Mary Jo Bang

Okay, I'm "stranded" on a desert island but what exactly does that mean? I have to have electricity in order to play music, right? Because, yes, my computer has a battery but how long will that last? So either I'm not going to be stranded for long . . . or I have electricity. If I have electricity, how stranded am I? If I'm not going to be stranded for long (an airport layover on my way to a bigger island?) I'd choose one list but if it were going to be a significant portion of forever, I'd choose another. So, I've made two lists. The first for a short stranding, the second for a long.

Number One for a temporary stranding: I'll begin with Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz! I can't get enough of this CD. I play it over and over. The first song, "Zero," is amazing, the 2nd, "Heads Will Roll," is excellent, and so is the 3rd, "Soft Shock," and so on. As you can tell, I'm lacking objectivity about this CD. That's what happens with CD infatuation. But is this just a CD crush or will it develop into something lasting? (On the transient nature of affection, see: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow": written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine at #125 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Number Two: Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York (#311 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list). The one problem with this CD is that it doesn't have "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on it but that's okay because I can go to YouTube.com and see the original music video with them performing the song when I get to my final destination.

Number Three: Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (ranked #4 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). It has "Like a Rolling Stone" on it (#1 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) and "Desolation Row" and "Highway 61 Revisited" (#185 and #364, respectively on The 500 Greatest Songs of All Times list).

Number Four: Radiohead's In Rainbows—because I thought I should get back to something closer to the present or risk succumbing to an acute case of nostalgia. And I love Kid A (#428 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list) and I haven't heard this new CD yet.

Number Five for a temporary stranding: Aimee Mann's Lost in Space. It was this or the soundtrack from Magnolia but this one won out. Maybe it was the artwork by Seth, one of my favorite graphic novelists.

But of course I'm ducking the issue here. I'm quite sure I'm supposed to imagine a situation where I'm isolated and will be deprived of all musical companionship except these five CD's for a considerable length of time, and possibly until the end of time as I know it. (On what can happen if only one imagines, see John Lennon's "Imagine" #3 on The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time). For the sake of argument, I'm going to also imagine electricity, which, as Bertram Russell said (See, The A B C of Atoms), isn't a thing like St. Paul's Cathedral but "a way in which things behave." I'm going to imagine electricity behaving itself and making these CD's audible.

1. & 2.
Pink Floyd's The Wall (listed as #87 on The 500 Greatest Albums list). Things are now both easier and more difficult. Easier because choosing the first CD is easy. Hands down, no contest, it's The Wall. What's difficult is that it's a two-CD set and that means I'm now down to three CD's. How do I justify spending 2/5th of my allotment on this set? Because I love "Another Brick in the Wall," and even though there won't be any teachers on my island, I still like the idea of telling them to leave those kids alone, and I love "Is Anybody Out There?" Could there be a more perfect song for my situation? And at the end of each day, I can listen to "Comfortably Numb."

3.
The first CD of David Bowie's two-CD greatest hits compilation, The Best of Bowie. And I've chosen this for only three songs, but they are worth it. I can't spend eternity without them. They are: "Space Oddity," "Life on Mars," and "The Man Who Sold the World." These three songs have the same advantages as the songs of The Wall. They are small, and decidedly weird, plot-driven mini-narratives. Which means I can endlessly rework them into stories. "Space Oddity," additionally, feels like the perfect metaphor for my situation. Actually, for being a castaway and for death. I don't know why I find that consoling but I do.

4.
The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed (#32 on the list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time), and I've chosen this CD over all the others Stones CDs mostly for "Gimme Shelter" (#38 on The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list), and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (#100). Both songs will speak to my situation, plus I think I'm going to need the raw energy of the Stones to get through the day.

5.
Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul/Aretha Now. This is a 1995 CD that combines two 1968 albums: Lady Soul, which was released on January 22, 1968 (#84 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time) and includes Carole King's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," (inspired by the 1963 March on Washington where MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech) and Aretha Now, released on June 14, 1968, which includes "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Night Time is the Right Time."

 

 
 

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