Apparently, less IS more
Monday 27 November 2006 @ 7:20 pm

During the “Clerks II” theatrical release, I was supposed to do one of those iTunes Celebrity Playlists; y’know – the collection of songs choices and (brief) explanations for their inclusion that give us an insight into what, say, Minnie Driver likes to rock out to.

(Yes, rather than the myriad other well-known folks who’ve done an iTunes Celebrity Playlist, I dropped a Minnie Driver reference on your asses – because A) I remember reading her list, years back, with great interest, and B) because Minnie Driver doesn’t get name-dropped nearly enough, as far as I’m concerned. Is there anyone out there who’d disagree with the fact that the chick was genius in “Grosse Pointe Blank”? For that performance alone, she deserves more shout-outs.)

Sadly, at the time, I was in the midst of a press tour, and I didn’t feel like I had strong enough intervals in which to do a playlist justice. I mean, while folks like to use the Celebrity Playlist as a promotional device, I can’t approach it as lightly. Putting together a playlist is incredibly personal and lays the author naked. It’s the modern day equivalent of making a mix tape for someone you’re crushing on: you run as much risk of winning her/his heart as you do firmly ensconcing yourself on their “Avoid At All Costs” manifest. So I declined to submit one at that point, asking to be considered again at some future date, when I wasn’t flying from city to city and doing ten hours or more of press a day.

Cut to three weeks ago, when – as another promotional vehicle for the “Clerks II” DVD – I was afforded a second bite at the iTunes apple (pun intended). With a more comfortable alottment of hours to lavish on crafting a playlist and honest explanations for track inclusions beyind “Because this song rocks”, I buried myself in my iTunes library, culling through ten thousand plus tracks, searching for the songs that’d represent my “desert island” choices. A day later, I submitted it to the publicity folks at Genius (the home video label of the Weinstein Company).

Two days later, shit went south.

“This is a great playlist,” Darin from Apple wrote. “Too great, actually. We don’t have the space for comments that run that long. Will he be OK with us editing them (significantly) or would he prefer to do that himself? Two sentences for each track is a good outline.”

Pam’s follow-up email, while flattering, was little help: “My contact (at Apple) said he’s never had this problem before. He shared that usually he receives play lists that don’t include any comments. He said yours is the best they’ve ever received and he wishes they could make it work.”

But the idea of trimming down (significantly, apparently) that Rorschach of the Soul known as the Celebrity Playlist didn’t interest me. So with no hard feelings on either behalf, I declined inclusion.

And here we are.

The lesson in all of this: never ask a fat non-celeb with over-compensation issues that stem from having a little cock and too much lard hanging from every appendage (except the aforementioned cock) to do a Celebrity Playlist.

As a firm believer in the “manufacture for use” principle, I now present you with my aborted (non) Celebrity Playlist.

Track: Cold Sweat (Live (1968/ Dallas Memorial Auditorium))
Artist: James Brown
Album: Say It Live and Loud: Live in Dallas 08.26.68

This is James Brown doing his best Eddie-Murphy-Doing-James-Brown impression nearly twenty years in advance of Eddie Murphy actually doing any James Brown impression. It’s one of the greatest live recordings of a single in history, and with a running time of twelve minutes and fifty one seconds, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bargain for ninety nine cents on iTunes. It’s like getting four songs for the price of one! If you act now, we’ll throw in a set of steak knives.

Track: Unsent
Artist: Alanis Morissette
Album: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

I love songs about loss and the road not traveled, and I love Alanis Morissette, so this track is right up my alley. This chick sings her guts out, but more than that, she’s an awesome, almost cinematic writer: you can practically “see” the story she’s singing. And, my God, you can certainly feel it: if you don’t identify with her regret in some small way when she belts out the line “What was wroooooong with meeeeeeee?” you’re a goddamned robot. This song feels like the woman stole pages out of a diary I forgot to keep, so personally do the lyrics punch me in my fat gut. We’ve all got a heartbreaking letter like this in us somewhere; mercifully, Ms. Morissette wrote it for us so we don’t have to self-examine too closely.

