Sunday, March 15, 2009

Depressed and in Love: The Song-List Books of Tom Reynolds

I've been having a great time this weekend reading I HATE MYSELF AND WANT TO DIE: THE 52 MOST DEPRESSING SONGS OF ALL TIME and its sequel TOUCH ME, I'M SICK: THE 52 CREEPIEST LOVE SONGS OF ALL TIME. Reynolds, listed in the books' bios as a musician, former technical director of The Groundlings, and a TV writer-producer, tackles his subjects with a mixture of sociopolitical commentary, techonological musical explanation, and sheer snarkiness that's a riot to read.

Some of the songs on his list are obvious. Who could disagree with "Seasons in the Sun," Vicki Carr's "It Must Be Him," or the Cure's "Prayers for Rain" (or any other Cure song, for that matter) as depressing songs; or "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, "Run for Your Life" by the Beatles, or "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" by The Smiths for creepy love songs? (Actually, there's a noteable dearth of Smiths/Morrisey songs in the depressing songs book, even though songs like "Every Day Is Like Sunday" and "Girlfriend in a Coma" were guaranteed party-killers in the eighties. Reynolds explains in the second book that he had a whole chapter in the first devoted to The Smiths; but that he had to remove it, for unspecified reasons.)

But there's also the surprising selections, the ones extremely subjective to Reynolds. For instance, he includes the Jim Steinman composition "Total Eclipse of the Heart" among his "perfect storm" depressing songs, mainly because he finds the bombastic delivery of it exhausting. ("Listening to it is like an opera company bludgeoning you with copies of Anne Rice novels," he writes.) And then there's Paul Anka's "(You're) Having My Baby" in the creepy love song category, which I never really thought of as a CLS but pretty much qualifies; and "Muskrat Love," both versions, which always struck me as more insipid than creepy; and "Ben" by Michael Jackson, which I never even thought of as a love song (but as one delivered to a man-eating rat, by Jacko, is creepy indeed); or even Maurice Chevalier's rendition of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" from Gigi.

The only problem with these books is that as soon as I got them I pretty much dropped everything else and read most of both. Highly recommended.

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