10th Avenue Freeze-Out: What Gives Me The Chills

The chills manifest themselves in many ways. Sometimes it's buzzing in the back of your skull. Or an upwelling of energy that makes you want to jump up and down. Sometimes it's just the chills. In compiling this list, I've discovered that I generally only get the chills from a) really sad songs or b) crazy guitar licks. Okay. Also, although I enjoy, and even love, LOVE, lots of new music, it doesn't seem to give me the chills. I'm sorry. Thusly,

  1. “Don’t Let Me Down” - The Beatles: A single snare crack ushers in John’s deepest lament, his greatest soul song. Save George Martin, here’s the finest non-Beatle musical contribution to a Beatles recording (sorry E.C.) — the heavily Afroed Billy Preston on electric keys. Ringo, in one song, makes a case for Greatest Rock Drummer of All Time: the key is sympathy.
  2. “Bring It On Home To Me” (live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963) - Sam Cooke: In my opinion, the greatest recording of the greatest rock n roll song. It gains even more power and drama when taken as the climax of an amazing, amazing live performance. The band, including King Curtis on sax, is locked in tight, the music surges and sways, Sam is preaching more than singing and the crowd, the crowd is ecstatic, on the verge of rapture and you can hear it. It’s when Sam lets out a soul shout and the crowd answers in a roar that the chills run up and down my spine.
  3. “Up To Me” - Bob Dylan: From a collection of songs recorded and scrapped just prior to Blood On The Tracks. Some were reworked and re-recorded for the album, but this gem only saw the official light of day in ‘85 on the odds-and-ends collection, Biograph. Lines like The only decent thing I did when I worked as a postal clerk / Was to haul your picture down off the wall near the cage where I used to work and There's a note left in the bottle, you can give it to Estelle / She's the one you been wond'rin' about, but there's really nothin' much to tell. To paraphrase a friend, once you hear this tune, you’ll realize that Blood On the Tracks is not nearly sad enough.
  4. “Blitzkrieg Bop” - The Ramones: I used to work at a summer camp, where I often drove a 15-passenger bus filled with elementary school kids. Irresponsibly, I’d throw on “Blitzkrieg Bop” while cruising down the New Mexico highways at 75 mph and let the kids go nuts, singing and bouncing off the walls. It was like having them freebase pixie sticks. That’s how I feel inside whenever I hear this tune.
  5. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: The piano is so sexy and Smokey sings like saint tempted by the flesh. Sidenote: I saw Elvis Costello at a small amphitheater a few years back; during a breakdown in "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" he went into this tune. Unbelievable.
  6. “Incident on 57th Street” - Bruce Springsteen: Growing up, this mini-epic of romantic adventure, built of Spectorish melodies, Dylanesque characters and (Van) Morrisonesque blue-eyed soul delivery, was simply the Gospel according to Bruce. Anytime I hear the sweeping opening chords, I get blown away.
  7. “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)” - Frank Sinatra: A voice aged in bourbon. From the first tinkling of the piano to the last heart-weary line, a perfect lament.
  8. "New Slang” - The Shins: Fans of The Shins may feel bitter about this tune being co-opted by the Garden State soundtrack, like their weird little friend was just crowned prom queen, but this song deserves mass consumption. The tremble of the open melody remains both sad and haunting. The lyrics are non-sensical enough to evoke all kinds of memories.
  9. “Search and Destroy” - The Stooges: Another guitar barrage that makes me misty-eyed. I’ve always wanted to see Bill Murray shoot pirates while this song played. Thank you Wes Anderson.
  10. “Moanin’ At Midnight” - Howlin’ Wolf: Not sure if it’s the chills, but this song makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
  11. “Goodbye” - Steve Earle: Another tearjerker. When Steve sings, “And I recall ….” and the pedal steel ascends with his voice, that’s when I get the chills.
  12. “Suzanne” - Nina Simone: Nina takes command of the song, and infuses a little soul strut just when you think you’re going to fall into the Canadian’s pit of despair.
  13. “Hey Jude” - Wilson Pickett: A pretty straight cover to start off, the heavy organ and of course Wilson’s man-and-a-half voice bring out the churchiness, but the chills hit about 2/3 of the way through. Wilson hits a “Yowww!!!” and the Muscle Schoals band kicks in like dynamite, led by a furious Duane Allman guitar fusillade. I’ve read that the album version was cut down from thirteen minutes. I’d love to hear it in full.
  14. “Folsom Prison Blues” (live at Folsom Prison, 1968) - Johnny Cash: Like the live “Bring It On Home To Me,” much of the energy of this song is generated by the audience. Instead of a good-time crowd cutting loose on a Saturday night, here we’re dealing with incarcerated felons who don’t get out much. You can hear the tension in the dead silence while Johnny sings and the desperate release in the cheers that erupt between verses.
  15. “Pale Blue Eyes” - The Velvet Underground: So sad.


Blogger d said...

I'm definitely with you on the sam cooke. I am simply amazed that hollywood hasn't gotten their grubby paws onto his life story yet. I don't care who you was with? is that right? it's been a long time. I need to go hear that right now.

11:34 PM, June 23, 2005  
Blogger Joe Willie said...

yes, and even if your woman is out with someone else, "don't go home hittin' on her. Just wipe the sleep from eyes and say, 'It's alright.'" And, "Everybody, wave your hankerchief." And the best, "I don't know what's wrong with me but it ain't leukemia."

9:10 AM, June 24, 2005  
Blogger d said...

man, I was up until 3 tryin' to find that song out there on the web. I don't remember the leukemia bit at all! oh sam.

10:45 AM, June 24, 2005  
Blogger d said...

PS do you have his "get yourself another fool"? I love that one so much. I think I used to drive people nuts by playing it for them & staring at 'em with a big grin of "this is the bestest".

10:48 AM, June 24, 2005  
Blogger Joe Willie said...

I don't have that one. On the movie side, if I'm not mistaken, the recent Ali biopic with Will Smith begins by cutting between Ali training and Sam getting crazy in a nightclub. Not sure if he is doin "A Change Is Gonna Come" or "Bring It On Home," but if it's the latter I'd suspect they used the track from this live album.

12:11 PM, June 24, 2005  
Blogger d said...

it IS bring it on home...hmmm, perhaps it's on the soundtrack or something.

1:31 PM, June 24, 2005  
Anonymous Tina said...

Pale Blue Eyes makes me cry. For real.

3:46 PM, June 24, 2005  
Blogger george said...

I wanted to name a band I was in "Sam Cooke's Secret" because no one really knows about how he died. Shit was scandalous! Obviously the rest of the band hated the name.

1:06 AM, June 25, 2005  

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