WARMER MIXTAPES #1281 | by Tamara Laurel McGuckin [Tamara Laurel]
1. Elton John | Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
I can’t remember the first time I heard this song, but I know that the first time I listened to the lyrics, it completely sidelined me. I had just spent three months roaming New York City and Southern Connecticut in pencil skirts and blazers, selling advertisements for a huge international company. I was fresh out of College and desperately trying to work this stressful job for 10 hours a day and then completely switch hats and write songs and perform at night. I felt a pull that I wanted to be a musician, but I knew walking away from a cushy job I was lucky to have was a huge risk. Listening one night, the lyrics really resonated with me, and with chills covering my whole body, I started the process of completely changing my life.
While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky/But they can't and that is why
They know not if it's dark outside or light
To me, this was a sad story of these kids in New York chasing paper, following their parents’ banker and lawyer dreams, getting off work long after the Sun had gone down. I realized that’s what I was building my life into, and I took a big left turn that fall, quit that job, and started seriously studying Music.
This Broadway's got/It's got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in/I'll go my way alone…
It just all felt so relevant. I think that’s the mark of a talented songwriter; when you feel like they’ve written the song just for you to hear. This is one of my favorites.
2. Kings Of Leon | Revelry
Ahhh, I love this song so much. It’s the melody, the lyrics, and Caleb’s vulnerability that get me. The phrase Dreaming of Revelry is just such a beautiful way of saying what he’s saying – that he’s sorry for breaking up with a girl in favor of drinking & doing drugs. There’s something about a hard, Southern man singing about regret that causes a stir. It’s so lovely. I hear this song and I’m on a run on the Tolt Pipeline trail behind my parent’s house in Seattle, in late November, on a break from College, being rained on, thinking I need to cool it with the drinking and partying, and write songs like this instead.
What a night for a dance
You know I’m a dancing machine
With the fire in my bones and the sweet taste of kerosene
The muted guitar accents during the bridge and the ghostly oohs during the chorus lift the melody in a way that I don’t think I will ever tire of.
Run, baby, run like a stream down a mountainside
With the wind at my back I don’t ever even bat an eye
3. Jason Isbell | Relatively Easy
This one is just my type of song – production, theme, voice – I LOVE it. I know I’m certainly not the only one, but the first time I heard this song, I was crying by the second verse. I stumbled upon Jason’s album Southeastern (which is INCREDIBLE) two days before I was set to release my debut EP Lightning earlier this year. I was stressed, upset, and unpacking from a two-week trip spent with both my family and someone I love very deeply. I sat there, alone in early January, and heard the words to Relatively Easy...
I lost a good friend
At Christmas time when folks go off the deep end
His woman took the kids and he took Klonopin
Enough to kill a man of twice his size
Not for me to understand
I remember him when he was still a proud man
A vandal’s smile, a baseball in his right hand
Nothing but the blue sky in his eyes
Not only is this poignant and beautiful storytelling, but it’s expert songwriting as well – the ability to talk about something perfectly without ever saying the word; suicide in this case. The pre-chorus immediately following this says,
Take a year and make a break
There ain’t that much at stake
The answers could come relatively easy
There’s something wonderful about hearing a song exactly when you need to hear it, and this album changed me as a songwriter and as a person. Compared to the rest of the World, no matter what you’re dealing with, we all have it relatively easy. Beautiful message, beautiful song.
4. Bruce Springsteen | Thunder Road
I was 18, in rural Maryland with my Mom, and laying my Grandfather to rest. We stopped at a record store in Baltimore and she bought me Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits CD. The woman LOVES Bruce Springsteen. I played it over and over and over again, every single song. I still listen to it... All. The. Time. Thunder Road felt so relevant; so real in that moment between teenager and adult. From the piano and harmonica to his voice to his honest and visual lyrics...
You ain’t a beauty, but, hey, you’re alright
Oh, and that’s alright with me
This song was my anthem that year. It also was a big moment for me as a listener– realizing that the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus formula I had heard so much in my life was not necessarily the only way to write a song. That’s what I love about Bruce so much. He’s a true storyteller and his songs reflect his complexity in a listener-friendly way. That is what I aspire to. That’s also why I named my touring guitar Spruce Springsteen.
5. Bob Dylan | Lay Lady Lay
I was falling in love with someone new after a difficult and transitional few months of my life, and emotionally was all over the place. I put this on in the car one night driving home from Hollywood and the first lyrics I consciously heard were
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you're the best thing that he's ever seen
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man a while
I almost had to pull over. It kills me every time, it’s so beautiful. Thank God for Bob Dylan.
