Friday, August 26, 2011

A Hurricane Playlist

I admit it.

I am a breaking news addict. Compounding this is the fact that my parents are semi-professional weather watchers and Middle Babe is beginning to exhibit weather obsession tendencies as well.

Which means that right about now, the only thing on my mind is Hurricane Irene.

I'm up in the bungalow, scheduled to spend the weekend in the Urban Bungalow. Little Babe and I had planned to drive in around 5ish. Now, however, I'm wondering about the wisdom of this plan.

I'm possibly influenced by my mother's 8 a.m. panicked phone call and visits to half a dozen websites where phrases like "nightmare scenario" flew off the screen and stuck in my brain.

The trunk of the Honda is packed with water, pretzels, peanut butter, granola bars and other essentials. I will gas up before heading down to the city. But I am also thinking about stopping at Home Depot or Lowes in order to buy sheets of plywood.

For our apartment windows, of course, which face north and west.

We've got a great view of the Columbia University campus.

And that means that Irene might think we've invited her into our living room for Shabbos lunch or Sunday brunch.

Enough. I'm turning to music in order soothe my savage breast. Below, some suggestions to ride out the storm:

From Ben Greenman at The New Yorker, this coolness:

The iPod of the Hurricane: Songs for a Windy Weekend

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for caution. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency. And as Hurricane Irene moves up the East Coast, worried citizens are stocking up on supplies. In light of that, here is our Hurricane Irene playlist. We have excluded the Scorpions’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” and The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” Song choices are not meant to undermine the potential severity of the storm and should not be considered appropriate substitutes for water, canned goods, and batteries.

1. Wynonie Harris, “She’s Gone with the Wind”: Some people say Irene is the biggest storm since 2005. Others believe that it’s the greatest threat since 1985. And some are reaching all the way back to 1944, to the Great Atlantic Hurricane. This Wynonie Harris song dates from the following year.

2. The Delfonics, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”: It’s the supreme seventies sweet-soul anthem. Aretha Franklin has covered it, as has Millie Jackson. It’s also the song that makes Max Cherry fall for Jackie Brown. In this video clip, William Hart’s beard looks like a map of a hurricane. (A live version is below.)

3. Ella Fitzgerald, “Ill Wind (You’re Blowing Me No Good)”: Ella was a hurricane herself, and her version of this Harold Arlen song is filled with gusty vibrato. But it’s also full of rue and regret. Frank Sinatra also sang it, as did Tony Bennett, as did everyone else.

4. Robin Williams, “Blow Me Down”: Harry Nilsson wrote the soundtrack for Robert Altman’s doomed adaptation of “Popeye,” and this breezy song is one of the highlights, though Robin Williams’s performance of it in the film is—like the rest of the film—somewhat ramshackle. Nilsson’s version is available on various bootlegs.

5. The Carpenters, “Rainy Days and Mondays”: Irene is probably coming Sunday to the New York City area, but that seems like a quibble.

6. Tom Waits, “Blow Wind Blow”: Tom Waits just announced his new album, “Bad As Me,” in which he will deliver yet more of his trademark mix of junkyard rock and blues ballads. This official video for this song—which appeared on “Franks Wild Years” in 1987—features Waits, balloons, ventriloquist dummies, and top hats. There are no hurricanes, though there is a big fan.

7. Ian Hunter, “Irene Wilde”: The obvious choice would be “Goodnight Irene,” the folk standard originally recorded by Lead Belly, popularized by the Weavers, and covered by everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to the Meat Puppets. But if it’s Irenes you want, why not try out this Ian Hunter love song, here performed live with Mick Ronson.

8. Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”: It’s easy to pick a Dylan song, but hard to pick the right one. Not “Hurricane”: it’s not about weather. Not “Blowin’ in the Wind”: there’s weather, but it’s political, metaphorical, and, by this point, cliché. Not “Shelter from the Storm”: too obvious. Not “Idiot Wind”: too long. In the end, we parsed lyrics, and found three candidates: “The wind began to howl” (from “All Along the Watchtower”); “I’d jump up in the wind, do a somersault and spin” (from the early “All Over You,” recently released on the Witmark Demos); and “The wind knocks my window, the room it is wet,” from this plaintive, sometimes bitter ballad. It’s about the late Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s early-sixties girlfriend, and Dylan later looked back on it with regret: “Oh yeah, that one! I look back and say ‘I must have been a real schmuck to write that.’ I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I’ve written, maybe I could have left that alone.”

Or this from an NBC blog:

Who’ll Stop the Rain?” - Creedence Clearwater Revival: A natural fit for the upcoming dumping we are about to receive. This song is an open plea to Mother Nature in the hopes she will take it easy on us.

Katrina” - Black Lips: This is just a reminder to all the New Yorkers bemoaning our current forecast; we’ll never have it as bad as the city of New Orleans did in 2005.

Riders on the Storm” - The Doors: As you can imagine there is going to be a lot weather related tracks on this playlist and it wouldn’t be complete without this psychedelic jam.

Let’s Get It On” - Marvin Gaye: If you are lucky enough to be shut in with a loved one throughout the course of the storm, there is no reason you shouldn’t work on making a little Irene of your own.

Entrance Song (Rain Dance Version)” - The Black Angels: If you get bored during Irene, blast this song, make a headdress and dance around your living room giving yourself credit for the weather event.

Blizzard of ‘96” - The Walkmen: At the end of the day there is one thing about this rain that can make us all happy – it is not snow.

Summertime” - Sam Cooke: Though all may seem bleak, don’t forget that next week should be a breeze and it leads into the final blowout weekend of the summer which is followed by a short work week.

The Rain” - Missy Elliot: By Sunday evening you’ll be taking this chorus as gospel and even if you can’t stand this track, you can certainly kill some time watching Missy’s entertaining video.

Hurricane” - Bob Dylan: Yes, I know this song is originally about Denzel Washington and not a weather event, but we are taking the liberty to alter the meaning of this great poet’s song to fit our current situation.

Singing in the Rain” - Gene Kelly: There is no reason to let the rain get you down. Take a page from this classic, get on the street and dance around like a kid hitting every puddle in your path.

Or this more extreme list from Grooveshark.

Stay safe and dry, New York! May Irene inspire us all. In a good way.

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