Nearly just one month ago I finally got around to finishing college and the act of graduating is all at once invigorating and utterly terrifying. I feel pretty good about finishing up my degrees and I’m definitely ready move on and do something new and different, but I’d be inhuman if I said I didn’t feel a certain degree of trepidation. This Thursday, I’m leaving Pennsylvania, where all of us at List Off went to college, and driving down to Florida where I have a temporary job that will take me through August. It’s not exciting work, but I am excited to get away from rural bumblefuck and cold weather and snow. After August I have no idea where life will take me and while there are certain people and circumstances that make me want to consider coming back to Pennsylvania, the truth is my future is completely up in the air.
It’s a long drive down to Florida, and I plan on going through a lot of music as I speed my way down I-95. These seven songs in someway or another encapsulate both my feelings of excitement and apprehension. While I am completely confident of my success, these seven songs will only serve to boost my assurance that I am doing exactly what I need to do. I try to go for broke in everything I do and I live with the consequences without any regrets. These seven songs understand how I feel and they will get me where I need to be.
Prove It All Night – Bruce Springsteen
Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist,
There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this,
But if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice,
But this ain’t no dream we’re living through tonight,
You want it, you take it, you pay the price.
If you’re a male in your twenties and you don’t like Bruce Springsteen I’m not sure that I know if I can trust you. More than any other artist I’ve heard, Bruce Springsteen understands what it means to be a man at an age where you’re trying to figure out exactly who you are, what you want and how to reconcile that with where you came from so that you can create your own future.
“Prove It All Night” is from Bruce’s best album, Darkness on the Edge of Town and really I could just fill this entire list with songs from that album and it would be okay, but there’s something about “Prove It All Night” that I’ve always really connected with. The first time I listened to the song, before I really listened to the lyrics, I felt that it was just innuendo for fucking. While there is a bit of that, the meaning of the song runs much deeper. The person you have to prove it all night to is yourself. No one just gets what they want, you have to work for it, you have to earn it. This song is a cry out against boring complacency, it’s a cry to reach for what you want, a cry to never give up and a cry to never settle for anything less than your heart’s true desire. At 22 years old I don’t plan on settling for anything right now. I know what I want in my life, and I’ll be damned if I give up before I get it.
Disorder – Joy Division
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know.
The lead off track from Joy Division’s first album Unknown Pleasures never fails to bring a smile to my face. There’s an upbeat, optimistic quality to the song, which runs quite contrary to most other Joy Division songs. The lyrics give off the slightest trace of melancholy but they’re also filled with desire. The desire to change, to make things better, there’s an excitement that runs rampant and this song knows exactly how I feel.
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho’ my life was in a rut
“Till I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey” he said “Grab your things
I’ve come to take you home.”
This song appears on Peter Gabriel’s first solo album and is essentially a declaration of his reasons behind leaving his previous band, Genesis. But while those are the specifics anybody can relate to the feelings Gabriel is expressing here. The uncertainty regarding our situations, the weighing of risks, being afraid to take a leap into the unknown. It may have seemed crazy at the time for Peter Gabriel to leave Genesis, but deep down he knew it was the right decision to make and so he took the risk and he made out okay. The worst thing in the world is to wallow away in complacency. Sometimes drastic changes need to be made.
This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks
This time to tomorrow where will we be?
When taken literally “This Time Tomorrow” is about venturing off in a space ship into the unknown. While space is the final frontier, a place of unknown vastness where possibilities are infinite, so are our futures. There is no knowing what tomorrow will hold and each day could be the start of something new. This time tomorrow where will we be? If you feel like you’re making the wrong decisions in your life or your squandering away your time, do something about it. Take the steps to do something different, to do something better. You don’t need a spaceship to escape to something new and unknown.
Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
and it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
We’re on a road to nowhere
I’ve always interpreted this song as being about accepting mortality and in that acceptance finding the strength to do what we need to do to make ourselves happy in the time that we have. We can sulk and mope and wish what could have been all we want, but the truth is that we only have so many hours alive here and we should take full advantage of the time that we have. There is no use wasting time pining over what could have been when we can be out there making things as they should be. I have regrets like any other person, but I try not to let them ruin me. There’s only one direction to move in, there’s no use wasting any time.
Desperados Under The Eaves – Warren Zevon
Still waking up in the mornings with shaking hands
And I’m trying to find a girl who understands me
But except in dreams you’re never really free
Don’t the sun look angry at me
Warren Zevon was my great musical find from 2011. Between his witty, biting lyrics and his romantic tendencies, he reminds me of Ernest Hemingway put to music. I was pleasantly surprised when reading the linear notes of his self-titled album to find out that I was not the only one who picked up on the Hemingway connection. Jackson Browne tells the story about how one time he was introducing Zevon to a crowd and declared that he was the “Ernest Hemingway of the 12 string guitar.” Zevon apparently later corrected him that he was the “Charles Bronson of the 12 string guitar.”
“Desperados Under The Eaves” is a bit more melancholy than the other songs on this list, but while it may be a bit more downbeat, it isn’t any less wistful. This song (which is very autobiographical) is from Zevon’s point of view and he acknowledges that he is a man who has made plenty of mistakes. While he made be hard on himself, he doesn’t sound like a man who will be down on his luck forever. In many ways Warren Zevon’s self-titled album is about the romantic myth of the wild west clashing with the harsh reality of life in Los Angeles. Zevon may have felt a sense of loss when his fantasy crumbled, but he knows that submitting to that sense of loss would be the death of him. When our dreams fail us, we have to push on. Zevon refers to himself as a desperado, and like that wild west archetype, Zevon knows that it’s better to live on the edge and go for broke than to live a life of mundane safety.
Running on Empty – Jackson Browne
Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave
“Running on Empty” is the first song on the album of the same name. While it’s Jackson Browne’s fifth album of new material, the entire album was recorded live. There is no set studio version of “Running on Empty” in existence, all that exists is the raw energy of the live performance. To me that seems incredibly appropriate.
Jackson Browne nails down exactly how I feel right now and I plan on starting my long trek down to Florida with this song. As I start my drive I will be putting the road and my life in Pennsylvania behind me and embarking on something completely new. The steps I’ve taken to get here have not been exactly conventional and that’s fine with me. I don’t know where this road will take me, I don’t know where I will be in a year, and I don’t know who will be in my life. But I do know who I am and I do know that this is what I have to do.
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too
Don’t settle for anything less than what you really want.