The Soundtrack of Love

Recently, my wife and I challenged one another with the task of creating one CD each of our favorite love songs for what is–in essence–our wedding reception (a small party with family and very close, local friends). The rules were simple: Selected songs had to be songs we (individually) adore, they had to be about genuine romantic love for another person (not just sex), and they had to be positive in outlook. Since both of us are prone to preferring maudlin, heartbreaking songs, this task brought with it certain challenges. Teresa, for example, struggled to find 25 she truly loves. I wrestled with not including songs that are about undying but nevertheless unrequited love (INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart,” for example, and nearly everything I love by the Shins) or that have an edge to them that I appreciate and understand but others might not (Depeche Mode’s “Somebody,” for example, or Nick Cave’s “From Her to Eternity”).

By the first cut, I had whittled things to 50 songs. Pretty quickly, the rules forced me to lop another 15 off that just didn’t fit the bill. Then I cut a few 50s/60s tunes (The Crew Cuts’ “Sh-boom,” Bobby Darin’s “More,” and The Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me,” for example) in order to balance the chronological terrain. In an effort to squeeze in as many artists as possible, I also had to leave out a few that otherwise might have been preferred over some of those that made it (Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” for example, and a host of Iron & Wine tunes). I was also cautious to skip a few that still carry the weight of old relationships; sorry, no particular revelations here, but my apologies to Bob Schneider, Yo La Tengo, and Mazzy Star, who have material that deserves to make this list otherwise. Even after all of that, disc limitations made me cut a song that I would have loved to include: Dean & Britta’s “Wait for Me.” And I’m sure that three weeks from now, I’ll hear some song that makes me think, “Doh! THAT should have been on there!”

Anyway, this is the list (with some notes). The arrangement is a reflection of “feel” more than anything else.

1. Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love” (Live in London)

I thought about using the original off of Various Positions to save nearly two minutes, but having heard Cohen perform this live in November in Asheville (following the Live in London concert script pretty closely), I just couldn’t do it. Whatever “it” is, that man still has it at 75. May I be so lucky.

2. The Temper Trap, “Sweet Disposition”

3. My Brightest Diamond, “Golden Star”

4. Magnetic Fields, “The Book of Love”

I recently heard this in a movie or on a television show (no, not in Scrubs, and certainly not that ridiculous Peter Gabriel cover in Shall We Dance), and it’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember where.

5. Barry Louis Polisar, “All I Want Is You”

6. Wreckless Eric, “Whole Wide World”

A purist could argue with me that this song is about the pursuit, not love itself. I would respond that he knows exactly what he wants, and he already loves her. He just doesn’t know who she is yet. And I don’t think there’s a better use of a song in a movie in the last ten years than this one in Stranger Than Fiction.

7. Golden Earring, “Radar Love”

I sometimes feel like the oddball on this, but I much prefer Golden Earring’s version over the original by White Lion. I like the Bluesy feel.

8. The Mamas and the Papas, “Dedicated to the One I Love”

9. Buddy Holly, “Dearest”

Maybe not the best of his songs, but there’s something very raw and vulnerable about this that I find endearing.

10. Dusty Springfield, “Spooky”

Had I been a young man in her time, Dusty would have had my everlasting love. Just to hear her sing….

11. Mel Torme, “Happy Together”

Mel never gets the credit he deserves, except on Night Court.

12. Mickey & Sylvia, “Love Is Strange”

I know, I know: Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Seriously, though, for me this song is all about the playfulness that keeps love going. And if that means writhing on the floor as you listen to your gal call her loverboy, then I’m in.

13. Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”

“I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea. Yep!” That’s what it’s all about.

14. Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”

15. Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (OMD), “The More I See You”

“And there is not a single thing I wouldn’t do for the rare delight of the sight of you.”

16. Paul Simon, “Late in the Evening”

17. Bright Eyes, “First Day of My Life”

After trying to win the lottery for way too long, I finally learned that the only way to enjoy such riches is to earn them every day of one’s life.

18. Rogue Wave, “Eyes”

19. Meiko, “Reasons to Love You”

20. Greg Laswell, “How the Day Sounds”

21. Modern English, “Melt with You”

22. Iron & Wine, “Naked As We Came”

So few songs talk about what a lifetime of love really means between two people. Iron & Wine, as they often do, get it exactly right.

23. U2, “Promenade”

This has long been a favorite song of mine (and perhaps their most underrated song), and I had often thought of it in terms of overwhelming nostalgia for one’s past. Only recently did I learn that Bono wrote this song about the Martello Tower in Bray, Ireland, which he bought and had redesigned for his wife as an anniversary gift. The “spiral staircase” led to their bedroom at the top of the tower, whose glass ceiling and windows afforded full views of the entire town and the night sky.


~ by ericplaag on December 22, 2009.

One Response to “The Soundtrack of Love”

  1. very nice.

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