It’s a dog eat dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing milk-bone underwear: An Anti-depressant Mixtape/Playlist

Blame it on the fact that I haven’t watched any Dark Shadows in months (yes, months) or the fact that I’m only up to my ideal weight if I were 11 feet tall or a complete lack of restful sleep or water retention, but all roads lead to acute depression and apathy. And while I (and you) may really just want to listen to Blue or “Waiting ‘Round to Die” on repeat, that’s not healthy behavior. (Not that I know anything about healthy behavior.) But you (and I) know that music can be a great mood alleviator, miracle aligner, what you will. So, gather ’round and have a listen to this group of songs all-but-guaranteed to pull you out of your funk. Save the marshmallows and chocolate for another day, my friend. (I know they’re the food group on the bottom of the food pyramid, but you need some balance in your life.)

1. ELO – “Mr. Blue Sky”  

Beatles influence (huh-huh-huh-huh): you’re doing it right.

Oh, to be a little Baby Groot and dance around the world without a care.

2. Crosby, Stills, & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” 

Opening track on your debut album: you’re doing it right.

Like, if the album ended after this song was over…I wouldn’t even be mad. I’d still snatch up every copy.

And as far as pet peeves go, number one behind all other drivers on the road would be individuals who choose to talk at any point during this song but especially the last ninety seconds or so. This is especially irksome when I have my headphones on. Like, why can’t you read my anti-social behavioral cues? Don’t interrupt my religious experience here. Oh va, oh va! Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo doo/Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo!!!!!!!!!

3. Harry Nilsson – “The Puppy Song” 

I don’t know, I just want to go outside and roll around with a dog.

And I’m not, even, like a dog person.

The power of music, man.

4. Ricky Nelson – “Raincoat in the River” 

Don’t act like you’re too cool to listen to Ricky Nelson ‘cos you MOST. DEFINITELY. ARE. NOT!! I SAID NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a little-known gem (in my wobbly universe where I don’t have a very firm grasp on reality, anyway) hidden on the slightly forgettable Love and Kisses album. But boy oh boy, if this song does not give you the will to live, I don’t know what will. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP ASAP.

Oh, and remember how in my last post I talked about how you have to accept people for who they are and love them anyway? That’s what I have to remind my husband of when he finds me dancing to this song wearing my sleep mask before bedtime. Don’t forget I gave up the chance to marry Marlon Brando or Ricky Nelson in the next life to marry you! You have to love me just as I am!!

Now the rain’s been drippin’
Drip drop a drippin’
Every day you’ve been away
Now the rain is stoppin’
No more drip drip droppin’
You’re back to stay
That’s why I say… 
I’M GONNA THROW 
My raincoat in the river
GONNA TOSS 
My umbrella in the sea 
The sun’s gonna shine like never before
It ain’t gonna rain, gonna rain no more
Now my baby’s come back to me

I may or may not have a complete dance routine for this song. Ricky’s voice just moves me.

Also, I hope you deeply (DEEEEPLY) appreciate how the last photo in the above video shows Ricky’s best side. Er, I mean back side. All of Ricky’s sides are the best sides.

5. Bee Gees – “You Win Again”

“They’re back to win your hearts and your minds with their new single, ‘You Win Again.’ Ladies and gentlemen, welcome…The Bee Gees!” 

ALWAYS THE SAME.

(If you don’t understand that reference, you clearly haven’t watched In Our Own Time enough times/as many times as me. Get on task!)

Not only is this song totally awesome and life-affirming, but this whole era of Bee Gees just might feature all of my style goals in the form of Robin Gibb (who else?). Confidence personified.

Ok, I can’t watch any more Bee Gees videos tonight. It will lead me down the rabbit hole of total Bee Gees obsession, and it gets worse every time. It’s really something only a cancer survivor would understand.

OH GIRRRRRL 

Thank you for existing, Gibbs.

6. Pulp – “Disco 2000” 

I don’t know, I just think I could sing along to this song all day, every day and never, ever be sad.

Oh, what are you doin’ Sunday, baby? 
Would you like to come and meet me, maybe? 
You can even bring your baby! 
Ooh ooh oh oh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh

Remember that scene in that one episode of Life on Mars (the original, superior UK version starring John Simm) where Sam, trapped in 1973, hears a snippet of this song on the radio in the Indian restaurant? No? I guess you haven’t watched that show as much as me either. Keep up, will ya?

