Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Hiker's Mixtape
Until the death of the I-pod somewhere in Central Iowa, music was a major factor in the maintenance of my sanity over the last few months. Even afterward there were certain songs I would sing to myself for motivation or merely to see what sort of animals would be driven to suicide.
Since I had some time on my hands, I spent many of the hours composing a list of tunes which seemed to fit the traveling theme. Journey somehow does not make the list. I must subconsciously have too much respect for Steven Perry's legacy to attempt to equal his greatness with my own mortal vocal cords. Feel free to chip in with your own suggestions - there is still a mile or two thousand to go yet.
1. "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake - Believe me, as much as I appreciate the eternal greatness of Europe and Great White, I'm not a huge fan of this era of music. That being said, there simply is not a more fitting way to start a day on the trail than with "Here I Go Again," which became my official theme song by the middle of the trek. Coverdale tells a tale of surviving in the face of adversity over and over again each day. I've also been described as a drifter in certain publications, so I can definitely feel where he's coming from here.
2. "Country Roads" by John Denver - Again, John Denver is not an artist whose collection I would regularly raid for inspiration. Geographically though, this song just made sense - I couldn't go more than an hour in West Virginia, especially the rural mountainous areas, without starting to belt out this ballad. Take me home John.
3. "Within a Mile of Home" by Flogging Molly - The Irish rock band Flogging Molly is a more predictable piece of the puzzle. I've seen these fellows perform on several different occasions and have always been impressed by their stage presence and their ability to play as if the current show was their last. Never have I been in the midst of a more amped up crowd than during a Flogging Molly concert. Obviously, the title pretty much explains why "Within.." is relevant, but why don't you give yourself the pleasure of a listen anyway.
4. "The Road Behind" by GWAR - A power ballad from a bunch of men used to playing heavy metal dressed up like human genitalia comes as a bit of a surprise to those who don't properly appreciate the musical versatility GWAR consistently displays every ten years or so. Most artists lack the vision to integrate roadkill into their works, but not GWAR. The complex stanzas also speak of wheels rolling, not a luxury I am allowed, but listen carefully - their's is a metaphorical journey on a bus to rock, do drugs, destroy planets, and vomit. The connection may be fleeting when compared to my trip using a semblance of logic, but if you've followed closely you'll notice a similarity in the weirdness factor that is truly irresistible.
5. "Powerwalking" by Archers of Loaf - A lot of people who think they are funny suggested a comparison between myself and Forest Gump. Besides the fact that they seem to be implying I am semi-retarded, they also displayed a complete ignorance of the fact that a hiking pack weighs forty pounds. If you carefully view the film, you'll notice Mr. Hanks is carrying nothing of the sort, thus his ability to run. On the other hand, I would have considered advice relating to power-walking, which is indeed faster than regular walking. The Archers of Loaf succinctly explain here why such an approach is flawed and I owe them many thanks.
6. "Long Way Home" by Enter the Haggis - You'll be glad to know the lyrics for this track have nothing to do with the insides of a sheep's intestines or the cooking preparation thereof. Instead, these Canadians deliver a softer version of the Celtic thunder pumped out by the Mollies. The theme is the same, a long trip with the end not yet in sight, a feeling I had often and imagine I will have again in the near future.
7. "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson - I haven't spent enough days in my life smoking the copious amounts of marijuana necessary to properly comprehend the greatness of Willie or else "On the Road Again" would probably have beat out Whitesnake as my official theme song. In addition, on some days saying I just can't wait to get on the road again would have been a bald faced lie. Nevertheless, this testament to the joy found in America's wide open spaces could not be left off the honor roll.
8. "Way Down the Old Plank Road" by Old Crow Medicine Show - I spent a couple days on this very road while traipsing through Illinois, so I would have been remiss if this oft-covered folk song was omitted here. There are, however, elements of the chorus I have to take umbrage with since, in all honesty, I probably will not be participating in the sober future the singer proclaims.
9. "Sec Walkin" by My Morning Jacket - "Left leg, right leg..." I won't ruin the beauty of the band's efforts here by using the kinds of words a writer would splatter on the screen to inspire in the reader a sort of Godlike awe before a chance is given to examine the material. Do your homework and you'll understand why.
10. "Amazing Journey" by the Who - Granted, I'm not deaf, dumb, blind, or even any good at pinball. Regardless, the album "Tommy" has always spoken to me. What about a journey filled with mysterious figures and endless adventures could appeal to me? Um, pretty much everything.
11. "Walk, Don't Run" by the Ventures - See number five.
12. "Adventures in Solitude" by the New Pornographers - This song earned a spot on this list thanks to a magical moment during a hike several years ago, long before I came up with the not completely sensible idea of walking across the country. I had been having a hard time in my personal life and decided to take a trip up to the top of Table Rock to clear my head. Just as I reached the apex, "Adventures..", which I had just downloaded and theretofore never heard, came on my I-pod. The whole of the piece is somber and beautiful in a way the written word can't justify, but there is one line which stood out in my mind. "We thought we'd lost you, welcome back." My mind immediately went to Ken and a couple other friends of mine who had survived near-death experiences. Suddenly all the comparatively minor problems I was going through faded into obscurity. I sat atop Table Rock and wept tears of joy.
Honorable mentions: "Hit the Road, Not Your Woman, Jack" by Ray Charles, "I Would Walk Some Indeterminate Amount of Miles" by the Proclaimers, " Christopher Walken is Really Funny in that Fatboy Slim Video" by Wilco (or "Walken" if you're not into the whole brevity thing).