that’s said about that, the better.

In retrospect, this is absurd. Aside from the logical inconsistency of being a proud individual who didn’t want anyone thinking he liked certain musical genres, a significant number of the songs I enjoyed also appeared on the dance charts. In fact, many of the acceptable artists and pop hits in the ‘80s also appeared in the dance charts. The fact that one could actually shake their rump to Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” or Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” was simply an unacknowledged coincidence. It was kind of like a don’t ask, don’t tell situation — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This reticence to accept the truth was certainly reinforced by the terror induced by the thought of actually dancing. Like a significant number of teenage boys, every single attempt at rhythmically my body to the beat resulted in motions similar to those of a robot’s spastic movements whilst experiencing widespread system failure. I recall one friend valiantly attempting to teach me how to dance in junior year of high school. All her efforts were doomed from the start by my absolute inability to overcome any feelings of self-consciousness engendered by even the slightest attempt to move shoulders or hips to the beat.

Alas, it’s three decades later, and I still don’t dance. I know… As Annie Savoy said in Bull Durham, “How sad.” Many women, including my wife, have managed to drag this poor boy onto a dance floor only to barely escape accidental injury. No one can determine whether the blood alcohol content in each of those instances was a mitigating or aggravating influence.

Despite those ill-advised attempts at shaking my groove thing, the teenage stubbornness regarding dance music faded. It’s now easy to openly enjoy the dance songs that sound appealing. Oh, they are the minority when it comes to the types of genres and songs that typically receive airplay, but there’s no attempt to hide or downplay how much I enjoy them. Yet, songs that are parodies or tongue-in-cheek renditions of dance songs bring a special enjoyment of their own. 

That’s the area “A Really Cool Dance Song” falls into. It’s kinda-sorta a dance song, and the whether or not the lyrics are accurate portray Bowling for Soup’s musical taste, it is by far the closest they’ve come to writing a dance song — even though it’s abundantly clear that they are treating the exercise as a well-intentioned joke. Unfortunately, Bowling for Soup is one of those bands that have an exceedingly narrow range, and by the time they released this track, they had mined their musical talent for every song it was worth. Oh, but what a great job did they of getting maximum value out it.

This song almost makes me want to go up and dance. Sorry for Partyin'

Almost.

Bowling for Soup
“A Really Cool Dance Song”
Sorry for Partyin’
2009

Hall of Songs: 2019 inductee

Weekly Weigh In

I’m not even going to bother pontificating beyond stating that I wish I was one of those people who couldn’t eat when stressed. Anything else I write with this post is just the unnecessary regurgitation of a similar, previous post made at some point in the past 15 years.

Today’s weight: 231.0
Goal: 190.0
Gain since last such post, two months ago: +2.0

A New Writing Project: Song a Week

Back in 2013, for our own amusement and listening pleasure, Sally and I compiled individual lists of our all-time favorite songs. We selected respectively 100 and 120, with my list dubbed a “Hall of Songs” that made minimal efforts at sorting. She followed that by impressively composing a brief Facebook post for each song, while a similar project on my former LiveJournal page fizzled out after 43 songs and remains unfinished. (You can still access all those posts via the post about “Walk,” by the Foo Fighters.)

The original concept included a plan to revisit the lists five years later. Given exposure to new music, as well as additional listening to the selections and to those that just missed the cut, what changes would those lists undergo? Last year, as planned, we started revisiting those songs. During the interim, though, the original plan mutated. Instead of reviewing and revising, Sally chose to compile a new list of 100: the 100 songs not in her original 100 favorites that she’s enjoying the most these days. Conversely, 80 new songs will join the Hall of Songs to create my expanded list of 200 all-time favorites, with the original selections remaining unaltered.

Unfortunately, much like the aborted series of LiveJournal posts, work on revisiting those lists remains incomplete. However, progress is gradually creeping along. As the work continues on that project, I decided to challenge myself with rather structured writing project — despite a spectacularly long and inglorious history of dormant, unfinished projects (writing and otherwise). So, as the work on adding to the Hall of Songs continues, I will begin a series of a song-a-week posts. 

These weekly posts can take many different forms. Song associations, feelings the song engenders, thoughts about the lyrics/music, something tangentially related in the most tenuous way possible… anything, with no constraints or targets on length. The posts will go up in no particular order, and there may even be posts about songs that didn’t get selected for the Hall on either occasion. The point is to challenge myself and rise to the occasion. The smart betting money regarding how long the project lasts would certainly go on the posts halting well before 43 are posted — hell, I’d bet against myself too. However, that’s the whole point of a challenge; it shouldn’t be easy. 

So, the first post goes up this weekend. Let’s see how far the project goes.

Postscript to Reading Gravity’s Rainbow

In the early days of our relationship, Sally asked if I had ever thrown a book. I responded that I never had, and no matter how much I may have detested a particular book after finishing it (or even while doing so,) books were too precious a commodity to be treated in such a manner. She assured me that when the day finally came, it would be an immensely satisfying thing to do.

