Listen Here is a monthly playlist picked and curated by members of the Deadshirt staff around a certain theme. This month’s theme is “Early Developments,” with a playlist selected by several Deadshirt staffers and curated by music editor Julian Ames.
April’s playlist theme was a little more personal than usual: songs that our parents introduced to us that influenced us from an early age. So Deadshirt staffers Dylan Roth, Mike Pfeiffer, David Lebovitz, Mike Duquette, and Julian Ames chose the songs with sentimental value and then waxed poetic about their childhood and what the songs meant to them. Then we took the songs and made them into the following playlist. We hope you enjoy it.
“American Girl” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
I can tell you my dad’s life story (in his words) from age four to when he met my mom, which is to say about my age. My mom is a little bit more of a mystery to me. I’m still learning new things about her from the seventies every time I pour my older brother a big enough drink. There are these times when we’re in the car and I’ll be a brooding pissant putting on a song I think she’d like so I can avoid conversation about my various debts and failed creative endeavors, and like finding the right angle to aim a flashlight at glass to split the beam into a rainbow some new dimension will just reveal itself. Once, we were coming home from our ritual Ruby Tuesday’s visit, and I had driving duties since I had limited my Long Island iced tea consumption for once, and I turned on Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” She did that thing Moms do when a good song they remember comes on: that one-hand-in-the-air-close-your-eyes-and-look-down-like-you’re-at-church move. When it opened up into the chorus we were singing along, and with no fanfare her voice spread open on sailed over mine and hit the harmonies and the backups like we had been doing this act for years. We had a thing and I didn’t even know it, because I’m her boy. – Mike Pfeiffer
“Tomorrow’s Coming” – The Modulators
When my parents were first dating, they were part of the eighties power pop scene in North Jersey. Dad managed and wrote songs for a band called The Modulators, co-fronted by my mom’s brother Mark Higgins and their high school friend Joe Riccardello. That’s how my parents met—I literally owe this band my life. So, as you can imagine, their music is very important to me, and will always hold a very special place in my heart. You wanna talk about music our parents gave us? Here’s the title track off of The Modulators’ 1984 LP Tomorrow’s Coming, co-written and produced by my father, Rob Roth. – Dylan Roth
“Paint It, Black” – The Rolling Stones
My introduction to music was my parents’ collection, essentially Baby Boomer chic, so The Rolling Stones were a big part of my musical diet growing up. Though I generally try to avoid greatest hits records nowadays (the context of the album is just too important to me), my parents’ CD of Hot Rocks 1964-1971 played a giant role in shaping my musical tastes, even if, for some reason, we only had the first disc. As a tween, I gravitated towards “Paint It, Black” in particular. Part of this was because—and I know this sounds cliche—I was a depressed-as-all-hell kid who wanted something dark and moody without the burgeoning emo aesthetics of the era. But more than that, it had a sound unlike anything else on the record, and was a remarkably accessible use of the sitar for someone who wasn’t quite ready for George Harrison’s deeper Beatles cuts. Sitar aside, I’m relatively certain that I could track my eventual love of dark-yet-substantial artists such Nick Cave and Tom Waits back to this track. In retrospect, it’s comically brooding, but it’s still a damn good song. – David Lebovitz
“September” – Earth, Wind & Fire
My parents grew up in the disco era, and even though they tried to stay in touch with current music, the majority of music they kept around the house was stuff they enjoyed back then. I would hear the music they would play around the house and when I was in the car with them. I specifically remember “September” because at one point in my childhood it became my song. I don’t remember how or why (I was born in November), but it was definitely a song my parents put on for me. Nowadays I don’t listen to much Earth, Wind & Fire, but I do remember this song fondly. – Julian Ames
“You’ll Never Know” – Kim Richey
I think one of the ways you know a song comes from your roots and not from your own experience is when you feel weird about playing it for your friends. My mom’s musical taste and my own overlap a lot, and she introduced me to some of my favorite artists and albums, but Mom’s always been just a little bit country and while I appreciate that kind of music, it wasn’t something I particularly identified with. It was with Mom that I first heard Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss, and this track by singer-songwriter Kim Richey off her 1995 self-titled debut. “You’ll Never Know” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking love song that I have, to date, never shared with any of my friends, because it just felt so far off from what we listen to together. Anyway, folks, here’s a little piece of my heart that’s been locked away til just now. Thanks for this one, Mom. – Dylan Roth
“It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – Celine Dion
