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The List of the Moment, Volume 13

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We’ve all heard the anthems to self-pity and I even did a short-list a while back last summer of stadium self-pity songs and there is likely some cross-over here. But here I try to give a deeper analysis and a bit more of the why I felt these songs made the List of Self Pity of Stadium Self-Pity and in some cases, just out and out masochism. (You’ll see.)

In some cases, these singers may as well wear hair shirts to punish themselves and/or their lovers for leaving or grieving them so, they hurt so much. Here there is bitterness and bile but mostly, there is just sorrow and hurt. So read on, and you’ll find some classics and no doubt, the minute I turn this in, I’ll think of 15 or more I should have included that I should have included but did not. There were many by Elliott Smith that could have made the list but I’ll leave that up to you to decide… I couldn’t choose just one. There are other singers as well, bands, who really belong here but again, just didn’t quite make the cut. I tried to pick those who fit the list and to keep the list within reason. Maybe if there is good response I can do a continuation of the list or if you like this idea of themes then perhaps I can drum up some others….

Obviously, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston almost made the list. (There is a long story behind that, involving a lawsuit in Britain and a distraught young man whose boyfriend had just left him and who would not stop playing the song. If fact, he played it over and over and over again until finally his condo board took him to court and won and he was forced to pay damages ~ apparently he played this song at all hours, so maybe he belongs on the list, not the song, hard to separate out…)

In any event here is the list at last… do feel free to talk about songs you’d include. I’d love to hear about them. One that occurred was What a Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold but I couldn’t think of what I’d really say about it. With that say, I’ve said enough…
s. r. p.

Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams – It may be the ultimate fight/fuck song of all time, but Ryan Adams has nailed what breaking up can often be all about in Come Pick Me Up. That said, while clearly a vindictive song, this is also a song (directed to the party who did the injuring here and the hurting and hurting and hurting and hurting …) about being hurt and about wanting to be or resigning himself, hell, even asking to be hurt again. With the line… “I wish you would…” and the rest follow from there. It’s not so much that Adams is just about vengeance, though again that is part of it, but there is also a great deal of self-pity here because he wishes she would:

Come pick me up
Take me out
Fuck me up
Steal my records
Screw all my friends
They’re all full of shit
With a smile on your face
And then do it again

I wish you would

Hence, one can only assume he’s a glutton for punishment and therefore, his song, much as I love it, does again fall into the list of self-pity, masochistic song – in this case, masochistic in any event. It’s interesting to feel the tension in the lyrics in this song – how Adams balances out his bile for the (we assume) now ex (or soon to be after a few more, perhaps); he’ll have his vengeance in his song but at what price? Perhaps his own after all. He may well hurt her, but he also hurts himself in the process. Great song, sad song. Really worth buying the album.

Without You by Harry Nillson – The nasal whine of Nilsson really works here because it is a whine that we are looking for and speaking of when we speak of self-pity, or melodrama perhaps is a better word. Every song on this list is perhaps a bit, or a lot, on the melodramatic side. As for Nilsson, he wails out that he simply cannot:

No, I can’t forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

Ah, some empathy for the Other, we think – the sorry that “shows” for this undisclosed other person.

Don’t let it fool you. It sucks you in and spits you out. It’s a manipulation to get to the final point of the song, which is essentially, “Don’t leave me, I know you feel the same way too, I can see it in your eyes,” which to me sounds manipulative as hell because the upshot is “ I can’t live if living is without you” as the final refrain will tell us. And here it is:

Can’t live if living is without you
I can’t live, I can’t give anymore
I can’t live if living is without you
Can’t live, I can’t give anymore.

Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’ Sullivan — Now this guy I just feel bad for. We all have our run of bad luck but Gilbert here can’t seem to catch a break. I mean, when he’s feeling a little better, a little “less sour” he plans to “promise myself to treat myself / And visit a nearby tower/ And climbing to the top will throw myself off.” This is what he does for when he’s feeling a bit more mellow or little less “sour”? Can you imagine therest of his life? Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because he’s going to spell it out for you in excruciating detail (for both himself and for you) — a bit like watching a wreck about to happen; you may want to look away but you just cannot. Hence, you discover…

He was left at the altar more than once and it sounds like by the same woman if you read the lyrics carefully. (My God that’s tough she’s stood him up again.) But then hey, as if you didn’t have enough reality, yet more of it comes around… things only go from bad to worse. His father dies, his mother dies presumably of a broken heart — she can’t understand why the only man she had ever loved had been taken. (Frankly, I can sort of see and understand the logic of this sentiment if you believe in the concept of a beneficent God that is, which I’m so sure I do, but then surely something could have been worked out where they died at the same time or some such, but clearly his mother did (believe in this beneficent God) and that is what is so heart-breaking about this song.

So what is self-pitying here… well, he had his run of bad luck, but there’s nothing self-pitying about bad luck unless you express it in such a way as to come off as self pitying. The thing is, I imagine if any of us were to sit down and write three or four verses of all the bad luck we’ve had in our lives it would look equally bad. The lines that really close the deal for me — sorry Gilbert, much as I like and have liked you — are the closing three lines because even though his mother has just died, and I have no doubt (having had lost many close direct family members I know how very hard this is, and it’s all in the way it is phrased here):

I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

Just a little too Tammy Faye Baker for me, who, in her autobiography, did not have, apparently a single page on which she did not have the two words either “I cried” or “we cried” but usually “I cried.” Life sucks sometimes or even a lot of times but throwing yourself off of bell-towers is not the answer and although this song is a classic in the stadium self-pity, sad-song repertoire, that is where it shall always remain. Which is just fine…. we like it there.

All by Myself by Eric Carmen – The title sort of says it all. The fact that it was used at the opening theme for the soundtrack on Bridget Jones was perfect,, although it was sung by, I believe, Celine Dion in that version, not by Eric Carmen. Essentially, he’s tired of being alone now and his youth is quickly passing by or has passed by (makin’ love was just for fun, which would be a non sequitor except now he wants a “real” relationship and to hook up with someone properly so that’s what this is all about.

On the one hand you just want to say, Hey bud, you blew it. Or, Oh, just shut up After all, weren’t we all young and foolish at some point and didn’t we all do foolish things and yet somehow we found our way out of it. We may not be in a serious relationship yet or at this time, but I think most of us sit around bemoaning the fact that when we “dial the telephone / nobody’s home” we simply leave a message and hope they call back or we call someone else. It’s just not that complicated. Pathetic lyrics below, but note, these are not all, but they give you more than a taste, just figure you hit repeat more than once and you’ve got it down.

When I was young
I never needed anyone
And makin’ love was just for fun
Those days are gone.

Livin’ alone
I think of all the friends I’ve known
But when I dial the telephone
Nobody’s home.

All by myself
Don’t wanna be
All by myself anymore
All by myself
Don’t wanna live
All by myself anymore.

Hard to be sure
Some times I feel so insecure
And love so distant and obscure
Remains the cure

All by myself…

In the film Bridget Jones this was acted out superbly in the opening credits of the film complete with mouthing along to the lyrics and full-body motion. Brilliant acting out of a melodramatic song. The sort of thing you do when you are alone and having a bad day. Maybe.

Ne Me Quitte Pas by Sting – In French granted, but a plea (in a bad accent) that says, Don’t leave me, but it was also a hit in America entitled “If You Go Away” which was covered by a number of singers. Somehow though, no matter where the song was a hit, it just sounds more pathetic, albeit beautiful, in French and with Sir Sting himself singing it. Sting’s piss-poor bad French accent only adds to the true pathetic nature of the song and the delivery of it in the very least. I have to admit though, despite all of this, like so many others on this list, I still like the song – in French or English though the French version is still in my view the better of the two and yes, probably the more pathetic, but hey, isn’t that the reason it made the list?

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks – From 1974. Okay, let’s just start with some basic lyrics to set the stage because with that, it’s impossible to get any sense of what this song is about and really, even with the lyrics, I’m still not sure I know what this song is about – in terms, that is, of whether or not this guy is actually dying, leaving town, committing suicide, or just a drama queen. Take a listen to first few lines:

Goodbye, Papa, it’s hard to die
when all the birds are singing in the sky,
Now that the spring is in the air.
Little children everywhere.
When you see them I’ll be there.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
But the wine and the song,
like the seasons, all have gone.