Track: Among the Living
Artist: Anthrax
Album: The Greater of Two Evils

I used this version of the venerable late 80′s metal classic in the very first online trailer we put up for “Clerks II”, and man, did it bring all the Anthrax fans out of the woodwork. Most folks were just happy to hear the track again, but some were miffed that I went with this re-recording instead of the original version from the album of the same name. There’s no denying the raw power of the OG “Among”, but this stripped down, starker take on the same material is now my all-time-fave Anthrax song. And even though the cover was recorded recently, listening to it immediately takes me back to Highlands, New Jersey, circa ’89, when I first started hanging out with Walt Flanagan. During the ride home from many a game of tennis court street hockey, Walt would extol the virtues of the ‘Thrax because, as he said at the time, “They do songs about Judge Dredd and ‘The Stand’.” Later in life, I’d come to identify with Anthrax professionally, as well: in our respective work, we both name-check somewhat geeky stuff that appeals to us, neither of us have ever been embraced by the mainstream, and we’ve both got small but insanely loyal audiences. But I’ll never do anything nearly as cool as this song.

Track: Easter
Artist: Bill Hicks
Album: Rant in E Minor

A very short, but very funny piece of comedic insight from a very big genius who left us very early. If you’ve never heard any Bill Hicks material, shame on you: start here, with this excerpt from one of his shows. His accent on the line “That’s the story of Jesus…” is worth the price of admission alone.

Track: Living in Sin
Artist: Bon Jovi
Album: New Jersey

Some folks may feel like I’ve tossed my street cred by ranking Bill Hicks and Bon Jovi in the same playlist, but fuck ‘em. I’m from Jersey; what do you expect? Besides – anyone who denies ever enjoying any Bon Jovi track is lying to you. It was a tough call, picking just one Bon Jovi track instead of twelve; and the temptation was there to go with one of the bigger, stadium-rock anthems like “Wanted Dead or Alive” (because, I’ve seen a million faces, and I like to think I rocked ‘em all, too). But for repeated plays, I lean toward the more ballad-y Jon Bon, and more than “Never Say Goodbye” and “I’ll Be There for You” (which will forever represent the Prom song genre to me), I dig this track. Fuck you – it’s sexy, man. This song makes me want to get into some heavy teenage petting. But, y’know – with my wife, not an actual teenager; sex with an actual teenager would be illegal, and as much as I love the Jov, I ain’t doing time for any former hair-band.

Track: Rosalita
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: The Wild, The Innocent, and the E. Street Shuffle

As picking a best Bruce Springsteen song is impossible, I opted to go with the Bruce-penned tune that boasts my favorite Springsteen lyric: “My machine she’s a dud, I’m stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.” A few years back, I was emceeing a post-9/11 concert at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, N.J. that was to benefit the families in Monmouth County who’d lost loved ones when the Towers fell. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora performed, as well as a host of other Jersey-based acts. Naturally, the night culminated with a set from The Boss himself. However, after introducing all the acts, a Comcast exec who donated a substantial amount of cash wound up doing the Bruce intro, bringing him to the stage with “And now, a man who needs no introduction.” So Bruce and most of the E. Street Band take to the stage to thunderous applause, and I’m watching from the wings as the man plugs his guitar in. He then says into the microphone “Where’s the emcee? If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it right.” He waves my giddy ass back out onstage and I get to intro a living legend to a packed house in my hometown. That night, Bruce Springsteen took a longtime fan and turned him into a Secret Service Agent: from that moment forward, I would take a bullet for The Boss.

