Mr. Brick’s Top Picks – Volume 9


01. Michiru Yamane – Dracula’s Castle
02. The Beatles – Please Please Me
03. Joyce Eilers & Bob Lowden – Armed Forces Salute
04. Don McLean – American Pie
05. Reel Big Fish – I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend
06. Michiru Yamane – Prelude
07. Monty Python – Knights of the Round Table
08. Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride
09. Pink Floyd – Time
10. The Seatbelts – What Planet Is This?
11. Wings – Band on the Run
12. Mentos – The Freshmaker
13. The Blues Brothers – Jailhouse Rock
14. The Doobie Brothers – Listen to the Music
15. The Seatbelts – Go Go Cactus Man
16. The Who – Pinball Wizard
17. Journey – Any Way You Want It
18. Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
19. Michiru Yamane – Crystal Teardrops


01. Michiru Yamane – Dracula’s Castle (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, 1997)

Blood rock, ladies and gentlemen. It ain’t quite metal, it ain’t quite goth, but it’s blood, all right. I won’t sit here and try to pretend that my love of this soundtrack isn’t deeply entrenched with my love of this game, that while watching my friend play it I made him stop where he was so I could close my eyes and savor the delicious ear sweetness.

No, man. No. This game is amazing, and it took years of not playing it to realize the soundtrack was amazing enough to stand alone.

What we get here that we didn’t get from “Tragic Prince” is the synthesizer, which, although prominent as a supporting voice throughout the soundtrack, features rarely as the lead. SOTN has such a diverse soundtrack, though, that several voices get a turn in the spotlight: harpsichord, choir, bells, guitar, organ, strings, brass, etc. All these make sense in Castlevania, a world with themes rooted in epic ecclesiastical warfare.

Of course it’s obvious that Castlevania is also deeply rooted in horror, and there the synthesizer is an old, old friend. It’s certainly a friend to this song, one of the first in the game, and nails the job of setting the stage for the battle to come. Welcome to the nightmare.

The last song in the game is by far the blackest sheep in the flock, anyway. The sappy ballad over the credits is a Japanese maneuver. Even with English lyrics, I don’t think America can handle it. Then again, if you were to ask me in 1997 if America could handle anything Japanese, I would’ve said “stop bothering me, I’m playing Donkey Kong.”


02. The Beatles – Please Please Me (Please Please Me, 1963)

Let me tell you about the worst part of the CD age: fragility.

It was impossible for a new CD to go six months without picking up at least a scuff or two, even with obsessive caution. It was no help that jewel cases were doomed to a shambles almost as soon as you got home from the mall. The bumps holding the booklet broke, the front and back windows cracked, the little teeth in the tray hub holding the CD popped off, and the hinges… The hinges were the worst. Sure, if you lost a bump or a tooth, the book/disc might sit a little loose in the case, but if you broke a hinge, you were now the proud owner of an unquantifiable collection of plastic. The booklet was the only piece in the kit guaranteed to last a year.

It was still an improvement. Music goons no longer had to join a gym to lift their crates of vinyl, untangle their cassettes from their pets, or just whatever the hell was going on with 8-tracks. Just don’t let the bottom of your CDs get too scratched, dude, and you’re good.

Bottom side scratches were reparable, anyway, and possibly playable even in egregious cases. A friend of a friend in senior year had a death metal mix burned to a disc, the bottom of which had been thoroughly desecrated with scratches spanning every possible chord and radius in the circle. The guy, a true metal enthusiast, doubled down on the damage and carved a deep pentagram over the whole mess. “That’s fucked,” I told him, “no way that plays.” It played every single time.

For the glory of you-know-who.
For the glory of you-know-who.

Mere months ago my roommate got uppity with me for putting his precious DVDs bottom-side-down on the table. “If you can’t put them back in the case, at least put them bottom-up.” I see some nods in the crowd; sure, we’ve all been there, just plop the CDs ass up. No contact, no harm, right?


The top side, though traditionally unreadable, is actually closer to the data than the bottom side. The average bottom-scratch usually only interferes with the laser’s ability to read the data, easily remedied by resurfacing kits which shave the cosmetic damage off in micrometers.