Maybe I misunderstand and Terry Jacks really is or was dying, which is entirely possible, though that was never really entirely clear to anyone I’ve spoken with, so your take is valuable here (chime in!). The lyrics suggest he may be dying but A: How, and B: He could just as easily be blowing town for a really, really long time, so to some extent but I’m still not clear on this.

I think you need to hear the song to know what I mean so if you haven’t heard the song please do reserve judgment. It’s an older song and falls under the category of “one hit wonder” by most people’s standards, though others may disagree (I can’t imagine who but there is always someone so hey… I’m waiting…). If Terry Jacks or the songwriter, if not Jacks himself, was dying or ill, then that’s awful — the song however, is still flawed because it doesn’t make that clear. What it does sound like is a suicide about to happen ~ not an imminent or present illness and that is a failing if indeed it is even a part of the song. If neither is part of the song, then it’s just pure self-pity goodbye and all that and definitely belongs on this list.

Telephone Line by Electric Light Orchestra – Let it ring for ever more? Oh come on! Get a life. I wouldn’t be hanging on the telephone and letting it ring for ever more just because some chick or guy was either screening my calls or not picking up because they had moved on and I had not. That is just too pathetic for words. This song truly belongs on the list because no matter how much I may even like this song, and I do, it still doesn’t cut it for a mature adult. But then, who said anything about mature adults and then again, who said the audience for such songs was even mature adults?

My personal take is that so many of these songs are aimed at younger people who go through those first heart-breaking break-ups from which they think they’ll never recover (they usually do) and these songs then take on deep meaning as if the radio itself were then directed specifically at them. This much I get. I understand that. Still, a good song and I still like it, even if stadium self pity list-worthy.

She’s Gone by Hall and Oates – Yes, you better learn how to face it. This guy sounds like he is going to just die without his beloved and what could be worse? Hey, even Daddy has gotten in the act and has tried his hand at trying to console the lad but to no avail. My question though, how old is this guy supposed to be? I mean, I know we all turn to our family to some extent in times of trouble but to turn to Daddy over a break-up seems a little lame and for this reason, “She’s Gone” makes the list of self-pity as well as pathetic songs, Want a taste?

Everybody’s high on consolation
Everybody’s trying to tell me what’s right for me
My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon
but it’s plain to see that they can’t comfort me.

Okay, so we all need, what is it he says, “a drink and a quick decision,” I believe, and yes, friends too, but that She’s Gone and his line “I better learn how to face it” are absolutely right. Learn how to face it.

I’d say that to every single person on this list.


Thanks for waiting,


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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • Steve

    Nice to have you back Sadi.

    I have the Hall & Oates tune (I have a 3 disc ‘best of’ of theirs), I also just picked up an ELO box set recently with that “Telephone Line” tune on it, and it seems to me we’ve discussed the rest on previous lists, except maybe the Terry Jacks tune, re. which, I had never thought of as a ‘downer’ kind of song, though obviously only because I’ve never paid attention to the lyrics lol.

    Funny how artists can couch dark lyrics with uplifting music and vice versa. Kinda perverse when you think about it lol. I always think of how “Every Breath You Take” by The Police is taken by many folks as a love song when in fact it’s a creepy song about a stalker. Interesting how music can mask the message of a song rather than enhance it’s meaning.

  • hey Steve and thank you….. things have settled down now my other ‘thing’ is being pain today… (epil. read Here Wear This Stigma etc etc…) so i’m having hard time typing. I have a few songs by Hall an Oates but i like some of their stuff a lot… tho i admit it IS a bit on the poor me side, that much is undeniable i think…

    Terry Jacks you never though of a downer???!!! wow! how could you not!! the lyrics pretty much ring out true to me but then, who knows maybe i’m being a real cold hearted pain in arse and he or someone close really was dying or something. I mean, it just sounds that way but my sense is that it’s not that way… i could be dead wrong tho so who knows.. in any event, this guy is really done for in every way and if he is dying, he doesn’t seem to be doing it with dignity. I think there is even a line ….