Track: Diarrhea Moustache
Artist: David Cross
Album: Shut up, You Fucking Baby

While the faux title of this track is giggle-inducing enough, it’s a bait-and-switch: David Cross likes to mislabel all of his tracks. Instead of diarrhea moustaches, we’re treated to a spellbinding and hysterical anecdote about a night when Cross got so plastered, he could barely communicate. With “Shut Up”, Cross has released the best comedy album of the last five years, bar none. If your idea of funny is Dane Cook, this may not be your brand of whimsy; but if you like nasty, frank, and bitchy laughs, get nailed to this Cross.

Track: Ain’t my Type of Hype
Artist: Full Force
Album: Still Standing, Pt. 1

If you’ve ever seen “House Party”, you’ve seen Full Force: they play the bullies trying to flatten Kid’s high-top fade through most of the flick. And as if they didn’t do enough for “House Party”, they also produced this track, heard in the thick of the titular house party in question. This song not only makes me want to dance like Kid ‘n Play, it makes me want to be black.

Track: Laid
Artist: James
Album: Laid

A couple years back, while I was crashing at the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas, working on the “Clerks II” script during the day and playing BlackJack at night, my wife took me for a ride to the Little White Chapel, where I was surprised to discover around twenty of our closest friends and relatives (including our daughter, Harley) waiting to watch me and Jen get re-married. Since we’d more or less eloped years before, this was our nearest-and-dearest’s chance to watch us tie the same knot they missed us tying the first time. “Laid” was the track Jen chose to walk down the aisle to (don’t ask) and whenever I hear it, I remember how beautiful she looked that day. And because of that, this song always gives me a boner.

Track: Fuck and Run
Artist: Liz Phair
Album: Exile in Guyville

Is it easier to look at Liz Phair or listen to her sing? Especially when it comes to this song? This song really appeals to fat guys everywhere, because it makes us believe there are girls out there who might, sooner or later, give up on the trim dudes who’re distant and treat them like shit. Liz Phair wants a boyfriend? I know a legion of Lunchboxes who’d give her what she’s asking for: all that stupid old shit – like letters and sodas.

Track: The Planet is Fine
Artist: George Carlin
Album: Jammin’ in New York

Carlin may very well be the smartest person I’ve ever met. This track illustrates why. Listen to intensity and focus of this performance – not to mention the masterful use of language: it’s like watching the world’s best cancer surgeon at work… but way funnier.

Track: Straight Outta Compton
Artist: NWA
Album: Straight Outta Compton

Jesus, do these guys need a hug…

Track: The Morning Papers
Artist: Prince
Album: The Love Symbol Album

If you’ve ever seen “An Evening with Kevin Smith”, you know I’ve got some history with His Royal Badness. Regardless, it’s never interfered with my appreciation for the man’s musical genius. I came of age in the Prince era, and his albums have made up a good portion of the soundtrack to my life. This track will always take me back to post-production on the original “Clerks”, when I was editing the flick in the video store featured in the flick, and my long-time girlfriend was graduating from college and dumping my fat ass. Needless to say, I was devastated. But had I known that, in six months, my life was gonna change irrevocably (thanks to the Sundance Film Festival), maybe I wouldn’t have burned through two copies of “The Love Symbol Album” listening to this track over and over.

Track: Welcome to the Terrordome
Artist: Public Enemy
Album: 20th Century Masters – The Best of P.E.

What I’ve always loved about this track is how it has a ticking-clock feel to it. There’s such a sense of urgency to the lyrics and music. You ready to be moved, both emotionally and physically? Then here’s your ticket. Hear the drummer get wicked.

Track: My Philosophy
Artist: Boogie Down Productions
Album: By All Means Necessary

If you get a stiff one for wordplay and language, a KRS One track is like porn. This opening track from the album that immediately followed the untimely death of DJ, Scott La Rock, signaled a new maturity in the work that Boogie Down Productions would, from this record forward, be forever known for: deft (and def) socially-conscious hip-hop that was more poetic than what was being offered up by their contemporaries. This is when rap went from “Throw your hands in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care” to something more political and, therefore, powerful.

