Here at Last: The Voidie Awards

April 3rd, 2012


Every time I write a book, I name the musicians who provided the sound track for my writing sessions, and every time a book comes out I get emails from people suggesting new artists for me to listen to.  I’ve really come to look forward to it.

Now that ARCS of THE FEAR ARTIST are going out, new names are already landing in my mailbox.  The people I thank in THE FEAR ARTIST are  Jason Isbell and the 400; the Drive-By Truckers; Sara Bareilles; Tegan and Sara; Franz Ferdinand; The National; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros; Neko Case; Joe Henry; Randy Newman, whose “A Few Words In Defense of My Country” provides the book’s epigraph; the late great Townes Van Zandt and Warren Zevon; Arcade Fire; Over the Rhine; Ryan Adams; Conor Oberst; Neil Young; Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris (who have helped with every book); and—on the classical side—Eric Satie and Maurice Ravel.

What’s wonderful about the mail these lists provoke is that they’re based on the assumptions that I don’t know much about music, will never have heard of anyone being suggested,  and will  be grateful for any and all recommendations.  All these assumptions are correct.  In fact, several of the acts I thanked in THE FEAR ARTIST were suggested by readers.

But what’s the point of having zero expertise about something if you don’t use it?  So, in the spirit of that great American tradition the awards show, which year after year provokes more Huuuuhhhhhhhhhh?  reactions than all other kinds of programming combined, here they are: the totally unbiased awards of a single person who doesn’t know bupkes about music.  They’re called The Voidies.  And this year, the Voidies go to:

Favorite rock lyrics about God:  The Kinks, “Big Sky”: “Big Sky’s too big to cry”; Joan Osborne, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home?”; and Lily Allen, “Him”: “Ever since he can remember, people have died in His good name; long before that September, long before hijacking planes.”

And speaking of Lily Allen, Lily Allen or Katy Perry?  Lily Allen

Beatles or Stones?  Stones by a tenth of a percentage point, up through “Some Girls”

Liam or Noel?  Neither, thanks.

People who have gotten better for decades:  Paul Simon, Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, and, I’m sure, many others.

Band whose talent I can see but whose music I don’t like:  The Eagles

On the other hand, greatest writer of long, sumptuous heartache epics: Don Henley (solo)  for “End of the Innocence” and “Long Way Home”

Favorite live backup band:  The Heartbreakers, behind Tom Petty, and whoever the hell is cutting the place to pieces behind Warren Zevon live at the Hammersmith, in the concert that can be downloaded free from, the single greatest source for legal noncommercial concert recordings.

More-or-less-current favorite undeservedly-not-bestselling country album: “Stupid Love” by the wonderful Mindy Clark

More-or-less-current favorite live track: “Choctaw Bingo,” James McMurtry

More-or-less-favorite current song:  “Our Song,” Joe Henry:  “I saw Willie Mays at the Scottsdale Home Depot/looking at garage-door springs/at the far end of the fourteenth row.”

More-or-less-favorite-not-so-current song: Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, “Common People.”

Favorite person whom a lot of people hate:  Taylor Swift

Least-favorite band whom a lot of people love: Coldplay

Where the hell is the next album department:  Franz Ferdinand

Reunion that makes me yawn just to think about it: Van Halen, I mean, jeez, guys, we were all doing fine.

Type of music stars who are most like actual people: Country, of a certain vintage.  I was once walking in Nashville with June Carter Cash (it thrills me to be able to write that sentence) when a woman came up to her, put a hand on her arm, and said, “June, honey, I think we’re related,” and June stopped, lit up like Christmas, and said, “Tell me about it.”  And twenty minutes later they had established that they shared a great-great granduncle whose skill with a fiddle was legendary.  They hugged like reunited cousins, which I suppose they were, and we went on our way.  At the time, I thought, “Try that on David Bowie.”

