I had mentioned in my last post that I was in the process of going through a box of things that I never actually took with me up north to college. It’s been a rather amusing exercise. One of my more treasured books I thought lost was returned to me (a copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods loaned to me by a high school chum and never returned), but the thing that most captured my attention was a CD that I had made some time in high school.
It was not uncommon for my friends Greg, Leon, and I to make mix CDs to play in Greg’s car during our various adventures in and around our home town. This one, however, is different. I distinctly remember making this one shortly after I got my first car, a 1993 green Ford Aerostar van around the time that I entered my senior year of high school
This van, dubbed by my main cadre of female friends as “The Sleepy Turtle” due to the overly cautious way I tended to drive, was the first thing that I actually considered to be mine. There was one key, and it was in my possession. It wasn’t in my name, mind you, taxes and all that, but I was the only one who drove it, and I loved it for all of the over 100,000 miles that I drove it until it broke down during Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year of college.
I loved that van, it became a part of my identity. People at school who didn’t know me knew my van. I made a CD at the time I did to commemorate a milestone of my high school career, cutting someone incredibly toxic out of my life.
I have a problem when it comes to letting things go. I hold on to trinkets, books, gifts, and what have you long past their point of usefulness. I have a folder of text documents with short stories, novel ideas, and various journals dating back to middle school. I have every non-spam email I have ever received on the same email address I have used since the sixth grade.
This is a problem I have with people, too. Not to say, of course, that a person can ever outlive their usefulness, I’m not so heartless as to suggest that. Rather, there are times where people in our lives are no longer worth keeping in them, I think we can all agree on that. People, I have found, are a lot harder to let go of than things or files. If I delete a short story or a set of horrific poetry, it doesn’t hurt because of it. If I donate a book to a thrift shop it’s feelings aren’t damaged. In fact, it could be argued that those items would find new life in the hands of someone else.
But people are able to react to our discarding. They hurt, they pine, and as someone who is dealing with the rather hefty discarding he was dealt almost two years ago, I don’t really like doing it to another person.
This person, whom I will call Wendy, was a different case. I may have referred to her as toxic previously, but in reality, I probably did more harm to her than she ever did to me, and by extension, hurting myself in the process. Regardless, that fact that we have not contacted each other in close to a decade is a good thing.
To punctuate the decision I made at the time, I made a mix CD simply titled Happiness. It was something I collected of songs that made me smile, and generally brought me up. I had long forgotten about this CD and gave it a full listen, and…
Well you may not remember this quote from one of my previous posts:
… I find that years later, I am only more justified in my tastes and aversions.
There is a certain truth to that still, but I would be lying if I said there were things on that CD that didn’t make me cringe a bit. What I’m going to do, for the remainder of this post, is post the full track listing of the CD with YouTube links where I can find them, and offering some commentary on the tracks, and just exactly where my head space was when I decided to add them to the list. If you’re not familiar with the tracks I post, I would highly suggest giving them a listen before reading the commentary. I know that this is a somewhat unreasonable request, everyone’s busy, I get that. But to get the full effect, I do recommend it. We have 29 tracks to get through here, let’s not waste any more time.
#1. Home movies theme, season 1 – brendon small
Not much to say about this one really. I love Brendon Small and pretty much all of his work. Home Movies still brings a smile to my face with its emphasis on dialogue over intricate animation. A simple tune that always makes me bob my head.
#2. dreams of above – maze master
I used to be a member of the now mostly irrelevant website, Newgrounds. This theme was the only song for a relatively simple Flash game called Avalanche. I would play this quite often during my downtime in high school. I fell in love with the song for its simple instrumentation and upbeat, almost adventurous feel. I have not listened to this song in almost 9 years, but I still remember every beat and note.
#3. Klaymen’s Theme – Terry Scott Taylor
I have a great admiration for the work of Doug TenNapel. Most would remember him from his work on Earthworm Jim, but for my money, he will always be the creator of The NeverhoOd, a point and click adventure game animated entirely in claymation. The music of Terry Scott Taylor only serves to punctuate the beauty of the game and the insidious supposed simplicity of its puzzles. Klaymen’s Theme is bouncy, jaunty, and just plain fun.
#4. Five o’clock world – the vogues
I used the Drew Carrey Show video for this song because it’s where I originally heard it.
In high school, this song epitomized everything that I wanted in a relationship; a woman who, when around, could literally make my troubles melt away sheerly by the merit of being her. When I was with Julie, I would listen to this song as validation that I had found that. Now, it just makes me depressed, because I had that, and I lost it.
#5. Southern front porch whistler – terry scott taylor
Another NeverhoOd song. This one is calming for me, incredibly so. It perfectly evokes an old man sitting on his stoop and strumming a tune on his guitar.
#6. Lullaby of broadway – harry warren & al dublin
The Muppet Show and indeed The Muppets themselves were instrumental in forming who I would ultimately become. Granted, at the time of this writing I am hardly finished growing as a person, but I cannot foresee a future where The Muppets do not matter to me. Yes, there are better songs from The Muppet Show and even ones from the movies (one of which will make its appearance somewhere down the list), but I can remember this one being on my mind at the time. I couldn’t tell you why I picked this one, but it still works for me. Something about Camilla breaking character and actually singing a line was revolutionary for me as a child, and I still enjoy it, even if it goes against the previously established conventions.