Track: Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)
Artist: Run DMC
Album: Run DMC

The greatest rappers of all time, bar none. Far less lyrically complicated than almost any rap act who’d follow in their footsteps, Run DMC still stand as the Kings of Rock because they invented the blueprint and took hip hop to a whole new audience: suburban white kids. But their historical significance aside, Run DMC (and the late Jam Master Jay) knew how to get you on your feet, and this track is no exception in that department. If you’re not at least doing a subtle sway by the time Run gets to “If you say you heard my rhyme, we’re gonna have to fight – ’cause I just made the motherfucker up last night,” then you’ve got no soul.

Track: The Last Day of Our Acquaintance
Artist: Sinead O’Connor
Album: So Far… The Best of Sinead O’Connor

One of the saddest songs ever penned by one of the baldest chicks to ever shred a picture of a Pope on national television.

Track: Sail On
Artist: The Commodores
Album: Anthology

Obviously, I love break-up songs (“Last Day of Our Acquaintance”, “Unsent”, “Fuck & Run”). This track is a stand-out on that list because there’s an undercurrent of hope running through it: yes, the author is saddened by the end of the relationship, but he’s also mustered enough pride to get off a few parting shots in the process. Next time someone’s dumping you, rock ‘em with a little “I gave you my heart, and I tried to make you happy. And you gave me nothing in return.” Just don’t sing it or you’ll confirm that you’re a dickhead in serious need of dumping.

Track: Ghost Story
Artist: Sting
Album: Brand New Day

This is one of my favorite sad songs of all time because I’m a total sucker for songs about regret. And people can blast me all they want, but Sting is one of the best lyricists of all time: whether he was with The Police or solo, it’s hard to deny the man knows how to craft a metaphor – which, considering he used to be an English teacher, makes sense.

Track: Da’ Mystery of Chessboxin’
Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Album: Legend of the Wu-Tang – Wu-Tang’s Greatest Hits

A good rap track that’s elevated to classic status by virtue of ODB’s verses alone. Rappinin’ is, indeed, what’s happenin’.

Track: Once in a Lifetime
Artist: Talking Heads
Album: Stop Making Sense

“Stop Making Sense” was the first album I ever bought with my own cash at Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank – the primary purchase point for my early career in music consumerism. There was this woman who used to work behind the counter who must’ve been in her late, late forties/early fifties. What was especially noteworthy about her was how into metal she came across: the woman was forever sporting a Sabbath or Maiden sleeveless t-shirt, long hair, and a pentagram necklace. She was dubbed The Metal Lady. I never got the full story on what her deal was, but I’ll always remember her because she reluctantly sold me “Stop Making Sense”, insisting I pick up “Shout at the Devil” instead. Years later, I’d purchase a W.A.S.P. cassette from her, and get zero argument.

Track: Pictures of You
Artist: The Cure
Album: Disintegration

The mother of all sad songs. It’s just stinking with regret. Kyle Broflovski was right: “Disintegration” is the best album ever.

Track: Freak Me
Artist: Silk
Album: Lose Control

The only thing sad about this song is how much I love it (but an even bigger fan would be Jason Mewes: he once listened to this track, in-flight, on a constant loop en route from New Jersey to Los Angeles). The song screams sex, but when I tried to introduce it into one of our boudoir sessions, my wife broke into a laughing fit so disruptive, we didn’t wind up fucking. At least, I think it was the song she was laughing at.

Track: Tom Traubert’s Blues
Artist: Tom Waites
Album: Small Change

Another sad song. What a shock. I’ve always wanted to hear Alanis Morissette cover this song. I’ve also always wanted to sport man-sized cock. Something tells me I’ve got a better shot at the former than the latter.

So… I showed you mine. Now you can show me yours. Lemme see ‘em, folks: put together your Celebrity Playlist and let me know who you really are. Ten songs apiece sounds about right. Have at it.

And don’t forget: tomorrow’s the day, west coasters…


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