Theme Songs

Theme Songs

To the reader: For some reason, this page got erased. It is being fixed, courtesy of the Wayback Machine, but please bear with me as I work on it.

As Chris Rock so elegantly puts it: “You are always going to love the music you were listening to when you first got laid.” But that is only some of the music you are always going to love. You’re also always going to love the first music you ever realized you loved, the music that you were listening to when you broke your heart and didn’t get laid, the music from the movies and shows that stirred your soul, the music you were listening to when you realized your divorce wasn’t going to kill you, the music you were listening to when you lost your parents, and on and on.

Pace Shakespeare, the music that sticks with you isn’t just the food of love but of learning and hate and rivalry and excitement and grief, the music from the marching band you cheered your team to, the music in your head when you saw that especially stirring sunset. It is your personal soundtrack. When you play back that soundtrack, you may be reminded of feelings and moments forgotten.

These songs are important pieces of my soundtrack. In the postings linked to below, I try to tell what’s special about the music, and the moments that made it special to me. Why go to the effort? The answer sort of became apparent to me after I started: I wanted to convey what it has been like to be me, and somehow the concatenation of the music, the cultural moment, and my personal stories works out to be a good way to tell that tale.

And why share? I think everyone’s story is special and important, ergo mine is too. (As De|Phazz sings: “You’re so special/Just like everybody else.”) Most of us lack the time or inclination to tell our own tales. But here, in my seventh decade, I have the time (if I get down to it) and the inclination, and this blog is the tool. And maybe no one else will read it. But I gotta tell it.

That said, I hope you will read it. I do write not just to express myself, but to express myself to others.

A technical note: I wish I could embed the music right in these postings, but there are both copyright and bandwidth issues; I’ll be looking into these, but for the moment, I just link you to where you can buy this music or view a YouTube video that leaves the copyright and bandwidth headaches to others.

I intend to add at least one post every month to this list, starting at the beginning, in 1954. So keep coming back. And please share your own comments.

Here are the songs:

The Fifties

  • Best of HumphSnake Rag, recorded by Humphrey Lyttelton 1950, encountered 1954: “I didn’t know that a group of Brits covering Armstrong and Oliver wasn’t supposed to be good.  I just knew I liked it a lot.” Also, a more basic discovery: I learn to run the record player. (How to Work The Mechanism, May 2010)
  • Walton-Henry-V1Henry V: London 1600, by William Walton (1944), encountered 1956?: “William Walton draws us in: to the Globe Playhouse, to the London of 1600, to Shakespeare’s great war yarn … and to the London of my earliest youth.” (O for a Wooden O, May 2010)
  • The Soundtrack AlbumRichard III: Death of Richard and Finale, by William Walton (1955), encountered 1957?: “A funeral march that turns into a coronation march. No wonder I wanted a crown …” (A Boy Could Dream, July 2010)
  • Gypsy CoverAll I Need Is the Girl, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Music by Jule Styne, Sung by Paul Wallace (1959), encountered 1960?: “What the music was meant to be about: the miraculous, partly healing, partly wounding powers of showbiz razzamatazz.” (Impossible Elegance, September 2010)
  • WindjammerWindjammer (The Ship), by Morton Gould (1958), encountered 1960: “Rolling arpeggios, a haunting theme, spectacular effects, Detroit at its swankiest, and my dad …” (A Stately Roll, July 2010)