I’ve reached the point in life where I won’t get huffy about music, both my fiercest obsession as well as the thing paying my rent. Defining what’s “real” rock and roll? Take a seat, pal. Complaining about your favorite band selling out? Start welcoming new fans instead. Compiling a list of “bad” songs you like? If they give you joy, I don’t see the point. (Ouchie. -Dylan) You can pin this anti-contrarian bent on a lifetime of soft-rock listening in my mother’s car. Call it Stockholm syndrome, but Barry Manilow’s MOR balladry, Kenny G’s smooth instrumentals, and Celine Dion’s theatrical vocals have all earned a place in my own personal listening habits. (I’ve seen both Barry and the “G” in concert; my brother called the latter show one of the most insane shows he’s ever been to, outranking a set by Anthrax that resulted in at least one head injury.) Ultimately, Celine is the closest to my heart as an artist that was contemporary when I was a kid; also, she straight-up sang over a 1988 Jim Steinman track in 1996 (complete with Todd Rundgren vocals and piano from Roy Bittan) and took it to No. 2. That’s delightfully crazy. – Mike Duquette
“Bad” – Michael Jackson
I’ve been a Michael Jackson fan since I was a toddler. Apparently, I, at one point, knew the dance for “Billy Jean” and did it the first time I saw myself in a tux (I was the ring bearer in a wedding). But “Bad,” and the album of the same name, is the MJ track I remember most from my childhood. I remember staring at the album’s cassette case for hours in my dad’s car admiring Michael’s dope jacket (this is probably what lead to my more recent obsession over seventies and eighties punk style). I’m guessing the repetition of “I’m bad” in the chorus, and the fact that it came first on the album, helped imprint the song in my young mind. – Julian Ames
“Be My Baby” – The Ronettes
Even as a pre-teen, well before someone gave me a platform to write about dead talk shows, I was always big into research and pop culture history. I’ve always had a thing for classic rock and innovative production, so it wasn’t long until I came across Phil Spector. “Be My Baby” (specifically off of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack) was the first song my dad played for me when I asked him to explain “the wall of sound.” We should all be so lucky to have such an introduction. I don’t know what I can say about “Be My Baby” that hasn’t already been said: it’s the Platonic ideal of a pop song, and pop music has spent fifty-odd years trying to replicate it. Fun fact: backup vocals were provided by Darlene Love (no surprise, given Spector) and VERY early career Sonny & Cher. – David Lebovitz
“The Promised Land” – Bruce Springsteen
This month’s theme really threw me for a loop, because so much of my musical identity is inherited from my parents, incredibly passionate listeners who have been in the music business for 35 years. Up until I started swapping mix CDs with friends in college, about 90% of the music I enjoyed was brought to me first by Mom and Dad, from Muddy Waters to My Chemical Romance, so trying to distinguish between “my” stuff and “their” stuff is damn near impossible. But if I had to pick one artist that I love that truly belongs to my dad, it’d have to be Bruce. I’ve seen The Boss perform live eight times, always with my father, who himself is a 250+ show veteran. It’s through Bruce Springsteen’s music that I feel like I best get to know my father, his background, his values, what he believes in. This track, “The Promised Land,” is probably the purest example of The Boss’s sound, attitude, and ethos. – Dylan Roth
“Metal Guru” – T.Rex
I have my dad’s copy of The Slider from the seventies. I honestly can’t remember if I stole it from his collection or if he passed it along willingly, but now it’s in mine. It’s an artifact; the lyrics on the inside of the gatefold cover are etched with ancient penned-in notes indicating what members of the neighborhood crew were represented by which songs. I didn’t have a digital copy of The Slider until years after I had started listening to it, so for a long time, if I wanted to hear T.Rex I had to wait for an empty house, perform a dusty ritual involving three separate pieces of equipment manufactured before I was born, and lie on my back between the speakers until it was time to flip to the other side of the record and end the black mass. Side One is where it kicks off in paisley pinwheels of Eddie Cochran, breaded in glitter and deep fried in champagne. “Metal Guru.” A silver-studded saber-toothed dream. Dropped in the water in 1972 and sending out ripples to me a quarter century later. – Mike Pfeiffer
“Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.
There were exactly two things I knew how to listen to on my parents’ hi-fi system: a 45 RPM single of Huey Lewis & The News’ Back to the Future theme song “The Power of Love,” and the soundtrack album to Ghostbusters, featuring Ray Parker Jr.’s deathless theme tune. To say both had an incredible influence on my tastes would be a dramatic understatement. From that day forward, I began to cultivate strong opinions on the music of the 1980s (the spot where technology and artifice caught up to each other to create music that both represented its time period yet, in some cases, sounds ageless to this day), and I also developed a neurotic dislike for songs out of their original keys (a by-product of forgetting to change the speed on the player between records). Ultimately, while “The Power of Love” did forever carve out my definition of cool, it would be Ghostbusters that changed my life, planting the seeds for a career I never thought possible. – Mike Duquette