Following a mild jostle.
Following a mild jostle.

Top-scratches risk actual physical intrusion upon the data itself, in which case you are soundly screwed. Having trouble with your favorite Smash Mouth CD? Hold it up to the light with the top side facing you. If any light shines through the screen printed art, congratulations! Your shit is borked.

Most dorks did away with jewel cases, anyway, as their growing allowances fed directly into their collections, collections which were simply too cool to stay home. These collections were stuffed into binders: hefty, zippered tomes with (seemingly) safe, soft felt-like pages that caressed and cooed the sensitive bottoms of the music. When closed, though, these binders put the CDs under a degree of pressure never exhibited by jewel cases, and the plastic sleeves holding the discs to the felt rubbed against the label sides, and…yep. I lost several discs this way.


Who even collects music anymore? Just get Spotify. Who even supports music anymore? Art is perfunctory; just get a job.


03. Joyce Eilers & Bob Lowden – Armed Forces Salute

As I said before, the America was strong with the band program, and the fatigue was consequently strong with my patriotism. But what did I expect to play for these inescapable gigs, anyway? It could’ve been much, much worse.

All it really took to break the exhaust was a good arrangement. “Armed Forces Salute” is a straightforward medley of all the major military branches’ respective themes. It was a no-brainer for Veterans Day assemblies, where the veterans in attendance proudly stood up when their theme came on.

The wind band, after all, is rooted in the military. Apart from Holst, I can think of no music more appropriate for the ensemble, personal taste aside. (Holst is the big money, and I’m ashamed to say he is nowhere to be found in the Brick saga.)

This arrangement was kind to the tuba, as well, and as I’ve said before, in a world of whole notes, the bass voices learn to appreciate the kindness of movement.


04. Don McLean – American Pie (American Pie, 1971)

Talk about your one-hit wonder! And when people do, it’s usually with a hint of disdain, as if the solitude of the Hit exposed the fraudulence of the artist, which the oh so wise listener was savvy to all along. Can you smell the farts?

That disdain is noticeably absent in the case of Don McLean’s uberhit “American Pie”. Can you guess why?

AMERICA. This was One Hit with enough impact to break the crust and wedge itself permanently into the public consciousness as a staple of Americana. Chevys and levees, pickup trucks, marching bands, rock ‘n roll, dancing in the gym, James Dean, a generation lost in space, Satan laughing with delight. America through and through, though I take exception to the notion that a crowd ever danced to a marching band. In ten years of the game, I never once saw it. Maybe it was different in public school?

The biggest testament to this song’s sacred status is its radio presence: not just its persistence, but its intact…ness. It’s no small feat to run eight and a half minutes unbroken on the radio, but “American Pie’s” Dylanistic reliance on the lyrics demand that every word counts. Much like, say, “Desolation Row”, the journey is so smooth you lose the time without a second thought. I guarantee, though, you won’t hear “Desolation Row” on your local oldies station anytime soon.

Don McLean still tours, and while I’m sure he enjoys his tiny legacy, I have to wonder how many people turn up for just the one goddamn song. I’d say he deserves better, but I’ve only bothered to hear the one goddamn song myself, so shall we move on?


05. Reel Big Fish – I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend (Everything Sucks, 1995)

After the novelty of murderous intent wears off, well, this is just a boring song. I probably liked it because I was approaching that age where crushes were a dime a dozen, and the odds of wanting someone’s girlfriend as my own girlfriend were inescapably good. At least I was too much of a wiener to kill anyone over it.


06. Michiru Yamane – Prelude (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, 1997)

Looks like I was suddenly trying to get as much SOTN to disc as possible. Who could blame me? SOTN was great. And let’s be real: if the name of your game contains the word “symphony,” any reasonable person would expect a quality soundtrack.

Well, if symphonies are your bag, SOTN has you covered. It’s not all symphonic rock, and in fact, I’d partially retract my criticism of the cheesy fake orchestra from “Tragic Prince” on the strength of the strings alone. It’s only the brass that sounds like a TV movie; the rest I find perfectly workable.