The Sixties

  • Best of Lawrence WelkCalcutta, by Heino Gaze, performed by Lawrence Welk (1960), encountered 1961? Appreciating Lawrence Welk’s version of Calcutta, I could advance absolutely no claim of listener sophistication. “However intelligently constructed, it is musical kitsch, and one has to start with that.” (A Kitschy Glide, September 2010)
  • FantasiaCDcoverPolovetsian Dances, by Alexander Borodin (1890) and The Sorceror’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas (1897), encountered 1961? Music to read Tolkien by. (Dances for Tolkien, September 2010)
  • A Saturday TraditionTemptation, Music by Nacio Herbert Brown (1933), arranged by Jerry Bilik (ca. 1962?), performed by the University of Michigan Marching Band, encountered 1962?: “Standing on that field under a darkening, cold sky, with the indomitable sound of those drums and tympani shaking the earth, mischance is being defied. For a moment at least, Michigan, and I as one of its fans, are transcendent. The universe is ours. Go Blue!” (The Ground Was Shaking, September 2010)
  • Judy at CarnegieMarlene at Cafe de ParisDo It Again, by Buddy DeSylva and George Gershwin, sung by Judy Garland (1961) and Lazy Afternoon, by John Latouche and Jerome Moross, sung by Marlene Dietrich (1954), both encountered 1962? Trying to figure out girls with a little help from Judy and Marlene … (Previews of Love, October 2010)
  • Anything GoesI Get A Kick Out Of You, by Cole Porter (1934), sung by Eileen Rodgers (1962), encountered 1962. When the object of your very juvenile affections doesn’t reciprocate. (“Patricia,” November 2010)
  • Make Way for Dionne WarwickWalk On By, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, sung by Dionne Warwick (1964), encountered 1964. Sixties pop sweeps me off my feet, I choose a very favorite song of all, and I begin to learn some important lessons in taste. (The Greatest Song(s), December 2010)
  • Meet the BeatlesAHardDaysNightUSalbumcoverA Hard Day’s Night, by the Beatles (1964) and Not A Second Time, by the Beatles (1963), encountered 1964. In which I am lured into Beatlemania by an interest in one particular girl. (Kind of a Big Deal, January 2011)

  • Wonderful World of JobimSamba do Avião, by Antonio Carlos Jobim (1965), encountered 1965. The stereophonic effect, the bossa nova, and faint echoes of Jet Set glamour. (Stereo!, January 2011)
  • Satisfaction(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, by the Rolling Stones (1965), encountered 1965. All about going nowhere on a hot summer night, watching a band — NOT the Stones —  that’s doing something …  (On a Losing Streak, January 2011)
  • Look At UsI Got You, Babe, by Sonny & Cher (1965), encountered 1965. Obsessing about one girl, kissing another, and not getting to be Sonny & Cher. (“Kate,” Part I, February 2011)


  • Rag Doll Four SeasonsI’ve Got You Under My Skin, by Cole Porter, sung by The Four Seasons (1966), encountered 1966. When Frankie Valli’s falsetto meets Bob Crewe’s re-engineering of Cole Porter, the perfect theme music for unattainable desire results. (“Kate,” Part II , February 2011)


  • BuckinghamsKind of a Drag, by the Buckinghams (1966), encountered 1966. No, it turns out, frequently means no, and, wistful songs aside, it will all eventually end in the rear-view mirror anyhow. Thank goodness! (“Kate,” Part III, February 2011)
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights BackupCalifornia Girls, by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, sung by the Beach Boys (1965), encountered 1965 (though this is about 1966!). Getting to second base — and third base — on Michigan’s Left Coast. And thinking it through with help from the real Left Coast. (Rounding Second Base, February 2011)
  • Don't Be ConcernedElusive Butterfly, by Bob Lind (1965), encountered 1966. A song for the hopeless but optimistic romantic — not me — that made me think about someone else. (Someone’s Hopeless Romance , March 2011)
  • Fantastic Jazz HarpEssence of Sapphire, by Dorothy Ashby (1965), encountered 1966. The impression I got of Dorothy Ashby’s harp was that she had some abnormal number of fingers and strings to syncopate with. (An Unexpected Open Door, March 2011)
  • Blow-Up SoundtrackMain Title to Blow-Up, by Herbie Hancock (1966), encountered 1967. Swinging London and modal music lay down markers in my imagination. (A Brief Glimpse, March 2011)
  • Sgt. PepperSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the Beatles (1967), encountered 1967. A first hearing of a strange and wonderful album just after my high school graduation, by a cold pool on a warm day, with foamy Vernors by my side, convinces me that this moving on business may have a lot to recommend it. (My Pepper Moment, March 2011)
  • Best of the Lovin' SpoonfulRenaissance AssociationDidn’t Want to Have to Do It, by the Lovin’ Spoonful (1966), encountered 1967, and No Fair At All, by The Association (1967), encountered 1967). Spending a summer on a doomed writing project, trying to revise the history of the girl that got away. (Summertime Betwixt and Between, March 2011)
  • Brubeck Plays Bernstein Plays BrubeckDialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra: III — Adagio-Ballad, by Howard Brubeck, performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with the Dave Brubeck Quartet conducted by Leonard Bernstein (1961), encountered 1966(?), re-encountered 1967. How the Brubeck Quartet and the NY Philharmonic helped me deal with the dawning of college life. (An Empty Room, Green Trolleys and Brubeck, April 2011)