#7. Hey julie – fountains of wayne
Another song I originally heard from a sitcom, Scrubs in this case. This one is incredibly similar to Five O’Clock World, the lyrics will tell you that much. This one isn’t as good as The Vogues number, but it always confounded me that this Fountains of Wayne song didn’t get more radio play than the absolutely dreadful Stacey’s Mom.
#8. aye aye eyes
Can’t find the composer for this one from my cursory Google research.
I don’t so much like this one anymore. It has the camp of a Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? chase song, but not nearly as much of the fun. It I can’t rightly imagine what my reason was for putting this on the list rather than pure nostalgia.
#9. The Chillout Song – Ze Frank
I came to the Ze Frank party too late. The Show was already long gone, and I was unable to join the elite ranks of the Sports Racers. I did, however, binge the entire series over a long weekend, and latched onto this song for a very long time. Quiet, reflective, and made even better by the untrained voices of his viewers, The Chillout Song is what immediately pops into my head whenever I hear someone tell someone else to breathe. It still calms me down to this day.
#10. Rainbow road – kenta nagata
There are better Mario Kart 64 tracks out there. Hell, there are better Rainbow Road tracks out there. But this one always trips my nostalgia trigger. Mario Kart 64 was the game that my family played together most consistently. Even my father, who normally eschewed video games after I messed up his progress on the NES Willow, would join us. This was always a popular course, if not for its length, then for it’s lack of nonsense parts like you might find in Yoshi’s Valley or DK’s Jungle Parkway. When I put this track on the CD, I was thinking of my family. I still do.
#11. courage the cowardly dog – they might be giants
I love They Might Be Giants. They are my favorite band, and I own nearly every piece of music they’ve put out. This, however? This doesn’t have any of that TMBG fun or quirk, and it just doesn’t do anything for me anymore. Another nostalgia baited pick to pad out the CD’s running time.
#12. Don’t lose my number – phil collins
Greg was a huge Phil Collins fan, and that rubbed off on me. I made this CD before discovering the Genesis album Invisible Touch which blows Phil’s first solo effort out of the water. Revisiting this song made me feel uncomfortable. I haven’t really spoken with Greg much in recent years, and I feel bad about that. I know that he’s currently married and living in Washington State attending graduate school, but not much more than that. This song reminds me that it is easy to lose touch with people we hold dear, even if that’s not what the song is explicitly about.
#13. Moving right along – paul williams
The Muppets again. The Muppet Movie is, when you get right down to it, about following your dreams wherever they take you, making friends along the way, and not selling yourself short. I resonate a lot with this message, though I haven’t always followed it. As someone with lofty dreams for the future, I am hampered by a lethargy that tells me to stay inside my comfort zone. This is a habit that I’m desperately working on, but it’s easy to fall back into old habits.
#14. Old fashioned lab song – paul williams
Paul Williams, I would learn about this time in my life, was an incredibly instrumental musical influence on my childhood. He wrote all of the songs for The Muppet Movie, was the guest star on the best episode of The Muppet Show’s first season, and wrote such pop classics as Rainy Days and Mondays and We’ve Only Just Begun. This is the only Cartoon Network song on this list that actually deserves to be here.
#15. [redacted] – [redacted]
Too embarrassing, moving on.
#16. Bloody Tears – Kenichi Matsubara
This isn’t the version that’s on the CD. I couldn’t find it.
Bloody Tears is a meaningful song to me because Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is the first video game that I remember playing. Yes, I never beat the game as a kid because the game is so incredibly obtuse, but I still remember it fondly. Some people will rock out to thrash or death metal in their cars. I get the same feeling from this song.
#17. The Ballad of jimmy durante – the blanks
Another sitcom song! Well, sort of. The Blanks is a legitimate acapella group made up of actors who occasionally showed up on Scrubs. This song. This song! If you’re just casually reading through the list and not listening, I get that I really do, I’m asking a lot here, but please, put this song in your ears right now. I don’t know much about Jimmy Durante other than his famous catchphrase, but this song. I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard for me to write about this song. Just listen to it, and if you don’t get some kind of feeling from it, than I just don’t know.
#18. cough drops – terry scott taylor
Yep, another NeverhoOd song. Last one I promise, and this is easily the weakest of this sampling. I’m not sure, but it actually kind of annoys me now. Maybe I was reveling in the context of where it appeared in the game, but I honestly can’t remember it.
#19. Candy Mountain Song
The rise of the viral video around YouTube’s inception in 2005 was a fascinating time for web content creation. My first and favorite Youth Pastor, Cameron (a Texas native who looked like a Hawaiian Elvis) would spend time showing us some of the more classic videos; Fear of Girls, some of the more notable screamer videos, and of course Charlie The Unicorn. This song, while just a cover of The Clarinet Polka with lyrics added in. It’s kinetic, it’s fun, and I spent a lot of time memorizing all of the lyrics. I can still recite them.
