[26 January 2011]
Recently, I was having a conversation with Brian Flota, the author of PoMo Jukebox’s hilarious “Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding” column, and he suggested, perhaps somewhat grandiosely, that the best moment in the history of music comes in Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”, right before the start of the last verse, and right after the band descends down the scale. That singular moment is one of pronounced silence, when it’s pretty clear that the band, which seems to be comprised of about fifty orchestras, is winding up for the crushing blast of the song’s conclusion. Flota’s reason for his claim was simple: sometimes the best moments in music are the ones when there isn’t much going on.
That comment got me thinking a bit more deeply about the reasons why I prefer some songs to others—why some remain immediate no matter how many times I’ve heard them, while others lose their visceral power mere seconds after concluding. Clearly, any conclusions that I could draw—if I could ever draw any—would be entirely subjective and potentially irrelevant to anyone else’s listening experiences. Nevertheless, given that we just wrapped up The Season of Lists, I thought it might be worthwhile to break things down a bit further—to get out of thinking in terms of the best albums, or the best songs, or the best playlists, or even things like the best guitar solos or drums solos or whatever. Rather, I thought it would be interesting to hear back from PopMatters’ esteemed readership about the best singular musical moments that you can remember. Those brief intervals where, to trot out a hackneyed literary allusion, you felt IT! Where you heard that one note, that one drum fill, that one vocal tic that made the entire song for you—or, indeed, for the history of music.
Here are a few of mine. First, even though I’ve never quite gotten Fugazi, I’ve always agreed with Andy Kellman that the brief pause that comes about 20 seconds into “Waiting Room” makes the entire song—if not the band’s entire career. Similarly, Public Enemy’s “War at 33 1/3”, which I will crown the best rap song ever, gains all of its strength from that piercing scream which underpins a short ten seconds at the beginning of the track. Lastly, it is that gorgeous note that Andy Bell (or is it Mark Gardener?) hits at roughly the 2:07 mark in Ride’s “Like a Daydream” that, about a million listens in, still gives me chills. Only when I hear it without watching the video, though.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen in Cyberspace, what are those small slices of musical magic that make you feel eternity?