In the case of “Prelude”, the TV brass is subdued and the strings take the lead, foretelling the dark despair to come.

As opposed to the…light…despair? Thank you for reading.


07. Monty Python – Knights of the Round Table (The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975)

Should I be crediting this to Neil Innes? Ah, whatever, everyone knows he’s honorary Python anyway. I think he’ll manage.

Thanks, Neil!

I don’t have to tell you about this movie, right? It’s one of the most unbearably quoted films of the 20th century, which is the logical curse of also being one of the most unbearably funny films of the 20th century. Kinda like The Big Lebowski. And much like Lebowski, I’ve watched Holy Grail so many times now that future viewings are superfluous. The fabric of the show is woven into the tapestry of my person, and that probably explains why [humorously bad thing about my personality].

The house of Python is built on the juxtaposition of the serious and silly, and while this is more or less the foundation of most comedy, Python seemed to have mastered it from the very beginning. Injecting their anarchy into Arthur’s legend was practically their right as cultural rebels of the kingdom, and it is no wonder that doing so relatively late in the troupe’s career, following years of practice, turned a timeless result.

To sell that juxtaposition, you have to establish a believable standard of serious, especially when you know your audience knows you’re going to shit all over it. There must be a legend to ruin, and in this respect the soundtrack carries a lot of the weight. Most who know “Knights of the Round Table” probably also know “Homeward Bound”, the de facto theme of the Quest for the Grail, a towering march truly fit for a king (not written by Neil Innes). As Arthur travels his kingdom assembling his knights, we have “Homeward Bound” spurring us along, reminding us that no matter how many limbs the Black Knight lost, no matter the origin of those coconuts, the journey is sacred.

Then they get to Camelot, where the irreparable damage begins, and I tell you, for sheer desecration, nothing beats a showtune. The Knights of Camelot seek only the glory of song, beautiful song: manly stomps, clucking horns, and bashing servants.

Without even making it in time for the show, Arthur realizes his mistake and turns back. He is then immediately granted an audience with God, as if in reward for avoiding Camelot, but we audience know what Arthur denies: his legend is doomed.


08. Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride (They Only Come Out at Night, 1972)


*guitar solo*

Thanks, Slavdik, whoever the hell you are.
Thanks, Slavdik, whoever the hell you are.


*two guitars solo*

DAD. ROCK. PARAAAAAAAAAokay okay no really. I mean, I no doubt I heard this one from my dad at some point, but its appearance at this time and place is no coincidence. My buddy JP was preparing the annual slideshow for the band banquet and needed a technical hand to mix the PowerPoint show and hand-picked soundtrack on a VHS. (This is before the mighty studio, remember.) I was happy to oblige, using the pre-mighty studio mixer. The actual process was a pretty straightforward set-it-and-forget-it, since the PowerPoint was automated and all the music was in order on a burned CD, though we did have to just sit there and let the whole thing run.

Which was actually cool, being a slideshow recap of the marching season now behind us, even though we are talking about the same season I previously referred to as “a slog.” But, y’know, friendship is magic, and what really breaks these sentimental shows is the fucking music. If it had been most other people, it’d have been some of this shit and this and you know they couldn’t skip this and probably some fucking Garth Brooks.

JP, though, you could count on to turn out a good list that people would like without being a rehash of the same playlist that plays on adult contemporary radio every day INCLUDING TODAY, THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.

What were we talking about? DAD ROCK.

JP put on the DAD ROCK, and if you’ve gotta pander to the middle of the bell curve without engaging the gag reflex, you could do much worse than some feel-good Dad Rock from the 70s. JP and I (and the rest of the Infamous Low Brass) pretty much loved this stuff as much as our Dads did anyway, so why the hell not.





09. Pink Floyd – Time (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)

The story of my father’s relationship with rock and roll (a crucial element in the development of my own) is too complex and personal a topic for me to fully elucidate on this blog, and veterans of Idiot Laureate’s past lives may recall that I am not so shy about personal topics.