7. The Style Council – “My Ever Changing Moods” 

The lyrics of this song are actually quite political and powerful, but what really makes this song an automatic anti-depressant for me is the flawless, tongue-in-cheek video featuring Paul Weller and Mick Talbot in a bike race. I can’t believe there are people on this planet who find it appalling and degrading to the song. How can you not adore this video? Paul Weller’s face with his mouth full of banana at 2:35? Please God, let me live again. It’s the best thing ever.

8. Wham! – “Last Christmas” 

This is another song where the video helps make it so inspiring. But there are also people who don’t like this song or video, and I am here to tell you that those people are wrong.

(Careless Whisper) Maybe next year… 

Gets me every time.

9. Hall & Oates – “Say It Isn’t So” 

Pretty sure this is the song I listened to repeatedly on the morning of my wedding. Does that mean anything, Dr. Crane?

The only downside to listening to this song is the moment when you realize you can’t dance as well as Daryl does with his own silhouette in this video. Life goals right there. You might get really discouraged and sad. Be careful.

Also, how scary is John when he creeps up behind Daryl and points as he sings “SAY”? Really scary and really, really creepy.

10. Peter Frampton – “Show Me the Way” 

Oh my gosh, if you are one of those people who thinks they’re too cool to listen to Peter Frampton, PLEASE GO AWAY. (Uhhhh, why does the above video have 2K THUMBS DOWN? Are you just jealous of PFramp’s awesome chest? Your internet privileges are hereby REVOKED so you can get some professional HELP!!!) But if you donated your copy of Frampton Comes Alive! to a used record store, THANK YOU because I probably bought it. (Nope, I still ain’t sayin’ how many copies I own.)

I just love it when this song comes on the radio. I just have to…wonder if I’m dreaming. I feel so unashamed. I can’t believe this is happening to me!

Ahhh, heaven. This must be what it is like.

11. The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” 

What a great pop song.

I could recommend watching The Monkeys as an anti-depressant, but I have learned to accept that it is an acquired taste for some not-so-blessed individuals.

And I may be in the minority opinion here (don’t know, don’t care), but I really think Season 1 is a better, more entertaining television show than Season 2, where Micky plugged his hair into a socket and walks around wearing a psychedelic tablecloth for most of the season. But the music? Definitely superior, and this is a great example.

12. The Beatles – “She Loves You” 

This whole playlist could be Beatles songs. The sound of my beating heart. My will to live.

But I had to pick an early, frenzied Beatlemania song because there is so much energy and joy in those early songs. People who stick their nose up at pre-Rubber Soul Beatles just might actually be worse than the demonic souls who don’t even like the Beatles. Get HELP!!!!!

13. The Beach Boys – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” 

Any version will do, but I am personally endorsing the stereo mix found on the 30th anniversary box set. Why? Because we like you, and Brian sings the bridge, therefore resulting in minimal Mike Love.

Pure bliss.

HIDDEN TRACK: BJ Thomas – “As Long As We Got Each Other” 

Remember when CDs would have hidden tracks? That was super annoying. I’m glad it’s not a thing anymore. Not that I really know because I don’t buy that many CDs. Anyway…

I love having this song stuck in my head. Quality of life improved tenfold.

I know there are many more songs that could qualify for this playlist, but my sleep mask is calling to me…

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Debbie’s Choice

We live in a world where Robert Redford’s face exists, radiating light and beauty, Jonathan Frid was Grand Marshal of at least one parade, and, in 1968, twin brothers Robin and Maurice Gibb were contestants on an episode of The Dating Game–and, 45 years later, we are able to watch that episode via the Internet. (Thank you, Chaplinssmile1 for recording your television and uploading this gem! You are a star.) We live in a wonderful, wonderful world.

The gist of The Dating Game is this: There is a single contestant and a panel of three bachelors. The contestant and the panel do not see one another, and the contestant asks each member of the panel individual questions. Based on the answers to these questions, the contestant selects which bachelor she would most like to date, and the show supposedly sends them on a date.

At the start of the show, the host introduces us to the contestants: “There’s no mystery about how The Bee Gees got their name. It was brother Barry Gibb and two other people who supplied the moniker. Now the big mystery this evening is whether our lovely young lady will choose one of the two Bee Gee brothers…or our Olympic Gold Medal winner.”

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Left: Bachelor #1, Maurice “Mo” Gibb, Right: Bachelor #3, Robin “Hunky” Gibb. Not pictured: Bachelor #2, Some Olympian Whose Last Name Is Not Gibb.

