The Final Playlist

Ever since I first saw this man’s story on TVO a couple of years ago, I’ve been thinking about what I would want on my final playlist when my time comes. My grandmother has been living with dementia for years, and I asked family members if there was anything she would like to listen to. Answers ranged from, “I don’t know,” to, “I don’t think she’s ever liked music.” Now, I’m of the belief that there’s nobody alive and with working ears who has never liked music, so I find that hard to believe.

If I get old enough, the time will come when I will be stuck alone in a room with nothing to do and no way to move on my own. I’d hate to be at the mercy of someone like… well, like me, ignorant to something basic as what kind of music a person might like to listen to. To that end, I’ve been putting a Final Playlist together that consists of songs I can listen to all day, that remind me of certain times, people, feelings. Then it occurred to me that the more people who knew about my playlist, the better — there might be someone out there with an extra whatever-replaces-iPods-in-40-years device to send my way.

Anyway, here are just a few of the tunes I’ve added to the ever-growing list. I’ll probably post a few others on the ol’ blog as time goes by.

John Williams – Star Wars Main Title

Despite some of the bad things that have been done to Star Wars in the past decades, six-year-old me still feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when that first orchestral blast hits. Star Wars (before it was given an arbitrary episode number and subtitle) was the first movie I saw in theatres. The soundtrack was the first 8-track tape I bought with my own money. For almost 10 years, every toy, book, record or school supply I owned had a Star Wars logo on it, and all the music I listened consisted of John Williams soundtracks — SupermanRaiders of the Lost ArkE.T. Even Jaws, before I had seen the movie. In fact, I probably saw Jaws way too young and, like many kids, had shark nightmares for months. Anyway, the Star Wars theme is a must for my final playlist.

The Cult – Sun King

In the ’80s, I went straight from listening to John Williams soundtracks to dive into the vast sea of nameless and forgotten hair bands that passed for “metal” at the time. For the most part, my Walkman went from one lame guitar-based power ballad recorded off the radio to the next. I’m sure at some point, I had heard songs by The Cult before 1989, but I wasn’t really aware of them. Not until, on the advice of a friend, I picked up the Sonic Temple album, having never heard a note of it before. Once this song opened up after, “This is where it all ends,” all the pop-metal I’d ordered from the Columbia Tape Club over the preceding years suddenly became irrelevant.

Emm Gryner – Stereochrome

To be honest, there’s going to be a lot of Emm Gryner in my final playlist. I’ve been a fan since I first heard her Science Fair album back in 1999, and have everything that she’s released, including 2005’s The Great Lakes, which was a limited edition, home-burned, hand-stamped album. In fact, the only thing I’m missing that I’m aware of is her first-ever album, And Distrust It, from 1995. I’ve never been able to find it. I think a couple of the tunes made it onto her best-of compilation, but it’s just not the same. Anyway, “Stereochrome” is on Science Fair, and one that I listen to and sing along with often.

DJ Schmolli – Rock of Ages

A lot of the songs in this mash-up are going to make it on the list in their own right. There is a lot of classic stuff in here. DJ Schmolli has packaged them all into a mash-up that I find absolutely addictive. I can’t help but smile when I crank this one up.

Whitesnake – Here I Go Again

Those who know me know I’ve never been a fan of music videos. For the most part, I find they add nothing to the experience of a song. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” was a video that absolutely ruined a song for me. When I was in high school, this song spoke to me, perfectly catching, in music and lyrics, the angst and isolation I had been feeling for years. When I saw the video, I was livid. This asshole is singing about being alone while in a muscle car licking some supermodel’s thigh?! THAT’S WHAT HE CALLS “ALONE”??!!?! I was consumed by the anger and betrayal that only an indignant teenager could feel. I did manage to forgive, though. While I still think the video is pointless fluff, this is still one of my favourite songs of the era.

Waterboys – The Whole of the Moon

This song hit the airwaves almost on the day I met who I consider to be the first real love of my life. When I hear it now, not only does it remind me of her then, but it makes me think of how, even years later, on the exceedingly rare occasions that I run into her, she’s still the only woman in the room.

VNV Nation – Airships

When I first discovered this song, only about two years ago, I played it non-stop for almost four days. I still haven’t come up with the right words to describe exactly what it is that draws me to it. Lyrically, it’s a prose poem I find very descriptive and visual. The music sounds almost alive, like breath, like flight. The song carries me away like… well, like an airship.

Blue Rodeo – Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Blue Rodeo is another band that will have a very large presence on my final playlist. They were my first real concert when I saw their Diamond Mine tour at 18, and I’ve seen them on all manner of stages in bars, music halls and open fields over the past couple of decades, all the way to their 25th anniversary show at Massey Hall earlier this year… or was it late last year? I forget. Time flies.

The Killers – Human

Another recent addition to the list. I just really like this one because it reminds me of so many great nonsense alternative love songs from the ’80s, especially Alphaville’s “Forever Young”.

As I said, a small sampling of a playlist that’s already up over 100 songs. I’m pretty sure the devices of the future can handle a few hundred more. If I have any good stories to tell about other songs as they come to mind, I’ll be sure to blog about them. One thing is for certain, though… I’ll have plenty to listen to when I’m old and bed-ridden.


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