    ” goodbye papa it’s hard to die/
    when all the birds are singing in the sky/
    now that the spring is inthisr/….”

    something along those lines i believe… simple.. still, it fits the category. maybe it’s not self pity so much as “depressing as hell” in whidh case this list could have gone on forever and ever….

    more later… now must get some rest… ; )

    nice to see you; pardon typos. i cannot see so well just well…

    cheers ~~ s.

  • “Seasons In The Sun”. yikes!!

    a couple of years outa college, somebody at the office i worked at started a “worst song of all time” contest on a white board in a public area.

    the “top” three:

    Seasons In The Sun
    Billy Don’t Be A Hero
    The Night Chicago Died

    i voted for the latter. can’t remember who “won”.

  • Steve

    Hmm, Mark, never heard of the other two you list, but given the list they were on, maybe that’s just as well lol!!!

    “Sugar Mice” by Marillion (from their 1987 album “Clutching At Straws”) is one of the most ‘downer’ tunes I’ve heard, though it still has much to commend it musically, IMHO.

    Sadi, you were talking about having themes for your List, how about happy tunes next week??? (Just wondering which ones I would pick if I could think of any right now, hmmmm….).

  • I love the Ryan Adams cut. It’s one of my favorites by him and that is saying something.

    That song by ELO used to work my nerves back in college. I don’t know why. I just rememeber it grating on me. I did like “Evil Woman,” though. Go figure.

    Let’s get those Elliott Smith songs on here for next week, though!!! I had “King’s Crossing” on repeat today. One of the saddest, most bitter, and ultimately beautiful songs I have heard in years. And what a sonic adventure it is.

  • Rodney Welch

    Sadi, You may be too young to have heard of Rod McKuen, but he was all the rage when I was growing up, a master of lovesick hooey, a veritable Thomas Kincaid of poetry, and the poet laureate of desperate housewives everywhere.

    He also wrote popular songs, at least two of which — “Seasons in the Sun” and “MacArthur Park” — have become classics of wretched excess. He has a website, in case you’re interested.

  • Steve

    I happen to have a couple of Rod McKuen songs –

    “Love’s Been Good To Me” by Frank Sinatra

    and I just discovered that I have this one –
    “If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” by Shirley Bassey! Sounds very European circa 1960’s (naturally, her being Welsh and it being from 1967!!). “Goldfinger” is still my fave of hers, I think.

    I’ve never heard of Elliott Smith, other than on Blogcritics here. I’ve heard a couple of Ryan Adams tunes, but I must confess, I doubt I would remember them if I heard them again.

  • Great list Sadi! I’m not sure why, but sad, depressing songs are always my favorites. And I love your Ryan Adams pick. I’ve only recently started to listen to him, and I thing that is a great song.

    I think we talked about this before…Ne Me Quitte Pas….I haven’t heard Sting’s version, but I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Nina Simone’s. I only understand a little bit of the song–with only 4 years of high school french…but her heartbreak is evident just through her voice.

  • Steve

    Chantal, the only Nina Simone tune I have is “My Baby Just Cares For Me” from the mid 80’s.

    What album is Sting’s version of that French tune on, Sadi??

  • hey Steve….

    do yourself a favor—go out and pick up a Nina Simone cd…I think she has a few “best of..” compilations out there. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

    One of my all time favorite Nina songs is “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. If you can find a cd with that song, that would be great!

  • hey Steve… i could only find the Sting version of Ne Me Quitte Pas live, and downloadable, tho i’m sure it’s available live somewhere… look for it on allmusic or somewhere like that they are bound to have it i should think… try it out… worth a shot anyway…….

  • Mark S. = You are right about the three most pathetic songs… tho i think “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” pretty much takes the cake for me… not the sentiment so much as the song itself and the way it is sung… ugh…. thx for the reminder (how could i have left that off.. but hey, i did ask for reminders and that is the point! thx. for that… i’m lovin that one… ~ s. Remember “What a Lonely Boy” …

  • Steve

    Is that Nina Simone song a cover of the Animals’ hit of the same name?? I bought a Very Best Of Elvis Costello last year thinking that his version would be on it but alas, not! Thanks for the tip, Chantal.

