5 Bands, Albums or Record Labels That Have Gotten Me Through the Peace Corps

Today is #2 in a series of 5 daily 5′s.  For each day this week, I will publish a list of 5 less-than-serious things that I been a part of my Peace Corps experience. Today is musical.

"I long to see those hills where I come from / Listen the engine's rattle 'n roar, carryin' me back home once more / I'm southbound"

“I long to see those hills where I come from / Listen the engine’s rattle ‘n roar, carryin’ me back home once more / I’m southbound”

1.   The Beach Boys

If you thought ‘Surfin USA’ was the extent of this band’s talent, then you were mistaken as I was. The release of “The Smile Sessions” shared a whole new world with me, comparable to Princess Jasmine’s carpet ride.

Key Lyric:

I’m gonna be round my vegetables
I’m gonna chow down my vegetables
I love you most of all
My favorite vege-table

If you brought a big brown bag of them home
I’d jump up and down and hope you’d toss me a carrot

–from “Vega-tables”

2.   Billy Ocean

 Being a music snob, I surely didn’t see this one coming. Who knew that that 80’s could produce something as awesome as Billy Ocean? There aren’t many things better in life than a Friday night spinning your cat around the kitchen while singing “Get Out of My Dreams….And into my Car!”

Key Lyric:

Lady driver

Let me take your wheel

Smooth operator

Touch my bumper

 –from “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”

3.   Smithsonian Folkways Records

Folkways is a record label owned by the Smithsonian Institute that helps to collect, preserve and publish folk music from America and around the world. I was a fan before I left for Thailand. But being so far from Appalachian soil, Folkways’ superb collections of Mountain Songs and Old Time Music were some of my best links to home.  Not only is the music superb, but the variety is inexhaustible, the artwork is carefully done, and the entire label is a non-profit organization. There are not enough good things to say about Folkways Records.

Key Lyric:

God bless them pretty women, I wish they all were mine
Their breath smells so sweetly, like good old moonshine.

 — from “Moonshiner” by Roscoe Holcomb

4.   Graceland

I would be lying if I said that we weren’t disappointed when our Peace Corps service was moved from Lesotho to Thailand. For months and months before (and even after) the switch, we romanticized and envisioned just how wonderful life in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho would be. And the soundtrack for our service in Lesotho was going to be Paul Simon’s Graceland. We had it all planned out.

As it happened, we came to Thailand. And as it happened, we still listened to Graceland. Exhaustively. In fact, it ironically became the soundtrack for our Thailand experience.  It is a constant reminder of the road not taken. And that has made all the difference.

Key Lyric:

For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see

— from “Graceland”

5.   Super Simple Songs

I have never simultaneously loved and loathed something quite as much as I love/hate the Super Simple Songs series. This collection of super simple kids songs has been my saving grace for the past two years. As it turns out, Thai two-year-olds are not ready for complicated bilingual learning activities. So what do I do, you ask? I sing and dance like a monkey three times a week for two years. And they love it.

That being said, it would be okay if I never hear the “Hello! How are you?” song for the rest of my life.

Key Lyric:

Big and small. Big and small.
Big, big, big, big, small, small, small.
Big and small. Big and small.
Big, big, big, big, small, small, small.


— from “Open, Shut Them”

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One response

  1. We really enjoy these song selections Daniel. And, oh by the way, our American band still needs a good acoustic guitar player. It’s just not the same since you left. I’m not booking any more gigs until Feb. 20 but after that, you can expect to be busy! And tell Morgan we also need backup vocals and a good snare player to keep the beat.

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