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In Search of a Perfect Song, Part 2

07-17-2015 | By Carol Clark | Issue 80

In Search of a Perfect Song

I recently republished that old article because I've had further opportunity to explore the concept. I began that article with a lesson about the difference between opinion and fact. Again I will remind you that this is my opinion of what makes a song perfect. Naturally, if you have a different opinion, feel free to post it in the comments below.

I think everyone can agree that music should have some effect on you at an emotional level. When music becomes background noise perhaps it's time to look for something new. I don't really review equipment anymore, but when I did I always used the song "Other Voices" by the Cure. While I don't include that song in my list of perfect songs, I always felt engaged with it when I heard it. If I didn't feel that engagement when listening to gear, I usually ended up ditching the review.

Another inspiration for me to write this article was Michael Mercer's recent "Aural Indulgences" piece at Occupy HiFi. As I read through his list I thought it sounded like a perfect song kind of thing, and that reminded me I had more songs to add to my list.

So, let's begin this installment of perfect songs with the idea that music must move you in some way. I knew this back in the days when I was listening to "Other Voices" all the time, but I rediscovered it again this year when I was able to attend T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. Although I found it was a bit tiring for me to get around to all the rooms, I did find that the rooms that impressed the most were the ones playing music I could connect to. For example, swaying in a semi-darkened room to a recent Gang of Four song as played on Marten and E.A.R. gear was magical.

Our own room, the Positive Feedback hospitality suite, offered a selection of DSD, double DSD, and quad DSD music. As I mentioned in the last article, this format of music is difficult for me because it rarely includes songs I like, or that I connect to. I spent a lot of time sitting there listening to music that moved everyone else and wondering what all the hype was about. I found it very hard to appreciate it, and then someone came along and found "Enter Sandman" by Metallica in the library. Whoa!  It sounded awesome! This goes to show, I need to have some connection to the songs in order to hear anything out of the equipment.

Before I jump into this current list of perfect songs, I will take a moment to possibly contradict myself. Some of you know that I recently went through a near two year battle with cancer. During that time I spent a lot of time alone, or rather feeling alone. I received a lot of support from the industry, but every time I think about naming the specific sources of support I'm afraid I will inadvertently leave someone out. In fact, I've made a few lists and always realize an omission before I get ready to publish it. Anyone who offered that support, please know it meant the world to me, and hopefully I expressed it to you at the time. Here's the contradiction, the three songs I am going to talk about today come from musicians that supported me when I was ill. In this case I'm pretty sure I haven't left anyone out, these were the only three I remember. While these are musicians that supported me directly, in two of the cases the songs have had this effect on me since before my illness. The third one is new, and while maybe not perfect in its own right, the way it was delivered certainly was.

Without further ado, my new list…


Mike Martin "Peace Be With You" 2 of 5

Mike Martin is a guitarist currently living in Georgia. I first came into contact with him on Twitter. I have a hard time remembering things these days, so if I get this wrong I apologize. I seem to recall having an app installed in Firefox called Twitterfox. It would pop the Tweets up in little bubbles on my desktop, even if my browser wasn't launched. It numbered the Tweets, and on that day Tweet number two of five was from Mike Martin. It amused me, so I Tweeted at him, and he responded. I geeked out! Mike Martin talking to me, whoa! We continued to banter back and forth, and eventually he had a live, online concert of sorts. I remember sitting here at my computer really liking his solo guitar, so I sent off for the CD 2 of 5, and it arrive personally autographed! It's a really amazing CD that I always meant to write a review for, but somehow never got around to it. Many of the songs on the CD are stellar, but the one I connect to the most is "Peace Be With You."

I'm sure everyone reading this has a personal connection with 9/11. I'm not here to debate what really happened that day, but only to present to you how this song became a perfect song on 9/11 several years ago. I was driving home from the supermarket, and I stopped at an intersection next to a McDonald's. Their flag was flying at half-staff; "Peace Be With You" was playing in my car, and the next thing I knew I was in tears. The image of the flag, all the memories I carry, and the beauty of the song all converged. The song moved from the category of "songs I like" to "perfect song" in that instant.

Since then I have played the song at RMAF once, in the Al Stiefel Remembrance room. While it played I remembered all the people who were once with us at shows, but are no more. It always sent that shiver down my spine.

