Best of 2013

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We’ve hosted more than 40 guests on this show in 2013. Each is asked to pick five songs and -- even with thousands of options -- a handful of artists come up again and again. We celebrate those bands with this end of year show, with selections from The Beatles, David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

Comedy legend Martin Short: The Beatles – “Ticket to Ride”

Fashion icon Simon Doonan: David Bowie – “Sound and Vision”

Architect Julie Eizenberg: Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”

Comedian David Cross: The Who – “5:15”

Director David O Russell: Led Zeppelin – “What Is and What Should Never Be”

Actor Val Kilmer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Manic Depression”



Song: “Ticket to Ride” --The Beatles

Martin Short: It’s interesting, to do five tracks of your whole life. For me, you have to pick something from The Beatles, and to me – “Ticket to Ride”. I don’t think there’s any single that they do that better reflects the mix of ambition, tension, and pure pop genius that makes them The Beatles.

I think the bridge is brilliant. The band suddenly, frantically picks up the pace and the tune becomes precociously groovy, even as it reflects the nervous desperation lurking beneath the soaring melody. I think it’s just one of the great, perfect Beatles songs.

Eric J Lawrence: Hi, I’m KCRW DJ Eric J. Lawrence. I had the pleasure of hosting some of the more than 40 Guest DJ Project sessions we taped this year. You just heard from comedy legend, Martin Short, talking about The Beatles, one of the most chosen artists of 2013. Each guest picks five songs to spotlight, and even with thousands of options, a handful of artists come up again and again. We wanted to celebrate those bands with this end of the year show.

Song: “Sound and Vision” -- David Bowie

Lawrence: Next up is a track from another popular pick, David Bowie. Here’s fashion icon Simon Doonan, who made a name for himself with his outrageous window displays for Barneys.

Doonan: The next track is Bowie, “Sound and Vision”. I have vivid memories of being in a club in London called The Blitz. And it was sort of the punk club that then became the new romantic club where everybody was running around dressed like pirates – it was completely mad. So me and my friends - who were sort of all outsiders, marginal freaks, creative kids who had sort of found their way to London from these crap towns around the U.K. - we would gather at The Blitz and I remember us all being in a group singing this at the top of our lungs.

Lawrence: Thinking about London at the time, I mean this is sort of post Carnaby Street sort of vibe, I guess. What was sort of the fashion sense at the time, during the 70’s?

Doonan: Well, London was very dismal in 70’s, but the fashion wasn’t. It went very specifically from hippie to glam rock, which was so huge in London. Then after glam rock, there was this sort of retro period where everybody walked around with long cigarette holders and brilliantined hair, and was very sort of Gatsby, in a pose-y retro vintage kind of way. And then after that came punk, which just detonated everything.

Song: “Psycho Killer” -- The Talking Heads

Lawrence: They’re not the only ones, but architects love the band Talking Heads. Julie Eizenberg, one of the makers and shakers in her field, tells us why.

Eizenberg: The way he meshes music with a lyric that just gives a meaning that you don’t get from one piece of it alone. I mean it’s beautiful poetry and it’s beautiful music, but when you put the two together, that juxtaposition is like, ‘Wow, how did I get to understand it that way?’

He’s a great hero of ours, and if any one of these groups is an inspiration for architecture, it would be The Talking Heads and David Byrne.

His way of taking the sort of a common place idea of something and then setting it with a musical take that completely makes you reinterpret what you’ve seen -- so it reframes the way you saw things or understand things. And we’d love to be able to do that. We try hard! [laughter]

“5:15” -- The Who

Lawrence: Next up, comedian David Cross shares a surprisingly emotional story about a frequent favorite on the Guest DJ Project.

Cross: This song is “5:15”, from “Quadrophenia”, by The Who.

Cross: This song and this album in particular, I feel closer to, as if this song was a human being, it would be my best friend.

I can’t say that The Who are my favorite band -- there was a time when they were -- but they’re the most important in my life and I don’t imagine that’ll ever change, just because what they meant at the age I was when I came to them, or they came to me.

“Quadrophenia”, in particular where there wasn’t any before, or just little bits and pieces of ‘Nobody knows what I’m going through, this is hard! Life’s…’ You know, the, the things that a 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 year old go through – they’re all very real, and they’re certainly very real, and hyper-real in the moment.

Nothing encapsulated and articulated those feelings like the album “Quadrophenia”, and this song in particular. And there are a number on the, on the album that are, that do that, but this song – there are certain lines, and the one that really kicked my ass: “Sadly ecstatic that their heroes are news”, which is so meta because my friends and I, who were way into The Who and way into kinda this - [laughter] Keep in mind I’m in Atlanta, in the 80’s, early 80’s, and and I’m trying to be a mod. I had this like chartreuse jacket, a pork pie hat, and was saving money to get a GS Scooter, and I had like a Mac, and it was ridiculous. And again, you’re talking about an 18, 19 year old who  was very awkward, self-conscious. I didn’t have very high self-esteem at all. But yeah, this song, and this album, really spoke to what I was going through.

Song: “What Is and What Should Never Be” -- Led Zeppelin

Lawrence: Rock icons Led Zeppelin show up on many a list, including David O’Russell, who directed "American Hustle", as well as the acclaimed films "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook". He tells us why he loves “What Is and What Should Never Be”.

Russell: It's a bipolar song in a way because it starts off "and if I say to you tomorrow", which is so quiet, and then it gets really loud and violent and then it gets really quiet again. It just keeps going like that through the whole song.

Led Zeppelin was a fantastic discovery for me and I remember it was much harder than any of the other music I had been listening to. I remember a girl I was dating at the time and her mother were very disconcerted and concerned that I bought Led Zeppelin II. They were like "What is that?" and I was like "This is the future." I just thought it was amazing.

It's so interesting, because I had the same feelings about them that the world had apparently, because I just read this and it's such an inspiring story, is that they were panned, shredded by critics. Critics, don't get me started. I agree with Bob Dylan who says "you can't read critics." I agree with him. They were shredded, they were kicked by

Rolling Stone, the flagship of rock and roll. They were called derivative, nothing, posers, for their three most classic albums I, II, and III. Like iconic albums.

Song: “Manic Depression” -- Jimi Hendrix

Lawrence: Last but not least, Jimi Hendrix. His career was far too short, but his influence was monumental. And actor Val Kilmer perfectly captures why.

Val Kilmer: "Manic Depression," I don't think I'm a depressed guy, but I think I have melancholy in me. Maybe that's a romantic notion. But the idea of a song with such joy, the lyrics are, of course, about suicide: "I just can't get out, I just can't get out." He's at the bottom of the ocean but has such energy, such hope in it and I just find stories like that, characters like that, poetry like that, so hopeful.

That's what's so great about music. You can't do it with acting. You can't be in a "blues mood" as an actor and just act the dark, depressed guy and just come right out of it. ‘I was walking on the beach this morning dude and I did all my Hamlet monologues and I feel great…’ You know, it just doesn't happen. You're just in a mood or you find out what's really going on by just picking up an instrument and it just comes out through it. So many, I would even say every great recording artist I've ever known, any great writer, they all say the exact same thing. They didn't really write the song, they all say some version of, ‘I was a stenographer, I just wrote it down.’

Lawrence: Thanks for listening this year. Find full sessions from all these guests and many more in the archives at KCRW dot com slash Guest DJ Project and via your smartphone apps.