  • Magical Mystery TourBlue Jay Way, by George Harrison, sung by the Beatles (1967), encountered 1967. My imagined Ivy League paradise turns out to have some horrifying dragons lurking in it, and I can’t look away, or get George Harrison’s earworm out of my head. (Earworms, Musical and Otherwise, April 2011)
  • Something GoodI’m Into Something Good, by Carole King and Jerry Goffin, sung by Herman’s Hermits (1964), encountered 1968. In which I discover how much dating has to do with social class, and how much social class has to do with me. I learn that sometimes one cannot bring oneself to cash in on one’s cachet, and that that can be the thing that tell you you’re into something good.  (The Social Life and the Sex Life of the Collegian, June 2011)
  • Bringing It All Back HomeOpen Driscoll CoverIn and Out, by Brian Auger & The Trinity (1968), encountered 1968, and Gates of Eden, by Bob Dylan (1965), encountered 1968. My own infelicitous choice for stage music, and someone else’s better one always make me think of putting on undergraduate dramatics, and the lessons I learned there. (Theater Days, May 2011)
  • Mann Standing Ovation at NewportWe and the SeaComin’ Home Baby, by Ben Tucker, performed by Herbie Mann (1966), encountered 1967, and The Hill (O Morro), by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius deMoraes, performed by The Tamba 4 (1968), encountered 1968. The excitement of sharing jazz discoveries at college. (Sharing, May 2011)
  • Song to a SeagullNight in the City, by Joni Mitchell (1968), encountered 1968. End-of-semester blahs, staying with a friend after finals to finish a Philosophy paper, frustrated by Joni singing about how exciting the big city can be at night. Not in my world right them. (School’s Out, July 2011)
  • Beat of the BrassThis Guy’s in Love With You, by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1968), encountered 1968. Slow-dancing on the sand: An apparently perfect day and perfect date remembered and misremembered. (Slow-Dancing On the Sand, July 2011)
  • Zodiac Cosmic SoundsLook AroundCapricorn: The Uncapricious Climber, by Zodiac (1967), encountered 1968, and So Many Stars, by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Sergio Mendes, performed by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, sung by Lani Hall (1968), encountered 1968. About experiencing music in the dark, one piece a psychedelic thrill, the other decidedly not, but just as evocative at the time for a straight boy with some misgivings… (Music in the Dark, August 2011)
  • Maiden VoyageMaiden Voyage, by Herbie Hancock, performed by Ramsey Lewis (1968), encountered 1968. Thanks in good measure to Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis and Minnie Riperton, and my girlfriend’s record collection, and Macke Vending, I became an intellectual … and a coffee addict. It paralleled the love affair with drugs every other addict describes.  Ecstasy those first few times, diminishing returns of bliss thereafter, lifelong servitude nevertheless. (Of Love and Caffeine, August 2011)
  • Sweet CarolineCrimson & Clover CoverWhat Does It TakeSweet Caroline, by Neil Diamond, Crystal Blue Persuasion, by Tommy James & the Shondells, and What Does It Take (To Win Your Love For Me), performed by Jr. Walker & the All Stars (all 1969), encountered 1969. My first car takes me on the high road to an early adult funk, as I am lovesick on the shop floor of an auto plant. (Lovesick on the Shop Floor, September 2011)
  • Abbey RoadChicago Transit AuthorityHow Can You BeCome Together, by the Beatles, Beginnings, by Robert Lamm, performed by Chicago Transit Authority, and How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All, by The Firesign Theatre (all 1969), encountered 1969. All right, so there were lies, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll in our first off-campus house. Your point being …? (House of Song and Laughter, October 2011)
  • Elton John Self-Titled CoverRoad Paul WinterThe King Must Die! by Bernie Taupin & Elton John, performed by Elton John (1970), encountered 1970?, and Icarus, by Ralph Towner, performed by the Paul Winter Consort (1970), encountered 1971. I wanted the Golden Age of 3-minute AM singles never to end, and instead I was getting Elton John saddled with Bernie Taupin’s terrible lyrics and New Ager Paul Winter, who was wonderful but refused to be rock. (The Age of Dross Begins, December 2011)