6. Gillian Welch | Look At Miss Ohio
Gillian Welch – how amazing is this woman? I love this song. It’s a battle cry for the rebellious woman. It’s a simple song, but she’s simultaneously rejecting the notion of young marriage and settling down and opting to run off and do things on her own timing instead. It's subtle Feminism. Gonna drive to Atlanta and live out this fantasy... Running around with her... Rag Top down... Ya, I wanna do right, but not right now... I heard this song when I was living in the South and feeling out of place for chasing a dream instead of wanting to settle down. Whenever I felt like I didn’t belong, I’d put this song on, go for a drive down I-30, and plan my escape.
I know all about it
So you don't have to shout it
But I'm gonna straighten it out somehow
Yeah, I wanna do right, but not right now
7. Elvis Presley | Suspicious Minds (Mark James Cover)
I was 16 or 17, and we had just connected our computer to these big speakers right by the kitchen at my parent’s house. While we made dinner, my Dad would sometimes let me play a couple of songs through the speakers. Of course, he wanted nothing to do with the Rap and Pop Music I was into at the time, so we usually settled on Suspicious Minds by Elvis and a couple of Elton John songs. My brother was just a toddler at the time, and I can just see all of us gathered around the kitchen screaming, We can’t go on together with suspicious minds!!!... One night, I was singing the pre-chorus, which I honest-to-God thought was We’re calling a cab. My Dad corrected me (it’s we’re caught in a trap), and we laughed and laughed and laughed. This song takes me back to the brief eternity that exists between childhood and adulthood, when you’re still so dependent but can’t wait to get out on your own.
8. Emmylou Harris | Easy From Now On
I found this song – or this song found me – right around the first time I ever went through a break up. I was really young and not quite attune to the fact that Life does go on and Love does come around again after heartbreak. I played it over and over and realized that while she’s sad, she’s also speaking from this beautifully strong state...
Quarter Moon in a ten cent town
It’s time for me to let my heartache down
Saturday night, I’m going to make myself a name
Take a month of Sundays to try and explain
Those lyrics are some of the most clever and poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, and this song is one I come back to often. My favorite line...
When the morning comes, and it’s time for me to leave
Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a wild card up my sleeve.
She’s tough. She’s sad, she’s lonely, but she’s tough. She’s saying, It’s going to be easier without you!... I just love it so much.
9. Tori Amos | A Sorta Fairytale
Chills. This song is so beautiful. What a talented woman. I’ve been known to indulge a bit too much in Sadness and Nostalgia, and this song is the perfect companion to that. I’m so sad... Like a good book I can’t put this day back... A sorta fairytale with you... A sorta fairytale with you. The cadence of her melody while she’s singing, I’m so sad is so perfect; so emotional. Also, she has this full version with the sneaky third verse. I love it when songwriters do that. Breaking the rules! I was 16 when I first heard this, and people were growing up and leaving our small town. To me, it was about being left behind while everyone else moved on. I ride along side, and I rode along side you then... And I rode along side till you lost me there in the open road is the most fitting way to put that feeling to Poetry.
10. Fleetwood Mac | Silver Springs
My best friend Ashley in High School introduced me to this song. It was a really rainy day in Seattle, and we played it over and over again just to sing along to that chorus. That’s the thing – Stevie Nicks makes you work to get to that chorus, which is one of the best I’ve ever heard. You are woven through 2 minutes and 12 seconds of verse before it hits, and you only hear it one more time after that. It’s genius songwriting; you just want to play it over and over again. I don’t think there’s ever been a more poetic other-woman or scorned-lover song...
Don’t say that she’s pretty
Did you say that she loves you?
Baby, I don’t want to know
I also love...
I'll follow you down til' the sound of my voice will haunt you
You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you
I think every girl has had her Silver Springs moment.
+11. Jimmy Buffett | A Pirate Looks At Forty
My siblings and I spent the best moments of our childhood summers in the back of our parents’ car, road tripping across America. With Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hits album on repeat, we grew up watching the World go by out the window. Naturally, we all know every word to his songs, and they all bring back so many amazing memories. For some reason, I’ve always related so much to this song – it still hits me hard, even after years and years of listening.
Yes, I am a pirate two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over forty victim of Fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late
In College, the lines...
I have been drunk now for over two weeks
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I've got to stop wishin'... Got to go fishin'
I'm down to rock bottom again
Just a few friends, just a few friends
...Took a whole new meaning. It’s about Self-Destruction and Missed Opportunities and lamenting the Progression of Human Race that his personified ocean has witnessed. It’s subtly genius and so beautiful.