Paragraphs about music in a book I’m currently writing: From The Fame Thief, Junior Bender #3.  This is the beginning of  Chapter 13 or 14.  He’s deaf because he’s just survived an explosion.

As luck would have it, when my hearing came back, the radio was playing “Stairway to Heaven.”

I read somewhere that “Stairway to Heaven” has been played more than three million times on radio, with every million plays representing about 50,000 broadcast hours, or more than 5.8 years of continuous play, which makes a total of 17.4 years of nonstop “Stairway to Heaven.” It just seems longer.

I know it’s a minor detail, but I’d be more likely to believe in a God who participates in our daily life if one of His infinite self-assigned tasks was to keep track of the number of times a song has been played, and when that number exceeds reason, to incinerate instantly the disk jockey who’s just put it on. Not only would we be spared another hearing of “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” but there would be a much higher turnover among disk jockeys, and wouldn’t that be nice?

See?  I do too know something about music.

10 Responses to “Here at Last: The Voidie Awards”

  1. Gary Says:

    What??!! Somebody who doesn’t like The Eagles??

    Next you’ll be telling me you don’t live in California. And there aren’t any hotels there.

    OK, that’s it – in future I’ll be too busy listening to Celine Dion to ever look at this blog again.

  2. EverettK Says:

    Good one, Gary! 🙂

    Tim: A couple of artists from whom I’ve recently heard a song or two that I liked (but haven’t listened to a whole album yet, so who knows?) are Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. Your mileage may vary…

  3. Frank W Says:

    What? You can write f(r)iction without constantly playing anything by Los Straitjackets?

  4. Suzanna Says:

    Junior is funny. Wonder what he’d say if I told him that the only concert I left almost immediately was a Led Zeppelin concert?

    Love your knowledge and enthusiasm for music.

  5. Sharai Says:

    You knowing nothing about music explains ‘one’ of my handicaps, since you were a major player in expanding my knowledge of everyone worth listening to.

    Just about fainted with your June Carter story! June Carter is not actual people, she’s an angel.

    Looking forward to The Fear Artist and appreciating all tidbits from your e-books since I can’t get them.

  6. Steve Rosse Says:

    Only Music I’ve Ever Liked: “Snoopy Versus the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, and “Ode to Billy Joe” by Bobby Gentry. Because they both tell stories.

  7. Sharai Says:

    Will you be doing another tour with this book? What would it take to get you to Sacramento?

  8. Julie Evelsizer Says:

    One of the things that made me read a second Simeon Grist (after The Man With No Time) was that he was obviously a Kinks fan. And I don’t like the Eagles, either. Especially “Hotel California.”

  9. Julie Evelsizer Says:

    Hey, Tim, have you ever heard the Canadian band the Weakerthans? Try their “Reunion Tour.” It has at least one song not worth listening to more than once, but otherwise it’s an addictive album to me, with some great songwriting.

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Music brings out the eccentric in all of us. Julie, anyone who likes the Kinks has to be okay and then some, and I will definitely listen to the Weakerthans. Always looking for new music. And I’ve arranged my life to prevent my having to hear “Hotel California” again.

    Sharai, I think I’ll be touring. All you have to do to get me to Sacramento is open a mystery bookstore there.

    Steve, I’ve always thought “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Snoopy Versus the Red Baron” were total top-of-the-heap. No, really.

    Sharai again, it’s not my fault you liked The Monkees. God knows I tried.

    Zanna, Junior would praise your taste and discretion.

    Frank, of COURSE I listen to Los Straightjackets. “‘Tis the Season for Los Straightjackets” is my favorite groovin’ collection of rockin’ holiday instrumentals.

    Everett, I’m not a Colbie Caillat fan, but I do like Jason Mraz. But then, of course, we know I don’t know anything.

    Gary, anyone who can still listen to “Hotel California” deserves to spend a 17-hour flight in tourist sitting next to Don Henley. And Celine Dion is French for “cheese.”

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