The Seventies

  • Stand UpReasons for Waiting, by Ian Anderson, performed by Jethro Tull (1969), encountered 1970. For a blissful afternoon, aided by some nonpareil Pennsylvania landscape and a flourish of flutes, I forget my young adult cares. Who knew a trip to the DMV could be so therapeutic? (Finding the Main Line, January 2012)
  • CarpentersCarly SimonFor All We Know, by Fred Karlin, Robb Royer & Jimmy Griffin, performed by Larry Meredith (1970) and The Carpenters (1971), encountered 1970 and 1971, and That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, by Carly Simon & Jacob Brackman, performed by Carly Simon (1971), encountered 1971. Deciding to get married: a tough moment. (We First, By Ourselves, April 2012)
  • ImagineImagine, by John Lennon (1971), encountered 1971. Trying to get my life going, I find myself struggling with The Draft. Then, an unexpected reprieve. And the lessons that I learned. (Imagining a Lot(tery), April 2012)


  • Still BillLean On Me, by Bill Withers (1972), encountered 1972. Thanks to Deconstructionism, Mister Softee, Hurricane Agnes, and one really inane song, my life takes a turn for the worse. (Deconstructed, May 2012)
  • Ram McCartneyRam On, by Paul McCartney (1971), encountered 1972. Music from an unfamiliar place helping me through an unfailiar place. (Ride Away, July 2012)
  • Bernstein MassJerusalem of Gold A Simple Song from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, Performed by Alan Titus (1971), encountered 1972, and Sharm el Sheikh, by Ran Eliran (1967), encountered 1972. Trying to get comfortable in an interfaith marriage with an assist from some Jewish music. (Trying to Have It Both Ways, July 2012)
  • TrilogyAbaddon’s Bolero, by Keith Emerson, performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1972), encountered 1973. A shaggy dog story of young people without enough friends leveraging their helpful elders to get together — and share records. (Someone Must Have Sent That to Kemp, Or, Not Enough Friends, August 2012)
  • If Jacket FrontDockland, Music by Darryl Runswick, Lyrics by Lee Crabbe, Performed by If (1970), encountered 1974. A U.K. visit as a literary man, meeting novelist Kingsley Amis for a right-wing good time, being recruited for an academic faction and more dubious pursuits by a failing scholar, and encountering one brilliant song. ( At the Apex , November 2012)
  • CaravanseraiEternal Caravan of Reincarnation, by Michael Shrieve, Neal Schon & Tom Rutley, performed by Santana (1972), encountered 1975. Walking through the simmering heat to a new house, and parenthood. (Through the Heat, January 2013)
  • VicesBlack Water, by Patrick Simmons, performed by The Doobie Brothers (1975), encountered 1975. Desperation and temptation on the job search trail, with self-knowledge of an uncomfortable sort the result. Once you know what you want and are capable of, and once you accept the limits on your marketability, you don’t forget. (Bat’s Squeak, March 2013)
  • How Deep Is Your LoveLibbyLibby, by Carly Simon (1976), encountered 1976, and How Deep Is Your Love, by the Bee Gees (1977), encountered 1977. Finding a real job, courtesy of Who You Know — and finding I didn’t know who I was anymore. Which could be a good thing or a bad one. (Who You Know, March 2013)
  • Joyce CarrIt Never Entered My Mind, by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, performed by Joyce Carr (1981). Not really about me; about a marvelous singer I crossed paths while we were working as court reporters in D.C. (A Silenced Songbird,  April 2013)
  • Conquistador FergusonGonna Fly Now, by Bill Conti, lyrics by Carol Connors & Ayn Robbins, performed by Maynard Ferguson (1977), encountered 1977. My immersion in the joy of running and the joy of new fatherhood. (Parenthood on the Hoof, May 2013)
  • GalaxyThe Seven Tin Soldiers, by WAR (1977), harmonica solo by Lee Oskar, encountered 1978. Playing along with Lee Oskar helps me mourn the unimaginable loss of a father. (A Half Day, May 2013)
  • ExtensionsBirdland, Music by Joe Zawinul, Lyrics by Jon Hendricks, performed by The Manhattan Transfer (1979), encountered 1979. When I get to law school, the world opens up, intellectually, occupationally, and musically. (Something I Was Good At, June 2013)
  • Chuck Mangione Live at the Hollywood BowlChase the Clouds Away, by Chuck Mangione (1978, released 1979), encountered 1981-82. Hubris begets infidelity. (AWOL, July 2013)

