Weekly Top Ten: Bloomsday Mix
It’s that time of year when all thoughts turn to Ulysses, or at least mine do. June 16. Bloomsday. Joyce’s fabled character, “Leopold Bloom,” is on the beach now, and proper decorum prevents me from saying what he’s doing. For lunch, though, he partook in a gorgonzola sandwich, dabs of yellow mustard, and a glass of cooling burgundy. Sounds like a good supper, which I will consider after I contemplate this week’s ten tunes to remember.
10. “Runaway,” The Traveling Wilburys. Bloom runs for his life throughout the novel, or rather runs from his life. When I first heard this version of Del Shannon’s classic, I was at a party at my friend John Abdalla’s house. He loves the Wilburys, almost a perfect supergroup for him. So he played me this song, and I couldn’t figure who was singing. “That’s Jeff Lynne,” my friend Al Vyssotsky said. It is indeed.
9. “Things Change,” Dwight Yoakam. Listen to the guitar. My ears say it’s a 12-string. In Ulysses, things change from chapter to chapter, within each chapter, and in Chapter 3, the “Proteus” chapter, from word to word and within words. Dwight doesn’t need to know that and maybe you don’t either. But it’s the truth, the only constant we really know.
8. “If I Were Your Woman,” Gladys Knight and the Pips. Molly Bloom no doubt thinks about this, or she would if she were real and living in the 1970’s. She might have related even more had she been in the old Bessemer High auditorium back in ’72 and heard Joyce Williams deliver this one at “Tiger Talent.” Joyce should have won the competition, though I think she got second place. I still think of that moment, Joyce channeling Gladys…and Molly.
7. “Solid Wall of Sound,” A Tribe Called Quest. What happened to Candy and Ronny? Think of the Circe chapter of Ulysses, when the shadows emerge from back streets, when Bloom’s dead infant son Rudy whispers something that Bloom can’t hear at first, and then realizes that it’s the prayer for the dead, Jewish version. A Tribe Called Quest loves to channel, too, and sample walls of sound. Solid.
6. “All the Girls Love Alice,” Elton John. One thing does lead to another, and all the girls love the man in the mackintosh. When Goodbye Yellow Brick Road came out, 1972, I wondered if the gimmick would last. Shouldn’t have doubted old Reg. I was waiting at the airport in Birmingham for my brother a few years back, and some B’ham DJ played this again. Good job.
5. “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane. So when I was fifteen, I read Go Ask Alice, and I swear, right after I read it, a DJ named Bob Gilmore on the old WJLN-FM in B’ham played this. I wasn’t allowed to listen to psychedelia as a kid (JK), but seriously, this one had eluded me. In the Cyclops chapter of Ulysses, Bloom meets a giant of a chauvinist, but escapes in a golden chariot. You would have had to be there to understand. He gets chased by a dog named Garryowen, too, and I swear, neither of them is on drugs.
4. “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”, Moby. His old heart races throughout the book as he sees Blazes Boylan, the cad who courts his wife Molly. What can Bloom do? How does he begin again? Who among us could recover from the death of our infant child? How do we go on? I heard this song in an Irish pub this week in Santa Cruz. Weird. I had a shot of Jameson’s with my wife and Owen’s brother Parker to commemorate the occasion. My heart felt better, but still so sad.
3. “Missed the Boat,” Modest Mouse. And then the same pub played this. I couldn’t feel sad, which is why Bloom pierces me. We have to find our way to up again, and who says there is only one boat to try? We took the ferry to San Francisco and back to Oakland. They were uneventful journeys but got us where we needed to be. We browsed City Lights Bookstore and I bought Allen Ginsberg’s 50th anniversary edition of Kaddish, a poem about the prayer for the dead I mentioned in number 7 above. Keep up or else you’ll…
2. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” The Animals. In a sock store in Santa Cruz, I heard this song, and when I did, I asked the clerk what she thought. She was maybe 20, and she said she thought it wasn’t bad. Nice. I told her I was four feet tall when it first hit the charts. She looked at me funny, like I was some old guy or something. Why I was in a sock store in Santa Cruz is a very good question. At the end of Ulysses, the main characters escape their place, too. And then something else happens in a chapter with seven sentences, told by Molly Bloom. A better life, for me and you.
Speaking of Girls…
- “Cinnamon Girl,” Neil Young. It doesn’t get old. I’ve read Ulysses ten times, taught it five times at least. It’s my favorite novel. And this song, my favorite Neil tune, since 1969. I put the live version from ’91 on to show how faded his glory was. Only Time Fades Away; novels and tunes keep us young. And running.
Bloom is approaching Nighttown now, where the dead are never buried. It’s getting dark here, too. The long day closes and so I’ll leave with the word that ends Joyce’s outlandish novel.