  • hey Chantal ~ ! yes, the Nina Simone version is pretty great and the obvious heartbreak does come through in the lyrics, you’re right… i do like Stings’s version (bad accent and all) but Simone is great in her own terrific way and yes, Steve, go out and buy yourself a boxed set of Simone ASAP b/c she’s pretty great ~ the more you listen, the more you love…

    have you heard the song in English?

    Funny thing, i never have, only in French (but i speak french so it’s easy to translate well-enough but still, i’d be curious to see how it comes out in English)… to see how the translation is handled… anyone heard it…

    i did a list like this a while back but not quite the same, some similar or same songs but didn’t go as in depth…

  • Another really Stadium Self Pity song is (and you can tell by the title is) Greatest Could Have Been by the group WTT (World’s Tallest Thing) same band that did “Gibraltar” which made the list a few lists ago. Check out Amazon for that, i think it’s on that album they have there… the lyrics are not explicit despite labeling… not in any way that would warrant the label (i mean, if Peaches doesn’t have it, then WTT certainly shouldn’t have it…)

    check it out and take a listen on Amazon. The title of the album is Be Prepared to Stop and the song is Greatest Could Have Been (or Always the Greatest Could Have Been)… Well worth the time…

    cheers all…


  • Steve

    It’s not on an album at allmusic.com, Sadi, oh well!!

    I forgot to mention the only solo song I have of Andrew Gold is a cover version of “Never Let Her Slip Away” (from 1978) by Undercover (from 1992).

  • Steve

    Sadi, my version by Shirley Bassey is in English.

  • wiklagirl

    Come Pick Me Up is a great choice – but then I’m known in some parts as a Ryan obsessive

    Btw, ‘Seasons in the Sun’ is an English translation of ‘Le Moribond’ (The Dying Man) by the amazing Jacques Brel

    Slainte !

  • Mike

    …and Jacques Brel wrote Ne Me Quitte Pas.

  • Wilkagirl! wow! i had NO idea that Jacques Brel did that and we’re fans here… i mean, we know most things French i should say… so it’s funny we didn’t know.. thanks for the information…. that’s amazing….

    I knew he wrote Ne Me Quitte Pas, Mike = or at least, did a version of it, that much i knew for sure, but i did not know that he did Seasons in the Sun… it all starts to make sense.

    Glad you like the list Wilkagirl…that the Ryan Adams choice made sense to you – the live version especially makes sense in a screwed up but great way… not sure if this list is self pity as much as it is just songs that are sadly pathetic…

    in any event….

    thanks for the info both!

    interesting….which is why we have such a great comments section on the List i think… such a great exchange of information…

    thx again…. be well all ~

  • Steve

    I believe he co-wrote it with the aforementioned McKuen, Mike.

  • Mike

    Steve, Jacques Brel wrote Ne Me Quitte Pas. Ten years later McKuen worked on an English version set to Brel’s tune, though the English lyric isn’t a direct translation of Brel’s French lyric.

    Many have covered both the French and English versions.

  • Mike

    If you search out Brel’s lyric and McKuen’s “translation” you’ll see that they have precious little in common.

  • Steve

    OK, Mike, thanks for clarifying, that’s helpful.

  • Steve

    Hay, Sadi, any idea when the next list might be up this week??

  • heya, babe.. i was just thinking of you.. weird… yes, i was thinking Wednesday or Thursday. I’m on deadlne for another piece and have a job interview as well, so it looks like later in the week… but i’ll post here and keep you, uhm, posted… but feel free to ping for updates but Wed or Thursd but Wed late in the day…. not sure what will be on the list next…. we’ll have to wait and see.. i mean, i know what i would put it left to own devices, tho i doubt they would be crowd pleasers… all NIck Drake, all Bob Dylan all the time…

  • Steve

    OK, Sadi, thanks for the info. Great minds think alike eh?? Looking forward to it. Just try to mix the common with the obscure, that way everyone can get something out of it. You could include one Drake song and one Dylan one if you like (on every List even!), as long as you have a good mix of other stuff too, you will get a good response. I might even be able to comment on up to 4 Dylan songs I have that were covered by someone else in my collection.