While I was ill, Mike became a great support. We used our own hashtag on Twitter (#inittowinit) to celebrate my victories, and he used it to encourage me. In a happy coincidence, I received a bracelet made from one of his old guitar picks and cast off guitar strings on my final day of chemo. It has become a symbol of hope.


Gravity Kills "Beg and Borrow" Superstarved

I think I first discovered Gravity Kills in about 1995. At that time I was spending at least thirty to forty minutes a day driving home from work, and I was fortunate enough to hear the "Catch of the Day" on KROQ during that time. It was a program where the DJ, Jed the Fish, played music that was obscure, or not in heavy rotation. I discovered a lot of great music that way, and I'm pretty sure Gravity Kills was one of those bands. Probably the first song I heard was "Guilty." I liked it well enough to buy their self-titled debut, and just kept buying their CDs after that.

This is where I'll again echo back to my original article. I have no idea what any of these songs are about beyond face value. I did, however, assign all my own meanings to the songs, and thus connected to them on a deeper level. By 2002 when Superstarved came out, I had it cranked up in my car, wailing away with lead singer Jeff Scheel, and weeping or laughing internally depending on the song. These songs, particularly from this album, inspired me.

Recently I heard the song "Beg and Borrow" again, and before I knew it I felt that shiver down my spine. I also flashed back to those days when I would totally immerse myself in the song while on my way to mundane things like Saturday chores. There is a lot of raw emotion here.

A few years ago Gravity Kills' lead singer Jeff Scheel put an instrumental version of this song up on SoundCloud. I remember the first time I heard that I was equally blown away. It's marvelous.

Jeff Scheel and I are Facebook friends. I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but I guess I thought it was a fan page, I didn't realize it was his personal page. Why he accepted friendship from me is a mystery, but I don't question it. In the beginning I was careful not to aggravate him with fangirl squealings, and I guess that worked because he didn't unfriend me. Then, two years ago when all my health issues started, he began leaving me messages of support. I can't begin to describe how much that meant to me. I tried to tell him, and he was very gracious in his response, leading me to believe that he got it.

And his music still moves and inspires me.


Fozzy "Lights Go Out" Do You Wanna Start a War

Finally, I'm back to an artist that I mentioned in my first article, Fozzy. Oh, the adventures I've had as a Fozzy fan. I guess if you twisted my arm behind my back, I'd have to admit that overall I'm not a huge fan of this music. There, I said it. It's not as stirring as 2 of 5, and it's not as inspirational as Gravity Kills, but a few of these songs truly are perfect. "All That Remains," I wrote about it in the first article, really still does raise goosebumps when I hear it.

This song, "Lights Go Out," is completely different. It's a good song, don't misunderstand, it just doesn't fit all the criteria I've laid out before. In this case, it is simply the way the song was delivered to me that makes it perfect.

I'll start out by admitting, I've only heard this song two or three times, and only on my iPhone. The first time I could hardly hear it, but it had me shivering all the same. Like the other two musicians I've mentioned in this article, social media came into play here. Chris Jericho is Fozzy's lead singer. If you want to know more about that you can read my Fozzy VIP experience here.

Do You Wanna Start a War was released in July 2014. "Lights Go Out" was the first release, and it came out in April 2014. Jericho was talking it up on Twitter, and because I was laid up in a nursing home at that time with nothing to do, I reTweeted a lot of his Tweets. I have this vague idea that he remembers me, but I'm not sure. Out of the blue one day I received a DM from Fozzy on Twitter asking me what my email address was. I responded, and within half an hour I had a personal email from Jericho, with this song attached. No message or anything, just the song. In my weakened state, I was floored more than you can imagine. Immediately I launched the song, held the phone up to my ear and cried as I listened to it. I will always feel a connection to this song for that reason alone. I do own the CD, but have yet to listen to it on our main system.

There you have it, Carol's Perfect Songs, take two. As I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to wrap this article up, I decided to take a break and check email. I'm writing this on July 17, 2015. Today is my two year cancer remission anniversary, so to celebrate I posted a picture of myself wearing my "Fight Like a Girl" t-shirt. In my email just now were some Facebook notifications, so I went to Facebook to check them out. Jeff Scheel left a comment on the picture, and Mike Martin liked it. Maybe I did list these songs because of their support, or maybe they really are perfect songs. Search the songs up, and judge for yourself.

Addendum: To complete the triumvirate, Fozzy reTweeted the picture of me as well. So once again, social media support from all three. Gotta love it.