Well, a few weeks ago I finally threw my first book. Gravity’s Rainbow provided more than enough motivation, and launching it felt as good as Sally said it would. When finally deciding to stop reading the accursed text, images of an alternate history where a V2 rocket head had fallen on Thomas Pynchon’s head before he decided to write the damn thing danced in my mind. How the never-ending hell did that novel come to be so critically well regarded? Yes, lit snobs will hurriedly shower accolades upon a particularly dense and hard-to-parse novel, but there comes a point where that kind of writing is no longer fiction. It’s literary masturbation, a style of writing for people who impressed with their own ability to slog through the grammatical equivalent of a mucus-entombed Gordian knot. Though not immune to the joys of literary fiction, I refuse to continue reading something merely because an influential subset of intellectuals label it as unimportant work of art.

The arduous slog ended at page 115 of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition first published in 2006. Pynchon’s gratuitous use of lengthy run-on sentences, stream of consciousness, sudden shifts in narrative (with no visible clue as to it happening), and ellipses to string together otherwise unconnected thoughts so utterly derailed and demoralized that it did far more than simply inspire me to toss it out the second of my home unfinished. It actually stopped me altogether from reading for nearly a month. I had started listening to the audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens during that time and continued listening after a part of my soul sustained serious damage, but that’s not the same thing as reading an actual book.

I am now attempting to get myself back on track. I happily spent a couple nights this week by reading the last 80 pages of Good Omens. Furthermore, though I feel my 115-page slog earned me the right to count Gravity’s Rainbow as one of the books I read this year, it will be replaced by Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, which is already underway, as my previously unread classic for the year. It doesn’t quite meet all the criteria that I try to apply (they were outlined in the post where I originally selected GR as this year’s classic), but after experiencing Pynchon’s monstrosity, a retreat into the warm, welcoming embrace of the science-fiction ghetto felt completely justifiable.

Hopefully, a combination of Russ’s feminist SF classic and finishing Good Omens will do wonders in terms of getting back on track with my goal of increasing my books read count from last year’s total. Despite losing a month of reading time, it’s still a very achievable goal — one now dedicated to spiting Pynchon’s literary assault on the senses.

Accountability Posting

Back at the beginning of January, one of my cousins stated on Facebook that she was going to start periodically posting about her various goals for the year. The notion was that it would help her keep herself accountable, and I thought it was a great idea. In the past, I used weekly updates as a similar means of keeping myself motivated to eat healthily and exercise regularly. However, despite my previous success with such posts, I did not follow her lead.

Over this past weekend, I decided that was a bad idea.

Two first two months of the year went as planned: I managed to spend more time reading and got off to a good start embarking upon yet another round of eating properly and exercising. March devolved into a disaster on both fronts. Although Gravity’s Rainbow became my new most-hated book I’ve ever set eyes on and understandably brought my reading pace to a halt (more on this in a future post), it wasn’t a viable excuse for my reversion to last year’s crappy eating habits and sporadic visits to the gym.

So, in an effort to get myself back on track, I am beginning my own accountability posting this week. Tonight’s post is the return of the Weekly Weigh-In, which I supposedly made a permanent feature of this blog at the beginning of last year. Rather than wasting anymore time preambling about it…

Today’s weight: 229.0
Target weight: 190.0

All future weigh-in posts will be on Mondays as well.

Tomorrow: the first reading accountability post.

Gone Fishing

This past weekend, Moosito and I made the trek up to New Jersey for a long overdue visit to see the family. Much of it was your typical family get together – though I’m sure most families don’t have a brief Saturday night discussion over whether to play Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity with each other. However, Sunday morning started off in a much more Norman Rockwell-esque manner, with all of us going to a nearby diner for Sunday breakfast.

Shortly after we settled at our table and placed our order, a balloon animal artist came over and asked if any of us were interested in having him make something. I thought this was a little bit of stretch. Moosito was the youngest one there, but at 15 he is well past his prime balloon animal loving years. Actually, he never really liked them. Thanks to his non-neurotypical settings, he harbored a serious aversion to balloons for most of his formative years. The noise from popping balloons scared the bejesus out of him.

But, I digress.

After a little bit of banter back and forth, I experienced a burst of inspiration, and launched into a quick monologue: “I’m speaking for myself here. I appreciate the offer, but I am totally over balloon animals now. I’ve had too many of them break my heart. You care for them with all your heart, but one small slip, and… BLAM! If that wasn’t bad enough, they clog the toilet when you attempt to give them a proper burial. Then it gets even more tragic and heart-breaking when the plumber has to snake out the remains. I’m sorry, but no.”

I was proud of myself for that; I managed to both gracefully decline and make the balloon artist laugh. Following a little bit more banter, he moved on to the next table, and shortly thereafter our food arrived.

I was enjoying my Spanish omelette when balloon guy returned to the table. He proceeded to tell me that I had inspired him and that he wanted to bring me the final result.

IMG_4337

I loved it. Almost immediately I thought, “It’s the inevitable conclusion to Pixar’s Nemo trilogy: Flushing Nemo.” I thanked him profusely, and my dad tipped him for his work.

Nemo safely arrived back home in Virginia with me, and he’s now sitting on a living room bookshelf. I sincerely hope it will be a while before I have to call the plumber.