  • i think i can mix it up well and a lot of people love Drake and love Dylan and even totally obscure stuff (Dylan and Drake are not obscure really at all.. i can DO obscure, but i won’t)…. but yes, let’s mix it up a bit and see what kind of response we get and i’ll put on some of our stuff that we all know and love as well…. i just don’t want to get stale…

    i wish i had your email…or a way to give you mine… let me see if EO can help with this… if it’s ok with you… is it?

    let me know..

    best as ever and thx for advice,


  • Scott Butki

    Hi Sadi. I’ve been downloading music and trying out new stuff. So I’m going to go through your lists – all 13 – and try out some of the songs you talk about so don’t be surprised if you see some items get revived and songs’ picks supported or opposed.

    First up, Nina Simone…

    As for Ryan Adams, I liked him in Whiskeytown and saw him play in a small club. After that when he got back and more cocky – I watched him belittle the crowd once for being too loud – I just couldn’t get into him.

    Oh and looking at this list I can’t take Hall and Oates seriously. They sound like a combination of a cough drop and a cereal. And their music is too syrupy for me.

    For self-pity I’d nominate almost any song by the Smiths or a few Replacements songs.

  • Scott Butki

    I’d be curious to read your thoughts on the list of the best songs about L.A.
    That list is here.

  • Steve

    Hey there Sadi, how’s the next list coming?

  • it’s coming….. prob. tomorrow… so sorry for delay… it seems i’m always a day behind… this is b/c of other pressure but it’ll be out… no worries… : ) don’t worry. just means it better be damn good!!!

  • Sal

    I don’t think “Come Pick Me Up” is intended to be an angry attack at the former lover, but more an ode to what he loved about her. Laughing off everything he knew she would do, and yes, a pleasure found in abuse.

  • Steve

    Don’t stress too much, Sadi. Always good to hear from you, List or no List. As long as you are well, that’s the main thing.

  • Steve

    Hard to believe another weekend is almost upon us!! Hope you’re doing ok, Sadi. Let us know here when the next List is up, alright??

  • i’m okay… just been having some seizure issues. so list is delayed… hopefully tomorrow… today was a really bad day for me. lots of seizures and my husband had to come home etc etc You get the picture (i’m epileptic so…).. in any event… too much stress causes this too, but i DO have a good list, i think and it really just needs the filing out.

    if i’m better tomorrow, which i’m really hoping, then i will get it done. i’ll kee pyou posted either way…

    send good health vibes my way; i could use ’em right now… thanks ~~ S.

  • Hope you feel better soon Sadi….

    ~~~~sending good health vibes your way~~~~

    Take care of yourself!

    ~chantal 🙂

  • hey Chantal ~ another day of the same… i hope this passes soon. i can’t b eon the computer like this… ‘m hoping this will pass and i can get this or maybe even two lists done at once….

    thanks all for your patience with this epilepsy stuff.. it really stinks…



  • Steve

    Thanks for keeping us updated, Sadi. You are in my prayers.

  • posted new list a few hours ago now so it should be up soon with the editors appoval for all who have been so very patiently waiting, i just wanted to say thank you… and to let you know that it was coming up, so look for it soon… b/c it’s there… or here… It’s Number 14 so you can do a search on it List of the Moment Number 14 and it should pop right up in the search box either on top or several down… let me know if any problems, but i doubt not.

    And thanks all for patience and understanding during time when i’ve been really ill and overworked. The ill part sucked the most…

    Thank you so so so very much all… I already have my next list all lined up because i had forgotten (in my haze) that i had already made a list. Thus, my job should be a little bit easier…

  • Steve

    Thanks, Sadi. Good to hear things are better for you now.

  • Zrx

    I’ve dealt with very sad people before, some of whom are still with us, some are not. Terry Jacks’ song ‘Seasons in the Sun’ is quite reminiscient of their last thoughts. I don’t know if Mr. Jacks is doing just fine or not, but, like all artists, those lyrics probably come from somewhere in his soul. I hope he is okay today…