#20. Trust yourself – Brendon Small
Another Home Movies song. Don’t read too deeply into this one, I just think it’s funny.
#21. You are a pirate – Máni Svavarsson
LazyTown was a show that Greg, Leon, and I glommed onto. At it’s heart, it’s a show about getting kids active with a type of Scandinavian charm that you get from Aqua. This song was on every mix CD that we made once we discovered it. It’s the perfect song to drive over a bridge to, and it still brings a smile to my face.
#22. My Best friend plank
#23. Incredible Shrinking Day – Garrett Freireich
You might think that I liked Cartoon Network or something. This one isn’t so bad as the previous entry, it’s not ostensibly about the series, just an okay song with the series as a backdrop. But that’s all it is. Okay.
#24. Dreaming of you – The Coral
Another song from a sitcom, Scrubs again. This one, I’m honestly at a loss. It’s an incredibly sad song that has no place on this list. Good song, mind you, but it doesn’t belong anywhere near a CD called Happiness.
#25. Walrus cove – david wise
I put this song on the CD to mess with Greg. He hated this song for how catchy it was and it was a reliable earworm that world get him screaming the tune while we were off trying to find the last remaining Bennigan’s. I like the song well enough, but it’s not nearly as good as Haunted Woods or Hot Top Volcano.
#26. Cars – Gary Numan
Turns out I had some pretty awful tastes in high school. I immediately skipped over this song while revisiting this CD. This song is dull, pointless, joyless, and the only mercy is that its horrific lyrics end around the halfway mark.
#27 duke nukem theme – lee jackson
This song is great. Move along.
#28. Brooklyn – Creaky Boards
In an attempt to expand my musical horizons in high school, I stumbled across the 2008 Coldplay album Viva la Vida. I loved the title track, but when searching for information on it, I found that another, much less notable band, called Creaky Boards was claiming that Coldplay had plagiarized their song coincidentally called The Songs That I Didn’t Write. I never put too much stock into it, though I would learn while doing research for this post that Creaky Boards would later issue a retraction. I became enthralled with this song, however, when the controversy was at its height. I love brass instruments in rock songs, and the Boards’ style reminded me of more serious They Might Be Giants. Were I to remake this CD, I’d probably keep the song on, it’s incredibly mellow and satisfying, even if the lyrics are a little blunt force trauma.
#29. just one person – larry grossman
I have a bad habit of finding out my heroes have been after I discover their work. I didn’t know that Groucho Marx was dead until I was 12 (though the revelation that his mustache was just shoe polish was much more heartbreaking), Kurt Vonnegut died the day before I picked up my first copy of Slaughterhouse Five, and Jim Henson was dead just a few months before I was born. I actually have very few living heroes, the most important among them being Weird Al Yankovic (which makes it all the more odd that his work appears nowhere on this CD).
This song is not happy. Hopeful, maybe, but certainly not happy.
Perhaps that’s wrong. This is an incredibly happy song. Just not in this context.
This rendition in this context reminds me that the man who created the characters that I wanted to be like, the man whose work I admire more than any other person’s is dead. You might be asking (and well you should) why I included this track on the CD that was supposed to be all about things that make me happy.
I included this track on the CD because at the time (and still a bit to this day) I don’t believe that I deserve to be happy. I’m terrified of joy, I don’t trust it. If I’m miserable, there isn’t anyone who wants to take it away from me. People are content to let someone be miserable because they can’t get anything from it. I don’t trust people, not inherently. I do believe that people are generally good, mind you, but I don’t trust that goodness. I don’t believe that people’s inherent goodness is something that they embrace on a day-to-day basis. I know I don’t. I have the ability to revel in anger, distrust, and above all, cynicism.
Cynicism is a trap that I fall into constantly. It’s one of my less desirable traits, I know that.
I’m working on it.
But at the time, when I was 17 years old, this song served as a denouement to the joy that these songs brought me. It was a way to remind me that happiness is fleeting, and that there will always be something to brutally pull you back down to reality when you’re flying to close to the sun on wings of wax.
But like I said, I’m working on it.
If there’s any takeaway I got from listening to this CD again, it’s this; I still don’t trust myself to be happy. I know now that I deserve it, hell we all do (within means of course, if one’s definition of happiness is harming people then they can piss right off). But I just don’t trust it. Even in my more naive days as a teenager I was incapable of putting together a list of things that make me happy without including something that will make me deeply, horribly depressed.
I don’t think I’ll be popping this CD in my car any time soon. There are too many things on here that I just don’t like anymore, probably because I don’t like who I was back then.
If you made it this far through this sprawling nearly 3,500 word post, then thank you. I know that I ate up quite a bit of your certainly valuable time when it’s sometimes hard to devote any amount of it to anything that doesn’t meet our baser survival needs. If you got any sense of enjoyment out of this, found a new song that you like, or fulfilled some kind of voyeuristic need to peek into the mind of someone else, then I’m glad.
This CD is one of a group of Relics that I’m slowly collecting from my past that I plan to do a series about. This blog has long since outlived my original intention. I’m not saying that I won’t return to movies at some point, but this is the creative wave that I’m riding right now.