At Powell's Books yesterday, and came across, on the sale table, the title: I hate Myself And Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard, by Tom Reynolds.
Okay, so normally, I'm not much on arch criticism, but now and then, I succumb, and this was one of those times. I picked it up. My wife was still shopping, so I found a chair and started reading, thinking I'd leave it behind when she showed up.
I didn't leave it, though.
Reynolds, who is listed as a former country-western deejay and technical director of the sketch comedy group, The Groundlings, is snide and snippy in his lambasting of what he offers as the most downbeat songs, but is redeemed because now and then, the comments are funny.
If you are Mark Twain eviscerating Fenimore Cooper and can make me laugh out loud, you have my blessing to be as snide as you want. This isn't Twain, but Reynolds has his moments.
The literary guests at Powell's Beavo yesterday were Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, just on the other side of a bookcase from me, and I was laughing as I read. Barry and Pearson were funny, too, but my laughs were out-of-synch, and I'm sure somebody wondered who the unseen idiot was behind the writers who was either too quick or too slow to laugh at what they were saying ...
Reynolds offers divisions: I Was A Teenage Car Crash; I Hate Myself And Want To Die; I’m Trying To Be Profound And Touching But Really Suck At It; If I Sing About Drugs, People Will Take Me Seriously; She Hates Me I Hate Her; Horrifying Remakes of Already Depressing Songs; I'm Telling a Story Nobody Wants to Hear; I Had No Idea That Song was so Morbid; I Mope, Therefore I Am; and Perfect Storm.
He takes his choices in each category, breaks them down into a history, what the songs are about, and why he finds them depressing. Sometimes it is the material, sometimes, the delivery, sometimes a combination.
As in all such things, he is going to stick somebody's sacred cows, but he had me when the first ones he offered were a trio of what I've always called Teenage Death Songs -- Tell Laura I Love Her; Teen Angel, and Last Kiss. Same chords, same sequence, same speed, same story, Last Kiss is catchy enough that I started humming the intro and couldn't get it out of my head the rest of the day. Even now ...
Some of the inductees were #1 hits, by the by, and he skewers not just bad singers, but really good ones. Under the Horrifying Remakes section, for instance, there are six entries: All by Myself, by Celine Dion; Without You, by Mariah Carey; I Will Always Love You, by Whitney Houston; Landslide, by Smashing Pumpkins; and Send in the Clowns, by Everybody ...
One could argue about the placings -- I think Honey, by Bobby Goldsboro should be a notch or two higher than #3. And DOA, by Bloodrock should be in the top five, and only makes it to #6. A song about a guy killed in a plane crash -- from his point of view. Bloodrock, being a one-hit wonder, had to sing this dirge every time they were on stage and quickly got sick of it. They started telling their audiences they just weren't going to do it any more, and their audience disappeared like soap bubbles in the hot sunshine. What a shame.
Beth, by Kiss? A song about a guy telling his girl he's going to be late getting home from band practice? Are you kidding me? Band practice?
Two of the Dishonorable Mentions who didn't make the list and who should have -- Patches, about a guy on his way to commit suicide because his poor girlfriend killed herself when he callously dumped her; and Wildfire, about a girl who freezes to death in a blizzard while searching for her lost pony. She ran calling Wiiiiildfire!
His top choice? The Christmas Shoes, by Newsong, and I confess, I missed the story, song, book, and Movie of the Week all made for this one, and from his description, glad that I did. It's a song about a little boy who goes to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes so she'll look good when she meets Jesus, only he doesn't have enough money when he's checking out. Doesn't that sound like a real cheery subject? What kind of father sends his kid to the store alone on such a chore while his mother is dying, Reynolds wonders, and doesn't give him enough money? And are shoes really a deal-breaker for getting into Heaven?
Okay, so I'm flacking a guilty pleasure here, but if you come across this one, you might be warped enough to enjoy it, too.