Songs That Everybody Must Hear to Better Themselves (Or at Least Ease Their Whining With)

Hello everybody! This week we say goodbye and good riddance to the holidays, especially Christmas, which you’re probably sick of reading about it here and everywhere else. Although, I suppose you could be a sentimental soul for Season’s Greetings, in which case it’s time to accept that the holidays are over and move on with the rest of us. What? What do you mean, “No. There is another?” And where do you get off reciting Star Wars lines to me? Oh, now I get it. You’re one of those people who don’t want to stop the festivities and latch onto the next available date to have a shindig for. You like to give one last hurrah before you lose the Hanuchristzaa buzz. You celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having a party, especially one that allows you to meet up with the people you actually wanted to see on Christmas (I mean, I love my family! I just hate how they drank all my beer. ALL MY BEER.) However, seeking to actively enjoy swapping out calendars is unnecessary and feels forced. Yeah, I watch the ball drop with my friends too, but if I didn’t have the 400 football games to look forward to on January 1st then I couldn’t care less if it is January 1st.

Maybe I’m too pragmatic. I’m always the first of my friends to say something like, “Time is constant, uncaring, and unforgiving. It moves forward at the same pace always towards the future. It is really just half of the measurement of space-time which takes into account where we are at a certain point in time…. blah blah blah Neil deGrasse Tyson said…. blah blah Stephen Hawking…. blah blah I know, nearly three hours and that shirt was ever affixed to his torso….”

Then again, maybe I’m just sick of the same old shit, different year cycle New Year’s Eve and Day are so branded with. Every year the people packing Times Square without yet realizing what horror they have gotten themselves into may be different, but I can’t tell watching them on TV. The celebrity guests and singers may be new to the whoever-the-hell’s whatever-body-motion-synonymous-with-popular-music-genre’s New Year’s Eve bash is on your favorite far-from-unique network, but I’ve seen them performing at this award show and that sports halftime all year long. Plus, they were on the ABC platform for the same thing last year. What’s so different now? Oh, you’re going to make yourself better this coming year? Right after midnight, of course. Sure. So you say you want a resolution, well, you know, we all wanna change our winter weight. Listen, resolving to make yourself and your world better – whether it’s a little or a lot at once – is an admirable thing, and I sincerely wish you the best with it. Make the most of your newfound confidence; rock that overly-expensive and thankfully easily opt out-able gym membership; be all that you can be in the Army! Whatever you set out to do to make 2015 your best year yet, you’ve got my support (Legal Disclaimer: Alex is not responsible for any actions that are considered rash and/or illegal that the reader may do in reaction to this, nor can he be held accountable for anything lost or stolen within the confines of this blog). Meanwhile, I will keep my tradition of not making resolutions as I always hope to better myself at all times of the year, even with the knowledge that my apathy will prevent this from ever occurring.

Fear not though! Tomorrow is a doper, phatter, latter day, and I am here for you! One New Year’s tradition that I do like is hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine” played right after everybody drops out – I mean, the ball drops. It’s not so much that I like the tradition as I like the song. “Imagine” is the best song John Lennon made after The Beatles split. Hell, it’s the best song he ever wrote, and it endures as one of the greatest ever written. It is truly beautiful, and sometimes I cry a little when I hear it, like how an incontinent geriatric piddles into an adult diaper every so often when it’s Newman-Redford movie night at Babbling Brook Retirement Home. It echoes throughout Times Square each year because it calls for the ultimate New Year’s resolution: a world where everyone lives in harmony. Hate and evil have no place in any paradise, even Lennon’s hippie-dippy dream of it. Again, I’m the guy playing the pessimistic realist card and pointing out how this seems to be a very unlikely scenario, yet even I think it’s one worth striving for. Hearing a song like “Imagine” helps to warm the heart and free the mind to be a little more open to pushing toward such a noble purpose as only the best songs can.