The story of my father’s relationship with motor vehicles is considerably simpler: a young motorhead matured into a gifted mechanic, a gift which has provided the bedrock of support for himself and his whole family. His familiarity with both the construction and operation of these machines is intimate and natural. It is for him (as it is for most car people) equal parts work and pleasure. For the vastness of the distance between the young motorhead and the penitent man today, I’d bet good money that at the right time, on the right stretch of open road, he puts the pedal to the metal with the motorhead’s glee.

Some time in high school, before I had my license, he was driving me into town for one of my extracurricular affairs. He had the radio on a classic rock station, and this quintessential Floyd classic came on. It must have been a while since he’d heard it; his face turned to that of one seeing a very old friend, remembering very good old days.

He was in the middle of telling me what it was like hearing this album for the first time, his voice almost dreamy, when suddenly we both realized the car in front of us had stopped and in about two seconds we were going to plow into it at 60 miles per hour.

Before I could even open my mouth to say something, he snapped back to reality and veered to the right, swooping gracefully over the shoulder, flying around the stopped car as if that was what he’d meant to do all along.

Say what you will about Pink Floyd (lord knows I have), but they were in the business of sorcery, not music, and in this trade they were for a time second to none. Sorcery so strong that thirty years later, it could’ve killed the man on the road who taught me how to survive on the road.

There are some days that I wish my dad was still a motorhead, but I am in no place to judge. He has his religion; I have mine. But I’ll never play this album in a vehicle again.


10. The Seatbelts – What Planet Is This? (O.S.T. Future Blues, 2001)

Oh word, I am jacked the hell up now.

Seeing this in the list reminds me of another Seatbelts track from the Lost Volumes, and since I am currently jacked the hell up now I’m just gonna talk about “Tank”.

I love “What Planet”, too, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t talk about “What Planet” before I talk about “Tank”, and I can’t talk about “Tank” without foaming at the mouth, so if you’ll just keep that dart gun over on the bookshelf handy…

My relationship with Cowboy Bebop reflects my relationship with several video games: never seen it, love the music though. There’s still hope for Bebop, at least, not only because it’s often touted as the Not An Anime Guy’s Anime, but also because of the Seatbelts, the series’s resident band helmed by registered genius Yoko Kanno. Perhaps one day I will decide I need more context to the music and turn to the show from which it came.


What a blistering piece of ass. It’s so completely put together.

This song was already a magnanimous gift from the heavens in high school, but years and years later, no joke, not even lying here, I was sitting in my car with an attractive member of the female sex and about thirty seconds into playing this in the car for her she grabbed me by the skull and kissed me right on the mouth. If only I’d known life was this amazing, this fucking easy. If only I’d remember, and for a moment I do when I pour this piping hot goodness into my ears. I’m unworthy of this song.

God bless you, Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, and may she save you for being so good to me.



What? Another?

“What Planet Is This?” was another from the Band Slideshow list, and it is in fact JP to whom I owe the great debt of turning me on to the Seatbelts when I was too cantankerous to watch Cowboy Bebop despite his insistence. Thanks, bud. Hit me up some time, would ya? I, uh, promise not to kiss you on the mouth.


11. Wings – Band on the Run (Band on the Run, 1973)

I like Paul McCartney a lot more than I like John Lennon, yet I find myself at a similar loss of words when presented with his solo work, because, well, I never listened to a great deal of it. I’ve listened to more Ringo solo than Paul. Don’t even know what to make of that.

But many of my favorite Beatle songs are Paul songs, and in the great schism of the Northern Songwriters, I still stand by Sir McCartney. I have noticed in later years that I better understand John’s criticism of Paul’s latter-day Beatles work as “granny music.” It’s easy to take a shot back at John and say he’s just mad because Paul wrote better melodies, but it’s also impossible to argue that John’s work on, say, Abbey Road wasn’t miles above Paul’s in terms of creativity. Not nearly as accessible, but once you crack numbers like “She’s So Heavy”, you really do feel like you’ve opened a new door. (Everybody knows George Harrison was the hero of Abbey Road, anyway.) It’s certainly only by virtue of the Beatles being the Beatles that the blatant dimorphism in the style and tone of the Northern Songs was palatable to the listeners.

