Music for the Long Haul

Some tunes for the eternal desert island.

The 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination last week reminds us that Baby Boomers are getting old É and ugly.

Well, some of us have always been ugly; now the rest are joining in. And believe me, despite your best and most vain efforts, it's coming. Botox makes everybody look like Gloria Allred; fake breasts look stupid on women of all ages; and the idea of cosmetics for men is like É cosmetics for men!

This is, without a doubt, the most disappointing generation in the history of mankind. You know, when you're coming down on a 3-on-2 fast break; the ball's in the middle of the court in John Stockton's hands; and Karl Malone and James Worthy are filling the lanes? The phrase, "We've got numbers" (numerical and often skill-level superiority) just pops into your head.

Well, we had numbers and we just sort of frittered it away.

We were the largest generation in history, moving through the world like a pig that had been swallowed whole by a snake. We were the best educated, most free and most technologically advanced generation ever, and we could have been a political and social juggernaut. But, we mostly blew it.

Well, even if we've sucked as a generation, one thing you can say is that we've had a great soundtrack. That's why, as we approach death en masse, I think we should think about our headstones. Instead of having the choice between "John Smith--Had Ideals, Sold Out" and "Megan Jones--Had Ideals, Never Really Figured Out What to Do With Them," we should all put on our headstones our favorite albums. That way, people walking by the graves can glance down and know all there is to know about us. They can say, "Oh, Bill there was a Kiss-Whitesnake-Aerosmith guy. He sure must have looked stupid when he was 50."

Anyway, think about three or four albums that you would put on your headstone. Think about it as a variation of the question, "If you were stranded on a desert island for a year, what three CDs would you want to have?" Well, this is just a desert island FOR ALL ETERNITY!

My list of 10 or so (Hey, when you fall short of your promise and become a high school basketball coach and a columnist for an alternative weekly newspaper, you, too, can have 10 or so albums on your list) includes:

Average White Band. This is my favorite album of all time, a true soul/funk classic that mixes James Brown-inspired bass and horns, Smokey Robinson-like falsetto vocals and ballads and torch songs reminiscent of Al Green and Otis Redding. Plus, it has "Pick Up the Pieces," the hottest instrumental of all time.

This album came out when I was playing basketball and baseball at Cochise College in Douglas, where the only two radio stations were country and Spanish-language. AWB and Earth Wind and Fire's That's the Way of the World kept me going through those lean times. The band never returned to this level of excellence, partly because drummer Robbie McIntosh overdosed at a party after the band played the Whisky in Los Angeles. That's the party where Cher saved singer Hamish Stuart's life by walking him around and keeping him conscious. And how did Stuart repay his fans? By joining Paul McCartney and Wings!!! Don't tell me that drugs don't fry people's brains!

James Brown Live at the Apollo 1962. After Brown had whipped the audience into a frenzy, he pauses for a second as the JB Horns play a little riff in the background. Suddenly, a woman screams in ecstasy, and the crowd laughs nervously as though they're glad that she did it and not them. It's one of the great moments in live recordings.

Other live albums on my list are A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, featuring B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton; and The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East, which captures perfectly the odd yet magnificent phenomenon of white-trash Southern blues and showcases the genius of Duane Allman's guitar.

For a rootsy feeling, I like Texas Tornados and Los Lobos' How Will the Wolf Survive? These are basically two sides of the same coin, giving us the simple joys and heartbreaks that are known to the millions who live in the third country that is our Spanglish-speaking border region.

Dusty in Memphis is the sexiest album ever made, and, by a mile, the best album ever by a woman. When British-born Dusty Springfield coos "Come in, Baby" on "Breakfast in Bed," we're talking instant puberty. Plus, it has "Son of a Preacher Man," the sexiest song ever made.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. The first half of this album has some of the best big band/swing/blues/jazz stuff you've ever heard. Then, the same band switches over to straight-ahead country, including the cover of "Stand by Your Man" that provided the clever ending to the movie "The Crying Game."

Then there's anything by Van Morrison, a guy who turns out one masterpiece after another. I guess I'd go with Moondance, but his latest, What's Wrong With This Picture? on Blue Note is easily one of the best records released this year.

I'm running out of room, so for my last pick, I'll go to Napster and put together a compilation CD featuring the title songs from Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On? and AC/DC's Back in Black, along with selections from Creedence Clearwater's Bayou Country, Was (Not Was)'s What Up, Dog?, Steely Dan's Aja, Santana's Supernatural and the greatest hits of Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Simply Red and the Rolling Stones.

That should do it. But you know when you go on that long trip, and you get bored with all the stuff you brought, and you wish you had brought that one other CD? Well, I don't want that to happen, so I'm just going to die. See ya.

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