Today I have included a list of other (mainly rock) songs that I feel everyone should hear to help lead a better life for oneself and others. These songs aren’t all going to lift your spirits though. Some will, yet others will drop you right back down to Earth and put things in perspective, but we all need some leveling in our roller coaster lives, so buckle up, hang on tight, and let your ears take a ride in better living for now and forever.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones – Here is the happiest sounding reality check you’ll ever hear. Ironically, it comes from the band who yelled at you for attempting to make them see things realistically and to get their heads out of the, well, you get it. With this life lesson in missing out on your desires (or at least what you think they are) the Stones show that they’ve come far from complaining about their constant lack of satisfaction (which is an awesome song; I just felt like I needed to put a negative spin on something for the sake of contrast). “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is pretty clear from the get-go about its message, but it’s definitely worth taking a listen or two or 2000 to.

Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead – The Rolling Stones let us know that not everything works out as planned, but sometimes it still works out, occasionally for the better. Jerry Garcia and his Haight and Ashbury pals reiterate this by encouraging you to look on the bright side, remember that it’s not as bright as it can be, and relax with the knowledge that it’ll be alright after all. Got it? Whether you do or not, give it another listen because this one’s a good one and catchy too!

The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel – Whether you first heard it watching The Graduate, on the radio while driving through the American west, or being horrendously butchered by a barefooted wannabe bard strumming his second-hand acoustic against a blossoming dogwood on the quad on a sunny spring day at your college, Simon and Garfunkel’s best known song never gets old. The duo (well, mainly Paul Simon) had many meanings woven into their patchwork of words on every album, and you can decipher new ones with each return. Whenever you come back to this one that can make you feel small, angry, frustrated, enraged, confused, angsty, and in general like a person who has many more questions than answers be sure you turn off the lights and close your eyes to shut out the world and all its noise to listen to the sounds… of a guy named Art Garfunkel. Try not to focus on that aspect too much.

Night Moves” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Nobody looks back on his youth quite as profoundly yet simply in that old fashioned rock and roll as Bob Seger. This classic of summer nights as a fresh and frisky teenager in the Midwest is my favorite from him, and I think it merits a place here for the lesson of remembering your younger days with a smile, especially as you recall how blissful it was to have so few answers as you kinda sorta looked for some with the number one priority being directed somewhere farther south. When he sings “Waited on the thunder” he’s not simply talking about an approaching storm, or just how his load is about to blow; Seger’s singing about feeling love more than just physically. He’s a young gun at the beginning of the song, looking for fun and something more he hasn’t quite figured out yet. By the end he’s become wiser with age and thinks back fondly at the distant rumble of thunder. And while we’re on the subject of sounds bringing back sweet memories….

More Than a Feeling” by Boston – This is one of my favorite songs ever. I clearly really like all of these tunes to even think of including them, but this song is sooooo good. It’s not just that the guy who wrote it hails from the same hometown as I do, or that the song was possibly recorded in his basement there, this song has all the components of a rock and roll ultimate hit, but there’s something deeper in there than just wailing guitars. “More Than a Feeling” describes the indescribable sensation you get when you hear that song, or get in that car, or do whatever it is that really, really means something to you and touches you deeply with nostalgia.

Take It Easy” by The Eagles – This is my favorite song, my motto, my farewell greeting to friends, and my excuse for being lazy. There is such a thing as taking it too easy, and I think I’ve been firmly on the “too” side of it for many a year now. Still, as a registered lazitarian I can very easily spot people who take it too hard. I mean, they aren’t easy-going. There is a major grind in everything we do in our lives, from home to school to work and back home again. Even going on vacation is a chore sometimes! Anytime we can actually step aside, or in more drastic circumstances, flee far away from our tasking tasks is good for realizing that managing monotony is not all there is in life. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for society if you go bonkers trying to make the in-pile empty by the end of the day when you damn well know it’ll never stay that way. Just ask Newman how it goes. Oh, and to all of you aspiring to lose weight for next year: follow Wayne Knight’s lead. The man is Newman no more.