And that’s what I love about Paul: he’s the champion of the palate. In the eternal battle of the heart and the head, my heart often wins (where music is concerned, at least). Everybody talks shit about Wings, but it should probably be no surprise that following the pall of the Beatles’ breakup, Paul unleashed, yes, a mighty crash of a song to soar us over the sadness. Pretension be damned; get down with the grannies.

(Another from the Band Slideshow playlist, if you’re keeping score.)


12. John Groves – Mentos: The Freshmaker (The 1990s)

I take deep satisfaction in my smug resistance to advertisement. I skip eating lunch in the breakroom at work because they always got the TV going. The hell I’m gonna spend my one free hour of the day subject to an onslaught of carefully trained brain worms. It’s bad enough I gotta walk out the door or load a website once a day.

Imagine my frustration, then, when one of the hundreds of pointless product jingles from a forgotten time surface to my brain in stunning accuracy. When I want to transcribe a Tin Men favorite, I have to sit at the piano with the Zune on repeat through earbuds, over and over second-guessing whether or not that’s a half- or whole-step I’m hearing. I could bust out a full score for “(She’s Got) The Urge to Herbal” before I finish this post.

Fuck you, television. Fuck you, America.


13. The Blues Brothers – Jailhouse Rock (The Blues Brothers: Music from the Soundtrack, 1980)

Man, this is a surprise right here. I was neither a Blues Brothers fan nor an Elvis one at this age, yet here we are.

I have to assume it was the Blues Brothers who put the track here. I never did get into the Elvis. He’s one of those giants who is so giant that I overlooked him all my life. I don’t doubt the legitimacy of his legacy, and in fact such faith is probably why I’ve never examined his career. My interests have skewed country-rockabilly over the past few years, though, and since the modern offerings in that realm are scarce (and otherwise too dark or too deep), I reckon I’ll keep my ear to the past here. One day I’ll have a proper audience with the King. (And for real, I’m coming back around to the dark and deep. When my soul is ready.)

For now, Bubba Ho-tep is still all the Elvis this man needs.


As for the Blues Brothers? Their time’s a-coming. Let’s sit tight for now.


14. The Doobie Brothers – Listen to the Music (Toulouse Street, 1972)

One more feel-good dad-rocker from the Band Slideshow subset.

Really got nothing here. It’s such a middle-of-the-road can’t-lose number. Songs about music tend to be winners.


15. The Seatbelts – Go Go Cactus Man (Cowboy Bebop: Blue, 1999)

I don’t think the dart gun’s gonna cut it. Look behind the door, you see that cattle prod? Yep, that’ll do ya.

Now I knew Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts were my go-to for blazing brass action. I did not realize, though, just how deep their waters ran. I didn’t know I’d find in the Bebop catalogue a veritable cornucopia of outstanding performing and songwriting talent across ten different genres.

Though I should’ve known I’d find a literal Western twang-twong epic. Cowboy Bebop was Firefly before we had Firefly, and even Firefly’s soundtrack never dared to go full Morricone. Here “Cactus Man” delivers, not just in twangs but in whistles, clean guitar, and immaculate melody. The only problem here is how long it took me to stop ping-ponging between “Tank” and “Cactus Man” and just listen to the entire Bebop discography already.

I’m probably making the same mistake in putting off actually watching the show, but, y’know…I’m gonna. Eventually.


16. The Who – Pinball Wizard (Tommy, 1969)

Bonfires have always been a favorite in my family. Of my many, many cousins, a handful are guitarists, and of those, Claude is the gold standard. If Claude’s at the bonfire, Claude’s got his guitar, and Claude is Ready to Play. On top of his own body of work, he’s committed a hefty volume of covers to memory. He’ll sing, he’ll strum, he’ll solo, he’ll pick up on what you’re doing, and when you’re all tired out, Claude will just keep playing. It was a bonfire in 2003 when he played “Pinball Wizard,” and even though it was just a man and his guitar, even though the other shoe wouldn’t drop for another year, the song stuck at once.