I think its no mystery whom I would pick. Ha ha. But who will the contestant, Debbie, pick and what kind of questions will she ask?

The first question Debbie asks Bachelors 1 and 2 is: What do you like most about the dark?

“Well, I love gathering lilacs in an old brown shoe. Basically. In the dark,” Mo answers nonchalantly.

Uh, okay.

Then Debbie asks Bachelor 3 (ROBIN), “If you came over to my house and my mother was playing cards with a tomato and my father was talking on a banana and I was wrestling with a grapefruit, what would you do to fit into the family?”

Ummm….WHAT? I know it was the ’60s and everything, but did contestants not have to pass a drug test to be on this show? Seriously. What the heck, Debbie? You are so weird.

Robin, though, is good-natured about it, and says he would join in. When pressured by Debbie to define what exactly he would do in order to fit in, Robin tells her that it wouldn’t really matter what he did with a family like that–he could do just about anything. You tell ‘er, Robin.

And if that question wasn’t weird enough, Debbie then asks, “If on our first date, you kissed me and I turned into a flower, what kind of flower would I be and what would you do with me?”

This is literally Mo’s face while Debbie asks the question:

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“Get me out of here!” Me too, Mo. Me too.

“You’d be a rose and I’d water you,” Mo replies. Can you believe this guy would one day write “Closer Than Close”? I think Mo must have borrowed Robin’s sass for this show.

Debbie asks some more really weird questions, and then she concludes her interrogation with, “I love soft things, so say the softest thing you can think of to me right now.”

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“Cushion. C-U-S-H-I-O-N.”

(Dear Robin, U-R-A-Q-T.)

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“Butter.”

“Water?”

“Butter. B-U-double T-E-R.”

This girl is so weird. W-E-I-R-D.

Debbie now has 60 seconds to decide which bachelor she would most like to date. Who do you think she will pick? Let’s review. There’s Mo, who has appeared quite disinterested in the whole thing. His answers have bordered on caustic, but since he’s a Gibb, you know there’s no real malice. Then there’s his twin brother, Robin, whose speaking voice even closely resembles that of an angel. His answers have been polite and well-thought-out. And then there’s some other guy but he is OBVIOUSLY not even in the running because what chance does he stand against TWO Gibbs? Zero chance, that’s what.

And Debbie chooses…

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Bachelor #1, Maurice Gibb! He is absolutely chuffed.

Now, there were a few confusing things about this program, like the questions and how anyone thought they stood a chance against Robin Gibb and then how anyone but Robin Gibb was selected as the date, but something that really confuses me is the “date.”

The host tells this story about rocks and how Debbie and Maurice are going to this place where special rocks are discovered–the diamond mines of Johannesburg, South Africa! Okay, never mind that this is a bit over-the-top for a first date, WHY would anyone going on a date with Maurice “Mo” Gibb need to go anywhere but MOTOWN? Honestly. This show is weird.

I’d really like to know if Debbie and Mo ever went on that date to South Africa. Debbie, the world is waiting for your tell-all.

Watch for yourself: Part One | Part Two

Chest hair, medallions, and three-part harmony, oh my!

We need to talk about the Bee Gees.

Because they are amazing songwriters, performers, and artists.

Because they have amazing chest hair.

Because sometimes they wear crazy, cool medallions.

Because they’ve written some of my favorite songs ever. Which actually equates to they’ve written some of the greatest songs ever.

But mostly because I have no other interests right now. Everything else in my life is secondary to the Bee Gees at the moment. When I am not listening to, watching, or reading about the Bee Gees, I wander this planet we call Earth as a Zombie, barely stayin’ alive.

Hardy-har-har.

Anyway.

I remember first being introduced to the Bee Gees one Christmas when I was given Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on VHS. Incurable Beatlemaniac that I was (and am!), I was initially crestfallen that the Fab Four were not the stars of this film–nay, did they appear to have any connection with the film other than the fact that they, you know, wrote all the songs.

But then I watched Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And then I watched it again. And again. And again. I consider it nothing short of a miracle that the videocassette never gave out. And since then, I have loved the Bee Gees.

Fast forward to this past Fourth of July, a day most people in the United States spend celebrating the founding of our country, watching fireworks, and eating food. I’d tried to do those things and was even tolerating ten-minute commercial breaks during National Treasure just so I could hear Nicolas Cage say, “I’m gonna steal The Declaration of Independence.” Then I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to browse Netflix for something else to watch. In “Feel Good Movies,” I found a winner.