‘Heroes’” by David Bowie – David Bowie is the most versatile artist to ever walk the earth. Some of his songs are drug-fueled nonsense, some are drug-fueled brilliance, and some are magnificent blend of the two. I haven’t got Bowie’s music and remarkable transition of styles completely figured out, just as no one has Bowie figured out (probably most puzzled of all is Bowie himself), but with “Heroes” the gist is pretty clear. What’s more, the passion is there. He exalts the imperfect heroes who may die physically but who endure forever in a testament of love. Specifically this song was inspired by Bowie’s bandmates making out next to the Berlin Wall, but it represents the sentiment of love conquering all, even governments that quash freedom. Feel the music call you to action to sacrifice yourself with less finality. Be a hero anyway you can to friends and strangers alike. This doesn’t mean you should stand with your arms sprawled out in the back of a pickup traveling at high speeds screaming in joy while this song blares on the radio to feel alive, but I’ve already included a legal disclaimer, so I won’t belabor the point of caution by pummeling a no-longer living equine.

Ten Years Gone” by Led Zeppelin – Sometimes love works out just right and you and your missus or mister or unmarried partner or “we’re not putting a label on it even though we’ve been together eight years and have three kids” live happily ever til death does you in. Not always though. More often than we’d like we get the opposite where everything but death does the parting. Whether the break-up is sour or not, there is a lingering curiosity of your ex-whatever long after things have ended. Robert Plant thought about one of his old girlfriends ten years after they split and wondered if she ever did the same, so he wrote the lyrics to this song that Jimmy Page crafted the melancholy music to. It isn’t bitter, but it isn’t really regretful either. It’s just another older man musing on his younger days. He’s content where he is now, probably even happy, but that doesn’t stop the memories of that long-past love from resurfacing.

The Wind Cries Mary” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience – While we’re rolling along with soft music from a band that isn’t exactly known for slowing down (though they did on many occasions) we’ll ease into another soft serenade from the only Jimi (or rocker as far as I’m concerned) better with a guitar than Page. Not quite as clear lyrically, as Hendrix had a poetry all his own that was helped by a very active creative imagination (and occasionally some other factors). Possibly inspired by a fight with his girlfriend, I’m guessing there’s a lot more to this beautiful ballad since Hendrix could take the smallest thing and run with it. Some of the best and brightest – as in burned out too brilliantly and quickly – often did (“Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”). Whatever the start was, the finish is an incredible piece of soothing sadness that to me is a song of guidance and a reminder of that unforgivable onward march of time I described earlier.

Let It Be” by The Beatles – Just like my Christmas music post, I couldn’t include John and not mention the other Beatles. This song is an obvious choice to anyone who has ever heard it – which should be everyone. Of course I’ve assembled this list of songs in the hope that everybody listens to them and feels something more than sound waves stirring their tympanic membranes, but this one is really special. Paul McCartney may call upon wisdom from Mother Mary, but it doesn’t matter whom you ask for help with the big, little, and in-between decisions in your life. “Let It Be” is a great piece of advice and music, and this one comes from McCartney more than a Madonna. The best part of it all is that it’s not even the best song he wrote.

Hey Jude” by The Beatles – That honor goes to this greatest hit of the greatest band to ever pick up instruments. I certainly couldn’t leave out this gem of a song that does a better job of making everyone sing and sway in unison than “Imagine” or any other on this list. Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon, John’s son, in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce, the song (originally called “Hey Jules”) evolved into an uplifting jam session that has a coda longer than the actual lyrical body of the song. This makes it all the more remarkable that we all sing along to it for longer than it actually goes on. Why this song is so beautiful is hard to explain. Perhaps I’m at the end of my long trail of thought that I’ve sustained longer than anticipated (once more), or it could be that I’m just out of steam. But maybe, just maybe “Hey Jude” is that song that we all have more than a feeling for.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to have a happy new year doing whatever you do – just make sure you do it responsibly. I’m looking at you guys with your Jesus and hooker boots party! You know who are! To the rest of you (if there is a “rest a you”) disregard the latter sentence, but heed the former for sure. Questions, comments, nude photos (supermodels and Chris Pratt only please), and future topic ideas can be sent to Be sure to come back next year for more riveting writing, musings, and last minute post submissions.

Yours in unforgivable forward-moving space-time,


P.S. Go Bucks!


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