We celebrate five years of inspiring songs and stories for the Guest DJ Project by highlighting a few of our favorite moments. This episode features track picks from Conan O’Brien, Felicia Day, Marc Maron, David Sedaris and Anthony Bourdain.
1. Bob Dylan - Buckets of Rain (Conan O’ Brien)
2. The Breeders – Cannonball (Felicia Day)
3. David Bowie – Heroes (Marc Maron)
4. Aretha Franklin - Until You Come Back to Me (David Sedaris)
5. The Stooges - Down on the Street (Anthony Bourdain)
Rachel Reynolds: Hi, I’m Rachel Reynolds, producer for the Guest DJ Project. Five years ago I walked into General Manager Jennifer Ferro’s office with an idea for a show where cultural creators share the songs that have inspired them. It was that simple and now, over 250 episodes later, we wanted to celebrate with some of our favorite moments.
Tears have been shed, dedications have been made but most of all we’ve heard many moving stories about success, failure, love, loss, regret and joy
RR: Conan O’Brien was our first big star and he didn’t disappoint. He regaled us with stories of meeting the White Stripes in Detroit and having Radiohead as a guest on his show. But nothing beat his description of why Bob Dylan is great, to host Jason Bentley, in a chat about “Buckets of Rain”.
Dylan is an obvious choice but this is a song that I don't think gets a ton of play on the radio. I love this song. This song haunts me, but also I love crazy lyrics. And Bob Dylan has written a lot of hard to decipher lyrics over the years, but I actually believe this is the song that contains the craziest lyrics of all. I challenge other Dylan fans to top the line that's in this song -- "little red wagon, little red bike, I ain't no monkey but I know what I like." I mean, I think about that line all of the time…What's he talking about?? It sounds good.
And there have been many times where I've been at a loss for words and people are saying ‘come on Conan, this is important! The show starts in an hour, what should we do?’ And I'll say "little red wagon, little red bike, I ain't no monkey but I know what I like" and I'll walk out of the room and they'll say ‘Wow, he's a genius. No one's as deep as Conan…’
RR: Geek goddess and actress Felicia Day has so much genuine enthusiasm for the things she loves. She talked to fellow geek Eric J Lawrence about The Breeders “Cannonball” and becoming cool.
This track is very seminal in my life because it’s the first time in my life I ever felt cool -- in any way, shape or form. I was home-schooled all my life, I was very isolated, I was very studious. I got straight A’s in college – I was an overachiever to the point where I really was not fun to be around (laughs). I think I was 13 at the time, and this was kind of the first album I ever bought on my own in the store and, when I played it, I felt cool. I felt like I could wear some black leather pants and walk down the street.
There’s something about music, you know, being a musician, I don’t listen to lyrics very well, my Rock Band performances reveal that because I’m never good with anything but the choruses, like, I hope everybody else is (laughs). But just evocative of a mood, that’s what I love about music. You could access emotion in a way that’s just so kind of primal.
And this was the first time I felt like Felicia Day was a cool kid and I put on terrible leather jacket with fringe on it, and I would walk around with a candy cigarette – it was just terrible. I mean, I’m not kidding, I did have a candy cigarette thing going on…anyway, The Breeders…“Cannonball”…makes you cool.
RR: I’ll be honest, I was a little scared to meet Marc Maron. He has a confrontational, rebellious style to his his comedy. But hHe couldn’t have been nicer and more thoughtful in his songs picks. He showed a side of him I’ve never seen in his chat with host Mario Cotto talking about David Bowie’s “Heroes”.
I don't remember when it first affected me – I think I was in college – and there was just something about music and certain songs that elevate me. They literally give me a physical high. I find a lot of times now I use my iPod like unlike an I.V. unit. If I am in a certain state of mind, whether it's nostalgic or sad or elevated or energized or just excited, there are certain songs that will sustain that buzz for me. There is something about "Heroes" that is so romantic, slightly dark, just tragically satisfying about the song. In that third verse where he basically screams the lyrics, right when you know that's coming in – if you know this song – you should get a full body high.
There is just something about the build of that song that gets me off, but there is also something heartbreaking about this song. Even reading the lyrics I get that feeling. It's a heart swelling feeling.
There is something about the romantic nature about this song. I think I started to listen to it in college. And if I'm troubled now I was more troubled then – more heavy-hearted and more crazy. Any relationship I was in at that time, not unlike now, was plagued with drama and insanity. There is something about this song that celebrates the nature of difficult love and the romance and tragic love for me.
Song: David Bowie – “Heroes”
RR: Frequent NPR contributor and author David Sedaris is a gentle soul with an incredible sense of humor and gift for storytelling. He brought his list of songs and spent some time digging around in the jazz section of KCRW’s music library before taping this heartwarming session with host Jason Bentley. He really loves Aretha Franklin, especially her song “Until You Come Back to Me”.
The second was like a pop song and its "Until You Come Back To Me" by Aretha Franklin. And that is just…a song that…you know every year, every summer my family would rent a house at the beach and every year we had a ‘beach song' you know which was the popular song that summer and it was just a really good year, the year that that was the song. And then later on I broke up with somebody and by then there were tapes and so I had a tape of the song and I played it over and over and over. That's the way I've always been with music. Like my boyfriend, he'll put on…he'll put a bunch of things into the CD player and listen to them all. But I listen to the same song. I just get stuck on a song and play it 30 times, you know, until I kind of get sick of it for a while and then I move on to something else. But I tend also to…like I realize that when my boyfriend listens to songs, listens to music, he's just appreciating the music but I was never…I always have to put myself in it, I always have to pretend that like "Till You Come Back to Me" that's ME singing, like it's not Aretha Franklin-- it's me. I don't look like her, I still look like myself. I just have that voice, right. And my boyfriend left me and then I'm singing this song and he sits in the audience and he hears me and he says, "God, how could I ever have left him? I didn't know he could sing like this". So pretty much all of my songs --it's the same with the Billie Holliday song that I chose -- with all of the songs. I'm always imagining my place in the song. It's very rare for me to just appreciate something from a distance.
RR: Chef, TV personality and author Anthony Bourdain is known for telling it how it is. When he came to KCRW, he was in the middle of a press tour and obviously exhausted. But the second he started talking about music, he totally lit up and came alive. He talked about various life changing musical moments with host Liza Richardson, including discovering The Stooges “Down in the Street”.
Well, it was the end of the 60s, and I realized I'd missed it. I was just turning 13, just in time to go out and be a hippie in San Francisco and have all of those good times and free love that I had been promised in the magazines, and it was already over. You know, going off to a commune, didn’t seem like a good idea anymore…hippies clearly had hygiene issues, and I didn't want to share my yogurt with anybody. I was angry, disgruntled, I had nothing to believe in. The entire musical landscape was tired. I think it was 1970, and The Stooges came out with their greatest record ever -- “Funhouse” - about as dark, angry, ugly, socially unredeeming, and utterly wonderful as music could get. It just spoke perfectly to my disillusion, my teen angst in full bloom, my rage at society, my disappointment. When I took the turn down towards The Stooges, I did set myself apart in a way that, looking back now, something of the road to ruin, it's no accident that my life started to take a downward spiral.
It really said something about a person if you showed up with a Stooges album. You turned your back on Eric Clapton, you were over Hendrix, you were over everything you were listening to before. You were in a different, slightly dangerous and untrustworthy place. Stooges fans were not the cream of society, and I identified with that closely right away, I responded very powerfully to this record. It was, for me, the antidote to everything that was going on around me. To me, it made The Doors look like self-indulgent hippies. This was the real thing.
RR: Thanks for listening and find a new set online every Wednesday on demand.