The Eighties

  • Pops in Space

Superman Love Theme, by John Williams, performed by John Williams and the Boston Pops (1980), encountered 1982. It seems like flying, for a moment. (Superman, August 2013)


  • PasticheWho, What, When Where, Why, by Rupert Holmes, and It’s Not the Spotlight, by Gerry Goffin and Barry Greenberg, both performed by The Manhattan Transfer (1978), encountered 1983. I end up on the ground, bewildered. (Nightmare Time, August 2013)
  • Caverna_MagicaCaverna Magica (… Under the Tree — In the Cave …), by Andreas Vollenweider (1983), encountered 1983. The acquisition of my first personal computer is as absorbing and exciting as a cave adventure. (A Break in the Clouds, August 2013)
  • Pursuit of HappinessGuitars, by Rupert Holmes (1978), “encountered” 1983. Drawn to a stranger in a chance encounter in the night. (A Net in the Night, October 2013)
  • Breaking Away
Teach Me Tonight, by Sammy Cahn and Gene De Paul, performed by Al Jarreau (1981), encountered 1983. A song that made me forget for a moment how the clock was running down on an affair and a marriage. (Halloween, October 2013)
  • Metheny TravelsAre You Going With Me?, by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, performed by the Pat Metheny Group (1983), encountered 1984. To leave a marriage, you need courage, logistical skill, and cash. And the greatest of these is courage. The “walking music” in this number helped fuel that courage. (Walking Music, December 2013)
  • PassionfruitAlone at Night, written and performed by Michael Franks (1983), encountered 1984. Music for hurrying to reconstruct a life — while sitting still. (Hurrying Sitting Still, January 2014)
  • Never Say Never AgainMain Title – Never Say Never Again, music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, sung by Lani Hall, trumpet solo by Herb Alpert (1983), encountered 1984. In which a mentally-ill aunt and I have a moment of togetherness, courtesy of some fleeting favorable circumstances — and James Bond. (Glad-Eyes, February 2014)
  • Purple RainPurple Rain, by Prince & the Revolution (1984), encountered 1984. Lincoln, Nebraska: A cathartic, blissful week mirrored by a cathartic song. (Catharsis, March 2014)
  • Windham Hill 84Aerial Boundaries, Michael Hedges’ breakthrough song of 1984, seems to name something impossible, but it doesn’t. You can have boundaries in the air, you can have Hedges’ astonishing guitar technique, and, if you’re me in 1984, you can overcome the stresses of career and divorce with New Age serenity. (A Measure of Serenity, March 2014)
  • Moscow on the HudsonI Don't Speak The LanguageFreedom, by Dave McHugh, performed by Chaka Khan and Michael Rod (1984) and Break My Stride, by Matthew Wilder (1983), both encountered 1985. I was a student of divorce and breakup for a while. These songs were a part of the process. (Worked for Me, June 2014)

The People That You Never Get To LoveThe People That You Never Get To Love, by Rupert Holmes, sung by Susannah McCorkle (1981), encountered 1984-1986. Playing the field has its fun, and its poignancy, and, if you’re lucky, its ephemerality. I experienced all three sides of it, all of them given their edge by this song. (Bliss Was It In That Dawn, June 2014)

  • The Camera Never LiesInnuendo, by Michael Franks (1987), encountered 1987. Leaving off dating around and getting ready to focus on one woman was a less-than-smooth experience, but the butterflies in it gave it the kind of charm Michael Franks also sang about. (Bumpy Landing, July 2014)
  • Kenny Drew JRBebel, by Antonio Carlos Jobim, performed by Kenny Drew, Jr. (1991), “encountered” 1988. Some think of storybook weddings; I saw our beautiful nuptials as a kind of movie, with Drew’s soaring music as the background for our end titles. (Reader, I Married Her, August 2014)
  • 61ftJh73WOL._SL500_AA280_The Chairman Dances, by John Adams, performed by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Edo De Waart (1987), encountered 1987-1989. Adams’ fantasia of Chairman Mao doing a foxtrot with his wife was playing a lot as I drove to western Maryland repeatedly to defend the railroad against claims by former employees arising from asbestos exposure. Whatever it meant to the old gentlemen who were suing their former employer which had largely abandoned them and their towns, to me the experience was catnip: travel, learning how to build a database, reading medical literature, getting to know the folkways of the Appalachians, exploring old railroad shops. (Cumberland Days, September 2014)

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