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Old 16th Mar 2009, 18:22   #7
beer good
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Default Re: Top 10 sad songs

The difficult bit, of course, is getting through this list without making it all country songs (the music of pain). Anyway, here's ten that never fail to get me.

Regina Spektor, "Chemo Limo"
The last thoughts of a woman dying of cancer, imagining death as the luxurious limo ride she never could afford to take, her thoughts slipping away one by one until only the faces of her children remain.

John Coltrane, "Alabama"
Recorded after a KKK bombing of a church. An attempt to play grief and frustration. A slow, drawn-out intro, then the song proper starts and almost immediately falls apart as if the band can't bear to play it. A few seconds of silence, then they repeat the intro again - a new beginning - and stop.

The Band, "It Makes No Difference"
Especially the live version from The Last Waltz, the supposed big triumphant last hurrah that nobody in the Band except for Robbie Robertson wanted; the way Rick Danko's voice shatters into tiny little pieces when he sings "It's all I can do to keep myself from telling you that I've never felt so alone before."

The Velvet Underground, "Stephanie Says"
Lou Reed later rewrote it as "Caroline Says, Part II", slowing it down to a dirge and making it a horriffic study of domestic abuse. This mid-tempo version has none of the explicit angst and physical violence of the later version, it's just a general song about feeling left out, yet somehow manages to be more difficult to shrug off. "It's such an icy feeling, it's so cold in Alaska."

The Cowboy Junkies, "Lost My Driving Wheel"
Margo Timmins chokes up completely on the last verse. So do I.

Guy Clark, "Desperados Waiting For A Train"
A love song not for a woman or a child but a grandfather, spanning an entire life and the way you gradually realise that grown-ups are not only human but mortal too ("To me he's one of the heroes of this country, how come he's all dressed up like them old men?") up until the inevitable last hold-up where the roles have been reversed. "Come on, Jack... the sumbitch is comin'."

Townes Van Zandt, "Waitin' Around To Die"
As a friend of mine is fond of repeating, if you can make a 79-year-old blacksmith cry like a baby with nothing but a guitar and a story, it's fucking SAD. He's got a point.

Tom Waits, "Ruby's Arms"
"Oh Jesus Christ, this goddamn rain..."

Sonic Youth, "Tunic (Song For Karen)"
Kim Gordon's songs were always chilling, but their requiem for Karen Carpenter is too much. Gordon half-sings lyrics about dying from fame and starvation as if in a half-conscious bliss ("Hey Mom, look, I'm up here! I finally made it!") while the sheets of guitars crash against her in frustration, unable to do anything but cover her up.

Neil Young, "Tired Eyes"
Sounds like it's recorded at 4AM after a 2-week tequila-fueled wake for a dead friend, which is because it's pretty much what it is. Neil's voice cracks and careens all over the place, the musicians play like ghosts, and everyone's stuck in that moment of clarity, trying to command death away, knowing they can't.


...OK, I need to go listen to something cheerful now.
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