Bee Gees: In Our Own Time. 

Oh, Netflix, you darling genius. I hadn’t felt so good in months as I did watching this documentary again. (Shame on the person who checked out the DVD from the library and never returned it. Why aren’t people like you banned from libraries everywhere? You just plain stink.)

It reminded me of how much I love the Brothers Gibb.

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First, there’s Barry (birth name: Raspbarry “Sweet & Savory” Gibb), also known as Wolfman. At least that is what my younger sister and I christened him while viewing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the 300th time. You are an animal, ah-oooooo! 

Anyway.

Barry is so awesome. I love Barry’s laugh. It’s like a nervous laugh, the kind of laugh that says (all in one breath), “I-just-said-something-that-I-thought-was-semi-funny-but-I’m-not-sure-if-anyone-is-going-to-laugh-so-I’ll-laugh-just-in-case-and-pretend-I’m-laughing-at-myself.” I love Barry’s soulful voice. I love his falsetto voice, and I love that he just happened to discover that treasure one day in the studio. I love that he, like his brothers, appears to be a balanced, genuine, compassionate person, unaffected by accolades and similarly undeterred by criticisms because he is so passionate about music and believes in what he does. You go Barry, you go. And I love that he is still going.

Oh, and can I just say: Major. Babe. Alert.

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Seriously. I mean, if Barry were a US President, he would be Babe-raham Lincoln.

But my heart will always belong to another Gibb brother.

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Robin. Oh, Robin. Where do I start? That voice? That amazing voice that is so melancholically beautiful? (A song called “I Started a Joke” isn’t supposed to make you cry, is it? It’s supposed to be funny, right? Wrong.) Or how about his articulate, astute opinions on anything and everything? (My favorite: his opinions and perceptions of the music industry.) Or how about the man’s adventurous fashion sense?

He could be cool and understated.

Or he could be studious.

Or he could pull off that look of I-plugged-my-hair-into-an-electrical-socket-for-too-long-but-I-still-look-awesome. Quite the feat!

Or he could pull off that look of…

Er, what would you call this? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I love that he went through so many fashions, good and bad (and really, really bad). He had confidence! Truly one of a kind. Gone too soon.

Just like his twin brother, Maurice–Mo–Motown.

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On the count of three: One, two, three….Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

And Mo was cute, too, wasn’t he? Just kidding! I actually was aw’ing about Mo, not Robin. But Robin was kind of cute, too. In his own Robin way. Which is the best way.

Okay, let’s get off this Robin detour and back to how much I love Mo. Because I do. I love Mo.

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Mo was often the Man in the Middle, caught between arguments between the polar opposites that are Barry and Robin, and he was the amiable diplomat who mollified their disagreements and helped keep them together. He was an engaging and entertaining interview subject, gifted at recounting anecdotes and offering sincere thoughts and opinions. He was a gifted musician, able to play numerous instruments and even more willing to try and learn another. He was a member of the Beatles fan club (and later became Ringo’s neighbor!) and produced Tin Tin and the Osmonds (and probably some other artists, too, but I’m most impressed by these two). Barry is Barry and Robin is my favorite, but I think it would have been so much fun to hang out with Mo (especially if he could have introduced me to his neighbor with the big neb).

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The Bee Gees are, in some minds, indelibly linked with disco, tight white pants, forests of chest hair, and some John Travolta movie. Those minds sadly forget the great pop music they crafted in the late 1960s and the mellow ballads of the early 1970s before they became a cultural phenomenon. They forget how they stepped out of the limelight after the disco backlash, choosing instead to write and produce chart-topping songs and albums with other artists, and how when they decided to re-enter the music industry as performers, they sailed to the top of the charts again. They forget the critical recognition, well-earned but not needed because the rest of us already knew what took the critics more than 30 years to realize, lavished upon the trio in the 1990s after even more successes, and they forget how their swan song, This Is Where I Came In, wasn’t even supposed to be a swan song but a promising and exciting return to the music world for the Brothers Gibb.

As I sat and watched In Our Own Time, I realized (yet again) how I can’t pick just one song or even an era out of the Bee Gees’ long career and designate it my “favorite.” I literally sat there, exclaiming every time they sang a song, “I love that song!” And I realized (yet again) not only how well-crafted and beautifully sung their songs are but also how timeless they are. “To Love Somebody” does not reek of 1967. It, like its creators, is timeless.

