My book Here
has just been released; it is a graphic novel that shows one location, a suburban living room, over the span of billions of years. The book is loosely based around my childhood home. While preparing this playlist, it occurred to me how we all get branded by the music we grew up with; the older we get, the less new music finds its way in. We all tend to stick to our musical roots. For me that is mostly centered on British Invasion Pop of the '60s. I also found myself thinking of the chain of inspiration that happens with music, the passing of the torch. Simply by searching my iPod for songs with the word "time" in the title, I was surprised by the core sample it created of my own musical history.
1. "Any Time at All" by the Beatles (1964)
I was seven years old in 1964. I had a little transistor radio that my grandfather had given me that I would listen to well into the night. I was very aware of the Beatles because of my sister Mary, who was seven years older than me. She had bought the Something New record, which included the track "Any Time at All," a favorite of mine. The urgency of John Lennon's opening line after Ringo's drum crack is so thrilling, it never fails to give me a jolt of excitement.
2. "Time Is on My Side" by the Rolling Stones (1964)
This soul ballad was originally recorded by Irma Thomas earlier in the same year. As much as I love the Stones, her version is just fantastic. The Rolling Stones version will be forever connected to a Sweet 16 party I went to. It was the song playing when I first slow danced with a girl (Ava). That sounds like a scene from a movie, which is how it felt when it was actually happening.
3. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" by the Kinks (1966)
I was nine when I heard this song freshly minted; Ray Davies was a world-weary 22. I have heard this song countless times and it never ever dates for me. I love the way he drawls the words: "Ma and Pa look back at all the things they used to do." There is a funny cynicism to the Kinks that has kept them sounding fresh.
4. "Pledging My Time" by Bob Dylan (1966)
Another song from '66. People either love Bob Dylan or they don't. Mine wasn't an immediate love; Greatest Hits, Vol. One was also one of my sister's records. One day his music touched me and never let go. On a desert island, I would have to include some Dylan. His extended phrasing is such a trademark, and it's what pulls at my heart strings: "I'm pledging my tiiiiime to yooooouuu / hopin' you'll come through, toooooo."
5. "Time" by David Bowie (1972)
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In 1972 I heard both Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie's previous record, Hunky Dory, on the same day. I remember a friend brought them to school, and I cut classes and listened to them with headphones in the library. I felt, as many others did, that he was the next big thing. "Time" is the first track on Side B of his follow-up record Aladdin Sane. The lyric "I look at my watch, it says 9:25 and I think / Oh God I'm still alive" was actually referencing the Chuck Berry's song "Reelin' and Rockin'," where in every verse he checks his watch: "Well I looked at my watch, it was 10:05 / Man, I didn't know if I was dead or alive."
6. "Real Good Time Together" by Lou Reed (1978)
I discovered Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground, through David Bowie interviews; he praised them as an influence. I was immediately enamored by Lou, his dry humor, and his love of catchy tunes. The Velvets of course inspired me to think I could make music, too. This particular track is so life affirming!! "Dance and bawl and shout together / Na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na, na-na."
7. "This May Be the Last Time" by the Staple Singers (1955)
I started to look deeper into the influences of the artists I admired, and it opened the doors to countless paths: Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf, the Staple Singers, on and on. The Staple Singers' recording of the traditional song "This May Be the Last Time" feels eerie and lean. Ten years later, the Rolling Stones lifted the song entirely, made it upbeat, shortened the title to "The Last Time," and had the audacity to take a songwriting credit.
8. "My Time Is Running Out" by The Juan MacLean (2004)
I love this beautiful, sparkly instrumental synth track. It has a quick pulse and a melancholy lilt. I associate it with a time of personal sorrow; I became more aware of how fragile life is and came to appreciate the moment.
9. "Time to Pretend" by MGMT (2007)
Such a catchy tune and such witty lyrics. It harks back to the Kinks in its cynical tone but feels completely original. I love the irony of rock stars singing self-consciously of their fate of "playing the role" of rock stars.
10. BONUS TRACK: "Adventure Time Theme Song" by Pendleton Ward (2010)
A 12-second masterpiece.