Despite five years in the game, despite three albums under their belt, despite their clasp on the throat of pop music, the Who were on hard times in 1969. It’s hard to make money when you’re smashing all your shit at the end of every show. It’s hard to win over the Beatle banshee crowd when you’ve got a nose as big as Delaware. It’s hard to get booked on a live show when your drummer has a taste for explosives. It’s hard when your frontman wants to kick your ass.

By all accounts, if Tommy had failed, it would’ve probably been over for the Who. But Tommy soared, thanks in no small part to “Pinball Wizard”, written as an afterthought to pander to a critic’s known love of pinball. Not the first time Pete Townshend won favor with an afterthought, and probably not the last. No wonder he could be so angry.

After the bonfire, after I couldn’t get Claude’s version out of my head, I got into my brother’s CDs and found the original. In turn, I got into Tommy, later Quadrophenia, and then the journey truly began.


17. Journey – Any Way You Want It (Departure, 1980)










The author seizes the moment of distraction and leaps out of a closed window. You get up, walk to the (now shattered) first-story window, and look to the ground. The author lies still, covered in glass, bleeding in many little places. He draws a deep sigh and begins:

I suppose everybody’s got their band they love to hate, and I love to hate Journey. What a silly band. I have never encountered a group that presents itself as hard yet comes across so soft. (And I’ve seen Fadades.) Being soft is no sin, but pretending to be hard is, and in Journey I find the incongruousness indigestible.

But those were dark times. I had a fleeting crush on a girl with whom I probably had nothing in common for reasons I still cannot explain. (Not that I ever found out; making the first move wasn’t in my skillset until way past graduation.) Still more inexplicable was the sudden arrival of this song in my brain and its arbitrary assignment as the backdrop to daydreams with this unrequited crush. “I’m sorry baby, it won’t work. When I think of you, Journey starts playing.”

It’s a good song, okay? Say what I will about Steve Perry’s voice, it’s perfectly suited for the job. The band is tight. The guitar solo is great. It’s a good song, definitely my favorite Journey song. But hearing it makes me feel the way Steve Perry looks: a flimsy, shirtless muppet in a leather jacket. Please call an ambulance.


18. Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) (The Wall, 1979)

I remember listening to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” as a little dude and dreaming, dreaming of a day that school really was blown to pieces. I mean, school sucks, right?

Even in 10th grade, when I had more school behind me than in front, it was a pipe dream I could never flush. I knew I was stuck in school. And it still feels great to be out. I lead the kind of life that sometimes warrants the question, “Have you thought about going back to school?” and the answer is eternally no. I didn’t have a traumatic or even bad school experience, it’s just…no, man.

I still feel sorry when I see kids being shoveled off to the gulag on the big yellow horrorbus. I wish I could help them. Find the records, children.


What? Not those records. Good lord. Shouldn’t you be in class?


19. Michiru Yamane – Crystal Teardrops (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, 1997)

I so love the construction of this song. First, the bass. Perfect upright bassline happening here, up and down the frets with fluidity and grace. Next, the atmosphere. The strings, the drops of water, so good. Then the drums, scattering suddenly into a busy, noisy beat that should be completely out of place here but for how it’s mixed: muted and fuzzy, as if the drummer were sitting at the end of a hallway far from the stage. Then a piano, clear and beautiful like ice (with the faintest echo, if you listen closely). Then an oboe, probably synthesized but perfectly palatable, and at last the trademark Castlevania ecclesiastical organ, bouncing intervals against a growing wall of voices.

That’s SOTN for you: very beautiful, very bloody.


It may be time for me to accept that these playlists never get super diverse or eclectic. I like it anyway. The Band Playlist arc takes me back to some truly good times, and the arrival of the Seatbelts is an indelible mark of fortune on my life. It’s only a shame that I wouldn’t get into the rest of it until college. This is a definitive 10th grade record, and I remember that as a pretty big year for me. More on that soon…probably?

2 thoughts on “Mr. Brick’s Top Picks – Volume 9

Leave a Reply to Jason Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.