Monday, June 14th, 2010

Lev Grossman’s Real Life Rock Top 10

That’s right I alluded to Greil Marcus’s Believer column in the title of this post. Who’s going to stop me? You? You?

I thought so.

Point of interest: my six-month period as a punk (late 1992-early 1993) was not caused by my listening to actual punk music. It happened because I read Lipstick Traces, Marcus’s insanely great book about how punk was a natural outgrowth of the 20th century avant-garde movement that began with Tristan Tzara and Dada. In other words I found the theoretical foundation of punk so convincing I felt I had no choice but to become one.

I was a crap punk. But did that paradoxically make me even more punk?

No it did not.

I’m in Seattle today, reading at the great Elliott Bay Book Company. I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years, owing to Microsoft and Nintendo being here. Plus I’m drawn moth/flamewise to the psychic energy generated by the presence of the Penny Arcade/PvP collective.

Also to the Bloody Mary’s at the Edgewater, an otherwise crap bar rendered great by the view and the fact that the Beatles once stayed there.

Sorry, this is becoming episodic. I will close by saying: if you ever want a glimpse into the dark backward and abysm of your own musical taste, try sorting your iTunes music library by play count. The abyss will stare back and it will say: you’re not as cool as you thought you were.

Here’s what the abyss said to me.

1. Parry Gripp, “The Girl at the Video Game Store.” Play count: 61

Actually I’m proud of this one.

2. Regina Spektor, “The Calculation.” Play count: 49

3. Regina Spektor, “Blue Lips.” Play count: 47

4. Regina Spektor, “Dance Anthem of the 80’s.” Play count: 44

God, I really murdered this album last summer. These aren’t even her best songs. These aren’t even the best songs on this album. Except for “The Calculation.”

5. H.M.S. Pinafore, “When I Was a Lad.” Play count: 43

Jesus Christ! I’m not a Gilbert and Sullivan person. Seriously, really not. There’s just something satisfying about this song. You can almost hear how happy Gilbert was when he hit on that “partnership/ship pun.” Plus, you know, little kid, car trips. Fuck it I really can’t explain this one.

6. The Decemberists, “O New England.” Play count: 37

7. Regina Spektor, “Eet.” Play count: 36

Look, I have a crush on Regina Spektor. All right? She has a weird Russian-Queens accent. And she can do this.

8. Swish and Flick, “Swish and Flick.” Play count: 35

I’m actually surprised this one isn’t higher up. Swish and Flick is a wizard-rock hip-hop duo, and if you don’t know what wizard rock is, go google it, be shocked, get over it and come back. Swish raps from the point of view of a slutty Slytherin chick — she’s the Lil’ Kim of wizard rock — while her husband vocodes in the background.

9. They Might Be Giants, “Seven Days of the Week (I Never Go to Work).” Play count: 34

Well, I don’t.

10. Regina Spektor, “Folding Chair.” Play count: 33

The first time I ever did ecstasy was at a Regina Spektor concert. Listen: I don’t run around “doing ecstasy” all the time, but I was in my post-divorce mulligan period where nothing counts, and so was the person I did it with, so that makes it a double-mulligan, which I think legally excuses everything up to (but not including) aggravated manslaughter. Anyway I wasn’t that clear on what I was taking, and anyway the stuff was like 10 years old. We didn’t even think it would work. (I learned later that ecstasy is actually an unusually stable molecule. Doesn’t decay. Huh.)

Mostly what I remember is clapping and not being able to feel my fingers.

Oh, and I also remember yelling “I love you Regina!” But nobody noticed, because they were all yelling it too.

9 comments on “Lev Grossman’s Real Life Rock Top 10

  1. JSE says:

    CJ and I went to the TMBG family show here, and afterwards he made a very deep point about “I never go to work” — he said “His job is playing rock and roll, so he’s wrong, he IS going to work.”

    That same thing happened to me with Lipstick Traces, by the way. Only rather than changing any of my behavior I just concluded that my sympathy for the theoretical foundation was so great that I must always already have been punk, in every respect.

  2. Leverus says:

    I want to see the Jordan Ellenberg real life rock top 10. or wait, I forgot, you’re so punk you only listen to cassette tapes.

  3. Church says:

    “Jesus Christ! I’m not a Gilbert and Sullivan person. Seriously, really not.”

    The lady doth protest too much.

  4. JSE says:

    I’m listening to “Footloose” on cassette right now, which I’m pretty sure makes me the heir to the most opaque and cranky of the Situationists.

  5. Leverus says:


  6. M says:

    i had a short punk period, by wearing too much eyeliner and reading too much about sid vicious and nancy grungen. i didn’t care for their music.

    but being a punk, is to really rebel and study hard for my SATs.

    regina spektor was on the 500 days of summer sound track, that’s how i know her..or was it Yes Man? Either way it was a Zooey Deschanel film

  7. M says:

    p.s. you’re only a 3 hour drive away tonight!

  8. John Scalzi says:

    There’s no DragonForce on this list, Lev.


    We can never be friends again.


  9. Leverus says:

    I’m sorry you had to find out this way

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