P.S. I babysit two young children a few days a week, and the five-year-old girl has introduced me to this show called Punky Brewster. When she decides that’s what she wants to watch, I try to leave the room and clean up the house, which is exactly what I did when she requested good ol’ Punky on Tuesday. Except I wished I hadn’t once I walked back through the room a few minutes later because…

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“Oh my gosh, it’s Andy Gibb!” The little girl probably thought the house was on fire or something, the way I was screeching and convulsing. I had to explain that this man was a famous singer and had three famous brothers who also sang. (I didn’t mention that I was planning on marrying one of them in the next life.)

In this particular episode, Andy is the host of a “Miss Adorable” contest, and he gives the winner a peck on the cheek.

“I want that boy to kiss me,” my little friend confided. I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that wasn’t possible, but it was sweet. And seeing Andy Gibb in a sparkly black jacket and red leather pants totally made my day! There’s just no escaping the Gibbs. Not that I’d ever want to do that.

P.S.S. Who wants to play Twister on Robin’s sweater?

So long, Robin Gibb

Robin Gibb died yesterday, aged 62, following a long battle with colon and liver cancer. Or as the subject line of the email sent from his official website read: “Our sweet hero has gone to heaven to sing with the angels…”

I don’t know when I first heard a Bee Gees song. I only know that when I was about eight or nine, I received Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on VHS for Christmas and then made it my business to know and love the Bee Gees as fervently as the Beatles. (It was my sister’s business to know and love Peter Frampton. I used to catch her watching Sgt. Pepper without me, repeatedly rewinding Frampton’s entrance as Billy Shears and salivating.)

As many times as my sister and I watched that film, it is amazing that the tape still survives. (Finally upgraded to a DVD copy last year for $4.75. I call that a bargain. The best I ever had. The best I ever haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!) Young and uninfluenced by pompous critics who panned the film upon its release, we loved the whimsical and ridiculous story of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and their quest to save their beloved Heartland from a certain evil Mr. Mustard–a threadbare plot, held together only by an eclectic collection of equally eclectic interpretations of Beatles classics. We lovingly referred to Barry as “Wolfman” and Robin as “Gappy.” We thought Barry and Maurice were twins and were shocked to learn that Maurice and Robin were, in fact, “the twins.”

The Gibb Family, backstage at Top of the Pops, circa 1967. Back row: Maurice (who died from a twisted intestine, aged, 53, in 2003), Barry, Robin. Front row: father Hugh (who died from internal bleeding, aged 76, in 1992–on Andy’s birthday), younger brother Andy (who died of myocarditis, aged 30, in 1988), mother Barbara.  

And that may be why Robin was always my favorite Bee Gee. He never quite looked like the others, let alone a pop star. He never quite acted like a pop star either. He was outspoken, but not rude or crass. He was proud of his achievements as part of the Bee Gees and as a successful songwriter not only for the Bee Gees but for a gamut of other singers (Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton…), yet he was also incredibly humble and modest. He was a history fanatic. He was different. He did, however, have a voice that rivaled any other singer in the history of the music. His voice was delicate, impassioned, ethereal–in short, his voice was beautiful. And that vibrato! Truly one of a kind.

Speaking to journalist Keith Atham in 1969, following the Bee Gees’ (temporary) split, Robin remarked: “I sing how I feel. I know I haven’t got a great voice, but I manage to touch something inside other people that they understand…Dylan sings in the same way as me. He uses his heart as an instrument. Even I can’t understand completely why this works but it does. It’s not possible for any artist to jump outside themselves and see themselves for what they are. Even when you look in a mirror you get a reversed image!”

Some people will likely always associate the Bee Gees with disco (which was a natural progression from their love of soul and R&B rather than a “sell-out”), white suits, and oversized gold medallions, no matter how many times they are told that they were, in fact, onetime peers of the Beatles, successful songwriters before, after, and during disco, and unmatched vocalists whose gifts transcend genres and labels. I will always remember Robin, sitting at a piano in a pastel yellow shirt and vest, singing “Oh! Darling” so tenderly, singing with his heart. And making me forget that it was ever a Beatles song. And making me–and the rest of the world–fall in love with that beautiful voice.

This is what the e-mail meant by “gone to heaven to sing with the angels,” right? Right.