(NOTE: Based on today’s The Daily Post writing prompt)
One of the keys to my productivity is often turning music up to a volume that would have most parents, including my own, warning me about the dangers of hearing loss. I get an album or playlist going and just let it ride, earphones in place and just let it ride. I know this is isn’t exactly something that’s unique to me but it’s a setup that helps me tune out the rest of the world, gets my adrenaline pumped up and allows my creativity to flow efficiently.
Without rehashing the famous “These go to 11” line from This is Spinal Tap, here are some of the songs that I find there’s no sufficient maximum volume for. However loud I can get the sound turned up, it’s not enough. I want an extra boost, which then also won’t be loud enough and will have me wishing I had more room to grow.
Rush: Time Stand Still
This isn’t Rush’s biggest hit and I could easily pull out three or four other songs from the band that would qualify for this list. But this one, particularly the live version from the 2011 Time Machine Tour album, kicks me in the ass every damn time. That’s especially true of the chorus and guitarist Alex Lifeson’s chord progressions, which just hit me right in the gut. They open up the whole sound of the song and move in just the right way to compliment Neil Peart’s drums and Geddy Lee’s vocals.
The Who: Baba O’Riley
There’s no bad version of this song, in my opinion, but when you look at a live version of this from the band’s earlier years, before they added so many side musicians, you really get a sense of how powerful it is. John Entwistle’s bass carries a lot of the weight before Pete Townsend comes in, but it’s Keith Moon’s relentless cymbal use that sets it apart. He spends the whole song with his crash cymbals providing a white noise background for the tune that’s every bit as effective as the “Wall of Sound” popularized by Phil Spector and others, but without all the studio work.
Def Leppard: Hysteria
It’s not a hard-rocking anthem like some of their songs, but this title track off the band’s 1987 album always worked for me in a way those other songs didn’t. It’s the perfect song for driving down the highway on a summer’s night with the windows down.
Between Angus Young’s relentless guitar part that creates the height to which the rest of the song must reach and the simple, unflashy drum part, this defines for me the idea of musical tension. Even when it breaks into the chorus the it never lets up, never dropping below a level of intensity. That hi-hat, though, keeps the song driving toward the finish. You listen to other songs and the hi-hat will open before a cymbal crash or as the chorus begins. This one stays closed and sets the tone for the whole sound.
MercyMe: So Long Self
Look, I just love the groove on this song, OK?
Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
There’s a style of music I love where it sounds the whole thing is floating along like a log on the river. This is a great example of that. While the drums keep that driving beat, the bass stays high and isn’t concerned about a deep groove, all at the time the piano is gliding along on top as if it’s sunlight playing off the waves, always visible but never tangible. When the chorus comes in and the vocal harmonies kick in there’s nothing better.
Led Zeppelin: Kashmir
Come on, do I need to explain this one? John Bonham’s incredible drumming and John Paul Jones’ minor chord progressions in the chorus and damn…
U2: Where the Streets Have No Name
Another one where no explanation should be needed. It starts out and just keeps running to the very end, never letting up, all driving toward that finale. There’s a moment a couple minutes in where Adam Clayton slides up on the bass that makes me cringe in delight.
There are more, of course, but this is a good list of the kinds of songs that get me pumped up and energized. They’re the ones I’ll break headphones over. They’re the ones where I want to feel the frame of my car rattle because the volume is so high. They’re the ones that speak to me in some way and for some reason, making music very emotional for me.