(From a chapter in "Confessions of a Serial Songwriter")
I’M ON THE treadmill listening to JackFM on my radio headset. (I like listening to the radio because there’s an element of surprise that I don’t get when I’m listening to a self-programmed playlist.) JackFM strings together ten song snippets of classics: a teaser of what I might hear at any given moment if I stay tuned. I adore every one: “More Than a Feeling,” “Daydream Believer,” “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Yes! Yes! Play any one of those in its entirety! I would be ever so grateful. I hate working out. A good song lets me loathe it less.
I am salivating over the snippets. But after they return from the commercial break they play...“Jack and Diane.” Okay. I’m sorry. For me, this is like putting filet mignon on the menu and then serving me a hot dog. This is my opinion and I am entitled to it. I am annoyed. It’s a classic bait and switch! They deserve a consequence. I switch to STAR. I would rather listen to the ever-irritating Axl Rose—fingernails on a chalkboard (my opinion again). But, at least they didn’t lead me to believe it would be anything else.
I leave the gym and head out for the rest of my day. Jack and Diane follow me around (both of them) everywhere I go—my mani-pedi, Trader Joe’s. They assault me from an adjacent car. It’s torture. It’s like a booger I can’t get off my finger.
There’s a “sinkhole” on Mulholland Drive (a new word in my Laurel Canyon vocabulary, which means an extra deep and ridiculously wide pothole, usually the result of non-stop rain). Everyone is taking the same detour. Traffic is a mess. But it’s okay, because “Light My Fire” (the José Feliciano version—most romantic cover of all time) is on K-EARTH and I absolutely love the José Feliciano version of “Light My Fire,” especially in the rain. Correction…I don’t love it, as Alvy Singer put it to Annie Hall, I “lurve” it. That’s one step deeper than love. But José is not coming in clearly because I’m in the canyon and just how much you lurve a song can be measured by the amount of static you can withstand and still not change the station. I don’t want to abandon “Light My Fire,” but just for a millisecond I check KLOS and I hear hints of “Angie.” I absolutely adore “Angie” more than anything!
What to do? I am being pulled in opposite directions and I am in an acute state of distress. Shelly’s Choice. I will have them both if I can, for as long as they’ll have me. Jose is coming in stronger now, so I stick with him and I pray that when he’s through Mick will still be there waiting for me, even if it’s just a few last words. Come on, Mick, they can’t say I never tried!
Pleeeeze! When I attempt to reclaim “Angie,” it’s not only over; it’s John Cougar Mellencamp…“Jack and Diane.”
Red lights seem longer today. On comes “Bennie and the Jets” and I don’t mind the wait. Then, when I get to my daughter’s school, something incredible happens while I’m twiddling my thumbs in the carpool lane: “Rich Girl.” Thank You Universe. And then “Get Back,” and next, The Raspberries, “Go All the Way” (shortest verse ever). I crank it like I’m seventeen and I just got my driver’s license. So loud it makes my body buzz. I am Meg Ryan in that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally where she’s slapping the table, faking a you-know-what, and shouting, “Yes! Yes!” And a diner at another table remarks in envy, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Then I turn it down, because I remember where I am. Any second, my daughter is going to emerge from those gates and see my car vibrating and hear me shrieking at the top of my lungs (about going all the way, no less).
She will be mortified beyond repair and I will be anointed the worst parent in the history of the human race. That’s okay, because in the course of a day, whatever the task, pleasant or not, wherever the sinkholes divert me, there’s no doubt: Songs make everything better.