July 1, 2007

Ryan Adams contest winner (hardest decision ever)

Eric said it best about halfway through the 80+ responses to the question, “What’s your favorite Ryan Adams lyric?” when he wrote: “You know, no matter who wins, I’m tickled by these responses, as I’m sure Heather is, too.”

Reading these responses was just fantastic for me — kinda like my favorite hypothetical situation which has not yet occured for me in real life: a bunch of us all sitting in a bar together, each taking a turn to share our favorite lyric and our reasons. Your entries made me spend the last, sheesh, two hours listening to Ryan Adams with a depth I haven’t done in far too long. Thank you for taking the time to share if you did.

Many of my favorite RA lyrics were represented in the contest entries, from Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part (the whole song pretty much slays me), the line from Hard Way To Fall, “I could find her in a thunderstorm by the way that the rain would fall” that always gives me chills, the lyric from Oh My Sweet Carolina where he bitingly notes that “sunset’s just my lightbulb burning out…”

Then there was mjs who compared a line from My Winding Wheel to a favorite poem around these parts, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Jozef gave me ten sets of lyrics (including that excellent one from Halloween that always makes me smile a secret half-smile: “and the secrets that she’s keeping, they are really only dangerous to her“) and Stefan submitted a poem he wrote in NYC while listening to Ryan. There are stories of moving and missing, doubt and lust and drinking in a darkened room.

Several of you quoted the debated line that people either seem to hate or love (I love): “I would’ve held your mother’s hand on the day you was born” (from How Do You Keep Love Alive), and the perfect small Dear Chicago got a few deserved nominations (I always ache at the offhand way he tosses off the line “I been thinkin’ some of suicide…). Nathan‘s a sucker for girls who can sing and play the guitar (a common lament).

Jimmy Diggs quoted the fab unreleased Monday Night, and the best part was the way he wrote it out:

All I want is to roll through your fingers
All I need is to make it alright
All I want is to be your connection
Win your affection, be your reflection
On a Monday Ni-hi-yi-hi-yight
On a Monday Ni-hi-yi-hi-yight

If you’ve heard the song . . . that’s funny.

But this entry was the first I thought should win, and I’m gonna stick with that (impossible as this decision was!). Steve emailed this to me, and I related exactly with what he had to say and his explanation of how twisted and backwards Ryan’s head is in these lines. I’ve been there too. So congrats Steve, who wins the lithograph and a copy of Easy Tiger with this:

La Cienega Just Smiled

I hold you close in the back of my mind
And raise my glass cause either way I’m dead
Neither of you really help me to sleep anymore
One breaks my body and the other breaks my soul

From reading your blog, I get the feeling that you’re a lot like me in the sense that we’re both generally happy people. Things have gone well in my life and different forms of success have come pretty easily – what I’m trying to say is that I don’t have much to complain about. Yet when it comes to pop music, I find myself being drawn in by the slow and contemplative songs where singers are depressed and at a loss in their life – the sadder the song, the better.

I want to be that character in the song who is at a bar by himself and walking the streets thinking about what could have been. I want to have the love of my life leave me and move away to Paris. I want to be sick and tired of my family and friends and sit alone in my apartment with the lights off looking down at the street I live on. I want to be Rob from High Fidelity (I really don’t want any of these things and that’s why it’s perfect that I can use sad songs and get that feeling for 3 or 4 minutes at a time).

This brings me to La Cienega Just Smiled and the lines written above . . . they just kill me. In four lines he pays a tribute to the girl he loves, and to his other vice, and then shatters them both and perfectly describes how they’re terrible choices for him. He uses the line “I hold you close in the back of my mind” throughout the song and it’s a haunting line. She is constantly there inside of him and he can’t escape her but it’s as if he needs that part of him to always be there or else he loses her forever. It’s a lose-lose situation because if he doesn’t keep her inside of him, then she will no longer exist yet it’s breaking his “soul”. The alcohol, on the other hand, is something that can presently help him and he might as well drink himself into oblivion because he doesn’t have the girl that he needs (either way he’s dead, broken heart or alcoholism). And not only are both the girl and the alcohol unable to help him sleep, one is breaking him down mentally and other is breaking him down physically.

I just love the image of Ryan at home in some NYC apartment at night drinking (not anymore!) a scotch while he’s thinking about his lost love and coming up with these lyrics. Like I said, I always think I want to be living this sort of life so I can be creative and write like this but I am perfectly content just living vicariously through the songs I love.

La Cienega Just Smiled – Ryan Adams
fantastic live electric version from Brixton Academy in 2001, listen at 3:37 for the best portion of the song.

And Steve’s entry is really just a longer version of what Brandon said succinctly: “women and booze. my man got it right.”
Oh and finally, a really close runner-up was Cara (love this gal):

wow, what a bunch of romantics.
obviously the best lyrics come from “…Look who got a website

my favorite:
“Kevin Bacon Makin Waterworld 3
They ain’t even made 2 yet
Yo that was Costner partner”


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  • snap! so close, yet so far.

    this website is updated by witchez anyway.

    (okay, i’ll stop now.)

    c — July 2, 2007 @ 8:23 am

  • thanks for the honorable mention : )

    Stefan — July 3, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  • Superb entry. My thoughts EXACTLY, how strange to read someone else say it too. Don’t forget Whiskeytown lyrics too: “No new breaks/Whatever it takes/ Not to have to sway it on a classified ad” ah there’s so many… I think he’s the best writer of his generation.

    NoNewBrakes — July 3, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  • Wow!! That Brixton gig was my first Ryan experience and it was amazing!! Got full show if you not got it / would like? Including Noel Gallagher collaboration on Morning Glroy…smoething else!

    Joe — July 3, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  • ah! disappointed that i lost with the same lyric, but Steve put it well. i’m going to go listen to the live version now…


    Anonymous — July 5, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  • Yeah, brandon, sorry! It was kinda of a vague and hazy set of contest rules rules based roughly half on the actual lyric and half on why you liked it and then a random variation curve of that undefinable twinge that I got in reading it. :)

    Thanks for playing.

    heather — July 5, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

  • no worries, no worries. he put it well. let’s do another one!

    Anonymous — July 6, 2007 @ 11:49 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
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